Bike Law Charlie Nabbed by TSA, Practices Loving-Kindness, and Is Cleared for Take Off
If you ever leave a bike trip and land in a TSA interview room because of your stowaway bike accessory, reading this blog first may help.
On bike rides, I try to never leave home without a CO2 cartridge just in case I get a flat.
I recently worked my way through a Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint at Houston’s Hobby Airport. Working bike accident cases for Bike Law Texas takes me all over the State, though I end up mostly in Houston. I have a busy travel schedule, which has helped me get airport security lines down to an effortless routine. TSA’s PreCheck program helps this because the expedited lines don’t require me to remove my jacket, belt, or shoes.
That’s why I was scratching my head when my briefcase was flagged as problematic and pulled from the X-ray conveyor belt for searching. Whatever caught their attention, I figured they could take a look and then I would be on my way.
The TSA officer wore blue latex gloves and placed my briefcase on a metal table. He opened the clasp with the anticipation of finding a banned item. I wasn’t worried because I knew the drill: No liquids over 3.4 ounces, no weapons, nothing pressurized. As I’m mentally running through the list of prohibited items that I knew I didn’t bring, he pulled out a CO2 cartridge from the front pouch. Ugh.
These officers were correct. According to the TSA website, CO2 cartridges are listed as a banned item for both carry-on and checked bags. The one exception is when the CO2 cartridge is “clearly visible” as empty to TSA officers. I don’t know why anyone would fly with used CO2 cartridges, but this is apparently allowed.
A different TSA officer accompanied me to a small room where she wrote down my personal information. I asked what was going to happen. She didn’t give me an answer, but released me. I made my flight and hoped all was fine.
I realized things weren’t fine when I booked my next flight and the PreCheck designation was missing from my boarding pass.
I went online and sent an inquiry to TSA about what happened. The good news is they responded. The bad news is because I violated a travel rule, my PreCheck status was revoked for an entire year.
My perspective on the world is wide enough and filled with enough gratitude to know people suffer much worse fates every minute. But I still really didn’t want to be banned from the faster security lanes with my frequent travel schedule.
What happened next is hard to believe – and this is my public thank you to TSA. I responded to the “you’re banned” email with an apology message. I explained that I ride my bike all the time and fly often for cases involving biking and bicyclists. I told them how I didn’t have the CO2 cartridge for any nefarious purpose, but rather just left in it my bag as an oversight from my travel-filled and biking-filled life. I finished by politely begging for my PreCheck status back.
The next day, TSA responded with an email from their Office of the Chief Risk Officer. They had accepted my apology and reinstated my PreCheck status. I’ve never seen the federal government work that efficiently (except for when they originally intercepted my contraband). My faith in the bureaucracy of our country was boosted to a new level.
And now when I’m heading to the airport, I make sure to never leave home with a CO2 cartridge.
Having served as the president of the Texas A&M Cycling Team, where he led the team in appearances in the U.S. Collegiate National Championships, Charlie has spent thousands of hours riding his bicycle in Texas.