New TSA "rule" for Wheelchair Users?

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#1
Sugar Land, TX
5,856 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
This isn't exactly cruise related but I thought I would post here to see if anyone else has heard of this "rule" that my mom and I recently encountered when flying. I've already checked the TSA website and it doesn't seem to address this situation.

We left from Houston on June 17th and did our usual airport screening routine. I took Mom's carry-on bag and shoes to run through the scanner with my things and she went through the wheelchair gate for a hand inspection. I thought this was the "normal" process for wheelchair users.

We returned from Colorado Springs on the 25th. Since no one told me any differently, I removed my mom's shoes and took her carry-on bag with mine to the scanner. I went through the metal dectector and collected our things on the "secure" side of the check point.

Then a TSA inspector came over and started yelling at me that I had violated security protocal because all wheelchair users had to have their bags opened for visual inspection and I wasn't supposed to run my mom's bag through the scanner. I tried to remain calm and explain that I hadn't been told any differently nor were any signs posted so I followed the procedures that we use in Houston. She then told me that Houston is doing that wrong and I needed to give her all my mom's things. She became upset yet again when I told her that I had some of my mom's things in my bag and vice versa. She started screaming that I had committed a serious security breach because disabled passengers were not allowed to "cross-pack" because of the visual inspection. I explained that we have flown several times and never heard of that rule, but that agent claims it has been in effect for years. I have since checked an cannot find it on the TSA website.

I gave her both carry-on bags and was told to wait in the custody of another TSA agent. The first agent took the bags and literally dumped both bags on a table. I was irritated because my mom and I had laptops and cameras in our bags. She rifled through our things, taking no care to keep anything neat and knocked some items off the table to the floor. The bags had already been through the X-ray scanner and there was nothing suspicious in them. The agent tossed everything back in the bags, not necessarily in the bag it was originally in. My mom and I were free to leave after that but told that we were being noted as "suspicious" passengers. I'm not sure what that meant.

Is it really a "rule" that disabled passengers must have their bags visually inspected and are not supposed to cross-pack with other passengers? Is this common practice for airports other than Houston? I didn't mean to violate any rules but cannot seem to find any mention of it. My mom and I were both extremely embarrassed by the experience, especially when the TSA agent started screaming that we were behaving like terrorists. That really turns a bunch of heads at an airport.
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#2
Hamburg, New York
1,363 Posts
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I would have called for her supervisor--- my husband is always in a wheelchair and I carry our hand luggage -- including his sleep apnea machine/meds. Have never been subjected to that kind of treatment -- totally uncalled for !!
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#3
New Hampshire
2,451 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
I think you should consider calling the TSA and complaining. In all our years of traveling with my wheelchair nothing like that has ever been said to me and my husband. Nothing like that has ever happened to us. My husband always cross packs and always takes all the carryons including my Quad Cane through the scanners. I can not remove my shoes, it's never been a problem. I am always hand scanned and patted down with no bags because as I said my husband takes everything with him and waits on the other side for me to finish. Granted just because we have not heard of this rule does not mean it doesn't exist. Even if it is a law which I doubt, you and your mother were not treat right at all. Very much disrespectful, abusive of power and just ridiculous. Please make some phone calls about this and let us know what happens. You didn't happen to get the name of the TSA agent did you? That might help.
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#4
Albuquerque, New Mexico
12,633 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Originally posted by kyriecat
This isn't exactly cruise related but I thought I would post here to see if anyone else has heard of this "rule" that my mom and I recently encountered when flying. I've already checked the TSA website and it doesn't seem to address this situation.

We left from Houston on June 17th and did our usual airport screening routine. I took Mom's carry-on bag and shoes to run through the scanner with my things and she went through the wheelchair gate for a hand inspection. I thought this was the "normal" process for wheelchair users.

We returned from Colorado Springs on the 25th. Since no one told me any differently, I removed my mom's shoes and took her carry-on bag with mine to the scanner. I went through the metal dectector and collected our things on the "secure" side of the check point.

