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Shoes (Commenting Disabled)

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

It’s not all about Richard Reid when it comes to the screening of shoes. Post all of your thoughts about shoes in this blog post. To learn more about how the shoe fits in with the TSA, check out our web page on "why we screen shoes". Then come back here and let's talk.

01.31.08, 6:00pm
Christopher says:

Great first question on the ability to pick up foot fungus at the checkpoint and a very common one at that.

Believe it or not, TSA actually commissioned a study in 2003 with the Department of Health and Human Services to look at just that issue. I'm paraphrasing here and will have the actual letter posted tomorrow but they found that if the floor isn't moist then the possibility is, "extremely small to remote" to contract athlete's foot. If there are checkpoint floors that are moist, we generally have bigger issues on our hands than foot fungus.

Also interesting from that study, 15 percent of the public may be affected with athlete's foot at any given time. Think about that next time you're trying on clothes at the mall, looking for a new pair of shoes or going off the high dive at the local pool.

02.01.08, 2:00pm
Christopher says:



Great and lively debate here on shoes. As added fodders, here are two pictures of an altered pair of shoes our officers discovered last year in Alaska.

Yes, we find stuff like this all the time and yes our intel folks tell us terrorists are still interested in using shoes as (improvised explosive devices) IEDs or to hide components.

We've also posted an x-ray image so that you can see exactly what we are talking about.

02.05.08; 9:30am
Christopher says:

There have been several posts asking about the pictures above. Just to be perfectly clear, the first two pictures are of a pair of shoes we discovered during screening in Alaska last year. The wire and other small metal item were positioned under the insole just as they are shown.

The third picture is of an x-ray image of a pair of altered shoes we use to train our officers on x-ray displays in airports. As you can see, it doesn’t take an x-ray tech to tell these shoes have been altered.

Our officers literally see 4 Million shoes per day and they’re very, very good at telling the bad from the good.


Submitted by Anonymous on

my original post in the "main forum" was removed so i'm posting this here in "the shoe forum". there is nothing disrespecting in my post but rather simply pointing out inconsistencies in the shoe policy and i'm trying t find an official answer from the tsa. thanks

as a passenger (and particularly one who flies over 100,000 miles a year, i have some questions directed to the "shoes off policy". i wear (and have to wear) orthopedic shoes and custom fitted orthotics as a result of ankle surgery and my question is simple....

why do the tsa's own policies differ from airport to airport? there are tsa procedures in place as to how to deal with pax who cannot take off their shoes but repeatedly they are ignored, misconstrued, or made up by the tsa employees on duty with the addition that more than 50% of the screeners i come in contact with do not know the definition of the word "orthotics". i have been threatened with "do i want to fly today" to "do you want me to call a cop"(both at JFK UA) yet to also go to other extreme, the screeners at my home airport (SFO-United terminal) have it down pat.

simply put, you need to have ALL airports follow THE SAME rules (including the ADA and FRPA and HIPPA) and screener s and supes need to know what they can and cannot ask. if you want to see record clearance times (and trust me, i know what i'm talking about as operational efficiency has been my career for 30 years, the whole key to line mgmnt is to have it done the SAME ACROSS THE BOARD with all TSA employees not only having a complete understanding of privacy laws but also a basic grasp of customer service techniques and the english language (case in point: lax t-7 ua terminal footbridge on sunday, january 20, 2007 approx 9pm. i told the screener i was wearing orthopedic shoes and orthotics and i was presented with "what?, your shoes have to come off". this was followed by my repeating that i was wearing orthopedic shoes and orthotics which was met with the response of" "supervisor, he be wearing ortho something or others and don't want to take his shoes off". as you can see, this is not a grammatically correct comment and n.b. i wne thru the very same terminal and checkpoint just over 36 hours before and did not have a problem.

Submitted by Anonymous on


why not have a special RED square bin that is the dimension of a pair of shoes? this bin would only be used for shoes and would be marked "shoes only"

on the other bins, it would be marked "no shoes" (if someone puts shoes in the other bins, the TSA agent would remove them and let the passenger know.

whether or not germs are an issue, i'm just crazy about putting my laptop (which i sometimes type on while i'm in bed) or my plastic bag of 3 oz liquids toiletries in the same bin someone just had their shoes in about 60 seconds before me.

and by the way, i think TSA agents have good customer service in my experience. in fact, one manager in san diego helped me out when i had inadvertently printed my 'return' boarding pass for southwest flight.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I second the guy who suggested TSA be consistent with shoes. I flew from Logan to Miami. In Logan I was told "take off your shoes, all footwear must be screened." In Miami, I was told "why are you taking off your sneakers? Do you not understand what a SHOE is?"
Apparently they didn't screen sneakers.

