Security/TSA

You May Want To Avoid These Flights From New York JFK

JFK-TSA-2

I’m mileage running this week, which means I have lots of opinions about everything even tangentially travel-related. Like feeling pretty strongly that you shouldn’t be able to open the CandyCrush app unless the volume is disabled/headphones are connected, or that the Admirals Club is maybe not the best location for taking care of that delayed pedicure.

But that might just be me.

My current adventures have me routing through New York JFK approximately seven million times this week (more like seven, but each time has been epic, so I’m rounding up), and I’ve been stunned by how rarely PreCheck seems to be open at Terminal 8.

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Is Free TSA Pre-Check Still Being Offered?

TSA-Pre-Check-1

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.

Historically TSA Pre-Check has been limited to those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, like TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, NEXUS, etc. However, over time they started a “managed inclusion program,” where elite members of airlines and many other passengers deemed “low risk” got access to Pre-Check as well.

While I don’t take issue with managed inclusion from a safety standpoint (since I don’t think Pre-Check is actually any less safe than the standard screening), what was annoying was the degree to which it slowed down lanes. It’s not just that they were adding people to the Pre-Check lanes, but much worse was that the people being added were largely less experienced travelers, who didn’t know “the drill.”

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TSA Screening Just Got Less Optional… Sort Of

TSA-AIT

For years the TSA has been using AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) machines at airports to screen passengers. These are the machines they’ve used in lieu of metal detectors — you walk into them, hold up your arms, and then are cleared to go after waiting for a few seconds.

For those of you not familiar, here’s a video about the technology:

Since it was introduced, use of the machine has been optional. You can choose to opt out, and in lieu of the AIT you’ll get a full body pat down. Some people prefer this. I used to opt out back in the day. I’m not sure why, exactly. Perhaps because I’m displeased with the TSA in general, and thought it was a decent way to “protest.” But it’s not something I do nowadays, as I’m a much mellower person and just want to get on my way. For that matter I don’t actually have to opt-out, since I have TSA Pre-Check, which means I get to use a metal detector in lieu of an AIT.

However, for those of you who always opted out of the AIT machine, the TSA has updated their policy on opt outs in a very confusing way. The Department of Homeland Security has published a “Privacy Impact Assessment Update For TSA Advanced Imaging Technology.”

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Woman Accused Of Trying To Bribe US Customs Agent With Sex

Welcome-US

I’ve recently starting watching the show “Locked Up Abroad,” which is sort of addictive. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it basically recounts the stories of those who did jail time abroad for smuggling (typically drugs). It has given me a newfound respect for the jobs of customs & immigration officers, and how my frequent 1-2 day trips outside the US may look suspicious.
While trying to bring designer goods/jewelry into the US isn’t the same as trying to sneak in heroin (for example), this still makes for quite a story. A 55 year old Chinese lady was charged with offering sex to a customs officer in exchange for her daughter being allowed to enter the country with $160,000 in undeclared goods.

The story goes back to last July, when she arrived in New York on an Air France flight. Via the NY Daily News:

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Passenger Kicked Off Spirit Airlines Flight Due To… Paranoia

Spirit-Airlines

There’s no denying that we live in terrifying times, when you look at what’s going on in the world right now. At the same time, the speed at which people get news and the impact of social media amplify what’s happening in the world even more. Which isn’t at all to downplay anything which is going on, but I’m not actually convinced we’re any worse off now than in the past, when you look at the atrocities which have occurred over the past hundred years, thousand years, etc.

All of which is to say we have to keep living our lives, as easy as it is to get paranoid…

…like many people clearly were on a Spirit Airlines flight this Tuesday morning between Baltimore and Chicago, which returned to the gate.

What happened? Well, here’s the reaction of the event from one of the passengers who was onboard, via WBALTV11:

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TSA Doesn’t Do Their Job, Armed Officers Charge Plane

Police-VIdeo

Wow! This apparently happened earlier in the week, and I’m not quite sure how I missed it. A Barbados-bound American Airlines flight was charged by armed police and evacuated after the TSA made a mistake screening one of the passenger’s bags.

Via ABC News:

“The Transportation Security Administration says that “standard procedures were not adhered to” during when dental equipment set off a bag scare at Miami International Airport Monday, closing two security checkpoints and delaying 50 flights before it was determined the items weren’t a threat.

The FBI in Miami said a passenger — a dentist — went through security just before 5 p.m. and “it was later determined that items in his carry-on bag looked suspicious.”

A transportation security officer had stopped the X-ray machine at a checkpoint to conduct further screening of the carry-on bag, but “in the process of transitioning other passengers to an adjacent screening lane, standard procedures were not adhered to and the passenger was allowed to depart the checkpoint and proceed into the terminal,” said TSA spokesman Mike England.”

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Uh Oh: KLM Not Allowing Checked Bags On Flight Out Of Cairo

KLM-Crowne-Lounge-Amsterdam-47

Last week an Airbus A321 belonging to Russian charter airline Metrojet crashed shortly after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Tragically all 224 people aboard were killed, and the exact cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Many are speculating that the plane may have had a bomb aboard, and it seems like that’s at least somewhat of a credible theory, as airlines are taking drastic security measures as a result of this crash.

