Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Britain is getting a SPACEPORT

July 14th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

space 300x168 Britain is getting a SPACEPORT Apparently ministers are drawing up plans to create a Space Heathrow somewhere in the UK.

They’ll unveil the 8 possible locations for the UK’s first spaceport at the Farnborough Air show tomorrow, which are thought to include sites in the North of Scotland, Bristol, Norfolk and the Outer Hebrides.

But won’t just be Richard Branson and his rich Virgin Galactic berks who will use the spaceport. It’ll also be for manned space missions and satellites.

Talking of Branson, he’s launching his first Virgin Galactic flight later this year from a spaceport in New Mexico. But he’s already been talking about using Lossiemouth, on the east coast of Scotland, as a possible UK base for Virgin Galactic flights.

So will the spaceport be the same as a regular airport, except the departures lounge will be weightless?

Will we still have take off our shoes and put our toiletries in a clear plastic bag?

And will there be a WH Smiths selling a free Mars Bar and Galaxy with every copy of the Daily Teleport?

iphone charging 300x2251 Don’t take uncharged devices on planes to the US If you’re going to the US or returning back to Europe or the Middle East, make sure you take your charger.

Thanks to TERRORISM INC. and widespread panic, new security measures by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), uncharged phones and laptops will not be allowed on board.

The TSA are specifically targeting iPhones and Samsung Galaxies after new information that Al-Qaeda is developing new ways to blow up planes, using smartphones, tablets or laptops. (Never let it be said that Al-Qaeda are a Western world-obsessed one trick pony).

The Nusra Front – not to be confused with the People’s Front of Judea – are also plotting an airliner attack.

So, cue insanity at security. Shoes off, laptop charged, phone charged, anus scanned. (Well, not that – YET). If you can’t turn on your phone or laptop at security, you won’t be allowed to board with it. The TSA are keeping quiet about which airports will be involved in the additional scanning process, but it’s thought that Heathrow is one of them.

Anyway, the advice is, plug in before you fly, and don’t ask why. (‘It’s not something to over-react to or overspeculate about’ say the powers-that-be.) However, you can imagine there’ll be a little bit of over-reaction when there are massive queues and hysteria and everyone misses their flight.

oyster swipe Cashless London buses    the world’s not your Oyster Looming TFL plans to make London buses cashless have come under fire, after a recent report found that 2,115 passengers were left stranded every day last year because of problems with their Oyster cards.

If your card runs out, gets nicked, or ends up down the back of the telly, London bus drivers are not inclined to joyfully wave your through with a smile. You are walking, mate.

And the damning new figures from the London Assembly Green Party show that the transition from cash to cards probably isn’t going to be seamless.

London buses will no longer accept cash from July 6th. Meanwhile, Boris has tried to calm things down by tweeting that ‘We will be extra understanding if your card has run out.’

AYE RIGHT.

TFL have also introduced ‘One More Journey’, which entitles you to one free trip if your Oyster card has run out. But although critics agree that’s a step in the right direction, they still think there’s a higher chance that people will be stranded.

Darren Johnson AM said: ‘There are over two thousand Oyster Cards a day which are actually reported as stolen, lost or no longer working, but the number of people who suddenly find themselves without a functioning card is likely to be even higher.’

However, TFL say that less than one percent of bus journeys are paid for using cash. Leon Daniels from TFL said:

‘If a passenger’s Oyster card is lost, stolen or in very rare cases not working, they will be able to pay using a contactless payment card or visit our extended Oyster Ticket Stop network to get a replacement. Bus drivers are also being provided with refreshed guidance to deal with vulnerable passengers.’

‘Refreshed guidance.’ ie: don’t kick the old lady who doesn’t even have a bank account – let alone a contactless debit card – off the bus too hard…

french france Strike Un: Flight delays to France thanks to strike

A French person, yesterday

Thinking of flying to France for some nice wine, sunshine and the chance to be the kind of Briton who secretly loves the place after slagging them off all year? Well, here’s something you should know: flights to France could be a pain in the derrière after French air traffic controllers went on strike, forcing their airlines to cancel a load of flights.

Now, it is worth pointing out that this is quite a small tête-à-tête and most flights will be fine, but, it’d be worth you checking out the situation first so you don’t end up getting mucked around in a situation that tends to muck people around at the best of times.

French authorities have noted that there’s going to be a 20% reduction of flights.

Ryanair has said 26 flights to and from France will be cancelled on Tuesday, while EasyJet said around 20% of their services are being cancelled. British Airways have cancelled a handful of flights too.

This doesn’t bode well if you’re thinking of going over to watch the Tour de France and while this is a small strike, there’s always the chance of negotiations breaking down and them lasting even longer. This could be particularly problematic, seeing as 99% of French communications are conducted with shrugging and smoking filterless cigarettes.

