May 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 1998 Current Issue

On Travel


Bomb Scan...Air Traffic...Carry-On Redux

A new airport screening machine nabs explosives but ruins film

Finds bombs, kills pictures. New, specialized baggage-screening machines made by Newark, Calif.-based InVision can find a bomb in a briefcase, but its rays are likely to destroy photographic film. The CTX 5000, currently in use at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (and possibly at New York's JFK International, Hartsfield Atlanta International and San Francisco International airports - the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't want that information known), uses CAT scanning to look at a bag's contents from several different angles. It is the only technology approved by the FAA to find explosives, and airports around the world are buying the expensive machine. The scanning process was s-l-o-w in test runs, which is why, at O'Hare, United Airlines only uses the CTX 5000 on the bags of passengers who have been identified as potentially risky through a computer profiling system, according to spokesperson Joe Hopkins. But he adds that United reserves the right to send any passenger's bags through the machine. While some scanners are out in the open, others that are used to inspect checked bags are not, so you won't always know when your luggage has been singled out. Keep your camera and extra film in your carry-on bag; the security checkpoint you and your carry-ons go through won't damage film in speeds of 1000 ASA or below.

Sardine conditions will continue. You wouldn't think airplanes could get any more full, but according to the FAA, that's what we can look forward to in the next 12 years. In 1997, the industry enjoyed its fourth straight year of strong traffic growth and record profits, and the FAA predicts that next year's figures will be even higher. In its annual aviation forecast, the agency says U.S. commercial air passenger enplanements will grow from a total of 595 million last year to 924 million in 2009. Travel inside the country is expected to grow 3.5 percent a year and 5.8 percent on international routes. This fertile environment for the airline industry is attributed to a number of factors including strong economic growth worldwide, favorable international alliances and open-skies agreements, the ability of airlines to better adjust supply with demand, and airline restructuring. Another contributing factor is the continuing decline in "real passenger fares" - no, not how much you're paying for your seat, but how much it costs the airline to transport a person on a plane, factoring in food, gas and the cost of building and buying the aircraft.

Carry-on limits redefined, again. Furthering efforts to unstuff overhead bins, Delta Air Lines now counts laptop computers and shopping bags as carry-ons. In the past, these items were exceptions to the carrier's two-bag carry-on policy. Only purses, food for the flight and "assistive devices for disabled passengers" - including crutches, canes and respirators - remain on the exceptions list.

Southwest Airlines also has tinkered with its carry-on policy: The carrier still allows two bags per passenger, in addition to small items like purses, camera bags and coats. But all items must fit in the sizing box (16 inches by 10 inches by 24 inches), and that rule is being enforced. To further complicate matters, don't be surprised if on heavily booked flights, Southwest Airlines limits carry-ons to one per customer. The one-per-customer rule would be declared an hour before departure, and passengers would be notified of the change at check-in. Extra bags would be checked at the gate.

Homework before the trip. Going somewhere you've never been before? Get a list of the best books about the place from Longitude (800-342-2164), a book service for travelers run by expedition leader Darrel Schoeling and former book editor Daniel Kaizer. The two started compiling book lists on natural-history sites and remote destinations for the World Wildlife Fund and the American Museum of Natural History, but now cover most international destinations and sell the recommended tomes through their service. The lists start with about five essentials and a detailed map, which are offered in a discounted package; they are supplemented by another 10 to 12 highly recommended books. For instance, on Italy's essential reading list are the Eyewitness Travel Guide - Italy (DK Publishing, New York City, $29.95); The Italians by Luigi Barzini (Atheneum Books, New York City, $13); The World of Venice by Jan Morris (Harcourt Brace & Co., Orlando, $14); The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings by R.W.B. Lewis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York City, $27.50); and In Search of Ancient Rome by Claude Moatti (Harry N. Abrams, New York City, $12.95). All five books plus a shaded relief map of Italy ($10.95) are offered for $99.

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