At the Airport
Berkeley Parents Network >
Going Places >
At the Airport
I am going to be traveling alone with my 8yo & 4yo girls from
Moscow to San Francisco this summer and am looking for ways to
avoid any chance of being separated from my children, as it
happened to my friend coming back home from Miami with her 9yo,
7yo & an infant.
When my friend came to the security gate, she let the two older
girls go through first, then went through herself holding the
baby, and set off the gate. Since she could not think of
anything in her clothing that could produce the alarm, she was
taken to a room for detailed search. She was NOT allowed to take
her older children with her, neither was anyone assigned to
watch over the 7yo & 9yo girls in the international airport. The
security officers even almost forced my friend to hand her baby
to her other children, but then they changed their mind. No
matter how much the mother protested this, she was forced to
leave children unsupervised, and was not even allowed to say a
word to them to explain to them why she was taken away. Nobody
provided an explanation of any kind to the the two young
children left behind.
Please tell me if there is any law I could refer to if I end up
in a similar situation. I am terrified that something could
happen to my girls during our travel - trauma, abduction etc.
What are my legal rights - will I be sent to Guantanamo Bay as a
suspected terrorist actually fighting back if I refuse to
abandon my children like this?
That story freaked me out BUT GOOD! I did find this on the
Transportation Security Administration website's FAQ:
''You will not be asked to do anything that will separate you from
your child or children.''
Great, yet another document to carry with me through Security.
I do think your friend should take this up with the airport and
the TSA. That is astonishing and horrific. My God, what if
something had happened to the kids??? Sheesh.
The TSA has advice at
including this tip:
''You may want to consider asking for a private screening if you
are traveling with more than one child. ''
And no matter what you do, you can't be sent to
Guantanamo...only unlawful enemy combatants are held there.
Remember that these rules are there to protect you and your
I traveled to Paris with my (then) 4 and 5 yr old girls. I had
them wear very bright(garish!) and definetly unParisian
fluourescent baseball caps whenever we went out in public and
especially at the airport. The situation you described happened
to my cousin and when she forcefully protested at being taken
away from her son to be searched, she was arrested. I would
suggest a cell phone for each girl and tell them ahead of time
if they are ever seperated from you who to call and how. Have
love to travel
I had a different incident at security in the airport and it's
when I found out that in addition to the idiot security guards,
they do have some actual semi-senior law enforcement personnel
who can be of assistance. The guy I dealt with was extremely
professional and polite.
So if the situation arises, then demand that you talk to them.
You can also always make a big deal and ask someone to call the
news programs :) That's a story the airport certainly doesn't
I am going abroad for several months and would like to take some
food stuff with me as my young daughter is allergic/intolerant to
lots of foods. In particular I would like to take canned sardines
and mackerals and some other food stuff as it is not easy to find
these foods where I am going. I wonder how safe it is to consume
foods that have gone through the Xray machines at airports? As my
trip involves many changes of planes, my luggage will have to go
through several lots of Xrays at the different airports.
Will be most grateful for your advice/comments.
Airport X-rays (and other x-ray devices like dental x-rays, etc)
will not harm food products. You want to minimize the dose any
living animal gets becuase eventually an x-ray could cause a DNA
break in a dividing cell which could turn into cancer. But
that's only for a living person/animal in which cells a busily
dividing in the process of life.
Scanner x-rays do not ''activate'' anything, so once the x-ray
source is turned off (or your bag comes out of the scanner) there
is no more danger at all. No residual x-rays. Foodstuff that
went through an x-ray machine might have a few atomic bonds
broken, but out of the billions of bonds, it doesn't make any
difference. A broken bond in something you eat CANNOT lead to
broken bonds some cell of yours, so even if something you ate had
a lot of x-rays for some reason, there isn't any additional risk
of things like cancer.
I hope that helps allay any fears you might have had, and enjoy
your trip! With the airlines cutting food left and right, it's a
great idea to bring along something to eat. I always do!
