Coming & Going: Thefts in airport security lines; protests in France

Friday, October 22, 2010; 10:32 AM

Coming & Going

TSA's Sticky Fingers

Transportation Security Administration officials are supposed to be the good guys, but last week, a supervisor and an agent at New Jersey's Newark airport were arrested for stealing thousands of dollars from carry-on bags.

We all know the risks of flying, but do we need to add corrupt security officials to the list?

"It's not just two bad people in Newark, but it's not an epidemic, either," said Richard Bloom, professor of security intelligence studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. "Airports have long been a venue of illegal behavior. It happens more than you think."

To foil potential thieves, Bloom recommends following certain procedures. First, don't travel with irreplaceable valuables - and if you must, certainly don't check them. Bloom keeps his wallet in his pocket for the entire boarding process. Before entering the security line, plot out your strategy - put computer in tray, remove shoes and metal objects, etc. - which will help minimize distractions. When passing through the screening machine, keep your eyes on your bags - and on security officials.

"Watch what security is up to," Bloom said. "We call this 'situation awareness.' "

If chosen for a secondary screening, ask about bringing your bags with you. If the answer is no, make sure that your luggage is always within your view. After the inspection, account for the valuables in your bag. If something has disappeared, Bloom says, immediately notify the officials in the TSA command center. If they're unresponsive, contact a complaints officer or airport police. The agency, for its part, directs passengers to a TSA supervisor or the airport's customer service manager. To submit a complaint with TSA, see .

March on France

It's not as bad as the French Revolution, but the recent protests in France are taking their toll. The ire over raising the retirement age has led to chaos countrywide, including snarled traffic, fuel shortages, reduced TGV train service and blocked access to airports. It's a mess with no immediate plan to go away.

"This isn't going to die down soon," said Bruce McIndoe, president of iJET Intelligent Risk Systems. "There are going to be disruptions through the end of the month and into the first week of November."

McIndoe says travelers aren't at risk but will be inconvenienced. "Tack on substantial time to move around the city," he said. "You are going to have to put up with delays and potential shortages." And don't forget the Golden Rule: If you see a group forming, scram.

Travel Ticker

Cayman Airways is bringing back nonstop service from Washington Dulles to Grand Cayman. The season runs Dec. 18 to April 30, with departures twice a week. Round-trip fares start at $336, including taxes. Info: 800-422-9626, . . . The National Park Service has designated a section of Amtrak's Keystone Corridor an official site along its National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The honored section covers the tracks between Lancaster and Philadelphia, a crucial route in the pursuit of freedom.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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