air travel

Travel Apps

Travel Apps 690 388 Greg Ellifritz

This might be a useful app for those of you who spend a lot of time in foreign airports.  $1.99 is a good insurance policy if you don’t have a foreign data package and a long layover.

 

WiFox App Is A Continuously Updated Map Of Wireless Passwords From Airports And Lounges Worldwide

 

Speaking of traveling Apps, this article gives you some unique alternatives to booking your accommodations on AirB&B.

 

 

Airport Security

Airport Security 113 300 Greg Ellifritz

A look at some of the varied security practices in airports around the world.  Not surprisingly, it concludes that more security doesn’t always keep you safer.

 

Does More Security at Airports Make Us Safer or Just Move the Targets?

 

If you are interested in airport security, you may also want to read Seven Ways to Stay Safe in Airports.

Traveling with Pets

Traveling with Pets 640 457 Greg Ellifritz

The rules with regards to traveling with your pet as an “emotional service animal” have recently changed.

 

This article explains everything you need to know about flying with your pets.

 

Flying With Pets? Read This Guide Before You Book Your Next Trip

 

 

Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking? 1196 399 Greg Ellifritz

There are dozens of websites and books dedicated to the fine art of “travel hacking.”  A travel hacker often tries to game airline, hotel, and rental car “loyalty” programs to get free trips.

 

I travel a lot.  I think travel hacking is a waste of time.  I don’t even belong to any airline frequent flyer benefit programs.  For me, the money I save wouldn’t be worth the hassle involved in the process.  I like my freedom and don’t want to be tied down to a single airline or hotel chain.

 

My opinion is the minority in the travel world.  I’m glad someone else recognizes that travel hacking isn’t always the best way to do business.

 

“Let me tell you what you do – this is the new travel hacking I’ve adopted as someone living the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle: when you go to book a ticket or hotel, you take out your wallet, look at your credit card number, and then you simply pay the full price. 

That’s my new way of travel hacking.”

 

Read the article below for more details.

 

The New Travel Hacking For Nomad Capitalists

 

You may not agree with my opinion.  That’s OK.  If you are going to “travel hack” your way to cheaper vacations, do it right.  Join the Facebook groups described in this article.

 

How Not To Get Killed at the Airport

How Not To Get Killed at the Airport 569 1024 Greg Ellifritz

Written by Greg Ellifritz

 

LAX Shooting 2013 5

Since the shooting at LAX airport on November 1st, I’ve received lots of questions about how to stay safe in an airport when traveling.  Most of my readers carry weapons that can’t be carried past airport security.  Thus, their commonly relied upon means of defense isn’t available and they need an alternate defense plan.  It’s actually hard to give solid self protection advice for surviving airports.  Few good options exist.

 

America is one of the few countries in the world that allows relatively free access into the ticketing area of an airport.  In other countries, you will see lots of rifle-toting soldiers, checkpoints, and bomb sniffing dogs even before passengers get to the ticket counter or security lines.  It was only a matter of time before a terrorist or criminal chose to exploit this weakness.

 

Think about it…a terrorist could cause exactly the same result (mass casualties and a crippling strike to our economy) as bringing down a plane without ever having to board.  If terrorist groups bombed or shot up the unsecured ticketing areas of several airports sequentially, they would kill thousands and force Americans to stop flying.  And the terrorists could do it without having to remove their shoes at the security check or try to smuggle a bomb past the body scanner.  It would be easy.  That’s why the shooter at LAX chose that location to fire his weapon.

 

In reality, this has been done before.  Have you heard of the Moscow airport bombing?  It happened in January 2011.  Up to three Islamist suicide bombers set off bombs in the ticketing area of the Moscow airport, killing 37 people and injuring more than 180 more.

 

Here’s a brief video of the immediate aftermath…

I predict that we will see more attacks like this in coming years.  So what can we do to avoid getting killed?  Here are a few suggestions….

 

1) Don’t rush.  Get to the airport with plenty of extra time to spare.  When you are hurried and worrying about catching your flight, you aren’t paying good attention to what’s going on around you.  Not rushing to catch your plane will give you more time to keep an eye on your surroundings and avoid anything that makes you uncomfortable.  Download the My TSA App for your phone to get real time updates on delays and specific security wait times at the airport of your choosing.  Check the data and plan ahead so that you don’t have to hurry.

 

2) Do as much as possible to avoid standing at the ticketing counter.  Check your luggage at the curb (not allowed if you are checking firearms) or travel with a carry on only to avoid standing in the ticketing line.  Print your boarding pass at home.  The less time spent where people gather (especially lots of clueless people) the better.

