I read a surprising story recently in Conde Nast Traveler’s daily, online travel bulletin. An airline passenger who forgot his government-issued ID managed to pass through security after a TSA agent checked his Facebook page.
It turns out the TSA has long had a policy that allows travelers to pass through security using “other means” of substantiating identity, including the use of any publicly available database.
That database I’ve linked to in the previous sentence includes an acknowledgment that the TSA is authorized to use other sources to verify someone’s identity. And apparently the TSA feels social media platforms are requiring enough proof of a real identity that even Facebook can attest to a person’s legitimacy.
I don’t happen to agree with that—last I knew, it was fairly easy to set up a Facebook account using a fake name or photo. But it’s also true that if you are locked out of your Facebook account, you’ll be asked for official proof of your identity. And obviously the TSA puts some credence in a Facebook profile.
Don’t count on getting through security like this, but it can be a last-ditch option.
Members of British Airway’s frequent flyer club don’t earn miles, they earn Avios points, and they’re based not merely on how many miles you fly b ut also on the price of your ticket. Even if you never intend to visit London, they might well be worth collecting.
“But,” you say, “I never fly British Airways.”
No matter. You can open an account and accumulate Avios points by flying partner airlines including American Airlines. Or by renting cars and having your points credited to your BA account. Or by getting a BA Visa credit card from Chase.
You might think the best use of Avios points is flights to the UK. Not so, because high landing fees charged by London’s airports mean you have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees even on award tickets. Instead, use those Avios points for short-haul flights such as 25,000 points that will get you a free, round-trip ticket on American or Alaska airlines between the West Coast and Hawaii. In fact, any trip in the US less than 850 miles each way only requires 9,000 Avios points.
Use them for in-country flights in Europe on Air Berlin or Aer Lingus, South America on LAN , South Africa on BA, and Australia on Qantas.
(This commentary originally aired Dec. 14, 2012)
Every now and then we hear a news report about some guy banned from an airplane flight because the slogan on his t-shirt is deemed offensive by a flight attendant. Or a woman is denied boarding (as happened to the woman in this accompanying photograph) because her garb is considered too revealing by an airline employee. So what are the rules?
The truth is there really are no rules. At least not hard and fast ones. American Airlines bans passengers who “are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers.”
Southwest Airlines bans garb that is “lewd, obscene or patently offensive.”
United Airlines outlaws anyone who is five years or older who is barefoot or otherwise inappropriately clothed unless required by medical reasons.
You can see the problems here—these are squishy definitions. Well, except the one about everyone over five having to wear some kind of footwear. I guess “inappropriately clothed,” “patently offensive,” or “a manner that would cause discomfort to other passengers” is sort of like good or bad art—you know it when you see it.
If you want to make a flight, don’t push the boundaries.
(This commentary first aired 2 Nov 2012)
Not all travel insurance is the same. And I hope you weren’t one of the thousands of customers of the New Jersey tour company called Club ABC Travel that closed its doors without warning a couple a months ago. Because if you bought travel insurance from Club ABC to protect the money you paid for a future trip, you might be out of luck.
If you have to pay up front for an expensive trip, cruise, or vacation home rental, it could pay to buy travel insurance. If you fall ill, if you suffer a death in the family, if catastrophic weather causes you to cancel your trip, or any number of other events, travel insurance can cover many losses.
But don’t buy it from the cruise line you’re sailing or the tour company arranging your trip. If they go out of business, you may not be covered.
There are dozens of third-party sellers of travel insurance. Two of my radio sponsors are TravelGuard and OnCall, and both offer a wide range of policies that cover all kinds of eventualities including some you might not think of.
You may compare and contrast travel insurance offerings and prices at this website.
And never pay cash for future travel. Put your charges on a credit card so you can dispute any charges if–as in the case of some unfortunate customers of Club ABC Travel–you don’t get what you paid for.
The hotel made famous by the movie version of Stephen King’s book called The Shining, announced plans in 2013 to excavate a neighboring pet cemetery to build a wedding pavilion. That hotel, by the way, is The Stanley Hotel in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado (pictured here). Yes, you can check in.
A traveler asked if he could register in a hotel under a code name as he’d be traveling with his son’s wife rather than his own. Another hotel guest bugged the hotel three times asking that an escort service date be arranged for him. Both of these are courtesy of LastMinute.com.
The Australian low-fare airline Jetstar apologized to a passenger when his suitcase came off the carousel with “I AM GAY” written in tape in large letters across it.
A glitch in Apple’s new maps app caused at least two drivers to drive onto the runway of the Fairbanks, Alaska, airport in September. Fortunately the incursions were early in the morning, and no one was hurt. One driver was simply trying to return his rental car to the airport.