Recently, I took a weekend trip to visit family. Before I boarded the plane, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) treated me to both a trip through the “porno scanner” and an “enhanced pat-down.”
Welcome to the post-bin-Laden era of airline travel.
Perhaps things will calm down after a while, but for now and the foreseeable future expect enhanced airport security around the country and around the world.
You will almost certainly notice more TSA and local law enforcement personnel than before and I saw more police dogs on this trip than I can ever remember seeing. Other changes will be less visible and will necessarily be cloaked behind a veil of secrecy.
Still, it seems obvious to me and other travelers I’ve spoken that with newly enhanced airport security metal detectors have been turned up a notch or two to be more sensitive than ever. And screeners are routinely asking people to divest themselves of things, like watches, that were tolerated a few weeks ago.
As travel agents, we will be doing a service to our clients by alerting them to what they can expect and counseling them on steps they can take to make their trip through security as stress-free as possible.
Here are some suggestions:
Review the 3-1-1 rule for liquids. You can also provide clients with a copy of a
downloadable TSA brochure detailing all prohibited items.
Suggest to your clients that they place everything that they typically carry on their person in their carry-on bag (which will be x-rayed) before getting in line at the security checkpoint. That would include jewelry, coins, watches, eyeglasses, in short everything except the passport or drivers license and the boarding pass they will have to produce at the security checkpoint
Educate them about full-body imaging machines, which have earned the nickname porno scanners because they produce a rather detailed image of the traveler’s body. The manufacturers and TSA now say the machines are being modified to conceal “the naughty bits,” but many travelers are not convinced. The machines also use radiation that the manufacturers and government says is harmless. Again, others disagree.
Tell your clients that if they object to being scanned on the grounds of health or modesty they can request a screening by pat-down. However, they should also be warned that they will most likely receive what the TSA calls an “enhanced pat-down,” which can be, shall we say, intimate.
I see more and more people wearing slip on shoes to the airport. I do. Packing those dress shoes can help speed you through security.
Of course, as travel agents, we have a natural tendency to avoid saying anything that might make travel seem less than glamorous and carefree. But, as the ancient Chinese proverb says, we live in interesting times. Personally, I think travel agents win share of mind and greater respect from their clients when they inform them of potential problems they may encounter along the way and offer suggestions for how to cope.
Ultimately, of course, it’s your call.