We have not flown with our 4-year-old since Sept. 11th, but are about to
do so. I have a variety of gifts that I was going to wrap for her to help
make the cross-country plane trip interesting each way, pulling them out
at a variety of intervals. If I understand correctly, you can't bring wrapped
gifts in your carry-on luggage - is that correct? If so, I'm not sure how to
handle both security and the element of surprise for my daughter when
we're on the airplane. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We
leave in just a few weeks. Thanks!
I would go to Michael's craft store or a discount party store
and buy several small paper gift bags or ''grab bags''. Your
daughter will instantly recognize them as presents and if
security wants to look inside the bag, they won't make you
unwrap it. You could cover the tops with colored tissue, but
make it easy to remove.
I included wrapped gifts (for the same reason!) in my carry-on
luggage on a total of four different flights last month and was
never questioned. They X-Ray everything, so the fact that the
gifts are wrapped is not a problem.
Yes, you may be asked to unwrap the present, if the x-ray machine
shows anyting ambiguous. So be prepared to undo the tape, or wrap
it in a pretty bag with a tie so that it can be re-wrapped.
- sarah s
I took my son on a SFO-Chicago flight this week and had no
trouble bringing small wrapped gifts on the plane for him to open
and enjoy while we travel. I doubt you'll have any problems,
although if you are stopped for a more complete search (we were
not) they may ask what is inside.
I recently brought small wrapped toys on a plane ride for my
2-yr-old, on the advice of a friend. I don't know it was a
security issue, and no one said anything, but perhaps I just
However, I didn't really like the result of giving her wrapped
gifts throughout the flight. After 2 or 3 of these she got the
idea that there was an endless supply of presents in my bag, lost
interest in the toys themselves and kept demanding more presents.
Kind of ugly. Just giving her unwrapped toys on the return flight
went better. The wrapping didn't really seem to make the
experience any better -- if anything it just detracted from the
toys, in our case.
On July 25th we're heading to the east coast by plane for a few
weeks. We'll fly Oakland to Logan airport in Boston, and return
the same way.(my boys are 11, and 7yrs).
I/we haven't flown in 2 years. I've never liked flying anyway
because I HATE the crowds, lines, waiting, chaos etc. at the
I would like to know realistically, how early we should get to
the airport for domestic flights. We're flying Alaska Airlines
one way, American on return. Does security and times vary per
airline? What should we be aware of?
Are my kids allowed to bring game boys onto the plane? What
kinds of things are we not allowed? I'd heard absurd things like
no sharp objects including pencils, keys, forks. Is this real?
Also what kind of food should we expect on the planes? Should I
bring enough food to feed us for the day? I feel silly being so
nervous about all this but I''ve never liked flying to begin
with. Any info on what I should expect and how I can be prepared
would be very much appreciated. Thanks.
The airport will be a breeze. Security is tighter since 9/11 but
you only need to be at the airport 1 1/2 - 2 hours in advance of
your flying time. You will probably wait in a bit of a line to
get boarding passes; a little bit longer line to go through
security. Be sure to have your ID ready and available for each
line - including as you board the plane. That seems to be the
biggest change - you show your ID to more folks along the way.
You should only need food if you or your children are major
snackers. I pack snacks and water for each traveller. Gameboys
are permitted. I did have a nail clipper taken from me but you
may carry pens, etc. And, if the flights are direct there will
probably be a relatively current movie showing. So, relax, the
day will be so smooth. Have a great time in Boston - our home
before Oakland. Best of Luck.
Signed, a frequent traveller with a baby
My son's baby fork was confiscated from our carry-on luggage at
security in SFO, which seemed ridiculous since it was so blunt.
But then on the plane in first class they used metal silverware
(we were not in first class, but knew someone who was)! We did
pack all of our nail clippers and tweezers in our checked
luggage. Re. electronic devices, you might have to turn them on
for security. I believe the security varies from airport to
airport on what is not allowed in carry-on luggage. Perhaps you
could try to call or look on-line at the airports you'll be
flying in and out of. I hear in Oakland it's pretty quick and
streamlined getting through security now. Good luck!
