[Update March 12 -- Oops, not so fast with the kudos, Sharkey. See Mike Boyd's column today (third item down, headlined "TSA Management Steps In It Again") at his Boyd International group Web site, zeroing in on the TSA blog and "Baghdad Bob."]
One of the complaints I've had with the TSA for all these years is that, while headquarters often projects a sense of reason in the face of absurdity, a small minority of the screeners who actually staff the checkpoints at airports don't have a clue.
The Army has an old saying that, with any given order, 10 percent always don't seem to get the word.
That's applicable, obviously, to another TSA embarrassment last week, when a screener at Kauai's Lihue airport in Hawaii arbitrarily blocked a nursing mother from taking her electric breast pump through security because, um, the milk bottles were empty.
The woman, Amy Strand, traveling with her 9-month old daughter, was told that the empty bottles proved that the breast pump was not "medically necessary." How to prove that medical necessity existed? Well, said the agent with the degree of impudence that only a badge issued to a nitwit can confer, Ms. Strand would have to actually use the pump and fill up the bottles. Then she would be good to go.
When Ms. Strand asked if there was a private place in which she might comply, she was told she had to use the ladies room. Where, because the pump needs to be plugged into an outlet next to the sink, she had to use it in full view.
When the incident became public, a media fury ensued among the media that pay attention to TSA follies.
And did the TSA, per usual, get into a defensive crouch, harrumph and snort and basically blow off the complaint, saying that it would look into matters, but that people have to understand that screeners' every action is always justified by a concern for public safety?.
No it did not!
Instead, the TSA stood up and said, whoa, we blew this one, and that screener avoided the application of common sense and instead acted like a hump. (Or in words to that effect).
In the TSA's excellent blog, the following post appears today (the italics are mine):
"[Ms. Strand] should have been permitted to bring the ice pack and bottles whether the bottles were empty or not since they were for her breast milk.
It was a result of a miscommunication on our end and those involved are going to undergo retraining and corrective actions.
Leadership at that airport has since spoken to the passenger and apologized, but we wanted to take it a few steps further and try to help our advisements at TSA.gov make a little more sense. So we have updated the website to help clarify the procedures for traveling with ice packs, breast milk, juice, and water. ...
If you find yourself in a situation such as this where you're being advised to do something that you feel is incorrect, please ask for a supervisor or manager.
You can also contact TSA through the following channels:
TSA Contact Center: 1-866-289-9673
Talk to TSA
TSA Cares: 1-855-787-2227
Mistakes such as this happen from time to time and for that we are truly sorry. However, we can and have learned from mistakes in the past, so please be sure to let us know when you think or know something could have been handled differently. When it all comes down to it, we're just trying to keep passengers safe."
That, I would submit to you, is the way to handle this kind of a situation. You say you're sorry without equivocation, and you say that remedial action will be taken.
Well done, TSA.