London to Washington for £99 is now a thing

October 24th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

wow logo 300x300 London to Washington for £99 is now a thingFleeing to America has just got a lot more tempting with the launch of £99 air fare from London to Boston and Washington.

The Icelandic airline WOW air have announced the £99 fare, which includes taxes, which is being offered on a selection of one-way journeys next year.

Passengers can travel from London Gatwick to Boston Logan International Airport from 27 March next year and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from 4th June.

But there’s a but.

The flights aren’t direct, as there’s a stopover at Keflavík International Airport, in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Although going to Iceland for an hour or two would be amazing, even if it is just sitting about in their airport.

Additionally, there is a booking fee of £8.98 and it costs a further £39 to check in a bag, so customers are realistically looking at a minimum price of £146.98.

The Boston flight will operate five times a week and the Washington DC one four times.

motorway Are toll motorways all theyre cracked up to be?In our small and crowded land of congested motorways, toll roads have often been held up as an example of how things could be done better. Tales of endless, straight, empty and un pot-holed motorways in France and Germany promise a better future for getting places, without getting a headache in the process. But now French environment minister Ségolène Royal has decided that the toll system isn’t working properly, and has proposed that toll company profits be slashed by reduced costs and becoming toll-free at weekend.

Her issue is that, since the French motorways were privatised eight years ago, they have been making a rather fine profit- €20 for every €100 taken according to her figures. Her plan to tax lorries on environmental grounds has fallen through (as we all know what happens when French lorry drivers get narked) so instead she is turning to the people making most money out of French roads. The problem is that there is now no Governmental money to pay for road maintenance and to finance sustainable transport projects. Someone somewhere clearly didn’t think this through when pocketing the motorway privatisation cash.

Ms Royal wants to hit motorway companies with a triple whammy- reducing motorway tolls by 10%, abolishing them at weekends and taking another 10% of the profit from tolls to “finance infrastructure investment funds”.  She claims the hugely-profitable motorways, who have distributed a teeny €15bn of dividends to shareholders in the last eight years since they were privatised, have reneged on contractual commitments to reduce prices as they built the motorways, she said.

The motorway operators’ contracts allow them to pass tax increases on to road users, but presumably don’t require them to keep the roads in the tip top condition we Brits abroad expect- with this latest news causing them to threaten to abandon €3.6bn of planned works Prime Minister Manuel Valls got them to agree to last year.

So does this mean that the fundamental basis of private toll motorways is flawed? In the UK, we have a number of tolls in various places, largely bridges and tunnels, but the most well-known example of a toll motorway is the M6 Toll near Birmingham. The private/public partnership allowed the M6 Toll company to lease the land from the Government and build and run the motorway for 53 years, after which time the lease will revert to the Government.

The toll road’s latest quarterly figures showed an average of 45,473 vehicles travelling on the road per day, with the current cost of a car at £5.50 for the 27 mile stretch.

However, the M6 Toll was set up on the basis of attracting 74,000 vehicles per day, and while recent roadworks have increased traveller numbers, the new ‘active traffic’ system through the two busiest sections of the M6 (which correspond to the M6 Toll) is likely to ease congestion.  The company has been making a loss for years- only because of huge loan repayments to it’s parent company- but it still clearly isn’t proving the cash cow its creators imagined. So are toll roads just a rubbish idea?

From the UK Government’s perspective, it’s been a win all round. They have had a new road built, some easing of traffic while they improve the M6, and they get the land (and the road) back in 2053. The original plan, however, was to extend the toll road up towards Manchester, but unsurprisingly, the M6 Toll company has been less than enthusiastic.

So is it the cost? When the toll road first opened the promotional cost per car was around £2, which drivers seemed to find acceptable, but is £5.50 too much? What would be the maximum amount you would pay to go on a toll road like this? Would it make a difference if it was 10% less (i.e. £5 per car) or free at the weekends as proposed by the French? Or do we just not do private motorways.

Interestingly, even the French think the free tolls at the weekend idea is a daft one, notwithstanding the fact that it would save them money. Twitter users have started using a new hashtag, #gratuitleweekend, with a wave of alternative suggestions ranging from free fruit and vegetables to combat obesity to free cigarettes or even cinema tickets, designer handbags and nightclub entry. Zut alors.

Hate children on flights? Let Etihad help

October 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

With their horrible little teeth and weirdly sharp nails, children are a horrifying force to be reckoned with. And they get those wax-candles of snot on their top lips.

Being stuck on a plane with a load of kids is nightmarish at best.

Well, Etihad think they have a solution for all this – the Air Nanny. That’s right, the airline has decided to provide a service that’s akin to a modern day Mary Poppins. Hopefully, without the musical numbers.

Check this video, complete with terrifying song

This services starts at the boarding gate and continues until the families have safely disembarked, and is completely free of charge on your long haul flight.

