Every person, animal and item that goes onto an airplane must be screened before boarding begins. This holds true for wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices. Believe it or not, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials have found all manner of strange items secreted in wheelchairs and on the passengers who use them, including loaded guns and packages of cocaine. This means that even if you use a scooter or wheelchair, you and your mobility device will need to be screened in some way.
Wheelchairs, Scooters and Airport Security
If you use a scooter or wheelchair and cannot stand up and walk through the metal detector, you can be screened with your mobility device. This will involve a visual and physical (pat-down) inspection as well as an explosives trace screening. The pat-down inspection is necessary because neither a metal detector nor a whole body imaging device can be used on passengers who are seated in a scooter or wheelchair. You can always ask for a private pat-down inspection; you certainly do not have to go through this process in public if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
You will need to place baskets, saddlebags, wheelchair assembly tools, purses and other carry-on items on the x-ray machine belt. If this is difficult for you to do, ask your security screener to help you.
Walkers and Airport Security
Your walker must be X-rayed if it can fit through the machine. You should collapse or fold it before the X-ray process begins. Any baskets or bags that normally hang from your walker must go through the X-ray machine, too. If your walker is too large to be X-rayed, security screeners will inspect it separately. If you need help standing or walking through the metal detector without your walker, tell your security screener and ask for assistance.
Bringing Canes and Crutches Through Airport Security
Canes and crutches must also go through the X-ray machine. You should collapse your cane before it is X-rayed. You can ask for help standing or walking through the metal detector.
White collapsible canes do not need to be X-rayed.
The Bottom Line
TSA screeners have been trained to help airline passengers go through the security screening process with as much dignity as possible. They are supposed to help you stand, walk and place items on the X-ray belt if you ask for help. If you ask for or must go through a pat-down screening, they will conduct this inspection away from public view at your request. You can request a same-sex security screener for the pat-down and, unless unusual circumstances dictate otherwise, you will be inspected by someone of your own gender.
If problems arise during your screening, ask to speak with a TSA supervisor. You can also email the TSA at TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov. If you have difficulties going through the screening process because you are on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watch list, you can contact the One-Stop Travelers' Redress Program at the DHS website to resolve this issue.