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TSA Pat Downs Just Got a Lot More Personal

If you’re selected for a TSA pat down at airport security the next time you fly, expect to face a more hands-on physical inspection than you’re used to. The TSA has implemented a new “Universal Pat Down” to replace the varying types of physical screenings it previously used. Some travelers are calling the new practice invasive.

‘More Involved’ TSA Pat Down Screening

“Effective March 2, 2017, TSA consolidated previous pat-down procedures into one standardized pat-down procedure at airport security checkpoints and at other locations within the airport,” the TSA said in a statement.

According to Bloomberg, the change is in response to a Department of Homeland Security investigation that found widespread failure by TSA to seize weapons from undercover agents. Bloomberg also reports that the TSA is notifying some local police about the change in anticipation of increased complaints about “abnormal” frisking.

“I would say people who in the past would have gotten a pat down that wasn’t involved will notice that the [new] pat down is more involved,” TSA spokesperson Bruce Anderson told Bloomberg.

A traveler who experienced the new procedure told NBC News that “seasoned travelers might take it in stride but infrequent travelers will be embarrassed and shocked.”

What Is the New TSA Pat Down?

The TSA hasn’t publicly specified what exactly these new pat downs will involve. Anderson told Bloomberg that “knowing our specific procedures could aid those who wish to do travelers harm in evading our measures.”

Opting out of body scanners or alarming a member of the canine team will result in a pat down. Other “unpredictable security measures” can also call for them, the TSA said in a statement. The current protocol for pat-down screenings states that agents primarily use the backside of their hands when touching sensitive areas of the body like genitals, but may use open hands “in limited cases.” The TSA has told SmarterTravel that its agents learned the new “Universal Pat Down” in instructor-led classes.

What Are Your Rights?

If you’re worried about being screened the next time you’re at the airport, prepare yourself by knowing your rights. Specifically, officers of the same gender as the traveler must perform pat downs with another agent present, and passengers can request a private screening and bring along an individual of their choosing. If you are selected for a TSA pat down as these changes become clearer, consider taking advantage of a private screening with a travel companion present.

What do you think of the screening changes? Comment below.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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