Want to get through airport security with minimal hassle? Then listen to the Transportation Security Administration agents’ instructions — and keep your mouth shut. The agency is extremely serious about safety. So saying the wrong thing to a TSA agent could get you in major trouble.
Check out the 19 things you should never, ever say to a TSA agent — at least not if you want to board your plane on time. (The statement on page nine qualifies as sexual harassment.)
1. Will you take a bribe?
It doesn’t matter what you’d try to sneak a TSA agent; they cannot accept any sort of gift. So slipping security a $20 or even a chocolate bar when you’re running late is a big no-no. And travelers have tried it all. In fact, TSA employees don’t receive any of the perks crew members and flight attendants receive, such as free air travel.
Next: Radiation is a concern, but not at the airport.
2. Do these scanners cause cancer?
Although you should certainly take an active role in your long-term health, the controversy behind airport scanners has been (mostly) put to rest — and TSA agents are tired of hearing about it.
Airports implemented two types of full-body scanners a few years ago. The first, a backscatter X-ray scanner, exposed participants to potentially dangerous amounts of radiation and gave TSA agents a revealing look at your body. The TSA banned the backscatter scanner in 2013.
The second type of scanner, a millimeter-wave scanner, requires you to hold your hands above your head and keep your feet apart. You’ll still experience this security measure in airports today, and experts agree travelers don’t need to worry about this kind of scanner.
Next: Calling on the Constitution won’t help you out.
3. Have you heard of the Fourth Amendment?
Angry travelers often cite the Fourth Amendment — the one protecting people against unreasonable searches and seizures — when a TSA agent opens their suitcases. Most TSA agents are familiar with the Constitution and its amendments. But they don’t want to begin a legal debate with you. Starting an argument won’t help you out anyway.
Next: Purposefully hiding items will only exacerbate your security problems.
4. I was trying to trick you
Believe it or not, travelers try to see how much they can get away with. “One of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced on the job is just people trying to package things in a way to see if we can actually catch it,” TSA agent Jason Pockett told Business Insider. For example, he’s caught people taping batteries to Tupperware containers.
Pockett also witnesses travelers trying to hide things by filling their bags with dirty laundry or other unpleasant items TSA agents want to avoid. In reality, attempting to trick the TSA won’t get you anywhere. (For more hilarious, firsthand accounts of confiscated items, follow the TSA on Instagram.)
Next: Never tell a TSA agent you’ve had too much to drink.
5. I’m wasted!
Maybe you partied too hard earlier in the day or stopped by the airport bar on the way to security. Either way, Smarter Travel advises against telling the TSA agent you’re drunk. In fact, it explains, “Public intoxication is considered a serious offense in an airport, and the TSA may call the police and have you escorted out if you seem too drunk to fly.” Many airlines also have rules against allowing drunk passengers on board.
Next: Don’t ask this question about a TSA agent’s dog!
6. Can I pet your dog?
Walking by a TSA agent’s dog at a security checkpoint may tempt you to pet it. However, MapQuest reports you should refrain from trying to pet a TSA dog at the airport. You might get in trouble with the agent who’s in charge of the canine. Dogs are adorable, but it’s not worth getting in serious trouble.
Next: Don’t make this common complaint — unless you want to make things worse.
7. Why is this taking so long?
We’ve all thought it. Airport security lines get long, and your fellow travelers don’t always make their way through a checkpoint efficiently. But you should never question a TSA agent about how long the screening will take or why it’s moving so slowly. TSA agents have the power to pull you aside for an extra screening or make you wait for a supervisor. If you’re rushing to catch a flight, your best bet is to remain agreeable.
Next: Watch your mouth at the TSA checkpoint!
8. What the f—?!
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve waited in line for an hour or you just had an oversized suitcase fall on your toes. Try to refrain from using profane language as you go through airport security. Despite your First Amendment rights, TSA agents don’t put up with rude travelers, especially if they bother other passengers or make it harder to do their job. The lesson? Wait until you’re alone to drop an f-bomb.
Next: Never make this crude joke to a TSA agent.
9. This pat-down is turning me on!
Smarter Travel reports if you do get patted down by a TSA agent, you should never make crude jokes about it. They can be considered sexual harassment. In fact, letting one slip could set you up for more screenings. Travelers repeatedly compare TSA pat-downs to “legal groping.” So as Smarter Travel notes, your jokes aren’t that original. TSA agents have heard it all before.
