Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the August 2010 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 414th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

Britain’s London Eye.

A European Union commission released a report in June calling full-body security scanners a reliable security method.

Currently, the scanners are being used at some airports in the US, Canada, Britain and Russia. The US has purchased 150 and plans to buy 300 more by year’s end. The Netherlands, Finland, France and Italy have run trials of the machines. Italy plans to install them at rail stations as well.

To aid in locating hidden weapons, the machines can show actual body images under clothing. In the US, any identifying features are blurred, and the operator must be in a separate room where he or she cannot see the person being scanned. The images are not to be retained. A passenger can request a “pat down” rather than go through a scanner.

In Britain, the operators are next to the machines, and scanning is mandatory.

In the Netherlands, the body image is represented by a mannequin or stick figure that simply shows where any metal or plastic is located on the person.

For some people with peanut allergies, even small airborne particles from peanuts can cause reactions ranging up to asphyxiation. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) treats the allergy as a disability, and federal law prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals with a disability.

The DOT has proposed creating “no peanut” zones on airplanes; banning peanuts from a flight when a passenger has made a request in advance, or banning peanuts entirely from airplanes. (One consideration — if the DOT sets restrictions on peanuts, will it have to consider other types of allergens?)

Until Aug. 9, 2010, these proposed rule changes as well as others affecting airline passengers’ rights are open for public comment. Visit

ITN reported on a few airlines being fined for colluding over cargo rates and fuel surcharges (Oct. ’07, pg. 25) and subsequently having to reimburse passengers (May ’08, pg. 2). In the UK, charges were also brought against the executives involved, and, in May, at the criminal antitrust trial in London, four former and current British Airways executives were acquitted of the price-fixing after prosecutors from the Office of Fair Trading admitted they had failed to disclose key documents to the defense.

Though British Airways and Virgin Atlantic agreed to pay $209.3 million following a United States class-action suit on behalf of consumers, hundreds of thousands of passengers have yet to claim their portions of the refund.

Any passenger who purchased a long-haul ticket from either airline between Aug. 11, 2004, and March 23, 2006, can claim a refund. Refunds range from, for tickets purchased in the UK, £4-£20 per passenger per round trip and, for tickets purchased in the US, $7-$34. Write to Kenneth R. Feinberg, Settlement Administrator, c/o Epiq Systems (P.O. Box 62677, London EC2P 2UB, U.K.;

In the US, funds unclaimed after the deadline of Dec. 31, 2012, will be donated to Miracle Flights for Kids.

In the past, within months of an eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano — the ash cloud of which disrupted air traffic over much of Europe this April — the much larger Katla Volcano usually has erupted. Experts monitoring seismic activity consider it a strong possibility this time too.

In Guatemala, Pacaya Volcano erupted on May 27, killing a reporter in a hail of rock.

In central Ecuador, Tungurahua Volcano has been spewing ash and exhibiting explosions. With a major eruption possible, visitors are advised to avoid the area around Baños.

On Vanuatu, in the Southwest Pacific, a warning was issued on June 1 about a huge ash cloud from Yasur Volcano.

On the island of Luzon in the Philippines, 12 towns and cities around Taal Volcano, 37 miles south of Manila, have been placed on emergency alert over a possible eruption. Mayon Volcano, also on Luzon, remains dangerous due to frequent rockfalls, especially near the top.

A court in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on May 24 rejected the final appeal of Ayman Najafi and sentenced him to one month in prison for kissing Charlotte Adams in public. Ms. Adams had already served a month’s jail term and returned home.

The British couple was arrested for public indecency at a restaurant in Dubai on Nov. 27, 2009. They claimed only to have kissed each other on the cheeks, but a woman complained to the police that they were kissing on the mouth and touching each other.

The couple was also fined 1,000 dirhams (near $272) for being in public after drinking alcohol.

The UAE erroneously announced in January that all foreign visitors must wait one month before applying for a visa to reenter the country. Actually, there are 34 countries whose citizens are exempt from the one-month wait period and can get a visa upon arrival, among them the US, Canada, the UK and many in Europe.

For the list of nations, visit the UAE embassy's website.

In the United Kingdom, the Terrorism Act 2000, passed a decade ago, deals with responding to suspicious behavior that might be linked to terrorist activities, including photographing security personnel, videotaping shift changes, etc.

In 2009 there were reports of UK security forces and police being a little overaggressive in stopping people from taking pictures of them or public places. In several incidents, tourists or professional journalists had their cameras impounded and in some cases they were arrested.

After a public outcry and demonstrations by professional and amateur photographers, the London Metropolitan Police Service clarified the policy. Photographers in the UK are encouraged to carry a copy, which can be found here. These guidelines are NOT the law, and authority still rests with security forces, whose requests should always be obeyed.

These are among actions police in the UK can take:

• Section 43 of the Terrorism Act (aka “Stop and Account”) allows police and security to stop and question someone taking photographs if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person may be a terrorist. Authorities can stop the person, view the images and seize and retain any article (including a mobile phone or camera containing evidence).

• Section 44 (aka “Stop and Search”) allows police to stop, search and detain for questioning any suspicious person in what is designated as a secure area, seizing any articles as evidence.

• Section 58A relates to offenses of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about armed forces, intelligence services or police where that information is, by its very nature, designed to provide assistance to someone preparing an act of terrorism. With reasonable suspicion, police may make an arrest.

These are among the limitations of the police in the UK:

• Police may NOT prevent photography in normal public spaces. (They can stop and question someone after the photographs are taken if there is reasonable suspicion.)

• Police may NOT destroy or delete images.

• There is no prohibition against taking pictures of “front-line uniformed staff” (for example, uniformed policemen or palace guards).

• Police must use discretion with a photojournalist because the images might be considered journalistic material and need a court order to be viewed.

• Police must make it clear that a location is designated a “secure area.”

• Section 58A does NOT prevent someone from taking photographs of protest demonstrations unless there is reasonable suspicion that the images will be used to assist in terrorism.

With important information, and thinking of other travelers, ITN subscriber Vernon S. Hoium of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, sent the following.

He wrote, “My wife, Nancy, and I spent two weeks touring the South Island of New Zealand, May 3-16, 2010. We returned by way of Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles and continued on to Minneapolis. The flight from Sydney to LA took 13½ hours.

“Although this was a wide-body jet and we got up and walked around from time to time, Nancy felt very weak toward the end of the flight and had a cough as we returned home. She thought she was just tired from the long trip and did not see a doctor for about a week. When she did visit the clinic, they immediately sent her to the emergency room and put her in the hospital for two days because she had developed a blood clot in her right leg which had moved all the way up to her chest. They started her on blood thinners immediately.

“I think travelers should know the symptoms of a blood clot: shortness of breath or needing to breathe rapidly; sharp, knife-like chest pain while taking a deep breath; coughing or coughing up blood, and/or a rapid heart rate.

“Nancy is 74 and we had no idea that the weakness she felt was due to a blood clot or pulmonary embolism. By the time she saw a doctor, she was experiencing all four symptoms.

“Luckily, they caught this in time and Nancy is recovering, although it takes a few weeks to two months to fully recover. Her doctor recommended she limit her activities and not fly until those two months are finished. Next time she flies, she’ll wear support stockings.”

Whether you have a travel tip that’s life-saving, time-saving or fun-saving, send it in. It’s all appreciated. — DT