Make us your home page

Security screening a headache for special-needs fliers

How many times have you heard someone with metal inside their body — like a plate or pins that help mend broken bones — laugh about setting off alarms at the airport?

It's no joke to Randall Wingert. The 73-year-old retiree from Sun City Center has an implanted cardioverter-defribillator (ICD) that delivers a life-saving jolt if his heart muscles beat out of rhythm.

The device also is a sure bet to make metal detectors at Tampa International Airport squeal. So before walking through the portal, Wingert tells the security officer about his ICD. Then the waiting game begins.

"Every time I go to Tampa International, it seems there is confusion and unnecessary delays," he writes in an e-mail.

"I'm taken out of line, told to wait until they find another agent to let me pass into the next area, where I must always do a complete check, taking my belt off, my shoes off and then a body search with hand-held electro-meter" or a pat-down from an officer. The process often takes 15 to 20 minutes.

There's no way travelers with hardware inside them can bypass screening, even with a manufacturer's medical device ID card, says Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. It would be too easy for bad guys to forge a copy.

Travelers should ask for a supervisor. Anyone concerned that the magnet inside a hand-held metal detector could affect their implanted device should request a pat-down search, she says.

"We apologize if there is a wait because everyone's working with other passengers," Koshetz says. "But we can't have dedicated people to do this. It's not a good use of taxpayer dollars."

A new screening system might help speed things up. The TSA's "self-select" lanes — scheduled to start in Tampa by Thanksgiving — include lines for families and travelers with special needs.

The stroller and wheelchair lines will move slowly. But they're staffed with extra officers to help people like Wingert navigate screening more smoothly.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Security screening a headache for special-needs fliers 09/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 5:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]
  2. AAA expects gas prices in Tampa Bay will continue to fall


    Ticking slowly and steadily, regular gas prices have receded for the last 10 consecutive days. The average unleaded gas price in Florida is $2.67 this morning, a nickel cheaper than a week ago. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas has dropped 7 cents from a week ago to $2.62. The national average for regular …

    Gas prices for regular gas continue to decline. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas is down 7 cents from a week ago at $2.62 a gallon. [Times file photo]
  3. Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay philanthropists Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel are spending $200 million to create and promote a Tampa Bay regional campus for the private Nova Southeastern University.

    Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Southestern Noval University}
  4. USF to rename sports management program for Vinik family


    The University of South Florida will name a business program for the Vinik family at a Tuesday event.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.
  5. Tonight: Hear ideas for remaking downtown Tampa interchange


    TAMPA — New concepts for rebuilding the downtown interchange will be discussed at a Florida Department of Transportation community meeting Monday night.

    The Florida Department of Transportation renamed its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan is now known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. [Florida Department of Transportation]