They tell people to empty stuff into a tray, but what is the point of putting notes such as travel money in there?


3 Answers 3


When I go through the full-body scanners in the US airports, they ask to completely empty my pockets because the machine will detect anything. I've tested this with banknotes, napkins, boarding passes, etc that I forgot in my pockets and was kindly patted in return when the machine put a red rectangle over that area of my body.

For metal detector (the good old magnetometer gates) paper in the pockets doesn't matter. Even smaller metal parts (like watches, belt buckles etc) often times wouldn't trigger it.

  • 1
    I'm frequently patted down because of bulky (empty) cargo pockets.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 15:31
  • Forgive me all for not being a physicist or a doctor. And yes, quite a few people thought they were dangerous when they were introduced.
    – littleadv
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 18:39
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    No one should ever consent to these full body scanners. One, such mass protest would immediately collapse the security theatre which is great. Two, no one has the shortest idea what they scan and who sees that. And no, what the airport personnel sees is not necessarily all that happens. Before Snowden we were considered paranoid, now the question is, are we paranoid enough...?
    – user4188
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 22:17
  • 3
    @chx or, just a thought, vote for a representative that would voice your opinion and act in your interests in the next elections? The people who are most "anti government" in the US are also voting for the most government oppression at the polls.
    – littleadv
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 23:04
  • In London airport they don't pat down right away but instead re-asking to empty the pockets. Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 11:09

There might be differences between airports but in the airports I have been, no, not at all in pockets on your body.

My solution is to put everything in the pockets of my jacket and put that in the tray as is, so nobody sees what is in the pockets.

On the airport nearest me you can not even have a single paper hankie in your pockets.

There are systems which are less demanding but even then you rather have your money in something you trust rather than having to pull it out of your jeans pockets while some guards are watching every move you make.

Oh, it is not just airports, it is also the metal detector ports in some buildings. (I remember visiting the White House on a Washington DC bus tour and having chewing gum wrappers in my pockets. The guards were not amused.)

It is not the money they are interested in, it is that you do not bring anything through in your pockets that they do not allow, and the easiest way is to make sure you have no metal or even nothing in your pockets.

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    What is a "paper hankie"? A quick google suggests possibly a paper handkerchief, would that be correct? Like a paper towel or napkin?
    – Midavalo
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 19:55
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    @Midavalo correct, the small version of those.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 21:02
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    @Sabine, I have been flagged up because of the several lagers of fabric of my pockets.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 21:03
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    To me, as a Brit, "hankie" with or without the qualifier "paper" is something for wiping the nose. Paper towel is typically for cleaning mess in the kitchen. Napkin is typically to put on your lap or to wipe your hands when eating.
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 5:23
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    @mdewey nope, not gendered at all. Both men or women may have hankies.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 13:02

Are people allowed to keep cash in pocket when going through security?

That depends on the airport. E.g., typically not allowed at the main US airports, while some other airports do allow it.

Same for jackets, shoes, etc., security rules change quite a bit between airports/countries.

Rules may also differ for non-airport security checks (e.g., train).

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