In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Come wi-fi with me: Airlines are offering increasingly high-tech services to tempt us on board
As you pull down your tray table, wince at paying £5 for a glass of lukewarm Chablis and settle in for a cramped and uncomfortable flight to sunnier climes this summer, take a deep breath and console yourself that there’s hope on the artificial horizon.
From in-flight wireless internet and mobile check-ins to refreshed first-class lounges and smart new planes, the major airlines are spending some serious cash to keep us happy in the air. British Airways is one of the biggest spenders with more than £5bn of investment over the next five years on new aircraft, including the massive Airbus A380 and the fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, while Virgin Atlantic is spending £100m on refurbishing its already luxurious Upper Class cabins.
With fuel prices rising and European airlines set to record a £375m loss this year, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association, it might seem an odd time for the major carriers to spend huge sums on luxuries such as passenger comfort and consumer technology.
“The European and American airlines are spending to catch up with the big three Middle Eastern carriers,” says Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, an airline research company. “Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have grown rapidly and out-spent their competitors on passenger comfort, new planes and technology as well as price.
“Why then, if you can get a really good experience and save some money by flying via Doha or Dubai, would you stick with a tired European airline? This is exactly the question British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and the other major European carriers are trying to answer.”
London Underground map gets a facelift fit for the Olympics
Hop on the London Underground at Jesse Owens station. After one stop change at Carl Lewis. And then ride the Tube all the way to Michael Phelps.
That will get you from central London out to the Olympic Stadium.
If you’re in London’s west end, get on at Kieren Perkins station, or the nearby Murray Rose or Grant Hackett stations, and stay on the same train all the way to the stadium.
The London Underground has taken on a new look with Transport for London’s Olympic Legends Map. Instead of Piccadilly Circus, Baker Street and Knightsbridge, the map has changed the names of 361 stations to celebrate Olympians.
“There were heated debates and a few late changes of heart, but we are happy with the result: dozens of nations represented, all 2012 Olympic sports accounted for, and Ali and Phelps, two of the greatest Olympians of all time, guarding the Stratford gateways to the games,” map designers Alex Trickett and David Brooks said in a joint statement.
Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Games and has 14 overall, gets the honour of being the main Olympic stop, which is usually known as Stratford.
The nearby Stratford International station on the Docklands Light Railway is named Cassius Clay, the original moniker of boxing great Muhammad Ali, winner of the light heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The new map brings in famous Olympians from a variety of sports, including 2008 men’s tennis singles gold medallist Rafael Nadal, gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci, five-time Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain and 1992 Dream Team players Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
Track stars make up a good part of the map, running from west to east and all around the centre of the city. Cathy Freeman, Herb Elliott, Ron Clarke and Betty Cuthbert are among the all-time greats represented.
Airplane calls could land you in N.Y. court
Refusing to turn off a cell phone or laptop during takeoff from a New York area airport could soon land airline passengers a one-way ticket to court.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said on Tuesday it is exploring suing the worst offenders who fail to comply with guidelines for turning off electronic devices on the runway and sometimes cause costly and annoying delays.
The issue got national attention last year after actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight for repeatedly refusing to stop playing a game on his phone as his plane prepared to depart from Los Angeles.
The Port Authority oversees LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports, where in 2011 police responded to more than 400 cases of passengers who would not turn off their cell phones or laptops or caused “some other kind of disruption,” said spokesman Steve Coleman.
“We’re considering taking them to civil court and try to recover damages incurred by the airline, the Port Authority and others,” said Coleman.
New York has some of the busiest airports in the country and delays often have ripple effects at other U.S. airports.
The average cost to run a passenger airline is $5,867 per hour, said Steve Lott, spokesman for the airline trade association Airlines for America.
Lott said it was “extremely rare” for passengers to violate the guidelines, noting there were more than 1.2 million flights that operated out of LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports last year.
Dorchester’s London guests can borrow binoculars this summer
Between the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities and the Olympic Games, London visitors this summer will want to see everything.
That’s why the Dorchester Collection set up a clever partnership with camera maker Leica that will let guests at its three local hotels borrow high-end binoculars.
Of course, these aren’t just any binoculars. They retail in London for as much as $1,000.
Leica’s best known for its cameras favored by famous photographers such as Diane Arbus, but the company’s been making binoculars for 100 years.
Beginning in June, guests of the Dorchester in Mayfair and its neighboring hotel, 45 Park Lane, as well as Coworth Park in Ascot, Berkshire, will be able to borrow binoculars to take with them while seeing the sights, says Dorchester publicist Rosanna Fishbourne.
They could be helpful for guests who plan to visit the Thames River to watch the jubilee flotilla or attend some of the Olympic Games events, she says.
The binoculars – Leica’s Silverline model – will be available in two sizes. The larger pairs come with a tan leather case and should strap. The binoculars belong to Leica and will ultimately be returned to the manufacturer, she says.