June 13, 2013
Don’t Take Chewbacca’s Lightsaber
Last week the TSA got itself into more hot water. One traveler had his head above water. Namely, that was actor Peter Mayhew, famous for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars series. Mahew stands 7’2″ tall and these days the 69-year old walks with a cane. Since he’s tall, his cane is made for his height. That’s not the only custom feature of the cane. It’s a replica lightsaber.
Mahew made the trip from Texas, where the British actor now lives, to Colorado to attend the Denver Comic Con. It was his return trip that caused problems with the TSA. Screeners nearly confiscated his cane, CNN reports. This is when Mahew discovered that Twitter is more powerful than any plea with the TSA agents.
A few Tweets made the actor’s appeal. “@AmericanAir won’t allow me through the airport with me cane! Can I get a retweet?”
He followed up with “@tsa rather … Though after I tweeted they gave it back:)” E-Online reports.
The concluding tweet from @TheWookieRoars was “Magic words to TSA are not ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ .. It’s ‘Twitter’ .. cane released to go home.” As well as a thank you to his airline of choice. “I’m a million-miler on American and they are a class act.”
Don’t try this one on your own. There are a few factor’s on the Mahew’s side. For one, he has almost 30,000 followers on Twitter. That’s very powerful. When Peter Mahew is faced with a problem, he can activate a rather large army, albeit a virtual one, to come to his aid. His Tweet made enough noise for American Airlines, if not the TSA, to take notice and take action.
A second factor: He’s a million miler on American. That means in his lifetime he’s flown over a million miles on American Airlines or partner airlines. This is among the highest earned status you can accrue on an airline, and therefore the airline treats you like royalty for life. Peter Mahew Tweets that he’s at the airport and has a problem security, the airline is going to take action, and they did. The airline showed up to assist its high-status flier.
Travel advisories often tell people to check on the TSA website to determine if an item is safe. The truth is that the list is somewhat lacking, and even if an item is on the list as approved it is up to the TSA agent’s discretion whether the item is allowed to go through. I had trouble finding specific language on the TSA website about bringing a cane on board, but was able to find a post on the AARP website that states that metal as well as wooden canes are allowed on aircraft, but must go through the X-ray at the checkpoint.
It is unclear whether the TSA had a problem with the cane’s length, or the fact that it was modeled after a (fictitious) weapon. Passengers have been declined for the images on their t-shirts if a TSA agent is having a bad day. But since Mahew’s cane is a cane, it is functional and not a weapon, and the lightsaber design is purely aesthetic, this should not have been a problem. A subsequent Tweets from the actor explains: “Giant man need giant cane.. small cane snap like toothpick… besides.. my light saber cane is just cool.. I would miss it.”