Confusion reigns around Unabridged Birth Certs

Controversial unabridged birth certificate regulation scrapped – This was the headline of the Northern KwaZulu Natal Courier last week.

While, we’re all hopeful that the Unabridged Birth Certificate (UBC) rule will be scrapped ASAP, headlines such as these are leading to major confusion among the travelling public.

Has the UBC been scrapped?

In theory: yes. In reality however, underage travellers still need to present their UBC when travelling internationally. The rule will only be scrapped once the Department of Home Affairs rolls out passports for minors that includes both parents’ details. Which leads us to the next question…

When will the new passports be rolled out?

Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni announced on February 5 that the new passports, which will include the parents’ details, will be issued within 3 to 12 months. So, is this timeline stands, passports could become a reality anywhere between May 5 and February 5 next year.

Incidentally, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said recently that changing the requirement for the UBC is causing “untold difficulties”.

Do travellers still need to carry other documentation?

Yes, all the other requirements will remain in place. The only change that was made is that the Parental Consent Affidavit is now valid for six months instead of four months.

So this is what you have to take into account:

Child-travel_infographic

Both parents are travelling: valid passport and UBC

One parent is travelling with child: valid passport, UBC, Parental Consent Affidavit of the non-travelling parent

An unaccompanied minor: valid passport; an UBC (or equivalent); Parental Consent Affidavit; letter from the person who is to receive the minor in the Republic containing such person’s residential and work address and full contact details in the Republic, a copy of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive the minor in the Republic.

A person who is travelling with a child who is not his or her biological child: Valid passport, an UBC (or equivalent) and Parental Consent Affidavit.

A child in alternative care: Valid passport and a letter from the Provincial Head of the Department of Social Development where the child resides authorising his or her departure from the Republic as contemplated in section 169 of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005).

In the absence of parental consent affidavit: A court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or full legal guardianship of the child exclusively to the travelling parent;

A court order granted in terms of section 18(5) of the Children’s Act, 2015, (Act No. 38 of 2005) which is a court order granting permission for the child to travel in the event that there is a dispute or no consent forthcoming from the parent/s of a child; or

A death certificate of the deceased parent.

What has been the impact of the new regulations on SA travellers?

Travel agents report that although most clients have accepted the new regulations, there still remains a lot of confusion.

The main issue for travel agents is the ad hoc implementation of the regulations at the airport, with airport officials sometimes checking the documentation and sometimes ignoring it.

Chantelle Browne, Senior Product Manager kulula holidays, explains she had a case where the traveler was allowed on to the flight without certificates and only when he returned to South Africa did the international check-in clerks insist to see the UBC.  Says Browne: “We have even had one client who arrived in Mauritius without their UBCs and upon departure made a joke to the check-in clerk that they should just deport them back to SA.”

Airlines are also still quite confused as to which documentation is needed, according to Rachael Penaluna, Business Manager of Sure Corporate Maritime Travel. She explains she had a family of four stranded in France because the airline didn’t know what they needed. Penaluna adds that there have also been incidents of fraud at OR Tambo in connection with the UBC.

According to Monica Horn, Harvey World Travel Product Manager, the delays experienced with obtaining the UBC also have had a negative effect on international travel demand. She says: “We do have many delayed clients where the UBCs are still in the process. This has definitely had an impact on international leisure travel.”

safety

Travel with Peace of Mind: Advice

Safety and security at travel gateways is currently a hot topic. If travelling with peace of mind, is on your mind, check out this sound advice from former CIA agent, Jason Hanson:

1. Do your research before you go.

Hanson recommends taking advantage of the internet, by doing as much research on a destination when planning and before departing on your trip.

However, he urges travellers to focus on local government websites and not to believe everything they read on the big World Wide Web.

2. Digitise important documents and carry them on a secure USB

Thought USBs were out of date. No, says Hanson. While making copies of travel and other important documents, he advises travellers to hold digital copies on a USB device.

3. Grab a higher floor and an extra key at your hotel

Even when travelling solo, Hanson advises travellers not to let it show. According to Hanson, an easy way to trick unsavoury characters into thinking you aren’t an easy, solo target is to request an extra key at the front desk. Also, since most crimes happen on the lower floors, Hanson suggests snagging a room on the third floor or higher.

