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March 2003 Vol. 18, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Reality of Dive Travel

from the March, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

On December 27, 2002, our check-in line for an early morning flight at Dallas-Ft.Worth International Airport was selected as a full-scale trial/training exercise for luggage inspectors operating the new federally mandated bomb-detecting x-ray machines. The process was slow to say the least. What seemed to particularly set off the alarms were bundled batteries (for dive lights and cameras) and dive gear containing rubber, neoprene, etc. (like fins and wetsuits). They dutifully unpacked three or four of our seven checked bags and repeatedly searched and sniff-wanded them for bomb materials. One inspector, an inactive scuba diver, was as frustrated as I since he never did find anything suspicious despite the machine's alarms. This process took quite a while, but fortunately we had checked in three hours early for our flight after missing an early morning flight the prior day due to long check-in lines at another airport.

On January 5 our early morning flight from Bonaire to San Juan arrived 30 minutes late and all of our luggage was downstairs in U.S. Customs being inspected while our connecting flight to Miami was closing out and departing. We missed the flight and it took two days to get home after missing yet another flight that night due to de-icing delays at JFK. When I purchased our tickets last March, I thought our itinerary allowed sufficient time for customs and inspections. But it was not enough when our first flight arrived 30 minutes late. In fact, of the six flight segments that I had booked, we only made one segment. It was late departing and caused us to miss the rest of the originally booked flights that day.

My advice for divers, especially those flying to and from the U.S., is to anticipate long delays as the new machines do their job. Never again will we assume that two hours is enough to get through U.S. Customs and onto a connecting flight with dive gear. On the first leg of a multi-connection trip from the U.S., I suggest divers take the airlines seriously when they recommend a three-hour check-in and four-hour check-in at peak holiday travel times. And allow at least two hours to get through U.S. Customs with dive gear.

- David Colvard, Raleigh, N.C.

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