Recently, I was flying from New York City to Nashville and was enjoying my "TSA Pre Check" expedited line. At the moment of truth (the X ray machine), I noted the screeners were asking passengers to remove snacks from their bags and place them in those convenient grey bins. I honestly didn't think much of it. First the shoes, the liquids, the laptops, the outerwear and NOW they've come for the snacks. However, this happened again at another airport a couple of days later so I decided to do some digging.
Here's a Washington Post article highlighting some of the hand-ringing.
This is NOT a new policy. It was a recommendation made by the TSA to its airports and screeners in an effort to avoid a manual, time-consuming search. Apparently the X Ray machines have a hard time deciphering a plastic explosive from a protein bar. And, if you stop to think about it, it makes sense. However, the public's response has been less-than understanding. I spoke with Lisa Farbstein from the the TSA and the recommendation seems pretty straight-forward.
"As part of its counter terrorism efforts, TSA continuously enhances and adjusts security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats. TSA’s top priority is to protect the traveling public, and every policy and security procedure in place is designed to mitigate threats to passengers and the aviation sector – which we know our adversaries continue to target. Adjustments to screening procedures are a necessary part of operations and TSA does so in the most efficient and effective way possible while maintaining a positive passenger experience."
I say, let it go.
The TSA is responsible for keeping us safe in the the airport and on planes. They have to stay one step ahead of the evil-doers. Their polices recommendations and practices are not arbitrary. As a matter of fact (according to the TSA), The TSA screens more than TSA screens 4.9 million carry-on items for explosives and other prohibited items every day!
My flights are usually North American which means I don't carry a lot of (or any other than mints and gum) "snacks" through security. The same goes for when I travel with my children...who seem to snack on an almost constant basis.
If you must fly with snacks, I suggest you purchase them on the plane or at the airport after security. Some in the travel industry refer to the time we spend after security and before you board your plane "the golden hour". If you MUST bring them from home, place all snacks in a clear zip lock bag for easy removal and placement in a bin.
No need to fret, contemplate or complain on Social Media, its just a safety precaution.
My two cents.
Greetings my fellow travel buddies...this week we’re discussing cheap flights. Two ultra low-cost carriers Southwest vs. Jet Blue Airways are the subject de jour.
Southwest Airlines is a much larger airline than Jet Blue. But they do compete for the same dollar, so that is why we are comparing the two. Let's start with the basic facts:
Size of the Fleet
Before we go any further, deciding HOW you are going to get somewhere via flight can be a seemingly daunting task when it comes to price. But let’s demystify that for you. Let’s look at this idea from an airline’s perspective and then we will get to you.
Revenue management is a big deal for airlines. What is the highest price an airline can charge for a seat?
Let's use a quick analogy to answer. When you look at the produce section of a supermarket, an orange has a fast expiration date. It was picked off the tree, and now it’s ready for you to purchase. The grocer wants to charge as much as he or she can for that orange before throwing it away. Unless the commercial aviation industry radically changes they way they charge for seats, then think of every seat on every flight as a piece of rotting fruit. That seat on that day on that flight (or segment) is only going to exist once. If the flight takes off and a seat is empty, then it becomes a piece of fruit the airline makes no money on.
Now let’s talk about you. You expressed an interest that you want a cheap flight to wherever you are going. Many factors contribute to the cost of an airline seat. These include, the specific airline, the on-board experience, the class of seat, where you are flying from and where you are going and how long it takes to get there. And finally, in some instances how far in advance you book and pay for these seats.
For starters, in many cases getting the lowest or cheapest airfare has everything to do with where you live and what airport is your home airport. That’s where the word HUB comes into play or “cities of focus” or operating bases. To give you a clue, research online and check the number of gates an airline occupies at any given airport and then check to see how many flights depart from that airport or city per day. More gates and more flights equal more flexibility when things don’t go as planned.
The top five hubs for Southwest include Chicago Midway, Baltimore, MD, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas Love Field. While Jet Blue’s top cities include JFK in New York, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Logan airport in Boston, Long Beach in California, San Juan Puerto Rico and Orlando, Florida.
Why is this important, because the more fights per day on the airline you choose from the place you’re flying from and to decreases the chances of issues on your air travel day. Issues such as missing your flight, weather delays, crew delays or airplane mechanical problems.
Now let’s look at the value of your time. The longer it takes to get somewhere...the less you might pay. Airlines know through years of industry research; the flying public wants direct flights. That’s point A (the place you are flying from) to point B (your ultimate destination) without having to stop, or change planes. Therefore, a direct flight might be slightly more expensive than an itinerary with stops or connections. Also, the time of day you depart often affects the ticket price. For instance, a 6:00 a.m. departure might be cheaper than the more desirable 9:00 a.m. departure.
Given all that, let’s get back to Southwest vs. Jet Blue. Southwest has one class of seating. Jet Blue was also built on this premise. However, on some longer Jet Blue flights you’ll find premium or business class seating. They call it Mint. On Southwest, they have an open seating policy. Each passenger is assigned a letter and you board by letter and take any seat you wish. Jet Blue has a more traditional seating arrangement whereby you select your seat, or one is assigned to you before you board.
Both airlines offer complimentary snacks and soft drinks. Both charge for alcoholic beverages and Jet Blue offers additional in-flight snacks for purchase on some flights. Both airlines have in-flight entertainment options. And both have frequent flyer programs.
