As crowded as airports have been over the holiday season, a new forecast predicts even more travelers will be hopping on planes in coming years.
The International Air Transport Association, a trade group, predicts that airports around the world will serve 3.6 billion fliers by 2016. That represents an average of 5 percent growth each year, adding about 800 million new fliers in four years.
But don't worry, the association's leaders recently released a vision for the airport of the future that will move all these extra passengers fast and efficiently. The catch is that more passengers will be asked to give authorities detailed background information to get pre-screened, enabling them to get through security checkpoints faster.
The Transportation Security Administration already operates such a program -- known as PreCheck -- but only a fraction of the 1.8 million passengers who fly across the country each day use it.
"We encourage other governments to introduce a known-traveler program into the arena," said Perry Flint, an association spokesman. "We simply need to get more efficient."
Passengers will also benefit from advances in screening machines that will be able to evaluate liquids, aerosols and gels without having passengers remove them from carry-on bags.
The goal will be to keep security lines from delaying passengers more than 10 minutes, Mr. Flint said.
By 2017, the association predicts travelers won't have to remove shoes, belts and watches. That's a huge deal because an association survey found that removing shoes is the second-biggest gripe among travelers, followed by long screening lines.
More firearms found
The variety and quantity of firearms discovered at the nation's airports continued to grow in 2012.
As of Nov. 30, the Transportation Security Administration had uncovered about 1,500 firearms in carry-on bags and in the clothes of would-be passengers in 2012. That's an increase of about 14 percent over the 1,320 weapons discovered by the TSA last year. The rise could partly be explained by an increase in the number of air passengers.
In the first nine months of the year, the number of passengers on U.S. carriers grew 1.3 percent compared with the same period in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The higher gun count could also mean TSA officers are doing a better job of screening passengers, TSA spokesman David Castelveter said. "I'd like to believe we are being more vigilant in intercepting weapons as well," he said.
The TSA does not arrest passengers with guns but instead alerts local law enforcement. With a few exceptions, passengers are banned from carrying firearms and other weapons into the cabin of a commercial plane.
American Airlines has rudest workers, survey says
Almost everyone who flies often has run into a rude airline worker. But which airline has the rudest employees of them all?
According to a survey of more than 1,000 travelers, American Airlines tops the list, with 25 percent of fliers saying the Fort Worth carrier has the rudest personnel. United Airlines came in second (21 percent), followed by Delta Air Lines (18 percent) and US Airways (12 percent), according to the survey by travel website AirfareWatchdog.
American Airlines declined to comment on the survey.
Although smaller airlines such as Alaska and Frontier were ranked at the bottom of the list, the website's founder, George Hobica, said the rudeness level isn't tied to the size of the airline.
Instead, he said older workers for long-established airlines are probably more jaded, having gone through bankruptcies, layoffs, pay cuts and lost pensions.
"It's not really surprising," Mr. Hobica said. "The older worker has had a rougher ride."