This past weekend was a quick, relatively local getaway down to Savannah, Georgia. The trip was great overall. Savannah is a lovely town, and I’ll get to writing up some of those details eventually, but the flights both ways were rather worse than expected. And I wasn’t really expecting all that much from Delta Connection.
The outbound flight (LaGuardia – Savannah) was operated on N800AY, a Canadair CRJ-200. This aircraft type should be removed from service globally as a violation of torture treaties. Seriously, they are the most uncomfortable seating and in-flight experience I’ve ever had. I also had the apparent good fortune to be seated in a seat where the seatbelt was more than 3 feet longer than necessary. Apparently they don’t stock seatbelt extenders on those aircraft so they have some that are built extra long just in case. I seriously think I might have been able to sit in the row in front of me and still use this belt. But at least that was entertaining rather than troubling.
We also had some issues with seat assignments on the flight down. We couldn’t get seats assigned at booking which is usually no big deal. At the airport we were assigned seats that were not together. Again, no big deal as we can handle 90 minutes not sitting next to each other, but when I asked about switching it up the agents said there was no chance. So what are the odds that the only empty seat on the plane happened to be next to my wife? Go figure.
The return trip was an even greater adventure. As we were getting out of the taxi at the Savannah airport (great facility, though the free wifi was busted) my phone rang and the Caller ID showed Delta’s number. Not good.
Our flight was going to be delayed. It happens some times, but the way it was handled was anything but smooth. I asked the ticket agent why the flight was delayed and he offered up that it wasn’t loaded in their computer and that it was probably ATC in the New York City area. Probably a safe bet, but in this case completely false. The issue was actually that Chautauqua, the carrier providing the service, had a rather significant systems meltdown and they were having difficulty dispatching a number of flights, with cancellations and significant delays throughout the system. So when I asked about alternate routings and other options and they suggested that it was no big deal I wasn’t all that impressed.
Two hours later, while still waiting for the aircraft to depart from New York to get to Savannah to operate our flight the agents were much more helpful, but they were also now more limited in terms of what alternate flights they could offer. Eventually we got rebooked via Atlanta with roughly 9 minutes to get through security and on to the plane. Awesome.
We did make the flight despite the best efforts of the TSA to mess that up and then were in Atlanta looking to get on the next flight to New York. With a two hour layover we headed to the gate of the earlier flight to try to get on as standby passengers. Ahead of us in line was a pilot dead-heading and the flight was full; the pilot couldn’t get a cockpit jump seat and was number 5 on the standby list when he walked away from the podium. I was quite surprised to hear the same agent who just put the pilot on the list tell me that there was no opportunity to be listed as a standby passenger and that, "There is no way I’m going to put you on this flight." Harsh.
At least we had dinner at One Flew South (my first time there and it lived up to the rave reviews I’ve heard). But beyond that the experience in Atlanta was pretty poor.
And then we caught our flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia. It was a reasonably quick, though bumpy, flight and we made it home the same day as scheduled and only a few hours late. In the end that’s great, but most of the customer service interactions along the way, save for the two women in Savannah who actually cared and tried to help us, were pretty craptacular. I doubt any other airline would do much better, particularly for a pair of customers with no elite status. Sad, but true.
I know that expecting a consistent and coherent implementation of policy from the TSA is a pipe dream. Still, there are a few bits that it would seem it makes sense to keep consistent. Take the pseudo-secret Sensitive Security Information ("SSI") classification of documents, for example. This is a designation that generally requires a document to be kept away from public view as it is considered integral to TSA operations, though not quite secret enough that it really matters. Sortof.
All manner of information that probably shouldn’t be is covered under the SSI designation, allowing the TSA to avoid FOIA requests and to otherwise avoid scrutiny. And I’m sure there are reasonable things covered by the designation, too, such as the Screening Management SOP. Actually I know that one is covered because there was an enormous fiasco a little while back when the poorly redacted version was posted online in public view. Whoopsie.
