A seven-year-old boy says he was reduced to tears at an Aussie airport last month after staff forced him to remove a life-saving diabetes device in order to go through security, despite his parents' persistent warnings it would be dangerous for his health to do so.
Angus Pidd was flying home to Adelaide in late October with his parents Carolyn and Michael when security staff at Melbourne Airport demanded he remove his diabetes equipment — a sensor on his arm and a pump to deliver insulin, that's connected to a tube in his stomach.
Family spent 'over an hour' pleading with staff
Despite repeated warnings from both of his parents, with the family spending over an hour and a half explaining that removing the equipment interferes with blood sugar readings on Angus's continuous glucose monitor (CGM), the little boy was forced to remove his insulin pump and CGM to go through the body scanner.
Taking it off is dangerous, difficult and time consuming to put back on. The family claims staff at the airport didn't offer them a chair, a cup of water, or even a private room to remove the equipment.
Frightened and confused, Carolyn said her son asked: 'Am I going to die on the plane if I don't have my pump?'
"Surely there are alternative methods, pat-downs, swabbing, we would have done anything, he just couldn't go through the body scanner," Carolyn told A Current Affair.
"I actually pleaded with her (the security), you know, I hope you realise you're putting his health and safety at risk. "And there was just, there was just no empathy whatsoever."
Angus's parents were left with no other option than to finger prick him to monitor their son's blood sugar levels . " I'm angry about the way we were treated but I'm more angry about the way it made him feel," Carolyn said.
Angus's experience 'very common'
Though traumatic, diabetes specialist Belinda Moore says the schoolboy's experience at airport security is sadly all too common.
"There are some people who actually have been so traumatised that they won't actually travel, they're actually really scared to get on a plane," Moore said. "The mixed messaging is causing confusion, frustration, stress, angst. And that's because we don't have a system in place. Every airport in Australia is doing something different."
In a statement addressing the claims, Melbourne Airport said it "acknowledged that it did not meet expectations".
"Melbourne Airport regrets the distress experienced by the family involved in this situation," a spokesperson for the airport said.
"We pride ourselves in delivering excellent customer service but acknowledge that in this instance, it did not meet expectations. Security screening equipment and processes are regulated and prescribed to individual airports by the Department of Home Affairs, hence at times, processes may vary.
"Whilst the screening notices provided by government to Airports are extensive, in this case it wasn't clear whether the request allowed for an alternative method, prompting the team to seek advice and approval from the Department of Home Affairs. This resulted in a lengthy wait for the family."
The spokesperson explained that the "Department of Home Affairs has now provided direction for future instances "of this nature "to ensure a smoother process".
"Melbourne Airport recognises the need for improvement and has been actively seeking feedback from passengers with accessibility needs to help inform our actions to enhance the overall traveller experience," the spokesperson said.
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