Pregnant Consumerist reader Mary was recently going through the security checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. When she realized that she would be going through a full-body scanner, she told the screeners she wanted to exercise her right to a pat-down — even if it meant experiencing the TSA’s new, icky “enhanced” pat-down. But instead of the screeners doing as she requested, Mary claims they proceeded to bully her into the scanner.
Let’s hear it straight from Mary:
“The two TSA agents asked me, “Why don’t you want to go through this?” I said, “I don’t trust it.” They said, “Why don’t you trust it?” I said, “I am pregnant and would rather be pat down.” And they said, “Oh but you get ultrasounds, don’t you?”
I answered yes and the TSA officer said, “Oh it is less than an ultrasound, and it’s really easy so just go through.”
The TSA officers are doctors now??
They repeated again for me to just go through the scanner and it would be done in 5 seconds. I was literally in tears because I wanted a pat-down instead of going through the machine, and I felt they declined me that option. No matter how much I pushed for a hand pat-down, they pushed harder for the machine.
Then, after I stood in the machine, the officer waiting on the other side of it patronized me by cooing, “There, that was easy, wasn’t it?”
I mentioned that I was forced to do it and went to the belt to take my possessions, while tears ran from my eyes.
I really felt the TSA agents were just being lazy since a pat down obviously takes more time for them, but I also feel like when I specifically ask for something that is an option for me, I should be able to get it.”
A rep for the TSA confirms to Consumerist that TSA screeners are obligated to offer alternative screening, including a pat-down, for travelers who can’t or won’t go through the full-body scanners.
For Mary and other travelers experience problems with TSA screeners, the agency recommends using its “Talk to TSA” function available here. They claim that this allows travelers to file their grievances directly with TSA officials at the specific airport(s).
Travelers can also call (866) 289-9673 or e-mail the TSA at email@example.com
- Body scanners now screening passengers at Harrisburg International Airport (pennlive.com)
- Airport “Naked” Body Scanners Get Privacy Upgrade to Anonymize Your Naughty Bits [Privacy] (gizmodo.com)
- TSA’s Frisky New Pat-Downs (motherjones.com)
- Surprise! Feds stored thousands of checkpoint body scan images after all (boingboing.net)