29 April 2008

London Heathrow Branded As "Worst Airport In Europe," I Think Not!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

29/04/2008 - London Heathrow Branded As "Worst Airport In Europe," I Think Not!

Can a bad airport also be good? This is a tricky question, but in regard to London's Heathrow Airport (LHR) I think an airport that has recently been referred to as "The Worst In Europe" (have they been to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino Airport, aka: FCO?) can also be a good airport.

I see the downside of London Heathrow. The airport is a bit run down; it has high delays; it could use a 3rd runway to reduce congestion; the opening of the new Terminal 5 was a disaster; immigrations takes longer than some flights (unless you are in business/first class on an airline that pays for the Fast Track); there is a significant homeless population who live in Heathrow; the cost of transiting Heathrow is more expensive that transiting through other European hubs............ and the top "downside" to Heathrow is probably that Immigrations Officers always seem so grumpy with the asking of questions, as if every foreign traveler is seeking to enter the country under false pretenses.

With the downsides of Heathrow out of the way, I am going to buck the trend, go out on a limb and also say that I also see the airport's upside. For starters, I like Heathrow. Overall I find Heathrow to be one of my five favourite airports to be stuck in, have a long layover in and even to sleep in when I have a "missed connection." I know most people don't view airports this way, but I have slept in Heathrow more than any other airport, with the exception of San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Despite a large, and growing, homeless population Heathrow is a safe airport. Those who are homeless and stay in Heathrow tend to try and act like travelers so they will no be thrown out by the police. The homeless in other airports tend to not blend in, and from my experience tend to be more prone to criminal activity than those at Heathrow. I have been approached by people begging at London Gatwick (LGW); been solicited for drugs at Newark's Liberty Int'l Airport (EWR); woken up to find a homeless man peeing on the wall a few feet from my head at Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle Int'l Airport (CDG); watched a clearly homeless and mentally ill woman picking through the trash at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), but at London's Heathrow there is none of that.

For very long layovers the Heathrow Express is a convenient way to get into the city for a few hours. To lighten your load if you misconnect and have to spend the night, Heathrow has very convenient "Left Luggage" operations to store you bags for a few hours, or overnight. To go plane-spotting to kill time the parking garages have quite a few good vantage points for the operations. For long walks, to kill time, most terminals are connected via underground passage ways which makes walking between terminals a breeze.

Overall I have had some of the best long conversations in the middle of the night on topics ranging from foreign policy and economics to choice of computer operating system while sitting in Heathrow. People in airports tend to either be a "pack mentality" or open and welcoming in conversation. In general conversations at Heathrow tend to be more in depth, more intellectual. I am sure it is a fluke this happens at one airport more than another, but it does......and I have extensive experience sleeping in airports all over the world for various reasons.

From a business stand point, Heathrow is the airport all the airlines want to fly into. Yes, London has five commercial airports, yes four of them can handle long-haul international traffic, yes two of them handle a significant amount of international traffic, but overall Heathrow is the one that business travelers tend to use. It is probably because of the train that departs for Central London every 15 minutes. It could be the considerable number of international airlines that fly into Heathrow, it may be that you can fly nearly anywhere in the world from Heathrow (many of those places non-stop) , it could also be that many long-haul airlines have "arrivals lounges" that allow passengers to freshen up upon arrival before heading out to meetings, or it may be that many airlines that call Heathrow home have top-notch departures lounges for their frequent flyers that have significant amenities over those offered at Gatwick.

I think that anyone who calls Heathrow the 'worst airport in Europe' needs to check out the facilities at Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle Int'l Airport (CDG), Rome's Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino Airport (FCO) and Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) in terms of not only on-time arrival/departure but also ease of transit to the city, safety of delayed passengers, access to electrical outlets and ability to sleep before branding Heathrow as the worst.

So, can an airport that is being referred to as the 'worst airport in Europe' be good? I think it certainly can be.

Happy Flying!

28 April 2008

Foreign Currency Exchange : Get The Most Value For Your Money

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

28/04/2008 - Foreign Currency Exchange : Get The Most Value For Your Money

When traveling internationally every traveler would ideally like to maximize their currency exchange. No one wants to lose money, and depending on where you exchange your currency, the value of what you are exchanging can vary significantly.

Overall the best exchange rate is often found with purchases made by credit cards. Some cards offer a "foreign currency fee," many do not. These fees can generally be between 1.5% & 3%. Consult with your credit card company before using your card overseas. Also contact your credit card company before using your card internationally, some cards are blocked from overseas usage without prior authorization.

In my experience using American Express overseas provides the most protection and service for international travelers, however I have found that Visa is the most commonly accepted card internationally. For U.S. and Canadian Discover/Novus card users, leave your card at home. Except for limited use in Mainland China (not Taiwan or Hong Kong) you'll be hard pressed for find any place that accepts your card outside of the US and Canada.

For the exchange of actual cash, you'll find the best exchange rate at a large international commercial bank, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC, etc etc. By visiting these banks in a city (and not all branches will do currency exchange) you can get a much better exchange rate than visiting a currency exchange booth at the airport. Often visiting the "national bank" of the country you are visiting, such as the Deutsche Bank when seeking Euros (€), or HSBC when seeking Hong Kong Dollars (HK$).

If you have the time to wait, you can also get excellent exchange rates purchasing your foreign currency prior to your travel. In the United States check out Wells Fargo's Exchange Services or Travelex Worldwide Money. These two services have very competitive rates for those who have a few days to wait before they depart for their journey. Using these services are easy, order your foreign currency and it arrives via FedEx.

If you must exchange your currency at the airport, and it happens, it is best to find a currency exchange at your departure airport, and often prior to security, to get the best rates. After security the rates are less in your favour. Upon arrival in your destination country, before you exit custom/immigrations, even less in your favour and in your destination airport after you exit customs/immigrations..........the worst exchange rate for travelers when exchanging currency in an airport.

Happy Flying!

25 April 2008

Weekly Roundup: New Passenger Bumping Rules, & Other Travel, News, Earth Day!, A Pocket Sized Tripod, Flying With Fish On The Radio

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

25/04/2008 - Weekly Roundup: New Passenger Bumping Rules, & Other Travel, News, Earth Day!, A Pocket Sized Tripod, Flying With Fish On The Radio

To kick off the Weekly Roundup, I have been asked to be a featured guest on the talk radio show Inside Digital Photo (www.insidedigitalphoto.com). Inside Digital Photo airs weekly in a number of U.S. metro markets, and can be found on iTunes following the broadcast. I'll be taping my segment this evening and will post an update when I have a broadcast/air date or when I find out where you can download the Podcast.

Elsewhere in the world of Flying With Fish, we had a busy week in news with two stories that affect all travelers in the United States. One works in your favour with new "passenger bumping rules," the other works against you if you are a foreign visitor to the United States with the new "US DHS foreign visitor proposal."

The new rules for passenger compensation kicked off the week and details the new compensation allowances for those passengers who have been 'involuntarily denied boarding,' from their flights. The new rules finally update the previous rules that were instituted in 1978. Read more on this topic here: 21/04/2008 - Passenger "Bumping Rule" Compensation : New Rules For Passenger Compensation!

Recently the US Department of Homeland Security proposed a new "security measure" to positively identify foreign travelers as they depart the United States. Not only is this proposal full of considerable flaws in terms of implementation and effectiveness, but also it places the financial burden of US$2.7 billion on the airlines and cruise industry (with the majority of the financial burden falling on the already financially strapped airlines). To find more information on this subject check here: 23/04/2008 - Proposed US Department of Homeland Security Visitor Identity Scheme To Further Place Financial Burden On Airlines & Alienate Foreign Visitors

This week was Earth Day, and Flying With Fish reminded you that you could help equalize your environmental footprint when traveling by purchasing Carbon Offsets. We only have one Earth and we need to protect it! To find out how you can help preserve our environment while traveling click here: 22/04/2008 - Purchase Carbon Offsets & Celebrate Earth Day!!

