Aug. 22-28: Review the TSA on Yelp; Consumer Group Wants Intl. Change Fee Capped; EU Won’t Change Passport-Free Travel; & more

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news — from TSA reviews now available on Yelp, consumer group wants international change fee capped at $100, and EU not changing the passport-free bordering crossings, to JFK displaying actual wait times, British travel company inadvertently reveals customers’ information, and woman missed flight after chugging a bottle of cognac at boarding gate

Got a Bad/Good TSA Experience? Review Them on Yelp!

This could either be seen as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) being transparent and more open, or it could open a can of worms they wish they can close. Earlier this month Yelp finalized an agreement with the federal government that will allow people to review agency field offices, national, Social Security Administration offices, landmarks and other places listed on Yelp, and yes, this includes the TSA. We took a look at the TSA page for Chicago’s O’Hare International airport and it currently has 37 reviews, with a dismal rating of 2 out of 5 stars. So the next time you’re frustrated with the TSA, you can now air your grievances online and you might even get a reply.

Consumer Group Wants International Change Fee Capped, a non-profit consumer organization representing airline passengers, filed a petition with the TSA back in February to cap the change fee for international flights at $100. Paul Hudson, the president of the group stated that the cost to change a ticket, as high as $750 in some instances, is not related to the actual cost of changing a ticket. Now two other organizations that represent 250 airlines, Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association, have both come out to ask the TSA to turn down the petition, claiming a cap “would disrupt highly competitive pricing and intrude on international agreements.” It should be noted that the TSA has rejected similar petitions in 2003 and 2012, stating “that travelers can choose between non-refundable and more expensive refundable options.” Should FlyersRights petition be rejected, they can appeal the decision in federal court. Airline change fees totaled almost $3 billion last year, so it stands to reason the airlines wouldn’t want to lose a potential stream of revenue.

EU Won’t Change Passport-Free Travel

In light of the recent attempted attack onboard the Thalys train going from Amsterdam to Paris, the European Union has been under pressure to change its border crossing rules. Currently, the Schengen agreement allows for travel between EU nations as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland without any border or security checks. On Monday, the EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said, “Schengen is non-negotiable and the Commission has no intention of changing it.” He goes on to add that the rules do allow for additional policing and temporary border closings if the situation calls for it. Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, said over the weekend if local police is unable to provide adequate security for travelers, the current rules should be reevaluate.

JFK Airport Displays Actual Wait Times

If you’ve traveled through JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4 at some point this month, you might have noticed one of 13 screens around the terminal displaying the wait times of going through a line at security checkpoints or passport control. This system, developed by BLIP Systems of Denmark, is currently being used in airports around the world including Cincinnati, Toronto, Amsterdam, Barcelona and more. This is certainly a handy tool for anyone flying, unless of course you’re a paranoid individual. The technology tracks and triangulates smartphones that have their Bluetooth or Wi-Fi turned on and follows them through security and customs line. The company claims that no personal information is saved and all the data acquired is anonymous.

British Travel Company Reveals Customer Info

Here’s a data breach of a different kind…on August 15, Thomson Holiday, a travel company owned by TUI AG, accidentally sent an out email that included the names along with contact and travel information of almost 500 of their customers. An emailed statement from the company stated that “the error was identified very quickly and the email was recalled, which was successful in a significant number of cases….we are urgently investigating the matter to ensure this situation will not be repeated.” There are rumblings in social media about the breach with some travelers considering cancelling their vacation for fear of having their homes broken into while they are away.

Random Story of the Week: Woman Chugs Bottle of Cognac at Baggage Check

A Chinese woman this week who was traveling from the U.S. through Beijing on her way home was stopped from boarding her plane because she was carrying a $200 bottle of Rémy Martin XO Excellence in her hand luggage. Rather than let the expensive cognac be confiscated and go to waste, she decided to drink the whole bottle at the gate. Unfortunately for Ms. Zhao, she became so inebriated she was barred from boarding her plane. Ms. Zhao was wheeled away to recover and later thanked the police for their assistance. If you’re going to China, keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring water or alcohol onboard the plane, unless you have a receipt and the liquids are sealed in plastic transparent bag.

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