Sunday, May 27

TSA: Making air travel safer, one warm chicken sandwich at a time

We just returned from visiting family x-country. We've flown many times in the past few years (about a dozen round trips) and this was our third flight since the airlines insitituted the new liquid/gel restrictions. And, alas, it was our first negative food allergy-related travel experience. No allergic reactions . . . just had the police called on me in the airport!

TSA objected to the frozen gel pack in Rora's food cooler. Now, I've scoured the TSA website for this information and shared it with an allergy forum I frequent several times-- liquids/gels needed to cool medicines or foods required for medical conditions are permitted.

But this particular TSA supervisor had a bug up her butt. She wanted a doctor's note. I asked to see where on the website it said I required one. She said "I'm not looking anything up, because I know our regulations." I asked for her supervisor. She told me she didn't have one. I told her I knew she wasn't running the TSA on her own. She called the police (per escalation protocol.)

The police listened to me explain (calmly!) that my kid with allergies can only eat food I prepare, and I wanted this little gel pack to keep her food cool for a 5+ hr flight. They turned to the TSA lady and said, "So what's your problem?" (God bless you, my brave Maryland state officer!) She got snippy with them and reiterated "That's our policy."

I said, "Security screeners at this airport [BWI] and San Diego have NEVER had a problem with the gel pack, so apparently this is a matter of discretion. I'm asking you on behalf of a 3-year-old with a medical condition to let it go through." She said, "No."

I said, "You must not have children." She snapped, "I do have children." I said, "You must not have a child with a medical condition." She said, "I have a child with a very serious medical condition." I said, "Then I'm appealing to you as a mother of a child with a medical condition--" and she interrupted with "No, you're implying I have no compassion. I do, but WE always fly with a doctor's note."

At which point I gave up. She took my gel pack but OH SO GRACIOUSLY provided me with a Ziploc baggie that I could take to the restaurant inside the secure area and ask for ice.

Incidentally, my 10-oz bottle of hand lotion and TWO little Purell bottles got through security without a peep (I didn't even declare them. I'd forgotten them, since I carry them all the time.) One of them was even clipped to the OUTSIDE of the diaper bag and they didn't notice . . .

And the return trip? TSA guy asked, "Do you have any liquids or gels?" I replied, "The cooler has ice in it." And he said, "No problem."

Beware BWI-based TSA . . .