Traveling Abroad : Airport Screening

By Beth Klemick

On a recent trip abroad I had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. As I deplaned completely jet-lagged and exhausted I headed straight to the café for coffee. I was a little discombobulated and noticed that it was soon time for my flight to depart to my final destination and I still had to go through security again, so I got my coffee to go, yes, very American. As I proceeded to set my bag on the conveyor belt at security one of the security screeners gave me a smaller sized plastic container which I thought was for my shoes! While taking off my shoes, I was thinking how nice it was in Germany that they made a container specifically for your shoes. The screener was a bit shocked, but nonetheless amused and said, "you're from the United States, aren't you?" He then explained that the container was for my coffee. Frequent or infrequent travelers going through airport security in the United States will encounter "taking off the shoes" before going through the detector, but as the German security screener asked me "is it necessary?" Best to go to the source, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

You are not required to remove your shoes before you enter the walk-through metal detector. However, TSA screeners may encourage you to remove them before entering the metal detector, as many types of footwear will require additional screening even if the metal detector does not alarm.

Footwear that screeners will encourage you to remove because they are likely to require additional screening:

  • Boots
  • Platform shoes (including platform flip-flops)
  • Footwear with a thick sole or heel (including athletic shoes)
  • Footwear containing metal (including many dress shoes)

Footwear that screeners are less likely to suggest you remove includes:

  • "Beach" flip-flops
  • Thin-soled sandals (without metal)

Tip: Since a thorough screening includes x-ray inspection of footwear, wearing footwear that is easily removable helps to speed you through the screening process.

Happy and safe travels this Holiday Season!

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