3 troubling ways the TSA punishes passengers who opt out

Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock
If you don’t want to walk through a poorly tested full-body scanner or have a TSA agent belittle your anatomy before your next flight, then you still have the right to opt out and submit to an “enhanced” pat-down.

That’s exactly what I did on a recent trip from Orlando to Atlanta. Actually, I do it every time I fly.

But as I waited for a male agent — who would ask me to spread my legs, would touch my torso, rub the inside of my legs, and feel the back of my neck and arms — I began to understand what the TSA really means when it says it’s focusing its efforts on “intelligence-driven, risk-based screening procedures.”
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US Airways and United Airlines practice “discriminatory” pricing, study finds

US Airways and United Airlines practiced discriminatory pricing against disabled passengers, in apparent violation of federal law, a new study conducted by Towson University finds.

The research, conducted by Jonathan Lazar, a computer and information sciences professor, found both airlines routinely refused to waive fees for blind callers booking by phone, even after being made aware of the regulations.

The results will be published in the next edition of Government Information Quarterly.
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When travelers experience discrimination

As self-described “adventurous grandparents,” Trevor and Jean Broome had been looking forward to their upcoming trip to Costa Rica, which included diving, hiking, snorkeling and whitewater rafting.

Until they got some bad news from their tour operator: They were too old for the tour they had selected.

Gap Adventures of Toronto recently notified the couple that the adventure package they had purchased had been “re-aligned” to a younger demographic that would “likely be in the 18 to 39 age range.”
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Are online travel agencies quoting higher rates because of your Web cookies?

Are  online travel agencies quoting higher prices because of your personal information? It’s been difficult to prove that Web “cookies” were being used in that way. Until now, maybe.

Matt Ilardo stumbled across some interesting proof when he tried to book a rental car through Hotwire.

Here’s the rate quote from his work computer: $88 for a three-day rental in New York.

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Later that night, Ilardo did the same search at a different computer. It quoted him a rate of $117.

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I know what you’re thinking: Rates can change by the minute, and he just missed an opportunity. That’s what he thought, too. But before he booked …

I decided to check the price on the previous computer. I refreshed the search, and found the exact same, and cheaper, first price.

I performed this test several times, and if I logged on after I got the cheaper price, I would find the cheaper price. If I cleared the cookies on the computer and re-did the search, I would get the cheaper price. And every time I was logged on and did the search under my name, I would get the more expensive price.

He called Hotwire to ask why being logged in would result in a higher price, and a representative warned him to never search with more than one browser, as that “could affect availability and price, and that I should always clear the cookies before I search,” he says.

What’s going on? I asked Garrett Whittemore, a Hotwire representative, about Ilardo’s problem. He told me “as a general rule, we definitely do not use Hotwire customer information to generate increased price quotes, whether it’s contained in their cookies or otherwise.”

Hotwire promised to look into this. I’ll update this post when its investigation is done.


Banned for life for being too pretty

Is there such a thing as too gorgeous to fly? That’s the strange but true claim of two 18-year-olds from Oldsmar, Fla., who were escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight in Los Angeles recently. I’m not making this up. You can read the full story here and watch it here.

Nisreen Swedberg and friend Sarah Williams say the Southwest flight crew was rude to them “from the moment they stepped onto the plane” at Tampa International Airport.

Swedberg said she asked a flight attendant for a bottle of water and was told she could wait until the rest of the flight was served.

“And I patiently waited and then when they came around with water, they skipped me,” Swedberg said.

At one point, Williams had to use the plane’s bathroom. She saw another passenger in it, and when he hadn’t come out 15 minutes later, she knocked on the door.

When he came out, Williams says the man came over to her seat and yelled a profanity at her. Williams admits she yelled a profanity back at him but was puzzled when she says the flight crew only questioned her.

The girls suggest the Southwest flight attendants were jealous of their youthful good looks.

“I think they were just discriminating against because we were young decent-looking girls. I mean, nobody else on the plane looked like us except us,” she said. “[The flight attendants] were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger.”

The girls say they’ve been banned from all future Southwest Airlines flights, including their scheduled flight home to Tampa. The TV station that reported this story suggests it’s “prejudice against the pretty.”

Considering Southwest’s prudish past behavior, that’s not entirely implausible. But I’ll let you watch the story and decide for yourself.