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The Travel Column 2002-9-5

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We are pleased to bring you The Travel Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"


Do you believe next Wednesday will be one year since the terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Center and the Pentagon? How could 365 days go by so fast, and just how much has travel changed since this date? One thing is sure, despite the sad events of that day, a clear message has been sent that it is quite impossible for travel of any type to cease in our interconnected and interdependent world. As expected, air travel fell dramatically after the attacks, but it has indeed made a strong comeback. According to the I.A.A.T.C., for January 2002 business-travel levels were down 50% when compared to January 2001. Passenger traffic for June this year, however is down less than 10% from a year earlier. Weíve realized that the notion of staying home to remain out of harmís way is unrealistic; bad things can happen anywhere. Many of the risks associated with travel are the same as those experienced in our everyday lives at home; vehicle accidents, and slips and falls, like when weíre not watching where we put our feet while looking at the sights and scenery!

When compared to any other means of transportation, air travel is probably a thousand times safer. And safety will only be improved in the wake of improvements in airport security, etc. Ironically, the safest part of your trip is the time you spend in the air! Take for example, the airline with the highest level of ďaccidentsĒ for the last 5 years Ö America West lists only 9.48 per 1 million flights. Indeed this is only a drop in the bucket and youíre by far safer in the air, than driving your own car here on our roads! For more information on the safety records of airlines, you can visit One of the unfortunate consequences of September 11th, I would imagine, is a dramatic increase in the number of people worldwide who would choose to drive to their destination instead of flying. This would no doubt result in a much higher level of road accidents, and the number of road fatalities for the year, but again increasing the air safety factor.

The fear of flying is very real, and itís very common. I myself have sat next to many a passenger who has gripped the handles of their seat in anxiety over a take-off, and even imaginatively pressed the brakes for their pilot on landing! Once youíre seated in an aircraft, really, you hand over the control of your surroundings to another person, and itís easy to experience fear in such a situation. However, donít assume that airplanes are unsafe just because to you they may be scary.

Understandably, some of the larger airlines in the US are reporting that they will be trimming back their flights on September 11th and some even for a few days before and after. Many travellers indicate that their reluctance to fly on the date would be more superstitious rather than being afraid, much like when one hesitates to fly on a day thatís Friday the 13th. Some of it may also be patriotism and remembrance; so many lives were lost that day, maybe it doesnít seem right to schedule a pleasure trip just then. Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the US Air Transport Association, played down the fear factor while acknowledging that travel may be down on the specific day. ďItíll be business as usual that day. In fact, one of the safest places to be on September 11th will be aboard a commercial aircraft,Ē he said, referring to the stepped-up security. According to, four flights that wonít be operating are the ones that went down in the attacks. American Airlines has retired the two daily flights, and United has since renumbered its two but they are both canceled for the anniversary. The airlines have adjusted their schedules in anticipation of the decrease in demand, but still the bulk of flights will be operating.

Airports continue to implement increased security measures. This has meant longer check-in and security lines and longer waits at the ticketing counters, the gate-screening areas and at the actual gates to board the aircraft. Here are a few tips to help make your check-in and boarding process easier.

bulletAlways arrive early at the airport, at least two hours before the scheduled departure of your flight. This is especially important if you need to be in the counter line to check your bags or for other special needs, like if youíre travelling with young children or with people with disabilities.
bulletLimit your carry on bags, and the items in them. Remember that many things can no longer be carried on board in the cabin with you, such as letter openers, knives, box cutters, scissors, tennis racquets, baseball bats, etc. Anything not allowed in the cabin, must go through in your checked luggage.
bulletMake it easy to be screened. To make them easier to be searched, do not pack your bags too tightly. Keep your ticket, boarding pass and passport within easy reach. Wear shoes that can be easily removed and put back on, and be prepared to show that any electronic item you are carrying, eg. your laptop, can work.
bulletDonít take extra screening personally. Everyone faces the standard security measures, but some people are taken aside for an additional search. In most cases, this does not mean that you are being singled out, but merely that additional random checks are being made.
bulletAbove all, maintain a positive attitude!! Even when things go absolute smoothly, travelling by air can often be very stressful. The increased security measures will certainly cause delays and may cause you to be inconvenienced, but they have been put in place for your own safety. There may be many opportunities for you to become tense or frustrated and most of us wonít make it past our first stop-over without a really good sense of humour.

Melanie Waddell, Director
September 5, 2002


Previous Travel Columns

bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-22
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-8
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-25
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-11
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-6-27

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