When You're Pulled Aside, What Should You Expect?

When you're pulled aside, what should you expect? If you set off the metal detector, you will be pulled aside by a security screener for additional screening. This can be highly annoying if you are in a hurry, but the best thing to do is stay calm and answer any questions politely.

After you have checked your luggage at the counter or kiosk and have received your boarding pass, it is time to pass through a security checkpoint. Except in certain circumstances, only passengers with a boarding pass may go through security and to their gate. Adults have to show picture identification most of the time as well.


You have placed your carry-on items and maybe your shoes on the conveyor belt. Those items are sent through an x-ray machine. Laptop computers and some other electronic items may be turned on to verify what they are and swabbed for further screening for explosives. Now it is your turn to pass through the metal detector. "If you are selected for additional screening, remember that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Employee is simply doing his or her job, and try to be pleasant. These security measures are in place to ensure your safety," says Paula Berg of Southwest Airlines.




"The screening is generally performed by a TSA Employee of your same gender and includes a hand-wand inspection along with a quick pat-down of your torso. The screener will direct you from the metal detector to a screening station where he or she will brief you on the next steps. While you may be separated from your carry-on baggage during this process, every effort should be made to help you maintain visual contact of your belongings," says Paula Berg. If you set off the metal detector, you will be pulled aside by a security screener for additional screening. This can be highly annoying if you are in a hurry, but the best thing to do is stay calm and answer any questions politely.

The hand wand they pass over your body should never touch you in any way, except by pure accident. You do have the right to request that this extra screening take place in a privacy area. People can request this if the screener is doing a pat down, which can make most people very uncomfortable. "During the hand-wanding inspection, you will be asked to stand with your feet apart and your arms extended to the side as the screener passes the wand over your entire body, without actually touching you with the wand. The screener may ask you to remove your shoes, and your shoes may be X-rayed separately. The pat-down inspection will follow, during which the screener will pat your torso with the back of the hand," says Berg of Southwest Airlines.

Being pulled aside can be a nervous experience for travelers. Try to remember that these are people doing their job. If you are unsure about something, ask the security screeners. Another thing to think about before going through security is to consider any children going with you. It might be scary for them to see Mom or Dad pulled aside, so explain what might happen with them. You can make sure that you are never out of sight of your children or carry-on items.

"In some instances, only your carry-on baggage will require additional screening, in which case it may be opened and examined on a table in your presence. Your baggage might also be inspected with an Explosive Trace Detection machine, which is separate from the X-ray machine. Be sure not to touch or reach for your bags until the screener has advised you that the search is complete and your baggage is cleared," says Paula Berg, "While it may seem like a hassle, additional screening should take less than five minutes."

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