So it seems to reason that the SSI designation actually has some teeth. Which makes me wonder why it is so poorly observed at the airport. Today’s trip out of LaGuardia was another great example of this lax implementation, with a document clearly marked as SSI sitting out in plain view of the passengers walking through the screening checkpoint. The document was the daily schedule for "unpredictable" random checks that the agents are supposed to do, such as swabbing passenger hands or checking additional bags more thoroughly. I can understand why you might not want folks generally seeing that, though it also shouldn’t really matter. Still, it is marked as such so I would assume that would be enforced. Today’s experience suggests otherwise.
After noticing the document on display I asked to speak with the supervisor on duty, just to point out that the SSI document probably shouldn’t be in public. His response was rather surprising. His claim was, essentially, that the SSI designation on that particular document didn’t really count because the schedule on it changes daily. And because it was on a clipboard it wasn’t really in public view since I wouldn’t have been able to walk away with it.
Neither of those explanations make much sense at all, but that’s apparently how the TSA operates at LaGuardia when Steve is working as the lead TSO.
Finding a politician willing to speak out against the TSA has, for the most part, proven to be a challenge. No one wants to give an opposing candidate the opportunity to label them soft on terrorism or other similar smears. So it is somewhat surprising to find that not only is there a Congressman starting to make some noise, but it is Representative Mica (R-Fla), the Chairman of the House committee that oversees the department and one of those intimately involved in building the organization. Apparently he’s having some regrets about that move now.
Among other things, Mica notes that the "chat" interrogations being conducted at Boston‘s Logan airport are a farce implemented by untrained individuals and which offered up "idiotic" questions to passengers. This implementation in Boston is the first trial site of an expanded program where the TSA tries to analyze the behavior of passengers, a plan that the GAO has noted lacks scientific validity. Said Mica, "It’s almost idiotic. It’s still not a risk-based system. It’s not a thinking system."
Speaking of the TSA, why not pile on a bit here. There are a couple additional stories in the news over the past couple weeks that can make one sympathize with Mica’s view on things. For starters, there was the hand-written note on the back of an inspection notice in a checked bag with the simple message, "Get your freak on girl" when the agent spotted a vibrator in the checked bag. Real classy there.
And then there is House Resolution 3011 which is now under consideration. This bill will, among other things, amend Section 709 of Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 33 of the US Code. That section defines a variety of federal agency names, mostly related to banking or law enforcement, and makes it illegal to use the names or associated images (e.g. badges or uniforms) of such agencies in print or performance in a manner which is meant to convey that the agency involved is approved, endorsed or authorized by that agency. The amendment will add the TSA and Federal Air Marshall services to the laundry list of protected agencies.
There is some concern that adding the names to this list will prohibit satirical and other less than sanguine portrayals of the Agency. I’m not quite as convinced, as it would also require that the portrayal suggest that the agency approves the parody. I suppose making a movie where the TSA officer character, wearing a suitable costume, is a buffoon or otherwise does something stupid could be construed as a violation, but that would be quite the stretch on the enforcement side of things. Still, it is an interesting move by a group that is frequently subject to significant mockery to potentially limit that. If you can’t beat ‘em, outlaw them??
Next up there’s the report of a handgun falling out of a checked bag at LAX on Monday. This one is actually not the TSA’s fault so stop beating them up on it. Guns are permitted in checked bags. The owner is an idiot for not properly declaring it or packing it (supposed to be in a separate, locked container), but the TSA didn’t do anything particularly wrong here.
Finally, there’s the story of Eduardo Valdes who tried to bring a gun through a TSA checkpoint in Miami a couple weeks ago. This wouldn’t be so awkward if
- Valdes wasn’t a TSA agent responsible for keeping guns out of the secure area of the airport;
- The gun was not unregistered; and,
- Valdes did not have a permit to carry the gun.