A Ryanair spokesman said that all passengers travelling this week should check the status of their journey on their website before setting off for the airport, while EasyJet said: “Despite the fact that this disruption is beyond easyJet’s control, we will do everything possible to minimise the inconvenience to our customers. We will proactively provide advice for our passengers through our website, text messages and flight-tracker tool.”

The strike should be kicking off today. Bon chance.

Which!!! is the best travel company?

June 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

holiday Which!!! is the best travel company? A bad travel company can destroy your holiday and leave you trapped in a one star hotel with Legionnaire’s disease. Whereas a good one will make sure you’re on a sun lounger drinking rum from a coconut before you can say ‘ABTA’.

But which ones are the best?

Which!!! asked 2,852 people to name the UK’s best travel companies, and coming joint first with 93% are Trailfinders and the lesser known Audley Travel, which was praised by consumers for being ‘a class act’ which demonstrated ‘seamless planning.’

And despite having been relegated to the bottom of the table, high street travel behemoths like First Choice (69%) saw some improvement in scores from last year, with Thomson on the up with a 70% rating. Thomas Cook was at the bottom of the table with 61%.

Which!!! editor Richard Headland said: ‘It’s good to see an improvement in the market, particularly among the lower rated companies, in time for summer. However people should do their research as it pays to know which holiday firm will give you the best experience.’

Rum from coconuts, or Legionnaire’s disease. You decide.

Network rail Network Rail posts profits of £1bn but is still always lateThere may be some plastic cups of warm cava being drunk at the Network Rail offices tonight, as it announces a profit of £1bn.

But wait a minute (or perhaps more accurately, an hour and a half at Carlisle) – despite the whopping profit, Network Rail failed miserably to reach their punctuality target, with almost 730,000 trains running late last year.

What’s their excuse this time? Melted tracks? Leaves on the line? The driver’s in the toilet? No, according to CEO Mark Carne, it was because we’re all using the trains! He put their failure down to: ‘congestion as the railway witnessed growth of 5.7 per cent in passenger journeys during the year.’

He also mumbled about winter storms and all that – even though most of the damage to the rail network was covered by insurance.

But he did admit that an increase in commuter numbers, leading to packed carriages and irate angry mobs, posed a ‘challenge’ for the industry.

‘We need to do more to improve the reliability of the railway.’ He conceded. ‘We know we have to do better and we are very determined to address those issues so that we can provide the high quality of service that passengers expect.’

How about ploughing some of those lovely profits back in, then? Er, well, there’s a little problem with that. Network Rail owe a mountain of debt – £30bn in fact – due to massive upgrades to the Victorian infrastructure.

Hmm. Looks like we’re going to be late for work forever.

uber 300x200 Cab drivers cause traffic jams in Uber protest Uber, the app that lets you call a private hire cab using your smartphone, isn’t exactly popular with the licenced cab drivers in the world.

And this week, thousands of taxi drivers all over Europe have been honking their displeasure about it on the streets of London, Berlin, Paris and Madrid, causing traffic jams and generally getting in everyone’s way.

They say that black cabs are being undermined by the service, which in some cities only allows users to call private hire taxis. And lots of already-stretched cabbies are seeing red.

In Madrid, taxi drivers ditched their cabs and marched up and down yelling ‘UBER ILLEGAL!’ while blowing whistles. In Italy, they shouted ‘Illegality Rules Soverign! Shame!’ In London, 5000 taxis idled their engines around Trafalgar Square.

Jose Antonio Benitez, a cabbie in Madrid said: ‘It’s unfair competition. The government says they want a free market, but one that only hurts taxi drivers.’

Uber, which is based in San Francisco, responded by using the protests to offer discounted cabs. (CHEEKY.) They have also derailed the protests somewhat, by rolling out a feature in London that gives the option to hail black cabs, with a small commission fee added on. But more go-slow demonstrations may still be planned in London.

Bloody apps, coming over here and stealing our trade. String ‘em up – it’s the only language they understand.

Passport Office in summer meltdown

June 9th, 2014 2 Comments By Lucy Sweet

passport photo2 261x300 Passport Office in summer meltdown It’s summer (sort of), which means digging out your passport, only to find that it’s out of date and the photo is of you aged 20 looking like Neil from the Young Ones. So you dash to complete your application, figure out the forms, and cross your fingers that your passport might just arrive before your holiday.

Well, er, there might be a little problem with that this year. The Passport Office is struggling to cope with demand, and there’s a 500,000 strong backlog of passports that may not be issued on time.

