Category Archives: Travel

More Chaos in Store for Businesses as Device Ban May Extend to UK, Europe

Post- St Petersburg, Post-Dortmund Thought – Why Have Trains and Buses Escaped the Laptop Ban?

Governments with a divisive agenda have realised that the best way to pre-empt backlash or criticism over any irrational decision is to give it a safety and security tag.

Even as businesses are beginning to wake up to the implications of the device ban on flights, it appears that US President Donald Trump is toying with the idea of applying the restrictions to more countries, including the United Kingdom, its closest ally, and some in Europe. Initially, it was thought the bans would be extended to countries such as Pakistan and India.

Go for a Blanket Ban

Amid the evolving developments, several questions rankle my mind as these piecemeal introductions of curbs appear to make little sense. Bans based on just the present are reactive actions laden with pitfalls. Proactive actions that factor in any future threats, going beyond the stereotypal apprehensions, will be more meaningful.

  • Why not make it a blanket worldwide ban?
  • Since home-grown terrorists exist even in the West, including the U.S., shouldn’t the restrictions be all-encompassing with no country enjoying any exemption? After all, wasn’t the liquids ban on flight cabins applied globally, prevalent till today?
  • Why should it apply only to a few countries when passengers can simply circumvent the ban by travelling through others that are not affected?
  • Why is the focus only on flights? The world has seen terror strikes at train stations (St Petersburg being the recent one and London and Mumbai not too long ago) and buses (Dortmund recently) as well. If battery bombs can fit into laptops and tablets such as iPad, shouldn’t the restrictions cover trains and buses as well?

UK Daily Express photo

Picture from Daily Express

  • When trains traverse across Europe, why have they escaped the ban?
  • Why does the world think terrorism will remain confined to one religion associated with ISIS, al-Qaeda and many such outfits? Mercenaries across every religion can be roped in for the job. They have been in the past and this includes some from both the U.K. and the U.S.
  • Fundamentalism in India: With religious fundamentalism, majoritarianism and hatred against the minorities in India now pervasive, any complacence will be imprudent as the country has seen several attacks by non-Islamic extremist elements.

Oppose Temple and Risk Beheading

Killing in the name of Hindutva is not uncommon, with one BJP leader even saying in Hyderabad recently that anyone opposed to the Ram temple in Ayodhya will be beheaded.

I have lived in Hyderabad in the 80s and been a witness to communal riots that used to happen with a certain periodicity. It is only during the last decade or so the city has been peaceful. I hope these lumpen elements don’t bring violence back to the streets of the lovely city.

Cisco, HP Had Funded Militant Groups

There are some fanatics living in the U.S. and doing all they can to foment anti-Christian and anti-Islam trouble in India, abusing the freedom of expression vested in them.

  • A few U.S.-based pro-RSS NGOs, such as the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), had in the past collected funds from technology giants such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard in the name of charity and diverted them for suspect causes.

Cisco later suspended the funding after IDRF’s links to the RSS were exposed. But the NGO still appears to exist, continuing to collect funds.

Implications for Business

The ban on electronic devices in flight cabins had come into force on March 24, when I had come up with a post, With Device Ban, Business Focus May be Back on Virtual Meetings, raising such questions as:

  • How will businesses brace up for the device ban?
  • Will they start implementing what used to be cost-cutting measures such as meetings through videoconferencing.
  • If so, will the ban be a blessing in disguise for companies as travels do involve a significant cost chunk?

Airline Fares Remain High

But then that post was more about the implications for business, including for airlines, than on the ban itself. It appears airlines will be fine as I have only seen the fares go up since the ban as passengers are finding ways to circumvent the restrictions and not give up business travel.

Where it can get tricky is when the curbs become applicable for commuting by trains and buses. It will affect commuting to the office through those modes of transport on a day-to-day basis. If that happens, it will accelerate acceptance of the virtual office as there is no way the staff can avoid carrying laptops or iPads with them for their routine work.

Sounds crazy? Curbs that are flippant can invite posts that are just as flippant!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Air Travel, Terrorism, Travel, Trump

Lax Security – How was Uber CEO Allowed to Board Beijing-Delhi flight?

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arrived in New Delhi a few days ago without a visa but some middle-of-the-night scramble and help from influential Indian contacts prevented what could have been an embarrassment for him. So there was no deportation!

This will have been unthinkable for anyone to land in the U.S. without a visa and make it out of the airport.

