Posts in the category "TSA":

What will the new TSA chief change at airports?

TSA PRECHECK - COURTESY TSA

What is the new head of the Transportation Security Administration going to do now that he’s been on the job for four weeks?

Withing 60 days he’s going to make sure all airport screeners are retrained so they can better detect explosives and spot weapons. And he’s going to try to get more passengers to enroll in the agency’s expedited security checkpoint program, called pre-check.

He’d also like to get rid of boarding passes and someday replace them with biometric technology.

Peter Neffenger, the new TSA administrator, went before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday and said it was a “huge concern” that the agency’s officers failed to identify bombs, weapons and other security threats 96 percent of the time during recent undercover testing.

“It greatly disturbs me to know that we had that failure rate at the checkpoint,” he said, and to fix that, the agency will “train out those failures.”

Neffenger also told the panel he wants to increase the use of explosive-detection dogs for passenger screening, expand enrollments in the Pre-check program and phase out “managed inclusion.”

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSA

Neffenger said that likes the idea that biometrics – individual characteristics such as fingerprints or facial characteristics for personal identification – might someday mean that “you are your boarding pass.”

What to do with spare change at airports

pan am coin purse

Heading to the airport with loose change in your pockets?

You may not mean to, but there’s a good chance you’re leaving cash tips for the Transportation Security Administration at the airport.

During FY 2014, passengers left behind $674,841.06 in coins and currency in the bowls and bins at airport security checkpoints.

During 2013 travelers left $638,142.64.

That was almost $107,000 more than passengers left behind in fiscal year 2012 and more than $150,000 than what was left behind in 2011.

What happens to all that money?

According to federal law, TSA gets to keep it and spend it on anything it decides helps provide civil aviation security.

If you’re not interested in donating to the TSA coffers you can make sure to put all your loose change in your purse or carry-on before getting to the checkpoint.

 

Or consider donating to good causes at airports in Denver, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, where there are pre-security collection boxes by the checkpoints where you can donate spare change to local non-profits.

Denver International Airport started the trend in early 2013 with change collection containers placed before several checkpoints and in two years has collected over $170,000 in spare change to support homeless programs in Denver through Denver’s Road Home.

Last spring, Fifth Third Bank set up three “Empty Pockets, Full Plates” collection stations near checkpoint entrances at Ohio’s Port Columbus International Airport and in the first six months raised about $1,000 to support the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Travelers can support the USO at PHX airport by donated spare change. Courtesy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Just before all those Super Bowl fans came to town, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport kicked off its spare change collection program with boxes set up in front of several security checkpoints.

During February, 2015 $1,113.09 was collected to help fund USO operations at the PHX airport.

And in Sweden, travelers with spare change can donate to the Swedish Red Cross by playing video games at the airport.

Custom-made consoles recently installed at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Göteborg Landvetter Airport offer travelers the opportunity to pay the classic arcade games Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Galaga in exchange for coins in any currency.

(My story about spare change at airports first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version.)

 

Check your suitcase for Chihuahuas

On the TSA Blog each Friday you’ll find a report on the firearms, weapons and other prohibited – and often really strange – things found at airport checkpoints and in checked bags.

TSA MEM

This week, for example, the TSA found 55 firearms at airport checkpoints. 51 of those firearms were loaded and 13 had rounds chambered.

The fact that so many people just ‘forget’ they’ve got a gun, especially a loaded gun, in their carry-on is always alarming. But Friday’s report that TSA officers at New York’s LaGuardia Airport found a chihuahua inside a checked bag is mostly amusing.

According to the TSA, officers found the dog inside the suitcase while they were resolving a checked baggage alarm. TSA had the airline track down the suitcase owner, who said she had no idea the dog was in there and that the dog – a 7 year old chihuahua – must have climbed into the suitcase as it was being packed.

Bets? How many firearms will TSA find at airports?

ATL GUNS

Each Friday, before I close my office and head to Happy Hour, I check the TSA Blog for the Week in Review posting of the number of firearms (loaded and unloaded) and other prohibited items (inert explosives, big knives, anti-tank weapons, etc.) discovered at airport checkpoints.

