Travel Tips

TSA Policies While Flying With Children (YMMV)

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21310993I  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.

7 Comments

  1. Outis

    April 11, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I have a home town and thus a home airport. I’m very familiar with how TSA’s screening procedures are. I tend to consider that sufficient.

    All the other airports are “aways,” and if they have different procedures, it’s their home rule and not mine to resent.

    Also, it seems like you have never dealt much with the big blue menaces, aka the back scatter body scanners, if you call the millimeter wave scanners a “monstrosity.” If there’s a choice between metal detector and millimeter wave scanner, I’d rather do millimeter wave, although most airports I’ve seen make you go through both, so it’s a moot point.

  2. Rahul

    April 11, 2014 at 4:39 am

    You give the TSA too much credit, they can’t get their act together when it comes to adults and security. How will they on kids. Example every week I travel with a C-Pap and have pre-check every other trip I must take it out of my carry on. Tsa says you don’t need too, but yet my bag gets extra screening and they take it out to scan.

    • Tiff

      April 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      I used to work for the federal government so I know that part of the problem may be a constant change in policies that may be difficult for TSA agents to keep up with. I know that’s not unheard of so I’m trying to give the agents the benefit of the doubt. =)

  3. Andrea, passports and pushchairs

    April 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    The pre check drives me nuts, my kids get it every time but only some airports let us use it – laguardia abd Atlanta don’t, but Cincinnati, Houston Hobby and San Diego do, or for us did. Frustrating!

    • Tiff

      April 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      That’s what makes me think it’s the local airport’s discretion whether they let families use pre-check or not. It at least sounds like TSA has told the airports they can do that if they want to; but it’s their choice. If we’re not pressed on time the next time we fly out of DFW I should ask someone and see what kind of answer I get.

  4. shannan

    May 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I have only flown once with all 4 of my girls…the youngest who was 4 at the time, but we all went thru the big scanners with no problems…even with shoes on…and light jackets can sometimes be left on if you zip it up like it is a shirt. 🙂 DFW is my home airport too and I just found your site…I like it.
    S

  5. Wissam

    January 9, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    The main point having extra check is still much better than having a sick psychopath bring something that endanger the safety of me and my family, thanks tall the people how make us fly safer, including TSA.

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