Submitted by Elmore on

Christopher, the study you cite is not valid because the government has ceased to provide trustworthy information. Over and over again, government departments have lied to us to promote their own special interests. It is easy to cite dozens of examples, from the EPA telling rescuers it was safe to work at ground zero after 9/11, to the actual fate of Pat Tillman, to the official denial of environmental science despite the opinions of the government's own scientists. Your bosses have lied to all of us (you included) over and over again. Frankly, the government can no longer be trusted, and any government study designed to support a controversial policy is not credible. Can you cite an independent study to show us that passing through security without shoes is safe?

A respectful reply is requested.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The shoe thing is stupid. Most of what the TSA does is stupid. Once the cabins received armored doors, what's the point? Why people have to travel with a lot of shampoo and stuff is also a mystery to me. Aren't they going places that already have shampoo. Like hotels and homes of friends? Leave the cr*p at home people.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oooooh, balloons.

Looks like the lifts for a short man's home-made elevator shoes to me.

Submitted by Jim on

I have a condition called "Peripheral Neuropathy", in which the nerves in the feet do not work well.

As a result, it is literally painful to walk across a hard, concrete floor in bare feet. TSA should not only put in rubber pads for its workers to stand on, but for the entire area going through security.

Submitted by Chad on

Anything that can be concealed in a shoe could be concealed in someone's pockets or underwear. Furthermore, explosives could be molded into the shape of a shoe sole and not even detected by x-ray anyway.

Beyond the huge waste of time and money, it means that all of the bins and conveyor belts are covered with the same germs present on bathroom floors, since people walk out of the bathrooms and place their shoes directly in the bins and on the conveyor belts.

Submitted by Anonymous on

in response to this question:

why not have a special RED square bin that is the dimension of a pair of shoes? this bin would only be used for shoes and would be marked "shoes only"

My only response to that is to laugh! Good idea, it makes sense and it would work. Unfortunatly, it seems that most people in the security lines do not read signs, or follow instructions!

Submitted by Anonymous on

How many terrorists have been caught by making them take off their shoes???

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have actually experimented with this show thing. I am concerned about the germ issue becuase the airport area is very dirty and I have a foot condition. This "health study" is crap anyway though.

So, I tell the guy that I have a medical condition and can't remove my shoes and what do they do? Take me over to the "personal inspection area" and then SWIPE my shoes with swab to test for explosive chemicals without taking them off. Umm, wait a minute? I thought your policy was all about what you can do with the X-ray? Huh.

And if you are trying to say that there was a shoe issue BEFORE Mr. Reid, then you would have had people taking off their shoes before that, and you would have caught Mr. Reid BEFORE he got on the plane. So this is just a knee-jerk reaction to show that you are "doing something" to justify your over-priced and ineffective existance.

It is not feasible to lock down a country this size, there is not enough money in the world. The terrorists aren't trying to kill us, they are trying to ruin us financially---the TSA is participating in their success.

If you really wanted to be effective you would:

1. Talk to the Isralies---they have been fighting terrorism longer than us and don't seem to have a problem with their airplanes.

2. Use biometrics. IDs can be faked, much harder to fake fingerprints, eyeballs, and such.

3. Have a "threat credibility system" like a credit rating. People go to a place and register their biometrics somewhere (when they are not flying) and do a background check, completely optional and voluntary. These people then can almost walk through like the airline staff can, because they have proven who they are and that they are not criminals. People who don't have this have to submit to the slower more rigorous check. As a bonus you would have a great database of people who fly.

I won't go into profiling, you should do it, but it is not necessarily your fault you can't, it's the higher-ups with no spine.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In response to tso tom:

Tom, presumably if a terrorist hid a knife or razor blade in their shoes this would be detectable by the magnatron without removing our shoes. I was willing to let you slide on most of your statement, but this:

"... Cocaine has been discovered as ell as marijuana, and other drugs."

