Air Travel

19 September 2011

A lot of information on flying to London is located in the Before You Pack page. This page is more about the different aspects in flying including the new Tarmac Rule of 2010.

Business Flights

Some airlines operate flights for only business class. You need not be a business – person to enjoy this. Fares can be attractive and service much more elegant. I may have more on this in a future issue but I wanted to plant the seed in you now. A Google search will yield some good information.

British Airways has this service from JFK to London City Airport. It requires a stop in Shannon, Ireland. Sorry, they will not let you leave for a pint of Guinness. One nice aspect to this service is that you go thru US Customs (on your way back home) in Ireland. The flight arriving in JFK is now considered a domestic flight and you by-pass customs in NY. For more information, see this.

Carry-On Items

You should check with your airline(s) and the airport(s) you will be travelling with or through. Airlines publish requirements as to what is permitted and the permitted size of carry-on items. They may be different from different service providers. The TSA also has requirements that may be more restrictive than others.

In September 2011, the TSA implemented a new express security line for travelers with only one carry-on item. This is believed to be the nation’s first one-bag lane and it originated in Pittsburgh.
The maximum size of the item could not exceed:
English: 9” x 14” x 22”
Metric: 22.9cm x 33.6cm x 55.9cm

Daytime Flying

Most flights from the states to England depart in the late afternoon or evening. This allows them to land in the morning, which can be good and bad. You have most of a day but you can be pretty tired. Some flights leave the states in the early morning and land late in the day. This can be good on a few counts. A buddy of mine did this with good results. He did not have any trouble checking in (let them know when you are arriving) and afterwards he went to the pub for a few pints. Then it was off to bed and he was able to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning he woke refreshed and ready to go. He basically slept through his “travel day”.

This works best if the flight you are going to catch is direct; otherwise you need to get to your departure airport in the wee hours. Doing this leaving Pittsburgh to a connecting airport makes this all but impossible. Hopefully US Airways will come to their senses and start non-stop service from Pittsburgh again. Why aren’t they thinking of me?

James Cannon who was writing a travel article for the
Pittsburgh Business Times mentioned an Air Canada flight from Toronto. My buddy used a Continental day flight out of JKF and was pleased. Check the airlines or your travel agent. Also, do an Internet search on Mr. Cannon to find his past articles. They are very interesting.

Direct Contact

I have used third parties for travel but I find it more comforting to make reservations directly with the airline or hotel that I want. Third parties can give you a discount but you may get pushed to the end of the line if a problem occurs. I have had others tell me this and I have experienced this for myself. I once missed my flight and the customer service agent was quick to ask how I bought my ticket. I bought it from the airline and I upgraded to first class with cash. He bent over backwards to help me. I don’t think this would have happened if I bought my seat on deepdiscount.com. Your thoughts on this, please?

Immigration & Customs (Passport Control)

When you arrive at a UK airport from the states you need to pass thru a set of control points. The first place you go is to Immigration where you present your passport and visa (if required). They ask you a bunch of standard questions, take your landing card and allow you proceed. The lines for immigration may be separated for UK/Euro passport holders and others. Do not get in the wrong line just because it looks shorter. Agents are there to help guide you and if found in the wrong line you will be pulled. It will not be pleasant.

Once thru you are off to baggage claim. This is pretty straightforward; you watch others claim their bags and it seems yours was not put on board. But they do come and you are off to customs. If you have something to declare you need to pass thru the red door that indicate such. If you have nothing to declare you pass thru the green doors and on you merry way. Please be aware that you can be stopped and asked question by a custom agent and they have the right to search your bags.

Remember that once you enter immigration, and until you pass customs, no photographs or mobile phone calls permitted. A happy face is encouraged.

Flight Calculator

Going to London from the Eastern states
Departure time + 5 hours* + flight time = arrival time (this could be the next day) When you travel to London you are going with the earth’s rotation. You also have a tail wind working with you. Flights generally take 7 hours from Philly. If you depart at 6:00 pm add 5 hours to the time to put you at London time. That makes it 11:00 pm. The flight takes 7 hours so add another 7 to the time. It is now 6:00 am London time.

Coming back home
Departure time – 5 hours* + flight time = arrival time (same day) Coming back home you are going against the Earth’s rotation, which is good. But you are fighting a head wind. This gives a bit longer flight to Philly, but it only adds one hour. A good flight from London to Philly should take 8 hours. So, if the flight takes off at noon in London we subtract 5 hours making it 7:00 am I Philly. The flight adds 8 hours giving us 3:00 pm the same day. This was the old flight from Gatwick to Philadelphia. And you thought math word-problems were not fun!

*London is 5 hours ahead of the Eastern United States time zone.

(Flight) Scheduling

Be aware of the time between flights if you are changing planes, especially if you need to pass through customs and immigration. Flight landing and departure may not always work out for your convenience. Take a look at the 4-hour rule in the Before You Pack section of this guide. In checking flight schedules once I found an offer by an airline to land you in the evening hours but departure was not scheduled until late the next morning. Actually I see a benefit to this and I may utilize this some day. You could stay the night if you have a reason to.

Landing Card

During your overseas flight you will be given a landing card. This needs to be completed, so make sure you brought a pen or pencil.

Tarmac Rule

Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections are a set of rules adopted by the US Department of Transportation on April 29, 2010. One key feature of this rule, more commonly known as the Tarmac Rule, is to prevent airlines from keeping passengers in grounded aircraft for long periods of time without lavatory or water service. The rule addresses what airlines must do if a flight is sitting on a tarmac for two hours or exceeds three hours. The rules go a long way in helping passengers stranded on planes but pleas note that the rules apply only to DOMESTIC flights on aircraft with more than 30 seats. There are other “ways out” for the airlines as well.

In a nutshell, if you are delayed for up to two hours you must be provided with access to water and lavatory service. If you are delayed for three hours you have to be taken off the plane. Will this create problems for the airlines? Yes. If they remove you from the plane you may still not have water or lavatory. I don’t remember this being an issue years ago but it occurs frequently these days. The airlines are in business to move people and they should give more thought as to the best way of doing that.

The biggest problem between a service provider and customers is the lack of communications. Problems occur that prevent aircraft from departing and often it is not the airline’s fault. Passengers know this and if kept well informed as to the nature of the problem and the time expected it could have a calming effect. People kept in the dark get jittery and mad. Being told to sit in a seat for 9 hours without moving is abuse. Passengers are people and not livestock and if carriers looked at us this way these rules might never have had to come to be.

Montréal Convention & The European Union

When you are in Europe, even on a US flag carrier, you are governed by a different set of rules. The Montréal Convention (formerly the Warsaw Convention) covers the United States, Europe and many other countries. The European Union has rules governing air transport as well.