Monday, May 30, 2016

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How Secure Are Airports In Africa & The Middle-East?

May 24, 2016

The mystery of the EgyptAir crash deepened - Details of the jet's final three minutes were revealed yesterday via a flurry of automatic electronic messages showing a rapid loss of control. Submarines are searching for the black box this week.
You know how some travelers get their bags shrink wrapped because of theft concerns relating to the airports they're flying to or through? These smaller crimes and corruption at airports could be an indicator of a much larger security problem.

Authorities say negligent oversight of airport employees and slipshod screening of passengers in some Middle East and African airports are being taken advantage of that should alarm allnations that fly to those areas.
If the disappearance of EgyptAir flight MS804 is discovered to be the work of terrorists, it will be the fourth attack in the past year on air travelers in North African and Middle-Eastern countries.

The plane crisscrossed the Middle East, Africa and Europe. From its hub in Cairo, it flew to Brussels and back on Tuesday, followed by a round-trip to Asmara, Eritrea, in East Africa. On Wednesday, it flew in and out of Tunis before traveling to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and left again for Cairo that evening with 66 passengers and crew, according to flight records.

Metrojet Flight 9268 - Russia confirmed bomb caused downed plane in Egypt, Oct. 31, 2015
The investigation involves passenger screening, baggage and cargo, starting with Paris and extending to all the airports. 

French authorities are checking surveillance footage at Charles de Gaulle, focusing specifically on who had contact with the aircraft and the baggage loaded onto the plane. From cabin cleaners and caterers to pilots and passengers, hundreds of people were close enough to the plane to be dangerous.

Stamping Out Corruption
The airport tragedy in Brussels in March raised red flags on the lack of security for Africa and Middle-Eastern aviation.

At least two of the previous attacks in the region were said by local authorities to involve airport employees who used their positions to bypass security, including October's bombing of a jet carrying Russian tourists home from an Egyptian beach resort and an incident in February where explosives in a laptop blew a hole in a Somali plane.
Shortly after leaving Mogadishu Airport a loud bang was heard in the cabin. There was a loss of pressurization and the plane made an emergency landing back at the airport. A large hole was observed in the side of the fuselage. A bomb inside a laptop was detonated in the cabin. The bomber was sucked out of the plane and killed. Feb. 2, 2016.

Before the October 31st bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268, which was flying from Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, to Saint Petersburg, Russia, Security guards at Sharm el-Sheikh airport took cash from tourists to help them skip security. Airport employees are suspected of helping terrorists plant a bomb on the plane.

The al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia used similar tactics to slip a bomb aboard Daallo Airlines Flight 3159 in Mogadishu on February 2nd. An explosive inside a laptop blew out the side of the plane as it was climbing to cruise altitude, killing the man who had carried it aboard. The Airbus A321 stayed intact and pilots landed safely a short time later.

The Nigerian newspaper This Day reported that corruption is rampant among its airport security and check points that could allow terrorists gain entry to the terminals.

"It calls into question the airports in that region," said John Halinski, the former deputy administrator of the US Transportation Security Administration. "It's something that needs to be looked at not just in those countries, but in any country that flies into that country."

Sabotaging Planes At The Airport

It is hard to get an explosive device through security, but it's not that hard to get a job at the airport said Jeffrey Price, author of several certification programs on aviation security and airport management.

0n March 7th, another bomb in a laptop exploded as a crowd was being examined at a security checkpoint at the Beledweyne airport in central Somalia, injuring several people, according to news reports.

EgyptAir Was Aware of Threats to Security, Including One Scribbled on Plane

Ironically, the EyptAir jetliner that plunged into the Mediterranean on Thursday was once the target of political vandals who wrote in Arabic on its underside, "We will bring this plane down."

The threatening graffiti, which appeared about two years ago, had been the work of aviation workers at Cairo Airport. The graffiti had been linked to the domestic Egyptian political situation at the time rather than to a militant threat. 

