woman in airport

Longer Lines, Coming to an Airport Near You

If you think the lines at airport baggage checks are unbearably long, I have some bad news for you. TSA announced stronger security measures that require domestic US travelers to separate all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening. This excludes TSA Pre-Check lanes. So far, TSA has implemented the rule in only 10 airports, but is planning on expanding it to the rest of America in the following months.

The announcement of this new program should not come as a surprise. Just last March, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and current White House Chief of Staff, implemented a new set of security measures for US-bound travelers from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Airlines from these airports have been barred from allowing passengers to bring their laptops and any other large electronic devices into the cabin. While this “laptop ban” has caused the 325,000 passengers a day who arrive in the US major some major headaches, Secretary Kelly is convinced that “it is time that we raise the global baseline of aviation security. We cannot play aviation whack-a-mole with each new threat.”

These new security measurements for US-bound travelers from overseas may also include an increase in K-9 units, greater security presence, or the use of new electronic monitoring devices. Unfortunately the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not been specific with what these new security measures are; their favorite term is “enhanced screening,” which could not be more vague. The goal is to establish a global standard, but according to a senior DHS official, the security changes will vary from airport to airport, and it will be the responsibility of the airlines to specify what the rules are to travelers.

The DHS has remained unclear about the state of security for inbound flights, as well as the future of airport security in the United States. As of right now, people will have to get used to longer TSA checks for domestic flights; the number of items that we will have to unpack then pack has increased. But what about flights that leave the United States? Will people on outbound flights be able to bring laptops and any other large electronic devices with them into the flight cabin?

While the specifics are unclear, there is no doubt that whatever DHS decides will be the official security plan, millions of domestic and international travelers will be affected. But for now, do unto your fellow domestic travelers as you would have them do unto you: keep your large electronics together so that you can quickly get through security. Don’t waste time. Otherwise, the already infamous American airport is on track to becoming an even more hellish place.

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Things to Know if You Ever Find Yourself in Alaska

Exactly ten years ago, the plane I took from California was forced to make an emergency landing in Alaska. I was only seven years old at the time, but I can still remember the captain announcing to the entire plane that a passenger had fallen sick and needed immediate medical attention. The flight attendants raced up and down the aisles to let everyone know that the stop in Alaska would only take an hour and that we would be on our way to our final destination.


My family and I waited on the tarmac for several hours and ended up staying a night in a small Alaskan town before heading home. Back then, I didn’t understand why people began to grow restless and impatient with the crew; I was just happy that I got to watch more plane movies. Now at the age of twenty, and after years of reading articles similar to the ones about the recent United Airlines’ overbooked flight fiasco, I started realizing that I’ve been in so many situations at the airport that are questionable, and maybe even illegal. With intimidating TSA agents, cold immigration officers, and tired airport employees, it probably never occurs to most people that they have rights specifically to protect them from major airlines.

Where do these rights come from? When problems arise, your rights as passengers are protected not by consumer-friendly state laws, but rather by international treaties and other regulations. Most recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has started an initiative called “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” to strengthen these protections.

If you didn’t know already, here are your rights as an airline passenger:

Lost, Damaged, or Delayed Luggage

Up until 2010, the cost of a lost, damaged, or delayed bag that airlines had to pay was somewhere between $500 and $1000. Even if you were traveling with a computer that cost a couple thousand dollars, airlines only had to pay back a fraction of what the passenger lost. Thanks to the DOT, this limited range was extended so that airlines were obligated to pay up to $3,300 for any lost, damaged, or delayed luggage during domestic travels and up to $1,742 for international flights. You must submit receipts to the airline for all the items in the suitcase in order to get an exact compensation amount.

Delays and Cancellations

We all know that airlines just LOVE making their passengers wait in the airport. Knowing how frequent flight delays and cancellations are, it’s no surprise that there are no laws in the United States that prevent these unfortunate events from happening. Contrary to popular belief, however, no airline is obligated to provide meal vouchers or hotels for those stranded in the airport.

But for the people traveling within the European Union, delays and cancellations will get you some perks. Passengers are entitled to money for meals, refreshments, and two telephone calls when there is a considerable delay (two hours for short haul trips and four hours for long haul trips). If the delay is five or more hours, passengers are allowed to get a full reimbursement of the ticket.

Tarmac Delays

What is worse than waiting for a delayed flight in the airport is a tarmac delay. That is when passengers are waiting for the plane to take off inside the plane. After a record number of tarmac delays that lasted more than three hours in 2009 (a total of 535 delays over the span of 4 months), the DOT decided to implement a new rule: domestic planes cannot remain on the tarmac for more than three hours with passengers on board. If planes do not comply with this rule, the responsible airlines will be subject to a fine of $27,500 per passenger. International flights are allowed to remain idle on the tarmac for a maximum of four hours before facing a fine.

Additionally, passengers are entitled to an update about the status of the delay every 30 minutes, an opportunity to deplane if the plane door is voluntarily opened, snacks and water after two hours on the tarmac, and operable lavatories.

Remember, there is a limit to waiting.

Overbooking and Denied Boarding

When Ralph Nader was unable to give a speech in 1972 due to his overbooked flight, he brought the situation to the Supreme Court. He lost Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, giving commercial airlines a precedent that allows them to overbook flights. The DOT recognized that the power to forcibly deny boarding can place a major burden on passengers, so they implemented the following compensation for domestic flights based on the time it takes for the passenger to find a new flight:

0 to 1 hour delay: No compensation

1 to 2 hour delay: 200% of the one-way fare (up to $650)

Over 2 hours delay: 400% of the one-way fare (up to $1,300)

For international flights:

0 to 1 hour delay: No compensation

1 to 4 hour delay: 200% of the one-way fare (up to $650)

Over 4 hours delay: 400% of the one-way fare (up to $1,300)

It is hard to keep in mind your specific rights when you are desperate to get on a plane or get your lost bag back. In the moment, you will feel like you would do anything to get what you want. But passengers aren’t at the mercy of these airline companies. Make sure to know all your rights before your next trip; you never know when you might find yourself at an unexpected stop in Alaska.