web Musings of The Global Traveller

Monday, September 25, 2006

US carry-on restrictions eased a little

Some more good news for global travellers this week - this time for those travelling to, through or from the US. TSA has announced 2 changes to the liquid ban:

  1. Liquids bought airside (after security) may be brought onboard. (Canada already made this change).
  2. Small liquid toiletries are now allowed. Bring them in a clear plastic zip-top bag for separate screening.

While it is still more restrictive than pre-August, it is a step in the right direction. Here's hoping other countries with liquid bans also relax the rules quickly.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Airline surcharges in USA

As an update on an earlier post, thanks to Upgrade: Travel Better for the welcome news that inclusive airline pricing is to stay in USA.

Meanwhile the surcharge nonsense continues to get worse and worse elsewhere. Some recent tickets I've bought had surcharges of 3-4 times the base fare.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

UK carry-on restrictions eased a little

As reported on Flyer Talk the UK carry-on restrictions have been eased a little. Instead of only allowing a ridiculously tiny 45cm x 35cm x 16cm, from this Friday you can take up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. Yay. This change is in the nick of time for me personally.

However it isn't all good news. There is still a ban on liquids and gels, unsurprising really until US lifts it's ban. There is still a strict limit on the one bag, no extra bag for first class, business class and elite status passengers. And still no extra personal items (eg laptop) can be carried on.

According to the BBC, musical instruments are an exception to the size and single piece rule. Thus there is hope that the rules will be further relaxed for everyone that isn't a musician.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Changing schedules

I'm not sure why but some airlines are bad at informing passengers of changes to the schedules affecting bookings made but not flown. Earlier this year I had a flight cancelled by Lufthansa which I only found out when turning up for check in. The latest one was a significant schedule change by Qantas affecting several bookings by up to 4 hours. Fortunately I found out quickly and so was able to tune the bookings more to my liking. Had I left it until closer to departure there may not have been availability to make changes and I may have been stuck with the default.

With over 100 flights booked but unflown, schedule changes are bound to happen. I probably should pay more attention than I do. Ideally the airlines would send alert emails every time. The next easiest way to check schedule changes is to log on to the airline website and review your bookings. Some airline websites are good at showing all the bookings and even highlighting changes (usually with a message please contact the airline), while others are not so good.

For example Qantas shows all bookings associated with your Qantas frequent flyer number, regardless of where you made the booking and highlights the changes - that's good. However, credit your airline mileage to another FFP (frequent flyer program) and the flights are not shown.

Singapore Airlines shows all bookings (this is a fairly recent change - they used to only show bookings made online) but doesn't seem to highlight changes at all. Some of the "manage my booking" functions you'd expect also only work on bookings made online.

Air New Zealand is the opposite extreme with very limited functionality. Not only are bookings not displayed, but you have to enter the record locator (6 character booking reference) and your email address and phone number. Even then it only works for bookings made online. They have a long way to go to match best practice!

Fortunately you don't need to rely on airline websites to check your bookings. Some online travel agents will show all your bookings made through them, and highlight changes. Zuji is an example of this. Also each CRS (computerised reservation system), sometimes also called GDS (global distribution system) but I'll keep it simple by referring to as CRS here, has an associated website where you can check bookings made with airlines who use that CRS - as long as you know the record locator and your name.

So which CRS do I need to check you may ask? While they are interconnected it is best to look up the home or native CRS of the airline you are flying. This will have the most up to date and complete information. So on itineraries involving multiple airlines you may need to check more than one system - even though you might see all the flights on the first CRS you check, the information may not be correct.

For a selection of airlines, here is the native CRS.

  • Amadeus (Check My Trip) - Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa, SAS, Continental, America West, British Airways, Qantas, South African Airways, (Opodo), (Expedia)
  • Apollo/Galilio (View Trip) - United, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Alitalia, KLM, TAP Portugal, (CheapTickets)
  • Sabre (Virtually There) - American Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Dragonair, EVA Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Silkair, (Travelocity), US Airways, American Trans Air (ATA), Midwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Air Malta, Frontier Airlines, Aeroflot, (Expedia)
  • Worldspan (My Trip and More) - Delta, Northwest, (Expedia), (Orbitz), (Hotwire), (Priceline), Swiss

Note, however, that some airlines have their own CRS with no way for the public to view bookings (other than on the airline's website where available) - eg Air New Zealand.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The waiting game

After the news last week that UK carry-on restrictions were to be relaxed from this coming weekend with an announcement Tuesday, comes the inevitable let-down. No announcement yet and rumours of more delays through next week at least.

As it happens, my first trip through UK since August is next week with multiple transits. So now I'm playing the waiting game. As previously posted, I do have a plan B since the current restrictions are more than a minor inconvenience.

I wish this trip was booked on Star Alliance since I could then easily avoid UK altogether, but unfortunately at the time of booking One World suited better so I am stuck with multiple transits through London.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Emergency phone numbers

Inspired by a post on The Frequent Flyer blog, I want to take a moment to talk about emergency phone numbers.

We hope we'll never need to use them, but emergency numbers can be lifesaving. The number is easy to remember, right? Unfortunately each country can have their own number or numbers - just because 911 is used in US doesn't mean 911 will work elsewhere. For example in UK it is 999, in Australia 000 and NZ 111.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page on emergency phone numbers, but I like the fact my GSM roaming service texts me the local numbers on arrival to a country (where available).

The network is down

4 words you don't want to hear when you're waiting between flights and have some work to finish off. Even more so when you planned a lengthy connection just so you could get that work done in peace in the lounge and be ready when you arrive at the destination.

This is exactly what happened to me recently. I did find a work around, thanks to having access to another lounge even when not flying that airline, but it wasted a lot of time and so I didn't complete as much as I'd hoped.

It did serve a purpose though - as a salient reminder not to be too reliant on using the amenities of an airline lounge en route. I often use the time in transit to send off those emails I ran out of time to do before I started the journey, look up info for the destination or meeting, and print things off (like maps and other useful arrival info). Maybe next time I'll be a bit more organised in advance.

Cheers and happy travels.