Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 04.04.2012

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In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

New Zealand offers tourists tanks for their memories

France24.com

In a country regarded as the adrenaline-pumped home of adventure sports, one New Zealand company is offering frustrated drivers the chance to squash a car with a Centurion tank.

Tanks for Everything in Christchurch has a fleet of eight tanks, armoured personnel carriers and Jeeps, the largest of which can easily crush a family sedan pancake-flat in a crescendo of squealing metal and shattering glass.

“I think it maybe releases repressed frustration, to go and crush something with a tank,” owner Jonathan Lahy-Neary said.

“If you’ve had a bad day, it’s a pretty good stress reliever.”

The pride of the operation is Maximus, a British-made Centurion battle tank, weighing 52 tonnes and powered by a V-12 Rolls Royce engine, which saw service with Australian forces in Vietnam in the early 1970s.

There’s also a Soviet-era T-55, an incongruous sight in New Zealand’s rolling green hills, which Tanks or Everything’s Matthew Sandland said was surprisingly easy to purchase from an arms dealer in Hungary.

“The Iraqis had these, the Afghans had these,” he said. “The dealers had over 100 and they sell them as fully functional battle tanks. We had to pay to have the gun deactivated to bring it to New Zealand.

“So basically anyone could have bought themselves a fully-functional battle tank if they wanted to.”

It is the latest artillery round in the battle for the adrenaline dollar in New Zealand’s NZ$3 billion ($2.5 billion) adventure tourism industry.

The island nation has marketed itself as a spiritual home for the white-knuckled traveller with rafting, bungee jumping, heli-skiing or “zorbing” — rolling downhill in an inflatable sphere resembling a giant hamster ball.

“New Zealand is arguably the dominant adrenaline tourism destination,” said Neil Carr, associate professor of Otago University’s tourism school.

“Part of this undoubtedly relates to the physical landscape of the country” along with savvy marketing, he noted.

Lahy-Neary admits that when it comes to his tanks, “it tends to appeal to blokes more,” but said customers range from teenagers to 80-year-olds celebrating their birthdays.

Rugby All Blacks Piri Weepu and Conrad Smith, as well as visiting members of US rock band Smashing Pumpkins have all had a drive.

Canadian tourist Michael Noel fulfilled a lifelong ambition by flattening one of Lahy-Neary’s cars, sourced from local junkyards, in the Centurion, describing it as “quite an experience”.

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Where does lost luggage go?

Toronto Sun

Q: Where does lost baggage go?

— G. Marton, Hamilton

A: There have been several times when I have arrived at my destination but my baggage has not materialized. After waiting at the baggage claim, I have eventually made my way to the airline service counter to fill out some forms (using the baggage claim number airlines issue to help track lost bags). Fortunately I have usually been reunited with my lost luggage a day later.

But travellers are not always so lucky and — depending on the airline or the destination — lost bags can sometimes end up in a variety of places.

In the United States, there is an Unclaimed Baggage Center (unclaimedbaggage.com) in Alabama. The size of a football field, this place is filled with lost items. Travellers see aisles, bins, and a seemingly endless run of clothes racks laden with apparel, merchandise and other goods. Ski poles, sunglasses and designer dresses are displayed as if on sale in a second-hand store. The company website reports that people from around the world have visited during its 40 years in operation.

Closer to home, when attempts to reunite unclaimed baggage with customers fail, airlines such as Air Canada send unclaimed luggage to a central baggage tracing office at Montreal-Trudeau Airport.

Then there’s WorldTracer. More than 400 airlines use this company to trace lost baggage worldwide. Air Canada has a specific section on WorldTracer that you can access at aircanada.com. The airline also has a 24/7 toll-free help line (1-888-689-2247) where passengers can request information and check on the status of their baggage claim.

Here are some tips to help ensure your bags arrive when you do: Arrive at the airport early to allow enough time for your checked in baggage to be loaded into the aircraft. Ensure your luggage is properly identified with luggage tags. Don’t lose your baggage claim tag.

Q: Do we need tickets to attend the Doors Open Edmonton?

— M. Hamidi, Markham

A: Doors Open Edmonton shares the same concept as the Doors Open Toronto events, which allow free entry to architecturally significant buildings not normally open to the public. Edmonton’s event is scheduled for July 3-8, and organizers say it will showcase many structures built a century ago during the city’s great economic boom. For information on free guided tours and other events, visit the Edmonton and District Historical Society website in the coming weeks (historicedmonton.ca).

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Chaos on roads, rail and in the sky… it must be Easter

The Independent

Strikes in France and Spain set to leave tens of thousands of passengers stranded at home.

Tens of thousands of people hoping to spend Easter abroad found their travel plans in tatters yesterday, frustrated by a French air-traffic controllers’ strike.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and many others delayed by the industrial action, which is in protest against plans to cut jobs at France’s regional hubs.

British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair between them cancelled more than 200 flights – mostly to and from France, but with other destinations affected by the controllers’ stoppage. Departures from Liverpool, Luton and Gatwick to Nice were among those cancelled, with severe delays on other routes – an Alicante-Glasgow flight was seven hours late.

EasyJet told passengers that it had “been forced to make a large number of cancellations and many other flights are subject to delays”. The airline grounded more than 100 flights.

Around 90 Ryanair flights were affected. British Airways cancelled far fewer departures, but some passengers from Gatwick to Spain, Italy, Algeria and Holland found their planes grounded.

Many people took to Twitter to vent their frustration with the disruption.

“French strike has caused disruption across Europe. My Gatwick to Manchester flight has been cancelled. On a coach to Heathrow,” wrote Martyn Bryant.

“Check in desk at Gatwick is a total joke. Six people on for nearly 200 passengers,” wrote another traveller.

Thousands more passengers who were hoping to be home for Easter turned up at airports across France and beyond for their return journey, only to learn that their flight had fallen victim to the controllers’ dispute.

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Malaysia Airlines declares kid-free zone on Airbus A380

Australian Business Traveller

Malaysia Airlines is declaring a kid-free zone on the upper deck of its Airbus A380 – and it’s not in business class, but in the economy cabin.

An advisory issued to travel agents reveals that children under 12 will not be allowed to sit in the upstairs economy section of MAS’ superjumbo, which will make its debut between Kuala Lumpur and London on July 1 with Sydney-KL to follow on September 25.

The move is aimed at ensuring a more restful and enjoyable trip for business travellers who have to fly in economy.

According to an MAS booking memo sent to South Korean travel industry site Topasweb (the site’s in Korean, so we’ve translated the salient information), “the economy seats on upper level will be allocated for business travellers. Passengers accompanying children under 12 years old age will be excluded from booking these seats.”

Banning kids from the upper deck economy cabin of 70 seats – which is next to the 66 seat business class section – will restrict them to the main economy cabin on the A380s’ lower deck.

MAS’ memo also reveals that “(the booking system) is currently being developed so that, when customer has (a child or infant booking), seats on upper deck will automatically be excluded from selection. Please make your seat selection at lower level if you are travelling with children under 12 years old.”

The A380’s First Class baby ban…

Infants are also not allowed in the A380’s first class cabin, in keeping with a similar and controversial ‘baby ban’ for the first class section of its Boeing 747s.

Last year MAS managing director and CEO Tengku Azmil took to Twitter to defend MAS’ decision not to install bassinets in the 747’s first class cabin – as a result of which parents with infants are not permitted to travel in first class and have to book in the bassinet-equipped business or economy sections instead.

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