‘I was shocked when airport security asked me to bare my chest’ | The Sun

AS an experienced traveller, I've seen it all in airports, and usually turn up prepared to deal with most eventualities.

However, on a recent visit to Gatwick, I encountered something that I have never experienced before, something that honestly left me feeling a little shocked.

I was born with a heart condition, for which I was fitted with an implanted defibrillator at the age of 12.

This is a small device that sits beneath my skin on my chest, connected to my heart so that, should anything happen like a heart attack, or a supraventricular tachycardia, I will be given a shock to correct the problem.

As a result of this device being in place, I'm not able to pass through airport security metal detectors, with the machines potentially interfering with and causing problems for the equipment.

To help explain this to airport security staff, I carry a small medic alert card with me, which provides details of both my condition and the device – but this is where the problem arose for me at Gatwick.

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The card was in my hand luggage, in my documents wallet with my passport, where I keep it, which was passing through the airport X-ray machine.

This isn't usually a problem – security staff will understand and instead of making me go through the metal detectors, I'm given a thorough physical pat down, or scanned with a safer handheld device.

Yet, this time, the security staff member who I was dealing with insisted on seeing proof.

Instead of waiting for my bag to pass through the scanner so I could retrieve my card from my documents wallet, they instead asked if they could see the scar on my chest, left over from the surgery to install the device.

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In all the 22 years since I've had the defibrillator in my chest, this has never been asked of me before, and I was pretty surprised to hear it being put forward as a solution.

However, as someone who has scars from other heart operations dating back to when I was as young as 18 months, it's not something I'm particularly sensitive about either, so I unthinkingly obliged.

While I appreciate the security staff's job is a tough one and the security area was pretty busy, this wasn't an appropriate question to ask of someone in my position.

The particular member of staff was fortunate that I'm not overly delicate about revealing my scars, but other people might not be so happy about the situation.

In order to show my scar, I had to pull my shirt down several inches, which is obviously not something everybody would be entirely comfortable doing.

The thing that stunned me the most was the insistence that I provide proof there and then, without being offered the chance to retrieve my card, which surely would have been the simplest solution.

While I'm not expecting anything more to happen here, other than having this highlighted as a way for airport security staff to not behave, I think they need to appreciate the position they're in.

I understand that they have a high-pressure job that requires a lot of critical thinking and evaluating of potentially dangerous situations, but they also need to be sensitive about the people they're dealing with.

Most passengers are just people trying to go on holiday with their families, partners, friends or whoever, and an incident like this could really affect someone more sensitive about their condition than myself.

I reached out to Gatwick about what happened and they offered an apology, saying: "I am sorry to hear about your experience while travelling through London Gatwick.   

"It is not policy for staff to ask passengers to show them their scar, as you describe below.  I can only presume that my colleague was trying to be proactive without thinking it through properly.

"I have raised this with our head of Security and he has assured me that this situation will be picked up and used as an example to remind our staff of the correct procedures when this sort of incident occurs. 

"Thank you for raising this incident with us."

For me, this response is satisfactory and proportionate for the incident, but I know there are plenty of people out there for whom it wouldn't be enough.

I just hope that I'm the last person on the end of such an inappropriate request while trying to pass through airport security.

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