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Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

Flying to the 2012 London Olympic Games? Tips for maneuvering airline mayhem

The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games kicks off in a few hours and that means London is bracing itself with an influx of millions of spectators. If you’re one of the lucky tourists flying in for the games, be aware that you’re not the only one. London airports are shuttling in loads of tourists and the crowds are sure to cause some airline mishaps.

That is why I wanted to lend some tips to all of the Americans traveling to London about how to manage the inevitable airline mayhem.

How to speed through security

U.S. airport security is sure to be backed up due to the increased number of people flying abroad. If you want to help keep the security line moving, here are my suggestions.

  • Have your passport and boarding pass out and ready to give to security officers.
  • Pre-pack your liquids in a quart sized bag and have them ready for inspection.
  • Don’t wear metal to reduce your chances of being patted down.
  • Wear easy-off and easy-on shoes.
  • Place your electronic devices in the bins for easy scanning.
  • Take your items away from the security line before putting them back on, in order to keep the line moving.

For more information on maneuvering airport security, flip to my blog post on how to navigate TSA security.

What to do if your flight is canceled

Cancellations are common, especially when there is a high volume of traffic going to one location. Know that this is a possibility, and be prepared to act if necessary. Here’s my advice for what to do if your flight is canceled.

  • Immediately attempt to book a seat on another airline, either online or through the airline’s toll free numbers.
  • Check in at the new airline’s counter with your new reservation number to ensure you’ll make it on the flight.
  • If the new airline attempts to charge you extreme fees, try to negotiate with them and know that the associates behind the counter have more wiggle-room than they let on.
  • If you can’t book a flight for that day, immediately book a hotel room and then start looking for flights leaving the next day.
  • Remember to stay calm and be pleasant towards the airline employees who are trying to help you. They’re far more likely to help if you’re easy to work with.

For more information on how to handle a canceled flight, hop over to my blog post on what to do if you’re stranded in the airport.

How to fly through customs

With the influx of people in the country, assume passing through customs will not be easy. Here are my tips for maneuvering a customs traffic jam.

  • Make sure to follow the green exit channel designated for non-E.U. citizens. The blue channel, although typically shorter, is designated for E.U. citizens only.
  • Bring a good book or some other form of entertainment to keep you occupied while waiting in the customs line.
  • Fill out your customs card before meeting with border control.
  • Have your passport out and ready for inspection. Also, make sure to take off sunglasses or hats, so that border control can easily verify your passport picture.
  • Know the name and address of the place you’re staying, how long you will be in London, and what you plan on doing while you’re there. Most of the time, the border staff will ask you these questions before letting you into the country.

By following these easy tips, you’ll be sure to make it through Olympic air traffic as quickly as possible. Although the mayhem might be frustrating, just remember to keep calm and carry on — you’ll be sure to have a fantastic Olympic experience.

How much are you willing to pay for better airport security? The New York Times looks at proposed airport security methods

It appears that the backlash against the TSA’s new airport security measures was heard. So much so that proposals of tiered airport security screening procedures were covered in The New York Times article, “Support Grows for Tiered Risk System at Airports.” Although the idea is only percolating, I think it’s promising for travelers.

The New York Times points out rightly that every passenger who checks in for a flight is treated by the TSA like a potential terrorist. This is actually a huge inconvenience to the travelers who are just trying to get on a flight and a huge expense for the government (and to us, the taxpayers) that is trying to keep us safe in the sky. The article talks about the goal of making airport security more efficient by having an information-based screening method, instead of one that is purely random.

The proposals include giving passengers the option to pay a certain amount to get screened before traveling by air. Then they will be categorized in one of three groups: trusted, regular, or risky. The group in which they’re categorized in will determine the level of screening used at the airport.

The New York Times breaks down all of the different options being proposed right now, so I won’t repeat the details here. But I will say that this would make getting through airport security easier and friendlier.

By removing random interrogations of innocent air travel passengers, which include children and the elderly, and basing airport security screenings on facts and background checks, U.S. airports might be back on track toward being friendlier places.

Kudos to the TSA for considering these proposals! Even if we, as travelers, have to pay a little more to be pre-screened, it’s well worth the cost. I look forward to seeing how these proposals develop and hopefully are put into action sooner rather than later.

What do you think about these proposed airport screening procedures? Would you be willing to pay an extra fee for this security convenience? Take our survey below.

