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This fact sheet was sent to air carriers, aviation associations, and organizations representing the Sikh, Arab-American and Muslim communities.

November 19, 2001

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Air Travel of People Who Are Or May Appear to Be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian Descent and/or Muslim or Sikh.

Since the terrorist hijackings and tragic events of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued directives to strengthen security measures at airline checkpoints, passenger screening locations, and boarding gates. As the Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) works to strengthen transportation security in the aftermath of the horrific attacks that occurred on September 11, DOT is also continuing its efforts to ensure that those new security requirements preserve and respect the civil rights of individuals and protect them from unlawful discrimination. The Department is committed to ensuring that all persons are provided equal protection of the laws and that no person is subject to unlawful discrimination when traveling in the Nation. Various Federal statutes prohibit unlawful discrimination against air travelers because of their race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. [1]

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have raised concerns about intimidation, harassment and bias directed at individuals who are, or are perceived to be, of Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh. This Fact Sheet provides information about how the strengthened security requirements better secure our air transportation system and still fully comply with the civil rights laws by providing examples of the types of actions that airline or airport personnel may and may not take when checking in and screening passengers. The examples listed below are not all-inclusive and are simply meant to provide answers to frequently asked questions since September 11 concerning the air travel of people who are or may appear to be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh.

Question: What new DOT/FAA security restrictions on carry-on items should I be aware of before I fly on a commercial airliner?

Question: What are my rights when I fly on a commercial airliner?

Question: What can I expect as I go through the security screening process at the airport?

Question: How do screeners determine when additional security screening is appropriate?

Question: What can I do if I believe that my rights have been violated?

Issued on 11/19/01 by the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and its Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

[1] See, e.g., 49 U.S.C. §41702, 41310, and 40127 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

[2] A kirpan is a sheathed sword, usually sharp and 2-4 inches in length.It is a mandatory article of faith for initiated Sikhs and is almost always carried on the person. Some Sikhs wear mini-kirpans that are not knives on necklaces. These mini-kirpans are no more harmful than small crosses worn by some Christians and are permitted beyond screener checkpoints.

[3] Besides screening on a random basis, a person will be subjected to additional screening if he/she exhibits suspicious behavior. For example, if security personnel see an individual placing a sharp object in his/her shoe and that individual proceeds to walk through the metal detector, then the security personnel must search the shoe even if the individual passes through the metal detector without setting it off.