Archive for the Category »Airport Security «

  Something You Should Know if You Are Flying to Hawaii
Oahu's Kahala Resort

Oahu’s Kahala Resort

Aaaah… the warm breeze… Hawaiian music in the background… and palm trees swaying. All good, but if you plan on flying to Hawaii for spring break, or any other peak travel season, beware. Specifically, if your departing flight is on Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu International Airport. It is not that relaxing.

Self serve check in counters

Self serve check in counters

Something look different here?  In 2011 Hawaiian Airlines renovated the check-in lobby of the Interisland Terminal, replacing traditional check-in counters with six circular self-serve check-in islands in the middle of the lobbies. (Terminal also serves mainland and international flights)

After checking in at the self serve kiosks, the traveler then needs to bring bags himself to be inspected at another station… then get in line for security.

Self Serve Bag Check In

Self Serve Bag Check In

photo 3Very modern , yes… but efficient? Not so much according to departing travelers with which I was surrounded  on a recent trip there. Many people were standing around, confused about what to do next, which overall slows down the process. On a crowded travel day,  it is hard to find an agent to help, and the new system is not very well explained, despite large signs saying “Step 1, 2, 3.”

Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu

Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu

On this particular day,  over some people’s spring break, once I checked in, bags and all, there was an enormous line that extended out the door and down the sidewalk   to go through security. An airline employee did try to help out, and steered passengers on certain flights to the next terminal over – about a 10 minute walk.

Bottom line: Don’t be fooled into thinking the airport is on “island time,” and it will be simple. Allow plenty of time if you are departing Oahu during a peak travel time: spring break, summer, Fridays or Sundays, and Christmas. Although the new system was implemented in 2011, it is still new to many travelers.




  Travel Tip Tuesday: 7 Ways to Protect Your Luggage from Thieves


Disturbing news recently that isn’t all news at all – Police made arrests and announced that a ring of LAX baggage handlers stole thousands of dollars of valuables from travelers’ luggage.

According to law enforcement, airport workers quickly rifled through bags, looking for items to steal, and then pocketed the goods.

Unnerving? Yes. But we’ve heard these stories before throughout the world’s airports. Actually, in terms of rankings in the United States, Miami International Airport has fired the most TSA agents for theft.. then JFK in New York, and  Los Angeles International comes in third.

Police say stolen items from luggage has been increasing significantly, according to the Wall St Journal.

So what can we do about it? There is no way to absolutely prevent a dishonest worker from taking something from your checked bags – but there are ways to make it less likely.

1) Plain and simple: DO NOT pack anything of value in  your checked bags – electronics, money, jewelry are all NO-NOs. Put those in your carry on bags. What was Paris Hilton thinking when she packed a $100,000 watch in her checked bags? It was stolen.



2) If you have something of value you can’t carry on, ship it ahead of time so it is insured. Fed Ex  and Luggage Free are two companies to help.




3) Police said about this particular ring in Los Angeles that the thieves were looking for a quick steal, something they could pocket in seconds. Wrapping your bag in duct tape… or wrapping your bag in saran wrap are ways to deter the quick theft – Located at some airport terminals,  Secure Wrap engulfs your baggage with saran wrap for about $8-10. Note: If the TSA needs to look through your luggage for any reason, the wrap will be torn off.

4) DON”T use expensive designer luggage  – the Louis Vuitton logo is just a red flag that there may be something of value inside the bag too. Some people I know use their kids’ luggage as a decoy – men’s suits and belts are  items that have gone missing in some cases, and wouldn’t normally be found in a child’s bag.

5) Of course, you can always use a TSA approved lock – but TSA agents have access and some have a track record of stealing too. It is another layer, however, from the average thief.



6) If you opt for a pat down in the security line rather than go through the scanning machine – keep your eyes on your items, and don’t let any loose phones or ipods sit alone, easily available for anyone to take. Ask someone in your party to keep an eye on the items for you, or alert another agent at the other end of the security belt. Sometimes travelers are waiting a bit for an available TSA agent to do a pat down, and every second your stuff is out alone makes it more vulnerable.

7) If you are worried about your entire luggage being stolen, there are FCC approved GPS trackers out there to put in your luggage. Trakdot is one, which sends a text message to the luggage owner about it’s location.

It’s no fun to get something stolen – one feels violated, and loses something that could be meaningful. Be careful and smart about how you travel.

Photograph the items in your bag before you go so you can make your case if something does get stolen or your bag goes missing.

If you do notice something missing from your bag, report the stolen items as soon as possible – file a police report and go to the TSA website and fill out papers there. If you want to play sleuth and try to track down your items, some of the dishonest employees arrested at LAX were selling items on Craigs List. But if you find it, contact police instead of contacting the individual on your own.


