Security/TSA

Grrrr: I Must Be On Some Sort Of A Government Watchlist

SSSS

For the most part, my airport experience is easier than ever before. Between TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry, the two most frustrating aspects of the airport experience — security and immigration — are a breeze.

Well, at least that’s the case most of the time. If you’re a frequent flyer you’ve no doubt at some point received an “SSSS” on your boarding pass. That stands for “secondary security screening selection.” As the name suggests, when you see that on your boarding pass, it means you’re subjected to additional security screening.

This has actually become a pretty intense process in the U.S. Your bags are screened as usual, then you have to go through the metal detector, then you have to go through the body scanner, then you get a full body pat down, and then they search every inch of your belongings.

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For The First Time Ever, The TSA Made An Exception For Me… Is This New?

toothpaste

As anyone who has taken a flight out of the U.S. in the past decade knows, you’re banned from taking liquids greater than 100ml (3.4 ounces) through a TSA checkpoint. The war on hydration sure seems silly to me, though I think most of us have gotten used to it by now.

Anecdotally I find that the TSA usually doesn’t pull aside bags anymore for 4-5 ounce liquids. Going through Pre-Check I don’t remember the last time I had my bag pulled aside for a secondary. Even when not using Pre-Check I typically don’t take liquids out of my bag, and almost never have an issue.

All that being said, when they do search your bag and you have oversized liquids, they’ll almost always make you dump them… but something was different today.

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Terrorists Beware When Ordering A Special Airplane Meal

Etihad-Economy - 9

Oy, file this under “what were they thinking?” Governments collect a lot of information about airline passengers, often before they even arrive in the country. However, there are limits to the data that can be collected, as it doesn’t include things like religion (at least not officially).

However, at a recent border security conference in Hungary, Swiss’ facilitation and security manager had some interesting things to say. Per Middle East Eye:

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Cocaine Smuggling Flight Attendant Pleads Guilty, Faces 10+ Years In Jail

Known-Crewmember

Back in March I wrote about a JetBlue flight attendant who fled LAX after being caught with 70 pounds of cocaine in her suitcase, which is valued at roughly two million dollars. The TSA has the “Known Crewmember” program, where registered airline employees can bypass security. They simply have to present two forms of identification, and are sometimes randomly subjected to further screening.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to a JetBlue flight attendant at LAX where she tried to get on a flight through the Known Crewmember lane. Unfortunately for her, she was subjected to extra screening this time around, at which point she took off her Gucci heels, left behind her suitcase, and ran. Somehow she managed to escape the airport, and even got on a flight to New York, before she eventually turned herself in.

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Stockholm Airport Introducing US Pre-Clearance Facility In 2018

US-Pre-Clearance-Facility-1

In May 2015, the DHS announced their intent to expand US Pre-Clearance facilities to 10 new airports over the coming years. For those of you not familiar with Pre-Clearance facilities, it basically means that US Customs Border Protection officers are stationed at an airport outside the US, so you clear customs and immigration before boarding your US bound flight. That means you land in the US as a domestic passenger.

At the time, the possible airports included the following:

“Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom”

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Lufthansa Becomes First European Airline To Join TSA Pre-Check

Lufthansa-First-Class-9

The two innovations of the past several years that 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 that are enrolled in the program.

A few months back we saw some international airlines join TSA Pre-Check, including Aeromexico and Etihad Airways. Well, the great news is that a European airline has now joined the TSA Pre-Check program for the first time. Lufthansa just became the 18th airline to offer TSA Pre-Check, and the first European airline to do so.

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What Caused LAX To Shut Down Last Night? The Airport Authority Explains

LAX

Last night I wrote about how LAX was shut down after reports of an active shooter surfaced. Passengers were evacuated, dozens of flights were diverted, and hundreds of flights were delayed.

The situation seemed to diffuse pretty quickly, as the story changed from there being an active shooter to there being a miscommunication/false alarm.

What we do know is that there was a man in a Zorro costume with a plastic sword being detained by half a dozen police officers at gunpoint. On one hand I assumed that wasn’t the cause of the incident. On the other hand it would be very coincidental if this just happened to be at the same time that something else big was happening at the airport.

Well, this morning there’s a bit more clarity as to what happened last night, as Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has issued a statement within the past hour about last night’s incident. Here’s their explanation of what happened:

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LAX Airport Shuts Down Due To… Well, We Don’t Really Know

Video

A couple of weeks JFK Airport shut down after gunfire was reported at the airport. As it turns out, there wasn’t actually gunfire, but rather the chaos and confusion may just have been caused by people cheering on Usain Bolt’s Olympics performance.

Well, LAX has shut down tonight, and we don’t yet know why. Initial reports indicated that there was an active shooter within the past hour, which has led to a massive evacuation.

However, it’s now looking like that may not have actually been the case, and that this was instead a hoax or miscommunication. The LAPD is saying that the reports of shooting have been proven to be “loud noises only,” and that no shots were fired.

I imagine we’ll find out more in the coming hours, though in the meantime the airport is closed and there’s a ground stop in effect.

However, the footage of people evacuating is pretty insane, both landside and airside (where we see people being evacuated onto the tarmac):

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

TSA-Pre-Check

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

Turkish-Business-Class-2

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

Turkish-Business-Class-2

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?

Delta-Regional-Jet

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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