Nothing but top-rate professionals minding the farm it would seem.
Yeah, it is hard not to sympathize with Mica and his views that the TSA is an idiotic system that doesn’t involve much thinking. The only question is whether he can actually put some action behind those words. Let’s see out elected officials hold the Agency accountable. Let’s see them actually do something about the problems rather than just campaigning for political gain. So, Mica, you’ve identified the problem. What are you going to do about it?
In an interview which first aired last night NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly stated that the department does, in fact, have that ability:
[i]n an extreme situation, we would have some means to take down a plane.
Unsurprisingly, the Commissioner didn’t provide any additional details on the capabilities but he was quite explicit that the department has the equipment and training to do it if they determined it was necessary. No word either on the details behind who authorizes such an action or in what types of scenarios they would be considered.
I do not think I’m alone in thinking that this announcement opens up more questions than it answers regarding aviation safety.
A hat tip to the folks at NYC Aviation for mentioning this one; they’ve got the video clip of the interview on their site, too.
I remember standing in the door way of a partner’s office at the client site I was at, watching the news unfold that fateful Tuesday morning. I remember a few hours later walking out to the river in Georgetown and seeing the smoke rising up from the Pentagon. I remember trying to figure out how to go home to NYC on Wednesday and being relieved that eventually Amtrak started operating. I remember seeing the smoke rising from the rubble as the train rolled past. I remember that thousands died needlessly. I remember weeks later, when the airports reopened, flying over for the first time and leaving my seat even though the seatbelt sign was on and there were strict rules so that I could get to the other side of the plane to see the damage. I remember many days, likely weeks, where the 1 train wasn’t running, leaving my basement apartment eerily quiet when I was quite used to the mild rumble of the trains rolling by.
These are memories seared into my brain. They are memories that I will never lose and that I have no desire to lose, despite the pain they occasionally cause. I must remember them because they are a part of my life.
But I also remember much more than the events of that day.
I remember what life was like in the days, months and years prior to the attack. I remember living in a country that wasn’t governed by a pervasive threat of unspecified and likely unrealistic threats. I remember a country not afraid to stand up as a leader in the global community rather than a country so afraid that it will kill itself whilst pretending it is still in control. And I wonder why we allowed ourselves to succumb to the fear rather than to rise up and defeat it.
Sitting in an airport lounge this afternoon, getting ready to fly just like I have some 800 times in the past 10 years I hear the talking heads on a news channel drone on and on about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and I’m more than just a bit disgusted. There is no doubt that the events that day were a terrible tragedy. There’s no reason those folks should have died. But not event, tragedy or otherwise, justifies the results that the past 10 years have seen.
Maybe my disgust is because I wasn’t sufficiently personally affected 10 years ago. Of the nearly 3,000 who died I don’t have a personal connection to any. Maybe that means my views on the topic don’t really count. But I don’t think that’s really true.
A rational response to an attack, particularly right when it happens, is hard to demand. And we most certainly did not see one. After ten years, however, demanding a rational approach is way past due. Sadly, it will almost certainly never come to pass. Instead we got the TSA, a war, tens of thousands more dead, trillions of dollars wasted and nothing to show for it.
Even though the security screening on that fateful Tuesday actually did nothing wrong the TSA was foisted upon us. The need to perform a virtual strip search of every passenger or grope them to ensure that they aren’t carrying a weapon which would most likely be detected by the same metal detectors that have been in use successfully for decades is just one of the many debacles that this tragedy engendered. There are plenty more stories of TSA idiocy (say your name out loud to pass through security, agents carrying a gun to work, agents stealing from passengers, etc.) and that’s just one of the many burdens that we now suffer with as passengers.
Even worse than the TSA, however, we have each other to deal with. No longer are we all passengers working together to survive the hours confined to the same metal tube hurtling through the air at 500+ miles/hour. Today we have passengers who have deputized themselves as part of the security apparatus, reporting that an other passenger looks suspicious for almost certainly no good reason. We have folks who are no threat to anything being removed from flights, interrogated and embarrassed because another passenger decided their own personal comfort was more important than the rights of someone else.
