Thursday, 12 October 2017

No EU deal better than bad deal? Not for air travellers

If Britain falls off he metaphorical cliff edge with no Brexit deal a little under 18 months from now it is theoretically possible all flights between the UK and EU cousin tries will be grounded. That's not me being gloomy - it's the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. He should be sacked for his pessimism, says Lord Lawson. Will flights really stop? Unlikely in the extreme. But don't shoot the messenger. Theoretically they might. We have a single skies deal with Brussels that deadlock would invalidate. Theoretically the UK would need to negotiate bilateral civil aviation agreements with each of the 27 other member states. Even if you ignore the likelihood that we don't have enough skilled negotiators that would take months, probably years. But while Brexit poses other threats to flights it's obviously unthinkable that everything would suddenly grind to a halt. It follows that the "no deal" hard Brexit proponents argue is better than a bad deal is almost certainly an impossibility. I'm referring only to passenger aviation here. The same story could be replicated in other industries. There will have to be an accommodation of some kind with Brussels if flights are to continue, even if it that deal is incomplete and time limited. Even a limited transitional deal would need to be flexible. And during that time span it would clearly be difficult if not impossible to launch new - and perhaps badly needed - services. It's time the Government emerged from the rabbit hole - to find Michel O'Leary waiting with a new medicine bottle, this time labelled "Reality mixture - drink me!"

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Car hire damage rip offs - action at last

You read it here first. Following a report in the Daily Telegraph, the consumer watchdog Which? has finally twigged that car hire customers might be paying more than they should for repairs. It is calling for an immediate investigation to ensure customers aren't being routinely ripped of. It's two years since similar suspicions were aired in an  article on this website advising travellers to take out separate excess insurance to avoid paying  heavy extra insurance charges available from car rental companies res themselves. The excess, of course, is the amount you have to pay before the company's basic cover kicks in. I was once charged the full excess of £750 in Sicily for two scratches so tiny you would have been hard put to spot them. My subsequent argument with the rental company (to no avail) was: that they wouldn't have cost anything like that to repair. I also pointed out that having inspected many rental vehicles before driving off - as common sense dictates you must - I had observed many such bodywork blemishes, leading me to the suspicion that  renters wait until they have stung some other customers or customers  before even bothering to get the work done. Underlying the problem is a desperate need to keep the headline rental price as low as possible - a good example of the ways unfettered competition can sometimes work against the consumer interest. It's great news that the issue is at last gaining the attention it deserves, It's just a bit late.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Stunning new French b&b

An extraordinary b&b, recently opened in Troyes, in the French Champagne region, is already receiving rave reviews. The restored property, - Le Jardin de la Cathedrale - built around a courtyard garden a few steps from the city’s magnificent cathedral, was once the home and workshop of master glazier Louis-Germain Vincent-Larchier.  One of its four suites has windows composed of 15th and 16th century stained glass fragments that he collected. 

Another, once his workshop,  has an 18th century oak ceiling. I have visited the property but haven't had the chance to overnight there. However, at the time of writing it has received a rare ten out of ten score on It would make an excellent base for exploring this exceptionally beautiful city and its surrounding region. See my reviews of the city and area in the features pages at and

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

BA leg room cuts would be a marketing blunder

Free market competition should mean real consumer choice - not a race to the bottom. I'm a long legged beast, so you can accuse me of special pleading, but if British Airways goes ahead with its reported plan to cut leg room on short haul A320 and A321 aircraft it will have committed a significant error. The airline intends to add two extra seat  rows, cutting its seat pitch (the distance between most seat backs) by an inch. It claims "customers fly with us because we offer quality and value in all areas". In my book, quality and value don't add up to the cheapest fare. They are the twin incentives that persuade me - often though admittedly  not always - to pay a little more than I might to fly on BA's low cost rivals. The move may be counter productive. It threatens to alienate senior travellers in particular, for whom shaving few £s from their travel costs is not crucial.  

Monday, 20 February 2017

EX Man U ace's Iran problem prompts US travel reminder

Britain's Sun newspaper reports that the former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke was prevented from flying home to the Caribbean via Miami because he had played a charity match in Iran. Reaction to the story linked the incident to President Trump's travel ban - thwarted in its original form - on citizens of seven countries, including Iran. Sky News on line went so far as to directly blame the ban. But the footballer's problem is unlikely to have anything to do with that. The report didn't say whether Yorke was travelling under the ESTA *Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver programme used, for example, but most UK holiday visitor to the US. This makes it crystal clear that the programme doesn't extend to anyone who has been in Iran (with limited government and military exceptions) since March 1, 2011. Yorke's match was in 2015. So with Iran now making its mark on the tourism map with ever sharper visibility it's worth repeating a warning I have given several times before: if you have travelled to Iran in the past six years you will need to apply for a visa to visit the US, with all the inconvenience and expense that entails.