In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
British Airways begins integration of Bmi routes
British Airways is to assume control of nine Bmi routes following the takeover of the airline by BA’s parent company IAG.
From May 23 all Bmi flights from Heathrow to Bergen, Nice, Vienna, Stavanger, Hanover, Agadir, Marrakesh and Casablanca will be given a BA code and flight number – all flight schedules will remain the same, and customers can now book through BA’s website.
A further announcement regarding the integration of Bmi’s other services is expected in the coming days. BA told Telegraph Travel that Bmi’s summer schedule would remain “as published”, but said some “tweaking” to routes could occur later in the year, to allow for expansion into emerging markets. It added that all frequent fliers with Bmi would have their air miles transferred to BA’s equivalent programme.
Last week IAG announced that Bmibaby, Bmi’s no-frills sister airline, is to close. From June 11 it will no longer operate any services from Belfast City Airport (to Alicante, Amsterdam, Birmingham, East Midlands, Faro, Ibiza, Mahon, Malaga, Palma and Stansted), and will cancel some services from Birmingham (to Amsterdam, Belfast and Knock) and East Midlands (to Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Geneva, Glasgow, Newquay, Nice and Paris).
All remaining Bmibaby routes ( from Birmingham and East Midlands) will be scrapped on September 9.
Affected passengers will be given a refund, but Bmibaby is not obliged to provide alternative transport, and has said passengers will not be transferred on to flights with Bmi or British Airways. Thousands of travellers who have not booked their flight as part of a protected package will be expected to find their own alternatives, whatever the cost.
At least two airlines have announced “rescue fares” for anyone booked with Bmibaby.
From June 11 until October 27, Ryanair is offering to fly affected passengers from Dublin to Alicante, Birmingham, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga and Palma, or from Londonderry to Alicante, Birmingham and Faro, for £29.99 one-way. WizzAir is selling seats on its Luton to Prague service, for travel between September 9 and October 27, from £29.99 one-way.
A number of airlines have stepped in to replace the affected routes on a long-term basis.
Monarch has announced plans to launch a new base at East Midlands at the end of the summer – operating flights to Malaga, Alicante, Palma and Faro – and will expand its services from Birmingham, including the introduction one new route to Barcelona.
Artist’s “Berlin Wall” divides rich and poor
A few paces from where the Berlin wall once divided the city’s communist East from the West a Macedonian artist has built a new barrier, this time to separate the rich from the poor.
Nada Prlja’s black stone wall, called the “Peace Wall”, is 12 metres long and 5 metres high and bisects Berlin’s central Friedrichstrasse, just south of Checkpoint Charlie, a famous former Cold War border post and today a major tourist attraction.
“The new wall underlines the gap between the upper Friedrichstrasse – characterized by fancy shops and expensive flats – and the poor southern part of the road which heads to the multi-ethnic Kreuzberg district,” said Denhardt von Harling, spokesman for Berlin’s Art Biennale show.
The Peace Wall, is part of the Biennale, which this year focuses on political art, and will stand for two months.
The art installation is intended to challenge the gentrification underway in the area over the last few years and highlight the huge wealth gap.
The 3.3 km Friedrichstrasse passes through the heart of Berlin’s rebuilt city centre. Just beyond the site of the former wall glittering glass office blocks begin to give way to 1970s social housing, luxury boutiques are replaced by charity shops and the crowds of tourists and office workers disappear.
The sudden change is uncanny.
“A wall is a symbol of division, and is in itself capable of highlighting invisible gaps,” said Prlja.
“‘What are the major causes of gaps in our society?’ I asked myself,” the artist said, adding she identified social segregation, poverty and origins.
Prlja’s wall has brought mixed reactions.
“I really do not like it” says Younes Alkhatib, a barber on the “poor side” of Friedrichstrasse.
“I come from Palestine and this wall reminds me of what happened in Israel. Divisions always spread a negative message…Pointing out divisions does not help to solve them.”
Hawach Amim, another Palestinian who works on the “poor side” said: “That black wall makes me think of a funeral.”
Olympic flame lit for London Games
The Olympic flame has been lit in Ancient Olympia in Greece, in a solemn ceremony filled with mystery and tradition that signals the final countdown to the start of this year’s summer Games in London.
Actors in ancient Greek costume invoked the god Apollo in the ruins of the 2600-year-old Temple of Hera, using a concave mirror to harness the sun’s rays and kindle a flame on the torch for a relay that will take it around Greece and Britain.
Dignitaries at the ceremony included the president of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, as well as the head of the London organising committee, Lord Sebastian Coe.
“We promise to protect the flame, to cherish its traditions and stage an uplifting torch relay of which we can be proud,” Lord Coe said in a speech, vowing the event would “lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across the world”.
The ceremony marks the start of a week-long torch relay, which will take it to five major Greek archaeological sites, including the Acropolis, before it arrives at the old Olympic stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Games in 1896.
A British delegation will receive the flame at a night-time ceremony on May 17.
Mobile roaming charges to fall again
Mobile phone roaming charges will fall again from July following a European Parliament vote today.
The latest round of cuts are the latest step towards a European Commission goal of reducing the gap between domestic and “foreign” call rates to virtually nothing by 2015.
As well as further reducing the cost of making calls from abroad and receiving calls from home, today’s decision cuts the cost of “data roaming” when holidaymakers want to download information from the internet.
The cuts involve reducing the cost of making a mobile call from another EU country from about 30p a minute to 24p, while the cost of sending a text drops to just 7p. Overall, roaming costs have fallen by up to 75% since the campaign began in 2007, said the commission.
Europe’s “Digital Agenda” Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “By putting price caps on data we have created a roaming market for the smart phone generation. More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad.
“I am pleased that year after year the European Union is putting money back into the pockets of citizens.”
London Labour MEP Mary Honeyball said: “For far too long exorbitant and unnecessary fees have cost EU citizens. These charges are unjustifiable and we finally have been able to intervene and set up sensible fees which don’t put ordinary hard-working people out of pocket.
“Under the deal a 50p cap protects mobile users from accidentally running up unexpected bills if they forget to turn off their data roaming setting.”
South East of England Labour MEP Peter Skinner said: “Brits travelling abroad this summer will really feel the difference in their pocket. It will be cheaper to make a call, send a text or check Facebook or the football scores online.