The Daily Star revealed 57 airport staff at Charles de Gaulle Airport were on a terror watch list but had access to airplanes last Friday.

Passengers to Obama: You Can Fix This Problem Now
Congress Tackles TSA Lines 
The House Homeland Security Committee holds not one but two days of hearings on TSA wait times. 

Tuesday: The House Appropriations Committee holds a markup of the FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, and the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee holds a markup of the FY2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.

Wednesday: The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on "Long Lines, Short Patience: The TSA Airport Screening Experience." 

Thursday: The House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee holds a second hearing on the TSA airport screening experience. The Ripon Society hosts a breakfast discussion with House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul and Reps. Will Hurd and John Katko.

DURBIN TALKS TSA WOES: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) offered an update on his Friday tete-a-tete with TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger about airport security wait times: "The message that I brought from this is, 'Congress needs to be part of the solution.' For the [Members of Congress] to be criticizing what's going on here without accepting our responsibility is wrong, and it's our responsibility ... to make certain that we have the screening capacity to keep up with passenger flow in the United States of America." He also had some encouraging words for TSA staff, who are likely suffering from low morale: "We have said a lot of things about a lot of possibilities and changes but it should not detract from our respect for these men and women and the hard work that they do every single day.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) declared last week in a statement that "if travelers do not have relief by Memorial Day, TSA Administration Neffenger must resign and be replaced with a leader who can provide fast and secure screening."

AIRLINES JUMP ON PRECHECK EXPANSION: TSA PreCheck is being expanded to include customers of Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad Airways and Seaborne Airlines who are eligible. Sixteen air carriers now participate in PreCheck - a number that may increase even further as TSA administrators clamor to find low-cost methods of expediting security screening wait times at the nation's airports.

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Your Letters!

Dear FlyersRights:

I recently took a Delta flight from Montreal to Minneapolis. I had originally scheduled it for 7 AM but over a period of 3 months, it was pushed back to 6 AM. This meant a $45 taxi instead of public transportation. 

On my pre-printed boarded pass, it said to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours in advance. I doubted that the airport was open and called Delta to check. I was told that it didn't open until 3:30. So, I arrived at 3:25 and found the hall full of people waiting in line. At 3:30 the machines started but no actual personnel in sight. They began to drift in at 4:00 - first one for Priority and then, gradually, others. The lines were a mess and extremely confusing. After finally dropping off my bags about 4:15, I advanced to the big security hall, already bursting at the seams, because they didn't start screening until 4:30. During the wait for security screening, two people fainted - middle of the night awakening, no breakfast, already an hour of standing and waiting with no food or drink available. These were also ideal conditions for terrorists - we were sitting ducks. 

Why, when one idiot tried to light a bomb in his shoe, we all immediately had to take off our shoes, but after Brussels, where terrorists exploded bombs in the pre-security area, it hasn't made any difference?

I also had TSA Pre-check on my boarding pass but it doesn't exist in Montreal. Or doesn't exist at 5 AM in any case. Why pay $85 for something that doesn't always work? And in any case, is mostly useless. I don't believe they have caught any terrorists in 15 years. 

I would love to blame Delta (change of schedule) but in this case, I think it was a combination of the Montreal airport being too small for the number of flights and the security - is it still the TSA in Canada?

TSA has wasted so much of their money on useless/dangerous/stupid machines and procedures. They don't seem to be accountable to anybody. My personal feeling is that they should eliminate it completely and start over with some intelligent people who aren't driven by greed/panic/politics.

Thanks for letting me vent - and also, thanks for existing.


Editor's note: 

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is responsible for securing the air transportation system - from passenger and baggage screening to screening airport workers.

CATSA is mandated with protecting the public through effective and efficient screening of air travellers and their baggage. Our goal is to provide a professional, effective and consistent level of security service across the country, at or above the standards set by Transport Canada.

