$11.5 million buys little security at Newark Liberty Airport

Security gaps are so big at Newark Liberty International Airport you can drive a truck through them. Literally. Inside the terminal, the TSA goes through bags and confiscates oversized fluid containers, but no inspection occurs when trucks and vans drive through security checkpoints and out onto the tarmac. Security company FJC is responsible for protecting the airport, reports Fox 5, for which it is paid $11.5 million. The company is also responsible for security at New York area airports JFK and LaGuardia.

According to Fox 5:

The exclusive Fox 5 video shows FJC security guards stopping trucks at the checkpoint, then walking around the truck using a mirror to look at the undercarriage of the vehicle, but never actually examining the cargo inside the truck. Over and over, FJC guards do nothing more than glance inside trucks that are filled with cargo. The cursory inspections of the trucks’ contents lasted about 5 seconds and never actually involved a guard entering a single vehicle. After which the FJC guards simply waved through each and every truck. It is a security process that totally surprises counterterrorism expert Bill Vorlicek, who screened the video.

The range of risks to which the airport, passengers and employees are exposed is wide. Explosives, in particular, could cause mayhem. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that “an average delivery truck can carry anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 tons of explosives,” reports Fox 5.

Port Authority COO Ernesto Butcher told Fox 5 the security lapses were “unacceptable.” The report continues:

“Vehicle inspections are just one of a series of multilayered checks to ensure the safety of cargo being brought to the secure side of the airport, but they are critical and will be continually monitored,” Butcher said in a statement. “Port Authority officials have re-emphasized to all FJC security guards and their supervisors the need for continual diligence and proper inspection techniques during their shifts.”

Wheelchair kid stranded by Air Canada after tweet-a-thon

An eight-year-old kid suffering from muscular dystrophy had a simple dream: to race through Central Park in a tutu surrounded by a group of supporters. After a tweet-a-thon, anchored on the hashtag #TutusForTanner (the kid’s name is Tanner) resulted in $25,000, he hopped a plane for New York. The trip ended with the discovery that his $15,000 wheelchair had been ruined during the flight.

Tanner was stranded. He couldn’t go anywhere without a replacement.

Air Canada promised an immediate remedy – who wouldn’t? – but hours passed and no wheelchair materialized at LaGuardia. And, the airline has said it can’t fix the situation until Monday. Tanner is not in Central Park. Rather, he’s stuck in a hotel bed, possibly for up to five days. Until Air Canada comes through, Tanner isn’t going anywhere.

Also, wheelchairs. But fingers crossed that’s sorted properly. Delirious. Going to curl up & cry, & sleep. Love to you all #tutusfortannerless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Needless to say, Twitter is upset – well, specifically the people on Twitter. The folks who tweeted to send Tanner to Manhattan are now livid that Air Canada, according to TechEye.net, “has dashed the hopes of a dying child and ruined what could have been a joyous moment in his last remaining days.”Fortunately, the Twitter-verse seems to be focused on getting a replacement wheelchair for the kid, though it appears that the situation hasn’t been fixed yet. Notes the article, “The #TutusForTanner campaign is still ongoing, growing, and welcoming more support.” Meanwhile, Air Canada still hasn’t done anything, according to the report.

White Collar Travel: Stupid things business travelers have done

Sometimes you lose your mind when you’re on the road. You either develop a highly inappropriate sense of entitlement (this is my seat on my plane) or decide that nothing matters, giving you a blank check to behave like an asshole. The combination of professional pressures – in my day, it was the collapse of the dotcom bubble … a bump in the road compared to the 2008 financial crisis – personal travails and frustration of being perpetually in transit sometimes make you snap.

Nobody is impervious to the factors that drive business travelers to idiocy, and those who think they are tend to be the worst afflicted. I remember running into my boss at LaGuardia‘s Marine Air Terminal – I was on a Boston-to-New York run for a few months and flew the Delta Shuttle several times a week . We were delayed, not an unusual occurrence at the time. He spotted me in the lone dining facility in the terminal, walked over and sat down, took a call on his cell and proceeded to help himself to my fries without even giving it a second thought.

But, that’s mild.I encountered plenty of business traveler stupidity when I flew with the white collar set … some of it I saw in the mirror. When you find yourself behaving in this manner, it’s usually time to get a new gig. Some of what I saw remains unshakably glue to my memory.

I’ll never forget one run down south.

