Does the Los Angeles Airport Have Scanners?

What to Expect From Security at LAX

TSA MIllimeter Wave Picture - TSA Backscatter Body Imaging Picture - image from the TSA Showing Body
••• TSA Millimeter Wave Picture (Xray Body Imaging Image). © TSA

Question: Does the Los Angeles Airport Have Scanners?

Answer: Yup, the Los Angeles International Airport has scanners. The scanners we're talking about are millimeter wave and backscatter imaging devices implemented as an airport screening security measure by the TSA and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) post-9/11 and a few other air travel security incidents. These scanners, also called advanced imaging devices (or AIT's) "take" an x-ray-like photo (see an example at the right) of your naked body underneath your duds; the picture is then sent electronically to a TSA employee.

Incidentally, that employee is seated some distance away from you with the intention that the employee be unable to mentally put together your face and the image of your naked body. The TSA employee uses the photo of your naked body to determine whether you have concealed weapons or bombs or other contraband on your body underneath your clothing. This body imaging is done at airport screening points; you and your belongings will have to pass through one of these screening checkpoints in order to get on a plane.

You can opt out of having your body scanned by the imaging scanner and request a pat down instead. We've done the patdown several times; it's not particularly distasteful, though it's more intimate contact than I made at my first boy-girl dance (the employee assigned to one's patdown is of one's own gender, by the way) and I'd rather have to cope with the grope than endure the ogle.

LAX is one of the busiest airports in the country and if you request a pat down because you're among those who don't want images of your naked body being beamed from the backscatter x ray machine or because you dislike the idea that you'll be bombarded with radiation through the process, know that you should arrive at the Los Angeles airport early so that you'll have plenty of time to wait: though the TSA says it isn't so, waiting for a patdown at airport security is always, for us, a long ordeal.

Provided you have complied with all airport security rules and have packed your liquids and gels in three ounce containers and in the correct sort of plastic sandwich baggie and are not attempting to smuggle any weapons or bomb-making materials aboard in the form of Swiss army knives on your keychain or a full sized tube of toothpaste, you'll be free post-scanner, patdown or metal detector to collect your belongings and get re-dressed and go actually get on the plane. Don't forget your laptop, which you'll have had to take out of your backpack and send through the x-ray machine separately from your other belongings; fortunately, you're unlikely to forget your shoes.

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This article was edited and updated by Lauren Juliff