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New Electronics Security Rule Confuses Both Brits And Americans

Cheapflights   |   July 14, 2014    9:53 AM ET

Less than Half of Americans in the Know About the Rule Think It Will Make Air Travel Safer

Confused or feeling in the dark about a TSA rule that will require some travelers flying to the United States to power up all their electronic devices as a security check? You aren't alone. An online survey of 1,222 Brits and Americans by Cheapflights.com, the online leader in finding and publishing travel deals, found that only 39.5 percent of respondents were aware of the new mandate and 47 percent said it was not clear to them.

Of the 542 Americans who were surveyed, 51 percent were aware of the new rule. That doesn't mean, however, they all found it understandable. A full 25 percent of those who had heard about the rule said it wasn't clear cut to them. The rule did add a sense of security to about half of those who knew about it -- 51 percent said it will make them "feel safer." By contrast, only 46.5 percent of the same respondents said they think it will "actually make air travel safer." And 63 percent of those who were aware of the new rule believed that it will cause "major delays in the travel process."

"Change is always a bit hard to handle," said Melisse Hinkle, site editor at Cheapflights.com. "When it's added to an already complicated and tedious process -- and targets everyone's favorite tech toys as well -- it creates the potential for chaos. While traveler safety is, of course, paramount, so too is managing the roll out of new rule and striking an effective balancing act between passenger security and passenger sanity."

Cheapflights also asked about the overall security process. Results from the 1,200-plus respondents showed that the most annoying security measures they face getting at the airport are: "separately packing liquids in small bottles" (35 percent), "shoes off" (25.5 percent) and "body scan" (10 percent).

The net result is that nearly 20 percent of both Americans and Brits surveyed think airport security has reached the point where it will keep them from flying. Of course this does mean more than 80 percent will continue to take to the skies, even if they may have to "power up."

TSA Fee Hike Will Raise Prices On All U.S. Flights

SmarterTravel   |   July 8, 2014    3:21 PM ET

Read More: tsa, travel, Travel Tips

2014-07-08-shutterstock_131526959.jpg

(Photo: Departure Gates via Shutterstock)

Your plane tickets are about to get a little more expensive.


A TSA fee hike goes into effect at the end of this month. In a few weeks, the September 11 Security Fee will rise from $2.50 for one-way flights (with a cap at $10 roundtrip) and $5 each way for trips with connections, to $5.60 per one-way flight. The cap will be no more.


Under the new rule, fees for direct round-trip flights will jump from $5 to $11.20.


The way the TSA applies the fees to airfares will get slightly more complex, too. For domestic flights, the TSA will charge $5.60 for each flight leg that occurs more than four hours following a previous leg. For international flights and flights to Hawaii and Alaska, the same rule applies for legs that are 12 hours apart. This means that flights with long layovers, which would have previously counted as single one-way trips, will get taxed doubly. So a round-trip flight with two four-hour connections would cost an additional $22.40 in security fees.


These changes were enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, and they officially go into effect at 12 a.m. Eastern Time on July 21. But if you buy your tickets before July 21, you won't have to pay the higher fees, no matter when you're flying.


Annoyed? Angry? Happy to foot the bill for backscatters and pat-downs? No matter what you're thinking, you still have time to give the government your two cents. According to the Federal Register notice on the rule:

"You may submit comments, identified by the TSA docket number to this rulemaking, to the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS), a government-wide, electronic docket management system, using any one of the following methods: Electronically: You may submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov."

Americans have until August 19 to sound off.

Read the original story: TSA Fee Hike Set to Raise Prices on All U.S. Flights by Caroline Costello, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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WILL LESTER   |   July 6, 2014    3:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Passengers at some overseas airports that offer U.S.-bound flights will be required to power on their electronic devices in order to board their flights, the Transportation Security Administration said Sunday.

