Category Archives: Business Travel

US airport body scanners to nix naked image

U.S. travelers frustrated with airport security may see a little relief later this year with the launch of a trusted traveler pilot program, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday.



    1. TODAY


      Flight attendants train for cabin pressures


      What’s it really like to work at 30,000 feet? Nilou Motamed, Travel + Leisure’s features director, visits flight attendant school for an inside look.


    2. Man reportedly threatened flight crew with glass


    3. Car shares changing how people get around


    4. United, Continental embrace iPads in the cockpit


    5. New rules aim to curb long tarmac delays

TSA has been under pressure to improve the security screening process and create a program for those business and frequent fliers willing to undergo prior security background screenings so they can speed through airport checkpoints.

“We’re working with airlines, U.S. carriers initially, to say for those who are willing to share information about themselves, what can we gain from that that would help us make informed judgments” about passenger security, TSA Administrator John Pistole told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“We hope to … trial that starting this fall in select airports and (with the) airlines,” he said, adding that he hoped for significant changes next year. “It’s a complex issue and so I want to basically underpromise and overdeliver.”

While there have been some attempts at trusted traveler programs in the past, they have never advanced. But with the introduction of full-body scanners and physical patdowns, pressure has built up again for reviving such programs.

The U.S. Travel Association, which represents the hotel industry, online travel sites and car rental industry, is eager for Americans to travel more and earlier this year launched a campaign to press Congress to create such a program.

Separately, with continuing complaints about screening at U.S. airports which include full-body scanners and physical patdowns of passengers, including young children, Pistole said they are trying once again to address the concerns about kids.

TSA was confronted recently by another uproar when a six-year-old girl was subjected to a physical patdown after she went through a full-body scanner, raising questions about whether children pose a security risk.

Pistole said the child moved during the scan, prompting the patdown, but that TSA has once again changed its policy for such scenarios and that he plans to unveil more changes soon. But he noted that militants have used children in attacks before.

“We have changed the policy to say that there will be repeated efforts to resolve that without a patdown,” Pistole said. “I will be announcing something in the not-too-distant future about a change in policy as it relates to children.”

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

The real reason airlines use zone boarding

By Gus Lubin, Business Insider

If you’ve ever flown coach, then you know the feeling of standing in a mob of Zone 4 ticket holders while the flight attendant repeats for the tenth time: “Now boarding all passengers in Zone 1.”

One assumes it would be faster to board the passengers who are waiting at the gate, rather than wait for the last remaining Zone 1 passenger to return from Starbucks.

And it really is faster to board randomly — 5 to 10 percent faster according to American Airlines. The results of an in-house study were cited earlier this summer when American abandoned the standard back-to-front seating protocol in favor of random seating for coach passengers. Of course first class and priority passengers still get to board first.

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What is your biggest pet peeve when getting on a plane?

So why do most airlines insist on the zone boarding system?

Apparently because the random method involves more work for flight attendants, who must prepare the plane for takeoff faster and begin seating sooner.

The Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants disagrees [with the American Airline study]. It contends the process has created “complete chaos” among passengers, forcing attendants to spend more time preparing the plane for takeoff. The attendants are irked, it says, because they are not paid for the extra time needed to load the plane.

“We understand it needs to be tweaked a little,” said Jeff Pharr, a spokesman for the flight attendants union.

So, basically, there’s still disagreement about which is the fastest way to board, depending on who you’re talking to.

Airlines also don’t like “random” boarding because it doesn’t butter up their best customers — the members of their frequent-flyer plans.

More from Business Insider

American Airlines in talks for 250 new planes

American Airlines is in talks with aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing Co. to purchase at least 250 aircraft in a deal valued at about $15 billion, The Wall Street Journal said.

The report published Wednesday cites unnamed persons familiar with the matter who say American seeks to replace its entire domestic fleet.

Such a transaction would represent a potential windfall for the rival aircraft makers and a bold step by American Airline parent company AMR Corp. to lift the airline’s fortunes.

The Journal report says American worked out a tentative agreement with Airbus several weeks ago without telling Boeing, then approached Boeing and asked it to make a counter offer.

American and Boeing declined to comment. Calls to Airbus were not returned.

American is based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Faster security screening soon a reality for some fliers

Starting this fall, long airport security lines could be a thing of the past for some eligible frequent travelers.

The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday outlined plans to roll out a pilot system in coming months that would allow select air travelers to qualify for expedited screening.

Initially, only Delta Air Lines passengers flying through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airports and American Airlines passengers traveling through Miami International and Dallas Fort Worth International airports will be eligible. Some members of U.S. “trusted traveler” programs — Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS — will also be eligible.

TSA will extend the program to include other major U.S. carriers — United, Southwest, JetBlue, US Airways and Alaska — as well as other airports when ready.

