Home > Government & Legislation > Consequences for Refusing a Full Airport Body Scan

Consequences for Refusing a Full Airport Body Scan

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 2 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
Full Body Scanners Airport Images

Full body scans used at UK airports have been criticised by civil liberties groups for breaching privacy rights. But this has not stopped the authorities from enforcing consequences such as banning passengers from flights if they refuse a full body scan.

Full Body Scanners and Safer Flights

Full body scanners have been in use in some UK airports since the summer of 2010. These devices are aimed at improving security on flights and designed as an anti terrorism measure. These scanners were introduced after a failed bomb attempt on a transatlantic flight on Christmas day 2009. The body scanners are being rolled out at major airports across the UK and are already in place in Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham. Many people simply view body scanners as necessary security measure but civil liberties groups do claim they are an infringement of privacy rights.

The Public’s View of Full Body Scanners

Many passengers believe that if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to be concerned about. But the first passengers to use the scanner did have mixed reactions with some claiming that the scan felt incredibly intrusive. The biggest misconception, according to airport security staff, is that the scanners will show passengers naked. According to security employees this is not the case, although photographs of the images taken from the body scanners are extremely revealing. The images taken from the full body scans are deleted as soon as the scan has been undertaken.

Alternatives to a Full Body Scan

People who do refuse to allow a full body scan in the UK do not have an alternative. In the US, passengers can refuse a full body scan and have the right to request a full body pat down by security officials instead. This is not the case in the UK as the government decided that full body pat downs would not offer the same search efficiency. Not everyone will be chosen to undergo a full body scan at airports. The selection process is random but passengers who are chosen for a full body scan and refuse to comply will not be permitted to fly.

Extra Security Measures taken at Airports

Undergoing a full body scan at airports may not actually be the end of the airport security checks. If for some reason the scanner cannot make a full assessment of the passenger then a strip search may be necessary. Passengers will then be required to enter a private area where they will be asked to explain any abnormalities. If security officials are still not satisfied the passenger may be required to remove layers of clothing until the security officials are satisfied. Passengers do have the right for a body search to be made by members of the same sex.

Consequences of Refusing a Full Body Scan

Anyone who is chosen for a full body scan at a UK airport and refuses will be banned from the intended flight. There is no alternative method of security search available to passengers. This consequence extends to every age group, and the exemption for under 18s that was in place has now been removed. Civil liberties groups are critical of this infringement of rights especially since no alternative to the full scan has been set in place. Members of the public who have refused the scan on religious grounds have been banned from flying.

Airport Full Body Scan Code of Practice

A code of practice has been drawn up by the Department of Transport on the use of full body scanners. Rules for the use of the scanners include:

  • Body scanner operators and passengers are separated by a screen
  • The images are anonymous and are destroyed after the screening
  • Passengers are chosen to be scanned at random
  • Passengers cannot be selected for scanning on the basis of race, ethnic origin, age or gender
  • Passengers have the right to request that they are scanned by members of the same sex
Although there has been an outcry from civil liberties groups the airport full body scanners are set to stay in the UK. Passengers have a choice if they are selected for screening, and that choice is comply with the screening or be banned from flights.

