Rob Hart's right hip looks like it's in place but a titanium ball that now forms part of his hip means he beeps when he goes through airport security.

Terrace resident seeks answer to airport security problem

Rob Hart refused clearance because there was no male officer to do a pat down

  • Thu Aug 13th, 2015 5:00am
  • News

A LOCAL man who missed his flight to a family wedding and holiday back east because there wasn’t a male security employee on duty that day to do a pat down has been promised an explanation by federal authorities.

Mostly, says Rob Hart, he wants to make sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Hart wasn’t surprised when the metal detector went off in the Northwest Regional Airport’s screening area the morning of July 27.

He had surgery in February 2014 to partially replace his hip and it was common for airport detectors to pick up his new titanium ball which now fits into his normal socket.

The screening procedure then is to do a physical pat down but that couldn’t be done because there was no male security employee on duty.

And that meant Hart was refused screening clearance and subsequently his flight to Vancouver where he was to take a connecting flight to Ontario.

Hart said suggestions that a female screener could do the pat down in the presence of his wife or having an RCMP officer do it were rejected.

Hart was to fly Air Canada and its airport employees were as taken aback as he was of the situation, he said.

“They checked with their supervisor and they said the policy was that a female could do the pat down but the screening people said ‘no,’” said Hart.

“I might understand that they didn’t have a male on duty, but what I don’t understand is that there was no Plan B,” added Hart.

“I think what bothered me is the mindless approach. There was no attempt at problem solving; never any recognition we’re putting a citizen out here.”

Airport screening across Canada is the responsibility of the federal Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and in places such as Terrace, the service is contracted out to a private company.

Hart said screeners told him and others that any cost to him of having to rebook a flight when there was a male officer on duty was his problem and not theirs.

Screeners gave him a CATSA contact card with a toll-free number should he wished to make a complaint.

Hart’s wife did go ahead without him and Air Canada rebooked him on a later flight the same day when a male screener was on duty.

But that meant he missed his original connecting flight in Vancouver, had to wait for six hours and then take a red-eye back east.

“Air Canada said they’d try to upgrade me for that flight, but it was so full I was surprised I got on at all. I would have flown baggage,” said Hart.

He estimates he’s $100 out of pocket in addition to having to wait in Vancouver and a sleepless night on a red-eye flight.

Just back from his holiday, Hart called the CATSA toll-free line only to discover Air Canada had already contacted the agency and it had an open file.

“I was told to expect to hear something the end of this week or next week,” he said today.

“What this is is a small town issue. You wouldn’t find this in a larger town where there are more security personnel on duty. But that just means you need to find a way to do security in smaller town airports,” Hart added.

“It’s their job to ensure there is security; not to impede someone on their journey.”

A section on the CATSA website concerning pat downs does provide details on how they are conducted.

“A physical search: Is always done by a screening officer of the same gender as the passenger,” reads one passage.

But the section is silent on whether a search can done by a person of the opposite gender.