IS COMPLETELY INSANE! Are you implying that the flying public is at risk because someone might have some coke or pot in their shoes? OR are you implying that the TSA is using this security theater to expand the government's drug war into airport security lines? Perhaps they should also examine the contents of any paperwork or laptop records to make sure there are no tax cheats as well?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The question was asked about why pilots and other flight crew do not need to remove thier shoes.

The reason for this is because they are already in control of the airplane and there is no need for them to smuggle something inside a shoe.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I find it amusing that the pic of the shoes show balloons containg less than 100mls of liquid in each balloon. Dumbass terrorist should've just put the liquid in a bottle in clear view of 'security'

Submitted by Anonymous on

I don't have a problem with taking off my shoes and belt, as long as you provide me with a chair on the other side to sit in while I re-dress myself. I am too old and too white to walk around with my pants hanging down and my shoes untied.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In response to:
How many terrorists have been caught by making them take off their shoes???

The real question is: How many terrorists haven't attempted to bring shoe bombs on planes because TSA is checking them? Its not all about how many items TSA finds. Its also about being a deterrent.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The two pairs of shoes shown in the picture don't show that they were used to smuggle explosives. In one we see just a wire. The other pair of shoes show two balloons filled with something -- my guess is it's drug smuggling. In both cases, this is not a security risk to the plane.

Aside from the Richard Reid example, has the TSA even found a pair of shoes that actually contained explosives (not heroin or coke)?

Submitted by Anonymous on

It looks like you are trying to deceive us. From elsewhere on the TSA website ( for the xray images of the shoes you talked about we see the accompanying text:

"This is a slide or several images showing a mockup of the Richard Reid shoe bomb with simulated explosives, which look the same on as real explosives on an X-ray. We use these images in our covert testing program."

Please note the words "mockup" and "simulated explosives". In other words, these are shoe "bombs" that the TSA created for training. I feel very angry that you would try to mislead us by claiming these are actual shoe bombs that the TSA found in the wild.

Submitted by Anonymous on

For those of you who think that you can not fit enough explosives into a shoe to be a threat...what if several people each had explosives in their shoes and then combined them later??? Just a thought.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In response to Ottnott…

You stated that you could get explosives through by “packing it into a bottle of infant formula, hollow handles of your carry-on bag or your modified belt,” and in the same post you claim your intelligence is being insulted. Well, I hate to insult your intelligence anymore than you are already claiming BUT if you packed explosives in any one of the things you suggested they would be VISIBLE on the x-ray machine and you will have a first class ticket to an 8x6 shiny metal cell.

Submitted by I'm Not A Team ... on

I still fail to see how removing shoes will thwart any would-be terrorist. Isn't it true that any amount of explosives that could be smuggled in a shoe could also be smuggled on a person in the form of an appearance altering apparatus. Obviously, a relatively thinner person could wear some sort of a fat suit filled with explosives or other contraband, could they not? Even something smaller that wraps around an appendage or their torso could be filled with a liquid explosive. Your shoe policy does nothing except cause a hassle and an even larger bottleneck at security checkpoints. There aren't even places to sit, and if you take even 10 seconds too long to grab your belongings (I've had to fill 3 tubs before with my shoes, coat, belt, laptop, laptop case, luggage) you will be hassled by the unfriendly TSA employees at the checkpoint. Besides, there is still the issue of shoelace strangulation AFTER you put your shoes back on.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How many planes have been blown up by shoes? 0. How many attempts have been made? 1. If there had been another attempt, god knows it would be all over the air waves as some massive triumph.

No, the fact is that the TSA has caused the only real damage to America. Wasted time equals lost productivity adding up to billions of dollars in economic damage perpetrated by the TSA.

These shoe screenings weren't even in place yet Richard Reid was stopped. Suddenly we need new rules? The shoe screenings have done absolutely nothing but hassle millions of people, cost billions of dollars for zero gain, made your agency a laughing stock, and made the idea of airport security a farce.

You need to focus on risk "management" rather than this irrational concept of preventing all danger.

Submitted by TSA Screener on

Of course it is the screeners who get the bulk of complaints about the sanitary conditions of the security checkpoints. Simple solution to those of you worried about foot fungi, mildew, and other floor conditions: wear socks.

