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The Skinny on Airplane Seats : Sites to compare seat sizes 21 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.
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As anyone who travels can tell you, not all airlines are the same. From in flight amenities to quality of crew service, the overall quality of a flight varies even between different flights from the same airline. One of the most basic qualities of any flight is the seat which you are assigned. It’s where you will spend your time journeying and in many cases will set the tone for how you arrive at your destination.

The quality of experience offered by commercial airline seats has been declining over the past 50 years. With airlines narrowing the width of the seats to fit in extra passengers in each row, passengers are being squeezed in to accommodate more people. The airline’s justification for the squeeze is cost, demanding that they maximize the amount of sell able space on the plane. The systematic reduction of seat size has some seats as narrow as 17” wide. When put up against the average seat in a movie theater, which is 23”, the narrowness of these skinny seats is apparent. But the width of the seat cushion is just one part of the overall seat width experience. The arm rest, which the proverbial front line between adjacent passengers has been reduced as well. The over all effect has been a loss of space and a tighter ride for passengers, riding elbow to elbow.

The US Center for Disease Control indicates that 30% of US adults are categorically obese. So while the seats on the plane the plane are getting narrower, the people in those seats are now wider on the average. The reduction of the seat and traveler’s assigned space has been a source of conflict for many years. With no FAA mandate to the airlines on this issue of travelers to large for their shrinking seats, the individuate carriers are responsible for formulating and executing policy in these matters. Most airlines now have rules that require a “traveler of size” to purchase a second seat to accommodate their size. A traveler of size is usually defined as a passenger who will not fit in the 17” seat with the arm rests down. These rules are usually on a case by case basis, not clearly published and ultimately are not enforced equally.

Both sides of the obese traveler issue raise valid arguments. On one hand, ostracizing a passenger because of their weight can be traumatic, humiliating experience and ultimately creates a public conflict. The other side of the coin has passengers, who are already feeling the squeeze of their narrow seat, infringed upon by someone who is spilling over the boundaries of the arm rest. I’ve been on flights and seated next to people who couldn’t put the arm rest down because of their size. Should I be entitled to a discount for the inconvenience of having to pay for someone else’s body mass to ride in my seat? And why should I have to be the one who confronts the large passenger on this issue? Clearly there is a better solution here than having everyone being an uncomfortable situation for hours.

There is another fact besides the seat cushion size and armrest width that contribute to the general quality of a flight, and that is the seat pitch. Seat pitch is basically how close you are to the seat in front and behind you. It is the proverbial measure of leg room. The amount of pitch given to the seat rows varies between the airlines. It also varies between individual flights on the same airline. The numbers usually run from 28” at the tight end to the luxurious 38”. Being over 6 foot tall, a seat with good leg room is the difference between a cramped up knee and a good flight. On flights where the pitch is simply to tight, don’t expect to recline if you are seated in front of me. My legs simply won’t allow it and I extend the same courtesy to person behind me by not reclining further into their limited space.

I propose a solution for the sake of argument It addresses the issue and takes into account the arguments of the airlines and the passengers squeezed into spaces that don’t fit them. Airlines should provide seats that are wider to accommodate the reality of body shapes. Regardless of whose responsibility obesity is, the fact is Americans and many others are wider than they were on the average. Using the narrowest seat possible is simply not an option for a large number of air travelers. The second part is to create fares based on how much mass and volume is required to transport an individual and their luggage. The space agencies run calculations based on total tonnage for figuring the amount of fuel required for a mission, the airlines could take a lesson from this mentality. I propose fares based on a calculation of the traveler’s total mass ( body weight and luggage) plus the total amount of square volume of the body and bags .

The airline seat issue is a hot topic. With little leadership from the FAA on the issue, passengers are left with few tools to ensure they have adequate space for their body on an airplane. The good news is that there are ways to verify what you are getting into before you purchase a ticket or board the plane. There are websites that allow the flying public to check the size and pitch of their seat. They are searchable by flight and airline and give the dimensions of the seats aboard the plane.  These sites also provide excellent reviews of other aspects of commercial air travel as well. If the air plane seat is an issue these website can help you make an educated decision on your next ticket purchase.

http://www.airlinequality.com/

http://www.airlinequality.com/

http://seatexpert.com/

http://www.seatmaestro.com/

Closures to make short week starting on January 21 18 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure, Passport.
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MLK Holiday DC

There is a short week for visa and passport processing coming up. Starting on Monday the 21st, the combined Martin Luther King Jr. Federal holiday and the Presidential Inauguration will see closures at most Embassies and consulates. Monday will also close  Federal Offices such as all Passport Offices and the Department of State Office of Authentications. Additionally, do to the scale of the Inaugural event and it’s impact on the City, G3’s Washington (Arlington, VA) office will be close operations at noon on the 21st. The other G3 offices in New York, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are not effected and will be open during normal business hours  Monday.

Thursday the 24th of January sees an important holiday in the Islamic Calendar.  Mawlid al-Nabi or Ma’uled Al-Nabi, which is a celebration of the Prophet Mohamed’s birthday, takes place. The holiday will cause closures at embassies and consulates from Islamic countries around the country who our commemorating the day. Although not a complete list as consular offices  don’t always announce their intention to close,

The Embassies and consulates representing  AfghanistanCameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, IndonesiaJordan and Mali have all announced closures on the 24th. Be advised that this list is not definitive as consular offices don’t always announce their intention to close. Other Islamic consular offices can be expected to be closed. We will up date the known closure list for the holiday as soon as we know.