 

3) Get through security as quickly as you can.  Even though our airport security is a farce, you are still safer inside the checkpoint than outside.  Don’t eat or have coffee in restaurants outside the security checkpoint.  Clear security quickly and then find a place to eat.  The best advice for clearing security quickly is in this Wired Magazine article.

 

Airsecurity2

4) Once you clear security, find your gate, any emergency exits, and any place where you might be able to acquire weapons for a more serious hostage situation or terrorist bombing.  Food preparation areas will generally have knives.  Maintenance areas will generally have tools.  Look for cleaning carts to find irritant chemicals.  You might need any of those items if things go bad.

 

5) Get away from as many people as possible.  Terrorists target large groups of people.  I’m a big fan of avoiding such groups and thus, I’m also a huge proponent of using airport lounges.  You will most likely have access to a lounge if you are traveling in Business or First Class or have preferred status with a certain airline.   Lounge Buddy is an App you can put on your phone that will tell you all of the available lounges and what the requirements are for entry.   You can also become a member of Priority Pass.  For an annual fee, you can get a set number of free lounge visits every year, even if you are flying coach.

 

Lounge Buddy Screen Shot

Lounge Buddy Screen Shot

 

6) Weapons and Equipment.  To be honest, for most terrorist attacks, any weapons that you are able to legally carry through security are likely to be inconsequential to the overall outcome.  I really don’t think you will take out multiple suicide bombers with your “tactical” pen.

 

But most of you carry weapons on a daily basis, so I’ll go over a few options for airport carry.  My first recommendation is to NEVER SMUGGLE ANYTHING ILLEGAL THROUGH SECURITY.  Yes, some things may make it through, but I don’t think the risk of spending years in prison is worth the advantage of having a small knife or something of the sort.  There are better defense options available that won’t get you thrown in prison.

 

– Canes: Canes are legal on an airplane.  You don’t even have to feign a limp.  As long as the cane doesn’t have a sword inside, it’s pretty much allowed to go through….even nasty fighting canes like the TDI/KaBar model.  While I don’t think canes are the best weapon to use ON a plane, they work well in the airport and in the terminal.

 

– Flashlights:  You should definitely have a flashlight in your carry-on.  I always carry at least two.  One of them is a headlamp that allows me to see and operate without tying up my hands.  It also works great when you are trying to read and you happen to be in the seat with the malfunctioning overhead reading light.

 

In addition to the headlamp, I also carry a flashlight that I can hit someone with.  I usually end up carrying a Surefire or Fenix brand light that uses two CR123 batteries.  They are bright, durable, fairly light, and perfect to use to defend yourself from a serious criminal

 

– Tactical pens:  Some pens are made stoutly enough to serve as impact weapons.  I would avoid the ones that are spiky or look like a weapon.  Those may be confiscated by TSA.  I prefer the lower profile tactical pens.  I carry one made by my friend Rick Hinderer all over the world and have never had an issue.

 

It’s probably a good idea to pack a pre-stamped, self addressed envelope in your carry-on bag.  If for some reason the TSA doesn’t like your pen or flashlight, you can mail it home to yourself.

 

-Improvised impact weapons.  Think along the idea of “a rock in a sock.”  A couple of D-cell batteries inside a long tube sock (put together after you clear security) makes a very nasty impact weapon.  I generally use an old biker weapon instead…a bandanna threaded through the hasp of a padlock.  You are limited only by your imagination.

 

Neither bandannas nor padlocks are prohibited by the TSA....

Neither bandannas nor padlocks are prohibited by the TSA….

 

7) Medical Supplies.  Don’t forget medical supplies.  The first aid kits on airplanes are laughably sparse.  And if something really bad happens in the airport, you shouldn’t expect to get help quickly.  Check out this article if you don’t believe me…

 

LAX security officer bled for 33 minutes as help stood by

 

In addition to the large medical kit I have in my checked bag, I also carry a smaller kit on my person or in my carry-on.  All the items inside must be TSA-legal and small enough that they don’t take up much room.   Mine is carried in a small Blackhawk nylon pouch.  Inside, I carry the following:

 

– A “snivel kit” with bandaids, OTC meds, antibiotic ointment and the like

– A CAT Tourniquet

– A Triangular bandage, carabiner, and key ring.  The bandage can be used for many conditions.  When I put the three together, I can make another tourniquet ala Paul Gomez (see video below)

– Duct tape

– Chest seals

– Pressure Dressing

Celox Hemostatic Gauze

– Prescription pain meds, anti-nausea meds, and broad spectrum antibiotics

– Safety pins

– Gauze pads

-Water purification tablets

Blister treatment

Here’s my “plane kit”…

 

Open

My airplane first aid kit (since photo was taken, I’ve replaced the TK-4 tourniquet with a CAT)

 

Having traveled to more than 50 countries in the last 15 years, this stuff is important to me.  I hope I gave you a few ideas to help keep yourself safer.

