International Travel -Negotiating Foreign TSA w/Pump

Does anyone here have recent experience negotiating International/European TSA Checkpoints with both primary pump (attached) and backup pump? In Feb 2012, Paris & Amsterdam checkpoints was unfriendly. And when I felt myself starting to drop as I was clearing TSA (had been up since 5 am, quite a bit of walking, long waits, did not eat much of carby plane breakfast on 1st leg) - I thought I could board early due to my Coach “preferred” Upgrade Seat and they Barred me. At that point I said I was not feeling well and I really needed to get on board and get some OJ.

I had Glucose Tabs with me, but if I had stopped, divested myself of all my carry on stuff and checked BG, then treated . . .

Was I being a Prima-Donna? They thought so. The Airline personnel. I explained that in US - the preferred seat meant automatic preferred boarding or I wouldn’t have just tried to walk thru.

It was a bad experience all around - from feeling like a pariah at TSA and then like I was"acting like All That" at the 2nd checkpoint at the gate.

Yes they check every one’s bags twice in Amsterdam, one at TSA and once at gate.

I adore my daughter but am dreading the trip. Plan to take cheese so I can administer protein at intervals to manage BG better.

Am interested in others’ expereriences. TSA had no interest in the fact that I was wearing a medical device. US folks always so friendly to me. Not in Europe. But after Paris terrorism, I suppose I can see why. I plan to be compliant and calm (so long as I am not hypo!!). But insistent that I cannot remove my pump form body. Also - have letter from Doc (they do not care). My carry on filmed w/ Medtronic suppies. If not wearing . . . for 10 day trip . . . Could be a rep! Lol

My most recent international trip was before I had the pump, but I did have a CGM. I flew through Zurich and Vienna to/from Israel. In Austria, security was very businesslike, but understood when I told them that I wore a medical device and hand scanned me without a problem. In Zurich, they bent over backward to accommodate, even to bring me a chair (which I did not need) because they were concerned that the process might take too long - which it did not. The only airport that gave me any problems was in the US - Laguardia in NYC. They forced me to go thru the body scanner and THEN patted me down and hand-scanned. I filed a complaint with TSA and received a phone call from the Security Manager at the airport to apologize.

My last experience with TSA was a 5 legged trip two years ago. I’d sum it up this way: Yes, there’s an official, written policy on insulin pumps. Any given agent may or may not follow it, whether they are familiar with it or not.

Some agents saw me and my pump as unusual, and a welcome break from telling a thousand people an hour to remove their belt. They treated me with respect, and courtesy. Some agents saw me and my pump as unusual, and an unwelcome deviation from their routine. They treated me as a problem, and an annoyance. For what it’s worth, the Bahamian agents in tiny Marsh Harbour treated me with deference even though the plane was late and the people in line were a cranky lot because of it. They offered me early boarding, a wheelchair, and water. I didn’t need any of those, but I was very grateful to be seen as a person.

I’ve learnt that there’s nothing to be learnt about navigating TSA checkpoints. It’s so arbitrary. My only defence is to check my BG and correct it before getting in a line, because I can’t predict how long I’ll be in it.

I have to say, in the US and internationally having a preferred seat doesn’t give you expedited security. In some cases you may get it, but it is a totally separate thing. In the US if you want expedited security then you should get TSA precheck. And TSA is a US agency and doesn’t operate foreign airports, that is generally done by other security organizations. And while most foreign security practices follow those established by the TSA they all vary in their implementation. In some areas, particularly those at high risk like Israel or Paris they may have even stricter procedures. In Europe at one point I was somehow flagged at a first security checkpoint and then followed through video surveillance to the second checkpoint where I was pulled aside and given more rigorous screening. I don’t know what triggered it but I was very surprised to be tracked for 15 minutes walking like a half mile through video surveillance.

And when one deals with security you should never just try to walk through or act to evade security procedures. That is a huge red flag and will likely cause you additional scrutiny.

When traveling, my suggestion is to find the security policies for the airports you will be traveling through, read them and bring them. Ask nicely and insist that the security follow policies and ask to be pulled aside and talk with a manager if you have difficulty. In the US you don’t have to remove your pump or CGM and can ask for a manual inspection. Most of these devices should not be passed through a scanner (they are find in a metal detector).

