Monday, September 29, 2008

Congress Bypasses Plan For FAA Fix

Posted by Travel Sentry

There is no doubt that Congress has been working overtime and have rightfully focused on saving the U.S. economy from a dire fate (as forecasted by financial experts smarter than yours truly.) The initial numbers are mind boggling starting with the $700 billion budget for the credit crisis. But when it came time to doing something to improve an antiquated air traffic control system for the nation, Congress recently voted to do nothing.

There is no shortage of controversial subjects concerning the airline industry , and the air traffic control system, under the aegis of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), usually claims the foremost position for heated discussions. Safety and efficiency in the skies are at stake.

During peak air travel times in the United States, there are about 5,000 airplanes in the sky every hour and approximately 50,000 aircraft operating each day. It is the task of the air traffic control system to keep these aircraft safe.

The labor union representing the nation’s 14,800 controllers is in heated debate with the FAA over safe staffing levels. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA, contends that there is a shortage of experienced air traffic controllers resulting in a “staffing emergency” that is jeopardizing safety in the nation’s airspace.

Patrick Forrey, president of the NATCA, said in an interview with CNN, "The whole system is going to hell in a handbag, and it doesn't seem that anybody cares. These people [controllers] are being overworked ... and people are going to make mistakes," he said. "The time is ripe for a very serious catastrophic event on one of these runways."

In August a computer glitch in the air traffic control system resulted in a disastrous series of delays effecting 60,000 passengers. There are just two computer systems controlling the thousands of daily flights across the U.S. and we saw that week what happens when just one of those systems crashes.

The FAA has been pushing for a long-term modernization that would include replacing the current method of tracking planes, which uses World War II-era radar technology, by switching to a satellite-guided system that equips planes with GPS. "This is one of the largest project management challenges the U.S. government has had since we put somebody on the moon," Hank Krakowski, chief operations officer for the U.S. air traffic system, told the Associated Press. He called the August glitch "the poster child" for the FAA's modernization proposals.

So when these same issues were once again presented to Congress, what did they do? They went for the status quo. It seems that Congress can not act unless faced with a disaster. reports this week that “despite nearly a decade-old battle about improving the ATC system, Congress has once again decided to do nothing. They just passed a continuation of last year’s funding, the FAA Extension Act of 2008. It will run through March 31, 2009. This is just one more in a series of extensions to fund the FAA operations implemented since September 2007.

“This means more of the same — more congestion in the New York airspace, more operations using decade’s-old systems, more deterioration of the ATC infrastructure, more late flights, more computer glitches, more legacy airline control of airports, more expenses when Congress finally acts and eventually higher airfares.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Passengers' Bill of Rights Becomes Reality in Canada, What About U.S.?

Posted by Travel Sentry

If you’re looking for passenger rights, you’ll have to go to Canada. The Canadian government recently passed an airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights (PBOR). At least I know I am somebody in Canada.

Here’s some of the perks:

  • Passengers are entitled to a meal voucher if the plane is delayed for four hours.

  • If a flight is delayed for eight hours, passengers will receive a voucher for a hotel stay.

  • If the delay occurs once the plane is boarded, passengers have the right to disembark after 90 minutes.

Part of the Canadian PBOR is focused on informing passengers of their rights. But regulations, even if you can recite them word for word to airline personnel, they are routinely ignored. No panacea for happy skies.

The biggest caveat in the PBOR is that notwithstanding anything in the bill, the airline is not responsible for acts of nature or the actions of third parties. That is an important get-out-of-jail card for any weather delays and a number of other causes for delays.

“That’s a blizzard-sized loophole for weather,” says Kate Hanni, executive
director of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights, who has been lobbying for a PBOR in the U.S. ever since she was stuck on a parked plane in Austin, Texas, for nearly nine hours in December 2006. Still, she’s excited about the new program and believes that including a time limit for tarmac delays could be a game-changer: “The fact that they even mentioned 90 minutes is a huge step forward.” MSNBC

What about a U.S. Passenger Bill of Rights? Passengers here are just as frustrated as Canadians – I’m sure of it. It is the frustration that is driving some U.S. talks on passenger rights.

