This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from study showing air traffic controllers’ chronic fatigue, Sabre and American reportedly hacked, and DHS tightens visa waiver, to Emirates introduces “world’s longest flight”, Ontario airport evacuated over fake grenade, and airline weighs passengers for “safety”. Enjoy!

Study of Air Traffic Controllers Shows Chronic Fatigue

The Associated Press reported on a study the government has kept secret for years where air traffic controllers’ work schedules often lead to chronic fatigue, increasing the chances of making mistakes. The study, dated Dec. 1, 2011, found that 2 in 10 controllers had committed a significant error in the previous year, while 6 in 10 controllers stated that they have fallen sleep on the job. The study included a field study that showed 76 percent of controllers’ work schedules lead to chronic fatigue. The study was conducted after the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association change the controllers’ schedules so they are able “to obtain sufficient restorative sleep.”

Sabre and American Reportedly Hacked

The Chinese hackers are at it again. A little more than a week after Bloomberg reported on a possible breach of United Airlines’ data back in May or June, the same group has reportedly infiltrated Sabre Crop. and possibly American Airlines as well. Sabre, a global distribution system provider of hundreds of airlines and hotels is a former subsidiary of American that was spun off in 2000. It handles thousands of airline and hotel reservations daily and the attacked is believed to have given hackers access to personal data and identification of people who booked flights and hotels through one of the companies that uses Sabre. So far American isn’t certain as to whether their systems have been compromised, but they are currently conducting an investigation. The same hackers are also responsible for the attack on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in December.

DHS Tightens Visa Waiver

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week announced a new rule that requires all visitors from countries on its visa waiver program to use an e-passport — a paper passport containing a microchip with the holder’s biometric information. Currently visitors from 38 countries are allowed to enter the U.S. without a visa for stays less than 90 days. The change will also make it necessary for those participating countries to use an international database to screen for lost and stolen passports. During the announcement, the DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson said, “The current global threat environment requires that we know more about those who travel to the United States. This includes those from countries for which we do not require a visa.” During the announcement, the DHS also said that they will be expanding the presence of air marshals on international flights.

Emirates Introduces “World’s Longest Flight”

Beginning February 1, 2016, Emirates will begin a new nonstop service between Dubai, UAE, and Panama City, Panama and will take the title of the world’s longest nonstop flight, clocking in at 17 hours and 35 minutes. The new service will beat the current title holder, Qantas Airways’ flight between Sydney, Australia and Dallas that takes just under 17 hours, by 17 kilometers, approximately 11 miles. Emirates will use a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft with a maximum load of 256 passengers. But Emirates might not even have the title for long if Singapore Airlines’ revives its 19 hour nonstop flight between Newark and Singapore, which ceased back in 2013.

Ontario Airport Evacuated Over Fake Grenade

Here’s a tip for the next time you fly: don’t bring onboard items that can be perceived as a threat. On Wednesday morning, just before 6 a.m., the Ontario International Airport was evacuated for about 30 minutes when a fake hand grenade was found in a carry-on bag. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent Nico Melendez said, “When you see these items we just don’t know, so we have to act out of security and out of the safety of passengers.” Melendez added that replicas of guns, grenades or anything similar are not allowed on planes. The passenger who brought the item on board wasn’t arrested, but could potentially face a fine. Ontario Airport is located 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Random Story of the Week: Airline Weighs Passengers for “Safety”

Chances are, most people have never been weighed or asked about their weight before boarding a flight, unless they were on a small propeller plane. However, Uzbekistan Airways recently started weighing passengers and their carry-on items after checking in. According to the airline, this move is a safety concern, primarily on smaller planes, and released the following statement: “According to the rules of International Air Transport Association, airlines are obliged to carry out the regular procedures of preflight control passengers weighing with hand baggage to observe requirements for ensuring flight safety.” At the time the article was published on CNN, Uzbekistan Airways hasn’t responded to the query as to whether overweight passengers will have to pay more. That said, back in 2013, Samoa Air became the first airline to charge people by weight. It’s unlikely you’ll fly on them anytime soon, unless you’re flying within Samoa or American Samoa.

 

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Kim has been hunting flight deals and writing travel articles for over 13 years. His articles have appeared in the Boston Herald, Chicago Daily Herald, and Frommer’s Budget Travel, among other publications. Amsterdam, Bangkok, Rome, and Sydney are some of his favorite destinations and he aspires to one day live in Italy. La dolce vita!

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