Have you been through airport security with your insulin pump only to come into contact with an agent who has no idea what it is? I feel lucky anytime an agent recognizes what my insulin pump is, but even when they know it is related to diabetes, they still do not always understand how important it is, and that an error or malfunction of my pump could mean a medical emergency.
I wear a Medtronic pump and the guidance says, “You need to remove your insulin pump and CGM (sensor and transmitter) while going through an airport body scanner. If you do not wish to remove your devices, you may request an alternative pat-down screening process.” To be honest, I have had so many arguments with airport agents that I have gone through the machine with my pump on, even though I know it’s dangerous. And I’ve heard stories from others, like Michael Aviad, whose Medtronic pump stopped working after airport security sent it through the scanner.
That’s why diabetes mom Rachel Humphrey’s campaign around insulin pumps and airport security is so important.
Twelve months ago Rachel Humphrey wrote an Open Letter to Dubai Airport after she was held in an airport police room for two hours because of her son’s insulin pump. Despite having all the correct documentation and information, the airport security insisted that the insulin pump, an Animas Vibe, go through the X-ray machine.
A travel document on the Animas website states clearly, “Your pump should not go through the X-ray screening that is used for carry-on or checked luggage.” Only after several hours and a visit to the Airport Medical Center where a doctor confirmed that the pump couldn’t go through the machine, were they allowed to proceed. This experience and poor treatment led Rachel to launch a petition and campaign to ensure a Standard Policy for Insulin Pumps at Airport Security.
The petition, which is now closed, garnered support from over 5,000 people and some important developments have happened since it was launched in 2016.
According to an interview with Humphrey in International Airport Review, she received a response to her letter from Executive Vice President of Operations at Dubai Airport, Mr. Chris Garton. Mr. Garton said, “You will be pleased to learn that I met with the heads of Dubai Police security operations and Airport Medical Services yesterday to understand why our procedures were not followed on your return journey.
“It was agreed all would reinforce the established procedures with staff. The well-being and safety of our passengers is of paramount importance and we greatly appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention.”
Last December, Airports Council International (ACI) showed their support for Humphrey’s campaign. A recent campaign update from Humphrey noted that, “They published an article called ‘Best practice for screening of insulin pumps’ in their World Report which was sent to their 592 members operating 1,853 airports in 173 countries around the world…”
Since then, Humphrey says, “Nina Brooks, Head of Security at ACI World has presented the issue to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized UN agency, and the member states of the Aviation Security Panel, which advises on global standards and recommended practices.” ACI told Humphrey that updated guidance material will be included in the 10th edition of ICAO’s Security Manual, which is expected to come out in September.
“This guidance material will note that screeners should take into account specialized medical devices and offer alternate screening methods with equivalent security outcomes,” explains Humphrey.
“[It will] not require the removal of a medical device required to monitor or manage a medical condition, and [it will] take into account documentation provided by the passenger from their practitioner and advice from equipment manufacturers regarding the sensitivity of devices to equipment such as full body scanners and X-ray machines.”
Humphrey said in a recent email to campaign supporters, “I am continuing both the petition and my dialogue with the above named organisations to spread awareness and so that we can achieve our ultimate goal of all insulin pump users having a stress free and safe experience at airport security all around the world.”
I have found that using the TSA service called “TSA cares” has made my life much easier traveling with my pump, CGM, sensors and meds. You call the week before and they email you directions such as “call the supervisor at ###-###-#### and they will send someone out to assist you”. I am accompanied through the whole process by a TSA officer (called a passenger support specialist) who gets me hand checked, makes sure my meds and sensors don’t go through the machinery, and sends me on my way. You can google TSA CARES and get the website.
So The Medtronic website is different and more reasonable. It states that a pump can pass thru x-ray but not the full body scanner. This was updated recently. I wonder if pump manufacturers should also be sure their instructions are up to date.
At https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/customer-support/traveling-with-an-insulin-pump-or-device, it says, basically, “don’t send the pump through the x-ray machine, and don’t wear the pump through the body scanner.” Not sure what the proper action is or should be, then. Even my dinky little regional airport now has a body scanner at its single security zone.
Whether you have an insulin pump or not, you always have the right to “opt out” of the scanner. They will do a full pat down and do not have the right to ask why you opt out. It’s hard to stay firm in your request, (while they’re rolling their eyes or worse) but I’ve been doing it for years. You can also get the TSA “Pre-Check” good for 5 years which allows you to go through the metal detector rather than the body scanner…it’s great to have and well worth the $85 for 5 years!