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TSA nightmare for traveling Decatur couple
Ailing travelers say federal agents 'picked on' them at Florida airport

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

A Decatur couple who have traveled the world for 25 years said they had a new experience recently in Florida at West Palm Beach International Airport.

They'd like to forget it.

But before that happens, they'd like some justice from their government and a heartfelt apology from the Transportation Security Administration. Their complaint has gotten the attention of two congressmen.

Katie Worthey, 73, has cardiomyopathy. Her husband, Joe, 84, has lung cancer.

"We were treated with rudeness and arrogance by a female TSA employee and her female supervisor on our return flight home," Katie Worthey said. "Why they picked on us, I'll never know."

She wrote a brief customer service complaint to the agency. She said she could have written nine pages.

The trouble began, she said, when they reached security before boarding.

"Joe was in a wheelchair," she said. "He is weak as a kitten and was humiliated because he could not remove his belt and shoes. He needed assistance, and no one was helping him. When I came forward, the agent said, 'Step back in line! What do we have? Someone else who doesn't want to abide by the rules?' "

Worthey said she explained her husband's illness and that "he can't do this for himself. Again, the woman said, 'You will step back in line.' I walked away and started helping Joe."

Worthey said when she asked for the agent's supervisor, she came "and read me the riot act. I explained that we were not trying to disobey rules. I asked, 'Do I look like a terrorist? Does he? What's wrong with our country because we're being treated like terrorists. We see people with backpacks, and you're not stopping them.' "

Worthey said her bag was about the size of a large purse and all it held was the remainder of Joe's medicine.

Medicine confiscated

"We had been on a 10-day trip, and he had taken most of it," she said. "But the agents took me aside, confiscated the medicine, and they pushed Joe on board without me."

Finally, she said, someone from their Delta flight "came back asking for me but I told him they wouldn't let me go because they think I have drugs. He responded, 'This lady is going on board. The plane's about to take off.' He put his arms around me and escorted me away."

Worthey said, "These TSA people are absolutely the pits. Give people a little authority and a badge, and they think they run the country. You know they're trying to unionize? God help us if they do."

Reduced to tears

She said when she got on the plane, she was squalling.

"They must have thought the queen had died. Joe, in a whisper, was trying to tell them I had a heart problem," she said. "I was just emotionally upset. I had lost it, was out of control and my feelings were hurt. Joe had become ill and had no medicine to help him. He was embarrassed again and crying because he had thrown up on the plane, all over himself."

Worthey said she and her husband had flown in and out of West Palm Beach before and never had a problem.

"Whoever is in charge of the TSA there needs to pay attention with what their employees are doing," she said.

Worthey said the response she received on her complaint was "typical government today. 'Thank you for your message. We are sorry with your recent travel experience. We offer our apologies for the discomfort you experienced. We encourage you to check the latest information at' My response is that it's a typical 'buck passing in government standards.' "

Congressmen respond

After The Daily informed them of the Worthey's plight, Alabama Congressmen Robert Aderholt and Bud Cramer responded.

"While the security of our nation is of paramount concern, it's important that we don't lose sight of people's needs in that process," said Aderholt, R-Haleyville.

"It should have been clear to the TSA screeners searching Mr. and Mrs. Worthey that they required special attention during the screening process. It's also very clear they didn't receive it."

Aderholt said he plans to call TSA and ask for a full accounting of what happened.

Cramer, D-Huntsville, said he looks forward to hearing from TSA "about this disturbing situation."

Cramer said the TSA agents he encounters every week are "courteous and professional."

"We must ensure that the people of this country are treated with dignity and respect while maintaining the safety of our airline passengers," he said.

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