If you’re flying from Heathrow next week, be aware – members of the RMT are planning to walk out at 3am on April 29th for 48 hours. It’s all down to a fight between the London Underground and the RMT over a so-called ‘toxic’ reorganisation of the workforce, (ie, replacing humans with MACHINES) which could threaten 953 jobs – 200 of which concern Heathrow Express staff.

heathrow express All aboard for a 48 hour strike on the Heathrow Express

Heathrow Express are trying to resolve the dispute, but if RMT staff walk out, they reckon they have what it takes to deal with staff shortages and keep trains running. Trying to keep the panic out of his press release, Heathrow Express MD Keith Greenfield said:

‘A strike is not the answer. It will increase costs when we are trying to reduce them, taking us further away from what we need to do to secure our business for the future. However… we have a robust contingency plan that will enable us to run regular trains for as long as any industrial action lasts.’

Meanwhile, the RMT have confirmed a five day tube strike, starting on April 28th until April 30th, then again between May 5th and May 8th.

So if you’re Heathrow bound, you could take the risk that the trains are running. Or you might want to reconsider your plans, or bring a sturdy pair walking boots. Or a skateboard. Or a jetpack. Or just stay in bed until the middle of May – which would be easier.

Deathwatch: Travel agents

April 15th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

zzzz5 300x168 Deathwatch: Travel agentsCan you recall the last time you went into a travel agents and booked a holiday? No? Well then that would explain why they’re all closing.

In yet further ‘bad news for the high street’ news, travel agent closures have soared by 45% in the last year.

A whopping 77 travel agencies and tour operators went out of business in the 12 months prior to March 2013.

That’s not to say no one is going on holiday anymore, as Gatwick recorded an increase of passengers passing through it. No. It’s down to the pesky internet innit?

The rise of online booking services and price comparison sites, along with everyone having broadband, has made booking a holiday less stressful than thumbing through a heap of fancy brochures.

DIY holidays, supermarket points systems and the ability to book direct from accommodation websites has proved to be the death knell for the travel agent.

It’s looking likely that this trend will soon wipe out the existing travel agent shops faster than downloading killed everything else.

Oh well.

Fare dodging arse gets caught

April 14th, 2014 7 Comments By Ian Wade

oyster swipe Fare dodging arse gets caughtFare dodging can be quite funny. Although we’re talking mainly as in a ‘happy accident’ way, and nothing to the level of a hedge fund manager avoiding £42,550.

That’s an actual pisstake.

The git-heel would travel from Stonegate in East Sussex, and regularly travelled back and forth to the capital. He’d get off at London Bridge and then change for his office in Cannon Street, which with his Oyster, would cost a third less than his whole journey.

The station at Stonegate has no Oyster tappy barriers, and so his usual journey was significantly less when tapping in and out of Cannon Street.

He also successfully avoided any ticket inspectors on the trains.

He was discovered last November, when a ticket inspector was standing at a terminal at Cannon Street and spotted awry behaviour. He paid back the £42,550 in dodged fares, plus £450 in legal costs, within three days as part of an out-of-court settlement.

Southeastern trains were made aware of the man’s expired season ticket hadn’t been updated since 2008.

He has, unsurprisingly, also now updated his season ticket.

Ryanair’s new ad campaign

April 10th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Ryanair have launched a new advertising campaign and it’s their first pan-European campaign.

The airline has had its fair share, perhaps quite a few people’s fair shares, of controversy in the past, and these ads are hoped to soften their reputation slightly.

You’d think it’d look like this.

Regrettably, they don’t. If you’re dying to see them, the ads will roll out from Friday 11 April in the UK, Ireland, Italy and Spain and, if you want to see it, hop on over to here to see them for yourself.

We await all the hilarious spoofs from the wise-crackers having a pop! *sticks head in oven*

‘Virus Shield’ app killed by Google

April 8th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

android logo 300x225 Virus Shield app killed by GoogleHave you got an Android phone with the Virus Shield app? You might have because, for a period, it topped the charts on Google Play. Well, you should delete it because Google have pulled it after it turned out to be a total phoney.

So what was the deal with it? For starters, the app had virtually no function at all, but cost a $3.99 to buy. At over 10,000 downloads, the developer/con-artist raked it in on something that was nigh-on useless for your phone.

If you’re wondering what little function it did have, the icon changed when you tapped it while it pretended to look for viruses.

The Android Police, who rumbled it, said: “This is such a brazen and expensive fake that we felt the need to give it some special attention. It’s somewhat disheartening that an app so obviously fake could rise to the top, especially considering that it’s paid, and possibly hundreds or thousands of people have been defrauded already.”

