Category : Latest News

The Curious Traveller’s City Guide – Visit Brighton

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

So you’re planning to visit Brighton? In the first of our special city guides, we’re taking you on a trip to Brighton in East Sussex, aka ‘London-by-the-Sea’, home to more celebrities than you can shake a stick at.

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier and Pebble Beach

Everyone knows about Brighton’s miles of pebbly beaches, piers, Royal Pavilion, Festivals, excellent independent shopping, vibrant gay scene and countless nightclubs. But there’s more to this famous fun city than meets the eye.

If you’re a curious traveller who gets a kick out of discovering the unusual, odd, interesting and eccentric, this Brighton guide is for you.

Welcome to Brighton’s curious side

First, the sensible stuff. Here are a few handy facts about travelling in and around Brighton.

  • The entire city has a 20mph speed limit, making it safe for pedestrians
  • There are plenty of cycle paths and places to hire bikes – but bear in mind some areas of Brighton are really hilly and steep!
  • The bus service is excellent, with unlimited all-day travel across the city and way beyond into Sussex for £9 per ‘family’ (2 people or more)
  • The train service is equally good
  • City centre parking is expensive unless you can get into the car park on Providence Place, in the North Laine shopping area just off Trafalgar Street, which is particularly good value for money
  • There are loads of taxi ranks in the city centre
  • Brighton is actually quite small – it’s easy and fun to explore on foot
The Prince Albert - Brighton

The Prince Albert – Brighton

10 places to explore – It’s off-beat Brighton

Here’s a list of things to do and places to see that the tourist maps and mainstream guides might not tell you about.

  1. Anna’s Museum on Upper North Street – Walk along the south side of Upper North Street, going east from the Dyke Road end, and you’ll see a tiny museum in a former shop window. It’s a collection of curiosities found by Anna, who must be around 15 years old by now. She’s been collecting strange, weird and wonderful natural things her whole life and her ‘museum’ has been a favourite with locals for years. You can find out more about it here.
  2. Brighton’s secret snickleways – The city is full of little snickleways: narrow passages between houses and shops. They’re often scenic and pretty, overhung by fig trees and climbing plants, giving you peeps into miniature patio gardens through gaps in smartly-painted flint walls and iron gates. The Clifton Hill area, directly west of the railway station, up the hill to your right as you look at the sea, has loads to explore for an alternative view of the city through the back gate. Frederick Gardens is fun, and the lanes running parallel to the seafront, in the city centre, are beautiful – Find Meeting House Lane and take it from there.
  3. Go bungaroosh / bungarouche spotting – Brighton sits on chalk, laid down millions of years ago in shallow, warm tropical seas. The only stone for miles around is flint, and it’s tricky to build with. Many of the city’s buildings are made using boungaroosh, a local word meaning more or less ‘anything you can find that’ll do’. Open up the stud walls in many a terraced house or shop in the North Laine or Hanover, fight your way past the lath and plaster and you’ll find the walls are ‘built’ using anything from chunks of broken brick, glass bottles and broken pottery to chunks of wrought iron, tin cans, horseshoes, gravel, sand and flint. Take a meander through the North Laine or Hanover area and see if you can spot any. You’ll see some fascinating sights, streets, shops and houses while you’re at it.
  4. Get the bus to Devil’s Dyke – Local buses include special weekend and public holiday routes direct to the South Downs beauty spots of Devil’s Dyke (no. 77) and Ditchling Beacon (no. 79). Both destinations come with absolutely spectacular views. The Downs north of Brighton are high and steep but once you’re up there on the top, the going is relatively flat. You can walk east or west and enjoy vast unfolding views across the Sussex plain into Surrey, wit the sea in the distance. In spring and summer the grassy downland landscape is fragrant with colourful wildflowers. Here’s a link to the city’s bus services page.
  5. Walk the Undercliff Path to Rottingdean – Head for the pier, face the sea then hang a left along the seafront, walking parallel to the beach. It’s an easy stroll to the Marina, at which point you can either go right and walk through the marina itself, admiring the boats, or stick to the path and bypass it on the landward side. This is where things get scenic. Continue along the foot of the white chalk cliffs, a glorious walk with the sparkling sea to your right, and you’ll eventually come to the beautiful little village of Rottingdean. The Black Horse pub, about half way along the high street on your left with the sea behind you, serves fabulous food, and there are several excellent cafes and tea shops.
  6. Marvel at Eaton Nott – Find the London Road and walk north, crossing it with the fire station on your right, walking past the big pub in the middle where two roads split. Now you’re on Preston Road. Eaton Nott is at number 26, open 10-5 Monday to Saturday. They sell a remarkable collection of curiosities including taxidermy, human bones, animal skulls, weird creatures in formaldehyde, fabulous jewellery, industrial lighting and gorgeous ‘roadkill couture’, headpieces, hats, collars and clothing made from roadkill. You have to see it to believe it – here’s a link. Even if you’re not in buying mode, it’s a facinating place to explore.
  7. Grafitti safari – Brighton has embraced the art of grafitti. It’s everywhere, it’s awesome and it’s about much more than rubbishy tagging. Make the London Road shopping area your must-see first then head sea-wards through the North Laine for a visual feast of embellished frontages and even entire back streets transformed from tatty eyesores into works of fine street art.
  8. It’s Hove, actually – Hove is Brighton’s posh relative, a place of leafy, broad avenues and large, sturdy Victorian and Edwardian residences. Much of the seafront architecture is Regency, though, and there are some splendid terraces and squares to explore, all decked out in a buttery heritage cream colour. Adelaide Mansions, west of Regency Square, is particularly grand. If you love that cool, precise, elegant Regency style, it’s worth a visit. If that’s you, you’ll also appreciate the Clifton Hill area, Clifton Terrace in particular.
  9. Visit a proper local pub – Brighton has more than its fair share of ordinary pubs. But the city’s local pubs are worth winkling out. They’re usually less manic than central watering holes and many serve fantastic gourmet food. Having said that you’ll need to get in early to catch a seat at The Basketmakers on Gloucester Road in the North Laine, the food’s so good. If you want to track down a proper ‘local’ pub, the North Laine, Clifton Hill, Hanover and Kemptown areas deliver plenty of choice.
  10. OMG, what massive Gunnera! – Gunnera and thin, chalky topsoil don’t go together. But the clever gardeners at the small yet wonderfully exotic garden on Preston Park Road, on your left as you head north out of the city, have managed to grow some epic specimens. They’re absolutely huge. Preston Park itself, directly opposite, is home to the Preston Twins, thought to be the world’s biggest and oldest Elm trees. If you’d like to see lots of real, live, thriving elm trees for yourself – a rare sight these days thanks to Dutch Elm Disease – they grow all the way up Elm Grove, just off the Lewes Road.
Brighton's Royal Pavilion

Brighton’s Royal Pavilion

Our next city guide? Coming soon

We’ll be back with more city guides shortly, taking a different view from the usual tourist stuff, exploring cities both at home and abroad.

Terrifying Runways, UFO Encounters and Airport Ghosts

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

This week we thought we’d take a look at the spooky, mysterious and hair-raising side of airports. Buckle your seat belt and prepare to take off into a world where ghosts stalk the concourses, UFOs and passenger aircraft almost come to grief and landings are so terrifying only the world’s finest pilots dare attempt them.

plant and moon

Is Heathrow Haunted?

Airport ghosts – Is Heathrow airport haunted?

Whether you think ghosts are everywhere or nowhere, time travellers, echoes from the past, people who don’t realise they’re dead, actual spirits, hallucinations or simple quirks of physics, everyone loves a good ghost story.

You might not expect something as relatively modern as an airport to be haunted. But according to Ghost Story UK, Heathrow has already gathered a rich collection of sightings and strange events. In fact it’s widely recognised as one of Britain’s most haunted places.

If you’re ever bored at Heathrow, waiting for your flight to be called, keep your eyes peeled. What’s that shadowy person-shape you spot flickering at the end of the dimly-lit passageway? It’s enough to take your mind off the fear of flying.

