Shownotes for "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show (TWSA!) with Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - May 22, 2011
"Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show - May 22, 2011
Eifel Tower at Night in Paris, France Travel Industry Attorney Al Anolik on New Department of Transportation Regulations; The Addergoole Titanic Memorial in Addergoole, Lahardane, County Mayo, Ireland; June Airfare Deals from CheapOAir; Martello Media Honors Winston Churchill with Exhibit at J.P. Morgan Library, New York, New York.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Link to this segment

Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.travellaw.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show start the hour with Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney based in San Francisco, California. Al is an expert on travel law and author of the book "Travelers' Rights." He's here to talk about new travelers' rights regulations that will come into effect on August 23, 2011.

Dublin Ireland Airport.
Dublin Ireland Airport.

"I'm somewhat excited about the new air travelers' rights, but not carried away," he says. "I'm an attorney; I'm allowed to use disclaimers when excited. But this is the biggest change since deregulation way back in 1978. That's the good news. The bad news is that the new regulations don't begin until August 23, when summer is basically over. That's the season when you have more travel and more lost baggage."

Dublin Ireland Airport.
Dublin Ireland Airport.

What are the new rules for airlines and passengers? One new regulation raises the amount the airline must reimburse passengers for lost baggage and removes the restrictions. "Now, you'll get up to $3300 if your bag is lost without restrictions," Al explains. "Before, they put in so many disclaimers – they wouldn't cover electronics, heirlooms, currency, gold, medications, and more. You had to basically lose really expensive number to get up to $3300."

Dublin Ireland Airport.
Dublin Ireland Airport.

The bad news is that on international flights, the standard reimbursement is minimal: $9.07 a pound. Al is also concerned that airlines will continue to send out letters claiming that they won't cover the replacement cost of an iPhone or iPad. "If you get a letter telling them they won't cover certain items, you can sue them in small claims court for fraud," he says. "Not only did they not pay you, but they deliberately disobeyed the Department of Transportation [DOT] regulations."

Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow Airport.
Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow Airport.

According to Al, 50% of airlines' increased revenue in the last 6 months is from luggage charges. "It's amazing it took a federal mandate – everyone is so upset about luggage charges," he says. "But according to the new rules, if the airlines lose your luggage, they have to refund the baggage fee. That should have been common sense, but at least it will lessen the animosity." Stephanie hopes that the next set of DOT regulations will mandate the refund of taxes and baggage fees for unused tickets. "If you have a non-refundable ticket, check in and check baggage online, and then can't take the trip, they collect tax and a baggage fee on services they did not provide," she explains. Al encourages listeners to contact their local representatives about this issue.

Luggage backup after a Blizzard in Newark Liberty International Airport.
Luggage backup after a Blizzard in Newark Liberty International Airport.

On the topic of luggage, Stephanie is concerned about the faith many passengers have in hotel staff, taxi or shuttle drivers, and TSA locks. "At the airport, many people answer security questions about having packed their luggage themselves," she says. "But if the bellman or doorman or cab driver handles it, that's not always the case. They can just unzip the suitcase and slip something in."

Continental Airlines "reaccomodation" desk at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Continental Airlines "reaccomodation" desk at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Even if a bag is locked with a TSA-approved lock, it's not always secure. "I've seen a video that shows how you can take a bag with 3 TSA locks, get in within 5 seconds, and take out watches or passports," says Al. "You don't even know you've been hit. Any bag with a zipper can be opened with a pen from the hotel and closed up again – with the locks still on. The problem is that if you explain to domestic security that someone like a bellman or doorman handled your luggage, nothing will happen. If you tell that to Israeli security, they're going to take your suitcase apart."

Dublin Airport Terminal 2.
Dublin Airport Terminal 2.

After putting restrictions on the size and weight of baggage and implementing luggage fees, some airlines have started to measure suitcases. "They're starting to measure the wheels, strap on the sides, and the strap on top," Al explains. "All of a sudden, you've just gone over the 61 inches you're allowed on Southwest; other airlines allow you 62 inches. On American Airlines, it costs $150 extra each way for oversized luggage. And that's because you brought a bigger suitcase to avoid paying for 2 checked bags!"

