Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Rick Steves on Rethinking the Massive Cost of Airport Security

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Great post today on Facebook by Rick Steves about how we need to do a rational job of assigning costs and benefits to our Airport Security apparatus.   Although I agree with him I think a lot of the blame is with … those of us who continue to irrationally fear terrorism more than the *hundreds* of other greater risks around us, many of which we could mitigate very cheaply.   For example a smoker is creating fairly substantial death risk for themselves, and could live longer simply by spending *less* on smoking.   In other areas like auto accidents (which kill hundreds of times the number of people killed in terror incidents), we could simply make sure more people buckle up and fewer drive drunk.   The cost of these measures is trivial but the lives saved would be vastly more than we save with our TSA security measures.

Of course a challenge Rick is not addressing is that the irrationality many of us apply to this topic means that if we DO have terror incidents it will discourage many from flying at all.   This irrational result means that it might actually be good policy to provide more anti-terror measures than you would apply in a more rational world, because people’s fear might wind up creating large scale problems with the global transportation system.   Thus we might need to spend billions more than is rational in order to prevent losing tens of billions from irrational economic decisions.

Still, the moral of the TSA story is that our safety is coming at a cost that may not be sustainable.   Therefore we should start educating the public to be more rational in how they assign risk and reward, and start working towards sustainable safety spending rather than excessive and irrational political spending programs.

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Rick Steves on Facebook:
I’ve been through a lot of airports lately, and I have to say, when people joke about TSA meaning “thousands standing around,” it has a ring of truth. In November, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that we spend about $8 billion a year on scanning machines, all that time-consuming checking, and employing those people who stand between us and our departure gate. And that cost doesn’t even consider the valuable time wasted by travelers who need to allot extra time to cover surprise delays at airport security.

 Sure, we need to spend some money and time on security. But does anyone in government have the nerve to raise their hand and ask, “Could we lighten up here a bit?” or even “Aren’t we going a bit overboard there?” Bloomberg Businessweek reports that entire years go by (such as 2011) when TSA doesn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airplane. And then there’s s this staggering statistic: “In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 annual deaths worldwide, outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq — the same number…that occur in bathtubs in the US each year.”

 

Following 9/11, there was, understandably, a push to strengthen our airport security measures. But these efforts may be costing us even more lives. According to Cornell University researchers cited in Bloomberg Businessweek, after 9/11, frightened travelers switching from flights to drives resulted in over 200 more traffic fatalities every month. In the long term, due to security hassles, about 5 percent fewer people fly than used to, resulting in even more road fatalities. In other words, far more people have died on the road as an indirect result of 9/11 than actually died on 9/11.

 

Maybe it’s time to come to grips with the risk of terrorism and finally put it in a rational perspective. Many will say, “If TSA and all the security saves just one life, it will be worth it.” The way I see it, wasting money wastes lives. Intimidating people into driving instead of flying wastes lives. A nation can reach a point where its passion for showboat security designed to make people feel safe actually kills them. Security is good, but a cost-benefit awareness is simply smart. What do you think?

TSA Precheck Program = Sensible Security.

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

TSA’s new precheck program is in early stages and not available to everybody, but if you are asked to join it’s probably a good idea. Here’s David Pogue, the New York Time’s technology writer, favorably reviewing the process:

Although TSA’s PreCheck is free you will have to “opt in” and only certain flyers are offered this opportunity at this time.
Look for a popup when visiting your airline’s Web site.

Pogue reports that “you can also get in to eCheck by joining a similar program like Sentri, Global Entry or Nexus”.

