What Every Person with Parkinson’s Needs to Know About Air Travel

Plane Travel!

Don’t be alarmed– but be aware, my fellow Parkinson’s disease travelers!

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about along our journey, it was released recently, that the Transportation & Security Administration (TSA) has a program called “Quiet Skies” that is noting behavior, looking for excessive fidgeting, perspiration, and cold stares by passengers. Supposedly, fifty passengers a day are identified.

We are being tracked and monitored both on the ground and in the air. Our habits, reading material, and reactions are noted and logged, if we bring any kind of attention to ourselves. The knowledge that anything out of the ordinary needs investigation is understandable, but when you are faced with a neurological disorder that can alter your walking, uncontrollable movement and body temperature regulation (both hot and cold), tremor, or balance issues- these physiological reactions are possibly red flags that could bring focus on those of us living with an illness.

Maybe, just maybe, through education and identifying ourselves as people with Parkinson’s and educating TSA agents about facial masking, dyskinesia, bradykinesia, as well as the numerous subtleties that can come with Parkinson’s, might be just what the doctor ordered. Instead of making the TSA wonder what we are going through, we need to create a teachable moment that might just lead to real changes.

People suspect and often fear what they don’t know about. Unless you live with Parkinson’s disease daily and are aware of the wide variety of symptoms and unpredictability of this illness, only through education and extra training will those unfamiliar with neurological disorders come to be educated.


  1. Hi Karl, I hope you are doing well. Thanks for sharing this information. I wonder what the TSA would think of my reading material! My friend who is also in his 30s had a bit of trouble with his walking poles when going through security recently until his wife advocated for him. I think she said “No, my husband has Parkinson’s and those are his poles Asshole”! I don’t usually advocate swearing at the TSA but it worked for her. My husband always wants me to pull my foldable cane out of my bag so we can get through security faster. I am 39 and have just “retired” due to PD.

    I was inspired by your writing and have started a blog of my own. I would be honoured if you would take a look at it. aslowerkindoflife.com

    Take Care, Nicole St. Arnaud Calgary, Canada


  2. Another great blog post Karl. I did some research and found out that TSA Agents receive less than 30 days of training which includes a one week course at TSA Academy in GA and on-the-job where they shadow existing agents. Requirements to be a TSA Agent include a high school diploma, a clean background check and previous security or x-ray experience. There is a one day session on handling people with disabilities. One day! That doesn’t include necessarily PD but all disabilities. I say education starts at the source; the TSA Academy and even then there are no guarantees mistakes won’t happen. Let the flyer beware!

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