Don’t Be Scared to Travel Because of Terrorism

Traveling in Europe may seem riskier in the light of the worldwide alert that was issued by the U.S. state Department last week, which cautioned a possible risk to travelers from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. The warning stated that the groups are planning terrorist attacks in multiple regions.

“Statistically, car accidents and illnesses are still the greatest threats to travelers — not terrorism,” says Scott Hume, the associate director for security operations at Global Rescue – a travel risk and crisis management firm.

images (1)However, experts are still saying that you should be paying closer attention to the news before and during your trip. At times of heightened security alerts like now, travelers should review the State Departments Alerts and Warnings page. To take security one step forward, sign up for the government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan (STEP) that will let the government track and warn you about any potential dangers.

Do you know what your travel insurance covers? It doesn’t always cover terrorist attacks so check to make sure before purchasing a new policy. Some of them will let you cancel and receive a refund, but the incident has to happen within a specified time period and close enough to the place that you are planning to visit.

For example, Brussels was recently under a high terror alert and even though no terrorist attacks have occurred, travelers with plans to visit are still eligible to purchase travel insurance with terrorism coverage. However, you can’t buy travel insurance now and then expect to cancel existing reservations on the basis of the November attacks – only future attacks.

Once again, it is extremely unlikely for you will be injured in a terrorist attack, but knowing that you are covered in the worst case scenario will help you have a peace of mind before your trip. However, something else that you can organize with your party is a safe haven outside of your hotel – somewhere else that you can meet them if the hotel is too far. Restaurants usually have landlines so you can make phone calls if cell service is disruptive. Make sure that everyone in your party knows the address and even stop by it when you first arrive to the city so everybody will remember it.

Airline policies can vary in a terrorist attack. After the attacks in France, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines waived some change fees for a limited time, but did not offer refunds except for canceled flights. There is not any say that they will waive change fees for a future attack.

Remember that the chances of you getting caught in a terrorist attack while traveling is miniscule. However, make sure that you take these steps to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.


Are Travel Hacks Ethical?

Nikolas Langes, the founder of Tripdelta was in Santiago, Chile when he was searching for flights. He realized that by changing his Internet Protocol address to Chile, he could pay a lower fee than he would if it still said that he was in Germany or the United States.

Price variations aren’t uncommon. They have been around as long as airline tickets themselves have been available. However, now that we live in a world that switching your location is very easy, the question isn’t whether you can save money by pretending to be another country, but if you should.

download (3)

Anna Klaeysen of the New York Society for Ethical Culture thinks we shouldn’t. “Travel hacking, or strategies for getting better deals, may be legal,” she says, “but they are not always ethical, especially when they involve deception.”

The federal government agrees with Klaeysen to a certain extent. This past year, the Transportation Department investigated a fare error of a flight from New York to Copenhagen on United’s Web site. Regulators sided with the airline, which refused to honor the $142 round-trip price.

How did it happen? “In order to purchase a ticket, individuals had to go to United’s Denmark Web site which had fares listed in Danish krone throughout the purchasing process,” it concluded, adding that there was “evidence of bad faith by the large majority of purchasers.”

Langes doesn’t see it this way. He believes that airline-pricing systems are very complex so they can adjust very quickly. The airlines have the means to react accordingly if it really hurts their revenues. What could happen is that the prices of cheap currencies and expensive currencies converge.

What about if the information is publicly available? Finding an attractive hotel rate through an online travel agency and then calling the hotel to negotiate a better rate is perfectly fine. It’s no different than comparison shopping and doesn’t harm the hotel or the customer.

Natalie Holder, who has served as an ethics and compliance officer for companies including Starwood and Diageo, says travelers should make their travel arrangements by the book. “Getting a good deal should comply with local laws and the travel company’s code of business conduct,” she says.

For example, it is tempting to buy a “hidden city” airline ticket, finishing your flight at a stopover instead of continuing to your final destination – a hack that can save you hundreds of dollars. However, it violates the airline’s fare rules, can get your travel agent in trouble and could lead to higher fares for everyone.

Of course, money-saving workarounds come and go, and more often than not, travel companies will get wise and put a stop to them. From cruising altitude, this looks like a ridiculous game of cat-and-mouse — and one that the travel companies will eventually win.