Tag: airport security

It’s Gonna be an Ugly Summer at JFK Airport

JFK AirportThe New York Post reports that over the next several months, air travelers can expect to wait longer — and pay more — to fly to and from JFK Airport after its main runway is shut down for extensive repairs.

The Queens air-traffic hub — already near the bottom of the barrel for on-time performance — is expected to face delays of what critics warn will be “multiple hours,” as planes are diverted to three smaller runways at the Queens facility.  And passengers will have to dig deeper to afford the higher ticket prices that the airlines will likely charge to make up for temporarily cutting about 10 percent of their flights into and out of JFK.  Adding insult to injury, the carriers are building in time to their schedules so that longer-than-normal trips won’t technically arrive “late.”

The shutdown will allow workers to tear up the 14,572-foot Bay Runway and replace its asphalt surface with more-durable concrete.  The runway — which normally handles a third of JFK’s traffic and half of all departures — will also be widened to accommodate new, extra-jumbo jets as part of the $376 million project.

Year-over-year fare increases can already be seen on some of the airport’s most popular routes, including flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Speaking of JFK Airport, the AP reports that in February, a child apparently directed pilots from the air traffic control center. Audio clips from mid-February — during a week-long winter break for many New York schoolchildren — were posted online recently where a child can be heard on the tape making five transmissions to pilots preparing for takeoff.  In one exchange, the child can be heard saying, “JetBlue 171 contact departure.”  The pilot responds: “Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job.”  The child appears to be under an adult’s supervision, because a male voice then comes on and says with a laugh, “That’s what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.”  In another exchange, the youngster clears another plane for takeoff, and says, “Adios, amigo.”  The pilot responds in kind.
  • Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who deftly landed a US Airways plane in the Hudson River last year, retired today after 30 years with the airline.  His last flight was scheduled to arrive in Charlotte, N.C., from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shortly after 3 p.m. ET today.  Meanwhile, Doreen Welsh, a flight attendant on Capt. Sully’s historic splash-landing, also retired today from US Airways after four decades of service.  Congrats to both Capt. Sully and Doreen.
  • The TSA is re-evaluating a technology that aims to take one of the biggest hassles out of airport security: removing your shoes at a checkpoint.  The USA Today reports that a dozen companies have designed shoe scanning machines, and the TSA says it plans to buy 100 of the devices by next year.  The machines, which find metal weapons and explosives in shoes, didn’t pass muster in tests three years ago.  The developers of the latest generation of the machines promise better results, and the TSA says the technology will improve security.

Shoes… er, hats off to this new technology!

FlightsCancelled

Mother Nature is again beating up the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region – and again hundreds of flights have been cancelled as a result.

As early as last night Continental Airlines had canceled 70 flights for today at its Newark hub.  US Airways canceled 160 flights from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.  Delta, Jet Blue and American Airlines were advising travelers that flights were likely to be canceled and to call ahead before heading for the airport.  Southwest Airlines has already canceled most of its Thursday flight schedule at Philadelphia International Airport.

In total,  approximately 500 flights have been canceled at Newark Liberty.  At New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, the total number of cancellations currently stands at about 200.  Coupled with the Philadelphia and Boston disruptions, we’re looking at about 1,000 flight cancellations overall.

My advice:  Avoid the Northeast if at all possible.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The Department of Homeland Security will begin installing the first of 150 full-body scanners in U.S. airports next week.  Boston’s Logan International Airport will be the first, with three scanners scheduled for installation.  Officials plan to install another scanner at Chicago’s O’Hare International in the next two weeks.
  • Due to some well-worded letters from Georgia community leaders, Delta is reducing the airfare between Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and Atlanta by as much as 40 percent for the next four months.  Rountrip airfare purchased at least seven days in advance has been reduced from $510 to $300 and walk-up tickets have been rediced from $656 to $400 roundtrip.  I’m sending my letter to Delta today to see if they can lower the Seattle to New York flight for me.
  • Alaska Airlines is dumping its previously announced Wi-Fi test partner and switching to Aircell Gogo in hopes of outfitting its entire fleet of aircraft with Internet service in a more timely manner.  According to an airline spokesperson, their “hope is to have the entire fleet outfitted by the end of year.”

