Safety in the Islands
It's standard advice to check the U.S. State Department's consular information sheets when planning a trip abroad for up-to-date information about crime trends and areas to be avoided. But travelers checking the department's listing for Aruba this month would have found nothing untoward.
The latest filings on Caribbean islands report a rise in violent incidents in Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, among others, but the most recent report on Aruba gave minimal reason for concern. Aside from theft of property in hotel rooms, joy-riding and a few other problems, it said, "street crime is low."
Foul play can happen anywhere, as the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway on Aruba this month made clear. It's a reminder that vacationers should take the same precautions on a carefree beach trip that they'd take at home or in a big city. Michael Palmer, executive director of the nonprofit Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA), said it's especially important that class trips are handled by reputable tour operators who have experience with students.
"Travel Safety Tips," a brochure prepared by SYTA, can be downloaded from www.syta.org. Consular information sheets and travel warnings can be found at http://state.travel.gov. "A Safe Trip Abroad," a document by U.S. officials that includes tips, contact information for victims and more, is available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety.
Speeding Up the Lines
Last week's report by the U.S. Depart- ment of Homeland Security suggested some expensive ways to improve airport security, but CoGo wondered if local airports would immediately jump on two of the simpler ideas:
1. Install longer tables at checkpoints so that passengers are ready to walk through the scanner when their turn comes.
2. Install a conveyer belt system to return empty bins to the tables in front of the scanners.
Turns out that officials at Reagan National and Washington Dulles are already working to solve the slowdowns by passengers who aren't ready to pass through scanners when their turns come. Both airports have installed dispensers with plastic bags at the beginning of lines so passengers can get organized before reaching the tables, said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton. Also, both airports have hired "student ambassadors" for the summer to help keep lines moving. (Conveying empty bins is part of the ambassador duties.)
More security lines are helpful, of course, and National, Dulles and Baltimore Washington International have all added extra security lanes this spring. Hamilton says two more lanes should be ready at National by the end of summer.
The report also recommended installing devices to test passengers for traces of explosives by exposing them to puffs of air that are then analyzed. BWI is a test center for new techniques and procedures, and as such, already has a "puffer" machine, plus a high-tech explosive detection system for checked baggage, says spokesman Jonathan Dean. Reagan and Dulles have both been promised a puffer, but Hamilton said no date has been set.
Cruise ships that stop at U.S. ports must abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week. The court's decision means that cruise lines, including those operating under foreign registration, can't charge disabled passengers more or provide less service . . . Union leaders say Northwest Airlines mechanics are ready to strike. But even if a strike vote passes, workers must await a mediation board decision that talks are at an impasse and a 30-day cooling-off period. Northwest is "developing contingency plans, including expanding vendor relationships," to "protect its operations," according to a company statement.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Fly to Trinidad this summer for $516 round trip. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.
Reporting: Gary Lee, Cindy Loose.
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