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What to Wear for Airline Travel

To avoid setting off the metal detector at the security checkpoint, give some thought to what you wear to the airport. Preparing ahead of time can prevent fumbling around at the last minute holding up the line, or having to go through a personal search by a screener. Itís easiest to just pack the items that may set off the alarm (or leave them at home) so you donít have to worry about them as you go through the metal detector.

Donít wear clothing that has metal buttons, snaps or studs.

Donít wear items such as metal belt buckles, underwire bras, or shoes w/steel tips, heels, shanks, buckles or nails.

Take out any piercings ahead of time. Otherwise, you may be asked to remove them at the checkpoint.

Place the following items in your carry-on baggage, or in the bins provided at the checkpoint area. Either way, the items must go through the X-ray machine.

  • Jewelry (cuff links, watches, etc.)

  • Metal accessories (barrettes

  • Keys

  • Coins

  • Lighters

  • Mobile phones

  • Pagers

  • PDAs

Separate your laptop computer from its carrying case and place it in a bin.

Your outer coat needs to go through the X-ray machine at the checkpoint. A suit coat or blazer can generally be worn through the metal detector. If possible, pack the coat in your carry-on once you get to the airport rather than taking time at the checkpoint taking it off.

Wear shoes that you can slip off easily since screeners may request a shoe inspection. Donít wear boots that are difficult to get on and off.

Donít bring food to the security checkpoint unless it is wrapped or in a container. You may bring a beverage in a paper or polystyrene cup, but not a can.

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Special Needs

Access to the Gate Area

Generally only ticketed passengers may pass through the security checkpoint to reach the gate area. Exceptions may be made for those going to assist an unaccompanied child, elderly person, or person with special needs. A gate pass authorizing access can be obtained at the airline ticket counter.

When airline and airport clubs and lounges are located beyond the security checkpoint, those with memberships should talk to their airline representative.

Religious or Cultural Needs

You may request a personal search if you do not want to go through the metal detector for religious reasons. You may request to be searched in a private area. In this case, a person of the same gender will perform the screening (except in rare situations).

If you refuse either the metal detector or the personal screening, you will not be allowed to pass the security checkpoint and you will be unable to board your plane.

Religious/ceremonial items such as knives or swords will not be allowed past the checkpoint. These must be placed in your checked baggage. If you wish for an item be hand searched, ask the screener to do so. Let them know if the item is especially fragile so they can handle it accordingly.

Transporting Medical Materials

If you must carry injectable medications, they must be properly labeled (professionally printed label identifying the medication or a manufacturer's name or pharmacy label).

Diabetics can carry the following supplies and equipment through the checkpoint once they have been screened: insulin and insulin loaded dispensing products (vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, pens, infusers, and preloaded syringes), unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin, lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, insulin pumps, and insulin pump supplies.

Persons with Assistive Devices and Mobility Aids (Canes, Walkers, Crutches, Prosthetic Devices, Body Braces, and Other Devices)

Crutches, canes and walkers will need to go through the X-ray machine. Collapse canes whenever possible before they are put on the X-ray belt.

Notify the screener if your device requires special handling. Ask for assistance with your device(s) if you need it.

The screener will perform a hand inspection of your equipment if it cannot fit through the X-ray machine.

Once devices have been screened, screeners should hand back your device to you in such a manner that helps you proceed without difficulty.

Screeners may need to see and touch your prosthetic devices and body braces as part of the inspection process. You can ask for a private screening for the inspection of your prosthetic device or body brace. Notify screeners if you need assistance during the inspection of your prosthetic devices or body braces such as a chair or someone to lean on.

You may bring tools and appliances (e.g. wrenches, pull sleeves, etc.) used to put on or take off prosthetic devices through the security checkpoint once they have been screened.

If you must transport material such as medical, lifesaving, evidentiary or scientific items, or crematory containers, make arrangements ahead of time with the airline. Screening personnel will verify the contents and confirm the authorization documents.

Medical Documentation

If you have documentation regarding a medical condition, you may present this information to the screener. Although this documentation is not required, it can help the screener understand the situation and make determinations about the best inspection methods to use. Documentation will not exempt you from the screening process, but you may request a private area if a personal search is deemed necessary by the screener.

Medical Implants

Any implanted medical devices such as an artificial hip or knee, bone shafts, cranial plates, shrapnel, staples, pins, or metal ports may activate the metal detector. Alert the screener ahead of time if you have such a device.

