Security/TSA

Don’t Redeem Your United Miles For TSA Pre-Check

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Loyalty programs have increasingly been adding opportunities for members to enroll in TSA Pre-Check. Some airlines have given TSA Pre-Check memberships away to elite members for free, while others have been allowing members to redeem points for them. On top of that, several credit cards offer Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check fee credits, like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card.

For example, a few months ago I wrote about how Alaska Airlines now lets you redeem 10,000 points for the $85 TSA Pre-Check enrollment fee. That’s a horrible value at 0.85 cents per mile, given that I value Alaska miles at ~1.8 cents each. Perhaps an even worse value is Club Carlson’s recent offer to redeem 65,000 points for the $85 TSA Pre-Check enrollment fee.

Now you can add United to the list of airlines that will let you redeem miles for the TSA Pre-Check enrollment fee. United will let you redeem 10,000 MileagePlus miles for the TSA Pre-Check enrollment fee.

Personally I value United miles at ~1.4 cents each, so to me those 10,000 miles are worth ~$140; I certainly wouldn’t redeem them for an $85 credit.

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The FAA Ban On Flights Between The US And Istanbul Has Been Lifted

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A couple of days ago the FAA added a ban on flights between the US and Turkey, following the military coup in the country. The FAA created an indefinite ban, and said they’d reconsider it no later than August 15, 2016. That wasn’t to say it would definitely be lifted by then, or that it wouldn’t lifted before then, but rather that they’d review it by then at the latest. Just an hour ago, Tiffany wrote an excellent post about how to handle ticket changes in light of the situation.

Well, as Tiffany noted in an update in her post, the good news is that the FAA ban on flights between the US and Istanbul has now been lifted.

All Turkish Airlines flights between the US and Turkey will resume by tomorrow.

That’s great news, though I’m sure many people still won’t feel safe traveling to/through Turkey, so perhaps in some ways this makes it more difficult for those people, since it will likely be tougher to get an exception to get rebooked.

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FAA Bans Flights Between The US & Istanbul Indefinitely

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Yesterday Tiffany wrote about the military coup in Turkey, and the impact it’s having on flights to and from Istanbul. As you’d expect, the airport has largely been shut down, given that there was no security at the airport, and people were roaming around freely.

So if you are connecting in Istanbul over the coming days you’ll certainly want to reroute yourself, as chances are that most flights will be canceled.

However, it looks like the impact this will have on air travel will go way beyond just the next few days. Per the US Embassy in Turkey, the US FAA has blacklisted all flights between the US and Istanbul until further notice:

“U.S. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that routes to Istanbul’s Ataturk airport are open; however, we are still hearing reports of sporadic gunfire. Security at Ataturk airport is significantly diminished and U.S. government employees have been instructed not to attempt to travel to and from Ataturk airport.”

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Bahamas Issues Advisory About The Dangers Of Traveling To The US

Bahamas

We see the US issue travel warnings about travel to other countries all the time, though I don’t typically pay as much attention to travel advisories from other countries. However, following several shootings in the US the past week (and month, and year, and decade, and…), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas has issued a warning for their citizens traveling to the US, as follows:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.

At the commencement of the Independence holiday weekend, many Bahamians will no doubt use the opportunity to travel, in particular to destinations in the United States.

We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”

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Was The Government Prepared To Shoot Down A Delta Regional Jet?

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This past Wednesday afternoon a Delta regional jet, operated by Compass Airlines, was diverted to Tucson. The plane was enroute from San Antonio to Los Angeles, when the flight attendants notified the pilots of a disturbance. This led to two F-16 fighter jets being scrambled to “escort” the plane. Per ABC News:

“NORAD confirmed to ABC News that it scrambled two F-16 fighters to intercept the jet, which was carrying 80 people, including passengers and flight crew. The plane’s flight crew notified the captain and copilot of the disturbance, leading to the F-16 fighter escort. The NORAD spokesman did not have details on the disturbance itself but said whatever it was met the criteria to launch the fighters, which monitored the plane until it landed in Tucson. Citing ‘operational security’, they won’t say where the F-16s launched from.

A source tells ABC News one passenger accused another passenger of having a firearm, but when the aircraft was swept and passengers re-screened, no weapon was found. According to another source with knowledge of the investigation, the passenger reported to have a firearm was detained, but authorities later discovered he did not have a weapon on him. The man had a history of mental illness, the source said.”

Twitter user @ryanhealy was live Tweeting the whole situation, including a video of the passenger in question being removed from the plane:

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Spirit & Frontier Are Joining TSA Pre-Check

Spirit-Airlines

The two innovations of the past several years which have made the US travel experience substantially more pleasant have been TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. As a reminder, TSA Pre-Check allows eligible travelers expedited security screening, where they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.

Meanwhile Global Entry allows for expedited customs & immigration, where eligible travelers can just use kiosks at immigration, rather than having to queue for an agent.

While Global Entry is valid regardless of which airline you’re flying, TSA Pre-Check requires flying certain airlines which are enrolled in the program. As of now there are 16 airlines enrolled in TSA Pre-Check, including the following (Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad Airways, and Seaborne Airlines were added last month):

Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet

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China Introduces Women Only Airport Security Lines

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In a rather interesting move, China’s Beijing Capital International Airport has added female-only security lines. This was made permanent after a three month trial, and has also been expanded to the airports in Shenzhen, Kunming and Wuhan.

