TSA To Allow Small Knives Back On Planes
These next few words may come as a shock: Starting April 25th, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to bring small knives on airplanes for the first time since the September 11th attacks in 2001. Not just any knives are included, only those that measure less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide—box cutters and razor blades are still not allowed to be packed in carry-on bags. The new move also allows previously forbidden sports equipment items like golf clubs (up to two per person), wiffle-ball bats, ski poles, lacrosse sticks, hockey sticks, and billiard cues to be taken onboard as carry-on items.
In short, the TSA believes this would be a more efficient way for agents to focus more on locating explosives and other dangerous devices in passenger carry-on bags and spend less time searching for tiny pocket knives during the security line process. According to this article by CNN, the Air Line Pilots Association appears to be onboard with the switch, adding that it will bring U.S. security measures up to par with those of the international community. So far, the response from flight attendants and air marshals has not been as optimistic. Head of the air marshal department of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association George Randall Taylor told CNN, "It's as if we didn't learn anything from 9/11. Flight attendants are going to be sitting ducks." He is not a fan of the announcement and said he has received more than one hundred calls from other air marshals who are upset by the decision. Flight attendants are also concerned when it comes to their cabin safety. In an interview with Today, flight attendant Sara Nelson explained how less flight attendants, unruly passengers, and now, small knives, could be a dangerous combination. She added that putting potential weapons within arm's reach unnecessarily puts both flight attendants and other passengers at risk should anything get out of hand.
Personally, I have to agree with the flight attendants on this one. While you probably wouldn't be able to do much damage with a 2.36 inch knife, it still seems like you could do enough damage to disrupt the flight and potentially risk the well-being of the other passengers. The TSA doesn't always get things right either, so who says a slightly longer or wider knife wouldn't accidentally find its way into the cabin? In my humble opinion, the fact that knives played a part in the terrorist attacks at all should be reason enough to keep things as they are, even if it is a minor inconvenience (you can still pack other, larger knives in your checked baggage, after all). Frankly, if the TSA really wanted to cut time at security lines, wouldn't nixing the whole shoe removal process be more time efficient for everyone?
What do you think about all this? Is the TSA right to allow small, seemingly harmless knives back onto airplanes, or have they gone too far? Sound off below!
Study Finds Airline Fees Changed More Than 50 Times Last Year
If you've bought a plane ticket any time recently, you know all about the fees. How much is it to check a bag? Get more legroom? It all gets a little confusing. Thankfully the number crunchers over at TravelNerd did a full analysis and the findings were fascinating (hat tip to Travel Weekly for reporting on this). TravelNerd's study found that airlines made 52 changes to their fees in 2012, breaking down to 28 baggage fees, 19 service fees, and five in-flight fees. Low-cost carriers Spirit and Allegiant were responsible for 18 of the changes (including Spirit's crazy $100 carry-on fee). The surprising thing was that only 36 of the fee changes were increases, and most were in the $5 to $10 range. One big decrease came from United, which significantly lowered their fees for overweight bags (from $200 to $100 for bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds and from $400 to $200 for bags weighing 71 to 100 pounds). Moral of the story, if you have a lot of baggage, fly United. If you are just as confused by all these fees as we are, check out TraveNerd's airline fees comparison and search tool. You can select which services you will think you'll need (checking bags, bringing a pet, etc) and the site tells you what those fees are from different airlines. You can also select a specific airline at the beginning and get a breakdown of the fees you can expect. It doesn't take away the annoyance of paying $60 to check two bags, but at least there will be no surprises when you get to the airport.
Delta and Starwood Combine Forces
With so much competition, airlines and hotels have had to get creative to keep customers coming back. So it makes sense that an airline and a hotel group would band together to foster loyalty to both. Starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elite and Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will get Crossover Rewards, which means both miles and points when you book flights or hotel rooms. More specifically, Delta Medallion members earn one mile per dollar when staying at a Starwood hotel, plus the Starpoints. They will also get perks like priority check-in, late checkout, and that all-important free internet access. And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who fly Delta get a free checked bag and priority check-in and boarding, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent on top of the usual miles. To join the program, register your accounts through either Delta SkyMiles or Starwood Preferred Guest. What do you think of these programs? Would they keep you loyal, or do you always go with the lowest price, no matter what?
Study Ranks Best and Worst Airports in the U.S.
Nonstop flights are always the best option, but sometimes you can't avoid making a stop along the way. So which are the best airports for connections? Travel Leaders Group asked hundreds of travel agents which airports they use-and avoid-for their clients, and here's what they had to say. More than 40 percent of the responding agents chose Atlanta as the hub they prefer, with Charlotte and Dallas/Ft. Worth coming in second and third. Atlanta wasn't every agent's favorite airport, though. It also ranked third on the list of least-favorite airports, behind Chicago's O'Hare and New York's JFK. But if you do get stuck in Atlanta, take solace in the fact that the airport came out on top for amenities and restaurant options (don't miss the excellent One Flew South). Minneapolis/St. Paul and O'Hare were also tops for amenities and dining options. Is there an airport you avoid at all costs? Let us know in the comments!
Airports Are Being Stripped of Controversial Scanners
When body image scanners made their way into airports in 2010, travelers raised concerns over privacy violations and radiation exposure. Now, three years later, those scanners are being removed from airports around the country. According to an article in Bloomberg, the reason behind the removal is that OSI Systems, who manufactures the machines, has not been able to meet a congressional deadline to make the produced images less revealing. The company reported that it wouldn't be able to perfect the technology until 2014, and the TSA chose to void the $5 million contract. The 174 machines now in use will be taken out of airports and used at other government agencies. There will still be some body scanners in use, though. The Bloomberg article states that the TSA will continue use 60 machines manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings. These machines use radio frequencies (instead of the X-ray radiation used by the OSI Systems machines) and have been producing less revealing images since 2011. What do you think? Are you happy to see the machines being taken out of service?