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Info-tainment at San Diego International Airport

Starting on July 4th, waiting on line at a security checkpoint at San Diego International Airport (SAN) will be a bit more entertaining.

The airport is rolling out a series of “info-tainment” videos featuring popular San Diego mascots offering tips to travelers about what can and cannot be taken through the checkpoints.

Look for the San Diego Zoo’s Bamboo Bear, Legoland’s Johnny Thunder, the San Diego Padres’ Friar, and Shamu from SeaWorld.

SAN isn’t the only airport to feature celebrity videos at the security checkpoints. In Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport partnered with the local Convention and Visitors Authority to create almost a dozen short videos featuring Las Vegas “luminaries” such as Wayne Newton, Rita Rudner, Carrot Top, magicians, aliens, and acrobats demonstrating the proper way to go through the security checkpoints. You don’t even need to be on line at the airport to see the videos: they’re on the airport’s website under Traveler Tips.

Trying again: rights for passengers stuck at the airport

Last week yet another piece of legislation was introduced in an effort to improve airline service and insure relief for passengers left stranded at airports in the United States. HR 6355 – or the Air Service Improvement Act of 2008 – was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar and aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello.

The bill would require airports and air carriers to create and file emergency contingency plans with the Secretary of Transportation.

Airport plans would need to include “a description of how the airport operator…will provide for the deplanement of passengers following excessive delays and will provide for the sharing of facilities and make gates available at the airport in an emergency.”

Airline plans would need to show how each carrier would allow passengers to deplane, share facilities in an emergency, and provide food, water, restroom facilities, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers on planes stuck on the ground for an extended period of time without access to the terminal.

You can read the full bill here.

Stuck at the airport? My tips in the Hartford Courant

Had a nice talk with Jesse Leavenworth, a reporter from the The Hartford Courant, a while back about my favorite topic – airports with great amenities – and see that his article has hit the paper.

I chatted with Leavenworth about some of my favorite airports to spend time in – including San Francisco International Airport - SFO (great art and food choices in the Int’l Terminal), Oregon’s Portland International Airport- PDX (great shops and no sales tax), and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (a casino, lots of art, on-site museum, and loads more).

Leavenworth was especially pleased to hear me praise Schiphol, because his paper’s hometown airport, Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (BDL) has a direct flight to Amsterdam. Oops.. not any more.. Northwest Airlines just announced that it is dropping that route as of October 2.

Bradley still has loads to offer, including a free parking coupon for folks who sign up for the airport’s frequent-parker program and free Wi-Fi for all.

Last time I went through BDL, they were still displaying something truly unusual: three patch-sized embroidered scenes created by Raymond Materson to honor the 1994 Special Olympics. Materson was in prison when he made the patches and unraveled his socks to get the colored thread to use in his artwork. Once out of prison, Materson kept sewing. His work is now highly prized and displayed in museums and in art galleries.

Materson is currently in his first major overseas exhibit at the Compton Verney Gallery in Warwkickshire, England. To celebrate, he made this portrait of Queen Victoria and was kind enough to let me share it with you.

Courtesy and copyright: Ray Materson

Daring man in his flying machine

What a thrill it would have been to be at Niagara Falls on this day back in 1911. That’s when 150,000 people watched aviation daredevil Lincoln J Beachey fly his Curtiss pusher biplane over Horseshoe Falls, underneath the steel International Bridge, and down the Niagara River gorge.

It was the first time someone had “pierced the mists of the great cataract and flirted with the deadly currents in the Gorge,” The New York Times wrote. “Thrilling,” declared Beachey, the stuntman Orville Wright called “the greatest aviator of them all,” and who was the first to perform the “loop the loop,” the first to fly upside down, and the first to fly inside a building.

All while dressed in a business suit.

Courtesy: U.S. Air Force Museum Archives

Summer refresher course for air travelers

Do higher fares, new baggage check fees, and the inevitable long lines at the security checkpoints have you dreading your next trip to the airport?

Maybe I can help: here’s a link to the Well-Mannered Traveler summer refresher course posted today on MSNBC.com. There’s even a chance to earn extra credit.


Column illustration by Duane Hoffman at MSNBC.com

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