TSA does not have a good track record when it comes to respecting passengers’ basic privacy. And although they have apologized, the latest story of TSA incompetence does nothing to improve their reputation.
Amy Strand, a mother of four and principal at a public school in Maui, Hawaii, was attempting to go through security with her breast pumping equipment when she was detained by a TSA agent. Strand had, 20 minutes earlier, dumped out her breast milk to avoid any hassle while going through security, so all she had in her bag were the empty bottles and an ice pack. The agent, however, inexplicably informed her that she would not be allowed to bring the ice pack through security unless the bottles were full (who knows how Beyonce would have been treated).
Strand explained to the agent that the ice pack was expensive and that she was not about to leave it behind. He informed her that she had a choice: abandon the pack or fill the bottles.
There was no private room for Strand to pump, so she went to a public bathroom, where the only outlet was near a sink. “I’m in a dress, in heels and I find myself in front of a sink and mirrors with travelers coming in and out of the bathroom,” Strand recounted. “I’m standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated.”
In a statement, TSA apologized for the “apparent misunderstanding,” but claimed that the agent did not force her to go pump breast milk before boarding the plane. TSA also added that the agent would receive remedial training, and that a memo will be sent to other airports so that mothers in similar situations do not face the same treatment. Clearly, though, this is a problem that needs to be handled with more than a memo. Nursing mothers’ needs to be included in any training that TSA agents receive about passengers’ health, so that more moms aren’t bullied by “misinformed” agents. Perhaps more importantly, though, agents should be informed that empty bottles are not more explosive than those filled with breast milk.