Then a TSA inspector came over and started yelling at me that I had violated security protocal because all wheelchair users had to have their bags opened for visual inspection and I wasn't supposed to run my mom's bag through the scanner. I tried to remain calm and explain that I hadn't been told any differently nor were any signs posted so I followed the procedures that we use in Houston. She then told me that Houston is doing that wrong and I needed to give her all my mom's things. She became upset yet again when I told her that I had some of my mom's things in my bag and vice versa. She started screaming that I had committed a serious security breach because disabled passengers were not allowed to "cross-pack" because of the visual inspection. I explained that we have flown several times and never heard of that rule, but that agent claims it has been in effect for years. I have since checked an cannot find it on the TSA website.

I gave her both carry-on bags and was told to wait in the custody of another TSA agent. The first agent took the bags and literally dumped both bags on a table. I was irritated because my mom and I had laptops and cameras in our bags. She rifled through our things, taking no care to keep anything neat and knocked some items off the table to the floor. The bags had already been through the X-ray scanner and there was nothing suspicious in them. The agent tossed everything back in the bags, not necessarily in the bag it was originally in. My mom and I were free to leave after that but told that we were being noted as "suspicious" passengers. I'm not sure what that meant.

Is it really a "rule" that disabled passengers must have their bags visually inspected and are not supposed to cross-pack with other passengers? Is this common practice for airports other than Houston? I didn't mean to violate any rules but cannot seem to find any mention of it. My mom and I were both extremely embarrassed by the experience, especially when the TSA agent started screaming that we were behaving like terrorists. That really turns a bunch of heads at an airport.
Report it even now!! That is WRONG!!! I go through just as your mom does with my hubby going through with our things.

So far I have done approximately 8-10 various airports in the last 11 years and NONE of them were any different than your experience in Houston and definitely NOT as you went through in Colorado Springs!!!

Joanie
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#5
Hickory, NC USA
3,297 Posts
Joined Sep 2003
You were not treated appropriately in my opinion. Sounds like the screener you encountered needs to be retrained. My husband takes the bags and places them on the scanner while I get the pat down. I do think the rules seem to change on a whim and I have been at one airport (LaGuardia) when coming back from Europe on the way to NC when two TSA agents were yelling at each other because one let me have my shoes back AFTER they had been through the scanner but before I was patted down. I now travel with a scooter but then I was using a rollator then and had to have either the rollator or the shoes in order to remain standing. It was awful and I ended up crying but I think that was because I was overly tired.
I have tried to route myself through other airports since then and have not had a similar experience although I was patted down by a man in Brussels last month. That didn't phase me at all.
#6
Moon Township, Pa
23,146 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
I flew last week, and as usual, my sister took my things, including my shoes, cane and carry on, while I went through the physical pat down. As a matter of fact, at both airports, the TSA person who was doing my pat down, asked where my personal items were. I told them my sister had them, and they both said "Good. You're lucky you travel with someone who handles all that for you.".

You need to file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and in addition, you need to send a complaint to the director of airport operations at the Colorado Springs airport. What happened to you was a travesty.

BUT, this is why I tell everyone who flies to be careful with the TSA. All it takes is one TSA jackazz to really cause problems. It's the reason I tell everyone that when flying never put your meds in anything but the original bottles. If people run across an arrogant jerk like you did, they could be in a load of trouble.

Heck I even had a TSA agent refuse my US Passport card as my photo ID. She said they were not legal US identification cards. Well, I got really PO'd, and demanded a supervisor. After standing (actually sitting) my ground, the supervisor came over and really kicked the agent's behind. The agent tried to cover it up by saying she never saw one, so it just had to be fake. Sometimes I wonder if one of the requirements to be a TSA agent is to be a few fries short of a happy meal.
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#7
st louis, mo usa
851 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
OMG !!! How horrible for you! DH & I don't use wheelchairs in the "real world" but we both get the wheelchair assistance at airports- neither of us can walk very far without sitting down for a few minutes. otherwise we would have to get to the airport 4 or 5 hours early in order to get to our gate on time. We haven't flown since the more intense security checks
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#8
near Fredericksburg, VA
1,990 Posts
Joined Mar 2000
Count me as another traveler who's hubby takes all of the hand bags and my shoes and personal items (watch, cellphone etc) through the scanner while I get the pat-down. Seems like something was terrible wrong and needs to be reported.

