2013 round up
Dec 30th, 2013 by elisa

It’s nearing the end of 2013, so it’s time for our annual round up of travel news and features covered in this blog over the year.

January is normally the time when you start to examine your finances after the Christmas splurge, and this year was no different for the travel news. A Sunday Times report that found customers were seriously losing out on foreign currency exchange rates when purchasing their travel money at airports.  We also looked at the financial benefits of flying to an airport further from your destination and driving the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Spain was voted the best value destination for 2013, and Eve told us why she thought Spain was a great winter destination.

However, it was all about Greece in February! With its award-winning beaches and Thomas Cook trend survey that revealed a huge increase in bookings during the month. The month ended with a warning to check your travel insurance small print, as many travellers were reported to have fallen foul of clauses in their insurance, which meant they wouldn’t get a pay out on claims.

In March, a woman successfully smuggled a dog onto a plane; we looked at the biosphere reserve that is Menorca; and BA started selling tickets for flights on its ‘red carpet route’ to Los Angeles in its new super jumbo A380. Easyjet installed new, lighter, seats on its aircraft in an attempt to save on fuel and CO2 emissions. Bitter weather threatened to blight travellers’ Easter holidays, but this didn’t stop Peter Rabbit visiting children at Heathrow.

The bizarre law in Florida that all British Citizens must carry an International Driving Permit in the state was repealed in April. Samoa Air launched its controversial pay by weight flights and we looked at the facts about turbulence.

Easyjet began testing its volcanic ash cloud detection technology in May. We found that trillions of air miles are going to waste; and there was the slightly disturbing report of a flight being diverted because the pilot got locked out of the cockpit. There was good news for Harry Potter fans going on holiday in Florida, as the Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley “environment”.

A US ban on using a laptop during take off on flights was lifted in June.

Tenerife enjoyed at 14% rise in arrivals from the UK in July. It was also discovered that many English families were flying from Scottish airports to save up to £500 on their holiday travel costs. It may have been one of the hottest summers we’ve had in years, but this didn’t stop large numbers of Brits leaving for even sunnier holiday destinations in the last weekend of July. We gave advice on how to avoid common pick pocketing scams as the Foreign Office issued a warning about pick pockets in Switzerland.

As August enjoyed more of the heatwave, Ryanair had a drop in flight bookings; it also took legal action against an unfavourable Dispatches programme “Ryanair: Secrets from the Cockpit”.

Etihad Airways launched its “flying nanny” service to look after passengers’ children in September. Helly Kitty planes took to the skies with Taiwan’s EVA Air, and a computer glitch in US Airways system sold $0 flights on its website. Spain enjoyed record visitor numbers over the summer, proving the predictions earlier in the year.

In October, Manchester was announced to be the UK’s first Airport City; and Ryanair announced that it would work on a better customer service.

It was all about the measure of happiness for travel in November, and BA introduced interactive billboards to remind people of the magic of flying.

The Northern Lights in Norway topped Brits’ “must see” list in December. Britain also endured wide-spread bad weather with winds of up to 140mph battering parts of the country, and flooding hitting others.

That’s the round up for 2013, make sure to follow this blog for more travel news and articles in 2014, and book your holiday villas at a wide range of destinations on Villaseek.

Theft warning in Switzerland and tips against pickpockets
Jul 30th, 2013 by elisa

A theft warning has been issued by the Foreign Office for travellers heading to Switzerland after an increase in reports of theft.

An update on its website said the British embassy received the reports particularly in larger cities, Geneva airport and on trains to and from Geneva.

The website said: “There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, the British Embassy has recently received increased reports of theft especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to/from Geneva.

“Watch out for pickpockets, confidence tricksters and thieves in city centres, airports, railway stations, on trains and in other public places.”

Holidaymakers should always be on guard of their possessions while travelling, particularly in popular holiday destinations. These are where pickpockets and other types of thieves are drawn because of the high volume of visitors.

Holidays should be a time for relaxing, but often it can mean that visitors let their guard down and are open to having their possessions stolen.

Follow a few of our tips to preventing theft on holiday:

  • Photocopy important documents such as passport and travel itinerary before you go.
  • Expensive looking luggage may be helpful and keep you looking smart, but it will attract a thief’s eye before a seemingly scruffy or muted colour one.
  • Wear a money belt for all the important money and documents you may need while sightseeing.
  • Secure your bag to a table or chair leg, or yourself with the bag strap when you sit down at a cafe, particularly when dining outside. This will make it less desirable for a would-be thief who will be looking for something to snatch and run with.
  • Never leave your mobile out on a table, it’s the perfect place for it to be swiped.
  • Be extra alert of where your valuables are if there is a sudden commotion in a crowded area, as this could potentially be a distraction in order to pickpocket you or someone close by.

