July 2-8: TSA to Test Automated Security Lanes; DOT Approves Airlines for Havana; Contact TSA via Facebook Messenger; Theme Park of Biblical Proportions; & Woman Causes Delay for Wanting Divorce

TSA to Test Automated Security Lanes

In the ever continuing effort to reduce security line wait times, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will introduce automated security screening lanes to four major U.S. airports in fall. In a joint release, the TSA and American Airlines Group on Tuesday announce that Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami will be the four airports to automate bin movements for passengers’ carry-on bags. This new feature will reportedly reduce the security wait times by 30 percent. Delta is testing a similar service in Atlanta that the airline donated themselves that allows up to five people to load their bins at the same time instead of waiting in a single-line queue.

DOT Approves 8 Airlines for Havana

Just last month the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a slew of airlines approved for commercial flights to Cuba. That announcement however left out the island nation’s capital, Havana, from the list, saying they’ll make their decision later. On Thursday the DOT finally released the approved airlines and routing, giving 10 U.S. airports at least one weekly nonstop flight to Havana. American Airlines was given the most number of daily flights with four from its Miami hub and one from Charlotte. JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines were awarded fewer daily flights, but from more airports — Fort Lauderdale, New York JFK and Orlando for JetBlue, and Atlanta, New York JFK and Miami for Delta. A majority of the flights are from Florida or the East coast, with Alaska Airlines being the only airline with service from the West coast (from Los Angeles), while United Airlines will have flights from Houston.

TSA Answers Questions via Facebook Messenger

In an effort to get more feedback and connect with travelers better, the TSA is introducing a new way to connect: Facebook Messenger. This new service will supplement TSA’s customer service account on Twitter (@AskTSA) that launched last September. The social media chat began on Thursday morning and users can contact them to ask just about anything, including complains and questions like what you can and can’t bring on a plane or what you do and don’t need to take off as you go through security. According to the agency, their Twitter handle has already received 40,000 questions, and predict that Facebook’s larger user base will produce even more questions. According to TSA spokeswoman Jennifer Plozai, “Our goal is to be there to help somebody if they’re frustrated. If they have a comment that’s not so flattering about TSA, we want to know what happened. We want to be able to try and clarify why our policies and procedures are in place. And to change somebody’s viewpoint, if we can, by helping them to understand our policies.” TSA will be available on Messenger between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST on weekdays, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Theme Park of Biblical Proportions

If you’ve always wondered what Noah’s Ark might look like in person, you’ll just have to visit Williamstown, Kentucky. After 12-years in the making, the Ark Encounter in Grant County opened its doors on Thursday to the public, and visitors will have a chance to walk in and around the 500-foot-long ark (the length of one and a half football fields), complete with pens with animatronic animals (including dinosaurs) and plant life. The ark will also address how some cold climate animals, like polar bears, were kept cool – the answer? They weren’t on the ark, but two bears were and polar bears are the decedents. According to Kevin Ham, the founder, CEO and president of Answers in Genesis, the company behind the ark, there are plans to build the Tower of Babel next.

Random News Story of the Week: Decision “to get divorced” Causes Delay

We’ve read about flights being delayed of diverted because of misbehaving passengers, but this one’s new for us: a woman’s decision to get divorced before the flight took off. According to a passenger on Rossiya Airline’s flight from Moscow to Vladivostok, the flight attendant told her that “a woman aged 40 took a decision to divorce her husband. Urgently! And she needed to walk off the plane. Cabin crew tried in vain to persuade her not to leave the aircraft because this is a long procedure.” The woman kept repeating “I am not in the mood to fly now.” The woman was eventually let off the plane and due to safety regulations, over 500 passengers had to get off the plane with her. The plane and all baggage then had to go through security screening again causing the flight to be delayed 7 hours.

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