In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Hotels cashing in on Hurricane Sandy
The hotel is about to be hit by a hurricane. Do you a) close the hotel and batten the hatches. Or b) offer a discount and free muffins to tourists?
Some hotels are cashing in on the impending hurricane by offering hotel discounts. The promotional code? Sandy, of course.
At the Jefferson in Washington DC, hurricane-stranded or powerless travellers can get a discounted room. At 6pm they can have a meet and greet with management as the storm intensifies. Better yet, management will be serving free, yes complimentary muffins and coffee in the morning, hot apple cider in the evening and a light hour d’ours and cocktails in the evening.
Who knew a hurricane could be such a pleasant event.
At Kimpton Hotels in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC you can use the rate code Sandy to get 20 per cent off the best available rate for the duration of the storm.
Some hotels however, are not taking their chances.
New York Marriott Downtown & Ritz-Carlton Battery Park have both closed due to evacuations. All the Casinos in Atlantic city have been closed since Sunday afternoon.
Hurricane Sandy: travel Q&A
Cancelled flights to and from cities on the east coast of the US have affected thousands of travellers. This Q&A covers your rights and the prospect of further delays.
What if my flight from the UK has been cancelled?
All airlines, when flying out of the UK, have obligations under the EU Denied Boarding Regulations. They must offer customers the choice of a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity, or reimbursement of the ticket price.
If your flight is part of a package – ie the flight and a hotel were booked together through a tour operator (whether online or not) – you will be entitled to either postpone your travel, book an alternative trip of equivalent value, or get a refund on the full package price. Contact the tour operator directly. The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) has more information on your rights on its site.
What if my flight from the US has been cancelled?
If your flight is with a British or European carrier, you will be entitled to a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity, under the EU Denied Boarding Regulations. If the replacement flight is going the next day or later, the airline must also provide hotel accommodation and the necessary transfers. You are also entitled to meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, plus two free phone calls, faxes or emails. Bear in mind that any accommodation you book should be reasonable (ie don’t book into the most expensive five-star hotel you can find), and keep all your receipts.
Airlines ‘reject 95 per cent of claims for delays’
European airlines have been accused of obstructing passengers who seek compensation for delays and cancelled flights.
A website that offers assistance to travellers with claims has come up against airlines that refuse to share information and others that reject all complaints out of hand, forcing passengers to endure a lengthy and often off-putting procedure.
“Passengers are often not aware of their rights,” said Raymond Veldkamp from Flight-Delayed.com, which has represented fliers in seven European countries, including 800 from Britain. “They will usually be fobbed off with vouchers for a future flight, when they are entitled to proper compensation.”
Mr Veldkamp said that carriers reject claims “95 per cent of the time” and deliberately fill their letters to claimants with legal jargon, which often puts passengers off.
He urged airlines to be more open with information about delays, and singled out Ryanair as one of the most difficult companies to deal with. The no-frills carrier responded in typically dismissive style, describing the claims as “ambulance-chasing rubbish”.
Mr Veldkamp’s comments followed a ruling this week at the European Court of Justice confirming that passengers are entitled to cash compensation for long delays, unless those delays are caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
Botox and Bullets: Women’s weekend mixes shooting, spa
Chela Salinas drove out to Dry Hollow Ranch on a recent weekend for some R&R with an educational add-on: handgun instruction.
In the end, the 41-year-old mother of three took a shot right between the eyes.
Happily, there was no harm done. The weapon in question was a 32-gauge needle expertly wielded by ranch owner Kathy Simmons to inject 30 units of Botox into the furrows between Salinas’ brows.
The wrinkle-erasing compound constitutes half the theme of Botox & Bullets Weekends at this sprawling ranch 100 miles northwest of San Antonio, where on a recent Friday, six women are arriving for some shooting, eating, drinking, spa treatments and all-around conviviality.
The guests range from a newly divorced 47-year-old mother of five to a 31-year-old nurse with a 6-month-old. One is considering getting a concealed-handgun license. Another is concerned about home invasions. One wants to share a hobby with her gun-loving husband. Another just wants a weekend off from the kids.
Most have never shot a gun. But then, most have never been shot with Botox, either.
Simmons, a nurse who co-owns a medical spa, dreamed up the Botox & Bullets concept and staged the first weekend earlier this year. (Cost is $895 per person, including food, drinks and shooting instruction.) “I love shooting guns, and I run a med spa, and I thought, ‘Botox and bullets! How fun would that be?'” she says, pausing to freshen her lipstick.
Simmons, aka “Ranch Goddess,” also was looking for a way to earn revenue from the 200-acre ranch she’d bought in 2009. The former owners had populated it with exotic animals — zebras, elk and the like. But they weren’t there often, and they weren’t suited to ranch life. When one of the elk gutted a pregnant zebra, “it freaked them out,” Simmons recalls. “And I figured I could get a good deal on the place.”