McDonald’s is an icon that is synonymous with all things American. And as of Wednesday, May 15th, 2019, McDonald’s restaurants in Austria will be serving up a new speciality: emergency travel assistance.If you’re an American citizen in Austria (whether that be for residential or tourism purposes), and you require emergency travel assistance (such as if you’ve lost your passport), the fast-food chain has pledged to come to your aid, in partnership with the US embassy of Vienna.
OK, so it’s not the official name; but what is the ‘McVisa’?
Some 194 McDonald’s branches throughout Austria are now offering a 24-hour hotline to the US embassy. The initiative – affectionately dubbed ‘the McVisa’ by the good people of Twitter – is the brainchild of Trevor Traina, an entrepreneur whom Donald Trump appointed US ambassador to Austria last year. President Trump is known for his penchant for fast food and has infamously presented guests at the White House with fast food spreads on more than one occasion.
"American citizens traveling in Austria who find themselves in distress and without a way to contact the US Embassy can enter any McDonald's in Austria and staff will assist them in making contact with the US Embassy for consular services", states a post announcing the move on the US Embassy's Facebook page.
The plan has certainly divided opinions on social media, with some considering it a fantastic and innovative approach, while others find it hilarious or just downright embarrassing. Responses were varied, with @Edr351 on Twitter stating:
“Can't decide which part surprises me more, the part about US Embassy delegating some of its functions to McDonald's or the fact that there are 194 McDonald's in Austria.”
Others have called it innovative as “everyone American recognises it (McDonald’s)”. It has yet to be confirmed whether this initiative will remain exclusive to Austria, or if it will be rolled out in other countries. Given that McDonalds is a global franchise and recognised chain, that shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.
The specific details of the new consular services and travel advice at McDonalds require some clarification. Will the staff will receive additional training to give travel advice, or merely connect those in need to the embassy? Will the process require any changes to the existing way in which the embassy operates? Will staff’s salaries be increased with this upskilling?
So what can your embassy (and therefore, by proxy, McDonald’s) help you with?
In the case of lost or stolen passports, make contact with your local embassy immediately. This can now be done in a McDonald’s branch if you are unable to connect the embassy yourself. The embassy can then issue either a fully valid replacement passport in approximately two weeks or emergency travel documents within three days, which will allow you to continue your pre-booked travel. Once you arrive home, you must apply for a new passport as soon as possible.
Other emergencies your embassy can help you with include:
• Assistance with medical emergencies; they can provide you with a list of quality medical facilities, pharmacies and English-speaking doctors.
• Emergency evacuation in extreme circumstances such as natural disasters, conflict, terrorism or economic emergencies.
• Providing financial advice and exploring potential financial aid options if you are temporarily destitute abroad.
Things your embassy and McDonald’s cannot help you with include:
• If you have lost your money. In this case, contact your travel insurance company instead, who may refer you to your bank.
• Authorising or paying for medical treatment. If you have an illness, accident or injury, seek medical treatment ASAP and contact your travel insurance provider.
• Locating your lost or stolen property. You should report stolen property to the local police, file a report and then use this report number to set up a claim with your travel insurance.
• Renewing or replacing your driver’s licenses; you will have to apply for a new one with the relevant authority.
• Investigating a crime, providing you with legal advice or representing you in court.
In Austria, there are three separate phone numbers that are equivalent to 911. In an emergency, dial 133 for the police, 144 for an ambulance or 122 for the fire brigade.
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