Consumer Alert: The pat-down that made me blush! How I set off the airport body scanners and how you can avoid it

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — This consumer alert will get you to the gate to fly the friendly skies with a smile.

The holidays are right around the corner, and you may be planning a trip. And I recently learned some valuable information during a jaunt to NYC that I wanted to share.

I ran into a snag at the airport security checkpoint at JFK Airport, a really embarrassing snag. I had to write about it because I want you to avoid it the next time you’re at the airport.

I got to the airport at 8 a.m. for my 10 a.m. flight. That’s usually enough time when traveling in the middle of the week without luggage. 

And at first glance, I was so relieved. The line wound through about half of the barriers that formed a long labyrinth through the checkpoint. All is relative, and considering how miserable airport security checkpoints can be, this wasn’t so bad. 

I was in NYC just overnight, so I carried only a backpack. I was wearing flats without laces that slip on and off quickly. And I was early. All was good, or so I thought. I got my first clue things were going south when a TSA agent looked at me, shook his head, and smiled sympathetically.

I stepped into the airport body scanner with my hands raised above my head. It’s called Advanced Imaging Technology or AIT. It can detect a wide range of metallic and non-metallic risks in seconds. And on the screen, I saw that the image of my arms and entire torso had lit up like a Christmas tree. And right on my crotch was a red rectangle that seemed to scream, “Threat!”

The TSA Agent explained that my pat down would need to be thorough. She’d need to pat down my chest, groin, and bottom. 

“Would you like to do this in a private room?” she asked professionally. 

“Uh, no, I’m fine,” I mumbled stunned. 

And yes, that pat down was indeed thorough.

I was left with the question, “What in the world had set off the scanner?” I was wearing jeans and a sweater. I’m assuming the zipper had caused that embarrassingly placed red rectangle. But my sweater? Really? 

I love the sweater. I nabbed it for $5 when my beloved Steinmart went belly up. It’s blingy with silver threads that weave throughout the textile. The tag says the sweater is made of cotton, acrylic and lurex.

And the lurex is the culprit. Lurex is a yarn made from a thin strip of aluminum. Holy cow! And it’s woven throughout the sweater. I might as well have been wearing a steel-plated suit of armor.

So to make your journey through the TSA checkpoint a bit less stressful, with the help of The Points Guy, here’s Deanna’s Do List.

  • Pack the bling, don’t wear it. Sequins, shiny threads, and even that bling painted on your t-shirt may have enough metal to send you to pat-down purgatory.
  • Check your bags rather than carry them on. I know. Most airlines make you pay for checked bags. But the Points Guy has a listing of two dozen credit cards that cover that expense for you.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. They’re much easier than laces when you have to take off your shoes for screening.
  • Avoid the busiest travel times. Those are Friday and Sunday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Consider global entry or TSA pre-check. They cost $100 and $85 respectively. But if you travel a lot, might be worth the expense.
  • Use an app to track wait times. The Points Guy likes MiFlight, App in the Air, Kayak, and MyTSA

Be friendly. A smile goes a long way for a weary TSA agent who has been dealing with frustrated flyers all day.