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Monarch Airlines’ improvements to bring back “humanity” to flying
May 30th, 2014 by elisa

Monarch Airlines’ new managing director has pledged to bring “humanity and warmth” back to flying in Europe.

Andrew Swaffield, who joined the airline in April, said that these qualities had disappeared from European air travel, and that the customer often gets lost in the process of a “race to the bottom in terms of the cheapest and the biggest and the most efficient” adding, “We’re small enough to think that we don’t have to be like that.”

Monarch have already begun to implement some customer improvements, including posting 45 staff at nine of its major airports to assist customers.

“The feedback tells us that our customers are increasingly finding the airport experience very difficult, so we have put Monarch employees in the airports, in Monarch uniforms, whose job is purely to help customers,” he said.

“We are measuring how it’s going down and so far it’s been entirely positive.”

He said the next stage would be to improve communication, particularly when things go wrong. This would include being open with customers about what’s going on, particularly with delays or technical problems.

Swaffield emphasised the importance of price being key at the internet booking stage, particularly as people don’t tend to differentiate between anything but price, adding “but once you’ve got somebody experiencing something better, they will come back, especially when they are travelling with their loved ones.”

Finally, he emphasised that the airline will be responding to customer travel trends and will adjust its schedules accordingly.

“It’s no longer just about Saturday departures and two-week stays, it’s about flying midweek or for long weekends and taking more, but shorter trips.”

 

Monarch has just been awarded ‘WorldHost Recognised Business’ status after 1,690 of its staff, from pilots to office workers, undertook an intensive 10-day WorldHost customer service training programme.

Most family-friendly destinations
May 8th, 2014 by elisa

Florida beach picture by Flickr user Adam Caudill

Florida beach picture by Flickr user Adam Caudill

A survey of 2,000 British parents regarding the most family-friendly destinations in the world found Cornwall to be top of the list, with Orlando in Florida a close second.

The only reason Orlando was pipped to the post was because of the long flying time of around nine hours from the UK, otherwise, its world-famous theme parks and near-constant sunshine ranked extremely favourably for child-friendly holidays.

The Spanish islands of Majorca, Menorca and Tenerife, and the Costa Del Sol on the mainland made up the rest of the top ten for holidays abroad, with Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Isle of Wight for holidays in the UK.

Around eight in ten respondents said making sure a destination is child-friendly is their main priority when booking a holiday. Factors that contributed to a family-friendly holiday included nearby play areas, a good choice of food to cater for fussy eaters, and a shallow sea. Half of the parents polled said the ideal holiday destination must have nice beaches, and 28% said kids’ swimming pools are essential.

The study also found that the ideal holiday would last an average of 10 days, and involve less than five hours of travelling time, making many of the European destinations ideal for family breaks.

 

BA best airline but outranked in value for money
May 5th, 2014 by elisa

Good news for British Airways, which has been ranked best airline in almost every category except value by a Skyscanner survey.

BA came first for its food and drink, onboard experience, its style and customer service in short-haul flights, but ranked third in ‘best value for money’. It was beaten by Easyjet in second place, and little-known airline, Norwegian, in first place.

Norwegian was a surprise contender and fared extremely well in the survey, biting at BA’s heels in second place for most of the categories.

Skyscanner’s Mary Porter said: “Being a Superbrand and one which Brits are very proud of, it’s perhaps not surprising that British Airways has scooped the top spot in our survey.

“However it is particularly interesting to see such strong results for a far less well-known airline, with Norwegian taking second place and goes to show that low cost does not necessarily mean an inferior product or service.”

The survey was of 4,000 British travellers, surveyed on their opinion of airlines’ short-haul flights from the UK.

Rudest flight attendants
May 2nd, 2014 by elisa

We tend to expect the attendants on our flights to be the epitome of cheeriness and professionalism; but a recent survey of 14 North American airlines assessed the rudeness rating of flight attendants, with some surprising results.

The Airfarewatchdog commissioned survey found flight attendants at Spirit Airlines to be the rudest at 26%, with Air Canada second at 11%, and perhaps rather surprisingly in fourth position, Virgin America with 9% of the votes.

The Virgin America ranking is a surprise considering it came out on top in an Airline Quality Rating study just weeks earlier.

Least rude were Alaska Airlines and Southwest, both receiving only 1% of the vote.

3,400 frequent fliers were asked to choose from the 14 airlines, with the results weighted by number of passengers flown by each airline to account for the fact that larger airlines would have a bigger response.

