MONEY Airlines

The New TSA Fee Should Change the Way You Book Flights

An airline passenger is patted down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent
An airline passenger is patted down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent at Los Angeles International Airport. Kevork Djansezian—Reuters

Airline passengers used to pay as little as $5 round trip in TSA fees. Now everybody pays $11.20, and you could be forced to cough up double that.

As of July 21, the TSA’s September 11 Security Fee structure has been changed, and all travelers flying within the U.S. will be paying more every time a flight is purchased. Passengers on nonstop flights must now pay $5.60 each way, up from $2.50, so therefore the TSA fee on a basic round trip consisting of two nonstop flights is $11.20, up from $5. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around that fee hike, which amounts to a 124% increase. The fees are automatically tacked onto the price of airfare.

In the past, fliers on nonstops paid less in fees than travelers on connecting flights: $5 for a round trip, versus $10. Now everybody pays $11.20, regardless of connections. So in addition to nonstop flights being superior in terms of saving time and avoiding possible delays and missed connections, there was the added bonus of saving a few bucks on the TSA fees.

Now that little bonus is gone.

Even so, it’s almost always still best to go with a nonstop, if possible. Sure, delays and technical troubles can happen on nonstops, but travelers are far more likely to encounter such hassles on connecting flights. With recent airline mergers, carriers have slowly been getting rid of the old hub-and-spoke systems at the same time they’ve been trimming back the overall number of flights. As a result, passengers are generally more likely to find nonstop flights to their destination of choice and more likely to run into extra trouble on connecting flights. (It’s less likely there will be another flight behind the one you missed, and even if there is it probably doesn’t have enough extra seats.)

By going nonstop, passengers also rule out the risk of being forced to pay extra TSA fees on connecting flights with unusually long layovers. In the past, budget travel experts sometimes recommended looking into flights with extra-long layovers as a tactic for saving money. The new TSA fee structure makes that strategy a little less worth the hassle. Now, if a connecting flight has a layover of four or more hours, fliers must pay $5.60 for each leg of the journey. So for a flight from, say, Providence to Los Angeles with a five-hour layover in Dallas, a passenger would pay $11.20 in TSA fees, as opposed to $5.60 to a passenger booked on a nonstop or on a connecting flight with a more reasonable layover wait.

Airfarewatchdog.com founder George Hobica gave the Arizona Republic an example of a recent flight deal that would be affected: $197 for a winter season round trip from Newark to a choice of destinations in the Caribbean. “The catch,” the article explained, is that “travelers had to stay overnight in Miami in both directions.” So their layover would obviously be more than four hours—so they’d get hit with double the usual fees.

Fliers booking multi-stop itineraries—usually for business purposes, but not necessarily—will also feel the impact of the new fee structure more so than others, as they’ll have to pay at least $5.60 for each leg of the journey, rather than as little as $2.50 in the past. Depending on the traveler, number of stops on the itinerary, and the reason for the trip, this might not necessarily be a deal breaker. But it absolutely should factor into the decision making process.

TIME Transportation

A TSA Fee Hike Just Made Your Plane Tickets More Expensive

TSA Security
A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration at Miami International Airport on October 4, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

You now have to pay $5.60 per flight

Transportation Security Administration fees are doubling Monday, and frequent travelers will notice a slight hike in their airfares.

The TSA fee is currently $2.50 per non-stop flight and $5 per connecting flight, but the new fee will be $5.60 for all flights, and any connection over 4 hours counts as a separate flight.

Congress approved the new fee in December in order to raise $12.6 billion to cut the deficit, and the TSA estimates the fees could raise $16.9 billion.

“It’s like paying for a root canal,” George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, told USA Today. “It’s something you didn’t want anyway. Now you’re paying more for it.”

While the fees go into effect Monday, frustrated travelers can send comments to the TSA until Aug. 19.

TIME Transportation

2 Injured, Diesel Spilled in Wisconsin Train Derailment

Three engines and 10 railcars derailed on Sunday night in Wisconsin. Two people were injured and more than a hundred homes were evacuated

(SLINGER, Wis.) — Two people were injured and more than a hundred homes were evacuated due to a diesel spill from a train derailment in Wisconsin, according to fire officials.

Slinger Fire Department Chief Rick Hanke said three engines and 10 railcars derailed Sunday night. He said trains from Canadian National Railway Co. and Wisconsin & Southern were involved and that officials are investigating the cause.

About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from an engine, he said. Hazmat crews from Washington County had dikes and booms in place to contain the spill.

Hanke said railcars hauling sand and lumber were also involved, and some lumber spilled.

Six fire departments responded to the scene, though firefighter Scott Krueger said the diesel did not catch fire.

Hanke said the two people who were hurt had injuries that were not life-threatening.

