Friday, 17 May, 2002
Good morning.  Our three day weekend, at a lovely mountain resort some 220 miles from home, didn't involve any flying (joy of joys) and neither did it involve any time zone changes or jet lag, so it was indeed close to perfect in all respects.  And with that as a segue, let's introduce -

This Week's Column :  Jet Lag CuresLast week we discussed the causes of jet lag and how to minimize it; this week we talk about how to cure it.  Click the link for an amusing list of strange cures along with a discussion of the one cure that is both simple and also effective (at least for me!).

And so, after reading the column, and free of concerns about jet lag, you might be thinking of doing some international travel.  Take my advice - leave Swaziland off the list of countries you visit.  According to their Transport Minister, in an address to the Swaziland senate on Monday, their international airport has no working control tower or radar system and lighting for nighttime landings is so poor that pilots are forced to fly by memory!

You've probably read about so-called 'economy class syndrome' (but, bad news, it has happened to people flying 'up front' as well) - the possible link between potentially fatal blood clots and air travel.  The World Health Organization on Tuesday launched a four-year probe into possible links.  World airlines say there is no proven link between air travel and DVT, but some health experts believe a combination of cramped flying conditions and long hours in the air can cause blood clots.  Pre-existing risk factors might include recent surgery and use of oral contraceptives, as well as inflight alcohol consumption, leg-exercises and wearing pressure stockings. The effects of low cabin pressure and oxygen levels will also be reviewed.  A number of lawsuits against airlines by afflicted travelers are working their way through the courts in several different countries at present.

Oops! It happened again!  United Airlines, for the third time in little more than a year, accidentally gave a few customers a bonus - $5 roundtrip tickets to San Francisco, Los Angeles and dozens of other US destinations.  A fare programming error existed for approximately 45 minutes on their website.

In February 2001, United inadvertently allowed 143 tickets to be sold for trips to Paris, London and Hong Kong for $24.98. It took a customer outcry to force the airline to honor the tickets.  In August, it happened again, when 120 customers booked trips to Bombay from Chicago for $140 or $180.

If you ever come across a fare error on a website, please send me an urgent email.  I'll in turn send out an urgent email advising all newsletter readers.

More statistics that suggest that the internet is not the cheapest source of tickets -  at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives meeting held in Montreal last week, Richard Spradling, CIO of Maritz Travel Solutions said "Our research has shown that the best fare is on the web only 10% of the time, in a travel agent's computer 60% of the time and with a special corporate negotiated fare 30% of the time." An American Express V-P added that the Internet doesn't live up to the hype as the place where business travelers can go to beat the agent. "Most of the time, it's nothing more than perception," she said.

And now for the bad news.  Business travel seems to be about to rebound.  Yes, from a selfish perspective, that means more crowded flights, fuller hotels, longer lines and fewer upgrades and discounted fares.  After a prolonged slump, business travel appears to be poised for an increase, according to a survey of senior corporate executives conducted recently by GetThere Inc., the Association of Corporate Travel Executives and BusinessWeek Research.   The forecast gets some support from another survey, this one in the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown /Yankelovich Partners 2002 National Travel Monitor. Over all, that study suggests, there will be an 8 percent increase in business trips this year over last.

This week's security horror story :  Thanks to reader Mike for his observations.  Mike tells us how predictable the 'random' searching has become.  His story would be funny if it were not so true.

While waiting in the gate area one will inevitably notice the security drones putting on their latex gloves a few minutes before boarding. Their first victim inevitably fits the same profile. He (it is almost always a he) is the Platinum level flyer who rushes to be the first person to board the aircraft. For some reason it takes both drones to frisk this person and rummage through his dirty laundry. This is a good time to board with almost no chance of being pulled out of line.

I suspect they pick the first person for the fun of it. By the time they get to their second "random selection" they must be worrying about getting into a confrontation. The second person is usually a frail elderly person or the most timid looking soul in line. Most recently they chose a gentleman with a cane who I would estimate to be about 75 years old. I sure felt a lot safer when they had him remove his shoes.  Earlier in the day it was a grandmother. Of course this provides your second opportunity to board without being selected. If the drones are busy doing a search and you approach the gate when there is no line you are almost 100% assured of sailing through. Nothing like pandering to the public via the illusion of security!  These days I find myself driving to a lot of places I once flew. The hassles of commercial airline travel are simply not worth it.

But Mike should not be complaining.  At least his name is not on the Master Terrorist List.  Here's a story that makes for terrifying reading about what can happen if your name is on this list, no matter how obvious it is that a mistake was made!

For those of you who developed a taste for unusual car pictures after last week's image, here's a link you might enjoy a quick click on.

And talking about taste, what finer topic to close this week's newsletter than that of airline food!  Here's a fascinating website that features pictures of airline meals, including 'real' pictures taken by passengers rather than the fanciful publicity photos that bear no relation to the food that we are expected to try and eat -

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels.

David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider
ps :  Don't forget to visit Joe Brancatelli's site for his weekly updates, too.

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