Sunday musings: Travel is new diploma, gourmet in coach, TSA wants more personal data

Keith Bellows National Geographic TravelerThis weekend we examine travel as a part of your child’s education. Having a passport and traveling as a kid certainly influenced me. Then we look at new and improved meals in economy class on long distance flights — for a price. Imagine that! It’s amazing what happens when a profit motive is involved. Finally, TSA looks for more data to expand its Pre-Check programs. Do we need it? What happened to the terrorist watchlist?

The passport is the new diploma
Last weekend, I put together a collection of sights that impressed me as a kid. Now, the editor of National Geographic Traveler has released a new book that focuses on just that, the childhood travel experience.

His interview with his children in this story is wonderful. The kid’s view of the world is priceless; they will certainly enjoy looking back on these days when they read Keith’s article later in life. If you have a family or grandchildren, this book can provide a road map to bettering you children or grandchildren’s lives.

I believe the world is the best classroom we have and that a passport is every bit as important as a diploma. This idea—and my kids—inspired me to write 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life, which explores our planet with those values top of mind.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel and learn firsthand about different cultures all my life — starting when I left what was then the Belgian Congo, my birthplace, at age four — and it’s something I wish for every child, including mine.

I took my first-born son, Adam, abroad when he was just three months old. Since then he has traveled extensively—from the Grand Canyon to the Norwegian fjords, from Big Sur to Berlin, from the Andes to Alaska. Now, my other two children, Chase and Mackenzie, are following his lead.

Economy class goes gourmet

Dining on plane once was elegant. Then, it became fodder for comedians’ jokes. It all but disappeared. Now, today, it is being improved by leaps and bounds and becoming a profit center. Amazing! Passengers are willing to pay more for better food.

Airlines across Europe and the U.S. are now offering economy passengers the chance to upgrade their meals, ordering ahead of their flight, and choosing from menus more readily found in cabins at the front of the plane.

“The craze started last year, and since then, every airline has jumped on the bandwagon to have a pre-order program,” notes Nikos Loukas, an airline catering consultant, and founder of

AirBerlin was the first carrier to launch an a la carte service for economy customers, teaming with upscale German restaurant Sansibar. The onboard menu includes a favorite from the restaurant’s own: a veal and pork currywurst.

Adding some local flavor is just one way make an airline’s in-flight experience stand out.

Blaine Miyasato, Hawaiian Airline’s vice president of product development, has joined with local businesses to source items that evoke the spirit of Hawaii — from wasabi ranch popcorn to toffee covered macadamia nuts.

Read more.

TSA wants more data for its Pre-Check program

TSA, the agency that finds no personal privacy boundary for any of their operations, is looking for more ways to delve into citizens’ private date. The Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and others already feed out terrorism watchlist. But, listening to our phone calls, monitoring other public data is not enough for TSA. Now they want our commercial and credit data as well to see if we are worthy of flying without an extraordinary hassle.

Today’s Pre-Check works fine. There have been no problems. Perhaps, because all passengers are already effectively Pre-Checked for every flight by virtue of matching everyone’s name against the combined terrorism watchlist.

What more do the watchers at TSA want? Here’s the latest Request for Proposal.

Individuals participating in expanded PreCheck efforts would sign waivers allowing the use of commercial data for prescreening if the agency pursues such an option, TSA said. “Use of additional data elements that will further enhance the integrity of the risk reduction proposition offered by these solutions is very desirable, the agency said.

In a presentation Monday, TSA procurement specialists said the keys to success for any proposals would include a high volume of people signing up to become trusted travelers, confidence in the selection of trusted travelers, increase in positive passenger experiences, safeguarding of personally identifiable information, and readiness for demonstrations.

TSA said it would evaluate white papers within 30 days of receipt and hold demonstrations within 60 days. It plans to end live prototyping under the effort by Dec. 31, 2013.

  • Johnp

    Unrelated to the article here, did anyone notice that Celebrity Cruise Line’s NEW 1-2-3 “Free” European cruise offer to it’s valued customers, particularly Captain’s Club members, is approximately $1,000 HIGHER “than if you selected their Senior Rate? Isn’t “free” wonderful. AND, just to be sure you don’t know this they do not CLEARLY mention that you can cruise for much less if you simply pay for the “free” services and select the Senior Rate. So much for Celebrity’s loyalty programs. Those who have already booked may want to call their travel agent and change from the 1-2-3 offer to the regular rate and simply pay for the on-board services, beverage packages, eetc and save $1,000.