It took three years, but finally a mom won an admission from the Transportation Security Administration that breast milk does NOT have to pass through an X-ray machine at an airport’s security screening post.
What I don’t understand is why any TSA agent, when reminded of TSA rules, can’t just admit a mistake. When a TSA agent at Phoenix’s airport insisted Stacey Armato had to put her bottled breast milk through an X-ray scanner, she reminded the agent that the TSA’s own rules allowed an exception. But the agent gave her a hard time and put her in a glass holding cage for 45 minutes that she said made her feel like a caged animal.
Armato said she eats organic, drinks a lot of water, and tries to stay in shape, so she really, really didn’t want her baby’s milk to be irradiated. It took a lawsuit and three years for the TSA to agree to pay her $75,000 and to re-train screeners to remind them of the exception. That money will go to lawyers’ fees and to a non-profit that supports breast-feeding moms.
But was this all really necessary?
The woman leaving her post as chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board says that one of her greatest disappointments of her tenure is that child safety seats still aren’t required on airplanes for young children.
When she joined the NTSB ten years ago, Deborah Hersman she found it “almost unbelievable” that children under two weren’t required to sit in child safety seats. She said kids are as vulnerable in the case of an airplane crash are they in a car crash. At least.
The NTSB has urged the FAA to develop regulations regarding child safety seats, but the FAA is not required to follow the NTSB’s suggestions. Today the FAA recommends but doesn’t require that a child less than 20 pounds use a rear-facing child restraint system. A forward-facing seat would be used for children weighing between 20 and 40 pounds.
Passengers are permitted to hold children up to two years old in their laps, but that’s a hopeless situation in the event of a hard landing of an airplane. It’s time for the FAA to step up to the plate and require car seats for young kids in planes.
I really hesitate to report on this survey that identified the airlines with the rudest flight attendants. I say that because I think that it’s a very tough job that requires extraordinary patience and diplomatic skills, all for not a very big paycheck.
I’ve seen my share of surly and self-entitled passengers. But there is no doubt that there are flight attendants who might be better suited for work as, well, prison guards, maybe. Not many, but . . . you know.
The website AirFareWatchDog.com surveyed almost 4,300 passengers to ask them which airline they thought had the least accommodating flight attendants. The dubious honor of being the winner was discount carrier Spirit that garnered 26% of the votes. I was surprised by the runner up: Air Canada with 14% of the votes. Frontier wasn’t far behind with 11% and—another surprise to me—Virgin Atlantic with 9%
The best of show—each with only three percent or less of votes—were AirTran, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Alaska, and Southwest. Despite its rapid growth, Southwest has managed to maintain an esprit de corps that’s the envy of the airline industry.
Earlier this month, Frontier became the latest airline to charge for putting a bag in an overhead luggage compartment, following the lead of Spirit and Allegiant.
If you pay the fee when you book your ticket on line, it’ll cost you $25–$20 if you’re a member of the airline’s frequent flyer club. Wait until you get to the airport to reserve that space, and the fee is a whopping $50. Oh, and if you want to check in on line, it’ll cost you $25. At the airport it’ll cost you ten bucks more. Want a seat assignment ahead of your flight? Choose one for $3 when you book on line; wait to get to the airport, and it’ll cost you $8.
Delta will sell you in-flight Wi-fi on line before your trip for less than it’ll cost you when you’re onboard the plane. Southwest will sell you a priority position in its boarding line that will get you on the plane before most other passengers. The lesson is: Do as much as you can before you get to the airport for a smoother trip and to save some money.
If you’re looking for inexpensive accommodations on the road, especially in big cities, add hostels to your list of options. These are not your father’s youth hostels, the ones I stayed in when I was barely out of teenager-hood.
Think rooftop yoga, cocktails in a palm-shaded courtyard, and clean beds in Manhattan for $50 a night. Those are all perks you’ll find in some hostels around the world. The days of backpackers sharing big rooms and bathrooms down the hall are over in most cases. And while there is still that option at some hostels, many are more like inexpensive hotels but with benefits.
One of the biggest benefits, says the CEO of Hostelling International, Russ Hedge, is that today’s hostels are a great way to plug quickly into a place. Hostelling International—with about 50 hostels in the US—is committed to encouraging cross-cultural experiences. Hostels today are mostly well designed, very clean, and many have kitchens that can save a traveling family (or anyone else) money by providing a venue for home-style meals.
America is coming late to hostels, but major investors are making plans to roll out sophisticated offerings in the next couple of years.
And that’s to the good.