Why I’m Cheering For Uber

I landed at Heathrow at 10PM and needed a ride to the airport Sheraton on Bath road. My phone was acting up so I wasn’t able to use the Uber app that worked earlier that day in Qatar, and in the preceding days in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Los Angeles, and London. So I did what any road-weary traveler would do – I hailed a taxi. As the driver picked up my roll-aboard he looked at me and framed his demand as a question, “You’re paying cash right?”

What? Of course I am – I’ve been held captive by cabbie’s all over the world – and though I have tremendous respect for the most professional among them, the London Cabbies, I know better than to negotiate a credit card payment near midnight in the middle of nowhere (T4 is very quiet that late).

That four-mile drive lasted twenty minutes and cost my employer more than $30.

There are 400 airlines operating scheduled service around the globe, I don’t know how many hotel brands, or travel agencies exist, but ground transportation companies are part of a very fragmented industry. Until now.

I used four airlines to fly from Dallas, to Fiji, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and back to Dallas via London. The Western shore of Nadi, Fiji was the only place I couldn’t find Uber.

I’m not surprised by the polarized reaction discussions about Uber generate among travel managers. It’s hard to grasp how many problems Uber solved for globe-trotters and urban dwellers alike unless you’ve lived through it.

1. I can see where my car on the map in the Uber app before I request one.

2. I know the driver’s name and have his license plate before he arrives.

3. I can watch my journey in real-time on my phone while we travel to my destination – an address that I frequently plug-in before Uber arrives – which eliminates the three-minute discussion about where I’m headed and how to get there after the meter starts.

4. I get out of the car when I arrive at my destination. There’s no transaction or payment to the driver… no more lost cellphones or wallets because they’re safely tucked away before the driver pulled up to the curb. No more searches in his trunk to find those ancient multi-page slider-style receipts and listen to griping about how I needed to pay cash while he acts like it’s been months since anyone gave him a credit card.

5.  No more brake-stompers, tail-gators, loud-music listening, cellphone talking, A**hole drivers who act like they’re doing you a favor. You know what I mean if you’ve ever taken a cab between La Guardia and Midtown. Because I get to rate the driver after every trip. And if enough of his customers think he lacks the manners or skills to get us to our destination safely his ratings will plunge and Uber will cut him loose. How many taxi companies use customer ratings to do that?

Guess what? Uber driver’s rate their passengers too – and I care about my score – because if I ever need a ride out of a rough part of town at three in the morning I know someone will already know I’m a decent human-being and pick me up while the drunks and suckers have to hail a cab.

I know – Uber doesn’t blah, blah, blah, insurance, blah, blah, blah… well, I’ve jumped out of airplanes from 1,000′ without a camera and it wasn’t to enjoy the freefall, and I’ve flown airplanes upside down. I spent a few years as a first-responder too – I don’t care about insurance – that’s a check to give survivors. I care about safety. Have you seen the car Bob Simon was riding in when he died?  Here it is – the driver survived. I haven’t seen the full accident report, but early indications are that Bob was in the back and wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If you really want your travelers to be safe tell them to buckle-up and only accept rides from Uber drivers with a 4.7+ rating.

Please hit “Like” and share this if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

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Lessons from the Costa Concordia

Update: the verdict is in – Captain Schettino is sentenced to sixteen years in prison for a disaster that cut 32 lives short. Here’s an interview with survivors reacting to the sentence from NBC.

This is a look back at the Costa Concordia during a two-week period when commercial transportation gave the media a lot to report on. AirAsia lost an Airbus A320 with 162 people onboard in the Java Sea. The Norman Atlantic, a ferry, suffered a fire on the auto deck off the coast of Greece enroute to Italy, while two other ships, the Ezadeen and the Blue Sky M, carrying over 1,000 refugees, were also abandoned to the Italian Navy. Days later the Hoegh Osaka, a car-carrier, ran aground off the Isle of Wight; the Cemfjord sank off the coast of Scotland – without a trace of the crew. A Norwegian carrier, the Bulk Jupiter, left one survivor from a crew of nineteen when it sank off the coast of Vietnam.

The Norman Atlantic had 478 passengers on the manifest, but it’s still unclear how many people were actually on board. No alarm sounded, and many passengers were alerted by other passengers, or the acrid smoke in their cabins. Once on deck they were greeted by pounding rain, water from cannons used to fight the fire, and forty-knot winds. Survivors were lifted to safety in rescue baskets from Italian Navy helicopters operated until the ship was emptied.

