American Airlines plays demolition derby with passengers’ wheelchairs, CLEAR is “upgrading” to facial recognition and a Southwest flight attendant rescues mother from screaming baby. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).
I have a tremendous amount of admiration (and empathy) for folks who travel with infants and small children. Whether it’s discovering a new place with a toddler or taking a new baby to meet relatives, traveling with kids can be magical…and exhausting. I especially feel for folks that have a baby with the dreaded “won’t stop crying syndrome.” While nobody enjoys the sound of babies crying in a closed space (and some completely melt down), the person who I think usually feels it the most is the parent that’s trying everything they can to calm it, but to no avail. It’s a helpless position to be in. Right before Thanksgiving, there was a woman flying alone with two small children between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City on Southwest Airlines. She was prepared for a short flight, but there were two ground delays that kept everyone stuck in the plane, on the tarmac…and she had a crying baby. After a couple hours, she was at her wits end, when one of the flight attendants offered to help and took the baby for a walk up and down the aisle in an attempt to soothe him…and it worked. She was able to rock the baby to sleep. Her response to the mother was, “any chance a mama can rest her arms, we take it.” I’m regularly struck by examples of everyday compassion in our often depersonalized world. And I love this one.
On one hand, there’s a terrific story about how an airline employee beautifully sees a passenger as a human and goes above and beyond to be kind to her. On the other hand, there’s American Airlines. I’ve known many folks over the years who had to use heavy-duty wheelchairs. They’re very expensive and usually belong to people who need to spend a fair amount of time in them every day in order to be mobile. Given that, it was shocking last week to see a video of AA baggage handlers treating wheelchairs like teenagers would a shopping cart in a deserted parking lot, pushing them down the baggage chute in an attempt to get them to hurdle over the barrier. They evidently did this, laughing, to two different wheelchairs before a passersby recorded them repeating it on a third. The CNN article states that, “according to the Paralyzed Veterans of America nonprofit, more than 31 wheelchairs were damaged, delayed or lost each day by airline workers between 2019 and 2022.” I’ve never been a big fan of AA’s customer service, at any level, but this kind of disregard is astounding.
CLEAR is a pre-clearance service that uses iris scans and fingerprints to pair you with your ID, making it one of several methods for getting a fast pass through the purgatory that is airport security. Several credit cards now provide credits for CLEAR membership, allowing folks to join at little to no cost. There are CLEAR skeptics, however. Not everyone is convinced that giving a private company biometric data is a good, or sane, idea. For those folks, CLEAR is about to get a little scarier. Back in June, the company ran afoul of the TSA, following a series of well-publicized security breaches. These ended up being harmless, but were serious enough that the government was threatening to impose ID checks on CLEAR customers…which would defeat the entire purpose of the service to begin with. In response, CLEAR is now moving to something it calls “Next Gen Identity Plus.” Although it sounds like a bunch of random, techy buzz words, it’s actually a system that will use facial recognition instead of iris scans or fingerprints, allowing customers to “not even have to break stride” when going through security. This will make the process faster and, so they tell the TSA, more reliable. I imagine it will do nothing to assuage the doubts of people concerned that the company is just another arm of government/corporate surveillance. Those folks will likely still steer CLEAR.
Many points and miles people have a special affinity for keeping the sordid details of their odd transactions out of their financial reporting. That’s partially because some activity can look similar to the shenanigans of more unseemly characters and also because there’s a fine, squishy line between “rebates” (that aren’t taxable), and income (that is). So, folks got nervous in 2021, when new reporting requirements on third party payment processors were enacted into law. Instead of having to report payments to the IRS for goods and services (via a 1099-K) that totaled $20,000 AND 200 transactions annually, the new limit would be $600, regardless of the total amount of transactions. This could affect everyone from massive processors like PayPal to small shopping portals like TopCashBack or Swagbucks, provided you received more than $600 from them in a calendar year. It seemed unlikely that all of these small and large companies would be able to accurately distinguish between “rebates” and “goods and services” and likely that there would be a some additional reporting headaches (or worse) with all of these new, small 1099-Ks. You sold your old phone on eBay for $625? Now you have a new item to add into your tax reporting at the end of the year. This new threshold was supposed to take effect for the 2022 tax year, but the IRS announced a last minute stay of execution that delayed implementation until this year. Now, in what might be an annual holiday tradition, the IRS has once again delayed applying the new rules, instead moving into a series of “transitional years” with a $5,000 threshold next year, then moving to $600 in 2025. Doctor of Credit has the details.