The TSA said it is requiring some overseas airports to have passengers turn on devices such as cellphones before boarding. It says devices that won't power up won't be allowed on planes, and those travelers may have to undergo additional screening.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with Airport Profiling

Narinder Singh   |   July 4, 2014    5:51 PM ET

I knew it was going to happen. I'd already written this piece in my head by the time I got to the airport. Instead of spending the morning thinking about the barbecue I was going to, the fireworks display that has become a family tradition, or how thankful I was that my father immigrated to the only country i've ever called home -- I thought about how I was going to get profiled at Newark airport.

It's nothing new, but it's also something you never quite get used to. A public display telling you no matter what you feel or the actions you take, some will prefer to irrationally judge you. But today my words are not to convey how profiling is wrong or widespread (according to the data in the Sikh Coalition Fly Rights App Newark airport is the worst in the country). It's to show how when we place prejudice over practicality we leave ourselves more vulnerable to physical attack and attack what we celebrate on Independence Day.

As I entered the airport today I wore a turban, a required article of the Sikh faith. I also wore the tired look of a traveler who has traveled millions of miles over the last two decades of work. When you fly that much, you look for every opportunity to shave a few minutes or headache from your travel. For me that meant enrolling in the Global Entry program -- a brilliant program where you pay to voluntarily submit to additional screening and an in-person interview. In exchange you receive an expedited path through the airport. When TSA Pre is present, you've been "pre-checked," keep your shoes on, laptops in the case, pass successfully through the metal detector and breeze through security.

Many of the gates at Newark don't have TSA Pre, but they have a half-way measure called expedited screening. In this case you have to remove your laptop, but you still keep your shoes on and (theoretically) breeze through the metal detector. Except of course, if you are wearing a turban. Then even after you go through the metal detector they pull you aside for secondary screening to test your hands for explosive residue after you pat down your own turban. Now i know some of you are thinking, "hey, if we have to profile a few people like you who look like those people to keep everyone safe, it's worth it." But even if you believe in profiling, you're doing it wrong!

First of all, they tested my turban, but I walked through without even a second glance towards my shoes. Shoes which have been one of the most common ways for terrorists to attempt to attack us. Richard Reid, a white englishman known as the shoe bomber, being the most well-known. Second, the scenario is predictable. In every instance I have ever experienced that resembled this one (over 30) they tested my turban, not my shoes. This predictability plays into the hands of those who would wish to do us harm.

At a higher level, think of all the things the airport knows about us before making the decision to pay more attention to me over others. My flight details, payment methods, phone number, flight history and patterns, Global Entry enrollment and many more factors are immediately available. Expanding just a bit gets them to all my social information. Biasing instead towards these very small physical factors systematically harms our security and faith in the system. It becomes security theater. Is it any surprise that Newark Airport, the airport that had the most instances of profiling also just had a TSA officer breeze through its security with a fake bomb?

The wonder that is America has a long celebrated freedom and protection of individual liberties. It's also a land of opportunity and possibility. American ingenuity has again and again delivered innovation that has bettered lives across the world. We can do better than primitive and poorly applied stereotypes as a means of securing ourselves. We have real and ever-evolving challenges to take on in security and we need that ingenuity to drive how we approach problems. It will make us safer, and as Abraham Lincoln noted at his first inaugural address, lead us towards the better angels of our nature.

One of the things I cherish most about America is our never-ending quest to be better. Others hide their nation's shortcomings in order to present a one-sided image to the world. Here we acknowledge and debate our challenges openly because we know only in the light can we see them clearly and take action. It's that America that I choose to celebrate on this Independence Day.

  |   June 24, 2014    3:05 PM ET


By Dan Whitcomb

June 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. government's no-fly list banning people accused of links to terrorism from commercial flights violates their constitutional rights because it gives them no meaningful way to contest that decision, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, ruling on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon by 13 Muslim Americans who were branded with the no-fly status, ordered the government to come up with new procedures that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that designation.

"The court concludes international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society," Brown wrote in her 65-page ruling.

"Accordingly, on this record the court concludes plaintiffs inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel," Brown said.

The 13 plaintiffs - four of them veterans of the U.S. military - deny they have links to terrorism and say they only learned of their no-fly status when they arrived at an airport and were blocked from boarding a flight.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought suit against the policy in 2010, argues that secrecy surrounding the list and lack of any reasonable opportunity for plaintiffs to fight their placement on it violates their clients' constitutional rights to due process.

