Part 4  How to approach Airport Security Screening Operations, and where and how to seek help or assistance if you start to feel uncomfortable at any time during or after the screening process.

Preparing for Air Travel and Security Screening.

As discussed in Part 3 of this series you need to do your research before you leave home. Thoroughly check all the websites listed in Part 3 for the relevant information that you need. Be aware of what you can have in your Carry-on luggage as well as any Checked-in luggage. Also be aware that you may need written documents from your General Practitioner to present at Screening, in support of your medical condition, and for any medications that you may need to take on the aircraft.

If you have made arrangements with your Airline for special assistance at the Screening point then proceed as you normally would. I have never had the need to do this and have no experience of the procedure. For me, on arrival at the Screening point I usually place all items to be X-rayed inside a very lightweight backpack for screening. Keys, wallet, belt, coins, mobile phone or any other loose item that will cause a primary alarm. There may be an exception with laptops at some screening points that insist that the laptop needs to visible on a separate tray.

I then approach the Security Screening Operator and advise them of my condition, that the Primary Walk through detector will alarm and that I will need Secondary Screening. Regardless of what happens next it is very important to always remain calm and polite, never make jokes or comments about weapons or bombs and never become aggressive or behave in a threatening manner. You also need to co-operate fully with all instructions that you are given.

I haven’t used air travel for some time now and cannot comment on whether the behaviour of some Security Screening staff has improved since my last confrontation. If I am given the instruction to remove my shoes, I calmly explain the reason why it is unsafe for me to cross a polished floor without footwear, and advise that I am only too happy to remove shoes during Secondary screening provided that I am supplied a chair to do so. I am also now fully aware that I can request a private room at any time during screening, that I can have my own witness present, and that I also have the option of offering to remove any clothing that is causing a secondary screening alarm.

I also advise the Secondary Screening Officer that I am very concerned about my unattended valuables that remain on the Xray bench if my wife is not with me to collect them.

I have heard that some airports now offer a separate lane at Screening points for those travellers who require Secondary screening so take advantage of this option if it exists.

I have also been advised that Walk through Xray detectors are to be introduced at all Australian Domestic Airports and that the use of these should dramatically reduce the need for Frisk searches. Once again if given the opportunity to use one of these devices make use of it if you at all worried about being frisked.

There is also an initiative in European International Airports to introduce a “Sunflower Lanyard” that travellers can wear to alert Security Screening Officers of a hidden disability. This may also become  available at Australian Airports sometime in the future. Check if this has been introduced to Australian Airports using your Internet search engine.

What to do during the screening process when things go wrong.

At the Airport remain as calm and dignified as possible as mentioned above. Try an explain your situation and if no solution is reached politely request the attention of the On Duty Screening Supervisor.

If the matter still cannot be resolved to your satisfaction at the time of screening then refer to the TravelSECURE website “Contact us” information using the link below for the information that you need to progress your complaint. :-

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/travelsecure/travel-tips-and-translated-resources/contact-us

This concludes the series of articles about my experiences with Security screening. Hopefully the situation has improved since the last time that I travelled. If it hasn’t then the only way the Disability sector can seek improvements is for us all to constantly provide feedback to Airlines, Airports and TravelSECURE. At the time of writing the Disability Royal Commission is open for submissions so if you have recent adverse experience with Australian Domestic Airport Security operations why not complete a submission at the following link :-

https://disability.royalcommission.gov.au/share-your-story/make-your-submission