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Trip Doctor: About Those New TSA Rules...

airplane packing

Dear TSA,

We are so happy to hear that you'll be easing packing restrictions for travelers. Really, we are. But golf clubs, baseball bats, and pocket knives? What an odd place to start. Did you think these were less risky to travel with than, say, the three ounces of blueberry jam you stole—I mean, confiscated—from me on my way home from Maine last summer? Or the life-threatening snow globe souvenir my colleague bought for her daughter in Colorado? How about that full-sized tube of toothpaste—or better yet, the water bottle I brought from home for my six-hour flight? Couldn't you see your way to un-banning those before knives, bats, and clubs?

And as tons of news outlets are making clear, flight attendants are with us—they're not terribly thrilled at the prospect of knives on board, and we certainly can't fault them.

We'd love to know what you were thinking, even if our golfer friends are excited by the prospect of carrying their gear aboard. We'd also like that blueberry jam back.

Signed,

The Trip Doctor Team

See also: Snakes (Almost) on a Plane and Pack This: TSA-Friendly Toiletries.

Photo by iStockphoto

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Man Calls in Fake Bomb Threat to Ground Girlfriend’s Plane

airplane

Admit it, if this were part of a movie, it might be kinda awesome: Lovers have a fight just as the girl is about to leave town, perhaps for good. The guy must stop her from leaving—he sprints through the airport, of course—and then tries one last desperate move: Calling in a bomb threat so that her plane has to be evacuated. Girl de-planes, boyfriend apologizes. "You’re crazy!" she tells him. "Crazy about you," he replies. They kiss, music swells, credits roll.

We cannot vouch for any reconciliation, but a 31-year-old Chinese man reportedly did indeed call in a fake bomb threat to his girlfriend's flight to Shenzhen, because they had had an argument before she left. Her plane had actually already gotten some distance from Hefei Luogang International Airport and had to make an emergency landing at Nanchang Changbei. We're guessing that ruined their cinematic reunion. Perhaps even more disturbing, though, is that China has apparently endured a number of fake bomb threats lately: two within one week during fall 2012, and one last spring involving an 18-year-old man imitating the rules of a game; in fall 2011, a 28-year-old woman apparently even called one in on her own China United Airlines flight, to "make her husband worry."

If this trend continues, nervous fliers everywhere will have their own reasons to worry.

Photo by iStockphoto

The Doctor Recommends: Stories and Articles From All Over

Here are a few recent travel stories that piqued the interest of T+L's news team.

Be careful where you shake, folks. USA Today reports that the FAA is looking into possible safety violations after a group Colorado College students lead a Harlem Shake on a recent Frontier Airlines flight. (Amy Farley)

United has launched an official investigation of the crew that threw Live and Let's Fly blogger Matthew Klint off the plane for snapping photos of his business class cabin. Klint's takeaway? The seven words you shouldn't use on an airplane. (Nikki Ekstein)

Farecompare founder Rick Seaney has great advice for people traveling in a group (including families): save money by searching for airfare one person at a time. We’d explain here, but best to just go straight to his brilliant USA Today column. (AF)

Oh, the people you'll meet. Novelist Nathaniel Rich finds himself sharing intimacies, aspirations, and a little bit of heartbreak with his fellow passengers on a two-day journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited train in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. (AF)

What's more lonely than being in a strange hotel in a strange city all by yourself? Being without your beloved $8 M&Ms. In an essay in The Atlantic, journalist David Samuels laments the demise of the hotel mini bar. (AF)

Trip Doctor: U.S. Issues Warning for Travel to Peru

Machu Picchu

The U.S. Embassy in Lima has issued an official security message for American citizens warning about travel to the Cusco area of Peru, including Machu Picchu. The message, issued Thursday, says that the embassy received information that a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap American tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area. The report adds, “possible targets and methods are not known and the threat is credible at least through the end of February 2013.”

The embassy is currently prohibiting personnel from visiting the area on personal travel, and is restricting official visits. Though the embassy urges non-consular U.S. citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security” if traveling to the region, at this point the threat has not been elevated to an official Department of State travel alert or warning. (The embassy says it “remains confident of the Peruvian government’s efforts to ensure the safety of all tourists in the region.”) That, however, could change in the coming days.

