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Know Your Passenger Rights Flier

The idea of an Opt-Out day has been picking up steam, and many airline passengers will be refusing to submit to the TSA’s whole body imaging scanners on Wednesday, November 24.  But in the wake of conflicting messages coming out of the TSA, travelers are going to be confused about what to expect at TSA security checkpoints. So FDL has put together  a handy flier about the scanners and the “enhanced” patdown procedures, which explains your risks and rights in the airport:

Download: Know Your Passenger Rights (PDF)

The list of those who are potentially at risk is taken from a letter written by four UCSF scientists to Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.  The full version of the letter can be found here.

The handout also echos concerns raised by the US Airline Pilots Association, who advise their members not to submit to these screenings.  The recommendations included on our sheet are those made by the USAPA to their pilots.  The letter from USAPA President Mike Clearly detailing these concerns and recommendations can be found here.

If you have problems at the airport, let us know about it.  We have a form that also allows you to send us any photographs or video you might have of the incident:

Form:  Share Your TSA Encounter

Know Your Passenger Rights

Serious questions have been raised about the safety of new whole body imaging machines used at airports. Airline passengers who refuse to use them are being subjected to new “enhanced patdowns” by TSA security, which many find invasive and distressful.

According to scientists, the safety of these devices has not been demonstrated and certain people could be at risk from exposure:

  1. Travelers over 65
  2. Women with high risk of breast cancer
  3. HIV and cancer patients with weak immune systems
  4. Adolescents and children
  5. Pregnant women
  6. Men (due to possible sperm mutagenesis)

The US Airline Pilots Association has told their pilots not to submit to these screenings, as frequent exposure may subject them to significant health risks.


Whole body scanners penetrate clothing with X-rays to provide images of passengers’ bodies. Although these machines have the ability to record, store and transmit images, the TSA claims that these functions are currently disabled.


You DO have the right to refuse a full body screening.  However, you may be asked to submit to an “enhanced patdown.”  During the patdown, TSA screeners may now:

  • Use a palms-forward search procedure that replaces the old “back of the hand” search.
  • Use their palms and fingers to probe under a passengers clothing.
  • Insert their hands between underwear and skin.
  • Slide hands along passengers’ thighs and around the breast.

The Airline Pilots Association makes the following recommendations to their members:

  • Make every effort to secure access lines that utilize standard magnetometer devices.
  • If lines with magnetometer devices are not available, elect to submit to a private TSA-agent patdown.
  • If there is a change in device being used once you are in line, elect to submit to a private TSA-agent patdown.
  • When submitting to a private, enhanced patdown procedure, make sure that a witness is present.
  • Remain professional and courteous in all situations.
  • Children under 12 are NOT exempt from patdowns, but will receive “modified” patdowns instead.
  • Parents DO have the right to be present when their children are being examined.
  • You DO have the right to request a private screening, in which a witness may be present.
  • TSA will NOT allow exemptions based on religious beliefs.
  • Inform TSA about disabilities, sensitive areas, medical devices, or other conditions prior to a patdown.
  • Refusal to submit to these security procedures may result in denied access to your flight and fines of up to $11,000.