Entries in airports (16)


Sequestration and Projected Furloughs Causing Concern

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Across-the-board spending cuts are forcing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to make cutbacks.  The result is already evident in the Port of Long Beach in California.

Sean Strawbridge, the managing director for the port, says essential operations are already being affected less than a week into sequestration.  He says there is already a backup of ships waiting to dock.

Strawbridge says the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach move over a billion dollars worth of goods a day “so any impact has an amplified effect not only on the local economy but the regional and the nation economy as well.”

At California’s Port of Hueneme, port CEO Kristen Decase says the Fed has cut overtime, which means the port can no longer conduct business on Saturdays.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Tuesday that expected furloughs at Customs and Border Protection would mean wait times at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York would increase 50 percent.

Speaking at a New York Police Department counterterror meeting, Napolitano said at peak arrival times, the wait at Customs could be four hours.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced on Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has informed the group that it intends to send furlough notices to all its employees, a decision that the association says beginning next month will result in “fewer air traffic controllers in towers and radar rooms helping our national airspace work.”

The association issued a statement saying that as a result of the sequester-generated furloughs “fewer flights will be able to take off and land and the traveling public and the many businesses that rely on our air travel system will be impacted by the delays.”

The air traffic controllers group warns that the FAA “intends to close many towers around the country that provide critically important safety and efficiency services to aviation, keeping our system vibrant, growing and crucial to our economy.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


TSA to Allow Pocket Knives on Planes

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the nation braces for potentially extended airport security lines because of the federal budget sequester, the Travel Security Administration (TSA) has announced they will allow small pocket knives and certain sporting goods on planes for the first time in more than a decade.

TSA Administrator John Pistole announced the change Tuesday at an aviation security conference in New York.

Starting April 25, passengers flying on U.S. flights will be allowed to carry small pocket knives — blades less than 6-centimeters, up to two golf clubs, ski poles, as well as sporting sticks used for hockey, lacrosse and billiards. Baseball bats will remain on the no-fly list, though wiffle-ball bats and souvenir baseball bats (less than 24-inches long) will be allowed.

“These are popular items we see regularly,” agency spokesman David Castelveter told Bloomberg News. “They don’t present a risk to transportation security.”

The move comes following a recommendation by a TSA working group that such items are not a security threat. The move will conform to international rules that currently allow the small knives and sporting goods.

“Frankly, I don’t want TSA agents to be delayed by these,” Pistole told the audience. Adding that TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport in the last three months of 2012, seized 47 of the small knives per day.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents the 90,000 flight attendants on carriers nationwide, blasted the announcement calling it “poor and shortsighted.”

“Continued prohibition of these items is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and must remain in place,” the statement said. “As the last line of defense in the cabin and key aviation partners, we believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all Flight Attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure.”

Razor blades and box-cutters, like those used by the 9/11 terrorists, will still be banned.

“There is just too much emotion involved with those,” Pistole said at the conference.

The Transportation Security Administration announced last week they would be reducing ”frontline workforce,” those who screen passengers prior to accessing a flight gate, and thereby lead to increased passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.

The cuts come from a freeze of airport security screeners hiring and cutbacks on overtime, due to sequestration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New York City Airports to Resume Flights

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports are expected to resume passenger flights on Saturday morning after cancelling flights on Friday due to blizzard conditions.

Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey does not expect to fully resume flights until noon on Saturday due to the fact runways had to be shut down overnight as a result of heavy snow that produced whiteout conditions.

According to, airlines have cancelled 5,368 flights this week due to the blizzard in the Northeast, and 1,756 flights were cancelled so far on Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Travel Plans at a Standstill as Hurricane Sandy Approaches

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As a large section of the nation sits at a standstill as Hurricane Sandy makes its way up the East Coast, traffic in and out of airports and train stations from North Carolina to Boston has been virtually shut down, and may not be back in service until later this week.

Nearly 7,000 flights have been cancelled in anticipation of the storm's arrival, most of which are either from, or to, one of the hubs in Sandy's path.  These cancellations are creating a ripple effect that is being felt across the entire country, forcing delays as far west as Seattle and San Francisco.

The eye of Sandy is forecast to make landfall late Monday night in Atlantic City, N.J., bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and intense winds and rain, all of which will cripple transportation.

The passengers who have become stranded as the storm slowly makes its way north are for the most part taking the delays in stride.

"It's not the airlines' fault, you can't really control the weather," one passenger in San Francisco said.  "Just go with the flow."

On Sunday, Jet Blue and United Airlines moved their planes out of the strike zone, where they will remain until Tuesday.  But at low-lying airports like New York's LaGuardia and JFK, there is also concern about the storm's surge.

"The thing were going to be watching very, very closely is the flooding and the flood potential here in New York," Jet Blue COO Rob Maruster said.  "With these airports basically at sea level, that poses a major risk to us."

