Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

Border

New TSA security regulations

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

cell phone
Is your cell phone charged?

It will need to be going forward. In order to continually protect US borders, TSA has added an additional security regulation at certain overseas airports on inbound flights to the US. TSA agents might ask you to power on any electronic or battery-powered devices in front of them that you bring through airport security, including cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. This is to demonstrate the item’s functionality. This new security regulation is focused on intercepting explosives that could be disguised as electronic devices. If you are asked to do this and your device does not have power, you will not be allowed to bring it through security.

Moral of the story – make sure all of the electronic devices are fully charged before you head to the airport.

No more security lines

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

-by Erin
In addition to taking the guess-work out of your travel arrangements, we are happy to share information to help you make the travel process as fast and smooth as possible.  Most of your vacations include a plane ride (or 2 or 3) and with increased safety precautions, security now takes longer and longer.  Not for long – enter Pre-Check!  Pre-Check is a special quick security line that allows you to breeze through while keeping your shoes and belt on, your liquids stored away and your laptop snuggly in your carry-on. How nice is that?

There is an application process but we think it’s worth the work upfront, knowing how much time it will save at the airport. And now, the TSA is expanding its speedy Pre-Check screening program to 60 more airports, in addition to 40 where it was already available. The new airports should have the expedited checkpoint lanes by the end of the year – Click here to see a list of airports that now have Pre-Check.  There is a one-time fee of $85 for five years, to cover a background check and fingerprinting. Click here for more information on Pre-Check.

Traveler’s Beware; Stop Complaining!

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Ben Franklin once said, “Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy”.  As a travel professional, and avid traveler myself the susceptibility to hear or have to manage any myriad of complaints can be mind boggling. One of Amazing Journeys’ mantras is “don’t sweat the small stuff” – a statement reminded to folks more often than need be. In the world of travel it’s true that 10% of the people cause 90% of the problems but to those 10% I proclaim; really?…..is it THAT bad?? I don’t think so. Actually, I know so!

If you are a good seasoned and appreciative traveler, you know that the differences in the people you meet, the delayed flights, uncontrollable factors like weather and lost luggage, perhaps that cow that just laid down on the road delaying your route, or the last minute tax that the local government has imposed…..are all part & parcel in the world of travel. And honestly, didn’t you go on vacation to experience something “different” than what you have at home day after day? If you wanted the same comforts as home, the same food, the same weather, the same greetings….the same mundane routine that embodies familiarity…..then stay home and get that. But if you want to have a vacation (in other words, to “vacate” from the routine)…don’t just hope for it, expect it and embrace ALL the wonderful, amazing, unplanned differences that will come your way.

Here is a little perspective on just how unjustified our griping can be, and just how good we really have it. Think about these; and then ask yourself if you really want your travels to be different from how they are (….be careful what you wish for; things could be a lot worse):

Travel fees – Add-on fees for travel have proliferated into a dizzying array of charges, surcharges, add-ons and premiums that boost air-travel costs. Here’s why: Average airfares are roughly half what they were when the government controlled prices and a plane ticket included all the amenities for which airlines now charge. Airlines don’t do that because they are greedy. They add on fees in order to stay in business. The average profit margin for an airline worldwide was 0.6 percent in 2012. Compare that with much-admired industries, such as consumer electronics, where profit margins are 40 percent.

Airport security protocol – See that long line through security?  The grunts and groans in this wing of any airport can be heard in multitude almost every hour.  It’s the airport’s fault though, that you didn’t plan ahead better.  Did you read the information provided to you about the recommended arrival time?  Have you not been to an airport before?   You were gambling, though, weren’t you?  Admit it – you knew the line could be long, but you took a chance and lost.  But, its not your fault; it’s the airport’s fault for having a system of security and safety that leads itself to you being late.   Yeah…blame it on the airport.  And then, just remember a little healthy perspective: according to the TSA 99% of air travelers actually spend less than 20 minutes going through security.  Now….plan your next trip accordingly.

Mean TSA officers – In December 2011 the TSA received a total of 320 customer complaints about agent courtesy — only 0.0005 percent of all air-travel passengers that month.

Kids on planes – What can be worse than being stuck in the back of a plane with an unhappy 3-year-old bawling?  Yes, every once in a while a child disrupts the alleged serenity of a plane, but the overwhelming majority of parents do a great job keeping their babies and toddlers peaceable for most of the flight. What are parents supposed to do- leave the kids home alone?  More often than not, it’s adults who cause the most disruption.

