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Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Illinois
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19,979 posts
16 reviews
33 helpful votes
Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

My mother recently had a hip replacement, and the one time she went through security since then she set off the metal detector and had to have a pat down. That time she was with my daughter and daughter collected her belongings during the pat down. However, next month she'll be flying alone. She'll also be going through security in Seattle instead of our small regional airport (she was just escorting DD to the gate this last time so only went through here), so I expect security will be more chaotic. She's a nervous flyer anyway, so I want to give her some advice in advance.

I thought that you were allowed to request that TSA bring your belongings to you during a pat down. I even found a link to that on an old post here, but the link went to page not found and I can't find it anywhere on the TSA website.

Has anyone done this, and if so how did it work? Do they move you so you can see your belongings or bring your belongings to where they are doing the pat down? She's not requesting a private screening at this point, but she says she couldn't see the belongings from where they were patting her down (although she was also flustered by setting off the metal detector and having the pat down).

Should she request to be body scanned? It doesn't seem like a hip replacement would set off a body scanner. The TSA web site says you can request it if it is "in use and available at the checkpoint." tsa.gov/traveler-information/metal-implants I don't know if that means there has to be one there or if there has to be a line that is using it. At our airport they usually don't have many people going through security so usually people are either going through the metal detector or the body scanner but they're not normally using both at the same time.

Thanks for any advice and suggestions.

Detroit, MI
Destination Expert
for Detroit, Travel Gadgets and Gear
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7,340 posts
1. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

It is impossible to predict how any TSO will behave on any particular day. Most are fine, a few are power tripping jerks. They should allow her to keep her bags in her site, or gather them for her if a secondary is necessary, but again you can't be 100% sure.

Make sure nothing valuable is visible. Cash, jewelry, cell phones, etc. should be buried inside bags - not loose in the bin, preferably locked, to prevent opportunist thieves.

Looks like SEA has back-scatter body scanners that are being pulled, according to the Flyertalk list. If they have not replaced them with millimeter wave scanners, she may be stuck with the metal detector. Someone who has been through SEA recently may be able to give more info there, or check out Flyertalk. If they are partially using scanners she may be able to select the right line or request one. If they are all shut down it is doubtful they would activate one just for her.

If they try to separate her from her belongings she should calmly yet firmly insist they allow her to see them. It is their policy and job after all.

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,979 posts
16 reviews
33 helpful votes
2. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Thanks. I've told her that, I just wanted to get some idea from people who have asked that how it usually went.

Milford, Ohio
Level Contributor
2,988 posts
131 reviews
98 helpful votes
3. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Does she have a medical card stating she had a hip replacement? I have a friend who had his hip replaced and he had a card that he hands to TSA so that they are aware. The card was issued by his Dr or Surgeon and had been very helpful when traveling abroad. Maybe she can look into that as well.

Buffalo, New York
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1,068 posts
20 reviews
54 helpful votes
4. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

I have hip replacements so always get pulled aside for extra security. I insist (nicely) that I keep an eye on my things. The agents understand this and will cooperate. I also have a laminated card from my surgeon but it's useless. Not one TSA agent has ever even wanted to look at it so I don't bother producing it anymore. I ask for the x-ray rather than the patdown because it seems quicker and I've never been refused. It seems to me that maybe the agents have been to charm school because I haven't run into anybody power tripping in a long time.

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,979 posts
16 reviews
33 helpful votes
5. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

She does have the card from the surgeon and showed it to the "first TSA guy" who I assume is the ID checking one. He told her to put it in one of the bins with her stuff, so I don't think they cared about it. She'll still set of the metal detectors, and the TSA website says it won't change the screening, so I don't know if it serves a purpose. I guess maybe she should show it to the bin arranging agent? Or the metal detector/body scanner agent? I'm leaning towards the bin arranging agent since I assume it will have to go through the scanner since she can't carry it in a body scanner.

ETA: Does anyone have a link to anything official about keeping your belongings? It seems like it should be on the TSA site, but I couldn't find it.

Edited: 11:29 am, April 17, 2013
Pittsburgh...
Level Contributor
324 posts
60 reviews
36 helpful votes
6. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Hi, I fly alone every week and always decline the body scanner (or hopefully I will get Pre-check).

Your mother should try her best to get into the body scanner line. I would bring the card with the hip x-ray with you, if you have one.

Keeping your belongings with you is simple. Do not push the belongings into the X-ray until you are ready to enter the scanner. Then, proceed right through the scanner. You will probably beat your belongings out of the x-ray machine.

If going through a metal detector, show the agent your card and let them know you will alert due to a hip replacement and to call someone. Again, don't push your items into the X-ray until you are ready to go through the metal detector. If someone for a pay down is not immediately available, tell them you are traveling alone and need to keep an eye on your belongings. The TSA agent will pick up all the belongings and carry them to the pat down area. You won't touch them until the pat down is over.

I don't know why people make such a big deal about the pat down. It's quick and simple (or at least I've gotten used to them after going through several pat downs each week.)

Detroit, MI
Destination Expert
for Detroit, Travel Gadgets and Gear
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7,340 posts
7. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Here is a long running thread from Flyertalk on the topic. flyertalk.com/forum/practical-travel-safety-…

There is a link in one of the later posts to the TSA website, but it is broken now.

The card is useless, so don't bother showing it to anyone - it will just draw unnecessary attention. If a metal detector or body scanner alarm, they must resolve it with a pat down (might be offered a second scan). Body scanners will usually cause a limited pat down since they get a target area. They are also notorious for false positives, so it is likely a limited pat down will occur somewhere other than the hip.

It is also my understanding that metal detector is more sensitive near the sides. If the implant is in the right hip, she might find she can get through the metal detector by staying to the left side of the arch.

Illinois
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19,979 posts
16 reviews
33 helpful votes
8. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

OK, I did find this page on the TSA website, which seems to be sufficient.

tsa.gov/traveler-information/protect-your-pr…

Virginia, USA
Level Contributor
596 posts
13 reviews
11 helpful votes
9. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

btgm ... I have on numerous occasions told TSA that I wanted to face the belt so I can see my belongings while they do the pat-down. They've never denied me.

One of my co-workers had her wallet stolen out of the small bin she placed on the belt while TSA was patting her down. This was back shortly after 9/11 when they used to make you show ID at the gate. It was a huge inconvenience (although TSA did escort her to her flight so she could get on and contacted the airport police so that she had a report to show the airline).

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,979 posts
16 reviews
33 helpful votes
10. Re: Hip replacement, TSA, and belongings during pat downs

Thanks. I don't really expect a problem. I've never had a problem with TSA personally. All the agents I've encountered have been pleasant to me when I'm pleasant to them. I guess it helps that I follow the rules and have everything ready the way they want it. I think I'll suggest that she put her purse in her carrry on before she puts it through security. That way there will be one less thing to watch, and she travels with a bright pink backpack that my daughter's friends wrote their names on in different bright colors, so it's not really inconspicuous to steal.

I did email TSA's support people yesterday just to see what they said, but they haven't answered yet.

Edited: 12:08 pm, April 18, 2013