Maruster said that the delays at the airport are likely to last through later this week.

"It'll take us a couple days, probably until at least Thursday, if not Friday, to get back to normal with something this large," he said.

Meanwhile, plans to travel via train have been derailed, as Amtrak has shut down all East Coast service. On a typical day, over 300 trains would be running.

For now, travelers are just going to have to wait. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Top 20 US Airports for TSA Theft

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Your suitcase has been tagged and whisked away for a security check before being loaded onto a plane en route to your final destination.  How safe are the belongings inside?

The Transportation Security Administration has fired nearly 400 employees for allegedly stealing from travelers, and for the first time, the agency is revealing the airports where those fired employees worked.

Newly released figures provided to ABC News by the TSA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that -- unsurprisingly -- many of the country's busiest airports also rank at the top for TSA employees fired for theft.

Sixteen of the top 20 airports for theft firings are also in the top 20 airports in terms of passengers passing through.

At the head of the list is Miami International Airport, which ranks 12th in passengers but first in TSA theft firings, with 29 employees terminated for theft from 2002 through December 2011.  John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is second with 27 firings, and Los Angeles International Airport is third with 24 firings.  JFK ranks sixth in passenger traffic, while LAX is third.  Chicago, while second in traffic, ranked 20th in theft firings.

The four airports listed in the TSA's top 20 list of employee firings for theft that aren't also among the Federal Aviation Administration's top 20 for passenger activity are Salt Lake City International, Washington Dulles, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, and San Diego International.

The top airports across the U.S. for TSA employees fired for theft are:

1. Miami International Airport (29)
2. JFK International Airport (27)
3. Los Angeles International Airport (24)
4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (17)
5. Las Vegas-McCarren International Airport (15)
6. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and New York-Laguardia Airport (14 each)
8. Newark Liberty, Philadelphia International, and Seattle-Tacoma International airports (12 each)
11. Orlando International Airport (11)
12. Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport (10 each)
14. Washington Dulles International Airport (9)
15. Detroit Metro Airport and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (7)
17. Boston-Logan International, Denver International and San Diego International airports (6)
20. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (5)

During a recent ABC News investigation, an iPad left behind at a security checkpoint at the Orlando airport was tracked as it moved 30 miles away to the home of the TSA officer last seen handling it.

Confronted two weeks later by ABC News, the TSA officer, Andy Ramirez, at first denied having the missing iPad, but ultimately turned it over after blaming his wife for taking it from the airport.  Ramirez was later fired by the TSA.

The iPad was one of 10 purposely left behind at TSA checkpoints at major airports with a history of theft by government screeners, as part of an ABC News investigation into the TSA's ongoing problem with theft of passenger belongings.  The other nine iPads were returned to ABC News after being left behind.

The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired "represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed" by the TSA.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senator Calls for TSA Theft Fixes After ABC News Report

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Reacting to an ABC News investigation into theft by Transportation Security Administration officers, Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday called on the agency to do random sting operations on its employees "to test whether TSA agents are acting in a trustworthy manner to protect passenger property."

Schumer's request came in a letter to TSA head John Pistole and also proposed that the TSA randomly screen its employees at the end of the workday.

"Most TSA agents are very good, hard-working and conscientious, but there are a few bad apples that spoil the bunch," Schumer told ABC News Thursday. "We have to find them."

Last week an ABC News investigation revealed that 381 TSA officers have been fired since the TSA was formed a decade ago for allegedly stealing from passengers. As part of the investigation, ABC News tracked an iPad that was purposefully left behind at an airport security checkpoint to the home of a TSA agent who was later fired for the alleged theft.

Another former TSA employee, Pythias Brown, served three years in prison for theft and said he stole approximately $800,000 worth of cash and merchandise from travelers before he was caught.

"It was very commonplace, very," Brown told ABC News. "It was very convenient to steal … [TSA agents] didn't think it was okay, but they did it and said, 'I don't care. They ain't paying me. They're treating me wrong.' But when people started seeing they could profit off of it, then it became massive."

In response to ABC News' original report, the TSA provided a statement that said it has a "zero tolerance" policy towards theft and that the number of officers fired "represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed" by the TSA.

The agency has conducted internal sting operations in the past after allegations of wrongdoing and has caught some officers red-handed, according to court documents.

The TSA Office of Inspection and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General conducted a joint undercover operation at the Kona International Airport in Hawaii on March 11, 2011 "in response to numerous allegations that KOA Lead Transportation Security Officer ... Dawn Nikole Keka, was suspected of stealing cash from Japanese travelers passing through her security lane," a criminal complaint said.

An undercover special agent of Japanese heritage placed 13 $100 U.S. bills in an orange wallet, and then placed the wallet in a Hello Kitty backpack and went through Keka's checkpoint screening.