Full results:

Spirit — 26%

Air Canada — 14%

Frontier — 11%

Virgin America — 9%

Allegiant — 8%

United — 7%

US Airways — 7%

American — 5%

AirTran — 3%

Delta — 2%

Hawaiian — 3%

JetBlue — 3%

Alaska — 1%

Southwest — 1%

£240 million in unclaimed travel compensation
May 1st, 2014 by elisa

Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights totalling around £240 million was failed to be claimed by passengers last year, according to passenger rights specialist refund.me.

Although the figure seems large, it’s much lower than the £355 million left unclaimed in 2012 and is due in part to improvements made by airlines to keep delays under the limits that would trigger compensation payments, plus more passengers being aware of their rights.

The no win, no fee firm helps eligible passengers fight for compensation under EU Regulation EC 261. Since 2004, passengers have been entitled to claim compensation of up to £490 for late cancellations or flights or delays of more than three hours, other than due to circumstances beyond airline’s control.

Refund.me founder and CEO Eve Buechner commended improvements made by airlines: “After nearly a decade of citing poorly justified “extraordinary circumstances” to avoid compensation payments, airlines appear to have turned the corner on both service and post-service quality,”

“Some airlines now have more aircraft on standby or move to pre-emptively smooth things over with passengers by offering vouchers, miles and accommodation more willingly.”

However, Buechner warned that all this progress could be put in jeopardy when a planned review of EC 261 by the European Parliament considers whether passengers should not be entitled to compensation of less than five, seven or 12 hours.

“This would effectively nullify the progress made in the last few years and set passenger rights back to their standards of 10 years ago,” she said.

“The airline industry has made significant progress in improving passenger rights in the last two years. Passengers are more aware of their rights and airlines have become more compliant and offer better service as a result. It would be disappointing to undo this progress. It would lead to more delays, more cancellations and more stranded passengers.”

Refund.me processed more than 10,000 compensation claims last year, totalling more than £3.3 million, and claimed a 94% success rate.

Shift in desired destinations for 2014
Apr 10th, 2014 by elisa

The latest TripAdvisor Choice Awards for Destinations show a marked shift in desired city breaks for 2014.

Traditional destinations such as Paris, Barcelona and New York have all dropped significantly down the rankings, making way for more Asian destinations, with Beijing, Hanoi, and Shanghai all breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

Other favourites, such as Sydney, fell 12 positions to 22, and San Francisco fell 18 places to 25. London, however, remains as popular as ever and maintains its number three position for the second year running. It was pipped to the top spots by Istanbul and Rome, taking first and second place respectively.

TripAdvisor spokesperson James Kay said: “It is interesting to see traditionally popular destinations Paris, New York and Barcelona drop down the rankings.

“This year’s results show that there are a number of destinations around the world that are starting to compete with the more traditional ones.

“However, London still continues to sustain its position in the top five and while there is no doubt the birth of the royal baby helped keep the eyes of the world on London in 2013, but the capital’s continued appeal among travellers around the world surpasses any one event.”

In the UK Awards, two seaside destinations crept into the top 10 this year. Torquay in Cornwall is in a very respectable third place, and Llandudno in Wales sits pretty in eighth place.

The awards were determined by an algorithm on the TripAdvisor website that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for accommodation, attractions and restaurants gathered over a 12-month period.

The 2014 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destinations winners

World’s top 10

1. Istanbul

2. Rome

3. London

4. Beijing

5. Prague

6. Marrakech

7. Paris

8. Hanoi

9. Siem Reap

10. Shanghai

 

Europe’s top 10

1. Istanbul

2. Rome

3. London

4. Prague

5. Paris

6. Berlin

7. Florence

8. Barcelona

9. St Petersburg

10. Budapest

 

UK’s top 10

1. London

2. Edinburgh

3. Torquay

4. Liverpool

5. Belfast

6. York

7. Bristol

8. Llandudno

9. Leeds

10. Birmingham

 

Holiday insurance wish list
Apr 9th, 2014 by elisa

Don’t you wish your travel insurance would cover real holiday-spoilers such as inedible hotel food, rude hotel staff and bad weather? If so, then you’re not alone. 

According to a survey by comparison website Gocompare.com Travel Insurance, over a third of travellers wish they could buy insurance against inedible hotel food.

