Travelers' Aid: Air Travel Update (10/19/2001)
Rudy: I don't know if you'll be two-stepping it through security for a while, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the wait. Mostly common sense stuff, like fly on Saturdays, in the early morning, or late evening.
Diana: What about airports? Not that many of us have much of a choice, depending on where we live, but are there any airports that are better than another when it comes to getting in and out quickly, but safely?
Rudy: Travelocity.com recently conducted a survey, polling people who had booked travel between September 12 and October 2. Travelers ranked airports in order of the longest wait times. According to the survey, Baltimore/Washington has the worst wait time, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they had to wait longer than 60 minutes. Number two - again this is in order of worst waiting time - is San Francisco, followed by Denver. LAX took 4th place for the longest wait.
According to the survey, Detroit ranked number three for waits under thirty minutes. Indianapolis comes in at number two. And the number one airport for shortest wait, according to the travelocity.com customer survey was Houston Intercontinental.
Diana: Leave it to those Texans. Okay, so we have reduced our waiting, but I'm still concerned about security. What's the latest? Rudy: There's talk about instituting a National Travel Card System. It's an ID that would be more detailed than a driver's license or passport. The card could contain encrypted information including the traveler's photograph, fingerprints, flight history and facial or retinal (eye) characteristics. It would be a voluntary program but the incentive is avoiding extensive luggage searches. 71 percent of the flying public say they'd participate, according to the travelocity.com survey.
Diana: Okay, so I've been hearing a lot about x-raying baggage and matching luggage up with passengers. How are airlines doing with keeping up with the new federal regulations?
Rudy: Not too well. According to the Department of Transportation Inspector General, airlines are not complying with government orders to scan check baggage for bombs. In checks of 7 of the nations 20 highest-risk airports over the past week, the DOT found widespread non-compliance to run all bags through sophisticated bomb detention machines. The FAA spent $441 million on these high tech machines, that have the capacity of screening 150 bags an hour. Airports continue to scan bags selectively, X-raying only about 350 bags a day.
Diana: WHY???!!! Is it because of money?
Rudy: A recent study showed that checking all bags would not increase costs, but many within the industry would debate you on that one. Mainly, airlines are afraid that customers won't put up with the inconvenience.
Diana: I'd be willing to wait a little longer, if it's going to be safer.
Rudy: That same study even showed that the wait time would not increase, but again, the airlines will argue on this point too.
Here's more security news: Mesa Air Group recently announced that it would begin training it's pilots to carry non-lethal taser weapons in the cockpit in coordination with the FAA. Additionally, the airlines are getting ahead on installing reinforced cockpit doors. United Airlines has installed reinforced cockpit Doors on about 450 planes - about 75 percent of its fleet - and plans to finish installing the doors on their entire fleet by this weekend.
European civil aircraft maker Airbus is offering reinforced cockpit doors to fit to aircraft already flying in airline fleets, it said on Wednesday. Airbus was imposing no charge for the design of the doors, which airlines could cheaply manufacture themselves or buy from Airbus for a few thousand dollars.
Diana: Things seem to be moving along in the nations airports and on airlines, albiet slowly.
Rudy: Be expecting waits for a while. And lets hope that the airlines will get their act together on matching up luggage with passengers and screening baggage...
If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or, you can snail-mail them in. The address is The Savvy Traveler, in care of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.
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