Read more here from David Pogue about the TSA Precheck Program

TSA Precheck Program from TSA

TSA Pre™ is currently available for eligible passengers flying on participating airlines that have opted in at the following airport checkpoint locations:

  • Atlanta (ATL): T-South Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Chicago (ORD): Terminal 3, Checkpoint 8 (American only)
  • Dallas (DFW): Terminal C, Checkpoint C30 (American only)
  • Detroit (DTW): Checkpoint 2 on the ticketing level (Delta only)
  • John F. Kennedy (JFK): Terminal 8 Main Checkpoint (American only)
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA): Delta Main Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Las Vegas (LAS): D Gates First Class Checkpoint (American and Delta)
  • Los Angeles (LAX): TSA Pre✓™ screening lane (American only)
  • Miami (MIA): D2 Checkpoint (American only)
  • Minneapolis (MSP): Lindbergh Terminal, Checkpoint 4 (American and Delta)
  • Seattle (SEA): Checkpoint 5 North (Alaska only)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC): Terminal 2 Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Washington D.C. (DCA): Terminal B, South Checkpoint for gates 10-22 (Delta and Active Duty U.S. Military only)

In 2012, TSA plans to expand TSA Pre™ for eligible passengers flying on participating airlines at the following airport locations:

  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

TSA plans to continue expanding the TSA Pre™ concept to include additional airlines, as well as airports that participate in CBP’s Global Entry program, once operationally ready.

 

 

(Jan 2012) Airline Rules from US Department of Transportation

Friday, January 27th, 2012

The second phase of the new airline passenger protections are now in effect.   These rules are designed to solve problems consumers have faced for years regarding cancellations of tickets and flights and pricing problems.

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

Generally these seem to be a step forward where regulations will simply make the systems more transparent, although one can make a strong case that the new notifications and 24 hour purchase rule will increase costs for the airlines – costs that will need to be passed along to consumers.

Spirit Airlines has another objection to the new rules, which they assert require them to hide government taxes in their fares. For more about this challenge see their special website here:  keepmyfareslow.org

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“New Rules” full Press Release from the Department of Transportation:

DOT 111-11
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Expanded Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect

WASHINGTON – New consumer protections for airline passengers established by the U.S. Department of Transportation go into effect today, and will make flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers nationwide. The new consumer protections, finalized earlier this year, include requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost, increase compensation provided to passengers bumped from oversold flights, and provide passengers greater protections from lengthy tarmac delays.

“The Obama Administration believes consumers have the right to be treated fairly when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “The Department of Transportation’s new passenger protections will help ensure that air travelers receive the respect they deserve before, during and after their flight.”

Effective today, airlines will be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost.  Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.  Under the new rules, airlines must now prominently disclose all optional fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating.

The new rules also double the amount of money passengers are eligible to be compensated for in the event they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight.  Previously, bumped passengers were entitled to cash compensation equal to the one-way value of their tickets, up to $400, if the airline was able to get them to their destination within a short period of time (within 1 to 2 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 1 to 4 hours for international flights).  If they were delayed for a lengthy period of time (more than two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights), they were entitled to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $800.  Under the new rule, bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $650, while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the one-way value of their tickets, up to $1,300.  Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years.

The Department of Transportation’s new rule also expands the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays to cover the international flights of foreign airlines at U.S. airports, and establishes a hard four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports.  It also extends the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights, currently in place only at large-hub and medium-hub airports, to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports as well. All carriers subject to the tarmac rule will be required to report lengthy tarmac delays to DOT.  In all cases, exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.   Carriers must also ensure that passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.  

Additional measures under the new rule will take effect January 24, 2012, including:

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

The final rule, proposed rule and comments are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics – a great online resource

Friday, November 18th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am often amazed at the resources that pop up online without much fanfare.  One for Transportation is the Research and Innovation Technology Administration, thankfully shortened to  “RITA” , which is part of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at BTS.gov .     Here you’ll find flight, airline, and airport statistics provided by the US Government that include everything from flight delays to jobs in the industry.   If you are a researcher this is an essential resource, and even travelers will find the information very interesting.   Did you know, for example, that extra baggage fees were $887 million – almost a billion dollars –  in the second quarter of 2011.  This is a lot of extra revenue for the airlines and also suggests an obvious budget cutting travel tip – travel light and use a carry on rather than checked baggage!     You won’t save $887 million, but one of the reasons that number is so high is that the extra baggage fees have become exceptionally high over the last few years as many flights do NOT provide any free checked bags.   My personal experience has been that travelling light has many, many advantages.    For example on our 2010 family trip to Venice, Italy we decided to walk to our hotel from the train station rather than hire a water taxi.   This was a charming walk because we only had one bag each to roll along, with more it would not have been possible.

