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Three Big Things

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  • U.S. Travel Hit Pandemic High Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday

    Flights have been packed but relatively painless during the week of Thanksgiving, the first major test since airlines took steps to resolve traffic snarls that have plagued Americans’ return to air travel.

    For seven days in a row, through Wednesday, daily airport passenger volumes exceeded two million people, a streak not seen since before the pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration. U.S. airports bustled with over 2.3 million people Wednesday—the most hectic day since February 2020. Sunday is expected to be even busier, TSA officials have said.

    So far, there have been few major disruptions this week. Less than 0.5% of U.S. domestic flights were canceled Monday through Wednesday, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking site. Around 60 U.S. flights had been scrapped as of Thursday afternoon.

    Sunday, which is expected to be the busiest day yet, could prove to be the next challenge.

    Airlines’ success so far this week appears to reflect both good luck and better planning, following their efforts to shore up operations ahead of the holiday. Southwest Airlines Co. , Spirit Airlines Inc. and Allegiant Travel Co. have scaled back their flying plans in the final months of the year to better align schedules with staffing and other constraints.

    Carriers have been on a hiring spree, hoping to bulk up their ranks after encouraging thousands of workers to retire or take long-term leaves of absence during the pandemic. Southwest has said it has hired over 4,500 new workers—85% of its goal for the year.

    They have been tackling long waits for customer service and other irritants for passengers as well as making sure they have staffing reserves to provide a buffer for any upsets during the holiday season.

    Airlines including Southwest, JetBlue Airways Corp. and American Airlines Group Inc. have also been offering incentives such as cash bonuses and extra pay for employees who work over the holidays. American flight attendants who have perfect attendance over the holiday period will be in line for triple pay.

    In a letter to customers Wednesday, JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty said the airline had been preparing to serve a record number of travelers this holiday season. It has been hiring customer support and airport staff, streamlining lobby lines and adding signage to help people find their way in airports. The airline has also worked to cut customer service hold times to under an hour, on average, she said.

    “Ramping back up has also not been without its growing pains—and we appreciate your continued patience and support as we take this journey together,” she wrote.

    Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest travel periods of the year, marked by long lines and big crowds at airports. There are additional stresses this year. Airlines have had a rocky re-emergence from the pandemic, as demand roared back more quickly than expected and airlines were caught flat-footed and shorthanded as they raced to recall and retrain workers who weren’t needed when travel demand dried up last year. They have often struggled to recover when things go awry, and carriers that expanded aggressively to capture rising demand have been especially vulnerable to bad weather or glitches that have caused their operations to unravel for days, resulting in thousands of canceled flights.

    “I was very nervous about traveling, especially on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” said Chloe Corcoran, who flew from Los Angeles to visit her family in Rochester, N.Y. “I feel extremely fortunate things have gone well.”

    While there are still several days of holiday travel left to go, airlines have had some things working in their favor. For one, the weather has been mostly calm, as early predictions of storms fizzled. Bob Larson, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, said there could be local weather troubles leading to travel delays in parts of the country, but more severe weather isn’t in the forecast.

    American learned several lessons recently when high winds slowed traffic at its Dallas-Fort Worth hub, rippling through its operation for days and leading to more than 2,000 canceled flights, Chief Executive Doug Parker said.

    “It showed us what can happen if we have a really disruptive situation hit one of our airports. And we can’t let that happen over the holidays,” Mr. Parker told flight attendants in a town hall last week. Mr. Parker said the airline is prepared to handle anything that might arise, and there are already signs its incentive program is paying off, with lower rates of flight-attendant absences after it went into place.

    To be sure, there are still some headaches. Unlike last year, when warnings from U.S. health officials kept people at home, travelers are once again encountering the holiday crush. Airports have warned that parking lots are filling up, and the TSA has advised people to arrive early as long lines are making a comeback.

    Bigger crowds have raised fears of another wave of incidents involving disruptive passengers that have led to delayed or diverted flights—a problem that the industry has been grappling with all year. The frequency of such incidents has fallen since earlier this year, but the Federal Aviation Administration has launched over 1,000 investigations in 2021, compared with 2019 when there were just 150 such investigations.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland in a memo Wednesday directed U.S. attorneys to give priority to prosecution of crimes on aircraft that endanger the safety of passengers and crews, citing concerns about an uptick in such behaviors with millions of people traveling over the holidays. The FAA earlier this month said it had referred some three dozen incidents to the FBI for investigation.

    Ashley Brown was worried about crowds the day before Thanksgiving, so she opted to depart from Hollywood Burbank Airport, which is smaller and easier to navigate than LAX. Still, when she pulled up to the airport Wednesday morning, traffic was already gridlocked. The security line stretched out the door and onto the sidewalk.

    “I literally got in line and prayed,” she said. After a wait of about an hour, Ms. Brown said she made it to her gate minutes before the flight started boarding.

    U.S. Travel Hit Pandemic High Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday - WSJ

  • GOP Demands Answers on Biden’s 70 Flights of Border Crossers to Florida

    Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL), along with Florida’s Republican delegation, are demanding answers from President Joe Biden’s administration after they say about 70 flights filled with border crossers have landed in their state.

