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Travelling with metal implants

Written by: Letitia Smith | Travel Insurance Expert
Last updated: 24 November 2023 | Created: 30 September 2020
Travelling with metal implants: airport

Travelling with metal implants

It can seem daunting to stay up to date with the new measures, particularly when travelling with metal implants. For information on what to do and what to expect when travelling through airports with metal implants, keep reading.

What happens if my metal implants set the alarms off?

It’s standard procedure to take anyone who sets the alarms off to one side for another screening. This could be with a wand scanner, a pat-down or in some airports, a full-body scan.

If your metal implants have set the alarms off, this is when you need to explain that you have them for medical reasons. However, at this stage, you will still have to have a second screening. Anyone who has triggered the alarms regardless of the cause would have to be screened. Not all airports currently have full-body scanners. However, if the one you’re in does, this would be able to detect any implants as well as prosthesis or colostomy and would prevent you from needing to have further scans. The FCO explains that “security staff have been trained to handle sensitive issues around surgery and treat passengers respectfully”.

Is there anyway I can prove I have a metal implant to get through security quicker and without a fuss?

Unfortunately, there is no official document you can carry to prove that you have metal implants. Therefore, further screening may still be required. The British Orthopaedic Association used to issue ‘Orthocards’ to make getting through security less time consuming and stressful for those with metal implants, however, they are no longer able to issue these. Although no reason is given on their website, this could be due to tightened security measures in airports.

There’s nothing to stop you carrying a note from your doctor explaining that you have metal implants. However, you would still be required to have a second scan if you were to set the alarms off.

Some modern screening devices can detect metal implants. This allows security to see what’s been causing the alarms to go off. This prevents the need for further screening. These devices are the full-body scanners which are becoming increasingly common across airports.

What’s it like travelling with metal implants?

Essex based compliance support officer, Stuart Kira, has had firsthand experience of travelling with metal implants. His wife, Angela, has a metal knee and has more recently had an implant placed in her hip. Stuart says their experience has varied. They have found it frustrating that there’s nothing in place to make the process more consistent throughout airports.

Of course, I don’t mind security. I know it’s necessary and very important but it’s different every time. One airport will do an extra scan of my wife’s knee then let us through with no fuss. Then other times, my wife has been taken off on her own to have more scans. This has been intimidating and intrusive for her.

The worst situation was when my wife was taken into a separate room by two female security officers. I wasn’t allowed into the room with them. They didn’t seem to listen to us when we explained that she had a metal knee and they kept us behind for around 10-15 minutes.”

If there was something secure that couldn’t be duplicated or forged, like a chip within the passport then this problem would be solved.

Stuart wrote to the airport involved to explain that they were unhappy with how they’d been treated. However, the response they got back was fairly standard. It simply explained that the security checks in place were routine.

What’s the future for travelling with metal implants?

It seems there are no set rules or any help facilities in place for those with metal implants. Any previous ID cards have been discontinued. Passengers with metal implants have no official way of providing evidence of their metal implants.

As we can see from Stuart and Angela’s story, this can be frustrating and intimidating. Especially when you know what’s causing the alarms to go off but can’t get this across to security staff. A solution may be to continue to implement full-body scanners across airports to easily detect metal implants.

Any other considerations for travelling with metal implants

Now you know what to expect and what to do when flying with metal implants, it’s time to think about what essentials you’ll need to take with you.