What Happens If I Refuse The Full-Body Scan At The Airport?

Even as some question their effectiveness, the TSA continues to install controversial full-body scanners at airports. And while travelers have a legal right to opt for a pat-down instead of the scan, some say that option may not be any better.

“The pat-down was completely thorough, as though I was a common criminal or a drug pusher,” one traveler who recently went the pat-down route rather than be scanned tells travel writer Christopher Elliott. “The only place I was not touched was in my crotch — and isn’t that the one place they should be checking, after the underwear bomber?”

She adds, “The additional screening makes you want to go through the scanner, as it is so much more impersonal in the long run.”

Writes another air traveler who opted out of the scan, “Every compartment of my computer bag was opened and every pocket emptied… Every compartment or pocket of my computer bag that held an electronic device was wiped separately with an explosives detector, as were my shoes and the inside of my purse that held no electronics at all.”

While some believe the TSA is going too far in these pat-downs as a way of punishing people who refuse the scans, the agency denies the allegation. The TSA also points to the successes like finding a pocket knife one on passenger and a syringe in the underwear of another as proof that scanning has made air travel safer.

Elliott himself recently went through the scanner at an airport in Salt Lake City. Here’s what he had to say:

I admit, the scan felt somewhat invasive, with me holding my hands in the air as if I were an apprehended fugitive. The widely circulated pictures of scanned people — every contour of their bodies visible and their faces electronically airbrushed away — didn’t make me feel any better. Were the hidden pocket knives and syringes filled with liquid worth all this? And what was in that syringe that the TSA confiscated, anyway?

What do you think? Is the TSA being too tough on people who opt for the pat-down? Are scanners going to make traveling safer?

The cost of refusing a TSA scan [Chicago Tribune]