A few common scams to look out for:

  • Some thieves will pretend to be lost and approach you for directions with a large map which they will place over your mobile phone (mainly if it’s left on a table), which they will pick up with the map and walk away.
  • In Paris recently, I came across fake charity workers with clip boards outside the Pompidou Centre. They would approach tourists to ask for their signature and place the clipboard over their bags to try to pickpocket them at the same time.
  • Beware of people questioning your seat number on a train, this could of course be genuine, but through the commotion of retrieving tickets to check numbers you could be pick pocketed if you have money in your back/side pockets.
  • Some pickpockets use scissors or a sharp razor to cut or slash handbags to get whatever is inside. A bag with multiple compartments, with an inner zipped pocket with most valuable contents closest to your body could help to prevent this.
  •  Beware of ladies trying to hand you sprigs of rosemary or something similar, by simply touching it they expect you to pay, but may also pick pocket you while your hands are full.


2011 Round up
Jan 3rd, 2012 by elisa

Happy New Year to all our readers! Before we move on to this year’s news, here’s a round up of some of the biggest stories we covered on this blog in 2011, it certainly was an eventful year!

January started with the troubled BMI threatening to withdraw its Heathrow – Glasgow route after passenger charges at Heathrow were raised (this was confirmed a month later). Ryanair returned to Manchester with four new routes. And the political troubles in Egypt disrupted flights.

Spiraling conflict in Egypt caused complete cancellation of routes to popular holiday destinations in February. Meanwhile, Which? launched a super complaint on airline card fee charges,the cost of Qantas’ engine troubles were revealed, and airlines flying from the UK finally started to show clearer air fares.

March brought faster flight times under a deal signed by traffic controllers. But by far the biggest news of the month was the huge tsunami which hit Japan and led to re-routing of flights to avoid possible radiation risk, and advice to leave Tokyo.

A Skyscanner survey found Spain back in favour for British holidaymakers in April.

In May Belfast Airport started to charge for going for a cigarette break, and the ongoing battle between Unite and British Airways was finally settled!

More natural disasters happened in June with violent aftershocks in Christchurch, New Zealand and volcanic eruptions in Chile.

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal broke in July with airlines withdrawing their advertisements as a result.

In August research revealed the use of smartphones were ruining people’s holidays.

The Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand in September, where Wales’ hopes were dashed.

The first biofuel passenger flight took place in October, however green campaigners claimed it wasn’t as environmentally friendly as everyone thought.

Europe announced a ban on body scanners at airports in November, but the UK decided to go against the decision.

Finally, December saw 150mph winds hit parts of Scotland, which is where we are now at the start of 2012 as tremendous winds continue to batter the UK once more.


So, what travel news is in store for 2012? Keep up to date here!


Success for solar powered night-time flight!
Jul 8th, 2010 by elisa

Last night I posted a blog about the world-first attempt at a night-time flight by a solar powered aircraft. I’m pleased to report that the mission was a success and the plane landed safely in a Swiss airfield at 8am this morning.

In response to the success, project co-founder Bertrand Piccard said: “When you took off it was another era. You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

In Solar Impulse’s blog there are signs of real joy, not just a dry report on how the flight was as they’d hoped, but a genuine feeling of elation on behalf of all the team:

 “Thanks to all of you out there for all your support, your pertinent questions, your displays of emotion and dedication to the project. You don’t know how good it feels to know that so much of the world is with us. From Auckland to Shanghai the long way round, you’ve all been great.

I’m now off to kiss the airplane for you – André might be a bit bushy by now, but I’ll certainly hug him hard. You all go off and pick a sunflower, plant it in your yard, and keep the spirit alive.

 Till the next, fabulous step toward a greener, more sustainable world.”

Solar-powered aircraft night time test flight
Jul 7th, 2010 by elisa

Tonight (7th July 2010) marks a historic moment as a solar-powered aircraft makes an overnight flight using only the power generated in its solar panels throughout the day. This is the first time the Solar Impulse project will have tried this, but if it works then this will mark a real breakthrough in aviation technology.

Pilot Andre Borschbergwill take the prototype to an altitude of 8,500 meters (27,900 feet) this evening and slowly descend throughout the night with the aim of landing at dawn.

At the time of writing, the aircraft had just set off. There will be regular updates on the progress of the flight through the Solar Impulse website where you can see views from the aircraft, a view of the cockpit and the aircraft’s route across the project’s home of Switzerland and a 3D animation so that you can view what the pilot will be able to see. Apparently he will be able to see the moon and get a good view of planet Venus along with a spectacular sunset and sunrise (if the flight is successful).

The aircraft weighs the same as a family car but it’s wingspan is about as long and wide as a normal passenger plane as this is where its solar panels are mounted. It will travel at a slow and continuous speed of 23 knots which is the best speed to keep in flight while using the least amount of energy.

This experimental aircraft and venture is being sponsored by Bertrand Piccard, who was the first to circle the globe non-stop in a balloon.

The next live press briefing will be midnight Swiss time, which is GMT +2 which will be broadcast on the website. In the meantime there is live footage of the aircraft in flight.

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