To meet our gadget needs, Flying With Fish reviewed the incredible pocket sized Manfrotto 3007 tripod kit. I was completely blown away with this "table top" tripod. The Manfrotto 3007's strength, size and versatility was well beyond what I expected. Even better is that this little wonder if outstanding for not only professional use, but also point-and-shoot use while on family vacations. You can learn more about the Manfrotto 3007 in this posting: 23/04/2008 - Incredible Pocket Sized Tripod : The Manfrotto 3007 Kit

Finally this week I published the top three packing tips submitted by the readers of Flying With Fish. With nearly 200 submitted tips (194 to be exact) it was hard to select the three most effective tips and award them the three PacSafe CarrySafe 100 camera straps. The winners of the straps were Anna Kuperberg, Petra Hall and Jonathan Adams. I'd like to thank everyone who submitted their tips (i'll do a follow up with 10 more in the next few weeks) and I'd like to thank PacSafe for supporting the readers of Flying With Fish. To read the Top Three Packing Tips, click here: 22/04/2008 - Top Three Reader Submitted Packing Tips : Three PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Strap Winners

Finally, we round out the week with five hidden airline fee that really tick me off! I know the airlines are in financial trouble. I know the cost of fuel is going up and there are other factors contributing to these financial troubles. With all of these financial issues airlines need to generate additional revenue, however some of these hidden fees are just aimed at angering their customers and making it more difficult work with these companies. To find out the five hidden fees that irritate me check here: 24/04/2008 - Five Hidden Airline Fees That Really Annoy Me

Happy Flying!

24 April 2008

Five Hidden Airline Fees That Really Annoy Me

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

24/04/2008 - Five Hidden Airline Fees That Really Annoy Me

The nickel and diming of passengers grows worse each and every day. Airlines scramble to make more money and deal with the rising costs of fuel, and along the way some of their hidden fees have just become absurd. From checked baggage to choosing seats, to simply buying a ticket, the fees can all add up. When one airline adds a fee you can rest assured a few more airlines will soon follow close behind.

While there are dozens of fees that have shown up in the past few years, here are the top five that really annoy me and that exemplify the nickel and diming of passengers.

#5 - Fee To Use Frequent Flyer Miles At The "Last Minute."
I just cashed in some miles on Delta for a quick trip that I booked then than three weeks from the date of travel I was hit with a significant fee for using my miles for travel less than three weeks from the date of travel. Often more seats are available closer to the date of travel due to airlines trying to fill the seats, but now there is an administrative convenience fee. The airline is taking my miles, I am paying the taxes, I am paying the ticket fee, now I am punished for booking less than three weeks from the date of travel? I was also hit with an additional fee for using my miles on a Delta partner airline, other than Delta (although this airline is merging with Delta.....can I get my money back?)

#4 - Fee To Re-Deposit Miles Into Your Frequent Flyer Account
In the last week I had to reschedule a trip booked on miles. The obvious solution is to re-deposit the miles with the airline rather than lose the miles. The fee to put my miles back into my account? $100 in administrative costs. The airline now has my original booking fee of $75 and my $100 re-deposit fee, for a total of $175 for a flight I have not taken.

#3 - Fee To Choose Seats On Your Flight
Airlines allow their "elite" frequent flyers to choose select seats, and these flyers got preferential seat choices. After the "frequent flyers, " airlines generally used to have simple policy, first come first served for seating assignments. This policy was simple and it made sense. A while back Northwest Airlines (soon to be merged with Delta Airlines) started to charge for seat selection, this policy has been followed by other carriers. You'd expect to find this kind of policy with a "low cost carrier" (LCC), but Northwest Airlines is a "legacy" airline. Additionally this policy is also in place with Air Canada on certain fares and other "legacy" airlines.

#2 - Fee To Fly Same Day Standby
In the "old days" if you showed up at the airport early you could request a "stand-by" seat on an earlier flight , based on seat availability. This was easy, it costs the airline nothing, especially if you have no checked baggage and it made life easy. many airlines now charge heavy fees to fly stand-by on seats that will otherwise go out empty. Many U.S. airlines charge $25 to fly stand-by, while United and Delta currently charge $50. The biggest hit for flying stand-by comes from "low cost carrier" Southwest Airlines. Southwest will simply charge you the full fare difference between what you paid for your ticket and what the current walk-up fare ticket cost is of the flight you are seeking to get on. In early February I was flying from Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to Providence (PVD) and got to the airport 90 minutes early. I figured "why not go home early?" Well I had paid $119 for my flight from BWI to PVD, and the walk up fare for the flight 60 minutes earlier was $383, so Southwest wanted $264 for a seat on a flight that was going out 1/2 empty! My flight? Oversold and the airline was seeking volunteers to be bumped in exchange for an overnight hotel stay and bump-vouchers. The airline would have saved money by sending me home an hour early in an empty seat.

#1 - Fee To Talk To A Human When Booking A Ticket!
U.S. Airways takes the top slot for the nickel and diming of passengers by charging $10 to book your ticket over the over phone and $20 to book your ticket at the airport! That's right, you walk up to the counter at your local airport and you'll get slapped with a $20 "in person" booking fee. The folks at the airport need to be there, they must staff the desk during flight times, and if you want to pay for your ticket in person you must pay $20 for the privilege of speaking with a human. Other airlines charge service fees to book on the on the phone, generally around $10, but I know of no other airline besides U.S. Airways that charges you to pay in person at a desk!

Happy Flying (there's no fee to be happy yet)!

23 April 2008

Proposed US Department of Homeland Security Visitor Identity Scheme To Further Place Financial Burden On Airlines & Alienate Foreign Visitors

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

23/04/2008 - Proposed US Department of Homeland Security Visitor Identity Scheme To Further Place Financial Burden On Airlines & Alienate Foreign Visitors

Last week, on Tuesday the 15th of April, The US Department of Homeland Security (US DHS) announced a proposal that would require commercial airlines, as well as cruise line operators, to collect the fingerprints of departing international travelers. The US DHS wants this information submitted to them as soon as the passengers depart the United States.

Currently commercial airlines, and cruise ship operators, are required to transmit basic passenger biographical data (name, date of birth departure point, arrival point address) to the US DHS for the US DHS to be able cross reference no-fly lists. Of course there are stories of planes departing and being turned around in the air due to "no-fly" passengers boarding the flights. Under this new proposed rule the airlines operating in the United States, both domestic and foreign, would be required to both collect and transmit international passenger biometric data to the US DHS. The idea is to track not only who is entering the United States, but also who is exiting the United States.

What's the problem with this? As I see it there are two independent problems with this new proposed ruling.

The first problem with this rule is one of civil liberties. I understand the need for Passport Control and the need for Visas to enter a country. These are ways of tracking who is entering a country. As criminals become more sophisticated (not just "terrorists," but drug runners, counterfeiter, arms dealers, those on INTERPOL lists, etc) the need to take a fingerprint that matches the name/face on the passport is a good security measure. The need to take 10 fingerprints instead of a single fingerprint seems to be all smoke-and-mirrors, but an incoming fingerprint is a good security measure.