Staff will keep children entertained with card tricks, bottles, crafts, face-painting and if all else fails, sneaking brandy in their milk so they fall asleep. Be aware, one of those is a lie. These Flying Nannies will mop up after your child if it explodes everywhere though.

Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Services, said: “Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travellers, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of our guests’ needs and our commitment to making the journey as relaxing and comfortable as possible.”

“This includes helping serve children’s meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests.”

EasyJet allow you to check-in with photo

October 14th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

easyjet 300x180 EasyJet allow you to check in with photoEasyJet are allowing passengers to check-in for their flights via the budget airline’s official app, by taking a photograph of their passport.

This means, thanks to an update to the Android and iOS apps, you now don’t need to manually tap-in all your details when registering for a trip.

The idea is that, this new feature makes the check-in process a whole lot quicker, by allowing everyone to sign in with their smartphone up to two hours before their flight at the 110 EasyJet airports.

“Our new mobile passport scanning function will save time for the millions of customers who use the app to input their travel documentation details,” said EasyJet head of digital James Millett. ”It’s another example of innovating to make travel as easy as it is affordable with EasyJet.”

The app is free on the App Store and Google Play.

new tube 300x168 London Underground unveil new fancy futurist trains The new tube trains are here!

Designs for the new-look London Underground trains has been unveiled and it’s bad news for the drivers, as they’ve been written out. No wonder they’re going on strike.

Yep, the new trains are driverless and will run on the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City Lines.

Perhaps it will be like a DLR arrangement where they’ve made YOU the driver, or at least you’re the driver after you punched a small child to get that seat anyway.

Paul Priestman, director at PriestmanGoode, says: “TfL wanted the New Tube for London to celebrate the great history of transport design in London, whilst acting as a beacon of innovative 21st century public transport.”

“We took inspiration from iconic London landmarks and key attributes of British design to create a tube that is beautiful, simple, functional and maintainable.”

What he fails to mention is that they aren’t due on the tracks anytime soon, with 2020 being the ‘going into service’ date.

Priestman continues: “London’s Tube is one of the most iconic trains around the world. We are proud to have designed something that it is part of the very fabric of London life, celebrating all that’s great about London’s environment; cutting edge technology, rich history and diversity. The New Tube for London will take the city into the future by enriching the everyday journey of its passengers.”

They’ll still hum of commuter B.O. though.

Don’t joke about having Ebola on a plane

October 10th, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ebola plane 300x300 Dont joke about having Ebola on a planeIf you joke that you have Ebola while on a plane, you can expect it to cause a load of bother for you and everyone else.

However, that didn’t stop one bloke doing exactly that one an American flight who reportedly said: “I have Ebola, you are all screwed.”

Arf.

Of course, as soon as the plane landed, it all got a bit E.T. with officials in science suits boarding the aircraft and removing the joker. Thanks to people with mobile phones, someone caught a nice video of it all, including the air hostess calling the man “an idiot.”

As the man makes his way off the plane, you can hear him say: “I was just kidding… I ain’t from Africa.” Tough cheese. And little reward for the poor buggers who had to sit on the plane for two hours while medical teams ran tests and evaluations on Mr Backfired Joke.

You want to see the video don’t you?

Apple CarPlay now with Spotify

October 3rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Apple’s CarPlay system now come supported by Spotify and Pioneer.

Grooving drivers can now use the iOS edition with the in car entertainment solutions system. While Spotify were mentioned as being part of it when the CarPlay was launched, it is just now that everyone’s finally ironed their crap out.

Apple CarPlay 500x269 Apple CarPlay now with Spotify

CarPlay allows drivers to make calls, consult Maps, listen to music and access messages and it probably massages your buttocks if you ask it nicely. They can do all this with using the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri or using the car’s native interface.

CarPlay is going to be part of Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo motors, with more to come, as it seems like all of them will give in eventually.

The future, eh?

Welsh speed camera is most lucrative

October 3rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

speed camera large 300x235 Welsh speed camera is most lucrativeThe most lucrative speed camera is in Cardiff.

A speed camera, which was installed on Cardiff’s Newport Road at the beginning  of this year, has raked in £800,000 in just over six months.

The bane of the speeder’s life, has rinsed them for 13,000 drivers, and catches three time as many drivers than the UK’s next busiest speed camera. The previous biggest arse of a camera on the roads was the junction 25 on the M60 one.

The data comes from research conducted by LV insurance, who have also revealed that in 2013 speed cameras cost British motorists £22million in fines. According to the latest statistics, the cameras generated 13,624 penalty notices for speeding and 146 for red-light offences.

And in February there were more than 100 tickets issued, on average, each day. Which is simply a pisstake.

The GoSafe partnership, which operates Wales’ road safety cameras, say the area has a high flow of traffic and motorists should always comply with the speed limit.

