Travel Europe: Something To Declare

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The Independent Culture
A likely story

`As part of our continued drive to improve punctuality, from 1 November we will be closing the boarding gates 10 minutes before all departures at London Heathrow and Gatwick. Please adjust your travel plans accordingly' - British Airways' letter to members of its Executive Club.

So there you are in the queue in duty-free, hearing your name being called for the Frankfurt flight. You don't panic, of course, because you know that you've checked in a case and therefore the plane can't go without you - or at least not until they've spent at least 10 minutes offloading your bag.

Then you remember reading that BA is trying to reduce the delays suffered by its aircraft at Britain's two busiest airports. The idea is that by closing the gate 10 minutes before scheduled departure, the luggage of tardy travellers can be removed from the aircraft hold so that the plane can safely take off with every bag matched to a passenger, a rule that airlines have insisted upon since the Lockerbie disaster. Those denied boarding will not necessarily be accommodated on the next flight.

Panic not, though. BA says there will be a three-month grace period before the policy is brought in. So don't dally in duty-free from February.

Trouble spots

Foreigners have been caught up in the Burmese government's suppression of the democratic opposition. They have been detained, arrested, tried and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature, photographing sites and activities, and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Burmese authorities have warned that future offenders of these vague, unspecified restrictions, will be jailed in lieu of deportation.

Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese government.

The military government restricts most access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles unfavourable to the military government, and access to the Internet is illegal.

Tourists have had laptop computers with modems confiscated and held at the airport until their departure. Some journalists have been briefly detained, searched, had film and notes confiscated, and have been deported. Travellers have reported that their luggage is closely searched upon arrival and departure by immigration authorities. - Source, US State Department