Germany Train Driver Strike Starts Tonight

March 9, 2011 on 8:59 am | In Germany travel, ThereArePlaces.com, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel restrictions, travel warnings | Comments Off

According to ForexLive drivers of Germany’s freight trains will go on strike this evening at 19:00 GMT. Drivers of some passenger trains will join the action early tomorrow morning, although the strike action is scheduled to end at 09:00 GMT Thursday. Although this action may have only modest consequences for passenger traffic, potential extension of the strike or new instances of the strike action could be bad news for travelers, as well as the German economy.

Travelers in Germany should examine local sources for up-to-the-minute news on the strike and plan accordingly.

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Greece Travel News – A Broken Record?

July 2, 2010 on 7:18 am | In Greece Travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel restrictions | 1 Comment

According to the Wall Street Journal and a number of other sources, the sixth general strike of the year will be held in Greece next Thursday, July 8. While the support for the general strikes has been declining, they still close the country’s transportation network, which is, of course, bad news for travelers, especially those hoping to reach the Greek Islands.

Our advice: Avoid Athens next Thursday and count on public travel being unavailable.

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Flash Floods in Southern France

June 16, 2010 on 9:21 am | In Europe travel, France Travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel restrictions, travel weather warning | Comments Off

CNN International is running a detailed article on flooding that has taken place in the France region of Var, which includes the Cote d’Azur. At least 15 were killed and 12 remain missing after a series of flash floods struck the area yesterday. The town of Draguignan was hard hit as the flooding swept cars down the city’s streets.

Train service from Toulon to Saint-Raphael has been halted until Thursday (and perhaps longer) as sections of track remain underwater. In addition, numerous roads are closed due to debris and electric service remains unavailable in some sections of the region. According the AP more rain is forecast for the Var region overnight.

If you have travel plans for this area of France, we recommend that you delay them until next week, or longer.

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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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Facts on TSA’s New Full-Body Scanners

March 22, 2010 on 10:52 pm | In Terrorism and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel restrictions | 1 Comment

As most of you know by now, the Transportation Security Administration has begun deploying full-body scanners throughout an increasing number of airports in the United States and it plans to install an additional 450 advanced imaging units this year.

So far, the reception has been favorable, but adding another layer of checking always increases the time it takes to pass through security. In addition, we find that many travelers have a number of questions about the new technology, its safety, its implications for personal privacy and what does it really do. Well, we have taken a crack at providing that information for you (complete with photos of the devices and the images they can take) in our Information Guide to the TSA’s new Full-Body Scanners

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Still Need Clean Socks To Fly in U.S.

March 10, 2010 on 12:02 pm | In Terrorism and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel restrictions | Comments Off

Who would have thought that my mother’s caution to “Wear clean underwear and socks, you never know when you will be in an accident…” would be a catch phrase for air travelers in 2010. Regarldless of the other innovations in science and technology, you still need to take off your shoes to pass airport security. Moreover, the new “advanced imaging technology” used for full-body scanning will undoubtedly prove your mother right about the need for clean underwear.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the Department of Homeland Security has been unable to develop a technology that can see what’s in your shoes short of scanning your shoes once you have removed them.

If we were TSA employees, we would opt to work the early-morning shift, when the odds are better that travelers’ socks are clean. At the end of the day, toe-jam pollution at the security check point must be at critical levels. Are they sure they can’t find leading-edge technology that will allow some of those people keep their shoes on their stinky feet (and you know the travelers to whom we are politely referring)? It seems to us that developing such technology would be worthy of a Nobel Prize

If we did not love travel and the countries we visit so much, we would likely hide at home and hope that no calamity befell as we sheltered under the bed. Of course, even then we would still be wearing clean socks and underwear, so maybe we should just go to airport and explore someplace new.

In a serious note, we believe that travel is one of the elixers that will help make this world a better place and we will continue to do our part. We’d write more but we are off to JC Penney to restock our supply of socks and shorts!

