July 11, 2003 -- Passengers worried about moldy socks and ugly toes no longer have to worry about taking their shoes off at airport security checks.
The Transportation Security Administration is ordering screeners in all U.S. airports to stop mandating that passengers remove their shoes when they go through security before boarding a plane.
Screeners have been on the lookout for shoe bombs ever since Briton Richard Reid tried to ignite his shoes on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001. But while the TSA set standards, it seems some airports took it a bit too far, ordering everyone to remove their shoes — even flip-flops. And, in some airports, including Fort Lauderdale, all passengers have been told for months to remove their shoes from carry-on bags. The added security, while welcomed by many fliers, created extremely long lines.
When questioned last month by ABCNEWS about the policy, TSA spokeswoman Lauren Stover said the agency was surprised to learn of the inconsistencies from one airport to another.
Late Thursday, the TSA issued a formal response. "There is no TSA policy in place currently which requires passengers who have shoes in their carry-ons to remove them from their bags," Stover said.
Now the agency hopes to standardize security in every airport, so the security experience in New Orleans will be the same as in New York City — especially when it comes to shoes.
"We don't want the public to feel that their privacy is being intruded upon and that they have to take their shoes off," added Stover. "It's their choice unless we see something that fits a certain criteria, then we will ask the public to remove its shoes."
Some frequent fliers say that whether you're asked to remove them or not, it's just easier to go barefoot, and put your shoes through the X-ray machine than risk being subjected to secondary screening.
While not revealing specifically what screeners are looking for, the TSA does say if your shoes have high heels, thick soles, or contain metal that will make the magnetometer "beep" it's best to take them off. You can place them in the bin with your belts, jewelry, coins, wallets, laptops, and everything else you're already removing.
The new policy was issued late Thursday. The agency warns it may be a few weeks before every airport implements the standardized procedures.