Here is the proposed Passengers' Bill of Rights from from the Coalition for and Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights.

  • Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.

  • Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.

  • Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.

  • Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.

  • Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.

  • Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.

  • Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price .

  • The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers - that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.

  • Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.

  • Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.

  • Require that these rights apply equally to all airlines code-share partners, including international partners.
Now that's a Bill of Rights any passenger would be proud to have.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Race For Overhead Bin Space Heats Up

Posted by Travel Sentry

Overhead bin space on commercial airliners is a hot topic among passengers, especially since the pay-for-checked-bags policies have been implemented by most major airlines. It is not unusual to see passengers get downright angry to find the bin over their assigned seats filled with carry-on luggage for passengers in the back of the plane.

Now that more passengers are carrying on baggage to avoid checked charges, the on board situation is becoming even more tense. Stories around the tarmacs report overhead space filling up before 75 percent of the passengers board. The unlucky victims late to the party have to gate check their bags – anathema to business travelers - causing departure delays as bags are gathered, checked, bag charges collected, and delivered to baggage handling, then loaded into the cargo area. Flight attendants are pulling their hair out and passengers are beside themselves.

Most airlines allow two carry-on bags per person with size and weight limits. With the new fees cabin crews are seeing passengers bringing on board more and larger bags, some of which are over the allowed limits. The overhead bins are filling very quickly these days and tempers are flaring.

Staff reductions of most airlines also make the policing of carry-on size compliance, checking of bags at the gate, and refereeing boarding issues more problematic.

USA Today spoke to Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for United Airlines, who said that they saw a decline in the average number of bags checked after they raised the fee on the second checked bag from $25 to $50.

The checked bag fees have been a sizable income source for airlines. “Continental Airlines said last week that its new bag-check fee will result in about $100 million in revenue.”

"According to data released by the Department of Transportation Monday, the U.S. airlines industry collected $183 million in excess-baggage fees in the second quarter of 2008, up from $122 million in the first quarter and $113 million in the second quarter of 2007. The DOT defines excess baggage as any bag that requires payment for checking." Today in the Sky, USA Today.

These additional bags also cause delays moving through the security checkpoints.

Will the next additional fee be for the reservation of the overhead bin?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Detroit's New North Terminal: Build It But Will They Come?

Posted by Travel Sentry

Check out USA Today photo gallery

The opening of Detroit's new North Terminal was a bit anticlimactic. Holding their coming out party during one of the airline industry's worst economic periods, and adding a stressed local economy, took some of the fun out of the celebration. The good news however is that Detroit's newly opened North Terminal coupled with the airport's McNamara Terminal, which opened in 2002, gives the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport bragging rights as some of the newest terminal and gate facilities of any U.S. airport.

The local press reported that a good time was had by all at the opening festivities. The airport officials and employees who were most familiar with the conditions of the old South Terminal were ecstatic.

The Detroit Frees Press writes "Spirit Air Flight 788 was the first arrival at the airport's new $431-million terminal, which officially opened for business in the wee hours this morning. On its first day of operation, the terminal avoided any significant turbulence — no major delays were reported and glitches were limited to slowdowns in computer systems or cash registers confusing new employees. The mood was as buoyant as the giant balloon arch that stretched across the terminal walkway."

"We are ecstatic," Lawrence Barber, station manager for Detroit's Southwest Airlines operation, tells the Free Press. The Free Press adds Southwest passengers were able to "pose for pictures (Wednesday) morning with a staffer dressed in a plane costume and got a free T-shirt emblazoned with the words 'Southwest Airlines New Digs in Detroit.' "
USA Today

The $431 million terminal comes on line in a less than auspicious time in the travel industry. With high fuel costs airlines are cutting flights and destinations leaving Detroit's new airport facilities feeling like the hostess who threw the party but nobody came.

Before the airline industry was beset with skyrocketing fuel prices, Detroit had visions of making the Detroit airport with its new facilities, an international gateway to the U.S. Those dreams have been silenced in the media, at least for the time being.

