Schumer bill would create 'passenger advocates' for TSA

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Friday that they would soon introduce legislation to create "passenger advocates" to help people who may be "inappropriately treated" by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers.

"While passengers across the country have raised concerns over screening procedures, particularly women and the elderly, the TSA has yet to establish on site advocates for travelers to turn when they feel they have been or will be subjected to inappropriate or degrading screening procedures — that will all change with this bill," Schumer said Friday.

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"Our legislation will finally give voice to those who think they are being subjected to humiliating or inappropriate screening," he added. "This bill will ensure that passengers have a point of contact who they can turn to, on site and at the airport, when questions arise over proper screening procedures."

Both Schumer and Collins cited complaints about "inappropriate and harassing behavior" toward female passengers who pass through security scanning equipment. They also noted the lack of female TSA officers to pat down airline passengers, and cited a recent report about a female passenger who was forced to use a breast pump to fill baby bottles, since she was not allowed to bring empty bottles on the plane.

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"We hear often of the inconsistent and illogical treatment of everything from cupcakes to medical devices by TSA personnel and inappropriate screening of elderly, young, or infirmed individuals," Collins said. "My hope is that Passenger Advocates will help add some common sense to the screening process."

In December, three elderly women complained about being searched inappropriately, which prompted Schumer to call on TSA to establish passenger rights advocates themselves. However, TSA has failed to act on this request, which prompted Schumer and Collins to announce their pending bill, the Restoring Integrity and Good-Heartedness in Traveler Screening (RIGHTS) act.

Under the bill, TSA would have to establish a passenger advocate system and have at least one advocate on duty at 24 major airports across the country. It would also require airports to display signs alerting passengers of their right to call on an advocate if they believe they have been mistreated.