 

Nice Printable Travel Guides from PBS Travel: Burt Wolf’s “Travel and Traditions”

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Although some appear a bit dated, PBS’ travel host Burt Wolf has some great printable guides for the many cities he has featured on his PBS’ Travel show “Travels and Traditions with Burt Wolf” As an example see this Boston Guide in PDF form: Boston by Burt

Some will obviously prefer large guidebooks that have a lot more information, and my personal approach is to plan my trips with a file featuring all the things I want to try to see, cut and pasted in from pre-trip surfing.   However Burt’s guides offer a very nicely organized, compact alternative to heavy travel guides, especially if only be staying in a city for a short time.

PBS’s Travel hosts are many and varied and in my opinion some are better suited to different travel styles.   Young adventurous budget travelers may relate best to “Globe Trekker”, though I also find it the most entertaining of the shows.   Legendary European expert and guide Rick Steves is by far the best known on the PBS Travel team, and I highly recommend his website for  great “insider” travel tips you may not find elsewhere.

Prohibited Items in Carry on Luggage

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Even a frequent traveler can get confused and confounded by the rules regarding what you can put in carry-on luggage, in checked baggage, and what you cannot bring onto the airplane.    It’s all getting a bit mathematical, so don’t forget these two important rules:

3-1-1  Rule.    This regards LIQUIDS in CARRY ON luggage and means that you must place all liquids and gels in containers that are UNDER 3 ounces, place them in a SINGLE clear plastic bag or pouch that is ONE QUART or less.  Unless you travel very rarely it’s a great idea to have separate a separate stash of tiny bottle of shampoo, toothpaste, and other personal care items etc so you don’t have to reorganize too much every time you go.   Note the rule generally includes medicines in liquid form.   I think there may be an exception for medicine, but this is probably more hassle than it’s usually worth.

45 inch rule:  Although it’s routinely not followed, your carry on measurement in inches is supposed to be 45.    e.g. a bag 12x13x20 = 45 inches should be fine, where a bag 15x15x20 = 50 is technically too large.

I just learned that  “gel insoles” for shoes are NOT allowed in carry on or in your shoes *unless* the gel is built into the shoe.     Also surprising to me was that scissors are allowed in carry on as long as the blades are less than 4″.   That said I wouldn’t try to bring on a pair as I’m guessing many TSA folks would confiscate them as they did with considerable fanfare when they took my daughter’s plastic barbie scissors some years back, undoubtedly landing her in some TSA database for life or on the  9 year old, 4′ 2″ watch list.

For those of us who prefer not to check baggage it’s getting a bit harder to pack because now any prohibited “carry on” items can’t simply be stuck in the checked bag.     As with the 3-1-1 rule you need to be cautious or you’ll wind up getting valuable items or expensive liquids taken away.

I’m about to make a trip from Reno to Philadelphia and not sure if my electric shaver is allowed in carry on – I think yes, but no mention of that object at the TSA site.

TSA Official Website “Prohibited Items” lists are HERE

TSA Tips for Travelers

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The TSA Website regularly offers features and tips on travel, and you’ll be better prepared if you check in before trips.     Rules are starting to stabilize after the dramatic security changes created by the 9/11 terror attacks on the USA, but unless you fly regularly you may be unpleasantly surprised by some of the rules.

The most important change since 9/11 has been the liquids rules, which restrict the amount of liquid you can bring through security.    I think the simplest approach if you check bags is to place your gels and liquids there, but if you need to carry them be sure they conform to the rules or you may loose that expensive new shampoo you just bought for the trip.

