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Published: 02/03/2014 - Filed under: Home » World Wise » Home » Archive » 2014 » March 2014 » LifeStyle » Home » Archive » 2014 » March 2014 »

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More and more, the conversations I’ve had with fellow road warriors, readers, and acquaintances where travel is the central theme seem to be really focused on their own experiences. After further reflection on some of the details, I realized than many of these conversation fall into three categories; access to clubs, carriers and countries. 

There’s no question that access to each of these has become an art form in and of itself, requiring pre-planning and a frequently updated knowledge base to take full advantage of the possibilities of each. 

Carriers and Clubs: Loyalty programs, type of ticket, credit card, loyalty status and several other factors drive into every situation. It is the equivalent of an unsolved Rubiks Cube. 

A recent “million miler” and top loyalty traveler of one US flag-carrying airline recently found himself shockingly in double digits on the priority upgrade waitlist. After years of booking similar routes, had he made a different purchase he would have found himself in a much brighter situation. Since many rules changed at the beginning of this year, it pays to keep yourself wiser to the changing game. In this case, “Access Denied.’

Countries: We all take access to clubs, the front of the plane and even to an upgraded room type very personally. How about the freedom to travel in and out of a country itself? In several of these conversations I realized not all of us are of the same nationality – thus not all of us have the same freedom of travel. Based purely on our nationality, some of us have access that others do not share. 

Remembering several recent news items on 48-hour , 72-hour and tourist visas as well as forum topics on international layovers, I decided to look a little further into this topic. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of information I was able to find. One resource I found was Henley & Partners. They are experts on the topic. The firm monitors year-over-year visa regulations, and recently published an in-depth analysis of the current state of affairs. As US passport holders, for example, we have the freedom to travel to 172 countries visa-free or obtaining a visa upon arrival. Citizens of Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg also have access to the same number of countries. The Finns, Swedes, and British are the only other citizens of the world who have more access – each with 173 countries. 

In terms of travel freedoms, some additional countries are opening more access. A prime example of increased access in the past six months, the Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai now allow 72 hour visa-free entry for foreign travelers holding third-country visas and connecting air tickets. Guests from 45 countries – including the UK and most European countries, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the UAE and Qatar – can do a little city exploration without the need for a visa. 

Looking at entry back into the US, there is no shortage of horror stories featuring very long immigration and customs lines. Two pieces of good news: The first is that after six years, the Global Entry program is growing. Global Entry is open to US citizens and permanent residents, Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. 

Second, a growing number of pre-screening locations are being authorized within a flight’s country of origin. This allows travelers to the US to go through screening, immigration, customs and agricultural checks before boarding their flight. Today this is a very short list. Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean were recently joined by Abu Dhabi; the first of its kind in the Middle East.

So access is a really broad topic. Getting into your favorite club or finding yourself upgraded to the front of the plane or a swankier hotel room is all very nice. 

But entry to another country is a much larger opportunity for all to have the freedom to travel. 

By Ross Atkinson

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