Pain in the “ash”

Where were you when the volcano was disrupting air traffic around the globe? Were you flying into Denver the day the bathroom-smoking diplomat made the wrong joke at the wrong time to the wrong air marshal? Have you been inside an airport during a security breach? Ever had your laptop or blackberry stolen during a business trip? Does it drive you crazy that security line protocol is not standard from airport to airport?

Polk Majestic Travel hosted two panel discussions last month related to traveler safety and security. These and many more important questions (and even some answers) came up.
I would like to extend a warm thanks to all of our panelists-Robert “RC” Treats, from the TSA; Kathie Lia, from iJet Intelligent Risk Management; Tony Gorski, from DemandPoint; and Vicki Kelly, from Central Resources-for sharing their time and expertise with us.

Please find below some of the highlights of these two lively discussions:
• From the TSA:
o “RC,” our representative from the TSA at DIA had great information about the new body scanner technology, which the TSA is now calling “imaging units.” He is concerned the scanners may slow the screening process, but confident the level of security will go up. In addition, the latest machines are being read by computers, not screening personnel in a secluded location. This should offset staffing costs, help with screening times, and alleviate privacy concerns as the new machines are implemented.

o We also had a lively discussion related to the inconsistency of the screening process. Why are you required to hold your boarding pass as you walk through the metal detectors at some airports, while at others you are not? According to RC, the TSA is a young organization and they work hard to make it as consistent as possible, but the big rules-take off your shoes, only your one bag of liquids, etc.-are straightforward across the board.

o We asked RC if we would ever be able to bring liquids again! After reminding us that technically we can bring liquids now, just in small amounts, he indicated that he did not foresee that rule ever being totally lifted. Though he did share an interesting insight. The saline solution one uses to clean contact lenses should not fall into the “3-ounces-in-a-ziplock” requirement, so you can bring as much of that along as you’d like.

• From iJet Risk Management Solutions:
o iJet informed us about us about the five levels of a planned policy on emergency planning in regards to corporate travel. The long and short of it is, you and your travelers need to be prepared for as many possible emergencies as you can with a thorough travel policy.

Some situations for which a company should be prepared are fairly common:

 What if an employee has a laptop or blackberry stolen while traveling?
 What if a traveler loses his or her passport or drivers license?
 Can you find your travelers in the event of a major airport closure or other travel disruption?
Some other possible issues were less likely, but important to consider:
 What if a traveler is returning from overseas and has an accident on his or her way home from the airport because your policy will not allow local taxi/car service? Is your company liable for the accident?  What if a traveler is injured, assaulted, or kidnapped while traveling? Do you know how to best offer them the assistance they need?

Your company needs to know your potential liabilities and how to best care for your travelers. Every company will be comfortable with different levels of risk. What may be normal levels of risk for one company may be unacceptable for other companies. (If you would like a copy of iJet’s informational handout on the five levels of a planned policy on emergency planning in regards to corporate travel, just let us know.)

• From our Customers:
o We cannot thank Tony Gorski, from Demand Point, and Vicky Kelly, from Central Resources, enough for their time last week. Each of them shared unique and interesting perspectives on how each of their companies handles these issues and many more. We agree with Tony that the TSA may be in cahoots with Cherry Creek Mall to assist in outfitting travelers with a new security-line approved wardrobe. Thank you both for your expertise and humor!

I must say that these discussions, though held on a gloomy and rainy day, were quite positive and contained lots of laughter. Much of this laughter was thanks to RC, the funniest man who ever held a position with the TSA, and the sometimes ridiculous frustrations we face
while traveling. There is just something about removing your shoes and belt in the presence of strangers that gives us a common bond and a pretty good laugh.

There are many reasons working with travel professionals and having a solid and well though out travel policy are so valuable to ensuring economical and hassle-free travel. But, when something like the recent volcano clouds close airports across all of northern Europe, it just reinforces the great and valuable service (not to mention peace of mind) that a travel management company, security risk consultant, and a good travel manager provide.

I happen to be biased, but I think our seminars really do help our customers and other members of the community get different ideas on how to manage corporate travel. We will be holding 2-3 more of these seminars this year. I will keep you on the invite list and hope to see you there.

P.S. Thanks to all of you who sent in your travel routines last month! We got some great responses! Overwhelmingly, the favorite tip around our office came from Traci Aultman of Qwest Communications. Her tip about packing your clothes in a pillow case, both to keep them from wrinkling and to keep your sleepy head away from potentially germy hotel linens, was a big hit at PMTG. Perhaps we are closeted “germo-phobes”; perhaps we just prefer our own very nice linens. Either way, congratulations to Traci!

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