More Airlines Banned from European Union Airspace.

March 31, 2010 on 9:11 pm | In, 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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Castles In England, Scotland and Wales

March 29, 2010 on 1:27 pm | In Scotland travel,, United Kingdom, Wales Travel, england travel, history and travel, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

When we were kids at play or just daydreaming castles seemed to occupy our thoughts, as did knights, princes, princesses and all things medieval. For years we thought that the castles at Disneyland and Disney World were authentic. (By the way, why is Disneyland one word and Disney World two words?)

Later in life we had the opportunity to visit our first real castles when we toured England, Scotland and Wales. It was a surprise to find out that the term castles encompasses palaces and fortified manor homes, as well as the defensive bastions that, to us, were the “real stuff” of castles.

Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales is a brute of a fortress

The castles of Great Britain are enchanting and always well worth a visit. We generally took a tour to find out the “historic” details of the castle, although most of our time was spent exploring every nook and cranny we could enter. Our legs were aching by the end of the day, as climbing stairways is the only way to see the top section of these historic castles. We would reach the top of the towers and peer out across the countryside, checking the visibility profiles and estimating how hard it would be to attack and conquer the castle.

Castles were a good defensive bet, at least until the development of gunpowder and cannons. Until then, most defensive fortresses appropriately engineered with thick walls could withstand sieges, unless they were done in by treachery – which was often the case.

Bodiam Castle is a beauty, but was built for show and not for defense.

You get the picture. We like castles. So, if you do too, you might be interested to the ThereArePlaces Guide to the Best Castles in England, Scotland and Wales. If you happen to be planning a trip to Great Britain, take a look. Even if this area is not on your travel agenda, why not take a look at our castle guide and begin remembering the pleasures of pretending to be “In the days of old…”.

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Little Mermaid Going to China

March 26, 2010 on 2:40 pm | In Copenhagen travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel,, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

For many travelers, the “Little Mermaid” statue in Copehagen is the most well-known icon of this delighful Danish city. Modeled after Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, the small statue has captured the imagination of almost every visitor to the city and is one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions.


However, for some unfathomable reason, the Little Mermaid Statue has been uprooted by the authorities and it is on its way for a six-month sojourn in …Shanghai, China for the World Expo, where is will be the centerpiece of the Danish exhibition. So, those of you hoping to see the little lady during your summer trip to Denmark, will have to make do with a video that will run in its place, until it returns.

See this video at the BBC for more information.

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Waiting On the Runway, With Water!

March 23, 2010 on 11:55 pm | In air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | Comments Off

On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. While the major focus of the legislation is to promote increased air safety by replacing radar with a GPS-based navigation control system, there was at least one tidbit for the flying public, as a “bone” was tossed in that requires the airlines to provide food, water and other amenities to passengers kept waiting on the runway for takeoff. In addition, the bill requires passengers be given the opportunity to deplane after waiting three hours on a plane that has left the gate but for some reason or another has not yet taken off.

Unfortunately, the Senate version of the Reauthorization must be reconciled with a version passed by the House several months ago. There are several major differences between the two versions and the final bill may or may not contain the passenger provision. See this story by the AP for more details

Waiting on the Runway

We suspect you know the drill. The airplane pulls out of the gate and proceeds on the taxi way, but never heads for the active runway. After touring every inch of the airport runways (except those being used for take-off), you pull into a “parking” area and the pilot casually announces that there will be a slight delay due to “weather”, or “traffic”, or some other difficulty that was too garbled to understand. Of course, the pilot ends with the famous “We’ll keep you updated.” When you hear that phrase, go to sleep, because your plane will not be moving for hours.

But, the pilot is not yet done and he restarts the conversation with “We may be given the green light for takeoff at any minute, so keep to your seats with your seatbelt fastened or we might miss our window.” The last statement is probably among the top ten “greatest lies ever told.” Well, maybe almost as great a lie as the next sentence, which usually is “However, because of the possibility of imminent takeoff (right), I’m asking the cabin crew to remain seated and not provide service, since we don’t want to miss our window, do we?”

About two hours into this trial, you will find that you need a bathroom break – but the cabin crew will tackle you and tell you that “You must remain in your seat, we are on an active runway”. Have you ever wondered how that’s possible? How can a plane that has not moved for 120 minutes, be on an active runway? Even better, how do they get so close to the other planes that are sitting on the same runway so that the exhause fumes port right into your flights air conditioning system? Now you need to use the bathroom AND you have a headache. Unfortunately, the crew will not be able to serve you a glass of water, so just chew up those Excedrin, swallow them dry and enjoy the moment!

It seems hard to believe that it would take an act of Congress to convince the airlines that they should provide “water” and other amenities to people held captive on an airplane for three hours. Perhaps more interesting is the notion of what it would take to keep them from losing our luggage. No, that would be impossible.