By the way, see our article on Shoe and Foot Care During Travel for some great tips on taking care of your tootsies during travel.

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TSA Hand Swabs Coming Soon

February 17, 2010 on 11:23 am | In air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel restrictions | Comments Off

The Transportation Security Administration plans to begin randomly swabbing the hands of airline passengers to determine the presence of bomb making residues in an attempt to preclude potential attacks similar to the Christmas Day 2009 incident. It appears that the testing units are portable and will be used at the security checkpoints, as well as the departure gates and possibly randomly through the airport. See this article for more information.

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Speeding Through Airport Security

January 29, 2010 on 10:40 pm | In air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel restrictions | Comments Off

Last week we were passing through a major U.S. airport after an extremely long flight. Of course, we were looking ahead to a three-hour layover followed by a flight to the West Coast. Freezing rain had been predicted for later in the evening. What a day.

Well, it got even worse when we entered the security queue and found ourselves behind a group that had apparently never heard of security restrictions, how to pack luggage with security checks in mind, or acceptable behavior when in a security line. They slowed everyone down and didn’t make any friends in the process.

We thought about that a bit and decided that maybe we should write an article on how pass through security with the minimum of hassles. You can find it by following this link to article at our website ThereArePlaces.

Our advice comes from the Transportation Security Administration and if they don’t knowthe best way to speed through a security checkpoint, no one does.

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Air France’s Seating Policy For Larger Travelers

January 22, 2010 on 2:20 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news, travel restrictions | Comments Off

Air France has been reported by CNN to charge an additional fee for passengers who need to occupy two seats to travel comfortably. The Air France website has more detail about seating for passengers with a high body mass.

It appears that Air France, starting February 1, 2010, will require those passengers with a high body mass the option to choose an extra seat with 25% discount in their Voyageur cabin. The airline indicated that it would completely reimburse the fare for the extra seat if the flight departed with unoccupied seats. Although the wording of the Air France website appears somewhat equivocal and in one place describes the “…option to choose an extra seat”, the “hammer” can be found at the end of the page, where it is stated “In the interests of safety, if the flight is full and you have not reserved and additional seat, you may not be allowed to board if your build does not permit you to sit comfortably in a single seat.”

Just so you know, United Airlines appears to have a similar policy.

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New Airline Security Rules – Post 12/25/2009?

December 26, 2009 on 9:31 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel restrictions, travel warnings | Comments Off

As many of you know, a terrorist attempted to detonate an explosive device onboard a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. At this point, the design of the explosive device is under investigation, but it appears clear that the terrorist, who described himself as working at the direction of Al Qaeda, attempted to ignite an incendiary device that would have involved the plane’s fuel system, resulting in a conflagration and explosion capable of bringing down the aircraft.

As of today, December 27, 2009, the Transportation Security Administration has NOT issued any specific new directives, as a result of the situation. The only information available on the TSA website was this “Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in.”

Several international airports have been conducting increased security checks, including more frequent use of “pat-downs” to check for concealed devices that may be inert until mixed with other elements. In addition, many airlines are once again restricting carry-ons to one bag, which may not be accessed during the final hour of flight, if the flight is landing in the United States. In addition, these same airlines are requesting that personal items not be placed on the lap during the final hour of the flight. It appears that other airlines are restricting the use of blankets as covers during the final hour of flight, due to the terrorist covering himself with a blanket before he attempted to ignite the device he was carrying. Finally, many airlines are restricting passenger movements in the cabin during the final hour of flights (better head for the bathroom before this period or you may be stuck in your seat).

We will report more details on the potential for increased airline security when it happens. For now, it seems prudent to arrive at the airport early if you will be boarding an international flight for the United States.

As always, we recommend prudence when flying or when traveling away from home. While we cannot speak for others, in our opinion, the rest of the world is too important to ignore and too beautiful to disregard. We will continue to travel, as we believe that knowing more about other cultures is the best road to understanding and, eventually, peace.

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