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CME Offers Advice to Help Keep Summer Travelers Cool

by Lux Joseph 21. June 2015

Recent headlines are full of reports predicting that this summer will be a record-breaker when it comes to airline passengers being bumped from their flights. For many, the prospect of being bumped is frustrating at best, and for those who are unaware of their rights, the results can be maddening, not to mention costly. Add to that ever-changing security rules and new passport requirements and summer travel can seem daunting. With this in mind, CME has prepared a list of tips to help summer travelers stay calm, cool and collected.

Airline Bumping: What You Need to Know

To avoid being bumped:

    Get an advance seat assignment. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released.


    Check-in online. If you do not have an advance seat assignment, or you want to change your seat assignment, check-in online. Most airlines allow you to do so within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available when checking in online.


    Don't be late. If all else fails, get to the airport early. Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. If you are denied a seat assignment at check-in, put your name on the "standby" seat assignment list.


If you are bumped or wish to take advantage of airline's request that you give up your seat:

    Know the lingo. Voluntary bumping occurs when a passenger with a confirmed seat assignment agrees to give up his seat for negotiated compensation. It is not regulated by the DOT. Involuntary bumping occurs when an airline forcibly bumps a paid passenger from a flight because it has been oversold. The DOT regulates compensation for involuntary bumping.


    Know what questions to ask. If you volunteer to give up your seat in response to an airline offer of a free ticket, it is important passengers ask about restrictions. Ask about expiration and blackout dates, such as holidays.


    Know your rights. If you are involuntarily denied boarding, and substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to your one-way fare to your final destination, with a $200 maximum. If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (twice the cost of your fare, $400 maximum).


Navigating Security

    Remember 3-1-1. New regulations limit the amount of liquids passengers can take through security in their carry-on luggage to travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably in one (1) quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag and the one (1) bag per passenger must be placed in the screening bin. Items purchased after clearing security may be brought on-board. (Visit TravelSense.org to learn about restrictions in Canada, the U.K. and the European Union.)


Traveling Internationally?

    Better get a passport. Effective Jan. 1, 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires a passport or other accepted document for all air travel from within the Western Hemisphere for citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory (Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) do not need to present a passport.


    Plan (way) ahead. The U.S. State Department's Passport Services unit is experiencing a major backlog in processing applications. Rather than taking four to six weeks, routine applications or renewals are now taking 12 weeks. Even expedited service takes about three to four weeks. And, because the service uses a centralized system, travelers cannot get their documents faster by submitting applications directly to a regional processing facility.

At CME, our nurses and physicians experience many of these travel challengers on a daily basis when traveling. CAMTS requires all of our medical staff to have travel insurance and we also encourage all travelers to have it. Depending on the type of policy you have, you may be entitled to a variety of benefits when situations such as those described above. Safe travels this summer!

Loyalty Programs Among Hotels and Airlines Attract Travelers

by Lux Joseph 21. April 2015

 

Now we all know that hotels seek to give their customers the best in customer satisfaction. As one enjoys their visit and the services offered, one is more inclined to return to that hotel, even prioritize it over many others. Yet hotels strive for more than just excellent services in order to win over the hearts of their customers, such as hotel-loyalty plans. This actually ends up being extremely important, as it increases each customer’s experience and satisfaction with that brand. Thus, like all things, hotels seek to improve and strive to be the best they can be in this regard

 J.D Powers took a survey of the change in satisfaction with different Hotel Loyalty and Rewards and it turned out that Hilton HHonors and Delta Privileges ended up being a tie for highest ranked satisfaction in their programs. To start, this survey looks at many different part of these loyalty plans, such as how easy it is to redeem points, how easily can one earn points, customer service, and even the rewards themselves. After looking into all of this, J.D. Powers was able to find that the overall satisfaction with these programs had increased from 676 in 2014 to 701 in 2015, along a 1000 point scale. The satisfaction score for Delta and Hilton HHonors both ended up being 727.

As the study was going on, several observations were made. For one, it turned out that reviews, awards, and online ratings seemed to help drive the satisfaction of these programs for its members as opposed to just word of mouth. What also aided in the growth of members satisfaction was the ability to earn points from purchases of goods and services. Yet one big factor which even helped people decide which program to sign up with was the convenience of the location compared to where these members planned on going.

