Category : Latest News

Computer Fail Flight Disruptions – What’s Next?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

We talked about flight delays, flight disruptions and cancellations a couple of weeks ago, mentioning how easily it can happen in a seasonal context. Then, on 12th December, passengers faced widespread flight disruption after a computer failure at Britain’s air traffic control centre, NATS. We couldn’t have predicted it. Nobody could. So what was it all about? And could it happen again?

Computer System Failure

System Failure

Computer glitches ‘r’ us – Airport woes

When National Air Traffic Services encounters a technical fault, everything grinds to a halt. It has to, otherwise lives would be put at serious risk. This particular glitch caused issues at airports throughout Britain, including the major hubs Heathrow airport and Gatwick airport. And it happened only a year after a dramatic telephone system fail at the NATs control room in Swanwick, Hampshire, just one of several crises since the centre started life in 2002.

A total of 84 flights out of 1300 or so were cancelled at Heathrow on the Friday. Gatwick suffered flight delays of up to 90 minutes with 19 cancellations. And there were cancellations and delays at numerous other airports including Stansted, London City, Newcastle, Luton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Southampton, amongst others.

The government became embroiled more or less instantly, saying the disruption was not acceptable and asking for a full explanation. Labour called for ministers to “get a grip” and the Labour chairwoman of the transport select committee, Louise Ellman, insisted it was “vital that we establish what happened”. So what, exactly, went wrong?

UK Daily Air Traffic

UK Daily Air Traffic – from independent.co.uk

Flight disruptions in December – What went wrong at NATs this time?

Apparently a single dodgy line of code in one of NATs’ 50 or more computer systems – a mistake hidden amongst literally millions of lines of code – caused the problem. But the issue runs much deeper than a simple one-off failure. It appears some parts of the NATs computer system are ‘elderly’ and as such they pose an ongoing challenge.

How come? Imagine you set up a computer system ten years or more ago. It worked perfectly at the time, but as the years pass you need to upgrade and update it to cope with extra flights, new technologies, new safety measures, security and so on.

Do you replace the whole system every time? It’s probably too expensive and, at least at first, unnecessary. So you bolt extra functionality onto the legacy system and carry on as normal. It works for a while. But eventually the whole thing begins to fall over. You need to start from fresh. But the cost is overwhelming.

That’s how it often happens. And NATS isn’t alone. Banks have suffered from the same kind of thing, where old, complex computer systems are less and less able to cope with the contemporary demands made on them. As a result they crash every now and again, leaving millions of us unable to get into our bank accounts.

Heathrow Terminal

Heathrow Terminal – from techweekeurope.co.uk

Can they fix it?

The Swanwick system is made up of fifty different sub-systems, containing a total of around four million lines of code. NATs are spending a whopping extra £575 million over the next five years to update the systems, but they can’t just switch everything off to carry out repairs. They have to do the work while the system’s running.

Swanwick controls an enormous 200,000 square miles of airspace above England and Wales. It handles more than 5000 flights every day. And it’s no stranger to software issues, technical problems and computer glitches. One of the reasons is the simple fact that the system runs at “full pelt” all the time, so when something small goes awry it has a profound effect. Add the fact that NATs is facing cost-cutting as well as redundancies and you get the picture.

Thankfully the system was up and running again pretty quickly and by the Saturday, things were more or less back to normal.

Vintage Computer Room

Vintage Computers – from blogto.com

Will it happen again?

There’s always a risk one computer system or other might fall over. Then there are other kinds of delays. Extreme weather,  communications problems, technical issues, long immigration queues, re-fuelling, air traffic congestion, politics, airport staff strikes and embargoes, volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, security problems, illness and even drunk and disorderly passengers have all led to air travel nightmares in the past.

Wherever you’re flying to or from, at whatever time of year, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for delays, just in case. We’ve written an airport survival guide to help you cope.

How do you know if flight delays are imminent?

The Flightstats website includes a real time flight tracker and airport delays service, where you can look up the status of flights and get the information you need to plan ahead effectively, checking your journey either by flight, by airport or by route.

What about delays on the way there? You can punt the details of your journey into the BBC travel website and it delivers real-time advice about delays on the roads and railways.

Can I claim compensation for delayed flights?

The Money Saving Expert website contains everything you need to know about claiming compensation for flight delays, including a suite of helpful template letters to save you time and hassle, plus a handy table revealing how much you should be able to claim. Here’s a quick summary of the rules:

  • Whatever happens, you must be delayed for more than 3 hours to claim. The length of the delay drives how much you can claim. If you’re delayed more than three hours or your flight is cancelled, you might be eligible to claim anything between £100 and £470 in compensation.
  • Compensation is paid per person.
  • The rules only apply to EU-regulated flights, where your plane left from an  EU airport, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • It doesn’t matter which airline you’re booked with or which EU airport your flight landed at. Here’s an example: your flight from Manchester to Miami is delayed. You qualify for compensation no matter which airline. But if you fly Miami to Manchester you can claim for flying with an EU airline but not with a non-EU airline like Air India. And yes, it is confusing!
  • You can claim for delays as long ago as February 2005, but claiming for delays pre-2008 gets tricky. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can only claim for delays over the past 6 years. And it’s only 5 years for Scotland, under Scottish Law.
  • You can only claim if the delay was within the airline’s control, which includes staffing issues and under-booking. Things like political troubles and terrible weather don’t count.
  • In England and Wales you can claim when a technical fault has not been caused by ‘extraordinary’ circumstances.
  • If the crew turned up late you can claim depending on the reasons for their lateness. It’s done on a case-by-case basis.
  • If your plane arrives late from its previous destination, things get murky. The law doesn’t make it 100% clear whether or not you can claim, but it might be worth trying.
  • What if your plane was diverted to a different airport? If you arrived at your final destination more than three hours late you might be able to claim. It depends what caused the diversion.
  • If you missed your connection, whether or not you can claim depends on the cause of the disruption.
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Getting the airport car parking bit sorted

There’s one thing you can be reasonably sure of. We’ve had a good hunt around the wonderful interweb and can’t find a single story about airport parking going horribly wrong. Arrange it through us, sit back and relax in the knowledge that the parking side of thing is highly unlikely to go pear-shaped!

What Can UK Air Travellers Expect This Christmas?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

What can you expect this Christmas if you’re travelling by air? Who knows? Anything could happen, the British weather being what it is. Take last year, where travel chaos reigned on Christmas eve. Here’s our take on surviving potential delays at the UK’s airports this festive season.

Gatwick Airport Christmas 2013

Gatwick Airport Christmas 2013 – from skift.com

Christmas air travel chaos – Could it happen again?

Gatwick Airport on Christmas Eve 2013, and it’s total chaos. The airport’s departures were transferred to the south terminal after flooding caused a massive power failure on Christmas Eve. Thousands of passengers were stranded, some for as long as twelve hours, and dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed.

No trains ran to or from the airport for most of the day, since fallen trees had disrupted the entire network. And as a result of the delays, most local hotels were full to bursting point. Thankfully the airport provided food and bedding.

Of course it wasn’t the airport’s fault – there wasn’t a lot they could do in the face of such extraordinary weather conditions and they don’t control the National Grid. But in April this year a report by MPs called it a “wake-up call for airports across the UK”.

The main problem was the lack of information, which really took its toll. The House of Commons Transport Committee report highlighted a lack of toilets and drinking water too, and the fact that people weren’t given accurate, timely updates. They also said there was a lack of clarity about who was in charge.

Will delays and cancellations screw up people’s Christmas air travel plans this year? Is there any sensible advice about coping with airport delays? And what’s the weather going to be like this Christmas?

Christmas Travel Chaos

Christmas Travel Chaos – from dailymail.co.uk

Improved airport procedures and protocols for Christmas 2014

This year Gatwick airport has set aside a £30m resilience fund to help fund solutions to future delays. And they say they’ll be better able to get the “operational resilience issues” side of things under control, too. This means making “well-drilled plans” that “put passenger interests first”.

As a spokesperson said, “extensive work has already been undertaken to improve contingency plans and passenger welfare in times of disruption.” It isn’t just Gatwick, either. Apparently other British airports are putting similar measures in place, just in case.