 

 

 

 

No More “Emotional Support Animals” on Airplanes

No More “Emotional Support Animals” on Airplanes 859 483 Greg Ellifritz

Effective today, the TSA has banned “emotional support animals” from flying.

 

Say goodbye to emotional-support animals in airplane cabins

 

According to the article:

“The agency said Wednesday that it was rewriting the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.” It also cited the increasing frequency of people “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,” and a rise in misbehavior by emotional-support animals.”

 

Leave your emotional support penguins home, folks.

Best Onward Ticket

Best Onward Ticket 221 54 Greg Ellifritz

Some countries won’t approve your visa application if you don’t already have your flight home booked in advance.  That makes it difficult for travelers without a fixed schedule or people who don’t know exactly how long they want to stay in a particular country.

 

Previously, if you needed a return ticket, you had to book a fully refundable flight (very expensive) and then cancel the flight as soon as you clear immigration in your target country.

I recently learned of another option.

BestOnwardTicket is a service that books a legitimate and valid airline ticket for onward travel to the country you desire in your name.  You choose the ticket departure date.

 

The ticket they send will be valid for 48 hours.  They will then do the work of cancelling the ticket.  They charge $12 for this service.

 

I have no personal experience with this company, but I would use them in a heartbeat if I needed some real (fake) onward tickets to show an immigration official in another country.

 

Faked Covid-19 Tests

Faked Covid-19 Tests 670 300 Greg Ellifritz

Check out the two articles linked below.  There seems to be a cottage industry producing paperwork for fake negative Covid-19 tests.

Passengers Are Faking Negative Covid Tests In Order To Travel

 

95% Of Passengers On One Flight Faked Their Negative Covid-19 Tests

 

I predict that in the future making faked Covid-19 test results and vaccinations will be a profitable enterprise.

 

Besides the fraud, there are lots of other reasons why requiring testing before boarding a flight would be a really bad idea.

Dealing with Disruptive Airline Passengers

Dealing with Disruptive Airline Passengers 664 381 Greg Ellifritz

Air travel is starting to increase from the nadir of the Covid-19 pandemic.  As more and more people feel comfortably flying, I’ve seen a huge number of incidents where violent or erratic passengers have disrupted airline flights in the past few weeks.  Before reading further, check out the articles below to get an understanding of what you might face on your next flight.

 

JetBlue Bans Passenger Who Repeatedly Hurled N-Words

Brawl Breaks Out In The Aisle Of Puerto Rico Flight As Police Board To Tase The Aggressor

 

American Airlines Passenger Sneaks Into First Class To Promote Her YouTube Channel, Kicked Off Flight

 

Woman Strips on Plane, Forces Flight to Divert

 

Two British Rappers Brawl On Emirates Flight While Passengers Dodge Their Blows

 

Woman Pulled Off A Flight For Drunkenly Arguing… Moroccan Politics?

 

If you were on one of the flights described above, would you intervene?  What would you do?  The correct answer in almost all these situations is “Sit quietly in your seat.  Protect yourself, but don’t aggressively engage the offender unless he/she is likely to cause the plane to crash.”

 

Since 9/11, folks have been pretty alert and quick to respond to violence on a plane.  That’s a good thing.  The problem we have is now the exact opposite of the one that we had before 9/11.  Hijackers aren’t likely to use physical methods to take over planes anymore.  Passengers are prepared to act and would slaughter them if they did so.  I doubt there will be another 9/11 style hijacking in the United States in our lifetime.

 

Even though it’s doubtful to be a hijacking, when passengers start getting violent on a plane, it becomes extremely problematic.  It could be a hijacker. It could be a drunk or mental.  Or it could be some combination of all these conditions.  No matter what the cause, violence on a plane puts all the passengers in danger.  Here’s what you should be thinking about if you encounter a violent airline passenger:

 

The person is probably drunk, someone on drugs, or a mentally ill passenger.   In fact, it is MOST LIKELY to be one of these categories.  Lots of people are just plain crazy.  Others get nervous before flying and drink too much or take sedatives and sleep aids which cause irrational behavior.  If you encounter one of these folks, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t respond, it just means that your response need not automatically default to breaking necks, crushing throats, and killing people until you are certain the plane is actually being hijacked.

 

Having visited more than 50 countries, I fly a lot.  There has only been one occasion where I have almost had to take out a crazy passenger.