Chocolate Lounge at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.
Chocolate Lounge at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.

Some of the European budget carriers, like RyanAir or EasyJet, allow passengers only one carry-on. "This means that your purse, camera, everything has to fit in one bag," Stephanie says. One way around this, however, is to make a purchase at the airport. "If you put your things in a bag from the shopping center at the airport, you're generally not hassled," she continues. "You've already answered questions about how many bags you have and have had them measured. Airlines don't want to interfere with the business of the shops at the airport."

Waiting area at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.
Waiting area at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.

The lesson here, Al adds, is to read luggage guidelines very carefully. "If someone is doing a better job of competing for your business – whether you're traveling with 2 bags or none – then include that in your considerations of the total price of your travel," he suggests. Another of Stephanie's considerations is the legroom on flights. "I'm just under 5'10" and my husband is 6'6"," she explains. "We usually fly business or first class, but occasionally we get stuck in coach. Heaven forbid the passenger in front wants to put their seat back!"

People mover at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.
People mover at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.

Stephanie has reluctantly paid to sit in the rows with extra legroom, but those seats cost $50 each in each direction on a recent trip to St. Louis. "Essentially, it was an extra $200 just to have seats we could fit into," she says. Although it's an inconvenience, Al explains that this is a tough issue to regulate because the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to airlines. "The issue is that the DOT has just granted more travelers' rights," he says. "If you want more change, get Congress to tell the DOT. I think we ought to hear more about it; someone should bounce it off the DOT the next time they're requesting comments."

Aer Lingus plane on tarmac at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.
Aer Lingus plane on tarmac at Dublin Airport Terminal 2.

What's Al's take on overbooking this summer? "It's going to be much worse because airlines are using smaller planes domestically and cutting the number of flights," he says. "The DOT has just raised the amount that you can be compensated for getting bumped, though. It used to be $400 for short flights; now it can go up to $650. For long flights, it can go up to $1300. Never take a voucher, always take cash – it's much easier to use in the future." Since the new rules don't come into effect until August 23, of course, the higher compensations won't help most travelers this summer.

Students waiting with luggage at Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France.
Students waiting with luggage at Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show continue the discussion with Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney based in San Francisco, California. After talking with Al in the first hour of the show, Stephanie still has a question about what to do if it becomes clear that another passenger is unwell.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with her carry on luggage at at Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France.
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with her carry on luggage at at Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France.

"I was sitting in an airport lounge last year, and there was a fellow on the phone going on about the 113-degree fever he'd sustained the day before," Stephanie recalls. "The rule of thumb is that you're not ready to go out until your temperature has been normal for 24 hours. Nobody wants to be on a plane with someone who's still contagious. So I went over to the customer service desk and told the 3 women there. Two of them looked at me like I had 4 heads. The third told me she'd check, took a walk around the lounge, came back, and told me that the man looked all right to her. What's that supposed to mean?"

Crest of London, Leister Square, London, England.
Crest of London, Leister Square, London, England.

Al's advice is to call the Department of Transportation (DOT). "You must – for your own health – be a whistleblower," he says. "You don't know what this man has. You have an obligation to yourself, the same way that the carrier has an obligation not to board that person. At the least, go up to a person of authority at the airline and say you don't want to be on a flight with that person or be seated anywhere near them. You can threaten to call the DOT if you're not accommodated."

Laptop carry-on.
Laptop carry-on.

If the airline boards someone who is sick, the carrier can be fined by the government. "You don't have to get sick because the airline refuses to do what the law says," Al points out. Even if the flight originates in another country, the airline can still be fined for flying a sick person into the U.S. "The Department of Consumer Protection and the DOT can instantly straighten things out if there's still 45 minutes to the flight. If there's 15 minutes, then at least they can make that person wear a mask."

Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

No matter what the problem, Al recommends taking pictures of the customer service representatives. "Any time there's an incident, take out your smartphone and take a picture of the person you talked with," he says. "When employees see this, they'll act more responsibly, because they know that you know who they are. You don't even have to remember names; you can just show the pictures to a manager."

Boston's Logan Airport.
Boston's Logan Airport.

