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Well you have to give the TSA credit. I started the newsletter today from the field at EWR as we waited to pull into our stand — today, when the PreCheck line is busier than ever and when the snow is coming down by the kiloton.
On the way here, Johnny Jet and I got into a discussion about the expansion of PreCheck with Ross Finestein and Jim McKenney, two press secretaries for the TSA who happen to be camping out in EWR this morning. We had a coffee and they caught me up on some of the agency’s recent initiatives.
What are they most excited about coming up this year? No surprise: expansion of the PreCheck program. Ross detailed a spectrum of plans that the agency is unfurling to alleviate part of the load on current travelers and expand it to new enrollees — and they genuinely seem interested in making the program more efficient.
Whether or not their plans bear fruit lies in the future, but you have to commend the team for jumping into the fray.
Is Cleveland Hopkins destined to be the next Pittsburgh International Airport? Late last week, United announced that it was scaling down its presence in the quiet Ohio airport citing massive annual losses. With population on the decline, CLE seems headed for the same ghost-town status that PIT currently has.
Residents of Ohio will obviously be the most impacted, but for those regularly flying on United you may also notice some disruptions. Former connections at CLE will now be shifted to other hubs like Chicago and Newark, and with congestion common in both of those airports, there’s no doubt that schedules will get scrambled.
Social Quote of the Day
There goes Chris Elliott again… – Have travelers lost the class war? http://buff.ly/1aVWq2U
High Cost of Pilot Training and Low Pay Prompts Impending Pilot Shortage: A storm is brewing in the cockpit of U.S. airlines: a pilot shortage. Thousands of pilots are nearing the mandatory retirement age of 65, just as it is becoming harder to be a commercial airline pilot. Read more at Skift
5 Aviation Trends We’re Tracking at Skift This Week: Every week we post hundreds of stories across various sectors in travel, connecting the dots across various global trends, and in these weekend posts we highlight the stories that tackle these trends. This one looks at top aviation trends. Read more at Skift
Sexism Still Lies at the Heart of the Airline Industry: You only need to look at the tabloids to see we’re still trying to untangle ourselves from a lot of what went on in the 1970s. And yet, even as society wipes off the primordial sexism and rampant chauvinism of that era, there is one industry intent on clinging to its values. Read more at the Guardian
Pittsburgh Airport Looks to Emirates Air and Lower Fees to Halt Falling Traffic: Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald describes Pittsburgh International Airport as an economic engine for Western Pennsylvania. Yet while Fitzgerald points to improved employment, production and tourism as signs of the region’s economic vitality, growth at Pittsburgh International is stalled. Read more at Skift
Canadians Crossing the Border for Low-Cost Flights Keeps New York Airport in Business: Despite the loss of Direct Air in 2012, Niagara Falls International Airport had a banner year in 2013, with two profitable airlines, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines, flying more than 88,000 passengers to sites in Florida and South Carolina. Read more at Skift
Landed at the Wrong Airport? Imagining a PR Response: A Southwest Airlines jet touched down at the wrong Missouri airport this month, a mix-up that comes two months after a cargo jet landed at the wrong airport in Kansas. How will the industry bounce back from the embarrassing publicity? Herewith, some suggestions for an emergency P.R. campaign. Read more at the New York Times
United to Dump Cleveland Hub, Cut 470 Jobs: United Airlines said Saturday it will drop its money-losing hub in Cleveland, slashing its daily flights and eliminating 470 jobs. The company’s CEO Jeff Smisek announced in a letter to employees that the airline will no longer use Cleveland to connect fliers coming from other airports around the country. Read more at NBC News
Confessions of an Ex-TSA agent: On Jan. 4, 2010, when my boss saw my letter to the editor in the New York Times, we had a little chat. It was rare for a security director to sit down with a floor-level officers so I was nervous as I settled in across the desk from her Read more at Politico
This App Is Like a Remote Control for Your Hotel’s Concierge: Guests arriving at certain boutique hotels in the U.S. will soon be able to order room service, book a spa, or reserve a table all with a few taps. Read more at Skift
Gogo’s Grip on In-Flight Wi-Fi Is So Big It Could Be Unlawful, Judge Rules: A federal judge ruled that a consumer lawsuit against in-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo Inc, can proceed because the plaintiffs made plausible arguments that Gogo’s market share in the U.S. is big enough to constitute an unlawful barrier to entry for new players. Read more at Skift
Hotel Operator Begins Investigating Reported Data Breach: A major hotel operator is investigating a reported breach of customer information. A spokeswoman for Merrillville-based White Lodging told The (Munster) Times in a statement Saturday that an investigation into the reported breach is underway. She provided no further details. Read more at Skift
Booking Sites in the UK Just Got the OK to Offer Lower Room Rates Than Hotels: After giving preliminary approval in August, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading finalized a plan that enables Booking.com and Expedia to offer members of their closed groups, such as loyalty programs, room rates that are lower than InterContinental Hotels’ lowest published rates. Read more at Skift
The Inevitability of Free Wi-Fi: Loews Hotels’ announcement last week that it will offer free basic Wi-Fi in all guestrooms might be a crack in the wall that leads to a chasm. Indeed, 2014 might be the year in which additional brand companies bend to what seems to be the inevitable conclusion that Internet service should be free to guests in all hotels, including full-service properties. Read more at Hotel News Now
Here’s Richard Branson being awkward with Keith Richard. A man after my own awkward aspirations.