TSA to Allow Older Travelers to Keep Shoes On, Avoid Pat-Downs

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Everybody loves the TSA. And by “everybody,” we actually mean “very few people.” But the air travel security organization might be gaining a new set of supporters: the over-75 crowd.

The Transportation Security Administration will test a new program that allows travelers over 75 to keep on their shoes and light jackets and skip pat-downs at security checkpoints, the Associated Press reports. Effective Monday, the guidelines will be tested at four U.S. airports. The provisions are part of an effort to move away from streamlined, across-the-board security policies and instead focus on potentially riskier fliers.

The new guidelines will be introduced at Chicago’s O’Hare International, Denver International, Orlando International and Portland International, because those airports see a higher percentage of travelers over the age of 75.

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The change comes in the wake of an incident at New York’s Kennedy Airport last November when two passengers in their 80s claimed they were essentially strip-searched. One said she had to remove a back brace so it could be X-rayed, and the other said she had to lower her pants so screeners could examine her colostomy bag. In another incident that for many supported the case for different security procedures for different age groups, a 6-year-old girl ended up in tears after being frisked at the New Orleans airport last March.

Screeners in the test program will be told to send elderly travelers and children through metal detectors or walk-through imaging machines multiple times to see a clearer picture and thus reduce the need for pat-downs, the AP reports. Screeners will also use more explosive-trace detection methods, like hand swabs. If the updated policies prove successful, TSA officials plan to expand them to other airports.

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