LIHU‘E — An agent at Lihu‘e Airport was wrong to tell a nursing mother she couldn’t board a plane with her breast pump, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday.
“We accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her,” the TSA said in a statement to KITV. The agent mistakenly told the mother she could only bring the pump onboard if it was “medically necessary.”
Amy Strand, traveling with her 9-month-old daughter, Eva, on Wednesday, was allowed to board the plane home to Maui only after going to a bathroom to pump and then showing the agent the full bottles. She said the agent insisted that security rules required that the device could be brought onboard only if it contained milk.
“I asked him if there was a private place I could pump and he said, no you can go in the women’s bathroom,” said Strand, a high school vice principal. The only electrical outlet in the bathroom was next to a sink facing a wall of mirrors, she said, forcing her to pump while standing in front of other women.
“I had to stand in front of the mirrors and the sinks and pump my breast, in front of every tourist that walked into that bathroom,” she said, adding that the experience left her “embarrassed and humiliated.”
Strand said the TSA has since told her the agent involved will go through remediation training and that a memo will be sent to agents at the airport about how to handle similar situations in the future.
Christa Ng of ABC’s Good Morning America reported on Friday that the 38 year-old mother of four said, “I’m in a dress, in heels … I’m standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated.”
Strand told ABC she frequently travels between islands for business and had never had a problem with the equipment before. But on Wednesday, as she was making her way through security at Lihu‘e Airport, she was stopped by a TSA agent who asked if he could look at the equipment. She obliged, and the agent opened her kit to find her pump, a cooler pack and empty milk bottles, never imagining the empty bottles would be a problem.
The agent told her the ice pack would not be allowed through security without milk in the bottles, reports ABC. Strand said the ice pack would not be easy to replace.
“It really confuses me as to how an empty breast pump and cooler pack are a threat to national security and 20 minutes later, with milk, they no longer pose a threat to national security,” Strand told ABC.
“If this can save another mom that same humiliation, it’s worth talking about.”
• Vanessa Van Voorhis, assistant editor for The Garden Island, contributed to this Associated Press report.