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CME Offers Advice to Help Keep Summer Travelers Cool

by Lux Joseph 21. June 2015

Recent headlines are full of reports predicting that this summer will be a record-breaker when it comes to airline passengers being bumped from their flights. For many, the prospect of being bumped is frustrating at best, and for those who are unaware of their rights, the results can be maddening, not to mention costly. Add to that ever-changing security rules and new passport requirements and summer travel can seem daunting. With this in mind, CME has prepared a list of tips to help summer travelers stay calm, cool and collected.

Airline Bumping: What You Need to Know

To avoid being bumped:

    Get an advance seat assignment. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released.


    Check-in online. If you do not have an advance seat assignment, or you want to change your seat assignment, check-in online. Most airlines allow you to do so within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available when checking in online.


    Don't be late. If all else fails, get to the airport early. Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. If you are denied a seat assignment at check-in, put your name on the "standby" seat assignment list.


If you are bumped or wish to take advantage of airline's request that you give up your seat:

    Know the lingo. Voluntary bumping occurs when a passenger with a confirmed seat assignment agrees to give up his seat for negotiated compensation. It is not regulated by the DOT. Involuntary bumping occurs when an airline forcibly bumps a paid passenger from a flight because it has been oversold. The DOT regulates compensation for involuntary bumping.


    Know what questions to ask. If you volunteer to give up your seat in response to an airline offer of a free ticket, it is important passengers ask about restrictions. Ask about expiration and blackout dates, such as holidays.


    Know your rights. If you are involuntarily denied boarding, and substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to your one-way fare to your final destination, with a $200 maximum. If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (twice the cost of your fare, $400 maximum).


Navigating Security

    Remember 3-1-1. New regulations limit the amount of liquids passengers can take through security in their carry-on luggage to travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably in one (1) quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag and the one (1) bag per passenger must be placed in the screening bin. Items purchased after clearing security may be brought on-board. (Visit TravelSense.org to learn about restrictions in Canada, the U.K. and the European Union.)


Traveling Internationally?

    Better get a passport. Effective Jan. 1, 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires a passport or other accepted document for all air travel from within the Western Hemisphere for citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory (Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) do not need to present a passport.


    Plan (way) ahead. The U.S. State Department's Passport Services unit is experiencing a major backlog in processing applications. Rather than taking four to six weeks, routine applications or renewals are now taking 12 weeks. Even expedited service takes about three to four weeks. And, because the service uses a centralized system, travelers cannot get their documents faster by submitting applications directly to a regional processing facility.

At CME, our nurses and physicians experience many of these travel challengers on a daily basis when traveling. CAMTS requires all of our medical staff to have travel insurance and we also encourage all travelers to have it. Depending on the type of policy you have, you may be entitled to a variety of benefits when situations such as those described above. Safe travels this summer!

Family Travel Tips

by Lux Joseph 16. May 2014

CME makes travel arrangements each and every day to bring loved one’s back home. At the same time, you may be arranging travel for an upcoming family trip. Anyone who's ever taken a family trip knows they have the potential to be both stressful and rewarding at the same time. We all have fond memories of embarrassing family photo opportunities and harmonizing in the backseat to pass the time, along with not-so-fond memories of airport hassles and bungled arrangements.

The secret to a successful family trip lies not only with extensive preparation but smart planning. This is the same approach we take when planning a medical escort repatriation and we have some tips that will help you plan a smooth vacation. Designing a vacation that appeals to a range of age groups can be quite challenging. How can you find family-friendly accommodations? How do you determine which destinations will appeal to both adults and children? How do you make it through the airport without pulling your hair out?

Rest assured, it is possible for families to have their "dream vacation," and more and more families are asking their travel agents for help. Approximately 77 percent of ASTA agents surveyed recently said they were currently booking more family vacation travel as compared to the previous year. In response to this increasing demand, an influx of new and varied intergenerational travel products have been introduced. And from theme parks to cruises to European vacations, there's something for every family.

At CME, we use our in-house travel department to make all the arrangements for our medical escort repatriations. We encourage you to contact your travel agent as they can help you explore your options and choose the vacation that's ideal for all your loved ones. Agents are one-stop-shopping - they offer planning services that include air, hotel, sightseeing, cruises and more. They also have a wealth of travel information and advice such as visa requirements, packing tips, travel insurance and international permit requirements for drivers. And agents are there to offer follow-up help if something should go wrong and can alert vacationers to scams. Plus, your travel agent can help you land the best group rates available on the vacation that's right for you.