Dick Turpin – Heathrow’s most historic ghost

Of course he was around centuries before the airport, in the 1700s. But unlikely as it might sound, Dick Turpin, the legendary Highwayman, haunts the main terminal. Turpin allegedly appears in his signature tricorn hat. Several airport workers and airline crew have reported feeling his presence behind them, others say they’ve felt his horrid hot breath or heard a man barking close by, only to turn and find nobody there.

Dick Turpin

Dick Turpin

The name Dick Turpin comes laden with romance, and his story has been embroidered over the ages to become a Robin Hood-like tale of robbing the rich to feed the poor. In reality he was a horror, incredibly cruel, find of setting people on fire, raping and torturing. Why the legend? Apparently he caused a stir by swaggering his way to the gallows exuding ‘charm’ then jumping off into oblivion with gusto, more or less hanging himself. The peasantry loved it, stole his body and buried it with quicklime, ensuring there wasn’t much left for the scientists of the time to cut up.

The man who lost his hat

More hats. Following hot on Turpin’s heels, a lost and bewildered gentleman was spotted wandering the site of a tragic air crash on the approach to runway 2. The year was 1948, it was foggy and a DC3 Dakota had just crashed, killing everyone on board. As the rescuers worked frenziedly to find survivors, a man in a hat appeared through the mist and asked if anyone had seen his briefcase. As the men looked, he faded and disappeared before their eyes, melting into the mist. Apparently they found his body later, mangled in the wreckage.

There’s more. In 1970 the police had a call saying there was a man on the runway, clearly visible on radar. When the police arrived on the scene they couldn’t see the man even though the radar operators could still see him on their machines. They kept looking but couldn’t find the man anywhere. It remains a mystery.

The worried businessman in grey

If you spot a stressed-looking bloke in a grey suit and you’re in one of Heathrow’s VIP lounges, grab your camera. He’s seen fairly frequently but fleetingly, disappearing soon after he turnd up. Not so scary, you might think, until you find out how many people have seen him appearing from the waist up, legless. Creepy!

Manchester airport ghosts with an Air Force focus

The Manchester Evening News reports how the city’s airport is also home to plenty of hair raising sightings. When they unearthed a load of old airport documents they were surprised to find how many staff at the time had ghostly encounters, mostly around Terminal Three’s departure gates. Several people had seen a ghostly airman in the area, others came across an older man widely believed to be a night watchman killed on the spot a few years earlier. Slamming doors were also common, or at least the sound of doors slamming… when in fact no doors had been closed.

military fighter aircraft at Manchester airport

Fighter Aircraft at Manchester Airport

Late at night one airport worker saw a man in a pilot’s hat walk into the loos and heard the loo door slam shut. But there was nobody in there and the motion sensor hadn’t been set off. The uniform connection is interesting here, since Manchester airport is built on top of old RAF buildings, home to 613 City of Manchester Squadron in World War Two. As you can imagine a lot of young men took off from the site, never to return.

The scariest landing strips on earth

Back to real life, and three of the planet’s most hair-raising landings. As featured by The Telegraph, they’re not to be approached lightly. Take the Juancho E. Yrausquin airport in the Netherlands Antilles with its tiny, weeny runway just 1300 feet long. Pilots say it’s one of the planet’s most challenging with its deadly high hills to one side and sheer drops on the other three.

Landing at Kansai International airport in Japan is another terrifying yet fascinating experience – or a mighty thrill if you happen to be an adrenaline monkey. There wasn’t enough space to build a new airport on land so the Japanese built an entire new island off Osaka, a seven year project so big you can see it from space. $20 billion later, the airport is already threatened as global warming-led sea level rises continue.

Funchal airport on Madeira used to be famously dizzying with its horribly short 5240 foot runway. Now there’s a vast bridge made from girders, which supports 180 230 foot high pillars, on which planes land and take off. It’s clever. It’s a masterpiece of engineering. But take offs and landings still deliver a decent-sized thrill.

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UFOs spotted from aircraft

Ghosts on the concourse at one end, terrifying landings at the other end. So what’s in store for you in between, when you’re supposedly safe in the sky? UFOs, that’s what, and there are all sorts of reports about close encounters of the unexplained kind. And not just from nutty, overexcited, drunk or bored passengers, either. From pilots, the people we rightly trust to get us safely from A to B. If a pilot says he’s seen a UFO, who am I to argue?

JFK airport is your location for one UFO story, with amateur footage suggesting a bizarre object hurtling past a passenger plane as it took off. On the other hand one very British UFO expert, Mr Russ Kellett, isn’t convinced. In his words it, “could be anything. It comes behind from the aeroplane’s tail, you can tell it’s behind but it does move sort of like a bird, when something’s moving when the wings are flapping. If it’s moving away, it will give that appearance.”

In January 2014, as reported by The Telegraph, the captain of a Thomas Cook flight to the UK from Spain reported a “near miss” with a “rugby ball”-shaped object passing within feet of the aircraft over Reading. There’s been a report into the incident but the mystery craft, if that’s what it was, hasn’t been identified. As The Telegraph says:

“The captain said he spotted the object travelling towards the jet out of a left hand side, cockpit window, apparently heading directly for it. He said there was no time to for the aircrew to take evasive action. He told investigators he was certain the object was going to crash into his aircraft and ducked as it headed towards him.

The incident was investigated by the UK Airprox Board, which studies “near misses” involving aircraft in British airspace. The report states: “(The captain) was under the apprehension that they were on collision course with no time to react. His immediate reaction was to duck to the right and reach over to alert the FO (First Officer); there was no time to talk to alert him.”

It adds: “The Captain was fully expecting to experience some kind of impact with a conflicting aircraft.” He told investigators he believes the object passes “within a few feet” above the jet. He described it as being “cigar/rugby ball like” in shape, bright silver and apparently “metallic” in construction. Once it had passed, the captain checked the aircraft’s instruments and contacted air traffic controllers to report the incident. However, there was no sign of the mystery craft.

As part of the inquiry, data recordings were checked to establish what other aircraft were in the area at the time. However, all were eliminated. The investigation also ruled out meteorological balloons, after checking none were released in the vicinity. Toy balloons were also discounted, as they are not large enough to reach such heights. Military radar operators were contacted but were unable to trace the reported object.”

Have you had a strange, weird or unexplainable experience in an airport?

If you have a story to tell, we’d love to hear it. In the meantime, grab top value airport parking and airport lounge access on our site and have an excellent trip.

Air Travel: What If You Could Never Fly Again?

Thursday, August 13th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

There’s more to the ongoing airport expansion story than an extra runway at Heathrow, if that’s how to cookie eventually crumbles. Now we’re seeing dramatic increases in the number of people travelling by air, as reported by a number of analysts, airports and newspapers.

Cairo Airport Crowds

Cairo Airport Crowds

What’s going on? Is there a limit to the number of passengers the nation’s airports can handle? More importantly, is air travel itself sustainable in the long term – how would you feel if air travel as we know it bit the dust, and you could never fly again? This week we thought we’d take a look at the stats and take you on a journey into the fictional future of aviation.

Dramatic growth in air passenger figures

According to Moodie Report Gatwick airport has just seen its busiest July ever. 6.4% more people flew from Gatwick this July, which means the airport served an impressive 4.3 million passengers in just 31 days. It’s the latest statistic in a run of month-on-month growth spanning two years, suggesting it’s much more than a blip. It’s a trend.

“Gatwick continues to meet passengers’ needs by providing them with more choice, value and destinations. These results put us ten years ahead of the forecasts used by the Airports Commission to predict future air traffic movements,” said Gatwick’s obviously exasperated CEO Stewart Wingate. “Our growth in the last 12 months is actually more than the Commission concluded could be added at Gatwick in the first year of a new runway being operational here – this is further proof of the flaws in the Airports Commission analysis and shows its conclusions are fast unravelling.”

At the same time Heathrow airport also reports record breaking passenger numbers through July, exceeding 7.2 million passengers for the 31 day period. They served 254,375 people on the 31st July alone.

