Southwest hops on the pre-check bandwagon

Southwest frequent flyers of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, rejoice.

BWISouthwest, the airline of choice for 71 percent of BWI flyers, has joined the TSA pre-check program at BWI/Thurgood Marshall Airport. The airport now has TSA pre-check lanes at checkpoints A, C and D.

As noted in a Maryland Business blog post last week, the pre-check program applies to only a select few customers from each of the participating airlines. These lucky few are spared from taking off shoes, light outerwear and belts, and removing laptops and compliant fluids from their bags.

So you may see more flyers speeding through security at BWI. The TSA also said it will also create an application program later this year, so that even more can enjoy a less cumbersome checkpoint experience.

Few will benefit immediately from BWI’s new TSA lane

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport opened a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Pre-check lane Tuesday, making for two locations in the airport where select passengers can experience the luxury of wearing shoes and belts, keeping their laptops and toiletries bagged.

BWI_airport_terminalBut while the airport touted its doubling of such locations, a small fraction of a minority of passengers can use these lanes immediately.

Seven of BWI’s airlines have agreed to participate, but Southwest Airlines — the airline of choice for 71 percent of BWI fliers — has not yet joined in.

Southwest has plans to participate in TSA Pre-check beginning with a phased rollout, but a spokesperson for the airlines could not say exactly when that will be.

JetBlue is also listed as “coming soon” to Pre-check in the airport’s announcement.

For passengers flying on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways or Virgin America, only the following are allowed to use this expedited option:

  • Frequent fliers
  • U.S. citizen members of Customer and Border Control Protection Trusted Traveler programs
  • Canadian citizen members of NEXUS (a trusted traveler program)
  • U.S. Armed Forces members with a Common Access Card
  • Passengers selected using TSA Secure Flight System requirements
  • Passengers age 12 and under who are flying with an eligible flier

So, until Southwest gets with the program, most of BWI’s passengers will just have to wait.

And after that, well … most fliers will still just have to wait.

Airline merger ‘bridge too far’?

airplanesAfter other airline mergers, why does the federal government want to block the marriage of US Airways and American Airlines? The University of Maryland’s Michael Ball says this merger could be just too much of a competition suppressor and rate hiker.

Ball, associate dean for faculty and research and dean’s chair in Management Science for Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, put it this way:

“The American-US Airways merger may just be a ‘bridge too far’ that noticeably dampens competition. To be sure, both are not among the healthiest airlines, and a merger would certainly benefit the combined patient.

“However, the Justice Department is right to be concerned about the negative impact on passengers. The combined airline would have very strong competitive positions at certain airports and a near monopoly at Reagan National. There is perhaps a strategy the DOJ could pursue that requires the combined airline to reduce its position at some airports, but this might just be too complicated to work out in a reasonable time frame.”

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Eat, fly, love

If travelers through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have a long enough layover, they should scoot on over to Concourse B to eat, according to The Daily Meal website.

The site recently listed Obrycki’s as one of the world’s 31 best airport restaurants. (Was that a sigh we heard from world-weary frequent fliers who say the bar — or bar-restaurant — is set pretty low for such a list?)

Obrycki’s Concourse B location (there is a smaller bar on Concourse A) opened at BWI in July 2006. The Daily Meal recommends crab cakes, of course.

 

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Turn purple from scratching

If your travels take you through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport this holiday season and you’re a Ravens fan and you patronize a shop while at BWI, you could scratch off a little purple.

Airmall USA is running a contest called the “Purple Zone,” in which shoppers receive scratch-off tickets when they make purchases at selected stores on concourses A/B and D. Prizes include Ravens paraphernalia, with a grand prize of a trip for two to a Ravens away game in 2013, including tickets, airfare and accommodations. (Presumably, you would fly through BWI — where you could get another scratch-off and maybe win a T-shirt to wear to the game.)

The participating stores include America!, Be Relax, Bijoux Bellagio, Brooks Brothers, Brookstone, Fire & Ice, Hudson Booksellers, iTech Xperience, Johnston & Murphy, Polk Audio, Sunglass Hut, Swarovski, Talie, Taxco Sterling, Tech Interaction, The Body Shop and Ultra Diamonds.