Now the process of taking fingerprints on departure is absurd. Whoever the US DHS was seeking to keep the public safe from has already entered the country! Taking fingerprints on departure is like slamming the barn door after the horses have stampeded into the field. Furthermore, are the airline counter agents to be considered agents of the government in this process? In being required to take fingerprints, will passengers be denied boarding if they refuse a fingerprint? Where and when will the prints be taken? At the start of your journey (which for me is often a small regional airport, operating with a single airline, all flying small turbo props) or at the international departure point? In a "post-security" zone of a mixed domestic/international airport? How will this even begin to be implemented? If the data is collected at the gate it can't possibly be transmitted and reviewed prior to the flights departure.........and if the flight has departed whoever the US DHS is looking for is already long gone.

The second problem with this rule is purely financial. Airlines are flagging financially. In the past few months scores of airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection or just gone out of business. With the skyrocketing costs of fuel airlines are curtailing spending everywhere they can. Under this new US DHS security scheme the airline and cruise operators will be required to cover the financial costs of implementing this new scheme. This estimated cost? US$2.7 billion! If the US DHS wants this new procedure implemented, and they really should reconsider the usefulness of this new procedure rather than playing a game of smoke-and-mirrors, they should cover the costs. Why saddle an already struggling industry that is vital the U.S. and Global economy on multiple levels with an extreme costs that they are not able to outright pay for.

Overall these new procedures and the new homeland security scheme in general will simply keep people from seeking to visit the United States. In a time when we should be embracing foreign visitors with our rapidly devaluing dollar and the need to bring foreign business and revenue into the country we should not be scaring people away from our airports.

As for the security procedures being pressed upon the cruise industry, I have to ask one question. Do a lot of fleeing INTERPOL criminals depart the US on slow cruise ships?

Happy Flying!

Incredible Pocket Sized Tripod : The Manfrotto 3007 Kit

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

23/04/2008 - Incredible Pocket Sized Tripod : The Manfrotto 3007 Kit

After posting about the Ultrapod II in mid-February, on Flying With Fish, I received quite a few messages asking me if I had tried the Manfrotto 3007 tabletop tripod. In the weeks following my post the folks at Bogen/Manfrotto sent me the complete Manfrotto 3007 kit, including the 3007 Tabletop Tripod, 482 Mini-Ballhead, 3007x Extension Post and Bogen 345 Bag to test out and take on the road.

Since late March I have been using my Manfrotto 3007 kit extensively on trips throughout the United States and around the world. I initially used the 3007 as a hidden light stand on engagement sessions shoots in Philadelphia, San Francisco and later a bridal session in Hong Kong; and I also used the 3007 for a series of industrial architecture shoots in in the past few weeks in Philadelphia, Frankfurt, Incheon and New York City. I have to say that I love this pocket sized tripod!

The Manfrotto 3007 is very different than the Ultrapod II and they seem to do two very different jobs in my kit set up. I have been able to find unique uses for both tripods, but overall the Manfrotto 3007 is extremely versatile, very compact, exceedingly easy to travel with and able to withstand a significant weight load stably at unusual angles.

Any compact tripod can double as a compact light stand, this is fairly easy. I often place a small light behind my subjects for some added backlight, and the Manfrotto 3007's unique auxiliary extension post, that adds approximately 6-to-10 inches is great for fine tuning the secondary back light in tight spaces.

The real test of any compact tripod is to be able to stably hold the weight of a full-size camera with a heavy lens. Throughout my projects I have used the Manfrotto 3007 and the 482 mini-ballhead to hold a Canon 5D, with BG-E4 grip, with some heavy lenses, including the Canon 14f2.8,16-35f2.8, 24f1.4 and 24f3.5 tilt-shift at some very precise angles for some long exposures. Some shots were made with the 3007x extension post, others without, either way the tripod and the head held these heavy camera/lens combinations flawlessly.

I don't think I could have ever imagined using such a compact, lightweight, tripod for such precise work with the sets ups I was using in the past. The full range ball-head gives top notch profession precision and flexibility, while the overall kit can be disassembled and easily carried in your back pocket (not that I suggest trying to sit down with a disassembled tripod in your back pocket).

While the supplied carry-case is not my ideal design, it does it's job. Two individual slots hold the tripod with head and the extension post separately. This makes the ultra-quick set up and tear down easy. The belt loop on the back is perfect for attaching to any belt system,or lashing it onto a bag such as the Mountainsmith Tour or the Newswear belt system.

At approximately US$80 for the complete kit, I can't see why anyone wouldn't add the Manfrotto 3007 to their kit!

Below are two photos of my Canon 5D w/24f1.4 attached to the Manfrotto 3007 while shooting the Incheon Transportation Center, in Incheon, South Korea. Along with these two photos is a photo shot from this set up.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

22 April 2008

Purchase Carbon Offsets & Celebrate Earth Day!!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

22/04/2008 - Purchase Carbon Offsets & Celebrate Earth Day!!

It's Earth Day, the day we remember Mother Earth and everything she does for us! Travel can have a significant footprint on the environment. You can offset your personal travel footprint by purchasing a carbon offset!

What exactly is a carbon offset? Well a carbon offset is a credit you can purchase to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. While there are different types of carbon offsets they are all based on a metric-tonne of the carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) of what you are adding to the environment.

Generally for travel the carbon offset you purchase is a tree, or foliage, that will replace the oxygen into the ecosystem we all live in on planet Earth. These carbon offset projects generally are involved in the reforestation and soil management efforts. We really can't have to many trees being planted can we?

For travelers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, I suggest visiting Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org). This site has a lot of good info and resources for those interested in moving towards a more "carbon neutral" lifestyle while on the road.

You can also check your carbon footprint for your travels and directly purchase your carbon offsets from Sustainable Travel International at:

STI's pledge is that 80% of your carbon offset purchase is allocated to the projects that STI offers to reduce carbon emissions! This is considerably better than many other carbon offset providers I have looked into.

Come on.......you know you want to help save the planet!

Happy Flying!

Top Three Reader Submitted Packing Tips : Three PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Strap Winners

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

22/04/2008 - Top Three Reader Submitted Packing Tips : Three PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Strap Winners

I have received more than a hundred responses from readers of Flying With Fish with their packing tips and their chance to win a PacSafe CarrySafe 100 camera strap. Having read each and every response in detail I had the hard task of choosing just three that really stood out. After reducing my potential winners down to 25 packing tips I had really buckle down and start doing "blind reviews." For each of these potential 25, I copied and pasted the answers that interested me into a text file without the name of the person who submitted it. From here I re-read each answer twice and got my potential winners down to 13. From that 13, I finally selected the 3 that stood out and that deserved the PacSafe CarrySafe 100 camera straps!

Some of the packing tips I received were funny (don't pack a sub-automatic machine gun in your carry on if you are in a hurry); others bordered on down right strange (I don't like to travel, but if I did, I'd use Pelican cases so my stuff wasn't destroyed); quite a few were great common sense answers, and shockingly more than a dozen replies were direct copy-and-paste answers directly from the archives of Flying With Fish (hey folks, I know my own text!). From these it was really difficult to find the three that stood out but I did it and here they are........in alphabetical order of the folks who sent them in.

Submitted By - Anna Kuperberg, San Francisco, California :
If you have to fly to shoot a wedding, and don't want to get your nice suit rumpled, just pack it dirty and wrinkled. Have it dry cleaned at the hotel when you get there, they will do it overnight. This makes more sense than cleaning it and pressing it before you fly, just to rumple it up in your suitcase!

--This is a great suggestion! This can apply to anyone, not just a photog. Business travelers and those on their way to a formal affair should keep this info in the back of their head. Hotel in-house laundry is not always low-cost, but in a pinch it is well worth it and certainly better than having to carry a garment bag.

