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Locked and Loaded, the TSA Is Ready to Serve You This Weekend

Don't let the chaos in Europe get you down—it's god, not man, getting in the way of smooth travel. Stateside, the Transportation Security Administration is fully prepared for the holiday crush. At least that's what they told our friends at AOL:

"We have coordinated staffing and are committed to maintaining the flow of passenger traffic while properly screening travelers as they move through the security checkpoints," spokesman Nicholas Kimball tells AOL Travel News.

"As we always do during the holiday season, TSA will deploy additional risk-based security measures based on the latest intelligence and continue to work with our international, federal, state, local and private sector partners across the nation to protect the American people," he says.

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Oops: TSA Screeners Missed Loaded Gun (but Probably Found Those Nailclippers)

If this story is any indication, the TSA's airport screeners should spend less time looking out for attractive women and more time watching the x-ray screens. AOL Travel has the story of a loaded gun that flew the friendly skies:

A Houston businessman has a cautionary tale for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) authorities just in time for the busy holiday travel season. Iranian-American Farid Seif says last year he boarded a Continental Airlines flight with a loaded handgun in his carry-on.

Seif says he passed through security at Houston's Bust Intercontinental Airport during last year's holiday season without realizing he had forgotten to unpack the gun – a loaded snub nose Glock pistol – in his empty computer bag.

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TSA to Passengers: Radiation or Groping?

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How would you like a tough-love security pat-down so thorough it would shame the most inveterate serial groper in the Tokyo subway system? No? Then how about a full-body backscatter X-ray that amounts to a virtual strip search (or as Stephen Colbert said, "that X-rays your X-rated parts")? If you're troubled by either option, voice your opinion in the new Your Travel Voice survey, sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.

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What Part of 'Fasten Your Seat Belts' Don't You Understand?

Eighteen passengers on a Vietnam Airline flight from Hanoi to Paris were injured this morning when their plane encountered severe air turbulence, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane later landed safely at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and none of the injuries were thought to be serious.

But here's the interesting part: according to the story, these passengers—excuse me while I crank up the old caps lock and put the italics in gear—WEREN'T WEARING SEAT BELTS.

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ACLU Sues Feds To Stop Border Searches of Non-Suspicious Laptops

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's right to search the contents of laptop computers at border crossings when the owner is not suspected of criminal activity. According to the ACLU, more than 6,500 electronic devices were seized and their contents examined at U.S. border crossings between October 8, 2008, and June 2, 2010. Nearly half of those seizures were made against American citizens.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old graduate student who holds dual U.S. and French citizenship. Returning to his New York home by train from Montreal, Abidor was interrogated and detained by U.S. border guards. His laptop computer was taken from him; when it was finally returned 11 days later, according to the lawsuit, there was evidence that authorities had searched his personal files, including online chats with his girlfriend. No charges were ever leveled.

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Three Kids Fly Southwest Without Parental Permission, Without I.D., Paying Cash for One-Way Tickets

How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.

The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.

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Annoyances Mount Over the Body Scanner

New York Times |  You may think of this as the summer of the heat wave. I prefer to think of it as the summer of the body scanner.

Transportation Security Administration buys these machines and installs them at more and more airport checkpoints, a lot of travelers are having their initial encounters with them. And while I hear from large numbers of readers who hate the idea, it’s becoming increasingly clear that body scanners will soon be a standard part of the air travel experience.

Today, 142 body scanners are in use at 41 airports, and the security administration says it will have more than 450 installed by the end of the year.

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Airline Complaints? The D.O.T. Wants to Hear from You

The Washington Post |  Tell the government what you think of its proposed new passenger rights rules. You can do it right now, thanks to a new project called Regulation Room.

There's a lot to comment about. The rules cover everything from tarmac delays to peanuts. If adopted, they could change the way Americans fly more than any single regulation since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.

Administrative rulemaking, for those of you who snoozed through your civics class, is the process by which agencies adopt regulations that have the force of law. In this case, it's the Department of Transportation making the rules. The agency is at a critical step during which the traveling public vets these important regulations.

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Senate Confirms John Pistole as Head of TSA

Washington (CNN) | The Senate confirmed Deputy FBI Director John Pistole as head of the Transportation Security Administration on Friday, ending a lengthy search process in which two previous nominees withdrew from consideration.

Pistole's nomination was approved by unanimous consent.

Pistole received praise for his law enforcement experience from both Democrats and Republicans during the confirmation process. His hearings were instead dominated by politically polarizing labor issues—specifically whether airport screeners should be allowed to unionize. The controversy had resulted in a GOP senator—Jim DeMint of South Carolina—placing a hold on an earlier TSA nominee.

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U.S. Changing Way Air Travelers are Screened

201003-b-security-istockjpgThe Washington Post |  The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence.

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Photo courtesy of iStock

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