Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Big re-vamp at Gatwick - travel news headlines

Huge facelift for Gatwick terminal
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.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Britanny Ferries package price cuts - travel news headlines

Too old to ski at 100? No says insurer
Worried you might be getting too old to get ski holiday insurance?  A UK insurance company has just increased its upper age limit to 100. Michael Pettifer, owner and director of MPI Brokers ( says: “Last year we put it up to 90. I said we were still getting the odd customer wanting to ski at 91 or 92 – not many, perhaps ten or so - so the underwriter said ‘ok – let’s put it up to 100’.” How much will it cost? If you bought cover on line today it would cost £147.81 in France or £184.76 for a week in elsewhere in Europe.

French package prices slashed
In a bid to stimulate sluggish demand for package holidays in France Brittany Ferries is lopping 25% off next year’s basic prices to customers booking by December 16. The deal doesn’t include on board accommodation or extra charges such as weekend and seasonal supplements. Its latest programme includes a new range of gites in Alsace Lorraine, in eastern France.

Glasgow to get Munich flights
Lufthansa is to launch a summer service between Glasgow Airport and Munich next year. The airline will operate one flight a week, on Saturdays, starting on May 16 and ending on October 3.
Sydney’s latest luxury hotel opens
Sydney has a new five star hotel. The 140 room InterContinental Double Bay has a rooftop pool with views of the sea. It’s housed in a six storey building which was formerly home to the Ritz-Carlton, whose celebrity guests ranged from Madonna to Bill Clinton.

Best cruise ships named
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas has been named best new cruise ship by the influential Cruise Critic website ( Among the vessels innovations is s gondola attached to a mechanical arm, which allows passengers to sail 300ft above the sea – and a range of small restaurants in place of the traditional main dining room. Emerald Waterways Emerald Star and Emerald Sky were named best river ships. Praised for offering moderately priced cruising, they have indoor pools, with retractable roofs, which are transformed into cinemas at night. P&O cruises was named best for dining.

Friday, 21 November 2014

BA launches Krakow flights - travel news headlines

Lisbon’s electric car tours
Electric cars with GPS audio guides are now available in Lisbon. Visitors can follow a range of themed itineraries or make their own. You could follow the route of Tram 28, for example, which passes the Portuguese capital’s best known sights, or concentrate on the city’s Moorish heritage. Prices vary but these two tours cost €29 for 1hr and €34 die 1hrs 30mins respectively – with €15 extra for each additional hour. Information at

BA to start Krakow service
British Airways is to launch flights to Krakow from Heathrow. From May 1 it will operate four round trips a week to the former Polish capital – on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Great War tours on snowshoes
Snowshoe tours of the First World War front between Italy and Austria will be on offer in the Dolomites ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo this winter. A guide and a re-enactor/narrator will accompany the hikes in period uniform. Groups will walk to the restored Cima Gallina defensive position.  The tour takes about 1hr 90mins. Go to, which also has details of tours on skis covering a theatre of the Great War which s relatively little known in the UK. (Read The White War by Mark Thompson published by Faber & Faber).

Birmingham to get new Big Apple link
American Airlines is to launch daily flights between Birmingham and New York next spring. Starting in early May the carrier will fly, leaving the Midlands at 10am and arriving at JFK Airport at 12.55pm. Eastbound services will depart at 7pm, arriving at 7.10am next morning. Flights will be operated under a code share deal with American’s partner British Airways, meaning they’ll be bookable through BA’s reservation system. And travellers from Birmingham to Barcelona will benefit from fresh competition from June 1 next year when Spanish airline Vueling launches flights to the Catalan city, starting with three round trips a week.

