Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is hosting the third annual Soaring Savings Sidewalk Sale on Oct. 17 – Oct. 23, just in time for the busy MEA travel weekend. Among the retailers: Brookstone, The Body Shop and Surdyk’s Flights. Participating shops will have tables outside their stores with merchandise priced, as they say, to fly out the door. Many retailers offer shipping. For more info, click here.
Two weeks ago, I helped a reader locate the expedited security lines for first-class passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Those lines recently moved to checkpoints 2 and 4 in the main terminal; she’d thought they’d disappeared.) The exchange,which appeared in the Travel section on July 3, elicited strong reaction from some readers upset that the Transportation Security Administration would give preferential treatment to first-class passengers.
No one likes to wait while others get a quick pass, but the TSA really isn’t to blame for that particular first-class perk. The airlines manage the lines leading to the TSA checkpoints at MSP, even reviewing tickets at those reserved for first-class ticketholders. TSA controls the checkpoints, the areas passengers enter after they present their ID and boarding pass to a TSA officer.
“I understand that first-class passengers get to board the plane sooner, get better food, more service, more legroom, etc., but that is because they have paid the airline more money for those privileges. But have they paid the TSA more money? By what authority [does TSA] discriminate between different classes of airline passengers?” read one e-mail that captures the tone of others.
“TSA screens everyone to the same standard, no matter what line they come through,” said TSA spokesman Carrie Harmon. She also explained that the screening process “starts even before passengers get to the airport, when each traveler is vetted against terrorist watch lists. Other layers of security include checked baggage screening, closed-circuit television monitoring, random gate checks, intelligence gathering and analysis, the use of federal air marshals and behavior detection officers and explosives-detection canine teams that move about the airport.”
Patrick Hogan of the Metropolitan Airports Commission offered this background: “Before the TSA was formed, the airlines also were in control of the security checkpoints and the companies that did the security screening did so under contract to the airlines. While the TSA now does the actual screening, the lines are still managed by the airlines.”
A reader recently asked me what would happen at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport if a tornado struck the area. I understand the concern. An F3 tornado struck Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in April, sending glass flying; five people were rushed to the hospital. Could the same happen here? As with other lesser travel problems — lost luggage, delayed flights — we hope it won’t happen, but we plan in case it does.
If a tornado threatened Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, travelers would hear an announcement and public safety workers, such as police officers and fire fighters, would direct people to safe places, said Pat Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. In Terminal 1, the Tram Level is underground and underneath roadways. Also, many bathrooms throughout both terminals are emergency shelters. “The goal is to move people into the interior, out of the concourses, and to lower levels,” he said.
Don’t expect the plan to go into effect at the first sound of sirens. Planes can fly during thunderstorms and have taken off and landed even while sirens sounded. “We wouldn’t begin moving people unless there has been a tornado spotted,” Hogan said.
The airport commission alerts airlines and airport employees when a thunderstorm or tornado watch or warning has been issued, so there should be plenty of eyes watching the skies — and a cadre of airport personnel prepared to spring into action.
Travelers passing through Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport today through Friday will find deals at stores such as Brookstone, The Body Shop and Creative Kidstuff (for a full list of participating stores, click here). Terminal1 (formerly known as Lindbergh) is hosting the second annaul Soaring Sidewalk Sale, wiht tables set up outside stores offering as much as 50 percent off merchandise. Many retrailers offer shipping, so you can send what you can't carry. Only travelers with a boarding pass are allowed int to the secure area.
Q I am traveling on a Sunday and don’t have a printer at home. How far ahead can I print out my boarding pass? I’d like to be able to do that from work on Friday.
A Sadly, you won’t be able to use your employer’s printer paper for your boarding pass. Flyers may begin checking in online — and printing boarding passes — 24 hours before a flight, but not before, because that’s when airlines release free seats.
There is another, paperless, way to check-in from home. Mobile check-in is an option for anyone with a smart phone or other PDA. You supply your mobile e-mail address or your cell phone number, along with your reservation number, and voila: your boarding pass is sent to your device. As with online check-in, you can take advantage of this within 24 hours of your flight.
If neither of these work, my advice to you: arrive at the airport 75 minutes before a domestic flight. Airplanes have tended to be full this summer and it’s often those who fail to check-in on time that get the boot.
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