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Real ID Act to Pose Challenges for Many Travelers

by Lux Joseph 18. September 2015

Since 911, America has seen an increase in airport security and the process by which passengers need to follow in order to travel within the United States and abroad. These changes came about to increase safety and security for US Citizens, and the US government is continuing to work on making sure our safety is a high priority.

At Commercial Medical Escorts (CME), safety is also our number one priority. We pride ourselves on delivering the highest level of care, while keeping patient safety at the forefront of each and every decision that is made. We look into the safety of not only the patients, but also our escorts that serve on each mission around the world. As changes are made surrounding airline safety as well as travel requirements we ensure they have the most up to date information.

Since 2005, the US Government has slowly been implementing and enforcing a variety of new rules to traveling to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. Beginning in 2016 there is a select group of states in which residents will be required to travel with a passport, even on domestic travel. Currently the following states that will follow under these guidelines are:

  • ·      Massachusetts
  • ·      Minnesota
  • ·      New Hampshire
  • ·      Louisiana
  • ·      Wisconsin
  • ·      New York
  • ·      American Samoa

The driver’s licenses and state IDs from the aforementioned states above are not compliant with the Real ID standards and this is why they are requiring those residents to travel with their passports. While all of our nurses, physicians, paramedics, and travel companions carry passports, this is not the case for all Americans.  It does not appear to be clear as to why the states above do not meet the requirements, but the US government believes this is a vital component of our national security framework that needs to be complied with at all levels.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on enforcement of the Real ID Act,

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way.

Secure driver’s licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’ The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.  The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

States and other jurisdictions have made significant progress in enhancing the security of their licenses over the last number of years. As a result, approximately 70-80% of all U.S. drivers hold licenses from jurisdictions: (1) determined to meet the Act’s standards; or (2) that have received extensions. Individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before. 

Individuals holding licenses from noncompliant jurisdictions will need to follow alternative access control procedures for purposes covered by the Act.  As described below, enforcement for boarding aircraft will occur no sooner than 2016.”

Under the final phase, which will begin "no sooner than 2016," residents of "non-compliant" states will no longer be allowed to present state-issued driver's licenses as identification for air travel, but instead will be required to present "alternative forms of identification – such as a U.S. Passport." It is up to those states that are not in compliance, working with the federal government, to come up with a solution to this problem.

Implementation of REAL ID has been repeatedly delayed over the past 10 years to provide additional time for states to comply, and it is possible that further extensions could be granted. DHS has promised that before this final phase is implemented, it "will conduct an evaluation to inform a fair and achievable timeline. The date for implementing Phase 4 will be set after the evaluation has been complete; this phase will occur no sooner than 2016...DHS will ensure the public has ample advanced notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft."

Given that not being able to use a driver's license to board an airplane for domestic travel could prove extremely disruptive to residents and travel businesses in the non-compliant states.

CME will continue to monitor this situation as it impacts our nurses, physicians, paramedics, and travel companions, but also the patients and their family members that we bring home. Prior to any transport, our team ensures that we check all travel documents to ensure you have all the necessary documents to ensure a smooth journey back to your home.

http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief

Winter Travel Season-- Top 10 Ski Resorts

by Lux Joseph 3. September 2015

Summer is coming to an end and winter will be just around the corner. Individuals choose to go on vacation and holiday year round. Whether it is a weekend getaway or a weeklong exploration, vacation is an opportunity for people to relax and do some of their favorite activities. The winter season brings opportunities for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowboarding and skiing around the world.

Vail, Colo., is the top ski resort in the U.S., according to members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), while Whistler in Canada is the best for skiing outside of the U.S.

Vail was chosen by 23 percent of those surveyed mainly because it is a large ski area with plenty of accommodations, has different skill levels and has the right ratio of social activities to skiing to keep clients happy. Several agents said their choice of Vail was based entirely on the feedback from their customers, with one saying “my opinion doesn’t matter; my clients ask for Vail and return to Vail more than any other ski resort.” 

Following Vail were:  Aspen, Colo. (15%); Park City, Utah (10%); Breckenridge, Colo. (9%); Steamboat Springs, Colo. (6%); Beaver Creek, Colo. (3%); Snowmass in Aspen (2%); Telluride, Colo. (2%); Keystone, Colo. (2%); and Jackson Hole, Wyo. (2%).

Whistler, Canada, was chosen by 18% of respondents for its proximity to the U.S., beauty and good accommodations. Said one agent: “It is easy for Americans to reach and the village has lots of things for families to do.”

Rounding out the top 10 international ski resorts are: Zermatt, Switzerland (15%); St. Moritz, Switzerland (11%);  Innsbrook, Austria (8%); Chamonix, France (4%); Banff, Canada (3%); Davos, Switzerland (3%); Val d’Isere, France (3%); Kitzbuhel, Austria (3%); and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (2%).

As you start to plan your winter vacation, consider some of the key winter locations that boast 300+ inches of snow a year. Many of our nurses will travel to these winter destinations to bring your loved ones home via commercial airline. Our escorts sometimes will pick up a patient in 80 degree weather and return them to a climate in which the weather is below 20 degrees.  This is the nature of the business and their suitcase is always packed for dramatic climate changes.

We encourage you to engage in those winter activities that you love the most, but please ensure you consider safety when going down those triple diamond trails. We suggest all travelers purchase travel insurance and be aware of your surroundings. Safe travels this upcoming winter season.