Peak beauty spots go on line
The Peak District has become the first national park accessible via Google Street View( That doesn’t mean you can take a virtual hike anywhere you fancy, however. As the park’s chief executive Jim Dixon notes, it was impossible to film every inch of its 555 square miles. “Instead we have selected some of the highlights. These are the trail areas where we offer ranger-led walks, family activities and cycle hire and bike maintenance.” Places which can be viewed on line include the High Peak, Monsal and Tissington trails.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Canada to demand e-clearance - travel news headlines

Canada to demand travel e-clearance
Planning a holiday in Canada? From next April you’ll need to get authorisation on line. The flip side is you can expect to get through immigration more quickly on arrival. The eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) will cost the equivalent of Canadian $7 and will be valid for up to five years. The move applies to travellers from all countries expect the US.

US tightens traveller screening
Travellers from Britain to the US will now need to answer extra security questions when they make their electronic (ESTA) applications for permission to enter the country. The move comes amid fears that western based fighters returning from Syria may pose a threat. Expect to be asked to provide your parents’ names, for example, contact details, city of birth and employment information.

Luxury Irish train planned
A luxury touring train is to be launched in Ireland. Belmond plans to start operating the luxury sleeper in summer 2016 after acquiring 10 carriages from Irish Rail. The train will be called the Grand Hibernian. It will visit destinations in the north and south. Belmond is the new brand recently introduced by Orient Express Hotels. The company continues to operate other luxury trains, including the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express.

New hotel opens in Liverpool
Liverpool’s 110 years old, Grade II listed Royal Insurance building has become a hotel. The opening of the Starwood group’s Aloft Liverpool follows an £18m conversion, which has removed the property from English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register. It has a fitness centre and free wi fi is available throughout the hotel. 

BA to start Bilbao flights
British Airways will launch flights to from Heathrow to Bilbao in northern Spain – home to a spectacular branch of the Guggenheim Museum - on March 29. On the same day Spanish airline Vueling, which is belongs, with BA, to the International Airlines Group, will move its Bilbao services from Heathrow to Gatwick. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Newcastle to get New York flights - travel news headlines

Newcastle gets Big Apple link
United Airlines will fly between Newcastle and New York next summer. Between May 23 and September 7 the airline will operate five round trips a week, with departures from the UK at 9.10am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Austrian farm hike launched
A two week holiday hiking between Almen – Austrian mountain eateries with accommodation – has been launched for next year by Ramblers Worldwide. The trip covers the first 160kms of the 350km Almenweg, which links these small Alpine farms in Salzburg province. Typical of the dishes they serve is the Brettljause, a selection of cold cuts including home made cheeses and home cured pork products. The package costs from £1250 including flights and full board, with some nights spend in Almen, some in hotels.

Swiss flights take off from Southend
Flights from Southend airport to Bern have been launched by Swiss airline SkyWork. Bern is a handy jumping off point for the Jungfrau area, including the ski and summer resorts of Wengen and Grindelwald. On some days the carrier is operating two round trips but its timetable shows no services on Saturdays and only one outbound flight on Sundays, arriving at 10.30pm. So travellers to the Alps will either have to get to their accommodation late at night or fly on weekdays, when there’s an early morning departure from the Essex airport.

Museum of American West set to open
The history of the American west will be the theme of a new museum scheduled to open in Arizona next month. The Museum of the West in Scottsdale promises to tell the story through paintings and photographs, narrative, multi-media presentations and “participatory exhibitions”.

Gatwick: new Canada flights planned
Canadian leisure airline Air Transat will fly from Gatwick to St. John's, Newfoundland and onward to Halifax, Nova Scotia, next summer. The service will operate twice a week from mid June until the start of September. (

Budget transatlantic flights planned
Icelandic low cost airline WOW is to launch flights from Gatwick to Boston and Baltimore Washington airport via Reykjavik. Departures to the former will start on March 27. Services to the latter – it’s about an hour’s drive to Washington DC - will begin on June 4. The airline says its lowest one way fare between March 30 and June 15 will be £99 one way but a check on the airline’s web site showed that price available on only a few flights one way.  Plus there’s a total of £17.48 in booking fees, a £39 charge for checked baggage and a minimum of £2 to choose a particular seat. But if you are prepared to add 3hrs to your journey time on the way out and about 4hrs on the return leg you should be able to trim your travel costs. A random check showed the total cost on WOW, departing in April 17 and returning a week later, assuming you take hold bags and choose seats, would be £436.65 (add £24 return for extra leg room) compared with £632 return in economy on British Airways on the same dates.