Gatwick Car Parking

Gatwick Car Parking

The Express reports soaring passenger numbers at Stansted airport, which also had a bumper July, its busiest for seven years. Their dramatic midsummer boom was partly down to the launch of three new long haul routes from Thomas Cook, taking holidaymakers to Orlando, Las Vegas and Mexico. The resulting 12.5% rise meant they serviced an extraordinary 2.19 million of us throughout the month.

The Newnham Recorder, meanwhile, reports on record passenger numbers at London City airport. The numbers are putting London’s Mayor Boris Johnson under increasing pressure to approve City Airport expansion.

Stuck between two powerful arguments

At first glance it’s a strong argument: record numbers of passengers squeezing through airport doors surely means airport expansion is a no-brainer? On the other hand scientists say we’re on a climate change knife edge right now, and CO2 emissions have already pushed the planet’s climate past a key target we really didn’t want to reach.

It’s difficult to reconcile long and short term thinking when faced with climate change. We need to create a healthy green economy, but there are all sorts of growing pains to bear in the interim. There’s a fundamental mis-match between what we have to do to make ‘now’ work properly, and how we need to behave now to ensure the future will be liveable for our children.

Could we expand regional airports?

Can regional airports meet extra passenger demand? Potentially. And it’d mean fewer people would have to travel London-wards, taking off from closer to home. They’d emit less CO2 on the journey to and from the airport, which is good news. But flying per se is so environmentally unfriendly that any benefit would probably be swallowed up by increasing numbers of passengers demanding more and more flights.

It’s ironic. The more we travel by air, the more we expand airports, the faster we’ll bring about runaway climate change, and the sooner we’ll bring about the death of the air travel industry. All of which brings us to the crucial question: is air travel sustainable, full stop?

Is air travel sustainable?

If passenger numbers keep increasing, how long will it take before Britain’s airports start bursting at the seams? That’s the economic challenge. If we keep on flying at our current rate, how long will it be before climate change bites us good and proper? That’s the green challenge.

We need to halt global warming at less than 2C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this target, as an article on the Greenwise Business site says, “the increases in air travel in the developed world seen in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of cheap flights, will have to be severely limited in future.”

Whichever way you look at it, economic or environmental, humanity’s love affair with air travel doesn’t look particularly sustainable right now. So what would life be like without it?

Alternative ways to travel short and long haul

There are always short haul alternatives: trains, buses, coaches, the Channel Tunnel. It just tends to take longer to get from A to B. Long haul is an altogether different matter. All you have, as an alternative to aircraft, is the sea. Travelling by ship is very slow indeed compared to trains and planes. But it gets worse. Like planes, ships are at the mucky end of the CO2 emissions spectrum. They’re notorious emitters, and green shipping is just as far away as green aircraft.

Return to Cruising?

Return to Cruising?

Anything else? Not really. There’s a solar powered plane making its graceful way around the world right now. But that’s a million light years from carrying passengers, at the experimental stage. It looks like we’re stuck, with no reasonable long haul alternative to the aeroplane.

Long distance travel in the future

What will travelling by air be like for our children and grandchildren? What will the future of air travel look like? Will there even be such a thing?

We might end up in a world where we look back at the bad old days – where we flew regularly at horrific environmental cost without really thinking about it – with shame. We may have to get used to not being able to travel thousands of miles in no time at all, more or less on a whim, for very little money. And we might have to get used to it pretty quickly if global warming follows its current trajectory.

If you can’t fly, will it matter? It’d certainly be a big shock to the system, knocking a whopping great big hole in the Zeitgeist. But travel isn’t essential for a good, long and healthy life. It’s an added extra, icing on the cake. We won’t die without holidays in Florida.

There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the process, in this context enjoying the journey as much as the destination. It was something our pre-air travel ancestors were past masters at, inching their way across vast distances slowly, steadily and determinedly by train, bus and tram, on foot, by horse and by bicycle.

Business travel is different, of course. While it’s good to meet face to face for a strong commercial relationship, it isn’t essential. You can always use cutting edge online technologies, including walking, talking holographs of people beamed in real-time, concurrently, to meeting rooms all over the world.

Can you see yourself coming to terms with taking days, perhaps weeks, to get to your destination? How would you feel if you couldn’t just take off and fly whenever you want? How would having to change the habits of a lifetime affect you? Feel free to leave a comment.

Climate Change Threatens Air Travel

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Rome’s Fiumicino airport is struggling. A fire in May affected the airport’s capabilities for two whole months. Thousands of holidaymakers were left stranded and all domestic and European flights were cancelled after a fire broke out in a coffee bar in Terminal 3, with twenty foot flames and a vast pillar of filthy smoke. Apparently the smoke inside the airport got so thick within just a few minutes that it was impossible to see.

Rome Airport Fire

Rome Airport Fire

Then it happened again. Last week an actual forest fire in the vicinity caused all sorts of chaos, including cancellations and delays. It appears fire causes big problems for airports and the airlines and people that use them.

A hotter climate means more fires

Forest rangers said the blaze affected around 40 hectares of a nearby 16000 acre nature reserve. The Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano says the recent fire at Fiumicino wasn’t an arson attack, but officials say three separate forest fires were probably started intentionally.

Wildfire in California

Wildfire in California

Whatever the cause, the bigger the fire the more difficult it is to control and put out. And as the climate warms, fires are bound to become a greater threat to all our transport systems. All it takes is a quick search on Google to realise droughts are common currency these days, with mega-droughts already affecting huge areas.

Global warming and air travel

Rome’s situation acts as a warning signal – as if we needed one – that the world’s climate really is changing. A warmer climate often means fires are more likely, and bigger, and their effects will inevitably be more difficult to contain. In fact, as Californians and Aussies know only too well, dramatic droughts are already a big issue.

Unless we move fast to mitigate global warming, the droughts and the wildfires that thrive in such dry conditions will become more common across the entire planet. And they’re bound to affect air travel.

California suffers the worst drought in 1200 years

California has long been battling its worst drought in 1200 years, a crisis that has already hit the state’s farmers and the economy that depends on them. The state is facing one of the most severe droughts on record, with a State of Emergency announced in January 2015 and action already being taken to prepare for water shortages.

Drought in California

Drought in California

With record-breaking heat affecting much of the State, Californians are having to get used to conserving their water, reducing their consumption by at least 27% under new emergency water conservation regulations.

As you can imagine, the resulting political and social conditions have become highly contentious. For example, water politics is coming to the fore as residents of Westlands,a fast-drying stretch of US farmland, try to cope with the changes. Here, the land is becoming ever-more laden with naturally occurring salts and the toxic trace element selenium. The parched terrain was once uninhabitable desert, and only the efforts of mankind turned it into arable land. Now it might end up reverting to desert, partly because there just isn’t enough spare water available to keep it fertile.

Australia baking under a relentless sun

Then there’s the Australian drought, the latest in a series of worsening water crises. In the second half of 1991 an incredibly severe drought hit Queensland, becoming the worst on record during ’94 and ’95. By October 1994 part of the Darling River system had completely collapsed and the Condamine River had turned into a sad series of muddy puddles.

From July to August 1995 things got even worse as a particularly strong El Nino weather pattern drove temperatures even higher, so hot that very few wheat and barley crops survived and the state had to import 50% of their grain from other parts of the country.

Then came the 2000s drought, named the Millennium drought, widely thought to be the worst since white people colonised Australia. 2006 proved the driest year on record for many parts of the country and the horror continued until late 2009. This time the drought wasn’t considered officially over until May 2012.

Drought in Australia

Drought in Australia

Australia’s Federal Government handed out a massive $4.5 billion in drought support. But the dry spell’s environmental legacy lives on, for example at Lake Albert where, like in the USA, the waters are still extremely salty, surrounded by acid soils and salt-ruined groundwater.

How does climate change affect air travel?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency says it all. They admit climate changes “may impact airplanes, airports, and airstrips, affecting air travel and infrastructure.”

