For those of you counting the days, don’t worry, the next bank holiday isn’t that far away- Good Friday lands in exactly a month’s time. But is this the ideal time to book your next holiday abroad or not? The helpful chaps at Kayak have crunched the numbers and can tell you the ideal time to book, and which days to fly to get the cheapest deals. But it all depends on where you’re going…

On average, Kayak recommend that British travellers book around three months ahead of their departure date, but some destinations require looking even further ahead, with travellers needing five months waiting time for South America, four months in advance for the Caribbean, and a whopping seven months for trips to Asia. European jaunts can be timed to perfection as the best prices are available one month ahead of time, but those looking for a trip Stateside need to book only two weeks before leaving.

kayak1 Is now the right time to book your flights?

Kayak also looked at the best day to fly, and based on their data from between November 2014 and February 2015, flying in the middle of the week is the cheapest option for all long-distance routes. On average, the cheapest flights depart on a Thursday and return between Tuesday and Thursday.

kayak2 Is now the right time to book your flights?

Note that while weekend flying is normally most expensive, a simple change to a European long weekend could save you a packet. A four-day Friday to Monday weekend break would be weighted with premium prices, but a break of identical length from Thursday to Sunday actually comes in as the cheapest option. So what are you waiting for?

Top tips for a successful travel insurance claim

February 26th, 2015 Comments Off By Thewlis

holiday Top tips for a successful travel insurance claimIt’s still February, it’s still grey and it’s still cold. Why not book a sneaky ski trip, or plan something for sunnier shores to cheer yourself up, always remembering to also book yourself some travel insurance to go with that.

But before you buy, why not take a look at Which!!!’s top five tips for making sure you have the best chance of a successful claim when something goes wrong on your jollies.

Which isn’t pessimistic at all…

1. The best policy isn’t always the cheapest

Which!!! advise you to check you have the cover you actually need. In the same way that cheaper car insurance policies might not offer extras such as courtesy cars or legal protection, make sure the cover you pick does actually cover what you want to do. Sometimes going for specialist winter sports policies, for example, might be cheaper than adding winter sports cover to a cheaper policy.

Also, if you go away frequently, check whether it would work our cheaper in the long run to buy an annual policy rather than a number of shorter trip plans. Finally, travel insurance is included as a perk with some bank accounts- if that cover does the job, you don’t have to pay anything extra at all.

2. Check the terms and conditions

We’ve all heard the tales of obscure terms and conditions that compel you to offer your first born child or something, but terms are really important in travel insurance. Sometimes, certain countries or activities are excluded, so you need to know this before you buy. Which!!! highlight the need for disclosing any pre-existing medical conditions, and not being able to make such a disclosure in an online system is no excuse – you’ll have to give them a call. Non-disclosure of a condition could render the whole policy invalid, even if any claim has nothing to do with that condition.

Getting medical cover as part of your travel insurance after a serious illness like cancer can be difficult, or prohibitively expensive, but if you talk to the insurer, they can often arrange cover that simply excludes that particular condition- which is better than nothing and would still cover you if you broke your leg in an accident or something.

3. Don’t delay, file quickly

Which!!! say that, in the case of a claim, you should file claims as quickly as you can and make sure you send any supporting documents within the given time frames (a month is usual). Keep any receipts relating to your claim, and if you’re claiming for a broken possession, keep the broken item as you might need it as proof.

4. Rejected claims

Which!!! research found that 6% of claims were rejected over the past two years, with the biggest problem areas including holidays being cancelled or cut short, exclusions based on alcohol consumption; lost, damaged or delayed luggage and lost or stolen possessions.

Which advise you to complain in writing – by post or email – to your insurer if you feel your claim has been rejected unfairly. Insurance companies then have up to eight weeks to look into your case. If you speak to anyone on the phone, make sure to keep a note of the date, time and full name of the person you spoke with.

5. Go all the way…

If after eight weeks you feel your provider hasn’t handled your claim fairly, you can refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which will look into the case for you.

More than half (53%) of travel insurance complaints, which is more than any other type of major insurance, are upheld by the ombudsman, so it’s likely to be worth your while to go further with your claim.