Patrick Waldron, a spokesman for Canadian National, said three engines and “several” railcars belonging to Canadian National derailed. Preliminary reports indicate a Canadian National train struck cars on another train, Waldron said, adding that the circumstances were under investigation.

A representative for Wisconsin & Southern could not immediately be reached.

Waldron said the Canadian National train was headed from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to Champaign, Illinois.

Slinger is about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

The Red Cross was assisting evacuees at a local middle school.

TIME Transportation

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: FAA Bans U.S. Flight Routes Over Region

Emergencies Ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region
Emergencies Ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, on July 17, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters

Other nations' air carriers have also adjusted flight routes to avoid the region

The Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) has released a Notice to Airman barring U.S. flight operations within the Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk regions of Eastern Ukraine following the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was reportedly shot down over the war-torn area.

The new flight paths prohibited on Thursday are an addition to routes that were axed by the FAA in April throughout the Crimean region of Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “Events have indicated the potential for continued hazardous activities,” The FAA wrote in the statement.

The Boeing 777 plane, which was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, crashed between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions on Thursday. Ukrainian and U.S. officials say that a missile targeted the plane, although is remains unconfirmed which side involved in Ukraine’s civil war was responsible for the action.

According to the FAA statement, there are currently no U.S. flights scheduled to fly through eastern Ukraine. The prohibition will be reviewed again in October. Along with U.S. flight operations, other nations’ air carriers have also adjusted flight routes to avoid the region, says the BBC.

TIME Transportation

Strike Averted on LIRR, Nation’s Busiest Commuter Railway

A man buys a ticket for a Long Island Rail Road train at Pennsylvania Station in New York City on July 14, 2014.
A man buys a ticket for a Long Island Rail Road train at Pennsylvania Station in New York City on July 14, 2014. Shannon Stapleton—Reuters

A tentative agreement was announced Thursday that averts a strike by workers at the nation's largest commuter railroad

Updated 7:24 a.m. ET Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — After four years of negotiations — and weeks of fretting by 300,000 daily riders about a possible strike — unions and management at the nation’s largest commuter railroad reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday.

The deal announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who personally got involved in the final hours of the negotiations, gives Long Island Rail Road workers a 17 percent pay raise over six and a half years but requires them to contribute to their health care costs for the first time.

Cuomo, who is running for a second term in November, hailed the deal as a compromise that protects workers and riders because it calls for no additional fare hikes.

“There was a high degree of agita,” the governor said of nervousness over the negotiations. “The good news is there could have been a lot more agita next week” if there had been a strike.

Eight unions representing 5,400 Long Island Rail Road workers had threatened to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The workers had been seeking a new deal since 2010.

Commuters at Penn Station in Manhattan expressed relief that they would not have to seek transportation alternatives.

“I was really concerned,” said Sibel Aras of Port Washington. “It’s really good news. I’m happy for them. They deserve it.”

Manhattan attorney Douglas Bartner said he was pleased Cuomo stepped in.

“His taking last minute efforts to avert what could be a crisis is good, whatever it takes,” Bartner said. “It got done. I hope the terms are fair to employees.”

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent organization, the typical salary for a Long Island Rail Road worker is $65,000, and with overtime annual earnings average $85,000. A round-trip peak ticket from central Nassau County to Manhattan currently costs $25 a day; an unlimited trip monthly ticket is $276.

“Both sides have compromised to reach an agreement that gives our employees the raises they deserve while also providing for the MTA’s long-term financial stability,” said Thomas Prendergast, the MTA chairman.

Chief union negotiator Anthony Simon said his membership was reluctant to strike, but a tough stance was necessary in order to get an agreement.

“This was definitely about the riders,” Simon said. “We cared about the financial stability of the railroad as well as the members and their financial stability.”

Officials in New York City and Long Island had predicted dire consequences if workers walked off the job.

“All riders feel relief at the announcement of this settlement” said Mark Epstein, chairman of a commuter advocacy group. “We are encouraged by Gov. Cuomo’s assurances on fares and the MTA’s ability to fund its capital program and look forward to reviewing additional details on the settlement and the way in which it will be funded.”

Earlier this week it appeared a strike was imminent when union negotiators and MTA officials said that they had reached an impasse. Commuters fretted over contingency plans that would have had many riding school buses from LIRR stations to subway stops in New York City, or spending hours on clogged New York area roadways.

Cuomo, a Democrat who is running for re-election, jump-started the talks on Wednesday when he appealed to both sides to resume negotiating. The governor held discussions with the sides later that day and on Thursday morning summoned them to his office.

The state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, had estimated a strike would be a “devastating blow” to a region causing economic losses of $50 million a day.

While commuters were relieved by the deal, few were likely as happy as Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor had been criticized for planning to be out of town on a vacation in Italy starting Friday.

