Clinton National Airport Ready for Thanksgiving Travel

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A guide to Thanksgiving flying: 6 helpful tips.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year, workers at 15 major U.S. airports are planning a day of fasting, vigils and rallies, aiming to galvanize the traveling public’s support for their fight for better wages. LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projections show that 40,400 passengers will fly out of Clinton National Airport during the Thanksgiving period, which began Thursday, November 19 and ends Monday, November 30.WASHINGTON – The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert warning Americans of possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. “Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq,” the State Department said in the alert. “Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.Passengers heading to the airport this week for Thanksgiving travel are no doubt on edge, perhaps more nervous than they’ve been since those terrible months after 9/11.

From Monday before Thanksgiving to the Monday after Thanksgiving, more than a half million people will fly through Hartsfield-Jackson, according to McCranie. The workers— a mix of cleaners, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and security officers— will wear buttons that say “Ask Me Why I’m Fasting” and pass out petitions and flyers illustrating their campaign for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, the Service Employees International Union said.

Airlines for America, the U.S. airlines trade group, predicts 24.6 million fliers will board planes over 2014’s Thanksgiving holidays from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2, 1.5% more than last year. (Photo: Seth Wenig, AP) Flying this Thanksgiving? The airport workers who make those trips possible — including cabin cleaners, ramp workers, and baggage handlers — will go on a 24-hour fast today to protest low wages and bad working conditions. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.” Travelers are recommended to be aware of their surroundings and avoid large crowds and crowded places, such as holiday festivals and events.

Who wouldn’t be, after the deadly attacks in Paris, the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt attributed to an Islamic State bomb, and a steady diet of reports about gaps in U.S. air security? These airport workers — most of whom do not work directly for the major airlines but rather for contractors that the airlines hire — say that typically, that they earn low wages, that employer-sponsored health insurance is either not offered to them or is unaffordable, that many of the positions offer only part-time hours, and that they get few or no sick days.

But a little perspective should give travelers some comfort: Despite the holes, airports and airlines today are not the same soft, flabby targets they were in 2001. Williams says the airport has flights completely booked over the next couple of mornings leading up to Thanksgiving Day with only a few openings left in the afternoons. Staying home in front of the fire is not the option of choice for 46.9 million Americans who say they will go farther than the local supermarket or mall over the extended Thanksgiving weekend.

The walkout didn’t disrupt air travel, but workers and union leaders say they are planning to step up their efforts as the busy holiday season takes off. The number of people who expect to go somewhere more than 50 miles from home is 3.8 percent higher than the average for the past 10 years, according to the annual holiday travel survey by the American Automobile Association. “Americans will likely pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008,” AAA President Marshall Doney said. “While many people remain cautious about the economy and their finances, many thankful Americans continue to put a premium on traveling to spend the holiday with loved ones.” In recent years, the holiday weekend has evolved into a holiday week for travelers, but real-time travel-monitoring company Inrix, which provides data for traffic reports across the nation, says this year will see a lot of heavy traffic on the eve of Thanksgiving. Their goal is to put pressure on airports, airlines and, most importantly, the contractors that hire the workers. “These used to be good jobs 20 years ago, but with subcontracting the jobs have really gone down,” said Valarie Long, executive vice president of SEIU International. “Some people are making as little as $7.25 an hour, some less because they are considered tipped employees.

Inrix says it will feel like rush hour four hours early on Wednesday in the worst cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego – where trips could take 36 to 44 percent longer. The TSA said that they are now doubling their official recommendation of passenger airport arrival times – going from one hour before a flight leaves to two hours. Fourteen years after 9/11, terrorists continue to target jetliners and there have been a few close calls, but the nation’s air travel system has not been victimized by another attack. And even frequent fliers may benefit from revisiting some of these basic suggestions during the holidays, when unpredictably can upend battle-tested flying strategies.

She says service will not be disrupted but it will “send a clear message: Airport workers need to be respected.” Tinsly says some of the workers who have been organizing over the years have faced threats, intimidation, and, in some cases, illegal retaliatory tactics from their employers. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is advising international travelers to increase their arrival times from two to three hours prior to takeoff. Three days before the holiday at Reagan National Airport, the MWAA Police Department has officers in dark green military style uniforms with long guns patrolling the outside the airport. The very existence of the doors should discourage 9/11-type hijack plots, and if a terrorist did make it on board, he’d face an almost impregnable barrier. People driving to the nation’s airports – and 3.6 million people tell AAA they plan to fly – can expect delays on the way, too, adding an average of 19 minutes to travel time. “Drivers en route to West Coast airports such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas will experience the largest spikes in traffic between 7 and 10 a.m.,” Inrix traffic analyst Greg Hallsworth said. “In contrast, East Coast commuters should generally avoid traveling to airports between 4 and 6 p.m.” The worst drive to or from an airport is expected to be at Chicago O’Hare, where it is expected to take 50 minutes longer than usual.

