Hijackers Beware

Several times a day, as an emergency service travel agent, I get updates about news from around the world.

Strikes, floods, earthquakes, blizzards, diseases and country unrest. Oh boy! All the cheery, fun stuff – not!.

So, when I see a story like this on our feed, it makes me deliriously ecstatic.

Passengers foil Turkey ‘hijacking’
Source website: aljazeera.net

A hijack attempt on a Turkish Airlines flight from Norway to Istanbul has been foiled by passengers.

Turkish media, citing security officials, said a Turkish passenger on board the Boeing 737-800 stormed the cockpit less than an hour before arrival in Turkey on Wednesday.

Officials said the man claimed to have a bomb and demanded the aircraft return to Oslo.

But passengers on the flight tackled the suspect and the plane landed safely at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport at 1930GMT, media reports said

I don’t know any of the 60 passengers on board (including crew). Our agency did not have any on this flight, but I do know I want them to be on my next flight. Any of the I’m-not-taking-your-crap-anymore people would be my preferred seat partner. Come to think of it, anyone else who decides they want to fight and tackle terrorists – come on board. I think they deserve to fly free.

I know in this case the man had “issues” (don’t we all?) and if you ask me, I’d say terrorists have “issues” and “psychological” problems in general, but I digress.

If we all pumped some iron and took some defense classes, would we be safe to fly? TSA, can you hire flight marshalls and good ol’ boy bouncers?

If I were a hijacker…. I would start taking notes…..

150 vs. 1?

60 vs. 1?

300 vs. 1?

Steriods? Body builders? Adrenline rushes?

How many seats does this plane hold? Can you take on an angry mob? Airline passengers are the worst, especially since the airlines took their free blankets, pillows, and pretzels. Trust me, they are not happy.

I think next time I travel, I’m asking for a seat next to the buff Norweigan guy…….just to be safe.

Happy trails hijackers!

Image by Google

No Date of Birth, No Travel for you!

Says, the Travel Nazi.

That’s right. Your birthday. Woo-hoo and happy birthday to you. I promise it’s not so I can steal your identity, or note a calendar reminder to send you an e-card. It’s not just that you were born, grew and could travel either – although that works fairly well.

The truth is, it’s a new TSA rule mandating a date of birth in all airline reservations. A requirement for travel agents, and airlines to obtain, before a passenger gets to the airport. To speed up the security process, avoid strip search, and identify more of the watched list persons, and not just the innocent folks who have the bad luck of sharing the same name as the watched list person – which is what happens now. It’s been coming down the pipe a long time, but now, it’s getting serious. My work requires we have the date of birth before we can even issue an airline ticket. No date of birth. No travel for you! NEXT!

I know I don’t talk about my job a lot. I have been a business travel agent for twenty years. Most of the time when I say that, people respond, “I didn’t know travel agents were still around?” And yes, yes we are. Sure the internet changed things. Now travelers can book flights all-by-themselves by the click of a mouse or tap of an app.

It’s a fancy thing. It’s a cool thing. It’s technology brilliance. I had no idea so many people were as talented as me, or travel agent wanna-bes. I have to admit, I don’t blame them, it’s a lot of fun. I book tickets online myself (or by app), when I have personal travel. It’s simple. But not everyone travels a simple round trip. Not every company trusts their employees to book the lowest fare and adhere to the policy guidelines. And lastly, not everyone CAN book themselves online, because they have (um) challenges. You know who you are, or maybe you don’t (ahem).

Our business took a dip 9/11, but not for long. It took another dip when the economy bellied up a few years ago, but also recovered. Flights are more booked than ever. It’s like spring break travel every week. Hotels are sold out again. Every car company in a city is booked. International travel is off the charts, despite the Iceland volcano ash cloud scare that disrupted flights for a month over Europe. Business is business, it has to go on. With all the telecommunication equipment, video conferencing, and virtual training, one would think travel would not be as demanding. It doesn’t have to be done “in-person” anymore.

Not true either, most customers, clients, and businesses understand, there is nothing like face-to-face. Many training and physical labor has to be done by hand. Sensitive information has to be transported in person. Conferences and people networking with handshakes and golf, not Facebook. Business travel is big business and even bigger if the company can save and track funds as much as possible, which is where I come in. I suggest lower fares. I advise company policy. I search. I shop. I track, and I book flights – keeping in mind the demands and limits, my dear business person has.

It’s a crazy travel life, but it’s my crazy travel life.

So, when I ask for your birth date and you get all “suspicious” of my motive. When your feathers ruffle at my request because that information is PRIVATE – Puh-leeze. I no more need to know your age than your favorite color. I am just doing my job and trying to make your travel experience more pleasant and care-free in the security line, like the good ol’ days. So before I bust out in song, “You say it’s your birthday! Dun, nun, nun, nun – It’s my birthday too – yeah!” I need your date of birth for your airline ticket, or no travel for you!

And by the way…..does your government issued ID have your middle name or initial on it? It has to match. Why do I need to know (sigh)…because the government told me to. Yes, I’ll wait while you look.

Happy Trails!

Old Man Winter Bombs North Central Texas

Are the snow flakes bigger in Texas?