Kitty....I like that "a few fries short of a happy meal. "
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#9
Sugar Land, TX
5,856 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
It sounds like the Colorado Springs scanning process is atypical, but next time we fly, I will keep my mom's things separate and ask the agent if I should take her things with mine through the scanner or turn them over for visual inspection. Hopefully that will save us from embarrassment.

I have the agent's name from her badge, but previous experience has shown that it is pointless to complain about TSA agents. We had a problem with an agent in St. Louis 6 years ago and asked to speak with a supervisor. We were escorted to a room and not allowed to leave until the supervisor showed up, which took over an hour. When he finally arrived, he didn't care that the agent was physically abusive to my mom and had laughed and told my mom that if she couldn't walk through the metal detector then she should crawl instead. He said the the agents had full authority to do anything necessary to prevent terrorism and if we didn't like it, then we were siding with al-Qaida. By then we only had a few minutes left to catch our plane so had to run to the gate. We held up the departure of the plane because my mom needs an aisle chair to board, which upset the flight crew. It was not a pleasant flight!

I did not want a similar experience this time so didn't bother asking for a supervisor. We had arrived at the airport over 2 hours early, but it took almost an hour just to get through security even though there were only 14 people in line when we arrived. My mom was already upset and crying over the agent's comments so I didn't want to risk upsetting her further. Plus, we just wanted to get away from there. I realize that only a couple dozen people heard the agent screaming that we were behaving like terrorists, but it felt like everyone at the airport was staring at us.
#10
Houston
997 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Me and my husband have flown many times. He is in a wheelchair and I have never heard of such. You kept you cool much better than I would have. I would definetly file a formal complaint.
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#11
colorado springs, co
295 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Living and flying out of Colorado Springs I can tell you they are idiots here! The same thing happened to us, I took my wife's purse and belt and was awaiting her for her to get done with her very through screening. When the TSA agent asked me why I had my wife's personnel stuff, I told her that is the way we have always done it. She had to take the items and get them re-xrayed. This one female agent was rude and pretty stupid because it took her 7 trips to the machine after she wiped down my wife's chair with those little white patches that detect bomb agents. I asked her why not just wipe the areas once and check it. She didn't like that suggestion. We fly often and this is the only airport we have trouble at.
#14
578 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
I agree it's a bunch of bull. I fly 3 or 4 times a year with a power chair and a manual chair. My wife puts everytrhing on the conveyor and walks thru the scanner and picks up our stuff. She waits for my manual chair to be checked out and puts everything on it whilem I'm being checked out while sitting in my power chair. They swab my shoes and off we go.
#15
1,108 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
The only disabled, or able bodied, items that are supposed to be hand checked and NOT xrayed are injectable drugs. I'm the chair user and this past month we flew from Washington DC-Dulles to Seattle and return. My husband took my carry ons and shoes and handed over HIS new injectibles for arthritis. The carry ons went through xray while my husband was scanned and I was in the next line getting the pat down. No problems except I'd still prefer a male patter.
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#16
76 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Wow I would file a formal complaint. I use a wheelchair and have my wife carry my wheelchair bag. Sometimes we empty it and leave it on the chair. Sounds like somebody was on a power trip! I have have had obviously new screeners go by the book when patting me down and experienced ones who don't want to be bothered (my favorite ones) and just do a minimal leg, arm and "lean forward" I would so like to tell some of them what total loosers they are, but hey they are just doing the job they signed on for. A pretty pitiful job if you ask me.

