Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 21.03.2012

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

X marks the spot: the new King’s Cross concourse opens

Time Out London Blog

King’s Cross Station has had a makeover. In what rail bosses are describing as ‘the biggest transformation’ in its 160 year history, the station has had a £500m refurbishment which aims to transform it into a ‘transport-super-hub’. The giant latice structure, completed ahead of the Olympics, is designed for the increasingly large numbers of passengers to move freely  about their business. The next stage of the plan is to transform the front in an overhaul (after the Olympics) that harks back to the station’s Victorian history, whilst catering to the realities of modern day transport. Along with the redevelopment, comes the further gentrification of King’s Cross with a branch of healthy fast food chain Leon and a new Yalla Yalla restaurant. Today was the grand public opening and overall people seemed impressed. At one point a female passenger even congratulated one of the workmen on his stellar contribution, as couples took photos of themselves in front of the white lattice structure. We chatted to a few people to see what they thought…

Colin, a student from Scotland didn’t have a cross word to say about the redesign, whilst Lucian, a member of the station maintenance staff was enthusiastic about the space, waxing lyrical about the light and breezy atmosphere but appeared stunned by the cost of refurbishment. Virginia, a cleaning lady waiting for her train home was similarly shocked by the cost of the project suggesting that it was ‘a bit much’ and thought that the money could have been spent on other things, ‘especially at the moment’. This said, it turned out she had never actually been through King’s Cross before and was unaware that a refurbishment had even taken place.

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Ryanair investigated over £10 charge for exit seats

The Telegraph

Ryanair, the low-cost airline, is being investigated by an air safety watchdog over its policy of preventing passengers from sitting next to emergency exits unless they pay an extra £10.

The seats are popular with travellers as they provide additional leg room, which in turn has encouraged Ryanair to charge passengers for the privilege of sitting there. Fliers occupying those seats are also expected to follow directions and – if necessary – open the doors in the event of an emergency.

However, due to some passengers refusing to pay the extra charge, many Ryanair flights have taken off with those seats vacant. In those cases, passengers in the surrounding rows, further from the exit, are asked to familiarise themselves with the evacuation procedure.

Some of those passengers have reportedly expressed doubts about being able to understand the instructions and open the emergency doors if they are not sitting next to the exit.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has launched an investigation into the issue, while the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) have also expressed concerns.

“Our guidance to UK-registered airlines is that whoever is sitting next to the emergency exit must be briefed about what to do,” said a spokesman for the CAA. “If that person says they are not willing to do it, then someone else must be found who is happy with that role.”

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Vacations, spas for the pampered pooch

Toronto Sun

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Biplane design hopes to resurrect flight of the Concorde

It may well be the most advanced passenger plane on the planet but researchers have turned to the dawn of aviation in the hope of bringing supersonic flights back for travellers.

Researchers tested 700 wing configurations to come up with a biplane design – used by most aircraft in the early years of flying – to reduce the sonic boom that restricted earlier flights of the Concorde and contributed to its demise.

“The sonic boom is really the shock waves created by the supersonic airplanes, propagated to the ground,” Qiqi Wang from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said.

“It’s like hearing gunfire. It’s so annoying that supersonic jets were not allowed to fly over land.”

For almost 30 years from the 1970s the Concorde ferried passengers from New York to Paris in just three-and-a-half hours. But high fuel costs, ticket prices, noise pollution from the sonic boom and a well-publicised crash in 2000 led to the airline’s eventual grounding in 2003.
Mr Wang said placing one wing above the other cancelled out the shock waves produced from either wing alone.

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