The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been working on addressing long lines at airport security screening areas for quite some time. TSA Precheck lanes are being expanded to more airports every year and Global Entry lets frequent, pre-authorized travelers to zip into the United States. Just last week, we reported faster airport screening via a new TSA program. But that’s not enough, says a travel trade organization, urging Congress to take action.
The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is battling what they believe to be the cause of problems at our airports; budget restrictions and poor planning. They believe the current system leaves airports unable to handle millions of visitor a year. They have some specific recommendations too.
Calling for a 50-percent reduction in peak the wait times, the USTA believes it should take just 30 minutes to process travelers. They want Customs and Border Protection staffing and participation in the Global Entry Program increased. Congress should be involved in an ongoing way, and should require periodic progress reports, says the association in a list of 20 recommended policy changes.
Back at the TSA, the new system is indeed a step in the right direction, classifying travelers into three tiers — expedited, standard or enhanced — with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same and is exactly what the Travel Association wants changed.
In an Open Letter to the U.S. Congress, over 70 travel leaders even suggested ways to fund the additional programing necessary to address the problem and increase transparency in the entire process. It’s a lofty goal but one worthy of pursuit: the U.S. economy could lose $95 billion and 518,000 jobs over the next five years due to long security and customs lines at the nation’s airports.
China claimed a new record for world’s highest airport when Daocheng Yading Airport opened this week in the Tibetan province of Sichuan, taking the title from Changdu Bangda Airport, also in Tibet. The new airport is at an elevation of 14,472 feet above sea level, 253 feet higher than the previous record holder. There is a single Air China flight scheduled for now, from Chengdu, with additional domestic flights planned in the coming year. The flight cuts travel time from the provincial capital from a two-day bus ride to a one-hour flight. The airport is close to the Yading Nature Reserve, known as the last Shangri-La. Daocheng shouldn’t rest on its laurels long, as Nagqu Dagring is planning an airport to open in 2015 at an altitude of 14,554 feet.
The airport is controversial, as part of China’s plan to increase tourism in Tibet, which Tibetans feel deepens Chinese rule on the autonomous region. China also opened the world’s highest railway in Tibet in 2006, much of it on permafrost, which many felt would threaten the local environment and culture.
Whether you like to hunt down the hidden hole-in-the-wall eateries, the popular street food stalls or the city’s best haute cuisine, you probably agree that food is an important part of the travel experience. But if there’s one aspect of travel dining that is universally loathed, it has to be airport food. Bland, congealed — not to mention overpriced — airport meals seem to be an inevitable part of the journey.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that one country has decided its airport food is so good that it is part of its marketing campaign. Sweden believes the fare at Stockholm Arlanda Airport is so nom-worthy that it is loading up food trucks with the airport cuisine to tempt the taste buds of the city’s residents and visitors.For $10, hungry patrons can dine on dishes like braised veal, pulled pork, truffle risotto, lasagna and ramen soup with wasabi-marinated smoked salmon. Those behind the concept say they believe people will be surprised by the quality of the food, and will hopefully be encouraged to get to the airport earlier to sample more of the cuisine on offer.
The food truck will make rounds of Stockholm for several weeks, but may stick around longer if the idea proves a success.
What do you think of airport food? Would you try out the Arlanda Food Truck?
“Please stow your electronic devices for takeoff.”
Flickr user (and Gadling Flickr Pool member) Peter Rood might have bent that rule just a little bit on his recent departure from Denver, Colorado. The view from Rood’s flight, as it ascended through the stormy skies, is gorgeous.
Traveling mothers have things a bit easier in Vermont at Burlington’s airport after a “lactation station” was installed, allowing mothers to breastfeed or pump in a private booth post-security. The modular Mamava Lactation Station has room for luggage and a stroller, a fold-down table and power adapters, soft lighting, and antimicrobial surfaces. The station provides a clean and private alternative to using a bathroom or other public space during a layover or before a flight.
Burlington Airport was the site of a “nurse in” protest in 2006 after a breastfeeding mother was removed from a flight, and will be the first in the world to have the nursing kiosk. Burlington aviation director Gene Richards worked with Mamava directly, as part of making the airport experience “as relaxing as possible.”
As a parent and frequent traveler, I’m happy to see a way to make travel a little easier, with or without a baby. While I have breastfed (discreetly) in public all over the world without anyone noticing or caring, pumping requires a certain amount of privacy. As this station will also benefit mothers traveling without babies who pump and want to take bottles through security, it’s providing a solution to a problem. Moreover, it shows that airports can respond to passenger needs and add amenities, rather than take them away. We can all drink to that!