Keep in mind that the TSA neither owns nor controls the airport security checkpoints. In most cases the TSA is a tenant that pays rent to the airport and whatever quasi-government state agency runs it. So is you are coming through an airport in most major American cities and you are less than impressed with the cleaning - as most of us who work at the airports are - bear in min that the custodial contract most likely went to the lowest bidder.

By the way, don't worry about the floor too much; it's that filthy, disgusting air vent over your head that is the real threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

GERMS YOU BET !! They swab your dirty shoes around the edges where your feet go then use the same cloth on the handles of your purse and luggage. Then back again!! Inside your bag where your snacks are. Its filthy someone is going to get sick

Submitted by Thevoiceofreason on

It might not be officially "all about Richard Reid" but that is where it started. In the history of aviation there has been one nut - and he was actually a nut - who tried to set fire to plastique, which you can't actually do. There are no other documented instances of explosives being concealed in shoes and there are not going to be. This is just one of dozens of bogies which are held over us and frequently revitalised to keep us in fear of a virtually non-existent threat.

Submitted by TSO Tom on

Nancy Toby said...
So just identify to the general public ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where you have correctly identified via a scanner *in advance* of boarding a plane a security threat to the general public smuggled in someone's shoes.

If you have ANY actual instances to share, this might improve your credibility on this issue.

Conveniently, your "why we screen shoes" page neglects to address this issue.

January 31, 2008 6:23 PM
I personally discovered a razor blade hidden under the insold of a passenger's sneakers. This item was found via x-ray screening.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fly at least 40 weeks a year. I can not believe after all these yeaars we still have to remove our shoes. By now you should have a machine which will inspect our shoes while still on our feet. If this were a private enterprise pulling this stunt they would have been out of business years ago.

Submitted by Anonymous on

i think i have it figured out .... you put us through hell before we board so by the time we get on the airplane we'd gladly rip any terrorist to shreds!

Submitted by Anonymous on

In a past life, I traveled quite frequently. On returning home in June 2004 in the Kansas City airport, I witnessed something that blew my mind and forever changed my opinion of the TSA. I passed through the security checkpoint with the usual hassles. At the end of the security checkpoint sitting in a chair was a five-year old girl crying her eyes out. Her mother squatted next to her attempting to console her. A female TSA agent had a hand held metal detector and was also attempting to console her. The agent was going to check her footwear for the dangerous materials. A TSA supervisor stood over the three looking impatient and unmoved by the sight. Other members of the family stood around waiting and hoping that this would end soon. I could tell they were on there way to Orlando and Disney World for a family vacation. (It was really obvious by their choice of wardrobe.) Eventually, the footwear were checked and the girl crawled into her mother's arms and stayed their until boarding the plane. Okay, so what's the big deal? Most travelers have seen this sort of thing before, right? (I have on two other occasions.)

1) The footwear in question were sandals -- brand new, in fact. The soles were not wore at all. They were purchased, no doubt, in preparation for the trip. The foam sole of sandal was no more than 1/2 inch thick, seamless and unmodified. The problem was clearly the metal clasp set off the detector. There was no legitimate reason to wand the sandals. All of this was obvious to me as I passed them at a distance of ten feet. The agent was six inches away from the sandals and could have drawn the same conclusion.

2) The girl was five. Enough said.

3) If we ignore #2, behavioral profiling would have said skip this one. She's on vacation and clearly not a threat nor suspicious in any way. The only thing suspicious about the family was her older brother and he got through. Move on.

These scenes are harmful. We are training our youth to live in a police state. It has happened gradually and the government will only increase the level of intrusive searches. That's not the America I know and love.

I, myself, cannot use the self-service terminals at the check-in counters anymore. I have a name similar to someone on a list somewhere. What list? I don't know. I am under some surveillance? I don't know. Can I find out? Not easily. That's classified.

Thankfully, I don't travel very often anymore. I hate it.

I am not a fan of the TSA or the DHS.

Submitted by Jen on

I have several issues with the shoe thing.

1) I fly twice a week. What is this 'small percentage' of a chance of catching athlete's foot? What about OTHER foot diseases?

2) I'm a woman. I usually don't wear socks because I wear pumps. So my actual feet touch the ground. Think about that.