Norman Atlantic

Although more than ten people died, Norman Atlantic survivors were fortunate. The ship remained afloat throughout the rescue operation – not the case for passengers on the M.V. Sewol.

The MV Sewol sank off the South Korean coast on April 16, 2014. In that tragedy, hundreds of Korean school children were told to put their lifejackets on, but remain where they were inside the ship, to avoid increasing a list created by a sharp turn commanded by the crew. Incredibly the ship’s Captain reinforced the order to “stay put” even as he abandoned ship. Most of the students were found in the cafeteria when divers searched the ship in the days following the disaster. Now, Captain Lee, and eleven of his crew are facing murder charges in South Korea.

Traveler deaths in ferry and shipping disasters are far higher than those from commercial aircraft accidents. There are too many examples where crew-member instructions doom people who, left on their own, would have saved themselves. This is true for the next story too.

Armada

In January 2012, when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian coast, Blake Miller was on-board. The cruise picked up passengers at several ports; Blake and his partner, Steve, boarded in Rome a few hours before the accident. Rather than provide a security briefing when new passengers were added, the ​briefing was scheduled for 3PM the next day. ​

Costa Concordia Upright

As they passed close to an Island off the Italian coast passengers felt an impact and sought direction from the crew. Earlier that day Steve reviewed safety materials in their cabin ​and noticed lifeboats were mounted on Deck 4, but now the crew instructed passengers to muster on Deck 10 and to don life-jackets. Blake and Steve were already ​on deck 7, but ​had ​a nagging feeling that a ship that size shouldn’t have a recognizable list so quickly. Something was seriously wrong, and they both thought the crew should be sending people to the lifeboats. After a long delay they decided it was time to go, and without grabbing cellphones or jackets, left their cabin and moved against the crowd on the quiet ship to find the lifeboats.

On the fourth deck it was obvious lifeboats would be deployed – and many without enough passengers to fill them. Blake and Steve boarded the closest one. Within minutes they were told to get out since the lifeboat couldn’t disengage from the heavily listing ship. They moved to another boat​ and bumped along the side before falling the final 30 feet into the ocean.

In the water they saw people in a small raft who had jumped from the ship, and they watched as more lifeboats were lowered. ​Unfortunately, by the time abandon ship was called an hour after the disaster, lifeboats on the Port side, the high-side, ​could not ​swing free of the ship and lowering them safely ​was impossible.

I asked Blake if their decision to ignore crew-member instructions saved their lives, he replied, “No, not in this case, but most of the passengers on Deck ​10 had to​ rappel down the side of the ship and jump into rafts in the ocean, or wait to ​be rescued by helicopter. Many were still waiting on board until after midnight.”

An accident in open-water might have had a different outcome. When the Costa Concordia rolled onto it’s side, the island prevented it from sinking. Blake’s experience demonstrates how powerful intuition can be to save us from harm. He and Steve overcame self-doubt and denial, but they also ignored ill-informed instructions from the ship’s crew.

Those were two powerful forces working against them – conscious denial slowed their progress towards the lifeboats, even as intuition told them they were in danger, but the crew slowed their self-rescue too. Authority figures gave them the wrong instructions. Blake’s skepticism, and a wind that caused the ship to shift to it’s other side convinced Blake that it was time to go. Steve was already there, but their actions demonstrate that when our conscious brains, and authorities take over, we can be slow to take life-saving action in our own defense.

 

 

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Managed Travel: Curriculum For High Risk Travelers

Each day an employee spends on the road increases their exposure to risk. They’re often in unfamiliar places, eating unfamiliar food, and operating on less sleep than they would get at home. Frequent travelers may have thousands of times more risk each year from exotic illnesses and food and water borne disease. Add this to language, clothes and hairstyles that set them apart from the crowd and they become targets for opportunity crimes from simple assault to kidnapping. Travelers must be their own first responders, and companies should send them into the world prepared for the most likely situations they will encounter. Here’s a simple list to form the foundation for traveler training.