The government contends there is an adequate means of contesting the flight ban and that individuals listed under the policy may ultimately petition a U.S. appeals court directly for relief.

The no-fly list, established in 2003 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bars those on it from flying within the United States or to and from the country.

As of last year, it included some 20,000 people deemed by the FBI as having, or reasonably suspected of having, ties to terrorism, an agency spokesman said at the time. About 500 of them were U.S. citizens. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott)

  |   June 23, 2014   10:35 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Airline passengers are about to pay more for security screening.

Following orders from Congress, the Transportation Security Administration is poised to raise the fee to $5.60 each way. That's up from $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight and $5 for a trip including connections.

Ron Dicker   |   June 16, 2014   11:36 AM ET

What would Dr. Evil do? Verne Troyer, the 2-foot, 8-inch-actor who played Mini-Me in the "Austin Powers" movies, is thoroughly searched by the TSA in a photo he posted on Facebook. And we mean thoroughly.

"I think he was cking [sic] to see if I wiped this morning," Troyer wrote on Twitter.

Troyer, 45, titled the picture "TSA Struggles."

Troyer's manager, Ray Hughes, who took the picture, told The Huffington Post the search took place at LAX Sunday morning before they both flew to London for Troyer to do a TV show.

"That's just what happens when you go through TSA," he said.

Hughes said Troyer and his scooter are regularly patted down at security. "He's a little guy. There's not much they can hide there."

"The screening process for a passenger who uses a wheelchair or scooter is determined by their ability to stand and walk," a TSA rep wrote in an email to HuffPost. "A passenger can be screened without standing, walking, or being required to transfer out of a wheelchair or scooter. In this specific case, a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) conducted a thorough patdown while the passenger remained seated in their scooter. The screening was in accordance with established TSA policies and procedures."

(Hat tip, Uproxx)

This story was updated to include a comment from the TSA.

Carly Ledbetter   |   June 14, 2014    8:00 AM ET

The TSA has an Instagram account, and it's experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

Even though the account was created last year, it's still fun to look at all the cute service dogs along with the cray-cray things confiscated by the TSA.

And even though we like to spend most of our spare time sh*tting on the agency that gives us so much sh*t, we're preeetty happy these fireworks, brass knuckles and assortment of medieval weapons didn't make it onto the plane with us.

Esquire describes the account as the "man version of cats and abs," and we kind of have to agree.

Here are 10 of the TSA's most intriguing confiscated items:

1. The most illegal "app" we could think of.

2. Please leave your "Karate Kid" dreams at home.

3. About four knives too many here...

4. It's bright and red and has "leave me at home" all over it.

5. It may fit into your carry on, but you still shouldn't bring it.

6. Eighty-one pounds of "How did you THINK this was going to end well?!"

7. FYI, batarangs are BANNED, plus Batman would NEVER fly with these.

8. NBD, just a cane sword-- nothing to see here.

9. Yep, firearms are still a "no."

10. More of these pics, please!

Seven Things You Should Never Say to the TSA

SmarterTravel   |   May 19, 2014    5:22 PM ET

Airport security is not the place to practice your stand-up comedy routine. Avoid saying these seven things if you want to make it through the security line unscathed.

I'm So Wasted!

If you hit the airport bar before security, try to at least act sober when you're going through the screening. Public intoxication is considered a serious offense in an airport, and the TSA may call the police and have you escorted out if you seem too drunk to fly.

How Do You Sleep at Night?

I'm sure TSA agents love getting yelled at by irate passengers just as much as flyers love getting harassed by TSA agents. But at the end of the day, remember that the agents are just people doing their jobs. The TSA agent confiscating your 4 oz. toothpaste probably isn't doing it because he loves throwing away your stuff -- he knows he's being watched by supervisors and doesn't want to lose his job.