To stop this bus, shout “Ding Ding”

February 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Travelling on a bus can be a miserable affair at the best of times and, as we know, there’s too many buses that are in a bit of a state when you get on them.

One bus in Yorkshire had a problem with the buttons that you press, which ring the bell to signal to the bus driver that you want to get off at the next stop. Well, Barnsley folk won’t let a little thing like that get in the way of anything. Forget getting maintenance teams out and all that faff – just write a note like this.

Problem solved.

B7QYuugIAAAFPjE 500x375 To stop this bus, shout Ding Ding

As you can see, the sign says “Bells not working. If you want bus to stop, shout ‘Ding Ding’.” It is impossible to read that without doing it in a Yorkshire accent.

Of course, this sign is bad news for those who too shy to shout or, indeed, can’t read. Either way, we like this system of fixing menial problems. More of it please!

[via Twitter]

Drinking to be banned on trains?

February 23rd, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Drinking to be banned on trains?Remember how bad the response was, when drinking on the London Underground was banned? Well, steel yourself, because the bosses of the railways are being asked to consider a ban on drinking on all trains.

So, that’d mean old dears not being able to have a G&T while going on a day trip or someone making a long commute more bearable with a can.

Of course, you can still get on a train absolutely bladdered, which means any notion of this being a thing to stop anti-social behaviour is out of the window. It also goes without saying that you don’t have to be hammered on booze to be anti-social, either.

What’s the big idea then?

Well, this is being floated by the Rail Safety and Standards Board because they want to do something about the number of people killed on the railways because they’re drunk. In the last 5 years, 18 people were killed and 250 were seriously injured after they fell from platforms.

So you’ll assume that the rail safety lot will be banning slippery shoes and people checking their phones when they should be looking where they’re going, too? Not to mention banning passengers from frequenting any nearby pubs, especially the ones that are actually inside the train stations themselves.

This is only in consultation at the moment and you can imagine the Rail Safety and Standards lot won’t be able to justify alcohol bans because, if they do and accidents keep happening, they might have to start spending some money on making train platforms safer, rather than blaming it on alcohol.

Improved WiFi for trains!

February 12th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Improved WiFi for trains!WiFi on trains is crap, at best. Bearing in mind you get it for free in coffee shops and the like, the fact you have to buy a pass for it on trains is, frankly, rubbish.

Well, the government are looking at connectivity on trains and have announced that they’re going to free up £50 million of funding for free WiFi on the rail networks in England and Wales.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said that the Department of Transport want to make sure that WiFi is available on more services by 2017. It’ll be useful for people who work while they travel and, naturally, it’ll be good for bored people wanting to stream TV shows or listen to Spotify without hammering their data.

In addition to all this, all future bids for new franchises and direct award agreements are going to have to include provisions for WiFi infrastructure. At the moment, the DoT are looking at improvements on Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “Free WiFi is a priority for many as being able to keep up with work, connect with friends or even check the latest journey information online helps make rail travel more productive.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, looking like a penis hiding in an old sock, said: “The government is earmarking around £50 million to provide free WiFi on trains; this and our other franchising improvements mean that nearly three-quarters of rail journeys will be made on trains with wi-fi provision.”

United Airlines £50 first class flights boob

February 12th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

united airlines United Airlines £50 first class flights boobUnited Airlines dropped a clanger, flogging a load of first class flight tickets from London to Newark for the paltry sum of £50.

Apparently, a ‘third party error’ was responsible and sadly, even though a load of people snapped up the cut-price tickets, United said they would not be honouring the purchases. The flights would normally cost around £4,000.

Ever gracious, United Airlines released a statement accusing customers of trying to “take advantage of the situation”.

“United is voiding the bookings of several thousand individuals who were attempting to take advantage of an error a third-party software provider made when it applied an incorrect currency exchange rate, despite United having properly filed its fares,” they said.

“Most of these bookings were for travel originating in the United Kingdom, and the level of bookings made with Danish Kroner as the local currency was significantly higher than normal during the limited period that customers made these bookings.”

