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Emergency Landings / Ethiopian Airlines / 767 / GVA / Hijackings / Crimes / Politics Travel / Ethiopian Flight 702 / → All Tags
BREAKING NEWS. Scroll to bottom for latest updates.
Prior to midnight EST, an Ethiopian Airlines flight bound from Ethiopia to Italy declared an emergencya hijackingand flew instead to Geneva, Switzerland.
The aircraft landed safely in Geneva and there are no injuries or fatalities.
Here is what we know, owing to direct sources (live ATC conversations, live flight tracking, on-the-ground contacts at Geneva 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.
Valentine's Day Travel / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
TSA recently blogged a list of tips for traveling during and around Valentine's Day. Yes to regular and even liquid-filled chocolates, but no to flower vases with water in them, plus a reminder that there are special rules for traveling with wedding dresses. Because wedding dresses and flower vases with water in them could be used to compromise the security of aircraft, you see.
In other news, engineers have discovered a way that hackers can hijack TSA scanning machines to remotely overlay what screeners see with arbitrary images. So if you're a terrorist smuggling a gun through security, and you've got a friend who has gained access to the computer linked to your checkpoint, your friend can cover over the image of your gun with what looks like a pile of socks.
New York Travel / New York City / Airports / Airport News / LGA / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / → All Tags
This was a very rude thing to say, and Vice President Biden should absolutely apologize. Say what you will about Third World airports, at least most of them have people who are trying to build and grow things. Newark, on the other hand - well, Jaunted has been writing about how much that airport sucks for almost our entire existence. At one point last year United dropped a bunch of money to make it better, and they inevitably failed, on account of how it sucks.
It's not just LaGuardia either. All of New York's airports are awful. JFK has birds flying through the terminals, and so of course some of the seats and certain spots on the carpet get covered in - excuse the vulgarity - actual bird shit. At night the people to birds ratio approaches that of an aviary, and you've got birds picking at the trash. That can't be hygienic. Why won't somebody do something about that?
Brazil Travel / Travel Tips / Passports / Visas / Politics Travel / 2014 FIFA World Cup Travel / World Cup Travel / Rio de Janeiro Travel / Sao Paulo Travel / Manaus Travel / Amazon Travel / → All Tags
Without a doubt, Brazil is cool. Many elements combine to make it so; Brazil is fortunate to have some of the world's best beaches, liveliest music, sexiest people, most exotic flora and fauna, and tastiest food. Still, there is one bit about Brazil that's not so cool: going through the process of obtaining the visa necessary for US citizens to visit.
It's our own fault, really. Brazil is only doing to us what we do to their citizens wanting to visit the US; it's called reciprocity. Still, the Brazilian visa process is necessary evil of traveling to this beautiful country, and since we just sweated through it ourselves, we thought we'd break it down into simple steps.
Note that spectators, staff and volunteers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup have abbreviated visa requirements for what is a free "temporary special visa" with 90 days validity. If you're heading to the World Cup and think you'll return to Brazil at some point, then opt for the regular tourist visa, which comes with ten years of validity but costs $160-$180.
* Instructions and links below are intended for one regular adult tourist of US citizenship, holding a US passport.
Last week saw a good deal of travel politics news - we'll unpack most of it as the dust settles this week - but there was something in particular we wanted to post today, if only because it's kind of aggravating.
The end of last week saw a back-and-forth in Politico between TSA and a TSA ex-agent who wrote an expose confirming every bad stereotype people have about the agency. Neither side comes off particularly well, but what got our attention is how even at the top levels of public debate, people still don't get a very, very fundamental point: you can have lots of very specific rules, and then you get TSA employees who implement stupid regulations, or you can empower TSA employees to 'use common sense,' and then you get douchebags who use the wiggle room to abuse travelers.
It can be one or the other, but - unless you're going to get better TSA agents or abolish TSA completely - you have to choose one.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / FAA / Virgin Galactic / Space Tourism / Sir Richard Branson / Space Race / → All Tags
Fearless prediction: this is going to get solved before it becomes a problem. There are too many famous people involved, there is too much money at stake, and the optics would be catastrophic. Can you imagine how this would play out in the media? "Washington DC has become so inefficient that it's blocking actual real life we're-living-in-the-future space tourism."