CATSA was the centerpiece of the Government of Canada's response to the events of September 11, 2001.  - See more at:

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

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Keep Calm And Carry On
May 19, 2016

A bread line in the former Soviet Union? No, it's the security line at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport last month.
So here we are in week #2 of Make America Wait. 

Long airport security lines at many US airports have become ridiculous and are a national problem.

Thousands have missed flights this year due to TSA wait times.

Passengers are now asked to show up three hours early for domestic flights- that could he longer than your flight!

Bread and Circus

Airports have responded by 'sending in the clowns' -literally, to entertain the masses and curb potential rioting. Some airports are trotting out miniature therapy ponies, clowns, music and free snacks. 
A petting zoo? No, it's Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport's "Miniature Therapy Horses" to reduce passenger fury.

Which begs the question, if you can afford to pay for entertainment and give away food then why not just pay for extra staff?

Drama and 

Then last week was political theater on Capitol Hill when the TSA chief was grilled in front of Senators for not only long lines at airports, but retaliation against workers who complain about poor treatment and even inappropriately paying one official a $90,000 bonus.  

Robert MacLeanFederal Air Marshal,  told FlyersRights that TSA needs to "fire all of the bad managers, approve TSO [Transportation Security Officer] overtime, and push FREE PreCheck."

MacLean also stressed that 'Selective PreCheck' needs to be brought back if it hasn't been banned. This is where a senior screener or a manager can profile the least threatening passengers and send them to PreCheck - i.e. geriatric people, families with small kids, etc.

Maclean, a protected whistleblower, was recently defended by Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) in a contentious Congressional hearing with TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger.  
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger on Capitol Hill last week. Rep. Meadows grilled Neffenger on new retaliation against whistleblower Robert MacLean

Neffenger, who took over the role last summer, found himself dropped into an agency that some in Congress said needs a complete overhaul. It's also suffered  low morale problems for years.

Q. Are the disastrous wait-times deliberate?

TSA Administrator, Peter Neffenger, says bad predictions are to blame for severe security line delays.

But TSA's power grab of slowing down airports is one theory gaining traction - to extort Congress to fork over more money and fill screener shortages.

Welcome to the madhouse - circus performers 'entertain' the crowds at San Diego International Airport.
Success? Last week Congress 'ponied' up $34 million more to pay TSA screeners overtime and fund nearly 800 more screeners to handle the summer travel crush.

Q. Passengers To Blame?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson blamed passengers for having too many carry-ons and said flyers need "to be patient" as the government takes steps to get them through security faster.
This answer wasn't too well received considering the airlines have done everything to incentivize passengers to carry on as much luggage as possible.

Just get rid of the ridiculous checked bag fees, said two US senators, and the majority of this problem would go away.

Q. Extortion Racket?

Pay TSA $85 or they will make you miss your plane.

While the airlines are the pros at 'calculated misery' and making you pay extra to be treated like a human being, TSA's learned fast. But passengers are wondering why they should pay for TSA Precheck when it's occasionally not staffed or closed. 

The Privatization Debate

While there are some services that can be privatized, FlyersRights feels it's not always the answer for some inherent government functions provided by the city, state or federal government. These include national security, defense forces, mail delivery, air traffic control and police/fire service.

Big budget cuts to the TSA and reduced staffing

Long waits also pose an unacceptable security risk, as passengers get packed into tight screening lines.

The terrorist attacks in Brussels highlighted the risk for airports without an attacker crossing through security lines. Even before the attack, security experts warned of the danger of lines snaking at checkpoints and ticket counters, known as the vulnerable "soft side" of the airport.

TSA and the Dept. of Homeland Security, due to poor planning, Operational deficiencies, manager and Congressional mismanagement, coupled with increased terrorist threats, need to work 24-7 to fix the problems before a true security disaster and/or congestion breakdowns occur. 

The Obama Administration has weeks not months to act.