This comes with the news that Google are finally trying to clean up their apps. They need to start being a bit sharper, clearly. Either way, ‘Virus Shield’ isn’t harming your phone and won’t hammer your battery, but it isn’t doing a thing for your phone, so get shot of it.

If you want to get a refund on the app beyond the normal 15 minute refund window, Android Central have a nifty how-to guide.

Michael O Leary Ry 1208663i 300x276 Finally, a professor works out the Ryanair websiteThe mysterious algorithms that govern the Ryanair website have long baffled scholars, scientists and people trying to book a holiday. Not even Alan Turing could have cracked it.

But now, a new hero has emerged who can help us save money on our cheapo flights. His name is Claudio Piga, an economics professor from Keele University, and he’s devoted his life (well, some of it, anyway) to working out what the **** is going on with Ryanair’s ever changing prices.

Once it was thought that if there was an Easterly wind, you could get a return to Barcelona El Prat for £32.99. But if it blew from the West, they were £89.99. However, Piga has found an actual pattern, and has discovered that tickets are cheaper exactly TEN DAYS before your journey.

He also said that fares were bumped up by a shocking 50-75% in the last few days before departure, making last minute ‘bargains’ an impossibility. Planning ahead is a waste of time, too. If you book seven weeks in advance, you’ll pay more.

Of course Ryanair know that you might either want to book your holiday in good time, or do it on a whim at the last minute. But nobody has ever bothered to work out that low cost airline prices form ‘a U-shaped temporal profile.’ Until now.

Piga will present his findings – which are basically scientific proof that Ryanair are rip-off merchants – at the Royal Economic Society in Manchester this week. A Ryanair spokesman, of course, came out and said that the findings were ‘hopelessly inaccurate’ and that they sold tickets on a first come, first served basis.

Hmm. But who is more likely to be telling the truth? A learned professor of economics, or Michael O’Leary?

train The trains are going to get better, according to Network RailLong suffering train passengers, good news! Network Rail have announced a 5 year investment plan which means you’ll get more trains, more seats, less congestion and bigger, nicer train stations. What do you mean you’ll believe it when you see it?

Network Rail will be spending a whopping £38bn on rail infrastructure, which also includes new tracks and an upgrade of existing lines. How they’ll manage to keep our trains on time while doing track work is another matter.

Obviously, this hasn’t come about out of the goodness of anyone’s heart. Network Rail are looking at a £70m fine for delays over the past few years.

In a statement, chief exec of Network Rail, Mark Carne, said: “Passenger numbers in recent years have grown far beyond even our own industry’s predictions, so it’s vital that this investment over the next five years helps meet the continuing increase in demand for rail travel.”

“Bigger, better stations, more tracks and longer platforms, electric-powered trains, reopened railway lines and fewer level crossings – all will help deliver more frequent, more comfortable, more reliable journeys and a safer, better-value railway for everyone.”

The plans show that there will be (up to) 700 more trains a day between major northern cities, a 20% increase in the capacity of London’s commuter trains, electrifying 850 miles of track, an east-west project which will connect Oxford and Milton Keynes and a facelift for Birmingham New Street and Manchester Victoria. £13bn has been put aside to sort out old tracks, points, platforms and fencing.

Carne also noted that Network Rail will be making provisions to make sure our trains can cope with extreme weather: “Over the next five years we will work tirelessly to improve the resilience of our railway, targeting investment in areas we know are vulnerable to nature’s impact and reducing the likelihood of damage and disruption.”

Thomas Cook cabin crew are NOT happy

March 28th, 2014 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

If you’ve booked a Thomas Cook holiday this summer, you might want to take out some extra travel insurance for potentially cancelled flights.
thomas cook strike Thomas Cook cabin crew are NOT happy

A row has broken out between the holiday firm and cabin crew on flights scheduled by Thomas Cook. Why? Because TC wants to reduce the number of cabin crew to the bare minimum to cut costs. Stewards are saying that they’re already pushed to breaking point as it is, opening small tins of Bloody Mary mix and yelling ‘CHICKEN OR FISH?’ into the lugholes of pissed up holidaymakers.

Their union, Unite, is holding a ballot proposing industrial action as a result, which could threaten flights with the holiday company this summer.

Cabin crew numbers vary depending on how many people are on board, with a plane of 235 passengers requiring 5 stewards. Thomas Cook want to operate their flights with one less. They say that from a safety point of view, it’s in line with Civil Aviation Authority rules. But Unite aren’t having any of it.

