Thursday, January 14, 2010

You can't go home again...

At least not very easily.

I had a wonderful visit in Saskatoon, SK thanks to gracious hosts, enthusiastic listeners, and remarkably mild weather.

But traveling back to the USA was something else.  I was aware that new security procedures were in place, but in case you have a trip coming up, let me 'splain what you're facing.  Keep in mind these steps are only on the way back to the US - not going.
  • No carry-on luggage.  So plan on spending $20 (NW/Delta) for checking your roll-on.
  • Because of the above restriction, you can't just whiz into a kiosk to check in since you need to get a luggage tag and turn it in.
  • No large computer cases - mine just made it.
  • I think they have the magnetometers set on "stun" because I've never had my watch or belt trip the alarm anywhere. Otherwise security screening is pretty much as before.
  • After you clear security and head for your gate, there will be another obviously hastily created security check which entails the following:
    • Emptying everything from your pockets.
    • Removing belts, sweaters, and I think I saw heavy jewelry removed.
    • A very thorough pat down by a security personnel.  They make a point to tell you they are using the backs of their hands to feel your pockets.  
    • A vigorous groping of your shoes, collar, and beltline.
    • Inspection of the soles of your shoes (which you had just removed a few minutes ago).
    • Complete examination of the contents of your purse, computer bag, etc. - as in opening pill bottles, detailed examination of your computer, and making sure your small tape measure is really a tape measure.
    • Repeated questions about liquids of any kind.
  • After you have made it to the plane and taken off, brace yourself for the last 30-45 minutes. Nothing can be on your lap during that period.  I couldn't read my Kindle, or use the computer.  No tray tables, drinks, coats, blankets, etc.  (I'm not sure about books, but the guy next to me put his away.)
  • No moving from your seat for any reason. (They warn you ahead of time)
  • OK - you've arrived home (MSP in my case).  You go through customs/immigrations and pick up your checked baggage and then you...
  • GO THROUGH SECURITY AGAIN. Even if you're just leaving the airport, I think, because I didn't see any other exit. Shoes, computer, liquids, etc.
[More official stuff here]

I hope I don't get in trouble telling you what happened, but I haven't seen any directives or received any instructions not to divulge what occurred, and everybody else was chattering to the folks who met them.  Other experiences are similar.  The new directive may also kill in-flight wi-fi just as it was getting going.
So, does this effectively kill off in-flight wireless internet services such as GoGo? What about in-flight video, like the Boing Boing Video channel on-board Virgin America, or Direct TV presentation of 24 hour news channels like CNN or MSNBC?
For what it's worth, when I flew back into the US on Saturday on an international Delta flight, the WiFi service which had been promised on the flight was disabled for the entire flight. When I asked attendants whether internet access was simply not working, or had been disabled, two attendants replied that WiFi is typically only offered during the last hour of the flight, and would not be available at all because of restrictions on "last hour" acvitity.
Some bloggers did apparently cross a line when they published an internal TSA directive.  

Soooo, if you don't hear from me for a while...

Anyhoo, after a million air miles, I'm really not complaining. But even though I noted this development last month, living with it is an adjustment.  Be prepared. 

I'd honestly allow an extra hour before takeoff coming home.

No comments: