WASHINGTON – Air passengers will no longer have to remove bulky headwear such as turbans at screening checkpoints if doing so makes them uncomfortable.
A revised federal guideline, effective Oct. 27, gives airport screeners the option to pat down headwear at the metal detector if a passenger does not want to remove it for personal reasons.
In August, the Transportation Security Administration changed its guidelines and subjected travelers to secondary screening at security checkpoints if they were wearing head coverings, such as cowboy hats, berets or turbans. The screenings could have included a pat-down search of the head covering, if the screener found it necessary.
But some religious organizations were outraged at the new rule and felt it was a form of racial profiling. For instance, in the Sikh religion, the turban is considered private, and removing a turban would be like removing a woman's blouse, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition. Since 2001, federal policy has required screeners to search turbans only if they do not clear a metal detector.
TSA officials listened to these concerns, and now passengers wearing bulky clothing — including bulky headwear — can be subjected to a mix of screening, such as pat-downs, X-ray devices and portal machines that check for explosives. If an item still cannot be ruled out as a potential threat, the screener still has the option to request that the passenger remove it in a private screening area.
Experts say mixing up the screening techniques is good security. "We must use security measures that are unpredictable, agile," TSA Administrator Kip Hawley told a Senate panel Tuesday.
Notice of the change was posted on the TSA Web site Tuesday.