Liquids rules from TSA – remember it’s 3-1-1 3 ounce or LESS container in a SINGLE ONE QUART clear bag.    You may place several containers in the same quart clear bag.

Airports to Train Stations: Europe

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

European Airports to train stations:

Here, from Eurail.com , is an overview of frequently used airport to train station connections.     Unlike much of the USA where Airports generally assume you’ll have a car or take a taxi, in Europe there is a robust system of train / airport connections where trains, subways and other mass transportation are linked directly into airports.    Often you can take a train right from the airport to the city.

Note that often (but not always) the connection is free for Eurail Passholders, exceptions are noted with asterisk  *.      This chart is current as of April 2010, for the latest visit the Eurail website:

Airport Station Link
Ajaccio Campo dell’oro Ajaccio CFC Bus, every 20 minutes*
Amsterdam Schiphol Amsterdam Centraal Train, every 15 minutes
Athens/E.Venizelos Athens Central Railway Station (Stathmos Larissis) Train, every 30 minutes
Athens/E.Venizelos Korinthos (New Railway Station) Train, every 2 hours
Barcelona El Prat Barcelona Sants Train, every 30 minutes
Berlin Schönefeld Berlin Ostbahnhof/Zoologischer Garten Train (S-Bahn) every 10 minutes
Berlin Tegel Berlin Zool. Garten Bus 109* or X9*
Bern Airport Bern Hbf Bus-shuttle*
Bologna Marconi Bologna Centrale ATC Bus 91, every 15 minutes*
Bordeaux Mérignac Bordeaux St. Jean Bus*
Bourgas Int’l Bourgas BDZ Bus 15*
Bratislava MR Stefanik Bratislava SZD City bus 24*
Bremen Bremen Hbf Tram No. 5*
Brussels Nationaal Brussels North, Central, South Train, every 20 minutes
Brussels South Charleroi Bus 68*
Bucharest Henry Coanda Bucuresti Piata Victoriei bus 783*
Budapest Ferihegy 1 Budapest Nyugati Train, every 20 minutes
Budapest Ferihegy 2 Budapest Bus service*
Cagliari Elmas Cagliari ARST-Bus*
Carcassonne Salvaza Carcassonne SNCF Bus CART #7*
Clermont-Ferrand Aulnat Clermont-Ferrand Bus service*
Copenhagen Kastrup København H Train, every 10 minutes
Copenhagen Kastrup Malmö Train every 20 minutes
Dresden Dresden Hbf Train (S-Bahn) every 30 minutes
Dublin Dublin Connolly, Dublin Heuston Airlink Bus*
Düsseldorf Düsseldorf Hbf Train S7
Eindhoven Airport Eindhoven Hermes Bus 19*
Euroairport Basel SBB Euroair-Bus*
Euroairport Freiburg Hbf SGB-Airbus*
Euroairport Mulhouse SNCF Euroair-Bus*
Faro Faro Bus*
Firenze Vespucci Firenze SMN Bus ATAF 62*
Frankfurt Rhein/Main Frankfurt am Main Hbf Train, every 15 minutes
Genève Cointrin Genève Train, every 15 minutes
Genova C. Colombo Genova Principe Volabus 12/14*
Gothenburg Landvetter Göteborg C Express bus service every 15-30 minutes*
Graz Thalerhof Graz Hbf ÖBB Bus service*
Hahn Frankfurt am Main Hbf Bus (Ryanair/Bohr)*, every hour
Hamburg Hamburg Hbf AirportCity Bus*
Hannover Langenhagen Hannover Hbf Train (S-Bahn) every 30 minutes
Helsinki Vantaa Helsinki Bus 615 or a Finnair bus*
Köln/Bonn Apt Köln Hbf Train (S-Bahn) every 20 minutes
Köln/Bonn Apt Bonn Hbf Express Service Bus # 670*
Leipzig/Halle Leipzig Hbf, Halle(S) Hbf Train, every 30 mins
Linz Blue Danube Linz Hbf ÖBB Bus service*
Lisbon Lisboa Cais do Sodre Aero bus*
Ljubljana Brnik Ljubljana Bus service*
Luxembourg Findel Luxembourg Gare Central Luxair bus, every hour*
Lyon St. Exupéry Lyon Part Dieu, Lyon Perrache Bus: Navette Aéroport*
Maastricht/Aachen Aachen Hermes Bus 420*
Maastricht/Aachen Maastricht Hermes Bus 421*
Madrid Barajas Madrid Chamartin Metro*
Malaga Malaga Train, every 15 minutes
Marseille Provence Marseille St. Charles Bus, every 20 minutes*
Milan Linate Milano Centrale Bus ATM # 73*
Milan Malpensa Milano Centrale Bus: Malpensa Shuttle*
Milan Malpensa Milano Bovisa and Milano Cadorna Malpensa Express train*
Munich F.J.Strauss München Hbf Train (S-Bahn) every 10 minutes
Nantes Atlantique Nantes SNCF TAN Air Bus*
Naples Capodichino Napoli Pza. Garibaldi Bus # 14, every 20 minutes*
Nice Cote d’Azur Nice Ville Bus #23*
Oslo Gardermoen Oslo Sentral Train (Airport Express and NSB Regional train)*
Paris Charles De Gaulle Paris Nord RER Line B
Paris Orly Paris Austerlitz; Versailles RER Line C (Pont de Rungis)*
Pisa Galileo Galilei Firenze SMN Train
Pisa Galileo Galilei Pisa Centrale Train
Porto Carneiro Porto Campanhã Train every 20 minutes*
Rimini Miramare Rimini Centrale ATAM Bus # 9*
Roma Fiumicino Roma Termini train every 30 minutes, only 1st class  Passes are valid
Rotterdam Zestienhoven Rotterdam Centraal RET bus # 33*
Salzburg, W.A. Mozart Salzburg Hbf City Bus 77 (Obus)*
Sofia Airport Sofia Central Railway Station Bus 84*
Stockholm Arlanda Stockholm C Train, every 15 minutes
Stuttgart Echterdingen Stuttgart Hbf Train (S-Bahn) every 10-20 minutes
Verona Villafranca Verona Porta Nuova APTS Bus, bay # 39*
Vienna Schwechat Wien-Nord, Wien-Mitte Train (S-Bahn), every 30 minutes
Vienna Schwechat Wien-Mitte CAT (City Airport Train) every 30 minutes*
Zürich Zürich Hb Train, every 15 minutes

