Triangle Trip

Tag: IAD

How TSA can speed up airport security screening

by on Mar.29, 2009, under Business Travel, Travel Partners

An open letter to our new US Homeland Security Chief, Janet Napolitano:

After using (Fly) Clear for the past three months, I know Clear is not the solution for frequent travelers. Clear does not provide much value aside from letting me skip the security line at a few airports. Clear also has many other issues (check out my previous post).

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) under the Department of Homeland Security must come up with a solution similar to what Dulles is offering to its frequent travelers: Dulles Diamond. Although I have not used the service but I believe in the concept. ┬áTSA need to implement a “Professional Travelers Access Program.”

The “Professional Travelers Access Program” needs to guarantee fast security screening by separating business/frequent travelers from casual travelers. In order to qualify for the ‘Professional Travelers Access Program,’ I believe you must pass the security screening exam. I do not think the Dulles Diamond line has a restriction.

Below are my proposed criteria for anyone to qualify for the “Professional Travelers Access Program:”

1. Demonstrate that you can remove your coat, belt and shoes, unpack your liquids, and take out your laptop for the metal screening device in less than 45 seconds.

2. Walk through the metal detector (with your boarding pass) without beeping or being re-screened.

3. Show the ability to quickly gather your belongings after you’ve passed security in less than 45 seconds.

4. Once you have passed the exam, you will get a special card to be screened at the Professional Travelers Access Program.

5. As a member of Professional Travelers Access Program, you must maintain your ability to quickly get through the security line or the agent will have the right to send you to the normal line with novice travelers.

Most business and frequent travelers can easily pass my proposed test. The frequent travelers are prepared and know what to do before they even get to the airport. It is time for the TSA to understand its customers. TSA must separate the novice travelers from the professionals to speed up the security process during peak travel times – Monday mornings and holidays. The “Professional Travelers Access Program”will streamline the security screening process and improve customer service.

I am offering my services free of charge to the TSA if they need further consultation. I cannot believe Dulles (which we believe is one of the worst airports in the US) already has a similar program implemented. I am curious to hear about the Dulles Diamond successes and failures. Please post your comments if you have used the Dulles Diamond service at Dulles. I also look forward to hearing from someone working at the TSA or the Department of Homeland Security.

Sincerely,

Captain G

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Top 5 Worst Airports in America

by on Jan.11, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel

Captain G and Statusmonger have been to all the major airports in the US. Below are our top 5 worst airports in the US. We only kept the list to major airports in major cities because it is not fair to the little airports with only a few flights a day.

We take the following into consideration during our evaluation:

* Getting to the airport from the city and leaving from the airport to the city
* Overall functionality of the airport facility – inside and outside
* Airport traffic control – number of delays, etc.

#5. Seattle Tacoma (SEA) – The airport is a pain to get to regardless if you are coming from downtown or eastern suburbs. From downtown, you can slug it through the 5 which is a mess or 91 which is a crap shoot. From the northeastern suburbs or better known as Microsoft land, the 405 south bound is the worst highway designed in the US – there’s a full time car pool lane in a metro area that doesn’t carpool. When you get to SEA, you’ll need to first locate your airline then identify the gate to go through security. Security lines are tied to the gates. Depending on which gate, you may need to take a train. Alaska Air is the major carrier there and they have gates all over the terminal. The train to gates make announcements in different languages which is a positive but it is awful when it comes to getting you to the gate on time. We have nearly missed flights due to the train. SEA is also notorious for weather related delays. How can a city that rains all the time be impacted by rain?

#4. Dallas (DFW) – The size of the airport is equal to Manhattan. It takes forever to return your car and hop on the rental car bus shuttle to get you to the airport. American Airlines is in 3 of the 4 terminals. However the terminals are not linked. American changes their gates all the time. This means you’ll need to go through security multiple times if your American flight has a gate change. In addition to going through security, you’ll also have to wait for the shuttle bus to take you for one terminal to another. The inside of DFW isn’t all that pretty with limited food selection. The baggage claim area is also very small and unorganized. This is a pretty depressing hub airport when you compare it against other hubs.

#3. New York JFK International (JFK) – The world flies to JFK as the airport supports most global airlines. However the airport is a shame compared to other airports around the world. Given the ease of public transportation in NYC, there’s no easy way to take a train to JFK. The Port Authority of NY and NJ who runs the airport botched the light rail project (we will have a separate post about this project later). For a tourist from NYC to get to JFK via train, they’ll need to take the MTA in the city to an Air Train which takes at least 90 minutes assuming you don’t get lost along the way. Another route you can take us via the Long Island Railroad which is very expensive and takes too much time to explain to a tourist. Taking a cab from the city can take up to 2 hours due to NYC traffic. If you’re a tourist or business traveler, you’ll be hassled by illegal limo drivers trying to rip you off. It is also impossible for your friends and family to locate you at passenger pickup area because it is so crowded and the people controlling the traffic flow is useless. Once you get to JFK, it will take you some time to identify your airline as there are 9 terminals and like 200 airlines. All the terminals are small and lines are long due to the traffic volume. Security lines are horrible, food selection and shopping inside the terminals are limited. Above all this, there’s no wifi and you have to pay $5 for a luggage cart. This airport is a complete shame.

#2. Los Angeles International (LAX) – LAX is still in the 1970s. Fighting traffic to the airport is one challenge, but having to fight traffic from the rental car return facilities is unacceptable. The rental car facilities are all over the airport, finding the facility is like a scavenger hunt. I won’t even mention public transportation from and to the airport (this is LA, where the concept of public transportation does not exist). Similar to DFW, you need to get on a shuttle bus if your airline has a gate change since only some of the terminals are interconnected. Aside from United, none of the other airlines has an express security line to allow you to bypass casual travelers. The inside of the airport is dingy and old. Restaurants inside LAX are decent, however.

#1. Dulles International (IAD) – What were they thinking when they built this disaster? Be prepared to miss your flight if you didn’t leave yourself enough time. First of all, there is only one main terminal building, one of the ugliest buildings in the DC area, for all passengers on all airlines to enter and leave the airport, causing massive security lines. However, supposedly they’re implementing newer procedures to improve this process. Secondly, all the concourses are way out beyond the main terminal building, creating a need for these ugly people-mover vehicles to drive people crammed in like sardines to their respective concourses, dodging airliners and fuel trucks along the way. So after you’ve waited in a long long security line, you need to get on one of these people-movers to take you to your gate, which are operated by people and very inefficient. But, supposedly they are finally building a monorail system to get rid of these ugly things. The traffic around IAD is probably the worst in the nation. And there is no decent public transportation to get you into DC (you could take a Washington Flyer bus to West Falls Church Metro station which is located near the end of the Orange line but I don’t consider that decent). The concourses themselves are crowded and dingy, and food selections are limited and lousy. United operates many shuttle flights and that concourse reminds me of a Greyhound terminal. Lastly, being THE international airport in the DC area, one would think they would name the airport after an important US president like FDR but they decided to name the airport after the US Secretary of State under Eisenhower. The only good thing I can say about this airport is that I liked Die Hard 2.

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