Threats

Okay, I get that you're frustrated that you might miss your flight. But don't go around saying that you'll "get a gun and shoot everybody" if you don't make it to the plane on time. (And yes, someone actually said that to the TSA.) It may seem funny if you're talking to your friends, but I can pretty much guarantee you that the TSA won't find it nearly as amusing.

I'm Opting Out of the Nudie Scanner!

You're well within your rights to opt out of getting X-rayed and instead get an enhanced patdown. Just don't make a big deal out of it or the TSA might make you wait a long time for that supervisor to pat you down. Quietly and politely tell the TSA agent that you would prefer the patdown instead. Manners, people!

This Patdown Is Turning Me On!

Joking about a patdown to a TSA agent could be considered sexual harassment and could lead to even more screenings and a potentially missed flight. Plus, you think they haven't heard it all before? Heads up: You're not that clever.

Bomb Jokes

C'mon, in this day and age of heightened airport security, who would be stupid enough to make a bomb threat as a joke? Well, according to the TSA's blog, a lot of people. These are not funny jokes, people!

Bad Body Language

Even nonverbal communication can get you in trouble. The TSA employs behavior detection officers whose job it is to identify passengers that may be a security risk due to their body language. This means that if you're acting nervous or stressed (which is totally common for flyers), you may be pulled aside for extra questioning. I've been stopped before for questioning because my hands were shaking when I handed over my boarding pass and ID.

—By Caroline Morse

Read the original story: Seven Things You Should Never Say to the TSA by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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An Open Letter to the TSA Agent at JFK Airport

Nile Cappello   |   May 7, 2014   11:45 AM ET

To the TSA agent at JFK airport:

First of all, I know your job must not be easy. And to be honest, you're not exactly my favorite professionals I have to deal with. You guys tend to be a little handsy, and I'm not a huge fan of having to take my shoes off before I get to board my flight. Also, you took a corkscrew from me once. Not cool.

So honestly, I'm a little surprised that I'm writing this letter to you, Mr. JFK TSA Agent (sorry, I was too much of a wreck to catch your name).

I'm not going to mince words here: I was a mess. I was on the verge of tears from frustration, out of breath from running through the terminal, and wet from the downpour of rain outside. When I first ran up to you, begging for help, I think you may have thought I was mentally unstable. Really though -- I didn't blame you for asking how old I was and if I was traveling alone. I looked more like a lost little kid than a 22-year-old on a business trip.

But you held it together when I lost it completely. You helped me take some deep breaths, wipe my eyes, and stop looking so completely batshit crazy. You led me out to the ticket counter, helped me cut the security line, and personally vouched that I was "with you" in a place not really known for letting things slide. You listened to my story -- how I'd been deplaned because of faulty brakes, then delayed four hours because of an issue with FAA's radar, then my flight disappeared from the departure board -- all of which worked in a combined effort to bring me, on the brink of a breakdown, to you. You were helpful, and you'd be surprised how many other people I asked that weren't. You didn't patronize me, or make me feel ridiculous for crying in an airport terminal. Although that would've been a fair response.

I don't think to you it was a ridiculously big deal. At least I hope it wasn't -- but frankly it was five minutes out of your day, and I'm sure you've seen worse. But what I hope is a big deal is how big of a deal it was to me. After a frantic afternoon with a surprisingly large number of mishaps from my favorite airline, the five people I had encountered before you were patronizing, belittling and rude. All I wanted were answers and a bit of help, and all I got were a lot of people telling me they couldn't help me.

I wish I had gotten your name, but I hope you know the impression you left on me. I'm sure you encounter ruder people than the ones I encountered at a much higher rate than I did, and I know my problems are small in the greater scheme of things. But they're my problems and they are big to me, and I appreciated you for respecting them.

So thanks, TSA dude. And Go Rangers!

Best,
Frantic passenger looking for flight 413

Mollie Reilly   |   May 6, 2014    2:17 PM ET

A Republican running for Congress in Georgia is no fan of the Transportation Security Administration's airport screenings, telling an audience earlier this year that he'd "rather see another terrorist attack" than have the agency conduct security checks.

A video of a candidate forum obtained by Politico reportedly shows Johnson, a surgeon vying to represent Georgia's 1st District, accusing the TSA of "indoctrinating generations of Americans."