4. Skip the hotel safe

Hanson strongly advises against using hotel safes. “I never leave my passport, or my wife’s passport, or anything of value in the hotel room. Hotel safes are not of good quality and almost anyone working in the hotel could have the bypass code to unlock the room safe.”

5. Skip the hanging ‘hidden’ wallet

Forget the hanging neck wallets says Hanson. These hanging neck wallets are so recognisable these days that, like purse straps, robbers can pick them out of a crowd, and with a swift snip – wamp! – your secure neck wallet slips.

Instead, Hanson suggests a hidden wallet that can attach to your belt and tuck into the inside of your pant leg; he also recommends finding a wallet that has RFID protection that prevents your credit cards’ information from being stolen magnetically.

6. Snag a doorstopper alarm

Another cool safety tool that Hanson recommends, for both domestic and international travel, is a handy-dandy doorstopper alarm. You simply wedge it in your hotel room door when you go to sleep, and if anyone tries to break into the room, it sounds an alarm.

7. Keep your lips sealed when it comes to travel plans

However exciting your trip may be, Hanson advises to keep mum about the finer details of the trip. He says that whenever he travels, he treats his travel plans like top secret information, only divulging where he’s been when he’s back from a trip. Why? Because you never know who is listening – or reading.

8. Be one step ahead of scammers

Be prepared. Know the typical travel scams played in the area and avoid any situations where you could be played like a fool. Sometimes the consequence can be more severe than just getting your wallet stolen. It again comes down to doing your research.

9. Act as much like a local as you can

Get down like a local. According to Hanson acting like the ‘virgin’ tourist is what places the biggest target on your back while travelling and he said sticking out like a sore thumb. Hanson believes it is important to try and look and act like as much of a local as possible. Thus, respect the customs and culture wherever you are; don’t expect people to speak English, don’t become rowdy, dress appropriately, be polite and walk with confidence. He also suggests studying your routes and transportation options before you leave the hotel; but if you do need to peep at the map, no worries.

10. Grab taxis from reputable sources

Hanson urges travellers to use their judgement and if they want to be extra cautious to only using taxis and car services provided by the hotels. With the rise of peer-to-peer services like AirBnb, Uber and Lyft sweeping through the travel landscape, the once easily recognisable lines of safety have become a bit blurred.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

Comair and UASA reach settlement after weeklong strike

Comair has confirmed that the current industrial action by members, represented by UASA, has come to an end. An amicable resolution has been reached between UASA the Union, representing airport staff and the company.

Over the weekend, Comair implemented a defensive lock-out of its airport staff, who have been on strike since Wednesday, 13 April 2016. The lock-out was effective Sunday, 17 April 2016. On Monday, 18 April 2016, UASA the Union approached the South African Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for an urgent Section 150 intervention.

Both parties were open to resolve the dispute and on Tuesday, 19 April 2016, the parties agreed to a wage increase of 10% in 2016, 7% in 2017 and 6% in 2018, a total of 23% over the three year period, effective 01 January 2016.

Airport ground staff are expected to report for duty on Thursday, 21 April 2016.

The trade union, which has a 58% membership in the airport unit, initially requested a 35% increase over 3 years, while Comair was offering an unconditional 7.5% increase for each of the three years (22,5% over three year period).

Rise in online travel fraud highlights importance of trade associations

When travellers book a holiday, it is vitally important they take their time and follow a number of basic checks designed to protect them from falling victim to a fraud.

Albeit a British example, a recent study conducted by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau showed there had been a rise of 425% in travel fraud in the past year. In 2015, £11.5m (R236m) was lost to travel fraudsters as compared to £2.2m (R45m) in 2014.

City of London Police Commander Chris Greany cautions travellers to research the name of the company online travellers are considering using and ensure it is a member of a recognised trade body, like ASATA.

The report shows that the most common fraud type relates to the sale of airline tickets and there has also been a large increase in the number of owner accounts being hacked into on popular sharing accommodation websites. Losses to the individual can be substantial with the average loss being almost £3,000 (R61 771). Losses are not just financial, with almost half of victims (44%) saying that the fraud had also had a significant impact on their health.

