Thousands Of Airport Delays In Wake Of Sequestration

Earlier this week we warned travelers to expect delays as sequestration cuts hit airports, and now the numbers are in: according to a news release from FlightStats.com, nearly 1,000 flights have been canceled and there have been more than 18,200 flight delays since the Federal Aviation Administration began facing the spending cuts on Sunday.

Airports with the highest percentages of delays yesterday were LaGuardia Airport in New York, Denver International Airport in Colorado, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Newark Liberty International Airport, also in New York.

Data from the flight tracking website shows there were 207 flights canceled and 4,842 delays on Sunday, when the furloughs began. Those cancellations cascaded into Monday, when there were 404 canceled flights and 7,027 delays. Yesterday, the numbers were slightly lower, at 385 canceled flights and 6,396 delays. Hopefully this last set of data means airports are getting things under control, but for now the only advice we can give is to check each flight status and ensure you leave plenty of time to get through airport security.

[Photo credit: Flickr user _ambrown]

Rain, Snow Snarls Flights Nationwide

Bad weather has put a damper on air traffic in the Midwest and Southwest, causing hundreds of cancellations nationwide.

At O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, more than 300 flights were canceled because of strong rainstorms, and at Denver International Airport, more than 400 flights were grounded due to a snowstorm forecast to dump 7 inches of snow on the Mile-High City, CNN is reporting.

Both these terminals are amongst the top five contenders on the list of busiest airports in the U.S., meaning the cancellations are sure to reverberate throughout the country. Stranded travelers should check out this list of handy smartphone apps that can help fliers check statuses, rebook or even find fun ways to pass the time while stuck at airports.

[Photo by Flickr user CameliaTWU]

US Grounded On World Airport Awards, But Shopping Great At Heathrow

World airport awards

As a top honor in the world airport industry, the World Airport Awards rank the best airline facilities on everything from how they operate to airport hotels, shopping and more. To determine the winners, actual travelers from over 160 countries take part in an annual airport satisfaction survey.

A global benchmark of airport excellence, the survey pool is deep. The World Airport Awards results use the answers to 12.1 million questionnaires completed by 108 different nationalities passing through 395 airports during the nine-month survey period in 2012 and 2013.

On top? Singapore Changi Airport took top honors, followed by Korea’s Incheon International Airport, a Gadling favorite, then Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. U.S. airports fared fairly well, coming in with 15 spots on the World’s Top 100 Airports ranking.

While no U.S. airports made the top ten (again), the top three U.S. airports are: Denver International Airport at number 36; San Francisco International, which ranked 40th; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which squeaked into the top 50 at number 48.

But in the top ten, multiple-award winner London’s Heathrow Airport (number 10) was voted best for shopping too. Boasting over 700,000 of high-end retail space, here are some of the more than 500 shops that air travelers can choose from.

%Gallery-185376%It was a good year for Heathrow, which won the World’s Best Airport Shopping award for the second time, rounding out the top ten list. In addition, Heathrow’s $9 billion Terminal 5 was named as the World’s Best Terminal Building in category listings.

Some other interesting wins:

  • Best Airport Security Processing- Copenhagen
  • Best Airport Immigration Service- Kuala Lumpur
  • Best International Transit Airport- Incheon
  • World’s Cleanest Airport- Tokyo Haneda
  • Best Airport for Leisure Amenities- Singapore
  • Best Airport Dining- Munich
  • Best Airport for Baggage Delivery- Zurich

The World Airport Awards survey was conducted from May 2012 through March 2013.



[Photo credits - Chris Owen/Heathrow Airport]

Speed Through Airport Security Checkpoints, One Way Or Another

airport security

As airport security checkpoints get more crowded and lines get longer, travelers are arriving earlier than ever to make that flight on time. Arrive late; miss the flight. Once at the gate, passengers may wait longer than normal as airlines juggle the start of boarding with actual anticipated takeoff time. Keeping passengers in the aircraft or on the ground too long may result in a hefty fine. While the aircraft may be ready and the flight crew willing, passengers may face delays beyond their control caused by budget cutbacks.

Frequently flying out of Orlando International Airport (MCO), I see crowds on most days at just about any time as vacationers come in town to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Studios or any one of a number of central Florida attractions. Frankly, the thought of the process being slowed down by budget cuts is terrifying to those who work out of that airport.

How terrifying? Enough to make frequent fliers re-think their game plans and look for new ways to expedite the boarding process.

Take The Express Lane
airport securityI recently re-joined CLEAR, the biometric fast pass through security at MCO. I had been a member in 2005 when the service had over 200,000 members. But shortly after a laptop with the names and detailed information of 33,000 CLEAR customers was reported stolen in 2008, the service shut down. Starting back up in 2010, I had thought about joining again but was a bit apprehensive about the whole program and lines seemed to move along pretty well at MCO anyway.

Then came talk of sequestering, budget cuts and TSA downsizing, which quickly reminded me just how much I hate lines, slow people and inefficiency. Example: On a rolling sidewalk at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport, clearly marked stand to the right, walk to the left, I made a point of educating our children that “there is no ‘mosey’ lane kids.”