"But even with its state-of-the-art equipment, great lighting and cool shops, the terminal can't escape the financial issues plaguing airlines. It will open with six of its 24 gates vacant."

"When is it going to be filled? Not anytime soon," said Vaughn Cordle, chief analyst for AirlineForecasts, a research firm based in Washington, D.C. "New terminals are nice, but they don't generate traffic."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Family Dedicated Airport Lounges - Sanity Central

Posted by Travel Sentry

If you’re traveling with the family what price can you put on their comfort, safety, and happiness? Did I just use “happy” and “travel” in the same sentence? Just as the airlines are taking away many creature comforts, they are adding others like VIP lounges especially for the family and kids. Of course, for a price.

Picture this:

Other parents were feeding young children from the bountiful buffet everything from cold cereal to soup, sandwich fixings to chicken curry, cookies and ice cream), reading them stories or just letting toddlers run off some steam before they got on the plane. Teens, including the two I was traveling with, were online. CNN
I’d call that priceless – the perfect setup for a MasterCard commercial.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic win the prize for the best kids zone airport lounge with BA boasting the world’s largest dedicated kids and family lounge in their new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Virgin’s Clubhouse, also at Heathrow, offers kids their own area with TV, toys, a separate games area with pool table and video games.

The focus on junior passengers is catching on in the U.S. as well. Continental Airlines has designated family rooms at its President’s Clubs in Houston, Newark and Los Angeles. American Airlines is getting the kids on board as well with children’s rooms in their Admirals Clubs in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago by the end of the year.

Faced with hours of airport time due to delays and layovers with family in tow, what price is too much to be treated royally for a couple of hours and enjoy free drinks, snacks, comfy chairs, TV’s and computer access.

It's easier these days to gain admission to these lounges with clubs like Priority Pass where for an annual fee (starting at $99) and $27 dollars a visit, you and your kids can gain admission to more than 500 of these clubs and lounges around the world. Day passes are often also available for many lounges in advance for under $30 at LoungePass or at the door for a higher fee.

A small price to pay for sanity if you end up spending hours at the airport.Just remember to check in advance on lounge and club policies.

Source: CNN

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lifting Security Ban on Liquids a Possibility in the UK

Posted by Travel Sentry

New technology has spurred talks in the United Kingdom to lift the ban on liquids packed in carry-on luggage, possibly as early as next year according to a recent report in The Independent. “Technology already deployed at Heathrow's new Terminal 5 can automatically detect the presence of liquids in carry-on bags.”

According to an Independent unnamed source, the technology already exists to determine if those liquids are dangerous and is currently being tested by security services.

“We have been calling for a review of the rules for a long time, along with many other airlines and airport operators," Virgin's Director of Communications Paul Charles told the newspaper. "When you go to airports at the moment, you can see the confusion, with many people still bringing too many liquids.”
The scanners that could make the detection of dangerous liquids a reality were developed by the security technology firm Smiths Detection. Stephen Phipson, Group Managing Director said, “Rigorous testing has begun and, if results are positive, we are hopeful that, by early next year, our technology will allow a return to the days before hand luggage had to be emptied of perfumes, bottled water, toothpaste and so on."

Smiths Detection created the Ionscan 500DT - the first dual explosives traced detector to be placed on the new Transport Security Administration (TSA) qualified products list in the US. Designed primarily for use at passenger security checkpoints for screening of carry-on baggage, the IONSCAN 500DT is an advanced explosives detector, capable of detecting trace amounts of explosive substances.

Some industry sources however believe that hopes to lift the liquids ban are premature and that the status as a political “hot potato” will derail any near term policy changes. With a UK retrial of the seven charged with the terrorist plot to blow up the transatlantic airliner, some say politics and security will win out in the current climate.

At any rate, the UK Government will not lift the restrictions until all major airports have new technology that can identify dangerous liquids.

A lift of the liquids ban would be welcomed to the aviation industry that has suffered delays and “cost implications” from the restrictions. The liquids restrictions, with regional and national variations, are in place around the world. Sales of duty free items such as wines, spirits, fragrances and cosmetics, have been severely impacted by the worldwide restrictions.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years After 9/11

Posted by Travel Sentry

On the seventh anniversary of 9/11 we take a look at how far the United States and the world has come in the global fight against terrorism.