Submitted By - Jonathan Adams, Jackson, Wyoming :
A simple idea that started doing back in 1998 while traveling around the world and still one of my favorite. Scan all of your important documents...ie driver license, passport, and store those files in your online email host. Everyplace where I needed my passport always seem to have an internet connection so if you do get everything stolen, you can always have access to a copy at any consulate or embassy.

--This is a fantastic idea. I have traveled with copies of my documents in a second bag, or in the front pocket of my fleece jacket or vest, but I never kept them online! Having them online is a brilliant way to quickly access your important information in a worst-case scenario when out of the country!

Submitted By - Petra Hall, Pitea. Sweden :
When you travel around for a few days and need to keep track of your dirty and clean clothes, turn the dirty ones inside out, and you can spot them right away and go for the clean ones (plus you don't have to sniff dirty old socks - a plus).

--This is a very simple of easy to implement packing tip. It requires no excess packing, it takes the same space you departed with and keeps it even throughout your travels. I'm sure your travel-mates will appreciate your separation of clean and dirty laundry clothes throughout your journey.

I'd like to thank the folks at PacSafe for sponsoring this first contest on Flying With Fish with the PacSafe CarrySafe 100 straps. I hope to have some more in the future!

If you readers of Flying With Fish are looking for some great items to keep your equipment and bags safe while traveling, and want to support a company that supports this site, check out PacSafe's products at www.pacsafe.com

Happy Flying!

21 April 2008

Passenger "Bumping Rule" Compensation : New Rules For Passenger Compensation!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

21/04/2008 - Passenger "Bumping Rule" Compensation : New Rules For Passenger Compensation!

Starting in May, 2008, airlines operating in the United States will have more incentive to reduce their over booking policy and there will be further compensation for passengers who are denied boarding on their flights.

Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) finally changed the rules as they pertain to passengers who are "involuntarily denied boarding," aka "IDB" or "bumped." Under the old rules, which were set in place way back in 1978, when I was 3 years old, passengers who were " "involuntarily bumped" (IDB'd)" and who arrived at their destination within 2 hours of their original arrival time were compensated with between $200 and $400. Generally these passengers also received a round trip voucher good within the continental United States. This compensation was valid for passengers "IDB'd" from a flight on planes that carried more than 60 passengers only.

Under the new US DOT rules, which they are calling the "Bumping Rule," passengers who are "IDB'd" and arrive at their destination within 2 hours of their original schedule arrival time. will be compensated up to $400. For those passengers flying internationally this time frame is extended to four hours. Passengers who arrive more than 2 hours past their original scheduled arrival time will receive up to $800. Under the new rules this compensation is now available to passengers flying on aircraft that carry more than 30 passengers.

The new "Bumping Rule" compensation is based on the value of the passenger ticket and the length of the delay. This new compensation in addition to the value of each passengers ticket and may be used towards alternate transportation, if required, or it may be directly refunded if not used for alternated transportation.

For those who have an extended delay, you should also demand meal vouchers for your unexpected time in the airport, for those delayed overnight you should demand to be put up in a hotel for the evening and transportation to that hotel if none is available. As with all bumps, voluntary (VDB) and involuntary (IDB) you should always strongly request a voucher good for a round trip journey within the continental United States.

What is the difference in IDB and VDB? Simple. When you are Involuntarily Denied Boarding (IDB) you are not given the option to board the plane. This can happen for a variety of reasons, oversold flight, change of equipment (aircraft swap), late connection and a gate agent who makes the decision not to board you (even if you legally have enough time to board the flight!). When you are "voluntarily denied boarding" (VDB) you have offered yourself up to be bumped at the request of the airline.

To learn more on the benefits of getting "VDB'd" visit my post from the 16th of November at: "We Need A Volunteer To Give Up Their Seat In Exchange For A Free Flight" - The Ups & Downs Of Being Bumped"

Hopefully this explains a somewhat confusing change in the US DOT rules and your rights as a passenger flying in the US (or flying from the US).

Happy Flying!

18 April 2008

Weekly Roundup : Free PacSafe Camera Straps, Funny Comments Heard In Transit, Come Fly With Fish, Flying With Fish Has A New Look!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

18/04/2008 - Weekly Roundup : Free PacSafe Camera Straps, Funny Comments Heard In Transit, Come Fly With Fish, Flying With Fish Has A New Look!

Starting today I am going to start trying to do a weekly round up of each week. This is where I'll post things that don't fit in other posts and round up the week in review.

This past week I discussed staying sane and entertained while flying on long haul flights. The four main ways I keep myself sane and entertained when stuck in an airplane sear for a dozen hours is to listen to music, watch movies, read and or course sleep. If you can sleep for 6 hours of a 12-hour flight, you only need to stay entertained for 6 hours! I will be adding one or two more long haul sanity tips to Flying With Fish in the next week. If you have any long haul sanity tips drop me an e-mail at traveltips@flyingwithfish.com

For those of you seeking a new camera strap I am giving away three PacSafe Carry Safe 100 camera straps! the PacSafe Carry Safe 100 strap is a theft resistant strap that has a metal cable running through it so it cannot be slashed making it more secure not only when on your shoulder, but also when you sit down and loop it onto something. I recently switched to the PacSafe Carry Safe 100 straps in February after more than 15 years of using the Domke 1" Gripper straps. You can find out how to win one of these PacSafe straps here: 14/04/2008 - Tell Me Your Best Packing Tips & Win A PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Camera Strap!

On Monday, the 14th of April, the long anticipated merger between Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines was announced. Pending U.S. Government approval this merged airline will create the world's largest airline. Personally I don't know if I like this merger, because it will lead to other mergers. The more airlines merge, the less seating capacity exists and in turn the higher airfares will be driven. You can find more on this merger in this post: 14/04/2008 - Airline Merger Creates The World's Largest Airline : Saying Goodbye To An Airline I've Had A Love/Hate Relationship With

Are you interested in learning a whole new way to travel as a photographer? Want adventure and challenges that will not only change how you travel but also give you a once in a lifetime experience? Check out the No Jet Lag Photo Workshop to Europe and the Round The World No Jet Lag Workshop! These two hands on workshops will teach you a whole new way to explore the world! These workshops are open to both beginners and professionals, as the small groups allow me to tweak my information to each individual participant. For more information, please visit www.comeflywithfish.com

To round up this Weekly Roundup, I'd like to share to funny comments I heard last Saturday while traveling.
#1) While departing the United Airlines Red Carpet Club at Tokyo's Narita Airport (NRT) a woman flying to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) on my flight was at the desk demanding to know why she had to walk so far to get to the gate. The customer service agent explained "because that is where the plane is." This woman's response? "There is an empty gate next to lounge, why can't you just move the plane there?"

Apparently she is not aware that planes are assigned gates, and they don't just get towed gate-to-gate picked up passengers throughout the terminal.

#2) On my flight from Chicago O'Hare (ORD) to Providence (PVD) the United Airlines Express (GoJet Airlines) flight attendant announced that all liquids must be placed in a plastic bag then placed on the floor. My seat-mate was drinking a bottle of water and placed it in the seat back, I was drinking from a paper cup with a straw from a fast food restaurant. When the flight attendant reached both of us we questioned her as we had never heard this rule before (which is not a real rule and given the laws of physics is more dangerous than having your bottle of water in the seat back) she confiscated our drinks! I would love to know why a paper cup with straw needs to placed in a plastic bag and then placed on the floor under the seat in front of you for safety reasons? The drink would not spill in my hand, but it would certainly spill standing up under a seat upon take off!

