The uproar surrounding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of whole body image scanners has dominated the travel news at the start of this holiday season. With all the anger and animosity being brought to the forefront of public attention, one aspect has been largely overlooked … how few passengers will encounter the TSA whole body image scanners.
Presently there are 494 commercial airports in the United States that are served by commercial airlines, and require security under the authority of the TSA (which includes airports with private security firms). Within these 494 airports there are an estimated 2,210+ security lanes.*
(*Some news outlets have quoted the TSA’s statistics of 2,100 security lanes. My math calculated approximately 2,241 security lanes. Upon review, the TSA confirmed to me that there are 2,210+ security lanes, but won’t confirm a hard number)
The break down of the 494 commercial airports with required passenger screening in the United States include:
29 – Large Airports
26 – Medium Airports
70 – Small Airports
232 – Non-Hub Airports
127 – Non-Primary Airports
The primary location of the TSA’s whole body image scanners are within large and medium airports … and only a total of 68 airports. While these are airports many flyers travel through to connect flights, they are largely not the original departure airport for passengers, so passengers will not cross through airport security at these airports.
So … going strictly by the numbers … with TSA whole body image scanners existing in only 68 of 494 airports, travelers departing from less than 14% of airports in the U.S. will potentially encounter the new scanners. With only 385 whole body image scanners being deployed among approximately 2,210 security lanes, a passengers has a roughly a 17% chance of encountering a whole body imaging scanner at their departure airport.
For those dead set on not encountering a whole body image scanner, they are presently not hard to avoid. If you find yourself traveling around Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) consider flying to Dayton (DAY). In Southern California? Skip Los Angeles International (LAX) and drive out to Ontario (ONT) or check out Long Beach (LGB). In New York? Drive up to White Plains and Westchester County Airport (HPN) or out East Farmingdale on Long Island and catch a flight from Republic Airport (FRG).
For those traveling from the 426 airports and 1,825 airport security lanes without whole body imagining scanners in the United States … screening procedures have not changed.
The controversial enhanced pat downs for those who opt-out of the whole body imaging scanners are presently only performed at airports with the whole body imaging scanners.
So … pack your bags … remember to have all your liquids and gels of 100ml or less in a Ziploc bag … and enjoy the flight!
EDITED TO ADD at 8:25am EST 24-November-2010: Since writing this post yesterday I have begun to research the validity of the latest TSA statement that enhanced pat downs for those who alarm not being performed at airports without he whole body images scanners. I have now heard from four airports and six TSA TSOs/STSOs that in fact enhanced pat downs may be performed on those who alarm on a walk through metal detector at an airport with no whole body imaging scanners. This once again highlights the internal communications disconnect within the TSA … I think I just found another post to write about.