Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Airports (page 1 of 2)

Getting the full pat down from the TSA at Arcata Airport

Thus far in my flying career, I’ve had very few notable incidents with the TSA. Sometimes the giant millimeter wave machine will erroneously say I have something in my back pocket or on my chest, and the Mr. TSA man will have to make sure I’m not carrying a hidden box cutter. Lately, security has actually been fairly painless when I’ve traveled.

But that all changed yesterday morning. I started things off with a full pat down from the TSA.

Of course my bag appears suspicious

I was headed off for a 5-night stint in Australia, eager to experience my first flights in a true international premium cabin. I had even managed to book seat 1A in the nose of a Boeing 747-400 (so geeky, I know). I was flying SFO to Seoul Incheon (ICN), and then ICN to Sydney, Australia (SYD). To start it all off, though, I had to make a quick connecting hop from our local Arcata-Eureka airport.

I arrived at Arcata-Eureka airport with about 50 minutes until our scheduled departure, and about 20 minutes until boarding. Security at the airport is a single line for the single departure gate, and is usually very quick and easy.

But not yesterday. I put all my stuff in the bins as usual, careful to leave my laptop in a bin by itself. The first TSA agent asked if I had any liquids, and I said yes, and that they were really tiny. She said that was fine and ushered me through.

I had no problems passing through the metal detector, but I knew something was up with my bag. The lady manning the x-ray machine stared at it for a long time. When it did come out, another agent promptly took it aside. Not good.

No, I don’t have explosives in my bag

After identifying it as mine, the TSA lady opened up my bag. My wife had packed me a substantial amount of homemade snack food, and she asked what a few items were. It was understandable, considering the homemade fruit roll ups do look a little suspicious.

She did an explosives swab of one of the bags, and I could tell it came back negative by the sound the machine made. After pulling out a second paper, she did a swab of the interior perimeter of the bag and inserted it into the machine.

Which set off a series of beeps a few seconds later that I had never heard before. Great. That can’t be good.

Another TSA agent came by, explains that my bag had tested positive for explosive residue, and informed me that he had to give me a pat down and that my entire bag would have to be searched.

At this point I was screaming inside my head, “Really, people?!?! This is the tiny Arcata Airport! Do I honestly look that suspicious to you?”

But instead I just said, “OK,” keeping my explosive reaction to myself. I wanted to say, “OK, whatever, this is why I can’t stand you guys,” but I kept my feelings to myself.

So I just stood there, holding my arms straight out to each side while TSA man gave me a full pat down while TSA lady searched my entire bag for the explosives that I supposedly had stashed in their somewhere. If there were any, I wasn’t aware of them. Maybe my wife makes explosives in her spare time and somehow forgot to inform me of her strange hobby.

The entire ordeal lasted about 12-15 minutes. A few people were staring at me, but by the time my full pat pat down from the TSA man was over, I didn’t care. I just wanted my bag back with enough time to pack it neatly before having to run onto the plane. It was almost boarding time. I hadn’t expected to burn this much time or have this much difficulty getting through security.

Fortunately, we were soon airborne, leaving my TSA troubles far behind.

Ok, I guess I should be thankful for the TSA

I do understand the need for airport and aircraft security. I really do. But the methods of the TSA often boggle my mind. And their statistics on what gets through them are less than stellar. Undoubtedly, they were just following protocol, but I didn’t have to like it. This is the first time I had ever set off the explosives scanner, and I hope I never do it again.

I have heard so many stories of people’s hands causing false positives for the explosives screening, especially if they have been on or near a farm. The whole thing is really a farce, anyway, since the TSA doesn’t even check everyone’s hands, just a random sample.

What about you? Do you have any crazy TSA stories?

The Tea Police: British Airways Apologizes For Its Lounge Hostess

Tea is as iconically British as it gets. But apparently a British Airways hostess at a BA London Heathrow lounge didn’t care for a guest making his just how he liked it, with two tea bags. The hostess approached the man, who was aware that she was watching him closely, and informed him that he could only use one tea bag at a time.

British Airways apologized last night for the actions of the hostess, emphasizing that there is no policy on tea bag usage.

I have to admit, this is one of the more petty things I have read in regard to lounge usage. I can understand limiting the free booze, but tea? Really?

With the way British Airways is trying to slash costs, maybe the hostess was just doing what she could. Every fifty cents counts, I guess.

Story originally reported in the Telegraph. Header image courtesy of Aeroprints

Blog Giveaways: Why Entering Never Hurts

Many of the larger blogs I follow routinely do giveaways. The most consistent are Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy. They are near the top of the heap in the travel blogging world. Paying for a business or first class ticket, just to write a review, is par for the course for them, so coming up with the cash to host a giveaway is a non-issue for them. Heck, you could even get a $200 Visa card for simply supplying tips to The Points Guy.