Federal agencies can be cumbersome and individual bureacrats can be petty. But if the FAA actually jams up the launch of a Virgin Galactic space jet - which people say might actually happen - we can finally and safely assume that literally nobody is in charge of anything any more. Seriously. It would look so horrible that we don't understand how anyone is even allowed to go on the record saying it's a possibility.
Airport Security / Airline Security / TSA / Congress / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / → All Tags
Not to beat a particularly stupid dead horse, but just one more thing about that silly hearing that Congress held last week with TSA officials. We've repeatedly covered how the overarching debate over airport security is broken: politicians attack TSA for cutting corners, but those same politicians aren't willing to either change the rules (so there are no corners to cut) or increase the agency's funding (so it wouldn't need to cut corners).
We've already posted on one aggravating part of the hearing, which had Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) declaring that TSA agents don't say "please" and "thank you" enough, and so he's going to write legislation sending them to politeness school. He saw security officers telling travelers to do awkward things like take off clothing, and stand in line, and assume various positions, and he thought it would be better if they were nicer about it. But the problem isn't whether agents are polite when they implement poorly conceptualized and even more poorly executed security policies. It's that the security policies are poorly conceptualized and executed.
TSA / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Congress / Bad Ideas / Airport Security / Airline Security / Rants / → All Tags
The Jaunted policy on travel politics is very straightforward: there is nothing so broken about the experience of getting from one airport to another - whether it be picking a seat or paying for baggage or going through security or even taking off - that Congress can't make it worse.
TSA, for example, is a disaster in hundreds of ways significant and incidental. But give an elected official a chance to address even the smallest of the agency's problems, and they're bound without fail to come up with legislation that falls somewhere in between useless meddling and genuine damage. We actually had to check today's story multiple times before we could convince ourselves it wasn't a parody.
As the first full week of the new kicks off, let's all take a moment and assess what kind of year 2014 is shaping up to be. For those of us on the Jaunted staff, we have our New Year's resolutions, and so we have our little markers and goals already set up. For you guys, we've given you some assignments as well. And as for the United States federal government, we expect they're going to try to fuck up air travel. Just like they always fucking do every fucking year. Seriously. Anything even tangentially related to travel politics is an opportunity for Congress to break travel, and, without exception, they do.
Keep in mind that none of the links up there - which go to stories from 2010, 2012, and 2013 - touch on anything related to the government shutdown or to the sequester. Both of those colossal meltdowns negatively affected tourism, because how could they not, but lawmakers weren't even trying to directly tinker with the travel world. It's when folks from the House, the Senate, and White House get together to try to make the travel industry better that the magic really starts.
It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2013 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics. Needless to say, we're ready to get going into 2014, but first we're taking a brief look back at the best of 2013 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,or as we fondly refer to themThe Jauntys.
TSA has always been kind of a tragicomic clusterfuck - let's all recall this unbelievable idiocy which was followed by this shameless denial - but things have really picked up in even the last month and a half. Between confiscating the guns of sock puppets and trying to use cartoon dogs to explain why mommy and daddy are getting bad touched, it's almost like the agency is trying to confirm skeptics' worst stereotypes. The fact that we just learned that TSA's security theater may be extra-useless because the post-screening area has materials for weapons isn't helping.
And yet none of those qualify as the wackiest TSA tale of 2013. They're excellent examples of where TSA agents decided to either overthink or underthink regulations, but they don't really get at why the agency is so special or what role it plays in travel politics. To understand that, you have to go back to the fiasco over trying to allow pocket knives on places.
We know that some of you will ignore our advice and spend today and tomorrow traveling long distances. You'll go to airports, wait in security, and get filmed by news crews with grumpy looks on your faces. There's not much we can do about that.
If it makes you feel any better though, you should know that a lot of the security that's holding you up is totally useless. So at least there's that. Last week we covered how and why the TSA's behavior screening program - which brings security to you in line, rather than waiting for you to come to security - is statistically useless. This week comes news that all of the x-rays and scans people go through might be kind of silly, since it's possible to build an array of deadly weapons with products you buy past the terminal.