  Malaysia Flight 370 Exposes Frightening Security Lapse: You’d be Surprised how Many Lost Passports Aren’t Checked

passportCan’t stop reading the headlines about Malaysia Air Flight 370. The story is tragic and perplexing. One can only imagine the daily despair amongst family members of those on the plane  as each day drags on with very little new information.
It’s still not known if the travelers using two stolen passports to board the Malaysia Air flight  had anything to do with the plane’s missing status. However, it has opened our eyes to a very scary security flaw:

More than 1 billion times last year, travelers boarded planes without their passports being checked against the International Police’s (Interpol’s) database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents, according to the Lyon-based organization.
How crazy is that?  What’s the point of all the other layers of security if lost or stolen passports aren’t even being checked??? To find out some reasons why there isn’t better fact finding, here’s a good article.

  Getting Through the Busiest Airport Travel Season with Kids




If you are about to head out to the crowded airport with the family for the holidays this week, read on.

You are probably familiar with the Transportation Security Administrations regulations for traveling these days… but it doesn’t hurt to check the website to make sure you aren’t packing some holiday fruitcake that isn’t allowed. Goodness knows I am always surprised at the number of loaded guns agents still find in carry on bags.

But there are things to remember when you are traveling with children as well – can they keep their shoes on, or not? Can babies go through the X-ray machine in an infant carrier? Knowing the answers to questions like these in advance can make your trip go more smoothly, and help you advance through security checks faster.

Check out the TSA’s page specifically for parents traveling with children:

And it doesn’t hurt to bring along a few lollipops. Just sayin’.

Wishing you an easy trip to wherever you are going, and a joyous Christmas :)

  Travel Tip Tuesday: This Week Members of Military Can Zip Through More Airports Faster


Just in time for the holiday crunch at U.S. airports, a gift to our military members: Starting Dec. 20, the TSA will  offer TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening to members of the military.

This means that all service members and their families will be  allowed “to keep their footwear on as well as light outerwear, belts, laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry on in select screening lanes,” according to the Department of Defense.

This is possible at 100 participating domestic airports, expanded from 10. When making flight reservations, military members need to give their Dept. of Defense identification number. If you’ve already made the reservation, call your airline.

Pass this along to any military members you know! Here is more info:



  Travel Tip Tuesday: San Diego Airport’s New Terminal Opens Today – What You’ll Find There

The Green Build project, as it is known at Lindbergh Field, is set to open to travelers today. The Green Build is the name of the approximately 500,000 square foot expansion of San Diego’s airport at Terminal 2, that includes the addition of 10 gates to accommodate future air traffic, and extra security lines to speed the whole checking process.

OK – not so sexy.

But what IS sexy about this expansion project is the great care the developers went to make it sustainable -( it reportedly has the largest solar array of any other airport….)

And… The tasty new 15,000 square  foot food court with locals’ favorites.


From USA Today… Pooch Potty at San Diego Airport

Another feature that’s getting a lot of airtime is   – get this – a bathroom for Fido! Yep – an area for pets to relieve themselves….. The idea itself isn’t novel, there are others, but you don’t need to leave the terminal to access this one, and go through security again.

What’s really  remarkable is that the public project was finished in time, and under budget!

Here’ s a link to see what airlines fly into the new terminal -which means new airline lounges too!

When anyone flies in or out of the new Terminal 2, let me know what you think. Happy Travels.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: How To Get Through Long Waits in Customs Faster


Has anyone else seen the incredible summer travel crowds at the airports? Landed at LAX on a Tuesday night, one of the least busy travel days, and it was so crowded, cars were at a practical stand still trying to pick up passengers, there were so many people waiting for their bags and waiting on the curb for someone to pick them up.

Now imagine that same scenario in…duh duh duh duuuuh… U.S. Customs. After a long long long international flight, you are met with even longer lines before you can go home.


This spring wait times at US Customs at certain airports doubled due to many factors….international flights increasing, while at the same time Congress is paying for fewer agents working; also, sequestration cuts forced lay offs.  According to the Wall St Journal, three-hour lines at U.S. Customs checkpoints have caused so many missed connections that Miami International Airport has set up cots for overnight stays.

There are some things you can do – If you are traveling with children, by all means ask the first airport official you see if families can go to the front of the customs line. I have yet to see this happen in the United States, but it is worth a try! In in some foreign countries,  make sure you ask because I have been ushered to the front of the lines. After all, who wants to hear loud kids for two hours while waiting to be screened?

Make sure you warn your kids in advance about possible lines, and bring something to keep them occupied while in line. Make sure they go to the bathroom before they leave the plane – if you are traveling single with kids, you don’t want to have to leave the line you’ve been waiting in for 45 minutes to go to the restroom.


Also, another option for U.S. citizens is to enroll in the trusted traveler program called Global Entry.  Apply online with some personal information for a criminal-background check. Once  cleared on that, you can schedule an interview at an office where you get asked about your travel history and whether you’ve ever been arrested, and are fingerprinted. You pay $100 for five years membership.

Once accepted, you bypass all the lines and go straight to a kiosk that reads your passport and scans your fingerprints. After answering customs declaration questions on the computerized screen, the machine prints a receipt and you’re on your way. Right now it is only at selected airports, including some international airports like Auckland, New Zealand.

If none of those are options, here is a list of airports and the worst time to enter customs according to the Wall Street Journal

Miami North Terminal between 1 PM and 2PM …. Miami South terminal between 5Pm and 6PM… San Francisco Terminal A between 1PM and 2PM..and JFK Delta and American terminals between 3 PM and 4PM.

Here is the full list:

  Air Travelers: Don’t Plan on Packing Golf Clubs as Carry On Bags Just Yet… #pocketknifeban


Tomorrow was supposed to be the day pocket knives, ski poles, pool cues, lacrosse sticks, and golf clubs would be allowed  in carry-on bags on commercial flights. They were banned post 9/11.

BUT – if you’ve already packed them for a trip – go remove them.  The items will no longer be allowed to be brought on in a passenger’s carry on bags. The TSA’s plan to allow them back in passenger cabins has been delayed due to backlash – mostly against the pocket knives.

The TSA wants more time to consider the safety of the idea. The benefit to allowing them, according to the TSA, would be faster security lines so agents could focus on greater threats.

According to a survey of 1800 Americans, about 73% say they don’t want pocket knives in plane cabins. The TSA was only going to allow knives with blades of 2.36″ or less. What do you think?

Here is a list of banned and allowed items from



  Travel Tip Tuesday: Get ready for extra-long lines, but at least the TSA will look good….


I just went through customs this week after our country’s budget cuts were announced, and it wasn’t pretty. It is not clear whether any overtime or regular cuts had been made yet, and my wait at LAX customs was almost two hours. TWO hours of lost productivity… aggravated fliers after a long international flight…and just plain wasted time.

I realize we have to make cuts to stay on budget. BUT  – news reports today say that the TSA ordered $50 million of new uniforms this week – knowing sequester cuts may set it. Really? AND  – the uniforms are reportedly made in Mexico.

Does anyone else see something wrong here? People will be out of work, travelers will be waiting in longer lines, but darn! Those duds will be spanking new.

Be prepared to wait longer in security lines at major airports… plan your time accordingly – perhaps bring something to do while you wait in customs lines – especially if you are traveling with children. (Some international airports I know have special lines for families to let them go faster. Very nice.)

Another bit of news relating to airport security – the TSA announced today that passengers will soon be allowed to carry on board Swiss-army style knives… That has some unions angry.

Stay tuned!


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Naughty or Nice: Should This Child’s Item Have Been Let Through Security?

Let’s face it – traveling with kids can be crazy sometimes.! More gear, more luggage, more things needed to entertain them.  But it can be crazy fun too. The above photo was taken on our Alaskan cruise for “pirate night.”

Disney Cruise Line lets you know in advance there is a pirate night in case you want to bring your finest swashbuckling attire….and travelers do go ALL OUT. Jack Sparrow never had it so good. (Never heard of pirates in Alaska, but I figure this night must have been a success on their Caribbean cruises  and they carried over the fun.)

Knowing this my kids wanted to bring all sorts of things – one son even asked to take a toy sword…. which reminded me of a story.

From “”

I saw a friend of mine at a party recently who said he and his son were going through airport security, and  the young boy got stopped because he had some significant blade in his backpack. I didn’t see the item, but apparently, it was for a school project – it was some sort of artifact, or something important, that he had been carrying around with him until the project was due.

The point is – the dad had NO IDEA it was there…. TRAVEL TIP: Since many of us will be travewling with kids this holiday, check their carry on bags too if they pack it themselves or are bringing their own backpacks. It might prevent unwanted delays at security, and possibly confiscation of something personal. I would have never assumed anything would have been in my child’s backpack either.

My friend was stopped at security for a while…. and I’m not sure I’m so happy with the outcome. TSA agents let the boy keep his weapon-like item. Happy for him, since it was for school, but yet, would they allow a true criminal past… and we aren’t allowed to pack more than 3 ounces of liquid or tweezers in our carry ons?

Here is a naughty and nice packing list from   – I find it easier to navigate than the TSA’s…. and some of the items listed are quite entertaining. I don’t know about you but I’ve never tried to pack cranberry sauce in my carry on!

Safe travels this holiday everyone!