Admit it, you don’t care what the TSA does to you anymore!

The TSA is having a heckuva summer.

From a new “trusted” traveler system it’s pushing on passengers, to a peculiar new rule that requires certain electronics to power up before they can fly, to numerous bizarre incidents at screening areas, the federal agency tasked with protecting America’s transportation systems has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

But that’s not the headline. No, the story is us — you and me — and our reaction to the agency’s antics and missteps.

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More than 12 years after the TSA’s creation, it seems our anger and outrage have run dry. Travelers have come to accept anything the agency throws at us, no matter how nonsensical and despite its civil-rights implications.

The story is our TSA apathy.

“I’m tired of complaining,” says Pam Miller, a frequent flier based in Seattle. “It’s an ineffective use of time and energy.”

Consider Pre-Check, a system that’s being deployed at America’s airports with dizzying speed. Not a week seems to go by that the TSA doesn’t issue a press release on its new trusted-traveler program (seven in May and three in June, by my count). Problem is, there’s nothing “trusted” about the program, which costs $85 to join. Screeners often randomly upgrade non-Pre-Check passengers into the shorter lines, using a tablet computer with a mysterious “randomizer” application.

Passengers sent to a Pre-Check line don’t have to remove their shoes or laptops or submit to a dreaded full-body scan. A respectful screening ought to be included in the price of every airline ticket, of course. But this summer, the complaints about the uneven and unfair implementation of Pre-Check are indifferent, at best.

“I always feel like the treatment I receive is completely arbitrary,” says Sara Shopkow, an editor based in Oakland. “Frankly, I’d rather just walk through the checkpoints naked. It would be much less humiliating.”

Passengers also reacted with a collective shrug when, in early July, the Department of Homeland Security announced new “enhanced security measures” at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. In case you missed it, the new precautions ask passengers to power up their electronic devices. If they couldn’t, the powerless gadgets would not be permitted on the aircraft. The TSA doesn’t administer these screenings, but it has some oversight.

Media reports of widespread complaints were impossible to verify. In fact, I’ve received exactly zero grievances about the TSA’s war on dead cellphones.

Howard Zoufaly, a business consultant from Broomfield, Colo., reports that while the TSA allowed his charged phone to travel with him on his last flight, he notes with some weariness that it did find the cheese in his carry-on as he transited through the screening area in Milwaukee. Cheese isn’t banned by the TSA, but as a precaution, a screener tested his hands for explosives anyway. “The TSA has yet to catch a terrorist,” he sighs.

If the preposterous Pre-Check program and the no-fly rule for certain electronics isn’t enough to spark outrage among the flying public, then surely the latest headlines are. How about the guy who managed to drunkenly pose as a TSA agent at San Francisco International Airport and is alleged to have groped at least two women? Or the TSA agent at my hometown airport, Orlando, who rejected a passenger’s Washington, D.C., driver’s license and demanded to see a passport because he’d ‘never heard of the District of Columbia'”?

Still not steamed? Then consider this: A few weeks ago, the TSA’s “September 11th Security Fee” more than doubled, from $2.50 each way for non-stop flights to $5.60. On flights with layovers longer than four hours, the government stipulated that each leg is charged $5.60. Unbelievably, the money is not all going to airport security. Of the $36.5 billion the TSA expects to collect in fees over the next decade, $12.63 billion will go to the U.S. Treasury’s general fund.

The reaction from the flying public: yawn.

In any other summer, all of this would send air travelers into a tizzy. But not in 2014. We’re fatigued and beaten down by the federal bureaucracy.

“It reflects a larger issue of disappointment and disillusionment with the entire political process,” says Sommer Gentry, a math professor from Baltimore and a critic of the TSA. “The people have no voice, not to get the TSA out of our pants and not to make any other of the obviously necessary policy changes that have vast popular support but can’t get through Congress.”

So what will make that change? Heck if I know.

What should we do with the TSA?

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Get TSA to fly right

• Don’t vote for the status quo this November. Ask your congressional representative about his or her views on the TSA, and if they don’t align with yours, consider supporting another candidate.

• Don’t be passive. Consider joining an organization like Freedom to Travel USA (fttusa.org), which advocates for sensible airport screening that respects your civil liberties.

• Don’t consume the TSA’s products. Opt out of the full-body scanners, refuse to participate in Pre-Check, and, if possible, choose an alternative to flying. It’s the only way to show your disapproval.