3) I hate putting my DESIGNER shoes through the checkpoint. Often times my stuff goes through before me. I worry that someone will steal it on the other side. (I actually worry about this with my purse a lot too.) No one is guarding my stuff at the other end!

Submitted by Anonymous on

How about this? Once while traveling, I was asked if I'd like to remove my shoes. I asked if it was required, and was told no. I then replied that, no, I would prefer not to remove my shoes and stepped towards the metal detector. The same TSA agent steps in front of me and stops me to tell me that I need to remove my shoes. I let her know that she just gave me the choice not 10 seconds earlier. But it came down to this: It was x-mas time, there was a huge line behind me, my wife and kid were already on the other side of the metal detector, and the voice in my head said "Do you want to get on that plane or not?". So I removed my shoes, only because I needed to go.

Submitted by Kevin on

First, thanks for opening a conversation. I'm sure you're a bit overwhelmed by the negative responses, but ultimately it's good to at least know what people are thinking, though it may become a PR problem if you plan on not actually making any changes based on it :)

Second, I was offended that you posted the link to the shoes as an 'example'. Reading further on the 'about removing shoes' page, I realised it is a SIMULATED image - you guys made up this example! Clearly, we'd be happier with real-life examples, and any sort of info about statistics of how often this really happens.

Third, if the posters here are clever enough to invent bombs that could get through the shoe check, clearly a bad-guy(tm) would be able to do so. Is it useful for me to list my creative ideas for bomb-smuggling? Somehow I'm worried that it'll promote strip searches/etc, (or worse yet that you'll pay undue attention to me for my sense of creativity) so I just keep my mouth shut...

Excellent job with the site, and I look forward to checking for new posts, etc, regularly. I particularly would love to see the threat level decrease eventually...

Submitted by Susan on

"I personally discovered a razor blade hidden under the insold of a passenger's sneakers. This item was found via x-ray screening."

Please explain to us how that razor blade could be a threat to the aircraft in light of all the other objects pax carry on board that can do far more damage?

Submitted by TSO Tom on

Anonymous said...
In response to tso tom:

Tom, presumably if a terrorist hid a knife or razor blade in their shoes this would be detectable by the magnatron without removing our shoes. I was willing to let you slide on most of your statement, but this:

"... Cocaine has been discovered as ell as marijuana, and other drugs."

IS COMPLETELY INSANE! Are you implying that the flying public is at risk because someone might have some coke or pot in their shoes? OR are you implying that the TSA is using this security theater to expand the government's drug war into airport security lines? Perhaps they should also examine the contents of any paperwork or laptop records to make sure there are no tax cheats as well?

February 2, 2008 3:38 AM

Dear anonymous;
you have the luxury of addressing me personally, but you choose to remain anonymous. That's okay, lets address your concerns:
First of all, razor blades MAY be detectable by magnatron without removing footwear, however x-ray screening is the best method to discover something inside someone's shoes. Secondly, would you want someone doing drugs on your flight, with the potential of becoming violent in the middle of the flight? I know I wouldn't. It has nothing to do with the war on drug, or the war on anything, it has to do with common sense, x-ray screening is REQUIRED of all footwaear because this is the BEST method of discovering prohibited items.

Submitted by JustMeMyselfAndI on

In response to: "if the floor isn't moist then the possibility is, "extremely small to remote" to contract athlete's foot."

Yeah, because no one standing in line at the air port has sweaty feet. No one spills anything ever... and there is never any snow/slush brought in from outside on people's boots because airports never operate in the snow. sarcasm). -- Floors get wet. TSA is not doing enough to make sure the floors they are responsible for people walking across are clean and disinfected. Period.

I wear the thinnest sandals I can find to travel and they still insist that I take them off and run them through the x-ray. How about providing recyclable thin cloth boots to put on instead of making us tread on the floor.

Okay, so there might be something hidden in an adult's shoe... What do you expect to find in a baby's shoe? Why are infants subject to this shoe removal process? Unless you can find velcro shoes in the right size, infant shoes are harder to get on and off than your own (at least for me with my large hands).

I just wish the TSA could show some common sense when it comes to dealing with people travelling with infants. We are going to be travelling with strollers... unless you want to carry our 21lb 7 month old for us. We are going to need to carry formula, and HEY: We need a bottle of water in order to make that formula...and not for $4 a bottle either.