An earlier review by Gatwick itself into the crisis said it’d be good to have a “passenger champion” at every terminal to support travellers and answer their questions. Gatwick has also kicked off a series of new flood defences designed to protect it from flooding in future, a wise move since climate change experts predict Britain’s weather is set to get wetter.

Gatwick Airport Travel

Gatwick Airport Travel – from gable-end.com

The MPs’ report recommended the Civil Aviation Authority bring forward improvements in passenger information so people know their rights when facing disruptions to their travel plans, not least about compensation. The Committee’s chairman Louise Ellman also said people should be reimbursed quickly for the extra money they spend because of air travel disruption. A spokesman for the CAA said:

“Both Gatwick and Heathrow are required to have their contingency plans in place by October and, once published, we will regularly review them – taking action where necessary if we feel the plans are not sufficient to protect passengers during disruption.”

Flooding isn’t the only threat to airports this Christmas

Flooding is one thing. But delays at airports can be caused by snow and fog too, and by very high winds. Then there’s the ever-present terrorist threat, which can lock an airport down instantly. Your destination airport might be closed for one reason or another, which will also cause issues. Again, there’s nothing airports can do about any of it after the fact, except do their best to look after passengers and keep them properly informed.

What is the weather forecast for Christmas 2014?

It’s impossible to know what the Christmas weather’s going to be like until a few days before the festivities begin. But TheWeatherOutlook website provides updates based on the latest medium and long range meteorological data.

As we write, on 3rd December, the weather on Christmas Day looks like this:

  • The south – Too mild for snow
  • Wales – Cold, perhaps with some snow or rain
  • The Midlands – Cold and dry
  • The north – too mild for snow
  • Scotland – too mild for snow
  • Northern Ireland and the Republic or Ireland – too mild for snow

Other forecasters believe it could get a fair bit colder towards the end of this month. It’s a lottery, which means checking the forecast nearer the time is your best bet if you want to be prepared. You can’t beat the BBC weather website for accuracy and trustworthiness.

UK Winter Weather

UK Winter Weather

What do airport websites say about their own policy on delays?

Taking a look at a few major British airport websites including Heathrow airport, Stansted airport and Luton airport, there’s no sign of their official policy on delays. The information doesn’t appear on-site, even when searching internally for ‘delays and cancellations policy’. Or does it? If you know where to find the information, let us know by leaving a comment. Then we can share the information with our readers.

 Airport SMS update services

Luckily most big airports provide an SMS update service, for example Heathrow’s SMS update service, where you get real time tracking and updated information about flight times, delays and cancellations over your mobile phone.

15 tips for Christmas air travel delay survival

So you’ve checked the BBC weather website or wherever for the latest Christmas forecast. And it’s absolutely dreadful. With the best will in the world, you might face delays. Here’s some common sense advice about surviving the experience with your sanity intact:

  1. Check with your airline before setting off for the airport
  2. Check with the airport itself, via their website
  3. Sign up for the airport’s SMS update service for real time information
  4. If you can, take some bottled drinking water with you just in case
  5. If you’re travelling by public transport, check for delays and start off earlier if you need to
  6. If you’re driving, check for jam and congestion so you can do your best to avoid it
  7. If the airport doesn’t give you regular updates, keep the pressure on. The more passengers insist on proper information, the more likely you are to get it
  8. Take plenty of DIY entertainment with you, whether it’s your smartphone, laptop, tablet, Kindle or a real book
  9. Check what you’re not allowed to take in your luggage so you don’t get delayed even further
  10. The same goes for hand luggage – the rules are complicated and change frequently
  11. Head for the airline counter as soon as you know there’s a delay or cancellation. If you’re quick enough you might just be able to snag a seat on the next flight out
  12. Ask airline staff I they’re offering vouchers for overnight stays, food and alternative flight tickets
  13. Be polite to airport staff– you’re much more likely to get the help and support you need if you’re nice. After all, it isn’t their fault you’re delayed
  14. You might have a report to write, a book you’ve been dying to read, a loved one to whom you owe a long email or a family Skype conversation that’s long overdue.  Make the best of a bad situation
  15. Stay positive! Scientific research proves the more negative you are, the worse the entire experience will feel. Stay positive and it won’t feel anywhere near as bad. It’s under your control

Nobody knows what the long range weather forecast holds in store this Xmas. But last year’s issues at Gatwick airport have driven some profound changes in the way airports handle disruptions, delays and cancellations.

With a bit of luck air travel delays for Christmas 2014, if there are any, will be a lot less painful than last year.  The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Let’s just hope we don’t have to eat it in 2014!

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Airport News for November 2014

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

The airport world is rarely dull. There’s always plenty of exciting news about airport security, development, redevelopment and destinations, often peppered with controversy. Here’s a bunch of the best and most interesting airport news stories for late November 2014.

The latest news about British airports

Car thief in Humberside airport fence crash fiasco

What happens if you nick a car, drive it off, crash into airport fencing and end up on the runway, leaving a circling aircraft above you running low on fuel? You get thrown in jail for just short of four years, that’s what.

Humberside Airport Car Parking

Humberside Airport Car Parking

The police and courts took a very dim view of car thief Matthew Dobson who, at forty years of age, should have known better. He’d stolen the car from the port at Grimsby in August before driving at crazy speeds to  Humberside regional airport and crashing through the fencing onto the runway.

In a situation worthy of a place on TV’s World’s Craziest Fools, Dobson even drove underneath a helicopter as it was taking off, a ridiculously dangerous stunt. Then he careened down the runway at 80mph before finally ending up in a field. The KLM flight delayed in the air by Dobson’s antics was running out of fuel and had just seven minutes to divert to another airfield, a very dangerous situation that could’ve ended in disaster.

 Manchester airport named ‘UK airport of the year’

Manchester Airport of the Year 2014

Manchester Airport of the Year – from marketingstockport.co.uk

The north western air travel leviathan, Manchester airport, has been named UK airport of the year by the Airport Operators Association. Coming top of the coveted ‘passengers over 6 million’ category, it beat Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham airports, mostly because of its ‘phenomenal’ growth. As their CEO Andrew Cowan said:

“Over the last 12 months we have significantly grown, not just from a passenger point of view but from a destination perspective. This year we confirmed a direct route to Hong Kong, with Cathay Pacific, which will make Manchester the only airport outside of London with a direct non-stop service to China. As well as adding more routes we also continue to develop and invest in the airport, including rapidly progressing our £800m Airport City project and connecting the airport to the region’s tramway, a feat we achieved with Metrolink over a year ahead of schedule. It is for reasons like these, I believe, made us a worthy winner in the awards.”

Heathrow expansion would “double the UK’s exports”

According to the airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye, adding a third runway to Heathrow would give Scotland access to the world’s largest hub airport “on its doorstep”. And it would also double the UK’s exports. While business leaders are excited, local people and environmentalists are definitely not.

Holland-Kaye claimed Britain’s only hub airport should be expanded instead of Gatwick, since it’s the only choice that would connect the nation with the world and keep it competitive. He also claimed a third runway could double UK exports by the year 2020 as well as increasing the airport’s long haul destinations from 80 to 120, making it the planet’s best-connected airport.

The government appointed Airports Commission is also mulling over another option, namely to extend Heathrow’s north runway, and they’ll make their final recommendations during summer 2015.

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What about Scotland? Apparently the country has been squeezed out of the short-haul domestic flights scene with 9 flights a day from Heathrow to Glasgow and 16 to Edinburgh, fewer than 10 years ago. Expanding Heathrow should mean more and better connections with Scotland.

It all sounds great unless, that is, you live in the Heathrow area, a place already menaced by endless noisy take-offs, landings and fly-overs. There’s no doubt the local environment will suffer, too. And last but never least, is it really wise to continue expanding airports when the effects of human-influenced climate change are already at crisis point and set to get much worse?

It’s probably going to be nigh-on impossible to get all the interested parties to agree. Whatever the government and their researchers recommend there will be a long, hard fight to win before the first stone is laid, assuming the plans for a third runway at Heathrow ever get that far.

