Resources for travelers affected by Japan earthquake

Here are some links and resources that might be useful as you try to figure out travel plans affected by the earthquake in Japan.

US State Department: travel advisory, links for resources, assistance and updates.

Tokyo Narita Airport

Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport)

Google’s Japan Person Finder

Google’s Crisis Response page – good round-up of resources.

Most airlines are canceling flights and offering flight waivers to/from Japan, so check your airline website for updates.


American Airlines

British Airways



Hawaiian Airlines

Japan Airlines


Thai Airways

Singapore Airlines

United Airlines

Flying today? Be ready for long lines and confusion

Last week’s fizzled Christmas Day terrorist attack on Delta/NW Flight #253 from Amsterdam to Detroit ignited a wave of new security measures at airports and on airplanes.

Airport and airline spokespeople and TSA officials say domestic passengers will likely notice some heightened security procedures, such as explosive-sniffing dogs and added law enforcement presence at many domestic airports.

Travelers on US-bound flights, though, will be notice significant changes.

Under rules rushed out over the weekend, passengers boarding flights heading to the United States will be subject to pat-downs and bag searches at the gate.  During their flight, passengers will be required to put away personal items and stay in their seats for the final hour of flight.

The TSA posted a very general description of the new rules.  More specifics were posted on various airport and airline Web sites and detailed in a memo that some airlines shared with bloggers over the weekend.

Bottom line:

While everyone gets used to the new regulations, get to the airport early. Really early.

If you’re flying internationally to the United States, be prepared for an extra pat down and bag check at the gate.  And pack carefully:  you’ll only be allowed one small – very small – carry-on bag.

It’s a good bet that airlines, airports and the TSA will make some changes to rules and procedures starting today, so keep an eye on the news, airline and airport Web sites, and the site.

Rules are already changing:

Last night Canada’s WestJet announced that it would no longer accept roller bags or larger backpacks as carry-on luggage. And this morning American Airlines announced that, due to the long lines and confusion over the new rules, for the next few days the airline will waive change fees for passengers traveling from Canada to the United States.  Other airlines will probably do the same.

Here’s a link to the story on the new rules I wrote for

Please share your stories about your travel experiences this past weekend and let us know what you see happening if you end up stuck at the airport.

Seasonal and H1N1 vaccines back at ORD and Midway airports

Getting ready to head home from a Thanksgiving visit?


If you haven’t gotten a seasonal flu shot or an H1N1 vaccine and are traveling to or through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or Midway Airport – you’re in luck.


The airport clinic in Terminal 2 operated by the University of Illinois at Chicago and – starting Sunday; stand-alone kiosks in the terminals at ORD and Midway Airports – will be offering arm-shot seasonal flu vaccines and H1N1 flu vaccines in the nasal mist form.

Both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 vaccines have been hard to find, and it’s a good bet this supply won’t last long. So if you have time – make it a point to get vaccinated at the airport.

The kiosks at ORD are in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3; at Midway the kiosk is in the airport’s  concession triangle.  The H1N1 mist costs $25; seasonal flu shots are $35. And, as with clinics across the country, the airport-provided vaccines will not be available to everyone: the clinic will be giving inoculations to those who fall into the federally defined at-risk categories.

For more information call the IUC clinic at: (773) 894- 5100

Airports and airlines scramble over swine flu

As I reported today on, airports and airlines are scrambling to respond to the government-issued alerts about travel to and from Mexico in the wake of the swine-flu outbreak there.


It’s hard to know what will happen next, but most airlines with flights to Mexico have posted policies offering to waive the change fee for travelers who want to adjust their itineraries or exchange their ticket for a different destination.  While Alaska Airlines is allowing travelers to make changes to an itinerary through May 20th, most other airlines are asking travelers to make new plans by next Wednesday, May 6th.

Stay tuned though: as the story unfolds and if, for example, the U.S. government places formal restrictions on travel to and from Mexico, the airlines may have to extend those offers.

Travel alert for swine flu


Based on a frightening number of confirmed deaths in Mexico from the swine flu and the fact that there are already 20 confirmed cases in the U.S., on Sunday the  U.S. government  declared a public health emergency.

The story will certainly change – quickly – throughout the week. For now, anyone with plane tickets to Mexico should rethink the trip and contact their airline about altering their plans.

On a quick review of airline Web sites Sunday evening, it seemed like most every carrier was waiving its change, and in some cases, cancellation, rules for at least the next week.

For information about the virus and some advice on what you can do to protect yourself when traveling, see the CDC Web site.

(Flu virus photo courtesy Dr. F. A. Murphy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)