A union spokesman said: ‘Cabin crew at Thomas Cook are already exhausted and stressed out. Not only do they have a duty of care and do an incredibly important job to keep passengers safe but they are also expected to sell on-board products during flights. But now the company wants to cut crew levels even further which threatens to push the crew past breaking point.’

To avoid strike action, perhaps Thomas Cook could advise their customers not to repeatedly ask for gin and tonics, extra napkins and kosher meals, keep their tray tables up and their seatbelts on, and try not to lock themselves in the toilet during take off and landing?

You know what it’s like – you’re a train guard and you think ‘I know, I’ll just go to Sainsbury’s for a can of Rubicon and a bag of Mini Cheddars’ just as rush hour hits.

southeastern trains Rush hour passengers left stranded because guard went to the shops

That’s what one Southeastern Trains employee did yesterday, leaving passengers on the 19.53 to Hastings high and dry for an hour while he went on his break. Passengers were told over the tannoy that the reason for the delay was because ‘the guard could not be found.’

Soon afterwards, he was spotted in Sainsbury’s. He driver relayed that news to the passengers, who were understandably delighted. The delay caused the train to be cancelled and passengers had to be shunted onto another train.

When that train eventually left, it contained three train loads of delayed and harassed commuters who wanted to KILL HIM.

It’s the latest in a catalogue of disasters for Southeastern Trains, who came second from last in a recent Which! customer service poll. Furious customers have called them ‘a rip off’ and denounced them for their ‘poor service’.

Southeastern blabbed: ‘The shift timing was thrown out of place because of a knock-on effect of earlier delays, and we didn’t have a standby conductor available to work the train in his place.’

But Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings, took a dim view, and said: ‘It has been a very disappointing experience. Southeastern must up their game if they want to get their franchise renewed.’

DEATHWATCH?

More people using Eurostar

March 5th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

zzzzfd3 300x225 More people using EurostarEurostar reached the 10 million mark for annual customers for the first time in 2013.

The high speed train ferried 10.1 million travellers in 2013, up 2% on 2012.

The company has seen passenger numbers grow significantly over the last ten years, and has now carried 140 million since it started 20 years ago.

Eurostar also reported that its 2013 sales revenue had risen 7% to £857 million, while operating profit was up 4% to £54 million.

Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic reckons that “2013 has proved to be a record-breaking year for Eurostar and we are pleased with the sustainable growth in both traveller numbers and sales revenues reported today.

“After a period of economic uncertainty we are now starting to see more confidence in the business market. In comparison with this time last year when the overriding sentiment was still very cautious there are more encouraging trends and in some sectors there is clearly a greater appetite to invest and look for business.”

Before you book your summer holiday, it might be a good idea to acquaint yourself with the latest online travel scams – of which there are many.

summer holiday 300x293 Were all going on a (non existent) holiday...

According to a new report from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, travel-related internet scams are diddling customers out of about £7 million a year, and last year there were 5000 reported cases of holiday fraud.

So what should we be looking out for? Well, fake ads for apartments and villas are very popular amongst Internet fraudsters. 3 out of 10 victims fell for imaginary accommodation advertised on Facebook, so before you get the credit card out, it’s a good idea to check that your dream destination actually exists, and isn’t just a stock photo of some random guy’s house in Tenerife.

21% of cases involve people falling for airline ticket fraud, where people pay for tickets in advance, with the promise of a booking, and the booking is never made. And because these ‘companies’ rely on paperless ticketing, fraud is rife – particularly on flights to Africa.

The solution? Check, check and double check. ABTA says you should do a thorough background check of any holiday company before you book, and read all customer reviews in case there are any grievances or evidence that other victims that have been scammed.

Anyway. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Ryanair promise €10 New York flights

February 27th, 2014 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ryanairvsign Ryanair promise €10 New York flightsRyanair’s CEO – the notorious Michael O’Leary – has announced plans to offer $10 flights from New York to Europe, just as soon “as he could get enough planes”.

The airline are also planning to offer €10 flights to Boston and New York and $10 return seats as Ryanair “would fly from 12-14 major European cities to 12-14 major US destinations and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so.”

However, this won’t be happening for another “four to five years”, but O’Leary assured that the company had a business plan in place for these scandalously cheap transatlantic flights. They say that the only thing holding the flights up is that the Arab states are buying up the supply of aircraft needed.

O’Leary says: “We can make money on 99 cent fares in Europe – not every seat will be €10 of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats.”

Of course, there’s a lot of things to be sceptical about, but if they pull this off and you don’t mind the inevitable faff that comes with travelling with Ryanair, this could be a seriously wonderful thing if you’ve never been able to afford to visit The States before.