The global aviation industry is already responsible for 2% of human-led CO2 emissions. It’s also the source of 12% of all transport-induced emissions. In fact aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. With the EU taking action to reduce aviation emissions in Europe and the climate’s future in the balance, there’s an awful lot more than business revenue at stake.

Kent council withdraws support for a second runway at Gatwick

At the same time there’s been another development in the airport expansion wars as Kent County Council withdraws their support for an extra runway at Gatwick. The decision came about because of changes to Gatwick flight paths, which will “make life intolerable” for people living in the Bidborough, Chiddingstone and Speldhurst areas.

Rhino horn smuggling fail at Cardiff airport

Rhino horn is not a medicine. Rhinos are a threatened species, in considerable danger. So it’s good to see a 51 year old Chinese woman fined £2,250 plus £1,500 costs for attempting to smuggle Chinese ‘medicines’ containing rhino horn and other banned animal products – including bear bile – into Cardiff airport.

Rhino horn smuggled into Wales

Rhino Horn smuggled into Wales – from walesonline.co.uk

All the items she was attempting to smuggle into the country are banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.  The woman actually denied the offences but was found guilty by the courts. As a Border Force spokesman said:

“Just because items like this are available in other countries, it doesn’t mean they can be brought into the UK. Border Force officers take their role in enforcing international agreements like CITES very seriously and anyone tempted to bring endangered animals and plants through our airports should think again.”

Liverpool John Lennon Airport bullish about attracting more passengers

Andrew Cornish used to run Manchester airport, a truly gargantuan organisation. Now he’s at Liverpool John Lennon airport, tasked with attracting more passengers and increasing profits.

While 4.18 million people sounds like a lot, Liverpool airport’s passenger numbers are dwarfed by Manchester’s 20.6 million. On the up-side, as Mr Cornish says, the airport is:

“Big enough to cope, but small enough to care. There’s a pride and a passion in the people who work here and the people who travel through it regard it as their own airport. There’s still a lot to do, but there’s a real buzz to it.”

Liverpool John Lennon Airport

Liverpool John Lennon Airport

What is there to do? For a start there’s investment needed to bring the infrastructure up to standard, stuff like new carpets, flooring and loos. All this should help him generate 5.52m passengers a year, the airport’s current record dating back to 2007.

Apparently there’s already a growth plan in place, but he’d like to speed it up by giving the travelling public exactly what they want. In his view – which is great to hear - “Most people travelling from here are going on holiday and it should be an experience, not a chore.” He managed it at Manchester, so watch this space while Liverpool gets the Cornish treatment.

Super-efficient business travel is also on the wish list, namely letting business travellers turn up late rather than hours early, taking the pain out of business travel by air.  There are also plans afoot to engage better with local people, schools and businesses in an effort to bring the airport and local community closer for everyone’s benefit.

Better still, Mr Cornish is looking for new routes and more cheap flights providers, “working with the airlines we have got, and other airlines, to open up new routes or maybe additional routes with existing airlines.”

We’ll be back next week with more about Britain’s airports, flights, airport parking and any other news that strikes a chord with our readers.

Heroic UK Airfields of WW2

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

Take a look at the history and origins of British airports, major and minor, and it’s remarkable how many of them started life before or during World War Two. The First World War, of course, was the first war in which aeroplanes played a fledgling fighting part, but the second war with all its technological advances really put the stamp on warfare from the air.

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire – from Badddog2k7

From the 1930s onwards Britain, suspecting trouble might be in the air again, built countless new airstrips in preparation for another war.

What travellers don’t know about UK airport histories

The south coast was under constant threat of invasion, right in the front line if the German army had crossed the channel. So this week we’re looking at two particular UK airfields of WW2 in the south of England, both of which have an illustrious war record: Stansted and Bournemouth.

Bournemouth airport’s splendid war record

August 1941 saw Bournemouth airport open as RAF Hurn, home to a variety of aircraft including Spitfire – everyone’s elegant Art Deco design favourite – as well as Wellingtons and Typhoons. In late 1942 Bournemouth became a base for several American squadrons and in 1944, as the war drew to a close, it was transferred to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Britain’s only intercontinental airport until Heathrow opened.

One young pilot’s tragedy echoes down the decades

The war’s impact echoes down through the years. Take this story, revealed in 2011.  A 20 year old Halifax Bomber pilot, Flight Sergeant Denis Evans, took off from the airport in March 1944, crashing into houses just moments after take-off. All seven crew members died, including the Denis himself, and two sleeping civilians also lost their lives when the plane crashed into their home in a Bournemouth suburb.

The RAF recorded the cause as pilot error, saying the young pilot wasn’t paying enough attention to his instruments. But in 2011 new evidence was discovered in the shape of two eye-witness accounts, both of which said one of the four Rolls Royce Merlin engines caught fire just before the crash.

As reported in March 2014, justice has been done and the young pilot’s name has been cleared at last:

“With Sergeant Dennis Evans in the cockpit during the crash, he would have been seen as the cause of the tragedy if not for extensive research showing that the plane had several flaws in its design. The investigation carried through multiple decades before Evans was cleared of any suspicion regarding the fate of the Halifax bomber, and he is among those honoured by the recent commemoration ceremony.”

Bournemouth Hurn Aiport in Wartime

Bournemouth Hurn Aiport in Wartime – from largescaleplanes.com

In subsequent years the airport was heavily involved in making planes, building Vickers Viscount aircraftduring the 1950s and ’60s and producing the BAC 1-11 jetin the ’60s and ’70s, at a time when Concorde components were also made there. The airport was finally sold to Bournemouth and Dorset Councils in 1969 and its life as a modern hub began.

The role of Stansted airport during the Second World War

In early 1942 the British wartime government and US military officials decided to build a US Army Air Force bomber airfield near the little village of  Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex. The US 817th Aviation Engineering Battalion arrived on site at Renfrew Farm in August the same year, tasked with converting the sleepy rural landscape into a massive military airfield.

The 817th left Stansted in November ’42, replaced by the 825th Aviation Battalion. They finished off the airfield roads, control tower, fire station and motor transport area, leaving in December 1943. May of ’43 saw runways and taxiways emerging thanks to the 850th Aviation Engineering Battalion, who stayed until spring 1944.

B26 Marauder at Stanstead Airport

B26 Marauder at Stanstead Airport 1944 – from readtiger.com

In February 1944, the 344th Bombardment Group moved in, along with squadrons 494,495, 496, and 497. They flew their first operational mission in March before the Group moved to France. The airport was also a vital maintenance base for the 8th and 9th Air Forces, both of which operated there. And after the war Stansted Airport functioned as a maintenance unit and a place to house German prisoners before repatriating them.

‘Band of Brothers’ revisit Stansted airport

In 2009 four of the soldiers who inspired TV’s Band of Brothers series unveiled a very special plaque at Stansted. They were all 88 years old. Buck Compton, Donald Malarkey, Ed Tipper and Bradford Freeman were there to share their war stories and commemorate the part played by the airport in winning the war.

All four of the 101st Airborne Division fighters made heart-warming speeches about their experiences. Donald Malarkey said “The UK is an incredible country and coming over here to fight during the war were some of the proudest days of my life”. Malarkey even met Churchill in person, a meeting he remembered with great pride. And all four men played a part in the D-Day invasions.

The TV series Band of Brothers was a worldwide hit in 2001, inspired by the 101st paratroopers division and based on their real-life experiences, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. But the men themselves are almost as famous, and they were mobbed by autograph hunters throughout their visit.

London Stanstead Airport Tower

London Stanstead Airport Tower

Stansted 70th birthday celebrations

Emotions also ran high in June 2013 when the airport celebrated its 70th anniversary with a Thunderbolt flypast and the unveiling of a memorial. US veteran jets were present, special guests of honour to mark one of the largest WW2 US bases in East Anglia, home to the infamous 344th Bomb Group, the Silver Streaks who led the US Air Force into action on D-Day.

Retired 344th Bomb Group flying hero Major Edward W. Horn flew in from the US to join the ceremony designed to recognise the crucial role of the American Army Engineers in 1943 and the equally critical role George Washington Field, as Stansted was then called, played in World War Two.

