More Airlines Banned from European Union Airspace.

March 31, 2010 on 9:11 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | 1 Comment

Just so you know, this is NOT an April Fool’s Day article.

Earlier today, we noticed that the European Union had updated its list of airlines banned from operating within EU airspace.

We clicked through to the actual list to see if there were any newsworthy additions – but found no major brands in the “banned” category. Most of the airlines that were banned were from countries having difficulty evolving their air transport systems, aircraft, and operating services to the complex and often confusing standards set by various authorities around the world.

The civil aviation authorities of the Member States of the European Community are only able to inspect aircraft of airline that operate flights to and from Community airports. The inspections are random and not comprehensive, meaning that there may be some airlines still operating that do not meet the standards and should be banned, but their flight equipment has not yet been checked. In addition, some of these airlines would be permitted to exercise traffic rights by using leased aircraft from an air-carrier not subject to an operating ban, provided that the relevant safety standards were complied with (sounds worrying to us).

We suspect that many airlines operating in the Western Hemisphere would also be banned from operating in Europe, but these were not on the list because the aircraft used by these suspect organizations are not capable of reaching European airspace from their home bases.

We take airline safety very seriously. And examine lists like these to help you make safe travel choices, which is why we spend time looking through air safety lists from jurisdictions around the world that we cover at ThereArePlaces. However, we found a few unusual names in the European Commission list, ones made even more unique when you consider that making the list is based on the notion that the airline was banned from operating due to safety violations. So, without further introduction here are some airline names from the banned list that we think corporate planners might want to reconsider.

Leading the way in the corporate names of shame for banned airlines are “Safe Air Company” from Sierra Leone and “Air Trust” from the Republic of Kazakhstan – who knew? We would have to think long and hard before we bought tickets for travel on “Destiny Air Services” (Sierra Leone again), or “Golden Rule” (Kyrgyz Republic).

In addition, some of the runner-ups are quite interesting. “Air Rum” from Sierra Leone, does not quite instill the sense of safety and security one would hope for while flying. Perhaps “Zest Airways” in the Republic of the Philippines forgot to use….um zest in their flight safety activities. We had not thought about showing bravado during air travel, but perhaps “Valor Air” (Kyrgyz Republic) knows something we didn’t, at least until they appeared on the European Commission banned list. Not to be left out, there is, apparently, an airline company named “Aviation Technology Innovators” (Philippines), although we are now wondering just what kind of innovation they made to get their service banned.

Of course, we have neglected to comment on the airlines named Scat, and Dames, but you just have to stop at some point. By the way, some of the airline names were brilliant. For instance, we were impressed by the name “Silverback Cargo Freighters” of Rwanda, thinking this a great name, but the European Commission list helped us to realize that airline names are most often unrelated to the safety of their services.

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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 Expanding Use of Explosive Trace Detection

March 5, 2010 on 1:17 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel industry, travel news | Comments Off

Today, the TSA announced an expansion of its use of Explosive Trace Detection (ETD). The text of their press release follows.

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that it is expanding the random use of Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) technology at airports nationwide as an additional layer of security.

“Explosive Trace Detection technology is a critical tool in our ability to stay ahead of evolving threats to aviation security,” said TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. “Expanding the use of this technology at checkpoints and at departure gates greatly enhances security to keep the traveling public safe.”

Since the Christmas Day failed attack TSA has increased its random use of ETD technology within security checkpoints to screen passengers’ hands and carry-on luggage. In addition, TSA piloted the use of ETD technology in both the checkpoint queue and boarding areas for two weeks at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Orlando International Airport, and Pitt-Greenville and Coastal Carolina Regional Airports in North Carolina.

Passengers can now expect to see the increased random use of ETD technology in areas where TSA currently conducts screening such as the security checkpoint, as well as in the checkpoint queue, and boarding areas. Officers may swab a piece of luggage or passengers’ hands, then use ETD technology to test for explosives. The swab is placed inside the ETD unit which analyzes the content for the presence of potential explosive residue. To ensure the health of travelers, screening swabs are disposed of after each use. Since it will be used on a random basis, passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport or each time they travel.