Which! airport train service is the worst?

February 25th, 2014 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Getting a train from the airport to a nearby city is usually an expensive business, but it’s over to everyone’s favourite consumer gods, Which! to tell us which one sucks the most.

gatwick express 300x300 Which! airport train service is the worst?

And the accolade for the crappiest airport train service goes to…THE GATWICK EXPRESS, which scored 60/100. Why? Because, as anyone who has ever been on it can testify, out of all the airport train services, it’s bad value for money at an always shocking £19.90 each way for a journey that lasts about half an hour. And they don’t even put on nice shiny trains.

The Heathrow and Stansted Express also scored low for value for money – but while the Stansted Express is a terrifying £23.40 each way, it scored higher marks for luggage space and comfort.

The best, easiest and cheapest London journey by far was the Docklands Light Railway from London City Airport. (And the DLR is also good because you can sit in the front seat and pretend to drive it.) But then, only business class types and golden gods can afford to fly from City airport.

Outside of London, regional airports scored highly for their train services, with the top spot occupied by Virgin Trains, whose cheap as chips and highly efficient rail service from Birmingham costs only £2.40.

Which! say that passengers need to complain more about the standard of train services from the big London airports, otherwise we’ll continue to be fleeced. Ricardo Lloyd spat:

‘There are unacceptably wide differences in the levels of customer satisfaction for airport trains, with many people especially unhappy about the high cost of some express services. Train companies must do more to listen to travellers’ views, which is why we’ve launched a campaign to Get Trains on Track, calling for a better response to complaints.’

Another Which! campaign. Don’t these people ever SLEEP?

What do you hate most about public transport?

February 25th, 2014 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 What do you hate most about public transport?Public transport eh? A wonderful thing and occasionally, hellish beyond belief. Concerning the latter, a survey has been conducted to see what we all hate most about riding the train or sitting on a bus.

With any luck, those dreadful annoying humans that cause such grievances will read this and realise how annoying they are.

It’s not going to happen is it?

Topping the list of annoying habits, people who try and jump on a train before everyone has got off have swatted aside all other bugbears. Other actions which grate us all include the scum who hog seats with their bags, the gits who read over your shoulder and those who sit in a reserved seat without a ticket. That last one doesn’t seem like a big deal if you’ve got the nerve to tell them to sling it. What’s wrong with you soft arses?

Other irritants included those who loudly talk on their mobile, people who get off with each other and those who still have their keypad tones on. The latter, in fairness, should be thrown off the train. While it is moving. Then there’s drunk passengers, children and people who eat smelly food, too.

Gareth Woodhouse from redspottedhanky.com said: ‘’Sometimes we can get a bit wrapped up in our own journeys or have a lot on our minds and it can make us less considerate of those around us. The ability to put up with things that annoy us is quite a British trait but it’s inevitable that certain behaviours test our patience more than others. Clearly those who can’t wait for the train to clear before boarding or people hogging seats can rile us but with a little more consideration and some common sense train travel can be comfortable and efficient for everyone.’’

Here are the top annoying habits:

1) People forcing themselves on when others are still getting off
2) Smelling bad
3) Drunken behaviour
4) People playing ringtones/music through speakers
5) Others kicking the back of your seat constantly
6) Parents not controlling their children, even when they’re grabbing at your face
7) People who don’t give up their seat for others who need it more
8) Playing music too loudly over headphones
9) Eating noisily
10) Putting feet on seats

For the rest of the list, click over the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

February 21st, 2014 3 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Most of us have no idea what our rights are when it comes to applying for a refund after a cancelled or delayed train journey. Do we get compensation? Is it worth bothering to fill in a million forms only to be given a £5 voucher for your next soul-destroying adventure?

train 287x300 Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

A report from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that 75% of us know ‘not very much at all’ about the refund process or what compensation – if any – we’re entitled to. It also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do bugger all to provide information about compensation.

Passengers suggested a poster campaign and more prominently displayed information about compensation on websites, somewhat naively thinking that the rail companies might have our best interests at heart. At the moment, half of the 1000 passengers surveyed said they wouldn’t know where to find information on compensation even if they looked for it.

The ORR are now planning to develop a code of practice on clearer and more freely available information about rail compensation by the end of 2014, saying that passengers are ‘at the heart’ of the rail industry and are ‘crucial to its growth.’

Whether that will make rail companies treat us more like human beings rather than doomed pigs on the way to the abbatoir remains to be seen. But you never know – furious customers demanding compensation might be just the ticket to get trains running on time.