The website asked 1,300 travellers about the things they wish they could insure against, that aren’t covered by typical travel insurance policies. Top of the wish list is delayed departures, on flights, ferries or trains. Currently many policies do provide some cover for delayed departures, but only to cover additional costs of being stuck in the airport for hours, not to compensate for lost holiday time.

Caroline Lloyd from Gocompare.com Travel Insurance said: “For many people, their holiday is not only a chance to relax away from the everyday pressures of life, it’s a big financial commitment they have spent months, if not years, saving for. So it’s not surprising that they want the perfect getaway with no delays, top-notch food and accommodation – not an encounter with Basil Fawlty.

“While our survey takes a light-hearted look at the holiday-horrors people wish they could insure against, it gives us the opportunity to highlight the importance of travel insurance in protecting holidaymakers against the unexpected – from freak weather, illness or injury, or theft or loss of baggage.”

Results of the survey:

Rank  Insurance wish list %
1 Delayed departure (flights, ferries, trains, etc.) 51
2 Disappointing accommodation 44
3 Misleading brochure description of hotel and/or holiday resort 44
4 Inedible hotel food 34
5 Bad weather 31
6 A noisy room 22
7 Being plagued by drunken teenagers in the evening 18
8 Rude hotel/accommodation staff 15
9 Annoying fellow guests 12
10 Terrible organised entertainment 7
Skyscanner guide to cabin luggage restrictions
Mar 20th, 2014 by elisa

Luggage picture by Fickr user RambergMediaImages

Luggage picture by Fickr user RambergMediaImages

82% of UK passengers want airlines to have the same cabin baggage size and weight allowance, according to a recent survey.

The survey  of 1,000 Brits by flight comparison website, Skyscanner, revealed almost one in four passengers has been caught out by cabin baggage restrictions.

In response to the survey results, Skyscanner has done some research into the differences between airlines’ carry-on baggage allowances. It found that the most generous airline, permitting bags as large as 56x45x25cm, is Iberia, closely followed by British Airways, which allows hand luggage up to 23kgs in weight.

The stingiest airline appears to be Easyjet, with the smallest bag size at 50x40x20cm, but this has no weight restriction. Thomas Cook limits passengers’ bags to a maximum of 5kg.

Passengers caught out by these different restrictions are often forced to pay to check in the over-sized or heavy luggage, adding unexpected costs to their travel. Skyscanner has produced an easy to read guide of cabin baggage restrictions of leading European airlines, which can be found here.

Pre-ticked boxes for insurance add-ons could be banned
Mar 12th, 2014 by elisa

Pre-ticked boxes for insurance add-ons when purchasing services like a holiday could be banned by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The FCA claims the £1bn insurance add-on market is overcharging customers for products they may not need or use. An investigation in July 2013 by the FCA found poor competition at point of sale and low levels of claims. There was also a lack of information which prevented customers from making informed choices regarding the products.

25% of customers who bought insurance as an add-on were not aware that they could buy it separately elsewhere. 38% said they had not planned to buy the add-on before the purchase. 69% of those who bought it could not accurately remember how much they paid three to four months later, with 19% forgetting they had even bought it.

Christopher Woolard, director of policy, risk and research at the FCA, said: “There’s a clear case for us to intervene. Competition in this market is not working well and many consumers are simply not getting value for money.

“Firms must start putting consumers first and stop seeing them as pound signs.”

The FCA is proposing banning pre-ticked boxes to ensure consumers actively opt in to buy, and not have to choose to opt out. It will also require companies to publish claim ratios to highlight low-value products, which it hopes will encourage better quality products for consumers.

Smartphone users don’t browse, they ring
Feb 28th, 2014 by elisa

What’s the point of using a smartphone to book travel online when you are just going to ring the company anyway?

According to a new study from Google, 94% of smartphone users resort to contacting a business direct when searching products on their phone.

The travel sector’s click-to-call service, when mobile users can click through to call the company, has proved to be particularly popular. The service is mainly used during the purchase phase, and over half of the 1,500 people questioned would call a travel business to change their reservation or booking.

40% of people using their phones to search will resort to phoning a company when reserving a hire car, 37% when searching hotels, and 30% when looking at flights.

According to IAB Travel Audit 2013, 42% of the top 50 UK travel companies optimise their search results for mobile, and 45% of those use the click to call service.

Websites can only give so much information, and these results seem to show that many of us still like to conduct certain transactions person to person.

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