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This will be my first time going to the airport, long story short I have a lot of questions... I have a 'squishy' bag (not hard) would there be a chance of it ripping? When my bag goes through the scanner can the picture be seen by the public eye? If my bag is to be checked how is it done (like everything ripped out) and is it in public eye? If my things were to be 'ripped' out will they put my things back in or me? What should (and shouldn't) I put in my bags (or certain ones)? How should I pack my bags so I don't get flagged? When I go through the body xray can the public eye see the screen? Will pads/tampons show up (will I be patted down over it)? What is a pat down like? Do I need to have my passport (or anything else) ready for them to see? Do I have to have my hair down when I go through the xray? If you feel like I missed something or want to give me advice please feel free to say cause I want to be prepared.

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  • Make sure you have relevant documents ready. Don't wear heavy metal jewellery (significant metal items must be removed before going through the scanner). Nov 26, 2019 at 10:01
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    Which airport in particular? You’re asking multiple questions, it might be better to split your question into two (one about bag security checks, and the other about body checks).
    – Traveller
    Nov 26, 2019 at 10:29
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    When in doubt, be open and ask for help from the airport and or airline staff
    – Max
    Nov 26, 2019 at 10:55
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    Welcome to the site Amanda. Please do not ask more than one question in each question. And please search the site for like questions, as many have been asked already.
    – Willeke
    Nov 26, 2019 at 11:07
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    You can't have anything in your pockets during the scanner, nor can you have any jackets, belts, watches, some shoes etc., if they detect something they will pat you down over your clothes which is done professionally and though can be awkward is usually quick and easy. You leave your passport/boarding pass in your bag. You don't need to have your hair down. As mentioned above if you want to ask a question here it generally needs to be one at a time so you can get proper answers, have a browse through questions tagged airport security as you will find lots of helpful info! (2)
    – Uciebila
    Nov 26, 2019 at 13:11

1 Answer 1

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Lots of questions...

I have a 'squishy' bag (not hard) would there be a chance of it ripping?

It depends A LOT on what you're packing inside of the bag. Usually "squishy" bags are quite resistant to the brutish treatment they get in the loading / unloading process for checked luggage (the one you send in the cargo compartment), but they don't do much to protect the contents. I advise you to not pack anything fragile in the bag. If the bag is a carry-on (the one that goes with you in the passenger compartment) there is less risk to your belongings or the bag because you will be the one handling it for most of the trip.

When my bag goes through the scanner can the picture be seen by the public eye?

No, the monitors are positioned so only the security officers can see it - not even you can see the picture.

Edit: I've only been to airports that the monitors are positioned this way. It appears that in some airports the monitors can be seen by whomever is at the end of the conveyor but it doesn't really matter because it is difficult to identify the contents anyway.

If my bag is to be checked how is it done (like everything ripped out) and is it in public eye?

Carry-on luggage / Personal check: If it is just something that they might already have an idea of what it is and they need confirmation, they just ask you to open your bag on the line (I've done that a few times when they wanted to double-check something). If there is a need for extensive check, this is done in private, usually in a separate room.

Checked luggage: If done during the loading process, this is done in a completely separate place from boarding, just between the security officers and the lugagge handling company. If done during customs (after you reached destination), same procedure for carry-on applies

If my things were to be 'ripped' out will they put my things back in or me?

Carry-on luggage: usually you put your things back

Checked luggage: they put the things back, since your luggage is not with you. TSA puts a notice inside your bag to let you know they opened it.

What should (and shouldn't) I put in my bags (or certain ones)?

Airlines provide you with instructions on what you can and can't carry on each luggage (carry-on and checked), please read those instructions carefully and follow them thoroughly. This will avoid very uncomfortable situations at the security line or at customs with you having to dig through your bag for something you should not be packing and throw it out.

Further advices which are also pretty standard: always carry valuables and documents with you; personally pack your bags; keep an eye on your bags at all times when in the airport Edit: never carry things for other people. It goes with "personally pack your bags".