The average time to renew a passport it usually three weeks, but people have been complaining that they have waited twice as long. It’s such a problem that customers are being warned that they may have to pay an extra £55.50 to get it when they need it.

To cope with this year’s demand, a quarter of staff who usually work on detecting passport fraud have been reassigned to process them. But even so, they’re not meeting their targets.

So, what’s the beef, Stew? Well, the passport office is in turmoil and needs entirely restructured, say MPs. Unions say that job cuts have caused the problem. But the Passport office is blaming it on increasing consumer confidence and the improving economy.

No idea who is right, but if you’re going on holiday in three weeks time and you haven’t renewed your passport yet, prepared to empty your pockets.

Ryanair admit mistakes as profits fall

May 19th, 2014 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Michael O Leary Ry 1208663i 300x276 Ryanair admit mistakes as profits fall Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who would charge his dead granny extra for carrying keepsakes into the afterlife, is being uncharacteristically humble.

Why? Because today Ryanair have posted their first loss in five years, and now we find Michael in reflective mode, even going so far as to admit that they could ‘learn from Easyjet.’ He also said, with a glimmer of self awareness, that he should ‘stop pissing people off unnecessarily.’

*falls out of overwing exit in shock*

This is the man who charged a man with cerebral palsy to take his wheelchair on holiday, but hey, let’s not underestimate a man’s capacity to change, right? After all, he now allows ‘the ladies’ to take a small handbag onboard as well as their carry on luggage.

He introduced allocated seating to stop the scrums, and he’s slashing prices again, even though it’s PLANE to see that people prefer the customer service focused style of Easyjet, which has become a FTSE100 company since the arrival of CEO Carolyn McCall.

‘To be fair, some of the things easyJet has done, like allocated seating, have been very effective.’ O’Leary told the Mail. ‘We can certainly learn from the competition and we will.’

Of course, despite profits being down €596m from last year, he then went on to say how great they were and how they had bought 175 new jets and would you like to buy a supersoaraway Ryanair calendar featuring depressed, underpaid air stewardesses from Latvia?

Unrest in Egypt is costing Thomas Cook a hell of a lot of holiday lolly – in the first half of the year, the company lost £131m as tourists chose to stay away from their Egyptian resorts. That’s a loss of a quarter of a million tourists compared to the same period last year.
thomas cook shop Egyptian turmoil costs Thomas Cook millions in lost sales

Its discouraging news for the travel operator, who had an annus horribilis in 2011 and has been recovering under new management (as long as we don’t mention the poor air stewards who are forced to run a skeleton crew on Thomas Cook’s flights, and are close to breaking point).

CEO Harriet Green is keeping the company buoyant by cutting costs left right and centre, (see above) and selling off certain divisions of the business – as well as shutting high street travel shops and concentrating on online selling.

But they’re going to have to come up with something amazing to counter the lack of popularity of its Egyptian resorts, and market analysts are grumbling that the pressure is definitely on Thomas Cook to come up with the goods.

Maybe they need to move out of Egypt and go somewhere just as warm but less unpredictable. I hear Syria is supposed to be very pleasant at this time of year?

Google now running transport

May 14th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz123452 300x146 Google now running transportGoogle have added transport information to its Maps apps. Now, one can source departure times and routes for buses, trains, subways and trams.

This is handy, especially if you’ve ever tried to use a travel company’s timetabling system and found yourself feeling a thick and useless as a golden retriever trying to work out how to use a joypad.

While not the first service to do so, it is a significantly higher profile affair than Rome2Rio’s UK Transport Search, and knocks the Trainline into the equivalent of an internet cocked hat.

While Google had previously provided transit data for parts of Great Britain, it had lacked coverage in much of Wales, the Midlands and northern England, as they’re quite terrifying wastelands of despair populated by ogres and fishwives, obviously.

In total, schedules from nearly 1,500 different transport operators have been integrated, including more than 17,000 different routes and more than 330,000 pick-up points.

No excuse for tardiness now.

Airport IT glitch causes punch ups

May 1st, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

There’s nothing more invigorating than a fist fight with some airport officials is there? Well, a few ‘scenes’ broke out last night after a technical hitch took out the border control computers at all UK airports.
border control 300x209 Airport IT glitch causes punch ups

At Gatwick, queues stretched for ‘miles’ and there was a smattering of violence as frustrated passengers were forced to stand around in the arrivals hall for hours on end. Apparently there were pregnant women in ‘clear distress’, and passengers furiously tweeted bitchy comments at airlines, but to no avail.

At Heathrow, there was chaos too, as the arrivals hall was transformed into a holding pen for sweaty, tired travellers.

