Passenger advocate and 800 number to the rescue!

by Lisa Simeone on December 16, 2011

In a heartwarming display of responsiveness to the passengers it has sworn to protect, the TSA is implementing yet another new procedure.

No, it won’t stop bullying, harassing, and groping people, but it will install an 800 number that you can call next time you get bullied, harassed, or groped.

Coming on the heels of the brave attempt by two Congressmen to add another layer of bureaucracy to your travel adventures, the TSA is seeing their bet and raising it.

Rather than the “passenger advocate” the Congressmen want to plant at various and sundry checkpoints, the TSA will establish a hotline starting in January. If, according to TSA spokesperson Kristin Lee, you need help, you’ll be able to call this hotline ahead of time. It will, presumably, give you the same information already available on the TSA’s website and which its employees routinely ignore when it suits them (as, to cite just one example, Stacey Armato discovered last year when she tried to take bottles of breast milk through the checkpoint; she’s now suing.)

Quoting the TSA’s Kristin Lee:

This hotline will give passengers direct access to guidance and information specific to persons with disabilities or medical conditions, which they will be able to call before flying. Additionally, TSA regularly trains its workforce on how to screen travelers with disabilities and medical conditions and has customer service managers at most airports to answer questions and assist passengers.

Ms. Lee doesn’t address the nettlesome fact that the Amputee Coalition of America is unhappy with TSA and has charged that abuse and disrespect are rampant. Or that this four-year-old boy, Ryan Thomas, was forced to remove his leg braces and crawl through the checkpoint. Or that a mentally disabled man named Drew Mandy, age 29, was likewise humiliated – separated from his parents and his pants probed because he wears adult diapers. (Oh, the TSA also confiscated Mandy’s six-inch plastic toy hammer because it was, apparently, a dangerous weapon.) Or that Andrew Ian Dodge had his colon cancer scar, “from crotch to sternum,” kneaded and prodded just in case he had a bomb sewn into his stomach.

There are more accounts of how well the TSA “trains its workforce on how to screen travelers with disabilities and medical conditions” here.

If only Ryan Thomas, Drew Mandy, Andrew Ian Dodge, and the members of the Amputee Coalition of America had had an 800 number to call. Think how happy that might have made them.

But I guess you can’t please everybody.

(Photo: LiminalMike/Flickr)

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