In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Revealed: The map airlines really don’t want you to see
Flying can be a test of patience at the best of times, with passengers often having to endure cramped seats and ear-splitting noises.
But there’s no need to suffer any longer, the best – and worst – seats on a plane have been revealed by flight comparison website Skyscanner.
The site surveyed more than 1000 airline passenger on their seat preferences looking at the section of the plane they chose and whether they sat in the middle, aisle or window seats.
And the best airline seat may surprise you.
“The most popular seat, 6A, is well positioned for those wanting to disembark the aircraft quickly without being too close to the hustle and bustle of the front toilets,” Skyscanner’s Travel Editor Sam Baldwin said.
“I just hope that the low cost carriers don’t find out that there is such demand for seat 6A and start charging a premium for it.”
Mr Baldwin said passengers generally prefer the front left side of planes and that those sitting near the front will also hear less engine noise and get a better choice of food, among other benefits.
“Frequent fliers have also reported that the left hand side of the plane is best as the windows are off centre, allowing for wall space to lean on”.
Phnom Penh’s cultural revival
There’s more to Cambodia than its ancient sites, as visitors discover a newly thriving arts and music scene in the capital, Phnom Penh, with galleries, clubs and cafes springing up.
“Welcome to the Penh my friend, big city in the kingdom of wonder, where all the streets are numbered and when it rains it thunders, them smiles stay infectious, chaps asleep in their cyclos or pushing a Lexus.”
Thus rhymes artist Grant Massey in his ode to the Cambodian capital. Massey hails from Leicester and is one half of the Phnom Penh-based hip-hop duo Gobshite and Prolyfik. The other half is Chally Dang, a young Khmer who recently returned to Phnom Penh from Philadelphia, to bring, as he says, true hip-hop to Cambodia.
Their timing is just right. Cambodia’s riverside capital is on the rebound. After little more than a decade of peace following 40 years of war, the city of two million is recapturing some of its early 20th-century flair. Foreign visitors drawn to Cambodia by its ancient monuments are discovering a thriving contemporary cultural scene with arts cafes, clubs and galleries springing up all over town.
Meta House (meta-house.com), a large art gallery, rooftop cinema and restaurant housed in a gleaming white 500 sq m space in the heart of the city, has been at the forefront of raising the profile of Cambodia’s contemporary artists.
“The contemporary arts and music scene really kicked off five years ago,” says Nico Mesterharm, founder of Meta House. “Since then we have had more than a 100 exhibitions presenting contemporary Khmer art.”
Caution key in Mexico
Mention going to Mexico and the reaction is predictable: “Is it safe?”
Crime was the concern most frequently raised by American and Canadian media attending Tianguis Turistico, a huge Mexican travel trade show, held last month in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit.
Mexico’s tourism bigwigs must have known it was coming.
They repeatedly appealed for the media to put the matter into context, to be more accurate and to not smear the whole country with the same brush.
So here goes:
Context: An average of 2.1 Canadians out of every 100,000 who visited Mexico from 2005 to 2009 were violently assaulted or killed. The average for the Dominican Republic was 1.6, for Cuba 1.5. Jamaica’s average was 3.6.
Accuracy: When 22 cruise ship passengers were robbed during a shore excursion in Mexico in February, one major U.S.TVnetwork said it happened on a bus. In fact, they were hiking a nature trail. One network placed the incident “near” Puerto Vallarta, another “in” Puerto Vallarta? They did agree on one thing: A gang of hooded gunmen was involved.
That, too, was wrong, says Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, the Mexico Tourism Board’s chief operating officer. It was a lone bandido.
Smearing the country with the same brush: The state of Texas, for the third year in a row, warned residents not to travel to Mexico during the spring break season. “Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity are a safety threat even in resort areas,” it said.
Lopez-Negrete asked that travel alerts be specific, not generic, and that maps be used to show where incidents have occurred in relation to popular vacation spots. Not an unreasonable request. (If a Canadian was gunned down in Detroit, a warning against visiting the U.S. would be absurd).
The vicious attack on a Calgary woman in her Mazatlan resort hotel in January was the most recent incident to hit the headlines.
It came up at a press conference called by Carlos Beldegue, president of El Cid Resorts and vice-president of the Mazatlan Hotel Association.
Beldegue’s report that the woman “was found naked at 4 a.m. in an elevator,” drew amused twitters from some of the American writers. (The Mexican man charged with the assault supposedly told police the victim entered the elevator unclothed).
Immigration officers to get new uniform
The UK Border Agency, whose decision to slash staff has led to huge immigration queues, has decided to issue staff with a new uniform which unions estimate will cost £2.5 million.
Those immigration officers who survive the cull are expected to be in the new-look uniform by the end of the current financial year.
Under current Government plans the number of officers employed at airports as part of the Border Force will fall from 8,500 to around 5,000 by 2015.
The decision to press ahead with the third uniform or branding change in three years astonished the aviation industry which has been incensed at lengthy delays – at times reaching three hours – faced by passengers because of staff shortages.
Last week Willie Walsh, the head of the International Airlines Group, the aviation giant which owns British Airways, warned that immigration delays were threatening jobs by deterring potential investors from coming to Britain.
It is estimated that the money being used for the uniforms could pay for 800 immigration officers, and enable the Government to reverse plans to impose sweeping cuts on the service.
The new uniform will see the current blue trousers and jacket replaced by a new more complex grey design.
Members of the border force will also, for the first time, be issued with hats and shoes. Branding, such as the officer’s rank, will be sown into the new jacket meaning a fresh uniform will be required.
For the first time officers will be issued with a second more formal uniform – to be used for airport visits by VIPs and court appearances. This will see the workaday grey shirt replaced by a crisp white alternative.
The decision to invest in the uniform, which will be worn by all members of the Border Force including Brian Moore, its newly appointed chief, came under fire last night.
“It just beggars belief,” said Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association. “How can they do this when we are facing the current situation.