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Mountaingoat,where is the directive, i have looked and cannot find, possibly post a link for us all here who are fed up with this prison approach.
flop1 - 2-Jun-17 @ 6:19 AM
There is now an opt out option in the UK, go to the UK department of Transport website and you will find a new directive (dated 31 october 2016). I went through Aberdeen airport recently and managed to get a pat down by showing the directive that I had printed out and carried with me. The security staff did not know anything about it, however after a phone call they had to give me the manual search. I WOULD SUGGEST YOU PRINT OUT THE DIRECTIVE AND CARRY IT WITH YOU WHEN TRAVELING THROUGH ANY UK AIRPORT: THEY HAVE BY LAW TO GIVE YOU A MANUAL SEARCH IF YOU REQUEST IT AND CANNOT LONGER REFUSE YOU THE RIGHT TO FLY!
mountaingoat - 22-May-17 @ 5:56 PM
Can airport authorities be sued for failing to post a sign at the airport informing travelers of the below, so that they can make informed decisions whether they embark on the flights or not: ? The exact type of the scanner (either backscatter/xray or millimeter wave) through which all were asked to pass? The unknown risks associated with millimeter wave scanning -- less known than xray. ? The potential health damages to expect due to insufficient testing and practice (“no known negative results”...) and because every human being is different; such informative approach is needed in light of the extended controversy and independent tests proving health damages (DNA and cellular breakages) ? The precise policy: by law travelers are allowed to opt out and ask for a pat-down search The necessity of a warning is analogical to posting signs on wet floors, warnings on cigarettes and wine bottles, and mercury warnings in fish markets to protect customers’ health, kost of which are not needed while in this case such warnings are critically needed.It is very clear that most travelers do not know the information I have researched and learned recently, or they would not accept such procedure for themselves and their children. My reason for asking is because I have been experiencing abnormal symptoms that could only have been caused by the 4-in-a-raw exposure to scanning at 3 airports -- DFW, Heathrow, and CDG within 7 days: strange headache on left side of head, abnormal intestinal bleeding, an unusual swelling on my left forearm, burning feeling in neck spots, no appetite (I already lost 4 pounds) Expecting medical investigation next week. I have had no health issues -- have medical records going back 20 years prove so. I am a teacher, no criminal record, US citizen. I travelled to Europe for business between 2/16-2/27, from Dallas to London, London to Paris, Paris to Venice, Venice to London, London to Dallas. I started to feel sickness symptoms while in Paris and discovered the lump on my arm on 2/25; I had little travel experience and no knowledge of the scanner controversy and trusted the airport authorities by complying with all their requests. At CDG in Paris it became apparent that what had triggered the alarm there and at DFW and Heathrow had been a hair pin whose large bead covered a metallic portion (it triggered the alarm when placed in the luggage tray, too). By then I had been asked to go in the glass booth 4 times – twice at DFW -- and only the othewise obnoxious pat-down revealed the hairpin issue. I did not know that my head was being xrayed/"microwaved" too, or I would have categorically given up the trip. There was no sign at DFW instructing travelers in detail so that those concerned could take necessary measures to protect our health by avoiding that booth. Based on my research of this topic and the frightening reliable information I have learned these days, I WOULD HAVE CANCELLED THE FLIGHT/TRIP RATHER THAN GO THROUGH THAT BOOTH.
AbusedInnocentTravel - 3-Mar-17 @ 2:55 PM
FrequentFlyer - Your Question:
I fly every week for work and each time I depart from Belfast Aldegrove (Belfast International), security insists on sending me through the scanner. They told me it was random, but given that it has been every time every week during January and February so far, it hardly seems random. Rather, I think I am being targeted because I don't look like the average pale skinned Irish person.However, my main concern is the health effects of this. I've noticed recently that after one of the scans, my eyes are blurred and unable to focus for a day or two afterwards. I'm concerned this may be the start of the cumulative effects of being made to go through the scanner every week.I asked for a pat down last week as I said I was concerned about the health effects of these scanners. I was told I would need to submit to full body search in a private room (I said ok, as I'd prefer that than be constantly subjected to the scanner machines), but because they didn't have any such facilities, this was not possible.Has anyone else tried this? Is anyone else a frequent flyer and been scanned on every occasion and started to notice any physical effects?