Here are a few facts that should not only make us feel safer but allow us to stand a little taller.

  • 50 million people have been liberated, and two totalitarian regimes have been removed;
  • The al Qaeda network has been weakened;
  • We have not experienced another attack on American soil;
  • Our military has been transformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century;
  • We have expanded our intelligence capabilities to confront today's enemy; and
  • We have created new and essential institutions needed to wage the War on Terror, including the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Hundreds of al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been captured or killed, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who is currently awaiting trial by a Military Commission. The United States also apprehended several leading figures in the al Qaeda East Africa network through intelligence sharing and military action.

Several key financiers and facilitators of terrorism have been isolated and captured, while more than 400 individuals and entities have had their assets frozen and isolated from the U.S. financial system.

The United States and its coalition partners removed al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan and al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, including in its former stronghold of Anbar Province. The United States also acted to prevent al Qaeda safe havens from emerging in the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia.

The United States has partnered with nations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America on intelligence sharing and law enforcement coordination to break up terrorist networks and bring terrorists to justice. Some of our counterterrorism victories include the following:

September 2007: German authorities disrupted a terrorist cell that was planning attacks on military installations and facilities used by Americans in Germany. The Germans arrested three suspected members of the Islamic Jihad Union, a group that has links to al Qaeda and supports al Qaeda's global jihadist agenda.

September 2007: Danish authorities disrupted a cell, which included an al Qaeda-trained individual, planning terrorist attacks using explosives.

June 2007: Four individuals were charged with plotting to blow up major fuel tanks at JFK Airport. Three of the individuals have been arrested, and the United States is pursuing extradition of the fourth.

May 2007: The FBI arrested six al Qaeda-inspired individuals plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey. The plotters purchased weapons for the attack, which they had been planning since January 2006.

August 2006: British authorities disrupted a plot to blow up passenger airplanes flying from the UK to the United States.

Source: White House

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Moving Toward Cellphones as Boarding Passes

Posted by Travel Sentry

Today Paris. Tomorrow worldwide. No doubt technology will win over many airline passengers when check-in and boarding passes can all be handled on your smart handheld device.

"Air France has launched electronic boarding passes on mobile phones for passengers on the Paris Charles de Gaulle-Amsterdam Schiphol route. Passengers who check in via its mobile Internet site — — can elect to receive their boarding-pass barcode as a text message or e-mail on their smartphones. Passengers then display their boarding pass to agents to check in baggage, proceed through security checkpoints and board the flight." USA Today

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If You Want to Use Your Frequent Flier Miles, Think International

Posted by Travel Sentry

With airlines cutting back on flights, parking planes, and deleting destinations this fall it will likely become a test of wills to redeem frequent flier miles for domestic flights. Some predict that fewer available seats and strict redemption policies will dash the enthusiasm of the frequent flier mile collectors. If you can't use them, why covet and hoard them?

But there is still a bright spot if you're yearning to cash in your flier miles. Think international, especially Europe. With various agreements in place airlines are unable to cut many of their international flights resulting in more available seats and greater opportunities to cash in on those hard-earned sky miles.

Sure enough I found availability for two Delta round-trip, non-stop, business class tickets from Atlanta to Paris less than 30 days out. The redemption fees, while not cheap, seemed palatable probably because I was so thrilled just to be able to use the points. Total extra fees, including redemption fees, totalled $275 per ticket.

What's the bad news? The Euro of course. The dollar is strengthening daily but the Euro is still painfully strong against the dollar. But who wants to wait for all the stars to be perfectly aligned before pulling the trigger? If the exchange rate was in the dollar's favor, the frequent flier seats would probably be hard, if not impossible, to come by. Go for it!

To get the skinny on frequent flier fees and redemption policies, check out this article from CNN Money.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Become a Savvy Red Diamond Traveler

Posted by Travel Sentry

Every passenger wants to be "the savvy traveler" - the traveler in the know. Confident, informed, and never missing a beat while traversing airports throughout the U.S.

