Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 19.04.2012

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

Over the top: Why carry-on luggage is out of control

Overhead luggage compartments are being dangerously overloaded as travellers avoid paying check-in fees to score the best deals on budget carriers.

With checked baggage attracting increasingly higher charges, more passengers are opting to travel with just carry-on, creating a safety and logistics nightmare for crew. And that’s not to mention the exorbitant excess baggage fees, or the time spent waiting for check-in luggage at the other end.

“Everyone is trying to avoid paying to check in a bag by bringing everything with them onto the plane – including the kitchen sink,” Flight Attendants Association of Australia secretary Jo-Ann Davidson said. “It’s a serious problem.”

Ms Davidson said while airlines were free to set their own baggage rules, they were often hard to police with passengers sneaking extra items on board or walking on with an overloaded bag.

“Those overhead lockers are only supposed to hold a certain weight and we don’t know how much each of those bags weigh,” she said.“Bags can kill in an incident or accident, we’ve seen evidence of that as the overhead lockers can come down in an accident and bags get thrown down,” she said. “They become like an in-flight missile.”

Space in overhead lockers also often runs out, sparking flight delays as crew are forced to relocate them to the cargo hold.

Some US airlines have already reacted to the problem by upping the size of overhead lockers. United and Delta expanded the size of their lockers last month after reporting an increase in the size and number of carry-on bags being taken on board.

Meanwhile Boeing engineers are working on interior designs with a bigger overhead locker capacity.

Ms Davidson called on the national aviation regulator to step in.

“CASA really should be taking responsibility and saying there should only be one bag and settling a weight limit,” she said.

A CASA spokesman said the rules were set when the aircraft was designed.


Film festivals: which is top dog?

The Guardian

Cannes, which has announced its 2012 line-up, has some serious competition. As Tribeca begins and ahead of Sundance London, our critics examine the big hitters on the film festival circuit.

It has been a quiet few months on the film festival front. The last two biggies, Sundance and Berlin, were back in the depths of winter; but now things are suddenly getting interesting. Tribeca, the New York trendoid-magnet, has just started, and Cannes, the swanky Cote d’Azur schmoozathon, has reared its finely contoured head on the horizon. The UK is even getting in on the action, with the much-anticipated arrival next week of Sundance London, an offshoot of Robert Redford’s indie-maven event in Park City, Utah.

Sundance London is an example of that industry buzzword “diffusion”, whereby name events set up franchises overseas. Tribeca has been doing it since 2009 in Qatar, co-organising the Doha film festival. It’s a byproduct of the digital age; festivals are powerful brands, and no longer seen as single-location physical events. Sundance is following the NFL to the UK capital; American football has been played there, on and off, since 1991. But whether Sundance London will discover that setting up shop in the O2 arena in Greenwich is not such a good idea remains to be seen; even free-floating global brands need to make sure their physical dimension is both attractive and accessible.

Be that as it may, film festivals are asserting themselves ever more strongly; the competition between them is increasing as they jostle for supremacy. It never stays still: some have forged ahead, some have fallen behind, as the film world itself evolves and retrenches. You might judge them by the amount of wet-from-the-lab premieres they get, or how many A-listers turn up to pad across the red carpet, or how many deals get struck behind the scenes. So here, taking all that into account, is our assessment of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and the winners and losers of the festival circuit.

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Africa safaris in cross-hairs

Toronto Sun

If Spain’s king had shot an elephant in Botswana during his ill-fated hunting excursion it would have been one of perhaps 150,000 that roam the vast southern African country, so the monarch was hardly contributing to the species’ extinction.

But his jaunt has thrown an unflattering spotlight on Africa’s elephant hunting industry, which some argue is needed to keep swelling populations contained but critics see as an obscene pastime of the idle rich.

King Juan Carlos hobbled out of a Madrid hospital on Wednesday and apologized for making the elephant-hunting trip – one that caused outrage in a country suffering an economic crisis. The 74-year-old broke his hip and was flown back to Spain for emergency replacement surgery.

He is not reported to have bagged an elephant on this trip but Spanish media circulated a photograph of him in front of a dead elephant that apparently had been posted on a safari website and had been taken in 2006. The photo was later removed from the website.

Similar outrage greeted photos that went viral online of U.S. property magnate Donald Trump’s sons with animals, including a Cape buffalo and a leopard, that they shot in Zimbabwe.

Many of the animals legally hunted in Africa as trophies are not highly endangered, or at least not in countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, where such activities are permitted.

Take Botswana, the world’s top diamond producer which is also rich in elephants.

According to a 2007 estimate by the African Elephant Specialist Group for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – regarded by scientists as the most authoritative – Botswana was home to at least 133,000 elephants but around 150,000 was given as the “probable” figure.

With a human population of 2 million, Botswana has the highest elephant-to-people ratio in Africa, at one for every 14 people.

Conservationists and hunters say their growing numbers are contributing to fewer forests and growing deserts.

“They have to cull them. That is the purpose of allowing people to hunt elephants,” said Mike Cameron, a veteran South African professional hunting guide who has led many safaris to Botswana.

In areas around the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana “you can see the total decimation of the forest,” he added.

But trophy hunting is putting little dent in Botswana’s elephant population. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the treaty that regulates global wildlife trade, Botswana’s export quota of trophy tusks has been 800 in recent years, or 400 dead elephants.

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Ryanair threatens backdated fare rises

The Independent

Millions of people who have already paid in full for their summer flights to Spain have been warned they may have to pay a surcharge before they are allowed on board.

Ryanair – which is now the leading airline between the UK and Spain – has sent emails to “millions” of passengers booked to fly from Spanish airports about possible airport fee increases.

The message says “We may be forced to debit passengers for any government imposed increases in airport charges prior to your travel date”, and cites its rule that says “If any such tax, fee or charge is introduced or increased after your reservation has been made you will be obliged to pay it (or any increase) prior to departure”.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the warning arose from a draft budget presented by the Spanish government, with what he called the “ludicrous suggestion” that charges at the two main airports in Madrid and Barcelona could soar:

“It’s a bit uncertain at the moment but it looks like the Spanish government are going to double the airport fees overnight the day the budget gets passed. We have already taken a number of millions of bookings for passengers intending to travel to these airports this summer and if they double the taxes we will be sending them a bill for the increase taxes or debiting their debit and credit cards”.

There is no certainty that any increase in airport charges will take place, but Richard Taylor of the Civil Aviation Authority said it was a commercial decision to pass any such rise on: “It is up to the airline to choose where the money comes from; whether this is taking money from the customer or footing the bill themselves. They are legally within their rights to take money from customers who have already paid.”

Mr O’Leary said passengers who object would get a full refund: “You can of course reject that additional payment, cancel your flight and then not fly with us if you so wish.  But we’re not going to be funding the Spanish government’s taxes.”

British Airways – which flies from London to both Madrid and Barcelona – said it would absorb any increase, as it did on existing bookings when Air Passenger Duty was doubled.

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