However road safety groups have said the camera is not doing it’s job properly and should be there to reduce speeds rather than bring in money.

Well yes.

Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol war

September 30th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

petrolpump 300x200 Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol warMotorists are in luck with regards to slightly cheaper petrol, thanks to Asda and Sainsbury’s duking it out between at the pumps.

It’s a petrol WAR! No, not like the war for oil or the war on drugs. This is a lot more brutal than those.

Sainsbury’s announced it would cut petrol and diesel prices by up to 5p per litre.

Not to be outdone, Asda responded by unveiling reductions of 1p and up to 2p per litre for petrol and diesel respectively at its stores.

Apparently price cuts are likely to be larger in heavily populated areas where prices are already lower due to greater competition from the likes of Asda.

A man from the AA, who is known as Luke Bosdet, said: “The real value will be in places, often small market towns, suffering from the postcode pump price lottery – having to pay at least 3p a litre more than in neighbouring, more competitive towns. If that pulls down the price among other retailers, that will be a big benefit.”

In more heavily populated areas a 5p cut, amounting to £2.50 off the average tank of fuel, would only bring Sainsbury’s in line with cheaper rivals, he added. Although industry insiders questioned the timing of the announcement by Sainsbury’s, who are heavily tipped to unveil a dismal set of trading results later this week.

Brian Madderson, of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said: “My initial cynical reaction is that this is an attempt to divert the press and the public away from some pretty bad news on their store sales.”

“Five pence per litre, in terms of an at-the-pump price rather than a loyalty card, is probably one of the biggest if not the biggest potential cut I have come across in the last five years so the cynic in me says there is much more to this than meets the eye.”

Grab petrol cheap anyway! Pay with your lives later!

You can use your phone on Euro flights now

September 29th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

laptop airplane travel computer 300x225 You can use your phone on Euro flights nowEuropean plane passengers can now use their smartphones and tablets on the planes! Yes, as of now there is no need to use Airplane Mode. Or talk to other people!

Now, Europeans can livetweet annoying crying children on flights and immediately share Vines where they’re mid crash!

The EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) has lifted the restriction, meaning phones can be used even during take off and landing, which was previously limited to Airplane Mode only. Amazing scenes.

In a statement, the EASA said “The new guidance allows airlines to permit personal electronic devices to stay switched on, without the need to be in airplane mode,”

“This is the latest regulatory step toward enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or Wifi services.”

Passengers won’t be allowed to use their devices fully just yet, as each airline must undergo and assessment to check that their aircraft communications will not be affected by the move.

But the EASA is hoping that the airlines will have the rules in place in the next eight months.

Vauxhall warn of wonky Corsas

September 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

corsa 300x192 Vauxhall warn of wonky CorsasVauxhall have put out a warning to owners of their Adams, Corsas and Corsavans, after a fault was found with the steering.

After a routine quality control assessment in their plants in Germany and Spain, the company spotted issues with some of the models registered since May.

The car company quickly issued a warning to customers – approximately 3000 of the possibly hooky models are said to have been sold – that they should not drive the cars until they have been inspected.

“Vauxhall puts the safety and convenience of its customers first and, as this condition concerns their safety, the company is taking immediate action” Vauxhall has said in \ statement.

They’ve also told owners to head to the Vauxhall website to see if their vehicle is one of the ones affected by the issues raised.

Vauxhall said: “As a precaution, these vehicles should not be driven prior to inspection. Vauxhall puts the safety and convenience of its customers first and as this condition concerns their safety, the company is taking immediate action.”

“Customers can call the Vauxhall customer assistance centre for advice on 0800 026 0034 between 9am and 5.30pm.”

Monarch staff opt for wage cut to save airline

September 25th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

monarch airlines 300x210 Monarch staff opt for wage cut to save airlineTroubled – or at least we were unaware they were troubled until now – airline Monarch, says its staff have agreed to pay cuts of up to 30% to save it while it goes through financial turbulence.

The employees apparently voted in favour of the plan, after having chats with the unions and that.

Monarch’s chief executive, Andrew Swaffield, said the vote was “a step forward” in the company’s re-organisation.

Mr Swaffield added that there were still “further hurdles to be overcome” but that the company had secured future investments from Greybull.

“This is firm progress for Monarch, its employees and for its customers,” he said.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), reckoned that pilots had made “major sacrifices to secure the future of this important British company”.

“We welcome the announcement that Greybull are moving towards securing their position as majority shareholders in Monarch,” he said.

“It is now time for the government to engage with all of the parties concerned and do everything it can to make this deal happen and help Monarch survive and thrive.”

The company is having a bit of a reshuffle, and while 900 jobs are possibly at risk – around 30% of their workforce – it was vital for the company as it transforms itself into a low cost effort.

