Weekend what we’re reading: Beating flight delays, speedy security lines, shoe bomb detector


This weekend we take a look at dealing with growing flight delays, moving through security faster (for a price) and work being done to detect shoe bombs and liquid bombs.

Sly ways to beat delayed flights

With the delays and cancellations at American Airlines, the public is all of a sudden becoming concerned with what to do when faced with cancellations and delays. In the case of American, there are some basic rules. For others faced with increasing delays follow these rules.

If you are shopping for tickets, don’t book with a favorite airline in labor strife, even if it means an extra connection, a higher fare or loss of frequent-flier miles needed for elite-status qualification. When the dust settles, airlines usually try to win back customers with offers of bonus frequent-flier miles to catch up, deep-discount sales and relaxed rules for elite-status requalification.

Avoid booking flights with tight connections if you want to stick with an airline in turmoil. Leave a day early, if possible, especially if you are going to a specific event such as a wedding, meeting or cruise-ship sailing. And fly early in the day: You have more time to recover before you’re left stranded overnight.

Speedy airport security: Should you apply?

There is some controversy about whether passengers should pay to go through the trusted traveler programs. I can attest to the speed of the Global Entry program for U.S. citizens arriving from overseas trips — it is a marvel and hassle-free. But, my Global Entry hasn’t worked once when going through domestic airline security lines. I’m not sure why, but there seems to be a glitch.

If you are accepted for Global Entry, which expedites customs, you are also automatically qualified for the newer domestic screening program, T.S.A. PreCheck, which often (but not always) means you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt and jacket or take your laptop and liquids out of your carry-on. PreCheck is thriving, too. More than three million passengers have been screened since the program began tests last October, and the Transportation Security Administration said it plans to screen about a million passengers a month in 2013. Currently in 26 airports, PreCheck is aiming to be in 35 airports by the end of the year, according to Sterling Payne, a T.S.A. spokesman.

Shoe bomb detector

TSA is passing out research grants to universities to try and figure out how to detect bomb-making materials and other border protection efforts. Northeastern, Texas A&M and University of Arizona have all been involved.

…Northeastern’s roughly $3 million-a-year Awareness and Location of Explosives-Related Threats, or ALERT, program is designing sensor enhancements for CT detection systems.

The ALERT agreement also involves prototyping next-generation baggage screening and “suspicious passenger identification” tools, DHS officials said this week. Researchers are expected to execute the new project and the other potential experiments by devising algorithms for detecting triggers intended to set off improvised explosive devices, as well as mathematical formulas for improving baggage screening and for determining the best way to soften the effects of blasts.

…Texas A&M University…is leading research into the prevention of diseases spread by animals, like bird flu, and the University of Arizona…is expanding the body of scientific knowledge on border security. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is developing procedures to contain economic fallout and human casualties following natural disasters.