The New Age of Travel – Life after changes in the USA Visa Waiver Programme

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The US has announced recently that citizens of the 27 visa waiver programme countries (most of Western Europe, Australia, Brunei, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand) will need to register (online) 72 hours in advance of their visit to the US. See here on the official VWP site. The new plan goes fully into effect at the beginning of 2009 (Jan 12 to be exact, after the last of the yea-end holidays are over). This is quite a new dimension to the US’ “security strengthening” policies. It means that any last minute travel to the US is ruled out entirely. Aside from giving a new meaning to lastminute.com (more like last4320minutes.com), this could have a serious impact on last minute deal-making. It will also put a crimp of rushed surgeries, funerals and marriages.

Along with the new surcharges for higher fuel prices and, now, for luggage, the nature of flying is shifting rather brutally. Is it possible that our children will travel much less frequently because of ticket pricing reminiscent of when airline travel was a novelty, security controls that make it necessary to arrive at the airport the day before and service that reminds one of the labor relations at the outset of the industrial revolution?

Overrun airports and flight paths, high fuel prices, global warming and carbon footprints are all rather dissuasive issues for airplane travel. For example, British Airways has announced a £60 fuel surcharge for long-haul flights. As the Daily Telegraph reports, “[t]hat will mean a family of four that is already paying £672 in surcharges on long-haul holiday flights must now find £872.” That equals 1,100 euros or US$1,700 at today’s exchange rate. Apparently, there are more surcharges ahead.

Surely, the new age of travel has dawned on us. Anyone care for a stroll?

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