Night tube finally arrives in, oh, a year’s time

September 24th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

london underground tube 300x210 Night tube finally arrives in, oh, a years timeBig news London night owls. There’s finally a launch date for London’s long awaited Night Tube service!

It’s September 12 2015. Oh.

The launch coincides with the Rugby World Cup happening in That London in the same month. Quite why the powers-that-be have timed it for rugby, is a quandary future generations will puzzle at.

Trains will run through the night on Fridays and Saturdays on five lines to coincide with the tournament.

The Night Tube will run six trains per hour  through central London on the Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly, Central and eight trains an hour on the busiest section of the the Northern line.

It’s hoped that the 24-hour service will give a £360m boost to the economy over the next decade and almost 2000 jobs to be created.

The Night Tube will be self-funding as a projected £291m in additional fare revenue will cover the £287m operational and capital costs, according to TfL.

Novelty human Boris Johnson said: “London is a bustling, 24-hour global city and by this time next year we’ll have a 24-hour Tube service to match. Running trains all through the night was once thought impossible, but with the huge investment we’ve put in and upgrades that have been delivered we stand ready to take the Tube to the next level.”

Quite why it’s taken them so long to get around to it, when it dawned on them that it’s self-financing, is again, another mystery. Anyway. The evenings of being slightly terrified on a night bus are over! Now, you’ll be terrified in a tube deep underground instead. Amazing.

TfL goes all contactless payment

September 16th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

oyster swipe TfL goes all contactless paymentThe London Underground service goes contactless today! We can only hope it causes complete mayhem all day, so the national news can tell the rest of the country about it all, like people in Merthyr give a hoot.

Anyway, you Londoners or People Visiting London, contactless payments come into force for the London’s underground, trains and trams from this morning and commuters will now be able to pay for their trips by smartphone or a contactless-enabled bankcard.

It’s already proven a hit* (*baffled and upset tourists) on the buses, and so now the entire TfL network has followed suit.

Contactless payments are still the same prices as Oyster Cards, however TfL promise they’ll calculate a user’s costs so they don’t pay over the odds.

Each use of a contactless payment will be registered on a user’s bank statement, while journey details will be stored on their TfL account, if they register. There’s been a pilot scheme already, with 3,000 Londoners taking part. Apparently around 65,000 journeys have been taken. Not each, that would be mad.

Shashi Verma, TfL’s director of customer experience, said “Offering the option of contactless payments will make it easier and more convenient for customers to pay for their travel, freeing them of the need to top up Oyster credit and helping them get on board without delay.”

TfL have also been banging on about CARD CLASH so that commuters don’t end up paying twice when two cards are read from the same handy wallet. They’ve even been handing out nice little reminder wallets.

So anyway. Be alert. No one needs CARD CLASH. It’s not a look.

Planes: More seats – less legroom

September 12th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

fat man on airplane 300x255 Planes: More seats   less legroomWhile Ryanair have been shopping and snapping up a load of Boeing planes, it has announced that it will be able to accommodate 197 seats up from the original 189.

The airline’s purchase of the Boeing 737 MAX 200s, will be able to carry more passengers due to slimmer seats and less galley space than the current 737-800s.

Obviously, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, reckons the extra seats would generate around €1million of additional revenue per plane per year. Oh as a bonus, he hopes it will start an old fashioned price war… “which, like all the old price wars, Ryanair will win,” the charmer bellowed.

Ryanair do say that the legroom will in fact be increased due to the seats and smaller galleys. The customers – although not fully disclosed – would have 30 inches of leg room.

However  Airbus said the MAX 200 configuration would mean the removal of three of eight galley trolleys, which would leave just five trolleys for almost 200 passengers.

This is the latest in the ongoing quest to get more passengers on to planes other than just laying them on top of each other, or sitting on laps.

The number of economy seats in Boeing 777s has gone from 15% of its 74 777s taking ten abreast (up from the original nine) in 2010, to 69% in 2012.

Even Airbus have offered up designs which show an 11-abreast seating arrangement on its A380 superjumbo efforts, which would gain 35-40 more seats.

The nutjobs also tried to offer up a design featuring just saddles, but that might have been the result of someone doing some smoking.

Air-rage is increasing as a result of the battery hen scenes on the long-haul flights, with at least three planes having to be diverted in the last month.

Shall we look at a chart showcasing who has the most legroom on their economy flights? Go on, it’ll be fun!

                                  Legroom (pitch)                Seat width

Monarch                 28 ins*                                   17 ins
Thomson                28                                            16.5-17.2
Thomas Cook       28-33                                      16.2-18.5
EasyJet                   29                                            17.5
Ryanair                  30                                            17
Aer Lingus            31-32                                       17
British Airways   31-34                                      17-18
(*with an “extra legroom” option of 32 ins for a fee)