Air travel expected to be up 3 percent this winter holiday

Yesterday the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) announced that it expects to see a 3 percent increase over 2009 in air travel this winter holiday period, which spans from Dec. 16, 2010 through Jan. 5, 2011.

Just like we saw over the Thanksgiving holiday, more travelers are using air travel this year as it continues to be the safest form of transportation.

Despite reports of backlash against the TSA’s new airport security measures, this uptick in air travel shows that travelers are willing to endure some inconvenience to ensure a safe flight.

Daily passenger volumes are expected to range from 1.7 million to 2.3 million during the holiday. The busiest days are expected to be Dec. 21 to 23, Dec. 26 to 30, and Jan. 2 and 3, according to the ATA.

If you’re one of the expected 43.6 million passengers to head to the airport this holiday, just remember one thing: keep your cool. I’ve said this before, but I think it’s important to reiterate during the holidays. A friendly smile and a polite request will not only make someone else feel good, but will produce the best results for you.

If you want some more statistics on air travel, the new TSA security measures, and how to avoid some common travel fees, here a few posts you can thumb through.

Holiday travel: Is it safe to fly? November wasn’t a good month for the air travel industry. Every few days brought with it reports of air cargo bombs, fuselages ripping apart, and engine failures. But despite the reports, the latest statistics along with an infographic demonstrate how safe air travel really is.

Navigating the TSA’s new airport security measures this Thanksgiving. In light of the TSA’s new airport security measures, here’s a detailed list on what you should expect at the airport this holiday. With this knowledge, you’ll find it easier to get through the check-in process while doing your part to ensure safety as you travel.

10 travel gotchas to watch out for. No one likes to get hit with unexpected fees when traveling. Even I, an experienced traveler, sometimes get tripped up by extra airline and hotel costs. To help you avoid getting snagged too, I’ve listed my top ten fees to watch out for. Some of these you might not even know exist.

Navigating the TSA’s new airport security measures this Thanksgiving

The cranberry sauce and turkey feast is upon us. In a few days, 24 million travelers are expected to take to the skies to get to their Thanksgiving holiday destination, a 3.5 percent increase over 2009. Travelers can expect crowded airports, long lines, and enhanced security measures from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

You might have heard some of the backlash the TSA’s new full-body scans and pat downs are getting. Most of the backlash stems from travelers’ concerns that the scans are an invasion of privacy.

One grassroots movement is even asking travelers to opt-out of the full-body scan for a pat down on Nov. 24. On the other hand, there are travelers protesting the pat downs. They’re just as invasive as a full-body scan, except your face is not obscured, as it is with the scanner.

At the San Diego airport, passenger John Tyner made headlines when he threatened a TSA agent with arrest if he touched him inappropriately. Even TSA Administrator John Pistole got a pat down and admitted that it was clearly more invasive, but the procedures are necessary to detect devices not seen before.

Either way you look at it, people are going to be unhappy. But the TSA is defending its security measures by saying it will help them “stay ahead of the [terrorist] threat and keep you safe.”

If you’re wondering why there’s a need for such invasive photo-imaging, just remember the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack in 2009. The people on the plane with him were lucky, because the bomb he hid in his underwear was a dud. Today, thanks to devices like the full-body scanner, he would not be able to get on a flight at all.

So in light of the TSA’s new airport security measures, let me tell you what you should expect at the airport this holiday. With this knowledge, you’ll find it easier to get through the check-in process while doing your part to ensure safety as you travel.

New TSA regulations require all travelers to submit their legal names (as they appear on your passport or other photo identification), date of birth, and gender to book a flight. Your ticket cannot be written without this information, and a boarding pass will not be issued if this information is not in your flight record. Be fastidious when filling out this information, as you don’t want it to differ from what’s on your form of identification which might cause you to be denied boarding.

After you get your boarding pass, go to the security check point, and be ready to pull out your quart-sized plastic bag that contains your 3-ounce containers of liquid to place in a security bin. The 3-1-1 rule is still in effect. If you don’t already have your quart-sized bag prepared, you’ll hold up the line. However, if you’re checking luggage, you can put all of your liquids in your checked luggage and avoid this step completely.

But if you need to take some personal items with you on board, put them in the quart-size plastic bag. Some items you might not realize belong in the plastic bag are lipstick, mouthwash, perfume, chap stick, and mascara.

