February 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio February 1999 Current Issue
February 1999 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel


Health risk...Carry-on suit...X-ray option

On long flights, TB may be in the air

Don’t cough on me. In December, the World Health Organization warned that with tuberculosis on the increase worldwide, there is a small risk of catching the disease on flights longer than eight hours. To cut the risk, the organization has compiled guidelines for the airline industry, produced in collaboration with international TB experts, civil aviation authorities and carrier representatives. In cases where an infectious person was on a flight that lasted more than eight hours (including ground delays where everyone stayed onboard), WHO recommends tracing and informing fellow passengers and crew members. WHO also suggests that maximum efficiency air filters should be maintained on all aircraft and ground delays kept to a minimum. Better yet, TB-infected passengers should postpone travel.

The risk is small, but it’s real: In studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted between 1992 and 1996 involving seven patients with active TB and 2,600 passengers and crew with whom they had contact, only a few cases of transmission were found. But those people did get sick from the exposure.

Carry-on saga continued. Continental Airlines, which has slightly less-stringent carry-on rules than several other major carriers, has had a few run-ins with competitors recently over X-ray machines at security checkpoints that include baggage sizers. One of the disputes has resulted in court time, with Continental suing Delta Air Lines over the machines at San Diego International Airport.

The machines were installed at the end of the summer, and Continental started getting complaints from customers. “We asked Delta to remove the sizers from the checkpoint and they refused,” says Continental spokesperson Sarah Anthony. So Continental sued, because the sizers create delays for their customers and “distract security personnel from their duty,” adds Anthony. “They are not there to be bag cops. If Delta wants to impose unfriendly restrictions on their customers, that’s up to them, but when it interferes with our operations, that’s an entirely different matter.” As of the end of the year, Delta had not yet responded to the suit.

Continental had a similar beef with United Airlines at Denver International Airport, but the airlines came to a mutual agreement and avoided litigation. United will not install the sizers in terminal A, which is where the two carriers share operations at the checkpoint.

Keep your clothes on. In an effort to make the search process less embarrassing for all involved, passengers detained by U.S. Customs Service officers to be strip-searched now have the option of asking to be X-rayed, instead. The practice is being tested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Miami International Airport, where those choosing to be X-rayed will be taken to a local hospital by a customs official, where trained medical personnel will conduct the tests. X-rays can show whether contraband has been swallowed or hidden in body cavities or under clothes. Customs does not yet have a timetable for introducing the practice nationwide.

Likes and dislikes.Frequent Flyer magazine, a sister publication to M&C, has released its annual survey of its road-warrior readers, including new information about safety and security on the road. The results include these findings.

  • Frequent flyers are relatively sure they’ll arrive intact: 25 percent surveyed said they’re sometimes worried about air safety, 34 percent said they’re seldom worried and 17 percent say they’re never worried. But apparently that only applies to the major carriers, since 58 percent believe that independent, low-fare airlines (excluding Southwest) are not as safe as the majors; only 21 percent said the independents are just as safe (21 percent had no opinion). The respondents are lackadaisical about their property: 62 percent said they take no steps to protect their laptops, work-related papers, files and discussions from potential corporate spies.
  • The magazine’s readers answered several questions about the inflight experience, indicating that due to the hullabaloo about carry-ons, nearly one-third (31 percent) have been forced to check bags they tried to carry on up from 21 percent in last year’s poll. They’re split on whether airlines should add real-time TV programming with a choice of channels to seat-back entertainment: 54 percent said they’d like the service. To pass the time while flying, 35.7 percent read for pleasure, 31.6 percent work, 19.7 percent sleep or relax, 8 percent watch video programming or listen to audio and 5 percent talk to others, virtually identical numbers to last year’s poll.

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