As the holiday travel season heats up, the Transportation Security Administration is preparing to launch a toll-free hotline for passengers with disabilities, but at least one lawmaker is calling for the agency to do more.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the TSA to designate passenger advocates at every airport to address concerns and help travelers with special needs. The request comes after a number of complaints from elderly women in recent weeks. In multiple cases, women alleged that TSA agents subjected them to strip searches because they were wearing specialized medical devices.
“While the safety and security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading and potentially humiliating experience,” said Schumer. “Right now, passengers who feel that their rights are about to be violated have nowhere to turn, but by training passenger advocates at each of our airports, the TSA can finally give passengers a voice.”
In a letter to top officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, Schumer and Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who serves in the New York state Senate, said they want passenger advocates to receive training to familiarize them with various medical conditions and devices so they could provide “alternative methods for addressing the needs and concerns of elderly, disabled and other vulnerable passengers.”
TSA officials declined to comment specifically on the lawmakers’ proposal, but said in a statement that they already have “customer service representatives at most major airports.”
In addition, the agency said they plan to have a toll-free hotline in place by January so that passengers with disabilities can call in advance if they need extra assistance during security screening.