Next, you’ll need to remove your shoes and belts (whether the buckle is metallic or not). You’ll also need to put your smart phone, keys, and laptop or netbook in a security bin. Keep your passport and boarding pass in hand to pass through the metal detector or body scanner quickly.

As of today, 68 airports are scanning travelers with a body scanner. Understand that the person looking at your image cannot see your face and doesn’t know it’s you whose body is in the image. If you’re opposed to the full body scan, you can opt for a pat down.

A pat-down involves a person running her hands thoroughly around all the places on your body where a bomb could be hidden. Or, you could opt for a pat down in private with a witness, to be sure you aren’t touched inappropriately. This takes much longer to conduct. If you go that route, you’ll probably hold up the line and might delay travelers getting to their gate.

I don’t want to down play the inconvenience these security measures have on travelers just to board an airplane. But in today’s world, some of our choices have simply become limited. I do need to fly from place to place. And whatever it takes to make my flight safe, well, it’s OK by me.

Let me leave you with one final note when you’re traveling this holiday: keep your cool. Everyone is harried. Security agents, flight attendants, ticket and gate agents, and all the other support staff who you’ll encounter during your travels are equally harried. If 30 years of constant travel has taught me anything, it’s that a kind word, a friendly smile, and a polite request typically produces the best results.

Happy travels!

Airport security: A world of difference between the U.S. and Israel

It all sounds good. But I fear it’s also empty promises. I just returned from Tel Aviv, Israel. I kept a keen eye on security procedures throughout my trip. I saw some changes to security. But I was also again reminded of the differences between the U.S. approach and the rules and procedures Israel has in place.

On January 6th, I checked in at Philadelphia International Airport to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel. One noticeable change at the airport was increased presence of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. I counted 10 plus a dog in the area (many more than usual). About an hour from landing, the captain asked us to take our seats. We were then required to remain seated when we were 30 minutes from landing.

Other than that, it seemed to me to be business as usual. That’s not to say security was lax. Certainly U.S. airport security has become much tighter since 9/11. But other than more TSA officers and being asked to remain seated, additional security precautions were not apparent to me.

Now let’s compare the current state of U.S. airport security to Israel’s approach. In Tel Aviv, security is in place long before you arrive at the airport. On the highway, you have to pass through a checkpoint manned by Israeli border police. Officers look into your car and assess the occupants before letting the car pass through to the airport access road.

You’re screened again upon arrival at the terminal. The men and women who perform the security checks are highly trained in evaluating travelers. They look for telltale signs, check stories, ask questions, and stare you in the eye as you answer their questions.

They are skilled at noticing subconscious body language (“tells“) that can reveal when someone is lying. And they will pull you aside for deeper questioning or other actions if they have the slightest concern. You can’t check in for your flight until these officers are satisfied that you don’t pose a risk. In fact, you can easily be interviewed multiple times by various agents if any one of them doubts about your motives.

Your checked luggage is also screened before you check in for your flight. Nothing gets to the counter — much less the airplane itself — without quiet, comprehensive, repetitive scrutiny.

Ben Gurion International Airport has not had a terrorist incident nearly 40 years, despite being surrounded by legions of Jihadists who would gladly sacrifice themselves. And guess what? They maintain this successful level of security for travelers without asking any to remove their shoes.

I’m not saying international travel isn’t safe. What I am saying is that the world should take a hard look at how Israel protects travelers, and ask what we can learn from their impeccable track record. It’s especially impressive when you consider, again, that Israel is probably the radicals number one target for destruction.

It’s a shame that, since the incident with the so-called underwear bomber, some folks have been inconvenienced more than is probably necessary. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about “the new airport security,” where delays and lines are longer and more tedious. While this is true in some U.S. airports, I didn’t experience this in Tel Aviv. It’s an interesting contrast. Ben Gurion International has tighter security, yet it is easier for travelers to deal with.

Despite the failed underwear bomber attempt, the TSA’s measures are clearly working most of the time. Otherwise, we would have experienced more incidents like the near-miss on Christmas Day, or worse. That said, we don’t want and can’t afford any more near misses or successful attacks.

We should learn from the best. And right now, the best airport security operation is in Israel. Let’s hope the TSA is paying attention.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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