Long flights – This one is my favorite!  “Oh, that long, long haul from New York to Shanghai – it’s brutal!” Just terrible: 12 hours sitting in a temperature-controlled, cushioned seat while you watch movies, nap, people wait on you, and you pass across the planet far above storms and other earthly obstacles. A century ago, that same journey took at a month, cramped on a motion-sickness inducing bitterly cold or oppressively hot, dirty vessel.  Instead, you can now get from New York to LA in four hours, or from one continent to the next in less time that it would take you to drive from Miami to Dallas. Our modern ability to wing around the world in comfort is nothing short of a miracle. Stop Complaining!!!

Sick people traveling – Epidemiologists will tell you that you’re just as likely to catch a cold from a trip to the grocery store, the movies, a bus ride, a restaurant, work or school as on a plane. Would it be nice if travelers who’ve come down with a cold do their best to curb their emissions — take medicines for symptomatic relief, cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, maybe even wear a mask? Sure. Most do exactly that.

First-class upgrades – Folks, the people in first class have paid for their seats, either outright with a 300 percent premium — or more — over the price you paid, or by devoting their ongoing travel costs to one airline so they gain elite status in the carrier’s frequent-flier program. The first-class seat is a reward for customer loyalty.

Canceled flights – Did you realize that less than 2 percent of all the flights in the US are cancelled?  And even that figure is high, based on a December 2012 report; a winter month. Of all the travel complaints, this may be the least understandable. Do you really want to trust fate on a plane with an unsolved mechanical issue or in bad weather?  As a famous Beatle once said, “Let it be”.

Phone restrictions – Even though many say it’s nonsense that phones and other electronic devices might interfere with pilot communications, that’s not what pilots say. Isn’t it just a bit therapeutic to be offline for the few hours of your flight? If you still pine for your phone, consider this.  If it ever becomes ok for you, it becomes ok for everyone.  Imagine your loudmouth seatmate chatting incessantly all the way from Baton Rouge to Tacoma while you’re trying to nap or read your work report.  Better safe than sorry, in this case.

Expensive airfares – Playwright Oscar Wilde said, “Everybody knows the price of something, but nobody knows the value.” In this case, most people know neither. Inside the U.S., airfares adjusted for inflation are less than half what they were three decades ago, and have been declining almost every single year. The average inflation-adjusted airfare in 1980 was more than $600; in 2011, it was $360 (including fees). Cost per mile: 32 cents 1980, 16 cents now.

Not convinced? Here’s a real-time comparison for travel between San Francisco and New York. By plane, it costs approximately $400. By car, $1,480. By train, $285.

TSA’s Expedited Screening Initiative

Friday, October 5th, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently launched an expedited screening initiative called TSA Pre-Check which is designed to help TSA focus resources on passengers they know less about while expediting the process for lower-risk passengers whenever possible.

U.S. citizens who are members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI Trusted Traveler programs are eligible to participate in Participation in TSA Pre-Checkis currently available to for the following:

Airport Airline
Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport Alaska, Delta, United & US Airways
Boston Logan International Airport Delta Airlines
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport American, Delta, United & US Airways
Chicago O’Hare International Airport American, Delta, United & US Airways
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport American Airlines
Detroit Wayne County International Airport Delta Air Lines
George Bush International Airport Alaska & United Airlines
Indianapolis International Airport American, Delta, United & US Airways
John F. Kennedy International Airport American & Delta Airlines
LaGuardia Airport Delta & American Airlines
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport American Airlines
Los Angeles International Airport Delta, American & United Airlines
McCarran International Airport Delta & American Airlines
Miami International Airport Alaska & American Airlines
Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways
Orlando International Airport Delta Air Lines
Portland International Airport Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Alaska, Delta, United & US Airways
Salt Lake City International Airport American, Delta & US Airways
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways
Tampa International Airport Delta Airlines

 

Some passengers could qualify for expedited screening through U.S. airport security checkpoints via designated screening lanes. Benefits may include no longer removing the following items when going through airport security:

  • Shoes
  • 3-1-1 compliant bag in carry-on
  • Laptop from bag
  • Light outerwear/jacket
  • Belt

At no point, however, is this program an entitlement. Passengers are always subject to random, unpredictable screening measures.

Program members must provide their membership number (PASS ID) in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking reservations or enter it into their frequent flyer profile with the airline. The Trusted Traveler membership number enables TSA’s Secure Flight System to verify that the traveler is a legitimate CBP Trusted Traveler and therefore eligible to participate in TSA Pre-Check.

