Gatwick aims to halve the time it takes passengers using its North Terminal to check in and negotiate security. The terminal is to get a major makeover, including the creation of a new check in area, at a cost of £36 millions. The airport’s owners claim this facility, which will have the world’s largest self service bag drop zone, will “virtually eliminate queues”. It’s scheduled to open in two phases – late next year and in early the following year. A new security area should also be completed in 2016. A new look departure lounge with more shops and eateries is planned and the terminal’s arrivals area is to be refurbished in time for next summer. The airport’s railway station will also get an upgrade. The concourse area will be doubled and more escalators and lifts will be installed. But the work won’t begin until 2017 and isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2020.
Luxury Jo’burg hotel re-born
Johannesburg’s Westcliff hotel has opened under the Four Seasons group banner following a huge re-vamp costing around £35m. With 117 rooms and suites set in landscaped gardens on a hillside, the property was owned until 2012 by Orient Express. It has five restaurants, two outdoor pools and a spa, which is scheduled to open in January.
Free wi fi on French resort slopes
Skiers taking to the slopes of Val d’Isere this season will be able to keep in touch with friends and world events via free wi fi access.
New long haul options from Manchester
Manchester Airport will soon have a clutch of new long connections - to Asia and Africa for example – when Qatar Airways ups the number of flights it operates there by 40%. From February 15 the airline will increase flights to Doha’s recently opened Hamad International Airport from ten to 14 a week. The new services will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. Last month the airline announced it would start flying daily from Edinburgh on May 1 – up from the current five a week.
New showcase for modern architecture
A new design and architecture centre has opened in Palm Springs, the Californian desert city 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The glass and steel building, originally designed as a bank, provides extra exhibition space for the city’s Art Museum, which houses works by artists including Picasso, Matisse and Anish Kapoor. Palm Springs has a significant concentration of mid-20th century architecture.
Rescue fares for scheduled air passengers
Major airlines have agreed to fly passengers home at special fares if one of them goes bust. The voluntary deal covers passengers flying from, to and within the EU. It has been agreed by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a way of heading off calls for the establishment of a fund, set up by imposing a per passenger levy, to pay for emergency repatriation. However, it is unlikely to satisfy consumer bodies and travel industry leaders, who have long argued that scheduled airline passengers should be protected in the same way as package holiday customers. For one thing the deal already exists informally. For another, there has been no official indication of just how low the so called “rescue fares” might be. And the fares will be available for purchase only up to two weeks after an airline ceases flying, so somebody out of touch could still wind up having to pay a full one way fare. The best advice is still to pay using a credit card and buy travel insurance with cover against scheduled airline failure.
TV remotes can make you ill warns report
Can’t wait to turn the hotel room TV on? Hold on a second. Clean the remote first. Research broadcast in the US on NBC’s Today programme suggests you should always travel with a packet of disinfectant wipes. The remote is more likely than anything else in the room to be harbouring bacteria. One of those checked using swabs during a probe by investigative reporter Jeff Rossen even carried the MRSA bug. Light switches were cleanest but nearly everywhere phones were way above the acceptable limit.
New outback hikes launched
Guided walks through an ancient salt lake system have been launched at Curtin Springs, a vast 1m acre cattle station 100km from Ayers Rock in Australia’s “Red Centre”. Night hikes will afford the sight of the gleaming crystals by the light of the full moon. There will also be walks around the base of Mount Connor, sometimes mistaken for Uluru, to use Ayers Rock’s Aboriginal name.
New Philadelphia flights from Heathrow
Competition is heating up on the air route between London and Philadelphia Delta will launch non stop flights next spring. Starting in early April the airline will operate daily flights, departing from Heathrow at 1.20om and arriving at 4pm. Eastbound flights will leave at 7.04pm and arrive at 7.30am next morning. Meanwhile American Airlines will launch a second daily service on March 29 with daytime flights back to Heathrow. The outbound departure will be at 8.20am, getting travellers to the US at 11.35am. London-bound flights will leave at 9.55am, reaching Heathrow at 10.10pm.
Eclipse packages go on sale
Packages are now on offer to travellers keen to experience the total eclipse of the sun next March. It will be visible from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard – between Norway and the North Pole. Astronomer Andy Green will lead a five day trip to the Faroes, departing from Stansted on March 17. It will include tours of the islands before the big event, from 8.38am until 9.41am on the 20th. Darkness won’t come cheap, however. The trip – bookable through Nordic Experience - costs £2595 based on two sharing.