To date, the Department has awarded $15 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for 400 fixed ETD units. Additionally, President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget prioritizes key investments in aviation security, including $39 million to purchase approximately 800 portable ETD machines.

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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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Negotiating Airport Security Checkpoints When Traveling With Kids

February 5, 2010 on 5:45 pm | In air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, vacation travel | 1 Comment

ThereArePlaces has added two important articles to our section on Things Travelers Need to Know about air travel. The two articles cover how to prepare for airport security if you will be traveling with kids, while the second is how to do the same when traveling with children with disabilities. ThereArePlaces based both articles on information provided, in part, by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

We hope these articles will help parents and kids get through the security checkpoints with less aggravation than seems to be the norm.

Click for the ThereArePlaces article on Parents, Kids and Airport Security Checkpoints

Click for the ThereArePlaces article on Children With Disabilities and Airport Security Checkpoints

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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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New TSA Air Travel Security Measures

January 3, 2010 on 11:33 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | 1 Comment

On January 3, 2010 the TSA announced that it had issued new security directives to all United States and International air carriers with inbound flights to the United States, effective January 4, 2010.

The TSA statement continued “The new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners.
Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights.”

Although the TSA announcement did not specify particular actions, we understand that passengers arriving from Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Cuba will require pat-down body searches and have carry-on baggage hand-searched.

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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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New Random Search of Air Travelers – It Could be Worse

March 18, 2009 on 9:40 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news | Comments Off

An article in USA Today reported  the newspaper had obtained a government memo indicating that a new, more aggressive screening effort was being undertaken by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).   This is not the usual inspections while you wait in line going through security, but searches of passengers randomly selected just before they board their plane for departure.  The TSA has indicated that this action is not related to a specific security threat, but just another layer of security to protect the flying public.

I do not know about you, but I calculate boarding time very carefully and pretty much know when the doors for a flight will open and boarding will begin.  Just before this occasion, I scurry to the closest airport bathroom in hopes that this stop will allow me to avoid using the “smellatory” that serves as a lavatory on airplanes.  I suppose they clean them every million miles whether they need to or not, but would not bet with you on this belief.  While I am on the subject, guys, how can you be such poor shots?  There is usually more pee on the seat, the walls and the floor than there could possibly be in the toilet’s waste reservoir! Of course, all of those people entering the restrooms wearing nothing but their socks, do help soak up the mess, unfortunately, those stockings and feet are usually resting on the back of my seat sometime during the flight.

But back to the subject – So, I can see it now.  There I am dancing around and getting ready for my mad rush to the toilet before boarding (after all, I have to get back in time to board as early as possible), when TSA grabs me and wants to do a search.  Oh great.  Talk about becoming and instant pariah. 

You know that half the people on the plane are going to feel sorry for you.  The other half will worry that the TSA guys were too incompetent to figure out where you had hidden that for which they were searching.  Of course, by the end of the flight, everyone will believe that you are a terrorist and a cunning one at that. Not to mention, that during the flight, Grandma Jenkins, making her first flight at the ripe age of  109, will be giving you the hairy eyeball – you commie, terrorist!  (This is beginning to sound like Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay.)

On the other hand, who is really going to want to sit next to you after the TSA besmirches your reputation - so you might have an empty seat next to you, as a small boon for your embarassment.

I am all for stringent security and I have to admit that TSA is better than some systems I have witnessed. 

A few years ago I was flying out of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for Zurich, when the poor fellow in front of me in the security line set off the metal detector.  He patiently explained that he had a metal plate and several surgical screws in his thigh, as the result of an accident. 

It was clear that the security personnel were having difficulty understanding this, and the traveler opened his briefcase and produced several X-Rays of his leg.  Well, I guess the security team had no way of really knowing if those were his X-Rays,  or if they were X-Rays of his thigh, so they dropped his pants, right there in front of the world.   Yes, they dropped his pants for him, then, the team began examining the large scar on his leg.

This set me to wondering how many experiences Saudi airport security had with terrorists implanting IEDs in their bodies. (If ever something was aptly called an Improvised Explosive Device, this would have been the textbook example.)  Fortunately, after whacking on his leg and giving it quite a few feels, it did not explode and they allowed him to board the plane for his return home to Zurich.  

Ah, modern travel!
 

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