Iceland Volcano Delays Thousands of Flights

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Volcanic ash, which represents a potential severe danger to aircraft engines, continues to pour from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.     Under some circumstances the ash can damage jet engines and they will stop completely,  creating the potential for catastrophic failures and accidents.    For this reason many flights throughout Europe were cancelled yesterday and schedules remain in flux today.      Flights around the world are affected by the snarled airline traffic in Eurupe.

As CNN Reports it remains unclear when the travel hazard will diminish enough for normal flight schedules to resume.

FAA Flight Delay Map

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The FAA Website provides a nice quick map check of general flight delays around the USA.   The FAA USA flight delay  map is here. For detailed information it is generally best to consult your airline rather than this map or even Airport information which seems to sometimes lag the Airline website reports by many minutes or even hours.     Also, this map is only about general delays that affect the airports – there will also be specific airline/flight related delays that do not show up here.

Contacting your airline for delay information is especially important if you are travelling on international flights to or from the USA when the delays can be longer and of more  inconvenience to you.

Airline Phone Numbers and Airline Websites

A neat trick to find quick flight information is to use Google’s search box shortcut.       Typing in  Airline NameFlight Number  at Google will give you  flight schedule / arrival / delay information.

For an example click here:    United Airline 22

You can even abbreviate the airline to it’s two letter code as in    “UA 22”    for United Airlines flight 22.