Finally, you may have noticed that as of today, Flying With Fish has a new look. The new look is designed to make the site easier to read and reflect the colours of the fish in my logo. Hopefully you folks like the new look, I know I do.

Happy Flying!

17 April 2008

Long Haul Flight Sanity : Music To Sooth The Mind

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

17/04/2008 - Long Haul Flight Sanity : Music To Sooth The Mind

It is amazing how much something as simple as music can make your journey more peaceful and relaxing. In this day and age you can travel with all the music you could ever want for a long trip in a 2.75" x 2" (6.9cm x 5cm), 1.7oz (49 gram) iPod Nano, and these devices are sure to get somewhat smaller and grow in data capacity.

While I am a big movie watcher while traveling I could never go anywhere without my iPod. My iPod is like heaven when I am trying to sleep. Click on some soft music, close my eyes and try and sleep. I have endured long-haul flights (14+ hours) with no on-board movies available and only 30 minutes of battery life left on my laptop. Sure I could sleep, but this flight departed at 10:50am, so I was wide-awake for the first six hours (and last four hours) of the flight. My salvation while on this flight was my iPod. An endless stream of music allowed me to stay entertained and relaxed while reading the same two magazines over and over again.

Using my iPod with noise canceling headsets (see 13/04/2008 - Long Haul Flight Sanity : Noise Canceling Headphones) is the best way to block out the world when not only on the flight but also while in transit. my iPod with noise canceling headsets have been fantastic for keeping me calm and focused when check in for a flight during the most hectic travel times of the year, people all around me are yelling and shoving and I can just listen to my music and pay attention to what I need to pay attention to.

I have a funny way of setting up my music. I have different genres of music for different period of travel. If I am driving to the airport at 5:00am I am listening to Megadeth or Van Halen to wake up; every single flight begins with Van Halen's "Top of the World" as the engines rev-up and we start down the runway; during the flight I listen to relaxing music such as James Taylor, Indigo Girls or Glenn Miller to calm down or maybe sleep; in transit on the train or walking I often have on fast paced instrumental music like Joe Satriani; and when heading home or staying up late to catch a flight I listen to "louder" music like Iron Maiden or Twisted Sister. Without an iPod carrying all these types of music would be space prohibitive.

More than any other type of "Long Haul Flight Sanity" options, music is by far the easiest, most compact and versatile.

............as an added Bonus, you can even load movies and TV shows onto your iPod! The current iPod Nano has a 24-hour battery life for music and up to 5 hours of battery life for movies, so you can take your music and movies with you on the road (although I personally use my iPod Video for music only).

Happy Flying!

16 April 2008

Finding The Lowest Airfares : Looking Beyond The Obvious Web Sites

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

16/04/2008 - Finding The Lowest Airfares : Looking Beyond The Obvious Web Sites

When you are shopping online for your airfares there are generally three obvious web sites that come to mind, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. Those who are seeking other alternatives often seek out Kayak, and the daring turn to Hotwire and Priceline.

I will admit, I often use Expedia for quick searches and I use Orbitz to search routes by airline alliance (a nifty feature on Orbitz). I find both Expedia and Orbitz great tools. I stay away from sites such as Kayak for a very simple reason, more often than not when you select a fare you are informed that the $397.63 fare is now "repriced" at $862.91. This is frustrating and causes me to skip Kayak entirely marking it off as an unreliable tool.

For those of you seeking alternate reliable web sites to further search airfares, I have listed a few sites that are often overlooked:

CheapOAir.com (www.cheapoair.com) - One thing that sets CheapOAir.com aside from other small independent travel sites is that they have a low fare guarantee.

SmartFares (www.smartfares.com) - SmartFares is unique in that the fares offered on the site are a mix of fares direct from the airlines and fares purchased through consolidators. Consolidators often offer fares at a significant cost savings. The sheer number of potential discounted fares found on this site often gives quite a few more options than their competitors.

JetCombo (www.jetcombo.com) - I like JetCombo because you are able to streamline your airfare search by searching not only seats in economy/business/first class in a much easier manner than other sites, but you can also search for available seats on private jets! I know when I am searching a flight from New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG) and see US$835 in economy,US$5,632 in Business, US$11,692 in First...........and US$226,205 on a private jet all I can think is "Wow, First Class is such a bargain!" (then I usually buy the economy fare and upgrade with frequent flyer miles). OK, lets' skip buying a seat on the private jet, however I like being able to search economy and business class so easily. At times I have found business class seats within a very close margin of economy class seats depending on the airline and route.

Vayama (www.vayama.com) - Vayama is unlike any travel web site you have ever used. You can select your departure and arrival city by using an interactive map! How cool is that? I'll tell you, it's cool! You can use the fantastic visual features to plan your point-to-point routes or even your round-the-world routes. You can also choose flights by a sliding fare scale and a sliding travel-trip time sliding scale. Even if you choose not to use this site to purchase your tickets, you have to play with it!

Have a site you think I have overlooked? Let me know at traveltips@flyingwithfish.com

Happy Flying!

15 April 2008

Long Haul Flight Sanity : Hand Held Movies

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

15/04/2008 - Long Haul Flight Sanity : Hand Held Movies

I love to watch movies in transit. Movies can be intense to keep my attention or mindless to let me watch in happy bliss as I doze off. Movies make long haul flight tolerable to stimulate your mind visually and through audio. I find movies more than anything else allow me to block out the cramped world around me and stay in my own little world.

I have always watched movies on planes. I use my laptop, a portable DVD player (we'll get to that in another post) and most recently I added the Sony Play Station Portable (PSP) Slim to my movie-watching arsenal. I had the pleasure of really giving my PSP a good in-the-field test last week on a 20,000 miles, 3.5 day journey and loved it.

The Sony PSP fits in the palm of my hand, it fits in my shirt pocket and has a battery life of around 5 hours (when using headsets) while watching movies. The battery is a little bigger than a Blackberry battery, so I can carry an extra 5 hours of movie watching in my bag without taking up any space (with an extended battery, that requires a "bulging" battery plate, you can get about 8 hours of movie watching). The compact design makes the PSP Slim ideal for travel.

The first eye-catching feature is the bright 4.3" widescreen design. This compact screen allows for full size movie display, not a cropped viewing experience. This design was intended for gaming, as was the entire device, but as I don't play games, I find it brilliant to watch movies in tight spaces. I found the Sony PSP Slim fantastic not only in my seat on the plane, but also while flying on a regional jet, sitting on a commuter train, riding the subway and a tiny tram. With my intense travel schedule I was trying to stay awake and alert the best I could at all times and the movies on the PSP helped me stay alert.

The Sony PSP uses Universal Media Disks (UMD). While there are not nearly as many movies on UMD as there are on DVDs, you can also download movies to Memory Sticks Duo and watch movies on this media. Watching a movie on the Memory Stick Duo also increases the battery life of the PSP. By downloading movies you can greatly increase your movie collection and also cut down on the already minimal space required by the PSP.

If you like games, the PSP has a massive catalogue of games. I don't play video games, but I have seen the games available and there is something for everyone (in triplicate).

I wish I had found the PSP earlier. This is an excellent way to bring my entertainment everywhere I go.

Below are a few photos I shot of my limited edition Star Wars Sony PSP (including one of me using my PSP on a flight from Hong Kong to Incheon). There is also a photo of a UMD disk with a Canon rear-lens cap to show the compact size of these disks, and a photo of my PSP in it's Manhattan Portage case.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

14 April 2008

Tell Me Your Best Packing Tips & Win A PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Camera Strap!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

14/04/2008 - Tell Me Your Best Packing Tips & Win A PacSafe Carry Safe 100 Camera Strap!

