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Flight attendants exempt from invasive TSA body scans

Airplane crew members will not need to submit to the TSA's new full-body scans or 'enhanced' pat-downs.

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A TSA agent pats down an air traveler at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Nov. 22. New procedures at 69 U.S. airports require air passengers to pass through full-body scanners that produce a virtually naked image or else undergo 'enhanced pat-downs.' For weeks, airplane crew had to follow the same procedures, but as of Nov. 17, flight attendants and pilots can revert to the previous screening, with metal detectors and back-of-the-hand pat-downs.

Paul Beaty / AP

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As airports brace for the busiest days of the year, two groups won’t be holding up the security lines: pilots and flight attendants.

Media outlets, including the Monitor, widely reported the pilots’ deal last week, but fewer have noted that flight attendants will receive the same treatment. Security officials acknowledged in a deal brokered Nov. 19 between unions and the TSA that the people who have unfettered access to the cockpit do not need to undergo invasive screening procedures as part of their daily commute.

“It just doesn’t make sense we spend our resources doing this intensive security check on workers who are in a safety-sensitive position and who have been screened before they are allowed to get the job," says Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants at 22 airlines. Many passengers don’t realize how much cockpit access flight attendants have, she adds. “When a pilot steps out of the cockpit, a flight attendant must be in the cockpit.”

Passengers have also complained loudly about the invasive scans, which render a naked image, and the “enhanced pat-downs,” which require whole-hand rubbing against all parts of the body. Most passengers fly infrequently, however, making checkpoint screenings a rare indignity.

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