TSA introduces kid-friendly checkpoints nationwide

(From my post on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin)

Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that children under 13 years old soon will no longer have to remove their shoes at airport security checkpoints.

That’s great news for families, of course, but also for any traveler who has had to wait in line behind a 3-year-old balking at being parted from his Spider-Man sneakers.

I asked Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lisa Farbstein to explain what families, children and general travelers need to know about the new kid-friendly checkpoint procedures.

Q: What will be different?

A: The modification is that we will allow kids 12 and under to leave their shoes on. We will also permit multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology by children to clear any alarms as well as [employ] the greater use of explosives trace detection. The idea is that these changes in protocol will ultimately reduce — though not eliminate — pat-downs of children that would have otherwise been conducted to resolve alarms.

Q: Will there be exceptions?

A: Yes. Children may be required to remove their shoes, and could still undergo a pat-down, if anomalies are detected during security screening that cannot be resolved through other means. These changes will allow officers to better focus their efforts on passengers who are more likely to pose a risk to transportation while expediting the screening process.

Q: When will it start?

A: The changed procedures are already in effect at many airports, with full implementation expected by Sept. 26.

Q: Weren’t some airport already doing this?

A: In August, we tested the new procedures in a pilot at six airports: Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Houston (IAH) and Denver. Those pilot sites were selected based on airports that had a higher volume of travelers in the desired age range to allow for a better overall sample during our testing.

Q: What tweaks were done in response to the testing?

A: For security purposes, we can’t get into that. But here’s an interesting factoid: Children in the 12-and-under age range represent about 3 percent of all passengers, although during peak travel seasons at certain airports, children may make up about 8 percent of the passengers.

(Photo courtesy TSA)