TSA Workers Are Moving to the Southwest Border. Will Airport Security Be Affected?
CNN reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to send up to 175 law enforcement officials and up to “400 people from Security Ops” to the Southwest border to assist with immigration duties, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.
TSA May Face Depleted Resources
According to the CNN report, TSA acknowledges that the “immediate need” at the border presents “some risk” of depleted aviation security. The effort will not involve TSA’s airport screeners—the most visible part of the TSA’s daily activities—but will involve employees who work in behind-the-scenes security roles, including monitoring airport security lines, conducting airport sweeps, and working with local and state law enforcement officials.
Will Your Travel Experience Be Affected?
Because the move of TSA workers to the border will not initially involve uniformed screeners, chances are most travelers will not immediately experience longer lines or wait times at airport security. However, the effect on behind-the-scenes security initiatives—arguably as crucial to TSA’s mission as routine screening—remains to be seen.
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Security Lines Are About to Get Shorter for US Passengers
Ninety-four per cent of people in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck lanes clear the scanners in under five minutes, and now even more passengers are set to benefit from the agency’s expedited screening program. On Monday, the TSA added five international airlines to its roster of participating carriers: Austrian Airlines, Canada’s Swoop, PAL Express (Philippines Airlines), and the Mexico-based Viva Aerobus and Interjet. Letting pre-approved fliers skip through security lines without the hassles of separating out their liquids, taking off their shoes, or pulling out their laptops, PreCheck is available for passengers on 72 domestic and international airlines, provided they’re US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who’ve gotten the all-clear. (Members of the US Armed Forces are also eligible.) After being fingerprinted and passing a background check and an in-person interview, applicants pay US$85 for a five-year membership, gaining access to express lines on US departures and domestic connections after US returns. (For smoother reentry from overseas, Global Entry costs a little bit more, but it streamlines the customs process and includes PreCheck benefits, while SENTRI and NEXUS cover the Mexican and Canadian borders.) With some 2.2 million passengers and crew members passing through TSA checkpoints daily, the agency recommends travelers arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international—time that could be better spent on the ground, enjoying a destination, rather than waiting on line. Of course, PreCheck doesn’t completely guarantee expedited service either (the agency reserves the right to implement additional screening measures), but for many frequent fliers, the likelihood of an easier airport experience is worth the risk. To learn more and to apply, visit tsa.gov.
New rules could see emotional support animals banned from flights
In a notice of proposed rulemaking issued on 22nd January, the department announced its intention to limit the definition of a service animal to a dog “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The amendment would also recognize ESAs as pets rather than service animals, effectively letting airlines ban them from the cabin, allow carriers to require documentation on the animal’s training and behavior, set limits on the number of service animals permitted per person, require an earlier check-in for passengers traveling with ESAs, and clarify breed restrictions. USA Today reports that the department said “it was not prohibiting airlines from allowing passengers to fly with emotional support animals. However, it would no longer require them to do so if the proposed rule becomes final.” ESAs continue to be a hotly debated topic in the wake of multiple incidents involving animal misbehavior, with airlines claiming travelers are trying to work around the rules by claiming their pets to be emotional support animals, and disability groups calling the potential regulations unnecessarily restrictive. “These proposals will make it much harder for people with disabilities to travel,” the National Disability Rights Network’s executive director Curt Decker said in a statement. “We acknowledge that some people have misrepresented themselves and their pets as people with disabilities with service or emotional support animals. But it is rare. These proposals are a vast overreaction to an uncommon problem... Requiring additional documentation and attestation, and imposing additional costs on passengers with disabilities, is overly burdensome and discriminatory.” The Department of Transportation is soliciting public comment on the proposal for the next 60 days. Visit regulations.gov to submit your opinion. This article first appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
The founder of JetBlue is launching the “nicest airline in the world”
There’s no doubt about it, air travel can be stressful, and in recent times, videos and news reports have surfaced that tell tales of the worst sides of people coming out, whether its instances of companies treating passengers unfairly or arguments between flyers erupting mid-flight. What’s the remedy? Trying to inject some friendliness back into the industry again. One new company has announced that it’s on that very mission; to be the nicest airline in the world. Conceived by David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, Azul Airways, Morris Air and WestJet, Breeze Airways will seek to prioritise kindness and niceness when it comes to hiring employees, with the company saying that it values the trait as one of the most important criteria for its future vision. Formerly known as Moxy, the company is currently applying for its airline operating certificate with the Federal Aviation Administration and US Department of Transportation, and hopes to be flying by the end of 2020. “Breeze will fly non-stop service between places currently without meaningful or affordable service,” said Breeze’s CEO and president David Neeleman. “Twenty years ago, we brought humanity back to the airline industry with JetBlue. Today, we’re excited to introduce plans for ‘the World’s Nicest Airline’.” According to the company, Breeze aims to be the nicest airline in the world © Colin Anderson Productions Pty Ltd / Getty ImagesBreeze will begin by serving mid-sized US city pairs that currently have no non-stop services. The company has ordered sixty new Airbus A220 jets, with deliveries beginning in April 2021, and has leased thirty Embraer 195 aircrafts. The former is suited to nonstop flights between mid-size destinations, while the latter can connect smaller places more cost-effectively. The airline is currently advertising for a range of jobs online. This article originated on our partner site, Lonely Planet.
