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TSA testing lighter security for travelers over 75

Air travelers over 75 years old will soon see a break at security checkpoints at four major airports as part of a pilot program by the Transportation Security Administration.
March 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Air travelers over 75 years old will soon see a break at security checkpoints at four major airports.

Starting Monday, they will no longer have to take off their shoes and light jackets when going through security. Similar changes were made last fall for travelers 12 and younger.

The changes by the Transportation Security Administration are part of a pilot program being tested at Portland International in Oregon, Chicago's O'Hare International, Denver International and Orlando International.

Agency spokesman Jim Fotenos said those airports were chosen because they have a higher percentage of travelers 75 and older. Fotenos also said the rules will be relaxed indefinitely at the four airports with the intention of expanding elsewhere if it is a success.

Air travelers have criticized what they call a lack of common sense in screening since the 9/11 terror attacks led to tighter security. Many voiced frustration over how all passengers, including young children and the elderly, were screened the same way.

That criticism grew louder in 2010 when the government began using a more invasive pat-down that involves screeners feeling a traveler's genital and breast areas through their clothing.

To reduce the number of pat-downs given to children and the elderly, screeners in the test programs are being told to send those passengers through metal detectors or walk-through imaging machines multiple times to capture a clear picture as well as to use more explosive trace detection tools such as hand swabs, according to the TSA.

The TSA says the changes will allow officers to better focus on passengers who may be more likely to pose a threat and speed up the screening process.

Removing shoes during checkpoint screening has been a common complaint among airline travelers since security was increased after an al Qaeda operative tried to set off a bomb built into his shoe on an American Airlines flight in December 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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