OKC airport won't have scans, but pat-downs possible

Travelers flying out of Will Rogers World Airport won't have to pass through full-body scanners this holiday season, but enhanced pat-downs are a possibility and airports on return flights home could have body scanning technology.
BY VALLERY BROWN Modified: November 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm •  Published: November 23, 2010

Travelers flying out of Will Rogers World Airport won't have to pass through full-body scanners this holiday season, but enhanced pat-downs are a possibility and airports on return flights home could have body scanning technology.

Reports across the country of travelers being roughly handled and searched after refusing to go through body scans has brought scathing criticism of the Transportation Security Administration's Nov. 1 implementation of more aggressive passenger screening.

But those problems aren't being seen in Oklahoma, officials said here.

Tulsa International Airport in 2008 was the 11th U.S. airport to run full-body scans and has had few complaints.

Karen Carney, spokeswoman for Will Rogers World Airport, said travelers from Oklahoma City won't see many changes, but enhanced pat-downs are a possibility if a person repeatedly sets off a metal detector or is selected for random screening.

She said about 14,000 travelers a day, excluding Thanksgiving Day and Friday when numbers decrease, will fly into and out of the airport this week. The increased number of travelers, the added security measures and national attention has increased anxiety, particularly about the body searches.

“They are specifically feeling in some more sensitive areas during those pat-downs,” Carney said. “But only a small number of people traveling will go through these.”

TSA says 69 airports have scanners. Oklahoma City is expected to join that list next year.

Luis Casanova, TSA regional spokesman, wouldn't say in detail what parts of the body are checked.

But he said the pat-downs are “very thorough.”

“We need to know that underneath your clothes there are no dangerous objects or explosive devices,” Casanova said.

A cell phone video of a California man went viral after he refused a body scan and told TSA agents if they touched his groin area, he'd have them arrested.

This week, a story about a Michigan bladder cancer survivor being patted down so roughly a bag he wore to collect his urine spilled over his clothing increased the furor.

Others stories include parents standing by as their children were patted down and others being humiliated as they were patted down in front of other travelers.

Concerns about the new requirements have been overblown and there have been relatively few complaints, TSA's Casanova said. About 34 million people have gone through airport screenings since Nov. 1. About 700 of those have filed complaints.

“It's not punitive or picking people out,” he said. “Right now, this is what works.”

Casanova said the imaging and pat-downs are the next evolution in an already layered security system at airports.

He said incidents like the December 2009 attempt to blow up an airplane headed from the Netherlands to Michigan is a key example of why screening techniques have become more detailed. The suspect is alleged to have boarded a flight with enough explosives under his clothing to bring down the airplane. His attempt failed, but Casanova said TSA isn't taking chances.

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Airport tips

• Have your boarding pass and photo ID ready.

• All liquids and gels must be three ounces or less and contained in one quart-sized plastic bag. The bag must be placed separately in a bin.

• Coats, jackets and shoes must be removed and placed in the same bin as the plastic bag.

• Laptops must be removed from the carrying case and placed in a separate bin.

• Any liquids such as bottles of water, juice or soda must be disposed of.

• Place all valuables such as jewelry, cell phones and wallets in a carry-on, purse, or the pocket of a jacket.

SOURCE: WILL ROGERS WORLD AIRPORT

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