I read this line today and I’m surprised at just how angry it made me:
Since 9/11, I have taken it upon myself to be a vigilant American…I’ve said something about someone looking nervous, out of place, or otherwise causing alarm for me. 1 out of those 5 times I said something, the person was removed from the flight. Whether or not they were actually a threat, someone else agreed with me that they were out of place with their otherwise alarming actions. …I do know that I don’t feel bad if my judgment and the flight crew’s judgement were made in error.
There is a difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante and it is way more than the letter e. The past 10 years have served to blur that distinction for all too many making us less safe, not more. Less safe because that vigilante might just decide to respond directly against a perfectly innocent individual. Less safe because folks are ignoring real threats and focusing on imagined ones. Less safe because the concept of security is horribly misappropriated. Suggesting that someone else be removed from a plane because you are uncomfortable is quite high on my list of ludicrous behaviors that passengers have taken to in the past ten years. It is way worse than any of the air rage incidents that have been reported.
We’ve wasted billions upon billions of dollars. We’ve destroyed all too many civil liberties. And we’ve killed tens of thousands of people. All in the name of security. Sadly, what we’ve actually provided is anything but.
The events of September 11, 2001 were a tragedy in every sense of the word. The response to them as evidenced in the policies we see today is an even greater tragedy. We should all remember the events that transpired that day. And we should remember that we were a strong, proud people prior to that and we still can be, even while mourning those who were murdered.
I continue to fly. A lot. I put up with the bullshit foisted upon me by the TSA, airlines, flight crews making up security regulations as they go and other passengers. I do so because I love to travel and there’s nothing that will ever beat that love out of my system. But that doesn’t mean I have to respect the faux authority position from which these policies are handed down.
Flying today (I’m writing this on the afternoon of the 10th) or tomorrow (I will be) is not something I’m doing to make a political statement like so many others claim to do. I’m flying this weekend because I love to fly and because I really wanted to visit both Alaska and Hawaii this weekend and flying is the only way to do so.
I’m still living my life as best I can. That’s the only statement worth making.
For a guy who sees so many of his constituents benefit from a program, New York Senator Charles Schumer doesn’t really seem to care too much for the organization. Indeed, the Senator has been making noise in the past couple weeks that will likely cause irreparable harm to Amtrak, destroying one of the few small advantages America’s national rail company has over air travel. Oh, and just for good measure, the rules he wants to apply are ridiculously unfair to all passengers.
The word is that, among other "security" efforts, Schumer wants to see the Department of Homeland Security expand their Secure Flight program to cover rail travel as well. Secure Flight is the rather un-American program that maintains a secret list of folks considered a threat to air travel. The people are never told that they are necessarily on said list. The details of how one gets listed or, more significantly, how one proves they should not be listed are not public and what little information is available suggests that the process doesn’t really work to help make anything or anyone more secure. Nonetheless Schumer wants to see the program expanded to cover rail travel as well as air travel.
Never mind that one of the justifications the TSA and DHS have used in the past to justify their overly-invasive passenger screening policies is that the passengers always could take a train if they didn’t like the rules. Never mind that the effort would essentially require the creation of TSA-like checkpoints at rail stations, increasing the boarding time and generally making a mess of the process. None of that is important because Schumer sees a potential threat that he believes can be exploited to drive both spending and fear, the latter being the more fun way for folks in charge to stay that way and screw over the public.