Submitted by Udirtysoso on

You say a study was done? Well the floors are wet. People bring in snow and rain ontheir shoes. Their feet sweat. They spill things.Some airports have carpets other bare floors. Tell the Board of Health you test someones dirty shoes with your explosives machines then use the same cloth on our purse straps and luggage handles

Submitted by BRAZILIANOS on

The thing that I find unfathomable is that we're supposed to be this "superpower" and yet our security system @ the airports is so ANCIENT!!!!!!!!!
Isn't there technology we can implement @ the airports where it's not necessary for us to feel like we're visiting the proctologist when we fly?
Ah yeah and the people that work at the airports? Are you guys sure you're not hiring dungeon masters who used to beat up people for a living?
WHENEVER I can and my business trip is drivable I'd rather drive now than going through all the grief and aggravation.
Oh let's not forget the airline personnel who are habitually nasty too!
So lovely to be flying e?

Submitted by Hans on

As we would expect, none of the TSA rhetoric and/or responses have addressed the simple, basic question of the efficacy of removing shoes as a security measure.

If you can't show us how many bombs have been prevented by this measure, it is nothing more than security theater. Said plainly, either put up, or shut up.

And stop insulting us by showing how contraband can be smuggled in shoes, we're talking security here, not illegal drugs.

Submitted by Lulu on

I am an officer at a Midwestern Airport and we had a passenger with wires in her slippers. No, it was not a bomb but questionable. I choose floors instead of carpets and have met many passengers who are prepared and carry booties in which they dispose of after screening is complete. I have to remove my shoes when I travel and find it goes by much quicker when I know the rules. Yes I would prefer simplicity and to trust everyone but today's society does not afford us that luxury.Here is my favorite question, "Do I look like a terrorist?" When someone knows a definite answer maybe that would make the process easier.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am so tired of hearing people complain about the TSA procedures in Airports. Can't you people figure out that with just a little planning on your part, the process could be streamlined. SHOES: wear a pair of shoes that slip on, no laces to tie. Foot fungus...wear socks. MT your pockets before you get in line. This is not Rocket Science. You people would B__ch if your ice cream was cold.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I watched a sweet elderly woman have to give up her GEL Sole inserts from her shoes in TLH...come on, they are actually solid gel, as in soft rubber. She was VERY upset, they costs her over $20 and she really needed them to alleviate her arthritic feet. This has gone too far!!!

BTW, I've traveled all over the country and TLH is the worst, slowest most unorganized group I've ever seen!!

Submitted by Jay Maynard on

Here's an idea: If it's not unsafe for people to walk around the checkpoint barefoot, then the TSA personnel should lead the way. They should be prohibited from wearing any footwear while at the checkpoint.

Oh, that's right: they're above the law, so they can do whatever they darned well want.

Submitted by 100KFlyer on

Why does the TSA engage in magical thinking?

A person used shoes to smuggle something on board...hence shoes are dangerous?
You HAVE heard of drug mules who have used their body cavities to smuggle pounds and pounds of contraband on board since the 70s, right?
What if the next terrorist has a green carry on...are we going to ban all green carry ons?

In short: Shoes don't kill people, terrorists do. So focus on finding the terrorists (this is typically done through infiltration, good police work and confidential informants) instead of obsessing about an article of clothing that is just as good (or bad) of a smuggling device as is my underwear.

Submitted by Opus125inD on

I have no problem removing my shoes and putting them back on, but I need a place to sit down to do it! I've been disabled for many years and I walk with a cane, so I can't do the on/off while I'm standing. I've traveled through many airports and I've never found one which has chairs before the screening area where one can sit and take off shoes. Please, please, please help us (the passengers) help you (the TSA). Please give us about five or six chairs BEFORE each screening location so we can take off our shoes easily and comfortably and be ready to be screened. Thanks!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA spends over $6 billion a year, an amount I'm sure will increase over time as the bureaucracy grows its tentacles. As a taxpaying traveler I'm not the least bit impressed by the strange circuses you've created at airports where adults are treated like children, and children are often screened as adults.

At ATL I observed TSA "officers" laughing as they tossed empty, dirty containers in front of passengers so they could take off their shoes. The fact that these guys found the process amusing is bad enough, fine, let them laugh about it after work. But they thought it was acceptable to display their contempt publicly, what does that say about TSA management?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I work for TSA and I believe I can answer most of the questions on this forum. It's easy to question everything you don't understand. But let me tell you, there is a reason for these security procedures you are all complaining about.

