Tag: Travel PoliticsView All Tags
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?
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.
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.
FAA / FCC / Cell Phones / Electronics Tavel / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / Technology / → All Tags
America's Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, created a system of government with multiple checks and balances. The idea was to prevent populist excesses and to slow down change, just in case lawmakers got carried away with a seemingly good idea and accidentally - in their own zeal - made the world a worse place to live. This is what they were talking about.
It took literally two years for the FAA to move from thinking about letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to writing a proposal letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to actually letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate. This was not exactly a rush across the finish line, in other words.
But now that there's some momentum, apparently the federal government - this time the FCC - thinks that everything involving flying and electronics should be up for grabs. Yesterday the agency floated the idea of letting passengers use cell pohnes above 10,000 feet.
TSA / Airline Security / Airport Security / Travel Journalism / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / → All Tags
Stories in travel journalism - in any kind of journalism, really - begin as news, then migrate over to commentary, and then eventually become meta-commentary. Sufficiently vicious and prominent meta-commentary gets treated as news, and thus does the circle of life turn.
So for instance, coverage of the recently published report on TSA's behavior profiling program began as news. More specifically, it began as news that the program spectacularly sucks. You'll remember this as the system that sought to supplement pat-downs with "chat-downs" in which screeners would ask you really specific questions and then guess - based on your reactions - if you were doing something suspicious. TSA called it Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques - SPOT - and they spent roughly one billion dollars on it. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office indicated that it works only "slightly better than chance." Opps.
Liquids Ban / TSA / LHR / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
In 2010, the TSA was actually putting up signs at security checkpoints promising that "future advances" in x-ray technology would let them play around with the restrictions on the amount of liquid travelers can carry on board planes.
Fast forward to 2013 and we still have liquids restrictions on U.S. flights. Meanwhile the EU regulations which were set to expire in 2013 are - wait for it - actually expiring. We don't know if the decision is deliberate or the result of laziness, but either way European airports will now let you carry shampoos onboard airplanes. Small victories, ladies and gentlemen, small victories.