Saturday snippets: 30th of June 2018

By | Category: Travel news

Boeing’s concept plane. Image © Boeing

Boeing has unveiled plans for a new supersonic jet that would be able to fly across the Atlantic in two hours and link London with the Australian city of Sydney in five hours. Since the demise of Concorde we have heard that such developments are underway but how many get off the drawing board? None so far. Might this one? I hope so as the journey to Sydney is so tedious that even a tightwad like me might be prepared to shell out some more hard-earned cash to get there faster than the current day or so. Boeing is saying that they will have something on display and next month’s Farnborough Air Show.

This week the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) sent out warning letters to a number of hotel booking sites after an investigation identified widespread concerns. Readers might remember that the CMA announced an enquiry into these booking sites last October. It appears that there is enough that they have found to ring some alarm bells but what? It looks as though it is connected to transparency, the impact of positioning based on commissions received, misleading statements and pricing but the CMA doesn’t say which sites are receiving the letters. Until we know that we can’t advise you to steer clear of them.

empty deckchair

the Package Holiday Directive comes into force tomorrow © Dan Sperrin

Readers might remember from a recent story that the new Package Travel Directive comes into force tomorrow – July 1st. Given that companies had just nineteen days warning of what the new law actually contained, the monitoring body, the CAA – said this week that there would be a three month grace period for companies as long as they could demonstrate that they were working towards it. For us travellers it means that there may still be some doubts as to what is covered and what is not. If in doubt get a written statement from your tour operator or travel agent before you buy.

Those who have holidayed in Egypt before know that it is at the airport on arrival that you buy your visa. But the queues can be long. Now you can get your visa in advance through a new Egyptian government website which has been set up to handle applications from 46 countries which includes the UK and Ireland. A single entry tourist visa from costs $26 (this is in US dollars) and a multiple entry visa costs $60. Remember also that you do not need a visa if you are travelling to Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Tabafor less than fifteen days and stay within the confines of the area but everywhere else in Egypt requires a visa.

from a previous balloon festival in Bristol

If you have seen the Bristol International Balloon Festival that takes place each August (this year it is from the 9th-12th) then you will know what a spectacular sight dozens of balloons make produce.  Lasting much longer is the Taiwan International Balloon Festival which runs from today until the 13th of August.  With 43 days of events to devise, the organisers meld together a combination of balloon events (including trips that you can make yourself) with night glow music concerts and summer camps. Don’t be surprised if you also get involved in a wedding as it is becoming popular to get married with a backdrop pf balloons during festival time.

By a badly timed announcement – it came one day after the House of Commons voted for expansion at Heathrow – the airport’s largest shareholder (Ferrovial) announced that it was moving its international head office from Oxford to Amsterdam. Ferrovial, which also owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, said that “The reason for the move is to maintain the group’s international companies under the umbrella of [EU] legislation.” Now if they had announced this the day before the vote, would it have had any effect?

In Australia the whale watching season has begun. Humpback whales, southern right whales, blue whales and orcas are making their annual journey from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to give birth before raising their calves in Australia’s warmer waters. Although whales can be seen of the coastlines of a number of Australian states, Victoria’s coastline provides some of the best vantage points. Whales can be spotted out at sea all along the Great Ocean Road and along Gippsland’s south coast. However, the best viewing opportunities are found in and around Portland, Warrnambool and Phillip Island. Visitors can watch from purpose-built viewing platforms, clifftops and rocky outcrops along the coast or join a wildlife cruise or scenic flight to get a closer look of these mammals.

Will the parliament support the council since both are SNP run?

A few weeks ago I wrote about Edinburgh council and its desire to introduce a bed tax. This week it received backing from some other councils in Scotland and plans to lobby the Scottish government to support it. As I said then, local councils do not have that taxing power it being a Westminster issue but I Edinburgh is poised to become the first city in the UK to introduce a special levy on tourists as it struggles to cope with a surge in visitors. Might the Scottish government support the council this time since both are SNP run? Needless to say the tourist and travel industry is opposed to any new taxes on travellers especially since hotel prices have dropped over the last year for the first time in some years – but only in some cities – as travellers seem to be tightening their belts.

A report from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) this week said that said people with long-standing health conditions may have been ‘marginalised’ by the travel insurance industry. A number of readers would agree. It found people still struggle to get insurance, despite being declared ‘cancer free’ following treatment. Others reported problems such as a lack of information about alternative cover after being given expensive quotes or refused cover. The FCA says there is also a lack of understanding among insurance companies and their customers about what risks are considered when setting prices. It also found insurance premiums were not clearly priced but it now says that it will work with the industry to direct people to specialist cover. But at what prices? Watch this space as the slogan says.

If you are flying to the Indonesian resort island of Bali , check with your airline, travel agent or tour operator that the flights are going ahead. On Thursday, Mount Agung erupted and flights were suspended leaving over a 15,000 tourists affected. The airport reopened on Friday but Mount Agung has been sporadically causing problems since last November, so just to be sure, check first.


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