Meet our writers

 







Travel Logs April 2012

Worried about Airline Screening? Here’s Help for Travelers with Disabilities

By Teresa Ambord

Ask TSA officers what to expect in the screening process based on your individual situation. Just keep in mind that all items must be screened, including wheelchairs, crutches, canes, cushions, and medications, etc.

Traveling these days is tricky, with tightened security and a growing list of rules. If you are also frail or disabled or traveling with someone who is, a simple trip can be daunting. But in the interest of maximum security, every person and item that boards a plane must be screened. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking steps to ease the concerns of travelers with special needs. That's why they have developed a hotline known as TSA Cares -- designed to answer questions and provide information for those traveling with limitations.

The TSA works with a broad coalition of advocacy groups serving those with disabilities and medical impairments, with the goal of making travel more doable. The purpose of the hotline is to ensure that transportation workers understand the special needs associated with disabilities, and to smooth and adapt the processes of travelers with these needs.

TSA Administrator, John Pistole explains, "TSA Cares provides passengers with disabilities and medical needs another resource to use before they fly, so they know what to expect when going through the screening process. This additional level of personal communication helps ensure that even those who do not travel often are aware of our screening policies before they arrive at the airport."

When to Call

If you are planning a trip, the TSA recommends that you call the hotline 72 hours before your arrival time at the airport. By informing security officers that you will be there and will need accommodation, you might be able to avoid excessive delays and embarrassment, and have a better traveling experience. Ask TSA officers what to expect in the screening process based on your individual situation. Just keep in mind that all items must be screened, including wheelchairs, crutches, canes, cushions, and medications, etc.

The hotline is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, at 1-855-787-2227. Anyone with an issue related to screening can speak to a TSA supervisor. The TSA also has a Web-based tool that lets customers reach an airport customer service manager to ask questions or to register complaints. https://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/talktotsa/

Since the passage of a law back in 1986 (The U.S. Air Carrier Access Act), discrimination in airline services based on disability has been prohibited. Frail and disabled travelers may request assistance with boarding, seating accommodation, the provision of oxygen where necessary, access to terminals, special dietary requirements, and the extension of these services to foreign carriers to and from the United States.

The TSA hotline further promotes the ability of people with disabilities to travel without undue concerns.

Travel Tips from the TSA

If you are traveling and you or a person traveling with you has physical limitations, you already know the process requires forethought. Here is what the TSA says:

  • The key recommendation is to plan well in advance. Inform your travel agent of the special needs of the disabled person and any equipment, special dietary needs, guide dogs, and whether you or a fellow traveler will require the physical assistance of airline personnel through any stage of the trip. You can also contact the airline directly to arrange assistance and to inform personnel if you will be traveling alone.
  • When booking your flight, allow a minimum of 90 minutes between connecting flights.
  • If you require liquids (including such things as gel-filled cushions or gel-filled bras), that would otherwise violate the restriction on liquids carried onto the plane, ask for an accommodation.
  • Finally, while you need to be assertive to make sure your needs are met, you should also be flexible. TSA personnel will work with you to resolve your issues.

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.


Meet Teresa