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There is some scary stuff going on in American airports right now. The terrorist attacks in France understandably put airport security officials on edge, and then Al Qaeda published a bomb recipe for the creation of detection-proof explosives.
That one-two had TSA personnel scrambling to boost security. Most visibly, travelers began to see heightened random inspections. But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson brushed off complaints by tersely stating that "the reasons for these measures should be self-evident."
In a situation like that, you want to allocate resources as efficiently as possible. There are things that look important but are trivial, and things that look trivial but are important. One of the concrete goals is to avoid unnecessary searches.
So everybody was super-thrilled to learn that the FAA was suspending a long-running program under which their safety inspectors were allowed to skip TSA checkpoints. Apparently the system was used by at least one person to bring guns on board airplanes. Oops.
We like to think of ourselves as fair-minded, in the sense that we are equally likely to publish facepalms about TSA agents and about the passengers that they have to deal with. Last week we gave a shoutout to idiot travelers who were bringing fireworks on airplanes, and let this be your official notice that there are also apparently idiot travelers who are bringing credit card knives through security. Idiots.
Now let's talk about this incident, in which a Florida TSA agent refused to accept a Washington DC driver's license. In this case, the problem appears to have been that the agent did not know that Washington DC, the capital of the United States, was in fact a real place, in the United States. This kind of stuff happens so much that the District's delegate to Congress was getting into the debate months ago.
That's annoying, and the obvious reaction is to worry about those agents' overall competence in keeping Americans safe. But let's be clear about what that means.
By now, you’ve probably seen the footage of the Southwest flight attendant who made the mother of all mockeries of the safety briefing. Lots of flight attendants have put on such a routine in the past, yet few have been so transparent about their second-hand intentions. Most, we assume, are just trying to make a mundane, mandatory speech colorful and interesting. But according to this latest video’s description on YouTube, this flight attendant had a bigger vision: She wants to make an appearance on Ellen.
This writer is not even going to get into that last part, as it would only help her cause. I will tackle the bigger picture here, the well-known fact that even flight attendants aren’t afraid to advertise that the safety video is nothing more than a legal burden, that they think it’s an absolute joke, so much so that they’re consistently willing to go out on a limb to make fun of it, to joke around as if airplanes never have accidents, to refer to the lifejacket as a "teeny weeny yellow Southwest bikini."
Airports / Travel Advertising / Travel Politics / TSA / Airport Safety / Airline Safety / → All Tags
To the 3 of you who obsessively follow our travel politics posts: apologies, but content is going to become increasingly sparse as we enter the silly season of an off-cycle election. We just can't take it. We're not sure what exact second we snapped, but the story responsible was this "TSA unions support armed guards" nonsense. We've already written extensively about the dishonest bait-and-switch that was used to install TSA unions. We've already written extensively about how TSA tries to protect ill-thought policies with hastily-thrown together band-aids. We've already written extensively about how politicians grandstand against TSA but won't give the agency the resources to do things right.
The convergence of those topics kind of short-circuited our brains. You probably don't want to read about the internal politics of labor plus safety plus electoral considerations. We certainly have no desire to write those posts. It's a shame because the story is actually really important both as a substantive matter and as an illustration of how the way we talk about aiport security is broken. And yet.
Instead, how about a video where someone tries to sell you chocolate by dancing through various parts of an airport?
Bad Ideas / Airline Safety / Lasers / Crimes / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Airline Industry / → All Tags
We did a full blog post about this issue in 2011, and even back then we felt a little torn about whether it was worth writing. There was a legitimate travel politics story at the time, since the FAA had just announced a dedicated system for reporting people who were aiming lasers at aircraft. But it didn't really seem like there was any there there. How stupid do you have to be to aim a laser at the eyes of a pilot who's trying to land a gigantic commercial jet? How many people could we really be talking about?
It turns out that there were almost 4,000 laser strikes reported in 2013, with the average being 11 reported incidents every day. The actual number is thought to be much higher because of under-reporting. Starting in September 2012 and going forward a year, which is how the relevant Justice Department records are kept, five people were convicted in federal court for aiming lasers at airplanes. Another 15 people have cases pending against them.
