The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently launched a new program designed to help people with disabilities and medical conditions fly on commercial airlines with a minimum of hassle.
TSA is the arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and is best known for its uniformed officers who staff security checkpoints at airports and inspect travelers, their baggage and credentials.
People with disabilities, and especially those who use wheelchairs or other assistive equipment, have at times experienced overly intrusive and embarrassing TSA searches; been forbidden to board planes with some types of respiratory equipment; and in some instances not been allowed to fly at all.
TSA Cares is a new toll-free telephone help line that the agency says should alleviate those problems.
Travelers who hope to expedite their passage through the security webs at most airports are advised to call (855) 787-2227 at least 72 hours before their flight. The TSA Cares system operates Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time, except on federal holidays. Callers can ask questions about screening policies and procedures, and what they can expect at security checkpoints.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the requirement that everyone still must be screened before entering airports’ secure areas. The fashion in which the screening is conducted will depend on passengers’ physical abilities and any assistive devices they may bring with them. That’s where a call to TSA Cares may help avoid miscommunication.
If problems still arise at the terminal, all travelers are guaranteed the right to speak to a TSA supervisor simply by asking to do so.
For those who have bumped heads with TSA screeners in the past, this new program may seem like it’s a decade overdue. The agency explains that it consulted with a large number of disability rights and medical condition advocacy organizations — 70 of them, including MDA — before designing and putting into action the TSA Cares program. The agency meets with a coalition of those groups quarterly to determine how well it’s doing at meeting their expectations.
TSA Cares dovetails with traveler assistance programs already in place, including a network of TSA Customer Service Managers at airports across the country. By using Talk to TSA, passengers can contact one of those managers directly for assistance, although it’s an email process, and communication is not instantaneous.
The TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673 and TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov (email) also are avenues through which travelers can ask questions, offer suggestions and file complaints about their experiences with the agency and its staff.