Travel news round up

news: Travel news round up

• Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen, now has a solar powered webcam installed
• Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen, now has a solar powered webcam installed

Cruise ships join Katrina relief efforts

America’s Carnival Cruise Lines has chartered three of its cruise ships, Ecstasy, Sensation and Holiday, to the US Military Sealift Command for six months, to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The Ecstasy, normally based at Galveston, Texas, and Sensation, normally based in New Orleans, have already been pulled from service. Initial plans are for both vessels to be docked in Galveston. The Holiday, which is based at Mobile, Alabama, will remain docked in Mobile. “We sincerely apologise to those guests whose vacations have been impacted by these voyage cancellations,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO. “However, given that Hurricane Katrina is the worst natural disaster in US history, we trust our guests will understand that the decision to enter into these charters was the right one. This inconvenience to our guests will provide desperately needed housing for thousands of individuals affected by this tragedy.”

Low uptake of Wi-Fi

Only a quarter of US business travellers are using Wi-Fi hotspots in airports and on board planes, despite the growing availability of the high-speed, wireless connections. According to research company Gartner Inc, the percentage is even lower in the UK, where just 17 per cent of business travellers take advantage of the technology.

The low adoption rate comes despite the growing number of hotspots introduced over the last several years and the fact that manufacturers have been offering Wi-Fi support in notebooks for the last two years.

Users have been ignoring Wi-Fi in airports and in-flight because of educational, cultural and financial reasons, not because of the technology itself, Gartner said. “If Wi-Fi providers really want to attract new customers, they must convince both users and organisations of its benefits.”

Airlines such as Lufthansa and SAS in Europe, and ANA, JAL and Singapore Airlines in Asia are adding wireless internet access in their jetliners, but 78 per cent of US passengers and 75 per cent of UK passengers said that they would rather be out of contact while in the air. Most said they would prefer more personal space, bigger baggage allowance and better entertainment over in-flight access to internet and email.

Look before you climb

Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen, which is 2,469 metres above sea level, now has a solar powered webcam installed so that walkers who reach the summit can use the terminal to send an email home, complete with pictures, text and a video clip with sound. Galdhøpiggen is an important tourist and recreational destination, and the objective of the project is to stimulate greater activity in the local area.

Easy routes to ski slopes

EasyJet has confirmed that it is launching three new ski routes this winter, connecting Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster/Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow International Airports with Geneva, gateway to resorts such as Avoriaz, Chamonix, Chatel, Les Gets, Morzine, and Courmayeur. Daily services, using a brand new Airbus 319, will run from Doncaster/Sheffield and Edinburgh from December 15. A weekly Saturday service from Glasgow will commence on December 17.

Fuel increase

Finally, almost all of the world’s airlines put their fuel supplements up again a few weeks ago. The price of petrol is at an all time record high and air companies are reacting by increasing their taxes accordingly, unfortunately without adjusting them down as the price of oil stabilises. This means that airport taxes and fuel supplements are at an all time high and passengers are feeling the effect. PDM still offers great value air tickets however, so call in or telephone for our latest offers.

Fly me to the moon

The company that organised space flights for the world’s first private space explorers, American businessman Dennis Tito and the ‘First African in Space’ Mark Shuttleworth, is now planning a mission to the far side of the moon, called DSE-Alpha.

Space Adventures Ltd will market the commercial space flights in Europe using a Bristol based travel agent/operator, WildWings, an agency that has been offering a variety of programmes, such as Zero-Gravity and MiG flights, cosmonaut training, space flight qualification programmes and reservations on future sub-orbital spacecrafts since 1997. WildWings is now offering the first British citizen a chance to participate in an expedition to the moon.

DSE-Alpha, the first in a series of lunar missions to be featured in Space Adventures’ Deep Space Expeditions programme, is made possible through the company’s long-standing partnership with the Federal Space Agency (FSA) of the Russian Federation and the Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia).

The mission will utilise the robust Soyuz spacecraft, piloted by a Russian cosmonaut, and could launch as early as 2008. Two commercial seats are available priced at around 100 million euros each. Before the mission is flown, the required research and development and spacecraft modifications, as well as the required manned and unmanned test flights, will have been completed. “To date, fewer than 30 people in the world have left Earth’s orbit,” said John Brodie-Good, MD of WildWings. “This historic opportunity offers a British citizen the chance to be bold, to explore deep space, to observe the illuminated far side of the moon and to see the whole of the Earth from space.”

Check in really early

Forget two hours prior to your flight – an innovative service launched by Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick Airport allows passengers to check in for their morning flight between midday and 9pm the day before. The ‘Twilight Check-in’ service has so far been used by around 20 per cent of Virgin passengers flying out of Gatwick.

Lynda Tatler, airport manager for Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick, commented: “We are delighted with the success of Twilight Check-in. It is a great benefit to families and groups, who would like to take the stress out of getting to the airport and checking in for an early morning flight, by checking in the day before at their leisure.

“Passengers can avoid queues and check themselves and their baggage in quickly and easily. They can then go straight through to the departure area the next day, with plenty of time to spare for last minute shopping.”

The airline operates the service on all flights from Gatwick to Orlando, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Las Vegas, Grenada, Tobago, Cuba, The Bahamas and Port Harcourt.

France bans five airlines

France’s civil aviation authority, the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), has published a list of five airlines banned from French airspace for safety reasons, following a spate of air crashes worldwide, some of which have involved French citizens. The UK’s civil aviation authority and the US federal aviation authority have long had lists of airlines not deemed to meet required maintenance and safety standards. Now a number of other EU countries, with the support of the EU, are drawing up similar lists. The airlines banned from French airspace are Air Mozambique, Air Koryo (North Korea), Phuket Airways (Thailand), International Air Service (Liberia) and Air Saint-Thomas (US Virgin Islands).

Low cost to Cork

Low cost airline Jet2 is to launch a second new route from Newcastle International Airport to Cork in Southern Ireland. The airline already operates flights from Newcastle to Murcia in Spain. The first flight to Cork will depart on October 20, in time for the half-term holidays.