Sunday, December 11, 2011

Clarification on Screening of Three Senior Citizens at JFK

Since we blogged last weekend about a passenger's screening experience at JFK International Airport, some additional concerns have been raised. We want to clarify a few things but first and foremost, we wanted to ensure our readers understand this:
TSA does not, and has never, conducted strip searches and no strip searches occurred in any of these incidents. 
We truly regret these passengers feel they had a bad screening experience. Our goal is to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. We work regularly with a coalition of advocacy groups that represent those with disabilities and medical conditions to help TSA understand their conditions and adapt screening procedures accordingly.

Last week, TSA senior leadership convened a call with these groups to share information about our policies and procedures. TSA informed them that we're in the process of establishing an 800 number dedicated to travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, or those who may require assistance during screening. Passengers will be able to call this number prior to flying to get guidance and information about screening, based on their needs. Additionally, TSA regularly trains its workforce on how to screen travelers with disabilities or medical conditions and has customer service managers on hand at airports to answer questions and assist passengers.

We’ve had some questions since we posted on Ms. Zimmerman’s complaint last weekend. People wanted to know why we had her remove her back brace when our web page clearly states that our officers will not ask for braces to be removed. To be honest, I was asking myself the same question. Here’s what happened: There was a bit of a miscommunication and our officers were told that the passenger was wearing a money belt. Unlike medical braces and supports, money belts must be removed since they’re not providing any type of medical benefit. After the passenger removed the item, it was then determined to be a Velcro fastened support brace and not a money belt. Since the item had already been removed, our officers had it X-rayed and returned it to the passenger who was then clear to travel.

JKF officers are receiving refresher training to include scenario-based exercises on how to respectfully and safely screen passengers with disabilities or medical conditions to ensure all the proper procedures are followed. Our goal every day is provide the highest level of security, in the most respectful and efficient way possible.

We recommend that all passengers familiarize themselves with security protocols and inform officers prior to screening if they have medical devices that require special screening. It makes things easier for everybody if all parties know in advance what to expect.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind. You can find many more tips for traveling with disabilities here at our web page
TSA officers do not ask passengers to remove clothing to expose a sensitive area or to remove a medical device or brace. We have special procedures that allow us to safely screen passengers with disabilities.
Notification cards, are a great way for passengers to discreetly let us know about a medical condition or disability. Passengers may present these cards at the checkpoint to our officers.
Passengers should always be in view of their belongings. If you can’t see your belongings during secondary screening, please request that an officer bring them to you.
Passengers who know they may need additional screening ahead of time may contact a TSA customer support manager at their departure airport ahead of travel to ensure their needs are met. If private screening is needed, passengers are free to have a family member or travel companion join them in the private screening room.
Here are some resources for more information and ways to contact TSA in both the field and at Headquarters.  
Traveling With Disabilities – A wealth of information for passenger with disabilities traveling through TSA checkpoints.
Talk To TSA- Contact a TSA Customer Support Manager at the airport you are traveling through.
TSA Contact CenterA place to find contact information for specific offices or to just ask a general question.
If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.