Citing recent terrorist attacks in France, the UK, Sweden, and Russia, the US State Department today issued an alert asking Americans traveling to Europe to take extra precautions and increase their vigilance during their travels. The alert is to remain in place until September 1, 2017.
The alert itself cited no specific threat, but simply asks that Americans do their due diligence when traveling in countries that may carry extra risks to visitors.
The text, exactly as released by the State Department on May 1, 2017:
Up until recently, I had never, EVER made a mistake when flying as far as flight times, gates, departure and arrival times were concerned. Well over a million miles worth of error free travel, a bit of a badge of honor.
On my recent trip to Vienna where I decided to fly aboard LOT to enjoy their 787 I finally made that one, embarrassing rookie mistake: I didn’t know how to tell time.
My travels originated in Grand Rapids (GRR), with a flight to Chicago in order to catch LOT’s LO2 to Warsaw and then to an Austrian flight to get to Vienna the following morning. Leaving GRR was fine, I knew what time it was, no problem.
In the air to Chicago, I spin my watch back an hour to account for the difference between Eastern and Central US time zones…..I’ve done it perhaps a hundred times without error.
Then I make the biggest mistake in my travel ‘career’ and basically ruin a day.
Aboard LO2 from Chicago to Warsaw, I spin my watch forward 6 hours, thinking that was the appropriate time zone difference from the USA to Central Europe time. It would have been had I boarded the ‘daily’ Lufthansa flight between Grand Rapids and Frankfurt. But with the central time zone involved, I forgot to account for the extra hour ‘gained’ when I flew to Chicago, and therefore didn’t account for it when I lost it flying eastward. I set my watch forward only 6 hours, when it should have been advanced 7 hours.
So what happens next?
I arrive in Warsaw where on paper I had about 1 hour and 20 minutes to make an easy connection at an airport designed for easy connections. But what happens? I look at my watch, and in my bizarro world, I think I have 2 hours and 20 minutes before my Austrian flight. Great. Plenty of time to visit the LOT lounge for the fantastic polish fudge and some breakfast.
I actually leave the lounge having what I thought was nearly an hour before my flight so that I could walk around the terminal since it was my first time transiting WAW. I get that covered in about 15 minutes and go back to the lounge again (at the behest of a certain Swabian friend in my What’s App chat group). All of this because in my beautiful mind I think I still have over an hour before boarding.
So I sit down to another Coke and a few pieces of fudge because I want to catch Diabetes, pass 30 minutes and decide to finally head to the gate and get myself to Vienna and onward to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m on my way to an F1 race weekend.
I arrive to the gate which is mysteriously empty and look at the display to see that my flight is ‘CLOSED’. WTF? It’s not supposed to leave for at least another 30 minutes (So I thought). But then I look at the gate clock and see that time had somehow moved 1 hour ahead of where I thought it should be. As I look out the terminal onto the tarmac, I see the bus I should have been on pulling up to bird I needed to be on. No gate personnel left at the gate, it wouldn’t matter if there was. I missed a flight due to my own screw up for the first time in my life. The pit that my stomach acid etched into me was palpable as I was overcome with this sense of helplessness and the thought of ‘Now what? How can I get to Vienna now?’ Dammit. Then I think to myself that I must have walked right past my flight while it was boarding, but I was more concerned about Polish Soccer souvenirs inside a gift shop. Nice going moron.
All was not lost as I was able to rebook (and pay the appropriate penalties) to a later flight and I finally arrived in Vienna at 7:30p with my tail between my legs after my self-induced 7 hour delay in Warsaw.
The lesson to learn from all of this?
Know where you are flying from, and more importantly, know what time it is where you land. Or buy a GPS-enabled watch that removes the risk of idiocy. Another lesson? enable location services on your phone and ALSO enable auto-update for time zones. That would have been a handy safety net had I enabled ‘auto-update’.
My only ‘lame’ defense is the fact that my last 10 or more flights to Europe did not have an onward connection once I got there. I’d usually fly directly to my destination so knowing what time it is was less of an issue.
Also, keep in mind if you fly an itinerary ‘out of order’ by missing a flight, you run the risk of having the rest of your itinerary canceled. How great would it have been when I got to Vienna for my flight home only to be told, sorry, you and your itinerary do not exist. Make sure if you miss a flight that the rest of your flights are kept intact.
Stupid is as Stupid does I guess……
A few days ago, you’ll recall that I wrote about a wildcat proposal by EU Ministers to bring about visa requirements for Americans and Canadians wishing to visit EU member states. A vote was to take place this month on whether or not to move forward on the proposal and seek the approval of EU member states.
Apparently the EU may have been playing chicken, and they ‘Bawwwwked’……
In an unsurprising development, The EU Commission conveniently delayed the vote until July 12, 2016 to ‘allow all sides to reach an amicable reconciliation’ and ‘to extensively scrutinize and take into account potential adverse political consequences that might arise from such proposals or decisions’.
No kidding or as we say in ‘Murrica, No S**t.
The US and Canada were not the only targets. Brunei, Japan, and Australia all face the same ‘wrath’ from the EU.
So for the time being, it looks like this issue has been put away and like most initiatives launched by the inmates that run the EU asylum, it will probably be forgotten as the next shiny distraction comes along to occupy to EU Commission.
I’m not talking credit cards here…..
In a game of ‘Tit For Tat’, the EU is threatening to impose VISA requirements for Americans who wish to visit Europe. The specifics of the threat have not been spelled out, but preparations may be taking place.
This threat comes on the heels of a recent Bill adopted by the House Of Representatives that would impose visa requirements on EU citizens that since March 2011 had visited Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The logic behind this potential legislation is to scrutinize the flow of persons into the US that may have recently visited countries that are potentially complicit in state sponsored terrorism. The EU is obviously opposed to this measure, thus the threat to return the favor.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the damaging implications something like this would have on tourism and business.
The vast majority of EU nations (23 of 28) currently enjoy the visa waiver program with the US. I’m fairly certain that a knee-jerk reaction such as this will come with more unintended consequences than benefits. Tourism and Businesses will obviously suffer the greatest consequences, but I guess thats not important……
When will the inmates stop running the asylum?
Due to the attacks in Paris and the ongoing police activity taking place in and around Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, Lufthansa has asked passengers to be prepared for additional scrutiny.
Specifically, passengers are asked to carry their passport or identity card even if travel is taking place within the ‘Schengen’ region which normally does not require any border control or identity checks. This applies to passengers traveling on any of Lufthansa Group’s airlines.
Passengers should expect spot checks for flights arriving or departing the above mentioned countries. In addition there is a higher chance of random checks for other travel within Schengen zones. It makes sense to act as though Schengen rules have been suspended and be prepared with proper documentation no matter where in Europe you may be.
According to the EU, this security enhancement will be in place through at least the middle of December with a good probability of being extended beyond that time frame.
Travelers who cannot provide proper identification are subject to being banned from entering a country or fines.
I’ll be in Europe next week and am curious to see how different things look and feel compared to my last visit a few months ago…..