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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
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Grum

A warning for people travelling to Hungary

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I've just gotten home from a business trip to Budapest and thought I'd warn everyone of my experience going through security today.

First, a little background. Since becoming an amputee in 2003 I have flown around 150 times in many different countries and even more airports, in fact this year alone I've visited 23 airports. In all of this time I have had no problems at all, I always wear shorts so my prosthetic is always obvious. I go through the metal detectors then get a pat down, swab, a quick check with the hand-held metal detector and I'm off and on my way. Not so this morning in Budapest.....

Upon my arrival at the security check point I went through metal detector and obviously my leg set off the alarm. I immediately assumed the position for a pat down only to be told that I had to go to a side room so they could "check" my leg. I said that was not necessary and that they could do whatever checks they needed to do where we were. It turns out that the checks that they had in mind consisted of me removing me prosthetic so that they could send it through the X-Ray scanner. Having had a problem in the past where my old (1st generation) C-Leg lost its settings after being X-Rayed I said that it was not possible as it could potentially leave me unable to walk.

I understand that there may have been a bit of a communication problem but before I knew what was going on I was surrounded by 8 different officials including 3 drug enforcement officers (with a sniffer dog), 2 police officers, the duty manager of customs and a couple of security gate staff. After a very long winded conversation where I explained my concerns (based on previous experience) along with the fact that the scanner would not show them anything because of the nature of the materials they eventually settled on getting the dog to have a good sniff of my leg, and the duty manager of customs having a quick inspection of my leg without me having to remove either the prosthesis or any clothing.

These checks alone took over 1 hour and whilst I find the request to remove my prosthetic insulting I understand why they might want to carry out enhanced security screening on me. What followed next however was unbelievable. After my prosthesis had been cleared they then decided to look at my passport and boarding card only to ask where my doctors letter was. According to these security officials I am required by european law to carry a letter from my doctor detailing my "condition" and without this the prosthesis cannot be permitted on the plane and must be checked in and travel in the hold!! Can you imagine what condition my leg would have been in if/when I eventually saw it again??

After all of this fuss I was then told to go through the metal detectors again and have my carry-on x-rayed once again only to be given another pat down, swab test and quick check with a hand-held metal detector. The downside was that all of the people I was travelling with were forced to stay with me through this whole process and also had to repeat the trip through the metal detectors. All of these checks and re-checks took so long that we almost missed our flight despite arriving at the airport in plenty of time.

I understand that some countries are more paranoid than others but what I experienced today was both insulting and un-necessaryily heavy handed when the police and drug team arrived I genuinely thought I was about to see the inside of a Hungarian prison cell.

I've yet to check on the E.U. regs but I seriously believe that the requests made of me were well beyond what is considered reasonable. I would also like to warn anyone thinking of going to Hungary that they may want to re-think their holiday plans. Countries That I can recommend as being amputee aware include: Holland, Denmark, Estonia, Poland, Spain, Ireland, England, Thailand, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, America, Belgium, Mallorca, Ibiza and Scotland. My advice would be to go to one of these countries instead, you'll have a much nicer time.

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I'm sorry you had such a bad time. I have travelled to United States (many times), Canada, Greece and Germany without incident.

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Wow, if there has been no problems with prosthetics in the past on flights then these Hungarian security guards were morons!

Here is the TSA policy.

"Once at the airport, some people swear by packing their prosthesis or orthosis in a carry-on and traveling in an airport wheelchair. Doing so may allow you to breeze through inspections, only having to notify safety screeners that you have a medical device in your bag. Most travelers who do wear their device will set off metal detectors, and those wearing a device that contains any metal, gel, or liquid—such as a breast prosthesis—are required by TSA regulations to tell the screener as soon as it's their turn to be screened. You can notify the screener in writing or verbally, according to the TSA, and showing your disability certification can facilitate the process.

According to Reuters, people have attempted to smuggle everything from cocaine to iguanas inside prosthetic limbs, so don't be surprised that the TSA will want to carefully inspect your device. If you're lucky, you'll be at one of the 11 airports that currently have the new CastScope, a super-fast x-ray system that can see into casts and medical devices with only one thousandth the radiation of a normal x-ray. Even if your travels don't take you through one of these airports, the TSA says that you won't be asked to remove a prosthesis during your screening, but that "security officers will need to see and touch your device, and collect air samples from your clothing." If this happens, you can always ask for a private screening, during which you can be accompanied by a travel companion of your choice. You can also ask for help—if you're unable to stand, you can ask to sit down after you have passed the walk-through metal detectors, or ask a security officer for a hand, arm, or chair to lean on. However, the TSA's procedures change often, so read the guidelines at www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/index.shtm before your trip."

http://www.oandp.com/articles/2009-06_03.asp

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Wow all that sounds really extreme!

I have recently come back from a holiday in Egypt and I can say exactly the opposite happened to me! When walking through the metal detector in Egypt on the way home the beeper went off as it normally does and no one batted an eyelid!!!! I was wearing trousers as well so no one could see I had a prosthetic leg!

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Thanks for the replies,

Freddy, I'm well aware of TSA procedures but sadly, the TSA is an American authority and it's policies only apply within America.

Although it was at the TSA'a request that other airports all over the world now have to use body scanners and that anyone who refuses to use them is not permitted to fly (unlike in America itself where the TSA only requests passengers to go through a scanner).

Strangely, if I'd been in a wheelchair I wouldn't have had any problems because they cannon ask a wheelchair user to get out of the chair while they X-ray it as this is deemed unacceptable.

Sue,

I too have been to many other countries without incident which is why I was so angered by the attitude of the staff in Hungary.

Tracybuz,

This doesn't surprise me, having flown to Egypt many times I once had a stamp in my passport to show I entered the country with a prosthetic incase I left it behind as if I left without it I was going to be Taxed as if I'd imported it. Egyptian customs (in my experience of having imported around 20 containers or equipment into the country) are only in the job for what they can make on the side rather than to ensure the safety of the passengers.

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Grum, what happened to you is unbelievable. I cannot imagine any law could support such a behaviour. Once in India a custom policeman wanted me to remove my prosthesis in front of everyone but the way I looked at him made him change his mind immediatly. Every amputee feels like being a dangerous terrorist when crossing the security checks. Once in Paris the custom policeman made me wait 40 minutes with my young son and had a rude behaviour. The next day I wrote to the airport director and to the european commission, I got apologizes by letter. Of course everything could be hidden in a prosthesis, drugs or explosives, but such behaviours are unacceptable. You should write to european commission, with the support of a dis group or a governemental organization. Write this also to some journalists. We do no have to accept this and should let it know.

fred

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