TSA set to test new screening protocols for elderly

Under new TSA guidelines, passengers deemed to be 75 or older will be subjected to less rigorous screening.

Story highlights

  • The procedures being tested make allowances for people age 75 and older
  • They don't have to take off their shoes or light outerwear, for instance
  • The tests are starting at checkpoints in Chicago, Denver, Portland and Orlando

After years of criticism, the Transportation Security Administration is taking the initial steps to modify screening for people age 75 or older.

Beginning Monday, the TSA will test procedures allowing those passengers to leave their shoes on, as well as light outerwear. Other changes are intended to reduce the likelihood that older passengers will be subjected to a pat-down.

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The tests will be conducted at four airports: Chicago's O'Hare, Denver International, Portland International in Oregon, and Orlando International. If they are successful, the TSA could expand the procedures to checkpoints nationwide.

The new protocols closely parallel changes implemented last fall for passengers age 12 and under, and for the same reason -- intelligence indicates that they are unlikely to be involved in a terrorist attack, the TSA said.

TSA spokesman Greg Soule said the agency is trying to "move away from the one-size-fits-all approach" to security screening. The changes will manage risk, but not eliminate it, he said.

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At the selected checkpoints, passengers 75 and older will be allowed to leave their shoes and light outerwear on. If the full-body scanner detects an anomaly, the passenger will be allowed a second pass through the machine to resolve the issue.

If the matter is still unresolved, the TSA screeners will be able to use other methods, such as an explosive trace detection test, before subjecting the traveler to a physical pat down.

Passengers may be required to remove shoes and may still undergo a pat-down if anomalies persist.

TSA officers will make a visual assessment to determine which passengers are 75 or older, the agency said.

The TSA said the new procedures will allow officers to better focus on passengers who may be more likely to pose a risk to transportation while expediting the screening process.