73 thoughts on “Admit it, you don’t care what the TSA does to you anymore!

  1. not much we can do, other then not fly.

    but as long as flying remains the MUCH faster way to travel, people will just tolerate tsa.

    1. I agree. As with most mass markets, so long as a healthy majority buy into it, the complaints of the minority don’t matter.

      I stopped flying many years ago, primarily on the basis of security theatre, and I now allocate sufficient time to travel by land or by sea.

      1. Drove 2000 miles just this month to avoid the airlines. Is there any info on how to sail to London? Have been digging around for it.

        1. Should not be much of a problem. The ocean liner Queen Mary 2 (Cunard Line) regularly sails nonstop between Brooklyn and Southampton in 6 nights, starting from just under $1,000 one-way. From Southampton it is an easy train ride to London. Many cruise liners are repositioned in the spring (from the United States to Europe) and fall (from Europe to the United States), typically on 2-to-3 week itineraries with intermediate stops, sometimes for as low as $400 one-way. Many of these cruises terminate in Spain or Italy, but it is relatively straight-forward going by train from one of these ports to London. A small number of cruise lines (such as Princess Cruises) will make a few trans-Atlantic cruises in the summer, though these tend to be a bit more expensive than the spring and fall repositionings. Some of these mid-summer cruises take a northern route, calling at ports in places like Greenland and Iceland. The difficult time to cross is winter, largely because the ocean and cruise lines do not want to send their vessels through the rougher seas; even freighters tend to disallow passengers on their trans-Atlantic vessels in winter.

          1. Thank you!! All this food for thought will certainly be a springboard for my searches going forward. I really appreciate it.

  2. “using a tablet computer with a mysterious “randomizer” application.”

    Their “randomizer” is probably “eenie-meenie-miney-moe”.

  3. The apathy of the huge increase of the “Security Fee” that went in place this summer is exactly what was worrisome about including government fees and taxes in the quote of a ticket. Hiding taxes in the price of something creates this sort of apathy. Even with the airlines making the breakdown available, I suspect not many people look at that.

    1. Taxes are not “hidden” and they do not create apathy. Taxes are clearly spelled out when you get your ticket receipt. Taxes included in gasoline are hidden much better as they are not broken out on the receipt you receive. And do you actually look at any bills or receipt for anything you purchase to see what the taxes are you are paying. Like your phone bill, or your cable bill, or many other bills with numerous and idiotic taxes added?

      What creates apathy is having government that refuses to listen to its citizens because they know what’s best for us poor little people who just don’t understand how things work in the big government world.

      1. Yes, I do look at taxes on my bills. Except for gasoline of course as it is not spelled out on the receipt or pump.

    2. There are legitimate gripes about the significant increase, the percent being siphoned off to the general fund, and whether that money is being spent wisely on expensive scanners that simultaneously demean passengers and target methods of concealment no terrorists use or would actually need to use.

      However, why would you single out the Security Fee as something which shouldn’t be included when quoting the price of a ticket. Why should it stop there? What about the airport fees, the baggage handling fees, the check-in counter fee, the airport people mover fee, the air traffic control fee, the onboard catering fee, the piloting fee?

      After we pull the fuel surcharge and the use of airplane fee out as well, we can finally advertise flights at zero or even negative cost.

      There are hundreds of costs the airline incurs in transporting passengers, some charged by the federal government, some by local authorities or the airport, some by vendors or other service providers, and there is the cost of hiring and training staff. Not all of them can be quantified as a set dollar amount per passenger, but the money we all pay for tickets by definition has to cover these costs or the airline will go bankrupt.

      The security fee is not a sui generis cost to be treated in some special way. If the fee is making tickets too expensive, the airlines should join their customers in lobbying the Federal government to reduce the fees, streamline security procedure, and eliminate wasteful processes. (I’m sure the airline’s have a few lobbyists around.)

      BTW, the one part of this summer’s change I find fair is that connecting passengers are no longer paying twice as much as passengers flying non-stop. Assuming the bulk of the cost is the security screening everyone goes through once no matter the number of connections, it seems fair that all passengers pay the fee.

      And there is one place passengers can’t miss the security fee… it is one of a very small set of fees that you have to pay in cash when redeeming miles for your ticket… so the $2.50 and now $5 fee has prominently featured for anyone booking mileage awards.

