TSA

Gov’t shutdown causes closed checkpoints – and pizza – at airports

The partial shutdown of the federal government is taking its toll on airports.

On Saturday, Miami International Airport closed one of its security checkpoints because airport officials were worried there wouldn’t be enough TSA employees on duty to keep all the airport’s checkpoints open.

The airport plans to reopen the checkpoint on Monday morning.

On Sunday afternoon, Houston’s George Bush International Airport (IAH), shut down the TSA checkpoint and ticketing counter in Terminal B. The reason? Concern about staffing issues associated with the partial shutdown of the federal government.

If the government shutdown continues, we can expect more of these checkpoint closures to take place. Passengers will be directed to other checkpoints, where lines will no doubt get very long.

And outpouring of pizza

While long lines are surely frustrating for travelers, there is an outpouring of support for the TSA workers, air traffice controllers and customs and border protection workers who are working without pay.

On Friday, Nashville International Airport sent pizzas to TSA employees at the airport working without pay.

And Canadian air traffic controllers showed their support for their American counterparts by sending pizzas as well.

Elsewhere, there’s a pop-up food pantry for TSA employees at Tampa International Airport.

At Your Gate is offering $10 off and waiving the delivery fee for food delivered to TSA employees on duty at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). The offer will expand to other airports where the service is available (San Diego International Airport, New York LaGuardia Terminal B, JFK and MSP) later this week.

Federal workers working without pay at Ontario International Airport were treated to a barbecue on Friday. Food was supplied by the Ontario Reign Hockey team and other groups in town.

On Friday, Pittsburgh International Airport served lunch to federal workers at the airport and plans to do so each Friday until the shutdown is over.

Seattle Tacoma International Airport will hold its second information fair on Monday to help federal employees working without pay learn about short term loans and other resources that may be available to them.

And, as we reported earlier, Hudson Group, which operates shops in many airports, is offering a 20% discount off food, beverages and many store products to all TSA and customs employees until the shutdown is resolved.

OTG, which operates retail outlets and restaurants in 10 airports, will offer TSA employees a 50 percent discount on food and beverage through the duration of the government shutdown too.

If you learn of any other efforts underway, please let us know.




PIT, SEA and airport vendors offer food, resources to help to unpaid TSA, FAA workers.

PIT, SEA airports offer food, resource assistance to unpaid TSA workers

The government shutdown continues and, at airports around the country, TSA and FAA workers are facing their first scheduled pay period with no paycheck.

Yet, they’re expected to keep on working.

To help out those employees and to show support, the Allegheny County Airport Authority is providing free lunches today to the more than 200 TSA and FAA employees who work at Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport.

Bagged lunches will be provided by Bruegger’s Bagels and will include a sandwich, chips, cookie and drink on all shifts for TSA agents and FAA air traffic controllers.

“We have not seen an impact on operations or lines here in Pittsburgh due to the shutdown, ” said Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis, “We are so thankful to the federal employees including TSA, FAA, Customs and others for continuing to work without pay at this critical time.”

The Airport Authority plans to continue providing the lunches on Fridays to federal workers until the government is reopen.

Help in Seattle

On the other side of the country, The Port of Seattle has put together a resource fair at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The goal: to help federal safety and security employees who are continuing to work without pay during the current federal government partial shutdown.

The fair will run Friday, January 11 and Monday, January 14 and include representatives from providers of short-term loans, employee assistance programs and others to make it easier for federal employees to learn about the services that are available and quickly get help.

If the government shutdown continues, the resource fair may be repeated.

“The federal workers who serve critical functions at the Port—as air traffic controllers, security checkpoint screeners, safety inspectors and other vital roles—deserve to be paid in a timely fashion for the work they do,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins, “Until our federal government ends this unnecessary and harmful shutdown, we will do everything in our power to help workers in our facilities find the resources they need to pay their bills.”

