Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fly The Friendly Skies

Planning on flying anytime in the near future? You may want to consider driving instead. Flying is becoming more dangerous, more inconvenient, and more expensive.

More Dangerous:

Only three U.S. airports require security checks for employees, TSA administrator says
... TSA Administrator Robert Neffenger made a startling admission during a Senate hearing that only three airports in the United States regularly require employees to pass through security screenings prior to entering “secured” areas of the airport.

Neffenger’s testimony is alarming in light of a recent reports that in 2015 Homeland Security had identified over 70 employees at nearly 40 airports across the United States who have been flagged for links to terrorism...

In perhaps an even more alarming incident, in 2014 federal investigators uncovered a massive gun smuggling operation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in which an airline employee was alleged to have helped load hundreds of guns on at least 20 flights between Atlanta and New York City.

More Inconvenient:

How airports are addressing long lines and "woefully understaffed" TSA
Airports nationwide have seen security checkpoint lines double in size. There is real concern from airlines, airports and flyers about what the lines at TSA checkpoints will look like this summer.

Extremely long TSA lines and wait times hitting up to 90 minutes caused spring break chaos, creating huge backups at airports -- from Charlotte to Chicago to California -- and prompting demands the TSA fix the problem now...

American Airlines says in just one week last month, nearly 6,800 of their domestic passengers missed their scheduled flights because of long security lines.

Security lines at Seattle Tacoma International Airport - or SEA-TAC - can stretch over an hour. Officials here said Tuesday they will hire private contractors to help with administrative duties to free up the TSA to focus solely on screening, as the airport explores dropping the agency altogether.

"We're going to investigate what it would take to privatize, we're looking at other airports that have privatized," said SEA-TAC Managing Director Lance Lyttle.

Twenty-two U.S. airports -- including San Francisco and Kansas City International -- use private firms for security screening.
Imagine that. Private firms can be more efficient and cost-effective than government agencies. Who woulda thunk it?

Click to embiggen.

More Expensive:

Flying to More Than One City Just Got More Expensive
American, Delta and United have new pricing rules that could easily raise the cost of many trips. Think of it as making a six-pack of soda twice as expensive as buying six cans individually.

The three biggest airlines in the U.S. decided in March to block their cheapest prices on flights from being used on many connecting and multicity trips. Previously, reservation computers would find the lowest price for each flight in an itinerary and add them up to one price for the trip.

But now the cheapest prices can’t be combined. To get the absolute lowest prices on a trip with multiple stops, you have to buy each flight separately.

Travel Tip:

If you haven't done so already, consider enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program or the Global Entry Program. I can testify from personal experience that doing so will save you untold time and frustration.

Time To Enroll In TSA PreCheck
I fly at least twice a week.  Sometimes three or four times a week.  I do some international travel but I’m usually crisscrossing the United States.  It is obvious to me, as well as other frequent fliers, that lines at security are getting longer since the Brussels airport attacks.  An unscientific poll of frequent travelers at an aviation convention in Dallas last week indicated that lines were as long as an hour and a half at some major airports, like Atlanta.  These lines are likely to get longer – much longer – once the busy summer travel season begins.  My observations are backed up by an article today in the Chicago Tribune.

The best way to avoid those lengthy lines is to sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry which includes TSA PreCheck as well as a fast track for passport control and Customs on re-entering the US.  With PreCheck, you get a dedicated security line and walk through a magnetometer instead of the more-time consuming body scan.  And, better still, you don’t have to remove your shoes or belt, take out your lap top or small bottles of liquids and you can keep your light jacket on.

According to TSA, PreCheck is available at 150 airports with 12 participating airlines.  The FAQs on TSA’s website will answer just about any question you have on the program – from whether foreigners can qualify  (yes, with Global Entry) to whether family members can go through the fast lane with you (yes, if they’re under the age of 12). The cost is $85 for TSA PreCheck and is good for 5 years.  The cost for Global Entry is $100 and it is also good for five years.  Of course, for both programs, you need to pass the background check.

With a number of airlines charging to re-book if you miss a flight, even once a year travelers should consider the small investment in cost to qualify for speeded up security processing.


Well Seasoned Fool said...

So happy to not be using the airlines. The seats get smaller as I get fatter, the whole getting to the airport and parking takes as long as the flight, and the rental car experience evaporates what little patience I have left.

Old NFO said...

PRecheck and Global Entry have paid for themselves many times over... Just sayin...

CenTexTim said...

WSF - Smaller airports aren't too bad. I'm flying into Billings MT next month, which is nice. However, to get there I have to go through the San Antonio and Denver airports, which aren't fun.

NFO - worth their weight in gold.