TSA ends Managed Inclusion Program for Pre-Check – Business Travelers celebrate!

TSA PreCheck LogoI have long been critical of the TSA Managed Inclusion Program for Pre-Check.  Under this program, passengers who were considered low-risk would get tossed into the Pre-Check line even though they weren’t a part of the Pre-Check program.  This often resulted in inexperienced travelers and seniors being dumped into the Pre-Check line.  This slowed things down.  It was not uncommon at some airports like San Antonio and Dallas to see the line filled with passengers who had no clue what to do. 

The line delays aren’t the cause of the shutdown of the Managed Inclusion shutdown though.  The TSA cites that the program was discontinued for security reasons.  I can definitely understand that.  Either way as a member of the Pre-Check program, we should all be happy with this change.

If you were one of the lucky ones that happened to get selected for Pre-Check without being in the program this affects you.  You can always go and register for the program for $85.  It’s a small price to pay to have access to a faster line when traveling.

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Southwest offering $15 off your ride to Dallas Love Field with Lyft

LyftThe parking shortage continues at Dallas Love Field as we enter the summer season and a new garage is years away.  To encourage users to ride to the airport instead of parking, Southwest has partnered with Lyft to bring you a discount to and from the airport.  If you are not familiar with Lyft, it is another online ride service similar to Uber.

You’ll get a promo code automatically via e-mail when you checkin for your next flight.   The promotion code is good for up to $15 to and from the airport.  Each voucher is good for two rides (i.e.: there and back).  Promo codes expire August, 15th, 2015.

I have a few promo codes that I won’t be using (since I live really far away), so help yourself.

  • LOV38581
  • LOV90945
  • LOV87877

I am guessing you could just put any five digit number after LOV and it will probably work.  If you use one of the promo codes, leave a comment and let us know how your ride was.

Download the Lfyt App now to get started.

Be sure and check out my post on the Dallas Love Field parking shortage for additional tips.

CLEAR goes cardless in select airports

CLEAR LogoWhen traveling out of San Antonio last week, I had my CLEAR card in my hand as I approached the checkpoint.  To my surprised, the agent informed me that my card was not needed.  “We just do biometric security now”, he said.  I walked up to the kiosk, put my finger down on the scanner and I was good to go.  You can also do an iris scan.  The agent then walked me through the TSA checkpoint as normal.  That’s a nice improvement and it makes the process even faster.

I reached out to CLEAR for comments and here is what I found out.  Currently cardless service is available in the following airports:

  • Denver (DEN)
  • Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Houston Hobby (HOU)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • San Antonio (SAT)

The goal is to bring cardless capability to all CLEAR airports.  The new CLEAR lines at Baltimore and Miami will be cardless when they open.

As CLEAR moves completely cardless, they will then phase out sending cards to its members.  This is good news for the new CLEAR members because it means you can start using the service as soon as you complete the enrollment at the kiosk.

Parking challenges continue at Dallas Love Field

When the Wright Amendment expired last October, I don’t think Southwest or Dallas Love Field realized how much demand there was going to be for flights to these new non-stop destinations.  Traffic is up by nearly 40% for Southwest alone.  With the addition of Virgin America, demand is even higher.  As a result, the parking facilities at Love Field are struggling to keep up.  The current A and B parking garages feature Tolltag-enabled parking to 7000 available spaces.  For mid-week travelers though this often means arriving to find both the A and B garages nearly at capacity if not sold out all together.  Luckily, they have already started on a new parking garage bringing an additional 4000 spaces to the airport.  That’s good new in the long term but it doesn’t help you now.

What can you do now?

  • First, give yourself extra time – I used to be able to park in the same spot in Parking Garage A and make it to my gate in a matter of minutes.  Not any more.  Plan ahead and give yourself more time to find a spot.
  • Use Valet Parking – Valet parking, provided by Sewell, can be found on the right as you are approaching the terminal.  I used this last week and it worked great.  The price is a little higher at $24 per day, but well worth the trouble.  They even can fill your car up on gas or wash your car while you are gone for an extra charge.  Just know that sometimes the valet lot fills up as well, so this may not be an option.
  • Reserve a spot at a third party garage – Garages like the Parking Spot are only $10.50 per day and you can guarantee yourself a spot for $4.95.  You can also try, the Parking Spot 2 and Best Parking.
  • Get dropped off – for the business traveler, this is rarely practical.  If it’s an option though, have someone drop you off so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Follow @DallasLoveField on twitter and check before you go.  When the parking garages are nearing capacity, the Dallas Love Field twitter account will post details about it.  It’s always a good idea to check this on your way out.

