For Frequent & Not-so-Frequent Flyers

Through the advocacy work I am doing with the Accelerated Cure Project and the iConquerMS™ patient registry (have you joined yet?) for PCORnet, I have been making frequent trips by commercial airline to attend meetings.  Until this began I would make maybe one flight per year for a leisure trip.  Anyone who has flown in recent years knows the additional precautions that are taken when going through airport security.  If you travel by air, whether often or infrequently, I thought it might be useful to share this with you because you also know about these challenges to get to the other side of the checkpoints.

I know to keep my medicines with me and not in my checked luggage.  Because I am usually traveling on business, I also take along a laptop and sometimes my iPad.  Between those two devices and my mobile phone, I have a mess of wires and chargers and plugs along with me, too.  The meds and the cords take up a significant amount of space and almost always get a second look by the scanner – I can tell because the conveyor belt for the x-ray machine with my bags on it usually moves forward and backward a few extra times.

Retrieving my items from the x-ray conveyor belt for my goods always slows me down.  I need to take off my shoes, take the laptop out of my bag, and make sure my pockets are empty.  The empty pockets have tripped me up more than once, and somehow they can spot a paper clip or dinner mint before I even enter the machine to be scanned. You might imagine the look on the security man’s face when he pointed that I had something in my pocket and without hesitation I reached in and pulled out a Poise pad and put it in his hands to hold while I walked through their machine.  I took it back out of his outstretched hands on the other side.  What can I say? He asked for it.

Then on the other side of the scanners I have the challenge of putting myself back together. I have an ongoing concern that I will leave something valuable behind at the security station like my boarding pass or purse or husband, so I take my time gathering my goods, much to the dismay of the people behind me.  Of course moving slowly is a fairly regular mode for me anyway and I’m used to the hostile stares, as if they will help me to hurry up.

I’ve gathered myself and my property together and now I need to find a place I can comfortably sit and put my shoes back on. Fortunately most of my shoes are the accessibly friendly velcro-strap slip-ons worn by people with walking problems, and while many people can easily stand and slip their feet back into their shoes, I still have to sit down to do mine.

Finally, after all of this, I am ready to head out to the gate where my departing flight may or may not be on time.

Every so often my boarding pass will have the coveted TSA Pre✓®, which means I can forgo all of the above, except for emptying my pockets and walking through the machine.  My shoes remain on, the computer stays in my bag, I don’t have to take off my belt if I’m wearing one, and it is a very short process through special lines to clear security.  How the TSA Pre✓® shows up on boarding passes is a secret and I can discern no pattern – sometimes flying with my husband as my companion, one of us will get this golden ticket and the other will be in the regular security line. We have yet to both come up approved at the same time. The airline agents can’t or won’t tell me the secret formula either.

Our son is a regular business flyer and recently asked me why I go through the airport security gauntlet when I could make it so much simpler by getting my Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) pass.  He patiently explained that for a $100 fee I can get this pass which will buy my golden ticket for every flight for the next five years. I had heard of this known-traveler program but thought the cost was much more than $20 per year.

Even if I am only taking one flight per year for leisure, the cost is well worth it. Not only will I automatically be given TSA Pre✓® for every flight, I will also get to use the short lines to clear customs on returning to US soil the next time I might travel out of the country on a cruise  or over the border into Canada.  At least I can dream about that easy reentry even if I don’t leave the US in the next five years.  I am convinced this is an excellent investment for hassle free air travel and I completed the online application for myself, and my husband also did his.

There is one final step to complete before we are officially known to all things airport security related, and that is an in person meeting with an official who will verify we match our identification cards, ask a few questions, and get a copy of our fingerprints.  The in-person meeting is probably the hardest part of this because these offices aren’t located in just any town and you have to sign up for an appointment well in advance; our appointment is still several weeks away, but it could be much worse – in some parts of the country the wait can be several months. However, I think even a long wait for an appointment to eventually replace the long lines at the airport would be worth it.

I’m sharing this because any of us living with a chronic disease can use any extra edge we can gain, and leaving shoes on and going through the short lines at the airport might just be one for you. Check out the Frequent Traveler and GOES programs and see if it might help your travel.

Wishing you speedy travels,

Laura

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (5)
  • Sue
    4 years ago

    I always take my transport chair. I can’t walk far or wheel myself. The sky cap wheels me and we usually have no lines. Usually shoes can stay on. I am wanded, no biggie.
    I just purchased a narrow 19 1/2 inc Walker which folds up like an umbrella. If I have a seat near the front, I can walk in. If you notify the airline in advance, they often give you aisle seats up front, no extra charge. There are wheel chairs which go down the first rows of the plane.
    Call first!
    A big problem is toilets. Airports are not required to have private toilets. LAX has family bathrooms in only two terminals. My husband has to wheel me into the last stall, the accessible one, in the Ladies Room. So embarrassing for everyone! JetBlue won’t put one until they’re required to.

  • Marla
    4 years ago

    Once at the gate, the attendant will notify the flight attendant you are there and that is when you give the attendant a tip…usually around $5 or more, depending on the service.

    I like to speak to theflight attendant right away to see if I can get a better sea and 9 99% of the time, I can. Furthermore, one of the flight attendants will wheel you down to the door of the plane, and another flight attendant will help you stow away your belonging, which they do not do for other passengers anymore!

    Upon arrival at my destination, there is another attendant waiting at the door for you with a wheelchair. This person will take you to baggage claim and even get your luggage for you! When you get your luggage, you (and your luggage) will be taken outside and wait with you for your ride to pick you up, or help you get a taxi or take you to the car rental company. I had one gentleman take me all the way to the parking garage, where I had my car parked! This is another person I gladly tip. Therefore, for around $10 (give or take, depending on the service) it is well worth asking for a wheelchair when you check in!!!

  • Marla
    4 years ago

    Laura,
    I have found that the best and easiest way (at least for me) is to ask for wheelchair assistance when you check in. They are able to bypass the long lines and will help you put your belongings in the bins. If you are able to stand for a few moments, they have you walk through the scanner and have your wheelchair waiting on the other side. Then, they take you to the side, get your belongings, and help you get organized. If you are unable to stand, they will do a pat down and use a hand held scanner. (Don’t worry…If you are a woman, a women gives you the pat down.) Once you are organized, the attendant will take you directly to the gate

  • Pat
    4 years ago

    I did this last year just before I flew to Europe. Since I wear AFO’s, it not only saves time, but it saves from the embarrassment. You also do not have to remove your coat. Always have a paper boarding pass with you. I once had my boarding pass on my phone. Then when I emptied my pockets, I placed my phone in the bin. When I got to the TSA agent, I could not prove that I was TSA pre check. So I had to remove shoes and AFO’s and coat. Took an extra 15 minutes plus I was absolutely humiliated. Another tip I might share is that I empty my pockets into my carry on luggage until I pass through security. That prevents me from losing items and saves time through security. After all, you don’t need those car keys until you get home anyway.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    Those are great tips, Pat. Thanks for sharing. And I’m happy to have this message reinforced by someone else who also sees great value in not having to struggle with security. We go to the office next Tuesday to finish our paperwork and do our fingerprints and then we will be all set to go. -Laura

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