How should I pack my bags so I don't get flagged?

Now is the time for a reality shock: it depends A LOT of your departure airport, your destination airport and your nationality (and sometimes your race / gender). Airport security works with an INSANE amount of profiling which might trigger additional checks which are most probably not fair.

Most important advice I already gave on the previous item: learn the rules for what you can and can't carry and follow them.

When I go through the body xray can the public eye see the screen?

No, as with the bags, all screens are positioned so only the security officers can see them.

Edit: I've only been to airports that the monitors are positioned this way. It appears that in some airports the monitors can be seen by whomever is at the end of the conveyor but it doesn't really matter because it is difficult to identify the contents anyway.

Piece of advice for this: don't carry anything in your pockets. Keys and electronics should be removed anyway and if there is something they can't figure out what it is, they'll ask you to empty your pockets.

Will pads/tampons show up (will I be patted down over it)?

Depending on how you pack them, yes, they'll show in the screens and they don't really care. If you have them in your pocket when you go through x-ray they might ask you to empty your pockets due to the volume if they can't figure out what it is. If you are not comfortable with exposing them, pack them in a toiletry bag.

What is a pat down like?

It is not usual to be patted down in the airport, what security officers normally do is ask you to empty your pocket if they don't know what's inside your pockets from the x-ray image alone. What they can sometimes do for drug trafficking and explosives check is to "pat down" with a tissue that then goes to a trace detector (I've been through it only once, though). They just run the tissue over you (head, shoulders, arms, waist and external side of the legs).

If anything else is needed, you'll be requested to go to a personal check in a private room.

Do I need to have my passport (or anything else) ready for them to see?

Yes. Keep your passport and boarding passes on hand. You have to present them to gain access to the security line, just keep them handy (jacket, passport holder or front pocket of the bag).

Do I have to have my hair down when I go through the xray?

If you are wearing a normal hairband, no, it doesn't make any difference. DO NOT TAKE A HAIRPIN - you'll be required to throw it away.

If you feel like I missed something or want to give me advice please feel free to say cause I want to be prepared.

Be less hard on yourself, especially with showing toiletries (like pads / tampons). Nobody really cares, believe me. Everybody is rushing to get to their plane (boarding) or tired and hassled after a trip (customs). Security officers are also trained to keep your privacy as much as possible, and they see a lot of crazy stuff in the bags. Pads, tampons and underwear are just a normal day.

On a second note, again depending on your profile, appearing to be very anxious or worried can trigger additional security checks.

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    I suspect many parts of this answer are heavily location dependent. I've certainly been through plenty of airports where the luggage scans are clearly visible from the area where you collect your bags after they've been scanned. Not that OP should worry about that - other than large dense items most objects aren't easily recognised, even in the unlikely event other passengers are actually paying attention to the screen.
    – Chris H
    Nov 26, 2019 at 10:59
  • @ChrisH Indeed it's based on the airports I've been to, and I agree with the point - it is not really recognizable if you don't have the training, and TBH, nobody cares what you have in the bag. I saw people taking some crazy stuff out of the bags (gardening scissors, WTH, that was the only time I did a double-take) and nobody raised a fuss. Nov 26, 2019 at 11:04
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    Also depending on the airport and the time, patting down can be a common thing. When they introduced new scanners at my local airport most people got patted. An officer of your gender pats, lightly, on the outside of your clothes where the scanner shows there might be something.
    – Willeke
    Nov 26, 2019 at 11:20
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    Don't carry anything for anybody else (eg someone asks you to carry one of their many bags or someone asks you to take a package to their friend in the other country). If contraband is found in it, you can bet they will be nowhere to be found and you'll be left as the suspect.
    – canonacer
    Nov 26, 2019 at 14:30
  • @Willeke sincerely, I never saw people get patted down, just the crazy thing with the tissues (happened to myself in Bologna). What I saw very very often were people being asked to empty their pockets Nov 26, 2019 at 17:35

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