Friday, August 11, 2006

ASK ROSCOE: TSA child abusers

Dear Roscoe:

What’s up with crying babies on airplanes all of a sudden? I just flew American Airlines from Colorado Springs to Cleveland via Dallas—and it was five hours of auditory hell. Some friends on a couple of other flights reported the same thing. Babies crying for hours on end. Before my flight was over, I wanted to slap the mother. What’s the matter with these parents? Don’t they feed their children?

--E. Herzog

Dear E.:

Glad you asked. We did some investigating, and here’s the scoop:

It all has to do with the attempted terrorist attack on airlines that was busted on Thursday in England. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adopted new restrictions for airline passengers—principally, banning liquids and gels from carry-on bags. Some sensible exceptions were allegedly made. We quote here from the TSA’s FAQs on its own Web site

Will there be any exceptions to the banned liquids?

The following items are permitted to be carried aboard the aircraft:

· Passengers traveling with infants may bring baby formula.
· Prescription medicine that matches the passenger’s name.
· Essential non-prescription medicines such as insulin are permitted.

Unfortunately, there’s one little problem: They lied.

We have documented one case in which infant formula was confiscated at the TSA security checkpoint from a couple with an eight-month-old baby. The dad—whom we’ll call Mr. A.—was understandably upset. Mr. A. told us what really ticked him off was the lengths he had gone to comply with the rules.

After finding the alleged exception for infant formula on the TSA and FAA Web sites, Mr. A. called American Airlines to confirm it—which they did. At check-in, he double-checked that infant formula was OK. They said it was. So, imagine their surprise when the TSA security worker seized their baby’s food, almost out of her mouth. It was all Mr. A. could do to control himself and avoid arrest.

At the gate, Mr. A asked the airline rep why his baby’s formula had been confiscated. It must have been a mistake by the TSA worker, he was told. So, could he get it back? Well, no.

So, there you have it, E. These parents are not abusing their children. The TSA is.

Our advice: If you know someone planning to travel with a baby, tell them to be sure to get the TSA worker’s name and inform him that they will be filing charges of child abuse against him. What else would you call depriving a baby of food for five hours?

It might, of course, get the parent threatened with arrest. But I think that’s a chance most parents would take when the welfare of their child is at stake. I certainly would.


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