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Airline Dining at its Best

by Lux Joseph 5. September 2014

No matter whom you speak to from any part of the world, food is always a conversation topic and certainly something travelers enjoy most when going to places outside of their home country. A satisfying meal remains a top point of interest when selecting hotels, venues for meetings, and even when selecting their airline carrier.

United Airlines was the first carrier to open an experimental airport kitchen in Oakland, CA back in 1934.  They started a trend that was soon followed by many of the other major carriers at the time and by the 1950s, meal service was an amenity that travelers were looking forward to when traveling by air. In 1969 Air France and British Airways introduced a new distinct level of culinary expertise, but a decade later the quality of food on planes took a back seat as customers were looking for low fares. Low cost carriers continued to offer food service, but for a price in addition to the airline ticket. Food service was seen as something that was “extra” and those wishing to have it, would pay the cost as opposed to including that expense into every airline ticket.

Nonetheless, in-flight catering is not a fast food product or products you would find at your local 7-Eleven. It is a culinary masterpiece and that is exactly how the major players, Gategroup, LSG Sky Chefs, and Serair, view their product.  All those participating in airline catering look for big names in the culinary world to highlight their array of services. These companies believe that having a well-known chef design and implement an in-flight menu will bring success to the onboard experience. When I traveled from Beijing, China to Hong Kong in First Class I had the opportunity to enjoy an award winning meal on Hong Kong Airways. While they did not utilize an established celebrity chef to highlight their menu, they did offer an enjoyable meal that included Filet Mignon.

As a traveler, you should become aware of the meal selections offered on planes especially if you are traveling internationally. As more and more individuals are becoming more health conscious, the airline catering services have to meet these high demands. When traveling internationally or in domestic first class where a meal service is offered you can request a special type of meal through your travel agent. If you did not book with a travel agent you can call the airline, but we encourage you to do this at least 72 hours prior to departure, as the airline needs to put the necessary requests in place.  Some of these requests include vegetarian, vegan, kosher, gluten free, low sodium, low fat/low cholesterol/low calorie, diabetic meal, and even a bland meal.

Each airline takes a different approach to delivering a high level of food and beverage services. In 2013 Turkish Airlines received the award of Best Business Class Catering in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards. They strive to deliver an authentic and elegant dining experience. Delta takes a different approach by partnering with top chefs to design their business class meals. Some of these chefs are Food Network stars and Delta believes these partnerships help providing a quality-dining program. Swiss Air takes the approach of sharing their culinary expertise by showcasing different regions of Switzerland. Every three months they bring on a different Swiss chef to focus on different local flavors throughout the country. Swiss Air has also taken it a step further by being recognized as the world’s first Allergy Friend Airlines. For British Airways they focus on the consumer’s feedback to drive their major decisions around food and beverage. They once focused on high end chocolates for the business and first class travelers, but the travelers have called for Cadbury so that is what they deliver. British Airways also partners with Twinings to design a blend of “altitude tea” for guests.

High-Flying Tastes is something airlines have to accommodate in order to meet and exceed consumer’s expectations. When consumers have the choice of different airlines, it is critical for the airlines to set themselves apart. As you fly, take the opportunity to observe the small details that each airline does to set them apart.

Airline Travel Remans the Safest Form of Travel in the World

by Lux Joseph 17. August 2014

The Ebola virus outbreak, the political unrest in Israel, and the storms surfacing around Hawaii in the past several weeks may have travelers questioning the safety of air travel during this time. While there may have been different passenger plane crashes and other critical situations surround air travel, airline travel still is the safest form of travel in the world.

At Commercial Medical Escorts we primarily transport patients around the world on a commercial airline however, we also have completed a variety of medical evacuations by train, ground transportation (limo and ambulance), and even by boat. When travelers read the newspaper or watch the news and listen to air-related travel situations their views of air travel sometimes change. There were three (3) passenger planes that have crashed in July, but when you look at each of these crashes they are were the result of different circumstances. One was due to typhoon on Taiwan, one was shot done over Ukraine, and another one was due to stormy weather. When we look at travel by car on a daily basis, the crash investigations throughout the country vary and the rate is significantly higher than traveling by air.

