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Transport Strikes Snarl London

Strike activity broke out across London today, delaying commuters and illustrating the dependence of the British capital and world financial center on its public transfer system.  A union walkout shut down most of the underground, and hundreds of thousands of city residents had to find alternatives to the famous “Tube” (Reuters via Yahoo News).  Extra buses have been deployed to replace some of the lost rail capacity, but they are providing only modest relief for the many commuters whose daily routine has turned into an uncertain, frustrating nightmare.  (See video below by Al Jazeera).

Strike activity is expected to spread beyond the underground services to commuter rail and even British Airways.  Travelers to the UK should plan carefully and keep up-to-date about the latest developments.

 

Guilt Trip! Boarding The Cat(s) At The Vet

Holidays mean travel, which is stressful for just about everyone.  But there’s an extra dose of angst for the voyaging cat owner.  Kitty has highly developed internal radar that warns the feline mind when you are about to convey him or her away from the safe spaces. Talk about drama!  I used to travel regularly between Dallas/Ft Worth and New York around the holidays, and the trip to  the vet with 2 cats was about as fun as clear air turbulence. The You Tube cartoon series Simon’s Cat captures the dilemma of every cat household as departure time nears.  Just add 30 minutes to your trip to the airport to drop your furry friend at the cat hotel?  Good luck with that!

Oh, and if you have two or more cats, there is no such thing as being on-time!

Thanksgiving Kicks Off Record Holiday Travel Season.

The Thanksgiving weekend marks the start of the holiday travel cycle, and a record number of travelers are expected to take to the roads, the rails and the skies.  The Weather Channel has put together a list of airports that lead the pack in terms of weather-related travel delays.  The five worst offenders, in order of increasing frequency: Denver (DEN), New York La Guardia (LGA), Chicago O’Hare (ORD),  Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO).  Sub-optimal runway placement makes EWR particularly vulnerable to wind, while the picturesque fogs push SFO to the top spot.

Fox News describes the outlook for holiday travel in the video below. along with tips on when to travel to avoid the crowds on the return trip.

As always, travelers should draw up contingency plans for schedule disruptions, and be aware and be prepared.

Have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Updated Travel Alert For Istanbul, Turkey

The U.S. consulate in Istanbul has issued a new warning for foreign residents and tourists (AFP Ankara Turkey via Yahoo News)

The consulate in Istanbul said in a message late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city.

“These attacks may be pre-planned or could occur with little or no warning, and include, but are not limited to: armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing, or other violent acts,” it said in an online notice.

The consulate did not specify which group was believed to be plotting such acts, but in the past year the city has suffered multiple bombings by the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militants.

This is another sad chapter in the story of the continuing deterioration of the global travel environment.  Turkey has been hit particularly hard because of its entanglement with the Syrian conflict, the existence of terrorist elements within its borders and, of course, the aborted coup earlier this year.

The latest alert illustrates the importance of a political solution that can bring an end to the violence in Syria and its destabilizing effects on neighboring countries.  The video below provides background on the attack at the Istanbul airport early this summer which killed 47 people.  CBS News interviewed Juan Zarate, a national security advisor in the administration of George W. Bush, about the phenomenon of unclaimed terrorist attacks in the country

Image Credit- Dennis Jarvis

Hurricane Matthew Heads Towards Florida

All eyes are on Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to move up the Florida coast on Friday. The center of the storm is expected to stay some 20 miles offshore, sparing the coast cities the full force of its 120 mph winds. But forecasts are an imprecise science, and an unexpected wiggle in the track could cause real havoc there.  If you are flying, check with your airline for cancellations and rescheduling arrangements. American Airlines has posted its policy on waiving change fees on its website. Waivers will depend on itinerary and travel dates.

Areas near the storm’s path may be subject to mandatory evacuation, so check local media for updated information regardless of one’s mode of travel.

Below are videos from CNN on the storm’s progress and the view from space as seen on the International Space Station via SpaceVideos. 

State Department Updates Iran Travel Warning

The U.S. State Department has issued an updated travel warning for Iran, signaling a fresh deterioration in the relationship between the two countries despite the recently concluded nuclear agreement.  The warning is explicit and chilling:

Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security. Iranian authorities have also prevented the departure, in some cases for months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel. U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.

This development is reigniting the controversy over the recent payment of USD 400 million by the US government to Iran and its linkage to the recent release of American prisoners. Despite the lifting of economic sanctions,the prudent business traveler should avoid the country completely.

Hurricane Earl Heads Toward Belize

Hurricane Earl is on track to land on the coast of Belize during the next 24 hours. Parts of Guatemala and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula will also be affected. While it is not expected to strengthen beyond Category 1, travelers need to take precautions regarding storm surges, floods and high winds.  You Tube channel Hurricane Track is posting detailed updates on the storm. (These specialized weather channels on social media make for interesting viewing!)  The US State Department is posting alert updates via Twitter at @TravelGov.

Zika – Travel Alert for North Miami

The Center for Disease Control has issued a travel warning for an area north of the downtown Miami area (Fox News).  The affected terrain covers one square mile and encompasses the trendy Wynwood, Midtown and Edgewater neighborhoods.  Pregnant women are urged to take stringent precautions against the mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus, which is linked to severe birth defects. The governments of Ireland and Great Britain have issued similar alerts.  In listening to the story, I was struck by the assertion that mosquitoes are not likely to travel more than 200 meters from the target zone and that downtown is safe. Really, can they be sure of that?  Stay alert, travelers!

July 4th Travel Poised To Shatter Records

The American Automobile Association has released its July 4th travel forecast, and it’s a humdinger. AAA expects 43 million Americans to embark on holiday journeys, and over 80% will travel by car.  Low gas prices and relatively upbeat consumer sentiment are making for a robust travel season, although budgets remain tight.  AAA reminds us of the importance of checking  batteries, tires, and, of course, the whereabouts of your car keys.

Situation awareness is the key to safe travel, and is more important than ever in an increasingly risky world.  Airports, tourist spots, national parks and the highways themselves all present risks, whether man-made or caused by Mother Nature.  And since driving is the primary mode of travel this weekend, let’s pay due attention to the most fault-prone part of the automobile- the nut behind the wheel.  Everyone knows the risks of alcohol, cell phones and texting.  But there are others that are more subtle-like  chatty passengers, blaring music,  and scrambling for directions.  As shown in the video below, we must be on guard against cognitive distraction.

So stay alert this Fourth of July, and return safe and sound from the adventure of discovering America!

 

Plane Tweets: Holiday Travel With Gifts

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