TSA Agent Says, Apple Juice = “Extra Pat Down Of My Choice”


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On the way home from our most recent trip to Oklahoma, we had a pretty unfortunate run in with the TSA. The four of us went through the Pre-Check line with Baby and Toddler WeeklyFlyer in toe. We had packed 2 apple juice boxes (1 for each of our children in our carry-on bag.) We knew that the children’s drinks were subject to further inspection per TSA guidelines but, as we left Atlanta we had no issue what so ever. However, the TSA supervisor in Tulsa proceeded to inform Mrs. WeeklyFlyer that the juice boxes were not allowed. Mrs. WeeklyFlyer knowing the rule, recited to the TSA Supervisor that a reasonable amount of beverage was a allowed for babies and that 2 juice boxes was certainly reasonable for 2 little Toddler/Babies. The Supervisor then outrageously informed Mrs. WeeklyFlyer that if we wanted to take the juice boxes with us, he would “choose one of us to get an extra pat-down.” What?! Why not ask us to let them open them or to swab them, or something first?

TSA Agent Says, Apple Juice = “Extra Pat Down Of My Choice”

I don’t really know what kind of operation this particular TSA Supervisor is running there in Tulsa, but this certainly seemed uncalled for. We ended up telling them to throw the 2 juice boxes away because this guy was obviously not very reasonable and we didn’t feel like a fight; it just wasn’t worth it.

It certainly helps to know your rights and the rules in these types of situations. In this particular case, we were dealing with a you-know-what kinda guy. We definitely felt like this was crazy especially since we were TSA Pre. But, the funniest thing about the whole situation was that after we told them that we would pass on the “pat-down of his choice,” and to throw the juice away; they put the juice back in our bag! We went to have lunch after this nightmare only find that they put the juice boxes back in the diaper bag. Crazy!

For Reference – TSA Guideline:

Formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted to be brought on board the aircraft. As with other medically necessary liquids, travelers must tell the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that they wish to bring formula, breast milk and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces in their carry-on bag. These liquids are typically screened by X-ray, and formula, breast milk and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces will receive additional screening.

Exemptions from the 3-1-1 Rule

Liquids in carry-on baggage are ordinarily limited by the 3-1-1 rule, which allows travelers to bring one quart-sized, clear zip-top bag containing liquids no larger than 3.4 ounces. However, travelers flying with or without a child may bring medically necessary liquids, such as formula, breast milk and juice, in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces in their carry-on baggage. The formula, breast milk and juice need not fit within a quart-sized bag. Travelers are encouraged to travel with only as much formula, breast milk and juice needed to reach their destination. Ice packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are also permitted through the screening checkpoint and are not bound by the 3-1-1 requirements. Travelers are also allowed to bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage and aboard the plane. These items may be subject to additional screening.

Declaring Formula, Breast Milk, and Juice

Formula, breast milk and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces or accessories required to transport the liquid on a flight must be declared to the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process. If a traveler does not want formula, breast milk and juice to be X-rayed or opened, the traveler must inform the officer before screening begins.

Screening Formula, Breast Milk, and Juice

Formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are screened in the same manner as medically necessary liquids.  Officers may test liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items. If officers are unable to use X-ray to clear these items, they may ask for the container to be opened and may also ask the traveler to transfer to a separate container or dispose of a small quantity of liquid, if feasible.  TSA suggests traveling with an empty container and avoid filling the container to the top. If the formula, breast milk and juice cannot be X-rayed or opened, officers may be required to take additional steps to clear the liquid as well as conduct additional screening, which may include a pat-down of the traveler and screening of the remainder of the traveler’s accessible property.

Bottom Line

I am the first to appreciate anyone who is trying to protect us, but this particular TSA situation was a little silly. I don’t know if they were just having a bad day or what, but I certainly didn’t feel very protected by these guys at the Tulsa TSA. What do you think about the TSA in this situation?

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About The Weekly Flyer

The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

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Comments

  1. I’ve had similar experiences and 98% of the time it is the smaller airports where I have had the most trouble. I’ve been taken in “back rooms” and had full searches of everything for similar reasons – including one where I had to “not touch” my toddler during the search (and I was traveling alone with her, so that was tough).

    With juice boxes I would take the approach that if it makes it through, great. If it doesn’t, toss it and get something in the terminal. Major PITA with the inconsistencies for sure.

  2. My experience is the same as MommyPoints – smaller airports are the usual culprit. I’ve never had someone so much as look at me twice in places like SFO or ATL. Maybe once or twice the container has been swabbed, but I don’t believe that the smaller airports have this kind of full swab capability in all situations.

    I’m usually at least given the “open it or a pat down” choice. But with sealed milk or juice boxes that will spoil and you can’t close back up, this means the only real choice is a pat down. I’ve had dozens of them. The unfortunate thing is that the rules leave room for TSA discretion: “If the formula, breast milk and juice cannot be X-rayed or opened, officers may be required to take additional steps to clear the liquid as well as conduct additional screening, which may include a pat-down of the traveler and screening of the remainder of the traveler’s accessible property.

    And we all know that TSA agents don’t function well with discretion.

  3. I had a similar experience and I’m trying to figure out whether to file a formal complaint. I was flying out of PBI (West Palm Beach) with an 8 mo. old. I had three-four bottles of sealed formula with me. I took them out of my diaper bag and put them in a separate bin (as I’ve been instructed to do in the past).

    I was flying without my husband, it was just me and baby. This is baby’s 4th trip and seventh flight leg.

    Through security and I noticed the tray with formula got pulled aside. I waited. Thereafter a female agent inspected the formula. Then came around the table/glass divider and said I will need to pat you down. I asked why, she said because your formula is not opened (I assumed she meant since the formula was sealed she couldn’t test it, if you open premixed formula you have to use it within an hour so you can’t open it, although on the six prior flights I’ve been on with baby this has not been an issue, and I fly primarily out of PBI). She continued to approach me, did not read the normal script about do you have any sensitive areas, I’m going to touch you here and there, do you want a private screening, etc.

    She saw I was holding my baby and directed me to put her down. At this point I started responding in a more forceful manner. I asked the agent where would you like me to put the baby, and she asked where is your stroller, me – I don’t have one. Where is your car seat, me – already checked (remember I’m flying by myself so I’m trying to limit the stuff I have to carry). At this point she starts judging my parenting choices, telling me its not safe to fly without a car seat, etc. Eventually she says I will have to pat the baby down. At this point I completely lose my cool and do a major freak out. I failed in that I did not ask for a supervisor, and instead this woman patted me and my baby down while I screamed profanities at her. After the pat down she walked away, I did ask another agent for her name and she came striding right back over and said I’m officer ______ ______. I said in a loud voice you are not an officer you are an agent and I will be filing a complaint.

    So, I do want to file a complaint, b/c I believe she violated several rules but I’m somewhat afraid to do so b/c I assume TSA will just make my life more miserable once I’ve filed a Complaint. Thoughts?

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