Some individuals will hold onto their belief that flying is dangerous, but there are safety facts and statistics that will prove that belief is not 100% accurate.  Dr. Arnold Barnett, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a researcher that has studied the field of commercial flight safety. He found that over the fifteen years between 1975 and 1994, the death risk per flight was one in seven million. This statistic is the probability that someone who randomly selected one of the airline's flights over the 19-year study period would be killed in route. That means that any time you board a flight on a major carrier in this country, your chance of being in a fatal accident is one in seven million. It doesn't matter whether you fly once every three years or every day of the year.

When an individual gets into a car to go to work every day there are safety guidelines that the operator is supposed to do including checking the air pressure in the tires, check the fuel and fluid levels, check your lights and signals to ensure they are functional, and make sure emergency equipment is functional. Do you do this? How many drivers to you think actually do this every day? Individuals fear the possibility of a plane crashing, but the flying public may not understand how precisely-engineered each piece of critical avionics must be in order to satisfy FAA regulations for a "safety of life" application and the rigorous process each plane goes through prior to leaving the gate. Aviation and national security expert Carl Rochelle states, “The most dangerous part of your airline flight is the trip to the airport.”

Safety is our top priority at Commercial Medical Escorts and to ensure you are safe while traveling alone we recommend the following safety tips:

Fly on Nonstop Routings

Most airliner accidents happen during the takeoff, climb, descent, and landing phase of flight, so the easiest way to reduce your chance of getting in an accident is to take fewer flights. If you have a choice, and there isn't much difference in price, flying nonstop would not only reduce exposure to the most accident prone phases of flight, but it will probably take quite a bit of time off your trip too.

Choose Larger Aircraft

Currently, aircraft with more than 30 passenger seats were all designed and certified under the strictest regulations. Also, in the unlikely event of a serious accident, larger aircraft provide a better opportunity for passenger survival. If you review AirSafe.com's list of fatal airline passenger events by aircraft model, you'll see that larger aircraft models tend to have better survival statistics.

Pay Attention to the Preflight Briefing

Although the information seems repetitious, the locations of the closest emergency exits may be different depending on the aircraft that you fly on and seat you are in. Some passenger safety briefings include a few words about the position to take in an emergency landing, and AiSafe.com has put together a video below that goes into much greater detail, showing six common crash positions.

Keep the Overhead Storage Bin Free of Heavy Articles

Overhead storage bins may not be able to hold very heavy objects during turbulence, so if you or another passenger have trouble lifting an article into the bin, have it stored elsewhere. A heavy bag falling out of an overhead bin can cause a serious injury, so if one is above your head, try to move the bag or change your seat.

Keep Your Seat Belt Fastened While You are Seated

Keeping the belt on when you are seated provides that extra protection you might need to help you avoid injuries from flight turbulence.

Listen to the Flight Attendants

The primary reason flight attendants are on an aircraft is for safety, so if one of them asks you to do something like fasten your seat belts, do it first and ask questions later. You can also take other steps to improve your safety and comfort in the cabin like wearing comfortable clothes. You should also get up a walk around on longer flights to help avoid problems like deep vein thrombosis.

Don't Bring Any Hazardous Material

There are rather long lists of hazardous materials that are not allowed, but common sense should tell you that you shouldn't bring gasoline, corrosives, poisonous gases, and other such items on the aircraft unless they were allowed by the airline and shipped in a proper container. While the list of banned materials is too long to remember, you should take the time to find out about the most common prohibited and hazardous items you should not bring on board.

Let the Flight Attendant Pour Your Hot Drinks

Flight attendants are trained to handle hot drinks like coffee or tea in a crowded aisle on a moving aircraft, so allow them to pour the drink and hand it too you.

Don't Drink Too Much

The atmosphere in an airliner cabin is pressurized to about the same altitude as Denver, so any alcohol you consume will affect you more strongly than at sea level. Moderation is a good policy at any altitude, and in the air limiting your drinking is a good way to reduce the chance of an air rage incident involving you or someone else. Also, you may want to find out more about the long-term effects of alcohol abuse.

Remain Calm

In the unlikely event that you are involved in an emergency situation such as a precautionary emergency evacuation, follow the directions of the flight attendants and flight crew and exit the aircraft as quickly as possible. 