#1. The Shoes issue
IED's in shoes are a very serious issue. I have seen videos of explosives hidden in the smallest of things with enough power to blow a hole in the side of an airplane. That is why it is necessary that we screen all shoes. And, it is very easy to notice a bomb in a shoe on an x-ray image to those of you thinking it's pointless to x-ray your shoes. I think taking your shoes off is a very small price to pay for everyone's safety. Even if we don't come across shoe bombs at all, it can act as a deterrant to terrorists.

#2. Why don't pilots take off their shoes?

This is the silliest question I have ever heard. These people are FLYING the plane. Does it really matter what is in their shoes? If they wanted to do anything, they could just take the plane down.

#3. I have a medical condition. I can't take my shoes off. This is ridiculous....

All you have to do is tell us you absolutely cannot take off your shoes for a valid medical condition and we can screen you with your shoes on. You should some kind of doctors note prepared before hand.

#4. The floors are disgusting. Germs, germs, germs.

You know what the rules are beforehand. Wear socks!! Do you complain when you go to your friend's house and they ask you to take your shoes off?? You walk in your socks there. You can wear them at the airport.

#5. It's hard for me to take my shoes off. Is there a place to sit?

I don't know about other airports but the one I work at has chairs available before the metal detector and after. Someone should find you a place to sit if you request it.

#6. I need assistance. It's hard to take everything off by myself.

Everybody has the opportunity to have assistance throughout the ENTIRE screening process. In fact, all the way to your airplane. When you check in at your airline, let them know that you need assistance and they will send someone to help you with everything. They will walk/wheel you to security, help you take your shoes off, put your belongings on the x-ray belt, and take you to your plane. JUST ASK!!

#7. This is just a security show.

It is not. We are all there training every month to keep you safe. I have spent countless hours looking at X-ray images and learning to identify the never ending array of threats. We have fake bombs run on us every day to help us detect them. To hear someone say that it's all an act or for show is degrading to all the countless learning we have spent trying to keep you safe.


I just think everyone likes to stand back while they are waiting in line and be critics. You all seem to act like you know everything about security. But you don't. There are valid reason's for everything we do and it doesn't make sense mostly because it inconviences you. If we just let shoes go through and a bomb was snuck on a plane, all of these critics would be the first ones to say TSA should have done more.

And here's the thing....

You know you're not a terrorist, but we don't. We have no idea who all of the passenger's are or if they are terrorists. That is why we screen everyone regardless of race, age, or gender.

Just be conscious that even though our policies don't make sense to you, there are reasons for them you probably have not thought of.
Until there is adequate and safe technology to screen shoes, we'll just all have to go through the inconvience of removing them.

Submitted by Chad on

Dear TSO Tom,

Saying that we need to x-ray all shoes in order to find razor blades so people don't do drugs on the flight and become violent is so silly that I had to laugh.

People are allowed to bring razors on flights anyway, and they can bring pills and even get alcohol on their flights and become as violent as they want.

If you think it's your job to find drugs so you can protect passengers from violent behavior on flights, what is your level of training about drugs? Do you check people's prescriptions to see if they are valid? What do you do about the booze served in first class?

Judged by the highly publicized failures of your agency on finding test bombs, maybe the x-ray isn't the best way to detect explosives.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You say a study was done? Well the floors are wet. People bring in snow and rain on their shoes. Their feet sweat. They spill things.Some airports have carpets others bare floors. Tell the Board of Health you test someones dirty shoes with your explosives machines then use the same cloth on our purse straps and luggage handles.

Submitted by Anonymous on

commenting on what tso tom said...

.......So lets talk about how shoes may pose a threat to air travelers, we're not just talking about explosives, other things can be hidden inside shoes as well..razor blades for instance. A razor blade in someone's shoe could pose a risk...however small you think it might you and or other passengers on an airplane.....

and so can the stylus from my pda, grandma's knitting needles, my mont blanc pen and not to mention screwdrivers which the tsa also allows thru security.

the x-ray machine doesn't and cannot check for explosives yet so it's primary purpose is to look from "dangerous items" yet the tsa allows the aforementioned items thru security-just doesn't make sense does it