Why yes, yes they are. Because in big ol’ Texas? Go big or go home! At least that’s what the snowfall said THIS year. Our measly two to four inches predicted that I scoffed at. Scoffed? Yes I scoffed. How many times have they predicted a HUGE Winter storm that dusted an inch of snow that immediately turns to treacherous ice then disappears by mid-day, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. We get robbed of snowmen, snowforts, and beautiful white landscapes. Instead we get to watch cars get banged up and crunched from either a) going to FAST b) going to SLOW c) realizing your are on an icy bridge so you HIT THE BRAKES (Huh?). That’s right. This is North central Texas. No one knows how to drive in ice and snow. Even the airport can’t function.

Imagine my utter amazement as the snowfall of one to two inches predicted actually started falling sometime after midnight on Wednesday. We woke up Thursday morning to the standard dusting. Whooppee! It happened. The weather man was right? Cool! Much to Sydney’s disappointment school did not cancel. Then, as the day wore on, much to our astonishment, it KEPT FALLING.

Texas sized snowflakes were floating down outside my fourth floor window ALL day. Oh.Em.Gee. It didn’t stop after an hour or two. It kept falling, and falling, and falling. I’ve been at work ALL morning and the snow has not let up. It’s gotten heavier. The trees are now coated. The ante upped to 4-6 inches. I look out my window and take a photo with my iPhone.

Later in the afternoon as the forever ending flakes came down, I hear it’s now predicted at 8-10 inches of snow. WHAT? In Texas???? I knew then the client I was on the phone with trying to fly to Fort Wayne Indiana was going nowhere. I helped him and three buddies get out the next day. You want an early morning flight? HEH! My advice, as your travel agent, wait until noon then you have a shot. Early morning flights get canceled. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for twenty years.

This week, with the endless snow storms across the country, rescheduling passengers has been a nonstop job. It kills me. The disappointment, and the frustration from them and their loved ones. Mother nature is unkind to airline passengers. On the other hand, I am HAPPY there are rules in place to keep our precious cargo safe. If there weren’t rules in place, you might have pilots trying to get people home when they shouldn’t risk it. I’d rather you suffer a delay then never get home at all. So thank you FAA.

I took a slushy road trip to Jason’s at lunch. I was dying to get my camera and check it out through that lens. Quite honestly I felt like a REAL photographer out in the backyard with an umbrella, to keep the camera dry, while I carried it mounted on a monopod. This is a few that I shot.

Back at work, the winter snow saga continues. A week of canceled flights. First Chicago, then the entire Northeast corridor, THEN DALLAS. Which was a HUGE surprise. I leave work about 630pm. I drive a Toyota Matrix. A cracker car. The temp is hanging at freezing which is great. Nothing is FROZEN but snow has piled up and turned the road into a 7-11 brain freeze. My little car RULED the road. I passed RAM trucks going 20mph. I don’t even think I slid but one time. My little car rocks or maybe it’s my driving skills (haha).

Here is what my drive home looked like that night, because our office does NOT close when it snows. We are there for our travelers, just like the mailman.

Quite a change from the usual commute. And guess what? The snow is still coming down. I keep looking out the window thinking it will stop any moment. Not so. NOW we hear it might be 12 INCHES. It’s 830pm with 9 inches on the ground. I know anyone reading this who lives where it snows is going – What’s the big freakin’ deal? – and you would be right. Where you live, this is no big deal. But HERE? This hasn’t happened in 30 years. 30 YEARS. Snow is an urban legend. Someone may or may not have seen a flake west of downtown in the year 1984. *slightly exaggerated*

It’s possible we could get snow that sticks – ONE time a winter. It could happen. BUT, we had ALREADY gotten our ONE possible winter snowfall Christmas Eve. Remember that? It was magical. So magical, I wrote a poem, and I don’t even write poetry Christmas Dreams. We had our snow. There is no more, right?

These are photos taken in the still of the morning after a record snowfall in Dallas/Fort Worth. A record 12.5 inches. A historic weather year in 2010. The year I am marrying my sweetheart. What MEMORIES. I am not worthy of the beauty or significance. Stunned and awed, I crunch through the quiet trying to capture an unbelievable winter moment of our lifetime. The rare and solemn beauty may never witness again outside our back door.

A friend on Facebook heard a radio broadcast mention, there was snow in all fifty states yesterday. You know what? I believe that! We got snow bombed. It melted some but not all the way. Even today TWO days later there is still snow on the ground. The roads have stayed clear and ice-free (a miracle in itself). The only road hazards happened in the driveway, because without any equipment, it’s hard to move snow. Apparently cardboard box pieces work wonders. Did you know there are no sleds, nor snow shovels in stores? Not to mention, if you go looking for rain/snow boots – you will only find displays of FLIP FLOPS? Yeah, welcome to Texas. Where the snow never falls, but when it does…..it’s bigger and better y’all.

Personalized service makes a comeback

One day after my life story of being a travel agent despite the challenges and what do I read on CNN the next day?

CNN Are Travel agents making a comeback? -CNN.com

You know what is better than that? THAT personalized service is making a come back.
Let’s face it America. These computerized voices and call centers in Bangladesh is just NOT cutting it! We want service. We want a human. We want someone that actually helps in a crisis and speaks our language.

Let’s get old fashioned and get back to going above and beyond for our customers. I can tell you this. Travel Agents never lost that personal touch. The internet steered it away but we have always been here. I have serviced the same clients for 17 years now and they can vouch for that. We are looking out for your best interest and most pleasant travel experience and the best deal.
We are not a machine. We actually do care.

Happy Friday! Be extra nice today and see who notices.
*maybe even CNN*