President Obama should call a meeting at the White House with his appointees, and the other relevant parties including passenger representatives. Such a meeting was effective when called by President George W Bush to resolve a congestion crisis at the NYC airports during his tenure.

Some obvious and simple changes can and must to be done quickly.

The TSA should immediately put out a call to rehire the up to 5,000 screeners who quit in disgust or whose jobs were unwisely eliminated by TSA in recent years. These persons are already trained and can be put to work at overcrowded major airports.

Mandatory overtime should be required as needed.

Extra screeners need to be scheduled for peak periods and fewer for non peak periods. 
Airport perimeter and in airport security to prevent a Brussels style massacre and bombings is still nearly non existent. Local and State police and National Guard or Army Reserve troops need to be used to fill this mammoth security gap until Homeland Security can be up to the task.

The fee for PreCheck and Global Entry should be waived for at least 60 days to encourage more passengers to sign up, and the Clear program for expensive and selective 3 minute screening eliminated.

The DOT should order waiver of most checked baggage fees on an emergency basis and then limit to a reasonable amounts after Rulemaking.

Passengers without carry on baggage should be given expedited screening treatment in no bag express lines.

Paul Hudson, President 
Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee 
Former Member, FAA/TSA Aviation Security Advisory Committee (1997-2007)

Dear FlyersRights:

On the 13th of May I was scheduled to fly from San Jose to Phoenix, at  4:10 PM on American Airlines. A flight I have taken many times before.

The arriving flight comes in on time, but there is a delay in boarding attributed to some maintenance aspect. We board about 20 minutes late, and it appears they are continuing to work on the problem, which is announced as an inoperative jump seat. After about 45 minutes, a decision is made to return passengers to the terminal as it will not be a simple fix. In the gate area we learn that the new departure time will be after  7pm when an additional plane arrives.

OK, maintenance issues do happen unexpectedly but this is one that should have never happened. It turns out that the airline had 48 hours to fix the seat and they either ignored doing it or left it to the last minute! To add insult to injury, no one was scheduled to sit in the jump seat. 

As the airlines grow bigger and travel choices are reduced, is the economy of scale providing a more efficient, less costly, and better travel experience?

Sadly, I think not.


(Below is feedback we received regarding the current debate in Washington about allowing Norwegian Air International (NAI) to expand into the US). NAI says transatlantic fares will be $69. And their pilots make only 1% less than US's. There is enormous opposition to NAI from the US airlines.)

Dear FlyersRights:

Granting Norwegian Air International (NAI)'s request to skirt U.S. labor laws is the gravest threat to my career in the 16 years I've been a Flight Attendant with a major airline and will bring the biggest shock and awe to the traveling public like you've never seen.  For the sake of my job as well as Flyers Rights members, I seriously hope NAI is denied.

The CEO of Norwegian Air International wants to bring the maritime industry's flag-of-convenience business model to the U.S. airline industry. If unopposed, this scheme will decimate our airlines.  It also raises serious safety questions.  Within two years, US airlines will open new subsidiaries using NAI as its model.  This will result in U.S. Pilots and flight attendants being outsourced for underpaid/overworked foreign labor. Are you ready to take a ride with cheapest foreign pilots currently available in Singapore today?  Do you want to be served by over-worked, under-paid flight attendants (not allowed to be unionized) who can't wait to get home so they can sleep and a good meal?

In the wake of U.S. airlines making billions of dollars in profits today when have you seen ticket prices go down or hidden fees become transparent?  If NAI is approved your travel experience will get nightmarishly worse. Ticket prices will not go down. You will not see a return to comfortable, roomier seats. The aisles will get narrower and lavatory sizes will continue to shrink.  Approval of NAI will give you foreign flight attendants flying exhausting "turn and burn" trips all over the U.S. then working back their base across the pond.  No union = no fatigue protection.

Competition is a good thing. But the competition that NAI approval will add billions to U.S. airline coffers, terminate American aviation jobs and will do nothing for U.S. airline passengers.


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