Nothing says holiday cheer like a good old pat-down at the airport or, perhaps worse, being escorted into a private room to disrobe.
This year’s party fad is gaudy, high-tech Christmas sweaters. They might also be this year’s Transportation Security Administration headache: Metallicized materials and lights on sweaters are setting off security scanners.
Travelers probably would prefer if Rudolph’s bling-bling nose doesn’t cause them to miss their flight, so unless they can tone down the silly little reindeer, it might be best to keep the sweater secured in a piece of luggage.
"Passengers can expect additional screening if they wear this type of clothing and it results in the machine alarming," said Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman.
Screening frustrates many travelers, but the TSA also has some good news this holiday season for families with children.
Children 12 and under are no longer required to remove their shoes during security screening, and they will be permitted to walk through the scanners twice rather than undergo a pat-down.
"For a family with a couple of kids in tow, this is a major boost," Dankers said. "Clearly we need to screen children, but we are trying to reduce the number of pat-downs on children. As far as risk-based security, they are at a low-threat level."
While newer technology might put a damper on the more festive travelers, it is also making flying more convenient.
The Transportation Security Administration has a new smartphone application available at tsa.gov/mobile. Before leaving for the airport, travelers can type in the name of an item and learn whether it is permitted on carry-on or checked luggage.
And McCarran International Airport has introduced new technology to make flying easier.
Earlier this month, Deputy Director Rosemary Vassiliadis announced a partnership between Google and the airport. Visitors with Android phones can download Google Maps and zoom into McCarran’s terminals. The application allows travelers to take a virtual tour of the airport and locate restrooms, restaurants and other amenities such as recharging stations.
Facebook recently listed McCarran ninth on its list of the world’s most social airports in part because of its updates on Facebook.com/lasvegas or Twitter.com/lasvegas. Travelers also can log onto fly.mccarran.com and request that the latest flight status information be sent directly to their phone. Up-to-date flight information is available by calling 261-4636.
Airlines have jumped onboard with the latest technology. Alaska, American, Continental, Delta and United airlines allow passengers to display their boarding passes on their phone.
Maybe the next phone application will allow travelers to reserve a parking space. Until then, passengers can check parking availability by calling 261-5122. The airport charges $8 a day in the economy lot, $14 a day for long-term parking and $21 a day for valet.
The long-term lot at the airport is the first to fill up. The economy lot is off Paradise Road south of Russell Road; the remote lot is available on Gilespie just north of Warm Springs Road. Allow about a half-hour for the shuttle bus trip to the airport. Directions to the airport’s parking facilities are at mccarran.com.
Not interested in blowing that nest egg on parking? There are a few easy ways to get around that too.
Traveling families have found the South Strip Transfer Station on Gilespie Street just south of Sunset Road convenient. Rather than piling into a bus with luggage, many residents have found a more efficient method to be for one family member to drop everybody off at the airport, then park at the transfer station and catch Route 109 north, a 10-minute bus trip to McCarran.
Parking is free at all of the Regional Transportation Commission’s park and ride facilities. Residents planning to take an extended trip should notify security inside the bus terminal.
The South Strip station offers 200 parking spaces and is the fastest to fill up, but there are other options.
The newest park and ride on Westcliff and Durango drives offers 94 spaces; and the Suncoast, where the Westcliff line originates, has designated 100 spaces to travelers. The Westcliff route is the transportation agency’s only airport express line, shuttling riders downtown and then to McCarran in about 45 minutes.
Travelers can take advantage of the Centennial Hills park and ride on Grand Montecito Parkway near Highway 95 and Durango Drive. The bus stops downtown at the Bonneville Transit Center, where passengers can pick up the Westcliff express line at Bay 18. It is a good idea to buy a $3 two-hour bus pass to avoid having to purchase a second ticket when transferring at Bonneville.
When making your traveling plans, remember the last Westcliff express bus leaves the airport at 11:07 p.m.
Also keep in mind that restaurants at McCarran will close early on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. If the flight is later, grab a bit to eat before heading to the airport.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2904.INFO FOR TRAVELERS
Flight info: Check online at fly.mccarran.com or call 261-4636. Updates are available at Facebook.com/lasvegas and Twitter.com/lasvegas.
Parking: Check availability by calling 261-5122. Get directions at mccarran.com.
Buses to the airport: Check rtcsnv.com.