Formal complaint!
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#17
Wisconsin
6,138 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
Definitely a wrong thing to have happened to you. But as someone already noted, the TSA folks are "in charge". I do my best to maintain as low a profile as necessary, do exactly as they ask (no matter that it seems "wrong", or inappropriate, or isn't the way it was done before)...whatever it takes to get passed through and on my way.

And I also encourage folks to keep their meds in properly labelled containers (with the prescription label on it). One TSA agent misinformed or drunk with their own power can really ruin your trip.
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#18
Corpus Christi, TX
1,564 Posts
Joined May 2008
Thanks for the heads up to the rest of us about Colorado Springs. I, to, will avoid flying there. I have found TSA agents everywhere I have flown since 9/11 to be exceedingly kind and gentle. Now I am even more thankful to have been so lucky.
Hope your mother enjoys her other travels.
#19
colorado springs, co
295 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Just read our local paper and saw this article which I thought of our experiences with COS. Not surprising!! This is from our paper.






A Colorado Springs woman says an airport security agent groped her vagina last week.

Janis Heuberger filed a complaint today with the federal Transportation and Security Administration, saying she felt sexually harassed by the female agent.

Heuberger said she was traveling to Las Vegas through the Colorado Springs Airport on Friday afternoon. She recently broke her foot and was in a wheelchair, she said.

“I was given the option of a private room screening or open area screening, and I chose the second option,” she said in the complaint.

The female agent, who was in training, conducted the pat-down and started by screening her cast with a pad and then checking the wheelchair for chemicals, she said.

The agent then told Heuberger she had to undergo a full body pat-down and asked if that was OK. Heuberger told her it was.

“She explained that she would use the back of her hands to pat down around my breasts and buttocks,” she wrote.

The agent started to pat down her shoulders and arms, followed by the back to her waist and then her breasts, Heuberger said.

“She said that I would have to boost myself up in the wheelchair so that she could do my buttocks. At this time I asked if I could go walk through the screening machine since this pat down was becoming so invasive in an opened area,” she said.

The agent told Heuberger her crutches would set off the alarm and that going through the screening machine wasn’t an option. Heuberger also said she wasn’t given the option to go into a private room to complete the remainder of the pat-down.

“I told her I (would) rather stand with my crutches and did so,” she said in the complaint.

Then “she proceeded (to) pat down my legs up to my thigh area and proceeded all the way up to my vagina. To my utter surprise, her opened hand patted down my vaginal area,” Heuberger said.

“I stated out loud, ‘You just felt my vagina,’ and her trainer stated that the pat down included the entire thigh to where it met the torso.”

Heuberger said she immediately asked for a supervisor and a copy of pat down procedures for people in wheelchairs. The supervisor told Heuberger he couldn’t give her a copy of those procedures. Instead, he gave her a complaint/compliment form, she said.

In a statement, TSA spokesman Luis Casanova said the TSA’s mission is to safely, efficiently and respectfully screen nearly 2 million passengers each day at airports across the country.

“We are sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA through a variety of channels. We work to balance those concerns with the very real threat that our adversaries will attempt to use explosives to carry out attacks on planes,” he said.

“We take the professionalism of our workforce and the integrity of our security procedures very seriously and will address any alleged issues directly with the passenger and not through the news media,” he added.

The Gazette requested the number of complaints filed against TSA agents at the Colorado Springs Airport since 2008, but Casanova did not immediately respond to the request.
#20
Arizona
643 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Wow, as someone who has flown MANY times over the past ten years for both work and pleasure, I definitely agree that you need to file a complaint. I've had a couple of agents who were less professional than others and some feel that it's necessary to manhandle my legs (I have a bone disease which makes my bones brittle) which scares me and is very uncomfortable, but for the most part I haven't experienced what you did. My husband and I usually only pack ONE carry on, so it's totally cross packed. Guess I better tell hubby that if asked he needs to say that everything in there is his... and if they open it he'll just have to pretend that he's into cross-dressing.
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