    The issue came to light in Florida after a 24-year-old illegal alien allegedly posed as an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) at the United States-Mexico border in order to get released into the U.S. interior. From there, the illegal alien was flown to Florida and is now charged with murdering the man who took him in, a father of four.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said he is reviewing a plan that will deny state contracts to the companies contracting with the Biden administration to fly border crossers into the state.

    In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rubio, Scott, and Florida’s Republican delegation in Congress are asking the administration to disclose how many flights of border crossers have landed in Florida, the number of border crossers onboard, and their immigration statuses.

    The lawmakers write: 

    We write with great concern over the reported transfer of migrants from our southern border into or through the State of Florida. Media accounts show that at least 70 flights that originated from border states have landed at Florida’s airports, without any information of who is on the flights and their final destination. This does not include ground transportation. [Emphasis added]

    The crisis at our southern border has been well documented. However, the transfer of illegal immigrants into our communities has been done under the cover of night and with a veil of secrecy. Our constituents are naturally concerned about potentially dangerous individuals residing in their neighborhoods. The state, local law enforcement, and those elected to represent Floridians deserve to know what the federal government is doing, especially when it is a matter of public safety. [Emphasis added]

    For these reasons, we request a full accounting of the administration’s actions on these chartered flights and ground transportation, including who is being transported, their immigration status, whether they have been tested for COVID-19 or have shown proof of vaccination, final destinations and any applicable security reviews performed. Information should also include when the transportation first took place, the number of migrants transported to date, as well as future planned or estimated travel, whether state, county or local government entities were alerted prior to arrival and any federal resources provided to assist with the migrants, and any follow-up actions, including whether a notice to appear was issued. [Emphasis added]

    Those who signed the letter with Rubio and Scott are Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), John Rutherford (R-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Gregory Steube (R-FL), Byron Donalds (R-FL), and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL).

    As Breitbart News recently reported, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working with the Biden administration to provide border crossers with free hotel rooms and free flights into the U.S., giving them the ability to bypass TSA requirements that American citizens are required to follow.

    Last week, Mayorkas said the administration expects that more than two million illegal aliens will have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 by the end of the year.

    Mayorkas did not disclose the number of illegal aliens who have successfully entered the U.S. through the southern border. Current estimates based on DHS data reveal that anywhere from 530,000 to 600,000 illegal aliens have been released into the U.S. interior by the Biden administration from January to September.

    GOP Demands Answers on Biden's Flights of Border Crossers to Florida (breitbart.com)

  • Best Buy heist: Burglars cut hole in store roof, steal merchandise ahead of Black Friday

    SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WALA) — At least two burglars cut a hole in the roof of the Best Buy store in Spanish Fort and stole a large amount of computer equipment with Black Friday just days away, police said Wednesday.

    Spanish Fort police chief John Barber told FOX10 News that the burglary occurred in the early morning hours when the store was closed. He said surveillance video shows at least two people.

    He said the thieves targeted Apple products. Barber said he did not immediately have a loss amount but added that it is substantial.

    “These are kind of the Grinches that stole Christmas, and we plan on getting them.” he said.

    According to Spanish Fort police, the burglary took place at between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Surveillance video shows two people, dressed all in black and faces covered, climbing into the store and carrying off a large amount of computer and electronics equipment.

     “They cut a significant hole into the roof, made entry into the Best Buy with a ladder that they had brought. They left a ladder there,” Barber said. “They spent a quite a bit amount of time inside the store, targeting mainly the Apple products. And also, they got into some other laptops that where in these cages.”

    Barber said this reminds him of a professional ring of thieves that hit Best Buys across the Southeast a few years ago. He was with the Mobile Police Department at the time and said criminals hit the store there and in Spanish Fort.

    Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said on a conference call with analysts just this week that theft was becoming a bigger problem – so much so that it was rattling employees. She said the company was increasing security in response.

    "This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable” she said. “We are doing everything we can to try to create an as safe as possible environment.”

    Best Buy shoppers on Wednesday expressed shock at the brazenness of the crime.

    “Somebody knew what they were doing,” said Jerry Brown, an Elberta resident who was looking for games.

    Frank Diaz, who was traveling from Memphis to Pensacola, stopped off at the store for a charger.

    “Pretty ingenious,” he said. “Not necessarily ingenious, but from what I’ve gathered, the way it was done, is very – they would just put that much effort into designing or creating something. It’s pretty shocking, though. … It’s just terrible to hear that someone would do this just two days before Black Friday.”

    Barber said the burglars spent about two hours inside the store, methodically removing valuable items. Afterward, he said, they left the ladder. Police found discarded saws, bolt cutters, drills and other tools in the store and on the roof.

    “The individuals that hit the store had planned it out,” he said. “They knew where the merchandise were in store they knew how was positioned so they knew when they were coming in how to minimize their movements. So there was a lot of planning that went into this.”

    Barber said detectives have some solid clues.

    “We have some leads, and we’re running those down currently,” he said. “I hope to put somebody in jail before Christmas – hopefully before Black Friday.”

    Best Buy heist: Burglars cut hole in store roof, steal merchandise ahead of Black Friday | Baldwin County Alabama News | fox10tv.com

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