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Travel & Escape

The airports of the future have arrived

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Air travel is growing in popularity across the world, and the global aviation system is undergoing projects big and small to keep up.

“We’re forecasting that traffic will double in the next 17 years,” said Angela Gittens, director general for Airports Council International (ACI World). “Millions more people will be travelling.”

And those people, she said, won’t just be in places where flying is already popular. “An emerging economy now will be an advanced economy later,” Gittens said.

New and expanded airports are needed to meet that demand. Istanbul, for example, has already begun opening its new airport in phases that will eventually be able to accommodate hundreds of millions of travellers a year. When it is completed, it will be the world’s largest.

Beijing is set to get its own new airport up and running next year, one that will come close to rivalling Istanbul’s in size and ambition. (It was designed by architect Zaha Hadid before she died in 2016.)

“We have to do things more efficiently. We have to have technology work more efficiently for us. We have to figure out how to process passengers, aircraft and cargo more efficiently in the air as well as on the ground,” she said.

The airports’ designers agreed, and said that efficiency has to start with the buildings themselves.

“We’re starting to arrive at scales which were previously unimaginable for the size of these airport buildings,” said Andrew Thomas, a partner at the architectural firm Grimshaw, which designed the Istanbul airport along with the Nordic Office of Architecture and Haptic Architects. “It almost doesn’t matter what you put in it if the walks are so long that people are exhausted by the time” they get to their gate.

The designers of the Beijing airport agreed. “You keep it on the human scale,” said Cristiano Ceccato, an associate director and director of aviation at Zaha Hadid Architects.

Gittens said that technological innovations will help passengers navigate the buildings more quickly and efficiently.

“I think one of the things we can really expect is that biometrics will be used throughout the entire process. If you can avoid people having to stop and queue — stopping and queueing takes up space — if people can move, they don’t need as much space,” she said.

Thomas agreed that biometrics, including facial recognition technology, will likely take on a bigger role as those technologies develop, but he said other systems already exist that make airports more efficient than they used to be. For example, he said, automation is making it quicker and less stressful for most travellers to check in.

“The process, as it becomes automated, becomes much more simple,” he said. Istanbul will still have check-in staff, “but they move from behind the desks and they deliver much more personal customer service.”

Gittens said that kind of technology also makes airports more flexible, as multiple airlines can share the physical infrastructure more easily.

Beijing’s airport is taking automated check-in even further, according to Ceccato. Normally, he said, airports have two levels: one for departures and one for arrivals. But Daxing International will have a third floor with a new format.

“A purely self-processing level for domestic travellers — no ticket agents or anything,” Ceccato said. “They realized that the full service check-in that you have upstairs, most people don’t need that anymore. They just need to get on with it much like they’re taking a train. That is a big facilitation to making the travel as seamless as possible.”

While Istanbul and Beijing are two of the more high-profile projects in the works right now, airports around the world are undergoing improvements to keep up with demand as well. Los Angeles International and La Guardia in New York are essentially being rebuilt (one phase of the La Guardia project opened in November), and John F. Kennedy will also be overhauled in the near future. London’s Heathrow is set to begin building a third runway, and Amsterdam is studying a similar project. In the coming years, Berlin should have a new airport that has been under stop-and-go construction for more than a decade, and Sydney has plans for a new airport, too.

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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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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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