Stephanie adds that when you get a name first, the whole interaction tends to be more positive. "You can always ask them to spell it," she says. "When I call for customer service, I even write down the date and time in addition to the name. When you have that kind of information, it goes a long way to give you credibility." This trick can even work when you're faced with an overbooked flight. "If you've been overbooked, go to the counter and ask them to ask for volunteers," Al advises. "If they refuse, take a picture! Not asking for volunteers is against the law."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3457

For more information visit www.travellaw.com


Guests Include:

Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.travellaw.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.travellaw.com

Shownotes for this interview are available in Hour 1 content.

For more information visit www.travellaw.com


Link to this segment

Brian Nolan, Travel Industry Consultant, Barna, County Galway, Ireland.
www.addergoole-titanic.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show talk about the Addergoole Titanic Memorial with Brian Nolan, Travel Industry Consultant in Barna, County Galway, Ireland. There's a Titanic memorial in the small Irish town of Addergoole because 14 of the town's residents saved up to buy passage on the Titanic. Of those 14 passengers, only 3 survived the disaster.

Passenger Boarding Card at the Titanic Exhibit in Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Passenger Boarding Card at the Titanic Exhibit in Foxwoods Resort Casino.

"They were actually from a little village called Lahardane, in County Mayo," Brian explains. "Addergoole was their parish there. The three that survived were all ladies, all young. That was the nature of immigrants; they were mostly young people heading for Chicago, although some went to New York or Pittsburgh. One survivor married and moved to New Jersey. The others were taken in as charity cases by the Red Cross. They arrived in America with absolutely nothing; they hadn't even their own clothes. One was only 19 and the other was 21 years old.

State room recreation at Passenger the Titanic Exhibit in Foxwoods Resort Casino.
State room recreation at Passenger the Titanic Exhibit in Foxwoods Resort Casino.

"The older woman went and rapidly got married," Brian continues. "The other became a nun. Neither went home to Ireland for over 50 years. The nun eventually went home and gave a radio interview, but didn't talk much about the disaster. One thing that happened when they arrived in New York was that within 3 hours, agents from the White Star Line had them sign a document that they were supposed to exchange for $10. But it was actually a waiver – they had signed away their rights to sue. So they got less than $10 for their whole ordeal. It was pretty tragic."

Photograph of the grand stairway in the Titanic.
Photograph of the grand stairway in the Titanic.

The passengers from Addergoole had to go through quite an ordeal just to board the Titanic. "It took a full day to get to Cobh in County Cork, which was then called Queenstown," explains Brian. "They walked 14 miles from Lahardane over to Castle Bar, caught the train, and then had 4 separate connections on that train. They stayed 2 nights in Cobh, which cost 11 shillings and 6 pence per night. That's equivalent to about $1, but back then, a working man didn't earn $1 a week.

Rescued artifacts from the Titanic.
Rescued artifacts from the Titanic.

"They didn't actually have tickets on the Titanic," Brian adds. "They had tickets for the White Star Line, and were supposed to catch the next available ship. The next one that pulled in was the Titanic. Talk about a lottery! They must have been fascinated. They had probably never seen electric lights or indoor plumbing or heard music through loudspeakers. They had no clue about living in a ship the size of the mountain behind their village and had never seen the ocean. They must have been goggle-eyed with excitement. And then 4 days later, having had a fantastically calm crossing, most would have been in bed when they suddenly discovered the ship was sinking."

Photograph showing furniture aboard the Titanic (before it sank of course!)
Photograph showing furniture aboard the Titanic (before it sank of course!)

Besides the 3 women who survived, 3 more women from Addergoole made it into lifeboats. They decided to go back to the ship, however, because their husband, brother, and cousin weren't allowed to board the lifeboats with them. To commemorate their journey and the disaster, Lahardane built a Titanic memorial and just put up signs to point the way to Ireland's so-called Titanic village.

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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
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Link to this segment

Bill Miller, Senior VP, Strategic Partnerships, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com
www.cheapostay.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show talk airfares with Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at CheapOAir. Bill is quoting the fares differently today; all fares are round-trip and include government taxes and fees. "This is the total consumers will get when they come to the website," he says. "We've even included the fee that CheapOAir charges for finding the fare." Fares are for a midweek trip from June 2 to June 9, 2011.

