Smartphone, tablet, laptop. Chances are you carry at least two of these devices on the road. I’ve been known to pack all three, along with a BlackBerry, for good measure. (Yes, I know: overkill.)
In many ways, our gadgets have become invaluable travel companions. But with their proliferation come new opportunities for cybersecurity breaches—whether it’s using an insecure Wi-Fi hot spot to check your e-mail or losing a device as you move from place to place. Unless you are carrying state or trade secrets, you are probably not a target for major espionage. But even the most leisurely of leisure travelers is still vulnerable. The risks run the gamut from having your credit card information stolen to full-on identity theft. Here are the major threats you should be aware of—and how to avoid them.
Each carrier makes its own rules regarding who gets boarding priority when a flight is oversold or over capacity because of a change in aircraft. After looking for volunteers to give up their seats, some domestic carriers bump those who checked in last; others start with passengers in the lowest fare class. All of them give priority to people in special circumstances: those whose trips would be severely delayed, travelers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, and (naturally) people in premier cabins or with elite loyalty-club status.
Remember the great Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 that spewed ash across European airspace, stranding millions of travelers throughout the continent—and beyond? Iceland may be giving us a repeat performance, this time care of the Bárðarbunga volcano (that's Bardarbunga to English speakers), which has been increasing its seismic activity over the last week.
A few days ago, the agency that monitors the volcano raised the threat level to the aviation industry to ”orange,” the second-highest rating, putting airlines around the world on alert for possible flight disruptions due to ash clouds. Though it’s still unclear if the volcano will actually erupt, travelers planning to fly to or through northern Europe in the coming weeks should be prepared. Here’s what you need to know:
If a carrier issues you a ticket for a flight operated by a different airline, that’s the result of a code-share agreement. This happens frequently between international alliance partners (SkyTeam; Oneworld; Star Alliance), but is not restricted to them. Be advised: not all code-share flights are equal in the eyes of your frequent-flier program; some may not count toward elite-qualifying miles or segments.
There’s a reason we use the term advisor to describe the members of our annual A-List, the top travel specialists in the business. These experts offer much more than booking services. First and foremost, says Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate and founder of WendyPerrin.com, they can help you decide whereto go by walking you through the pros and cons of destinations based on the varying interests (and ages) of the people in your group. Not only that, they’ll deliver insider insights and access. They can tell you how to avoid the crowds at major sights and where the locals eat. They can even pair you with designers and architects who moonlight as walking-tour guides, get a local artist to open his studio to you, and direct you to hidden corners of a city. And they also, crucially, know how to put together a seamless itinerary. I was reminded of this a few months ago when I (travel editor that I am) foolishly tried arranging my own flights in Africa before a safari. After consulting with an advisor late in the game, I learned I was about to book with an airline that was notorious for last-minute, safari-ruining cancellations. Lesson learned.
The news coming out of West Africa this week as been alarming—to say the least. The latest outbreak of Ebola, which started in Guinea earlier this year, has now spread to Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. (There’s even been a suspected Ebola death in Saudi Arabia.) To date, nearly 1,000 people have died of Ebola—a number that will surely increase in the coming weeks as public-health officials struggle to contain the virus. The crisis is such that the World Health Organization has now declared the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern."
Sort of good news for Israel: the FAA has lifted its 36-hour ban on flights into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and the European Aviation Safety Agency, which had previously issued a recommendation for carriers to avoid the area, is now only cautioning national aviation authorities to “base their decisions [on whether to allow carriers to fly there]…on thorough risk assessments.”
All the major U.S. carriers have cancelled today's scheduled arrivals into Tel Aviv, though their arrivals for tomorrow are still set to depart. Lufthansa, however, is suspending flights through today and tomorrow—a prohibition that applies to Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, and Brussels Airlines. The carrier issued the following statement: “Lufthansa acknowledges the considerable efforts made by Israel to provide the best possible protection for Ben Gurion Airport with the ‘Iron Dome’ shield. As soon as this protection can be verifiably guaranteed, we will resume flight operations.”
After news of a rocket attack near Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the FAA is prohibiting all U.S. airlines from flying into or out of the country's main international airport for 24 hours. The Earlier today, Delta diverted its once-daily flight between New York JFK and Tel Aviv to Paris instead. US Airways, meanwhile, canceled its Philadelphia to Ben Gurion service before the plane departed. United Airlines canceled both of its Newark-Tel Aviv flights for Tuesday. The U.S. Department of State has also issued a new Travel Warning for Israel, cautioning U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the country.
This comes less than a week after a missile shot down Malaysia Airways flight 17 over the Ukraine, killing all 290 passengers and crewmembers aboard. Questions remain as to whether the airspace where the plane was flying should have been subject to restrictions given the growing ground conflict below. American carriers are obviously now approaching the conflict in Israel with an abundance of caution. This will be appreciated by many passengers, but could be devastating for Israel’s air connectivity.
UPDATE 7/23, 12:50 PM: In a new release, the FAA is extending its ban over Tel Aviv-bound flights for at least another 24 hours. Some airlines, such as British Airways and El Al, are continuing their normal operations. In a similar move, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceana, sister cruise lines, are modifying itineraries to avoid stops in Haifa, Israel's northern port town.
Breaking, horrifying news coming out of Europe today: a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down earlier today en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur while flying through Ukrainian airspace. U.S. intelligence officials, according to the Wall Street Journaland other news outlets, are saying that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members; three of the passengers were infants. There are no survivors.