One of the joys of extended-stay hotels was the so-called “General Manager’s Reception.” At least, I was told it was. Since I was on a project that closely resembled hell, I could never get back to the hotel (which was across the parking lot) in time to down some free beer.

How did I learn of this phenomenon? I ran into my boss’s boss in the hallway, just outside our client’s offices. He was in town for a meeting and was not a part of our weekly grind. In his hand, he held a plastic cup with piss-colored liquid, the cheap beer that even a hotel can see isn’t worth marking up.

Me: “Uh, maybe you’ll want to throw that out before going inside?”

Him, chuckling: “Yeah, probably not a bad idea.”

In another part of the country, I saw first-hand what poor mixological decision-making can do. If you’re unsure of whether to have alcohol, always err on the side of caution. Always. Your client will understand … especially if medicine is involved. I will never forget being on one project where my boss mused aloud about her boss’s insecurities and the reasons for them. Apparently, mixing her cold medicine with red wine had two side effects: (1) saying really stupid stuff about her boss and (2) doing it loudly.

Moral of the story: If you’re on meds, exhausted or inches from not giving a damn about your career, drink club soda. It looks like alcohol and is often mixed with alcohol … but it won’t lead to the same results.

So, I’ve kicked in two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ seen idiocy on the road. Any other white collar travelers want to chime in? I’d love to hear what you’ve seen (or done!).

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Airline law ends long Tarmac delays, fine threat improves performance

The world didn’t end. No logistical disasters emerged. In fact, everything got a hell of a lot better.

Several months ago, the prospect of a maximum three-hour tarmac delay had the airline industry proclaiming the arrival of the four horsemen. They claimed that it would severely disrupt the industry to have to give passengers the option of getting off the plane would lead to chaos. People would be furious by a lone passenger wanting to bring the plane back to the gate, and crews would be forced to operate within the constraints of customer demands (you know … like other businesses).

Well, the airline industry doesn’t appear to be any worse off than it was. In fact, it looks like the new three-hour rule is having a positive effect. Three-hour tarmac delays have effectively disappeared, and on-time arrivals have improved overall. Everything seems to be running better than it was before the airlines faced fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.

How big a different did it make?Well, only four planes sat on the tarmac for more than three hours in April. In March, 25 hit that mark, and April 2009 had an astounding 81 planes on the tarmac for that long.

So, you’re probably wondering if the airlines stacked the deck, canceling flights to protect their stats and mitigate the risk of having to yank planes back to the gate or shell out big bucks fines. Year over year, the DOT reports that cancelations fell approximately 50 percent, with only 3,637 of 529,330 flights getting chopped.

Overall, on-time performance for the 18 airlines that report to the U.S. Department of Transportation climbed to 85.3 percent in April – up from 79.1 percent in April 2009 (and better than March’s 80 percent. Most of the late arrivals were caused by aviation system delays (e.g., bad weather or heavy traffic).

Efficient use of New York airspace and generally calm weather contributed to the improvement. LaGuardia‘s on-time rate surged to 87.4 percent from 67.4 percent. JFK showed a similar improvement – from 67.3 percent to 83.5 percent.

U.S. Airways led the pack in on-time performance among major airlines and followed Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines in the total market. American Airlines was the bottom of the barrel for the large carriers, with its sister carrier, American Eagle, sucking most among all airlines.

Let’s do the math on this. Holding airlines accountable and offering up the threat of hefty fines for mistreating passengers didn’t jeopardize their ability to operate. If anything, it led to improved results. For once, it seems, the government got it right. If that sounds weird, think of an airline that takes off and lands on time. Weird, right?

Breaking: NY port authority realizes what we all know – LaGuardia airport is a dump

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come to the conclusion that LaGuardia airport is “outdated”.

And who wouldn’t agree with them? Twenty years ago, LGA was probably considered a timeless relic, but nowadays the place is a disgrace, albeit a disgrace with a pretty decent location if you need to go to Manhattan.

As a major gateway into New York City, the place is about as welcoming as a punch in the stomach, which is why the port authority says the best solution is to completely rebuild the airport.

Of course, like any airport operator, cash for the rebuild is nowhere to be found (even though 26 million passengers pay a $4.50 facility fee when they use the airport). Several options are being evaluated, including a privatization and an airline financed reconstruction.

As an airline passenger, I don’t really care how they fix LaGuardia, as long as it involves ripping the whole place down and removing any remnants of this horrible airport.