Primed to take the bait of a LivingSocial CLEAR trial offer ($18 for three months, spouse included), we stopped by the CLEAR kiosk not long ago to complete registration. I answered a variety of security questions and gave prints of fingers and thumbs, along with a retina scan and a copy of my passport and driver’s license. The process took about five minutes. From what I could see, that was far longer than those observed going through the CLEAR security checkpoint.

Stopping briefly to verify their identity then right on through the normal x-ray scan without any wait has the potential to save passengers time. One TSA officer told me, without hesitation, that amount of time could be “hours if staffing is reduced.”

The main drawback with CLEAR is that it is only offered in a few airports. Besides Orlando International Airport (MCO), CLEAR service is available at Denver International Airport (DEN), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Westchester NY Airport (HPN).

Will I keep CLEAR after the three-month trial? Hard to say; at an annual rate of $179 per person, frequent fliers working out of a CLEAR-enabled airport will probably have no trouble justifying the price. As reports of actual government cutbacks cause longer lines, even less-than-frequent fliers could suddenly become interested, as I was.

For travelers not based by a CLEAR-enabled airport, there are other options though. To get there, we need to start by thinking outside of the United States.

Global Entry Program
airport securityInternational arrivals can speed up the process of entering the United States by using automated kiosks at most major U.S. airports via the Global Entry Program. I signed up for this one too because I have several international flights coming up in the next few months. The $100 fee is good for five years.

One of several Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler Programs, including SENTRI (expedites crossing between the U.S. and Mexico), and NEXUS (expedites processing between the U.S. and Canada), Global Entry requires a fairly detailed online application to begin.

You’ll need your valid passport, driver’s license and a clean criminal record to get conditionally approved. A face-to-face appointment at an airport processing center completes the application.

TSA Pre
airport securityThe TSA Pre✓ program allows some frequent fliers, invited by their participating host airline (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines or US Airways), along with those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, to speed through the airport screening process for domestic flights.

Odds are that if you qualify for the program through an airline, you already know about it. Those who don’t make it via airline invitation can back up to the Global Entry Program, pay the $100 for five years and enjoy the benefits.

Once enrolled in one of CBP’s eligible Trusted Traveler Programs, like the Global Entry Program mentioned above, air travelers are automatically qualified to participate in TSA Pre when flying a participating airline at a participating airport.

To make that work, once signed up for a Trusted Traveler Program, travelers provide their Trusted Traveler account number in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking travel.

That number, along with reservation information goes into TSA’s Secure Flight system and enables access to the TSA Pre✓ line at participating airports by embedding a secret code in boarding passes.

In addition to a faster lane, TSA Pre✓-approved travelers can leave their shoes, light outerwear and belts on and keep their 311 liquids packed away. Laptops and small electronics no longer have to be removed either. The program is no guarantee of expedited processing, as TSA will continue random checks, but it sure can’t hurt.

Orlando International Airport where I am trying the CLEAR membership is one of those airports.
Observing both the CLEAR line and the TSA Pre ✓ line, CLEAR seems to be the winner for speed. We’ll find out as we test both over the next few months.

Travelers React to Big Changes on Airport Security

[Photo Credits- Flickr user alist - tsa.gov - Chris Owen]

Airports As Art Galleries? London Says Yes

airports

Airports around the world have a lot of wall space to fill. Cavernous spaces inside terminals often mimic outside parking spaces wide enough for jumbo jets. To fill that space, those who plan airports use huge sculptures, gigantic paintings and other works of art. Now, London’s Gatwick airport will be the home to several works by British pop artist Sir Peter Blake.

Best known for his design of the album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Blake has had international appeal for decades. Unveiling his new London-inspired collection, Blake has created works for each terminal that celebrate all that is great about London, while welcoming visitors.

Being installed in Gatwick’s North and South terminals, the permanent installation shows London through the ages with more than just a photo here or a sculpture there. The collection promises to immerse passengers from the time they get off the plan until they claim their luggage.”This project instantly captured my imagination – a chance to showcase London to an international public and to remind Brits how great it is to be back on British soil,” Blake said in a Breaking Travel News report.

Separate from ongoing efforts to upgrade airport operations, the idea came from an airport passenger panel that wanted visitors or those returning from holidays to get a real sense of arrival in Britain.

Some other airports with great art?

Denver International Airport has permanent art exhibits, including a 32-foot-tall, bright blue, fiberglass horse sculpture with gleaming red eyes called “Mustang.” The 9000-pound work comes from New Mexico artist Luis Jiménez.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has a collection that depicts messages of world peace, community and friendship. Organized by The Colorful Art Society, Inc. and People to People International, the collection changes on a rotating basis.

Philadelphia International Airport also rotates its collection, established in 1998 as an exhibition program on display throughout its terminals. Called their Art In The Airport program, it provides visitors from around the world access to a wide variety of art from the Philadelphia area.

Here’s more on airport art, including the collection at Washington’s Reagan National Airport:



[Photo Credit: Flickr user scorzonera]