Saturday, April 7, 2007

Flight Travel While Pregnant

I went on a 1.5-week business trip to California two weeks ago. After checking in at JFK airport, I went through security. My purse and all its contents, computer bag, and luggage all cleared the x-ray machine without any special check or inspection. I then walked through the sensor and cleared without any problems, but the TSA agent asked me to step in a glass box and wait to be checked again.

I waited in the glass box for 15 minutes until a female agent came into the area who could perform the search. Another 10 or 15 minutes of time passed before I was asked to leave the box, and it coincided with the arrival of a second female agent. The two female agents asked me to step into a private office, where I removed my shoes, got scanned with a wand, and then physically frisked. I asked why I was getting searched, and they said that a heightened security alert was in play highlighting the risk of women travelers who may appear to be pregnant but could be disguising explosives or other illegal substances in fake bumps. I asked why I had to wait in the box for so long, and they said that any pregnant woman who gets checked will be checked in a private office, which requires two female officers -- one to perform the search, and the other to witness.

Once I was released and went to the gate, I learned that my flight had departed already. I asked about getting on the next flight 2 hours later, and was assured that there would be no problem getting a seat even though I was on standby status. However, when the next flight arrived and all the passengers had boarded, I still hadn't been called to get on the plane. I went to the agents, and they told me the flight was full, and that I would need to wait for the next flight (3 hours later).

At this point, the day was shaping up to be a bust and I started crying (hormones!). The agent took pity on me and I got the last seat on the flight. They held the plane and allowed me to board before it took off. Although I wish I'd been able to avoid crying, it probably helped my case.

When I landed in San Francisco, I dug around the bottom of my purse to retrieve my itinerary for the car rental, and discovered a 6" steak knife. I've been taking a knife to the office to cut apples and pears for snacks, and forgot to remove it that morning before leaving for the airport. The steak knife cleared the security check at JFK with no notice, and I was allowed to carry it onto the plane... Don't worry about the serrated-edge knife in her purse; let's make sure that belly is bona fide!

On the weekend, I took a shuttle flight from San Francisco to Santa Barbara to visit my parents for two days. On the flight from Santa Barbara back to San Francisco, I was seated in an exit row. When the flight attendant noticed my shape, she asked me to switch seats with another passenger so that I was no longer in an exit row. He didn't seem to mind, since it was an aisle seat just one row ahead of his original seat, and I didn't mind either.

Done with airline travel for now until the Bean arrives.

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