We Won’t Be Able to Wear Our Shoes Through TSA Checkpoints Any Time Soon

(…unless we’re selected for ‘pre-check’ that is)

The TSA doesn’t like the shoe scanners that they’ve paid for.

After spending millions of dollars testing four different scanning devices that would allow airline passengers to keep their shoes on at security checkpoints, the United States government has decided for now that travelers must continue to remove their footwear, by far the leading source of frustration and delays at the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration said it had rejected all four devices because they failed to adequately detect explosives and metal weapons during tests at various airports. One of the scanners is now used in airports in 18 countries.

The machines detect explosives in shoes just as well as putting shoes through an x-ray machines. But don’t detect some things that x-raying the shoes also fails to detect.

Curiously, alternatives to the shoe carnival seem to be held to a much higher standard than the rest of the things actually deployed by TSA — unreliable nude-o-scopes and even less reliable screeners.

(HT: Hit and Run)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, you know, if former Secretary Chertoff decides to lobby on behalf of the shoe scanners as he did the nude-o-scopes, I’m sure you’ll see some implementation of them throughout the US in the next few years.

  2. Yeah, it is strange they’re actually running tests since non-metal explosives can easily pass through metal detectors and just about anything can make it through the nudeoscopes in loose clothing.

  3. What is so bad about millimeter wave scanners? They don’t subject passengers to any radiation and they take around 3 seconds, so quick that when you get out your bag is still going through the xray machine.

    As for the shoes, the only upside to having to take them off is that pre-check selectees get to feel special leaving their shoes on.

  4. Kris Zeil – radiologists and others doing actual testing disagree.

    This is more TSA ridiculousness, the show must go on. This agency has zero financial responsibility and less accountability. The incompetence is just unbelievable.

  5. As many others have probably observed too, when you’re traveling outside the U.S. it is common that you don’t have to remove shoes. Other countries which are also very serious minded about terrorism have decided this procedure is not necessary – until it comes time to board a flight to the U.S., at which point the security suddenly becomes immensely more intrusive and time-consuming. Just this month, I politely asked an agent why, and she said, “The U.S. government,” and left it at that.

  6. I often fly through London Heathrow, to the US and elsewhere, and I have never seen “normal” shoes removed (huge boots, yes, but not normal shoes). Does the TSA really think that’s because the British simply don’t care if their planes explode? (Are Americans really that self-centered and narcissistic? And are personality disorders a good basis for making government policy?)

  7. I’d be less opposed to taking off my shoes if the damn floor was actually clean. More often than not, it’s some of the filthiest ground in the airport.

  8. Has no one considered it could be the costs?

    “After spending millions of dollars testing four different scanning devices…”

    Maybe rolling out a program that costs 10’s to 100’s of millions of dollars to deploy wouldn’t be popular right now. If it *increased* security, it might happen. But seeing as it would maintain the status quo at a cost of 10’s of millions of dollars, I’m willing to bet there’s just no stomach for it.

    Not that I take security theatre seriously. It’s just hard to justify the expense for the benefit… Kind of like those “air marshalls” that cost 10+ million per arrest…

  9. If you want to see a model in screening efficiency, you only need to fly out of Haneda or Changi.

    Changi — screening is done at the gate. You leave your shoes on. No nonsense

    Haneda – you leave your shoes on. They have devices to check for liquid explosives. I had a bottle of water with me and was about to toss it when a screener pointed at the machine. I put my drink in, it beeped green, and I picked it back up.

  10. Those f’ing bunglers will make a mess out of anything. One day it’s limit the liquid size, then take off your shoes, then your jacket, some day it might as well be take off all your clothes and give you a rectal exam for good measure. It’s all a load of waste of money nonsense in the name of “security”

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