Forgotten wartime airfields of southern England

During the war literally hundreds of state-of-the-art airfields were hastily constructed. Some were designed to cater for  heavy bombers, including dozens of special hard standings and complex support facilities. Others housed squadrons of fighter planes and transport aircraft.

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Many of Britain’s wartime airstrips survived to tell the tale, expanding beyond all recognition to create popular regional and national hubs for modern air travel. Others have been lost in time, leaving behind fascinating ghost airports that are often only visible from the air, having fallen into disuse or become peaceful farmland again.

Now and again you’ll spot a dilapidated hangars or the weedy leftovers of a runway, stores, mess or living accommodation. But from the air they spring back to life, their old wartime contours suddenly as clear as a bell. It’s an eerily fascinating experience.

Google Earth is a brilliant way to explore ghost airfields. There are some spectacular aerial images of forgotten British wartime airfields on the brilliant urbanghostsmedia website.

About Manchester Airport Facilities, Parking, Hotels & More

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

You’ll find Manchester Airport at Ringway, Manchester. Last year it was Britain’s third busiest airport as far as passenger numbers are concerned, and the 21st busiest in Europe – in 2013 almost 21 million passengers passed through its gates.

It’s also the biggest regional airport in the UK with more than double the passenger numbers at the next biggest, Edinburgh. You can fly to 225 destinations, more than any other British airport, via more than 50 airlines. It offers three terminals, two runways and the capacity for an impressive 61 aircraft to take off every hour.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport – United Kingdom

A quick guide to Manchester Airport

Here’s our one-stop-shop guide to Manchester airport hotels, airport facilities and much more. Whatever you need to know, you’ll find it here.

First, the history bit…

The history of Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport started life as Ringway Airport back in 1937, like many British airports a product of Word War Two. During WW2 it was a base for the RAF, a vital cog in the military aircraft production and parachutist training machine. After the war it reverted to civilian status. In the early 1970s, when package holidays emerged as the next big trend, the M56 motorway opened and improved access. In the 1990s a rail connection was established, and two more runways added. The control tower is very new, built in 2013 to replace the original. At 60m it’s Britain’s second highest.

How to get to Manchester airport

  • By car – The airport connects directly to the motorway network, just off the M56 junction 5, and has its own approach road. It is very well signposted on all local motorways including the M6 and M60.
  • By cab – You’ll find taxi ranks outside all three terminals and the tariffs are clearly displayed at each rank.
    By taxibus – Airportcarz operate a taxibus service from all 3 terminals. You’ll find details in each terminal’s Arrivals area.
  • By bus – Frequent services operate to and from the airport 24/7. Buses connect to the city centre and depart every 10 minutes. National Express also runs a coach service to and from the airport.
  • By train – The airport connects direct with the rail network with its own station, called The station. There are frequent local and regional trains to the city’s main rail station, from which you connect to Britain’s  national rail network.
Manchester Airport Bus

Manchester Airport Bus

Terminals at Manchester

Terminals 1 and 2 handle scheduled and charter flights. Terminal 3 handles domestic flights, some scheduled EU flights and American Airlines flights to The States.

  • Terminals 1 and 2 are linked by travelators, a 10-15 minute walk
  • Terminal 3 and 1 are linked by a covered walkway
  • A Skylink connects all terminals to the airport railway station

The 10 busiest routes from Manchester

Manchester is a particularly popular hub for the USA and Middle East as well as for EU destinations. Their top ten busiest routes are:

1. Spain
2. UK domestic flights
3. USA
4. Germany
5. UAE
6. Turkey
7. Greece
8. Ireland
9. France
10. Italy

Facilities

As one of Britain’s busiest hubs, Manchester is no stranger to customer service and they provide excellent facilities, more or less anything you could possibly want including all the expected shops, bars, restaurants and cafes plus:

  • Smart airport lounges, one at every terminal (which you can book direct through us)
  • A space for worship
  • Help if you’re scared of flying
  • Car rental
  • WiFi
  • Express check-in and fast-track
  • Duty free and travel money
  • Showers
  • Leisure facilities
  • Entertainment for the kids including play areas and places to watch the aircraft
  • FREE WiFi
  • Trolleys
  • Business facilities
  • Support for disabled and less able people
Manchester Airport Shopping

Shopping at Manchester Airport

Cheap Manchester airport parking

Bear in mind there’s a strict no waiting policy on all surrounding access roads, put in place after the 2007 Glasgow airport terrorist incident. Pick-ups must take place via the official short stay car parks, multi-storey affairs situated right next to terminals one and two.

Terminal 1 short stay multi-storey was smartened up recently and features handy colour-coding for the different levels, great news when otherwise they all look the same, and handy when you’re in a rush.  Every parking space has its own sensor and light, and if a space is empty the light shines green.

You’ll also find long stay parking at Manchester near the terminals and there’s a regular courtesy bus. One car park serves terminals 1 and 3 and there’s another for terminal 2.

There are also a couple of long stay ‘JetParks’ less than a mile from the terminals, a cheaper choice than on-site car parking. There’s a 24/7 shuttle bus that runs every quarter of an hour.

There’s also a special Shuttle Park for long term parking, with its own courtesy bus, located off-site to the east of terminal 3. And there’s a handful of privately owned and operated car parks close by, all with shuttle buses.

How to get the best deals on parking at Manchester airport? Do it through us and get an excellent price, booking before you go for convenience.

Manchester Airport Map

Manchester Airport Map

Hotels near Manchester airport

As you’d expect from such a busy hub, there are plenty of excellent hotels close by and on-site. According to Expedia the most popular include:

  • Hilton Manchester Airport - Less than 5 minutes to the airport by courtesy bus, with 12 meeting rooms to cater for up to 250 people.
  • Bewleys Hotel – Easy access to terminals 1 and 3, a 24 hour free shuttle service plus long-stay parking
  • Crowne Plaza – Free shuttle transfers, modern and comfortable
  • Etrop Grange – Something a bit different, a lovely Grade II listed Georgian Mansion built in 1780, near the city centre and the airport, with meeting rooms for as many as 150 people
  • Radisson Blu – Great facilities including a private car park, pool and spa, WiFi and  a fully equipped gym
  • Manchester Airport Marriott – close by with a countryside setting, leisure centre, spa and hair salon
  • Hallmark Hotel – a relaxed boutique hotel with 4 stars, just 3 miles from the airport
Crown Plaza Hotel Manchester Airport

Crown Plaza at Manchester Airport – from essentialworld.travel

Manchester airport hotels with parking

If you don’t fancy leaving your car in long stay, you can leave it at a wide variety of convenient hotels near the airport, perfect if you’d rather sleep comfortably close by and fly fresh in the morning instead of travelling at all hours of the night. It means you’re less likely to be delayed too, with no missed flights to worry about. You can either book a room on its own or combine a stay at a Manchester Airport hotel with parking.

There’s plenty of choice including:

  • Bewleys  – A great quality 3 star hotel with secure APH parking close by, a mere 3 minutes walk from Terminals 1 and 3
  • Britannia –  A 3 star hotel with on-site secure parking just 15 minutes from the airport
  • Cresta Court – 5 minutes from the airport, 3 stars, parking at the secure APH Manchester car park or use the special APH Meet and Greet service
  • Crowne Plaza – 4 star luxury just 2 minutes from the airport, on-site car parking at the Hotel as well as the secure APH car park
  • Premier Inn North Manchester Airport  – 5 minutes from the airport, parking at either the secure APH car park or off-airport at JetParks
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Enjoy watching the action from the Airport Hotel pub

If you enjoy watching approaches, landings and take-offs, whether or not you’re flying, you can visit the excellent Airport Hotel, a Robinson’s Brewery pub half a mile from the airport itself with a beer garden facing the end of taxiway J.

Latest Ebola News – UK Airports

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

The Ebola crisis has been a slow burn until recently. The epidemic has been slowly and surely spreading, crossing borders and entering new continents, and it’s only recently that the world’s governments have started sitting up and taking notice, treating the epidemic very seriously indeed.