KLM has just issued what must be one of the more unique travel advisories I’ve ever seen, as KLM will not be allowing any checked bags on their flight from Cairo to Amsterdam tomorrow:

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Woman Fined For Trying To Bring Apple Butter Through Security

TSA

A Grand Rapids woman is being fined $2,000 by the TSA for trying to bring apple butter through security. Why?

Via WoodTV:

“Hostein said that in January 2013, she was trying to board a plane at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina but was stopped at the TSA checkpoint because she had a pint-sized jar of souvenir apple butter. TSA agents told her she could not take it onto the plane in her carry-on bag, citing the prohibition of containers carrying more than three ounces of liquid or gel.

She said she went away, then came back later and went through another security line, thinking the butter really wasn’t in violation. Again, agents found the apple butter and confronted her.”

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Air Marshal Sues After Being Kicked Off Flight

American-Economy

We’ve seen tons of people in the airline industry on power trips post-9/11, be they flight attendants, TSA agents, or air marshals. Just about anything can be justified under the guise of “national security.” Though when it comes to wasteful uses of government resources, I think the federal air marshal program might just take the cake. The fact that it’s still around amazes me.

I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from airline staff about air marshals on power trips, though this one might just take the cake.

A US federal air marshal filed a lawsuit this Monday over an August 4, 2012, assignment, whereby he and three other air marshals boarded an undisclosed flight. The air marshal is making claims of discrimination. How was he discriminated against?

Via the NY Daily News, here’s how the event unfolded:

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When Flying While Transgender Becomes Problematic

Orlando International Airport

Flyer Shadi Petosky, who is transgender, was trying to fly from Orlando to Minneapolis yesterday afternoon but was detained at security by the TSA, who Shadi claims told her that they were holding her because of a body-related “anomaly.” Which is to say, that the TSA felt that a woman presenting as a woman but possessing a male body part was suspicious.

The whole debacle has been chronicled on Shadi’s Twitter account, among other sources, but it appears, per Vox, that:

— Shadi was trying to get to her American Airlines flight from Orlando to Minneapolis (presumably connecting somewhere in between)
— TSA detained her for a body-related “anomaly” and instructed her to go back through the machine “as a man”
— TSA then ordered her to stop using her phone to take photos, videos and live-Tweet
— 40 minutes later, Shadi was out of the security area but had missed her flight

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Free TSA Pre-Check Is Officially Over!

TSA-Pre-Check

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, whereby 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, whereby eligible travelers can just use kiosks at immigration, rather than having to queue for an agent.

Historically TSA Pre-Check has been limited to those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, like TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, NEXUS, etc. However, over time they started a “managed inclusion program,” whereby elite members of airlines and many other passengers deemed “low risk” got access to Pre-Check as well.

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These Drivers Licenses Soon Won’t Be Valid Airport ID

Tom-Bradley-International-Terminal

If you have a driver’s license from New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, or New Hampshire, you may soon need a second form of ID to get through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

This comes after the Real ID Act was introduced in late 2013, which set the security standards for government issued IDs. Unfortunately as a result, IDs from some states are considered non-compliant. In the last phase of its implementation, IDs from those states may no longer be valid for getting through airport security.

Via Road Warrior Voices:

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Oh MAN…

Manchester-2

Guten tag from Berlin. After an amazing stay in Stockholm we jumped on an airberlin flight to Berlin for a few days. But as far as my review goes, we’re still in Manchester! We stayed in the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, which is the tallest and most iconic building in the city. Ben will be reviewing it very shortly, so I won’t go into much detail on the hotel experience and instead will focus on Manchester itself and the MAN airport experience, which was a painful yet comedic experience, or something like that.

Manchester itself is a very cute city that has a somewhat “small town” feel. Given that Emirates has thrice daily service (two on an A380), and that Etihad and Qatar have two daily flights, I have to wonder where all the people go! One of the nicest aspects of Manchester was the weather! After Dubai, there was nothing I wanted more than to walk outside without feeling like I was three inches from the sun. You might think of the UK as being dreary, but the slight bit of rain and 65 degree weather was very very welcomed after the 110+ degree weather in Dubai. It’s also very easy to walk around the Deansgate area, which was also a pleasant change of pace after sprawling Dubai.

We had lounge access the second day at the Hilton, and the views were quite nice.

Manchester also has a number of scenic canals running through it. I tried to capture a few of them, but I’m not a very good photographer so you’ll have to forgive me and visit the city yourself to understand what I am really talking about.

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Lady Denied Boarding After Chugging Bottle Of Cognac At Beijing Airport

Remy-Martin-XO

I think we can all relate to wanting to “maximize” value, whatever form that may come in. I’ve certainly been known to have a glass or two of Krug too many on a flight in the name of “maximizing value.” But the truth is that there’s seriously diminishing return at a certain point when it comes to alcohol consumption.

Perhaps that would be a relevant lesson to the lady who was denied boarding after chugging a 0.7L bottle of Remy Martin XO Excellence cognac, after being informed she couldn’t take it through security.

Via The South China Morning Post:

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