Metal in body trips security

Q&A

June 24, 2007|By Los Angeles Times

I had a knee replacement a few years ago. Now when I go through security, the metal in my knee sets off the alarm, and I am spirited away for the inevitable frisking. I am required to leave my purse and hand luggage unattended near the conveyor belt while this is going on and worry that my belongings will be stolen. Is there some way I can take my stuff with me?

Yes. If you have an artificial joint or a pacemaker, you're among the lucky ones, at least when it comes to security.

Those medical devices almost always set off the airport metal detectors, which means you'll consistently get yanked out of line. So speak up before you get into the whirling dervish that's security and explain that you are a special-needs traveler. (Having a card from your doctor describing your condition might help.)

Special-needs travelers are entitled to a "pat-down" search, which means you and your stuff will get individual attention. Nico Melendez, a representative for the Transportation Security Administration, described the process this way: "The passenger is moved to another area. They are not allowed to touch the bags, but they will be in view at all times."

The TSA Web site, tsa.gov, also suggests that special-needs travelers ask screeners to "be discreet" when assisting them through the screening process.

Melendez offers these statistics: Since May 2003, 173 TSA officers - out of a work force of nearly 100,000 nationwide - have been terminated for theft. Since TSA began screening passengers and their carry-ons about five years ago, 650 million passengers have flown domestically. In that same period, 94,000 claims have been filed. About half have been approved, averaging $156 per claim. So, statistically, your chances of getting ripped off seem minuscule.

Still, things happen.

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