Travel Tips

TSA Policies While Flying With Children (YMMV)

By  |  am getting the impression that either 1) TSA has not decided on a comprehensive plan on how/what kids need to do while going through security or 2) They leave it up to the individual airports to decide. On four flights over the past four months out of three different airports, we have experienced different requirements and policies when it comes to dealing with traveling with children.

First, the things that are the same. One, kids under the age of 12 do not have to take their shoes off to go through security. Two, all of us go through the old-fashion metal detectors, not the new monstrosities that have become standard now where you have to stand in a certain spot, put your hands over your head, etc. etc..

On the non-Spirit Airlines flights we took, the kids were automatically given TSA pre-check status without me filling out an application or doing what adults have to do to get pre-check status. When we arrived at DFW we were told we all had to go through the normal security line even though the kids had pre-check status which seemed pointless to me. If the parents don’t have it and can’t escort the kids through pre-check, why give kids pre-check status in the first place? The kids had pre-check status again when we flew out of Honolulu, but there they told us there we could go with the kids through the pre-check line.

On this latest Spirit flight with the kids they did not show up with automatic pre-check status on their boarding passes so we went through the normal security line at DFW. However in Detroit, they had a special line for people traveling with children (anyone under age 12) and seniors who were 75 and over. It had the exact same rules as pre-check, no one had to take off their shoes (in a regular security line we do, but the kids don’t), we could leave our laptops and liquids in our bags and we could keep our light jackets/sweaters on. The only thing that had to be removed from bags for screening was if you were carrying a breathing machine. While this concept is nice and all, they’re like anything and sometimes these lines hurt us more than they help us. It seems like we always take longer when we go through the special “family lines”. Our kids have flown so much we have going through the security line down by now and can get our stuff ready pretty quickly whether it’s just me or both me and my husband there. I admit I can get pretty frustrated when we’re now stuck waiting behind other families who don’t know what they need to do or not do for security.

Different airports may have different policies/procedures for going through security with your children but these things should be standard at all U.S. airports:

1) Children 12 and under are allowed to leave their shoes on
2) Children 12 and under do NOT have to go through the Advanced Imaging Technology scanner but can walk through the metal detector
3) The TSA has no right to separate you from your children. Outside of them walking through the metal detector separately, your kids are supposed to remain with you. If someone from TSA tries to insist on taking your child away for a separate screening refuse and insist on talking to a supervisor.
I wish they would come up with one policy and stick with it; but I guess that’s just a pipe dream.  =)

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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


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