B9oBqxTIcAABXG5 United Airlines £50 first class flights boob

The glitch allowed users to book a round-trip flight between Heathrow and Newark Liberty International airport for 491 Danish kroner if, on United’s site, they changed their host country to Denmark.

People who got in while the glitch was still live, were able to buy cheap tickets to any US destination from Heathrow, as long as they opted for first class or business class.

Imagine the good publicity if United Airlines honoured the flights! Still, they’re probably still butt hurt from the time their Twitter account got hacked with all manner of risque messages.

Poor old Ryanair. The airline has a bad rep in Spain, owing largely to the tireless work of consumer group Facua, who never shy away from an opportunity to criticise Ryanair’s treatment of passengers.

Now, Ryanair has lost a second appeal against a libel decision that saw the budget airline described as “the lowest of the low” which “swindled and mocked its passengers”.

ryanair1 Ryanair is legitimately described as the “lowest of the low”

Ryanair had taken issue with, basically everything Facua said about the company, including comments aired on radio shows in which spokesmen for Facua criticised the treatment received by the airline’s customers, and sued the group for libel back in 2012.

However, in the original decision, the Andalusian court said that Facua had, in fact, demonstrated “abusive practices” by Ryanair, including additional charges for services such as printing a boarding card (which were later outlawed), and gave the example of one occasion when passengers at Seville airport were “held on a plane without air conditioning for a long period of time”. Bet that smelled nice.

The decision was given on the grounds that the consumer association had a “right to defend consumers” by highlighting complaints which the company could not disprove. Which was most likely because they were true. We are all now looking forward to Which!!! getting way shirtier in future.

In this latest appeal, Ryanair were left looking stupid again after a panel of Supreme Court  judges ruled that the association had made reasonable use of its “right to freedom of expression in defending consumers” and was therefore justified in discussing the airline’s shortcomings in, seemingly, any way it saw fit. For example, Facua once described Ryanair as the “worst company of the year” and accused the airline of “inflating prices” in a “fraudulent” manner. However, the Spanish court decided such “offensive comments” were justified as the company’s “commercial practices have generated a notorious degree of dissent” among consumers. Ryanair was also ordered to pay costs. Bet you wish you’d played nice now huh?

But it’s not like Ryanair shouldn’t have seen this verdict coming. A separate lawsuit against Facua also found in favour of the consumer group in 2013 after the association had criticised Ryanair over a series of “emergency landing” incidents at Spanish airports- they claimed that on several occasions in 2012 pilots were forced to request priority landings, owing to fuel shortages. Ryanair sued Facua for saying they had a policy of  “saving money in areas related to safety [which] put the lives of its passengers at stake”. A claim Ryanair refuted. Obvs.

Should we all start invoicing buses for being late?

February 2nd, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Buses and trains are notorious for being late in the UK, with most people just accepting it as part of the service. However, all that might’ve changed as one lady made a note of all the late bus services and then invoiced for them successfully.

Elizabeth Thomas sent her invoice to First Buses, which totted up to £103.30 and they gave her a load of free passes.

late travel invoice Should we all start invoicing buses for being late?

She complained about a service in Bristol which had been consistently late, which she said, had been preventing her from spending time with her two children because her commute was taking longer than necessary.

“I’ve had to start leaving an hour earlier just to be sure I get to work on time, and by the time I get home I’m looking at a 12-hour day most days,” she said.

“That’s time I should be spending with my children. Is my time not valuable to First?”

Thomas looked at her Twitter and used the data she collated there, to document late buses (or indeed, buses that didn’t show up at all). She added up all the time she waited and put it into an invoice. She found that she’d wasted 11.24 hours waiting for First’s buses.

With that, she decided to charge First £9.19 per hour, which resulted in a cost of £103.30. Seeing as Elizabeth Thomas was successful, should we all start invoicing travel companies for late running services, to get some compensation or free stuff? Looks like a good idea to us.

**UPDATE**

First in Bristol got in touch to say this: “The success of this particular claim was due to the fact that there is a customer promise already in place in Bristol, which offers to pay out if a bus (in Bristol) is more than one minute early at a defined timing point, or more than 20 mins late at any boarding point, and the cause of the failure is within the company’s control. This is well publicized locally and means that there was, in fact, no need for an invoice to be submitted at all.”