I have flown several times in the last year, including to Europe
and the East Coast with my 11 and 12 year olds, and many short
flights alone. In my opinion, things were more chaotic before the
tragedy than they are now. Everyone shows up early, gets in neat
little lines, and submits. Airlines don't seem to cancel flights
willy nilly like they did before, and with less people allowed on
the other side of security, it is less crowded a lot of the time.
That said, what SPECIFICALLY you will run into is less
predictable. Ask your airline how early to get there for a
particular airport. Try to get tickets for flights in the middle
of the day. For mid-day weekday flights, you hardly have to be
early at all in many cases. For example, when flying from Oakland
mid day during the week an hour early is probably ok--again, ask
the airline. The point is, you need to leave more time than you
did before. Electronics: same rules as before. Game boys are
fine. Sharp things: security is highly variable! We wanted to
do beading on the Europe flight, and the only thing I could think
of to take to cut with was a toenail clipper. I figured no way
was that sharp. However, the security guy broke off the nail file
on it. They also made a deal out of some fancy fountain pen
because of the nib. So use your imagination when you think of
sharp. This was at SFO in November. I have never experienced
such scrutiny since. In London in November, there was a
relatively long security line we had to go through when we changed
planes. Flying southwest: you can now get your boarding pass 1.5
hours early, and people are at the airport so early with nothing
to do that they actually start lining up then! If possible, have a
form of ''government issued'' id that you can hang on your neck.
You could put your drivers license in your cal ID pouch. I am
going to just try my Cal ID because I am worried about losing my
drivers license when I have to whip it out several times. Which
reminds me you can get selected for a random search and they will
go through your bags. In general, the less baggage the better
overall. Wear slip on shoes, sometimes they put them through the
big machine. You should have some form of ID for the kids if
possible--again, check with the airline. But in fact, things seem
more orderly to me than they were before.
We traveled on Southwest out of Oakland last month.
Called beforehand to find out how early we needed to get to
the airport, and was told one hour, which, with the long line
at security, turned out to be too close for comfort. Add the
fact that (unbeknownst to us) my 7 year old packed
scissors in her knapsack, and we almost missed the plane.
(At security, the inspector spotted the scissors via xray , but
held onto the knapsack without saying anything. None of us
realized she no longer had her knapsack until we were
almost at the gate, and had to go back, and get it hand
checked.) So, my recommendation (especially if you're
nervous to begin with) is to give yourself more than an hour,
and make sure nobody's got any sharp objects, and be
aware of exactly which bags everybody's got.
My husband recently flew to Michigan with our 6 month daughter.
We flew out of San Francisco Airport. The airline suggested
that we get to the airport 90 minutes prior to the flight. We
had plenty of time. The security really checks over and through
everything. My husband was carrying our daughter in the Baby
Bjorn carrier and he had to take it off and they search her and
the carrier thoroughly. Kind of a pain but well worth it for
our safety. Do not take anything in a carry on that can be
contrued as a weapon and you will be fine. I put everything
that was sharp, even nail clippers in our check in luggage. I
hope this helps.
Good luck and enjoy your trip.
I recently flew out of Oakland and here's what I found. Long lines
inside for checking-in/tickets. Short, to almost nonexistant lines
to use curbside check-in. At 6am, a very, very, very long line to
get past security. However, it moved fast, and most importantly,
every fifteen minutes an airport employee went through the line
pulling out people whose flight was due to leave in the next half
hour to 45 min. No one missed a flight. Had I known that, I would
not have bothered to get to the airport that early. On the way
back I flew out of JFK and everything there ran smoothly and
efficiently, no lines.