Our Response:
Speak to your GP, they may be able to tell you whether there is any evidence that this could be harmful. Ask the airport for information about the numbers of people sent through the scanner each day and how they make the choice etc. We can't really help with any evidence of the effects of a scanner as it's not something we've researched ourselves.
CivilRightsMovement - 16-Feb-17 @ 11:43 AM
I fly every week for work and each time I depart from Belfast Aldegrove (Belfast International), security insists on sending me through the scanner. They told me it was random, but given that it has been every time every week during January and February so far, it hardly seems random. Rather, I think I am being targeted because I don't look like the average pale skinned Irish person. However, my main concern is the health effects of this. I've noticed recently that after one of the scans, my eyes are blurred and unable to focus for a day or two afterwards. I'm concerned this may be the start of the cumulative effects of being made to go through the scanner every week. I asked fora pat down last week as I said I was concerned about the health effects of these scanners. I was told I would need to submit to full body search in a private room (I said ok, as I'd prefer that than be constantly subjected to the scanner machines), but because they didn't have any such facilities, this was not possible. Has anyone else tried this? Is anyone else a frequent flyer and been scanned on every occasion and started to notice any physical effects?
FrequentFlyer - 15-Feb-17 @ 3:18 PM
Having used Gatwick airport recently, I was railroaded into passing through 1 of these body scanners.But when I asked the security guard what happens if I don't comply with this demand, the response I got was "Well you will get through security a lot quicker if you comply".I felt extremely intimidated by this man in a Uniform.I know they are just doing their jobs but at least they could explain the procedure better.I felt they didn't want me asking any more questions then as there was a queue of passengers waiting.So basically I was bullied into going through this intrusive Frankensteins monster of a machine and that is all it is.
HappyClappy1989 - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:38 AM
My mates worried about going through the scanners in Liverpool airport he's paranoid it will show his insides he has chromes and is embarrassed that he will see his insides it's making him insecure what do the scanners show ?
Smokeyjoe - 8-Dec-16 @ 12:29 PM
No they just profile people.I know this, because everytime I go through security, alarm goes off. Always at a pommy airport. I am coloured and to me it is blatant profiling. W*****s, not how to build relations pom. Some advice, stop pissing everyone off with your wars, then you will not have as many enemies.Do not say you do not profile as well. You do and it is racist, you b******s.
pommytwat - 1-Nov-16 @ 2:45 PM
Hey admin for this site!! ..about 8000 years go there was an invention that makes blogs much more intelligible.It is called 'the paragraph' - it is too bad you stripped them all out of my last post.
A Laboratory Animal - 23-Oct-16 @ 1:51 PM
Early in the morning, at Terminal D in Berlin, I was asked to step in this booth while entering the departure area. I didn't know what it was, perhaps a metal detector I thought.Half awake I stepped in while explaining I did not want to x-rayed.They just told me to stop moving and zapped me a second (third?)time. My eyes started burning and siliva came up in my mouth, I got a headache.I've been physically wiped out.Three days later my eyes were pink.Five days later they still burn.I wrote the airline and the airport contact to ask what I was exposed to, so I can tell a doctor, and have not been given even the decency of a reply. I've done some research on it, there are two machines being used.Both have very flawed rationalizations for safety. For example, they use probabilities for something occurring to an individual when they are using the devices on a population.Say the probability is p that something bad might happen.Where bad is skin cancer, affecting female eggs or sperm to leading to infertility or birth defects,causing developmental deffects in a fetus (perhaps one the woman is not even aware of). So now the probability for an individual is p,then for a population it is 1 - (1 -p)^n,where n is the number of people.When you plot that function you will find that it rises very steeply, gaining over a magnitude in just 20 people. At a population of millions we find that it is a virtual certainty that all the bad things are happening, and happen to many many people. The scientists who wrote these reports certainly know that the technology was destined to be used on populations.They need to be punished, defrocked, and criminally charged. In addition, they are clearly lying about dose rates.The symptoms I have experienced require much more intensity than they are letting on to. They are sweeping with a bar, what if the bar stops?It looks like they can manual stop it.This means they can purposely kill people if they desire. Furthermore, there are no long term studies.How can you release a technology on a population without long term studies?? I'll bet you that our politicians are not going through these things. This has to be stopped.Where can it be reported?
