In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Airlines impose weight limits for carry-on bags
When my friend Mike, a financial analyst based in Newton, Mass., opened the overhead bin during a British Airways flight from Boston to London several years ago, he got a nasty surprise. No doubt he had listened carefully to the preflight safety announcement, including the bit about “items in the overhead bins tend to shift during flight.” (We all listen to those warnings carefully, right? And we all heed them, right?).
Being the courteous and honest chap that he is, Mike apologized profusely and even though the victim insisted that he was fine, he accepted Mike’s business card, just in case. Imagine his surprise, then, when a couple of weeks later he was sued for bodily injury. Luckily, Mike’s home-insurance policy picked up the tab, which was settled for $20,000.
Not for nothing, then, are airlines (mostly foreign carriers) limiting the weight of carry-on bags. Before you jump to the conclusion that airlines are merely trying to force you to check your bag and collect a checked bag fee, consider: Heavy bags can indeed become dangerous when they fall from bins; and the bins themselves are designed to operate properly within specific weight limits.
Motorists will have to carry portable breathalyser in France
Drivers crossing the channel will have to carry a portable breath-testing kit to take their car to France.
New laws will make the equipment compulsory for all cars on French roads from July 1, with anyone caught without the equipment facing an 11 euro (£9.20) fine.
Around three million Britons a year take their car abroad and the new offence comes into force on July 1 as the holiday season approaches its height.
The kits, costing up to £2 are expected to be available at Channel ports and will enable motorists to see if they are under the French limit of 50 mg per 100ml of blood which is 30 mg lower than in the UK.
Any devices would have to comply with safety standards set by the French authorities.
It is the latest in a series of requirements imposed on drivers by the French Government. Motorists are also legally obliged to carry a warning triangle and fluorescent vest as well as displaying a GB plate and adjusting their headlights to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists advised drivers to carry two kits, to ensure they have one spare.
“The new French rule is a genuine attempt to reduce the number of alcohol related-accidents,” said Neil Greig, the IAM’s director of policy and research.
India discovers the joys of surfing
Five thousand miles of coastline and not a surfboard in sight – but that’s all changing thanks to the Surfing Swamis.
India has 4,700 miles of coastline, but the last thing you are likely to see on its palm-fringed beaches is a surfboard – until now. That’s changing, thanks to a group of surfers from near the port city of Mangalore known as – what else? – the Surfing Swamis.
Born under the technical and spiritual guidance of a former American surfer turned swami named Jack Hebner, the group last year set up theSurfing Federation of India (SFI) and has just organised the first Indian Surfing Festival in Orissa state on the other side of the peninsula.
“In Orissa because a guy from the state who heads the Surfing Yogis has experience of organising festivals,” says SFI founder Kishore Kumar. “But we’re also getting a very good response from other states wanting to set up local surfing associations, and we’ve been recognised by the International Surfing Federation.”
“Three fishermen take on the world and win,” exulted CNN-IBN TV, as surfers from the southern Tamil Nadu state came first, second and third in the stand-up paddle event – the only race at the festival – against competitors from nine other countries, including the US, Australia, South Africa and Vietnam.
“Riding the padagu (catamaran) for a living makes us endure long stretches of stress,” says Murthy Megavan, one of the fishermen/surfers. He and his team-mates were trained at the Bay of Life surfing school, where they learned stand-up paddle surfing in two months. “They have it in their blood,” says Showkath Jamal, who set up the school in Tamil Nadu after watching foreigners surf at a beach near the southern city of Chennai.
UK restructures border agency after lapses
Britain has shaken up its troubled border agency after admitting that security checks at ports and airports had been suspended or applied inconsistently for the past five years.
Home Secretary Theresa May said an investigation had found the UK Border Force, which staffs border posts at airports and ports, had “suspended important checks without permission”.
She said lapses included failing to check half a million Europeans arriving on Eurostar trains against a government watch list.
May said the border force had also suspended fingerprint checks on visa holders without government approval, spent millions on new technologies it did not use and sent reports to the government “that were inaccurate, unbalanced and excluded key information”.
May said the risk to Britain had been small since “no one was waved through, everyone had their passports checked” – but the lapses were nonetheless unacceptable.
She told MPs in the House of Commons that the border force would be split off from its parent, the UK Border Agency, beginning March 1 to give it “a whole new management culture”. She said the force would have “its own ethos of law enforcement” and be led by a former Wiltshire county police chief, Brian Moore.
The border agency will continue to handle other immigration-related tasks including issuing visas and handling asylum applications.
The head of the border force, Brodie Clark, was suspended in November after the government acknowledged that passport checks had been relaxed at 28 British ports and airports, including London’s Heathrow Airport, during the busy summer travel season.