Here’s the rationale, per The New York Times:

“They are marked by bright pink signs that say ‘Female Only’ in Chinese and English.

The government’s rationale is that women want to avoid being frisked by men. In the women’s lanes, the security guards are all women.

Women also carry bags of personal cosmetics that need to be opened and inspected, requiring greater scrutiny, one security guard told state media. The implication is that they are slowing down other (male) travelers with less fussy baggage.”

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TSA Pre-Check Expands To More International Airlines

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The two innovations of the past several years which have made the US travel experience substantially more pleasant have been TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. As a reminder, TSA Pre-Check allows eligible travelers expedited security screening, where they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.

Meanwhile Global Entry allows for expedited customs & immigration, where eligible travelers can just use kiosks at immigration, rather than having to queue for an agent.

While Global Entry is valid regardless of which airline you’re flying, TSA Pre-Check requires flying certain airlines which are enrolled in the program. Up until now, only 12 airlines have participated in TSA Pre-Check.

However, as of today, four more airlines are participating in TSA Pre-Check: Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad Airways and Seaborne Airlines.

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Airport Video: Why You Shouldn’t Attach A Sex Toy To A Water Bottle

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If you don’t have the sense of humor of a 12 year old, click out of this post now. 😉

I think the YouTube caption tells you everything you need to know:

“My buddy was headed to his bachelor party in New Orleans. It was his first time flying. The thing he was worried about most was airport security…with friends like his he was right to be worried!”

Here’s the amazing video:

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“Mobile Detonation Device” Isn’t A Good Hotspot Name On A Plane…

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If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from constantly being in different hotels, it’s that people have all kinds of ridiculous names for their wifi hotspots. Probably the most common is something with “NSA” in it. Actually, I just pulled up the wifi networks in my “range” right now, and one of them happens to be “NSA Surveillance.” Hah.

Well, you might want to be careful about which hotspot names you use at airports or on planes, as it could lead to a significant delay. That’s what happened to a Qantas flight between Melbourne and Perth on Saturday, which was delayed by roughly 2.5 hours due to a passenger spotting a hotspot with the name “Mobile Detonation Device.”

Per The West Australian, the passenger showed it to the crew, who informed the captain, which lead to the following:

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The TSA Proposed Screening Passengers After Landing… Why?

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POLITICO has the story of how the TSA wanted to introduce a program which would lead to passengers being screened on arrival rather than on departure at select airports. Obviously that sounds completely ridiculous on the surface. After all, what use is it to screen someone after they get off a plane?

But the idea is more creative than it sounds, and one of the rare attempts by the TSA to cut costs (after all, you have to leave room in your budget for randomizer apps which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Here’s the plan which was proposed, which has since been shot down, per POLITICO:

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The TSA Paid HOW MUCH For A Randomizer App?!?

Randomizer-App

The TSA promotes its risked based inclusion techniques as one of the ways it keeps travelers safe and saves taxpayers money. For a couple of years the TSA has been using a randomizer app at dozens of airports, which randomly directs people into the PreCheck lane (because nothing quite helps manage risk like a randomizer app). Per Bloomberg, here’s the purpose of this randomizer app:

“The TSA uses software to randomly choose whether travelers in the PreCheck lanes go left or right, making it harder for potential terrorists to detect any patterns. The randomization also helps to prevent accusations of racial or other profiling.”

For those of you who haven’t seen the randomizer app in action, here’s a video (the commentary is sort of hilarious):

Kevin Burke submitted a Freedom Of Information Act request with the TSA to see just how much it cost the TSA to build this app, given how simplistic it seems. As he explains, a beginner could code an app like that in a day, so you’d think this didn’t cost the TSA very much. Well, unfortunately you’d be wrong.

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Flight Attendant Caught With 70 Pounds Of Cocaine Turns Herself In

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Earlier in the week I posted about the insane story of the flight attendant who was caught with 60 pounds of cocaine at LAX. Airline crews can join the Known Crewmember program, where they can bypass security. However, they’re always subject to additional screening, either randomly or because of suspicious behavior.

That’s exactly what happened at LAX last Friday night. A flight attendant apparently had two carry-ons, and when she was brought to a room for additional screening she ran, leaving behind 60 pounds of cocaine and Gucci shoes. The insane part is that up until yesterday her identity wasn’t revealed, and she wasn’t caught.

Well, we now have more information, after the flight attendant turned herself in at JFK yesterday. First of all, the flight attendant was 31 year old Marsha Gay Reynolds, and she worked for JetBlue. Also, the initial estimates were on the low side — she was carrying 68.49 pounds of cocaine, valued at roughly two million dollars.

Here’s the craziest part of all this — despite authorities knowing her identity, she was still able to get on a flight on her own airline the following day to New York, and she was possibly even working the flight. Per The Los Angeles Times:

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Alaska Airlines Now Lets You Redeem Miles For TSA Pre-Check

TSA-Pre-Check

TSA Pre-Check allows eligible travelers expedited security screening, where they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.

It’s a fantastic innovation, and one which makes the US travel experience that much more pleasant, along with Global Entry, which offers expedited immigration screening.

There are several credit cards which offer fee credits for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry, including the Citi Prestige® Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, among others.

In the past, some airlines have even offered TSA Pre-Check fee credits to elite members. Alaska Airlines is taking a different approach, however.

Alaska Airlines is the first airline which is allowing members to redeem miles for the $85 TSA Pre-Check fee. Per Alaska’s press release:

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