  • Extreme heat results in restrictions, flight delays and cancellations. The same goers for increased flooding and high winds, both of which are being predicted by many climate change models. Storms can force entire airports to close, and these events are also thought to be becoming more common and more severe as a result of climate change.
  • In addition to airport closures and flight delays flooding can damage facilities, including airstrips. Some of the US’ busiest airports have been built in low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to flooding, including huge hubs like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And current predictions for climate change-driven sea level rises put both Newark and LaGuardia airports at risk of storm surges.
  • Then there’s ice… or a lack of it. Many of Alaska’s remote airstrips in Alaska are built on permafrost. When it melts the ground subsides, potentially damaging the foundation and structure of the airports and eventually leading to extra expense, rebuilding or even relocation.

In fact there’s only one bright side to a warmer climate: apparently warmer winter weather will cut the need for aircraft de-icing.

Will there be enough water to support airports’ needs?

As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to thrive. Many important economic activities, including creating the energy we need to travel, require water. As the planet warms the amount of water available for these activities will probably be cut. If you don’t have enough water on your airport site, for instance, to put out big fires, can you really carry on providing safe air travel services? Or will you have to give up and close down?

Many areas of the USA, especially in the west, already face water supply issues, along with growing demand. The west of the nation experienced less rain than ever during the past 50 years, and the resulting droughts have got worse and lasted longer. It’s a scary pattern. As the EPA says in an online example:

“The Colorado River system is a major source of water supply for the Southwest. It supplies water for more than 30 million people in the cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver. Recent droughts, reductions in winter precipitation, and warmer, drier springs have caused water supplies in Colorado River reservoirs to decrease. Expected climate change impacts on Colorado River water supply include increased year-to-year changes in water storage in reservoirs are possible, even under current conditions.”

What if climate change gets really extreme?

Most of the effects of climate change we see at the moment are inconvenient and awkward rather than life threatening. But humans are fragile. We die if it gets a couple of degrees too cold. Give us a heatwave and thousands of us drop like flies.

If equatorial and desert areas heat up as dramatically as many scientists predict they’ll eventually become uninhabitable, which means a lot of the exotic places we currently travel to on holiday will be too hot for human life to survive. If anything is set to affect air travel, it’s that!

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In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your flights to wonderful, exotic, hot and sunny places. Unless the human race manages to tip the balance, we might not be able to visit them safely by the time we reach the next century.

7 Reasons to Take Your Holiday in the UK

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Why fly abroad for your holidays? It might seem an odd question for an airport parking focused business to pose, but we’re human too and we sometimes find air travel less than a pleasure.

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight – Beautiful Coastline

Security issues, crowds and delays seem to be becoming more of an issue as time passes and with IS up to more dirty tricks than ever, being 30,000 feet up in the air doesn’t feel particularly safe. As someone famous once said, there are only two emotions involved in flying: terror and relief.

If you’re feeling too farty to fly these days, what awaits holidaymakers in good old Blighty, on our own familiar shores? And what about travelling Europe by train instead of flying? We thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the alternatives. If you’re perfectly happy flying, well done you. Walk this way for excellent value, easy-to-arrange airport parking. If not and you’re planning to take your holiday in the UK or travel to Europe a different way, read on.

1. Flying is fabulous… as long as there aren’t any delays

We took a trip to Amsterdam last week. The journey there was seamless and smooth without a single delay. The return flight was a different matter, with our plane delayed at least two hours and yet more delays on the trains home from Gatwick. A journey that should have taken around two and a half hours door to door took an awful lot longer, and by the time we got home we were exhausted.

Like any other kind of journey, flights are only enjoyable and convenient when everything works like clockwork. Otherwise it’s just a matter of gritting your teeth, putting a stiff upper lip in place and getting through it somehow. Not the best start to a holiday, and certainly not the best ending. When you’re flying long haul delays can be an absolute nightmare, especially if you’re traveling with the kids.

2. Airport security gets even more onerous

On one hand, you know it’s for your own safety. On the other hand it’s horrible being searched, having to take your shoes and belt off, decanting your belongings out of your pockets for x-raying, having to leave stuff behind because the rules say you can’t take it through security. It doesn’t exactly make you feel safe. Instead, it tends to make you even more aware of the risks.

Last time we flew, in 2012, security wasn’t this strict. And there’s no real reason it shouldn’t get even more strict if the terrorists scale up their antics.

3. The fear factor

The crazier the terror attacks become, the more widespread their reach, the more of us they kill, the less safe it feels being on board a plane. We might all know that flying is a lot safer than driving on a motorway or crossing the road but once you’re up there above the clouds, the facts start to feel a bit hollow.

No wonder Britain’s amazing home-grown wonders are attracting more stay-at-home vacations than ever. The new craze for glamping and staying at home for holidays is becoming a seriously cool option.

4. The wonders of a holiday in Britain

Every county in our green and pleasant land is stuffed with attractions, things to do, stuff to see and experience. Our nation is absolutely tiny, roughly 700 miles at its longest and 300 at its widest. You can fit the entire landmass into some American states several times over. But at the same time our geology is incredibly complex, which means the landscapes change frequently and you experience several completely different types of countryside in one tiny area.

Henley on Thames

Henley on Thames Landscape

Take Cumbria, home to the majestic Lake District. Scotland is over the border to the north, the county has oodles of beautiful coastline and also includes a big chunk of the Pennines, backing onto the stunning Yorkshire Dales. Or what about Sussex with its numerous beach holiday towns, vibrant cities, chalky South Downs, ancient history and fabulous shopping.

The same goes with our weather. OK, it might not be Mediterranean but it’s usually fairly reliable: cool in spring and autumn, warm in summer, chilly in winter. At least we’re used to it – the British weather isn’t going to deliver too many surprises. And because we’re such a teeny, weeny country, travelling the length and breadth of it in search of the best of the sunshine isn’t that much of a challenge.

5. Europe by train

The Channel Tunnel means rail travel in Europe is an excellent alternative. It tends to be more expensive than flying but it’s a great deal greener and if you book early there are some great deals to be had. It takes longer to get from A to B too, but all it takes is one delayed flight and the train suddenly becomes a viable and enjoyable option.

No hanging around in airports. No battling the fear of flying. You just get on your train and you’re off. Better still, when you travel by train the journey itself becomes part of the holiday, part of the fun, part of the experience as a whole rather than something you just want to get over with as soon as possible.

You zoom through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany or wherever, a great way to find out more about how people live, the kinds of houses they build, the way the land is farmed and more. Instead of thousands of feet of clouds and empty air beneath you, you’re surrounded by fascinating countryside. European trains are splendidly comfortable and almost alarmingly efficient. You arrive feeling serene and mellow instead of bedraggled, cramped and scared half witless by the turbulence you encountered during landing. That’s more like it!

6. Europe by ferry

Ferries are another way to experience a journey to the full and welcome the travelling aspect of things into the holiday fold. Like the train it’s more leisurely, with epic views of the sea to enjoy whether you’rer travelling from Hull to Rotterdam, Newhaven to Dieppe, the Isle of Wight to Spain or Folkestone to Calais.

You can take your car, or leave it behind and hire a vehicle at the other end, or travel the rest of the way by train. Either way it’s much more of an adventure – and more laid back – than sitting on a plane without any views, after a cattle market of an airport experience, with someone’s whiny child kicking the back of your chair for the entire journey.

7. Experience days in the UK

We do much more than airport parking, of course, which brings us to our experience days. Wherever you go for your staycation, there’s something thrilling to experience. And we offer a vast choice of briulliant things to do and see via our website, everything from a comprehensive theatre ticket offering access to the finest shows in the West End to a bunch of strange, weird and definitely wonderful activities and experiences to set the seal on one of the best holidays ever.

If that dings your bell, what kind of experience days do we have on offer? You’ll love the sheer variety of great British fun and games you can book through our site. Here are just three of the different types of sactivity we offer, just to whet your appetite. And here’s a link to the experiences page.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge – Worth a Visit

303 driving experiences to choose from

Our driving experiences include off road buggy racing, quad biking, Star in a Car,  extreme supercar, junior Ferrari experiences and a whole lot more, involving every kind of vehicle you can imagine.