The Top 10 “Dirtiest” & “High-Tech” Hotels

Hotel High TechTripAdvisor.com has named San Francisco’s Heritage Marina Hotel as this year’s dirtiest hotel in the United States.  The site ranked the 10 dirtiest hotels based on customer reviews.  The Heritage Marina Hotel was most often ranked as “dirty”, followed by the Days Inn Eureka/Six Flags in Missouri, Super 8 Virginia Beach/At the Ocean in Virginia, and the Quality Inn of Stroudsburg, Pa.

Rounding out the top 10 were New York City’s New York Inn, the Parisian Hotel & Suites of Miami Beach, Fla., the Capistrano Seaside Inn of Capistrano Beach, Calif., the Desert Lodge of Palm Springs, Calif., and the Continental Oceanfront Hotel South Beach of Miami Beach, Fla.

At the other end of the spectrum, AskMen.com has come up with a list of the top 10 high-tech hotels.  Here’s their ranking: 1.) Helix Hotel, Abu Dhabi 2.) Hotel Sax, Chicago   3.) Hotel 1000, Seattle   4.) The Peninsula Hotel, Tokyo   5.) Blow Up Hall, Poznan, Poland    6.) The Upper House, Hong Kong    7.) Mama Shelter, Paris    8.) Montage, Beverly Hills   9.) Element Hotels, across the United States    10.) Pod Hotel, New York City

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • A US Airways Express commuter flight from New York to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia yesterday after an Orthodox Jewish teen started his weekday morning prayer and was mistaken for a potential terrorist by a flight attendant.  The 17-year-old and his 16-year-old sister were removed from the flight and questioned.  The two were later allowed to resume their flight to visit their grandmother in Louisville.  Meshuga!
  • Earlier today, the European Union and the United States announced that they have agreed to increase screening of airport passengers, on-board security and data sharing.  Yep, when it comes to air travel security, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

It’s a Circus in the Skies

flying circusWhen are some people going to realize that airline and airport security are not messing around!?  Given the current climate, it’s not a good idea to get unruly anywhere near an airport or on a plane.  Yet, today we hear of two more flights that have been diverted because of jackass-like behavior.

An AirTran flight from ATL to SFO was diverted to Colorado today due to to an intoxicated passenger who became unruly and locked himself in the bathroom.  Two F-16 fighter planes were deployed by NORAD to escort the flight to Colorado Springs Airport.

Meanwhile, a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu was diverted to Los Angeles early this morning after a man began harassing a woman on board.  The male passenger was removed from the flight and the flight resumed to Honolulu an hour and 10 minutes later.

Passengers arriving in Honolulu said the plane was already over the Pacific Ocean when the pilot announced that they would be landing in Los Angeles.  Some said a flight attendant told passengers that a sex assault had taken place aboard the plane.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Don’t think X-ray machines, metal detectors and body scanners are enough at airport security checkpoints?  Well how about the use of mind-reading technology?  (Image of evil scientist wringing hands inserted here.)  It’s actually one idea that security experts are considering according to the Associated Press.  A network of high-tech machines that are able to analyze body language and read minds is apparently under development and could soon be used at an airport near you.
  • Of course, if you’re of celebrity status, all this airport security stuff doesn’t really apply.  Just ask Halle Berry.  She and her boyfriend, Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, and their child, were recently led to the front of the security line at a Montreal airport this week, while other passengers waited more than an hour.  Oh, mon Dieu!

New Security Measures for International Flights

Airport Security MeasuresWondering how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to slip past airport security with explosives and board an international flight bound for Detroit?  So is everyone else – especially considering that this guy was known to be “trouble“, was on a passenger “watch list” and had paid cash ($2,831) for his ticket.   Federal authorities are meeting today to address this issue and to reassess how passengers are screened and the processes behind our “watch list” management.

