Ever since the nipple ring debacle with the TSA, I've been really curious as to why nipple rings have been singled out over all other body piercings as threat to airline safety. If you go to the official TSA web site, www.tsa.gov, they basically say they claim the right to search you however they wish and bar you from traveling if they wish, and perhaps you should take out your piercings so that doesn't happen. It's not informative at all.
So, I decided I'd write to the TSA and see if any clarification might be forthcoming. Here are the questions I sent to them:
1) Why are nipple piercings perceived as a safety threat?
2) Why aren't other body piercings subjected to the same criteria?
3) Why are screeners forcing flyers to remove their nipple rings before being allowed to board their planes?
Here's the answer I got back:
Thank you for your message expressing your concerns about airport security and travelers with body piercings.As you can see, they didn't provide any further information than what is already on their web site. The only advice I can offer to the pierced traveler is that you think carefully about how your sense of bodily privacy is and what types of encounters you feel you might be willing to endure and then make any personal jewelry adjustments from there.
This information along with other travel tips is located on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web site www.tsa.gov. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. Frequent flyers should review the information periodically for changes and updates. The web site has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations that may assist in preparing for air travel.
We hope the following information from our web site will be helpful.
* Areas of the body that have body piercing may require a pat-down inspection.
* You may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to the pat-down search.
* The screener may ask you to open your belt buckle as part of the process.
A pat-down inspection complements the hand-wand inspection. In order to ensure security, this inspection may include sensitive areas of the body. Screeners are rigorously trained to maintain the highest levels of professionalism.
You should always notify your air carrier of your special screening needs before you arrive at the airport. This should include any assistance you will need with connecting flights. You might also want to take a copy of these tips with you when you travel. If you encounter problems with the screening process, ask to speak with the TSA screening supervisor.
If you have additional questions or to report problems encountered while traveling please call the TSA Contact Center toll free at 1-866-289-9673.