This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from President Obama signs bill to boost airport security, group files petition to stop shrinking seats, AA introduces real-time bag tracker, to 3 new airlines to fly to Hawaii, Amtrak introduces bag fees, spiders on the plane, and girl reunited with lost teddy. Enjoy!

Obama Signs Bill to Boost Airport Security

Last Thursday, President Obama signed a bill to increase airport security following the deadly shooting of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee at Los Angeles International Airport in 2013. Named after the TSA agent killed in the shooting, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act hopes to address the holes at airport security with hopes to make “important strides in enhancing preparedness to mitigate threats in our nation’s airports.” In response to the bill, the chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), said “Improving the response to threats to public safety will allow our nation’s transportation systems to overcome the challenges that were experienced by law enforcement, emergency first responders, TSA, and the public during the LAX shooting.”

Group Files Petition to Stop Shrinking Seats

Non-profit consumer group, FlyersRights.org, recently filed a petition that requests the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set limits on airplane seats. The petition, titled Limitation of Seat Size Reductions, did not specify the minimum requirements for seat sizes, only going as far asking for “a regulation mandating minimum seat width and seat pitch for commercial airlines.” According to Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, “We filed the petition in August to have the FAA set minimum seat and passenger space standards. The reason is that airlines are aggressively reducing seat size and legroom, while the average passenger is substantially larger and older, leading to increased health and safety risks – and comfort and conflict issues due to overcrowding.” The FAA will make its decision by Feb. 26, although I’m not holding my breath that the FAA will really care enough about those who fly in coach to do anything about it.

American Introduces Real-Time Bag Tracker

If you flew on American Airlines in the past week or so and checked your bag, you might have noticed a new feature: real-time bag tracking. This free service gives you real-time tracking of where your bags are, as checked bags are scan four times: during check-in, when loaded and unloaded on the plane, and at baggage claim. To find out where your bag is, visit AA.com/baggage, follow the link that says “Track your bags,” and enter your last name and either your bag tag number or record locator, and you’ll be given your bag’s status, location, date, time and flight number. Among the big four airlines in the U.S., Delta Air Lines is the only other airline to have this feature, which was introduced it back in 2011.

3 New Airlines to Fly to Hawaii

By the end of this year, three new airlines will be flying to Hawaii. The most noteworthy ones are on budget airline, Virgin America, who will begin offering flights San Francisco to Honolulu starting in Nov. 2, and to Maui starting Dec. 3. Jin Air, a subsidiary of Korean Airlines, will begin service between Honolulu and Seoul, South Korea, on Dec. 15; while another low-cost carrier out of Asia, Air Asia X, will offer nonstops between Honolulu and Japan, but didn’t specify when the service will start. With Virgin America getting into the mix, perhaps we’ll see cheaper fares to Hawaii like the $488 roundtrip American had recently.

Amtrak Introduces Bag Fees

It was only a matter of time before Amtrak started charging for bags, but it’s still surprising it took them this long. The only difference is that Amtrak’s bag fees only kick in if you exceed the limit of two carry-on bags and two personal items. On Oct. 1, passengers who bring on more than the maximum allowed limit will be changed $20 per bag. The same fee applies if your carry-on weighs more than 50 pounds and if your personal item weighs more than 25 pounds. According to Amtrak spokesman, Marc Magliari, the company’s stated that the weight limit came about for safety reasons and added that “The majority of our passengers won’t even notice this because they’re not even approaching the limits for carry-on bags.”

Spiders on the Plane

If putting up with cramped seats and lack of food and service on planes aren’t bad enough, Delta passengers from Baltimore to Atlanta also has to, almost, contend with a tarantula last Wednesday. The eight-legged passenger was spotted by a baggage handler in the cargo hold of flight 1525, which had a shipment of insects. The crew decided not to take the chance of someone getting bitten and switched over to a new plane. By the following morning, the escapee still hasn’t been found.

While this incident ended with no incidents, the same can’t be said about Jonathan Hogg, who is suing Qatar Airways after he was allegedly bitten by a poisonous spider on his flight from Qatar to South Africa. According to the suit, the spider bite required a month-long hospital stay and the doctors had to “cut away a large part of his leg where the venom had eaten the flesh.” Had the spider bitten Mr. Hogg on a vein, he would have been dead.

Random News Story of the Week: Girl Reunited with Lost Teddy

A majority of the time, if you lose something, chances are you’ll never see it again. Luck was on four-year-old Phoebe Steel’s side recently when she left her favorite teddy bear, RaRa, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport when she was traveling home to Saskatoon. Phoebe’s mother, Jen, contacted the airport through Facebook, and to her surprise, not only was RaRa found “sleeping” in a lost and found drawer, the airport staff even had a little fun with the bear by documenting RaRa’s journey back to her owner. On three, everyone go, “Aww…”

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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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