Harriet Baskas

Hate extra airport pat-downs? TSA offering 1.5 million to fix the system

The extra pat-downs passengers often have to undergo at airport security checkpoints are not only irritating to those of us not interested in having our body parts touched by strangers in public, they make the lines go slower for everyone.

What triggers those secondary pat-downs? False alarms.

A high rate of those false alarms are triggered by expensive and, evidently, not too reliable, potential-threat algorithms the Transportation Security Administration purchases from the manufacturers of airport scanners.

In an effort to fix the problem TSA has put up $1.5 in prize money to see if someone else – maybe you? – can improve the accuracy of the threat prediction algorithms.

The contest, being run in partnership with Kaggle  will award eight prizes (1st prize: $500,000; 4th to 8th prize: $100,000) and to enter you’ll need to evaluate a set of body scans.

These are real body scans, from TSA volunteers, and the “images may contain sensitive content,” the rules explain. So contest participants are asked to “conduct yourself with professionalism, respect, and maturity when working with this data.”

Here are links to deadlines and more information. Good luck!

 

At one Italian airport pesto is exempt from liquid ban

Here’s a great – and tasty – airport amenity:

Italy’s Genoa airport has come up with great way to encourage – and allow – passengers to carry  jars of pesto in their carry-on bags, despite the ban on pastes and liquids that would normally cause those souvenirs to be forfeited.

Under the airport’s new Il Pesto è Buono (pesto is good) campaign, departing passengers may carry one or two jars of pesto in their carry-on bags on direct flights leaving the airport, but only if those bags have a “Il pesto è buono” sticker on them – which can be ‘purchased’ by making a donation of a least 50 cents a jar to a children’s charity called Flying Angels .

Here are some of the program’s rules for flying with pesto:

  • At the security checks, the passenger will have to extract the jars from the luggage and place them aside in the bowl, informing the security staff
  • The jars will be checked and then returned to the passenger
  • This process is only valid for jars containing “pesto genovese.”

An airport press officer told The Independent that the airport worked out the program with ENAC, Italy’s civil aviation authority, and chose pesto “Firstly because jars of pesto were among the most commonly confiscated objects at airport security, and also because pesto is the most famous food product of Genoa – it’s one of the symbols of the city, every Genoese family has their own recipe, and it’s one of the most famous sauces in the world.

This is definitely the airport amenity of the week!

Winning names for Qantas’s fleet of Dreamliners

 

Qantas’s inaugural Dreamliner flight will travel from Melbourne to Los Angeles – but not until December 2017.

But the carrier already has names for all eight 787-9 Dreamliners to be added to its fleet.

Customers sent in more than 60,000 suggestions and the public was asked to vote for the ‘keepers,’ which are:

Great Barrier Reef, Boomerang, Skippy, Waltzing Matilda, Uluru, Great Southern Land, Quokka and Dreamtime.

Some of those names are easy to connect with Australia; others need a little context, which Qantas has been kind enough to provide:

  • Great Barrier Reef:  an ecosystem comprising of reefs and hundreds of islands off coast of Queensland.
  • Boomerang: a traditional hunting tool of First Australians, with a bent or curved shape; also used in music and sport.
  • Skippy: an Australian television series featuring a young boy and his intelligent pet kangaroo ‘Skippy’.
  • Waltzing Matilda: Bush-ballad narrating the story of a swagman.
  • Uluru: A sacred monolith in the heart in Australia’s Northern Territory’s
  • Great Southern Land: A term used to describe Australia.
  • Quokka: A type of marsupial from the island of Rottnest near Perth, Australia.
  • Dreamtime: The English word used to describe First Australians’ understanding of the creation period.

 

 

 

 

Icelandair’s new Stopover Pass promotion

 

Icelandair is celebrating its 80th birthday with a fun promotion.

The airline already allows a free stopover in Iceland, but a new Icelandair Stopover Pass offers some fun extra perks.

From now until March 2018 passengers can apply to their have their standard boarding pass into a Stopover Pass, which offers exclusive access to a series of entertaining performances on land and in the sky.

The performances range from a three-act play on board a flight from London to New York via Iceland (starring Icelandair crew members), tickets to a private concert, trips to Icelandic football matches, backstage passes to a music festival and more.

Go here to enter a contest to be on a flight September 8 from London to New York (via Iceland), during which that three-act play will be performed and to enter your name to snag a ticket to one of the special events taking place during the next year.

 

 

 

EWR or JFK? Cabs in NY know which is faster.

 

United Airlines recently spent $120 million renovating Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Now the airline is using New York taxis in a creative ad campaign designed to convince New Yorkers to fly out of Newark instead of JFK.

And to prove that Newark Liberty airport (EWR) is closer to New York City than John F. Kennedy International Airport, United fitted 125 New York City taxis with GPS software that shows a real-time comparison of the travel times between the city and both JFK and EWR airports on a digital display on top of the cab.

“The digital displays are synced with data from the Curb application and update in real time with every change in a taxi’s position and evolving traffic patterns,” United Maggie Schmerin explained, “It represents the first time live traffic data has ever been used to dynamically display messaging on top of a taxi.”

Convincing?