Summer Travelers Face Turbulence

Terry Trippler - aviation expert/Travel Turmoil/Passports - June 8, 2007, CBS Early Show segment
For the first time, Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean this summer were to be required to carry a passport. However, the Bush administration on Friday suspended some of those new, post-Sept. 11 requirements for flying abroad, hoping to placate irate summer travelers whose vacations could have been thwarted by delays in processing their passports.

"Passengers just aren't getting their passports in time," Terry Trippler, an aviation expert for told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "It's taking much longer than the government told us it would to get a passport."

The rule, and its suspension, does not affect Americans driving across the Canadian or Mexican borders or taking sea cruises; however, those travelers are expected to need passports beginning next year.

But are we giving up security just for convenience sake?

"If they did convince us that we needed to have passports due to security and now they're telling us that they're going to relax it, I guess we're going to be saying that we are giving up some security for passenger convenience," Trippler said

What will travelers be required to show when they return from these countries?

"Generally, when you're coming from Canada — what it is today, they will generally just ask you the question, you know, proof of — 'where were you born?' Now, there is some talk that they may allow this if you can prove that you've applied for a passport," Trippler said. "And that isn't clear right now, according to some of the reports we're getting. The government hasn't totally sorted this out, if it's you have to have had applied for a passport and prove that you have, that's one thing. Otherwise if you don't, if we go to what we had before, it's just 'where were you born?'"

"There's also some talk though that people, if they don't have passports, may undergo additional security checks?" Storm said.

"Again, this is very confusing right now, because the government is talking different things," Trippler said. "Yesterday, we had a congresswoman from Ohio who stepped into the fray and said that the airlines and the air transport association have got to do a better job, that her constituents are losing money because it's taking so long to get a passport. So what are we going to do? It's really a tough call right now. I think it's in flux, so we're not going to know for about a week what the government decides to do."

Another tough travel issue for summer vacationers is flight delays. A recently released Department of Transportation report indicated that only 72 percent of domestic flights out of the 20 major U.S. airlines arrived on time during the first four months of the year. Why have things gotten so bad?

"Basically … airlines are filling the skies with smaller airplanes, so it's taking up more traffic control," Trippler said. "The airlines have cut back on the workforce. The workforce is overworked. They are underpaid. We have a situation where maybe if something happens and the airlines want to call somebody in, that person isn't available to come in early because they're working at a second job because their wages have been cut. So the airlines — I blame the airlines (for) 75 percent of the responsibility for these delays. Maybe air traffic 25 percent, but the airlines do have to take the blame for it."

So what's the best advice for travelers this summer?

"The best advice is to pack light, because less bags means less time," Trippler said. "Arrive at the airport as early as possible. And keep an eye on the weather. Those are the three important things."