Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Travel Takes a POUNDing

June 29, 2016
Britain's vote last week to leave the EU has dominated the travel world, in addition to the globe.

Will England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland see an inpouring of tourists from the United States?

Will Britons cut back on traveling abroad because it's more expensive?

Following Brexit, online travel portals reported a surge of visitors.

Kayak said it saw a 54 percent increase in US searches checking fares to the UK compared with other Fridays in the month of June, and search site Travelzoo saw a 35.3 percent increase in travel searches from the US to the UK from June 24 to June 27.

The end of cheap flights?

How will Brexit change air travel in Europe?

Low-cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet have taken full advantage of the EU's Open Skies agreement, which has made flying around the continent cheap and convenient.   EasyJet may be one of the most affected, as it's based in England, but RyanAir, based in Ireland, probably won't, more than any other flying in and out of the UK.

This permissive aviation framework was great for airlines and passengers -promoting competition, lowering prices and creating new demand. The deregulated skies have genuinely democratized travel for Europeans.

Anyone who has booked a fare on an EU low-cost carrier, from say, Berlin to London, and paid about the same price as a takeout meal, can't help but be amazed at the efficiency of the UK aviation market.

The the social benefits with this freedom of movement can't be underestimated: affordable leisure breaks, financial opportunities for businesses and improved family ties.

It might never be that good again for UK-based airlines and their passengers.

What Will It Mean for Airline Passengers?

The Telegraph's perspective:


The huge success of the no-frills airlines and the impact they have made on reducing fares and opening up new routes was enabled by the EU's removal of the old bi-lateral restrictions on air service agreements and the introduction of more open competition on routes between Union countries. Now that Britain is leaving the EU, arrangements will have to be made for new air service agreements if British airlines like easyJet, are to continue operate freely all over the EU, and Irish airlines, like Ryanair, or German airlines like German Wings, are to continue to fly in and out of the UK without restrictions.
Whether the wide choice of routes and historically low fares we now enjoy will continue will depend on the results of those negotiations.


The exceptionally high levels of compensation that passengers are entitled to under the EU directive on flight delays and cancellations are enshrined in UK law. No doubt British airlines will lobby hard to get the protection watered down after we have left. Nevertheless flights in and out of EU countries and on EU airlines will still be governed by the directive, though you could have a much harder time claiming compensation, and might have to go to court in another country to win your case. However, the dire predictions that passengers might end up with not only no compensation but that they could also lose their entitlements to food and drink and overnight accommodation in the event of long delays, seem to be an unlikely outcome to me.

Getting on a Plane? 
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Friday, June 24, 2016

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The British Are Coming
-UK Airlines face Review Over Junk Fees

June 23 , 2016

British air travelers would be happy to know they are in a better position as compared to their American counterparts.

That's because the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said last week it will carry out a full-scale investigation of airline fees this summer.

The CAA will examine the policy of several carriers on fees relating to checking in, the processing of changes to travelers' names on documentation and the re-issuance of boarding passes.

The BBC reports that UK regulators will take action against air carriers that are found to be in violation of the Consumer Rights Act, intended to protect British consumers across a variety of industries.

Every airline in the UK will be reviewed to decide whether fees are presented in an "open and clear" way to prevent passengers being burdened with unexpected extra expenses.

How does that compare to the Yanks? The US airlines absolutely worship bait-and-switch advertising. They're always attempting to chip away at a FlyersRights-backed 2011 rule by DOT requiring full fare advertising, including taxes and fees.

FlyersRights has been beating the drum for both reasonable regulation as well as disclosure of fees.

Our DOT Rulemaking petition is currently still pending - that caps and regulates change and cancellation fees on international flights.

Caveat Emptor

Recently, Senator Bob Menendez asked for an investigation into unfair and deceptive practices by US carriers for charging hundreds of dollars more for round-trip itineraries versus one-way fares on the exact same flights.

US airlines have also been criticized by lawmakers for continuing to impose steep surcharges on fuel despite falling oil prices.

[Br]Exit Row

Ryanair's EU referendum "Brexit special" ad breaks bribery laws say Vote-Leave campaigners.
Budget airlines, EasyJet and Ryanair, fear being kicked out of EU airports and airspace - destroying business.
Today Britons decide whether to leave or stay in the European Union.

Skies Wide Open...For Now

Travel experts say the European "open skies" deal for UK airlines is at risk if the British vote to depart the EU, or Brexit.

That open skies deal, struck in 2007, makes it easy for US carriers to travel through the EU, as well as form alliances or partnerships with airlines in Europe for flight coverage.

