Full-body scanners are rarely out of the news at the moment, but as pilots call for an opt-out of the scans, what should the ordinary traveler do? It’s for you to make up your own mind, of course, but here are some pros and cons for choosing each option.
Taking the scan
It’s the easiest option: If you’re late for a flight or you’re not the type to draw attention to yourself, the easiest way to get through the various indignities of security is by taking the scan. Although it takes longer to get through than a traditional security scanner – you have to wait while a TSA agent remotely checks your picture before you can retrieve your belongings – it’s still quicker than refusing.
It’s supporting the government’s anti-terror stance: You could argue that full-body scans are an imperative of air travel in the modern world – and if you want to feel safe on a plane, you’ll have to put up with a little indignity.
Someone gets to see you naked: And even though they say your face is obscured, you know that you’ll be wondering whether it really was for the rest of the flight. And if you’ve been travelling, chances are you haven’t been working out for the cameras.
Scanners emit a small amount of radiation: Scientists say it’s negligible even compared to a trip to a place of high altitude such as Denverm but pilots are arguing that the radiation absorbed by the body during the scans is unacceptable. It’s up to you what side you come down on.
Refusing the scan
No one gets to see you naked: Let’s be honest, that’s the real reason you’re turning down the full-body scan. You’re embarrassed, and rather than be silently embarrassed like everyone else who goes on through reluctantly, you’re brave enough to admit it. So yes, the main advantage of refusing the scan is that nobody in the room next door gets to see you naked.
You’re not exposed to any radiation: The TSA says that the radiation you’re exposed to while having a full-body scan is miniscule – less than you’ll get on the flight you’re about to take – but pilots are objecting to the scans on the grounds of safety. If you opt out, you’ll be safe either way.
You’ll need to wait: If you go through the full-body scanner you should go straight through. If you refuse it, though, you’ll have to wait for a TSA agent of your sex to have time for a pat-down. And from my experience, it can be a while. So make sure you arrive at security with plenty of time.
You’ll get intimate with the TSA: When the full body scanners first came out (and when I turned one down this autumn) the TSA patdowns were harmless enough – mine was conducted politely and completely non-invasive, done with the back of the hand. However, in the last few weeks, procedure has changed to an “open palm” rule – which may not be so pleasant.