Ebola Protection

Ebola Protection – from wired.it

About Ebola, airport screening and safety precautions

What’s the latest news about Ebola precautions at British airports? We thought it’s be useful to give you the facts about the disease itself and how the UK government is dealing with it, so you know exactly where you stand and can make informed travel decisions.

Ebola news: First, where to go and where not to go?

It’s obvious that visiting the African nations worst affected by the virus comes with considerable risk. The Ebola Virus Wikipedia page is full of up-to-date information. The situation is still pretty fluid, which doesn’t help with decision making. Wikipedia currently says this:

“An epidemic of Ebola virus disease is ongoing in parts of West Africa. It began in Guinea in December 2013 then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  A few much smaller subsidiary outbreaks have occurred elsewhere, with outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal that appear to have been successfully contained, and secondary infections of medical workers with very low case numbers in the United States and Spain, neither of which is yet showing any signs of spreading in the general population.

As of October 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local governments reported a total of 8,400 suspected cases and 4,033 deaths (4,633 cases and 2,423 deaths having been laboratory confirmed), though the WHO believes that this substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak  with possibly 2.5 times as many cases as have been reported. On 14 October, during a news conference in Geneva, the assistant director-general of the WHO stated that there could be as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases per week by December 2014.”

How does Ebola spread?

There’s been a lot of scaremongering. In fact human-to-human transmission can only happen via direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from an infected person or, considerably less likely, by contact with objects someone actively ill has contaminated. No airborne transmission risk has been documented. Dead bodies are still infectious, and you can catch the virus through unprotected sex.

Difficulties containing the Ebola outbreak

Apparently the man who first discovered the Ebola virus, Doctor Peter Piot, believes this latest outbreak isn’t following the virus’s usual linear spread pattern, with it “hopping” all over West Africa. Because past outbreaks have been in remote areas, they were less of a threat. This time it has spread to busy urban areas, making transmission harder to track and stop as well as increasing the number of people likely to come into contact with victims.

Ebola Donald Trump Tweet

Ebola – Donald Trump Tweet

British airports’ response to the Ebola crisis

The Department of Health says around 85% of UK arrivals from affected countries will arrive here via Heathrow airport. In September 2014 around 1,000 people arrived in the UK from Ebola-affected West Africa.

Five hours ago at the time of writing this post, the BBC News website announced that Heathrow airport would start screening passengers who are flying both to and from “countries at risk”. The decision follows the Health Secretary’s expectation that a “handful” of cases are likely to reach Britain before Christmas 2014.

Screening is set to begin at Heathrow airport Terminal 1, then it’ll be extended to the remaining Heathrow terminals as well as Gatwick airport and the Eurostar service, apparently by the end of this week (17th October).

Ebola screening at Heathrow airport

Ebola screening at Heathrow airport – from nydailynews.com

What about screening before people reach Britain?

The majority of people flying from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are already screened once at the other end, before being let on the aircraft. The new UK procedures will involve at-risk people being identified by British Border Force officers when they arrive here, then screened by experts from Public Health England.

What does Ebola screening involve?

Ebola screening involves taking people’s temperatures, asking them to fill in a questionnaire and noting their contact details. If anyone is suspected of having the disease, they’ll be taken straight to hospital. If a person has been in contact with an Ebola victim but don’t have any symptoms, Public Health England will contact them every day to check their status and they’ll also be given advice about what to do if they fall ill, who to contact and where to go.

The questions people will be asked to answer include:

  • Where did you start this journey?
  • Have you been near anyone with confirmed Ebola virus disease?
  • Have you cared for or anyone with a severe illness, or who has died of an unknown cause?
  • Did you visit any traditional healers while in the affected country?
  • Have you been vomiting or do you feel generally unwell?
  • Have you had any contact with dead bodies or been to any funerals?

Does Ebola screening in airports work?

While fever is one of the main symptoms of Ebola, it’s also a symptom of countless other, relatively harmless infections. Screening for fever, one of the symptoms of Ebola, is of limited use but despite criticism from medical and other experts, the government believes it’s better than doing nothing.

There’s more. Because there aren’t any direct flights into Britain from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, people will arrive in the UK via connecting flights. They could turn up at UK airports where there’s no screening, which leaves a gap in the already-limited protection that screening provides. On the bright side, “highly visible” information will be provided at every British entry point.

Will you face delays at airports because of Ebola screening? It’s doubtful, but it’s wise to keep an eye on the latest developments in case things get worse and you need to factor in Ebola-related delays to your travel plans.

Ebola Cases and Deaths

Ebola Cases and Deaths – from themostimportantnews.com

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

The chances of developing Ebola in the UK remain low. But it helps to know the symptoms, which include a fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding. Sadly, they can all come about through a disease as simple as a tummy bug. This is the official advice:

  • If you have these symptoms and you’ve been in contact with an infected person, it’s vital to ring 111 before going to your GP or turning up at A&E
  • If you have the symptoms but you haven’t, as far as you know, been in contact with an Ebola sufferer, the official advice is to call 111 or see your GP. If you’re very ill, go to A&E

How to stay safe from Ebola in the UK

First, it’s important to remember that the risk in Britain is currently very, very low.

Second, bear in mind that in every case outside Africa apart from two, in Dallas and Madrid, were infected in Africa
Those at the highest risk of infection are a patient’s relatives and healthcare workers.  But anyone who comes into close contact with an infected person is at risk.

Once someone recovers, they aren’t infectious any more. Having said that, the WHO says Ebola can be found in semen for seven weeks and other research says it’s more like three months – so if there’s any doubt in your mind, condoms are essential.

Ebola myths to ignore

Sadly there have been all sorts of silly scare stories and crazy myths, whether it’s the protective powers of raw onions – complete rubbish – or the wholly inaccurate claims about the  healing properties of condensed milk. They’re very unhelpful, but thankfully the BBC Health website has created a myth busting article to redress the balance. Here it is: BBC Health on Ebola myths.

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What happens next?

It depends how the epidemic progresses. Britain may end up closing its borders altogether to people travelling from affected countries or continents, and might even end up preventing UK citizens from travelling to affected nations. The disease’s progression is uncertain, and we won’t know ’til the situation becomes clearer.

Airport Car Park Safety and Security Tips

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

In August this year the Birmingham Mail newspaper ran a story about luxury cars being stolen from a Birmingham airport car park. Worst of all, the car park owners’ insurance policy didn’t cover the theft, and the firm had to recompense punters from its own coffers for offering a less-than-secure valet parking service.

Of course the majority of people who use airport car parking find it perfectly safe. Most of us don’t have any problems. Having said that, with the best will in the world, stuff sometimes happens. So how do you reduce the risk of things going wrong while your car is parked at the airport?

Gatwick Airport Car Park

Gatwick Airport Car Park – from geograph.org.uk

Luckily BBC1’s Watchdog programme, with support from the British Parking Association, offers some common sense advice about how to make sure your airport car park ‘meet and greet’ services are as safe and secure as possible. It’s good advice, considering the number of British meet and greet airport parking services is increasing fast.

How to ensure meet and greet airport parking is secure

No wonder meet and greet is such a popular way of parking at airports. You avoid all the hassle of finding your own parking space. Instead, an employee meets you at the airport, in a designated place, and does everything for you. And they’re there, with your car ready, when you get home. It’s a brilliant idea, a hugely convenient service that can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Your car is supposed to be kept secure while you’re away. That’s the idea. But it doesn’t mean the meet and greet firm always keeps their promises. There have been a few horror stories in the press, where former meet and greet airport car park staff have been spotted giving lifts to fellow staff, eating in the cars and even damaging them.

Meet and Greet Parking

Meet and Greet Parking – from aph.com

Obviously when you leave your car at an airport car park, you do so at your own risk. But there are a few common sense checks you can carry out to cut the likelihood of something going wrong.

