Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 21.08.2012

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

BAA ends fight for Stansted as airport is put up for sale

The Independent

Stansted Airport was put up for sale yesterday after its owner BAA finally gave up a three-year battle against the Competition Commission which ordered the sell-off in March 2009.

The decision is a blow to BAA’s chief executive Colin Matthews who has fought to avoid a forced sale of the airport in the current economic climate.

The sale, which could raise at least £1bn, is expected to attract attention from rival airport operators and private equity groups. Manchester Airport Group has been tipped as one of the frontrunners to buy the business.

Stansted is London’s third airport and the UK’s fourth-busiest, handling some 17.5 million passengers a year

BAA has already been forced to sell Gatwick for £1.5bn and Edinburgh airport for £800m last April as result of the Competition Commission inquiry.

Both were bought by Global Infrastucture Partners, which also owns City Airport and is itself owned by Credit Suisse and General Electric.

Stansted’s traffic numbers have been falling since 2007 and last month’s figures from BAA showed them down another 4.6 per cent so far this year.

The airport has been losing traffic as low-cost airlines and tour operators cut capacity to reflect slowing demand.

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Facebook anger over Ryanair fees

The Telegraph

A British woman who used Facebook to express her anger at Ryanair’s boarding pass reissue fee has received the support of nearly 350,000 users in just five days.

Suzy McLeod from Newbury, Berkshire, says the no-frills airline charged her €300 (£236) to print out five boarding passes before a flight from Alicante to Bristol on August 15.

A day later she wrote on Ryanair’s Facebook page: “I had previously checked in online but because I hadn’t printed out the boarding passes, Ryanair charged me €60 per person! Meaning I had to pay €300 for them to print out a piece of paper! Please ‘like’ if you think that’s unfair.”

This morning her post had received nearly 350,000 ‘likes’ and nearly 18,000 supportive comments.

Had Ms McLeod forgotten to print her own boarding passes on the flight from Bristol to Alicante, she would have faced an even greater bill of £300. This is because Ryanair uses an exchange rate of £1=€1 when calculating its numerous fees – a policy which, due to the weak euro, means British passengers are charged more.

In addition to the £60/€60 fee for reissuing boarding passes, Ryanair’s passengers are charged a £6/€6 per person per flight “admin fee” and a £6/€6 “web check-in fee”. It also recently introduced an “EU261 levy” to offset the cost of paying compensation for flight delays and cancellations, and since January it has also charged an “ETS levy” to cover the cost of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, under which airlines are fined for exceeding carbon emissions limits.

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Legroom: No longer standard in airline coach class?

USA Today

If you feel like your coach seat is more cramped than it used to be, it may not be your imagination. Passengers paying the lowest fares are feeling the squeeze as airlines look for ways to boost revenue.

That’s not exactly a new story, but The Boston Globe is the latest to pick up on it. The newspaper writes today that “several airlines (are) squeezing seats closer together in order to pack in more passengers, create rows with extra legroom for people willing to pay more, or both.”

The Globe notes low-cost carriers are among those most active in tweaking seat space. Southwest has cut out about an inch of seat pitch – a standard measure of space between passengers’ seats – as it has overhauled its cabins.

That came after Southwest added a new seat design that included thinner cushions and seatbacks. In turn, the “thinner” seats (as measured front-to-back) allowed the airline to add six additional seats to its cabins — all of which are single class. For its part, Southwest says the ability to add the extra seats was an unintended benefit of the new seat design.

WestJet, a low-cost carrier and Canada’s second-biggest carrier, also has moved to reduce seat pitch in some seats to clear the way for a higher-fare premium section where extra legroom is the main selling point.

And even JetBlue, often tabbed as the most high-end of North American low-cost carriers, recently removed about an inch of legroom from its Embraer E190 jets to expand its “Even More Space” section that features extra legroom … and higher fares.

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Eat it and weep: The world’s most expensive meals

It’s the sort of food most of us only ever dream about devouring once we’ve won the lottery or become millionaires.

But for a lucky few rich enough to do so, dining on luxury dishes like these are just in a day’s scoffing.

BBC Travel has come up with a list of the world’s most expensive dishes, and if the cost doesn’t make you lose your appetite alone, then nothing will.

First on the list is the Golden Phoenix Cupcake – made two days in advance by Dubai’s Bloomsbury’s café.

Costing a mere 3676 dirhams, or $957, the world’s most expensive cupcake is made from 23-carat edible gold sheets, organic strawberries and plenty of edible gold dusting.

While still in Dubai and if you’ve got money to burn, stop in at the famous Burj Al Arab hotel and try its famous ‘27.321’ cocktail.

Costing 27,321 dirhams, or $7120, the drink is named after the hotel floor its served on and its height, and includes 55-year-old Macallan single malt natural colour whisky from Scotland.

Still feeling like something sweet? Then fly to New York’s Serendipity 3 where you can indulge in Frrrozen Haute Chocolate. It will set you back a mere $18,713 or $17,913 but does have 28 different kinds of cocoa and is also served with an 18-carat gold and diamond bracelet.

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