As is always the case for holiday closures, the closure means no new visa or passport applications can be submitted or completed jobs picked up. A holiday does not count towards the total processing time associated with completing a request.  Because of the two holidays travelers are advised to take into account any extra time their requests my require when determining to how quickly to process a passport or visa.

Real ID DHS Update 4 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, Real Id, traveler advise.
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As the January 15 deadline for the implementation of the provisions of the 2005 Real ID Bill nears, the Department of Homeland Security has reiterated their intention to enforce it.  For domestic air travel, this means a photo id is required to board a plane. The Real ID Bill outlined the criteria for acceptable photo ids and demanded the states issue driver’s licenses compliant to those standards.

Many states have delayed updating their ids and some have even implemented legal barriers to making their issued driver’s licenses and state id’s compliant with the new federal standards. As of January 2013, the DHS has determined only 13 states to be in compliance with the provisions of the  Real ID statute. We have an earlier entry that details which states are in compliance and which are not.

As a result of the backlash the DHS has now issued a revised statement regarding the enforcement of the Real ID law. The agency is giving a deferment to the states  and has allocated over 200 million dollars in grant money for states to update their current id systems to the new standards. The DHS statement does not address the issue created by the states that have passed legislation prohibiting compliance with the federal statute. That situation will probably be arbitrated in the Supreme Court.

The DHS plans to announce in the fall of 2013 when state driver’s licences will need to meet the Real Id criteria. In the mean time, if you have id that is not technically compliant, you will still be able to board a plane in the US. For travelers, this means that the TSA will accept their existing driver’s licences, most likely for the duration of 2013. 

There are other forms of ID that are issued to the standards of the Real ID law besides a state issued driver’s license. Passports and passport cards and most military IDs are considered Real IDs. It is recommended that if you come from a state that does not issue a Real ID driver’s licence, to get a passport or passport card for flying  purposes. We have an earlier article on the advantages of a passport card for travel. These ids are especially useful in cases where the travelers are minors, and don’t have a driver’s license.

Real ID implementation continues to evolve. The DHS has acquiesced on it’s enforcement by delaying the role out date twice. Now it says it is going ahead with the law but has issued deferments for ids that are not compliant.  It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for the states that refuse to be compliant with the standards of their driver’s licences. The issue will most likely be resolved in the courts. In the meantime, the January 15 deadline is coming due and the law will go into effect, albeit in a limited, watered down manner that seems to invalidate the rationale behind the statute. Readers can expect and update as more information becomes available and the policy gets implemented at airports across the country.

Is Your Passport Valid for Travel? 2 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport.
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Passport Valid

More and more travel requires a passport. Even standard domestic flights inside the US will require a real id to board the plane in a few days. But there are a numerous issues that can make an apparently valid  passport, not valid. Here is a quick primer on what to look for to make sure your passport will get you on to the plane and through to your destination.

Passport Condition

Passports that are ripped, worn out or have faulty lamination can be an issue. The most common of these “mutilated passports”, as designated by the State Department, are passports that have gone through the wash. Other common examples of mutilated passports include  loose or missing covers, water-damaged pages, or peeling plastic coating on the photo page. Mutilated passports aren’t just invalid for travel; they no longer count as valid proof of US citizenship. Mutilated passports can cause issues at foreign consular offices when applying for visas, can be cause for denial of entry into a foreign country and can cause issues upon reentry into the US by immigration officials. G3 recommends the use of a clear plastic passport cover to protect the passport from wear and returns passports sent in with a new cover if they don’t already have one.

The process to correct a mutilated passport book is to apply for a new passport. The process is different from a standard passport renewal in that the applicant must have their documents verified and sealed by a designated US post office or at a county clerk’s office and write a statement about the mutilation.   Written instructions on how to replace a mutilated passport are available for download.

Check the Pages

A passport can be deemed full even if there appears to be blank pages in it. A truly valid blank passport page has the word “visas” printed on the top.  Passport pages near the back of the passport that have  “Amendments” or “Endorsements” printed on the top are  reserved for official modifications and are technically not valid for entry stamps and visas. Although many countries may not have an issue with stamping these pages, many countries do make a point of rejecting them as valid visa pages.  Some countries, such as South Africa, require applicants to have two blank pages next to each other.

The process to add additional pages into a passport booklet is one of the simplest of all passport procedures. The State Department’s Passport Office can sew in a new set of pages up to two times before they require the applicant to go through the renewal process, which has a new passport book issued.  There are times when the Passport Office won’t add any extra pages and demands a passport renewal. Usually these are cases where the passport is about to expire or there are multiple sets of pages already added to the passport. The decision is at the discretion of the Passport Office. The written instructions detailing the process are available for download.

The Six Month Rule

A passport must have at least six months validity left on it prior to departure. This regulation known as the Six Month Rule, is the cause of many trips being cancelled at the airport at check in. All too often, we receive frantic calls from the airport from travelers who have been denied boarding because their passport is too close to its expiration date. Almost every country in the world follows the “six month rule,” meaning that your passport must be valid for six months after your planned departure from the country. It is recommend to know when your passport is about to expire and have it renewed when it nears the six-month mark. Passports can be renewed prior to their expiration date.

Renewing an adult passport is a simple process. Assuming the expiry date is not more than five years past, applicants don’t have to go through the same process as a new passport. Written instructions detailing the process are available for download. We’ve noticed that the rule seems to effect minors more so than adults, as their passports only have a five year validity and parents are unaware. Many times parents take their kids to the airport, only to find out that the children can’t fly. Minor passports are not renewed like adult passports. The process is a bit more involved. The minor passport process is documented in detail in the downloadable instructions.

Questions regarding the validity of a passport can be addressed to our passport expert at passports@g3visas.com.