If you want to be that kind of traveler visit Travel Sentry's Red Diamond Traveler web site where airport security checkpoint training will turn even the most modest novice into a savvy traveler. After training you can test your new travel acumen by taking the Red Diamond Travel Test and enjoy the rewards that come to the well-informed traveler.

One topic covered on the Red Diamond website is the new TSA program, referred to as the "Black Diamond" program appearing in many airports across the U.S. The program allows passengers to proceed "at their own pace" through the security checkpoints. The Black Diamond program is just one of the airport security issues covered by Travel Sentry.

Green Circle:
Families with small children or passengers with special needs
May require special assistance or extra time at the checkpoint
May or may not be familiar with TSA procedures

Blue Square:
Somewhat familiar with TSA procedures
Travels a few times a year
Not "expert" level and does not want to be rushed at the checkpoint

Black Diamond:
Frequent traveler who knows how to get through checkpoint quickly & efficiently
Very familiar with TSA procedures and always prepared
Understands 3-1-1 liquids policy

Travel Sentry's training will also take you through the liquids rules and the new checkpoint friendly laptop bags just recently approved by TSA.

Proceed on to the advanced issues and become that self-assured traveler you always wanted to be.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

CLEAR Card - Membership Has Its Privileges, Even for Football Fans

Posted by Travel Sentry

We live in a world where a buck will buy just about anything. Don't want to stand in line? It will cost you.

That is the philosophy and brain child for the New York-based company Clear that is the popular short cut through airport security screening. They are currently operating in 18 U.S. airports and the Atlanta airport is joining the Clear network in September.

In addition to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International deal, Clear struck a deal with the Atlanta Falcon football team and will bring its fast-lane concept to the Georgia Dome for Falcon home games, allowing Clear Card-carrying members what amounts to "first class access". Clear fast lanes will also appear at the home stadiums for the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers this fall.

Falcons fans can buy a Clear membership card that grants them exclusive access to “fast pass” entry lanes for $128 per season. Membership has other advantages. Falcon Clear Card holders will also get a 10 percent merchandise discount at the official Falcon's stores and at the on-line team store.

“This exclusive partnership with the Atlanta Falcons is an important part of our launch strategy for Atlanta and is key to our expansion into the world of sports and entertainment venues,” said Clear CEO Steven Brill, in a news release. “Speeding through crowds at both Falcons home games and Hartsfield Jackson will be benefits that only Clear members enjoy. We’re excited to bring the Clear benefits to loyal Falcons fans, beginning with the 2008 season.” Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Not a bad idea.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

United Buckles on Charging for Transatlantic Meals - Passenger Pain Threshold is Established

Posted by Travel Sentry

"Never mind." Shortly after announcing it would charge European-bound coach passengers for their in-flight meals, United Airlines discovered the pain threshold for added fees. Transatlantic passengers revolted verbally expressing their disbelief and dissatisfaction with United Airlines' new $ meal policies when flying across the pond.

United's reply to the passenger posse, "Thank you for your direct, candid feedback." Now here is where reading between the lines gets really entertaining. "We heard loud and clear from our corporate and our Elite frequent fliers that they value our hot meal service," United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. It's too bad the customer responses to United were not posted somewhere: I'll bet this could be a Saturday Night Live skit.

With fuel prices so volatile, United vowed to "continue to be proactive in testing new ideas."

What's next down this long and winding road of airline take-aways and add-ons?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Value of Passenger Inconvenience has Gone Up – What Getting Bumped These Days Will Get You

Posted by Travel Sentry

This fall will see the implementation of airline plans to cut flights and shrink their fleets. The pain of fewer seats will virtually ensure continued involuntary bumping caused by airlines overbooking flights.

The Department of Transportation reported that in the first half of this year about 343,000 passengers (out of 282 million total passengers) were bumped from their flights due to overbooking policies. The New York Times reports that most of those passengers volunteered to give up their seat in return for some form of compensation, like a free ticket voucher. "The good news: airlines are required to offer richer rewards — twice the amount of money they used to pay out — for passengers bumped from a flight. The payoff can be even greater for people who know how to bargain."