  1. Review Duty of care / Duty of loyalty
  2. Risk management: population statistics and measurement tools.
  3. Travel risk drivers – causes, probabilities, and responses.
  4. Travelers need to know what resources are available for them, and how those resources will connect with them.
  5. How does your travel team know where you are?
    • Methods – traveler tracking via GDS Queue, GPS ring-fencing, traveler check-ins, active outbound calling to the traveler, VIP Security Teams.
  6. Medical, Travel, and Legal support available.
  7. Communication devices – Satellite phones, PLB’s.
  8. VIP kit bags – Vest, PBE, PLB, SAT phone, First Aid; including driver and VIP transport
  9. Personal travel kit.
  10. How to respond to a non-criminal crisis – consider type, location, and sensitivity to employee-level.
  11. Weather events.
  12. Accidents
    • Vehicle
    • Other accidents
  13. Illness – acute, persistent, poisoning.
  14. How to respond to a criminal crisis – Describe roles for people, locations, and traveler behavior.
    • Target selection.
    • Assault, Theft, Kidnapping, property crime.
    • Avoid or Respond.
    • Civil unrest.
    • Terrorism.
    • Threats, bombs, and assaults.
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The Safest Room in Every Hotel

You will find the safest rooms on the third and fourth floors away from the front of the building and at least one room away from elevators or stairs. Why? Simple – fire. The most common, fire truck carried, tallest, three-section ladder only extends forty-feet, and weighs 220 pounds. Fire can spread through stairwells and elevator shafts quickly so a buffer room is a good idea and high rooms cannot be reached with most ladders.

Unfortunately terrorism is another risk hotel guests face; room locations away from the building’s main entrance tend to offer better protection against blasts, overpressure shockwaves and projectiles. Blasts occur disproportionately on the street level in front of the lobby entrance. In high risk locations, it makes sense to keep your drapes closed (to catch broken glass), and sleep on the bed away from windows (when two beds are present). You should also remember to carry a small doorstop with you and secure your room when you’re in it.

It’s easy to remember to stay low in case of fire, but most people don’t understand how quickly the super-heated gas a few feet above the floor can cause severe burns to delicate lung tissue. Think about the heat you feel from an oven at 350°F? Now think about what one deep breath of air heated to 900°F could do? If you do need to leave your room during a fire, don’t use elevators and don’t leave skin exposed; put a wet, cotton t-shirt around your head, and a pair of cotton socks (not synthetic) on your hands as an impromptu pair of gloves. Touch doors and doorknobs with the back of your hand before you open them, and don’t stand in front of the opening until you know it’s safe to do so.

A few more hotel tips – it’s a good habit to make your first trips to the lobby via the primary and alternate emergency exits closest to your room (you’ll be familiar with them should you need to use them in the dark).

Never take metal keys with you when you leave the hotel – leave them at the front desk and have a staff member give it back to you when you return. And don’t leave room keys in sleeves marked with your room number or the hotel name. Always leave a note addressed to yourself or a colleague at the front desk when you leave by yourself. List your intended destination, who you’re meeting with and when you intend to return. This will give potential rescuers an enormous head start should something unplanned happen.

This isn’t a complete list, but adopting these habits will give you an advantage if you’re ever faced with an emergency or crisis while you’re away from home.

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Vehicles Are Deadly

Vehicles are Deadly. The distinction between Cover and Concealment is an important starting point. Concealment occludes visibility to a target, while cover provides material to protect the target from projectiles. Bushes, curtains and plastic garbage bags could provide concealment, but only eighteen inches of dirt, sand or rock will stop a .50 BMG or fragmentation from a 155MM High Explosive shell. Most homeowners underestimate how soft the drywall and studs are in contemporary homes. In fact, a standard 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) round fired from a 4” Glock19 can pass through four walls before stopping in the fifth. Some rifles can do the same thing to cinderblock. These results do two things: first, prove that walls do not offer cover; and second, demonstrate that many gun owners are unrealistic about where their rounds will end up once discharged.

The Box-O-Truth Web site is a terrific resource to learn how ammunition really behaves after it leaves the barrel. The Author and host, Don, known to readers as “Old_Painless”, is a retired Police Officer and gun enthusiast. He spends a lot of time to create realistic situation to test ammunition against targets with real-world applications. You can find his work here: http://www.theboxotruth.com/. You should spend some time on his site.

