Some have called the TSA “Americas Gestapo”.
The shoe removal policy is certainly one area where they seem unaccountable, uncoordinated and when questioned undeniably rude.
Here is the word from the TSA – full policy here.
TSA Shoe Screening Policy
You are not required to remove your shoes before you enter the walk-through metal detector.
HOWEVER, TSA screeners may encourage you to remove them before entering the metal detector as many types of footwear will require additional screening even if the metal detector DOES NOT alarm.
Screeners will encourage you to remove the following footwear that is likely to require additional screening:
* Platform shoes (including platform flip-flops)
* Footwear with a thick sole or heel (including athletic shoes)
* Footwear containing metal (including many dress shoes)
I travel with similar shoes on every trip – Doc Martens with almost zero metal in them. The heel and sole are less than one inch in height.
My experience is that there is no rhyme or reason on removing shoes. It seems that screening shoes is purely down to the whim of the individual TSA agent.
Just in the last month I have seen that it’s 50/50 whether shoe removal is required. My shoes have never been screened in Europe or Canada.
When you question the policy you get selected for ‘random screening’. That’s not random; that’s intimidation so that you always comply.
When I ask the TSA duty administrator for guidance on the shoe policy I get referred to the above information; this is patently being ignored. Most frequent travellers I talk to are getting screened and ‘invited’ to remove their shoes.
When I pressed further on this policy – I was told that although ‘shoe removal is not required, and that TSA agents cannot ask you to remove shoes’ – when you are ‘invited to remove shoes’ this clearly is an instruction. When invited and you decline you always get a full security search – 15 minutes of wasted time.
There are many, many frequent fliers questioning this mindless policy. Even as far back as 2003 this was noted as being inconsistent.
That is so true. In my recent travel from Baltimore to Chicago to Boston and back to Baltimore, I had the same experience. Last summer while travelling I actually wore Teva sandals to the airport. I still had to take them off. When they had me do that, I actually looked at the attendant somewhat incredulously.
I have given up trying to game the TSA when travelling. It just never works out the way I think it should.