I've flown five times since 9/11 including 2 trips to the
East Coast and one overseas. The good news is that the airlines
and airport security have started to get things figured out
and it is not as chaotic checking in now as it was last fall
and winter. Back then, we had a 1-hour wait to go through the
security check at Newark, time to feed the baby a jar of food,
a bottle, and change his diaper, all the while shuffling
forward bit by bit. It's much better now. Alaska Airlines
is great - on a trip to Portland last November they had a
computerized check-in which made it go really fast - you
just enter your credit card and the machine does the rest.
The bad news is that the airlines seem to have cancelled
all the flights that don't run full in order to save money.
There are fewer flights and they are crammed full. Every flight
I've taken has had no empty seats that I could see, including
midweek flights at odd times. So ... if you can upgrade to
business on a long flight, now's the time. And don't expect to
find a free empty seat for the baby! Carry as little on with
you as you can possibly get by with - a lot of airlines now are
really holding firm to the one bag limit and will gate check
any extra baggage. We had no trouble with the stroller (gate
checked) and carseat (carrying it on) though, and since the
baby had a seat, he got to "carry on" his diaper bag and gear.
The food is very pitiful nowadays. You will get food for a 4+
hour flight but lower your expectations and take some snacks
and maybe a bottle of water.
Security ... Our family has lost a couple of Leathermans and a number
of fingernail clippers at the security checkpoint due to teen
forgetfulness. We could have predicted those, but the unpredictable is
what makes it exciting. Ths last trip one of the teens brought along a
CD player and an 8-pack of extra batteries in his carry-on backback.
The batteries caused an enormous brouhaha. First of all, traveling
with a teen boy who is dressed all in black with his face hidden in a
black hooded sweatshirt attracts unwanted attention from the security
staff. We quickly learned to stick close to him so as to decrease the
liklihood of "random" bag searches. (Young men traveling alone are
searched way more than families.) When his black backpack paused for
a very long time in the xray tunnel, and there was a huddle of security
people at the console looking at it, I stepped up to claim it. When
it finally came out, they did not open it. First they had me take off
my shoes so they could check them. Then they took the backpack to a
table, scanned it, and then began prodding it with a long wooden
stick, cautiously unzipping each zipper and holding it open for me,
asking "What is that?" (a cd player) and what about that? (a book)
and this? and that? It was the battery pack that caused all the
trouble. We packed them in the checked baggage for the trip back. By
the way, we had no trouble with anything we checked, including a
4-foot-long iron sword the teen bought in Scotland, which he clumsily
packed in two boxes taped together with a lot of duct tape wrapped
around. "What's in there?" "A sword" "OK - take it over to oversized
In terms of allowing time to check in, we allow 1.5 hours for Berkeley
to Oakland for domestic flights and end up with lots of sitting-around
time. However, you never can tell when there is going to be a
problem, so always allow plenty of time. Also: Call ahead the day of
or check online to see if your flight is delayed or early. We had one
flight unexpectedly change its departure time to 30 minutes earlier
than when we bought the tickets, so check. My college-aged son got
overconfident about the short checkins and a few months ago got to the
OAkland airport only 45 minutes early and missed his flight -- a great
inconvenience nowadays when there are fewer scheduled flights and they
are all so full. It was the end of Spring Break and he couldn't get
another flight till 2 days later, so be forewarned.