Vehicles are Deadly. They offer the illusion of safety (since so many people think they provide cover – but they don’t), but vehicles are deadly for another reason. They concentrate fire. Let’s use a car with four occupants as an example. Each occupant merges to become one target in the vehicle. One or more shooters will engage a car before firing at a single dismounted target. Vehicle occupants are subject to accidental hits – if the driver is targeted, but rounds hit another occupant, the shot is still a “Hit” but it was accidental. If four suspects ambush a vehicle, all four weapons act to destroy it.

Dismounted targets are discrete and not usually pursued with the same concentrated fire. When an occupant dismounts they will simultaneously draw fire away from the vehicle, and offer a much smaller target. As they move farther away from each other they become separate targets and much less susceptible to accidental “Hits.” Distance is a good defense since people able to double their distance from a shooter will reduce their surface area by 75%.

Vehicles are not a substitute for adequate cover. They offer concealment only, and vehicles tend to draw heavy weapons. If disciplined aggressors have small arms and one heavy weapon – they will put heavy fire on a vehicle before engaging soft-targets. The proliferation of .50 Cal BMG rifles reinforces everything described here. To learn more check out Don’s review titled the “Buick ‘O Truth” a car that gave him a chance to examine damage from small arms fire and penetration by high-powered rifles. The results will encourage you to hide somewhere else, as any bullet can penetrate the car and even the engine offers little protection.

Risk Management

Security Considerations for Travel to the Sochi Olympic Games

If you’re planning to attend the Olympics in Sochi keep reading for tips to avoid becoming a victim while you’re there.

Several weeks ago I posted an article about rising crime in Venezuela and how armored cars provide exceptional security value. In the interim former Ms. Venezuela, Monica Spear, and her ex-husband, Thomas Henry Berry, were murdered by bandits after their car was disabled by flat tires. Although an armored car may not have prevented this outcome, the run-flat feature alone would have given them time to distance themselves from the road-block and may have saved them. Their five-year old daughter was also in the car, but survived the attack with a bullet wound to her leg.

Ms. Spear’s tragic death occured the same week I was planning a trip to El Salvador – a dangerous place adjacent to Honduras and relatively close to Venezuela. Although security is always part of my pre-trip planning, I decided to compare medical evacuation, legal, and security support providers. I contacted Travel Guard, International SOS and the Anvil Group to compare their products.

What I asked about – What they offer- What I need

When I think about support…I don’t mean a check to replace a lost ipad, or missing luggage. Insurance is not a substitute for 9-1-1, and most of the time travelers must be their own first responders. When I think about support I mean the lawyer who appears at the local police station after an impaired driver destroyed my rental car and shoved it onto a crowded sidewalk after running a red light. I mean the paramedic who runs into the local clinic to have my co-worker moved to a private clinic in the capital before someone makes a life-changing decision about his or her treatment. I am not interested in insurance coverage that pairs me with someone who met the minimimum standards for their profession. When it counts I want an expert. Money is not the limiting factor in the types of situations I want to avoid. I want Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction.

The providers (click to enlarge):

Security Providers lg

All three provide medical advice and support evacuation in an emergency. International SOS is the clear leader in this category globally, while Travel Guard seemed to have a stronger focus on insurance than as a care provider. The Anvil Group is the clear front-runner if you are looking for personal protection – from a driver through a VIP security detail. Medical care is integral to Executive Protection so the Anvil Group offers a range of products that fit my ideas about security.

At a minimum, travelers who don’t want to shell out cash before departure should be knowledgable about the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It offers many of the benefits available through for-profit providers, but emergencies that drive high contact volume (terrorism, typhoons, Earthquakes, Volcanoes) will put you in a long que so the private provider double your odds for support – and they’ll discuss your needs if you find a need for their services in-transit.

Back to the Olympics. Sochi offers a very real threat from extremist groups. Follow a few steps and you’ll minimize your exposure to that risk.

Extremists are drawn towards newsworthy, soft targets – western hotels, the main entrance to public transportation hubs, and any open-air venue where people are concentrated before they are funneled through security checkpoints.

  1. Use taxis and cars, but avoid buses and trains.
  2. Stay in a locally-branded hotel; if you must stay in a globally recognized hotel, always use a side entrance.
  3. When you leave your hotel leave a note to yourself at the front desk. Include your plans for the day and contact details for anyone else you may be traveling with.
  4. If you are staying at a globally branded hotel, avoid the hotel restaraunt.
  5. At sporting events, use less-crowded, side-entrances.
  6. Avoid spending more time than necessary in high-profile public spaces. Arrive to events well before the crowds or after they have subsided.
  7. Be alert.