A Laboratory Animal - 23-Oct-16 @ 1:48 PM
It is the ignorant passengers who are to blame for these intrusions & threats to our health. For every passenger that refuses, (for good reasons), there are a thousand who will allow themselves to be exposed to the obvious dangers of being scanned. ALL passengers should find alternative airports, say "Thanks, but no thanks!", tell their usual airport that they are not going to use their facilities again, until the full body scans are removed. This is all about big money being made by a handful of already wealthy people. Our health is not important to them. Passengers should start to use their clout!
lenadjutor - 17-Oct-16 @ 10:22 PM
My M.P. informs me that at Bristol airport, passengers can opt for a strip search, if they do not want to expose their good health to the risks of a full body scan.
lenadjutor - 17-Oct-16 @ 10:15 PM
Please take a look at this website type into Google 'The Truth About Cancer'. They have information which you can search for abut body scanners at airports. They are NOT safe. I have heard - you are exposed to more radiation out there in the world than in one of those - but this is wrong!!! The 'amount' is not important it's the concentration of the radiation. Same as putting a cup of coffee in the microwave and nuking it!!If I'm travelling alone I just say I'm unable to raise my arm. I don't give a reason or explanation just that I can't lift it above a certain point as this seems to be one of the criteria. I am happy with a pat down. If I'm travelling with my family I just tell them it has been showed to CAUSE cancer and I screen shot the link and ask them to take a look. They will bully you into going through but I politely and firmly refuse. They have already taken one of the machines out of circulation because they could prove a link with cancer and this is a new breed. Basically they have already produced the machines and so they've got to use them or admit that they've wasted millions on machines that are going to cost them in millions for compensation for causing cancer to passengers. We are just the little minions they don't care about. Don't even get me started on mammograms (when there is an alternative!). Do some research then tell me they're machines are safe and you want you're KIDS to go through them????
Louise C - 28-Aug-16 @ 9:00 PM
Incorrect information or out of date information included in this article regarding UK airports having no alternative. Of course if you refuse a full body scan in the UK you will have a full body pat down in a private room and most UK airport websites state this. Dont be worried that if you refuse the scanner that you cant go on with your travel.
Jess2087 - 2-Jul-16 @ 9:39 AM
I have recently had a pacemaker fitted. My consultant gave me a card with all the details of this little lifesaver. I show at airports and they pat me down. Supposedly!!This does not happen. They put me to the side and make me wait. When they are ready they make me go through the full body Scanner. I the ask them is it safe for me ?Of course, they say.. Very rude and abrupt. Its unnerving enough for me not knowing if it's safe or not, without being singled out with everyone staring at me. I know they have a job to do and safety is priority but where has decency and a little respect gone?
Lyn - 26-May-16 @ 4:24 PM
I have been through these body scans every time since last few years. After the scan I am always frisked by a female security officer and asked to remove my shoes. Their attitude has always been rude and discriminatory. It really pains me that even though the security entrance thingy beeps on white people 9 out of 10 times they are allowed to go through without any hesitation but as a Muslim I am left humiliated. It's disgusting and embarrassing. I wish these laws would change and they can have stick The same airport security policy and procedure for all rather than being singled out for being brown and covered up. It's like being in the dark ages even though we're in 2016!!!
HW - 7-May-16 @ 6:30 PM
I bleeped through the metal detector they knew was my shoes but still asked I went into the body scanner I asked if I had to they said yes or no flight so I did I saw the image it was just a blue body couldnt see any details of my body
tinalou - 20-Apr-16 @ 5:01 PM
I was surprised to see the full body scans at Gatwick airport today. I asked if I could get the search by hand and they told me yes but I would have to wait 10-15min and several of these 'security' people came to ask me for reasons and tried to convince me to go through the machine. I told them 'health concerns' and agreed to wait. They let me wait for quite some time and asked few more times for my reasons. One guy was particularly rude and told me he sees me as a security risk now and can ban me from taking my flight. Long story short, after 20 minutes of being questioned I was escorted to the hand search and they let me pass through at the end. But they told me that within the next few months, there will be laws in place that will make the full body scan mandatory when chosen. Can anyone give me directions on where to inform myself on such laws for future UK visits?