Boutique hotel has own beach hut
A new boutique hotel with its own beach hut has opened on a hill overlooking the Kent coast at Whitstable. The 18 room Crescent Turner on Wraik Hill has 18 rooms and a restaurant whose menu includes the local oysters, which the town celebrates with an annual festival in July. Guests may reserve the beach hut, which has cooking facilities including a barbecue and houses three canoes. 

Peak walkway opens
Hard on the heels of news that the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge will open next month in Austria, comes the announcement that another has just opened above the Swiss resort of Gstaad. This one’s claimed to be the first hanging bridge connecting two peaks. At 3000 metres above sea level it stretches for 107 metres between the View Point and the Scex Rouge with a view, in clear weather, taking in Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Bernese Alps.

New flights to Slovakian mountains
Skiers and hikers have a new air route to the mountains following the launch of flights by Wizz Air from Luton to Poprad, in Slovakia. Poprad lies at the foot of the Tatra range in the north of the country. The airline flies there three times a week. Tour operator Mountain Paradise is taking advantage of the new service to offer long weekends on the Tatra slopes this winter. Customers will fly out on Thursday, back on Sunday, with a choice of a range of accommodation.

BA Heathrow flights switch terminals
British Airways flights from Heathrow to Belfast City Airport and Dublin have switched to Terminal 5 from Terminal 1. And services from Heathrow to Barcelona have moved to Terminal 3 from Terminal 5. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Geneva - new fast rail link: travel news headlines

London – Geneva: fast rail link
High speed train travel to Geneva with no need to change stations in Paris will be possible from December 14. Eurostar passengers from St. Pancras or Ebbsfleet will be able to switch to TGV Lyria services in Lille. Travel time to and from the Swiss city will be just over 6hrs. There will be a 37min wait in Lille on the way out (33mins on the homeward journey).

New flights from Leeds-Bradford 
Monarch Airlines will launch flights to Alicante and Naples from Leeds-Bradford next spring. Starting in late March it is expected to operate three round and two trips a week to the Spanish and Italian cities respectively.

Suspension bridge to open in Tirol
A pedestrian suspension bridge claimed to be the world’s longest is scheduled to open next month in the Tirolean market town of Reutte. The 403 metre bridge, will link the ruins of Ehrenburg castle with Fort Claudia. Visitors will cross at a dizzying 114.6 metres above the intervening gorge. Currently the longest such suspension bridge is on the island of Kyushu, Japan.

Lincoln shooting - exhibition planned
The pistol used by John Wilkes Booth to shoot President Lincoln will be among the exhibits brought together in Washington next spring to mark the 150th anniversary of the event. “Silent Witnesses: artifacts of the Lincoln assassination” will be staged from March 23 until May 25 at the Center for Education and Leadership, opposite the Ford Theatre, where the shooting occurred. Other exhibits, assembled from a range of museums, include Lincoln’s top hat, cuff links, great coat and the contents of his pockets that fateful night.

Silver travellers grumble less
Is it because we’re that bit less starry eyed than the young – or is it that we’ve learned how to avoid the pitfalls of travel? Surprisingly, given our grumpy image, silver travellers complain less about their holidays than those in other age groups. Research from the Institute of Customer Service shows consumers express progressively higher satisfaction with tourism and transport providers the older they get. Tourism is the third highest scoring sector overall, following retail (non food) and retail (food). Transport, which includes airlines and ferries, is tenth. In the overall league table of top performing companies, which is headed by John Lewis. Center Parcs (13th) is the top tourism, followed by P&O Cruises (joint 24th) Marriott (joint 32nd) and Hilton (36th). P&O Ferries, classified and a transport company, is 29th.