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

The fares are: New York City to Santo Domingo, $432; New York City to Punta Cana, $579; New York City to Rio de Janeiro, $832; Los Angeles to San Salvador, $495; Los Angeles to Shanghai, $1050; Los Angeles to Auckland, $1221; Chicago to Las Vegas, $283; San Francisco to Newark, $400; San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, $403; and Chicago to Amsterdam, $1012.

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

On a recent flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to New York-LaGuardia, Bill had the novel experience of being struck by lightning. "There was a storm we had to fly through, so the captain asked the flight attendants to sit," Bill recalls. "We were on an American Airlines 737 with new technology, and I was sitting in an exit row, right by the right engine. And then we got hit by lightning! There was a loud pop and a bright flash, and you could almost feel a little buzz. It was fine, the plane kept flying, and the captain never said anything.

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

"It was kind of startling for 10 or 15 seconds; I put my book down and took a sip of water," Bill continues. "Other people weren't quite so calm, but people in the back of the plane didn't know that anything had really happen." Stephanie points out that this is a fear lurking in the back of every frequent flyer's mind. "You're flying in a giant lightning rod," she says. "You just have to hope that you're not going to pass through an area where you'll be hit. But this is a great story – there was no damage to the plane or the people, everything was fine, and they landed safely."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3459

For more information visit www.cheapoair.com and www.cheapostay.com


Travel Tips:

Before going to Ireland, Stephanie recommends listening to the Saw Doctors' song "N17." The band is from Tuam, just north of Galway City in Ireland. The N17 is the road from Tuam to Shannon airport, and the song is about an emigrant wishing he were back home in Ireland. The chorus – Stephanie's favorite part – includes the line, "I wish I was on the N17 / Stone walls and the grass is green."

The N17 in Ireland.
The N17 in Ireland.

Guests Include:

Alexander Anolik, Travel Industry Attorney, San Francisco, California, USA.
www.travellaw.com

Brian Nolan, Travel Industry Consultant, Barna, County Galway, Ireland.
www.addergoole-titanic.com

Bill Miller, Senior VP, Strategic Partnerships, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com
www.cheapostay.com

Hour 3

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.
www.martellomedia.com

Click here to listen to Mark Leslie, Managing Director for Martello Media interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.
Travelers411 Online Exclusive Audio Presentation:

Listen to an extended length, 30 minute, commercial-free presentation of this interview featuring: Mark Leslie, Managing Director for Martello Media.

Click here for complete broadcast shownotes.
Click here for more Travelers411 Online Exclusives.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show welcome Mark Leslie, Managing Director of Martello Media in Dublin, Ireland. Mark is in the U.S. to work on Martello's latest project: an exhibit honoring Winston Churchill at the J.P. Morgan Library in New York City. Mark was also recently in America in connection with Martello's work on the visitors' center at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.
Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.

"The visitors' center has been completed for some time now, but bizarrely enough, the Themed Entertainment and Attraction Association – the industry guilt for people who do all the theme parks – deemed Glasnevin the funnest day out to be had in a cemetery in all Ireland," Mark explains. "So we were given an award alongside the Harry Potter theme park and the Disney family museum. We had the bizarre experience of walking up a red carpet next to them. I never expected to be doing that for running a cemetery! Although when you think about it, it's such an extraordinary celebration of people's lives."

The Guiness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.
The Guiness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.

Other Martello projects include some of Ireland's most popular attractions. "We worked on the Guinness Storehouse, which is world-famous and one of the most popular attractions in Ireland," Mark says. "The second most-visited is the Cliffs of Moher out in County Clare, Ireland's most popular natural attraction [and a Martello project]. We did the Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork, and at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, we engaged ourselves to create a number of interesting exhibitions, including the long-running one on W.B. Yeats, our national poet. That was meant to be there for 3 years, but by popular demand has been there for 6 or 7 years."

The interview with Mark continues in an online exclusive. You'll find the audio and show notes here.

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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3397
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3381

For more information visit www.martellomedia.com


Travel Tips:

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams ends this hour of the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show with tips on using American credit cards in Europe and gate-checked bags. "If you're going to Europe, you'll find that more and more shops won't take your credit card," Stephanie explains. "That's almost better than the shops that do take your card, swipe it, and then are unable to complete the sale. In this case, your bank sees it as a half-finished transaction. It's recorded as fraud, the system is activated, and your account is frozen."

The Eifel Tower at night.
The Eifel Tower at night.

The issue is that most European merchants are equipped to deal with EMV Smart Cards, which stands for Euro Pay MasterCard Visa. These cards have a chip and PIN, while American cards have a magnetic strip. The chip is fingernail-sized and looks like a gold sticker. "It's actually a chip of information that's embedded in the card," Stephanie explains. "If you have such a card, you have a special PIN associated with it." To make a purchase, consumers insert the chip into a machine and enter the PIN to complete the transaction.

The I Heart Paris Cafe in Paris, France.
The I Heart Paris Cafe in Paris, France.

Stephanie just read an article in Consumer Reports magazine about this issue. "It was from the point of view of an American shopping in America, though," she says. "The article talked about how we're light years behind the credit cards in Europe. As a shopper, having a card with the chip-and-PIN system would be more secure. When European countries started using this technology, they saw credit card fraud and identity theft go down by 50% in the first year.

London, England, UK.
London, England, UK.

"The reason we don't have it in the U.S.," Stephanie continues, "is that it would cost $3 million to convert. But the amount of loss due to improper use of credit cards is less than that. So it's cheaper for banks to absorb the fraud than it is to change to this other system. The article mentions, however, that the reason it's cheaper for banks is that the brunt of credit card fraud is absorbed by merchants themselves. So naturally it's cheaper for the banks to do it that way!"

Slovakia.
Slovakia.

It's not just outbound American travelers who are having difficulties, but inbound travelers, too. "I met a man from New Brunswick, Canada, at a Bass shoe store in Massachusetts who had the problem in reverse," says Stephanie. "His card had the chip and PIN, and they told him his card was declined. It was just like what happened to me in Europe, even though I was using MasterCard, Visa, and American Express at stores with their logos in the window. The first time it happens to you, you'll think twice about it. And if you have a shop that takes credit cards in the U.S. and have international customers, you may not be able to take their money."

Atrium at the Sofitel Gatwick Airport Hotel.
Atrium at the Sofitel Gatwick Airport Hotel.

Stephanie's platinum American Express account was frozen after she tried to buy two sweaters from a clothing boutique in Ireland. The card was declined at the store, but the bigger disappointment came down the road at the gas station. When Stephanie tried to buy gas, she figured out that the card was frozen; it was declined everywhere for the rest of the trip, she says.

London, England, UK.
London, England, UK.

When Stephanie phoned American Express about the problem, she was told that a woman at the company had just returned from Europe and hadn't had any issues! The solution, Stephanie says, is the chip-and-PIN MasterCard debit card from Travelex. It's called the Cash Passport and is available in euros or pounds sterling, depending on the currency of your destination country.

Getting Ice Cream in London.
Getting Ice Cream in London.

Stephanie also warns air travelers against trying to gate-check luggage. "I just read some advice that said that if you don't want to pay for a checked bag but don't want to have to put it in the overhead compartment, leave the bag at the end of the walkway so it will be gate-checked," she explains. "I must have seen 15 bags there on a flight from New York to St. Louis. So I sat down on the flight, and the attendant came on and said, 'If you left your bag at the entry door, go get it. There's room in the overheads and those bags are small enough to fit.'"

Gift Shoppe at the Ulster American Folk Museum in Omagh Northern Ireland.
Gift Shoppe at the Ulster American Folk Museum in Omagh Northern Ireland.

Many walkways from the airport terminal to the plane pose a threat to small children. When the aircraft pulls up to the gate and the walkway is extended, the gap between the plane and walkway is supposed to be cordoned off with canvas. Stephanie, however, has always seen gaps between the plane and walkway large enough for a small child to fall through. She reminds listeners to keep an eye on toddlers while boarding the plane, especially if a stroller is being gate-checked.


Guests Include:

Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.
www.martellomedia.com

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