More help

Nationwide, Hudson Group, which operates shops in many airports, is offering a 20% discount off food, beverages and many store products to all TSA and customs employees starting today and continuing until the shutdown is resolved.

OTG, which operates retail outlets and restaurants in 10 airports, will offer TSA employees a 50 percent discount on food and beverage beginning Saturday, January 12 and continuing through the duration of the government shutdown.

Trend? Another airport invites non-travelers past security

They do it at Pittsburgh International Airport. Now Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has a program to allow non-travelers past the security checkpoint to say goodbye to loved ones at the gate, have a meal or shop.

The new SEA Visitor Pass is a pilot program will run through December 14. But it if works out, non-ticketed airport visitors will be allowed to enter the post-security side of the terminal year-round.

Here’s how the program works:

  •  Entrance to the post-security side of the terminal is allowed from Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m and will be limited to 50 visitors each day.
  • Applications will be taken Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Non-ticketed visitors will need to  apply online before 1:30 p.m. the day before they want to enter.
  • TSA will review your application and notify you by midnight the day before if you are approved for entry.
  • Approved visitors will go through the standard security checkpoints, so all security requirements for any traveler will be in place for visitors as well.
  • Meeting travelers at their gate will be restricted to domestic arrivals.

“It’s been 17 years since anyone without a ticket has been able to enjoy areas of the airport beyond security,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins, “Yet some of the airport’s best features are there. Great restaurants, local musicians performing in the concourses, and some of the best views of the planes coming and going against the backdrop of Mt. Rainier and the Olympics.”

SEA is my home base airport and I can confirm that there are plenty of great reasons to want to hang out at this airport even if you’re not flying.  In addition to the art collection that includes work by Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson and others, SEA has a robust live music program and some great shops and restaurants. There’s also the newly-launched series of holiday celebrations planned throughout the year, including events to honor Native Heritage Month (November) and of course the upcoming December Season of Light.

Saying farewell to TSA’s social media star, “Blogger Bob” Burns

 

 

Courtesy TSA

Readers of the StuckatTheAirport.com blog know that I often cite the TSA’s blog and Instagram accounts, which catalog the firearms and often  outrageous items that passengers try to take with them onto planes.

The creative and really funny TSA employee who has been responsible for these social media outlets died recently and I wrote a quick turn post for USA TODAY:

Curtis Robert Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s surprise social media star, passed away on Friday, October 19 at the age of 48 after a sudden illness.

Known as “Blogger Bob” to followers of the TSA blog and to the more than 950,000 subscribers of TSA’s Instagram account, Burns used what he called his corny, “dad humor” to educate the public about the work of the TSA and the rules regarding what passengers may and may not take with them onto airplanes.

View this post on Instagram

These can fly! Well… they can fly on the plane as a carry-on item, but they can’t actually fly anymore. Those days have clearly passed for this swarm. They’ve been pinned down for quite a while on a project. I’m guessing your husband made you ask because he didn’t want to be a pest and bug us, right? … This is a screenshot of a tweet sent to the AskTSA account on Twitter. … Have you ever wondered whether or not you can pack a certain item? If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. Well, fret no more! Now you can do just that… … Simply snap a picture and tweet it to AskTSA (twitter.com/asktsa), or send it via Facebook Messenger (facebook.com/asktsa) and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. … And that's not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you if you don’t see TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass. … We look forward to answering your questions, 9am-7pm daily. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips

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On TSA’s blog, Burns shared a weekly count of the firearms TSA officers found at airport checkpoints and a summary of the knives and other often alarming prohibited items passengers packed in carry-on and checked bags and in their pockets, briefcases and purses.

He also filmed a humorous year-end video countdown of TSA’s Top Ten Most Unusual Finds where his dry wit was charmingly evident.

“His Top 10 items of ridiculous items found at the checkpoint reminded everyone that commonsense isn’t evenly distributed. And what screening officers did isn’t security theater. And if it were, the cast of characters were often those being screened and not doing the screening, as some suggest,” Michael Bilello, a TSA spokesperson noted in a statement announcing Burns’ death.