Immediately upon leaving the checkpoint, the undercover special agent examined the contents of the backpack and discovered she was $200 short, the documents said. Another special agent asked Keka to empty her pockets and she produced two $100 bills. The agents matched the serial numbers of the two bills to ones the undercover special agent had placed in the backpack.

Keka ended up pleading guilty to one count of theft and was sentenced to two months in prison.

Schumer told ABC News that such operations should not just be conducted in response to reported wrongdoing, but randomly to keep all TSA agents honest.

"The TSA has a huge job, but when it comes to the security and safety of people's valuables, which they entrust to the TSA when they put them on the conveyor belt and go through the inspection, [TSA officials] have to be very, very careful and very, very vigilant," Schumer said. "Thus far they haven't done enough and could be doing more."

In response to Schumer's letter, the TSA told ABC News in a statement that "ensuring the safety of travelers through a professional workforce is of the highest priority for the TSA."

"TSA takes allegations of misconduct seriously and will take appropriate corrective action as warranted," the statement said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ex-TSA Head: Stop Searching for Knives

John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Transportation Security Administration has become a necessary inconvenience for most travelers as the list of prohibited items has increased and the lines for screenings continue to serpentine through many airport departure halls. But former TSA administrator Kip Hawley says the system is broken and it doesn't have to be this way.

Hawley, who ran the TSA from 2005 to 2009, insists that to do a better job of preventing terrorist attacks, more TSA officers should roam the airport, asking questions and watching shady characters, instead of screening passengers at checkpoints. He says the frustrating security checkpoints that alienate passengers and do little to stop Al Qaeda need to be streamlined.

"We cannot protect every passenger on every plane, train and automobile," Hawley told ABC News. "We have so jammed up the system with rules, and the public is just fed up."

Hawley recommends that airlines stop charging extra to check bags because it encourages more carry-ons and advocates that the TSA no longer look for weapons that cannot penetrate the cockpit door.

"Blades, sharp objects, tools, all those things should be removed from the prohibited items list," Hawley told ABC News. "Carry a big knife, carry five knives. What are you going to do with a knife or five knives? You are not going to take over the plane....The focus should be explosives and toxins -- things that can kill a lot of people very fast before security measures can stop someone from making that attack."

He argues that since 9/11, objects that cannot kill a lot of people in a short period of time are no longer a significant threat. He says allowing screeners to concentrate on detonators and bomb parts instead of small weapons would make flying safer and the screening process more convenient.

"The captain is not going to open up the door. The captain is not going to surrender the cockpit and the passengers are not going to sit by and let the guy stand there with a knife," Hawley said. "I mean, you have to think of it as risk management. What is the risk that somebody is going stand up there with a knife to somebody -- a child, a flight attendant -- the risk that they're going do that and then take over the plane? And do we put people through these long security lines, fishing through their bags, two million people a day, just to prevent the eventuality that somebody might get killed? That's a tradeoff."

Hawley is also in favor of allowing people to bring liquids on planes. He says the TSA is sitting on technology that screens liquids for explosives because it would slow down security lines.

"All you would have to do is set up a separate lane and say, 'People who want to bring bottles, go through these lanes,'" he said. "We have that technology, and I would argue, let's roll it out."

In response to Hawley's interview with ABC News, the TSA said it respects the work he did for the administration and that it is continually trying to improve the security system.

"TSA is focused on providing the most effective security in the most efficient manner, while ensuring the freedom of movement of people and goods," the agency said in a statement. "The agency is moving away from one-size-fits-all screening to progress toward improving both security and the passenger experience."

Hawley believes the key to an effective and efficient airport security system is making sure the public and security services are on the same page.

"The system overall started off as a regulatory system of writing rules and enforcing rules, and that is the heart of the problem because al Qaeda knows those rules," he said. "If we removed that patdown, allowed liquids, radically cut back on the prohibited items list, I think the public would get back with TSA and support TSA."

While Hawley believes the TSA's focus needs to be reevaluated, he strongly disagrees with a small but loud group of Libertarians who are calling for it to be eliminated. He says if the TSA did not exist the result would be catastrophic.

"They'll blow the planes up. They'll blow them up by the dozens," Hawley said. "I can literally say that there are between 12 and 18 specific, real, credible plots every day when I was at TSA."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Delta Airlines Airport Flash Mob: Employees Get Their Groove On

Delta Airlines(NEW YORK) -- When was the last time an airline made you smile? A just-released YouTube video of Delta employees flash-mobbing around the country may do the trick. Employees at airports in Atlanta, New York City, Detroit and at the Technical Operations Center, also in Atlanta, got in on the fun.

The video starts out a little boring, with a few Delta employees singing a cheesy but nice song about “Delta and you” and the places you’ll go together. Then the video cuts to the crowd in Atlanta and...wham!  Delta flash mob!