Before the agreement was announced Thursday, de Blasio said at event in Brooklyn that he thought the contingency plan for a possible strike was strong and that the impact would have been felt strongest outside the city limit.

“He can take his vacation to Italy,” Cuomo said. “I hope he enjoys it. I’m a tad envious.”

TIME Transportation

This Airplane Seat Basically Looks Like a Torture Device

Airbus New Seat Patent
A diagram for a new seating device from Airbus' patent application. Airbus

Airbus hopes to patent a seat that resembles a bicycle saddle

Airlines with Airbus planes in their fleets may soon find themselves flooded with annoyed passengers, likely to be shifty and uncomfortable as they sit on — or rather, mount — a never-before-seen airplane seat.

Airbus filed a patent application in June for a “seating device comprising a forward-foldable backrest,” or what appears to be a bike saddle meets ergonomic office chair meets movie theater seat. The patent states that the new seat will reduce bulk: the cushions and headrests have been eliminated, and armrests are smaller than usual. With the new seat, Airbus hopes to transport more passengers with its existing aircrafts in order to maximize return, as competitive low-cost airlines stake their ground by boarding travelers willing to trade comfort for affordability.

“In all cases, this increase in the number of seats is achieved to the detriment of the comfort of the passengers,” the patent states. “However, this remains tolerable for the passengers in as much as the flight lasts only one or a few hours.”

The new patent, designed by Bernard Guering, seems to be the inventor’s latest contribution in the push to economize air travel. (Guering has already filed patents for deployable benches to accommodate baggage, storage compartments in the nose gear, and a crew hang-out spot in the plane’s tail.) But seats similar to Guering’s proposal, in fact, do already exist: the SkyRider, for example, debuted in 2010, but the saddle seat has not yet made its way onto planes. More radical ideas have been proposed, such as RyanAir’s standing “seat,” which faces an uphill battle with licensing and safety requirements.

Slimmer, lighter seats for Airbus planes were picked up by United Airlines in 2012.

 

 

TIME U.S. Department of Agriculture

Giant African Snails Seized at Los Angeles Airport

Giant Snails Seized
This photo provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows a person using two hands to hold a single snail from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. Officials said that the 35 pounds of snails arrived from Nigeria along with paperwork stating they were for human consumption. Greg Bartman—AP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated a package of 67 giant snails from Nigeria that inspectors seized from the Los Angeles National Airport because the snails are prohibited in the U.S.

(LOS ANGELES) — Inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized an unusually slimy package — 67 live giant African snails that are a popular delicacy across West Africa.

The snails — which are prohibited in the U.S. — arrived from Nigeria and were being sent to a person in San Dimas, said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border protection.

The snails were confiscated July 1 and a sample was sent the next day to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., who identified them as a prohibited species, Harty said.

The mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches long. They are native to Africa and can live for up to 10 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated the snails after they were inspected, Harty said. The animals are prohibited in the U.S. because they can carry parasites that are harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis.

The snails are also agricultural pests, said Maveeda Mirza, the CBP program manager for agriculture.

“These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to,” Mirza said.

The person the snails were destined for is not expected to face any penalties, Mirza said. She said authorities are investigating why a single person would want so many snails.

“We’re investigating what happened, but it doesn’t seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment,” she said.

Although the agency has found one or two snails that may have accidentally gotten into a traveler’s luggage in Los Angeles, this is the first time that they have confiscated the snails in such a large quantity, Mirza said.

TIME Italy

It’s Make or Break for the World’s Biggest Marine Salvage Operation

The Costa Concordia salvage operation has entered its next, most dangerous phase

+ READ ARTICLE

It’s a record attempt in heavy lifting that nobody wishes to ever be matched. On Monday, the operation to raise and refloat the capsized 114,500-ton cruise ship Costa Concordia was finally started. If all goes well, the vessel will be towed away to the Italian port city of Genoa, where it will be decommissioned. However, after more than two and a half years on the sea floor, experts fear the delicate maneuver will rupture the prone ship’s hull, spewing out its toxic load — including fuel and dangerous chemicals — into the pristine Tuscan archipelago.

The Costa Concordia veered off course and ran aground outside the island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people and leaving the enormous liner partially submerged in the shallow waters. In tandem with a legal process against the ship’s captain, a salvage operation of unparalleled proportions was commenced. All but one of the victims’ bodies have been recovered, and in a massive September 2013 exercise, the ship was turned upright (parbuckled) and secured on an artificial platform.

Now begins the final phase. Giant tanks welded to the sides of the 290-m-long wreck will be emptied of water, slowly raising it out of the water. Every floor surfaced will be cleaned of debris and potentially harmful substances that could spill into the sea. They will also be surveyed for signs of Russel Rebello, the Indian waiter who remains missing.

