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Nation’s Pilots Warn Donald Trump That Shutdown Threatens Air Safety

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A letter from the national union representing 61,000 pilots has sent a letter directly to President Donald Trump warning him that the government shutdown is threatening the “safety and security of airspace.”

“The nation’s airspace system is a complex transportation network that involves government and industry partnerships to function properly, and the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening the safe operations of this network,” stated the letter sent last Wednesday by Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, on behalf of union members.

The letter has surfaced just as passengers are reporting growing lines at airports and as Transportation Security Administration officers are reportedly calling in sick to work at paying jobs. Forbes reported Monday that some checkpoint waits at New York’s La Guardia Airport and Sea-Tac Airport in Washington state were as long as 90 minutes. The shutdown is also affecting staffing levels in air traffic control towers, according to Forbes.

DePete urged Trump in his letter to “take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

The union president noted the importance of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Department in safe flying. 

“When any of their responsibilities are placed on pause due to a shutdown there are safety, security and efficiency gaps that immediately emerge,” DePete wrote.

The partial shutdown affects some 800,000 federal workers, but about half of those are considered essential workers — including agents of TSA, which is part of DHS. They are expected to perform their jobs without pay during the shutdown. That has driven some TSA workers to use sick time to work elsewhere to pay the bills, according to the union.

TSA officials have conceded that the number of TSA workers on the job was down, but said Friday that the reduction hadn’t yet affected passenger checkpoint wait times. That appears to be changing as air travel begins to pick up again after the traditional slow time after the winter holidays.

DePete also noted in his letter that fewer Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors are working — “fewer than are needed in order to ensure the air traffic control infrastructure is performing at its peak levels.”

The shutdown also impacts aircraft manufacturing oversight activities that have either stopped or are “significantly reduced,” DePete wrote. “These safety and oversight inspections will potentially allow for the introduction of safety issues that put passengers and airline crews at risk.”

The shutdown began after Trump refused to sign any legislation that doesn’t include $5.7 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The shutdown is now in its third week.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the pilots union letter.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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