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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The bizarre law in Florida that all British Citizens must carry an International Driving Permit in the state was repealed in April.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.

Man wakes up locked in empty plane
Dec 10th, 2013 by elisa

An investigation is being made into how a sleeping passenger was not spotted by staff when emptying an aircraft on a layover on Friday evening.

Passenger, Tom Wagner, awoke to find he was locked inside a cold, dark, ExpressJet aircraft. He had boarded a flight at Louisiana to visit his sister in California and decided to have a nap while the plane stopped in Texas for a layover.

It’s believed staff failed to spot him sitting in a window seat near the back of the aircraft when they emptied the plane. The airline said staff made a post-flight walk-through, but they couldn’t understand how they missed Wagner.

He told ABC13 Eyewitness News: “I woke up and the lights were out. I was like, what’s going on? I thought maybe it was a layover, still on the same plane.”

He called his girlfriend, who alerted the airline.

ExpressJet issued a statement to Eyewitness News, saying: “An ExpressJet passenger remained on board flight 4245, operating as United Express from Lafayette, LA. to Houston on Friday, December 6 after all passengers had deplaned.

“ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger.”

US Airways and American Airlines merger complete
Dec 10th, 2013 by elisa

The merger between US Airways and American Airlines is now complete, making them the biggest carrier in the world, overtaking Delta.

The combined airline will retain the American Airlines name and will have over 1,000 aircraft flying 6,700 daily flights to 330 destinations across 54 countries. It will employ 24,500 flight attendants and 12,500 pilots.

US Airways will leave Star Alliance to join oneworld from 31st March 2014. Regional affiliates operating under the US Airways Express brand will transition to oneworld at the same time.

The next 24 months will bring all aircraft into line, a task described as “not easy” by chief executive, Doug Parker.

He told ABC News: “We have consultants on board who’ve done this with other carriers.

“It’s not easy, but…both airlines have been through a merger in the semi-recent past.”

The airlines claim the merger will save then $1bn a year within 12 months.

Brits’ Must-See List
Dec 4th, 2013 by elisa

Northern Lights picture by Flickr user artic pj

Northern Lights picture by Flickr user artic pj

So, what would you expect a typical Brit’s most desirable attraction at a destination to be? The Grand Canyon? Taj Mahal? Great Barrier Reef? No, it’s the Northern Lights in Norway!

According to research from TravelSupermarket, seeing the Aurora Borealis in Norway is top of Brits’ must see lists, beating destinations such as Egypt’s Pyramids and the Great Wall of China.

It seems that previously far-flung destinations were more desired as they were harder to get to and seemed more exotic, whereas now travel across the world is much easier and more connected, British tourists are starting to consider the wonders available closer to home as just as amazing and desirable.

37% of respondents cited the Northern Lights in Norway as their number one must-see, followed by the Egyptian pyramids at 35% and a road trip down Route 66 in the US at 33%.

Other popular destinations and experiences included walking the Great Wall of China (32%), an African safari (31%), and taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon (30%).

A cruise in the Caribbean was seventh with (29%), closely followed by seeing the Taj Mahal in India (28%). Ninth was riding a gondola in Venice (27%) and tenth was diving in the Great Barrier Reef (24%).

TravelSupermarket’s resident travel expert, Bob Atkinson said: “Ten years ago African safari’s and road trips down Route 66 were appealing because they were so far away, but now we’re seeing destinations much closer to home, like Norway, become a popular choice because people have decided it’s something they must see, instead of choosing long haul destinations because they’re perceived to be once in a lifetime opportunities.”

What would your must-see attraction be? I think I might have to agree with the majority on this one and go to see the Aurora!

It’s all about the happiness
Nov 8th, 2013 by elisa

They days of feeling like you’re crammed in a chicken coop for the sake of a cheap flight deal are on the wane. Happiness is now an important factor when deciding on how to travel, according to new research.

The World Travel Market Global Trends Report found that the ‘happiness factor’ is now as important as price.

Customers are demanding more comfort and added value to their travel bookings in order to increase their ‘happiness score’. The US is leading the trend, but Brits are heading it up in Europe as customers seek a higher score.

 

Customers can set their own happiness criteria by adding importance to services and products such as wi-fi, entertainment, earplugs, leg room and meals.

The Report also suggests that Smart phones and tablets will be a key tool for customer service in the travel sector within the next five years. Budget carriers will also need to offer more ‘frills’ in order to stay competitive and increase their customers’ happiness scores.

Low cost flights to Florida
Oct 18th, 2013 by elisa

Florida is one of the key new destinations for the launch of the first low cost transatlantic flights from Gatwick.

Norwegian is the first airline to offer non-stop transatlantic flights from London at such a low cost. Next summer it will operate flights from Gatwick to New York, Los Angeles and Florida.

Flight start in July 2014 and fares will start from £149 one-way, including taxes and charges to JFK, New York, £199 one-way to Los Angeles, and £179 one way to Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Gatwick welcomed the news and said that on average, fares would be up to 50% cheaper than flights from Heathrow.

