Thursday, August 10, 2006

Keeping The Show On The Road

The planned suicide bombing of Brit airliners would have done immense damage, not just in human lives but to the Brit economy. Here's some suggestions on keeping that economy going under the necessary enhanced security.

The flight security measures in the USA and UK since 9/11 have been wide open to circumvention by bombs in hand luggage - e.g. 1 pound of Semtex in a laptop power adaptor - and it seems Islamic suicide bombers finally have cottoned on. You need more than 1 pound of Semtex to down an airliner, but maybe they were planning multiple synchronized explosions while the planes were at altitude.

So the authorities' immediate response of banning all carry-on is necessary. It won't greatly inconvenience holidaymakers. But it will hurt business travel for which laptops and cellphones are essential, and it'll be hard to trust these to checked bags - mine have been robbed on two occasions.

Here are some suggestions on dealing with this:

1. Switch to a laptop with encrypted hard drives and fingerprint recognition. That way thieves won't be able to steal your data.

2. Travel with a cheap cellphone and leave your Blackberry/Treo/Sidekick at the office.

3. Get travel insurance that covers the full value of your checked bags and review the exclusions carefully - AmEx rejected one claim from me because their policy only covered bags "in the insured's possession" - i.e. carry-on.

4. Don't rely on the airline to insure your bags:
Most airlines have a clause in their terms and conditions saying that they do not accept responsibility for perishable or valuable items (such as cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, documents or jewelery). It is arguable whether such exclusions are compatible with the provisions of the Montreal Convention in all circumstances. But remember that an airline is liable only for items that it has agreed to carry. If you packed items in your luggage that were listed as “items unacceptable as baggage” in the airline’s conditions of carriage, you will not be able to claim against the airline if they go missing.

5. It's worth handing over a list of your bag's contents when you check in. The clerk may not accept it, but if they do this will simplify any claim.

For its part, the Brit government should issue a regulation requiring all airlines departing the UK to take full responsibility the value of checked luggage.