“These improvements will enable our officers to focus their efforts on higher risk areas,” TSA Administrator John Pistole told a group of aviation stakeholders. “Enhancing identity-based screening is another common sense step in the right direction as we continue to strengthen overall security and improve the passenger experience whenever possible.”

TSA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are partnering to run the program. The two agencies, along with airlines, will determine eligible travelers. Selected travelers must be U.S. citizens and must agree to supply additional information about themselves.

The U.S. Travel Association applauded the announcement. “While this program will be limited at the outset, it is a strong start. We look forward to working with TSA to move our nation’s air travel security away from today’s one-size-fits-all approach,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of group, said in a statement.

News of the pilot program came on the heels of a government report showing vulnerabilities at U.S. airports, including more than 25,000 security breaches over the past 10 years.

Currently, travelers who want expedited screening have limited options. CLEAR, a company that provides biometric identity verification, offers a fee-based subscription where travelers can supply background information and get a biometric card that allows them to bypass security lines. CLEAR’s service is currently offered at Denver International and Orlando International airports, though CLEAR President J. Bennet Waters says the company is negotiating to expand into other airports.

TSA’s pilot program is an important, giant step in what is likely going to be a lengthy process, Waters told msnbc.com.

In a statement, he added: “We strongly support TSA’s vision to focus more on identifying bad people, not just finding bad objects.”

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Joe Myxter has been running msnbc.com’s Travel section since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @joemyxter.

Airlines fight prospect of higher security fees

U.S. airlines are fighting the prospect of sharply higher passenger security fees that could be part of any deficit-reduction plan.



    1. TODAY


      Flight attendants train for cabin pressures


      What’s it really like to work at 30,000 feet? Nilou Motamed, Travel + Leisure’s features director, visits flight attendant school for an inside look.


    2. Man reportedly threatened flight crew with glass


    3. Car shares changing how people get around


    4. United, Continental embrace iPads in the cockpit


    5. New rules aim to curb long tarmac delays

The approach is among a handful involving aviation that have swirled around the ever-changing complexion of efforts by Congress and the White House to avert a debt default.

While those proposals would cover only a fraction of any deficit remedy, they represent flashpoints in relations between industry and government over aviation policy.

Business aircraft manufacturers, the powerful private pilot and aircraft owners association and, now, the biggest commercial airlines have in recent days aggressively lobbied issues around the debt talks that would affect their members.

According to sources with knowledge of the talks and documents circulating on Capitol Hill, a proposal would double the security fee paid by airline passengers to raise at least $15 billion over 10 years. The current maximum fee imposed on commercial flights is $10 per round-trip ticket.

Nicholas Calio, who as president of the Air Transport Association is the top lobbyist for commercial carriers, said any increase in security fees that would bump up ticket prices would be unacceptable.

“We should advance a tax policy that encourages air service to grow, not contract. Airlines are critical to the nation’s economic health,” he said.

U.S. homeland security officials said they would not speculate on the composition of debt negotiations.

Other proposals that have been discussed would impose a $25 fee for each commercial and private aircraft departure.

Negotiators have also floated the possibility of matching the depreciation schedule of corporate jets to the longer schedule that commercial airlines use. This may become one avenue for closing tax loopholes where Democrats and Republicans could find common ground.

Security fees long an issue

Previous proposals by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush to increase air security fees paid by passengers were not embraced by lawmakers, who would have to approve such a change.

Those fees, which have never gone up, were imposed at the creation of government-run airport passenger and bag screening following the September 11, 2001 hijack attacks.

They currently cover less than 40 percent, or roughly $1.8 billion, of Homeland Security Department costs for aviation security operations, including screening passengers and bags for weapons and bombs at U.S. airports. The remaining amount comes from a general congressional appropriation.

Sources assume the amount of security spending would not change under a fee-increase scheme. Any additional fees paid by passengers would supplant the percentage of general tax receipts now devoted annually to aviation security. That appropriation would then go toward deficit reduction.

Industry believes airport security charges are part of what it calls an excessive menu of taxes and fees that eat into profits. Those total about 20 percent of a typical $300 round-trip ticket.

Robert Mann of R.W. Mann Co, a former airline executive and now a consultant, said a security-fee increase could sap travel demand and impact all carriers. The change would be felt most by low-fare airlines which mainly serve leisure customers especially sensitive to increases in the cost of travel.

Airlines argue that aviation security costs are a national security interest that should be borne by government. They are also urging lawmakers in their lobbying to consider the impact higher fees could have on the industry’s fragile recovery.

United Continental Holdings Inc and US Airways Group Inc posted weaker profits last week, hit by skyrocketing fuel costs amid a murky outlook for demand. The parent of American Airlines, AMR Corp, reported a larger-than-expected loss.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.