Who hasn’t thought while standing in a slow-moving TSA security line, “Couldn’t somebody do this better than the federal government?” There actually is somebody, and there may be a way for your airport to replace the TSA with a private firm.
And after a very hectic travel summer, with reports of up-to-three-hour waits at some security lines, a lot of people started asking that question.
A relatively unknown program, actually operated by the TSA, called the Partnership Screening Program, allows the federal agency to receive bids from private security firms to replace the TSA’s services at the nation’s municipal airports. The private contractors provide screening under federal oversight, and must offer similar wages and benefits for their employees.
In fact, the option to fire the TSA dates back to the inception of the agency in 2002 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, five airports were allowed to contract with private firms as a way for Congress to assess and compare its approach with one offered by the private sector: San Francisco; Kansas City, MO; Rochester, NY; Tupelo, MS; and Jackson, WY.
Kansas City and San Francisco’s international airports were the only two major airports in that original five. But since then, 17 other regional airports around the country have fired the TSA and, with the exception of Kansas City, contracted with Trinity Technology Group, a Department of Homeland Security Safety Act certified company, for their security screening process. Kansas City works with Akal Security.
Gone are the days when airlines struggled just to stay
afloat aloft. Gas is plentiful and affordable, and profits are soaring. So why aren’t there more startup airlines available?
Bankruptcies and consolidations of existing airlines may be scaring off would-be entrepreneurs, although the typical triggers of price overreaches and abandoned regions by the bigger airlines haven’t spurred many to action.
The predominant problem seems to be the maturity of the industry, and the streamlined nature of the business overall. Four major carriers control 85 percent of the market share, so the battle for entry really boils down to one of real estate access.
Alex Wilcox, once an intern at Southwest and an executive for JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., has found real estate available at airports in need of shorter flights. His new venture, JetSuite, has developed a business model based on charging travelers no more than $1 per mile of the flight and flying routes the larger airlines have abandoned. Most flights max out at $300.
The company bought 10 Embraer E-135s that had been part of the now-defunct American Eagle fleet, then spent $1 million each to retrofit them with new seats, wifi, power outlets, and other amenities. They’re focusing on providing expedited service, specifically targeting travelers who don’t want to deal with security delays at larger airports, and amenities typically found only in charter jet service in order to compete for customers.
The United States turned 240 years old this year. If you think about where we were in terms of transportation at the dawn of our nation, compared to the technological advancements we have experienced just since 2000, the tantalizing possibilities of the future of air travel are mind boggling.
According to Boeing Senior Technical Fellows Brian Tillotson and Kevin Bowcutt, space travel and hypersonics will be at the forefront of aviation innovation. Boeing, which is celebrating its centennial this year, talked with Travel + Leisure about its dreams and goals. Some of these may come to fruition as early as 2035.
- Tillotson speculates air travel will begin at home with the plane coming to pick you up at your residence, and takeoff and landing will most likely be vertical.
- You may be able to book a flight simply by thinking about it. This may seem far fetched, but with advancements in mobile devices and wearable technology, it may end up looking, according to Bowcutt, like an evolved version of Uber.
- Tillotson forecasts that airport security will be the product of many linked networks, allowing law enforcement to more easily identify those with criminal histories.
- Planes may be transparent, according to Tillotson, in order to help maintenance crews identify problems more quickly. It’s also possible, with this kind of construction, that every surface could double as a display screen, allowing for efficient troubleshooting.
- Airplanes will become smarter, according to Bowcutt, utilizing software that will alert maintenance personnel when a part is wearing out so that mechanical delays become a thing of the past. This should improve safety and reduce costs. Read more
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Elon Musk’s Hyperloop train existed right now, and could travel from New York to LA in 45 minutes? We would never experience any of the ill effects of time zone travel. While jet lag still exists because the Hyperloop doesn’t, airlines and science are looking for some natural ways to help your body prepare for the adjustment to your new locale and reduce jet lag symptoms.
This prompted Fast Company to ask whether we’re on the verge of eliminating jet lag. Short answer, no. But we may be getting closer.
For one thing, airlines that offer long haul and international flights have begun experimenting with LED lighting in the cabin to mimic the time zone destination of the flight.