Our Supreme Supercar Experience is a popular choice, exciting, exhilarating and very fast, packed with thrills.  You’ll spend an entire day tearing up the tarmac in ten of the planet’s most pwerful and desirable vehicles including a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin. At the end of the day you’ll be presented with a certificate as a memento of your big day. Will your heart race? Yes, it will… and in a much nicer way than the way it races when your ‘plane rocks and bucks its way through a load of turbulence – at least you’re in control of your own fate.

500 superb pampering experiences

Choose from more than 500 papmering experiences including luxurious face and body treatments,  spa retreats and  deep tissue massages. For example our Moroccan Rasul and Elemis Deep Tissue Massage, a brilliant way to cleanse and detox your skin through the ancient ritual of Rasul.

The smooth, rich mud used is famous for its healing properties, nourishing the skin and leaving you feeling fantastic. Then there’s an hour-long Elemis Deep Tissue Massage to enjoy, which restores your sense of wellbeing much more than being squashed onto a bargain basement flight for several hours of nervous discomfort.

2268 short breaks to treat yourself to

A weekend break somewhere gorgeous might be just what you need to chill out and feel fabulous about life again, much more relaxing than a long haul flight and without the slightest trace of jet lag.

Take our two night break at magnificent Cabra Castle,  dating back to the 1800s and set in 100 acres of stunning parkland deep in the lush Irish countryside. Ireland, of course, is just a ferry ride away from either Swansea (to Cork) or Holyhead (to Dublin), and it’s so beautiful there you might as well be on a different planet… even though you’re close to home.

What about you?

If you’re going to take your holiday in the UK this year, what drove your decision and what are you going to do? We’d love to share your inspiration with our readers.

Airport Wars and More – Top Airport News

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

As reported in The Telegraph , the bosses at Sussex’s Gatwick airport are furious. They’ve slammed the UK’s Airport Commission recommendation for expanding Heathrow, claiming their recommendation was based on an analyses that don’t bear close examination. And they’re not afraid to get vocal about it.

airports commission

UK Airports Commission

Along with a bunch of anti-Heathrow expansion climate change protesters being arrested this week, it’s a shot across the bow for the government and a hint that the final solution might be as far away as ever. Here’s a run-down of Gatwick airport’s unusually feisty response, plus – not to be overshadowed – a short, sharp blast of airport news from elsewhere.

A scathing attack over outdated air traffic forecasts

Gatwick’s chairman has launched a scathing attack on the Airports Commission, saying their recommendation for a third Heathrow runway is ‘flawed’, based on old air traffic forecasts and dodgy economic estimates.

The ‘old data’ side of the argument isn’t surprising since the Commission took so long to make their report. But there’s more, with Sir Roy McNulty saying they also underplayed the strength of Gatwick’s case for expansion. He also believes they underestimated the problems facing radical changes at Heathrow. He has already spoken to the government but he’s so angry he’s promised to write to David Cameron to relay his concerns formally.

aor traffic

Air Traffic Forecasts

Would Gatwick expansion have fewer economic benefits?

The Commission’s 342 page report concluded that a £17.6bn extra runway at Heathrow was the “best answer” to a looming aviation capacity crisis, despite contrary evidence that there’s no such crisis on the horizon. They claimed a second runway at Gatwick was feasible, but would come with considerably fewer economic benefits, odd since in a separate economic analysis from the Commission, Treasury-led models revealed only ‘modest’ differences between the economic benefits behind Heathrow and Gatwick expansion.

Gatwick set to cross the 40M passenger mark first

Apparently the Heathrow decision was based on a critical assumption: that Gatwick would be dealing with at least forty million passengers a year by 2024. It sounds impressive, but Gatwick is set to achieve 40m passengers this financial year.

Passengers at Gatwick Airport

Passengers at Gatwick Airport

Worse still, Gatwick had ‘repeatedly’ raised concerns about the forecasts but their worries were dismissed, “with a fairly superficial analysis”, according to Sir Roy. He’s bullish, insisting they’re absolutely certain the decision “does not make sense”.

Hurt feelings all round

Sir Roy also feels the report undervalues the feelings of people living around Heathrow, with more local residents due to suffer from noise, pollution, disruption, virus-like increases in airport parking sites and more. His opinion won’t go down well with people in the Gatwick area, who face exactly the same challenges to their homes and lifestyles. And he’s zoomed in on pollution levels, saying the Commission didn’t take the fact that Heathrow currently breaches European Union limits on air pollution into account.

An extra runway at Heathrow has already been proposed and stopped in its tracks in the past. Sir Roy believes the same thing will happen again, putting progress back another two, five, ten years… who knows? And this is his final argument. In his words, “As Einstein famously said, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.”

Then there’s the Queen whose lovely home, Windsor Castle, would suffer increased noise from a third runway. It looks like the Royals could qualify for millions of pounds in payouts to soundproof the 900 year old building. Is there no end to the complexities behind an extra runway, wherever it ends up?

The Airports Commission fights back

The Airports Commission has retaliated, insisting that the lengthy three year reporting period they went through has looked at all the issues, including extensive consultation and analysis and delivering robust recommendations based on the best available evidence.

Despite their anger and disappointment Gatwick has fallen short of starting a judicial review. But the news marks the beginning of what could be a very long haul for everyone included: the airports, local people, the government and the flying public.

The Government has promised to decide whether to support the Commission’s recommendations or not by the end of this year, leaving things hanging to Gatwick’s benefit. They’re unlikely to make a firm decision, expected to make more of a ‘clear direction’. All we can do is watch and wait.

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More airport news for July 2015

  • British Airways has announced its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner plane will take a debut flight to Delhi this October
  • A BA flight made emergency landing at Heathrow when its engine burst into flames
  • Heathrow hopes to soften the expansion blow by building a 9,000 home ‘garden city’
  • Munich airport gets clearance for a third runwa, while the country’s powerful environmentalists fight on
  • Research reveals how increasing long haul flight times are down to high altitude winds slowing planes down, and it’ll have ‘significant implications’for airline industry’s CO2 emissions
  • Expansion plans have been unveiled for Leeds Bradford Airport to let it double the number of passengers it handles over the next 15 years
  • Heathrow is already showing resistance to environmental measures proposed for a 4th runway, saying it still needs to “assess” proposals for a night flying ban
  • Hundreds of flights were delayed at Heathrow as Plane Stupid protesters against the new runway plans broke in and chained themselves together
  • Ryanair says it might shut its Billund airport base, the airline’s second Danish base closure in just four days because of union strike plans. They already closed their new base at Copenhagen to avoid strikes
  • Armelle Thomas, the wife of a 93 year old war veteran, is livid after a letter from Heathrow arrived at her home 90 minutes after the AirportCommission’s recommendation. It was a reminder letter about the compulsory purchase order made on her home
  • On 2nd Julke a protester whose Harmondsworth home would be destroyed by a third runway blocked Heathrow tunnel for half an hour

We’ll be back next week with the latest news about airport parking, airport expansion, developments in the aircraft industry and the ever-changing world of aviation.

A New Runway at Heathrow – Will it Ever Happen?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Imagine this: you’re sitting in your garden with planes roaring overhead. Indoors you can clearly hear aircraft passing over your home, not so far above it. And you’re woken up by more of the same as the first flights of the day take off from Heathrow’s new third runway.

heathrow third runway

Heathrow – No Third Runway Protest

The big story airport story over the past week has been the latest progress on airport expansion. It appears Heathrow is the favoured option. Heathrow airport will soon be staring to put in place plans to build its third runway, as recommended by the Airports Commission. And it means thousands of ordinary people are getting ready to defend their towns and villages against the proposed encroachment.

We live in interesting times… so what are the media, politicians and locals saying?

Heathrow expansion latest – what people are saying

The Telegraph’s take on the situation reveals some detail:

“Heathrow will today start laying the groundwork to build a third runway, even though the Government is yet to give the green light to the controversial £17.6bn infrastructure project.

John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of the West London hub, will announce that the airport will immediately begin drawing up a strategy to secure the materials and services it will need from contractors.

Heathrow, which wants to start building in 2020, will launch a so-called “procurement forum” of representatives across a variety of industries to help it formulate its plans, as it moves into what it describes as the “delivery phase” of its politically contentious expansion.

