The biggest change for U.S. citizens will become effective on June 1, 2009, passports will be required for all U.S. citizens re-entering the United States. This includes entry from Mexico, Canada and all sea ports (such as cruises). From what I understand, the US Passport Agencies are pretty backed up right now. If you are planning a trip outside of the US over the next year and do not currently have a passport, or need to renew yours, make sure to allow ample time, like 2-3 months.
As of January 12, 2009 the Department of Homeland Security will begin the Pre-Travel Authorization Program for U.S.-Bound Travelers from Visa Waiver Countries, as part of the 9/11 Commission Act. It will be mandatory for anyone planning to visit the U.S. to have an electronic visa before boarding the plane. This will allow screening of passengers before they travel to the U.S.
Another change coming in early 2009 is that all airlines will be required to quote the TOTAL price for all tickets to or from Europe. They will no longer be able to quote the airfare and the taxes separately. This includes all airline taxes, airport fees and fuel surcharges.
This year the State of New York enacted the New York State Passenger Bill of Rights. This means that airline passengers in New York who are delayed on planes for more than three hours will not be without basic amenities including: water, snacks, fresh air and working restrooms. And if they feel their rights are violated, they can report it and the airline could face penalties of up to $100,000 per passenger per violation. It’s possible that those same standards could eventually go into effect nationwide.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent for more information regarding current travel rules and regulations, or to start planning your next trip!