The first step in planning your family vacation is to designate a group leader. As the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so appointing one person to be in charge is the best way to prevent possible spats. At CME, each individual in our office has a special role in putting together the repatriation for our clients. By selecting a key individual for your family vacation this individual will have responsibilities ranging from shopping around for the best group deals to holding on to everyone's tickets and coupons. Even if you decide not to appoint a leader, keep in mind that it's best to deal with one travel agent - you'll avoid potential confusion and get the best rates.

Families should book their flights well in advance so that they can get the best price and the most hassle-free arrangements. Whenever possible, groups should opt for non-stop flights even if it costs more. The stress of regrouping after members run to the bathroom, gift shops and food stands isn't worth the few dollars you'll save. It's always a good idea to invest in trip cancellation insurance, particularly when traveling with a group. CME always looks for the most direct routing to move our patients. This eliminates the hassle of potentially missing connections and ensures the most safe and secure transport flight.

Allow plenty of time for check-in and also between connecting flights. Arriving early to board together prevents last minute delays and confusion. We strongly suggest our medical escorts arrive three hours prior to an international departure and two hours prior to a domestic departure.  It would be great to consider establishing a buddy system to ensure that no one gets left behind.

When it comes to choosing accommodations, consider all-inclusive cruises or resorts - they're the ideal way to organize the big trip. All-inclusive venues usually have a variety of activities and foods that appeal to every age. Cruises have become instant family favorites because all activities are preplanned so you'll spend more quality time together. Condominiums can simplify group planning and typically provide accommodations like multiple bedrooms and full-kitchens that are ideal for value and convenience. Also look for resorts that advertise children's programs, not just children's facilities. Children's programs include planned activities in addition to such amenities as a gameroom or playground. A travel agent can recommend family-friendly accommodations to meet your family's needs.

When booking a room, be sure to ask for connecting rather than adjoining rooms. Connecting rooms have a door between them whereas adjoining rooms are side-by-side with no connecting door. Also ask for a room with a refrigerator - this is especially important for families traveling with infants who will need formula and juice. Since we all know how expensive food can be at resorts, you'll also save money by keeping snacks around for hungry teenagers.

When planning activities, families are encouraged to be open to new ideas or as one agent recommended, "Have a good sense of humor and keep it!" Family members should take turns choosing the group's activities - they might even discover an interest they never knew they had. And don't forget to include children in the decision-making process. This will make them feel that this is their vacation, too, and they're not just stuck tagging along on the adults' trip. Plan back-up and optional activities for those times when everyone begins to moan and the kids start teasing each other.

Also be sure to factor in down-time so that individuals have the opportunity to pursue their own interests. Don't attempt to do everything together. Giving people their space can go a long way toward promoting group harmony.

Families traveling with infants and small children require significantly more planning, not to mention packing, but the reward of spending undivided time together is well worth it. Reserve a crib in advance and make sure there's a laundry room on the premises where you'll be staying. This will allow you to pack fewer baby clothes. Packing a light umbrella stroller and a child-carrying backpack are among the easiest ways to get around. Car seats are also recommended since they help settle little ones during feedings and quiet time. If you think you might need extra help on the plane, ask for a seat in the back. Flight attendants tend to sit there when not serving passengers.

Don't go overboard packing toys. Children tend to lose interest in them quickly, and they take up a lot of room. Pack a few small favorites and don't forget a cherished book and blanket. Always keep snacks easily accessible in a purse or fanny pack. Children might not like the food offered in foreign restaurants, hotels or on planes. A great tip for parents is to freeze juice boxes if they will be taking a long flight or walking around all day. Pack a goodie bag with surprises to distract little ones who get fussy on the plane.

Traveling with teens also requires planning. Encourage them to pack snacks, books and a CD or cassette headset in their carry-on luggage. Consider allowing older children to bring along a friend - that may help build their enthusiasm for the trip.

Whether traveling with teens or tots, parents should chronicle all vital medical information and make copies of important prescriptions. Have pagers or cellular phones available in case someone gets lost or left behind. If you don't own either, check with your travel agent about renting them. Never allow members to go anywhere alone. Remember the old camp adage: "There's safety in numbers."

Although there are many factors to consider when booking travel for the entire family, a travel agent can help make the planning stages as pleasant and exciting as your actual trip. From locating kid-friendly hotels to booking a room with a refrigerator, your experienced travel agent can take care of all the details and arrangements - even the ones you hadn't thought of. So, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your trip.

Critical Communication with a Medical Escort Repatriation

by Joey 28. June 2013

Every day Commercial Medical Escorts faces different challenges in the efforts to bring patients back to their home country with a medical escort. These challenges include patients in obscure locations, patients in locations where our medical team will require a visa, different medical requirements, flight availability, and many more. Each medical evacuation receives individualized and specialized attention. Here is some insight to a case that proposed a challenge and how the team at Commercial Medical Escorts discovers a solution to bring the patient home safely and efficiently.

