Airport security

Fliers love Orlando Int’l Airport – and other new rankings

This year Orlando International Airport (MCO) gets top ranking for satisfaction among the “mega” airports in J.D. Power’s 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) came in second and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas ranked third, with scores of 778, 767 and 765,  respectively, out of a possible score of 1000.

Among large airports, John Wayne Airport in Orange County topped the list with a score of 796, followed by Tampa International Airport (795) and Dallas Love Field (790).

Sacramento International Airport got the highest marks among the medium airports (810), followed by Indianapolis International Airport (807), and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (806).

The study, one of several ‘biggies’ that come out each year, ranks traveler satisfaction with mega, large, and medium North American airports by weighin six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; food, beverage and retail.

J.D. Power notes that ratings are up 18 points overall compared to last year’s all-time high, due to a 25-point increase in satisfaction with security checks (thanks to a drop in TSA staffing issues) and more satisfaction with check-in/baggage check (+19 points) and food, beverage, and retail (+15 points).  Self-service bag-check kiosks and other bag-tagging technologies got credit for raising satisfaction with the baggage check process.

Here are the Top 10 airports in each category:

“Mega” airports:

  1. Orlando International Airport
  2. Detroit Metroplitan International Airport
  3. McCarran International Airport
  4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  5. Denver International Airport
  6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  7. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
  8. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  9. San Francisco Internaitonal Airport
  10. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Large Airports

  1. John Wayne Airport
  2. Tampa International Airport
  3. Dallas Love Field
  4. Nashville International Airport
  5. Portland International Airport
  6. Willliam P. Hobby Airport (Houston)
  7. San Diego International Airport
  8. Reagan National Airport
  9. Salt Lake City International Airport
  10. Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport

Medium Airports

  1. Sacramento International Airport
  2. Indianpolis International Airport
  3. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
  4. Jacksonville International Airport
  5. Palm Beach International Airport
  6. Southwest Florida International Airport
  7. Pittsburgh International Airport
  8. Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  9. Buffalo Niagara International Airport
  10. Ontario International Airport

You can see the full lists and the scoring here.

Pittsburgh Int’l Airport invites non-flyers past security

 

You may remember the ‘old day’s’ of flying, when friends and family could go with you to the airport – and to the gate – to send you off, and when they were there at the gate with hugs and kisses when you got home.

9/11 changed all that, but now Pittsburgh International Airport is bringing that airport amenity back.

The airport has worked with the Transportation Security Administration to get approval for a program that gives the non-flying public to access gates, shops and restaurants beyond the security checkpoint.  No plane ticket and, they emphasize, no reduction in security, will be necessary.

The ‘myPITpass” program starts at 9 a.m. on September 5  and will issue same-day passes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Here’s how it works:

  1. Check in on 3rd Floor Ticketing Level (across from Allegiant)
  2. Show a valid photo ID (Driver’s License or Passport)
  3. Have your name vetted and get a stamped myPITpass
  4. Go through security checkpoint observing the same rules as passengers boarding flights.

The program builds on PIT’s successful Holiday Open House program and the Airside access for guests program offered by the airport Hyatt hotel.

In addition to giving non-flyers access to the gates for sending off loved ones and welcoming them home, the program gives the public access to the great artwork at PIT Airport.

Andy Warhol Wallpaper at PIT

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!

 

Oops, they did it again: new record in firearms found at airport checkpoints

 

As the busy summer travel season kicks into high gear and tips for travelers roll out from here and there, here’s one helpful piece of advice gun owners should heed: make sure you remove your firearms from purses, pockets and satchels before heading to the airport.

It seems impossible in this era of terrorism alerts and heightened attention to travel safety, but people keep taking their firearms with them to the airport.

Last week TSA officers discovered a record 82 firearms in carry-on bags at airports around the country.

Of those record 82 firearms discovered, 66 were loaded and and 18 had a round chambered

That eclipses the record of 81 firearms found during one week in August 2016 and tied in March 2017.

Most travelers found with firearms in their carry-ons say they simply forgot they had those weapons with them. Others may just be using that excuse to evade serious repercussions when caught

In some states, and under certain circumstances, nothing much happens to travelers found with firearms in their carry-ons; they’re simply told to put their guns elsewhere (Their parked cars, maybe? Or to send them home with a friend?)  In some cases, though, travelers bringing firearms to the checkpoint can be arrested and fined up to $11,000.

 

 

Travelers leave TSA hefty tips

 

How much do you love the Transportation Security Administration?

Enough to leave a tip every time you go through security at the airport?

I didn’t think so.

But in their rush to get through airport checkpoints, passengers leave a hefty amount of ‘tips’ for the TSA every year.

For its fiscal year 2016, the Transportation Security Administration reports that passengers left behind more than $867, 812.39 in coins and currency in the plastic bowls and bins at airport checkpoints.

That’s about $102,000 more than was left behind in 2015 and more than $484,000 than was left behind in 2008.

Over the years, the amount of change left behind by travelers at airports has been climbing, jumping from about $489,000 in 2011 to almost $675,000 in 2014 and to almost $766,000 in 2015.

Last year, passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport were the most forgetful (or generous…) travelers, leaving behind $70,615 in unintentional ‘tips’ for TSA.

Also on the top ten list for fiscal year 2016: Los Angeles International Airport, where travelers left behind almost $45,000, and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where more than $42,000 in cash and currency was left in checkpoint bins.

What happens to all that money?

Back in 2005, Congress passed a law saying TSA gets to keep that unclaimed cash and spend it on any sort of civil aviation security efforts it deems fit.

In at least two previous years’ reports, TSA stated that the unclaimed money collected from airports would be used to support the expansion of the TSA Precheck program, which gives travelers expedited screening privileges, allowing them to keep shoes and lights jacks on and their laptops and quart-sized bag of liquids and gels inside their carry-ons.

When it filed its report on the almost $868,000 in unclaimed money collected from airports in fiscal year 2016, however, TSA said it had not yet determined how it would spend those funds.

Don’t want to leave a tip?

At some airport checkpoints, passengers can also empty loose change from their pockets directly into donation bins for local charities before moving through the line.

During 2016, travelers passing through Denver International Airport donated $87,106.91 to Denver’s Road Home, a non-profit that works with service providers for the region’s homeless community. And last year passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International contributed more than $11,000 to help support the USO operations at the airport.