Southwest also recommended using public transportation such as DART, a taxi, or a car service.  While this may work for some of us.  For the vast majority of us in the metroplex, we’re simply too far away for this to be feasible or economical.

The expiration of the Wright Amendment has transformed Love Field.  It’s great for travelers and the local business that occupy it.  After speaking to a few of the merchants, business is up by 30% – 40% already.  Love Field is busier now, so be sure and plan for that the next time you go.

Changes coming to TSA PreCheck this month

TSA PreCheck LogoAccording to a communication from American Airlines, changes are coming to the TSA PreCheck program this month.  The change specifically targets users opted-in to the PreCheck program via Airline loyalty programs.  If you are not familiar with this scenario, some airlines would opt passengers into PreCheck due to their status instead of them applying for the TSA PreCheck program directly.  If this applies to you then, you will find yourself soon see yourself getting declined expedited screening more often.

The reason for this is clearly that there are too many people eligible for TSA PreCheck now.  As a result, these lines are getting longer and the benefit is declining.  I think this will be a good change and should help the lines at some of the busier airports in the mornings.

If you aren’t in the TSA PreCheck program now, you can always join (assuming you qualify).  If you have been getting TSA PreCheck from your airline directly, know that this doesn’t qualify you to get through the traditional TSA PreCheck enrollment procedure any faster.

New gates open at Dallas Love Field

I walked into Dallas Love Field to take my first flight as a new resident of the Dallas / Fort Worth area this morning to notice that some of the new gates are now open.  After the renovation of Love Field, there was a wall just past gate 14 while they were finishing the rest of construction.  Looking at the gate map, the area was marked off as “coming soon”.  I didn’t think the new area would open until the Wright Amendment lifted but it turns out I was wrong.

When you hang a left, you will see the wall has been removed and some of the new gates are open.

The wall has been removed at Dallas Love Field opening the path to new gates.

The wall has been removed at Dallas Love Field opening the path to new gates.

Gates 11 and 13 still have the temporary dividers up.  However, gates 16 an 18 are operational now.  The rest of the gates still have a blank screen next to them, but I am sure they will be open before too long.

The end of the left wing of Dallas Love Field with gates 15 - 20.

The end of the left wing of Dallas Love Field with gates 15 – 20.

These are exciting times for Love Field as the Wright Amendment will soon be lifted.  I am looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

San Antonio International Airport Survival Guide

The San Antonio International Airport features two terminals.  Since I have moved, I have been making heavy use of the A terminal at San Antonio International Airport.   In the A terminal you can find Southwest, Delta and the occasional AeroMexico and Interjet flights to Mexico.   The airport’s B terminal is much like the B terminal of other airports such as IAH meaning it’s like the “B team” and clearly a second class citizen.  There you will find the United and American flights which I have had the unfortunate pleasure of flying on a time or two.

The A terminal is currently in the process of becoming “A-mazing” (a least that’s what the signs say) as it is currently under construction.

Terminal A becomes A-mazing

Terminal A becomes A-mazing

It is supposed to be done in “Early 2014”, but I would venture to say that has since past. Most of the construction progress is done at this point, opening a variety of new restaurants such as Cinnabon and Steak and Shake.  Outside, the terminals, a number of new stores have opened up across from the ticket counters.  There is still quite a bit of construction going on.  Getting to the baggage claim requires a detour up until a few weeks ago.

It currently is also under a 90 day runway closure as it reports 12R -30L.  This has led to increased time taking off for sure.

Walking into the A terminal, it splits at the food court.  Looking down the hallways, it is more than clear which side Southwest is on and which side the rest are on.

Empty hallways line the right side of Terminal A where Delta, Interjet, and AeroMexico reside.

Empty hallways line the right side of Terminal A where Delta, Interjet, and AeroMexico reside.

Southwest has six gates on the left side of the terminal and it’s always packed.  You go down towards the Delta side, and you can see tumbleweeds blowing by.  This side also has the flights to Mexico but they only operate a few flights per day so it keeps it pretty quiet.

A busy terminal as you approach the Southwest gates.

A busy terminal as you approach the Southwest gates.