The Ravens mascot Poe was at BWI to help kick off the contest last week, but watch out for him again sometime soon. You don’t want to get caught behind Poe at a security checkpoint. Imagine how long that could take.

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Grounded? Here’s the place

If you have to get stuck in an airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International is the place to be, according to a survey at MissTravel.com.

MissTravel asked 5,000 of its members to pick the top airports they would least object to spending extra time in — those with the best space for working or relaxing and the most palatable dining options. Following D/FW at the top were Pittsburgh, Austin, Milwaukee and Chicago O’Hare.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport didn’t make the top 10, but at least it didn’t rank among the worst — which included Dulles,  Atlanta and JFK.

Then again, this survey was conducted before this bit of news: Pinkberry is now at BWI, on Concourse A/B. Pinkberry, which has spread across the country from California, serves delicious frozen yogurt.

And, by the way, if you were wondering what MissTravel.com is, the site describes itself this way: “MissTravel.com is the only online dating website for travelers, and more specifically, we match Generous travelers who hate to travel alone with Attractive travelers who would love the opportunity to travel the world for free.”

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. A note on the home page advises: “MissTravel.com is strictly an online dating website. Escorts are not welcome.”

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Hit the road, Jack

Not only does absence make the heart grow fonder, but it also apparently makes you happier in general.

Frequent business travelers report excitement, eagerness and other positive emotions associated with travel, according to a survey by Fairfield Inns & Suites by Marriott, based in Bethesda.

Respondents – a group of 1,000 frequent travelers — were overwhelmingly happy both when preparing for the trip (86 percent) and during the trip (88 percent).

Could it be that these travelers are just workaholics who want to get away from everyone? Maybe not. Those surveyed said hitting the road made them value their time with family and friends more (86 percent) and treasure personal time more (83 percent).

Then again, the survey said they valued the time at home, not that they actually wanted to spend more time there. In fact, 30 percent of these frequent travelers said they wished they were able to travel more.

Hey, maybe it’s all those great road songs, like from Ricky Nelson, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson and SpongeBob.

Plus, what happens on the road … well, you know.

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What kind of screen play on your flight?

Southwest Airlines will test out live television service on some of its flights. You’ll be left to your own devices to watch — that is, Southwest will sell you access to the TV channels, but you’ll need something to watch it on, presumably a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

With initial channels to be limited to sports and news, here’s what we’re picturing: You lay out the fee and fire up, say, an Orioles game on your iPad. You’re enjoying the action when you notice the guy squeezed into the seat next to you is watching, too.

What’s the etiquette? You let him freeload? You say, “Dude, buy it yourself” and turn the iPad so he can’t see the screen? Or do you ever-so-nonchalantly reposition yourself so that you appear to be getting more comfortable but are actually moving so that your arm and shoulder are blocking his view?

We suggest going with the last one, but when he asks, “What’s the score?” you go ahead and tell him. However, in your head, you’re saying, “The score is this: Me 1, You 0.”

Top 5: Wind energy, Black Friday and payday loans

The truncated work week didn’t keep The Daily Record’s business reporters from breaking some news in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Also cracking the weekly top five for the first time is a recent installment in our new series, the Photo of the Day. The picture relates to air travel, hence the business peg, but mostly it’s just a very cool picture. Do check it out.

1. On the Move, 11/26: Northrop Grumman’s Edwards Veihoffer wins women engineers award

Debbie Edwards Veihdeffer, director of work-life integration at Northrop Grumman’s electronic systems sector in Linthicum, recently received the Work-Life Balance Award from the Society of Women Engineers.

She serves as the human resources focal point for three sector-level employee resource groups and is the project leader for two science, technology, engineering and mathematics educational outreach programs for teachers.

2. State suspends debt collection firm’s license

A collection company hired by payday loan firms was suspended by state regulators Monday because the loans were given by unlicensed companies who violated state usury laws.

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Top 5: Southwest’s spending spree, O’Malley’s election win

The week was dominated by politics and election news, as seen with The Daily Record’s five most-read staff-written stories.

Even a story on health care that cracked the list centers on health care reform — a galvanizing factor, pundits say, in many of the Republican victories across the country that resulted in the GOP taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A story on air travel, however, tops the list. Here are summaries and links.

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