In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Travel deals inspired by James Bond
Live the Bond lifestyle with these deals…
Skyfall — the recently released James Bond film — has sparked a flurry of 007-themed travel offerings.
FROM LONDON WITH LOVE
London’s Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel has a “From Seven Dials With Love” menu through November.
Influenced by Ian Fleming’s iconic novels and subsequent films, and using rich British ingredients, the menu showcases some of the memorable dishes enjoyed by 007 over the past 60 years. Flavoursome delights include:
— A creamy scrambled-eggs-and-caviar starter with steamed asparagus, melba toast and whipped bacon butter. Scrambled eggs were Fleming’s favourite food, and Bond has been known to serve them when entertaining female companions for breakfast.
— Grilled lamb cutlets in red-wine sauce with mint-buttered peas and garlic-roasted potatoes, similar to a Moonraker meal shared with M at a private London club.
— Vodka-marinated strawberry jelly and cream, reminiscent of a vodka-strawberry pairing served in Diamonds Are Forever.
And the perfect pre-or post-meal libation? A 1953 Casino Royale Vesper Martini, of course.
Located in the heart of funky Seven Dials Village, the Mercer Street Hotel is steps from shopping, restaurants and theatres. The three-course menu ($48 per person) is available in the Dial restaurant, which is popular with theatregoers. See radissonblu-edwardian.com/mercerstreet.
007’S TOP SEVEN
Thomas Cook Travel has packages that make it easy for James Bond fans to visit the glamorous places that have served as settings for 007 films, including:
Fastjet takes EasyJet low-cost model into African airspace
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s low-cost African airline is ready for take-off in Tanzania.
The low-cost model pioneered by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou that rocked Europe’s traditional airlines is spreading across Africa. Tickets went on sale last week for the first flights on Fastjet, the latest brainchild of the Greek entrepreneur, which will start flying from Dar es Salaam inTanzania at the end of the month for prices starting at 32,000 Tanzanian shillings (£13) – plus the inevitable baggage charges and taxes.
While Fastjet has yet to secure the final paperwork for its transnational routes, it expects to be selling Kenyan and Ugandan destinations alongside its regional service within weeks, and ultimately aims to grow into a pan-African low-cost airline.
Fastjet’s chief executive, Ed Winter, a former director of easyJet under Haji-Ioannou, said: “It takes a long time in Africa to work beyond the bureaucracy and the politics, but the vision is a network across Africa.”
The business has merged with Fly540, an airline that will gradually disappear as Fastjet grows, but gives it assets in Angola and Ghana as well as east Africa. Broader expansion will mean working with other airlines, to circumvent red tape, although consumers will fly in aircraft branded with Fastjet’s African grey parrot logo and book through the same website.
Africa is ripe for aviation investment, with huge distances between cities and poor road and rail infrastructure. However, a poor safety record has blighted African airlines, with many carriers barred from European airspace by safety regulators.
Winter said: “At the moment, getting around is incredibly difficult. Put in a reliable service and people will want it. We’ll be bringing travel to people who don’t even dream of flying.” He promised safety would be “everyone’s number one priority” with pilot training consistent and centralised.
He said the cost of flying in Africa averaged four times that of Europe and that savings were clearly possible: “It’s the standard low-cost model. You utilise assets, plan properly, get smart people to be efficient and drive lower costs.
British Airways’ Avios scheme: One year on – is the loyalty plan better than Air Miles?
Avios rewards are a year old. Should we celebrate? Simon Calder adds up the benefits – and costs.
Avios, the frequent-flyer points scheme from British Airways, is one year old this weekend. The controversial “single currency” replaced Air Miles and BA Miles. A year on, what are the optimum ways to spend Avios – and what are the pitfalls to avoid?
Q Air Miles had been with us since 1988. Is it much missed?
A By some collectors, yes. Air Miles was a retail reward scheme rather than a frequent-flyer programme, and, for at least part of its lifespan, it had the merit of offering completely free flights. With Avios, you have to pay “taxes, fees and carrier charges”, adding £300 to a New York return flight.
Yet there are some notable advantages of Avios. Crucially for travellers starting or ending journeys outside London, Avios bookings allow for a free connection from Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester or Newcastle to Heathrow (with some services also to Gatwick and/or London City). You can also book one-way or “open-jaw” tickets, eg out to LA and back from San Francisco.
And for the first time, passengers who earn Avios flying on BA can combine these with points collected through the Tesco Clubcard, Shell service stations and Lloyds TSB Duo credit cards.
Q I’ve saved some Avios. How do I calculate how far they will take me?
A The world is divided into nine zones. Zone 1 covers flights as far as Prague, and costs 9,000 Avios; Zone 9 (100,000 Avios) is Sydney. New York and Dubai require 40,000; Hong Kong is 60,000. For journeys in premium classes, apply the following multipliers: Premium Economy x 1.5, Club World x 2, First Class x 3. If you do not have enough points, the company has a points-plus-cash option.
The creative ways hotel staff get back at rude guests
Beware: the next time you think you can be rude to hotel staff because you booked an expensive room, think again. You may end up regretting it.
Former hotel employee Jacob Tomsky has revealed the dirty secrets that luxury hotels don’t want guests to know in his new book Heads in Beds: A reckless Memoir of Hotel, Hustlers and So-Called Hospitality.
Having worked in hotels for more than a decade, doing everything from valet parking to working behind the front desk, Tomsky has spilled the beans on the creative ways staff get back at rude hotel guests.
Bored, overworked and often under-appreciated, staff have all the time and energy in the world to enact their revenge, which may include mini-bar raids and prank calls.
He said the wealthier the guests the more likely they were to be loudly and wildly abusive, while celebrities are often the worst of them all.
“A lot of people are watching Downton Abbey now, and they think, ‘Oh, I’ve got servants, too!’,” he said.
“Especially the affluent, they treat people as they never would otherwise. Meanwhile, hardworking people – who might be getting screwed – won’t say anything.