For many people, a walking stick or cane is a necessity.
As you can imagine, though, a walking stick or cane can easily be used as a weapon. So what happens if you want to bring your mobility aid on a plane?
Will the TSA let you?
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What the TSA Say About Canes & Walking Sticks
If you check the TSA’s official website, they state that you are allowed to pack a cane in both your carry-on and checked bags – i.e. you can bring a cane through airport security – but walking sticks can only be packed in your checked bag.
But it’s slightly more complicated than that.
Even though the TSA state on their website that you aren’t allowed to bring a walking stick through airport security, you actually are allowed to if you are using it as a mobility aid.
How to Prove That You Are Using a Walking Stick as a Mobility Aid
The TSA always state that the final decision whether an item can be brought through the security checkpoint is down to the TSA officer as you go through screening.
So, while you may not always be allowed to bring a walking stick through airport security, you can drastically increase your chances of bringing it through if you are able to prove that your walking stick is clearly necessary as a mobility aid.
If your foot or leg is in a cast, then it’s pretty clear that the walking stick you are traveling with is necessary. If you are elderly, then it’s likely a TSA officer will determine that your walking stick is necessary compared to someone who is younger.
But what if your need for a walking stick isn’t immediately obvious?
In that case, it would be best to have a doctor’s note stating that you need to bring your walking stick with you.
Of course, as the TSA have no issues with passengers bringing canes through airport security, you can avoid all this by just bringing a cane instead of a walking stick.
The Type of Material Doesn’t Matter
Walking sticks and canes can be made from a range of materials, including wood, aluminum, acrylic, and carbon fiber.
Regardless of the material your walking stick or cane is made of, the deciding factor whether you can bring them on a plane, at least for walking sticks, is whether a TSA officer determines that it is necessary for you to use as a mobility aid.
Collapsible vs Non-Collapsible
Walking sticks and canes can be collapsible or non-collapsible (folding vs. non-folding).
Again, it doesn’t particularly matter whether the walking stick or cane you want to bring on a plane is collapsible or non-collapsible in terms of whether it will be allowed through airport security or not, but larger, non-collapsible sticks and canes may require additional screening.
What Happens During Screening
According to the TSA, when you go through the security screening process with a walking stick, cane, crutches, or any other mobility aid, you will be asked to place the item on the conveyor belt for X-ray screening.
If your mobility aid doesn’t fit through the X-ray, a TSA officer will inspect the item themselves.
Even if you have TSA PreCheck, mobility aids still require X-ray screening.
If you need assistance because you will be without your mobility aid as it undergoes screening, make sure that you inform a TSA officer.
Let them know if you need to be immediately reunited with your walking stick or cane after it has been screened, too.
While bringing a collapsible or non-collapsible walking stick may not impact whether it can be brought through airport security or not, it may influence whether it can be brought onboard a plane and where it will be stored.
Generally, if your walking stick or cane doesn’t take up much space, you’ll have no problem bringing in onto a plane, which you can then store under your seat or in the overhead.
But if space on the plane is limited, your cane or stick doesn’t fit in the cabin, or you are unlikely to need it during the flight (such as during a short, domestic flight), an airline may force you to check your mobility aid in.
If you are flying from the U.S. to another country, back to the U.S., or between other foreign destinations, you should still be okay to bring your walking stick or cane on a plane, just as long as that you need it for mobility purposes.
However, it would be best to directly contact the airline you are flying with for confirmation, so you don’t run into any unwanted surprises.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).