So instead of investing money where it can be used to help rail travel in the USA. Instead of working to increase high-speed rail for regional inter-city transport. Instead of investing in actually providing security to any part of the travel experience we have this ridiculous plan. Instead of identifying actual security threats we have this list of names that may or may not mean anything related to security, other than job security for the folks who compile, maintain and perform checks against the list. This plan that does nothing for security. This plan that doesn’t actually identify the people who are really threats because they might find out we know about them. This plan that unduly subjects citizens and visitors alike to a screening process that completely circumvents the principles of our justice system. This plan that will destroy the one last chance we have to make intercity rail travel a legitimate alternative to air travel in the United States.
Thanks, Senator Schumer. Thanks for distracting attention from the real problems. Thanks for fear-mongering instead of providing meaningful and functional plans.
In short, thanks for nothing.
Flying standby used to be a relatively simple endeavor: you showed up at the gate and if there was a seat you got it. Not too difficult to manage, really. Then the airlines realized that they could make money from folks who wanted to fly standby and things got way more complicated. But on my JetBlue flight from JFK to Boston yesterday I experienced the most interesting version of a standby policy I’ve ever seen.
I arrived at the airport expecting to just relax a bit before my flight, not even thinking about flying out early. That was before I got the notice that my flight was going to be an hour late and likely cause me to miss my dinner in Boston. With a bit of motivation and luck that the TSA line was pretty quick I was through to the gate 20 minutes prior to the earlier flight’s scheduled departure time. Surely it would be no problem to get myself on a standby list and, with any luck, up to Boston in time for dinner. The gate agent was busy so I stepped over to the service center right next to the gate.
"Sorry, but you cannot be added to the standby list. The flight is closed."
Mind you they were still boarding the flight and they had a dozen or so folks standing around waiting to see who would clear off the standby list into one of the few empty seats still available, but they guy I was speaking with insisted the flight was "closed." I tried with the gate as well and couldn’t even get a word in before I was dismissed by the agent. At this point it was pretty clear I was not getting on the flight but I was also curious to see how the event would play out as there were a number of non-revenue passengers also waiting for seats and I was curious how many of them would get to fly ahead of a revenue customer. The answer was at least 5.
That number would have been lower as the gate agent was clearing all the standby customers into seats, including the non-revs who could ride jump seat. I give a lot of credit to the pilot who was flying as a non-rev who insisted that they put her in the cockpit for the sake of getting one more standby on the plane. The gate agent working the flight was actually annoyed by this as it meant more paperwork for her.
When I asked for an explanation at the gate I was told that there was nothing they could do for me there and that I should proceed to the Service Center for a supervisor to explain the situation to me. I walked the 20 steps back over there and asked the same guy I was speaking with earlier to speak with the supervisor as the gate agent instructed me. He picked up the phone and called the supervisor on duty. It was the woman working that gate who sent me away. Apparently she had no desire to explain what the policy was or why they were taking non-revenue customers over revenue ones so I was told I could wait a few minutes for another supervisor to show up.
I guess they figured I’d eventually leave as the supervisor I was promised never materialized. I waited 90 minutes and he never showed. He did call in at one point and I explained the situation to him so I believe he really exists, but I sat there for 90 minutes and he didn’t actually show up and answer the questions at hand. I also left my contact information so that he could call or email me once he did get an answer. Sadly, though not surprisingly that call never came. They did give me a $12 meal voucher for my trouble but that isn’t worth nearly the same as actually getting where I wanted to be when they should’ve been able to get me there. And the 90 minute wait for a supervisor because the other one couldn’t be bothered to explain the policy was pretty poor form.
The JetBlue website help page on the topic doesn’t have any more useful details. There is no mention of a cutoff time or anything else that suggests that non-revs should be seated ahead of revenue customers. And the conversation I had on the phone with the supervisor suggests that they screwed up but no one can confirm the actual policy for me. Even reaching out to a contact inside the company only got me some maybes and sortofs rather than a real policy. Really quite frustrating.