“It turns out you can pretty heavily manipulate levels of melatonin in the body by exposing people to different wavelengths of light,” David Cosenza told Fast Company. He’s a project manager for Lumileds, a company that manufacturers the LED lights that are now used in the new Airbus A380 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
While you may have no control over the light you’re exposed to as you fly, you can prepare your body using one essential oil and a supplement. Rosemary oil, either applied to the skin or added by the drop to a bottle of water, relieves cramping and nausea, promotes digestion, aids circulation, boosts the immune system, and eases respiratory systems working with recycled plane air.
Also, consuming turmeric — in tea, as a supplement, or as an ingredient in your meals — will help you avoid headaches when flying. Its powerful anti-inflammatory agents require some planning, though, so begin incorporating it into your diet up to three days in advance of your travel.
Speaking of your diet, consider choosing lean protein if you want to remain awake once you reach your destination. Turkey, chicken, and fish satiate and provide extended release energy, which will help you transition to your new time zone. Avoiding fatty foods, which induce sleep, is key. Alcohol and caffeine actually inhibit restorative sleep, so choose water or an herbal tea throughout the course of your travel so that there’s nothing to block your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
These natural methods of curbing jet lag will have you alert and ready to go when you reach your destination.
Photo credit: Ian MacKenzie (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.
We’re not sure how we feel about that.
On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.
According to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”
The old adage, “If something’s too good to be true, it probably is,” serves as a general warning to most people. So does “Buyer beware.” Basically, we’re urged to thoroughly investigate a deal that seems impossibly beneficial to our wallets.
In the ongoing saga to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, something Congress must do every few years, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved an attachment to the reauthorization bill that would deregulate a policy the airlines have long opposed and despised. The attachment would essentially give airlines the freedom to not advertise the taxes and fees associated with certain airfares — something they only recently started doing a few years ago.
This would allow them to return to their practice of promoting as “low cost” or “free” tickets that are anything but.
It’s about the biggest inconvenience you can experience when traveling: you arrive at the airport and realize you don’t have your ID. What do you do? For starters, don’t turn around and go home. You won’t make your flight, and may be hit with a ticket change fee.
Here’s what you can do instead.
Be prepared to provide a succinct summary of your predicament to TSA. You don’t have to hang your head or act embarrassed. This happens enough that they’re used to it, and as long as you are willing to submit yourself to a second layer of security, you’ll be fine. Whatever you do, don’t be cocky — you are in no position to demand anything — after all, you did forget your ID or lost it. You are at the mercy of the system and there is a procedure for this situation, so submit to it, be kind and be patient. The old saying, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” applies here.
Next, be prepared to answer all questions honestly and politely. TSA officers go through behavioral detection training, and while you may be stressed, you don’t have to be nervous. They’re just doing their job.
Airline seats are notorious for their ability to make us feel confined and constrained, not to mention uncomfortable. Seats are narrow and there’s not a lot of space between them, so plane rides aren’t always very comfortable.
In the 1960s, when seat dimensions were first prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the seat width was 17 inches and the weight of the average customer was estimated to be 140 for females and 166 for males.
Today, the average seat width is 16.5 inches, while the average weights have increased by 25 and 30 pounds respectively. These incremental changes have functioned on the premise that “one size fits all.” Clearly, this is no longer the case for a growing number of passengers, and airlines are being forced into uncomfortable situations with overweight customers, seemingly without a viable remedy.
I consider myself a frequent business traveler, but even I was shocked when I descended the escalator to the security area at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago last month. The entire winding queue was full and an overflow area had been set up to accommodate more travelers. My first thought was, “I’m glad I got here early.”
Now that the summer travel season is in full swing, many people are experiencing firsthand what others have been talking about for months: long lines. TSA successfully petitioned Congress this spring to reverse its decision to cut 1,700 people from its workforce and has hired 800 new officers, but it’s still taking some time to get up to speed.
The transportation you use once you arrive at your destination, whether traveling from the airport to your hotel or from the commuter train to your business meeting, can be a big part of your overall travel experience.
Besides impacting your overall feeling about the trip, it can be expensive, depending on what you use. While limos or taxis used to be the predominant method, the popularity of Uber and its competitor Lyft have changed the conversation about what mode of transport is not only most pleasant and efficient, but most cost effective.
To that end, GM and Lyft are betting that utilizing driverless cars will create an even less expensive option for users. Conde Nast Traveler reports the two companies have combined forces, and GM has purchased driverless tech company Cruise Automation, with an eye on capturing that emerging market.