In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Stranded 450 metres up on Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower
Strong winds have forced the operators of the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower, to shut down its lifts on its opening day, leaving some visitors stranded on a 450-metre-high observation deck.
Tens of thousands of people had flocked to the 634-metre tower as the Japanese capital’s newest attraction opened to the public for the first time, hoping to catch the spectacular views from the top.
The glitch occurred at around 6pm, when the attraction’s operators decided to shut down two lifts linking an observation deck at 350 metres with another at 450 metres for around 30 minutes due to safety concerns.
Skytree spokeswoman Maki Yamazaki was unable to say how many of the tens of thousands of visitors were affected by the closure, adding that all were later able to return to the lower level once the lift service resumed.
Rainy weather also put a damper on the proceedings, with visitors saying they were unable to enjoy the tower’s far-stretching views.
“I have long been looking forward to coming here,” said Ayumi Nakazawa, who won tickets to the opening ceremony of the tower, which ranks as the world’s second-tallest structure.
“I can’t see the view (because of the rain), but it was exciting,” Nakazawa told reporters after becoming the first official visitor to the observation deck.
Japan’s hard-hit tourism sector is hoping the tower will boost the number of visitors from abroad after figures plummeted in the wake of Japan’s quake-tsunami disaster last year.
The disaster, which sparked the worst nuclear crisis in a generation, saw the number of visitors to Japan fall 27.8 per cent from the previous year to 6.22 million, according to the Japan National Tourist Organisation.
Amid safety concerns, the tower’s operator said Tokyo Skytree was equipped with state-of-art technology to counter the earth tremors that regularly shake Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active nations.
The Tokyo Skytree is the world’s second-tallest manmade structure, topped only by the 828-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Battleship makes final port of call in L.A.
The USS Iowa, which ferried the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the perilous Atlantic waters to a historic meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in the dark days of World War Two, will have to be towed to its final port call.
The battleship saw combat in the Pacific, survived a devastating explosion in a gun turret, and even a snub from the city of San Francisco. At the end of its final voyage, the storied warship will have a permanent mooring in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted unanimously to create a permanent home for the ship at the city’s port, where it will open as a floating museum.
The vessel, which saw service with the U.S. Navy over six tumultuous decades, will become the only battleship museum on the U.S. West Coast when it opens on July 7.
“There’s no more ships like this in existence in the active navies anywhere in the world,” said Robert Kent, president of the Pacific Battleship Center.
“They’ve either been sunk, scrapped or turned into museums, and the Iowa is the last battleship to find a home,” he added.
The 887-foot Montana-class warship was commissioned in 1943.
That same year it took Roosevelt across the Atlantic on his way to a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran with British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet strongman Stalin, the first conference of the “Big Three” Allied leaders of the war.
The hulking warship, which towers 175 feet above the water line, was equipped with a special bathtub for Roosevelt – who was partially paralyzed following a bout with polio – which remains on board to this day.
Later in the war, it pounded beachheads in the Pacific with its 16-inch guns ahead of Allied landings, and took part in the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. During the Korean War in the 1950s, it conducted gun strikes and bombardments.
In 1989, off the coast of Puerto Rico, an explosion within a gun turret on board the ship killed 47 sailors.
The Iowa was decommissioned in 1990 and was later kept in a naval center in Rhode Island before it was towed through the Panama Canal to Northern California.
Business as usual despite strike, says Stansted
Passengers were advised to check in as normal at Stansted Airport
today despite the first of a wave of strikes by ground staff in a row
Contractors Swissport said the Essex airport will be open as normal, with no disruption to services.
Members of the GMB will walk out for 24 hours from 5.30am today, followed by strikes from 5.30am on Saturday until 5.30am on Monday and from 5.30am on Saturday June 2 until 5.30am on Wednesday June 6.
The June 2-6 strike includes the two jubilee bank holiday days of Monday June 4 and Tuesday June 5.
GMB suspended threatened strike action earlier this year over the introduction of new rosters which the union said would have led to a reduction in incomes of members after the company agreed to enter talks.
The discussions broke down last Friday.
GMB organiser Gary Pearce said: “GMB negotiators have been in talks to reach an agreement to resolve this issue since the agreed suspension of the strike action scheduled over Easter.
“It is a shame that Swissport has made and then withdrawn a number of proposals including a return to the original four-days-on and two-days-off roster which would have settled the dispute. The proposals were withdrawn last Friday.”
A company spokesman said: “Swissport can confirm that, with contingency plans in place, the airport will be open as normal and expects no disruption to their services. Passengers are therefore advised to check in as normal with hold baggage, which can be checked in for all flights.
“The action is being taken by the trade unions following the rejection of a revised roster proposal which has been put to members by a joint working party comprising both union and management representatives. The revised roster would avoid the necessity of imposing compulsory redundancies.
“The industrial action affects only staff engaged in baggage handling and despatch at Stansted Airport. It does not affect check-in or other customer-facing staff or any staff at other bases at which Swissport operates. Swissport handles flights for Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson, AtlasJet and BelleAir.”
Parental alert: United drops early boarding for children
Just in time for summer vacation, families with small children traveling on United Airlineswill no longer be able to board early.
Families with children who aren’t flying first or business class now have to board with their ticketed boarding groups.
The airline adopted the policy last month “to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups,” says United spokesman Charles Hobart.
Most airlines, including JetBlue Airways, Virgin Americaand Delta Air Lines, let families with small children board before most coach passengers.
“We work to make the travel experience as comfortable and easy as possible for our customers and know that families traveling with small children may have their hands full and need extra time to get settled in on their flights,” says JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Steinberg.
The move comes as airlines increasingly charge fees for passengers to board early and sit in certain seats.
United’s decision, says Brad Schaeppi, who flew United from Houston to Minneapolis on Sunday, makes traveling with his 6-month-old son, Asa, more uncomfortable.
“With an infant who can be unhappy at any moment, it’s nice to be able to go in and sit down and know you are on the plane, and you can manage your infant,” he says.
US Airways says that in the last year it dropped family preboarding for families with children but still lets them on earlier in the general boarding process.
American Airlines has for several years made families without premium status board with most everyone else. Gate agents, however, are on the lookout for families who may need help, says spokesman Tim Smith. “The reality is that many flights and markets — think Orlando or other leisure destinations — can have many, many families on flights,” Smith says.
Continental Airlines allowed families to preboard, but the old United did not. The carriers merged in 2010 and have been aligning policies since. Hobart says the boarding process has run smoothly despite the change.