yogey - 21-Mar-16 @ 4:20 PM
As from November 2013 you have the right to opt out of scanners at all UK airports.In December 2015, I was forced to go through the scanner at LHR because my shoes (that the security officer said I could keep on) set off the magnetic alarm.My shoes were taken away for scanning but they would not allow me to go through again without my shoes on.The supervisor would not accept my reason for not wanting to go through the scanner, sayingher word was final and if I refused she would escort me from the airport and would not be allowed to fly.I was so furious, when I reached my destination,I contacted LHR Passenger Services and the Department for Transport.Both apologised and confirmed that I can opt out and elect to have a private search: what is more I do not have to give a reason for this.When I travel next I will go armed with the emails from LHR and hard-copy letter from the DoT.
Alice - 29-Jan-16 @ 1:03 PM
You DO have a choice! I have refused a full body scan because NO ONE knows the implications of the radiation. I was flying from Heathrow and was given a "pat down" by a female officer. I would rather strip naked in front of public than go through a scanner. It is like with smoking - they have been telling us for YEARS how safe it is and then boom, it causes cancer. Body scanners only show the surface of the body, not inside, so I really do not see any point in them.
evie_g23 - 22-Dec-15 @ 1:08 PM
I wonder the monitor of body scanner shown a green and red small square signal at my head.....any body tell me what it mean/indicate. This case also happened at Thailand airport. The secirity had stop me pasing the gate for a moment (seen the security waiting some action).
mecen eli - 29-Nov-15 @ 4:12 PM
I seem to be picked quite lot for these 'random' scans, whole my husband has never had to go through one. The last time was in June at Belfast airport. We were through security so quickly and I was told to go through the scanner before I really had a chance to process it. You really do feel that you can't argue back. That time however I was newly pregnant. I felt obliged to keep quiet as I was with family,and I hadn't told anyone yet. Aside from the obvious invasiveness of the scans, I began to worry about the health risks, particularly for pregnant women. I miscarried 5 days later. It may have been for an entirely different reason. I'll never know. But it could have been the radiation. If there is even a tiny chance that these scanners can cause miscarriages, how on earth can we not have the right to refuse them? I'm flying from Belfast again this weekend. I plan to refuse if I'm selected again. But what can you do?
A.D. - 21-Oct-15 @ 3:55 PM
I flew from Birmingham the other day and started breaking out in a cold sweat when I saw that I was in the only queue that had a bodyscanner. Previous experience in the US meant that every time I asked to opt out, they brought someone over to scan me (with the option of having it done behind a screen) - it was never an issue. However, this woman in Birmingham looked completely confused when I asked if I could opt for a pat-down instead. I told her that I had a legal right to choose to opt out of the machine, and in an interrogative voice she asked "why don't you want to go in?" I started to explain the health risks that I'd read about, at which she tiredly said "it's just the same as using a mobile phone, it's not dangerous". I really wanted to argue but felt intimidated and suddenly wasn't sure if this WAS my legal right in the UK, as my previous experience was from the US... so, I'm annoyed to say, I got into the machine. Meanwhile, my husband - who is a bit more assertive - managed to get himself a private room pat-down.
gwyn - 15-Oct-15 @ 9:19 AM
I had an awful ordeal at gatwick airport which meant I missed my flight. I want to claim for compensation and wondered how many of us can make a claim. Is anyone else interested in this? I feel that those of us who use our freedom by exercising our right to not have a body scan are discriminated against purposefully embarrassed and made to wait. What is it with being forced under duress into a private room… why not just do the search in front of everyone unless we specify that we want a private search. It is traumatic to be taken far away to a private room without your luggage. There is no time frame for customers who wish to have a body search their response when being asked how long will it take prior to having my body search is "it will take as long as it takes" this is the response even in times when it is not busy. THe staff also claim to know that the scanners are safe… how can they know it is safe when the technology is so new?!! THey are very arrogant and rude and militant. How about children… its inappropriate to scan them or to search them in a private body search. i know children who would scream the house down at this kind of abuse! At least they still have a right to express their true feelings.
emanate - 10-Sep-15 @ 10:13 PM
So surely from these rules, a person should be able to opt for a full body search instead of going through the scanner, particularly as they supersede the scanners anyway. Is there any ruling to say this can't be done? Also, if one has a medical note from their doctor about EMF hypersensitivity, can a person be exempted and just searched instead- or allowed to go through security without?
