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You're a non-union employee responsible for some security at an airport, and you're trying to win public support on a controversy involving, first, your immediate working conditions and, second, your broad campaign to unionize. You need to walk the fine political line between asserting your rights and showing that you can be responsible. So what do you do?
If you're about 100 workers at JFK Terminal 3, apparently you vote to strike over the holidays starting December 20. You do this while your union supporters proudly retweet stories about disrupting family holiday plans. We're not experts in the travel industry or in public campaigning or anything, but it doesn't seem like they've thought their brilliant plan all the way through.
As we have repeatedly confirmed and often mention, and with the exception of the "overweight passengers in seats" screaming match, there is absolutely nothing that gets travelers riled up like the "kids on airplanes" debate.
Of the many reasons we have an entire travel with children category, there's the plain fact that everyone has an opinionand almost always a strong oneabout the controversy. Either you have to do it and you don't understand why people won't make allowances for you and your children, or you loathe traveler parents and can't stand the little crotch flowers they drag along with them. There are enough people in the latter group that Malaysia Airlines has evaluated the market and started banning children from huge sections of their airplanes.
It's not just that London's Heathrow airport sucks, although of course it very much sucks. The runways are inadequate, the facilities are derelict, and the passport control queues in the world's self-declared "most cosmopolitan capital evuh" rival Soviet Union bread lines. BAA has been unable or unwilling to fix LHR's most visible problems and British tabloids, in their inimitable style, have taken to endlessly shredding airport officials. "Heathrow Hell" gets over 9,000 Google hits.
But the point about Heathrow is that when things go wrong they go spectacularly wrong, to the point where you almost have to marvel at the combination of aggressive incompetence, bureaucratic malaise, and sheer bad luck. We still remember how in 2010 Bulgaria had to send rescue planes to Heathrow to pick up their snowed-in citizens, as if London was some kind of Third World war zone.
LHR / CDG / LOS / London / London Travel / Paris / Paris Travel / Britain / Britain Travel / France / France Travel / Nigeria / Nigeria Travel / Airport Hell / → All Tags
There's something jarring about partaking in the miracle of heavier-than-air flight, of literally dining in a chair in the sky as you fly across an ocean, and then - upon arriving at your destination in mere hours - having to stand in some horrible airport's interminable passport control line. Really? We can build commercial jets that break the sound barrier but we can't figure out how to efficiently stamp people's passports?
Here's a list of three of the worst wait time offenders. We're hoping that - all other options having been exhausted - maybe sustained public shaming will get through to them. Two are in so-called Alpha++ and Alpha+ global cities, so you'd think they'd try something now and again, and one is in West Africa, because we just can't get over how bad it is.
Travel Alerts / Airport News / Airport Hell / Immigration / LHR / London Travel / Strikes / → All Tags
If you have had the
displeasure of traveling through London-Heathrow, you understand that long lines to get your passport stamped is a very common occurrence. Airport officials are well aware of the impact this will have on this summer's Olympic games and have taken steps to reduce the headaches.
For the sake of easing traveler frustration, the debate on how to reduce waiting time through immigration continues, and, frankly, hasn't resulted in much progress toward a solution. All of these debates will cause the ultimate airport hell: a strike.
The Jauntys / Jaunted Awards 2011 / Travel Awards 2011 / TSA / Airport Hell / Airport Security / → All Tags
It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2011 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics, encompassing everything from nudie scans to tarmac delays. Needless to say, we're ready for 2012, but first we're taking a brief look back at the best of 2011 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,or as we fondly refer to themThe Jauntys.
We let the TSA off the hook as 2011's Biggest Travel Villainthe agency finished as a runner-up after dominating the category in 2009 and 2010but obviously they were going to make at least a couple more appearances this year.
TSA's airport security officers are, after all, responsible for the vast majority of airport hell stories (especially when you take out first-world complaints like "the plane was stuck on the tarmac for 25 extra minutes and it was the worst. thing. ever").
But as much as there are genuine concerns about TSA and civil liberties; and TSA and individual privacy; and TSA and private property; and TSA and outright criminal behavior; and TSA and surreal douchebaggeryas much as there are genuine problems in all of those areas, the vast majority of TSA officials and officers and even politicians aren't bad. It's just that so many of them are kind of bumbling and incompetent, and unfortunately they've been put in charge of a task that requires precision and competence.
So when we were choosing 2011's Worst TSA Tale, we looked for something that accurately represented the essence of TSA. Which is to say, borderline-comic incompetence.