The age group most commonly targeted is those aged 30-49, many of whom will have young families. The majority of those who are defrauded pay by methods such as bank transfer or cash with no means of getting their money back.

Types of travel booking fraud

The report reveals that during a 12-month period, 4,910 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported to Action Fraud. The most common types relate to:

  • Holiday Accommodation: Fraudsters are making full use of the internet to con holidaymakers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts on websites and social media.
  • Airline tickets: where a customer believes they are booking a flight and receives a fake ticket or pays for a ticket that never turns up. In 2015, flights to Nigeria, India and Pakistan were particularly targeted, suggesting that fraudsters are going after people planning to visit friends and family.
  • Sports and religious trips: a popular target for fraud due to limited availability of tickets and consequently higher prices. It is anticipated that in 2016, both the European Football Championships in France and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will attract fraudsters.
  • Timeshares and holiday clubs: The sums involved with this form of fraud are particularly high with victims losing between £9,000 (R185 314) and £35,000 (R720 668) each, accounting for 26% of the total reported amounts lost.

US domestic airfare changes cause havoc

Several US-based airlines, including American, Delta and United, recently made changes to their domestic pricing structure, which resulted in massive airfare spikes for unsuspecting travellers.

“The simple way to explain what is happening is that certain multi-segment itineraries now cost a significantly higher amount when they are presented as a single ticket rather than multiple one-way tickets,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby.

The changes were made to what the airlines call “combinable fare rules,” which prohibit certain one-way fares from being combined into the same passenger name record. For example, if a traveler needs to fly from New York to Los Angeles one day, from Los Angeles to Phoenix the next, and from Phoenix back home to New York, the price to ticket that all at once can be more than double the price of purchasing three separate one-way tickets. For one ticket this itinerary on AA now costs roughly $1 800 (R27 323), whereas it only cost $450 (R6 831) for three separate tickets.

The simultaneous adoption of new pricing rules by all three carriers has led the Business Travel Coalition to accuse the airlines of illegally coordinating on this “complicated and comprehensive scheme.” The advocacy group asked the Department of Justice to add this to its ongoing investigation of possible airline collusion.

Also the GBTA expressed frustration at the change fare structure and the lack of advance communication. “In today’s travel ecosystem, active communication is necessary and vital. To that end, GBTA believes there should be full transparency with regard to any changes before and during the travel experience, including new supplier policies or travel process time and delays. Both business travellers and travel buyers should have access to clear information across the spectrum as to how prices are determined, how to deal with delays, cancellation policies and how to lodge complaints,” the association said in a statement.

Although the changes caused an outcry amongst business travellers, ASTA explained it once again highlighted the value of the travel agent. Said ASTA Chairman Roger Block: “The good news is travel agents immediately spotted what was happening, and figured out a way to work around it.”

Everybody wants to be a travel agent…

The most recent Internet player to dabble in travel following Google,’s recent announcement is Skype.

Microsoft recently announced it will be adding its Cortana virtual assistant to Skype, which means that travellers are encouraged to book their travel or other services through the Skype instant-messaging platform.

All you apparently have to do is talk to Cortana through a button in the upper right of the Skype app to book a hotel room in let’s say Cape Town. Your booking is automatically added to your calendar, and Cortana will suggest you message a contact who lives in Cape Town about your visit. It will even write your message for you: “Hey, I’ll be in Cape Town from May 10 to 12. Would you want to meet up?   

According to a recent article in Tnooz, travellers don’t even have to do any effort to talk to Cortana. The artificial intelligence software will also scan users’ conversations. If it picks up that the user is writing messages suggesting they need a hotel, the bot will prompt the user to confirm the itinerary and suggest a hotel, show the options available and offer price comparisons.

Google is also actively trying to get a bigger piece of the travel market pie with its new Destinations search ability. Users use Google on their mobile phones to search for the continent, country or state that they want to travel to and add the word “destination” to see available flight and hotel prices.

Should travel agents be worried about these new developments?

Not really. Retail travel experts say Google and Skype don’t have the one thing that make travel agents stand out: customer service.

Travel agents explain that those who are satisfied with online bookings are primarily shopping for price and want minimum human interaction. But this is not true for the traditional travel agent’s clients, who are seeking professional advice and personal relationships as well as value-for-money.