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Another Strike Hits Europe

by Lux Joseph 31. January 2014

European traveler’s flights have been affected once again. Another strike has been initiated amid air traffic controllers. This disruption is creating chaos amongst flights going in/out of Europe. As you may have read in one of my earlier posts, a strike within the travel industry has a major impact on travelers and this can sometimes last for several days. There is no real way to predict whether or not your flight will be affected. Some end of being cancelled while others may be delayed for several hours. But what is this one really about?

The unions are not happy with the direction things are going in regards to cost cuts and reforms. This has been the story that has unfolded the past two days. While the European Commission is looking into implementing a more efficient way of flying, known to many as the Single European Sky project, the air traffic controllers are doing whatever possible to halt this progress. While their intention maybe to just halt this particular project, it causes significant challenges to the carriers, travelers, and those within the industry. The European Commission says the benefits of the Sky Project will provide the following:

·         Reduced costs

·         Reduced airline delays

·         Triple the region’s airspace

While the union recognizes the benefits, they feel as though this project will compromise safety.

Commercial Medical Escorts hasn’t been affected with this strike, but it has affected a large number of flights within Europe. As the travel industry continues to evolve, travelers are going to see an increase in the number of flights throughout the world. For Europe in particular, studies have shown that the air traffic levels are going to double by 2020. Currently the European air traffic control manages approximately 26,000 flights daily. The commission recognized there was going to be a need in the future and this project was focused on addressing the increased volume and safety within the European Air Space.

So many businesses including Commercial Medical Escorts utilize commercial airlines for business. Business travel is necessary for many different industries in a multitude of different ways.  Whether individuals need to fly to visit a client, an employee is being re-located, or a recent merger between two companies. With the large volume of travel that happens, it is important to monitor your flight, check the status of prior to leaving the airport, and be prepared when traveling. CME will continue to closely monitor the strikes to reduce the possibility of it affecting our transports with patients. We monitor each and every flight from start to finish ensuring the most up to date information is available for our clients.

We recommend the following tips to be prepared should your flight be canceled, delayed, or affected in any way due to a strike or another unforeseen event:

1.       TRAVEL CLOTHES: Dress comfortably when traveling and always travel to the airport with a spare set of clothes in your carry-on.

2.       CALL YOUR TRAVEL AGENT: The moment you know your flight has been canceled, contact your travel agent. They can re-accommodate you a lot faster than waiting in the long line or holding for an agent on the 1800 number.

3.       FLEXIBLE: Flexibility with your travel plans is important. For many destinations there may be alternative airports within a short distance like Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia. Being flexible will open you to more opportunities for re-accommodation.

4.       PLAN AHEAD: Many airlines will allow you to change your itinerary without penalty if you are flying to, from, or through an airport that is expected to experience bad weather.

No one likes a strike that affects the travel industry, but until the European Commission and the unions come to some type of an agreement, it is likely that this will happen again in the near future. As a traveler, it is best that you be prepared if you are traveling to/from or within Europe. Commercial Medical Escorts in-house travel department monitors these situations and will keep our clients up to date on potential travel changes.

Duty-Free Shopping and Taxes

by Lux Joseph 24. January 2014

Taxes, taxes, and more taxes...Each and every year consumers around the world are being faced with announcements and declarations about an increase in taxes. Whether it is property taxes, food tax, hotel tax, or sales tax; it appears that taxes around the world are always increasing. To confront this unpleasant change in society, the consumer is always looking for ways to reduce the amount of taxes they pay if at all possible. One way that people can reduce the amount of taxes they pay is to take advantage of duty-free shopping while traveling.

Duty-free shopping is available within international airport terminals, ferry stations, cruise ports and border shops.  For international travel the airlines require you to be at the airport at least two hours prior to your flight. At Commercial Medical Escorts our expectation is that our escort is at the airport at least three hours prior to an international flight. Once you check in with your airline and clear TSA you typically have time to explore the airport. This is when many people take advantage of the duty-free shopping that is available. But does the traveler really know what duty is?

The concept of duty-free shopping began back in 1948 and the idea was that once you were between passport controls you were essentially between two countries and therefore sales tax wouldn’t apply. Years ago when this was first established the three major commodities among travelers were alcohol, tobacco, and perfume. Even today, you will see in duty-stores that these three items still maintain a major presence and are a major source of revenue for storeowners. Many consumers wonder, “How much money are you actually saving at these stores?” The savings depends on the country of origin. Those countries that have a high value added tax (VAT) are listed below including the savings that are offered at the duty free shops:

  • Portugal          23%
  • UK                  20%
  • China              17%
  • Sweden          25%
  • India               13.5%
  • Russia            10-18%

If you were traveling through Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Singapore to name a few, while there is duty-free shopping available, the savings are not as high. Hong Kong is 0%, Singapore is 7%, and UAE represents 4.5% savings. As a traveler, you must decide if the savings are substantial enough to make the purchase. It is important for the traveler to understand the prices at the airport and those prices within their home country.

Furthermore, before you going on a shopping spree, make sure you are familiar with the rules and laws surrounding duty-free shopping. These laws vary by country so before you think you are saving money we recommend that you review the following (

  1. If you're a U.S. citizen returning home after staying at least 48 hours in a foreign land, you typically may bring $800 of duty-free merchandise into the country. If you exceed that limit, you'll pay a 3 % surcharge on the next $1,000 worth of purchases. Those with over $1,800 of merchandise must pay a tax of up to 25% on the amount that exceeds this limit. 
  2. Americans with a foreign visit of less than 48 hours may usually import only $200 of duty-free merchandise. After that, the next $1,000 worth will be taxed at a 3% rate. Amounts over $1,200 are assessed a surcharge of up to 25%.
  3. When traveling with family members who live in the same home, you can combine exemptions. For example, a family of three may bring a total of $2,400 into the country on a duty-free basis. However, children aren't given a tobacco or alcohol exemption, so parents must stay within their own limits on these items.
  4. Items such as alcohol and tobacco products carry special restrictions that vary depending on where you bought the merchandise. Generally speaking, however, U.S. citizens may import up to one liter of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes on a duty-free basis.

Be smart and come prepared when it comes to doing duty-free shopping. Just like when you are shopping at the mall or your local department store; understanding prices and the value of an item will help you determine if the price is right. If you’re a fan of history and traveling to Shannon, Ireland in the near future be sure to check out the first duty-free store established in 1948. It is still there today.

Our Travels Around the World

by Lux Joseph 17. January 2014
Our nurses and physicians travel daily around the world to bring patients back home or to another facility for further treatment. CME touches a different destination each and every day. Take an opportunity to check out some of the sights that one of our medical team members, Ed, has shared with us during their recent travels. Can you figure out where each picture is from?
















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