7 Behaviors That Could Earn You an Extra TSA Security Check

by SharonKurheg

No one wants to spend any more time at the TSA security checkpoint than they have to. That’s why we’ve given so much advice about that very thing over the years:

That last one is particularly important. TSA officers are looking for particular things in our luggage that could be used as a threat. That’s why they maintain a list of what you can and can’t bring in your carry on and personal bags (and checked luggage, too!).

However it’s more than just what you bring. It’s also your demeanor. How you act. As part of their training*, TSA officers are taught to look for certain behaviors that could potentially make you appear suspicious. Stuff that would make you stand out as a typical passenger. Here are some of them:

Wearing baggy clothes

Many people try their best to be comfortable on a plane. That’s especially true if they have a really long flight in front of them. But baggy clothes can make TSA officers wary that you may be trying to hide something – that super large hoodie may earn you a pat down.

Wearing unseasonable outfits

I know planes are kept cold (here’s why) but wearing a parka and ski pants in the middle of summer would still be considered suspicious. Just like wondering what might be under that hoodie, TSA officers might want to do further inspection to make sure you don’t have anything dangerous under that parka.

Appearing intoxicated

If you’re acting as if you may have been drinking too much, you may be detained while the TSA officer asks the police to do a blood alcohol test on you. What happens after that will be determined by what your score is. After all, remember what happened to this lady.

Acting aggressive

We’ve seen enough TikTok videos in the past 3 years to know that someone who is aggressive could be a potential danger on any plane.

Obviously, someone who is acting aggressively – belligerent, angry, nasty, etc. – is going to be a red flag for TSA officers.

Acting nervous

Someone who has plans to do something bad to an airport, a plane, etc., may appear nervous.

Fidgeting, swaying/rocking, cracking your knuckles, biting your nails, clearing your throat, talking too much, appearing pale or red, or wide eyed can all be signed of anxiousness or nervousness, and TSA officers may want to see if you look that way because you’re scared to fly, or have nefarious plans of some sort.

Avoiding eye contact

For some of us, it’s a behavior that’s been going on for as long as we can remember. Got something to hide? Avoid eye contact.

Carrying lots of cash

If you have a lot of cash on you, especially if it’s in foreign currency, you may get flagged by a TSA officer. They’re concerned about sex trafficking, so they may want to ask you some questions.

*Note: In 2015, The Intercept posted a list of “TSA’s secret behavior checklist to spot terrorists.” It was called the “SPOT Referral Report” (SPOT stood for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques). The name of the SPOT program was changed to the BDA (Behavior Detection and Analysis). The program was meant to identify potential terrorists among people at an airport by a set of 94 objective criteria, all of which are signs for either stress, fear, or deception. Passengers who met enough of the criteria were, under the program, referred for a patdown and additional screening.

Both SPOT and BDA have been denounced due to, among other things, it was pseudoscience, ineffective, and TSA officers were using it in conjunction with racial profiling.

Feature Image: TSA

The program has since gotten less funding but appears to still be an active part of the TSA.

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BoardingAreaFlukie March 10, 2023 - 5:00 pm

I remember in Dubai Airport at the security screening, a only man in what seemed to be a somewhat more formal security uniform with a jacket and tie walked by me looking at me. It’s just natural to look back at someone looking at you to find out why the person is looking at you. Of course we established eye contact.

When I picked up my back another agent said his boss flagged me for further security scrutiny of my bags and person. I asked why. The agent said, “because you were looking at him.” Of course I was looking at him because he was looking at me first!

So I’m not sure about the “avoiding eye contact” part.

SharonKurheg March 10, 2023 - 5:32 pm

Wow! Only thing I can think of is you said it happened in Dubai. Different culture, y’know? Maybe giving eye contact there is a no-no?

S. G. Barany March 26, 2023 - 3:16 pm

Also, BOARDINGAREAFLUKIE may be a woman and isn’t it against the law there (cultural or otherwise) that women have their eyes downcast
and certainly not return a man’s “look” at all times??


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