Preparing for Air Travel
Tips and Resources for Burn Survivors
by Susan Buckland, TSA Senior Policy Advisor
When planning for a flight, you might wonder how burn injuries and medical devices will affect your trip through the security checkpoint. To meet the needs of travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a variety of programs and initiatives.
Know Your Resources
TSA Cares is a helpline for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Contact TSA Cares to get your questions answered and learn what to expect at the security checkpoint. If you share your itinerary, they’ll contact the airports along your route and let them know you’re coming. When your trip is underway, a TSA Screening Officer will be prepared to assist you. To ensure you get everything you need, call TSA Cares at least 72 hours before your flight.
Passenger Support Specialists are trained to provide on-the-spot assistance and address screening concerns for travelers with disabilities. If you’re worried about your screening or encounter any problems, request a Passenger Support Specialist to help you through the security checkpoint. If one isn’t available, a Customer Service Manager or Lead TSA Officer will be able to assist you.
TSA Notification Cards are a discreet way to inform TSA officers about any disability, condition, or medical device that might affect your screening. You’ll still have to go through security screening, but the card will help you communicate with checkpoint officers.
TSA checkpoint personnel are trained to treat all travelers with dignity, respect, and sensitivity. Before the screening begins, let an officer know about any limitations or special needs. Though you won’t be exempt from screening, the officer will accommodate your needs.
Here’s what the TSA Officer needs to know:
- Any assistance you’ll need in the screening process
- If you have difficulty raising your arms or walking/standing alone
- If you would like to to move to the front of the screening line
- If you have medically-necessary liquids, IV solutions, medications, or sterile supplies; these should be separated from other carry-on items and will undergo x-ray or inspection screening before being allowed through the checkpoint
Remember: you can discreetly communicate with a TSA Notification Card or request a Passenger Support Specialist at any time.
By familiarizing yourself with TSA’s requirements and guidelines, you’ll know your rights as a traveler and how your circumstances might affect the screening process.
Standard Screenings are used for most travelers. You’ll walk through a metal detector or an advanced imaging technology machine. In a standard screening, you must remove:
- Belts, shoes, and outerwear
- Anything in your pockets
- Liquids from your carry-on (3.4 oz containers in a quart-sized bag)
- Medically necessary liquids
- Laptop and large electronics from carry-on
- Cameras that use video cassettes
Pat-down procedures, conducted by a TSA officer of your gender, are an alternative to standard screening. If you use certain medical devices, you may be asked to conduct a self pat-down, followed by a test of your hands for traces of explosives. During a pat-down, tell the officer:
- If you have difficulty raising your arms or remaining in the required position
- About any sensitive or still-healing areas on your body
- The location of any disability items and medical devices such as garments or prosthetics; any pain or complications that could occur if these are touched
- If you need to sit and would like a chair
- If you’d like to request a private screening
Private screenings may be requested at any time and are sometimes offered if the pat-down involves sensitive areas of your body. Here are a couple things to know:
- A companion can accompany you during a private pat-down screening and will be rescreened after the pat-down.
- A 2nd TSA officer of the same gender will always be present during a private screening
Consider TSA Pre✓
If you’re a frequent traveler, TSA Pre✓ might be right for you. This expedited screening program will let you move efficiently through the security checkpoint.
At more than 180 U.S. airports on participating airlines, you won't have to remove:
- Shoes, belts, or light jackets
- Laptops from your carry-on
- Liquids from your carry-on
To apply for TSA Pre✓, submit an online application and schedule an appointment at an enrollment center near you. You’ll provide identity and citizenship/immigration documentation, undergo a background check, and be fingerprinted at the enrollment center. If you can’t provide ten fingerprints due to your burn injury, TSA will work with the FBI to conduct an alternate verification process.
Your TSA Pre✓ application will cost $85 (this fee covers the background check) and will be valid for five years.
The Phoenix Society and TSA
The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors has joined the TSA Disability and Medical Condition Coalition, which consists of organizations that represent those with disabilities and medical conditions. The coalition was created to help TSA better understand the needs and concerns of travelers, and TSA meets with the coalition each year to share information and gather feedback.