Something is better than nothing, I suppose.

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Facts on TSA’s New Full-Body Scanners

March 22, 2010 on 10:52 pm | In Terrorism and travel,, 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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More Air Strikes in Europe

March 18, 2010 on 1:53 pm | In France Travel,, UK Travel, air travel, portugal travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

There are so many airline strikes popping up that you need to scorecard to keep track of the action. Both British Airways and Air France are to be struck by trade unions starting March 28 and lasting through the 31st. Portuguese pilots are scheduled to be on strike from March 26 to March 31, making quite a run-up to the Easter weekend. For more information than you will likely want to know about these strikes and their potential, see this detailed article from the Telegraph.

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Great Barrier Reef Cyclone Alert

March 18, 2010 on 1:43 pm | In Australia Travel,, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel weather warning | 1 Comment

A cyclone alert has been issued for the Great Barrier Reef area of Australia for the upcoming weekend, starting on Thursday of this week. Tropical Cyclone Ului is expected to pack damaging winds and islands in the area of the Reef are being evacuated. At present, weather forecasters expect the cyclone to hit the Reef Sunday morning. See this article from Channel News Asia for more information.

We recommend that you delay travel to this area until early next week when it is likely that the cyclone will have passed through eastern Australia

For Tourism Information on travel safety in Australia, click here. For information of the best places to visit in Australia click here and

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Joshua Tree National Park

March 18, 2010 on 11:11 am | In National Parks of the United States,, things travelers need to know | 1 Comment

We have added a Guide for Joshua Tree National Park to the ThereArePlaces section on National Parks of the American Southwest.

A cholla cacti in bloom

Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California, near Palm Springs and on the route to Los Angeles and San Diego for those driving to the “Golden State” from the east. Known for its unusual vegetation and massive piles of jumbled, rectangular boulders, Joshua Tree National Park is fun place to visit in the fall, winter or early spring. The temperatures in summer can be deadly and we recommend visiting in the cooler portions of the year

The photo above was taken in the Park’s Cholla Garden. These cacti are known as the “Teddy Bear Cholla” and as the “Jumping Cholla”. While they look cuddly, the spines are barbed at the end and extremely painful if they launch, which can happen if you brush against them. The Cholla Garden is very beautiful and includes a modest , self-guided nature walk that is full of facts about the cholla and desert life. Nearby, there is, also, an Ocotillo Garden for the long whip like plants that inhabit the Colorado Desert section of the Park.

Joshua Tree is at the junction of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts with the Mojave being slightly cooler and wetter than the Colorado. The Mojave section of the Park is home to the Joshua Tree, a yucca/lily variant with large blooms in spring.

Joshua Trees in bloom at Joshua Tree National Park

In addition, Joshua Tree is known for piles of blocky rocks that have weathered from an intrusion of monzogranite. Rectangular fractures have led to these materials weathing into large blocks that then weather to smaller blocks. The rock blocks add to the charm of a visit to Joshua Tree National Park.

One of the beautiful desert views at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is well worth visiting if you are on your way to Southern California by car. It can be toured in less than a day, even if you want to hike one or more of its numerous trails. You can find more details here.

If you are interested in visiting the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce, Zion or other national parks in the American Southwest, you might be interested in our guide to the Best National Parks in the American Southwest.

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Strikes Continue In Greece

March 17, 2010 on 8:52 am | In Greece Travel,, strikes, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | 2 Comments

Greece is reeling from a fresh round of strikes. Doctors are striking over government payments they feel are being delayed without reason and, as a result, many state-run hopsitals are on “emergency” staffing. At the same time workers in the power industry are striking and this has caused blackouts in part of the country. Not to be left out, government workers joined the fray claiming that the government was unfairly focusing on the public sector to remedy the problems with its economic policies. Oh, gas stations will be on strike tomorrow. See the Kathimerini Times for more detail.

We know this is the time of year that many of you will be planning your vacations and Greece and the Greek Islands are always a popular choice. We think the strikes will make travel in Greece more difficult this year and you may want to limit your time on the mainland, if the financial crisis has not cooled down by the summer.

Strikes are a political reality in Greece and we suspect you can still have a great vacation in Greece this year, as long as you plan ahead. The most critical issue for travelers will be transportation. Make sure that you have back-up plans for air travel or for the use of ferries between the islands. Go with the flow – if you cannot travel and spend another day touring the attractions where you are “stuck”. If there is a strike that influences transportation, it is likely that other travelers will not be able to get to where you are and you may be able to extend your accommodations for another night with little problem. If you are driving the mainland, make sure you gas-up your car daily, as strikes will undoubtedly close petrol stations or influence the availability of fuel.

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Still Need Clean Socks To Fly in U.S.

March 10, 2010 on 12:02 pm | In Terrorism and travel,, 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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