The Food

If you make a U-turn as soon as you walk in, you will find the obligatory Dunkin Donuts, as well as La Gloria, Raising Canes, and a Mediterranean restaurant called, La Tapenade.  You can get some fairly authentic tacos as the La Gloria and they make a decent margarita.  Right when you get through security, you’ll see Vino Volo.   It’s a nice place to grab a decent wine before your flight.

However, the hidden gem for food and drink is down the hallway to the right at Fruteria.  Here they have infused tequila and some great quesadillas, tortas, and gaucamole.  The best part about it is that no one is ever there because it’s in the Delta side.  The service there tends to be really slow because the employees are too busy chatting with each other.  If you have the time though, it’s probably the best food there.

If you are just looking for a drink, head to the left.  You’ll find a long line at the Starbucks on your way.  However, if you go a bit further, you’ll run into Gervin’s sports bar.  That place is always packed and you will be lucky to find a seat.  However, if you go a bit further, you can go to Mission City Ice House.  Although it’s smaller, I hardly ever have an issue finding a seat there.

If you are stuck in terminal B and you are hungry, I am sorry.  Your choices are considerably more limited.  Sbarro and Charley’s are about your only options  There’s actually a few more places than that but your options are better in terminal A.  Next time you fly through here, I recommend going Southwest or Delta.

Security

The two terminals at the airport are separate and have separate security checkpoints.  Terminal A security has a premium line, TSA Pre-check, and CLEAR.  It’s not uncommon for the security lines to be all the way down the entry way early in the morning.  I’ve seen them be equally long when flying on a Saturday as well.  If you don’t have priority access, I recommend showing up early.  You can use CLEAR in this airport, which makes getting through security much faster on weekday mornings.  San Antonio airport is particularly bad about dumping non-Pre-check travelers into the Pre-check line.  This means it’s not uncommon to get behind inexperienced travelers.

Getting to the airport

Getting to the airport is easy as it is centered in a very accessible part of town at the intersection of Loop 410 and 281.

Parking

San Antonio International Airport offers long-term and hourly parking.  Long-term parking is a relative bargain at $11 a day (previously just $10 a few months ago).  Short-term parking can be parked in long-term, but it comes at a significantly higher cost of $24 per day.  The benefit is that the short-term parking is significantly closer than the long-term parking.  If you are handicapped or bringing someone who is, they will let you park for free up to one day.  However, they require your hang tag, driver’s license, and license plate number.  The entire process for them to collect this information takes at least five minutes.

Long-term parking comes with a significant walk as you have to go walk across the entire short-term parking garage to get to the terminal.  Finding the terminal can also be a challenge as there is absolutely no signage directing you there.  To walk to the terminal, you want to get off on the second floor and take the bridge.  You can also do this from the first floor, but you will have to go back up to get to the terminal.  The long-term parking garage recently got upgraded with a car-counting system indicting the number of slots available on each floor.  It usually gives pretty accurate counts but at times it malfunctions and every floor reports “FULL”.  In my experience, don’t even try parking on levels 1 or 2, as there won’t be any spots available.  Level 3 is questionable and generally by level 4, you have a decent chance of finding a spot.  Be sure and note where you parked by taking a picture to remember where you are when you get back.

WiFi

Southwest offers free WiFi without any real restrictions.  There isn’t a time limit like in Love Field nor do you have to provide any information.  Just click Accept and you’re online.  After you accept the terms and conditions, you will be redirected to www.satcoupons.com where you can find discounts on many of the different restaurants and shops in the airport.  The typical discount is 10%.  You don’t have to print anything, just mention the coupon code on the site.

Rental Cars

Rental cars in San Antonio are just off-site.  You’ll need to catch a shuttle to get to them.

Military

It’s not uncommon to see quite a few uniformed soldiers at the airport.  Stop one and thank them for their service.  If you find one off-duty sitting at the bar, be sure and buy him or her a beer.  That’s just what you do.

“International” or International?

A lot of small markets claim to have an International airport, but they really aren’t.  They don’t have a direct flight anywhere and certainly no customs office.  I’m looking at you Will Rogers in Oklahoma City.  However, San Antonio actually is an International airport with a number of flights a day going to Mexico served by Interjet, Aeromexico, Volaris, and AirTran.  Destinations include Guadalajara, Cancun, and Mexico City.  I’ll be curious to see if Southwest keeps the flights to Mexico from San Antonio after AirTran is absorbed.  Looking at the International page, San Antonio isn’t in the list.

 

You can find out more information about San Antonio International Airport on their site.