It’s not hard to see why Delta was tied for first in ultimate membership satisfaction. For simply being a member, one earns the benefits of priority check in and wait list, express checkout, and free high-speed internet access with one’s stay. Yet the benefits continue to grow as one’s membership increases, including getting up to $500 credit for platinum plus members to spend on guest rooms, events, meetings, and dining.

Hilton has its own set of rewards as well, which was ranked equal to Delta, including complimentary access to fitness and health centers, every fifth night free, having a second guest stay free (assuming you’re a diamond member), and much more.

The loyalty rewards program has certainly boosted the overall amount of satisfaction that hotel program members have toward the brand they are loyal to, so if you aren’t part of one of these, it may be a good idea to change that quite soon, so long as you do your homework in what works best for you. We recommend speaking with your travel agent to ensure you are enrolled in all the programs available to you as a traveler. Our escorts are constantly flying to different parts around the world and those mileage points on preferred carriers can add up to a complimentary ticket, gift cards, and other great perks that the travel partners use to keep you coming back to their hotel/airline for future travel.

 

Hotel Rewards Programs Sources:

http://www.hotelsmag.com/Industry/News/Details/57626

http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/explore/benefits/index.html

https://www.deltahotels.com/Delta-Privilege/Member-Benefits

Senators Aim to Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions

by Lux Joseph 14. March 2015

Since the 1960’s the United State’s relations with Cuba has been tenuous at best. Starting with President Eisenhower as a partial trade embargo, John F. Kennedy would enforce the embargo on Cuba, restricting both trade and travel to the island only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. After about 50 years of waiting, President Obama would step in and decide to try and fix our relationship with our not so loved neighbors. Even though the trade embargo is still in place, there is a chance that we’ll see be able to visit the island for those summer vacations in the near future.

On January 29th, a bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators which would allow American citizens to travel to Cuba. Supported by four democrats and four republicans, including Jeff Flake, Patrick Leahy, Jerry Moran, Dick Durbin, Mike Enzi, Tom Udall, John Boozman, and Sheldon Whitehouse, the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015” would nullify any regulation to both travel and transactions during one’s stay in Cuba. If you’ve ever been curious to try a cuban cigar, or you’ve been craving them since the 50 year schism, there’s a chance you’ll be able to try one soon. “Americans simply ought to have the right to travel wherever they want to unless there's a compelling national security reason,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake.

While this is a big step in the right direction, it follows President Obama’s efforts to lessen the restrictions that were already in place. New rules, put into place by the Obama administration earlier that month had allowed for some exception to travel to Cuba, so long as you fit into one of 12 categories with authorization to travel, which include religious and humanitarian reasons. Yet they did not allow for casual travel to Cuba at this time. This bill would work to change that. More so, under the new bill, the president would not be able to make restrictions on traveling to Cuba or on any transactions that may occur while on travel, not including instances of war or if there may be dangers towards American travelers.

Though it should be said the bill isn’t really being welcomed with open arms. There have been several statements made against any attempt towards building relations with Cuba, including those by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez. “We should not aspire to help the Castro regime fill the coffers of its military monopolies with the dollars of American tourists, while the Cuban people still struggle to make ends meet and are forced to labor under the oppressive conditions dictated by their government,” Menendez commented. Republican Senator Carlo Cubelo also said “Lifting the tourism ban would infuse the Castro dictatorship with billions of dollars, which it would use to more aggressively oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere and to further repress the Cuban people.”

One thing these embargos set out to do in the first place was try to coax Cuba into adopting practices of human rights and democracy. Yet Sen. Flake states “We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new.” The argument goes that in allowing Americans to travel to Cuba, not only would they obviously bring currency into the country, but would hopefully bring over these ideals to the Cuban people.

Overall, the decision lies with congress. Should this act pass, it would mean a huge leap towards ending the diplomatic wall that’s been standing for nearly half a century. It would also mark the beginning of a growing relationship between the two countries.

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/01/29/cuba-bill-lift-travel-restrictions/22518811/

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/299/all-info

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr664/text

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/01/29/254894/bill-would-end-all-restrictions.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2015/01/29/bipartisan-senators-want-you-to-be-able-to-vacation-in-cuba/


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