Money: Fingers with dollar caught in Mousetrap (Photo: iStockphoto/SpotX)

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Not only are checked-bag fees taking a bite out of consumers' wallets, but they're pinching the TSA's budget as well. According to the Associated Press (AP), Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano told a Congressional hearing last month that bag fees have led to an increase in carry-ons, which has added some $260 million to the TSA's budget. "When you have to pay to check a bag, it increases carry-on luggage," Napolitano said, "and that means there is more to inspect at the gate and so forth for passengers to get on planes."

Come to think of it, since taxpayers fund the TSA, baggage fees are hitting us twice....read more»

Continental aircraft tail close up (Photo: Continental)

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The last vestige of complimentary snacks on Continental is now gone. The airline has stopped serving its small bags of pretzels, meaning passengers looking for a nosh will have to pony up a few bucks for the privilege.

Continental made no formal announcement, but subtle changes to its in-flight food information make it obvious—gone is any reference to complimentary snacks, leaving in its wake only a lone offering of free soft drinks. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer confirms: "Don't expect to fill up on those 19 tiny pretzels the next time you fly Continental Airlines. On March 1, Continental ended all free snacks in economy class."...read more»

Photo: Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

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The kids will be out of school. You deserve a vacation. You need to work on your tan. Whatever the reason, you want some time off this summer. Tracking peak-season travel as we do for Caribbean and Europe rates, we're seeing a week-over- week increase for domestic summer airfares. The routes that saw a decrease in price, however, show a considerable dip; and as a whole, the combined routes lowered by a significant $147....read more»

Spirit Airlines aircraft on runway (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit is expanding its unique brand of, er, "service," with several new routes over the coming months. Let's take a look:

Launched yesterday:

  • Atlantic City, NJ (ACY) and Chicago, IL (ORD)
  • Charleston, WV (CRW) and Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL)

...read more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

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What should have been an exciting week for Southwest has turned into a customer-relations disaster. On Tuesday, the day it launched its controversial new Rapid Rewards program, the airline's operations collapsed into intermittent paralysis. Many customers were unable to log in to their Rapid Rewards accounts online, and those who did often found their accumulated credits wiped out. A separate issue shut down the airline's phone services, leaving frustrated customers on hold for extended periods and preventing airport employees from swiping boarding passes. Flights were delayed, lines were long—it was an unqualified mess....read more»

Air: Security - Man Being Patted Down (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

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A bill currently being considered in the New Hampshire legislature would classify the TSA's pat down and body scanner procedures as a sexual offense. According to the Union-Leader, screeners who subject travelers to either without probable cause could be charged with sexual assault. The charge would result in a lifetime classification as a tier-three sexual offender, the most serious classification.

I spoke with the bill's co-sponsor, Andrew Manuse, who told me the time has come for states to take a stand against the federal government and the TSA. "This is an issue of government overreach," Manuse said, "and sometimes states need to step up and hold Washington accountable."

Asked what he might consider as an alternative, Manuse said he prefers using behavioral profiling to identify suspicious individuals, then questioning them before, finally, proceeding to a pat down or scan. He said the bill's intention is not to weaken security, but to stop the policy of patting down or scanning travelers without, as Manuse puts it, "articulable suspicion."...read more»

Air: Security - Man Tying Shoes (Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas)

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TSA screeners at New York's JFK Airport allegedly missed a boxcutter stowed in a passenger's bag. The passenger—who was not charged with any crime—was able to bring the boxcutter onboard, and was only caught when the boxcutter fell out of his bag.

Naturally, New Yorkers are more than a little outraged. The 9/11 hijackers used boxcutters, you may recall, so this TSA slip-up is imbued with uncomfortable symbolism.

Objectively, however, the presence of a boxcutter on a plane is not a big deal compared to a bomb or gun. Are boxcutters dangerous? Of course. Could someone use one to inflict severe injury, or even kill a person? Yes. But one man armed with a boxcutter is not going to bring down a plane....read more»

Allegiant Air aircraft (Photo: Allegiant Air)

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In a recent letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), Allegiant Airlines made a rather surprising admission. Here it is:

Allegiant is considering a new pricing option for use on its website: when making a purchase, consumers would be able to choose between a traditional "locked in" fare that would not fluctuate, and a lower fare that could change before the date of travel. That lower fare could be reduced further or could increase (up to a set maximum that would be clearly disclosed) depending on changes in fuel price between the booking and travel dates. This would be a non-compulsory alternative for consumers; it would provide them another option for potential substantial savings on their trip costs and would be clearly disclosed and explained prior to any purchase.

Presently, Allegiant says it could implement this sort of fee. But the consumer protections proposals put forth by the DOT last summer would ban the practice of post-purchase price increases. This is precisely why Allegiant is making its case (though the comment period for those proposals closed months ago)....read more»

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