Will this stop me from flying with JetBlue in the future? Probably not. The product in the air is still probably the best coach flying available in the USA. But the inexplicable policy of restricting the waitlist so far in advance and taking non-revenue customers over revenue passengers is certainly that rubs me the wrong way and will certainly make me consider other options, particularly when I know that there might be some give in my schedule and that I might want to fly out a bit early. They may not charge, but the inability to actually get on the list within 30 minutes of departure makes that benefit rather less valuable.
Other than arrive 45 minutes late the flight was fine. No real complaints there. But the standby policy appears to have a rather notable problem.
Can you list every address you’ve lived at since birth? What about every employer – including the name of your supervisor and their phone number – you have ever had? Every school you attended, including address and phone number? If not, you might not be able to get a passport if the State Department has its way. And those are the easy questions on the newly proposed form DS-5513.
Here’s the justification for the new form as provided in the Federal Register filing:
The primary purpose for soliciting this information is to establish citizenship, identity, and eligibility for a U.S. Passport Book or Passport Card. The information may also be used in connection with issuing other travel documents or evidence of citizenship, and in furtherance of the Secretary’s responsibility for the protection of U.S. nationals abroad.
If you can demonstrate (arguably via a certified birth certificate) that you were born in the US then the above questions are the only ones you really need to complete. If not, however, the questionnaire gets way more detailed. Here are some of the specifics that are asked for:
- What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?
- Please describe the circumstances of your birth including the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present or in attendance at your birth.
- Was there any religious or institutional recording of your birth or event occurring around the time of birth? (Example: baptism, circumcision, confirmation or other religious ceremony. Please provide details including the name, location of the
institution, and date.)
They even ask for specific details regarding any medical professionals that may have been involved, including a history of appointment dates. Oh, and the mother’s profession, address and, because we don’t want to be particularly obvious that we’re discriminating against immigrants, "What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?"
In case you’re curious, they estimate that compiling all this information will take only 45 minutes on average. I only have to answer the easy questions and I’m not sure I can do it that quickly.
Sadly, this will almost certainly become the rule, just like all the other asinine things the government is doing to infringe upon our rights "out of an abundance of caution." Today is the last day to register a complaint to the appropriate officials. The easiest way to do so is to email GarciaAA@state.gov. You must include the DS form number (if applicable), information collection title, and OMB control number in any correspondence. For this particular abomination those details are DS-5513 and Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport; there is no OMB control number currently assigned.
UPDATE (17:55 EDT 25 APR): This form is supposedly only to be used if the veracity of the initially supplied documentation is in doubt. So it probably won’t apply to everyone. Still, there is a TON of data in here way beyond what should be needed to establish citizenship and well beyond what the government should need from us.
Here’s the letter I’m sending. I encourage you to contact them as well. Oh, and the 60-day comment period started on February 24th so it is pretty much over so it is important to act quickly (i.e. TODAY) on this issue!
Subject: Comments on proposed rule for DS-5513 – Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to comment on the proposed rule change published in the Federal Register as Public Notice 7345 regarding form DS-5513 – Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport; there is currently no OMB control number assigned to this document.
The proposed form is collecting an excessive amount of data, well beyond what is necessary to confirm citizenship and issue a passport for qualified individuals. The time burden suggested – an average of 45 minutes – is a gross underestimate of how long it will take to collect even the basic information; answering questions 5-12 will take significantly longer. As an adult in my 30s who is qualified to answer only the basic questions I found that it took me well over one hour to compile the information and it is still incomplete.
My schooling and job history have no bearing on my citizenship status, yet the form asks for full details of both. If I fail to provide it (and potentially if I miss something) the State Department can deny me a passport, even though I am a naturally born citizen.
The form show significant bias against home-birthed children, requiring them to complete extensive documentation as though they are an undocumented alien in this country. Similarly, the extensive details requested about the circumstances of the birth – names and phone numbers of everyone present, for example – are excessive and go well beyond what is necessary to document citizenship.