Visa on arrival is not available for visits to India. The process was simplified in early 2014 making visits possible with an e-visa for tourists.

http://www.ndtv.com/news/view/profit/1639130/site=classic/?device=iphone&siteid=news&showads=no&site=classic

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Singapore on 4 of world’s 10 busiest air routes

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-on-4-of-worlds-10-busiest-air-routes

This report in The Straits Times today should come as no surprise as Singapore has consistently been an aviation hub with the region being home to many popular destinations – both for pleasure and business.

Moreover, the top 10 routes the last few years have been within the Asia-Pacific region.

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Photo Credit: https://goo.gl/images/zfdBqJ

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Aviation, Travel

Business Travel: Why do airlines insist on ticket changes through agents?

I could not change flight online and over phone but had my way at the airport! Thank you, SIA!

Singapore Airlines and the Changi airport are the pride of the nation. SIA has always been my first choice and will remain so. You recognise their charm only when you experience inefficiencies with rival airlines and airports.

Singapore girlSIA has never let me down anytime. Even the issue I had with them on Saturday (April 30) in Bangkok was not unpleasant, though the experience could have been better.

  • I am confident a customer-friendly airline such as the SIA will not overlook it.

Bangkok to Singapore: I wanted to change my SIA flight from Bangkok to another one which was a few hours earlier than the one I was booked on.

  • It was not a ticket with any restrictions which meant I could make flight changes, if necessary, without any penalty.

Not a Reasonable Demand: But SIA told me that since I had booked the ticket through a travel agency, I would have to go through them for any changes. If I wanted to do it myself then I would have to lose 50% of the fare, I was told. This is what I heard from the Sheraton travel desk who were working on the change on my behalf.

Singapore_Airlines_Airbus_A380_file84_WMI thought it was unreasonable, so decided to stick to my original schedule and checked myself in online.

I did not give up on it wholly. I took a chance and went to the Bangkok airport six hours ahead of my scheduled flight time. I checked with the SIA counter there if I could be accommodated in an earlier flight.

Tickets were available, so I was able to board an earlier flight without any penalty. That saved me two hours of my time.

Why the Fuss: It left me wondering what the earlier fuss from SIA was all about. If I could get the change done without any hassle at the airport why not over the phone? They could have easily facilitated it.

Business travel always means the tickets are booked through a corporate travel agent. It is thus an impractical stipulation that business travellers must make flight changes only through the agent.

I will not hold it against the SIA as I was still able to have my way. I realize all airlines have this silly practice. I just thought SIA would be flexible.

It is time all airlines removed any such ticketing provisos that appear to lack logic.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Singapore Airlines, Travel

The Essence of Thailand at Bangkok Airport

The Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok is representative of the essence of Thailand.

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Its piety and faith as well as its culture and tastes come out very clear there. You will see a number of artefacts that capture the religious beliefs of Thailand, a country where more than 90% of its people are Buddhists.

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G Joslin Vethakumar

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A Taste of SFO, London, Tokyo and More in Bangkok

Terminal 21 in Bangkok, with an airport theme, can transport you to San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Paris and Istanbul. And more!

img_4782A few of the mall’s floors are named after those cities with imagery unique to them. And food, of course!

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The mall is just opposite the Sheraton Grande Sukhimvit where I have been staying the last few days.

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G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Bangkok, Shopping, Travel

A Year-End Air Tragedy

Weather Playing Havoc During Christmas Season of Joy Not Uncommon

A day after Christmas in 2004 Asia plunged into gloom with the loss of more than 200k lives across multiple countries in the region hit by the world’s deadliest tsunami.

Since then the world has been nervously ushering in the Christmas season as weather conditions are generally bad during the period. The last few days Malaysia and Indonesia had been hit by major floods displacing thousands of people from some areas.

Going by media reports, the weather remained turbulent today as well. So, I am shocked that the Air Asia flight (QZ 8501) that went missing earlier today was allowed to take off from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.

Turbulent weather is something we always encounter on flights at any time of the year, so it can be too common to warrant a cancellation. But when the weather has been particularly bad the last few days it is a painful thought that Air Asia went ahead with what will have been a two-hour flight.

It is quite another matter that if the flight was delayed or cancelled it could have left its passengers unhappy.

Blame Game Unnecessary: It does not look like the pilots lacked the experience to deal with such situations. So there is no need to rush into a blame game here.

I travelled by Air Asia once a few years ago with family on a flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was a pleasant experience – a new aircraft with good service standards though it was only a one-hour journey. That took the fear of budget air travels away from me, making me try Tiger Airways, Spice and Indigo on a few personal trips.

In fact, Air Asia has been winning the best budget airline award the last few years.

Nonetheless, this incident is bound to put the spotlight on budget travels and crew experience.

My thoughts and prayers are with the 162 people who were on board Air Asia QZ 8501 and their families. May a miracle bring them back!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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