All buses services across the country would do well to adopt this customer promise!

British Airways 857 19385812 0 0 4005 300 British Airways takes airmiles from normal people to give to First Class passengersLoyalty schemes are often touted as a good way to retain customers and to keep them choosing your brand over another, and British Airways’ Avios scheme for airmiles is no exception. However, running a successful a loyalty scheme is a lot like trying to please a good woman- always better to keep her happy, as once you start scrimping on what you’re offering, hell hath no fury…

New changes have been announced to the British Airways airmiles (Avios) scheme that will see the scheme ‘gutted’ and ‘devalued’ for normal, economy class users. However, this is not a cost-cutting exercise, as British Airways are, at the same time, making the scheme far more generous for those who, arguably, need the benefits less as they are already forking out first – and business-class prices.

For example,from 28 April a basic economy-class ticket from London to New York will earn just 865 airmiles, down from 3,458. Previously, a Heathrow-Vancouver economy return earned 9,400 points which was more than enough for a round-trip from London to Milan (subject to a £35 payment). Now, some economy passengers face a 75% fall in the number of Avios earned, to just 2,350 meaning the same traveller would now need to make four round trips to earn enough for a journey to Italy and back.

Passengers in Scotland and northern England face even more dramatic increases in the cost of redeeming points for journeys to Europe. At present they are entitled to a free domestic connecting flight, often to London, but this ‘courtesy’ is also being withdrawn “to bring the UK in line with the rest of the world.”

Business and first-class passengers are the big winners from the changes to point-earning. These travellers will see their Avios points rise by as much as two-thirds, with the Heathrow to JFK traveller picking up 8,645 airmiles, up from 5,187, on a one-way flight. However, when business travellers come to redeem their points, the number of Avios they have to spend will rise. For example, a business class flight from London to Sydney currently costs 100,000 Avios points, but this will rise to 125,000 at off-peak times and 150,000 at peak times.

And this peak and off peak pricing for reward flights is across the board, hitting those who travel at Christmas or during the school summer holidays hardest. For example, a single flight to Rome will cost 7,500 points in July but 6,500 points in January. BA said the new structure means that “for two thirds of the year you will require fewer Avios than now to fly on reward seats.”

To attempt to sweeten the deal and head off the inevitable PR storm, BA is promising to make half a million extra seats available for travellers trying to use their accumulated points. “We guarantee that more than 9m reward seats will be available on our flights, with a minimum of two Club World/Club Europe and four World Traveller/Euro Traveller reward seats on all British Airways operated flights that are offered for sale on ba.com,” it said, before going on to excuse the changes to the scheme as being in the name of ‘fairness’, by making more expensive tickets earn higher rewards. “In practice this means that if you pay for a flexible ticket you will earn more Avios than the lowest priced ticket in the same cabin.”

So are you going to be affected by the dramatic changes? Or are you more prosaic, happy that getting something for nothing is always a good thing, even if it’s a lot less something than it used to be…

Squirrels eat man’s Toyota

January 29th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

squirrel 300x248 Squirrels eat mans ToyotaA man who owns a Toyota Aygo reckons it’s being munched away by squirrels. Yes, you hear – squirrels!

Tony Steeles from Croydon said his car kept being targeted by hungry squirrel gangs, hell bent on feasting on the eco-friendly bits of the vehicle.

Mr Steeles first noticed teeth marks on his rubber areas, and suspected those varmints because only the roof was affected. Tony said: “I got a new car from Toyota. I’d not had it very long and I noticed that some of the rubber parts of the car, like the aerial, were being damaged.”

“So I had to call out the AA because the car had lights coming on the dashboard. He looked at it and said it’s rodent or squirrel damage.”

“So I took it back and got it repaired. This happened a few times and eventually I got it replaced. Since then I keep the car in the garage. I could see the teeth marks. It was definitely some sort of wildlife, and I thought it was a squirrel not a rat because the area affected was on the roof.”