Norwegian’s CEO Bjørn Kjos said: “There’s great demand for high quality flights at a low fare between the UK and the US, particularly to and from London Gatwick, where no other airline currently offers these routes. We are looking forward to welcoming many new customers on board our brand new aircraft. Launching intercontinental routes between London Gatwick and the United States is also an important part of our strategy to expand internationally and get a stronger foothold in markets outside Scandinavia.”

This great news means there is little getting in your way of booking a holiday in one of our many holiday villas in Florida. The saving will mean you can have more to spend while you’re there. Check out our guide for ideas on things to do!

Disney resorts change disabled visitor policy
Sep 27th, 2013 by elisa

Disney World queue picture by Flickr user mrkathika

Disney World queue picture by Flickr user mrkathika

Disney World in the US is changing its disabled visitor policy after an increase in able-bodied visitors abusing the current system to skip queue waiting times.

Disabled visitors will no longer be able to automatically skip long queues but instead will be issued with reserved time tickets which will allow them on the ride at an allotted time on busy rides. This means that if a queue for a ride is around a 45 minutes long then the ticket will be issued for in 45 minutes time allowing the disabled person to go to a less busy attraction in the meantime.

Until now, Disney has allowed anyone in a wheelchair to bring as many as six guests with them to a ride’s backdoor entrance. According to a New York Post article, wealthy New Yorkers have been abusing this system by hiring disabled “black market Disney guides” to Disney World in Orlando.

The guides reportedly offered their services to pose as family members to enable their clients to skip the queues. They would charge around $130 and hour (£81), or just of $1,040 (£649) for a full day.

Walt Disney World issued the following statement: “We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities.

“We engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, to develop this new process, which is in line with the rest of our industry.”

The policy has not been universally welcomed, with some disability groups arguing that the change could deter disabled visitors to the parks in future. Disney said further details will be announced once park employees have been briefed.

Record summer for Spain
Sep 23rd, 2013 by elisa

Costa Brava picture by Flickr user felipe_gabaldon

Costa Brava picture by Flickr user felipe_gabaldon

Spain was visited by 8.3 million foreign tourists in August, the highest monthly number of foreign visitors since current records began in 1995. 

Most favoured by the British, French and Germans, Spain was the third most-visited country in the world, tied with China and just behind the United States and France.

The number of visitors was 7.1% higher than August last year, according to the country’s tourism ministry. The surge in numbers is likely due to holidaymakers avoiding previously popular budget holiday destinations – Egypt and Turkey – which were hit by civil unrest this year.

Within Spain, the most popular areas for visitors were the northeastern region of Catalonia with Barcelona as the main attraction, the Balearic Islands benefitted from 2.1 million foreign visitors and the southern region of Andalusia didn’t do too badly with 1.1 million visitors also.

The ministry’s data also showed that the increase did not only occur in August either, but overall from January to August 2013, 42.3 million foreign tourists visited the country, 4.5% more than the same period last year and another record high.

It’s not difficult to see why Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, it has wonderful coastlines, countryside, culture and not to mention the gorgeous weather. Read our guides on villa rentals in Spain for inspiration on where to visit and go to our main site to find holiday villas in Spain.

Airline computer glitches
Sep 17th, 2013 by elisa

We put so much faith into the automated and computerised systems used to book flights that it’s hard to believe that sometimes things can go wrong.

First, US Airways passengers who had their boarding passes sent to their mobile phones, found that a glitch in the system had produced passes with the wrong names or flight numbers. The airline said it affected passengers using the US Airways mobile site or app, which had been rolled out this summer. The problem was finally fixed after about three hours.

The next, much more fortuitous blunder came from United, when for a couple of hours the computer system accidentally loaded $0 fares and sold them on its website.

Word spread on Twitter and even with airport charges, some passengers got tickets for just $5 or $10. Once the airline found out what was happening it shut the website down “for a couple of hours.” The site was back up by 2.30pm New York time, and so were the prices. United has not yet decided if it will honour the tickets.

 

 

Hello Kitty planes
Sep 7th, 2013 by elisa

Hello Kitty plane by Flickr user petrr

Hello Kitty plane by Flickr user petrr

Cat lovers and children rejoice! One of the world’s best loved and well known cats, Hello Kitty, is taking to the skies in yet more of EVA Air’s planes. 

Taiwan’s EVA Air already flies five Hello Kitty-themed planes to Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Guam. And from 18th September the cartoon cat will be making its debut in the skies of Los Angeles on its three times weekly flight to Taipei.

Everything on the plane will be emblazoned with the Hello Kitty branding, from boarding passes, to headrests, to utensils and even the soap in the bathroom. The flight attendants will wear the cartoon cat on their aprons and also sell Hello Kitty souvenirs.

If you’re feeling left out here in Europe, then the airline has plans to bring the planes here too.

 

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