Travel is a wonderful thing. It provides education, experiences and perspective all at once, helping to better both the people doing the traveling as well as those whom they visit. It should be encouraged and facilitated by our government, not impeded. This form represents an excessive data collection against US citizens and is an undue burden for demonstrating citizenship. It is working against these goals, not towards them.
Thank you for your time.
It is a bit complicated to fire someone that does not really work for you. Just ask Cosmo Kramer about getting fired from a job: "I don’t even really work here!" To which the boss replied, "That’s what makes this so hard." So when Amtrak‘s Police Chief John O’Connor caught wind of an apparent rogue screening checkpoint set up by the TSA at the Amtrak station in Savannah, Georgia, firing them was all that much more difficult. But that didn’t stop the Chief. Amtrak stations are currently off limits to TSA personnel until "a firm agreement can be drawn up to prevent the TSA from taking actions that the chief said were illegal and clearly contrary to Amtrak policy."
Apparently a TSA Visible Intermodal Protection and Response ("VIPR") team showed up at the Savannah Amtrak station, posted a note that anyone entering the building was subject to search and then proceeded to make good on that promise. Skipping over the fact that one can apparently board or depart trains in Savannah without ever entering the station, it is not clear who authorized or even requested the search. It is clear, however, that the actions were not in compliance with Amtrak’s policy regarding security.
“When I saw it, I didn’t believe it was real,” O’Connor said. When it developed that the posting on an anti-TSA blog was not a joke, “I hit the ceiling.”
The TSA’s comment on the event is, typically, a non-comment that avoids the issue. They actually come close to suggesting that they might have done something wrong, but do not go so far as to acknowledge that the VIPR action apparently violates Amtrak policies.
However, after looking into it further, we learned that this particular VIPR operation should have ended by the time these folks were coming through the station since no more trains were leaving the station. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused for those passengers.
Chief O’Connor is on record as believing that the TSA’s intrusive searches are excessive for his organization’s needs and possibly unconstitutional. The VIPR searches in Savannah affected all passengers, not a random sampling as Amtrak policy dictates. The VIPR searches also included the "wanding" of passengers and isolation of "sterile" and "non-sterile" environments, a policy that Amtrak does not implement at any of their stations.
It looks like the TSA has once again messed up. Not really much of a surprise there, but certainly depressing. Watch the video. And cry a little. Next time the TSA agent groping you at the airport suggests that you have other options if you do not want to fly, remember that you really do not.
Sure, there was tremendous uproar when Spirit Air announced their plan to charge passengers to have larger carry-on bags on the plane. But what if the TSA, the idiots charged with securing our transportation infrastructure, suggests something similar? Will the same congress-critters who displayed outrage maintain it or will they roll over to the "anything for security" mantra?
It looks like we are all going to find out soon enough. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, testified to congress this week that the costs related to carry-on bags are in the range of $260MM annually because of the need to have TSA agents screening those bags. These are the same agents who are great at spotting bottles of water and apparently not so much at spotting things that are actually arguably dangerous, but that’s a whole different rant.
The Secretary conveniently managed to skip over the part about how there are other agents who are inspecting all the checked baggage; if the bags are checked instead of carried on someone is still going to have to check them. Then again, the checked baggage systems (particularly the new ones) are much more automated and faster, in part because there is more space to work with in those sections of the airport and in part because they’re actually looking for dangerous goods instead of extra large tubes of toothpaste or sunscreen.
The statement from the Secretary was in response to a rather leading question from Senator Mary Landrieu:
Checked bagged fees are increasing, it looks like, the cost to TSA because people don’t want to pay the fees so they are not checking bags and putting more on the planes. My question is, do the taxpayers have to pick up this fee? Or should we be looking at the airlines for some of the profits that they make from these fees to offset the cost the taxpayer.
The Secretary is trying to convince Congress to increase the fees paid by passengers to the tune of $600MM annually. No word yet on what other wasteful projects the spare $340MM will be earmarked for. Apparently the Senator is just looking for a cash-grab.
Our government, hard at work.