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Trip Doctor: Cruise Safety Update

cruise safety

Silversea's luxury expedition ship, Silver Explorer, was damaged by heavy weather during a recent Antarctic cruise, causing the ship to return early to port in Ushuaia, Argentina, and cancel its Jan. 21 sailing, the company said this week. No injuries were reported among the 133 passengers, according to Silversea; four of the 113 crew members were treated for onboard for injuries.

Though all passengers appear to be safe, the incident—along with the Jan. 13 anniversary of the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy—brings cruise safety top of mind.

Read More

Trip Doctor: Dreamliner Update

787

The news over the last few days about Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner has been unnerving—to say the least.

Last night, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority grounded the aircraft pending a comprehensive review of the fire risk posed by the plane's lithium-ion battery. This comes a day after a Dreamliner in Japan's All Nippon Airways fleet was formed to make an emergency landing because of a defective battery—and a week after the battery was faulted with starting a fire aboard a parked Japan Airways 787 at Boston's Logan airport. Both of Japan's airlines grounded their fleets after the emergency landing. With the FAA directive, other international carriers with 787s followed suit. Among them: Air India, Chile's LAN Airlines, LOT (Poland), Qatar Airways, and United Airlines here in the States.

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Snakes (Almost) on a Plane: TSA Finds 821 Firearms, Chainsaw, and Slithering Reptiles in Carry-Ons

201208-b-concealed-weapons-on-airplanesjpg"Whaaaaaaaaaat?" That's what I said to myself after reading this piece by Gizmodo who reported via the Transportation Security Administration's blog, that since January 1st, TSA agents have discovered 821 firearms in carry-on bags at airports around the country. Of these, 691 were loaded, and 210 were locked and loaded with a round chambered. Some other bizarrely alarming weapons discovered while passengers were filing through security? Dead venomous snakes (snakes almost on a plane!), a gun in a hollowed out book (retro move there), an explosive grenade, a spear gun, eels, a gassed-up chainsaw, and a chastity belt. Too weird, America. But keep up the good work TSA! And in the future, before you confiscate that sealed bottle of Poland Spring in my backpack, can we just put a few things in perspective?

2012-hs-maggie-suozzi.jpg 

 Marguerite A. Suozzi is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.

 

Mexico Earthquake Another Jolt for Country's Tourism

USA Today Travel  |  Tuesday's strong 7.4 earthquake in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero, about midway between the beach resort of Acapulco and the colonial town of Oaxaca, is more bad news for a tourism industry already on the defensive from the country's protracted drug war.

Initial reports say the quake, centered some 12 miles underground, was felt strongly in Oaxaca and swayed buildings in Mexico City, sending frightened workers and residents into the streets. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries, but telephone service was down

in Mexico City and throughout the area where the quake was felt. In Huajuapan, Guerrero, near the epicenter, hotel manager Marco Antonio Estrada reported shaken-up guests but no major damage.

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Boeing Promises to Speed Up Construction of New 787 Dreamliners

USA Today Travel  |  Boeing has inspected five 787 Dreamliners for a flaw in the fuselage that the company recently discovered, the new head of the 787 program said Monday. Reuters reported that the company remains on schedule to build 10 planes per month by the end of next year.

The company is inspecting the first 55 787s built before it discovered the problem and will make any necessary repairs, Larry Loftis said before a groundbreaking ceremony for a new delivery center, according to Reuters.

The 787 is a more fuel-efficient plane. So far airlines have ordered about 870 of them, Reuters reported. But the plane is about three years behind its original schedule.

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Costa Cruise Ship Being Towed to Safety After Fire

The Costa Allegra is being towed toward Mahe in the Seychelles following an engine-room fire Monday that left the ship adrift. None of the 636 passengers and 413 crew members were injured, according to Costa. Food and communications gear are being sent to the ship via helicopter; the vessel is expected to reach land early Thursday.

“Guests onboard are continuously being informed and assisted by the captain and the staff,” Costa said in an emailed statement.

Passengers were sent to their muster stations as a precaution when the fire broke out, according to the company. The ship currently has no air conditioning and lighting is limited, but passengers were served a cold breakfast Tuesday, according to Costa. The seas has been struck in the past by Somalian pirates, but Costa officials have said  they have armed security on board.

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