One highlight is the flight attendant in the red dress in New York. She’s on the right, and ever so slightly out of step with the rest of the group. Check it out at about 2:42. She eventually gets in the groove. Also, the guy at tech ops with his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth at 3:42 is pretty awesome, as well.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Germany: US Airport Full-Body Scanners Too Unreliable

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The German government halted the full rollout of American body imaging scanners in the nation's airports Thursday after the interior minister said the devices sound too many false alarms -- including at times mistaking underarm sweat for dangerous chemicals.

The determination came after a months-long test of a pair of L-3 Communications ProVision ATD human imaging scanners -- the same type of scanners already in use in dozens of airports across the U.S.

Over 800,000 Germans voluntarily tested the scanners at an airport in Hamburg from September 2010 to July 2011, during which time airport security reported so many "unnecessary alarms" that Friedrich said the technology, "despite the high detection performance," has not yet matured and is "not yet suitable" for general practical use. Local press reports put the false alarm rate as high as 49 percent and said sweaty armpits had been the culprit multiple times.

The German decision comes just a day after a 9/11 anniversary report by the Bipartisan Policy Center said U.S. was still "highly vulnerable to aviation security threats," partially because it said full-body imaging for explosive detection is unreliable.

"With significant federal funding, TSA has deployed large numbers of enhanced screening equipment used at passenger checkpoints and baggage check screening. Unfortunately, explosives detection technology lacks reliability and lags in its capability to automatically identify concealed weapons and explosives," the report says.

A TSA official told ABC News the administration could not comment on another country's technology and testing methods, but said the ProVision system is customizable and it is not known if the Germans were using the exact same models, standards and calibrations that U.S. airports use with their scanners.

"As with any technology, false alarms remain a possibility," the official said. "But this is the best available technology as one of our many layers of security to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives."

Approximately 250 ProVision scanners are in use in the U.S. currently, according to the TSA, from Atlanta to San Francisco to Honolulu. The TSA is in the process of upgrading all of those systems to the newer ProVision ATD model.

The ProVision scanner, which uses "safe active millimeter wave radio frequency," is one of two options from which American airports can choose for full-body imaging. The other system, known as "backscatter," uses X-ray technology to scan passengers and is used in machines built by L-3 Communications competitor Rapiscan.

The TSA credits both technologies with catching 300 "dangerous or illegal weapons" since January 2010 alone.

"Our top priority is the safety of the traveling public, and TSA constantly strives to explore and implement new technologies that enhance security and strengthen privacy protections for the traveling public," TSA Administrator John Pistole said in July when announcing the upgrade to the ProVision systems.

In addition to concerns over reliability, full-body scanners have come under significant scrutiny for potential privacy violations. The ProVision "image-free" upgrade, for instance, replaces the 3-D black-and-white silhouette of the passenger with a "generic, computer-generated outline of a person," according to the TSA.

After the failed December 2009 shoe bombing plot, the TSA worked closely with foreign governments to promote the use of advanced imaging technology (AIT), according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

L-3 Communications declined to comment for this report. Rapiscan Executive Vice President Peter Kant said the company "clearly disagrees" with the 9/11 Commissions' findings on full-body scans and said multiple independent and government tests have found the Rapiscan technology more reliable than any other passenger inspection method.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene: NYC Airports, Subways to Reopen Monday Morning

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York City's subways, the veins that keep the city that never sleeps alive 24 hours a day, will start reopening Monday morning after fears of Hurricane Irene led anxious officials to shut them down.

Along with the subways, the city's LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports were also scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday, officials said, though there were concerns about how many airport workers would be on the job without the subways running.

Irene was expected to wallop the city, which had led Mayor Mike Bloomberg to order 370,000 people to evacuate their homes and to close the subways and halt all buses 18 hours before the storm was expected to arrive.

As city officials breathed a sigh of relief Sunday that the storm did not bruise the Big Apple as badly as predicted, the mayor defended his decisions to err on the side of caution.

"The good news is the worst is over," he said.  "We dodged a bullet there."

In another bit of good news for the city, crime was much lower than usual Saturday night, with only 45 arrests, Bloomberg said.  On a typical Saturday night in August, there are 345 arrests, he said.

But the storm did not pass without making an impression on the city.  As the center of tropical storm Irene passed through, the East River breached its seawall and major highways around the nation's largest city shut down due to heavy rainfall and flooding.

Water flowed through the streets in lower Manhattan and work crews pumped out water from several flooded buildings.  One 31-story building on the corner of Fletcher and Front streets had 15 to 20 feet of water in its basement.  Engineers tried to pump out the water, fearing an explosion if they couldn't contain it.

Con Ed reported Sunday morning that 72,000 customers were without power in New York City, 25,000 of whom are in Queens.  And city officials estimated that there were more than 700 trees down, split, or uprooted throughout the five boroughs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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