Next: Why you shouldn’t tell a TSA agent you hate the rules
10. Everybody hates the TSA
The TSA agents working the security checkpoint are well aware of the TSA’s reputation. You don’t need to remind them. Like most employees at any organization, the TSA agents don’t set the rules. The agent who confiscated your 4-ounce sunscreen or snatched your champagne probably doesn’t like the rules anymore than you do. And telling them you hate the agency they work for won’t change anything.
Next: Don’t make this joke. You’re the only one who thinks it’s funny.
11. I’m a terrorist
The TSA is searching for dangerous people at every checkpoint. So it seems logical that no actual terrorist would walk up to a TSA agent and say, “I’m a terrorist.” But if you make this statement to an agent, they must take it seriously. And jokes can get you in major trouble with the TSA, so you’ll want to keep your sense of humor to yourself.
Next: This is the wrong way to respond if you’re selected for an explosives residue test.
12. I hope nothing shows up on the test
If a TSA agent pulls you aside to conduct an explosive trace test, it’s not the right time to joke around. It may seem ridiculous that the agency could actually suspect you of having explosives in your bag. But you shouldn’t make this known until after the test is negative — and you’re a safe distance from security.
Next: Here’s why a TSA agent won’t pose for a selfie with you.
13. Can I take your picture?
Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott reports you should never ask a TSA agent if you can take their picture. The official TSA policy allows travelers to take snapshots in the screening area. However, TSA agents typically don’t like to be photographed at work.
If you start taking photos, TSA staff may start asking you questions. Elliott’s advice? “Unless you see abusive behavior that must be documented, don’t provoke the agents by pointing a camera at them or asking if they’d like to be part of your vacation photo album.”
Next: Don’t try to get a TSA agent to explain this to you.
14. Why do I have to do that?
The TSA agent telling you the rules isn’t the one who made the rules. MapQuest reports it’s pretty pointless to ask the checkpoint staff why you have to take your shoes off, why you need to pull your laptop out of your bag, or why you can’t pack a larger bottle of shampoo in your carry-on. It’s OK to think about those questions. Many of them are valid, in fact. However, it won’t get you through airport security any faster to ask the TSA agents lots of “whys” and “what ifs.”
Next: Don’t make threats, even empty ones.
15. I’m going to start shooting if this line doesn’t get moving.
We all get frustrated when the security line moves slowly. But as Smarter Travel reports, it’s never a good idea to make threats, even ones that your friends will recognize as a joke.
The publication warns, “Don’t go around saying that you’ll ‘get a gun and shoot everybody’ if you don’t make it to the plane on time. (And yes, someone actually said that to the TSA.)” It might sound funny to you. But the TSA agent who overhears you won’t be sharing a laugh.
Next: Here’s a topic you should never joke about at airport security.
16. There’s a bomb in my bag
Just as you shouldn’t make jokes about pulling out a gun, you should never joke about having an explosive device in your luggage or on your person. Again, your friends or travel companions might know that you’re joking. But a TSA agent who overhears your conversation can’t take any chances.
As MapQuest reports, people get arrested every year for making jokes about bombs and explosives at the airport. The publication notes, “It may be your idea of a joke, but those humorless authorities call it something else: A terrorist threat.”
Next: Never ask an agent this forward question.
17. Are you in the mile-high club?
It’s a big no-no to flirt with flight attendants. The same goes for TSA agents. A question like this is incredibly rude at best and sexual harassment at worst. Sexual harassment, for the record, isn’t cute or flattering. Plus, TSA agents don’t get free travel or other perks like airline employees do. So chances are good the TSA agent you’re talking to doesn’t travel any more than you do.
Next: Just get in the scanner.
18. I’m not going in that scanner. You’re not seeing me naked!
The new body scanners used by the TSA only show the outline of a generic body, and images of your body are never actually seen by a real person. You don’t have to go through the body scanner. The TSA allows any traveler to skip the technology and opt for a pat-down instead, so there’s no need to be rude.
Smarter Travel reports if you’re particularly annoying, a TSA agent might purposefully delay getting a supervisor to pat you down. Just quietly and politely inform the agent that you’d prefer not to go through the body scanner, and you’ll have a much easier time.
Next: No matter how slow the lines, this kind of language is never warranted.
19. I hope someone blows you all up
Whether you’re frustrated that you can’t take your water bottle on board or fed up with the agents opening and searching your luggage, there’s no excuse to use this kind of language. Travelers have actually made statements like this to TSA agents. But we guarantee that they don’t get you through the security checkpoint any faster. In fact, you might not even get on your flight at all if you make such threatening statements.