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Long TSA Lines

by Blake 17. May 2016

As the summer season comes around each year, airports become more crowded and security wait times become longer, making travel much more difficult and stressful.  Commercial Medical Escorts moves patients from country to country, but travel around the United States is still very popular.  As families and friends get ready to go on vacation, CME reminds you to be aware of extensive airport lines and to plan accordingly for your travels.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says “a loss of thousands of employees in 2014 that the agency has yet to replace” (CNN) is the cause of the long lines in airports.   The following busiest airports (recorded by total passengers boarded):

1. Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

2. Los Angeles International Airport

3. O'Hare International Airport

4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport

6. Denver International Airport

7. San Francisco International Airport

8. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

9. McCarran International Airport

10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

At Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, officials are recommending that passengers arrive up to three hours early before departure to guarantee enough time for them to catch a flight.  Security lines tend to stretch through the terminal atrium, and sometimes, through baggage claim.  Wait times at TSA checkpoints reach between half an hour and an hour long, and occasionally longer.  On May 9th, the peak security wait time at Atlanta was sixty-two minutes.

Due to many complaints from travelers and airlines, Atlanta airport officials criticized TSA for the long security lines and blamed the wait on a decrease in the amount of staff.  In fact, problems at TSA stem from negative public and congressional opinion, low employee count, high employee layoff, and investigations of misconduct. TSA administrator Peter Neffenger told Congress that TSA is struggling with a 10 percent attrition rate, meaning that there are about 5000 fewer screening officers on the job today than a few years ago.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security promised that executives would be taking immediate action to expand the amount of members in the TSA workforce in order to ensure more efficient security checkpoints.  TSA received an approval of $34 million from Congress to re-allocate funds to increase security officers at checkpoints. Around $26 million will go to overtime and part-time hours, and $8 million will go towards hiring new officers in May 2016, just in time before the busy summer travel months.

 

Travel Tips:

1.     Monday morning and evening and Friday morning and evening are when the majority of business travelers are flying out. To avoid this rush time, if available, book midday flights throughout the week to avoid long lines.

2.     Tuesday and Wednesday are known for being the slowest days of the week in airports.

3.      Arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

4.     Highways are generally busiest either early morning or early evening on the weekdays, so allot your time accordingly.

5.     Enroll in TSA PreCheck.  Approved members go through special lines, do not have to remove shoes, belts, or jackets, and do not have to take laptops and liquids out of bags.

6.     Enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.  This program makes international travel easier and quicker and provides eligibility for the TSA PreCheck program.

CME will continue to monitor this problem as it severely impacts CME clients, nurses, and travelers.  As summer approaches soon, CME warns about long security lines and hopes for safe and smooth travels.

Travel Outlook for 2015 from ASTA

by Lux Joseph 11. January 2015

Our in-house travel department has shared with CME some outlook on travel this upcoming year, 2015. CME works closely with our travel department to ensure we are providing on the best travel arrangements for our clients. Our travel department has extensive knowledge on the medical assistance industry as well as travel. As our travel department is partnered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), he has advised us that ASATA has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.


“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said Sky Cap Corp President and CEO Joseph McNamara. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

  • Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.
  • Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.
  • Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.
  • Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.
  • Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel. 

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

  • White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.
  • IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.
  • Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs. 
  • Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

As one can see, having a travel department that has a strong relationship established with the travel industry demonstrates progressive growth and outlook for CME’s operations. CME’s business relies heavily on the travel industry and people traveling around the world. If there is a declining trend in travelers that is something that CME wants to know because it can impact our business significantly. While we do not want people to become ill or injured, we are proactive in demonstrating the importance of travel insurance to travelers around the world.

Fees, Fees, and More Fees

by Lux Joseph 11. July 2014

Fees for bags, fees for the lounge, and fees for in-flight beverages…the list goes on. Years ago a traveler would purchase a ticket and the sale would be complete. In today’s travel world, the sale is far from complete once you have your airline ticket. Furthermore, some recent announcements show that fees are not going anywhere. For most businesses, once fees are implemented that rarely if never go away. As a traveler, it is important to know the fees that you pay and what they are going to.

The bi-partisan budget agreement in 2013 is what is going to be affecting the restructuring of the passenger fee from TSA. Currently the fees that are in place are $2.50 per leg on a connecting flight with a one way cap of $5.00 and a roundtrip cap of $10.00. These fees will now be a flat fee of $5.60 per one way travel and $11.20 for round trip. These fees go to support t a variety of aviation security expenses.

While the aviation security fees increase may seem practical and necessary to ensure the safety of travel, those fees are not the only ones being introduced around the world. Venezuela’s largest international airport recently imposed a “breathing tax”. Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas recently installed a new air purification system and for those passengers departing out of CCS, they will have to pay a 127 bolivar per-person tax to cover this new piece of equipment. Essentially they have to pay to breathe clean air as this new system will serve to protect the health of travelers and eliminate bacterial growth. While this is beneficial to the travelers, should this expense be passed on to the travelers? Or should this be an overhead cost that the airport absorbs the expense?

Depending on the industry or arena of work, fees are applicable for different situations. Travel agents, including our in-house travel, have a fee for their services. We pay the travel agent for their expertise, knowledge, experience, and guidance. For Commercial Medical Escorts, the cost savings from using our travel agent far exceeds the fees paid. For a long time, American Express Platinum card holders were able to access the Delta Sky Lounge including one guest complimentary. However, as of recently American Express Platinum card holders have to pay a fee of $29.00 for their guest. Complimentary Sky Lounge access for members and their guests was once a benefit of being an American Express Platinum Card Holder, but now it is now another revenue opportunity for the credit card company.

When fees are implemented in any industry, it is important that the consumers see where their money is going and that it has a positive effect. Unfortunately most programs around the world that have new fees imposed are unable to effectively explain or show the benefit to the consumer whom is paying the fees. As you continue to travel, it is important to check with your airline of travel to ensure you are up to date with the most recent fees you can be expected to pay. A great resource for this information is:   http://i.slimg.com/sc/sl/graphic/u/ul/ultimate-guide-to-airline-fees_050114.pdf


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