Week in Review: Guns at Airports and Airlines Competing for Your Business

Airplane

Summer heat is on the rise. Not temperature, guns, often loaded and trying to sneak past the TSA at U.S. airports. Year-to-date, the agency has snagged 892 guns in carry-on bags at security checkpoints, up nearly 20 percent from last year.

Last week screeners found a record one-day high of 18 guns. But they wrongly report finding an eight-and-a-half inch knife buried in an enchilada. The picture clearly shows it’s a burrito.

The agency reports 80 percent of all guns found are loaded. Where to begin with that one?

In other news, Jet Blue wined and dined media while showing off their new business-class cabin. Nice, real nice! But remember almost all travel writers curry favors with those they purport to cover. It’s the don’t-ask-don’t-tell style of journalism. Believe me, I’ve got some family history there.

The new Jet Blue cabin starts traveling this weekend on coast-to-coast flights, where the 16 lie-flat premium seats on each Airbus A321 cost between $599 and $999 for a one-way ride, according to the reports.

And then we have United’s frequent flyer program changes that now tie the accrual of miles in its frequent flyer program to ticket prices. Big spenders get more. No surprise there.

What’s most interesting, at least to me, is the airline’s plan to let us use miles to buy premium seats and checked baggage subscriptions. Miles are currency. If we lose our elite status, we can now spend freely on more legroom.

You of course know United sells annual subscriptions for checked bags and access to the Economy Plus section. Prices begin at $349 and $499 per year, respectively. The airline hasn’t said what those perks will cost in miles.

Things have also heated up in the mano-a-mano struggle over Norwegian Air Shuttle’s expansion of trans-Atlantic services using an Ireland-based subsidiary.

U.S. Congress is noodling on how to stop it. They say the carrier aims to circumvent labor laws by registering aircraft in Ireland and hiring low-cost crews at bases in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Norway isn’t a member of the EU so the carrier has had to set up the subsidiary in Ireland to take advantage of open-sky agreements.

U.S. officials are meeting with European Union officials to arm wrestle. Yet at the same time, both sides are seeking a broader free-trade deal.

Last Monday, Congress passed an amendment to the proposed Department of Transportation budget request intended to block Norwegian’s application, which has been sitting before regulators since February, seemingly in a controlled descent.

Just barely out of the picture are sharp elbows of high-paid lobbyists on behalf of U.S. airlines and labor. They’d like to see the approval paperwork dumped in Hefties.

We’ve already discussed some of the issues at The Tarmac.

Norwegian’s supporters argue detractors are trying to stifle competition

The airline already operates flights from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen to New York and Fort Lauderdale. They are Europe’s third-largest budget carrier by revenue after Ryanair and EasyJet. To be competitive they say they need to fly from larger hubs like London.

The entire issue is now like a soda can wedged in a seat pocket.

The Tarmac’s View: Regarding Norwegian Air Shuttle, all those officials working on both sides of the Atlantic are so much smarter than I am. But I do know, that with rare exceptions, nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.

And as you know I like to pull the wings off the aviation industry from this soapbox. It’s so easy. I don’t even have to have a better idea.

But the fact is I love everything about aviation and everybody working in it. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a flight when I wasn’t smitten with a flight attendant, or peered in the cockpit with boy-eyed wonder. (OK, baggage handlers are another matter.) I’ve got to side with workers in the U.S. on this one.

Norwegian Air, I hope you keep flying to the U.S., but you got to pay the price.

 

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