TSA tries new tactic to get flyers to pass through scattershot machines like docile sheep

Normally on Thursday I’d post a hidden gem, but this news has me so riled up I had to address it.  Word came down this week that terrorists are exploring implanting bombs in humans to avoid detection at security.  What?!  Head shaking, hands shaking, totally freaked out I read the article more closely.  What I find is that once again there is no actionable intelligence here, just a vague threat.  And a convenient one if you are TSA, subject to bad press for frisking old ladies and children, and want the public at large to just shut up and cooperate.  I’m incredibly suspicious about this story.  It feels like a plant to me.

What do you think?

They low jack the towels?

My husband sent me a link to this hilarious article on Consumerist.com about hotels using RFID (radio frequency transmitters) on their towels to keep them from walking off.  I knew things had been bad for hotels over the past couple of years, but I had no idea they’d resort to something like this.  Just the idea of checking out of the hotel and beeping like you’ve got metal in your pockets makes me laugh out loud.  Still, it is a creative solution to sticky problem.  I mean who wants to frisk their guest before they leave?  Just remember, if you’re in Hawaii to leave that plush pink towel behind or they’ll track you down.

Okay airlines, where’s my refund?

Finally some good news for travelers.  Oil prices fell this week.  The double whammy of unrest in the Middle East and loss of demand from Japan after the earthquake have shaken the oil market and cut off the speculation that has been rampant for the past month.  That means that airlines can once again buy, well if not cheap oil, then cheaper oil.  But are they rolling back the “oil surcharge” they tacked on to tickets in late February and March?  If they are I haven’t heard about it.  And this is my gripe.  Every time oil heads for $100 a barrel the fees start coming on from the airlines.  Baggage fees, oil surcharge fees, they’ve got a dozen different names for this.  But when oil prices subsequently drop again those fees stay firmly in place.  Well airlines if they really are assessed to help you recoup costs then they should be removed as oil prices come down.  So I’m throwing down a gauntlet on behalf of all travelers and issuing you a challenge to lose the fees.   You can’t have it both ways.

Travel tip of the week

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it will retire the current color coded threat alerts used at airports. The spectrum of green to red alerts has been in place since 2002, but in my own memory I can’t remember ever seeing a threat level below yellow (elevated).  For most of the last 10 years it has remained elevated for long periods of time turning orange or even red.  The new system aims to clarify specific threats to travelers with more information and should be in place by April.  Let’s hope so.  As DHS said, Americans need to be prepared, not scared.

American and Sabre move to their neutral corners

They’ve been battling it out for months.  American blames Sabre, the globe’s largest ticketing system, for burying them in search results sent out to travel agencies worldwide.  Sabre in turn is angry with American over how they distribute their fares and schedule via the system.  This is shaping up to be a war of giants folks.  So big in fact that a Texas judge has intervened and called a “truce” between the two companies until June, 2011.  This may stave off the inevitable, but not for long.  American has been working hard this Winter to re-take control of it’s ticketing and move customers back to purchasing via their own website.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this one yet.

Everybody has their price…

How much would you take to be bumped off your next flight?  Delta Airlines wants to know.  In advance.  You see they figure they can save some serious bucks if they know your price going in.  No more announcements of flight vouchers for $200, $300 or $400.  You’ll just register your price when you check in at the airport kiosk, and when they need your seat, they’ll bump you for that amount.  They even tip you off that, “Delta accepts lower bids first”.  Of course they do.  Me, I’m the Dr. Evil of the air.  I’m not getting off that flight for less than “$1 million dollars”.

A fare increase on the heels of a blizzard?

On Thursday Dec. 30th people were finally making it back into the air after the snowpocalypse that closed many of the East Coast airports.  They were also finding out that airfares were going up.  After making them sleep on airport floors and wait hours to be rerouted, some times day later, the airlines added insult to injury with the fare hike.  Sure the fare increases had been planned in advance.  But given the situation you’d think they might decide to hold off a week.

Airlines earn $4.3 billion on fees in 2010

This staggering statistic made headlines this week.  I feel like Dr. Evil saying that, $4.3 billion dollars.  Man, that is a bucketload of cash!  And that’s just on baggage and changes to tickets.  It doesn’t include revenue from on-board wireless, food service or upgrades.  So it makes me wonder, how much did the airlines make on your actual tickets?  Are tickets just a “gateway drug” at this point to get the customers in and have them spend, spend, spend on add-ons?  It sure seems that way to me.