Tips courtesy of AirSafe.com

Beware of Travel Scams

by Lux Joseph 13. June 2014

Did you really win the luxury free vacation in the Caribbean? We all enjoy time off from work where we can sunbath, go sight seeing, and enjoy the natural wonders of the world, but you don’t want to be subject to a travel scam. Travel scams happen all over the world and it is important for you to be able to recognize them. Our nurses and physicians travel on a daily basis to different countries around the world and safety is our top priority not only for the patient, but also for the escort. At Commercial Medical Escorts we ensure that hotels and ground transportation are prepaid for, but there has definitely been times in which the drivers have informed the escort that it had not been paid for. This could simply be a miscommunication between the dispatch and the driver, or it could be a completely different company trying to gain additional cash. At CME we encourage you to be aware of the travel scams out there so that you do not become a victim of one.

 Some of these offers below sound intriguing, a deal of a lifetime, or the best bargain for a vacation, but typically it means a scam is brewing.

·      Free vacations often come with the stipulation that a second must be purchased at “regular price,” which is usually two to three times more than it would cost to purchase the ticket through a travel agent.

·      Lodging certificates may also require users to purchase a second ticket at an inflated rate. Moreover, this “free” stay probably comes with a long list of limitations and exclusions and may even require attendance at timeshare presentations.

·      So-called “free” airline certificates are often not really free. They require you to purchase hotel accommodations at inflated prices. Be sure to read the fine print for limitations, exclusions and refund restrictions. Some certificates might require attendance at a timeshare or real estate sales presentation.

·      Some Spring Break companies don’t use a formal contract, which further complicates matters. Tour company brochures often double as contracts and as a result, when students sign up for more information, they might be unwittingly signing a contract.     

·      Beware of travel offers extended by postcard, telemarketer or newspaper invitation.

·      Paying for travel in advance can be risky for customers who wait too long, or the company could very well go out business. Use a trusted travel agent or a well-known travel resource when making arrangements. Ask them for their credentials and business history to ensure they didn’t just start up yesterday.

·      Buyers should also be wary of paying for accommodations they’ve never seen or heard of being stuck in a poor quality motel in an inconvenient location is no bargain.

·      Education is the key to avoiding travel scams.  Know the vocabulary scam artists frequently use and book through a professional travel agent.

·      Avoid telemarketers. They have no further responsibility to consumers after the sale has been finalized.

·      Be wary of firms asking consumers to send payment by overnight delivery. It’s more difficult to detect fraud through mail correspondence. It is best to use a credit card when making these purchases.

·      Companies offer to make people instant travel agent, so they can receive the discounts offered to certified agents. But only suppliers such as airlines, car rental companies, hotels or cruises have the authority to offer discounts.

·      “You have been specially selected to receive our spectacular vacation offer” translates to “You have been offered an opportunity to pay for a trip that fits OUR definition of luxury, whatever that might be.”

·      “Blackout periods” are also common to the fine print. These are blocks of dates, usually during peak travel times and holidays, during which time discount rates do not apply.

·      “Subject to availability” means consumers could be denied the accommodations and times they requested.    

·      Be skeptical of ads that have large pictures without much text. Also, watch for trips that guarantee your dream vacation for seemingly impossible rates.

·      Prepaid timeshares, campgrounds or travel clubs are risky investments because membership and maintenance fees can increase, the company can go bankrupt and timeshares are difficult to resell and rarely appreciate in value.

·      Don’t be pressured into accepting limited time offers--choosing a vacation is a big decision and legitimate deals won’t expire after a night’s sleep. When in doubt, always say no.

·      Never give your credit card number or bank information over the phone, not even for so-called verification purposes. Only disclose this private information to trusted businesses you’ve used in the past and trust.  

·      Senior citizens should be especially cautious of travel fraud since they are the most targeted consumers, according to the FBI.

·      An AARP study revealed that three out of four victims were chosen solely on the basis of their age. Consumers over the age of 50 are targeted because they have more free time, are inclined to spend money on travel and have fixed incomes.

·      Planning your vacation can be fun and exciting if you follow this golden rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

·      What looks too good to be true, usually is. Talk to your travel agent when you are unsure about online deals and “free” vacation offers. They typically can price match and then you will know you are working with a reliable source.

 As we have shared with you before, traveling can be overwhelming and stressful to begin with. Knowing that you made your arrangements through a reliable source will make sure that your arrangements are secure and confirmed. The last thing anyone wants to experience is getting to a destination where his or her luxury vacation is supposed to be and upon arrival there is nothing. Travel scams can even happen to the most experienced and sophisticated travelers. If the bargain is too good to be true, most likely it is. Be smart: Know what you are paying for before handing over money, and always count your change. 


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