        1. Fair enough… but you implied that you would prefer all taxes and fees be broken out. My point is that would lead to airlines converting as many costs of business as possible into fees so as to advertise the most competitive price. (Exactly this is happening with airlines and spreading to other businesses: “Obamacare fees”, “Energy Surcharges”.)

          Do you advocate for just the Security Fee to be broken out, or should airlines be able to exclude whatever fees they wish from the advertised ticket price?

          1. All government imposed fees and taxes that are required to be collected on each airline ticket. Ticket taxes, Security Fees, PFCs etc.

            If a business decided to add their OWN mandatory fee, that should be included in their published price. (Unlike hotels who advertise a cheap hotel room and then add on a mandatory resort fee, in some cases which is more than published room cost.)

            The fees you mention (Obamacare fee, Energy Surcharges) are not government imposed tax or fees required to be collected on each ticket sold.

          2. So if the security fee were charged per plane-full of people, no need to disclose? I don’t see the distinction between a government fee paid per passenger and a fee paid per plane or per gate or per gallon of fuel. All those fees are a cost which need be distributed into the ticket prices of passengers.

  4. There will always be the issue between fastest facilitation process for passengers and the security screening as they work in the opposite directions. As more and more people are travelling, the resources of security screening agencies both in USA and Canada are stretched to maximums. So more travelling passengers, and less funding for the agencies…Professor Sommer Gentry summarized it perfectly!

  5. It’s like buying gas. We don’t like it but we have to do it and the oil companies take advantage of that, just like the TSA takes advantage of many people’s need to fly

  6. As a Canadian flying in the U.S. & abroad I have only one comment. Who hires some of these morons with a grade 1 (maybe) education. You certainly can’t argue with them, they hold you in their hands & they know it. I have almost never encountered even a moderately pleasant TSA agent. They are either disinterested in answering any question, or downright hostile, so I gave up & go along. No point in beating yourself up with them- THEY ALWAYS WIN!!! Your government loves the revenue so they have no reason to change anything with their cash cow

    1. Occasionally at Myrtle Beach I encounter a pleasant TSA person. Less and less often now but still once in a while.

    2. Generally what you find is: the bigger the airport, the ruder the TSA agents are. I’ve seen nice ones in Pensacola, FL, Peoria, IL, and Albuquerque, NM. I’ve seen REALLY rude ones at Dulles and O’Hare

      1. I’m OLD (76) short slim guy & my worst experience with TSA? Returning to U.S. from vacation in St.Lucia. Nasty looking woman sent me for a thorough pat down. Even the male agent looked at her & asked why. She snarled at him & he then gave me such a thorough pat down, while she watched, I was going to ask him if he wanted a kiss when he finished, but refrained. But generally big airports are the worst. Don’t try asking for directions. Also I have Canada’s answer to the Quick Pass called Nexus. You must go through a thorough security check by the R.C.M.P. to get one – makes no difference to the morons

    3. I don’t know. While I do occasionally find grumpy and power crazy TSA agents, most I find are just there to do the job and don’t bother me. But then I don’t arrive with an attitude. I don’t have any questions for them. I don’t carry things with me I know I’m not supposed to.

      1. Not a question of “attitude”. A simple question like which line, is met with a grumpy answer if at all. When you reach my age (76) & have travelled the world to all continents, including Eastern & Western Europe on your own you realize you CANNOT travel with “attitude”. I stand by my assertion they hire power hungry morons who get a charge from authority..
        Only possible place worse? RUSSIAN AIRPORTS! Not an English sign no Service Desk & no help.

        1. My mother has traveled the entire world. All the continents including an extended stay in Antarctica and even many countries US citizens are not allowed to go any more. She still enjoys travel whenever she can. One day I hope to cover as much territory as she has.

          A few years ago, she started complaining about how bad the security people were at airports, not just in the US but everywhere she went, and about how they would yell at her and be completely rude. She got a hearing aid and now says the formerly rude and angry security folks are nice and friendly. Her situation was she couldn’t hear in crowded areas like the security checkpoints at airports because of the background noise and wasn’t hearing what she was being told until they yelled at her. So, it just goes to show sometimes it isn’t just the screeners.

          1. SPEAK UP I can’t hear you! Just kidding. My hearing is fine even @ 76. Travelling almost as much as your mom, there are many good airports. I reserve most problems for U.S & Russian airports.
            Remember too that I have the special Nexus Security Clearance after a thorough background check by our RCMP. This is supposed to be a joint RCMP FBI or whatever partnership. It has NEVER worked in the U.S.

