TSA Allows Turbans, Continues Ban on Shoes

Bowing to organized outrage from religious groups, the TSA has reversed itself and will allow passengers to keep their turban on while going through airport security.

Air passengers will no longer have to remove bulky headwear such as turbans at screening checkpoints if doing so makes them uncomfortable. A revised federal guideline, effective Oct. 27, gives airport screeners the option to pat down headwear at the metal detector if a passenger does not want to remove it for personal reasons.

In August, the Transportation Security Administration changed its guidelines and subjected travelers to secondary screening at security checkpoints if they were wearing head coverings, such as cowboy hats, berets or turbans. The screenings could have included a pat-down search of the head covering, if the screener found it necessary.

But some religious organizations were outraged at the new rule and felt it was a form of racial profiling. For instance, in the Sikh religion, the turban is considered private, and removing a turban would be like removing a woman’s blouse, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition. Since 2001, federal policy has required screeners to search turbans only if they do not clear a metal detector.

So far as I’m aware, neither the 9/11 hijackers nor the would-be shoe bomber was wearing a turban, let alone a cowboy hat, so this is reasonable enough. These people still have to pass through scanners and possible pat-downs, after all.

This ruling is absolutely bizarre, though, in contrast to other TSA policies. When we traveled to Dallas this past weekend, my wife had to remove her flip-flops and place them on the conveyer built. I also had to leave my shaving gel at home, since it was in a larger-than-three-ounce container and we didn’t want to tack on additional time to our trip on both ends checking in luggage and waiting to retrieve it on the other end. As a matter of comparative risk, it’d be a lot easier to hide something in a giant turban than in a pair of flip-flops or a four ounce bottle of lotion.

FILED UNDER: General, Terrorism, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Christopher says:

    Why is it so many people never want to check baggage?

    Instead they pull their grossly oversized “carry-on” into the plane, and then proceed to try and stuff it into the too-small overhead bin after running into people’s shins on the way down the aisle. They take up the whole bin and after landing need 10 feet around them to pull it out again, many times hitting some poor unfortunate guy in the head as they do it.

    People! It doesn’t take that long to retrieve your checked bag! Minutes! You are not better than everyone else. Give us all a break. Check your darn luggage! (and take along your shaving kit)

  2. James Joyner says:

    It doesn’t take that long to retrieve your checked bag! Minutes!

    Have you ever actually been to an airport? It takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes or more to check the bag in and a minimum of 30 minutes to get the bag on the other end. Doing that twice on a short trip is a huge inconvenience.

    My wife and I traveled using one small suitcase that fits into the overhead bin plus a laptop bag. That’s pretty much the standard business travel allotment and well within what the airlines permit.

  3. Mike says:

    How dare you criticize the all-knowing TSA – it is a federal entity – they cannot possibly do wrong.

    There is nothing more dangerous in this world than 3.5 oz of shaving cream or shampoo except possibly 4 oz of shaving cream or shampoo.

  4. Grewgills says:

    A few years back I traveled with a filipina nun in who was in her 70s and had not been in public sans wimple in nearly 50 years. She is sort of a small filipina Mother Mary Stigmata. The TSA officers demanded she remove it to be searched. She laid into them pretty good and they allowed her on without searching her head gear. This was the first and only time I have seen the TSA back down. It still makes me smile when I think about it.

  5. Anderson says:

    I have been wondering how Sikh men do on the requirement to carry a (symbolic) weapon.