First, my apologies to William Shakespeare for changing his quote from Hamlet, "To be or not to be…" but I wanted to get your attention. Who better to borrow from than Shakespeare?
I’d like to discuss some of the items that should not be in your checked bags. Recently, I met Customers in the Nashville (BNA) Baggage Service Office who put important items inside their checked bags that did not arrive on the same flight as they did. Though the majority of our Customers receive their checked bags intact and on time with no problems, the possibility of human error does exist. And, we wouldn’t want our Customers ever to be separated from items that could, quite literally, save your life.
It is a common misconception that liquid medication cannot go through security. But according to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) web site, "All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols), including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes" are allowed through the checkpoint. You can also carry on "Gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions…However, if the liquid medications are in volumes larger than 3 ozs. each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to the Transportation Security Officer."
Any “life-sustaining” medications and equipment (which can be very expensive, by the way) should be kept in your possession and carried onboard the aircraft. Such necessary items include CPAP machines, Portable Oxygen Concentrators, nebulizers, and essential medications (heart, insulin, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.)
If you checked these items and your bag is delayed, you would have to contact your physician/pharmacy to obtain an interim prescription until you could be reunited with your luggage. Or it could be necessary to rent equipment if your bag containing a breathing device is delayed. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find a provider (I’ve tried), and the rentals also require a prescription. Not to mention, there is a risk of damage associated with checking fragile equipment as items may shift in the cargo bin. (If you decide to check an assistive device anyway, you should inform the Customer Service Agent upon checking in that such a device is contained within your luggage.)
Most people are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. What you may not know is that accessibility in airline travel is covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and by the regulations implementing the Act from the U.S. Department of Transportation under Title 14, Part 382 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel.” Interstate airline travel is specifically excluded from Title II of the ADA by Section 12141(2). The ACAA preceded the ADA, and Congress excluded air carriers and other transportation services from the scope of the ADA.
The ACAA covers everything from how an airline accommodates people with disabilities onboard the plane to how we transport assistive devices. We have additional information on southwest.com if you’d like to learn more. You may be interested to know that pursuant to 14 CFR Part 382, assistive devices do not count toward your carryon or checked baggage limits. Assistive devices are also given priority stowage onboard the aircraft. That means that you can carry your assistive devices (including prescription medications) onboard, and room must be made in an overhead bin close to your seat.
In preparing this post, I contacted several of our Company experts who deal with ACAA issues on a daily basis to get some additional travel tips. Here are some comments they provided:
• Any support items used for an assistive device to make it operable should NEVER be checked (e.g., battery chargers for scooters, wheelchairs, etc.)
• Hearing aids, dentures, retainers, etc. should be worn, kept on your person, or packed in your carryon bag.
• Prosthetics/cosmeses should be in your carryon bag to avoid the potential for loss, delay, or damage.
• Other items that should be in your carryon include, canes, grabbers, optics, and believe it or not…..breast pumps.
• And while it’s not related to the ACAA, my Coworkers threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t remind everyone to please carry on your car keys.
Matters of this importance require appropriate degrees of respect, attention, handling, and communication prior to traveling/transport. More importantly, we encourage everyone to become informed and responsible travelers by reading the travel tips available at both www.southwest.com and www.TSA.gov. I also recommend that you visit the TSA’s special needs web page and print a copy of any guidelines that relate to your situation.
Finally, a very special thank you to Nancy Hall, Mary Buck, and Adrienne Browne for their assistance and insight in preparing this article. Without their help, this post would not have been nearly as informative.