The AP reports that Abdulmutallab’s name, “…was one of about 550,000 in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, known as TIDE, which is maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.  Inclusion in that database does not trigger mandatory additional airport screening.”  “…Abdulmutallab had been placed in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November, but officials say there was not enough information about his activities to place him on a watch list that could have kept him from flying.”

Someone please help me connect the dots here.  What does it actually mean to be on the TIDE list?  If it doesn’t call for extra airport screening, then what does it do?  And if this guy was suspected of having terrorist ties, at what point is he prohibited from boarding a commercial airliner?  I hope that these questions get answered for us in the coming days.

For now, we’re all going to have to live with a new list of security measures, including the following:

1. On many international flights destined for the U.S., passengers are being limited to one personal carry-on bag.

2. Passengers on U.S.-bound international flights will undergo a second round of security checks at the gate, including manual bag and body searches.

3. The screen displaying the map showing the progress and location of the aircraft while in flight will be disabled – and there will be no announcements from the cockpit about cities, landmarks or when the plane starts to descend.

4. During the last hour of flight, passengers will be asked to remain seated until the airplane lands – and to not keep books, magazines, pillows or blankets in their lap.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Travel + Leisure magazine published its list of the 500 best hotels in the world.  The No. 1 hotel in the U.S., according to the magazine, was the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, in Bluffton, S.C.  The list also includes 66 properties that offer rooms for $250 a night or less, including the Inn on the Alameda, Santa Fe, N.M.; Hotel Lucia, Portland, Ore.; and Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica.  The list is based on the magazine’s 2009 World’s Best Awards readers’ survey results.  As part of the survey, Travel + Leisure readers rated hotels on several characteristics including rooms/facilities, location, service, restaurants/food, and value.
  • At the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, in the Bahamas, guests who donate a winter coat upon check-in will receive a voucher for one free night on their next visit to the resort (limit of two vouchers per room).  The coat drive supports the One Warm Coat organization, which provides free coats to people in need.  The drive will run through March 19.

Online TSA Manual Causes Massive Security Breach

airport-security-detector1In an alarming security breach, a U.S. airport security manual has been posted on the internet.  The confidential airport passenger screening procedures offer insight into how to sidestep security. The 90-page Transportation Security Administration (TSA) manual was marked “sensitive security information”.  It had been sitting on the internet since March but the blunder has only just been made public by a blogger.

There is plenty of compromising information in the document.  It includes what size of electrical wire can go undetected by airport screening machines, which items that screeners can decide not to check, including wheelchairs, and what the identity cards for the CIA and Federal air marshals look like.

There is also information about the setting on x-ray machines and the devices to detect the presence of explosives.

Here’s some more travel news you can use: (Not that we’re encouraging you to “use” the above information.)

  • To mark Southwest’s new nonstop service from Boston to St. Louis and Denver, the airline is offering discounted airfare for travel from Jan. 11 through March 12. One-way tickets start at $79 between Boston and St. Louis, and $89 between Boston and Denver.  A 14-day advance purchase is required. Book by Jan 10. Discounted fares are not available for Sunday travel.
  • Are you into skiing?  Well listen up.  The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is offering a “2 for 2 Jackson Hole airfare deal“.  The offer includes two free plane tickets when customers purchase an additional two to Jackson Hole for travel during January.  The two free ticket airfare deal has a maximum travel credit of $500 each and must be booked in conjunction with a minimum five-night stay and lift tickets to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The promotion is valid for travel from January 3 – 31, 2010 and must be booked through Jackson Hole Central Reservations by January 1, 2010.