If you have a pacemaker, you may have a Pacemaker Identification Card (ID). Show this to the screener and request a pat-down search rather than walking through the metal detector. If you donít have an ID card, just advise the screener of the situation and request the pat-down search.

Pain or Sensitivity

Notify the screener when a special medical situation (such as sutures from surgery, or pain) requires that extra sensitivity is taken during a pat-down inspection is necessary. You may request a private area for your personal search.

Notify the screener if you need to sit down before and/or during the screening process because of pain or overexertion.

Mobility Disability

Don't hesitate to ask a screener for assistance with your mobility aid and carryon items as you proceed through the security checkpoint.

Let the screener know your level of ability (e.g., whether you can walk, stand or perform an arm lift) - it will expedite the screening process.

Inform the screener about any special equipment or devices that you are using and where this equipment is located on your body - this will help the screener be careful during a physical search if one is needed.

Ensure that all bags and satchels hanging from, or carried on, your equipment are put on the X-ray belt for inspection.

Ask the screener to reunite you with your carryon items and assistive device after screening is completed.

Let the screener know if you need assistance removing your shoes when additional screening is necessary.

Let the screener know if your shoes cannot be removed because of your disability so that alternative security procedures can be applied to your shoes.

Ask the screener to monitor your items during the screening process and reunite you with them and assistive devices once x-ray inspection is completed.

Hearing Disability

If you have a hearing disability, and have questions about the screening process, you may ask the screener to write the information down or look directly at you and repeat the information slowly.

Visual Disability

If you are visually impaired, you can ask the screener to verbally communicate to you throughout each step of the screening process, letting you know were the metal detector is located, what obstacles you need to avoid, and how to get to your gate after the inspection is completed.

You can be escorted through the security process, and get the screenerís assistance in gathering all your carryon items after the inspection is complete.

If the X-ray machine will damage any equipment you have (such as Braille note-takers) you may ask for a hand inspection instead.

Special assistance can be requested for those who may move a bit slower than others, who get agitated easily, and/or need additional attention. Traveling companions can give guidance to screeners on the best way to deal with the person, especially if it is necessary to touch the person during a pat-down inspection.

To read about the screening process for service animals, click here.

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Before leaving home, talk to your kids about the security measures theyíll experience, the armed guards they may see, and the importance of proper behavior. Discuss what will happen if they, or you, inadvertently set off the metal detector.

Every person, regardless of age, must undergo screening at the security checkpoint. You wonít be asked to do anything that will separate you from your child or children. Screeners are trained to understand concerns about children and will approach them gently and with respect.

Let them know what items shouldn't be packed, and go through their bags with them to make sure the rules are followed. (Click here to see the list of Permitted and Prohibited Items.)

Review the rules with regards to behavior. Threats made jokingly (even by a child) can result in the entire family being delayed and could result in fines.

Kids under 18 do not need to have an ID.

All diaper bags and child-related equipment (strollers, car seats, etc.) that will fit through the X-ray machine must go through the machine. Children must be removed from their carriers so they can be individually screened. If the child can walk, he should go through the metal detector independently. Otherwise, carry the child through yourself; do not pass the child to the screener or someone else in line.

Have the equipment folded and secure any items in the pockets and place it on the X-ray belt. Any equipment that will not fit through the X-ray machine must be hand-inspected.

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If you are bringing your pet on board with you, you may be asked to remove the animal from its carrier so that the carrier can go through the X-ray machine. Your animal will never be placed in the X-ray machine. You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you, or it may undergo a separate visual and physical inspection.

Service Animals

Travelers employing a guide dog, hearing dog, or other service animal are encouraged by TSA and airlines to carry some form of appropriate identification, including:


  • card for the animal

  • presence of a harness or markings on the harness

  • tags

  • written documentation stating the animal has been trained to assist a special needs individual

  • or credible verbal assurance of the passenger using the dog for their disability.

The traveler is not required to show proof of a disability.

Since each situation is different, advise the screener how you and your dog can go through the metal detector as a team (i.e. whether walking together or with the dog walking in front of or behind you while you continually maintain control of the dog with the leash and/or harness.

The dog's harness will likely set off the alarm on the metal detector. In such cases, the screener will perform a hand inspection of the dog and its belongings (collar, harness, leash, backpack, vest, etc.) The belongings will not be removed from your dog at any time.

If necessary, remind the screener that you should not be separated from your dog and that removal of your dog's belongings is a sign to the animal that it is off work, and can impair the relationship between the individual and the service animal.

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To find additional information about travel security, click here.