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Travel by air - avoiding transit of USA
Flights from one country to another country should be possible without having to transit the USA, especially if the United States isn't on the way there. Most countries have no problem with people just being in transit from one place to another (the air-side of the terminal is regarded as "international territory"), but the USA has a few political problems in the world and the regime has imposed rules which force people to be searched and examined as if they were going TO the USA as a destination, even if they are just "in transit".
I've have heard horror stories from various people who have talked of having to wait four hours in an airport, having to go through immigration even though not visiting the country, cases of "ritual humiliation", being treated like criminals, people on the way to a wedding being "grilled", and even a case of someone being jailed by the authorities when changing planes en-route from the UK to Costa Rica via the USA.
New Hope: I believe that there is a business opportunity, just like when "Late Deals" were suddenly the thing to be into, where travel companies could set up specialising in travelling from places to other places avoiding the USA!
Now don't get me wrong; if you want to go to the USA that's fair enough. Immigration and customs, etc. But if you aren't intending to go to the USA and are just going from somewhere to somewhere else then you should not have to put up with the USA's problems, and you certainly should not have to be suffering humiliation in an airport because of the political problems which the US government has got itself into by meddling in foreign affairs of other countries!
Also, it's not the folks' fault. Those friendly people who inhabit the USA, it's not their fault they've got a regime like that. It's not a democracy, you know, not really, any more than the UK is. People don't vote FOR politicians. The situation is a bit like Nazi Germany in the early 1940s. After invading a few other countries, the regime started to become regarded with some suspicion by people. You wouldn't want to transit there on a flight from one place to another, especially if you were Jewish, or even looked Jewish. Also, like with Nazi Germany, the intolerant USA of the early zero-zeros decade is a passing glitch in history which the country will (hopefully) evolve out of, as historical events move us into a more enlightened age. Meanwhile, most of the world gets on well with most of the world most of the time! Also see Internet Freedom
The restrictive problems of transit of the USA aren't limited to the unnecessary procedures in airports. From what I have heard, anyone booking to travel through a US airport on the way to somewhere else, will be spied upon and their personal history dug up and scrutinised in advance by the secret police. The European Union is complicit in this and gives away personal details without question. The material is then subject to "fishing expeditions". Part of the problem is that the EU and the UK and other countries have been suckered into this "anti-terrorism" nonsense. Also see from history the campaigns against "commies", moralistic fights against anyone gay or of different religious beliefs to the establishment or different in other ways, and in one of the embarrassing past episodes, a situation which culminated in the Prohibition Era (trying to ban alcohol, but resulting in gangsterism). Generally anything with zero tolerance or a "War on [item here]". Also see "If you're not with us 100% then you're against us". None of these are things to be played along with in a sheeplike way, and all are things to be avoided wherever reasonably possible. You should be able to avoid it.
Even if you're not a paranoid as I am, and even if you don't think "THEY" are out to get you, you may find it more reasonable to avoid transit of the United States, at least until there is a political regime change there. (You'll be able to tell if there's really been a regime change, because regardless of political talk and flim-flam, the true situation will change. Things like the proper legalisation of drugs (abolition of prohibition), closing down of Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp, and abolishing unfair practices in airports which interfere with International status).
Travel agents offering "Travel to/from the Caribbean without going via the USA" are to be encouraged. Look out for signs. It's a supply and demand market, according to an expert in the travel industry. I think people are going to demand better treatment in airports and less problematical security measures. Besides, travel through countries that aren't at war with other countries and/or abstract concepts, should be cheaper. For more info on this, have a look around some of the Travel companies.
http://wikitravel.org/en/Avoiding_a_transit_of_the_United_States - general advice about avoiding the problem.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5189906.stm - David Carruthers taken prisoner when changing planes.
Once again, I emphasise the important fact that this whole problem is likely to be a temporary political problem and is NOT the fault of the people who live in the USA. I get on well with folk generally and have good business relationships with many American companies. It's not the people but the government that's the problem, and I'd rather it not be MY problem. So, let's avoid it.
Update 2006/08: The UK is also on the "avoid" list, temporarily. Following a scare in which the UK government was involved with other countries' political problems, fizzy diet soft drinks banned on flights. Best to avoid the place.
Please bear in mind that most countries don't have a terrorist problem. On most airlines, passengers use metal cutlery on the in-flight meals.
Other resources: Travel
For the opposite of this "too much awkwardness when travelling by air" problem, see Silver Jet who are leading the free market by effectively abolishing check-in and the associated unnecessary delays. They say you can now arrive at the airport half and hour before take-off! That's more like it! (I wonder how they manage to travel to/from New York and London)
If you don't like to hear the United States being thought of as a pariah country in the world, please don't write in. Instead, lobby the politicians to try to change the way the USA behaves. Hopefully diplomacy can be achieved and at some time in the future the USA will be able to live happily alongside the 96% of the population which is The Rest of The World.
Extra note 2006/12: An extra issue has appeared to do with the transfer or transit of Money. For your own safety, it's best if when doing international financial transactions, you insist that your bank avoids transiting the money via any go-between bank in the United States. If you don't live in the USA, you shouldn't have the USA spying on your business! All bank transactions in the USA are closely monitored by the Secret Police, and so to save yourself from being extradited and being tried as a witch, just insist on the money going through International banks in politically safer places such as Uruguay and Ecuador, where there is still some freedom and neutrality. See Avoiding money transit through the USA. Other countries, if they want to still have Sovereignty should help to stop the USA from applying US law on the whole world!
Update 2009: The United States is recovering from a bad patch. The old leadership is gone. Things may start to improve. (Germany improved its human rights record after the end of the Second World War). Now there has been a change in the USA, and the new president has already ordered the closing of the concentration camp (note 2012: this has not been done yet!)
Update 2010: Here's a quote from NetFlights (Travel, Your Way!): Important notice regarding USA bookings and secure flight passenger data... Please note that The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) require Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) to be entered into all Reservations held for travel on/after 15th September, traveling/transiting to the United States. ... Customers planning to travel by air must provide the following data: Name as it appears on passport, Date of birth, Gender. It is vital to understand that SFPD is not an optional entry. Without SFPD, customers will not be allowed to travel.
Now what does this suggest? Land of the Free? Or more The Soviet Republic of America?
Avoid! Avoid! Avoid! In fact, insist to your travel company that you route around and don't even transit the USA, until they clean their act up!
For example, to travel from the UK to Panama, you can go with Iberia via Madrid. This avoids the USA transit problem. Similar routes exist for other destinations and start points. Much of this depends on the airline, and to some extent which language they speak primarily!
Freight can also be routed where it needs to go, avoiding political problems in the world.
The United States is becoming a threat to everyone everywhere in the world, a problem highlighted in the USA Extradition Problem