          2. I am familiar with NEXUS from the US side of things. NEXUS is just for travel between the US and Canada, so you would think that when you travel through airports in the US or Canada they would be familiar with it.

            I have Global Entry status in the US which means expedited clearance through US customs when returning from any point outside the US. This includes an ID card that works just like NEXUS. However, I was told and verified on the US Customs web site that the card was to only be used when I did not fly and otherwise I should only present my passport. Well, recently returning from Europe through Toronto, I was not allowed into the expedited US customs area by the Canadian customs officers because I did not have the magic card with me. So what was taking about 5 minutes for those allowed through that line took me an hour because I had to wait with the rest of the regular people. So I understand your frustration.

    4. One of the most pleasant TSA agents that I’ve ever met was a guy who gave me a pat down at Terminal 1 at LAX. This happened about four years ago. I had opted out of walking through a backscatter x-ray machine because of a potentially harmful dose of radiation and was taken to a private area. This guy waiting there for me apologized for the process and then explained what he was going to do at every step. When it came to touching my crotch, he waved his hand close enough to make his supervisor think that he was touching me but no contact was made. It’s too bad that for every caring person like this who works for the TSA, there are at least 10 others who get pleasure from tormenting passengers.

  7. It’s true, the Russian Military that man the screening stations are about the same as TSA. In Siberia once a female officer said “Have money?”. “No”, I replied; she asked “Have gun?”, no again. She patted me down which wasn’t all that bad. I certainly wasn’t going to act up and be detained to miss the one flight a day from Novosibirsk.

  8. After a lapse of 32 years, I went to an A.O.P.A. ‘Rusty Pilots’ seminar & am getting current to get back into flying Cessnas. There are no TSA guys at G.A. terminals, but there are more frequent meetings with FAA, etc. these days… This is a cost & time effective solution for intermediate distance travel with the family. Enjoy the ride!

  9. Since the TSA does NOT handle security at SFO, a private company does, is it really a TSA problem that a drunken fool was allowed to pretend to be a security screener? I’m not happy it happened, and the fact that no one complained does support the point that Americans are apathetic.

    The “turn on your electronics” is nothing new, I remember having to turn on my laptop at the airport metal detector last century. Whether doing this serves any real purpose, who knows.

    And the Pre Check program is not preposterous. It gets people out of the main lanes at the airports so that everyone gets through quicker. If everyone arrives at the airport expecting to get the standard inspection and then does go through Pre Check because they are randomly selected to do so, I don’t see this as reducing the overall level or security (or general lack there of).

    I’ve had the cheese issue going through TSA security as well. I was carrying a kilo of parmesan from IAH to DEN (hey, got a great price on it and it was really from Parma!) and had to actually open it up and eat some before I was allowed through with it. Parmesan, C-4, hard to tell the difference apparently.

    What I am mad about is the government using air travelers as a source of funds to be used anywhere they feel. If they are collecting air travel taxes and fees, then those should go toward supporting the air travel infrastructure within the US, not be put into the general slush fund and then spent on pet projects. If the funds they are already collecting are enough to cover the costs, then they did not need to raise the fee. I have expressed my disappointment to my congressional representatives. Still waiting for any reply.

    1. Flying on a European flight out of Paris, the French screeners singled out the box of soft cheeses I had bought in a shop earlier that day. I was aware of the US distinction of soft and hard cheeses (not allowed and allowed, respectively), but I always understood that to be a US customs rules based on threats to agricultural. I didn’t think soft cheeses would be a problem on a flight to another European country. Of course, it was already too late to pack it in checked luggage… and the cheese had to be discarded in the rubbish bin.

      What frustrated me most was that no one was seriously suggesting they were anything but cheese… especially in France, they are capable of distinguishing between cheeses and explosives, and having taken the cheeses out of my bag they were already hand-inspecting them. I had to throw away perfectly good cheese not because it posed a danger to the flight, but because the rules said that no matter how obviously cheesy upon inspection, they had to be treated as if they were not cheeses, but bombs.

  10. I’ve had a knee replacement, so I make a point of seeking out the big machine that does the full body scan. My shiny new titanium knee sets off the ordinary metal detectors and that means I get groped by one of the men on that shift. I live in Hawaii, so flying is my only option. But the moment I reach the mainland U.S., it’s Amtrak for me!

