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Before You Go

For Sunday, June 15, 2014

By McClatchy News Services


Cheap Atlantic flights draw protest

A battle is brewing over the lucrative trans-Atlantic routes that have been dominated by major U.S. and European airlines. Upstart Norwegian Air Shuttle is ruffling rivals' feathers with its plans to bring the kind of low-fare service offered domestically by Southwest and JetBlue to flights across the Atlantic.

The loudest complaints come from airline employee unions, which contend Norwegian is trying to skirt labor laws by establishing operations in Ireland and hiring pilots out of Asia.

The Airline Pilots Association International and the Association of Flight Attendants have petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation to refuse to accept Norwegian flights out of Ireland.

Norwegian Air Shuttle already offers flights from the U.S. to Europe at up to $150 to $500 cheaper than its U.S.-based competitors. But critics say the move to operate a long-haul company out of Ireland would let Norwegian take advantage of more lenient labor laws to undercut rivals by even more.

"Do you really want your airline going around the law to employ pilots out of Bangkok?" said Michael Robbins, a spokes­man for the Airline Pilots Association.

Norwegian Air Shuttle rejects such contentions, saying it will abide by the labor laws of every country in which it operates. The airline says critics are just trying to keep out low-fare competitors.

TSA to base bag screening on risk

The Transportation Security Administration has been moving away from a system that assumes all passengers, including children and seniors, pose the same security risk.

For example, the TSA now operates PreCheck lines at 115 airports that let passengers who pass a background check zip through without removing coats, belts or shoes or removing laptop computers from carrying cases.

Now the TSA plans to adopt its "risk-based security" to the screening of luggage. Under the current system, every bag gets the same level of screening.

As part of a TSA plan to spend $2.2 billion over the next five years, the agency said, it wants to adopt a system that can identify the risk level of each bag based on information about its owners. In other words, the luggage of high-risk passengers would get a more thorough screening than other bags.

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times

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