The FBI is getting very grumpy.
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We told you about the newest safety video from Air New Zealand, and now we will pop over to Australia because Qantas is also sprucing up their in-flight intros. The airline's latest idea to creatively inform passengers how to buckle their seat belts doesn't use celebrity voices, but instead uses home grown Olympic athletes.
The Red Roo has enlisted famous Australian Olympic and Paralympic athletes to demonstrate brace positions and how to find an exit in the event of an emergency. Since the airline sponsors the entire team of runners, swimmers and other sports people, it make sense to highlight their accomplishments. All the athletes don the national green and gold uniform and, frankly, it clashes with the eyes a bit too much.
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When you think of Air New Zealand, you're supposed to think about a sleek white airplane winging its way over blue waters to very, very far down under. Alas, thanks to Air NZ's media efforts, you're now just as likely to picture Richard Simmons in a bedazzled tank top or blonde Playboy models pouting.
These would be a couple of the stars of their recent in-flight safety videos and commercials, and now there's two more to add to the mix: Ed O'Neill (Modern Family, Married with Children) and Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men, Up in the Air), who lend their voices to the illustrated (!) safety video that's brand new for this season.
Bad Ideas / Airline Safety / Lasers / FAA / LGA / Crimes / → All Tags
In 2005 there were 283 US incidents in which pilots coming in for landings had lasers aimed at their eyes. By 2010 the number had risen to 2,836 incidents per year. By October of this year we had already had 2,795 reports, which means we're easily going to clear the 2010 figure.
Another six incidents were reported at LGA just last weekend. The laser strikes were done with the relatively new and significantly more powerful green-color lasers, which are extra-dangerous. The FAA, suffice it to say, has declared itself to be unamused.
Bad Ideas / British Airways / PHX / LHR / Booze Travel / Alcohol Travel / In-Flight Cocktails / Drinking Travel / Airline Safety / → All Tags
As a site that tracks the best in-flight cocktails on a monthly basis, we like to think that our credibility on booze travel is pretty good. While we do occasionally post the random teetotaling dispatch, on the whole you're more likely to find Jaunted posts with phases like "Avion Tequila" and "Eucalyptus Liquor". We are not uninclined toward mixing travel with fine spirits, is what we're saying.
That's why it's so frustrating to have to write about people like this douchebag, who got so drunk he threatened to stab a British Airways pilot with a shard of glass after flight attendants cut him off.
Uncle Sam is pretty good about ensuring that pilots have plenty of training before they’re allowed to fly us all around the globe. However, there’s really no such thing as too much training, so that’s why we’re glad the Federal Aviation Administration is thinking about adding even more tests, quizzes, and exams to the nation’s pilot training. It won’t just be for pilots either, as even the flight attendants are going to need to study hard to pass these new tougher tests.
Apparently the new changes are going to be the biggest update in like a couple of decades, as the FAA wants more flight crews to actually demonstrate their skills and abilities during potential issues and problems. That means a lot more time in the flight simulator for the pilots, as well as increased rides down the emergency exit slides for flight attendants.
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Alright, so in case you missed it over the weekend, a Southwest Airlines plane had to make an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Arizona due to a 3' hole in the airplane. The good news is that the pilots and flight attendants kept passengers calm and got everyone back on the ground safely, but the bad news is that this could actually even happen.
Following the incident, Southwest sent a portion of their fleet in for extensive checks, examining their fuselages for cracking. So far they’ve giving the go ahead for around 19 planes to join their friends back in the air and they’re still busy reviewing the rest of the planes to ensure that they’re good-to-go.
At this point you’ve probably heard all about the air traffic controller snoozing on the job while two planes tried to land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. We’re thankful everyone is fine, and that the pilots for each airline were awesome in such a situation. We’re also pretty glad that we weren’t the ones that fell asleep—because heads are going to roll.
This might come as a surprise, but apparently some airports don’t even have air traffic controllers. We always thought that an air traffic control tower was filled with many workers—and for some reason, probably lots of cigarette smoke—but it’s not. Some airports just have a couple workers directing flights in and out of the airport, but after hours that isn’t always the case.