Success for family campaigning after insulin pump airport ordeal

Posted on 01 August 2016

A campaign led by a JDRF supporter to ease the experience for insulin pump users at airports and inform security to make some pumps exempt from x-ray scans has resulted in advice being issued to all UK airports.

news_Rachel Humphrey
Rachel and George

Background: a family’s ordeal in Dubai Airport

In June of this year Rachel Humphrey, her husband and 14 year old son George – who lives with type 1 diabetes – were due on a connection flight from Dubai to Heathrow after returning from a holiday in the Maldives. At the security gate at Dubai International Airport a security officer ordered that their son’s insulin pump must be disconnected and put through the x-ray machine. Rachel showed official documentation and warned of the medical consequences of removing the pump and of the real potential of damage being caused to the pump by passing through an x-ray machine.

The family were detained for two hours as a result.  They were eventually able to make the flight after a doctor confirmed that what Rachel had explained was correct. Rachel was informed they could travel with the insulin pump attached but that George’s spare pump would be confiscated and held by airline staff until their arrival at Heathrow Airport.

Read more about Rachel’s family’s experience in Dubai here.

The campaign

Rachel brought her fears and concerns regarding insulin pumps and airport security to the attention of the UK Civil Aviation Authority as well as the Airport Operators Association (AOA), a trade association representing the interests of UK airports, and the principal such body engaging with the UK government and regulatory authorities on airport matters.

Rachel has sought to bring about international change, especially since her family’s ordeal was in an airport in Dubai.  She contacted the Department for Transport and Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Transport said:

 “I will ask the team here in the Department discuss the issues you raise with Airports Council International, whose global reach can enable greater clarity and consistency around the world.”

Rachel also started a petition calling for a standard policy on insulin pumps in all airports. To find out more click here.

The responses to Rachel’s campaign

"We will write again to all UK airports, reminding them of the position"

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority:

“We have recognised… that on some occasions alternative processes have not in practice been offered to passengers and so we will write again to all UK airports, reminding them of the position.”

“We have reviewed the information on our website in the light of [Rachel’s] campaign and we will update it in the next few days, to make sure that all of this is entirely clear to passengers.”

“We will raise this with Airports Council International.”

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer of Heathrow Airport:

“Our policy is already to screen in situ via alternative non-evasive means if it is unsafe to remove an insulin pump. We will remind our colleagues of that policy through our security training team.

“We will also raise this with Airports Council International.”

"Airports are made aware that a passenger should not be asked to remove a medical device"

Peter O’Broin, Policy Manager of AOA:

“Whilst the Information Note itself cannot be replicated to the public, the following points address concerns that have been raised:

– Airports are made aware that a passenger should not be asked to remove a medical device, such as an insulin pump, for screening, and that all passengers having a hand search in private may have a travelling companion with them if they wish.

– In addition, passengers may be carrying certain spare medical devices in their cabin baggage that they do not wish to be screened by x-ray, due to concern over the effects of x-ray technology. In these circumstances, (and where medical confirmation is provided) the regulations allow for items of cabin baggage to be screened by hand search, supported by Trace Detection.”