Airport Screening To Be Faster Thanks To New TSA Program

It’s taken a long time but a quicker, more efficient screening process at the nation’s airports looks to be coming into focus. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is planning a new three-tier system for passenger and baggage screening that taps features of ongoing programs to streamline the process.

Based on elements of the best parts of the existing Secure Flight and TSA PreCheck programs, the new system is “designed to increase the number of airline passengers who may be eligible for expedited screening,” says a report in Travel Weekly.

Using that information, air travelers will be classified into three tiers — expedited, standard or enhanced — with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same.

Under the new system, low risk travelers would be directed to the lanes now used for TSA’s PreCheck program. Shoes and belts stay on. Laptops remain in cases.

Passengers would be screened at the time of booking, and the level of required screening would be embedded in the barcode of the traveler’s boarding pass.
PreCheck expands this year to 100 U.S. airports. This Fall, anyone can join by going through a background check. Participants allow their fingerprints to be file. The anticipated fee is $85.

Museum Exhibits Coming To A Movie Theater Near You

Few people can fly half way around the world just to see an art exhibition, and now, thanks to a new documentary series they don’t have to. One company is set to bring culture to the masses by broadcasting major art exhibitions at movie theaters around the globe.

Much like a real trip to a museum, the documentaries walk you through a current or recent exhibit, pausing at important works along the way. A noted historian provides commentary and insight into the significance of the artworks, while interviews with museum curators and a backstage look at the exhibits round out the 90-minute films.The company behind the documentaries, BY Experience, is the same one that brought live concerts from the Met Opera and London’s National Theater to the big screen. Those live screenings proved a huge success, earning the opera and orchestra groups millions of dollars each season. In much the same way, the art galleries involved in the documentaries are set to cash in on the screenings.

The films will focus on an art exhibition limited to one location, giving those who can’t travel to that particular city a chance to view it. The documentaries kick off this week with an exhibit about Edouard Manet from the Royal Academy of Arts in London. A retrospective on Edvard Munch and an exhibit featuring Johannes Vermeer are also slated for later this year.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Martin Beek]

TSA ‘Behavioral Officers’ look for the obvious

Our pals over at AOL Travel are reporting that the TSA has “behavioral indicator officers” who attempt to observe people in security lines to determine if anyone is a security risk. So, if you still think that it’s funny to make bomb jokes while waiting to pass through the x-ray machine, you might want to start working on some new material. The TSA, meanwhile, might want to consider that travel, in general, and airport security, in particular, tend to make even the most docile people uncomfortable. Are the Behavior Detection Officers (that’s the TSA’s official term) keeping us safer or just adding another layer of nuisance to the airport security process?According to the TSA website,

TSA’s BDO-trained security officers are screening travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered. TSA recognizes that an individual exhibiting some of these behaviors does not automatically mean a person has terrorist or criminal intent. BDOs do, however, help our security officers focus appropriate resources on determining if an individual presents a higher risk or if his/her behavior has a non-threatening origin. Individuals exhibiting specific observable behaviors may be referred for additional screening at the checkpoint to include a handwanding, limited pat down and physical inspection of one’s carry-on baggage. Referrals are based on specific observed behaviors only, not on one’s appearance, race, ethnicity or religion.

You know who exhibits involuntary physical and physiological reactions in response to TSA screenings? A very large segment of the population. Between patting down children, radiating travelers and blatant xenophobia, the TSA hasn’t exactly installed confidence in the general public. So, it’s only natural that completely innocent travelers might exhibit signs of fear while waiting to be screened by poorly trained security agents.

At present, all travelers are presumed guilty until scanned innocent. That makes many people outraged, nervous and downright scared. Will these TSA Behavior Detection Officers be able to differentiate an anxious terrorist and a nervous flier? Seeing as how how the TSA has a history of overstepping its bounds, it’s hard for us to be confident in their profiling skills.

Oh, and there’s that word: profiling. Sure, the TSA statement specifically says that these officers are not looking at anyone’s “appearance, race, ethnicity or religion,” but this still opens the door to sweeping generalizations or assumptions about anyone who simply looks nervous. Some people are so terrified of flying that they start sweating and acting nervously the moment they enter an airport. What happens if you happen to be a dark-skinned, bearded aerophobic? Seems to me that you’ll be singled out and forced to explain to a TSA officer who has singled you out as a risk that you are scared to fly.

What the TSA’s website fails to explain is what types of training these Behavior Detection Officers have received. There are pyschologists who spend their entire careers studying human behaviors and responses to fear. What have these TSA officers been taught? Who taught them?

Terrorists, one would imagine, are psychopaths. People who are detached from reality are more likely to be at peace with their dangerous decisions. A terrorist can act calmly going through security. A nervous flier or a traveler who is offended by be treated like a criminal will exhibit fear. At the end of the day, it seems that the presence of these Behavior Detection Officers will just make more innocent people nervous.

What will these Behavior Detection Officers find? Most likely, a lot of people who are scared to fly, hate the TSA or who just simply have overactive sweat glands.

Nomading Film Festival announces NY venue

If you’re a New Yorker, a film enthusiast, a traveler that loves good storytelling, or combination of all three; clear your calendar for June 18th and set your sights on the West Village’s massive Hostelling International-New York.

The Brooklyn-based Nomading Film Festival has announced that they’ll be holding their big night of screenings in the biggest hostel in North America – an environment that falls right in line with their overall theme. The idea behind the Nomading Film Festival is simple. The fest’s creators “believe that stories caught on film, while traveling, are some of the most entertaining, educating, beautiful, and authentic. These are stories which should be shared, acknowledged, and awarded.

Don’t have any video experience? Not to worry – NoFF encourages people of all experience levels with video to submit so long as it’s under 15 minutes, non-fiction, and uploaded before April 30th (upload here). The festival has changed their grand prize from a trip to Egypt, to a 10-day trip to India, courtesy of Intrepid Travel. So grab your camera, phone, or webcam and hit the road!

Head on over to the Nomading Film Festival homepage for more information.

Don’t wrap gifts – (Holiday) Packing tip

When traveling over the holidays with gifts, never pre-wrap!

Wrapped items may need to be inspected by the TSA, and that could mean they’ll be unwrapped by security before you even get to your destination. Go ahead and pack the gifts, but either pack a few sheets of wrapping paper — or just plan to purchase paper at your destination — and tend to the task after landing