TSA to Launch Disability Hotline
in January for Airline Passengers

In the wake of a number of complaints from passengers with disabilities, the Transportation Security Administration is planning to launch a toll free disability hotline in January so that passengers with disabilities can call in advance if they anticipate needing extra assistance during security screening.  In recent months, there have been numerous complaints, many from elderly women, alleging that TSA agents subjected them to strip searches because they were unfamiliar with the specialized medical devices the women were wearing.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and New York State Senator Michael Gianaris made a request in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and TSA officials for passenger advocates to be trained and familiarized with various medical conditions and medical devices so that they can provide “alternative methods for addressing the needs and concerns of elderly, disabled and other vulnerable passengers.”

Senator Schumer further said:

While the safety and security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading and potentially humiliating experience.  Right now, passengers who feel that their rights are about to be violated have nowhere to turn, but by training passenger advocates at each of our airports, the TSA can finally give passengers a voice.

TSA has not commented on the proposal but issued a statement reminding the public that customer service representatives are available at most airports.   The TSA currently offers Tips for the Screening Process on its website as well as other more detailed information, and we will be reviewing some of the other regulations for passengers with disabilities in subsequent blog posts.

UPDATE:  The TSA Cares hotline designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions has now been launched.    It is recommended that those traveling with special medical needs contact the hotline at least 72 hours in advance of their arrival at the airport with questions about screening policies, procedures and to coordinate getting through the security checkpoints.   The TSA Cares toll-free hotline number is 1-855-787-2227, and its hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 EST, excluding federal holidays.