Only slightly more than one out of every 10,000 passengers are forced to give up their reserved seat.

With fewer flights available after airline cuts, we can expect the overbooking policies to rile the ire of more passengers as the possibility of catching the next flight may no longer exist. Also with tighter rules on nonrefundable tickets and sizable fees for changes passengers are more apt to show up for their scheduled flights which means fewer empty seats to absorb the overbookings.

The good news is that the Transportation Department doubled compensation this year for denying a passenger his rightful seat. But if you are the one whose number comes up and are forced to relinquish your seat, probably no amount of money will compensate for the involuntary expulsion. Particularly if the next flight on which you were promised a seat, is cancelled and is the last flight out for the night. Potential riot material.

Involuntary bumping has been on a steady increase industry-wide since 2002. This year’s increase in compensation should incentivize the airlines to tighten their involuntary bumping policies, but that may just be wishful thinking.

Travelers can now receive up to $400 if they are involuntarily bumped and rebooked on another flight within two hours after their original domestic flight time and within four hours for international. They are eligible for up to $800 in cash if they are not rerouted by then. The final amount depends on the length of the flight and the price paid for the ticket. Even stricter rules apply in Europe, where compensation ranges from 125 euros (about $185) to 600 euros (about $888), depending on the length of the flight and the amount of time the passenger will be delayed.

Compensation must be paid immediately in cash, or with a voucher if the passenger accepts it, and the airline must offer a choice of a refund, a return flight to their departure city or an alternative flight. Volunteers also receive compensation, which they negotiate with the airline.

Passengers are learning, however, that if an airline does not get enough volunteers at a lower figure, they might be able to bid up the offer, and also obtain sweeteners that include vouchers for meals, hotels, transportation and even plane tickets.
New York Times

Monday, September 1, 2008

Red Diamond Verifies Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bags

Posted by Travel Sentry

For laptop totting airline passengers the journey through airport security is particularly frustrating. Coupled with the race to undress - belt, shoes, jacket, jewelry - the business traveler has to quickly extricate the laptop, their most valuable and fragile possession, get it into a dedicated bin, forge through security and equally fast, gather it up and safely get it back into the carry-on bag.

Have you ever seen anyone drop their laptop during that frenzied exercise? It's not pretty and can bring a grown man to tears. TSA came to the rescue on August 16 no longer requiring laptops to be removed if they were in a "checkpoint friendly" bag. Allowing the laptop to remain cocooned in a protective sleeve through the security provides a great deal of comfort to the businessman on his way to a very important presentation.

As manufacturers begin to bring the new "checkpoint friendly" laptop bags to market, look for the Travel Sentry Red Diamond as verification that the laptop bag is indeed in compliance with TSA requirements. The new laptop bags are anticipated to be one of the most popular travel goods purchases for the holidays.

High-quality luggage and business cases manufacturer Briggs & Riley Travelware, is bringing to market in the fourth quarter the SpeedThru ($89.99), a Travel Sentry-approved checkpoint-friendly laptop sleeve.

"The traveler who prefers to pack light can simply carry a laptop in this sleeve, without having to remove it through airport security. Briggs & Riley will also incorporate the SpeedThru laptop sleeve into its @work and verb business case collections shipping after August 15." PC Magazine

For a bag to be considered checkpoint-friendly, the TSA states that it must meet the following five standards:

1. Must have a designated laptop-only section.
2. The laptop-only section must completely unfold to lay flat on the X-ray belt.
3. There can be no metal snaps, zippers, or buckles inside, underneath, or on top of the laptop-only section.
4. No pockets are allowed on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
5. Nothing can be packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself.

TSA is not issuing a dedicated certification for these new "checkpoint-friendly" laptop cases, so be familiar with the restrictions when making a purchase. And look for the Travel Sentry Red Diamond logo.

A last cautionary caveat: Individual screeners, at their own discretion, still have the option to require you to remove the laptop for screening. It is expected that if all the procedures are followed, this will be a rare occurrence.