Airport Hell / Airports / Airport News / Tenzing-Hillary Airport / LUA / Dangerous Travel / Asia Travel / Nepal Travel / → All Tags
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, a small, beautiful airport better known as Lukla and nestled into the mountains of eastern Nepal, is notable for a few things. First, it really is kind of pretty. Check out the full panoramic shot here. Second, it's where most people start their hikes up Mount Everest. Neat! Thirdand as we've warned you over and over againit's arguably the world's sketchiest airport, and is actually kind of a death trap. Last October saw another crash that killed everyone aboard, and then in December a plane ran into a wall after losing its brakes.
Now that you have a mental picture of what the facilities are probably like, imagine being trapped there with no way out, like the 140 international tourists who have been there since last week. Hollywood makes horror movies that start like this.
Travel Rants / Politics / Airlines / Airline Industry / Airport Hell / JFK / Congress / → All Tags
You've watched us move on tarmac regulations from reserved enthusiasm through deep skepticism to outright disdain. We've been predicting unintended consequences for months, and we elevated our forecast to "complete crapshow" last May when we had our first personal brush with Congress's new three hour rule, which imposes on airlines $27,500 per passenger left on the tarmac over three hours.
Now that we've had another run-in with the law, we can report very graphically on how these kind of misguided regulations play out. Specifically, they play out with us spending a night at JFK, and creating a total security breakdown along the way.
Britain Travel / Airports / Airline Industry / LHR / STN / London Stansted / Airline Strikes / Airport Hell / → All Tags
The last Monday of August is a Bank Holiday in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and roughly a million Brits accordingly use the extended weekend to vacation out of the country. If the BAA employees at London-Heathrow, London-Stansted, Glasgow, Southampton, Edinburgh and Aberdeen make good on their threat to walk out, the loss of firefighters and security staff would force the airports to close, functionally stranding anyone who wants to get in or out of Britain (with the exception of London-Gatwick, London-City airports).
When British Airways employees tried this stunt last year they got slapped down by a judge, because timing your strike to wreck the UK economy violates British fair play or something. Nice to see that the Unite union, which represents both the BA employees and the airport employees who are threatening to strike at the end of the month, is willing to trot out the same routine again. To their friends and family it probably demonstrates admirable spunk. To the rest of the UK, to anyone who needs to fly through the UK, and to anyone at any airport anywhere in the world that will be affected by UK cancellations, it's just obnoxious.
Airport Security / TSA / Airport Hell / Delays / Airport News / Singapore Travel / SIN / Security / → All Tags
We've long since given up any hope that TSA will adjust their seemingly arbitrary and often moronic carry-on confiscation rules. You'd think that the knowledge that they're uselessly defending us tomorrow from yesterday's attack, coupled with the realization that scrutinizing lotion bottles is causing them to sometimes miss upwards of 90% of hidden weapons, would change their focus.
Instead they just announced that summer travel is going to be hell because they don't have enough staff to juggle all their new useless scanners and all of the bags that need to be hand-search for orange juice or whatever.
Which brings us to the experiment being run at Singapore's Terminal 1. SIN and the Singapore Post have launched a two-month pilot project to deliver potentially confiscated goods back to people's homes or ahead to their destinations. Dubbed Speedpost@Changi, the joint service is targeted at people who unknowingly try to carry valuable contraband items through checkpoints.
Travel Tips / Delays / Weather / Airport Hell / Airplane Hell / Lists / → All Tags
The storm of last weekend, which brought winds of over 60 mph and driving rain so bad that it stung your face, cancelled and delayed more flights than we care to know. For some, like our friends waylaid at DTW with a 2-day delay, they were lucky in only having to spend three hours onboard the plane before being cancelled. But flights like Virgin America's ''16-hour Flightmare" weren't nearly as lucky, and found themselves stranded on the tarmac at unfamiliar airports, rationing Pringles and water.
The winter may be mostly over, but the storms of spring are only now on their way in. So to save you from starvation and frustration, we've prepared this guide to the Top 5 Easiest Ways to Survive a Tarmac Delay.
Check it out, after the jump!
Airport Hell / Weather / DTW / Delta / LGA / Delays / Reader Rants / → All Tags
This last weekend, while the East Coast suffered under hurricane-force winds and rain coming down so bad and so hard that it stung your face, many flights were delayed or cancelled, and a few airports closed down fully. One of the first airports to close was New York-LaGuardia, which called off all flights from the late afternoon on Saturday, just about the time that our friends were flying on Delta from Detroit-Metro to LaGuardia.
Two hours into their flight and thus only a half hour away from LGA, the airport closed and their flights turned around to head back to DTW. Then, back at the tarmac at DTW, they faced the stress of rebooking for another flight, while their checked luggage (one bag, $23 checked fee paid online) caught the first flight out the next day. They waited for 3.5 hours in switchbacked lines to rebook their flight, and the first they could get was two days laterMonday morning. And a two-day delayed flight wasn't the only surprise of the experience, as we heard from their account of the ordeal at Detroit Airport:
Insanity! Chaos! Toiletry kits! After the jump...