Airlines Lost Your Luggage? Know Your Rights.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many airlines may be in violation of federal rules by “limiting reimbursement” when a traveler’s baggage is lost, delayed or damaged on domestic flights, and the federal government is finally cracking down to help consumers.lost baggage

According to the article, a number of airlines will pay for expenses only after the first 24 hours from a flight’s arrival.  Additionally, many airlines also put a limit on what they’ll offer to pay passengers per day for expenses related to the lost luggage – which the DOT says is a violation of its domestic baggage-liability rule. The only limit allowed, the agency says, is that total liability for lost domestic baggage is $3,300 per passenger, including replacement costs and incidental expenses.

‘”Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We expect airlines to comply with all of our regulations and will take enforcement action if they do not.”‘

The DOT has given airlines 90 days to modify their rules and practices before the agency launches any enforcement actions.

Here’s more travel news you can use:

  • Air New Zealand is conducting a “Matchmaking Flight” in which single passengers participate in speed dating and matchmaking games.   Many of these traveling singles have already gotten a sneak peek at some of the folks they’ll be meeting along the way via online profiles posted on the airline’s social media website (check them out at thematchmakingflight.com).
  • Air Canada now offers both free BlackBerry and iPhone applications for travellers.  Travellers with BlackBerry smartphones will be able to get real-time flight information from Air Canada, which claims to be the first North American carrier to offer such a service.  The BlackBerry app will also provide information for Jazz flights, the Halifax-based regional carrier.  Travellers will be able get electronic boarding passes and other flight details such as delays and itinerary changes.  The airline also is planning to offer WiFi services on some flights to the U.S west coast.
  • Manchester UK Airport has admitted it might be illegal for children to use its new “nude” security scanner when it comes into operation at the end of the month. ( The full body scanner reveals everything under clothing… in detail.)  The airport has now said that no one under 18 will be subject to scanning until it can clarify the law on indecent images of children.

The Associated Press reports that discount airlines – which are already outflanking the big network carriers in customer service and low fares – appear to be extending their advantage to social media.

“The discounters often respond with quick feedback to travelers’ concerns on social networking sites, while traditional network carriers peddle last-minute fare deals but seem slow to embrace Twitter and Facebook to beef up customer service.

Customers crave good service and reward airlines that provide it.

A survey cited in a July report by Forrester Research showed that 68 percent of U.S. online leisure travelers say they’d be willing to recommend carriers to family and friends if the company made them feel like a valued customer.

That’s a tantalizing incentive for airlines to transform customer service from the dull telephone and e-mail route into the online networking channel — where every customer can speak his mind to the masses — at a time when the weak economy has caused their revenue to plummet.”

The article notes that JetBlue has 10 employees actively involved with social networking and Southwest Airlines has seven.  Meanwhile, the bigger carriers take a different approach.

“They appear more comfortable hawking fare sales and providing weather updates and information about new routes and flight delays. For example, American earlier this year announced a 5 percent discount sale through its Facebook page.

American thinks that social media shouldn’t be a replacement for existing customer service in which representatives respond to calls and e-mails from customers.

US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr says that while Twitter and Facebook are hot topics right now, the carrier doesn’t believe in ‘just jumping on the bandwagon.’”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Lufthansa said today that it will offer passengers in-flight Internet and cellphone connections. The service, known as FlyNet, will be available starting in mid-2010. The airline said it hopes to equip a major part of its long-haul planes in the service’s first year, and eventually the entire long-haul fleet.
  • A man wanted by the FBI for the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 281 has surrendered to American police after more than 40 years living as a fugitive in Cuba.  Luis Armando Peña Soltren, 66, arrived at JFK Airport in New York on a flight from Havana after making arrangements with the authorities for his return to the US.  Soltren, who was one of the FBI’s longest wanted fugitives, told authorities that he wanted to come home and face his fate because he missed his family.
  • Here’s a head-scratcher:  Right now, it’s about $300 cheaper to fly from Seattle or Portland to Honolulu than from L.A. — and from Honolulu to Las Vegas than to L.A.
  • An Oregon teen talked his way onto an airplane bound for Chicago last weekend, revealing a little-known hole in airport security.  Kids don’t have to show photo ID.