  11. I’ve tried to fight – filed complaints after invasive pat-downs when I’ve opted out and either gotten no response or a response stating “we reviewed the tapes, procedure was followed.” I’ve written letters to my congresspeople and gotten no response or “it’s for your safety.”

    I finally broke down and paid for Global Entry since I fly internationally at least once a year and I find CBP less objectionable than TSA. So far I’ve had good luck getting Pre-Check and I’ve had one TSA clerk in particular who seemed upset I could get in that line, which felt like a small victory.

    1. I believe this would be a “positive” step because then the general public who don’t fly often if at all would be experiencing the TSA’s reign of terror over the public. Only when that happens will the TSA be brought under control.

      See, Raven, one of the “whackpots” did finally show up. 🙂

  12. Husband had pre-check on his boarding pass going through Laguardia Friday afternoon but, since they didn’t have a nude-a-scope there, he got a very thorough pat down because he
    has two titanium knees. (TSA agent even laughed and told me i should pat down my husband when we get home as much as he just did so he could enjoy it!). I didn’t have pre-check on my boarding pass but got to go through, too, because I was with him. I don’t set the machine off so no pat down for me. As I was waiting for my husband, the lady in front of me told me she has a titanium rod in her leg but she didn’t set it off. Go figure. TSA is a horrendous waste of money but, I, like everyone else, am worn out bitching about it. I’ve written and personally talked to my senator about it (Rand Paul, who publicly stated he was going to do something about the TSA after his own lousy experience but we see where that went) – I don’t know what else I can do.

  13. Don’t vote for the status quo? Both parties have shown they fully support both the security state and the security theater experience. (And in California, that’s the only choice you get in November.) So — don’t vote for the status quo means don’t vote.

    That said … A few years ago I had a partially successful shoulder reconstruction. I can’t lift one arm up fully the way they would like. At every TSA spot through which I’ve flown, they’d just wave me through the metal detector… until yesterday in Las Vegas, where they treated it as an opt out with the full grope. Which came with the supervisor “advising” me to apply for the trusted traveler program if I wanted to avoid that in the future. (The “groper” was polite.)

    Generally, I’ve found the workers are usually polite, with one or two exceptions. I don’t take out my grievances with TSA on them, they’re not the decision makers.

  14. “So what will make that change? Heck if I know.”

    Bankruptcy of airlines. You know, TSA is a parasite that lives off of a host called air travel. When that is gone, TSA is gone as well. So … threat of bankruptcy of all airlines will make them scramble for a solution to keep their jobs. How do we proceed to do that? Actually, it is very simple – provide citizens of this country with a choice and break monopoly airlines have on ANY kind of travel over ANY distance.

    1. Allow Lufthansa, British, Singapore … basically every company that is in alliance with our 3 “competitive” carriers to fly inside U.S.

    2. Finalize Interstate project, 60 years after its inception, as it was envisioned by its creator D. Eisenhower . Which means make a copy of German Autobahn. No need to fly less than 600 miles if you can travel at average speed of 100 mph in your car.

    3. Get a high-speed train (not any of the jokes that pass as “high speed trains” we have in Northeast) connection between at least one city in every one of the 48 contiguous states. High speed train should have AT LEAST 100 mph average speed.

    There. Done.

    And even if they survive, now you at least have a choice on how to travel – something that doesn’t exist today. I’m extremely surprised that nobody figured out that the competition can only benefit the customers. Oh … right! I guess people believe having 3 airlines to choose from constitutes a choice – and for that, they get exactly what they deserve.

    1. TSA is not just at the airports. While they may not operate like they do at airports, I have seen them at other modes of transportation stations. So much for #3. #1 shouldn’t happen and I don’t think it will happen.

      1. Good, keep enjoying the status quo then. I guess asking to have a choice is, for most people in this country, a really, really crazy stupid idea.

        1. Not for me. I constantly wonder why the US, which is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, has crappy roads, crappy airlines, and no passenger train service to amountt to anything.

        2. We have choices for domestic flights, just not the ones you might like. BTW, US carriers can’t operate in other countries for domestic flights.

          1. The EU–US Open Skies Agreement signed in 2007 granted US airlines the right to fly between European countries… which while not technically “domestic” flights, serve the same purpose within the European Union, especially within Schengen, as most interstate domestic flights do in the US.