“I strongly believe they will find the body of my dear brother,” writes Russel’s brother Kevin in a Facebook post.

Weather conditions have delayed the operation on several occasions, but even though the forecast still isn’t ideal, the salvage crew has pushed ahead, since the hulk would unlikely survive another winter. In fact, it could already have deteriorated too badly for the refloating procedure and subsequent 240-km tow to Genoa. The first 2 m of the raising are the most dangerous, and the hull will constantly be monitored for possible cracks and fissures.

Cutting up the ship in place is not an option. “It’s far more dangerous to the environment to leave it where it is than to tow it away,” Italy’s civil-protection chief Franco Gabrielli explained to Giglio residents. With luck, they could bid farewell to their unwanted, view-spoiling neighbor in just a couple of weeks. Refloating Costa Concordia and moving it into open waters is estimated to take between five and seven days, tugging it to safety another four to five.

TIME 2016 Election

Here Are The Questions Chris Christie Doesn’t Want To Answer

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a town hall meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary School, April 9, 2014, in Fairfield, N.J. Julio Cortez—AP

He is making moves to prepare for a presidential run but declines to answer questions like a presidential candidate.

Sometimes the straight-talking governor of New Jersey doesn’t talk all that straight.

Gov. Chris Christie casts himself as a decider, steering his state through rough economic waters, while setting himself up for a run for the White House. At the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville on Saturday, Christie lambasted the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and its inability to negotiate with Congress.

But he skipped as many issues as he took on. Just what he would do when faced with some of the nation’s hardest policy challenges remains unclear. The man who hopes to one day inhabit the Oval Office repeatedly noted that he doesn’t yet have the job—a rhetorical crutch to avoid saying what he’d do if he got it.

Here’s the list of the questions he dodged from reporters:

On raising the gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure:

“Since I’m not in Congress or the White House I’m going to let them make those decisions. I have to make those decisions in my state. They can make those decisions down there.”

On whether the unaccompanied minors cross the border illegally into the united states should be sent back:

“I’m not going to get into all that. Again, that’s Washington’s job to figure these things out.”

Should the United States intervene militarily against Hamas?

“I’m not going to give opinions on that. I’m not the president.”

Has he decided on whether illegal immigrants in the United States should be presented with a path to citizenship as part of an immigration reform package?

“No, not as Governor of New Jersey I have not.”

He’s brusque, he’s brash. He’s famous for his back-and-forth exchanges with protestors and hecklers. And even in dodging questions, Christie has a matter-of-fact speech and abrupt delivery that suggest candor. But sometimes he still doesn’t want to answer the questions.

 

TIME Transportation

Lyft Delays New York Launch to Seek Government Approval

Lyft Car
A Lyft car drives along Powell Street on June 12, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—;Getty Images

The state attorney's general office had sought a restraining order after failed attempts to get Lyft to comply with state law

Updated July 11, 5:32 p.m.

The ride-sharing service Lyft has delayed its launch in New York following a request for a restraining order by the state attorney general’s office. In a joint statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky said they sought the restraining order after failed attempts to get Lyft to comply with state law.

“Instead of collaborating with the State to help square innovation with statute and protect the public, as other technology companies have done as recently as this week, Lyft decided to move ahead and simply ignore state and local laws,” the statement reads. “Lyft’s arguments are a disingenuous attempt to disguise old-fashioned law-breaking that jeopardizes public safety.”

Lyft is an app-based service that allows regular people to offer rides to strangers in their area in exchange for money. The company has argued that it is not a taxi service and therefore should not be bound to the regulations of New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Following this week’s legal wrangling, though, the company says it will now seek TLC approval before launching in New York. “We agreed in New York State Supreme Court to put off the launch of Lyft’s peer-to-peer model in New York City and we will not proceed with this model unless it complies with New York City Taxi and Limousine regulations,” the company said. “We will meet with the TLC beginning Monday to work on a new version of Lyft that is fully-licensed by the TLC.”

The joint statement from the government originally claimed that the attorney general’s office had successfully lobbied the state Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against Lyft. However, after Lyft said that no such order was issued, the office changed its statement to say that an “injunction” had been issued. Lyft maintains that neither a restraining order nor an injunction was issued, but that the court adjourned and the company agreed to postpone its launch.

Other car-hailing tech companies like Uber have gone through the TLC to operate in New York. The ones that haven’t, like Sidecar, have been kicked out of the city. “We are committed to fostering a competitive marketplace where each participant is treated fairly,” the statement by Schneiderman and Lawsky said. “We are hopeful that Lyft will now recognize that it has to play by the same set of rules as everyone else.”

Lyft was originally scheduled to launch at 7 p.m. Friday with service in Brooklyn and Queens. The company still plans to host a launch party Friday night in Brooklyn.

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