Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Canadian complaints about airport security

The Canadian Broadcasting News(CBC) filed an Access to Information request for complaints sent to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

It turned up hundreds of interesting stories as to what has happened at Canadian airports.  CATSA is responsible for security screening of people and baggage, and also the administration of identity cards, at all Canadian civil airports.

In a case last October an observer said he had seen a dog in a carrier go through X-ray screening equipment. He said no one stopped the elderly man from putting the dog in a  carrier on the conveyor belt.

When the dog emerged on the other side an officer berated the old man. The witness asked to speak to the officer's supervisor who allegedly refused and also would not give the witness the number of the CATSA complaint line.

A man with a packaged drone in his bag questioned why screeners wanted him to power up his machine. He complained that Transport Canada rules state that drones should not be flown close to airports. They did not ask him to fly the drone however!

Another person reported that he had made it through security with an electric knife, two blades and a meat fork in his carry-on luggage. He said he was shocked that these dangerous items made it through security and thought that CATSA should know.

Some problems arise because of lack of clarity in the rules. One passenger complained that his cheese wedges were deemed to be a gel. Gels are banned. Another passenger had the same thing happen with his shaving soap. He had even opened the jar and pressed hard on it to prove it was like a bar of soap.

A retired social worker in British Columbia was stopped from boarding his plane after his artificial hip set off a metal detector at the Northwest Regional Airport near his home at Terrace B.C. He told the lady that he had an artificial hip.

Her response: 'You're not going to be able to board this flight. You can't take this flight. You have to be patted down by male CATSA staff and one is not available.'"  There were no male staff on duty so he missed his flight and had to take one later when a male was on duty. CATSA apologized to him and said that there were actually procedures in place to deal with such a situation. Too bad the employees did not know about it!

recent controversy concerns  the treatment of Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. He complained that security staff at Ottawa International Airport mishandled sacred objects in his carry-on luggage. A sacred bundle of ceremonial tobacco and a pipe were opened during a security check after they had passed through the x-ray machine.

Apparently, the staff wanted to examine the bowl more closely. He had insisted to a female security guard that she was not allowed to touch the bundle. A male guard came and opened the bundle even though Nepinak was uncomfortable with his doing so. They took apart the pipe. CATSA is investigating the incident.

Considering that 57 million passengers during the 2014-15 the number of complaints seems relatively small. CATSA notes that it struggles with funding as there is a steady increase in the number of people travelling by air.

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