Over at Luton, there were ‘scuffles.’ Airport staff tried to keep everybody under control and standing upright by giving them water, but that didn’t stop some rather overly dramatic passengers tweeting ‘Hundreds of people stuck in the heat! NEED WATER!’ (Yeah, calm down, love – it’s an airport, not bloody Laurence of Arabia – go to the TOILET).

The queues started to build around 2pm yesterday, with officials having to abandon the computer system and manually type in passenger details by hand.

A spokesman from Border Control said at the time: ‘We are currently experiencing temporary IT problems which may add to the time taken to conduct passport checks. We are working to rectify this issue and are providing extra staff to get passengers through the controls as quickly as possible. Our priority remains security of the border.’

But while waiting in arrivals for up to 4 hours is nobody’s idea of fun, where’s the Blitz spirit and the impromptu games of football with the Germans?

When you’re terminally ill and jetting off for a bittersweet final holiday with your family, the last thing you want is some incompetent travel company ballsing everything up, causing you to be evicted from your villa an hour after you arrive.

Villa Moncho Puerto Pollensa large 300x214 Hellish holiday hiccup for cancer stricken woman

Well, that’s what happened to Lorraine Beasant, who went to Mallorca for (literally) a bucket deal with her nearest and dearest and was confronted by local police demanding to know what she was doing there.

The Beasant family had booked the holiday through travel company Villa Parade last year, but the owner of the property said he’d cancelled his contract with the company in November 2013 and was no longer renting it out. So they turned up while the owner was out and neighbours then called the police.

So when did Villa Parade decide to tell Mrs Beasant she’d been moved to alternative accomodation? Er, the day before she left, April 11th, in an email, which she didn’t pick up in time.

*golf clap*

She was then moved to another villa, but crucially, it had no downstairs bedroom, meaning that poorly Mrs Beasant had to drag her oxygen cylinder up the stairs. NICE.

In their defence, Villa Parade said they’d tried to phone her 4 times to tell her that her villa had been changed but had received no reply. A spokesman from the company said:

‘Villa Parade would like to stress that we were not aware of Mrs Beasant’s medical condition, but because everyone at Villa Parade are proactive supporters of Cancer Research UK we would like to offer Mrs Beasant and her family our sincere apology.’

OH WELL THAT’S OK THEN.

?

Nick Clegg wants us to buy electric cars

April 29th, 2014 5 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Hey look, here’s Nick Clegg pretending to be a human in an electric car! That’s going to make us all want to get one, isn’t it? Well, the government seem to think this will be the case – they’re ploughing £500m into a campaign to encourage people to buy glorified milk floats.

nick clegg electric car 300x213 Nick Clegg wants us to buy electric cars

The cash will provide personal grants of up to £5,000 towards an electric car, and is intended to boost the ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) industry.

Clegg said: ‘Owning an electric car is no longer a dream or an inconvenience. Manufacturers are turning to this new technology to help motorists make their every day journeys green and clean.”

“This major investment is there to make driving an electric car affordable, convenient and free from anxiety about the battery running out. But it’s also about creating a culture change in our towns and cities so that driving a greener vehicle is a no-brainer for most drivers.”

Between 2015 and 2020, grants will be given to cities who can offer incentives to drivers of electric vehicles, by providing free parking or access to bus lanes. Boris Johnson, smoking a cigar on the top deck of a London omnibus, welcomed the move, tediously and meaninglessly calling it ‘a green game changer.’

All very nice in theory, but where are we going to plug them in?

Let’s all go to…Bulgaria!

April 25th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

Fancy a beach holiday but can’t afford an all-inclusive beano in Lanzarote? Well worry no more – it turns out that the best value foreign holiday is in Bulgaria.
sunny beach Let’s all go to…Bulgaria!

Prices at its very literally named resort ‘Sunny Beach’ are lower than any other holiday destination in Europe. For a shopping basket of 10 essential holiday items – sun cream, beer, water, meals, insect repellent, dead eyed Eastern European prostitutes – it was just £43 for the lot – £10 cheaper than its closest competitor.

Second on the annual list, compiled by the Post Office, was Marmaris in Turkey, which came in at £54 – 14% cheaper than in 2013. And those traditional holiday destinations beloved of corpulent, hard drinking Brits, the Costa Del Sol and the Costa Blanca, came in third at £55, making them the best value in the EU.

However, if you want your Euros to slip through your fingers like so much blue Aftershock, go to party island Ibiza, where your holiday shopping basket will cost you a whopping £97, and you’ll probably find yourself on a stained hammock at 7am with some gap year twat called Tom who keeps trying to find your third eye.

So pack your swimming trunks, get your buckets and spades and head to the sunny Black Sea for the Balkan holiday of a lifetime! And as long as you don’t go anywhere near the Kozloduy nuclear power plant or anger the Ministry of the Interior, everything should be a-OK!