  1. Check the member of staff who greets you is wearing an ID badge and/or wearing a uniform. If not, hang onto your car keys and call the car park operators to check you’re not being ripped off by a stranger.
  2. Does the badge they’re wearing match the car park you’re in and the airport you’re flying from? If not, ask for extra reassurance or more evidence that they are who they say they are.
  3. Are you arranging your meet and greet car parking at an official kiosk in the airport? If there isn’t a premises and the person is just hanging around the airport or car park, don’t let them have your keys.
  4. What does your ticket look like? Check it isn’t just an expired one that the scammer has picked up off the floor.
  5. Do you know where your car is going to be kept while you’re away? It will probably be off-site, away from the airport, but if the representative can’t describe the location and point out the direction, be suspicious. Can they show you a photo or a map? If not, why not?
  6. Does the car parking operator own the premises where your car will be stored? Or are they renting it? Ownership can mean they really do have a vested interest in delivering a genuinely good, honest service, but bear in mind some will rent car parking space for perfectly legitimate reasons.
  7. Can you see a special Park Mark? The Park Mark is only awarded to airport carparks that have had an annual inspection by the police.
  8. Can the staff member confirm there are CCTV cameras in the car park, and tell you where they’re sited? CCTV is always obvious, rarely hidden, so anyone who has been to the car park will know where the cameras are.
  9. Don’t leave your car without getting a receipt. Check the receipt includes the company’s address details, and that the company name and address match.

There’s more you can ask. What about finding out whether or not the gates are locked at all times, or do they habitually leave them open? Are they insured for car theft? Do they ever subcontract car parking to another company? As a general rule the more questions you ask, the less likely you are to fall foul of a scammer. Most people get flustered when they’re forced to lie for any length of time, and it’s often obvious they’re fibbing.

The BBC’s Your Money Their Tricks series on airport parking

The BBC’s series Your Money Their Tricks has also looked at airport parking services. The programme acknowledged that most car park meet and greet services were perfectly legitimate as well as extremely handy. But they decided to find out how many meet and greet providers were actually tricking punters into thinking their cars were safe when they weren’t secure at all. They booked six cars in with six different companies, over three major UK airports, and each car was fitted with a special  tracking device.

You can follow the link above for the full story, but suffice it to say the results were variable. Some meet and greet airport car park services operated exactly as they should, others failed in various ways, some more spectacularly than others.

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Obviously we do our level best to check that every service we offer through our site is the best it can be. But the BBC’s research highlights how it’s always wise to check, do your homework and be adequately observant when you get there.

What about other places phony parking attendants and scammers operate?

If you need to park in an unfamiliar place, it makes sense to beware of phony attendants, uniformed or not. One common scam is to hand you a ticket that, unless you check, you don’t realise is simply an expired ticket thrown away by someone else.

If you come across something that looks like a stand-by car park, perhaps someone’s driveway or a commercial parking lot, check very carefully before parking there. You might find your car gets towed away because despite what the ‘attendant’ claimed, you don’t actually have any right to park there. Worse still, your car could end up stolen.

You’re being extremely careful… but all the same, you somehow manage to hit another car on the way in or out of the car park. If the other driver either tries to get you to shell out cash, refuse. If the incident was ‘real’, not a scam, motor insurance should cover it.

Official Car Park Attendant

Official Car Park Attendant – from telegraph.co.uk

Airport News: Expansion, Cheap Flights, Punctuality…

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

Barely a day goes by without news about airports, airport hotels and airport parking coming to the fore. September 2014 is no different, with expansion plans at Gatwick and Heathrow given a high profile, excellent low cost seat offers from Ryanair at Luton airport, worrying flight punctuality issues, a political in-flight broadband rebellion in the USA and more. Here’s a run-down of the most interesting airport news items of the bunch.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport – from dailymail.co.uk

Top airport news for September 2014

Airport parking tragedy spawns offensive marketing gaffe

As any good marketer will tell you, it’s a great idea to react to breaking news with a special offer or tailored message. But there’s a limit.

One airport parking reservations business was slammed recently for basing an email marketing campaign around a human tragedy. When a 55 year old man was found dead in an airport car park at Chicago O’Hare, some not-so-clever marketer decided to send an email to subscribers with the subject line, Can On-Airport Parking Kill?

Their point was that the stress of finding your way to the airport, parking and getting ready to board can kill, and may have played a part in the tragedy. The email even contained a $5 off coupon for the airport’s car parks, and added even more insult to injury by saying:

“Don’t be late and end up in a crate. Save stress and possibly anything worse by utilizing technology and reserving all your travel needs in advance.”

Ouch. Can you hear the sound of a particularly insensitive marketer’s head rolling?

Ryanair offers 100,000 seats costing from just £19.99 across its European network

Amid much fanfare, the launch of Ryanair’s Luton 2015 schedule is offering more a hundred thousand cheap flights for October, November and December 2014. The offer covers sixteen new routes including super-cheap flights to Fuerteventura, Malta and Tenerife, and the new timetable apparently supports a whopping 1300 on-site jobs at Luton airport.

Ryanair

Ryanair – from flyflytravel.com

According to the airline’s spokesperson Maria Macken:

“Ryanair customers in London can choose from 16 routes from Luton next summer, while enjoying allocated seating, a free second carry-on bag, reduced fees, a new website, a brand new app with mobile boarding passes, Family Extra and Business Plus.”

Flight punctuality woes at London’s big 5 airports

Britain’s flight punctuality fell in the second quarter of 2014 compared with the second quarter in 2013, bad news for passengers who have to bear the brunt of delays. At just 78% punctuality across the nation’s five biggest London airports, the latest UK Civil Aviation Authority statistics reveal flights are 3% less punctual than they were at the same time last year, when the figure was 80%. Luton fared the worst, dropping by 8%.

Big Ben clock face

Big Ben – Flight Punctuality

The study also looked at five other popular British airports, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle, all of which also suffered a drop in punctuality over last year, from 84% to 81%.

What does ‘on time’ actually mean? In this case it means a flight that departs or arrives at a UK airport either early or up to 15 minutes late. The average delay identified by the study was 18 minutes, so if you’re flying from any of the airports surveyed, it’s probably a good idea to factor the extra delays into your travel plans just in case.

Air fares set to remain the same for 2015

A piece of research from the travel consultancy company Advito reveals competition between airlines is hotting up. Under the economic theory of supply and demand, it means prices are unlikely to drop. But they’re also unlikely to rise because carriers are worried that overly-rapid fare increases might damage businesses and cut consumer confidence. As a result Advito expects worldwide air fares to stay roughly in line with inflation, with some ticket prices falling but most remaining stable.

Having said that, there’s an exception. The US domestic market is experiencing price hikes in line with consolidation, which reduces competition. On the bright side for consumers, US airlines are still being relatively cautious about fare rises because they don’t want to damage demand.

Labour Party opens the door to Heathrow airport expansion

Ed Balls has said he won’t put up with any more ‘dither and delay’ over the decision about Heathrow airport expansion, which seems to signal that the party no longer completely rules the airport out. While Mr Balls is looking for a ‘rapid and final’ decision, he was careful not to express a preference for expansion at either Gatwick airport or Heathrow.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport Expansion – from itv.com

People who live near big airports suffer from noise, stress and pollution. But many commercial organisations love the idea of expansion because they believe it’ll open up communications and make it easier to do business.

Balls’ statement comes with a caveat: expanding capacity must be balanced by minimising the inevitable environmental impact. But it’s an argument that can’t be won, since a decision either way will cause issues for one interested party or another, with very strong feelings on both sides.

One woman, who suffers from cancer, says the noise from new trial flight paths being tested over Wokingham has turned her garden into a runway and keeps her awake. Apparently the noise from the planes is present all day, with only the occasional lull. The trial was already unpopular with locals because Heathrow didn’t notify the affected areas in advance.

At the same time, a YouGov poll reveals Gatwick expansion is the favourite option for British small business leaders. Given a simple choice, 42% of small business leaders chose Gatwick while 37% expressed a preference for expansion at Heathrow.

Over 50% of small business leaders said the cost of flights is their most important consideration, a figure that increases to 63% when younger business leaders aged 25 to 34 were quizzed. Another poll reveals just under 60% of Croydon residents support Gatwick’s expansion plans over Heathrow’s. It appears locals feel that the advantages of expanding Gatwick outweigh the disadvantages for them and their families, with just 23% disagreeing.

As Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick said:

“We are determined to do everything we can to minimise the impacts and maximise the benefits for local people. After listening carefully to what local people told us during the public consultation, we designed a £250 million package of pledges designed to tackle many of the concerns that were raised.”

US House of Representatives rebels against in-flight mobile broadband proposal

If you’ve ever been driven nuts by someone sitting next to you on the bus or train jabbering into their mobile phone, you’ll appreciate why eighty rebellious members of the US House of Representatives have put their foot down over a proposed Federal Communications Commission rule allowing mobile broadband technology on flights.

Inflight Broadband

Inflight Broadband – from crexendotelecom.com

The rebels sent a letter to the head of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FCC, asking for an in-depth review of the policy.

Why are they against broadband on aircraft? Apparently ‘aisle rage’ is on the increase as planes become ever-more cramped and crowded. In the third such incident in just one week, a Delta Air Lines flight had to make a sudden unscheduled landing recently because tempers were so badly frayed it was deemed too dangerous to carry on.

The political rebels believe letting people loose to make cellphone calls in such a confined space is asking for trouble. And the Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler, agrees. In his words:

“I get it. I don’t want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else.”

Flight attendants also feel it’s a bad idea, and applauded the politicians’ move. In their eyes mobile use on planes could be far worse than a nuisance. As Sarah Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, says, allowing broadband on aeroplanes:

“could have catastrophic effects on aviation safety and security.”

There’s something intrinsically annoying about being forced to listen to someone else’s one-sided mobile phone conversation. How would you feel about a short, medium or long haul flight where your fellow passengers were constantly talking on the phone?

Edinburgh airport enjoys one of the busiest summers… ever

It’s official. Scotland’s Edinburgh airport has just enjoyed one of the busiest summers ever. The stats come from the airport itself, which handled around 1.04 million passengers in August 2014 alone, an increase of 11% over the same time last year.

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July was extremely busy too, with almost 1.1 million travellers passing through the airport. And it appears to be a trend rather than a blip, with an overall year-on-year rise of 2.6%. Glasgow is experiencing the same hike in traveller numbers, with a 6% rise in passengers leading to 746,000 or so passengers passing through the airport’s doors in August.

Why the increase? It appears the UDO World Street Dance Championships and World Pipe Band Championships are partly responsible.

It’s your space… what would you like us to cover?

Is there anything you’d like us to write about, whether it’s airport news, airport parking, airport hotels or anything else relevant to your travel plans, habits and preferences? If so, let us know and we’ll be delighted to delve into the detail for you.

 

Airport Parking Reviews – Purple Parking at Heathrow Airport

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

One of the most popular resources on our airport parking website is the reviews section. It’s packed with honest, genuine reviews from real people, who rate the parking facilities across all Britain’s major airports according to the quality of the transfers and facilities as well as the prices and service. Here’s an example:

“This was the first time that I had used Purple Parking Business and the service proved to be first rate. Check in and transfer to the departure terminal was efficient and very speedy. On my return to Heathrow I made the required phone call and the pick up bus arrived in about 5 minutes, took me back to the parking area where my car was lined up awaiting collection. Could maybe find a cheaper parking option but would not get a better service.”

This week we thought we’d provide a run-down of the performance delivered by one of the nation’s biggest and busiest airports, Heathrow, exploring what our customers think of Purple’s Heathrow airport parking facilities. The results, we think, make interesting reading and prove that, while there’s always room for improvement, everyone’s experience is different.

Purple Parking

Purple Parking at Heathrow Airport

Why does it matter? The companies whose products we sell take notice of reviews, using any trends that become apparent to improve their services and facilities in future. And this in turn has a positive knock-on effect for the business travellers who buy discounted airport parking through our site.

Everyone appreciates hassle-free parking and transfers, especially when you have to travel long distances for work on a regular basis, have a long drive ahead, have been travelling for hours, have the kids with you or are on your way to or from a well-deserved holiday. Next time you use our site to buy bargain parking, why not leave a review and help make things even better?

About Purple Parking at Heathrow – Business Parking Experts

Purple Parking Business is a high-tech undercover multi-storey car park with state-of-the-art CCTV and the very latest barrier technology. You can find out the fine details about what they provide on our special Purple Parking Business page.

Our site contains an impressive 1049 reviews for the service at the time of writing this post. Purple enjoys an overall rating of 82% with no wholly negative reviews and just 8% billed as ‘neutral’. There are plenty of 100% reviews, where users are perfectly happy and even completely delighted. But are there any discernible patterns as regards particularly negative or positive comments, things to watch out for if you’re planning to use Purple Parking at Heathrow?

Overall scores

The overall scores for Purple Parking are pretty good.

  • Transfers 66%
  • Facilities 87%
  • Price 83%
  • Service 83%

As you can see, the overall scores reviewers have given the service fall down in just one key area:  transfers. With more than 80% in the other categories, a 66% rating for transfers isn’t so good. But like all good businesses, Purple always do their best to make changes where it really matters, and airport parking reviews like ours are helping them to do exactly that.

 

Purple Parking Airport Transfer Bus

Purple Parking Airport Parking Minibus

Bus transfer delays on collection and return – An unhappy minority

Looking at the past few months’ worth of reviews there seems to have been an issue around bus transfers, with several people being left out in the cold for 30 minutes or more waiting for the bus, and some left hanging on while the bus transfer people failed to answer the phone.  On the other hand plenty of customers have said the shuttle buses are both frequent and efficient, with positive reviews far outnumbering less positive experiences. It appears reacting to issues pointed out by reviewers is having a positive effect on service quality.

Rude drivers – But most people found the staff extremely helpful

A few people recently found the transfer bus drivers less than polite. But the majority have found the staff at Purple Parking courteous, friendly and helpful. One customer even revealed how staff had gone out of their way to drop them at their hotel, saving them a whole lot of time and hassle.

“We were greeted by name by an extremely polite and helpful member of staff. Both transfers went smoothly and our car was all ready to drive away. Everyone we dealt with was friendly, will definitely use again. Thanks Purple Business Parking for making the beginning and end of our holiday a relaxing and hassle free experience.”

A Mr Dennis, who had obviously used the service before, commented that, “the company continues to improve with more real people on the ground these days making for much better customer experience.”

Heathrow Airport Purple Parking

Purple Parking at Heathrow Airport

Heathrow airport business parking prices

Very few people tend to express an opinion about Purple’s prices. A few mention it’s a bit expensive, but they add the caveat that it’s worth it for the sheer convenience and the time the service saves them.

Several people actually remarked on the good value for money the service represents, which is particularly apparent when everything goes perfectly to plan: the better the service people experience, the less bothered they are by the cost. According to one reviewer, “Could maybe find a cheaper parking option but would not get a better service.”

Heathrow Airport - Purple Parking Location

Purple Parking Heathrow Map Location

Finding the right place

Most people seem to find the Purple Heathrow parking facilities very easily, with problems only occurring when there were roadworks in the local area. It looks like their signage does a good job, a challenge when the area around an airport is often a complex hell of different signage and you need to keep your eyes peeled!

Transfer bus standards

Most people seem to find the transfer buses comfortable and clean, although one reviewer found their bus dirty and scruffy. Perhaps Purple had an off day?

The fine art of making good use of reviews

The great thing about having hundreds of reviews to read is you get an accurate overall picture. It makes much more sense than trying to glean conclusions from just a handful of opinions. One tip: more than 1000 reviews mean they go back some time. It’s probably best to check out the first few pages rather than delve too deep into the past, where the reviews people left are probably out of date.

4 tips for the perfect airport parking experience

  1. Check out the alternatives available at your chosen airport
  2. Every provider is different, so read their business page on our site so you know exactly what to expect and how the service works
  3. Make sure you arrive in good time
  4. Leave a review on our site afterwards so the company can take steps to improve areas where they’re not 100% perfect

Car Parking Accidents, Insurance Nightmares & Driver Tips

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

You’re headed for Heathrow airport car parking, where you’re planning to leave your vehicle while you’re away. Or maybe one of the many enormous Gatwick car parks. Unlike parking your car on the street where it’s vulnerable to prangs, airport parking tends to be much safer and miles more secure, with security patrols, dogs, high fences and CCTV everywhere. Which is great news for travellers. But ordinary car parking isn’t always as safe. What if you’re parking outside the supermarket or in an NCP?

