TSA

If it looks like a duck…

The debate about emotional support animals on planes may heat up again after a recent Instagram posting by TSA about what was referred to as a passenger’s service duck.

 

“The traveler assured us there was no “fowl” play afoot and that this was simply her service duck. Our officers at Charleston (CHS) were overheard saying that this duck was pretty chill. Not lame at all…” TSA wrote on the Instagram post, while encouraging travelers to contact their airline about service animal policies before going to the airport because “It’s good to have all your ducks in a row.”

Cute, right?

But, as Charleston’s  Post and Courier  noted, the Instagram post is making feathers fly.

In addition to a wide range of duck puns along the lines of “I’m quacking up!,” are comments pointing out the difference between service animals and emotional support animals – “Ducks could count as emotional support animals but only dogs and is miniature horses are able to serve as legitimate service animals. There’s an important distinction between the two.”

Other readers commented on the trend of stretching the definition of service and emotional support animals to pets in order to skirt the fees airlines charge to take an animal on board.

Doing so will “dilute the important role that actual service animals perform for those with disabilities,” one reader said, “Individuals who encounter this animal are less likely to take a legitimate service animal seriously, leading to discrimination of those with disabilities.”

Feel free to wade in with your comments…

 

 

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.