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.
Laguna Hills, CA (ThereArePlaces) December 26, 2009 – ThereArePlaces, publisher of www.ThereArePlaces.com announced the availability of its new, online Guide to the best places to visit in Vienna, Austria. Field researched throughout November, the guide provides photos and up-to-date details on what you will see when you visit Vienna’s leading attractions in 2010, as well as detailed maps showing the locations of Vienna’s best places to visit. In addition, the Vienna Guide provides details on the Imperial City’s best sightseeing, its best cafes and sweetshops and a wonderful daytrip to Austria’s beloved Wachau, including visits to the Abbey at Melk and the medieval towns of Krems and Durnstein.
“During the last half-year, ThereArePlaces noticed a significant change in our website traffic, indicating that our visitors were focusing on researching travel information for Austria. In response, ThereArePlaces sent an editorial team to Vienna and canvassed the city, gathering the most up-to-date information on Vienna and its many attractions for tourists. The editorial team at ThereAreplaces thinks it has presented the best places to visit in Vienna in a format that will make it easy for anyone to get started planning a trip to the Imperial City, the former home of the Habsburg Empire,” said company President Mike Dobson, a seasoned travel industry executive.
Dobson continued, “Vienna has a number of interesting attractions and most travelers would be hard pressed to see even a fraction of these during a visit. ThereArePlaces has done the hard work for you and present recommendations on the best places to visit, including the best: palaces, museums, art galleries, churches, music venues, shopping, and other categories of sightseeing that might be of interest. In addition, the ThereArePlaces Vienna guide is highly illustrated with great photographs that will let you see the detail of the attractions we recommend. The detailed information we provide should allow you to decide on exploring the attractions that best meet your travel interests.”
The ThereArePlaces Guide to Vienna can be found here at ThereArePlaces.
ThereArePlaces is a property of TeleMapics, LLC, a business focused on travel, tourism, and other location based services. Through its website http://www.thereareplaces.com the company publishes up-to-date, detailed, illustrated guides to the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Its coverage areas include: Europe, Asia, the Pacific and North America. ThereArePlaces is a travel information publisher whose commitment is to provide travel advice that might help its readers to take the journey of a lifetime.
Venice is undergoing serious flooding due to a seasonal combination of tides and significant rain. See this article from the AP that details the problem. If you had been planning a quick Christmas holiday in Venice, we recommend a change in plans.
In a somewhat humorous note, the AP coverage (unless now corrected) shows a Google map of Rome, (where the AP story was filed), rather than a map of Venice, which is the geographic focus of the story.
Well, its been travel hell in Europe this week and its does not look like the situation will markedly improve until next week at the earliest. Seems like it’s a Dickens’ Christmas for travelers on the continent and in the UK – “Bah, Humbug!”
If you have a choice, delay travel to Europe until after Christmas. If you do not have a choice, be prepared for delays, lines and the usual travel problems that pop-up when the weather “breaks” transportation systems.
There was some good news as the Eurostar is, once again, running the Channel Tunnel, although the backlog of passengers is so large that the company is not accepting new reservations until after Christmas. Here are three stories on the weather troubles from the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Deutshce Welle.
Weather in Europe caused difficulties for travelers last week and the next week does not seem more promising. Due to extremely cold and wet weather in France, the Eurostar has been shut down and remain closed for another day or two. It appears that trains entering the Chunnel from France have had their wheels mysteriously lose traction shortly after entering the Chunnel. The “Official” explanation is that this was the result of the cold weather on the outside and the warm temperatures on the inside of the Chunnel. Not sure we understand the physics of the explanation, but several trains were stuck and in one case the passengers were delayed in arriving in London for over 14 hours. See this article from the BBCfor more details.
Europe is being hit by cold weather and impressive amounts of snow. Air France cancelled flight into Paris and the French authorities shut several of the ports serving the English Channel, claiming that the roads from the ports were too treacherous to drive. For more information on the weather in Europe see this report. As we write this note, it is -10C in Vienna (feels like -20C with the windchill) and snowing). London is -2C and Paris is 0C – seems to be warming up.
By the way, in case you missed it, the planned BAA Cabin Crew strike at Christmas has been cancelled by the courts who ruled it illegal. We are sure that the cabin crews for BAA flying during this period will be in good holiday cheer.
The cabin crew union members servicing British Airways flights have indicated that they will initiate a series of strikes between December 22 and January 2.
Those of you who have tickets on a BA during this period will be glad to know that the spokesperson for the union taking the strike action said that they did so with a “heavy heart”. We are sure that this will be great consolation when the flight you purchased months ago, in good faith, does not fly during the Christmas Holidays. For more information see this article from the BBC.
Our advice is to see if you can rebook with another carrier, but BA will probably not know which flights will be influenced by the action until the day of flight. If this is the case, we suspect that BA will not be inclined to provide refunds in advance or switch your tickets to another flight. What a shame.
While both sides seem at fault here, we hope the airline industry (owners and workers) will realize that these are not the situations that attract the type of loyalty in their customer base that ensures job stability for the workers and the potential of profits for the companies.
On December 28th the drivers of trains in the south of the United Kingdom will be on strike over a pay dispute for “Bank Holidays”. It is likely that the strike will paralyze train traffic in the South and Southeast of England. Click for more information from an article in the UK’s Independent.
As you know, Copenhagen is the site of the ongoing Climate Meetings and several mass demonstrations are expected. We urge vacation travelers to avoid Copenhagen untl after December 20th. For those of you who cannot avoid the situation, the following information may be of interest.
The U.S. Embassy Copenhagen issued the following Warden Message on December 10:
This Warden Message is to inform U.S. citizens that Copenhagen may experience demonstrations from Friday, December 11th until Friday, December 18th. Some of the demonstrations on these days may become violent.
Areas of Copenhagen that may have demonstrations are:
Strøget (Walking Street)
Town Hall Square
The Harbor area
It looks like it is going to be a wet week in Western Ireland and more flooding may be the result. See this article in the Ireland Times for more details. This may not be a good week to to explore the west, specifially the Galway region. We recommend you redirect your touring to less challenged areas of the Emerald Isle during the next few days.
As you may know, Athens was the scene of violent demonstrations this weekend on the anniversary of the fatal shooting of a teenager by the police. The death has become a cause for what has been labeled in the International press as “a student anarchist movement.” We are not sure how the classify the unrest, other than to note our recommendation the travelers avoid central Athens during the next week. Check with news sources in Athens for more detailed information.
Another location to avoid for next two weeks is Copenhagen, as the city is hosting the international Summit On Climate Change. By all accounts the city is brimming with security, in addition to the 15,000 delegates and 100 world leaders who will attend over the next two weeks. See this article by the BBC for detailed information. It is expected that there will be numerous demonstrations in Copenhagen by those dissatisfied the both the status quo and the pace of the talks, since it is not expected that any major agreements will be signed during the meeting.
Our recommendations is that travelers who want to see Copenhagen, but have nothing to do with the Climate Summit avoid the city until the Summit has ended. Hotel rooms are in short supply, restuarant service will be slow, the crowds will be huge and the demonstrations could get ugly.