In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Thousands grounded as ‘snow plan’ at Heathrow fails again
Diverted flights left many stranded at the wrong end of their routes or in the wrong country.
Tens of thousands of airline passengers found their flights cancelled yesterday in a replay of last winter’s disruption as Heathrow Airport’s “snow plan” failed to survive first contact with inclement weather.
By lunchtime, the airport’s promise that 70 per cent of flights would operate was downgraded to half would operate. Passengers booked with BA, the airport’s biggest customer, were hardest hit. Many were stranded at the wrong end of their planned routes, while several thousand found themselves in the wrong country.
At least a dozen wide-bodied BA jets flying to Britain’s busiest airport yesterday morning were told they could not land. Airports in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Holland and Germany were used instead. Some transatlantic flights were able to complete their journeys after a couple of hours on the ground, but many passengers faced overnight stays before they could reach their final destination.
Flight BA12 from Singapore was one of the worst affected. The Boeing 747, with over 300 passengers, was held at Singapore for 70 minutes after Heathrow warned the airport would not open until 6am. Just before it arrived, the captain told passengers it would instead be landing at Prestwick in south-west Scotland.
Hotels cater to special diets; gluten-free food now on menus
It’s no longer enough for hotels to offer vegetarian food options. Now their menus are going gluten-free, dairy-free and macrobiotic to cater to Americans’ diets.
•Fairmont Hotels & Resorts last year created a Lifestyle Cuisine Plus Menu for guests with diabetes, heart disease, gluten allergies and unique dietary preferences such as macrobiotic diets. This month, the company introduced a new children’s menu with lower-calorie versions of favorites such as chicken fingers and kid-size portions of the Lifestyle menu.
•In September, Omni Hotels & Resorts introduced a gluten-free breakfast buffet section at all its properties after a survey of more than 200 business travelers found that 10% wanted dairy-free or gluten-free choices.
“Those special diets and their tastes have evolved,” says Stephen Rosenstock, senior vice president of food and beverage for Omni. “It continues to be more prevalent today.”
Food allergies affect about 5% of children and 4% of adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“This is a subtle message that we are attentive to health issues,” says Bjorn Hanson, dean of NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. “It brings with it an image that is very positive to the traveler, especially older travelers like Baby Boomers who are increasingly focused on health issues.”
Dutch ‘Divorce Hotel’ helps couples untie the knot
In the Netherlands a weekend break can become a weekend break-up for couples hoping for a swift and cheap divorce.
It is a concept called the “Divorce Hotel” and helps husbands and wives to arrange all the necessary legal documentation to end their marriage over the course of just two days.
They meet a mediator and series of lawyers behind closed doors who will split assets, agree alimony payments and arrange visitation rights – all for a fixed fee.
It is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jim Halfens, who said he spotted a gap in the market in a country where the average divorce can easily run into five figures and take months to complete.
“When they leave the hotel, all work is done,” Halfens told Sky News. “The only thing that happens then in Dutch law is that they have to show the agreement to a judge in the Netherlands and that takes a couple of weeks.
“They walk divorced out of this door and to make it official takes a couple of weeks.”
He uses a number of high-end boutique hotels around the country, including the smart Carlton Ambassador Hotel in The Hague.
Sales manager Ninke Bons explains that the couples, who often check in together, but mostly choose to stay in separate rooms, are handled with care by the staff.
Wanted: Retirees to live free in Ecuador
Interested in adventure and exploring new places? An international magazine is looking for volunteers to spend a month in Cuenca, Ecuador to test its potential as a retirement destination.
Applicants must be near retirement age, from the United States or Canada and be willing to relax, explore, shop, try local restaurants, maybe take a Spanish class, and report on their experience during an all-expense paid month in the Latin American country.
“We’re not giving away a free vacation,” said Jennifer Stevens, the executive editor of International Living magazine, which launched the competition.
“The idea is we will find a candidate who is already thinking about living overseas, is excited about the prospect. We are looking for someone who is adventurous and eager to try something new,” she added in an interview.
The winner of the competition, who will be announced on May 30th, will receive round-trip air fare for two, a furnished apartment and $1,500 in living expenses, according to an ad posted on InternationalLiving.com.
The magazine said the competition gives it the opportunity to show readers the benefits of retiring abroad.
Ecuador, Panama and Mexico, in that order, were the top destinations in the magazine’s Retirement Index 2012, which assessed a country’s retirement potential based on property prices, special benefits, cost of living, assimilation, entertainment, health infrastructure, healthcare and climate.
Malaysia, Colombia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Spain, Thailand and Honduras rounded out the top 10 destinations in the index.
InternationalLiving.com estimates that a couple can live in Cuenca for as little as $915 per month after rent.
It is the first competition of its kind for the magazine, which is expecting thousands of applicants. If it is successful, Stevens said she is open to repeating the opportunity.