            This was a sore point for European carriers, who did not gain similar interstate rights for the US market. Curiously, it does not seem US carriers have taken advantage of these rights directly.

            Delta does own 49% of Virgin Atlantic, which flies British, European and international routes from LHR. However, this arrangement is not unique, as among others, Jetstar does the same through Asian associates, and Etihad in Europe with Darwin/Etihad Regional. Virgin America was meant to play a similar role for other Virgin Group airlines.

            The agreement also allowed US and European airlines to fly between any airport within the two regions to any airport outside the two regions (7th freedom). This right has also barely been utilized: Delta has an AMS-Mumbai flight. I think Air France may also do a flight.

            Separately, both Delta and United operate hubs at Tokyo Narita under US-Japan Open Skies, from which they serve a number of Asian destinations, though no domestic flights to other Japanese cities.

            Finally, in a very unique example, United operates domestic flights within the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, both of which are now sovereign countries, but in ‘free association” with and formerly administered by the United States.

          2. Thanks for providing the facts. You said:

            “Curiously, it does not seem US carriers have taken advantage of these rights directly.”

            It is not surprising at all. If they did, nobody would fly them considering what “service” they provide when compared to European airlines. Plus they have no chance to overcharge for that as they do at home. Why bother when you can provide 1/3 of the service and charge twice the price while flying all seats full right here in U.S. without any competition? Makes no sense …

          3. You know, I have flown both American and European airlines, in economy, and while each airline has it’s strengths, I don’t agree there is some clear service gap. They fly the same planes with similar seating, EU-domestic flights have become just as low-frills as US-domestic flights, and that’s ignoring the explosion of LCCs (RyanAir, EasyJet, WizzAir, etc) which are comparable only to Spirit on the American side.

            My experience with the higher classes is admittedly limited, but I have yet to see a US-domestic business class as barebones as what I have passed by on many intra-European flights. (They put a spacer in the middle seat, which acts as a table for the aisle and window seats, which are now magically business class.)

            Yes, they still serve food, but it is quickly sliding down in quality to truck-stop sandwiches and hot pockets. I grumbled too when meals disappeared from US flights, but I have concluded the greater choices now offered for purchase, as well as the option to buy in the terminal and bring on board, have turned out better. I always feel like I had to gobble up whatever they deem to serve me… now I don’t have to.

            Domestically I fly Alaska a lot, and they have made significant improvements for economy passengers with new planes that have larger overhead bins, better seats, and power/USB ports for every economy seat. I would choose flying Alaska economy over KLM, Air France, British, SWISS, or Lufthansa group economy between European airports without hesitation.

            Most domestic flights in the US now feature some level of wireless internet, the carry-on wars seem to have settled down, and the dense multi-hub networks give you plenty of connecting options. In Europe, your choice of carrier pretty much guarantees you have to travel through their main hub.

            Long-haul flights may still be better on European carriers. (I have flown long-haul on Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa recently, and was quite satisfied.)

          4. Maybe it is “grass is always greener …” syndrome, but I’m not talking inches available, calories served (or not served) or USB connectors in the seat. I’m talking about the experience in general.

            I also noticed that, while doing the checklists and having interminable meetings to decide how to improve the “upscale experience” of a mediocre vehicle, said vehicles sucked so badly that it ended with bankruptcy of their American makers. All the while Germans were growing like Benzes and BMWs costed peanuts. The reason (even today)? Make the whole a LOT bigger than the sum of its parts. American companies in all sectors seem to have a problem with that concept. Maybe the problem is the spreadsheets … no matter how you rearrange the data, the spreadsheet will always give you the same sum. Unfortunately, that is never so in real life nor are humans geared to perceive it that way. So, what American executives must push for is more spreadsheets as customers and less unreliable humans.

            In the case of American carriers, the sum of the parts is about the same or slightly bigger than the whole (it should be the opposite). Now, granted, experience pre-boarding (which is extremely important) is TSA’s fault, not directly airline’s – and that is also one of the areas where traveling in Europe is still fun, here not so much.

          5. Actually, I can see plenty of reasons Americans would want to stick with a US carrier… some people (cough cough Chris Elliott) don’t like code-shares, there are Fly America restrictions or other patriotic concerns, some frequent flyers may be really devoted to their airline miles, and you can better coordinate flights with your transatlantic schedule.