"Now this is going to sound outrageous, I'd rather see another terrorist attack, truly I would, than to give up my liberty as an American citizen,” he said, according to the Politico report. "Give me liberty or give me death. Isn’t that what Patrick Henry said at the founding of our republic?"

To see a video of his comments, visit the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson is one of several Republicans vying to replace Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who announced last year that he would run for outgoing Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat. Last month, Johnson was endorsed by the influential, tea party-aligned FreedomWorks PAC, as well as by Georgia Right To Life.

Johnson apologized for his remarks in a statement to Politico.

"In the heat of the moment, while making the point that I would much rather fight the enemy than our federal government, I said something stupid and should have chosen my words more carefully," he said. "As a Constitutional conservative, it angers me that we are giving up our liberty to the bureaucratic TSA and spying on our own people in the name of false security and that has to stop.

Georgia's primary will take place May 20.

This post has been updated with a link to a video of Johnson's comments.

TSA Seizes 81 Pounds Of Pot At Airport

Steven Hoffer   |   May 3, 2014   10:08 AM ET

Authorities at Oakland International Airport said they seized 81-pounds of marijuana on Friday when a young woman tried to pass through security with the hidden stash.

Anastasia Murdock, 26, checked in just before 6 a.m. for a US Airways flight to Jackson, Mississippi, when Transportation Safety Administration employees discovered the haul of weed, Mercury News reports.

The drugs -- worth an estimated $100,000 street value -- were vacuum sealed in the traveler’s luggage, authorities said.

According to KHON, "security says she may have gotten away with a small bit of weed, but 81 pounds is a bit much."

Murdock is being held in California on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale and selling marijuana.

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Associated Press   |   May 2, 2014    3:40 PM ET

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — California Congressman Eric Swalwell says a teen stowaway who flew to Hawaii in a jet wheel well should never have been able to climb the San Jose International Airport fence undetected.

Swalwell said Friday he's asking the Transportation Security Administration to test perimeter alert systems at several U.S. airports to see if technology can help prevent future breaches.

  |   April 30, 2014   11:16 PM ET


By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday questioned the Transportation Security Administration's ability to keep travelers safe and prevent terrorism attacks, citing recent incidents that included a teenager who scaled a fence at a California airport and stowed away in the wheel well of a Hawaii-bound jet.

The TSA, which was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, annually screens about 640 million travelers and 1.5 billion bags on domestic and international flights leaving U.S. airports.

Several incidents, including a shooting in November at Los Angeles International Airport that left one TSA official dead, have put the agency under close scrutiny from lawmakers, the public and the transportation industry.

The recent stowaway case happened just weeks after the TSA inspected the San Jose International airport, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and declared it to be in compliance with its security systems.

"If a 15-year-old can do this, who else can do this? What if it was someone else with an explosive that got on that plane?" Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, asked TSA Administrator John Pistole, who testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Lawmakers also questioned the agency's employee security clearance system, which may have been a factor in the killing of a Navy security officer at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia in March.

Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, noted that the shooter, a truck driver named Jeffrey Savage, used his TSA-issued Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC) to gain access to the station, although he had a history of criminal offenses.

Once issued, the TSA expects TWIC-cleared employees to self-report any criminal incidents, a system that lawmakers said risks giving criminals access, as was the case in the Naval Station shooting.

"DHS (Department of Homeland Security) officials have told us that job applicants in the fast-food industry typically undergo a more robust background check than applicants for a TWIC card," Warner said.

Pistole said the TSA is continually working to improve the way it protects travelers and to train its workers, but needs Congress to clear funding for some programs.

"We could require airports to do much, much more, but the question is who pays for that," he said.

Since the TSA was formed, there has not been any successful terrorism incident carried out on U.S. airlines. Even so, Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the committee, said the recent security breaches underscore the need to continually reevaluate and improve the agency's security measures.

"The looming question now is whether Congress is ready to give up its stubborn hold on resources the TSA needs to meet its mission," Rockefeller said.

(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Leslie Adler)