Volcano 1, Air Travelers 0

April 21, 2010 on 9:27 am | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news, travel restrictions | 1 Comment

The Eruption of the volcano in Iceland continues to make the news, but the emphasis seems to be on how much money the airlines lost, but not on the financial discomfort of the airline passengers!

While we are sensitive to the plight of the airlines and realize that their losses due to schedule disruption are staggering for an industry that has suffered during the recent economic downturn, the plight of passengers during this incident is equally important. We are not sure that all of the numbers we have seen for cancelled flights are correct. In addition, we cannot imagine that the airlines are losing as much money as stated in the press, since the loss numbers per day should equate with revenues on days when their planes are flying and the numbers just don’t seem to work out.

However, we have read that 95,000 flights were cancelled due to the danger of flying through clouds filled with ash from the erupting volcano. If we calculate that just 50 people were scheduled to fly on each of these flights, then we could safely assume that at least 4.75 million passengers had their travel plans changed by the eruptions. Let’s figure that half of these were starting their journey and could return to their homes disappointed that they were not able to start their travels. This means that over 2.375 million passengers were stranded away from home, waiting for a return flight to the airport from which they departed (or one nearby).

Certainly, some number of passengers might have been able to remedy this situation by taking alternative transport. However, there were other situations, where the only remedy was air transportation, for example for long-distance travelers returning to the United States, Australia or other countries. In addition, not all travelers have the financial resources to buy a train or a boat ticket after they have paid for an airline ticket and paid for hotels and meals during their travels. Instead, they simply have to wait until they can be accommodated by their airline on a future flight to the desired destination.

The problem here is that if you have purchased a ticket for air travel and the airline cancels your flight, you go to the back of the queue for the next flight to your destination. Yes, you read that right. Passengers who purchased tickets (have reservations) for the next flight out are given precedence over those who were ticketed for a previous flight that was cancelled.

In fact, many airlines were recommending that holders of tickets for cancelled flight book new reservations (buy new tickets) on another flight and submit their old tickets for reimbursment due to the cancellation. We don’t know about you, but we have never seen the reimbursement process take less than six weeks. It is likely that some travelers will spend several days, or perhaps longer, waiting to be rebooked on a flight, because they cannot afford to purchase another ticket.

Now you know why some news reports indicate that it may take weeks to clear up the travel problems generated by the volcano’s eruptions!

We understand the logic of the airlines decision, but suggest that the strategy was put in place to deal with momentary and minor changes in schedule due to weather or aircraft requiring service, not for major disruptions such as volcanic ash. Perhaps this incident will lead to a change in the rules. We certainly hope so. Of course, the airlines are not do be undone – this morning we noticed that some are considering suing the national air traffic control agencies for banning flights when it was not really necessary. Seems a dangerous plank to walk, but there is no shame when you are an airline.

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Europe Held Hostage by a…Volcano!

April 15, 2010 on 8:33 am | In Copenhagen travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Germany travel, Ireland travel, London travel, Netherlands travel, Paris Travel, Scotland travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, england travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 1 Comment

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano (located near the island’s south coast, approximately 149 kilometers (92 miles) southeast of Reykjavik) has the potential to cause much damage to the country and the world’s climate. Today, however, the volcano’s cloud of steam and smoke, spread across Western Europe and the UK by prevailing winds, has become a major hazard to air travel.

Many of the airports in Europe, particularly those along the western coast zone of Europe, have closed in response to the threat that the volcanic cloud poses. Concentrations of volcanic ash and dust can decrease visibility during flights at higher altitudes and damage or cause engine shutdowns in jet-powered aircraft at any altitude.

For detailed information on the event and the response, see this article in the Wall Street Journal.

For some great photos of the volcano and detailed information on the eruption,see this excellent presentation from the Detroit Free Press.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland has created a major problem for all air travelers in Europe, as well as those planning on flying to Europe. The length of the eruption and the wind patterns can vary and there is no easy way to tell when air traffic will resume normal patterns. If you are planning on traveling to or in Europe in the next week, be sure to contact your airline, well in advance, to see what information they can offer. If you are in Europe and trying to return home, this will be a frustrating week, as volcanic eruptions are one of those situations beyond the control of the airlines or anyone else.

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Oversleeping – On A Flight?

April 12, 2010 on 9:14 am | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, international travel, things travelers need to know | 3 Comments

Today we read an interesting article in the Telegraph about a passenger who fell asleep during an international flight and woke up to find himself and the plane in an…airport hangar. Apparently, the cabin crew did not notice that he was asleep on board the plane. The plane and sleeping passenger were ferried to a maintenance hangar where he was awakened by a mechanic an hour and half later! He was, then, taken back to the terminal, allowed to claim his luggage and bid goodbye.