Giveaways by some of the smaller blogs are less common. Dan Miller at Points With A Crew has offered a few, and so has Summer Hull, who blogs as Mommy Points.

Mommy Points wrote a piece on her 7 Favorite Travel Moments In The United States. I honestly read it because I was truly interested to see what topped her list. What I didn’t know was that she was giving away an Amex Centurion Lounge Day Pass. You had to read through all the way to the bottom to notice that litle detail. To enter, you simply had to write a comment about your own favorite U.S. travel moment.


As with most giveaways, I didn’t really expect to win. Still, when Summer tweeted that people could see if they had won, I had to check. I was floored when I saw my comment had been randomly chosen!

So Mommy Points mailed me a one-time pass to an Amex Centurion Lounge. The biggest catch is I only have until December 31 to use it. I currently have a trip planned where I can visit the Centurion SFO, but if that falls through, I am sure I could find a friend traveling over the holidays who will be able to enjoy it.

Heartwarming London Heathrow Advertisement For The 2016 Holiday Season

In a world of constant advertisement, my general goal is to tune out as much of it as I possibly can. It is rare for me to fully watch any sort of ad, let alone give it any real attention.

This advertisement for the London Heathrow Airport is a huge exception. It is delightfully emotive, drawing the viewer into the sentimental time of the holidays. I wish all advertising was this pleasant and beautiful. Enjoy.

The Upstart Arcata-Eureka Airport

There is no way around it: we live in a very isolated area. While many people have the ability to be at an airport in a mere 30 minutes and in the air an hour later, we have no such luxury behind the “Redwood Curtain” that is Humboldt County, California. Traveling anywhere is time consuming and/or difficult.


I wonder how many flights were offered in 1980…

The only local airport sporting commercial flights is Arcata-Eureka. Its IATA code is ACV. It has two gates: departures and arrivals. They are technically numbered. I think departures is 1 and arrivals is 2, but it really doesn’t matter. Check in and security can take all of 10 minutes, and it’s not like you can get lost trying to find your flight.

Which brings us to the available flights. A grand total of six are offered each day (up from a mere four last year) on two airlines. A total of two direct destinations are available: San Francisco and Portland. As sad as this sounds, I was thrilled when PenAir starting serving ACV, since it opened up the Alaska Airlines network for award flights.


Exterior of the terminal building

The airport building itself is pleasant enough. It has a few check-in counters, some rental car desks, and a small shop selling snacks and souvenirs. Upstairs there is a viewing deck of the tarmac. That’s actually my favorite spot in the building.


The entirety of the Arcata-Eureka Airport business center

The “business center” is laughable. It contains three lonely table-desks with outlets. It would offer a slight bit of privacy from the rest of the departures area, except for the vending machines parked on the other side of the tiny room.



It is rare that we ever park at the airport (actually, I don’t think we have ever left a car there). One evening my wife arrived before I landed, though, and she took a gate tag and parked in the short term lot. When we were finally leaving, I turned the card over and had a cool laugh. Clearly printed on it was “Arcata-Eureka International Airport”!!! Granted, the Bombardier Q400 or CRJ-200  aircraft that fly out of here could technically make it to either Canada or Mexico, so maybe that is the qualification. Or maybe it is just someone’s sad idea of a joke. Maybe they were foreseeing California’s secession after the recent election.


ACV departure performance for the last decade

Arcata-Eureka is anything if not notorious for flight delays and cancellations. The ACV on-time record is abysmal. You know things are rough when over a quarter of the departures are either delayed or cancelled. The good news is that it looks like things are improving, even if just marginally so, over the past two years. The decent record in 2009 looks like an anomaly.


Sandwich at ACV? Nope. My wife delivered this to me from Eureka.

With all the delays, you might think ACV would offer some food options. But even there you will be disappointed. The only restaurant, The Silver Lining, closed its doors last year. Now passengers are relegated to vending machines and a small array of snacks.


ACV-SFO round-trip on United, December 7-14

The biggest issue with the airport is the price. Arcata-Eureka is not an essential air services (EAS) airport, so it doesn’t receive any sort of subsidization for passenger flights (not that I agree with the EAS idea anyway, at least at a Federal level). Which means it costs an arm and a leg to go anywhere. Consider the 1-hour hop to San Francisco. The best is ever seems to be is about $350 round-trip. And a one-way? You’ll pay essentially the same. PenAir added more service this year, but they didn’t impact prices much, except maybe to just Portland.


Boarding our recent PenAir flight to PDX

Yet I am so glad that ACV exists. Without our local airport, people in Humboldt would be resigned to drive 3-5 hours to Redding, Santa Rosa, or the Bay Area to fly anywhere. Even with its miserable on-time performance, the lack of amenities (especially when flights are delayed), limited airline options, and astronomical prices, I am still glad it is an option.

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