Problem

In 2011, a 79-year-old woman was traveling alone ona 12-night cruise on the Pacific Princess. During the cruise, the patient began to experience lower back pain, which she believed was coming from an injury sustained through dragging luggage around the harbour a few days earlier. Several days of continuous acute back pain that began to get increasingly worse prohibited the patient from leaving her cabin, effectively ruining her vacation. After being evaluated by the ship’s physician, it was determined that she was having chronic back pain and an X-ray showed a compression of FX L2. The patient had PMH (past medical history) of peripheral neuropathy, spinal stenosis and aortic stenosis. Whilst the physician recognized the need for the patient to return home, the cruise was currently at sea in the Mediterranean, quickly approaching the Port of Piraeus in Athens, Greece. The Pacific Princess would arrive into the port at 9:00 am on Saturday and would depart promptly at 4:00 pm the same day. The patient was travelling alone.

The physician’s medical recommendation was a nurse escort repatriation to the patient’s home with pain management. The medical escort provider received the request for transport at noon on Friday; all necessary arrangements had to be finalized quickly, as the nurse’s departing flight to Athens was at 4:30 pm on the Friday evening. If the nurse did not depart on the Friday evening flight, she would not have made it to Greece to meet the arriving ship; not meeting the ship would have required an unnecessary hospital visit for the patient, cost to the insurer and more complex paperwork for all involved.

The patient was currently on Coumadin and would need morphine for her pain during the repatriation; something that the treating physician would have to personally provide the flight nurse with upon arrival at the ship. For these reasons, it was critical that the nurse meet the ship prior to its departure.

Solution

The travel assistance company, as the insurance policy provider for the patient, was contacted. The treating physician communicated with the medical director at the travel assistance company to review the patient’s medical history and determine what would be needed for medical evacuation. The travel assistance company contacted a medical escort provider to provide a nurse escort for this case. Commercial Medical Escorts had to provide a quote in an efficient manner to be reviewed by the travel assistance company to ensure that the patient’s benefits covered the repatriation.

The nurse’s flight departed at 4:30 pm, and this was the only flight that would enable the nurse to get to the port in time. The flight would land in Athens at 12:20 pm, and the Port of Piraeus was one hour from the airport. Ground transportation was arranged to pick up the nurse at the airport and bring her directly to the Port of Piraeus, where she would be greeted by the port agent. After arranging the nurse’s flight, contact was made with the doctor on the Pacific Princess, whilst the ship was still sailing the Mediterranean Sea. The doctor was provided with a copy of the itinerary, the nurse escort’s name, passport number, passport expiration, and date of birth. All of this information was required for her to gain security clearance once she arrived at the dock. Commercial Medical Escorts Chief Flight Nurse maintained contact with the ship physician throughout the case management process. All necessary documents were obtained, including fit-to-fly documents for airline medical clearances. The patient’s medical condition and fit-to-fly documents were sent to the airline, at which point the airline noted the reservation, alerted the airport ground staff, and flight crews. Wheelchair assistance was confirmed for the patient, which would allow her to move quickly through the airports without having to walk long distances, and wait in long lines.

Meanwhile, the treating physician distributed medical disembarkation details to all the appropriate parties on the Pacific Princess. The patient remained within the medical centre until the arrival of the nurse escort. Arrangements were made through the Pacific Princess staff, the medical escort provider and port agent for the nurse to come onboard the ship when she arrived at the terminal. Commercial Medical Escorts communicated throughout the process with the treating physician to ensure all clearances had been made, and that upon the nurse’s arrival to the port, access to the ship and patient would be granted. As the nurse was boarding the ship to pick up the passenger, medicine (morphine for pain management) and all the necessary medical records, the cruise was already boarding passengers for its next departure, which was taking place in one hour.

Result

The flight nurse arrived into Athens on time and after going through customs and immigration, ground transportation took her to Port of Piraeus. Upon arrival at the port, the flight nurse was greeted by the port agent, who paged the ship for the treating physician. The patient was seated up in a wheelchair, alert, and very excited to see the nurse who would accompany her home. The treating physician and the nurse exchanged medical information, and then the flight nurse was given the pain medication prescribed to the patient as well as the fit-to-fly letter and discharge paperwork.

The patient and the medical escort were escorted off the ship whilst crew members assisted with the patient’s luggage, and ground transportation then took the nurse and the patient to the airport hotel, where two adjoining rooms had been arranged. At the hotel, the flight nurse assisted the patient with in-room dining, and the following day the flight nurse transported the patient from Athens, Greece to Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. The patient experienced no issues throughout the transport in business class seats and was delivered home safely.


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