The hub is pressing ahead with plans to grow just days after the Government-appointed Airports Commission concluded that a third runway, to the northwest of Heathrow’s current northern landing strip, is the “best answer” to the country’s airports capacity crisis, as long as it is accompanied by strict measures on air pollution and noise.”

Air pollution and noise? That’s an interesting one. How about climate change, something they don’t mention? As ETA, the ‘green’ insurance provider, says:

“Just one return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than a whole year’s personal allowance needed to keep the climate safe.

Our carbon footprint is the estimated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) given out as we travel, buy food, heat our homes and enjoy our usual lifestyles.

The average personal footprint in Britain is 9.5t. To get down to a fair share of the world’s total; this must be cut by 87%, leaving 1.2t. On every flight to New York and back, each traveller emits about 1.2t of CO2. If we fly, air travel overshadows all our other impacts.”

They go on to say, “To keep the climate safe we need drastic cuts in air travel. Efficiency savings such as more direct flights shave off small fractions but are dwarfed by planned growth.” Planned growth? That sounds a lot like Heathrow.

What about greener aircraft?

Are greener, low-emissions aircraft anywhere near becoming a a reality? As the move-forward website says:

“Aviation is a global industry necessitating global solutions. We believe that its environmental performance can only be improved if the various players – including airlines, government agencies, air traffic management (ATM) organisations and engine manufacturers – work together in order to develop and implement the best and most efficient, solutions worldwide.

The right combination of technology and talent – along with the right investment, support and cooperation – can make this happen.

The industry has also set up sustainable roadmaps with clear targets. Carbon neutral growth by 2020 for example – or on a further horizon the Flightpath “2050”, the European Aviation Vision – is an aspirational roadmap for the industry with a significant commitment to cutting emissions (CO2 by 75%, NOx by 90% and noise by 65%).

A combination of public and private investments will be required to achieve the goals, both in terms of infrastructure development and technology research.”

It looks like the answer is no. Green air transport is nowhere near becoming a reality. Which leaves us with a situation where, despite knowing air travel is a huge contributor to climate change and knowing our aircraft are nowhere near ‘green’, we’re ploughing ahead for ‘economic’ reasons.

This seems horribly short sighted when scientists are making predictions about the vast amount of damage runaway global warming will do the the world’s economies. After all, we can’t have it both ways.

Will the new runway at Heathrow airport actually go ahead?

Runways take an awful long time to build, something locals will probably find comforting. The planning stage alone can take years. And if people take up their democratic right to protest, things could be delayed for a very long time indeed. If not indefinitely.

five bells harmondsworth

Harmondsworth Village – To make way for new Heathrow runway

An airport expansion decision has already been avoided by politicians for almost half a century, so it’s no surprise to see The Telegraph takes a party political view. They say David Cameron will need to ‘face down’ a minimum of five political opponents with constituencies close to the airport just to get the plans through Parliament. But that’s a way off too, with the PM not set to announce his final verdict until the end of 2015.

The Telegraph’s Liam Halligan comments:

“Beyond the noise, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in April that air pollution around Heathrow already breaches legal limits, as aircraft combine with pollution from traffic on the M4 and M25 motorways. To add another 250,000 flights a year to the present 470,000, with all the extra related road traffic, would make a nonsense of our anti-pollution legislation.

Rather than spending at least £17bn on an extra Heathrow runway, with all the expensive demolition, upheaval and compensation that entails, plus countless more billions diverting existing motorways around Heathrow, resources should instead be piled into better road and rail connections between London’s three main airports.”

Halligan also theorises that when push comes to shove, “with his tiny 12-seat majority, Cameron would lose any Commons vote on Heathrow. That could spark a vote of no confidence and bring down his Government.” And Boris Johnson, London’s influential Mayor, joins the fray, claiming a third runway at Heathrow “isn’t going to happen”.

What about the people living near Heathrow?

The 2M Group, founded by Wandsworth Council, say:

“Almost every part of Wandsworth would be affected by aircraft noise if Heathrow expands to a four runway hub. Across London and the Home Counties a total of three million people would be living under its flightpaths. The price is far too high.”

MP Zach Goldsmith is equally disappointed, saying:

“On every level, Heathrow expansion is the wrong answer. – It is already the biggest noise polluter in Europe, and an expanded Heathrow would affect over a million Londoners. It is not possible to reconcile air quality targets with an expanded Heathrow.”

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England is incensed, saying the commission’s “terms of reference were rigged from the start”. The transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has accepted the issues are “not easy to resolve”. And local people are showing no sign of giving up the fight after Sir Howard Davies made his decision.

heathrow aircraft

Heathrow Aircraft Passing Over Harmondsworth Houses

The Teddington Action Group, another collection of determined activists, is trying to bring about a judicial review of what it feels is a ‘flawed’ consultation process. People living in the lovely little village of Harmondsworth will “support direct action against any attempt to bulldoze 750 homes if the government backs expansion.” And residents of the nearby village of Stanwell Moor will no doubt add their voices to the clamour.

Developers are facing yet another long haul

So far we’ve seen five decades of delays plus an enquiry that lasted three years and cost twenty million pounds. The likelihood of work actually starting any day soon has to be pretty low, bearing in mind the sheer scale of the disruption and destruction that’ll need to take place.

Whatever Mr Cameron decides in December, Heathrow airport expansion still faces a long haul. Pun intended. And in the meantime thousands of people living around the planned site and under the flight path will continue to suffer the awful uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds.

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How would you feel if your home was due to be demolished to make way for a runway? Do you think it’s worth the aggravation, worth the impact on climate change? Feel free to comment.

Would You Travel to Tunisia?

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

To those of us who remember the IRA’s reign of terror, it’s beginning to look a lot like the 1980s. According to the Daily Mail, Ramadan is set to be particularly dangerous as ISIS terror attacks gain momentum, something that’ll distress ordinary, peace-loving Muslims the world over.

threats

Securty Threats Increasing

Apparently Western nations the UK, France, Spain and Italy are at particular risk, according to the Institute for the Study of War, who predicted a ‘mass casualty attacks’ on Tunisia and the Shia mosque where 17 people were killed.

Apparently experts believe extremists will also unleash so-called ‘terror cells’ in south-east Asia, places like Malaysia and the Philippines, and a number of surveys have revealed 42 million Muslims in Arab states feel ‘somewhat positively’ towards ISIS. Surely that can’t be true?

The big question is this: would you travel to Tunisia, Malaysia, Spain or even London with things as they are? Or would you prefer to stay home and avoid the risk altogether?

What’s your take on foreign travel right now?

Opinions differ, as you’d expect in a world populated with the risk averse, the risk aware and everything in between.

Some brave (or foolish?) people are looking forward to cheap summer holidays in at-risk regions, happy to take the risk for a bargain break in the sun. Others are deciding to remain home and take a good, old fashioned British staycation, an especially attractive prospect if the weather stays this hot and sunny.

What happens if we let ISIS change our lives?

There’s more to the argument than financial gain and the risk of being blown to smithereens. Take Tunisia, a peaceful, tolerant nation where, just a couple of years ago, the Arab Spring took hold and thrived.

According to The Guardian , the Tunisian tourism industry faces a tough time as thousands of people leave after attack, a potential economic tragedy in the making since the country earns a dramatic 14.5% of its annual GDP from the tourist industry.

As they say:

“Large hotels, such as those the gunman targeted on Friday, may bear the biggest losses. “They are more of a target and tourists may choose to opt to go to smaller places if the authorities are not able to respond effectively,” Popova said.
Tunisia’s tourism ministry confirmed plans on Monday to deploy 1,000 armed officers from 1 July to reinforce the tourism police, who will also carry guns for the first time. Armed officers will be deployed inside and outside hotels, on beaches and at tourist and archaeological sites, the ministry said.”

In Tunisia’s case a drop in tourism could mean real economic hardship. And it’s already happening, with more than 8000 Brits – 40% of those currently enjoying holidays there – leaving the country mid-way through their break.

It’s a situation that also affects our own travel industry, as holiday giants Tui and Thomas Cook are finding out. Both their share prices have tumbled, and it still remains to be seen how the rest of the UK’s holidaymakers react to the violence.