 

I was on an international flight and was flying up front in business class.  A passenger (thin American guy who was about 25 years old) in coach was incensed that the seats didn’t have electric charging ports or outlets (neither did the business class seats).  It was an older plane that hadn’t been updated.  This passenger started screaming at the flight attendant when he learned there was no way for him to charge his phone.

 

He burst past me into the galley and tried to plug his phone in one of the electrical outlets there.  The flight attendants told him that he couldn’t use the galley electrical outlets.  He started screaming, threatening to kill the flight attendants.  They ushered him back to his seat.  As they walked away, he screamed “I’ll just break down the cockpit door and I’ll charge my phone up there!”

 

The flight attendants were scared to death.  As I was a big dude who was seated close to the cockpit door, they asked for my help to protect the cockpit if the crazy guy tried to break in.  My plan was not to get involved with the irate dude.  “Not my people.  Not my problem.

 

But it suddenly became my problem when home boy decided to break into the cockpit.  I didn’t fancy dying in a plane crash.  Even worse was the idea that an armed pilot would shoot this dude with my row one seat as his backstop.  I agreed to help protect the cockpit.

 

I asked the flight attendant for a seat belt extension.  She gave me one and asked why I wanted it.  I replied “That’s what I’m going to use to smash the guy’s fucking skull when he’s busy trying to get in the cockpit.”  Both flight attendants smiled widely upon hearing my plan.

 

Expedient TSA approved impact weapon

 

I had my own defensive tools, but why bloody my flashlight on his face when I could use a weapon provided by the airline?

 

I fastened the buckle together and adjusted the length on the seat belt extension.  That gave me a nice foot-long flexible impact weapon with the buckle serving as a swinging weight on the end of a short length of seat belt.  I stood up in the aisle and asked the flight attendant to point out exactly where the man was sitting.

 

I caught his gaze and gave him what my girlfriend at the time called my “crazy cop eyes.”  It was the intimidating look I saved as the last step before throwing down with the violent criminals I arrested at work.  It usually works to convince people that it wouldn’t be a good idea to continue their current course of action.

 

It worked again in this case.  When we made eye contact, the crazy man man quickly looked away and never got out of his seat again until the plane landed.  I didn’t have to bash his brains out with the seat belt extension.

 

In my mental after action analysis, I realized that I could have de-escalated the whole situation if I had only been carrying a cheap power bank portable charger.  I could have loaned it to the crazy man so that he could obsessively charge his phone and that would have avoided all sorts of potential hassles if the guy became more violent.  Now I never fly without one.

 

Never leave home without it

 

There are a lot of really mentally ill individuals on this planet.  Some of them will be on your flight.  It’s best to have a plan to manage them.

 

All air flight crew carry flex cuffs. They don’t use them often and may forget they have them. If you have wrestled someone down, ask one of the flight crew to bring you the cuffs. That’s much easier than sitting on the dude for 40 minutes until the plane can land. You should probably know how to work flex cuffs in advance before relying on this tactic (hint, they are just like thick zip ties).

 

You should also know how to choke a person unconscious to get them under control if other means don’t work.  Hire a good judo or jujitsu instructor for a couple of hours to teach you some chokes.

 

This might be a dry run. There may be other unidentified accomplices aboard just watching to evaluate the response of the passengers and crew so that they can counter the responses in a future attack. After the immediate crisis is over, pay attention to who may be paying too much attention to what is going on. Try to watch to see who the “attacker” speaks to or makes eye contact with before and during the event.  Make sure you relay this information to the responding police officers when the plane lands.

 

It may also be a diversion. Always look for additional threats. This guy’s role may be to cause a problem to bring all of the resistance-minded passengers to one area of the plane so that an accomplice has additional time to break into the cockpit. The accomplice(s) may also be watching the resisters so that they can take them out before the hijacking occurs.

 

One other possibility is that they use a ploy like this to see if there are any air marshals or armed cops on board. The air marshals and/or cops are likely to intervene, making them vulnerable to a surprise attack as they take action against the unruly passenger. If you notice an air marshal or cop getting involved (and you are not already engaged in the act of ass whipping), watch the cop’s back as he takes care of the bad guy.

 

Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you fly.   Train hard and travel safely.

 

Traveling With Pets

Traveling With Pets 1024 768 Greg Ellifritz

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a website that does a great job publicizing discount airfare.

 

The site recently came out with a series of articles covering the topics of traveling with pets.  All are worthwhile.  Check them out.

10 Tips for Roadtripping with Pets

 

The Most Pet-Friendly Airports in the US

 

A Comprehensive Guide to Flying with Pets in the US

 

8 Expert Tips for Traveling Internationally with a Pet

 

 

 

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