Beware of Tourist Scams When Traveling Abroad

by Lux Joseph 22. July 2015

Summer is the season for our medical escorts to be traveling to/from Europe on a weekly basis. Although Commercial Medical Escorts moves patients in and out of Europe throughout the year, summer is the most favorable time of year for travelers to see the Amalfi Coast of Italy, the heart of Paris, and the other magnificent destinations throughout Europe. Pictures and stories depict Europe as a great place to visit, but as a tourist CME reminds you to be cognizant of your surroundings and stay away from “tourist traps”.

U.S News reports the top ten European cities as:

  1. Rome
  2. Paris
  3. London
  4. Florence
  5. Barcelona
  6. Amsterdam
  7. Prague
  8. Berlin
  9. Venice
  10. Vienna

Of these top ten destinations, three of the cities are in countries where tourist scams are most prevalent. Spain is the number one ranking country in Europe known for tourist and holiday scams. Italy and France follow close behind. Every day travelers to these areas have a high chance that they could become a victim of one of these scams. Some of the most common scams include pickpockets, over-charging taxi drivers, charging a hidden tourist tax at hotels, street vendor tactics, and street crime.

In an article written by Hugh Morris from The Daily Telegraph, he provides statistics from a study which travelers were scammed:

Rank

Country

Percentage of Individuals scammed

1

Spain

21.5

2

France

14.8

3

Italy

10.2

4

Turkey

8.4

5

Austria

8.1

6

Greece

7.5

7

Belgium

7

8

UK

5.4

9

Armenia

4.4

10

Cyprus

4.4

 CME strongly encourages our nurses and physicians to take necessary safety precautions when traveling abroad. Our operations team does a full safety review of each destination to ensure our escorts are aware of the safety protocols and current social environment at each location.

 The USTIA provides the following tips to prevent common scams when traveling:

Once you have arrived, here are some top travel scams you want to be on the lookout for:


1. Credit Card Confusion – You’re relaxing late at night in your hotel room after a long day. The phone rings, and the clerk at the desk explains there has been a mix-up on your paperwork and credit card number information.  They would like to read the credit card number to you to verify that it’s correct.  They provide you with the last 4 digits of your card number and ask you to verify that it’s correct (it won’t be).  After you explain the number is incorrect, they sound confused and ask you to read back the entire number. Once you read the entire card number they claim to have found the form and all is well. You’ve just been scammed!

What to Do When The Phone Rings:

  • Never give your credit card information over the phone from your hotel room. 
  • Go downstairs to the hotel registration desk in person should any “questions” arise in regards to your reservations or payment details. 

 

2. Taxi Cab Scam – You’re standing in the hotel’s official taxi line waiting. Suddenly you hear “taxi?” and turn to see a nicely dressed person motioning for you to leave the line. You notice the 15 people waiting in front of you and think bypassing the line might be a good idea; after all, you’re in a hurry!

Do not take the offer! Scam artists are known for posing as taxi drivers. Accepting a ride risks more than your wallet, and you might become a victim.  Once you are in the car, these con artists may take you to a deserted area and then assault and/or rob you of your luggage, money and other valuables.

What to Do If Approached:

  • All official taxis should have the car number and company plainly visible on the outside. Check for it – if you don’t see it, don’t accept a ride.
  • Visibly examine the rate “sheet” and/or the meter when you get into the car. This may keep the driver from getting any ideas about hiking up the per mile rate after you’ve started toward your destination. 
  • If you’re unsure about where and how to catch a proper taxi, check with your hotel concierge for a recommendation.

3. Helping Hand – Walking in a crowded tourist attraction, you suddenly find you’ve been bumped and food or drink spilled on your clothes. The kind stranger who jostled you offers to lend you a helping hand to clean up. While helping you, the stranger also helps him or herself to your wallet. 

What to Do:

  • Stay alert in a crowd! Any attempt to divert your attention or jostle you should be treated as a pick pocketing attempt.
  • Divide up any money that you are carrying between your pockets, socks, shirt, wallet and any other areas you can think of. It is unlikely that a thief will be able to reach all the different areas where your money is stored should you be targeted. 

4. The Deal of a Lifetime – This one may happen prior to departure!  These scam artists will offer you hotel or other accommodations in a travel hot spot for a ridiculously low price. The goal is to relieve you of your money as quickly as possible. To do this, they might offer you a “bonus” or a “prize” for purchasing. Typically the prizes sound great, but are not as advertised.  


What to Listen For:

  • Time sensitive Offer – “only good for next few minutes…”
  • Warnings - “you can’t tell anyone about this!” or “only one package is available...”
  • Verbal pauses - “ahs” and “ums”

If you are approached, do not agree to purchase without first verifying that the company is legitimate. In the U.S., you can do this by inquiring about the company’s liability Insurance. Any legitimate company should have liability insurance. If not, it should be a red flag that things aren’t on the up and up. Remember, if a trip seems too good to be true, offers too many prizes or bonuses or is below market cost, then it probably isn’t a legitimate offer.

If possible, use a credit card when paying for your tickets, hotel, car rental and attraction fares. This ensures you can dispute any charges if you do get scammed without actually being out money from your bank account.

Be smart when you travel. Make sure you purchase travel insurance and always know your surroundings. Commercial Medical Escorts believes safety and security is the number one priority and so should you!


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