Are Hassle Free Airlines Truly Possible?

airplane interior
jerdlngr, Flickr

A new airline in Memphis is looking to take the frustration out of flying, letting travelers skip airport security and show up at the airport just minutes before their flight takes off.

Southern Airways Express has been operational for four months and the carrier’s CEO believes it’s the answer to many passengers’ woes.

“You’re going to be able to walk from your car less than 50 yards in most cases to the aircraft without having to go through any TSA security hassles. You only have to get here 20 minutes before the plane departs,” CEO Stan Little told a local TV station.

Right now, the airline serves 10 regional domestic routes, but it’s planning to expand and may even add an international flight later this year.For passengers fed up with the nightmare that air travel has become, it all sounds too good to be true. Just the other day we told you about the disgraceful report card the TSA received following a government audit which found that a number of security screeners were sleeping, stealing and taking bribes on the job. The story prompted many readers to share their own tales of humiliation, frustration, or anger at having to deal with airport security.

The desire for a hassle-free airline is clearly strong, but can such a carrier truly take off in this day and age of global threats and terrorism fears? Southern Airways has managed to bypass TSA checks by flying in and out of smaller regional airports that don’t yet have strict security protocols, and any route expansions would likely involve destinations with similar secondary airports. Still, flying out of alternate hubs might be a small price to pay for travelers who have had enough of body scanners, bag searches and liquid restrictions.

What do you think? Can an airline like this be made to work?

Shocking Things The TSA Gets Away With


To many people, airport security is something of a necessary evil — a royal pain in the behind that they tolerate because ultimately, it’s designed to keep us safer. But a new study into the Transportation Security Administration raises questions about just how well the agency actually protects us. Airport screeners have been accused of everything from sleeping on the job to stealing and accepting bribes. And many are not really penalized for their actions.

An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed some shocking behavior by TSA agents stationed at airports around the country. In several instances, agents were found sleeping while on duty. Other agents might as well have been asleep given that they allegedly let people pass through to the secure zone of the airport without actually going through the screening process.According to the report, the agency has processed 56 cases of theft by TSA agents over the past three years. That included one agent at Orlando Airport who confessed to swiping more than 80 laptops from passengers. (These neglected to make an appearance on the agency’s new Instagram feed of confiscated goods.) Other disciplinary issues involve things like “neglect of duty,” credit card abuse and even bribery. In one such case last year, TSA agents were accused of pocketing bribes from drug traffickers in Los Angeles.

TSA Agent asleep
TheeErin, Flickr

The number of allegations against TSA employees runs well into the thousands, but the GAO says few of the agents were adequately punished for their behavior. In some cases, TSA agents were disciplined by their superiors after very little investigation, while in others, agents guilty of misconduct barely received a slap on the wrist.

The findings of the audit are unfortunate for an agency already facing public scrutiny. Just recently, the TSA came under fire for telling a 15-year-old girl that her clothes were too revealing. They have also been criticized for racially profiling passengers, and aggressively screening young children.

Fashion Do’s And Don’ts From The TSA


When talking about airport security, we generally focus on what travelers are carrying, not what they’re wearing. But thanks to the TSA recently cracking down on passengers’ fashion choices, style is now a part of the airport security conversation. Forget regulations on liquids or weapons: the TSA’s new security threat is clothing, accessories and hairdos, or so they seem to think.

On July 16th, a TSA spokeswoman tweeted a photo of black pumps that had small replica guns as heels. The shoes were confiscated by the TSA at New York’s Laguardia Airport despite the fact that they could have been easily verified as non-weapons. Also in the tweeted photograph was a black belt lined with mock silver bullets. While mock weapons aren’t ever supposed to be admitted on planes, I have to wonder: how far does that regulation extend? Would a charm bracelet with a mock handgun be permitted?

The TSA’s fashion crackdown has also come to include dreadlocks. Numerous reports have surfaced involving hair searches if the passenger sports dreads. Other style conflicts include an instance in which a male TSA officer recently told a 15-year-old traveler to cover herself in a criticism of her tank top, leggings and button-down shirt (not that it matters; it’s not appropriate for a TSA officer to remark on the perceived modesty or lack thereof in regard to passenger clothing).The TSA’s Fashion Dont’s include (or seem to include):

  • Don’t wear accessories that include mock weapons or accessories for weapons, no matter how small or obviously fake.
  • Don’t wear loose head coverings, religious or otherwise.
  • Don’t wear body piercings.
  • Don’t wear thick shirts.
  • Don’t wear studded clothing.
  • Don’t have dreadlocks.
  • Don’t wear tank tops.

Do’s include:

  • Do wear slip-on shoes.
  • Do wear comfortable, layered clothing.
  • Do remove as much jewelry beforehand as possible.

Have your fashion choices been judged by the TSA? Share your stories in the comments below.

How Do Dogs Find Explosives At Airports?

mrccos, Flickr

Behind every bomb-sniffing dog at the airport is hours and hours of repetition and reward. For many, their training starts with a canine kindergarten and continues until they graduate from an elite academy run by MSA Security. Around 160 teams work with these dogs, usually in tandem with the same handler for eight or nine years, until the dog is retired. Smithsonian magazine looks into what goes into training these dogs and how, exactly, dogs detect bombs. Here’s an excerpt:

Merry and Zane Roberts, MSA’s lead canine trainer, work their way along the line of luggage pieces, checking for the chemical vapors-or “volatiles”-that come off their undersides and metal frames. Strictly speaking, the dog doesn’t smell the bomb. It deconstructs an odor into its components, picking out just the culprit chemicals it has been trained to detect. Roberts likes to use the spaghetti sauce analogy. “When you walk into a kitchen where someone is cooking spaghetti sauce, your nose says aha, spaghetti sauce. A dog’s nose doesn’t say that. Instinctively, it says tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, onion, oregano.” It’s the handler who says tomato sauce, or, as it happens, bomb.

Thanks, Smithsonian magazine. I will never smell spaghetti sauce the same way again.

[via Gizmodo]

Americans Trying To Bring Guns On Planes At Unprecedented Rate, Says TSA

Gun, passport and cash
Neil Girling, Flickr

More and more Americans are apparently attempting to take airline security into their own hands. In data provided by the Transport Security Administration to the AP, there is evidence of a significant increase in the number of firearms that passengers try to take through TSA screening points in airports around the country.

In only the first half of this year, the TSA seized 894 guns from passengers – 30 percent more than the year before. From 2011 to 2012, the number of firearms seized increased by 17 percent.

Many of these weapons were seized from people who claim they simply forgot they were carrying a gun onto a plane. Airports in the south and west of the United States had the largest reported number of gun seizures.
Some of the stories of the seizures in the AP report are genuine head-shakers. To wit:

Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare.

The TSA found the weapons on the passengers’ person, in their carry-on luggage and even in a boot that one man was wearing on his prosthetic leg. Depending on the gun laws of the jurisdiction where the airports are located, some of the gun-toting passengers were arrested and others were not.

If you think 894 guns in six months is a lot, consider that these numbers don’t include BB guns, spear guns, flare guns, stun guns and other ballistic weapons.

Last month the TSA recently reversed their decision to allow small knives onto planes. They have not made any statements reiterating the ban on firearms.