Lemon - 29-Aug-15 @ 9:28 AM
I refused the scan today at LCY, and while it did baffle them, they eventually got someone senior to agree to give me a body search (not strip search) and swabbed my clothing, shoes and luggage. At no point was refusal to fly mentioned, they just seemed very surprised and unsure of procedure.
Doktor Mayhem - 26-Aug-15 @ 6:41 PM
I challenged security at Berlin airportonce the armed muppets turned up and Ilaid into them as well.I told them to shoot or shove off ir they would be in trouble.They melted away and I was allowed through. I'm not afraid to break heads if these scum get butch.Being 6'5" probably helps and Ican make a LOT of noise. Take control of them they recognise real authority of a free human when they encounter it and what they see guns Dont scare you they run a mile.Cowards the lot of them.
Siliquaesid - 11-Aug-15 @ 1:24 PM
@Andy How do you know this is a direct result of the scan? It could have been an illness, the meds you were on, or something to do with the effect of the pressure in the plane. This is supposed about civil rights and privacy - not the harmful (not) effects of the scanning machine.
Sceptical - 7-Aug-15 @ 10:56 AM
I was coerced into one of these microwave 'millimetre wave' scans on Wednesday 29th July before a Monarch flight from Leeds Bradford Airport to Larnaca in Cyprus. Even though i arrived nice and early to go through security, I wasnt allowed to go through the beeping metal detector door frame until only about only 10 minutes before my flight! When i passed through the frame twice it beeped both times so i was shepherded through to this awful machine. Because they had left it so late i was scared that if i asked for an alternative intensive pat-down i might miss my flight. I suffer from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and should never have agreed to this scan, but having read that these scans are safe and offer less exposure to non-ionizing radiation than a mobile phone call i put my health in their hands. What a mistake. This low rise carousel span for about 2 seconds then we were all escorted on to the plane. That wasn't so bad i thought, was i wrong! Within 5-10 minutes or so the plane was taking off. I remember feeling confused and groggy...The next thing i know a doctor is staring into my face with a look of desperation, i have an oxygen mask over my face and she is trying hard to keep me conscious telling me to stay awake! I have since worked out i was unconscious for approximately 4 hours (most of the flight!). I was severely confused and did not know what was going on. She was asking me what i had taken. I mumbled a pain med i had taken before the flight. I am a disabled person who has to take periodic varying degrees of pain relieving medication. Before the flight i had taken a small amount of a pain med to make me comfortable while travelling, it could never have elicited this outcome! They took me off the plane in a wheelchair. There was talk of transferring me straight to hospital, but being groggy, traumatised and having a fear of hospitals i refused. My friend and my Godson eventually found us and i transferrred to their car where i was driven to where i was staying with them. The next day i was groggy, but felt the worst of it was behind me (little did i know). That night i started to feel severely nauseous and my body started explosively voiding. I experienced the worst diarrhea of my life. My mind felt like it was burning up, the confusion returned. This went on for 2 days and nights. During this time i thought that maybe i might be dying.. I couldn't bare the thought of being moved to attempt the nightmare of a journey into maybe hours of waiting around in an accident and emergency room in a foreign country. Luckily after suffering for 2 days and nights with zero sleep, on the 3rd night i slept for 12 hours and awoke midway through the next day feeling better and with some of my old strength back. Since then diarrhea has still been present , but is becoming less intrusive. I believe strongly that i am a victim of radiation poisoning sanctioned by the UK plc, due to its insistance on the use of these awful microwave scanning
Andy - 6-Aug-15 @ 4:50 PM
I can't believe we haven't been made fully aware that we can refuse these scans. I've been through them before and I always feel very uncomfortable as it is a complete breach of privacy rights, but a few days ago I had to go through one and as I am newly pregnant I was worried about the health implications. On reading up on the topic since it seems I was right to be worried. There is far too little known about the health implications of these machines for everyone, specifically for an unborn child. This has left me worried and anxious, especially since we lost a baby last year. It should be clearly stated that you have the right to refuse, especially if pregnant. I certainly felt at the time that I had no choice. It was an order- go there now! I'm contacting my local MP and seeing can we get this changed.
AD - 8-Jun-15 @ 11:13 AM
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