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June, 2012:

One Runway, Five Minutes

A Traveler:  stands at the threshold of an airport’s security area. Typically, this area would seem like a play entitled, “Cows and Criminals,” due to all the shouting of commands, herding into lines and inspections. But this area is different. Travelers seem to be happy, calm and moving quickly. How can this be? Is this a dream? A kind voice suddenly speaks to the traveler and asks, “Do you need some help?” He snaps out of his daze and notices it is an airport employee. The traveler explains his bewilderment, to which the employee smiles and replies, “Welcome to Gatwick’s South Terminal, where we process our travelers in under five minutes, hence the short lines and happy faces.”

Details: Five minutes or less is a very bold boast for an employee to make, but Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate disagrees, “We’re committed to making the airport experience an easier, speedier and less stressful experience for our passengers,” he says. “The opening of the new South Terminal security area is just part of a £1.2 billion investment in Gatwick Airport, as we continually look to innovate and deliver solutions that will provide real benefit for passengers” (2). Of the proposed £1.2 billion, £45 million has been used to complete a pilot security experience that was launched last month. Here are some samples of that pilot program:

Airport personnel easily greet and help passengers, because they have under gone many hours of training to earn their City & Guild Level 2 Award for Excellent Customer Service. This is now a requirement by the airport. Also, large-screen monitors give directions for all security’s needs or areas in five languages.

Top 5 Travel Scams

These top 5 scams have been featured in Travel and Leisure and Budget Travel magazines. They cover everything from false representation and the art of distraction, to the Good Samaritan and very large animals. Note: although these countries have been highlighted, these scams can apply anywhere. You may even recognize some of them, so read, comprehend and be cautious.
United States: Scenario #1: “Fake Front Desk”- You awake abruptly in your hotel room to the ring of the hotel phone. You realize it’s the middle of the night and in a bewildered state you pickup. It’s the front desk calling about an issue with your credit card and they need you to repeat your information over the phone. You oblige, but when you talk to the front desk about the call the next morning, they have no clue what you’re talking about. Why? Because they didn’t call you. You have been duped by a clever con who’s now using your credit card information for his/her pleasure.

Solution: If this happens to you hang up and then call the front desk back to discuss any matters. Most hotel staff won’t call guests during the middle of the night.

France: Scenario #2: “Parisian Happenstance?”- While walking along a Parisian street you notice something shiny on the ground. You instinctively gravitate towards it to investigate and discover it is a gold ring! So you pick it up. Immediately a gypsy woman appears before you, and, like Gollum in “Lord of the Rings,” she wants her ring back, claiming it is a very old wedding ring or family heirloom. But she also says she will give it to you for a “good price.” After you pay for it, you may think you’ve won that wager, but not too fast. If you get it appraised afterwards, you’ll discover your gold ring is actually made of brass. Sorry…

Editor’s Note- This actually happened to me in 2006 when I was walking from the Eiffel Tower towards Champs Élysées. I found a beautiful ”diamond” ring on the ground; however, in my case I was able to walk away with the ring, no harm no fowl. I guess my gypsy was on a break?

Solution: Kindly hand the ring back to the gypsy woman and reply “No thanks. You can have it.”

Italy: Scenario #3: “Catch The Baby”- An adult woman trips or falls near you and her baby comes flying at you like a hot potato. You reflexively catch the baby, but are too distracted to notice youngsters are now picking your pockets or taking your camera bag.

Solution: After you catch the baby, quickly look around for little ones with their hands in your pockets. If you stop to help a fallen woman and her baby, make sure to draw attention to you and look around.

Scenario #4: “Have A Newspaper”- You’re taking a picture of one of your favorite Roman landmarks when a group of children quickly surround you shouting something in Italian and waving newspapers in your face. They’re trying to distract you so you don’t see their quick-fingered friends picking your pockets or purse. Once the deed is done, they run away giggling with your goods.

Solution: When kids approach or are waving newspapers, immediately clutch your purse or put your hands in your pockets and calmly walk away.

Egypt: Scenario #5: “Camel Offer You A Picture?”- In Cairo, the Great Pyramids attract novice and professional photographers alike, but for this scam you’ll need more than a good eye. You’ll need quick thinking or strong legs. There are many camel trainers offering tourists a chance to sit atop their seven-foot-tall, 1,500-pound friend for an unforgettable photo. The price may seem reasonable, but the unreasonable catch is that the trainer will ask you to pay again to dismount, otherwise he will hold you hostage until you pay.

Solution: Establish before you get on their camel that there is only ONE fee for the photo op. If you forget to ask and are held hostage on top, look for a soft landing and jump.

Closing Tips: When traveling in a foreign place, keep your unused valuables in a hotel safe.
Take photos of all taxi numbers or taxi drivers.
Try to travel with your money and important documents in a satchel or purse that can be worn around your neck under your clothes.

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