The US has announced a ban on travellers from Europe - so what does that mean?
The announcement of a United States travel ban for people who have been to most of Europe has caught many people by surprise. People walk through a sparse international departure terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) as concern over the coronavirus grows © Spencer Platt / Getty ImagesIn essence, if you’re not a “US passenger” – which mostly equals an American citizen or a US “lawful permanent resident” (see the exceptions below) – and you have been in the European countries in the Schengen Area in the prior 14 days, you can’t enter the US. In addition, it seems that US travellers who have been in the Schengen Area will be required to arrive via only select airports where extra health screenings have been set up. Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says that details of this will be available only in the next 48 hours. To start with, please understand that there is a lot of uncertainty about the situation. The US Department of Homeland Security (the part of the government that contains the Customs and Border Protection agency) says they’re working from the official written Presidential Proclamation, which is not fully in line with what was announced in the presidential TV address. Who is affected? Travellers who have been in the Schengen Area The travel ban covers some people who have been to countries within the Schengen Area — the common travel area in continental Europe where there are no internal border checks — which doesn’t exactly correspond to the European Union. A new ban on travel from Europe to the US has been announced © FatCamera / Getty ImagesThe Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Notably, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are part of Schengen but aren’t members of the EU. The small city-states of Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City aren’t part of Schengen but have in practice opened their borders given that they are entirely surrounded by France or Italy. It’s unclear how these nationals will be treated. Note also that five EU members aren’t part of Schengen: Ireland opted out and maintains a common zone with the UK (and the UK is now outside the EU and Schengen), while Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are looking to join Schengen but are not currently members. Again, it’s unclear how these nationals will be treated, especially with a growing outbreak in the UK. The “Schengen Ban” officially starts at 23h59 on Friday, 13 March, US eastern time, although there is a carve-out for flights that departed before that time. Who is affected? Mostly non-Americans, but with over dozen exceptions The proclamation acts “to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States”. Aliens, in this case, largely means “people who aren’t US citizens”, but there are exceptions for more than a dozen categories of people: • US permanent residents • spouses of US citizens or permanent residents • parents/guardians of US citizens or permanent residents if that US citizen or permanent resident is under 21 and not married • siblings of US citizens or permanent residents if both the sibling and US citizen or permanent resident are under 21 and not married • children of US citizens or permanent residents (including foster children and wards, and certain prospective adoptees) • if the US government has invited you to travel in order “for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus” • air or sea crew, or other non-immigrants travelling on C-1, D or C-1/D visas • members of the US armed forces, their spouses and children • several categories of diplomats and staff from international organisations like NATO and the UN There’s also an exception for a variety of people by approval of the US government, including: • any alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the CDC Director or his designee • any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee • any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees The full impact of the travel ban is unclear © Kiattisak Lamchan / EyeEm / Getty ImagesWhat does it mean for travellers? Overall, you’re considering travel and you are in a “might be affected” grey area — or even if you are not — the situation is quite difficult. In theory, your airline probably ought to reimburse you if you can't travel, but you will almost certainly need to be very persistent for that to happen. Your travel insurance may cover some of it, but again, it’s complicated and you’ll need a lot of time and effort. There’s a lot of “contact your airline” advice out there, and that’s good in theory, but expect call centres to be swamped, so try to do as much as you can online, via the airline’s app, and via social media. You may find it helpful to get an unlimited international calling plan if you’re going to be on the phone for hours and hours. Whether it’s airlines, airports, third-party security screening companies, US immigration officials, or a combination of all, administrating something like this consistently is enormously complicated. There is the potential for people who should, in theory, be allowed into the country, being denied boarding at overseas airports or being turned around on arrival in the US. You’ll need a lot of patience as everyone on both sides of the Atlantic works through these new rules. Currently, flights between the US and the UK and Ireland are still in operation. However, any travellers should stay up-to-date with information from their governments and airlines, as the situation is changing quickly and unexpectedly. The Republic of Ireland has just announced that the country could close its schools, colleges and cultural institutions until 29 March at the earliest, so the situation could change quickly. Keep up to date with Lonely Planet's latest travel-related COVID-19 news here. _____ This article first appeared on Lonely Planet, Budget Travel's parent company.