If there’s a run of cancellations across multiple destinations, things could get really nasty for more of our holiday companies. Add the Greek economic crisis and the previously untroubled holiday scene could soon start looking pretty bleak for travel agents as well as millions of ordinary people who live in the countries we love to visit… but are now too scared to risk.

What about the moral argument?

As well as economic, cultural and social issues, there’s a moral quandary to tackle. If we give in, give up and let ISIS and their fellow terrorist organisations change the way we live, will it represent the thin end of an awful wedge? Will we let ourselves be driven into a situation where ISIS has won the advantage as the rest of the world cowers?

It’s a tough one. You might agree, but at the same time feel it isn’t your personal responsibility. Not many of us are willing to risk our lives for a principle, even if it’s a principle that could make or break the future of world peace and democracy.

What does the UK government say about Tunisian travel?

So far the British Foreign Office isn’t advising against all travel to Tunisia. They’re simply advising us to be ‘especially vigilant’. And they’ve pinpointed a few areas they recommend holidaymakers avoid, namely:

  • The Chaambi mountain national park
  • The Tunisia-Algeria border crossings at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef
  • The military region south of El Borma and Dehiba
  • Any area within three miles of the Libyan border
Beautiful Tunisia

Beautiful Tunisia

At the same time, the Home Secretary Theresa May says there’s no real reason to believe the Tunisian beach attack was specifically designed to harm British tourists. Some see her point – after all, Tunisia’s famously tolerant and laid back attitude to religions and faiths of every kind must be an anathema to ISIS. As May said in a Guardian article:

“As you’ll appreciate, this is still an ongoing investigation and we’re working very closely with the Tunisian authorities in relation to this. I’ve seen no evidence so far that this was targeted because there were British tourists there. But if course we must recognise that this is the most significant loss of British life in a terrorist attack since 7/7 in the UK.”

Jet2 makes an early stand

There are rumblings from elsewhere, for example the low cost holiday provider Jet2, which has hinted they’ll be making a detailed review of the risks. They deployed three additional planes to Tunisia last weekend, and their chief executive, Steve Heapy, is set to visit partner hotels in Sousse, Port el Kantaoui and four more resorts on a fact-finding mission.

For the moment Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays to Tunisia up to and including 5th July, with refunds and booking changes made available to customers. The offer to change destinations is also open to people who’ve booked Tunisian holidays before the end of this month. And Jet2 might end up extending the offer even farther. They say:

“We are currently looking at options for those customers travelling from 1 August and in 2016 and will provide further updates on this.”

Tui extends their deepest sympathy

There’s a heartfelt message from Tui, owner of Thomson and First Choice holidays. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of those involved in this tragic event. The whole of Thomson and First Choice are deeply shocked and truly saddened by the events and we are grateful to our staff on the ground and in the air and the emergency services who are working hard in an incredibly challenging environment.”

We’d like to extend the same message to everyone concerned. We’d like to express our disgust at the inhuman attacks ISIS carry out, and for the extreme views they’re determined to spread across the world. We’d also like to express our certainty that ISIS will never win. They’re outnumbered, hated, feared and disrespected. And we, the ordinary people of the world who live in peace and harmony, will not crumble.

happy holidays

Happy Holidays – Hopefully!

What are your holiday plans?

Are you one of those people who are happy to go abroad despite the troubles? Or are you dead-set on a caravan holiday in Worthing instead? If so, why? Let’s get the debate going.

Should Booze be Banned on Board Aircraft?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

In the wake of yet another drunken incident on board a flight, we’re looking at booze on aircraft this week. And it’s a particularly contentious subject.

booze on planes

Alcohol on Aircraft

Some people think getting drunk in the airport or on a plane is perfectly fine, something passengers have always had the right to do. Others think things have gone too far, with out-and-out drunkenness becoming more and more common, overtaking the long tradition for having a couple of drinks on board and turning it into something nastier, less acceptable and often downright antisocial.

Some industry commentators and passengers feel feel it’s high time airlines and airports tightened up the rules about drunkenness on the ground and in the air. And a growing number think it’s about time alcohol was banned from both airports and planes altogether in the interests of everyone’s safety, comfort and enjoyment.

Booze on flights – An investigation

First, it makes sense to take a quick look at the primary function of a passenger aircraft. Few would disagree it’s an airline’s job to take people from A to B safely and securely, and ideally make it a pleasant experience despite the fact that you’re stuck 30,000 feet in the air, way above the earth – something that freaks enough of us out without unpredictable drunk people on board.

Second, it seems sensible to look at alcohol itself, too. Along with tobacco, alcohol sits at the very top of every evidence-based dangerous drugs list in the world, way above illicit substances like LSD and Ecstasy. Being drunk kills thousands of us every year. It’s responsible for massive amounts of extremely expensive damage to property. And the health issues is causes present a huge financial burden to the NHS.

So what role does alcohol play in the safe transport of people? Bearing in mind its dangers, logic says it’s highly debatable. While it’s nice to have a drink on board a plane, is it really a good idea? Is booze an essential part of the air travel experience? After all we can’t drink and drive or drink at work, and being drunk on a bus or train doesn’t exactly endear you to your fellow passengers.

In other words, should alcohol be given the same treatment as smoking, banned from all aircraft as a matter of course?

Drunken man jailed for 9 months over plane violence

Gatwick police recently encountered a man so drunk he didn’t even know what country he was in. He probably couldn’t remember the fact that he’d forced the plane to be diverted either, following a terrifying mid-air confrontation. And he’s been thrown in prison for nine months as a result, having been made an example of. It’s a clear sign the police are fed up with this kind of thing, as are the airlines and the majority of people who fly with them.

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34 year old Andrew Tosh, who is surely old enough to know better, “sexually assaulted a female cabin crew member, swore and acted aggressively to other passengers on the Glasgow to Turkey flight”. The police had to cuff him to keep him calm after the plane landed at Gatwick in an unscheduled stop, where they turfed him off the plane to prevent a potential disaster. While being arrested Tosh spat at the police, who had to put a hood over his head, and the way he treated the cabin crew resulted in him being added to the sex offenders register. What a dramatic and shameful end to a drunken binge.

Imagine you were there. Nobody in their right mind would enjoy sitting next to a drunken lout for hours, even more so when you’re 30,000 feet in the air. And what about the cabin crew? Do they deserve having to deal with sexual abuse, verbal abuse and physical threats? It’s frightening for other passengers, especially children, and the police have just about had enough of it. In their words: “This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and neither us nor the airlines will tolerate it.”

Sadly it’s only the latest in a string of drunken incidents on board aeroplanes. Happily the worm is turning and it looks like things might eventually change.

Anti-alcohol group calls for an in-plane ban

The Aussie anti-alcohol campaign group Drug Arm Australasia has declared their support for banning booze in aircraft and even in airports themselves. They reckon a ban would, “reduce the risk and harms associated with alcohol use and increase the safety of both passengers and crew.” The call for a ban comes after two flights were disrupted by disruptive and dangerous drunks in just two months.

Qantas and Virgin not planning to change alcohol policies

Popular Aussie airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia both say they’re not planning to change their alcohol policies. Maybe it’s because they’re scared to be the first airline to make a stand? But if one brave airline topples, will the rest follow?

in flight entertainment

In-Flight Entertainment – with drinks

It’s likely, since redirecting planes and making unscheduled stops is expensive and inconvenient for airlines as well as driving sober passengers nuts and disrupting innocent people’s journeys. And the strain it puts on the cabin crew and the people who actually fly the planes doesn’t bear thinking about. What an awful thing to have to deal with in a confined space, where there’s no escape from the mayhem and it goes on for hours and hours.

Ryanair takes action against drunks on board

Bucking the trend for ignoring the issue, Ryanair has already banned booze on flights from Glasgow Prestwick airport to Ibiza after a run of passenger-driven disruptions. They say:

“Any alcohol purchased in airport shops or elsewhere must be packed in a suitable item of baggage, which will be tagged and placed in the aircraft hold free of charge. Customers attempting to conceal alcohol will be denied travel without refund or compensation.

