Nov 30th 2010
Fellow travelers: Take a cue from Fergie, the latest victim of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) more aggressive airport screening procedures.
The Black Eyed Peas singer learned Monday that being a celebrity didn’t earn her the privilege of avoiding the much-criticized tactics at Los Angeles International Airport. Dressed in layers of scarves, heavy jewelry, a hat, and sunglasses, Fergie was selected for a more detailed examination, and she chose the X-ray machine over the pat-down. There she was, pictured in the Daily Mail of London, shoeless, unburdened of her many accessories, and standing with arms overhead in the full-body scanner.
There’s no word from Fergie on how she felt about it, but by now, we’ve all heard embarrassing, if not humiliating, stories of intimate pat-downs and too-revealing X-ray images. Opponents argue the more intensive screening violates civil liberties, including freedom of religion, the right to privacy, and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. One man stripped off his clothes in protest at the San Diego airport November 21, and a Saturday Night Live skit poked fun at TSA agents, the target of travelers’ ire.
Other than choosing another method of transportation or showing up to the airport in nothing but your birthday suit, consider the alternatives. Passengers looking for a way to breeze through the metal detector and head to their gate can learn from fellow travelers and TSA itself.
Wendy Gigliotti made the mistake of wearing a heavy sweater and flowing skirt during a recent trip, prompting a TSA officer to run her hands up and down her legs searching for hidden weapons. The incident left Gigliotti feeling not only like a criminal, but “absolutely violated,” the Associated Press reported. Baggy clothing can trigger extra inspection.
What not to wear? Avoid jewelry, metal hair accessories, belt buckles, clothes with metal studs, and underwire bras, which set off the metal detector. If you have hidden body piercings, you may be pulled aside for a pat-down. Remove metal before you fly. If you can, pack your coats and jackets in your baggage, as every coat must go through the X-ray machine.
TSA tips can be found online, and travelers also can visit tsa.gov/mobile on a smartphone. An iPhone app called My TSA provides wait times for airports and a guide on what you can bring through airport security.
Other tips: arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international one; pack light; remember to pack liquids in 3-ounce containers in your carry-on; clear the clutter and make items accessible; take keys, cell phones, and change out of your pockets. Remember that only passengers who set off the metal detector, the advanced-imaging technology machine, or who opt out of the scanning machine receive a pat-down.
One passenger suggested dressing for Disneyland, “and by that I mean dressing comfortably with a good pair of shoes," said Aliise Becker, who wore a turtleneck, blue slacks, and coat on a recent flight, the AP reported. "The days of dressing to the nines to travel are a thing of the past."
Despite the scrutiny, criticism, and Internet campaigns to protest the screening machines, security procedures during the busy Thanksgiving weekend went smoothly at the nation’s airports, according to the TSA. Even for Fergie.