Brian - there were TWO issues at the Amsterdam Gate

  1. Priority Boarding - I was not trying to evade security. Nor did I think that my preferred seat in Amsterdam allowed me to go INITIAL TSA SECURITY 1st. Of course that would be ridiculous - I’m a fairly experienced International Traveler - just not with the pump and not with the recent issues with terrorism, the latest incident being on the tube on Lindon last night.

As to priority boarding:

I had purchased, for an extra $149 per leg on the Detroit-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Detroit legs (Coach Comfort) on my Delta Amex Card as an upgrade. One of the specific UPGRADES I had been sold/promised for this FEE was EARLY BOARDING. Actually, in the US, just paying with the Delta Platinum card gives you boarding privileges after Business Class and all the Medallion Flyers - terrific since I fly maybe 3X a yr these days vs my days as a “Road Warrior.”

I Detroit, no worries. But as I stepped forward in Detroit with the second group (remember, My hands, filled with carry on, coats, boarding pass and My belt, and my shoes which I had removed for the security checkpoint at the GATE) because they do it 2X etc were beginning to shake at this point I’m just waning to BOARD and get some juice or get to my glucose tabs. Oh, I forgot, I think I also had backup pump in pocket so I could take it out to carry it through.,

I showed the agent my ticket and she said I couldn’t board yet and at that point it was getting very hard for me.

So - the issue there was more the confusion about boarding. I did a pat down with the pumps. And once I got through Security, there was a lovely Agent at the door to the ramp was concerned - and said to make sure I asked for some OJ when I got to my seat which I did.

It was just a lot more hassle than I anticipated. Far mor unpleasant.

As I recall, Brian, you maintain pretty tight control, so key will be to take snacks - easily accessible, since there’s a lot of exercise - maybe do temp basal lower- to maintain BG; anticipate a neutral to almost hostile environment;

And to remember always that you honey cat has a lot more flies than vinegar - just rather difficult when your BG is slipping below 70.

  1. The Security at TSA Paris - these folks simply acted as though they’d never seen a pump before. Absolutely no sense of caring or compassion. I am forewarned for the future.

Surprised about LGA! May I ask what the process was for filing a complaint?

By the way my worst experience - don’t recall whether I have shared it on here or not - was when attending a peformance of a Broadway Musical on Tour - Les Miz I think, I really needed to check my BG during the first act. We were towards one end of the last row of the Orchestra and ushers stood somewhere behind us - and there were also boxes seats around the edge of this gorgeous old theater

Well the curtain went up for intermission and several folks in my row whipped out Cell phones - there had been a Turn off your Cell Phones Admonition before the start.

No sooner had he started listening to a message when an officious female usher accosted him from behind saying: I saw you texting during the performance! Didn’t you understand the message from the General Manager saying All Cell Phones are to be turned off . . .

He defended himself. Saying his cell phone was off. He didn’t know WHAT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT.

Hearing this I realized she or someone had probably seen the green light from my meter and also the light from my pump so I could correct BG from dinner prior to the event (yes I HAD checked before the show - and I was okay - but I felt myself spiking and could not wait til the end of the act).

Anyway, I jumped in to defend the man and took responsibility, explains it was my pump and meter, it was a medical device and not a cell phone - and I was a type one Diabetic. She just stared at me. Said nothing. And walked away. I called the ADA locally to report the incident and said I thought they could use some training. They agreed and said they would follow up. Als called the theater next day and complained.

Complaints can be made directly from TSA’s website ( I could have asked to speak to a supervisor/manager but didn’t feel like I had the time to deal with it at that moment – just wanted to get to my gate.

Thanks for the clarification. Security is in general a totally separate process from boarding which is controlled by the airline. If I were denied priority boarding when I had paid for it I would feel entitled to ask for a refund. And if it was a privilege of a loyalty card I would also go to customer service and complain and ask to made whole again (such as with some miles).

And I do maintain tight control. I also travel a great deal and have developed a whole set of routines to simplify the process and avoid difficult situations. So with security I’ll just sit right down at security and get my belt and shoes back on and repack everything for boarding. And since I travel with a CPAP and a laptop and often travel with just a carry-on that can mean a bunch of things getting repacked. In the end I decided to just bite the bullet and apply for Global Entry which not only helps at customs but gives me TSA Pre-Check.