I spent last Friday afternoon with the folks at PacSafe in their Global Headquarters in Hong Kong. During this meeting I had an excellent opportunity to provide PacSafe's executives with some real world insight into ways they can improve on their excellent camera straps, and on creating practical camera bags for photographers on the road and in the field.

As a result of my meeting with PacSafe they have generously offered me the opportunity to pass along some of their products to you folks who read Flying With Fish!

I could just run a simple contest, but this site is all about educating those who work on the road, and also passing information onto the occasional traveler as well. In an effort to add to the educational content of Flying With Fish, rather than running a contest I've decided to go with the topic I discussed with PacSafe for the first giveaway. This topic is packing tips. Mundane? Nope, practical!

E-Mail your favourite packing tips to: traveltips@flyingwithfish.com , and the top three best packing tips will not only be posted on Flying With Fish, but if your tip is selected you will receive a PacSafe Carry Safe 100 strap!

I will select the three winners on Tuesday, 22-April-2008.

Happy Flying!

Airline Merger Creates The World's Largest Airline : Saying Goodbye To An Airline I've Had A Love/Hate Relationship With

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

14/04/2008 - Airline Merger Creates The World's Largest Airline : Saying Goodbye To An Airline I've Had A Love/Hate Relationship With

Well, some of us have been waiting for this day for quite some time. We've been watching the all the potential out comes,wondered about fleet integration, but the day has arrived today, the 14th of April.

What is this day? Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines have announced their merger. Pending government approval Northwest Airlines will no longer exist, and Delta will become the world's largest airline.

No merger goes smoothly. Delta and Northwest have been part of the same airline alliance which helps, they both fly a significant Boeing 757 fleet, which will make seat maps more confusing,but it makes front line service easier. Delta and Northwest even shared Terminal 2 at New York's JFK International Airport for years,and still share a terminal at New York's LaGuardia, after that the similarities end. The two airline pilots unions did not agree to the merge and cannot agree on seniority issues, there are overlapping "hub" issues, and of course the merging of employees, the consolidating of flight schedules, the merge of frequent flyer programs, the handling of reservations, etc etc.

How does any of this really affect you? Well, for those of you who have purchased tickets very far in advance on either Delta or Northwest need to start checking your flights as this merger gets closer and closer to coming together in reality. The two airlines will merge fleets, they will divest routes, trim overlapping schedules and this will mean we as travelers will face reduced capacity on our flights. Reduced capacity means less seats are higher fares. One factor that the Government will look at when approving (or denying) this merger is the monopoly of routes and the elimination of jobs. So this is not set in stone, but most airline mergers who get the far, with this much preparation, don't get denied

On the global scale this merge is massive. Northwest Airlines has a long established relationship with KLM. The relationship is so close they fly an aircraft fleet that can almost entirely be integrated, they both have their Business Class names "World Business Class," they both use Amsterdam (AMS) as their main Euro hub, their web sites are interlinked as well as various other integration points that make them a full working partner that manages to avoid Antitrust laws.

On a larger scale KLM is owned by Air France (Air France-KLM). Air France is likely to invest as much as it legally can in the "new" Delta after the merge. Delta, Northwest, KLM, Air France are four of the eleven member of Sky Team (well 10 members once DL and NW merge, well 9 members if you count KLM and Air France as one airline....hmmmm). This makes the world of looking for competitive airfares a little more difficult for those of you shopping for flights.

So Long Northwest. You've Been Loved. You've Been Hated. You'll Be Missed.

13 April 2008

Long Haul Flight Sanity : Noise Canceling Headphones

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

13/04/2008 - Long Haul Flight Sanity : Noise Canceling Headphones

One of the simplest ways to create your own little world and stay sane on long haul flights (short regional flights, airport layovers, train rides , etc) is to use noise canceling headphones.

Noise canceling headphones create a wall of white noise blocks out most ambient noise. This level of quiet and peace can take a loud crowded plane and block it out giving you a personal quiet zone.

Not only does the use of noise canceling headphones make listening to music and the watching of movies more enjoyable, but you can also use them independent of another device to simply cut out the ambient noise. When I am trying to sleep on a flight I often unplug my noise canceling headphones from my iPod and just use the headphones to block the noise.

Over the past few days I have flown 20,000 miles with the Sony MDR-NC22 in-ear noise canceling headphones. Having had these headphones in my ears for approximately 40 hours over a span of approximately 84 hours, I have found the MDR-NC22 headphones to not only be excellent in their ability to block out the ambient noise surrounding me but they are also extremely comfortable. Most headphones, in-ear or on-ear tend to really become uncomfortable after 10 or 12 hours of consistent use, the Sony MDR-NC22 headsets have a unique design that keeps them snug in your ear and comfortable to wear,

Most in-ear headsets are either inserted into your ear canal, or they are "disk shaped" and rest inside of your ear. The Sony MDR-NC22 headphones are a combination of both designs. The flexible rubber tip (the head phones come with three sizes of rubber tips) fits comfortably in your ear canal, while the disk design seals off the rest of your ear, blocking ambient noise, while also supporting the weight of the headphones.

I have posted a few photos of the Sony MDR-NC22 headphones below, including the packaging, included items and the unique in-ear design of the headphones.

Happy Flying!

--Click The Images To Enlarge Them--

12 April 2008

Long Haul Flight Entertainment : Four Ways To Keep Your Sanity

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

12/04/2008 - Long Haul Flight Entertainment : Four Ways To Keep Your Sanity

I have received many e-mails over the past year asking me how to stay entertained on long haul flights. Having responded to dozens of these e-mails I thought it appropriate to start my short series on handling your sanity during long haul travel at the start of my 11 hour flight from Tokyo to Chicago. This is the last long haul flight on my 20,000 mile, 3.5 day journey around the world shooting projects in four cities, in four countries and on three continents.

Some Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340 aircraft have the slogan ""4 Engines 4 Long Haul." I have my own version of this "4 Sanity Options 4 Long Haul." Not as catchy as the Virgin Atlantic slogan, but it works for me.

1) Music
2) Movies
3) Reading
4) Sleep

Music is the easiest. Everyone has an iPod, MP3 player, phone that plays MP3s or something that plays music. Music is ideal to keep your mind occupied on a flight of any length. I have been on a 13 hour flight with no in-seat power and an aircraft with a broken in-flight entertainment. 13 hours on a packed 777-300 with no in-flight movie and no in-seat audio. For those who had in-seat AVOD (Audio Visual On Demand), all they had were black screens. My sanity was kept intact by my iPod.

2) Movies will keep you going. A sleeve of 10 DVDs is compact and can be slipped in anywhere without taking up space. The only problem with movies is the need for power, extra laptop batteries, in-seat power, portable DVD player with extra batteries, iPod Video with auxiliary batteries (I'll be writing up the Sony PSP in a few days). There is nothing I prefer more than movies on a long haul journey. I watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, you name it. A few movies can make an 11 hour flight go by in the blink of an eye.

3) Reading is an easy way to pass the time. If you're on this site chances are you can read, if you can read you can learn, be entertained, and while away the mindless hours. Best thing about reading? You can pick it up on any corner and it requires no power or batteries.

4) Sleep. I think sleep is fairy self evident. If you plan your body clock properly you can sleep half the night away then read and listen to music for the rest of the flight. I often try and board planes nearly exhausted, this allows me to maximize my sleep. If I can sleep my flight away I tend to arrive as a happy flyer!

Happy Flying!

The Dreaded SSSS On Your Boarding Pass

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

12/04/2008 - The Dreaded SSSS On Your Boarding Pass

Many of you have experienced the joy of "Secondary Security Screening Selection" (SSSS), and for those who have not experienced it , you probably know someone who has, or have seen it while waiting in line for security.