This fellow doesn’t know how lucky he was. After all, recently one U.S. airline announced that it would be charging for carry-on luggage, up to $40 per item. RyanAir has once again been making moves that it would implement its “pee fee”, also known as the “bowel bond” to use the lavatories on its fleet of airplanes. Can it be very long until the airlines charge you to sleep on their fleets of “luxury” vehicles and for other related services?

Let’s see – not only did this guy fall asleep on the flight (let’s say that is worth $50) but he did not disembark at the appropriate time (let’s say that is worth another $50), he had to have someone awaken him (easily $25) and was personally ferried back to the terminal ($50) where he claimed his luggage late (another $25). If the carrier he flew (Air Canada) had charged for all of this personalized “service”, they could have gathered another $200.

On the other hand, how could the cabin crew have missed a sleeping passenger and transported him to a secure area of the airport? Hmm, I just received a message from Air Canada charging me $75 for asking that question.

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Natural Catastrophes and Travel

February 28, 2010 on 8:47 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, international travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel warnings, vacation travel | Comments Off

As many of you may have read, Chile was struck with a massive earthquake late last week, while severe storms struck Europe this weekend, both natural events causing significant deaths and destruction. Our hearts go out to the residents of Chile and those of the European countries who are suffering from these natural disasters.

All travelers should have a mental checklist prepared for those circumstances where an event beyond your control occurs in an area in which are are traveling. Many catastrophes, such as storms, are often predictable and when you are “on the road” you should check the local weather on a daily basis. Doing so will let you know whether your plans are advisable or if you should stay put for a day or two. While most of you travel by schedule, there is no sense heading to an area that is predicted to have severe weather. Instead, cancel the reservation for your next night and find one where you currently are lodged, if you regard it as a safe destination. Always ask locals for advice – they likely have seen this problem before.

In the case of earthquakes, there is simply nothing you can do to avoid being in an earthquake. Instead, be sure to read the evacuation notices and plans posted in most hotel rooms. In addition, be sure to travel with a small flashlight for use in emergencies. Next, stick the flashlight and your room key in a pocket in your pants, along with your wallet and keep them near your bed while sleeping and the same goes for your shoes. If you need to evacuate during the night, just slip on our pants, shoes and a jacket and head out, knowing you have your money and identification, as well as a light. Many recommend keeping a bottle of water in your other pocket, backpack or purse. In other words, the Boy Scouts had it right with their “Be Prepared” motto and travelers should do the same.

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Avoid JFK Airport During 2010 Travel Season

November 30, 2009 on 12:37 pm | In United States travel, air travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings, vacation travel | Comments Off

An item in the Federal Register in October was missed the major news wires, but anyone planning travel using JFK Airport in New York in 2010 should reconsider their routing. The Port Authority will remove and, then construct a runway to completley replace current runway 13R/31L. Unfortunately, this is the airport’s main runway and handles 30 percent of the facility’s traffic and will be unavailable for use during this period. The rehab job will run from March 1 through Novemeber 15 of 2010 (if it stays on schedule), although the travel flow may improve later in the reconstruction. Read more about it here or just scan the paragraph below for an overview.

If you are planning international travel through JFK next year, consider taking another route. If you cannot avoid another route, make sure your have a significant amount of time between connections.

Beginning in March 2010, there will be runway and airfield
construction at JFK that will temporarily affect operations at the
airport. Runway 13R/31L is the airport’s most frequently used and
longest runway. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port
Authority) indicates the runway historically accommodates a significant
percentage of the annual air traffic operations at JFK, particularly
departures. The Port Authority plans to resurface the runway with
concrete and widen it to accommodate new large aircraft and to help
prevent ice ingestion. In addition, the Port Authority will install new
runway lighting, electrical infrastructure, and a new electrical feeder
system to the runway. The Port Authority opted for a more extensive
rehabilitation project to provide for a 40-year design life by
surfacing with concrete instead of an 8-year design life with asphalt;
however, the project will render Runway 13R/31L unavailable from March
1 until June 30, 2010. The western two-thirds of the runway will reopen
July 1, but its use will be limited under some weather and operating
conditions, primarily because some high-speed runway turnoffs and
navigational aids (NAVAIDS) will be unavailable until later in the
construction period. On September 15, Runway 4L/22R will close until
September 30 to resurface its intersection with Runway 13R/31L. The
entire Runway 13R/31L and its associated NAVAIDS will be fully
functional on November 15, 2010.

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