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|Newsletters: Tips for Flying with Heightened Airport Security|
Tips for Flying with Heightened Airport Security
Several consumers have been asking what to expect when flying now that security has been tightened at US airports. We called on a few of our frequent flyers to pull together this advice. In general, know that security checks can vary dramatically from one airport to another. With the proper documentation from their physician and airport security or airline, some consumers have been able to breeze through security checks; no questions were asked about their syringes and their pumps were able to avoid the scan. At the other extreme, some consumers have had their carry-on luggage fully inspected and their flight delayed due to questions about their supplies and the feasibility of having the consumer infuse on board. Bearing this in mind, here are some tips they’ve shared to make travel smoother:
1. Call your airline at least 48 hours prior to boarding (if possible) to ask about the special supplies you want to carry on the plane (the specific content and how much room they will require), and any services that can offer you: i.e. assistance with security checks, porters to help with heavy baggage, special seating etc. (see the “special needs” section below).
2. Call airport security to get as many details as you can about the check-in and boarding process. They are probably your best source of information on what is acceptable to go through the airport security checks and what you can take with you on the plane. One consumer recommends going to the airport security office a few days before your trip, and having a manager inspect the carry-on, packed as you intend to pack it, and a written list of all items in the bag. Ask the manager to sign your contents list including the date and their position. If you’ve determined that your pump should not be exposed to x-rays (see “pump” section below) talk to security now about how to get a waiver for your pump.
3. Go to the airport early in case you have trouble. Most airlines ask passengers with special needs to arrive 1/2 to 1 hour before the usual check-in time. Note, they are now recommending regular passengers arrive two hours prior to their flight time. Check-in lines are reportedly long, and random searches are common.
4. Carry at least one night/24 hours’ worth of everything you will need on board with you: pump, solution/formula, supplies and medications. (If it is not possible for your home care provider to overnight critical supplies to your destination should your baggage be lost, you should carry on more.) All medications, especially narcotics, should be clearly labeled and in their original containers. If you are carrying syringes, the airlines will ask you to carry the shortest needle that will do the job.
5. Bring your Travel/Hospitalization packet with you, which includes your medical history and contacting information for your physician and home care company. A copy of the packetcan be downloaded (travel packet) Copies are also available by calling (800) 776-OLEY, or emailing Roslyn Dahl at DahlR@mail.amc.edu.
6. Bring a letter from your physician (and home care company, if necessary, for an updated supply list). The letter should list each and every supply you have with you, including your medications, additives, etc. The letter should explain why you need these supplies, especially detailing the need for syringes (IV medications or vitamins) and narcotics, if you use these. Be sure the letter states that it is safe for you to fly with your condition, and with the therapy if you plan to infuse on board. A copy of this letter should be in your carry-on luggage, and in every piece of checked luggage that contains supplies.
Bringing Your Pump On-Board
If you plan to infuse on-board an aircraft, bring a “Document of Conformity”. This document is available from your pump manufacturer and states that the pump has been shown to not cause interference with the airline electronics. Without it, pilots can request that the pump be shut off while taxiing, take off and landing, because it is considered an electrical device. When infusing on-board, be sure to secure your backpack with your seat belt (through the straps). This should prevent your backpack from accidentally sliding away and disconnecting you from your infusion, should you experience any turbulence.
Before bringing your pump through an x-ray machine at the security checks, call the manufacturer to make sure this exposure won’t harm it. If exposure is a problem, you’ll need to get documentation from the manufacturer for security to allow you to by pass the x-ray machine. The pump’s sensitivity to x-rays may be stated in the Document of Conformity.
Two consumers that have traveled a lot over the years, recommend going through the airport connected to your pump. They feel this shows that you need all of the stuff you carry and has helped them get their supplies through security checks easier. One consumer leaves 50 ml from his last infusion in his bag so he can demonstrate the pump’s medical use for security personnel if necessary.
An implanted port may set off an alarm at the security checks, so if you have one, carry the ID card that came with it as proof of it’s existence. In addition, state your need for a port, and the potential for it to set off a security system, in the letter from your physician.
Most airlines have a program for travelers with special needs. If you are internet savvy, start by checking their website usually under “Traveler’s Services” or “Products & Services” (see address below). For example, several airlines will arrange for a “walk around” the detector and can arrange for a private security check, if needed. Almost all the airlines mentioned that special needs items, such as an oxygen tank or medical pump, were not counted as part of your carry on luggage.
Follow-up with a phone call, usually to reservations, to make arrangements for services, verify details or ask questions about your specific needs. Some, but certainly not all, helpful features are highlighted in the list on page 4. Note that all airlines ask special needs passengers to make arrangements for any special services they are requesting at least 48 hours in advance. Also, when making reservations, be sure to ask whether the airline you are booking with is the same airline that will service you during the whole trip. Services may vary from one airline to another, and you should verify that each airline you will be traveling with can accommodate your needs.
Keep in mind, everyone’s experience is going to be different, but the one sure fact, is that planning ahead and behaving in a non-confrontational manner, will often make the process a lot smoother at the airport. If necessary, all airlines have complaint resolution offices, and in Canada and the United States, there are government complaint resolution offices as well.
Addresses for On-line Information
• Air Canada: www.aircanada.ca Creates a computer based “Customer Personal Profile” outlining special medical needs for frequent travelers. Provides special boarding cards and luggage tags.
• American Airlines: www.aa.com
• British Airlines: www.british-airways.com
• Continental Airlines: www.continental.com Has a medlink team that will communicate with your physician if necessary.
• Delta Airlines: www.delta.com
• Alaska Airlines: www.alaskaair.com
• KLM: www.klm.com Has special needs brochure, medical form and 800 numbers by country.
• Lufthansa: www.lufthansa.com Has special ID card for frequent flyers. Will arrange for porters at each airport for special luggage needs.
• United Airlines: www.ual.com
• Southwest Airlines: www.southwest.com
• Northwest Airlines: www.nwa.com