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Whether you realize it or not, international airports are screening for health issues of incoming passengers. Typically it's just trained officials eyeballing the stream of arriving passengers, sometimes with the help of temperature sensors, looking for any telling signs of deteriorating health before an unwell person passes through customs and out into the public.
Owing to the recent threat of Ebola, however, those checks are about to become more obvious, and more specialized, at least temporarily.
According to the NYT, five US airports will begin screening passengers arriving from West Africa with new procedures, including a contactless thermometer to test for fever, and a questionnaire to determine a person's risk.
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Last Wednesday TSA agents at Burbank detected a loaded gun in the carry-on of rapper Todd Anthony Shaw, known as Too Short or Too $hort depending on how stuffy you are. This kind of thing happens quite a lot. Almost always, the travelers are immediately cited, and often they're even allowed to proceed to the plane.
In this case Mr. Short walked slowly out of the airport in his socks, recovered his valet-parked car, and returned two days later with his lawyer. At that point he received a misdemeanor citation for possession of a loaded handgun in a public place. This entire incident, with all due respect, is batshit crazy.
In the 2009 movie “Up in the Air,” George Clooney plays an ultra-frequent flyer experiencing a crisis of self as he nears the 10-million-mile mark. Towards the beginning, when his travels are still very much upbeat, there’s a memorable scene as he passes through airport security and leaves in his dust the discombobulated casual travelers around him. The key to that slickness is his polished routine of ultimate efficiency in the security line.
Shoes, belt, jacket, carry-onnot a hair is out of place on Clooney despite the best efforts of the TSA. He comes across as truly the master of frequent flying.
But does his routine actually work?
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What a strange little story. Over the summer news began to emerge that TSA was letting people confirm their identities, and then to board planes, using only Notice to Appear letters and paperwork. Those documents don't have photos or really any kind of security information - so that would have been problematic, which was one problem. But the story was actually much more about travel politics than about airline security, because it was wrapped up in the immigration debate. In any case it eventually made international headlines.
TSA for its part promptly denied that it was doing something as stupid as just letting people show random letters they could have printed at home. Agency spokespeople actually got kind of pissy about it - "completely wrong... never contacted us for a statement" - and made sure to let people know. Snopes.com rated the story flat out false.
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According to Consumer Reports, 2013 saw some 4.5 million smartphones reported lost or stolen. 2014's numbers are expected to be even higher, especially with the debut of a new iPhone this autumn.
If you've long thought your phone had gone to the great charging cable in the sky, consider that perhaps it's just at the bottom of a pile of crusty lost-and-found electronics at an airport somewhere. The Transportation Safety Administration yesterday posted an Instagram showing a tiny sample of the forgotten gadgets they end up tossing into a box at LAX alone, and it's pretty alarming.
You've probably heard about the Internet of Things: the idea that everything you own is going to be online. Your fridge will be able to talk to your car will be able to talk to your pacemaker.
You also may have heard that it's going to be a total cyber-security disaster. Today's hackers are able to get into your laptop or desktop. Tomorrow's hackers will be able - by definition - to get into everything. Right now they're able to damage your data. In the future they'll be able to damage actually existing things in the real world. Unless you're very, very, very careful, putting any device online could get you very easily hacked.
Now, knowing what you know, how likely do you think it is that TSA is using machines that are easily hacked?
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As you know because you've been following along, the new TSA fees that we've been trashing since 2010 went into effect earlier this month. They had been jammed up for years by airlines - more on that below - but the administration finally managed to get them passed. The old caps, which had been set at $2.50 per flight segment with a $10 roof for a four-flight round trip, were abolished.
Would you believe that TSA may have taken advantage of the new situation to collect fees even higher than what Congress allowed? That's the argument being made by airlines, who are now suing the security agency. Game on.
We're all guilty of complaining about the TSA's downfalls in some form or another, and now, in an opportunity that almost seems too good to be true, we all have a chance to have our voices heard.
Believe it or not, the TSA has put out a call for submissions for how to make security screening faster and more efficient. And if your plan is as good as you think it is, you'll be able to earn back some of your tax dollars, as the TSA will award one prize of at least $5,000 and several others of $2,500 for the best new ideas ($15,000 in total).
Until mobile devices somehow magically charge themselves throughout your journey—you’re going to need a spot to plug in and charge up at the airport. The concourses and terminals have gotten a little bit better at adding ports and plugs, and now it seems like there’s a push overseas to add even more spots to charge up before your trip.
With that pesky new requirement regarding devices to be operational at airport security airports in London are pushing to get more options available to flyers.
Very quickly - before we get to the travel news in this post - can we just make a simple request? As you're about to read, airport security is getting bumped up across the world. This happened just as the 4th of July weekend kicked off. So things are going to be hectic enough without you idiots grinding checkpoints to a halt by trying to smuggle actual, real life, exploding fireworks on board airplanes. For fuck's sake.
Now that that's out of the way.
As we told you last Monday, various branches of the U.S. intelligence community have concluded that Yemen-linked jihadists, operating out of Syria, may be plotting to take down American and European airliners. The scheme would involve terrorists with Western passports slipping through security armed with a new generation of undetectable explosives. We suggested you might soon be seeing enhanced screening procedures.
Yesterday morning ABC News popped a story about a recent White House meeting - recent in the sense that it happened last week - in which top-level intelligence officials raised alarms about new threats to aiport security and airline security. Very short version: terrorists who have dug into Syria are reportedly working on a new generation of undetectable bombs, and so you will probably be feeling new security precautions both domestically and overseas. Happy Monday!
ABC got at least one source to worry "[this threat] is different and more disturbing than past aviation plots." Another talked about "creative" new bomb designs. The outlet also aired interviews on Sunday - which are embedded below, and included one with President Barack Obama - that were arguably even scarier.
Another day, another new fee for the airline industry and its passengers. The biggest surprise? The airlines have nothing to do with it.
In December, Congress approved an increase in the TSA fees applied to passenger airline tickets, raising the charge to a flat rate of $5.60 each way, up from the previous $2.50 each way for a nonstop one-way flight or $5 for trips that included a layover. The TSA has already said that it will try to add an additional $5.60 for segments that include a layover longer than four hours, most likely assuming that people with such wait times will exit and reenter the secure areas.