In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Ryanair boss bemoans own airline’s baggage fees
In an interview with the business publication Management Today, Mr O’Leary was on typically bombastic form, describing himself as Europe’s “most underpaid and underappreciated boss”.
“I’m paid about 20 times more than the average employee, and I think the gap should be wider,” he said. “I was paid €1.2m last year for carrying 80 million passengers. Aer Lingus’s boss [Christoph Mueller] got €1.3m for carrying nine million passengers.”
He said he regretted getting a job in the airline industry, and described holidays as “a complete waste of time”.
“I do it because I have a wife and four children who insist that I have to go away every year otherwise they will be traumatised,” he added. “Of course I fly Ryanair, but it costs me a fortune in excess baggage.”
He also revisited the case of Suzy McLeod, who received the support of more than half a million Facebook users earlier this year when Ryanair charged her €300 (£236) to print out five boarding passes before a flight from Alicante to Bristol. There was still no sympathy, however. “Thank you, Mrs McLeod, but it was your ****-up,” he reiterated. “We’re not changing our policy.”
A day (or more) in the life of The Beatles
This week marks 50 years since the release of the band’s first single – the perfect time to celebrate with a Fab Four-related break.
What’s the attraction?
It was 50 years ago today, that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Well, sort of. This Friday marks exactly half a century since the release of “Love Me Do”, the debut single by The Beatles. A deceptively simple but timelessly catchy track – defined as much by John Lennon’s bluesy harmonica riff as Paul McCartney’s sweetly hopeful lyrics – it peaked at just 17 in the UK charts.
But it would prove the launchpad for the soaring career of a rock band that – many would say – is still the greatest to have existed. Five decades on, traces of the Beatles linger all over the planet, and their often turbulent story can be re-enjoyed via trips to places as varied as Liverpool, Amsterdam, India and San Francisco. So may we introduce to you, the act you’ve known for all these years…
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Everything Beatles begins, of course, in Liverpool. The group’s native city is festooned with significant sites – not least the Cavern Club (0151 236 9091; cavernclub.org), the venue where they learned their trade, performing 292 times between February 1961 and August 1963. Rebuilt since the band played, the Cavern offers guided Beatles excursions, including the “Magical Mystery Tour” – daily for £15.95. Based at Albert Dock, The Beatles Story (0151 709 1963; beat lesstory.com) brings the band’s tale to life with multimedia zeal – open daily 9am-7pm, entry £15.95. But the holy grails are Lennon and McCartney’s childhood homes. A tour that visits the two houses is offered by the National Trust (0151 427 7231; nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles) Wednesday to Sunday (£20).
My kind of place: Muscat
As the capital of the oldest independent Arab state, Muscat can draw effortlessly on multiple influences – Arabian, Indian and, uniquely, African. As late as the 1850s, Oman controlled a trading empire that stretched from Gwadar, on the Balochistan coast of modern-day Pakistan, to Zanzibar, in what is now Tanzania.
Many Omanis retain links with both outposts, and the surprise of being able to earwig in Swahili or Balochi hints at its fascinating heterodoxy. Historical continuity bequeaths cultural self-confidence. Muscat’s streets are a congenial tangle of dishdashas and shalwar kameez, with colourful embroidered kummar hats and muzzar turbans bobbing above. Few carbuncles break the low-rise skyline of whitewashed flat roofs.Despite being declared Arab Tourism Capital 2012, the city still relies on word of mouth to draw visitors. There are no must-see attractions. Roam, eat, laze. Watch dolphins. Sniff frankincense. You won’t want to leave.
A comfortable bed
Muscat’s hotel scene is gappy, with not much between local business hotels and luxury tourist hideaways. Al-Waha Hotel, within the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, is a great choice for families. It is designed around palm-lined swimming pools that offer activities from aquatic play to treasure hunts. All 262 rooms face the sea. Doubles start at 140 Omani rials (Dh1,330) per night, including taxes and breakfast (www.shangri-la.com; 00 968 2477 6666).In town, the Chedi takes the biscuit. A sleek hotel on a private beach, it boasts pointed arches and desert tones in the tented lobby, polished wood and artful minimalism in the Zen-like guest villas. Doubles start at RO185 (Dh1,760), including taxes and breakfast (www.ghmhotels.com, 00 968 2452 4400).If location matters, the cheerful Crowne Plaza wins out, perched on a rocky ridge overlooking the full sweep of Qurum beach within easy reach of the centre. Gardens, epic sunset panoramas and a fine Iranian restaurant offset the humdrum interiors. Doubles start at RO95 (Dh905), including taxes and breakfast (www.crowneplaza.com; 00 968 2466 0660).
The suitcase that follows you around the airport
- New robotic suitcase could make airport trips easier
- Able to follow you around by locking into phone signal
- Be prepared for people to stare – it looks bizarre in action
Is this the laziest invention ever?
The hands-free “Hop” suitcase is able to follow you by locking on to the Bluetooth signal on your mobile phone and moving towards it, so you don’t have to lug it through the airport.
The smart suitcase will lock up and alert travellers by vibrating their phone if it loses its signal.
The robotic suitcase looks bizarre in action but could be very handy for those who are less mobile, or who simply dread having to pull their luggage around the airport.
Now, if only it could get itself up into the plane’s overhead locker….