Speaking to Auto Express, Mr Steele said: “The aerial’s been chewed off twice, the oxygen sensor’s been damaged and various rubber-like trim parts have been chewed.”

Handy tip, from someone who has been there: wasabi paste. Smear your aerial with that. Foxes don’t like wasabi paste. Even the fancy inner London ones.

A spokesman for Toyota told Auto Express: “We have had very few complaints of this occurring in the UK.” But said they would “investigate if any improvements can be made to the design of our products to deter rodents”. Mr Steeles added: “To be honest, Toyota have been quite good about it.”

Which is quite good really.

Michael O Leary Ry 1208663i 300x276 Ryanair fined €550k for poor customer serviceWe like consumer championing here at Bitterwallet, and once again the Italian competition watchdog AGCM has brought out the big guns and landed a massive fine for unscrupulous business practices. This time, its budget airline Ryanair, who have been slapped with a €550,000 (£412,000) fine for poor customer service practices, including  “extreme difficulty” and exorbitant costs.

ACGM already investigated Ryanair last year, after a deluge of complaints from passengers over its premium rate customer service phone lines. Fliers found it “difficult and unreasonably expensive” to get reimbursements, to find alternative flights following cancellations or to receive detailed billing information for tax and expenses purposes. Others complained of huge difficulties when attempting to change their bookings before the flight or even getting accessibility information for passengers in wheelchairs.

The AGCM  did acknowledge Ryanair’s effort in the last year to improve its service, which included getting rid of a premium phone number for passengers requiring assistance with boarding, but those measures were deemed not sufficient to avoid a fine. This is also the second fine imposed by the Italian watchdog on Ryanair in less than a year. Last February, the airline was fined €850,000 (£635,000) for the “lack of transparency in their travel insurance policies” and the “obstacles created in case of refund” during the online purchase of airline tickets.

Besides the money, this ruling is likely to come as a blow to Ryanair after having so publicly turned over a new leaf on the customer service front, with flamboyant Chief Michael O’Leary even saying he was trying not to p*** people off.  ACGM also recently fined TripAdvisor for publishing ‘misleading reviews’

Ryanair has issued a statement saying it has noted the ruling and is looking into an appeal.

Cheap oil won’t mean cheaper flights

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

airplane Cheap oil wont mean cheaper flightsNow that the price of oil has gone down, prompting savings with our energy bills and at the petrol pumps, does that mean the price of holiday flights is going to fall? Well, according to what you’ve just read in our headline, it doesn’t look like it.

This follows what Flybe have stated, saying that this drop in oil costs will have a “minimal impact” on the price of air travel. With that, shares in Flybe dropped accordingly by over 20%.

Saad Hammad, chief executive, who is trying to get the company making a profit again has been selling the company’s peripheral assets and reworking their routes. He’s certain that the airline is on the up (pardon the pun), saying: “Flybe’s improvement in its core UK business continues to progress. Only a year into our three year transformation we now have a platform which enables us to compete in a tough environment where the consumer demands value.”

“We have responded to that by keeping our fares low and launching new routes. Having removed nearly a $1bn of future liabilities over the course of this year in relation to the firm legacy order for additional Embraer E175 aircraft and ongoing losses of Flybe Finland, we are making solid progress towards finding a solution to our remaining legacy issue, Project Blackbird.”

Project Blackbird sounds like a secret services strategy where they incite race riots or something. Either way, fact is, Flybe won’t be dropping their prices and at the moment, it doesn’t look like anyone else in the industry is going to bother either.

Argos dole out budget tablet and mobile

January 22nd, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

argos logo 300x230 Argos dole out budget tablet and mobileRemember Bush? No, not the fella who ran America even though, remarkably, he had less braincells than Reagan – the people who used to make tape-eating stereos? Well, they owned wholly by Argos these days and together, they’ve developed , two devices which they say are ‘budget-beating’.

Argos will sell them for just £49.99 and £79.99 and both devices will run on Android, obviously.

The cheaper model is a mobile that has a 4-inch display, 4GB of internal storage and a 5-megapixel camera. It’ll have interchangeable covers too. The more expensive device has a slightly larger 5-inch display and 8GB of internal storage.