How do you know if you have been "selected" for secondary screening? In the lower right corner of your boarding pass you will see four letters "SSSS," which stands for "Secondary Security Screening Selection." Contrary to popular belief, passengers who receive SSSS selection are not chosen by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA), they are actually selected by the airlines they are flying on.

A common misconception is that SSSS only exists in the United States. You can get SSSS on your boarding pass outside of the United States. I know quite a few people who have had SSSS come up on their boarding pass outside of the US. In fact I was handed a boarding pass with SSSS this morning for my flight from Seoul/Incheon (ICN) to Tokyo/Narita (NRT).

Another very popular myth is that passengers in premium cabins are not subject to SSSS. This is entirely false. Another common myth is that an airlines, or airline alliance, "elite" frequent flier is not subject to the SSSS. This is also incorrect.

To demonstrate that these myths are just myths, there is a photograph of my boarding pass from this morning at the end of this post. This boarding pass has all the myths debunked on one sheet of paper.

If you look at my boarding pass you will see that it is issued at Incheon/Seoul (South Korea). You will also see that the boarding pass clearly states "United First" in the upper right of the card, a "First Class" label is on the the right hand side. Lastly you'll notice under my name is printed "BD*G." BD*G = British Midland International (BMI) - Star Gold. "Star Gold" is the highest level of elite status recognized between the Star Alliance member airlines.

How can you avoid getting the "SSSS" on your boarding pass? You cannot. There are no published guidelines for what triggers this. The only know reasons that can potentially trigger this appearing on your boarding pass are your travel patterns. I know why I think my boarding pass has SSSS on it. My travel itinerary over the past few days is unusual. I have made complete stops in my itinerary in four countries, on three continents, in three 24 hour periods, without ever overnighting in any one place. Having traveled in the United States, Germany, Hong Kong and South Korea (I am now writing this entry sitting in the airport in Tokyo/Narita, Japan) would naturally set of red flags in the airline's computer system.

When you are selected the computer has to base it's SSSS selection on travel patterns, such as last minute one-way bookings, as the computer cannot factor in a background check at the time the boarding pass is issued. I have read some very amusing posts online about how to avoid SSSS, such as asking for a new seat. This does not work. A favourite way to avoid SSSS is to pay for an upgrade. Not only does this not remove the SSSS, but you have to consider if it is even worth it to pay for an upgrade to save 4 minutes at the security check point.

Secondary screening is not that bad. It is inconvenient, but it takes a few minutes,that's all.

Does SSSS actually provide us with any additional security? No not really. If you are planning on doing some harm to the worth and you see SSSS on your boarding card chances are you'll walk out of the airport, or go to your car and ditch whatever you were going to smuggle onto the plane. It is simply a show of force.

So, if you get SSSS on your boarding pass be polite. Stay calm and relaxed. Empty your pockets it will go by quickly. I have seen quite a few folks start yelling at gate agents or security agents. That gets you no where except possibly being denied boarding and certainly a longer, slower search.

Happy Flying!

--Click Photo To Enlarge It--

11 April 2008

Protect Yourself From In-Flight Theft

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

11/04/2008 - Protect Yourself From In-Flight Theft

Over the past few weeks I have received some e-mails alerting me to a an interesting twist in airport thefts. These thefts are happening in-flight, right over your head while you snooze the flight away. I had heard of overhead bin thefts in the past, but assumed they were a rare occurrence. While we should be vigilant for "rare occurrences," I tend to focus on the clear and present dangers, this new information, which I am still trying to gather more information on, appears to be less than "rare" in specific types of flights.

My initial information was sent to me as an anonyms message through Flying With Fish. The detail in which this message was sent to me leads me to believe the person who contacted me has detailed information and is a flight attendant. Upon asking around I have found other information that supports the initial message I was sent.

What exactly is happening in flight? Well, it seems that on overnight (red-eye) long haul flights, and red-eye transcontinental flights, thieves spend part of the evening patrolling the overhead bins for obvious items, such as women's purses to steal wallets and small electronics. These people often try and board first, sitting near the back of their cabin to scan for what people are placing in the overhead bins. When they get up they act as if they are pulling their own item and can walk off with your camera or laptop. The majority of the thefts happen as people sleep, although some are brazen and do it in broad day light right over the victims heads. Most victims have no idea the theft happened until they are off the plane and checking their bags. By the time they discover the theft they assume they lost the item in either the departing airport or the arriving airport, rather than having lost the item in flight.

Some of these thefts happen in cabins people assume are 'safer' such as domestic first class and international business class cabins. I have yet to find anyone discussing these thefts in international first class, but that is most likely due to the cabin being small, closed off, and very cost prohibitive for thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself?

When you board the plane make sure you don't expose valuable items in an "open cabin" (standing in the aisle so everyone can see you). You should place your valuables at your feet. Flying with your cameras out? Make sure they are at your feet for the flight. Have you laptop and passport in your bag overhead? Lock it! People lock their bags while sitting in the gate area awaiting departure, then open the bag to grab something in flight and leave it unlocked. Next time you put your bag overhead secure it, bury it behind coats, turn it backwards, anything that makes it harder for a thief to access your bag. These people need quick and easy targets, they cannot fumble around, they cannot pull a bag out, spin it around then fumble with the clasp. They need easy targets, make sure your bags are not easy targets.

I'd like to thank whoever the person is who sent me this initial message!

Happy Flying!

10 April 2008

Traveling With Illegal & Contraband Items : Know The Rules Or Face "Going Home"

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

10/04/2008 - Traveling With Illegal & Contraband Items : Know The Rules Or Face "Going Home"

Everyday travelers fly across borders, oceans and continents with items they should not be traveling with. From minor items of interest to Customs Agents to significant items of interest to Customs Agents. The penalties associated with entering countries with these items can range from confiscation, fines, deportation and of course jail.

If you choose to try and enter a country with contraband or illegal items know that getting caught is a significant risk. Obviously flying with drugs and explosives comes to mind for most people, however many countries have dogs trained to sniff for other items such as agriculture, tobacco and even cold hard cash.

I was reminded of this yesterday while waiting from my flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt when I looked out the window and started watching a U.S. Customs K9 unit that had pulled up beside baggage container being unloaded from an in-bound flight from Europe. Once the US Customs Agent released his dog it quickly "hit on" two boxes that were marked Fragile. US Customs Agents brought the boxes to a mobile x-ray unit to inspect the packages and agent set forth in opening the packages right there on the tarmac.

With some luck I managed to meet up with two US Immigrations Agents with the gentleman who's packages were sniffed out by the dog. It turns out he was arriving in the United States with a lot of Cuban Cigars. Cuban Cigars are beloved around the world and illegal in the United States. I am not sure how many cigars this gentleman was arriving with, because I'd imagine deportation for possessing Cuban Cigars is not common, but he was processed and deported very quickly. With some conversation, I managed to talk my way into being allowed to photograph the "deportee" being escorted into the secure area where he'd wait to board his departing flight out of the United States.

Keep this in mind when you are playing the odds that you can contraband and illegal items into a country you are traveling to, or through. It may bring a quick end to your journey.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

09 April 2008

Airlines Are Dropping Like Flies : Check Your Flights!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

09/04/2008 - Airlines Are Dropping Like Flies : Check Your Flights.......NOW!

As I sit here in Philadelphia International Airport looking out at a sea of planes, on my way to Frankfurt and Hong Kong, I am reading various stories on Oasis Hong Kong closing it's operations down.

