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You can avoid long security lines. Photo from TSA.

You can avoid long security lines. Photo from TSA.

As airport security lines snaked around airports like giant boa constrictors threatening to strangle passengers trying to reach their gates this spring — with waits of an hour or more in some locations, and thousands of flights missed — my wife, Catharine, and I were generally able to waltz through security in under five minutes.

In most cases, we didn’t have to take off our shoes, belts, or light jackets, and sometimes I didn’t have to remove my laptop from my briefcase. We also didn’t have to go through those infernal body scanners that require you to remove even non-metal objects from your pockets; instead, we walked through simple metal detectors.

No, we’re not airline employees, or VIPs, or anything other than ordinary travelers. We weren’t flying first class or boasting elite status with the airlines. None of our relatives… Continue reading

Security lines at LAX (Los Angeles International) stretch almost to Anaheim. Photo by Tara Lee Tarkington on twitter.

Security lines at LAX (Los Angeles International) stretch almost to Anaheim. Photo by Tara Lee Tarkington on twitter.

With airport security lines sometimes crawling to an hour’s wait or longer, flying this summer threatens to become even more of a nightmare.

Some air travelers stuck in the seemingly interminable lines have missed their flights, while others have had to scramble to make theirs, adding to the existing stress of overcrowded planes, cramped seating, and scant legroom for most passengers.

While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently beefing up its numbers — especially in bomb-sniffing dogs — the TSA remains understaffed and bags and people still have to be screened.

There’s at least one obvious fix. TSA Pre-Check — which allows pre-screened travelers to pass through separate, faster lines and less intrusive X-ray machines without having to remove their shoes, belts, light jackets and (sometimes) their laptops… Continue reading

You could avoid this next time you fly.

You could avoid this next time you fly.

If you were stuck in a long line at airport security in the New Orleans airport last week at 6 a.m., which looked to be a half hour wait at least (perhaps while your flight was on the verge of boarding), you may have noticed a few people waltzing ahead of you in a special line that had virtually no one else in it.

When they reached the security area, they didn’t have to take off their shoes, their belts, their jackets or remove their laptops or their plastic bags with small bottles of liquids in them from their carry-ons.

And they weren’t airline captains or crew members.

Rather, they were my wife and me and a few others deemed “Known Travelers” who gained entrance through the “TSA Pre-Check (Pre√)” line.

If you aren’t aware of this program, and you fly more… Continue reading

New York's LaGuardia Airport -- sometimes saving money just isn't worth it.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport — sometimes saving money just isn’t worth it.

Booking airplane flights these days is one of the most confusing and potentially aggravating of all travel activities, which is why a lot of folks just leave it to travel agents.

But since I can do it myself online, I do. Just like millions of other passengers — including lots of baby boomers — I like the sense of control.

But how much control do we really have? Dotcom sites like kayak, skyscanner, priceline, hotwire, Expedia, Orbitz, CheapoAir, etc. etc. will all give you a range of prices, but they’re only good for that particular time — they can change (often drastically) day by day, hour by hour, even minute by minute.

Sometimes you find a great fare only to learn a few minutes later that it’s sold out — but wouldn’t you like to book this other… Continue reading

mericans fly across country to share this meal, creating chaos and lost change at airports.

Americans fly across country to share this meal, creating chaos and lost change at airports.


Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers!

The fourth Thursday in November is the day Americans traditionally stuff themselves with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, some kind of token green vegetable, and pumpkin pie.

It also leads to the busiest travel days of the year as families and friends reunite from the far corners of he country, usually by auto or air, resulting in traffic jams on the roads and in the sky.

With airports jammed and bad weather often leading to delays and frayed nerves, security lines and procedures enforced by the federal Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) cause travelers — baby boomers and other generations alike — to sometimes lose their cool along with — well, the spare change they have to empty from their pockets.

According to a story in the… Continue reading

In what may be the worst potential development in flying since airlines started charging for everything from checked luggage to checkered food service, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has announced that airlines may soon be permitted to allow passengers to make cell phone calls during flights.

Please tell me that this is a nightmare from which I shall soon awake — because it may mean I’ll never get another moment’s rest on a plane (they’re hard enough to get as it is).

Just what I want to hear at 30,000 feet: the taxing trials and tribulations — or for that matter the often trivial triumphs — of the stranger seated next to me, snug as we are already in the ever-tighter, crowded cabins. With no escape.

My noise-cancelling headphones should help, but somehow cell-phone conversations seem to permeate even those. And I can’t blast music into my ears while trying… Continue reading

Spirit interior cabin -- photo by Spirit Airlines

Spirit interior cabin — photo by Spirit Airlines

Interesting piece in today’s New York Times on the marketing approach employed by cut-rate Spirit Airlines. They’ve traded in customer service and comforts for low fares, and are charging extra for everything from rolling carry-on bags ($35-$50) to water ($3 a bottle) and more. Can pay toilets be far behind?

Meanwhile, Spirit’s on-time arrivals record is well below the industry average, there are no onboard movies or Wi-Fi, and seats are crammed in, offering less legroom even than the already legroom-deprived other airlines do. What’s more, the seats don’t recline – which, considering that someone reclining a seat in front of you may end up in your lap in these sardine-can conditions, may be a good thing.

So far the approach seems to be working. Spirit’s profits are growing, stock prices are up, and a fleet of new planes is planned for… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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