What, might you wonder, do Citigroup and the Air Transport Association, the major airlines' trade organization, have in common? They both have big Washington operations (ATA is based there) because of the importance of getting their message across to Congress and the administration. And now ATA has a new president and CEO, Nick Calio, who was running Citigroup's lobbying organization. Calio worked in the White House as congressional liasion to both former presidents Bush and is well known for getting along with Republicans and Democrats alike. Read more about the ATA board's decision to hire him here.
Perhaps you thought this was already the case, but only now are all airline passengers on flights to, from or within the United States being checked to see if they are on security watchlists. Before, airlines were doing the checking and just for domestic flights. The TSA made an announcement about the changes yesterday in Washington. Read more about what has changed here.
You may have heard enough about the TSA's new passenger screening techniques, given the way so much of the media seemed to have nothing else to focus on last week. But one of the more outspoken (and highly knowledgeable) aviation consultants, Mike Boyd, went to great lengths on his Boyd Group International Web site yesterday to chastise the government agency for being worried about the wrong things. As I've mentioned in posts before, isn't much of our airport "security" an effort to deal with failed efforts by would-be terrorists in the past (shoe and underwear bombers) and less about anticipating what might be tried next? Find Mr. Boyd's colorful and intelligent ranting at this link.
In another development, frequent business travelers who voluntarily provide their opinions on many topics to USA Today don't like the techniques either. More on that can be found here.
The Zagat's travel guides are enormously popular, largely because they reflect the opinions of actual travelers, not so-called experts such as those who have blogs and other platforms. Zagat's airlne rankings for the year came out last week, with more than 8,000 readers participating, and Southwest again placed first in several categories. JetBlue, Continental, Virgin America and Singapore also did well. Read more about which airlines won in various categories, and look at the end of this story for a link to all the results.
The world remains atwitter today over TSA, its airport screening techniques and its overall competency in keeping us protected from whatever it is we're supposed to be afraid of. Wherever you go on the Web, you can find more articles, opinions and satire about what passengers (some of them, occasionally and at only one checkpoint at PHL, Terminal F) are going through. Here's a roundup of some of what popped up on my screen in the last few hours.
I like Gawker.com's take on a child finding a loaded ammunition magazine in the seatback pocket of a Southwest jet. According to this story, they're still looking for the federal law-enforcement officer who apparently had permission to take it on the plane (did he have permission to leave it, too?). You will find links at the site to some of the other bizarre stories that the TSA airport checkpoint procedures have produced.
The Inquirer gave a frontpage free ride to a Bucks County Libertarian activist who started one of the anti-TSA Web sites. His poltiical affiliation isn't in the story but is in a comment from a reader who outs him. From a different poltical perspective, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson says let's give the TSA a break for doing what the Bush and Obama administrations, apparently with substantial public support, asked it to do on airport security
A third group of Delta Air Lines employees has rejected membership in a union. Read more about it here.
It's been noted here before, and will again: PHL is no longer notorious for long and multiple flight delays, especially around holidays. If you're flying to other major airports this week, you may want to look at this list from FlightStats.com of airports with the best and worst delay records over the last three years during the Thanksgiving weekend. As you will note, PHL isn't on the list, so happy flying!
That headline isn't meant to diminish the seriousness of the TSA's new airport screening methods for airline passengers. It's just that most of you, the experienced and savvy travelers that you are, have probably heard enough and have decided what you think. The other electronic media (not the 'Net) that folks of my generation use a lot (known as network television) has and will continue to be all over this story. Hey, it's Thanksgiving week, there's less other news breaking out, and TV always has covered air travel topics well, given that they provide good video. So what did you expect? This is actually a very serious topic that we should be talking about. Here's the latest from ABC News, a good thorough report covering many angles and opinions.
UPDATE: Locally, the Inquirer reports on a protest of the screening prcedure planned for Wednesday evening PHL. Actually, Tuesday would be a better day because the airlines say it has become an even heavier travel day than the day before Thanksgiving.