Tag Archives: TSA

Extra Checks at TSA

Given the recent state of events, it’s not surprising that TSA is tightening its grip on the security checks at airports.  There’s not just the possibility that we all may soon have to travel without our computers, but at the screening stage it looks as though we are headed to a process that has us separate the contents of our bags into different bins.  The days of simply removing your liquids and creams into a separate bag may soon be over.  Now there are going to be bins for jackets, belts, shoes, creams, liquids, plus paper and electronics.  If you’re traveling, it probably makes sense to unclutter your bag.  The more stuff that you have floating in that thing, the more likely it is that they will want to look inside it.  That is what will cost you time and hold up the lines.

In addition, TSA is becoming super diligent on the two bag carry-on rule.  I ran into a problem the other day at Logan Airport and had to quickly unzip my main bag and put my man bag inside of the main bag because I had a backpack as well.  Of course, all of this is good as it is all planned to make us safe and secure when we fly.  This always bring me to the question – why don’t more people apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry?  None of the rules that apply or are shortly to be launched will affect TSA Precheck.

That brings me to the last thing, airlines do a phenomenal job of screening passengers.  Soon they will be able to determine through government issued ID whether you have a reason for them to be suspicious.  Where is Amtrak in all of this?  Take the Acela from Boston to New York or New York to Washington; a well-trafficked route and you wonder why they do not institute an x-ray machine and an ID check before you get onto the train.  It’s not perfect but it seems in this ever security-concerned world that it would make smart dollar sense to invest in something here.

Incidentally, TSA has assured us that the extra security checks they are putting in place will be tested not just for security but also for speed for consumers.  You almost wonder why people that fly on planes are not forced to get global clearance.

TSA Woes

Pietro Place TSA Peter Jones

The news on the street is that summer is going to be a lot of fun when you are traveling around US airports. More fun than ever before actually and here’s the reason.

TSA have reduced their staff by 2,000 people.

So, those long lines that we already encounter are getting longer and longer.  Tempers will get testy and maybe the smiles on the TSA team will start to turn upside down.

So, what’s the deal?  In these tense days of super sensitivity on issues like security and safety, why cut back?  It seems that TSA thought that there would be such a massive uptake in the TSA Precheck approval applications, that they could save some resources for something else.  TSA approval is $85, so it seems that they saw an opportunity for revenue.  It is as simple, though, as putting in an application and scheduling an appointment.  If you already have Global Entry, you are automatically considered as part of TSA Precheck.  It means that you don’t have to remove clothing when going through a screening, nor remove your toiletries.  It’s a massive time saver because they have a line expedited especially for you.

So, what’s the problem?

People are just not signing up for it whether it’s a privacy issue, general laziness, the price, or just a lack of knowledge that it actually exists.

But now they are paying for…or rather we are paying for it if we don’t have TSA precheck.  My advice if you are traveling domestically this summer is to get with the program.  It’s one of the few things in life that is worth the price!

Images courtesy of http://blog.tsa.gov/2016/01/tsa-2015-year-in-review.html and https://www.myheritage.org/news/more-passengers-are-flying-tsa-free-and-thats-a-good-thing/

Oh, Airport Where Art Thou?

Oh Airport, where art thou?

The Automated Airport

As a frequent traveler I spend a lot of time passing through airports. I’ve noticed a trend and it’s alarming. The humans are disappearing!  In an airport there is increasingly no human contact.  Foreshadowed by the disappearance of the inbound customer service reps, airports are starting to do away with humans. Most of the time now it’s just you, the machine, a credit card or a passport; and those automatic check-in kiosks are for people who couldn’t or didn’t bother to check-in online. And forget the boarding pass. Printed boarding passes are passé.  Every airline (even budget carriers like Southwest) have a mobile boarding pass.  I still print out my boarding pass, by the way. Call me old-fashioned.

The check-in counters almost seem nostalgic now; an oasis for infrequent travelers to get reassurance that there are actual human beings running the show.  The only real reason to check-in with an actual human being is if you’re checking bags.

Baggage, we don’t need no stinkin’ baggage

Airlines seem to discourage it.  JetBlue has finally fallen and as of this month will now be charging fees to check bags.  Notably, only Southwest is remaining true to their “Bags Fly Free” mantra. Might make it worth not having assigned seat. Airfare watchdog is a great place to check to see how much it will cost you if you plan on doing something outlandish, like changing outfits during your travels.

So your first real human contact usually takes place at security. For some that means an actual pat down. Getting frisked in fluorescent lighting is never fun, so note to everybody, get TSA pre-approved.  This is like a VIP list for travelers and those on it get the luxury of keeping their shoes and belts on. Imagine that.

Once you’re through there, there’s no need for human interaction until you get on the plane, unless there’s a problem: you’re on stand-by, you’re late or you’re trying to move your seat or waiting for an upgrade. You now have to deal with…the Gate Keepers.

The Keepers of the Gate

These guys are important – they’re your only hope in most cases, and they know it. So it’s in your best interest to treat them kindly. A great article about gate attendants in WSJ really struck a chord with me the other day. It’s worth a read because it shows the behind-the-scenes of how gate agents juggle passenger requests.

People complain that the gatekeepers are hard, impersonal and tough to communicate with, but it’s not an easy gig. I have always found 100% of the time that the nicer you are, the better things turn out. These are the guys that control everything except the plane itself: the closing of the plane’s doors – you better hope you’re on the right side of it when they do! They can upgrade you, keep you where you are or frankly bump you off if the flight is oversold. Like Santa’s elves, they know who you are and they know how much you paid for your ticket.  Trying to negotiate a free upgrade on a ticket you got on Priceline is probably not going to happen. And copping an attitude with a cheap ticket and you could be left behind. In fact, you deserve to be left behind!  As we tell our kids all the time, attitude is everything.