Thanks to Burns and his wry approach to sharing photos and comments about odd items discovered by TSA officers, TSA’s Instagram account won many honors, including three Webby Awards in 2018 and ranked fourth best by Rolling Stone in 2015.

Here’s Burns giving his Webby Award acceptance speech:

During a TSA Facebook live, “Ask Me Anything” episode earlier this year, Burns attributed the success of TSA’s Instagram account in part to the shock value.

“People don’t come to a government Instagram account and expert to see humor,” he said, “And they also don’t expect to see these crazy things that people are trying to bring on a plane.”

His favorite item? The sandwich slicer that someone tried to bring on board, “Just like the ones you see at the deli!”

According to an obituary in the Dayton Daily News, Burns was a chemical engineer for the U.S. army during Desert Storm, the father of two daughters and also lead singer and song writer for the “Big in Iowa” band.

TSA officer dance-off with tiny traveler

Check out this fun dance-off between a young traver and a TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport. Thev video was posted on the TSA’s Instagram account and has gone viral.

Take a look.

This isn’t the first time a TSA officer with a sense of fun was caught on tape.

Here’s a video posted a while back of an officer matching the moves of a young traveler at Orlando International Airport.

TSA’s Instagram account is surprisingly well-followed, sometimes alarming and often entertaining ( if corny) feed. Here are few examples:

Did you know that sawblades are prohibited in carry-on bags. Yep. This one was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Atlanta airport. … Speaking of saw blades, we think we “saw” a pussycat. Probably because it’s #InternationalCatDay! Sorry about that horrible segue, but we had to cut to the chase somehow. … Have you always wanted to travel with your cat, but you’ve been afraid to ask how? Has your cat got your tongue? Even if you’re too much of a scaredy-cat to ask, we’re going to give you the rundown right meow. … Checkpoint Screening: … Check with your airline first to inquire about any fees and policies. … Your cat will need to be screened via checkpoint screening if it’s traveling with you in the cabin of the plane. … We do not X-ray cats or any other pets. However, there have been many occasions where passengers have assumed their cat needed to go through the X-ray. You can imagine the surprise of the X-ray operator when they saw Felix’s skeleton roll across their monitor. It is not an unusual occurrence. In this case, it’s not frowned upon to let the cat out of the bag. Your cat will need to come out of its carrier, so it’s a good idea to know how your cat will react. Many a cat has gone into a feline frenzy after being removed from its carrier. An angry cat is never a good thing. Especially when you’re in a confined area where there isn’t enough room to swing a cat. … The checkpoint is a noisy environment that can cause your cat to flee at its first opportunity. This happens with humans occasionally as well. Your cat can be carried through the walk through metal detector or walked through on leash if your cat isn’t too stubborn to do that. If your cat triggers an alarm, one of our officers will have to take a closer look. Cats are not screened with the body scanners, in case you were wondering. … Checked Baggage: … If your cat is traveling in a kennel, your airline will arrange for a TSA Officer to screen the kennel. Officers will need to inspect your kennel/carrier for prohibited items with you present. Sometimes this can be done visually, but occasionally, the TSA officer will ask you to remove your pet from the carrier.

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Sometimes, air travel can make you a little crabby. … #ThrowbackThursday to July 27, 2017 at the Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). … There’s no sidestepping it. This crusty critter was in a pinch. Nothing is known as to how or why he was there, but there he was. Alone. In a bowl. In Boston. He had been scuttled by his human. There is no “rest of the story” here. We don’t have any records of the event other than this photo. … Now we imagine you’re wondering if you can travel with crabs. You can! Crabs are allowed in carry-on and checked bags. We’ll screen them, but it’s strongly recommended that you contact your airline for any specific guidelines or packaging requirements. … #RandomFact – Abandoned crabs can end up in hot water.

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