[box type=”blue”]This guest post is by Lynn Jackson, of StealthMonitoring.com [/box]
With Memorial Day, 4th of July, and summer vacation just around the corner, millions of travelers are booking their flights. They’re probably dreading long airport lines and navigating aggressive TSA security measures.
Fortunately, the TSA has created a mobile app that efficiently and effectively answers travelers’ most frequently asked questions. Since you wouldn’t think to travel without your mobile phone or tablet, you can have this resource on hand throughout the entire boarding process.
Not sure whether you can fly with your mascara? Simply type “mascara” into the “Can I Bring?” tool. The TSA app will instantly inform you of whether to carry, check, or leave behind your questionable belongings. The “Can I Bring?” tool is fairly all-encompassing, but in the case it doesn’t answer your specific question, you can submit a query through the app. Your query will receive immediate TSA consideration and be screened for potential addition to the tool’s database.
The app provides flight information via an up-to-date feed from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Info includes schedules, delays, and flight conditions. A guide tool provides travel suggestions and packing tips, including traveling with medical needs, travelling with children, dressing for efficient boarding (to avoid uncomfortable pat downs), carrying food and gifts, preemptive safety measures taken by the TSA (including x-ray scanners and remote video monitoring), and a comprehensive discussion of the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels, and aerosols. Security wait times are shared by passengers, which can help forthcoming passengers approximate their upcoming waits.
While this is undoubtedly a handy tool, plenty of users believe the app still has to work out some kinks. Instead of providing specific flight information, the app only provides airport conditions as a whole (i.e. “the airport is busy.”) This is not particularly useful, because a busy airport doesn’t necessarily imply a busy airline or a busy flight. Users recommend a wealth of other flight tracking apps that are more flight-specific and will most likely give you a better approximation of your actual departing time.
Another drawback to the app is the security wait times feature. This tool based solely on passenger posts, but what passenger is going to be posting (or even conscious of) wait times, when they are getting their last minute coffee and magazines? Of course, this is the cheapest way for the app to collect data, but it isn’t very reliable. The travelling tips tool is also a letdown, as many users find the articles to be common knowledge and not particularly novel.
Despite these qualms, you have to give the government a gold star for trying to ease the boarding process. As of late, the TSA has been under considerable scrutiny for questionable security practices. This app is proof that the government is making an effort with passengers in mind. Download the app the next time you fly and let us know your thoughts. Online commentary is an excellent driver for change!