Bits ‘n Pieces for January 21, 2013

News and notes from around the interweb:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As for the TSA thing, while the TSA guy was clearly in the wrong and a criminal, the passenger contributed to the problem by being an idiot and dropping a pile of cash in the tray. First, who carries that much cash in a pocket when traveling (or ever, actually)? And then to just put it into a tray, inviting someone to steal it?

    By the time I get to security everything is out of my pockets and inside a zipped pacsafe bag, with snaps holding the zippers closed. If I have to go through the scanner (fortunately TSA Pre makes that infrequent) the only thing I have with me going through the scanner is the clothes I’m wearing, and I’m at the machine watching to make sure nobody is messing with my stuff….

  2. Well, I *said* the TSA guy was wrong and a criminal as my opening remark.

    But the victim in this case was an idiot and may as well have been wearing a t-shirt saying “rip me off..”..

    It’s only been a decade or more that there have been report after report of the TSA stealing things. Who in their right mind would expect them NOT to steal a pile of money that you tossed into a tray as an invitation?

    *Should* he have been able to do so without worry? In a perfect world, yes. But this isn’t a perfect world and 10 seconds worth of forethought would have avoided the problem.

  3. Why do you never say US airways style business class seats instead of AA style or Cathay style?
    US introduced them a long time ago in the US well before anyone and you give credit to AA which might do so in 5 yrs.
    Personally after several trips to EU on the AF 380 thanks to southern hospitality, we were fine with the seats. Yes they packed us in but it was adequate and I would do it again for the price in pesos if I could.

  4. I also liked the 4 across staggered EY seats last year.
    It reminded me a little of the BA seats in the arrangement but was much better padding and IFE.

    I think Bz seat wise, US/CX/9W/AC >EY >UA(CObf) >DL > BA >LH/AF >UA/AA.
    So giving credit to AA for 1 plane is laughable.

  5. @ffi – I meant to suggest that it’s the seats they’re *going with* and it’s 2 planes so far not one 😛

    But I think it’s silly to say that LH/AF current business seat is better than (pre-merger) UA’s flat bad seat

    And having flown both recently I think that the current AF seat is pretty much equivalent to the old AA seat.

  6. @ffi – I *frequently* say US Airways pioneered business class seats, I think my usual refrain actually is that US Airways doesn’t get enough credit for that. Although the Cathay seat is an improvement on, not the same as, the US Airways seat.

  7. Have you ever published a comprehensive article explaining your philosophy on why the TSA is so bad at what they do, and why it is such poor policy to have them in general?

    Having read (and enjoyed) your blog for over a year now I would like to better understand your line of thinking on this. To be honest, without that larger context, your frequent inclusion of these kinds of stories of employee bad behavior looks a bit mean-spirited and elitist. I haven’t noticed that to be your general attitude so these stories always strike me as odd.

  8. @AJTernkle I’m certain I have although it would probably be better to just point you to the 10th chapter of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, “Why the Worst Get on Top”

    But basically the bureaucracy is set up to do security theatre instead of real security, to appear as though they are “doing something” in order to satisfy political concerns. And then they become inherently conservative, afraid to be blamed for anything bad that ultimately happens, so we have to take off our shoes and we get the liquid ban (“War on Water”) and those persist even though it’s clear they don’t add to safety.

    We get expensive scanners that are easily evadable by actual terrorists because the manufacturers of those machines lobby for them (hiring the former secretary of homeland security even), and the expensive boondoggles serve the function of appearing to do something.

    The TSA was one of the biggest bureaucratic staffing buildups in history, done incredibly quickly, hiring standards were pretty lax and training focused more again on security theatre than anything else. The agency is very poorly run with the -wrong goals and wrong incentives.

    And then when there’s evidence of poor supervision, poor training, and poor procedures, they make excuses — pretending these things are outliers, and that there are a few ‘bad apples’ amongst the group they’ve hired instead of something systematically wrong with the agency.

  9. Even allocating some of the blame to the passenger who’s money was stolen by a uniformed government enforcement officer is ridiculous. We may know that many of them are the lowest of the low, but not everyone will. Also, as far as I’m aware, the US is the only country where everything has to be out of pockets, so it’s quite likely that the person was not aware of this absurd rule before he had already sent his bag down the machine.

  10. @NB: All a matter of opinion, of course. You say “uniformed government officer” as if somehow that should make them more trustworthy than anyone else. If anything I trust them less because they are in a position to abuse authority.

    I don’t feel, in any way, that assigning some blame to the passenger is ridiculous. You’d never leave $500 on your table in a coffee shop while you went to the restroom. Why would you toss it into a bin to temp some TSA dweeb?

    I’ve gone my whole life watching people be too trusting and time after time their stuff gets stolen. I trust nobody that I don’t personally know, and I’ve been good so far.

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