And now, the grand finale: last month, we drove to SFO during rush
hour for a flight to London with baby, grandma, and teenage son. We
were horrified to discover on unloading the car that we had forgotten
the passports! Luckily we'd allowed 2.5 hours from Berkeley to SFO,
and luckily it was a less popular evening flight, and luckily there
were no backups on the bridge, so my husband was able to drive over
and back, and we did actually make the flight with a few minutes to
spare! It was a suspenseful start to a fun trip that was jinxed by
multiple transportation snafus, train, plane, and bus, having nothing
to do with 9/11, but that is another story! Relax and have fun on your
Your airline can tell you how much time in advance each airport
is recommending these days. It is typically 1.5 to 2 hours. For
such a long trip, I hope you are taking a taxi to the airport or
getting driven. Then you can be dropped off with the skycaps and
just check your bags that way. As long as you are not flying on
a holiday, my experience since 9/11 suggests you won't have a
long wait with the skycaps or security (especially since I think
you are flying on a non-Monday weekday). With regard to
security, they are indeed asking for no sharp objects, but for
regular folks that mainly includes things like pocket knives and
metal nail files. If they find you have these, they will take
them away and they will be gone for good. Keys are fine. Pens
are fine, I imagine pencils probably are too. Of course, as
always, take any pepper spray/mace you may have buried in your
purse out for sure. I have heard plastic knives are also a no
no, and that they don't even have these at the airport, but I'm
pretty sure I saw plastic knives at an airport restaurant
recently. Expect, however, to possibly be randomly searched,
both your body (scanned with a wand) and your carry-on bags
(physically opened and pawed). Prepare your boys for this too,
if only in case you or your husband are scanned. I was recently
pulled aside for scanning, and only afterward did I find out my
5-year-old thought someone was holding a gun to me (tip to
anyone with young children traveling).
Except for cross country trips, the airlines are no longer
providing meals to coach passengers. But, to Logan seems to me
to be cross country so you should check with your airlines. A
reservation agent can tell you the meal plans for your trip. At
the very least, there will be a pretty substantial snack, I
would think, given the airlines you are flying. You might still
want to take some travel food with you. Or, given the extra time
you will have at the airport, you can buy food there. All the
food vendors are now set up to sell packaged meals, like
sandwiches and salads. The pizza's not so bad at Oakland airport
either. Your boys can take their game boys on board. Just the
regular prohibition against having them on at the beginning and
end of the flight. It's great you have direct flights. This time
of year midwestern/eastern weather delays can wreak havoc on
I've flown a number of times since 9/11. I'd suggest the
following answers to your questions:
Get to the airport between 90 minutes and 2 hours before your
flight. 90 minutes works for early in the day flights; things
tend to get more crowded as the day wears on. All airlines have
completely standardized security at this point. Most of the time
is spent getting through the security checkpoint; this is where
the line is the longest. Also, they randomly select people for
searching via the computer (both carryon and with a hand-held
metal detector); if you get singled out, it is most likely because
of a code on your boarding pass, and not something about you
Curbside checkin is allowed; the lines are usually a little
shorter there than at the airline, but there still usually is a
Pencils, pens, keys and other necessary objects are fine.
However, I would not take any beauty-related items such as razors,
clippers, and so on, in my carryon. And definitely nothing
resembing any sort of knife. It's easiest to check one bag at
least, and put anything in doubt in that bag.
I think gameboys are OK security-wise, but they will have to be
turned off at least for takeoff and landing, because they can
interfere with the plane's systems.
Airline food varies tremendously, as it always has. I wouldn't
count on a great meal, and would probably have everyone have some
snacks in their carryon. You can often get better food ordering a
special meal (lowfat, vegetarian, etc.) in advance. More
importantly, take a large water bottle each.
All in all, it won't be that much worse than it ever was. The big
difference is the line at the security gate, and the random
selection of individuals to search.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and people who have flown
more recently in or out of Logan can correct me on this, but when
I went to Boston in November of last year, the airport was
chronically overcrowded and chaotic as a result of increased
security measures. I went more than two hours in advance of my
flight and waited in long lines both at the check-in counter and
the security checkpoint. And even then I barely made my flight,
having to be ushered ahead by an airline official when the
boarding time arrived and I was still pretty far back in the
security line. This was with American Airlines, although I
couldn't see much difference between carriers from where I stood.
As I said, things may have improved, but I would try to check
about that. People with kids seemed to be coping by having one
person stand in line and the other sit or walk around with the
The kids can have their game-boys; they just can't use them during
take-off or landing, as I understand it. Caution about sharp
objects has increased, though policies for checking for them (and
confiscating them) seem to vary widely from airport to airport.
Keys and pencils should prove no problem -- stainless cutlery
Most airlines have eliminated meals on all but the longest of
domestic flights -- I've found that I either have to bring a meal
or eat (ulp) at the airports, where selection sometimes is limited
to the most standard fast foods. I would bring healthy snacks and
water (sometimes flight changes leave little time for eating
Having said all of this, I want to say that I have traveled quite
a bit since 9/11 and have experienced no serious delays or
incidents. In fact, planes and airports are often less crowded
and flights have even arrived ahead of schedule! So it's not an
entirely black picture.
Have a good trip!
You got a lot of advice about airport travel, but I'll add a
few more notes.
I have traveled out of Oakland and SFO in the past months,
and waits at both airports were variable, for no apparent reason.
However, the lines were generally longer at Oakland, so I
recommend giving yourself plenty of time there.
My friend gave me an antique iron star as a gift on one trip.
I didn't want to check baggage, and a security agents insisted
that it was a ''tae kwon do weapon'' and confiscated it. Otherwise,
no problems, EXCEPT I strongly recommend that you avoid wearing an
underwire bra for air travel these days. These can set off metal
detectors, especially those wands. I have twice had to stand in
the middle of large crowds while security workers palpated my
breasts searching for contraband. It's a strange age we live in.
I want to thank the many people who wrote to me with their
airport and flying experiences. Mostly everyone's stories were
pretty much the same which really helped me plan for
food/toys/expectations at airport etc.
We're off tomorrow morning, intending to arrive at the airport
an hour and a half to two hours early (depending on airport
shuttle van). Thanks again to all,
I was wondering if anyone out there has recent experience going
through airport security with a CPAP machine and can tell me
what to expect? We are flying to Europe in a few weeks for the
first time since 9/11, and we must bring my husband's CPAP
(Continuous Positive Air Pressure) device for his sleep apnea.
For those who haven't seen one, it's a 6-7 pound black metal box
about the size of a shoebox with a fan(?) inside that pushes air
through a hose to a mask worn by the sleeper, and it could
appear ominous to the uninformed. My husband must carry this on
board as he can't risk losing or damaging it, but is resisting
going back to his doctor for a prescription or letter of
explanation to carry with him just in case. In the past, we
always sailed right through security with this device, but
now...? Am I right to be concerned that we may be in for a
hassle unless we have some documentation or is this a non-
issue? Thanks in advance for any advice.
Hi, Your best bet is to call the airline and see what their
guidelines are. Recently my daughter went on a trip and we
contacted the airline ahead of time since she is an insulin
dependant diabetic and would be bringing syringes onboard the
plane. We just had to bring her prescription and insulin with
the syringes and it was no problem at all.
My dad uses a CPAP and has visited us several times from the LA
area. He's been able to get through airport security quite
uneventfully, though they do check his bag to see what this thing
Call his doctor and ask him to fax or mail you a short note (it
can be on a prescription blank) stating that your husband
has sleep apnea and will be carrying a cpap machine. Any
questions and he can pull out the note.
It really would be easier to just call your husband's doctor and
get a note. You don't have to go in for that. They can take the
message over the phone, write one up and then all you have to do
is pick it up.
However, if the reluctance continues, just call the airport
before you go and ask them. If they know ahead of time what
you're bringing, there should be less of a problem once you get
there. Be sure to get the names of the people you talk to so you
can refer to them should a hassle occur. You can probably meet up
with them there and they can give you whatever pass you need to
get it through. Most medical items usually don't have problems,
but I understand your concerns in light of the increased
My sister has flown with her sleep apnea equipment since 9/11 -
She says ''The airport personnel recognize CPAP machines and
didn't give me any trouble. The worst that would happen is they
make you take it out and plug it in. A little hassle, but not a
mary in oakland
this page was last updated: Aug 1, 2007
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network