Security Guard Hassles Wheelchair Traveler

Just when I thought airport security folks were starting to “get it” as far as accessible travel is concerned, a reader directed me to Dave Hingsburger’s blog.

Here we go again. Dave tells the story better than I can, but the Readers Digest version is that he was waiting in the airport next to his luggage when a security type guy came up and started loading it all on to a trolley. When Dave questioned the employee about his actions, he was told that he could not leave his luggage unattended. And again, Dave tells it better, but the inference was that someone in a wheelchair could not possibly attend to their luggage.

What?

OK, first things first. It doesn’t take much to “attend” to you luggage. As defined in the dictionary “attend” is to take care, watch over, give attention to. Basically it means you don’t walk off and leave it.

My chicken Agnes could theoretically attend to my luggage — if she was behaving that day.

Now I don’t have problems with the “no luggage shall be left unattended” policy, as there’s a good reason for it. Abandoned luggage could contain a bomb. That’s why unattended luggage will be removed and destroyed. We all hear that announcement about a gazillion times while waiting in any airport. Again, this is a good policy, but Dave’s luggage wasn’t unattended. He was there. He didn’t abandon it.

So Dave started yelling at the security guy, (who he felt was basically stealing his luggage) and then a passing pilot stepped in to save the day. In the end, the security guy left Dave alone, but I’m sure it ruined his day. And maybe his subsequent travels. Who knows. Hey, that’s got to at least make you a little gun-shy.

So what do you do if something similar happens to you?

Well, to be honest, Dave made a lot of noise, and that’s good. In this case I think you want to attract as much attention as possible, in the hopes that someone will help you out.

Now Dave lives in Canada, and it’s not really clear if this happened in the US or at his home airport. And after a few nasty comments appeared on his blog, I don’t believe he is inclined to share that information. But it doesn’t matter for the purpose of my post here.

The point is, if this happened (or happens) in the US, it’s important to remember that as a Federal Agency the TSA doesn’t have to abide by the Air Carrier Access Act; so contacting the CRO or even the airport authorities probably won’t help you.

But up in Canada that might be different. Contacting the airport authority might be the way to go there.

In ths US we have to deal with the TSA, which is a self policing agency. They have a contact center office that is staffed during the day, and I don’t think it would be a bad idea to program that number — 866-289-9673 — into your cell phone. From my experience, that will get you further than talking to a supervisor. Suffice it to say, if you have ignorant employees, you often times also have an ignorant supervisor. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree; especially when it comes to some TSA employees and accessible travel issues.

The bottom line is, you have to your use own judgment in a situation like this, and do whatever it takes to get your problem noticed and solved. And just hope that all of the ignorant employees are weeded out of the system – hopefully sooner than later.

Keep your wits about you and think on your feet – or in this case, on your wheels.