Thursday, February 21, 2013

Clarification on the Screening of 3-Year-Old Girl at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport

An incident involving a girl in her wheelchair has been getting a lot of attention. I’ve been reading a lot of articles, tweets, and posts about this and I feel some clarification is needed. First off, we regret that this happened and TSA has apologized directly to the family for their inconvenience at the airport. 

What we did:

  • Our officer did initially mention a pat-down. We admit this was confusing, and contributed to a stressful situation. Very quickly, a manager was able to step in and give guidance.
  • Also, our officer told the passenger that it was illegal to film at the checkpoint. This is not the case, and you can take a look at our filming policy here.
  • TSA’s Federal Security Director at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) reached out to personally apologize for the incident. He also offered to assist the family the next time they traveled through the airport.
What we didn’t do:
  • The child did not receive a pat-down. You can read our new procedures for children 12 and under here.
  • Neither the child nor the parent was detained. TSA does not have the authority to detain passengers. Only Law Enforcement Officers can detain passengers.
  • The child’s stuffed animal was not confiscated. It was screened and handed back to the child after being screened. All accessible property is screened prior to traveling to your departure gate. You may remember this stuffed animal from last year.

Incidents like this can trigger a lot of emotions, but please keep the TSA’s mission in mind. We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public. This will be addressed with our workforce so we can continue to treat all passengers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

We continue to receive overwhelmingly positive reports about our TSA Cares Help Line and strongly suggest that passengers with disabilities and medical conditions call this number if they have questions or are concerned about their upcoming travel through a TSA checkpoint.


TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel to for information about what to expect during screening.

Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.

The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST and weekends and Holidays 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail

When a passenger with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA.

TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary. 

Bob Burns 
TSA Blog Team  

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