Passengers we spoke with at Reagan said they appreciate the added protection, and while the extra security has heightened their awareness this Thanksgiving travel season, nobody said they would change their plans. And in South Florida, Broward County officials last month voted to extend a living-wage ordinance to contract airline workers, upping salaries by more than $3 an hour for some workers. “Airport jobs should be good jobs,” Clinton said in a letter last month. “Too many workers are living on the brink, struggling to make ends meet. Tinsly explains that in past decades, an airport job was a good career with which a person could afford a home and a family but that such jobs have been decimated by corporate maneuvering. Although more than half of the hijackers were identified for further scrutiny, the vetting applied only to their checked baggage, which did nothing to prevent their boarding.

Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York, will be the nation’s busiest mall on Friday, Inrix says, with mobs of shoppers expected between noon and 4 p.m. Another reason to arrive early: Security will likely be heightened at most U.S. airports in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris takes, adding yet more unpredictability. People complain about outsourcing jobs to China and India, Tinsly explains, but “the real threat to service jobs is domestic contractors who make money by cutting costs.

Connolly bashed the workers’ salaries and conditions. “Airports should be economic drivers, not sweatshops,” he said. “These men and women shouldn’t have to juggle multiple jobs and still struggle to pay the bills or support their families.” The low-wage airport workers are employed by private contractors that are free to pay the minimum wage. Remember, that unless you’re eligible for the TSA’s Pre-Check lines, laptops and liquids must come out separately to go through the screening checkpoints.

It is staffed by a live TSA official who will respond real-time to questions, complaints and problems at the airport. “It’s been pretty eye-opening I think for the travelers and for us,” said Farbstein. “We are getting a better idea of the types of concerns people have right then and there, and we’re trying to see what we can do to mitigate it if that’s the case.” There is also a big logistical component to the arrival times here. Voluntary programs such as Global Entry and TSA Precheck seek to identify travelers least in need of scrutiny; requirements include fingerprinting and background checks.

At National, where some workers began to organize over the summer, they are working to garner support from the travelers as well as urging more workers to join the effort. For the infrequent fliers, remember that most liquids are prohibited from carry-ons unless they are in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and are held in a clear quart-sized plastic bag. (See the TSA’s full “3-1-1” rules on liquids here). The ones who not doing well are workers barely making minimum wage.” Taxpayers essentially subsidize the corporations when workers depend on public health care or other public benefits instead of being paid a living wage by employers or being offered private health care through them. By sending those members through expedited screening, and making common-sense exceptions for the very young and very old, agents have more time to focus on lesser-known travelers.

But they don’t know that we work for contractors who don’t pay their employees that much money,” said Tranden Baccus, 33, an Alexandria, Va. resident who makes $8.25 an hour as a baggage handler. “There’s no benefits, not sick leave, no paid vacation. If you check a bag – either in advance or at the gate after your plane runs out of overhead bin space – remember to keep all of your important medicines and valuable items in your carry-ons. Like the courageous Flight 93 passengers who fought back and prevented more tragedy, fliers have proved repeatedly that they will do what’s necessary to stop another attack. On Christmas Day in 2009, for example, fliers on a Detroit-bound flight subdued a Nigerian man who attempted to ignite a bomb hidden in his underwear. The sooner you know there’s a cancellation or delay that could affect your travel, the sooner you’ll be able to troubleshoot it with your airline or travel agent.

Similarly, a flight between two cities under sunny skies could become delayed or canceled or the crew or airplane schedule to fly it gets bogged down in a snowstorm elsewhere. If your flight is canceled or delayed and you need to book a new flight, most people wait at their gate or head to an airline customer service desk to get help with a new ticket. There has been disturbing news of corrupt TSA luggage screening contractors, who for bribes allowed illegal drugs to pass through the security checkpoint at San Francisco International. Also, many airlines have added rebooking features on their mobile apps that allow customers to select new flights during so-called “irregular” operations.

Another criminal investigation found that an airplane baggage handler and former airline employee were smuggling rifles and pistols, some fully loaded, in the overhead carry-on bins of flights from Atlanta to New York. Even more disturbing, earlier this year we learned that TSA issued security badges to about 70 aviation employees who were in a broad terror database. In 2014, it screened nearly 1.7 billion carry-on bags, more than 653 million passengers and at least 443 million checked bags at about 450 U.S. airports.

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