New St Petersburg flights to take off
Russia’s Transaero Airlines is to launch non stop services between London Heathrow and St. Petersburg on October 29 with round trip fares starting at £186 – which includes on board food and drink. Flights will operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Departing from Heathrow at 6.30pm and arriving in St Petersburg at 1.50am. London-bound flights will leave at 3.40pm, arriving at 4.10pm. Flying time is 3hrs 30mins. Transaero is the second largest airline in the Russian Federation.

Sandals and Beaches to provide free wi fi
Free wi fi access will be available to all guests at Sandals and Beaches resorts from December 1. It is currently available only to customers booking premium holidays at the Caribbean all-inclusive resorts, such as those which come with concierge or butler service.

Sri Lanka gets new cliff top hotel
A hotel developed by a tea producing family has opened on a headland in Sri Lanka. Cape Weligama, a complex of 40 villas, overlooks the Indian Ocean from a cliff top near Galle Fort on the south coast. It has a gym, an infinity pool and a speedboat used for whale watching excursions. The property, which is set in 12 acres of landscape gardens, is part of Resplendent Ceylon, set up by Dilmah Tea whose aim is to create a collection of small luxury resorts offering guests a taste of Sri Lankan history and culture. Its first venture, Ceylon Tea Trails, opened in 2005. Both properties are members of the up market Relais & Chateaux consortium.

Battle of Waterloo to be re-enacted
A spectacular re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo will be staged in Belgium next summer to mark the bicentenary of one of history’s pivotal engagements. Some 5000 actors are expected to take part – with 300 horses and 100 canon. On June 19 the French attack will be staged. The following day it will be the allied counter-attack, with the fighting concentrated around the Hougoumont Farm, Over the two days there will also be a recreation of the bivouacs, providing an insight into the daily life of the troops as they prepared to fight. Tickets for each of the two battle re-enactments are already available on line at, priced €15.75. Admission to the bivouac exhibition is €6.75.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Top hotel awards - travel news headlines

Hotel with no TV wins award
A Scottish hotel with no TV, no wi fi and “poor to non existent” mobile reception has been named “Newcomer of the Year” in the latest edition of the annual Good Food Guide. The Moor of Rannoch Hotel in Perth and Kinross, described as “blissfully isolated”, fills the gap with board games, books, and wood burning stoves. Other awards: country hotel: is Wiltshire’s Pear Tree at Purton; top pub with rooms: the Talbot Inn at Mells, Somerset; small hotel: Yalbury Cottage, Lower Bockhampton near Dorchester, Dorset; country house hotel: Lords of the Manor in Gloucestershire; Scottish, Welsh and Irish hotels of the year: respectively The Green Park, PitlochryMilebrook House, Knighton and Newforge House in County Armagh – and best dog friendly hotel: Overwater Hall, Cumbria.

Blackpool Airport to close
Blackpool Airport is to close this week following failed efforts to find a buyer. Flights will cease after October 15. Passengers already booked to fly are advised to contact their airlines. In a statement its owners said: “We regret to announce that no agreement has been reached to secure the future of operations at Blackpool Airport. The airport operation has been making a loss for a number of years and unfortunately there is no option for the company other than to close. While the sales process announced at the end of August was a final attempt to secure the future of the airport, the airport's management had spent many months prior to this announcement approaching organisations with a potential interest in the airport in an attempt to find a buyer.”

CityJet to pull out of Cambridge
CityJet is to axe its flights from Cambridge airport later this month. The British Airways subsidiary has been operating daily on both routes. The last departures will be on October 25. In a statement the airline said it had developed a strong working relationship with the airport “and will continue to explore potential opportunities for future routes.

New Madeira flights
Norwegian Air Shuttle is to launch winter services from Gatwick to Madeira on October 28. The low cost airline will fly there twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays.