Best Airport Security Strategy

I recently had several miserable airport experiences with the TSA at several airports, all involving the full body naked x-ray imagers. After holding up my arms and reviewing my naked X-ray image (yikes), I have been treated by TSA like as a “person of interest” for my OmniPod, which I usually wear on my thigh. After the strange look from a TSA agent followed by the question about what I have in my pocket, I tell them that I wear an insulin pump. The TSA agent responses have included:

  1. Blank stare. “What’s an insulin pump?”
  2. “You need to take it off, sir.”
  3. “Then why is it on your leg? I’ve only seen them on people’s belts.”

Every incident ends with me having to go back to a private room with two male TSA agents who want to see my OmniPod.

While I applaud the eforts of our TSA, I am a very frequent flyer getting annoyed with having to take off my pants for the TSA and to explain the joys of tubeless insulin pumping in the era of full body naked x-ray imaging.

I would love to hear any strategies about getting through airport security with minimal hassle. Do you just refuse going into the naked body scanner and demand a pat down? Do you tell the TSA agents before going into the naked body scanner that you are wearing an insulin pump?

Thanks in advance.

I don't tell'em until they ask and then I explain. There are always prescriptions and supplies including juice in my carry on as well as extra pods so I can illustrate. I got a similar treatment in the Madison, WI airport as you experienced and nearly missed my plane out (I was on a "mercy" flight ticket and wouldn't have been able to catch another flight out for 48 hours. I had tears of frustration running down my face -- maybe that helped!) I've been through the full body scanner at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport with absolutely no problem or questions asked. The treatment doesn't seem to be consistent. Even my small local Montana airport doesn't have much of a problem with the pod. I've only been patted down once there. I've been wearing pods since October of 2008. Complain to ADA.

I have only been through the full body scanner twice. Both times the pod was on my upper abdomen...maybe that is a less scary site to them?...and both times I was pulled aside and had my hands swabbed and sent on my way very quickly. Maybe lucky or maybe the thigh is a red flag for some reason?

Sorry you had to go through those frustrating experiences.

I agree that the airports are wildly inconsistent in the wake of the naked body scanner. I have had scans without incident, too. But my experience in Salt Lake last week sucked. In addition to receiving the fifth degree about my OmniPod, they even accused me of carrying razor blades in my carryon, which turned out to be my test strips. I have been on a pump for 21 years, and airport security had almost never been an issue, including in Europe and Asia, until now.

I usually try to avoid the nudie scanner...which is surprisingly easy to do in many airports (and shows how the whole thing is more theatre than real security). If it is just the metal detector, the pod goes through with no problem. The times I have gone through the nudie scanner, of course they see the pod and I am asked to touch it with my hands and then have them swabbed for explosives.

Caleb uses OmniPod and DexCom and he goes through the regular scan and all the stuff goes through the conveyer belt and we've never, ever been stopped, nor has his equipment ever had an issue as a result. I have offered up that he is diabetic and that we have supplies but no one wants to hear it. They all look at me and respond something like, "if they ask about it, then tell them, but otherwise we don't care." So I've stopped offering it up.

I always tell them before I step into the scanner that I have an insulin pump on - most of the time they'll tell the hidden screener that I'm wearing a pump. After the scan I get a pat down where the "anomaly" was (which I totally don't understand b/c they know it's there, so why pat it down?) and then I'm asked to touch the pod so they can swipe my hands for explosives. Every. Single. Time. I also plan pod placement accordingly when I know I"m going to fly. I usually place it near my waist so that I can easily touch it for the swipe.

I've found that quite a few of the TSA agents actually know of the pod and get a little excited to see one. Granted, I've only traveled through large airports since the scanners started being used.

I used to travel every week (Sales job), and I still travel at least monthly. I just keep a note from my endo that explains that I am type 1, (this is really to justify my having a juice in my carry on, more than anything else), and I just make sure I am wearing my pod on my arm whenever I travel. I proactively tell the TSA agent that I am wearing a tubeless pump before I even go through the scanner, and although they clearly have no idea what I am talking about, the very worst they have ever put me through is a demontration to a team of 3 of them, showing how the PDM communicates with the pod, and how I deliver insulin, test my blood, etc..

Totally. I got the (useless) pat down after emerging from the scanner in SLC, and I was then taken to the secret strip search suite during which I had a hand swipe for explosives.

Another joy I recently experienced with a TSA agent in the strip search suite: "Well, I've only seen that type of pump [i.e., an OmniPod] on someone's arm. What's it doing on your LEG?!" Stay classy, TSA.

I'm not sure except maybe to change the location of the pod as others have mentioned below. I had a similar experience where I was wearing it on my thigh and got taken into a private room with one TSA agent who had no idea what it was and kept trying to take it off my leg after numerous times of me telling her that wasn't an option. Thankfully the other agent came from a family of diabetics that was familar with insulin pumps and omnipod because if not I'm not sure what the other agent would have done. Now i try and make sure to wear it on my arm when traveling but haven't been through a full body scanner since.

I have never mentioned my Omnipod and have never had an issue. The Omnipod goes through the metal detetector without setting off the alarm and as long as that happens, I don't feel the need to tell them I'm waring one.

I send all my supplies including extra Omnipods and the PDM through the x-ray machine and have never been questioned.

I fly several times a year domestically and I usually fly out LAX and back through a random East Coast airport. I'll be flying internationally next month. We'll see what happens then.

Knock on wood

Once you go through a scanner (the kind that sees through your clothes), they'll know you've got something on you b/c they can see it. I suggest optimal placement for explosives swiping if you know you'll have to go through a scanner.

If it comes to that, ill opt for a pat down. I wont go through a full body scanner if i can help it.

I have also had TSA agents demand that I remove it, too. I really like pods on my thigh, though. It ticks me off to have to put it on my arm or abdomen (neither of which I like to do) just to accommodate their lack of training.

Agree with the metal detector -- it's never been a problem. It's just that dang nudie booty scanner contraption that's giving me grief.

What happens when you tell them it has a cannula or needle going into your body and it cannot be removed ?

I hear ya, but I don't feel like placing the pod in a place that's uncomfortable for me just to accommodate the TSA's lack of education. I have even tried the arm before, and I still got the explosives swipe.

I've always told every agent I encounter from the moment I arrive. I get pulled aside, patted down. Never been swabbed but I think every airport and every security person is different. I think I've always ended up in the full body scanner, doesn't bother me. I don't complain, let's hope some idiot doesn't get on a plane with a "medical device" ...(bomb) I now have a plate screwed into my humorous... can hardly wait for my next trip!! :(

So the explosives swiping is supposedly standard procedure now if they know you are wearing an insulin pump, no matter where it is. What I've discovered is that telling them you've got a pump and getting the "brief" pat-down and swipe is so so so so much more quicker than getting the full pat down. And I'm usually always running late by the time I get to security.

Again, full disclosure - I almost never travel through small airports where the TSA agents tend to be completely ignorant or incompetent. Or both. Who knows what you're going to get at one of those.

That explanation is the ticket to the strip search suite.