For most flyers the departure of Oasis Hong Kong is not a big deal, but to me, this is the airline I was scheduled to fly in late May out to Hong Kong for a wedding. I now need to reschedule my flights, book new tickets and deal with the fall out. I have an escape plan in place, I am looking at three options all of which should be OK.

Why does this pertain to any of you? Well aside from the closing of Oasis Hong Kong's operations we have had three airlines close in the United States. The closing of Aloha Airlines, ATA and SkyBus left tens of thousands of passengers stranded. Many passengers intending to fly days after the airlines closures are still not aware that the airline they are ticketed on has ceased operations.

In the next few days, if you are flying, make sure you still have an airline to fly on.

I checked this morning for my trips and its seems that US Airways, Lufthansa, Asiana and United Airlines are still flying :0)

Happy Flying!

07 April 2008

Ensuring Your Baggage Arrives With You & Intact

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

07/04/2008 - Ensuring Your Baggage Arrives With You & Intact

There are two questions I receive with some regularity regarding traveling with checked baggage. These questions are "How can I ensure my baggage doesn't get lost?" and " What can I do to make sure my bags are not damaged?"

If I had the answer to either of these two questions I'd be a millionaire right now.

In short, once your checked luggage receives it's baggage tag with your name, your flight info and the three letter airport code it is headed for, it's destiny is out of your hands. I have written about making the locating of lost bags easier in my post entitled "Don't Let The Airlines Lose Your Bags .........Or If They Do, Get Reunited Quicker!" , but making sure they get properly routed is out of your hands.

How do you make sure your bags arrive intact? This has many factors, the first one depending on what you packed in your checked baggage. Packing photographic equipment is vastly different than packing some swim trunks, a few shirts and your socks. Overall, just make sure you have decent luggage. If your packing camera gear look into the Pelican Cases or Tenba Air Cases, for everything else decent luggage does not need to be costly. Look into brands such as L.L. Bean that are not only affordable, but also well built and guaranteed for life , and LL Bean means it! If any LL Bean product ever does not live up your expectation for any reason they will replace it or refund it ...... for life!

There is one way to possibly ensure your baggage is treated better than the other bags coming off the baggage cart, by showing some appreciation! That's right, we all know the ramp handlers work in sub-zero temperatures, 100f+/38c+ temperatures, in the rain, the snow, and handle bags weighing nearly 100lbs, it's a tough job. Being a baggage handler is not a job that gets a pat on the back or a smile from the customer, it's behind the scenes, day in, day out no matter the conditions.

So how can you show your appreciation? Simple.....show them you care! Brookstone now sells oversized luggage tags that proudly read "I Love Baggage Handlers." There is no guarantee this will work, but I am sure it will bring a smile the baggage handlers who are loading your bags onto your next flight.

Check out this tag of Baggage Handler appreciation out on Brookstone's web site at:

Happy Flying!

--Click Image To Enlarge--

06 April 2008

Protect Your Bags & Property With Two Simple Items

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

06/04/2008 - Protect Your Bags & Property With Two Simple Items

Many thefts in transit could have simply been avoided. No one is always alert, we all let our guard down, we are rushing to make our connection or just get away from the crowds. Rather than fall victim to those who prey on open backpacks and loose bags when you turn your back, you can protect yourself with two simple items.

When walking through the terminal, after you have loaded your laptop back into your bag after the security screening checkpoint, use a small combination lock to secure your zippers shut. Each of my zippers has it's own lock, and with some bags I use one lock to secure all the zippers. This takes me less than 3 seconds to do, and is a major deterrent to would-be thieves. On the street thieves can use small knives to cut into bags or slash a zipper and steal a bag, in an airport this is highly unlikely. By using a lock on your zippers no one can walk behind you in a crowded airport after watching you drop your laptop in the slot and toss two lenses back into the outer compartment and then walk off with this gear without you noticing until it is to later. Thieves do not want to fumble around, they need to be quick and seem invisible to you at all times.

Once you find a place to sit in the airport, if you're settling in for more than a few minutes get a small cable and lock kit, Eagle Creek makes a readily available kit. The Eagle Creek cable-and-lock kits go for around US$13/€8.50 and can quickly cinch up your bags together to an immovable object such as a bench. Often when I sit down, and am traveling with my cameras out of my bags. To secure my bag and cameras, I run the cable through my backpack, waist pack and through both my camera straps, then around a heavy secure object. This tends to take me less than 15 seconds to make sure my gear is secure. By securing my bags/cameras like this no one can do a "snatch-and-grab" and I can relax with an iPod, watch a movie, and depending the location/scenario, take a nap. I leave the cable visible to any would-be thief know that the bags are locked up and they just move along to someone else who is an easier target.

Below are photos of the Eagle Creek lock-and-cable, a detail photo of my North Face Borealis backpack's zippers locked up and a photo my North Face Borealis backpack and Newswear belt with pouches locked to a bench at the airport.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

05 April 2008

Watch Out For Your Personal Property At Security Check Points- No One Else Will

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

05/04/2008 - Watch Out For Your Personal Property At Security Check Points - No One Else Will

Approximately 15 minutes ago I passed through the TSA screening check-point at San Francisco International Airport's Terminal 1, headed for my 7:00am flight out to Philadelphia (and then home). While in the metal detector, watching my bags start to roll off the x-ray machine, the gentleman in front of me was pulled aside and selected for the for the Trace Detection Portal, aka: "the puffer." This is not uncommon, however what I witnessed the two TSA agents tell this man was astonishing (TSA Agents at SFO are not actually TSA agents, as screening at SFO is contracted out to Covenant Services Worldwide)

After asking the man to step aside for "the puffer" he reached for his items on the x-ray runoff, in the mix of his bins was a white dish with his wallet, his drivers license and passport outside of the wallet, a Timex watch and a small silver money clip. Before his hand could touch the items he was told he could not retrieve the items before undergoing secondary screening in "the puffer." The man protested explaining he didn't want his wallet and passport stolen and he asked one of the agents to watch the bin, or bring the bins to him. He was refused and was met with this answer "I'm sorry, we are not able to watch each individuals items here. Your items should be safe."

I love the choice words "should be safe." I know that if I had (what appeared to be) US$400-$500 out in a money clip next to my wallet, drivers license and passport I would not want to hear "should be safe." I watched four or five people stop and take a decent glance into this man's bins while his back was to them in "the puffer" and while both TSA agents had their eyes trained on the gentleman. Neither agent ever glanced at this man's items.

With the recent rise in petty theft at airports, and an increase in reported crimes at TSA check points you'd think these agents would be a little more vigilant and less flippant about the man's requests for the safety and security of his items. When the man returned to his bins, no one had touched his items. I did however stand back slowly putting my shoes on and putting my computer away to see what would happen.

I took a brief moment to speak with the supervisor at the check point. Often they key for me is to ask like an inexperienced flyer and just ask general questions to see what I am told. I didn't mention what I had just witnessed, but instead asked a hypothetical questions. I really just wanted the supervisor to confirm my thoughts.

Should you be parted from your personal property at a TSA screening check point you have the right to request that your items be brought to you before you let them leave your sight. Do NOT let anyone separate you from your personal items, if the TSA agents tell you to leave the items request (then demand if need be) that they bring the items to you , and place them where you can see them clearly.

For information and tips on how to protect yourself from theft at airport security check points click this link for my post entitled "Theft At Airport Security Check Points - Don't Be A Victim"

On a side note, the TSA has stopped the installation of additional "puffer" machines at airports as they have proven to be quite unreliable and inconsistent in their results. When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security purchased this machines they did not test them in the manner they would be used in the field........and they in turn left the TSA to deal with the fall out.

Happy Flying!