We thought it’d be useful to look at the high volume of incidents that occur in car parks, the vulnerability of parked cars, how insurance companies deal with claims, what you should do if you hit a parked vehicle or discover your car’s been pranged while parked.

Asda Car Park Crash Wrexham

Asda Car Park Crash Wrexham – from dailypost.co.uk

How safe is parking in ordinary car parks?

According to the Daily Mail, “Prang and run bandits” colliding with other people’s cars when parked are responsible for a shocking £169 million in damage every year, a lot of dosh in anyone’s book. A fifth of the people who hit a parked car scarper without admitting what they’ve done, forcing innocent vehicle owners to foot the bill, and the average repair cost is breathtaking – a whopping £1800.

The insurer Accident Exchange reckons there are around 3.5 million car crashes every year in Britain, about 700,000 of which involve simple prangs to parked cars and half a million taking place when the damaged car’s owner isn’t around.

About 94,000 of the cowardly culprits get away with it, never to be traced. And while the £169 million consumer bill takes your breath away, the cost to insurers is even higher, with parked car prangs alone responsible for an astonishing £1.2 billion in repair bills. Ouch.

Worse still, it appears many of us, rather than trash our precious no claims bonus, would rather just pay for the repairs ourselves than make a claim. This more or less defeats the object of having insurance. Who benefits? The insurers and the prang-and-runners. It really doesn’t seem fair.

To add a layer of particularly nasty-tasting icing to an already nasty cake, uninsured and untraced drivers are responsible for adding an extra £40 a year to everyone’s motor insurance premiums.

Car Park Crash

Car Park Crash – from westerndailypress.co.uk

Apparently 80% of prangs happen on the street, with just 20% occurring in car parks. And the situation is set to get worse as more and more cars take to the streets and parking spaces, especially in urban and suburban areas, become even harder to find.

Because more than a third of British households have more than one car, inner city off-road parking is already huge issue. Unless we manage to curb our national obsession with multiple car ownership, it’ll only get worse.

Insurers’ “referral fees racket”

Having worked in the insurance industry for many years, I know most of them will do anything they can to wriggle out of paying claims. According to the AA, the average motor insurance premium has increased a disgraceful 89% over the past four years, an increase that leaves inflation rates in the shade.  But insurance companies insist it isn’t their fault. According to them, fraudulent claims for hard-to-disprove injuries like whiplash are to blame, leaving the good guys pick up the tab.

A reporter for The Telegraph wanted to find out more about the way insurers handled claims, so he set up a crash and noted what happened. You can read his story here, but the point we found most interesting was the fact that insurance companies habitually ‘steer’ punters to their own networks of approved repairers, and it isn’t always to car owners’ benefit. Far from it.

If you want to get your prang repaired by your local garage, who you know and trust, you are perfectly entitled to… but your insurer might punish you for it. In some cases, refusing to use the insurer’s recommended body shop can mean you’re charged a ‘non approved repairer excess’ fee. Good grief. If that isn’t totally out of order, we don’t know what is. Even more of a disgrace, very few drivers even realise they have a choice.

Here’s what The Telegraph’s article says:

“If an insurance company can mend your car in one of their approved garages they can control the costs of that repair. This sounds a reasonable proposition – most drivers would want costs to be kept down if it meant their premiums being reduced. However, some body shop owners and car makers are concerned that because insurance companies and their agents are primarily concerned about keeping costs down, the safety of drivers is potentially being compromised.

Body shop owners would speak to us only off the record, but Volvo, on its own website, states: “Insurance companies are reducing costs by having non-genuine parts fitted or panels repaired rather than replaced, which may compromise the car’s safety integrity.”

A spokesman for the ABI strongly denied that drivers’ safety was ever compromised. In contrast, when you are the not-at-fault driver – and the insurance company passes on the bill to a rival firm – costs are driven up unnecessarily, it would appear. Documents submitted by Ford to the Competition Commission, which has started to investigate the industry, suggest that the average price of a repair for a not-at-fault car is £1,530, compared with £1,375 for an at-fault car. Many experts believe that the discrepancy is far wider.”

What should you do if you hit a parked vehicle?

First of all, stop. If you drive off, you’re committing an offence under the Road Traffic Act.

Turn off your engine and switch your hazard lights on. If someone is hurt, call 999.

If the crash isn’t serious or a car is blocking the road, call the police non-emergency number 101. All car accidents should be reported to the police within 24 hours. If you don’t bother you can be fined, given penalty points on your license or even be disqualified altogether.

If you’re involved in a car accident you’re legally obliged to give your name and address to anyone else involved. Don’t take the blame even if you were 100% to blame and don’t have a leg to stand on.

Car Parking Lot Damage

Car Parking Lot Damage – from 3dbodyworks.com

Some people say it’s OK to say sorry. After all, you probably are sorry, and the word ‘sorry’ doesn’t mean you’re admitting blame, it’s just a very human reaction. Others recommend you avoid saying sorry altogether, which could be tricky when you’re a born and bred, naturally polite Brit!

If you hit a parked car and the owner isn’t there, it’s your job to leave your contact details – a note under the windscreen wipers should do the trick. You should also gather as much information as possible from the driver themselves, if they’re there, and any witnesses:

  • names
  • addresses
  • contact numbers
  • motor policy details
  • whether they are the car’s ‘registered keeper’ and if not, who is
  • the registration numbers of every car involved
  • every involved vehicle’s colour, make and model
  • the crash time and date

If you can, also do the following:

  • make a simple drawing of the vehicles’ positions after the crash
  • note down the weather conditions and anything unusual about the road the crash happened
  • take a few snaps with your mobile
  • get the names of witnesses
  • get the names of any police on the scene
  • list the damage to all the vehicles involved
  • list any injuries to anyone involved, including passengers and passers by

If someone tries to do a runner without giving their details, call 999.

What should you do if someone else prangs your car while it’s parked?

According to the RAC, insurers usually offer a 50/50 settlement for car park collisions, but it’s up to you to prove who was to blame. If you can prove the pranger is 100% at fault, the RAC  recommends you claim on your insurance. On the other hand, an expert driver in the RAC forum says this:

“Don’t go for 50/50 easily but suggest you each pay your own damage. Claiming from the insurance will cost more in the long term.”

As another RAC forum member says:

“Just back from 4 weeks holiday in Cornwall. During our stay, on one occasion I was driving along a narrow road with passing places. As I approached a passing place, a young female coming towards me ignored the wider section that she was in, tried to pass in the narrow part, and our door mirrors collided. The clear plastic lens for the repeater indicator was broken in my mirror. Her mirror was undamaged.

We exchanged details, but a later phone call from “some unidentified male” claimed that her mirror was damaged and accused me  of speeding. Said he had visited the spot, and that he had found “glass” strewn around which proved I was speeding. This was a blatant lie, since I had picked up the broken lens bits and still have them in my car! He also claimed to have a witness.

It was a country road, and the only “witnesses” were my wife and the woman passenger in the other driver’s car. I called into the local police station, just to check if the driver was insured; which a WPC affirmed that she was insured. The WPC took the view that “he” realised that the insurers would go 50/50, and therefore it would be more economical to simply drop the matter and pay out for the repair; a view which, of course, is quite true.

So, a new lens assembly has cost me just over £25, and a further £41 if I don’t do the job myself. Reporting the matter to the insurer is a definite “no-no”. The total repair would be less than my £100 excess, so I would still have to pay for it, and, at renewal, my premium would suffer a permanent rise for “increased risk”!”

It seems crazy that people are avoiding making insurance claims because it costs them more in the long run. But I guess that’s the crazy world we live in. Until things change, it appears drivers need to think things through very carefully before deciding whether or not to claim for a prang on their motor insurance.

All car parking isn’t as safe and secure as something like official Gatwick airport car parking. So take extra care wherever you park.

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Your car park prang stories

Do you have any car parking prang stories to tell? If so, we’d love to hear them…