American Airlines is seen as likeliest to take the biggest hit from any Brexit fallout, in part because of its large joint-venture with British Airways. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, owns nearly half of British airline Virgin Atlantic. United doesn't have a partner in the U.K. but still flies often to the nation.

In a post-  Brexit Europe, a more restrictive aviation environment would mean fewer flights from the UK to Europe and hence losing access to European airspace and airports, said Sir Richard Branson  founder of Virgin Group.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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Face The Music
Will Facial Recognition take flight?

June 15, 2016

By year's end, airport security will be tracking you at most major airports in the US and around the world.

Airports already have this technology in place, they just didn't tell anyone. 

While FlyersRights has voiced concern over beacons and surveillance cameras tracking you in airports, we haven't written about facial recognition and biometrics.
Last year, US Customs and Homeland Security (DHS) department quietly launched a facial recognition program to detect so-called "immigration violators" at points of entry airports.

As part of the program, customs officers randomly selected Americans coming back from abroad and took a picture of them. Passengers that were chosen as guinea pigs could not opt out, according to the US Customs and Border Protection's Privacy Impact Assessment

As they passed through customs at one of the pilot program airports, Dulles, about 250 people per day had their photos taken and stored in a database.
Tracking you from the minute you arrive at the airport until you leave at your destination.

Storing Passenger Biometrics

Facial recognition systems have two components: an algorithm and a database. The algorithm is a computer program that takes an image of a face and reconstructs it into a series of landmarks and proportional patterns - the distance between eye centers, for example.  

This technology detects and tracks you from the minute you arrive at the airport until you're out of the arrival hall at your destination.

"Face-prints" are collected into databases and a computer program compares images or pieces of footage with the database for matches. Proponents boast a match accuracy rate of 98.75 per cent. Facebook recently achieved 97.25 per cent accuracy after acquiring biometrics company in 2012.  
Shorter Queues? But Be Careful What You Wish For

Is this the answer to long TSA lines?
Advocates say this technology allows recognized and identified individuals to get through security and passport control automatically.

For weeks we've been reporting on the endless security lines at airports around the country, with infuriated passengers waiting as long as three hours or more.

But not everyone is happy about facial recognition being the solution. 
Civil rights activists are concerned that the program is an invasion of privacy that will create a database of innocent Americans. 

Officials counter that this technology helps ensure the person checking-in is the person getting onto the plane, and it also compares passengers against terrorist databases. 

Potential For Abuse

At the moment, it's unclear how the images and data are handled, stored, or shared. 

DHS claims the technology isn't creating new invasions into privacy, but merely helping them do what they already do - confirm your identity and your travel documents at border crossings. 

Nonetheless, the information is valuable to hackers targeting political figures', diplomats' and celebrities' whereabouts. These concerns have not yet outweighed the advantages of seamless security that facial recognition can provide.  
Still, this is an intrusive technology with no judicial oversight, transparency or due process. 

Allure To Monetize The Data

Another issue: can these contractors supplying biometric technology be relied upon to self-regulate, despite the temptation to monetize the data? 
The technology sounds beneficial and convenient. Walk up to the international check-in at, say, Charles de Gaulle Airport, gaze up at a camera and walk into the country without ever needing to pull out a passport - your image is on file, the camera knows who you are. 

The concern is not as much airport programs, but is it a move towards a larger program involving all public places and mass transit in the United States? We have no idea how this information may be used or misused in the future. 

Unless we maintain a public right to privacy, what will stop large companies from accumulating all sorts of data? This is the tide of technology.
As recognition software evolves, we can expect to see enhancements that track a person's gait, perform long-range iris scanning, and advanced facial modeling and recognition. Biometric IDs may someday become the only form of identification we need.

When you find yourself denied a job or a loan and never find out why, maybe ask yourself if it's because at some time you showed up in a databank identifying you as "at risk".

Technology is always a two edge sword.

Every advance in weaponry inspires more advances in protective or defensive measures, and technology -once employed for one purpose - will inevitably be copied and used for other purposes.

In aviation, anti-sabotage and anti hijacking measures have grown from X-ray and metal detectors to explosive detection, hard to counterfeit picture IDs, watch and No-Fly lists. Drones developed to spy on and kill terrorists, are now widely dispersed in the US and may soon be used by terrorists against us.

What is to prevent facial recognition from being used by law enforcement to apprehend wanted persons or traffic offenders, by debt and tax collectors and by private detectives?

The freedom to travel by air has been a boon opening the world to hundreds of millions in the 20th century. But a major challenge of the 21st century is how to maintain this freedom without creating a police state or destroying any semblance of personal privacy. 

Paul Hudson

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