WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- Quietly, the Transportation Security Administration is easing the ability of senior citizens, 75 and older, to pass through airport security.
The new approach has three components. Generally, seniors won't have to take their shoes off. They won't have to remove light outerwear, such as a sweater. And if they trigger a metal detector, they will be allowed to pass through the detector a second time before being required to undergo a pat-down.
Phase-in of the new guidelines for seniors began in March at Chicago O'Hare; Denver; Orlando and Portland, Ore., airports, all of which have a high volume of travelers who are 75 or older. Both Chicago O'Hare and Denver International are hubs for United (UAL), and O'Hare is the country's second busiest airport. The guidelines are expected be in place at every U.S. airport by the end of the summer.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter said the changes are part of the agency's effort to design approaches more targeted to specific sets of passengers. When John Pistole became the TSA administrator in July 2010, "he decided it would be best to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach, and TSA began implementing risk-based screening procedures," Castelveter said.Among the changes are new procedures for active military and children under 12, similar to the new procedures for seniors: These were introduced in September 2011. The changes do not diminish the level of airport security, Castelveter said, noting that "checkpoints are only one security layer of the many in place to protect aviation." Multiple security measures involving various federal agencies are not always obvious to travelers, he noted. Moreover, Castelveter assured that seniors, like children, are still screened, but said, "We will limit the amount of screening of those who pose the least risk." In every case, the agency will continue to require that when alarms are set off, travelers will not be able to continue until the anomaly is resolved. People like to complain about the TSA, of course. Many expressed outrage when the agency required former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is 88, to get out of his wheelchair for a pat down at LaGuardia Airport on May 11. One person who did not complain was Kissinger himself. Rather, in a prepared statement, Kissinger's office said he is routinely inspected "because he wears a brace on his foot and therefore cannot remove his shoes at the screening checkpoint." Kissinger said he "would like to commend the professionalism and courtesy of the TSA agents in performing an important job."
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