For more information, call the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673.

CONFESSIONS OF AN AIRLINE “BAG THROWER”

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

As one of the busiest travel periods looms, so does one of the greatest travel “wonders of the world” IF! We all wonder if our bags will arrive on time, and if they will arrive in tact. At the airport, we watch our checked bags disappear into that black hole in the wall and hope against all hope that someway, somehow they will miraculously appear on the other side of our travels. If we happen to show up on time!

What goes on behind the curtain?
You might be amazed at how much manpower it takes to get your luggage on plane. Once you leave your bag at the check-in counter, it goes through a series of conveyer belts, where it may or may not be opened and searched by TSA, until it reaches the pier for your departing flight. It is then sorted into carts by one ramp agent who brings it planeside for other ramp agents to load on the airplane. And there’s a lot more than just loading and unloading your bags-there is a lot of other cargo that gets transported by air. Bag Handlers see everything from human remains to mail to fruits and vegetables coming on and off the plane. They’re also the guys directing the plane to its parking position at the gate, securing the aircraft and hooking up the ground power, and driving the push-back tug, ensuring that aircraft do not come in contact with each other.

How do bags get damaged?
It’s obvious, your checked luggage takes a beating. They call it “throwing bags” for a reason. Airplanes only make money while in the air, and no airline wants an airplane on the ground too long. Due to the nature of some aircraft, it would be impossible to turn around a 757 in an hour or less without throwing bags because it’s just faster. On these planes, there are only two long and narrow cargo holds where your luggage goes. One agent puts the bags on the belt loader, which carries it up to an agent inside the cargo hold who throws it 50 feet to the back where another agent stacks all the bags as if it were a game of Tetris. Wheels and handles oftentimes break or crack on impact, and anything fragile inside that is not packed well doesn’t stand much of a chance. Don’t put red wine or alcohol in your suitcase ever. Do not check any fragile items in a soft sided suitcase, unless it was professionally packaged. Those fragile stickers don’t get noticed very often in the rush of loading bags unless it is an obvious shape, such as a musical instrument. One good thing about the larger aircraft (747, 767, 777, 787, etc.) is that they are all loaded by machines. Your bags are just put in a can and that can is loaded on the plane by machine so there is no bag throwing. Theoretically there’s a better chance of your bag coming out unscathed if you fly on one of those jets.

How do bags get lost?
Sometimes the airport code is read incorrectly and it gets put in the wrong cart and brought to the wrong plane. Someone might mistake VCE for NCE or PDX for PHX. It happens, but not that often. It’s always important to ensure you have the correct destination on your bag tag and to keep your receipt. Secure your contact information on the outside and inside of the bag in case the outside tag falls off. If your bag ends up in a different destination, it won’t get re-routed until it reaches wherever it went and is scanned. Scanners are all wireless now and don’t always work due to bad connections or getting locked up. If time is of the essence, your bag may not get scanned. Also, if you have a tight connection, you may be able to make it, but your bag may not. On smaller regional flights, many times bags are not loaded or taken off due to weight and balance limits. This is for safety reasons and ensures a safe take off and landing weight. So ideally, try to avoid those planes.

What kind of suitcases get damaged least? The most?
Cheap bags that you buy at the discount store break very easily. If your handle is sewn on or is very flimsy, it’s probably going to break. If you travel a lot or pack heavy, make sure you buy a quality, durable bag. Hard-sided suitcases will get less damage, but also look for well-designed handles that are attached with rivets and some sort of protection around the wheels. Speaking of wheels, the best bags to get are the “spinners” with four wheels on the bottom. We like these because we don’t have to throw them when loading. We just roll them down the belly of the plane so your bag and its contents will suffer much less damage.

Should I worry about theft?
There are no cameras inside the belly of the plane. Always use the TSA-approved locks to lock a suitcase. This not only prevents someone from easily taking something, but also keeps the bag closed securly. Bag Handlers see open bags all the time because the zipper just started coming apart, and yes, things do fall out of these open bags. Sometimes, they see it and can put whatever came out back in the bag it came from, but sometimes there are just random items strewn around the belly. If it’s a random piece of clothing or a shoe, those won’t go down the baggage claim belt too well and just get discarded eventually.

How can passengers prevent their bags from going astray?
The main thing to do is keep your bag tag receipt so you can track your bag. If it didn’t get scanned on the flight, it will get scanned eventually when it reaches a station. Also, try to plan sufficient ground time for your bag to make its connection. Thirty minutes isn’t always enough at a big airport like Atlanta.