Jet Blue has code share agreements with a long list of international carries while Southwest does not.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process. You can vote at erikthetravelguy.com/vote or leave a comment on this video in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this information is for educational purposes only and contains editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
Whether I’m packing for a business or leisure trip, my soft-sided briefcase is always close by. Different from my carry-on (roller) and my checked luggage, my briefcase is essentially my man-purse and an extension of what I keep literally on my person (in my pockets). I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I have learned (over time and through trial and error), these are the items most-needed on my travels.
The bag itself. My briefcase is black, soft faux leather. I travel a lot so my luggage gets used and I usually go through about one briefcase every two to three years. I do not use expensive luggage when I travel (or in my personal life for that matter). My briefcase has a strap on the exterior so it can slip over the handle of my carry-on roller. Attached to the handle is an “Erik The Travel Guy” luggage tag.
Regardless of where I’m going, these are essentially what you will find in my briefcase:
Relevant file folders from my office
Laptop with my travel power supply and a wireless mouse (I’m a little old school)
iPhone (when going through airport security)
iPad (long haul flights) with downloaded books and movies
Sunglasses in case with alcohol wipes
Wallet (when going through security)
Passport (international travel and some domestic)
Boarding pass (if applicable...I usually use an airline app)
iPhone charging cable
Portable power supply (emergencies)
Pens, sharpie and business cards
Pad of paper
Two organic tea bags
Hand Sanitizer and travel antibacterial wipes
Travel-size Advil, Rolaids & Cough drops
So there you have it. The idea here is to spark thought on what works for you, but that’s what I’m working with…
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
On February 16, 2017, Delta Airlines announced it would resume serving freshly-prepared, complimentary meals in economy class for selected transcontinental flights.
So why do this? Because airline customers are a fickle bunch. The perception of the flying public is that airlines "took away" meals, free checked bags etc. Delta needs to remain competitive and this move is a clear shot across the wing at retaining and gaining new economy class passengers from rivals such as Southwest, United and American.
According to their press release release, “We are all about making our Main Cabin experience the best it can be for our customers and offering free, high quality meals is a big part of that experience,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s Senior Vice President – In-Flight Service. “When we tested this concept, our customers loved it and appreciated it so we are implementing in our most strategic markets."
Does this mean their economy fares will increase on these routes? Not necessarily. Airline revenue management is complicated the airlines have a lot of data to analyze. Think of it this way, every seat on every flight everyday is like a piece of rotting fruit. The minute that flight takes off, those unsold seats will never exist again, hence the rotting fruit analogy. Therefore, airlines are compelled to sell every seat at just about any price.
The in-flight experience is something airlines are working extremely hard to perfect in the complex and ever-changing world of air travel. More leg room, free checked bags, meals, beverages, snacks, in-flight entertainment are all part of the mix. Lets face it, they can't make the planes go faster or change the weather so making the in-flight experience as comfortable (or as affordable) as possible is really the only area for competitive growth.
I applaud Delta for this move and their attempt at making forward strides in the war of public perception. Like all airlines, Delta needs to be profitable but I also believe they have a responsibility to encourage us to travel. We need the airlines to whisk us away to far of places! So hopefully moves like this will inspire other domestic carriers to follow suit. Read the full release here.
However, I'm also here to remind YOU the traveling public to respect and marvel in the invention of modern day aviation. If you want the airlines to make flying "glamorous" again, then we have to do our part. Save the flip flops for the beach, wear an upscale casual outfit, make up, brush your hair and teeth and wear comfortable yet smart footwear. Be extra kind to the flight attendants and respect their part of the equation. And for the love of crying Pete, don't try to jam too much of your crap in the overhead bins!
And...enjoy your FREE meal in economy on Delta!
Do you have comment or a question...leave it in the comment section below.
A recent online survey was completed of commercial airline pilots, and the results were a little unsettling. According to the results, a decent percentage of the men and women at the stick suffer from some form of depression. This is not good news for us, the flying public, although not really a cause for alarm when you consider the numbers. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are roughly 104,000 commercial airline pilots in the United States. And the survey results were from roughly 3,500 respondents. Never the less, I am always quick to defend flight attendants as they are tasked with the awesome responsibility of taking care of John Q Public at 35,000 feet. But hang on for one second to consider the brave men and women who perform a task for the love of flight. Every pilot (commercial or otherwise) with whom I've ever spoken has always been quick to tout their love of flight. Essentially, they are most comfortable in the sky. Pretty cool if you stop to think about it. And like any other career, they are faced with the same personal challenges we all experience. While we are on the subject, I decided to take a flying lesson to get a better understanding of what it's like to fly and let me just say...I was scared to death and loved every minute of it. We made a video so feel free to take a look.
So this survey reminds us that airline pilots are people too. They perform a job for an honest wage. So, the next time you see one, or the next time you step onto a plane, take a second to say "hello" not just to the flight attendants but those on the flight deck. Give 'um a "thank you" or "have a great flight" on your way to your seat. A word of appreciation may just be exactly what that aviator needs.
You can read the full survey here.
I am about to get on the plane. My bags are packed and my passport is ready, but am I? “Jet lag”, ladies and gentleman, is a dish served as wholly in first class as it is in coach. However, here are a few quick tips to beat jet lag before he/she beats you!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!