            Not all three major US airlines flying to Europe have a strong alliance partner at major airports. This is partly due to LCCs taking huge chunks of the market and not wanting to partner and codeshare. In London, both Delta and United lack a partner with good connections, in Madrid, United is left out of the party. Air France-KLM dominate Paris and Amsterdam, so both American and United have weak connections there.

            Many cities in Europe which once were served by American carriers no longer have the demand for a jumbo-jet, but connecting service on a regional jet could be viable. I agree US customers would not be enough, they would need to advertise their brand to get local business… but I guarantee to you that in many parts of Europe, American companies still have a reputation of quality, and would be welcomed as competition for the entrenched flag carrier: Italy (Alitalia is a basketcase), Hungary (which lost Malev, the flag carrier), the Poland-Germany-Austria-Swiss block dominated by Lufthansa, and even in the British Isles.

            Many European airports are stuck in a very inflexible setup… one hub airline with a huge network of direct flights, single destinations by dozens of airlines back to their hubs, and eruptions of LCCs and charter airlines flying to an uncoordinated web of minor airports at low frequencies.

            Compared to most US airports, where several airlines will typically have a significant presence, and even at the extreme of a fortress hub like Delta’s Detroit, other major carriers will offer at least several connections in various directions.

            San Francisco (SFO to Los Angeles (LAX) has six airlines competing for 1.6 million customers. A similar airport pair in Europe, London (LHR)-Paris (CDG) has just two (Air France and British Air) for 1.2 million customers, three if you count the Eurostar train service. SFO-JFK has five airlines competing.

            As a general rule, if you look at top domestic destinations at a European airport, they are served by one or two carriers, whereas top routes in the US will reliably have three, four, or five. All this despite the fact that the US has fewer major carriers than Europe. (And while high-speed rail is a factor, it doesn’t account for longer routes or areas of Europe outside the core high-speed network.)

            So, sorry about the essay, but I think there are great opportunities for US carriers to serve the European market, both to route more passengers onto their transatlantic flights and to gain some revenue and improve competition within Europe.

          6. The other issue is that the US is running low on large international airlines as the industry keeps consolidating. Just American, Delta, and United remain, where the dozen or so airlines which compose them all used to have international flights. These three, aligned with the three major global alliances, don’t have incentive to build domestic EU networks, as they just rely on partner networks.

            The only hope is that a few scrappy competitors organically build up an international presence. Hawaiian has many international flights, but that’s focused on Asia which lacks a comprehensive Open Skies agreement, and I doubt they would try to enter the domestic Japanese market.

            Alaska has intensive service to Mexico and Canada, but I doubt any European or Asian flights are anywhere on the horizon. Southwest has international rumors swirling, but that’s likely to be for Caribbean and Central America for now. JetBlue may hold some promise, while Virgin America already has partnerships. Clearly, that last round of binary joinings which created American/Delta/United was a mistake as it reduced international options significantly.

  15. I just returned from Paris, France. Security there is “so civilized” — you do not need to
    STRIP DOWN or REMOVE SHOES. The machines check you.

  16. I said reform but it needs to be totally “destroyed”, along with all the other unconstitutional laws & agencies this renegade government has perpetuated.

    I don’t fly anymore, unless absolutely necessary. As someone said below, we now cruise instead of fly.

    Never give up & never give in. When I have to fly I always refuse to use the cancer machine & let them know what this Marine with 26yrs service thinks, frequently very forcefully.

  17. The new “Powerless Devices” rules are particularly problematic. They are vague, ill-defined, and much more than the bans on sharps and liquids, which are often cheap enough to toss, few people will be in a position to leave behind drained or malfunctioning phones and laptops.

    I am particularly concerned as I have a relative flying back from Europe this month with a broken laptop. I even called the TSA helpline for advice and was told they really had little guidance on the new rules. The criteria is that the devices must “power on”, but whether that means completely to a normal usable state, or if initial signs like a startup error sound is sufficient has not been addressed.

    Further, my assumption is that the new “threat” has to do with a device’s battery or other innards being replaced with explosive material. But the rule does not seem to be limited to battery powered devices… “electronic devices” can include any number that are powered from an outlet or external battery (external hard drives, compact desktop computers, scanners, printers, a Roomba… all of which I have carried with me at some point on an international flight). The TSA helpline was unable to provide any guidance on whether these devices would also need to be powered on, and if any accommodations would be made to provide appropriate power outlets.