Have fun and enjoy the games.

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and enjoy your trips check out these posts on related topics:

  1. Trip Planning for India
  2. Travel Risk Management and Trip Safety
  3. The Safest Room in Every Hotel
  4. Vehicles are Deadly

You can follow me on twitter @paul_laherty, or find me on Linkedin.

Risk Management

Trip Planning For India

Planning your next adventure? Consider these suggestions and best practices before you leave home, and let me know if you have other ideas I should add to this list.

  1. Negotiate all itineraries, fees and prices upfront.
  2. Demand no add-on’s while touring (you should have control over every place your guide will take you and your time-line; this includes planned restaurant stops).
  3. Always have a copy of every confirmation number, hotel address and phone number. You will need it at some point. Paper beats digital in most places, especially India.
  4. Insist that your tour company provide a bio and photo of your driver and every guide before you arrive. You will have a much better experience if you use mature, experienced local guides. Veteran guides are more likely to have a good relationship with the Army or Police guarding historical sites and may be able to get you access to areas and features that are off-limits to the general public or help you navigate through heavy crowds quickly via staff entrances or other secured areas.
  5. Always carry 2X more local currency than you think you will need.
  6. Always make change from big bills into useable denominations at your hotel – never change large bills at street vendors or other locations.
  7. Insist that your driver keep doors locked, and leaves separation from the cars ahead of you in traffic and at stops.
  8. Sit behind and opposite your driver. You must be able to make eye-contact with him while riding together. And always wear a seatbelt.
  9. Keep medicine (aspirin, visine, chapstick)/glasses/socks/earplugs/sunscreen/insect repellent/sunglasses/iphone charger/spare headphones/extra pens in your personal bag.
  10. Never take physical keys from a hotel off property – leave them with the hotel staff when you leave. Consider leaving a note for yourself that includes where you’re going, who you will meet and when you plan to return.
  11. Assume insects are harmful – don’t let them bite you. Use insecticide and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  12. Always ask hotel/restaurant staff to provide mosquito coils if you’re dining outside.
  13. Do not use deodorant and if you must, use a fragrant-free version. This will reduce your attractiveness to many insects.
  14. Stay dry.
  15. Cover open cuts.
  16. Do not drink anything that was not opened in front of you or boiled. Wipe or rinse bottle tops before opening.
  17. Arrange your room to make a clear path to your door in case of darkness/power loss.
  18. Stay hydrated/rested and avoid heavy alcohol consumption.
  19. Be polite, but firm.
  20. Do not accept drinks from strangers.
  21. Do not wear jewelry, fancy watches, etc.
  22. Never have both hands full.
  23. Be aware of your surroundings.
  24. Women should not travel alone.
  25. Women should never use public transportation.
  26. Always keep two extra water bottles with you for emergencies – buy more when you get down to the last two.
  27. If you’re approached by a stranger, expect them to have a partner. It’s not usually the person who approaches you first who is your greatest threat.
  28. Do not spread out your belongings in your hotel or vehicle. Keep your belongings organized and packed as much as possible in case you need to make a fast exit. Additionally – when you keep your room neat and organized, you’re making it easier on the hotel staff to make up your room. They’ll reciprocate – it’s especially helpful when you forget an item and leave it in your room – they’re much more likely to “find” it.
  29. Don’t fall in love with anything you own – be prepared to leave it behind.
  30. Keep immodium accessible (you’ll know when you need it, and when you do speed will make a difference).
  31. Share the same safe combination with your group – someone else may need you to collect your valuables for you.
  32. Carry several “chip clips” in your luggage to keep stubborn drapes closed in your hotel room, or to hang wet laundry.
  33. Never keep all your cash, ID’s, and Credit Cards in the same pocket. Use multiple pockets and spread things around.
  34. Never store your full data cards with your camera, put them somewhere else (but never in checked luggage).
  35. Pack using 1 gallon Ziploc bags. They’re great for all kinds of things, and water-proof.
  36. Carry a number 2 kit: Toilet paper (1 roll); wet wipes (1 pack); baby powder (1 10oz container) – keep it in a single 1 gallon Ziploc bag.
  37. Stow your overhead luggage across the aisle from your seat, where you can see it.
  38. Never set anything down at airports, taxi stands, train stations that isn’t between your legs.
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