You should too.

The blog (and TSA’s Instagram account) offers an informal course on the wide variety of items TSA deems too dangerous to be allowed on airplanes, yet which travelers continue to bring to airports.

TSA find _ Keychain is actually a punching weapon prohibited on planes by TSA

The numbers don’t spike on particular holidays or on Mondays but the tally of firearms, especially, keeps going up.

On June 4, 2014, for example, TSA reported that 18 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags around the country, breaking the previous record of 13 found in one day, set in 2013.

In early November, another record was broken. With two months still to go in the year, the number of firearms discovered at checkpoints had reached 1,855.

That blew 2014’s tally past the overall 2013 total of 1,813. By the close of business on December 15, this year’s tally had grown to 2,097.

“I think the rate is increasing because more and more people are carrying [weapons] throughout the country. It can actually be difficult for people who carry all the time because the gun becomes an extension of them, just like their cell phone and wallet,” said Jeff Price, author of Practical Aviation Security.

“Oops, I forgot that was in there,” is the most common explanation given by passengers found with firearms in a carry-on bag. But there are people, like the guy nabbed this week at JFK Airport with parts of a disassembled .22 caliber firearm hidden inside a PlayStation 2 console, who certainly know what they’re toting. “Some of these people are just tools trying to get one over on TSA and the system, but there are also those who may be affiliated with terrorist groups that decide to test the system to see what they can get through,” said Price.

TSA_GiantScissors

Thanks to ever-more-sophisticated technology, TSA is confident it is catching 100 percent of all the firearms coming through checkpoints. But Todd Curtis, founder of AirSafe.com, pegs the find rate at closer to 90 percent.

“The technology TSA has isn’t perfect,” said Curtis, “But in most cases, if someone is dense enough to try to take a weapon through the checkpoint they’ll be caught.”

Whenever TSA does spot a firearm in a carry-on bag at a checkpoint, the screening process stops until law enforcement responds and retrieves the weapon. And it’s local laws, not the TSA, that determine if any criminal charges are filed against a passenger.

Criminal charges or not, passengers found with firearms at airport checkpoints are subject to civil penalties, ranging from $1,500 up to $11,000. In 2013, TSA assessed nearly $1.7 million in civil penalties for firearms discovered in carry-on bags nationwide.

What happens to the firearms also depends on local laws. While local law enforcement allows TSA to photograph firearms (and other prohibited items) discovered at checkpoints, “TSA doesn’t take possession of any firearms,” said TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein, “Local law enforcement might confiscate the weapon as evidence or give it back the passenger to return it to their home or to put it in their vehicle.”

Beyond firearms, of course, TSA officers encounter an extremely wide variety of other prohibited items at airport checkpoints, including machetes, hatchets, swords, giant scissors, brass knuckles, cannonballs, bear repellant and, this past October, an unloaded cannon.

“Maybe someone has a lucky inert grenade they brought back from some war, or a nice cane was given to them and they forgot that the thing is actually a sword,” said Price, “It’s the people that are carrying stuff like chainsaws that make me wonder.”

(This story first appeared on the Runway Girl Network in a slightly different version.)

Heading to the airport? Where’s your gun?

ATL GUNS

The numbers seem a bit boggling: despite the fact that firearms, ammunition, firearm parts, and realistic replicas of firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage, an increasing number of passengers continue to show up at airport checkpoints with these items.

In fact, according to the Transportation Security Administration, at the end of the day on November 4, 1,855 firearms had been found at airport checkpoints. 1,471 (79 percent) were loaded.

That number exceeded the 2013 total – 1,813 – by 42. And it’s just November.

Here are the airports where the most firearms have been found in carry-on bags: Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) – 104 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) – 90 Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) – 66 Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) – 62 Denver International (DEN) – 61 .

Of course, this hasn’t stopped people from bringing guns to the airport in their carry-on bags…

TSA

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