    The agent did suggest that travelers would have the opportunity to place a “powerless device” in checked luggage. I imagine that will be difficult if the gateway international airport where devices are checked is not your originating airport, and has not been effective with the current sharps and liquids ban, where most let the items be confiscated rather than back out of security and try to package and check them. Further, placing electronics in checked luggage is a poor idea, both due to the risk of theft and the known risk of (even depleted) batteries, unsupervised, being naughty.

    1. I mailed several items to my home address in the US from France using a pre-paid box purchased at a French post office. The box arrived quickly and in perfect condition. Perhaps your relative should consider mailing the broken laptop home using the mail service in whichever European country s/he is in. I was able to track the package on line too. It was an odd assortment that would have looked bizarre on x-ray – a life size metal sculpture of a parrot, some knitting yarn, a couple of books – all wrapped in my dirty laundry.

      1. Thank you for bringing up an option I had neglected… I was too focused on figuring out how the rules applied. Right now, I think it is a toss-up between packaging it carefully in checked luggage or sending by post.

        The very curt TSA statement says: “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”

        Delta’s guidance says: “All battery-operated electronic devices intended for carry-on must be operational; any device that cannot be powered on upon screening will not be permitted onboard.”

        I found an Air Canada statement relating Transport Canada’s directive, which should mirror the TSA’s: “Powerless or broken devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”

        Cell phones get mentioned a lot, but only Delta specified “battery-operated” rather than just all electronics.

        “Powered on” seems to be the least restrictive… in this case, the laptop goes through the startup sound and the screen illuminates… but it would definitely fail Delta’s “operational” and Air Canada’s “broken” criteria. Since Delta is the carrier flying the transatlantic leg… they are probably most authoritative, assuming the checks are done by their “security” people at the gate, along with the now common “interview”.

        I checked the current guidance on laptop batteries in checked luggage, and it seems airlines are ok with it as long as the batteries are either installed in the device or properly secured. With proper planning, it is possible to create a padded yet sturdy place for a laptop in baggage or in a shipping box.

        The post will be more expensive, especially to insure and track … FedEx more so ($200+, I just checked). The final variable is the risk of theft… unfortunately, there still is a reputation in many parts of Europe that the post gets pilfered, while checked luggage is just vulnerable during ground handling, which should be brief…

        It’s just annoying to have to deal with the vague new rules, especially where it pertains to equipment you just can’t toss out in frustration like toothpaste or bottled water.

  18. Get your Private Pilot certificate like I did! Drive to the second airport entrance, walk out onto the ramp with your concealed carry weapon, anything you like in your luggage, taxi to the runway and take off! If you are a smoker, you can even light up en route. Besides, it’s FUN as Hell!

  19. I have long advocated and practiced that I do not care what the TSA does. At some point it will not surprise me if we have to give blood samples at a check point to be cross checked against a DNA profile to insure I am who I am, and I will care no more then than I do now, which is zero. I am happy and content to be a sheeple, my goal is to get from the counter to the gate of the plane with as little hassle and problems, and my experience has been that exercising right is an ineffective and draining use of time, resources and energy. I do not care if the TSA has never stopped a terrorist or even if they have in some way aided terrorism, I don’t care. I care about getting on the plane, that is the only thing that matters to me, and anyone in a position to effect that goal needs to be dealt with in the most efficient manner, in this and all cases that means compliance. I do not care about courtesy, humility, or any other such nonsense, i care about getting on the plane. I do not care if I get safety or security or neither, I do not care about my rights, your rights or if the constitution clutches its chest and dies a little more each day, or even if the founding fathers are turning in their grave, I care about getting on the plane.

  20. I still contend that TSA needs to be moved out from under DHS – where they can throw whatever BS they choose at the public under the aegis of “security concerns” – and put under the Department of Transportation. Which is actually concerned with effective transportation. They can get a brief from whatever security agency is necessary, but with an agency that’s more concerned about things moving smoothly, they will have to live in the real world.

    It’ll never happen, but it’s a nice daydream.

  21. While unpacking after a recent overseas trip, I noticed the zipper on one of our checked bags was damaged. Upon closer inspection, there was a TSA notice inside that the bag had been searched and any damage or loss was not their fault. This was a standard ballistic nylon bag with a smooth and working zipper — only a gorilla could have damaged it to that extent. In addition, the camera battery charger was missing, even though the connecting cord and batteries were intact. So glad I decided to hand carry the camera rather than check it (and possibly lose it too.)

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