Argos mobile phone buyer, Nick Clarke, said “The new Bush smartphone is the answer for technology beginners or digital veterans on a budget. Affordable and easy to use, people can use these phones for both their work and personal life as it holds two SIM cards, making it one of the most flexible smartphones on the market.”

There’ll also be a 4G enabled Alcatel OneTouch Pop 2 device too, selling for £99.95 and SIM-free, which also has a ‘power bank’ back-up for when your battery is running low.

In addition to all that, Bush will be selling tablets as well as mobiles, with one of them having an 8 inch screen and a slightly bigger version with a 10-inch screen. The MyTablets will also run on Android.

Things are heating up in the budget technology stakes!

car scrap Car insurance will go up by nearly 10% reckon AACar insurance could go up by 10% according to the AA – y’know, because drivers aren’t paying for enough lately?

The self-styled ‘fourth emergency service’ believe that car insurance could rise by up to 10% in the next 12 months, and that home insurance premiums are unlikely to go any lower either.

According to the latest index of the cheapest deals on the market showed that the cost of annual comprehensive car insurance had risen by 0.2% to £540 in the final three months of 2014.

However the total was still £200 cheaper than the peak in 2011, the AA said.

Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance said: “Car insurance is extremely competitive. Nevertheless the underlying trend is upward.”

The AA Insurance Shoparound survey helps to sift out the best deals on an average premium from the five cheapest quotes from insurers and price comparison websites. It showed that the cheapest annual motor insurance had still risen in price during the second half of 2014.

However, the AA has previously said claims management companies and law firms may have found loopholes around the reforms as many insurers have reported a surge in lower-value ‘cash for crash’ claims, where bad people deliberately brake to cause a vehicle to crash into the rear of their car

Meanwhile, the cheapest buildings and contents insurance premiums didn’t alter much significantly in the final three months of 2014, the AA added.

The AA also said that it expected premiums to stay still, bar any freakish weather action this Winter.

Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?

January 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

eurostar channel tunnel Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?There’s been a weekend of complete mayhem at the Channel Tunnel, which means a lot of people are looking at getting some compensation from Eurostar.

As you’ll be aware, the chunnel was closed for most of Saturday because of a fire and then it was locked down again on Sunday because of an unrelated electrical fault. Today, there’s only one of the two tunnels open, which means more delays and headaches for passengers.

It is hoped that the Channel Tunnel will be back to full speed tomorrow, but after this weekend, no-one should hold their breath.

The amount of passengers inconvenienced over the weekend are in advance of 12,000, which is a lot of compensation needing to be paid out.  On Saturday, Eurostar cancelled 26 of their services.

The cancellations were a result of a lorry  which was on fire (or more accurately, it was “”smouldering”, which meant two CO2 detectors went off and everything had to be shut down. Then, once that was put out, “residue smoke” had to be cleared, meaning further delays. Then, when it looked like things were getting sorted, there was a problem with a power supply which meant more hair being torn out in frustration.

So what happens now?

Well, if you’re planning to travel on Eurostar, they’ve said that they’re planning to run a full service, albeit with delays, so you should check-in as normal, but expect to spend some time sat around and tutting.

“As Eurotunnel will not be completely operational Eurostar services may be subject to delays of up to about 30 minutes,” the company said. “If you were scheduled to travel on Saturday or Sunday and wish to change your plans and were impacted by the tunnel closure, you can exchange your ticket free of charge, within the next 60 days to travel anytime within the next 120 days, or apply for a refund.”

If you’re wanting to complain, then there are long waits on the Eurostar telephone services. You can try ringing them - 03432 186186, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri – or, if you prefer, you can email them at traveller.care@eurostar.com and include the details of what happened as well as your six-letter booking reference.

Eurostar’s website says that they have a “generous compensation policy” for passengers who have been affected by delays so if all of the above switches you off, they have an online form to help you get your money back.

And now, instead of some hold music, here’s a man being run over by a moped outside London’s St Pancras, live on the telly. Both are fine.