New airline selling point: We avoid the US!

I can’t put this better than one of my favorite regular bloggers, Patrick Smith of Ask the Pilot. Today’s column addresses a whole hodgepodge of news and issues, including frustration with our sheep-like acceptance of the Transportation Security Administration’s new security alerts and a rundown of the World Airline Awards. But this one takes the cake: airlines are now offering round-the-world routings that make a point of avoiding the US. Patrick puts it better than I can:

‘ “Air New Zealand Offers Round-the-World Routing Avoiding the U.S.” That was a recent headline from U.K.-based Business Traveler magazine. For the past several years, fliers bound from Australia and New Zealand to Europe by way of U.S. stopovers have been raising a ruckus about security policies that require all passengers, even those merely in transit to other countries, to clear U.S. immigration formalities — a process that includes fingerprinting, photographing and baggage rechecking. Air New Zealand has responded with the launch of a service from Auckland to Europe with a hassle-free transfer at Vancouver, British Columbia, eliminating its long-standing Auckland-Los Angeles-London route. Air Canada is following suit with a nonstop Vancouver-Sydney flight, bypassing its traditional layover in Hawaii, which, in the words of the magazine, “will enable global travelers to avoid the United States.” What have we come to?’

Indeed. Quite a number of the letter responses are from frustrated international travelers cheering their new options. In fact, the post reminded that my own mother, who is meant to come to New York to welcome her grandchild in October, has put her foot down at flying through the US. “I simply won’t do it,” she told me. “I won’t fly here. It’s horrible.” (And unsafe, she feels, and intrusive, and soul-draining.) By which she means that she actually prefers to drive 9 hours from Montana to Calgary, Alberta, then fly or take the train to Toronto, take a train to Albany, and have me pick her up for the two-hour ride home. Of course, my mother’s a bit eccentric, but reading the letter in reaction to Smith’s column tells me she’s not alone.

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