In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Italian spa town prepares for onslaught of Russian oligarchs
Montecatini Terme plans to erect signs in Cyrillic after Svetlana Medvedeva, wife of outgoing president, visits its luxury hotel.
A luxury Tuscan spa hotel which has hosted the likes of Giuseppe Verdi, Paul Cézanne and Arnold Schwarzenegger during its 142-year history has rolled out the red carpet for an unexpected arrival from the world’s new capital of bling – Moscow.
Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, has hitherto avoided a reputation for rock star living, but made a start this month by booking out the entire Hotel La Pace in Montecatini Terme for a week and showing up with her son and a 30-strong entourage, including bodyguards and translators.
In a move worthy of an oil sheikh’s wife, Medvedeva, 46, arrived while the 140-room hotel was shut for the winter, prompting staff to hurriedly throw open the shutters and plump up the pillows as Italian police set up a security operation in the small town.
As Vladimir Putin retakes the reins in Russia from her husband, Medvedeva may have wanted a breather from hectic years of opening art festivals, meeting Japanese orphans and visiting crisis centres for underage mothers.
With rooms going for €600 a night and suites at up to €1,300 – plus the price of saunas and massages – the elegant, Liberty-style Hotel La Pace clearly looked the right place to splurge.
Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn have all checked in to sip the local water over the years, and discreet staff have handled smoothly guests with peculiar requests or capricious behaviour, including the Polish count who insisted on clearing the restaurant for a game of tennis to a British lord who was ticked off for flicking cherry stones at other guests during dinner.
Medvedeva’s visit followed promotional trips made to Moscow by hotel managers, reported Italian daily Corriere Fiorentino.
Her stay, the hotel hopes, will trigger an onslaught of Russian oligarchs and their wives, just as Roman Abramovich’s visit to the Tuscan resort of Forte dei Marmi turned it from a genteel hideaway for Milan industrialists into Moscow-on-sea, and Putin’s stay at Silvio Berlusconi’s Sardinian villa helped clog the island’s Emerald coast with Russian yachts.
Plane cabin air will either be too hot or poisonous
A four-year study into aeroplane air quality has recommended airconditioning be turned off when planes are taxiing to avoid potential air contamination on board.
The recommendation is among a raft of measures in a report commissioned after crews claimed to be getting sick from cabin air.
The study, which began in 2007, said the evidence available was inconclusive but it did not rule out the possibility that toxicity could occur on flights.
The recommendation for airconditioning to be turned off when a plane was taxiing followed evidence that air could be drawn into the cabin from the jet engines.
The study, called Contamination of Aircraft Cabin Air by Bleed Air, was undertaken by a panel of experts set up by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
CASA has ruled out the move on safety grounds, saying that turning off the airconditioning would lead to rising temperatures in the cabin and cockpit.
“In some cases the cabin would rapidly become most uncomfortable, and potentially distressing for both passengers and crew,” it said.
The expert panel was set up after cabin crew claimed they were becoming sick from low-level, chronic exposure to contaminants in cabin air.
In one case, a former Qantas pilot claimed he was paralysed in mid-flight because of so-called “aerotoxic syndrome”.
Continue reading this story
Families face soaring holiday tax bill, airlines warn
Families face having to find up to £500 tax to fly to far flung destinations by 2016 if the Government presses ahead with plans for annual rises in Air Passenger Duty.
Britain’s leading airlines stepped up pressure on George Osborne to call a halt to the rises by calculating how high the tax could rise on current Treasury plans.
Official figures show that a target of increasing revenue from the duty by 46 per cent by 2016 would mean a family of four would face a £500 tax bill for a holiday to Australia and £440 to the Caribbean.
In 2005, a family of four travelling to any long-haul destination would have paid just £80.
The next round of APD rises, which come into force on April 1, will see a family of four having to pay £368 tax for a trip to Australia and £264 for a holiday in the United States.
Four major airlines – easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and British Airways – have buried their differences – to oppose the taxes, which sees passengers leaving UK airports paying more than their foreign counterparts.
According to the airlines, seven years of APD has seen passenger numbers fail to rise, with the CAA figures showing that there has been no increase in the number of people flying since 2011.
“Aviation wants to, and should be, playing a leading role in economic recovery – as it does in so many other countries,” the airlines said in a joint statement.
“But the UK imposes the highest aviation taxes in the world, and keeps on increasing them without any analysis whatever of their overall economic impact. We are exporting economic growth, and jobs, to competitor countries. How much longer must this madness go on?
“We call on the Chancellor to suspend the April 1 rises in APD, and those planned up to 2016, while the Treasury commissions an independent study of the economic effects of this job-destroying tax.”
Ranting AA flight attendant subdued by passengers
The Associated Press reports on an unusual in-flight incident that occurred on an American Airlines flight Friday afternoon. Read on for the full AP report:
An American Airlines flight was delayed Friday by an altercation that passengers say started when a flight attendant ranted about the plane crashing.
Passengers said several people wrestled the flight attendant into a seat while the plane was still on the ground at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Bethany Christakos of Dallas, seated toward the rear of the plane, said passengers started “freaking out” as one of the flight attendants gave a rambling, 15-minute speech on the plane’s public-address system.”She said, ‘I’m not responsible for this plane crashing,'” Christakos said.
Another passenger, Stephen Tremunde, said, “We were pretty frightened. She made two comments that if we didn’t go back to the gate we would crash.”
Brad LeClear of Fox Lake, Ill., said he was one of several passengers who restrained the flight attendant, whom he said acted oddly and mentioned something about 9-11.
“She is obviously sick and needs to take her medicine,” LeClear said.
Some passengers called 911, while others used the PA system to beg the pilot to return to the terminal. In a passenger’s video obtained by The Associated Press, a woman can be heard sobbing while another woman reassures her, “It’s OK … thank goodness we’re on the ground.”
A federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing said that airport police determined the incident was a medical issue and not a security threat.
The official said the flight attendant was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for evaluation.
After the plane, Flight 2332, had pushed away from the gate Friday morning, the pilot radioed air traffic controllers for permission to return to the gate and to be met by airport police.