Having consulted with our customers and the airport, passengers flying from Glasgow Prestwick to Ibiza will no longer be permitted to bring duty free alcohol on board the aircraft.

Those who have purchased duty free alcohol will be asked to either place their purchases in their cabin baggage and into the hold at the boarding gate, or leave their purchases behind. The comfort and safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority and we will not tolerate unruly behaviour at any time.”

It looks like Ryanair’s flights between Prestwick and Ibiza will be a lot more pleasurable for ordinary passengers who don’t feel the need to get absolutely legless while travelling. But it still leaves most of us, on other flights, wide open to abuse, fear, delays, diversions and potential in-flight disaster.

Sussex police scheme helps prevent drunken incidents on board

A scheme to tackle drunk passengers at Gatwick Airport has seen alcohol-fuelled incidents drop in frequency, thanks to Sussex police patrolling airport bars on the look-out for excessive pre-flight boozing. They’re taking the initiative along with Monarch Airlines, targeting late night flights to Ibiza. As a result the police say there’s been a 50% drop in booze-related issues. Monarch also says incidents have been “greatly reduced”.

alcohol on aircraft

Alcohol Miniatures on Aircraft

Apparently Sussex police have been telling passengers in airport bars that if they get too drunk, they won’t be allowed on the plane, although the airline’s cabin crew have the final say in whether people are let on board.

As the police say, “We all want people to have a drink and enjoy their flight, but it’s about just not starting a party a little bit too early, and being aware that at altitude the effects of alcohol increase – so two pints can potentially become four pints at altitude.”

Would booze-free flights suit you?

Would you prefer to fly on a plane where booze isn’t an issue because it’s banned on board? If you’re travelling as a family, the answer is probably ‘yes’. The same goes if you’re not inclined to booze your way to oblivion on the way to your destination, a group that probably includes the majority of the flying public.

How about a choice between boozy flights and non-booze options, where you had the choice of ‘enjoying’ a rowdy on-board party or picking a quiet alcohol-free flight? It’s obvious that flights to some destinations – for example Ibiza – are more at risk from drunken disturbances than others. Should airlines ban booze on at-risk routes or make a wholesale ban?

Whatever your views, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to comment and share.

Holiday Safety Update: “Too Little Sun Will Kill You”

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Fortuitously, just a couple of weeks after we covered the latest news on sun safety in this blog, New Scientist magazine printed an article about the latest research on the effects of sunshine on our bodies. And it looks like sunshine is even more important than anyone thought.

Healthy Sunshine

Healthy Sunshine

Witness the blog title above, quoted directly from the magazine, which is one of the world’s most trusted, respected and widely-read sources of the scientific truth about an enormous range of subjects, from climate change to particle physics and everything in between.

What’s the latest advice on sun exposure?

We thought it was much more than merely ‘important’ to update our readers on the real truth about the sun’s rays. It’s actually vital. If your friends and family are still hell bent on avoiding the sun at all costs, send them a link to this article and do them a big favour.

The latest research on sunshine and human health

Here’s the latest research on sun exposure, and what it means to human health and well-being. If you were just about to smother yourself in factor 50, ram a hat on your head, grab a long sleeved shirt and head outdoors to spend time avoiding exposure to the sun’s rays, think again. According to the eggheads, avoiding sunshine altogether could actually kill you.

Dermatologists unite to recommend we embrace sunshine

The first thing to say is this: a large body of evidence links certain types of over-exposure to the sun’s rays with skin cancer. And getting burned is always a really bad idea. But at the same time there isn’t any evidence that sunlight is bad for you per se, in other words whether it actually shortens your life.

As you’ll see later on in this post, not all skin cancers are equal. While some are deadly, having other types of melanoma means your life expectancy might even increase. It’s counter-intuitive but true. The latest scientific studies and dermatological research reveal something fascinating, bearing in mind all the anti-sunhealth advice we’ve been given: there’s increasing evidence that keeping out of the sun might be killing you, and it’s doing so in unexpected ways.

Vitamin D is just the start of it…

The benefits of sunshine are about a lot more than just Vitamin D. We already know that people with high levels of vitamin D in their bodies are healthier than people with low levels. And we also know vitamin D supplements don’t do the trick. You need the real deal – exposure to actual sunlight – if you want to benefit from lower blood pressure, less risk of diabetes, a reduced risk of strokes and fewer heart attacks.

Children

Children – Healthy Outdoor Play

It looks like vitamin D accounts for some of the benefits of sunshine, but by no means all. So what else is going on?

The magic of nitric oxide

Human skin contains loads of nitrates. The UV radiation in sunshine converts these nitrates into nitric oxide and sends the substance into the circulatory system. Back in 1996, nitric oxide was proven to lower blood pressure, and the discovery won a Nobel Prize. Now we know for sure that sunshine lowers blood pressure a ‘small’ amount by converting nitrates to nitric oxide. And in this case small really is beautiful.

High blood pressure leads to strokes and heart attacks. Lower it just a small amount and the risk decreases significantly. Because stroke and heart disease are the western world’s biggest killers, reducing them will have dramatic health benefits and will also free up an absolute fortune – and a whole lot of medical resources – spent treating them.

The discovery also solves a couple of puzzling problems: now we know why the average blood pressure levels of Brits in winter are higher than in the summer, when we’re exposed to more sunshine. And it suddenly makes sense that people who live nearer the equator, where it’s sunnier, have lower blood pressure than people who live farther north and south.

It means we can all lower our blood pressure without so much as a sniff of a drug. Which has to be a good thing.

Holiday safety – The truth about skin cancer and sunlight

Next, there’s fascinating news about skin cancer. Yes, sun rays cause it. But things aren’t quite that simple. The newly-discovered truth is this:

  • Episodic exposure to the sun – for example only sunbathing twice a year on holiday – puts you at more risk of the deadly melanoma strain of skin cancer than being exposed regularly, for example if you’re a keen gardener outdoors all year round or love hiking
  • The most deadly strains of melanoma are much more common in indoor workers and un-tanned people than they are in outdoor workers and tanned people… which is the direct opposite of what we’ve been led to believe for so many years
  • Non-melanoma skin cancers are much less dangerous and almost never fatal. In fact they could actually be beneficial, which is, again, totally counter-intuitive based on the health advice we’ve been given so far
  • Research proves people who have had a non-melanoma skin cancer are less likely to die early than those who haven’t, with a dramatically reduced risk of heart attacks. Some well-informed dermatologists even congratulate patients with non-melanoma skin cancers, since they’re statistically likely to live longer and healthier lives
playing in the sun

Playing in the sun is healthy!

20 year study – Tanned Swedish women live longer than sun-avoiders

The icing on the sunbathing cake? A study involving 30,000 fair-skinned Swedish women, which began in 1990, revealed the more they had sunbathed, the less likely they were to be dead at the end of the study. Half as likely, in fact, which is dramatic stuff.

Those who had spent their lives avoiding the sun fared less well. And the research’s authors have more to say: they reckon 3% of deaths in Sweden are down to a lack of exposure to the sun.

Another piece of research involved 40,000 Scandanavian women. It found that those who went on the most sun, sea and sand holidays were the least likely to be dead 15 years later when the study ended.

Think about it and it makes sense…

All this might seem extraordinary. We’re so used to being told to stay out of the sun. But when you think logically, it makes sense. Humans wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the sun, nor would any other living creature on our planet. If the sun was that deadly, humans would have developed ways to stay out of it long before we discovered sun creams. Sun avoidance would be embedded deep in human culture… but it isn’t.

sun play

Everyone should spend more time in the sun

As we mentioned last week, it’s gratifying to know that the unique feelings of happiness and the sense of well-being we instinctively feel when we turn our faces to the lovely, hot sun are correct. We were right all along!

The best public health advice?

It looks like regular sunshine might do wonders for your health. If you’re just about to jet off somewhere hot, enjoy those rays! In the words of the author of the article in New Scientist, the dermatologist Richard Weller, “Sun has benefits as well as risks, and public health advice needs to reflect this”.