Category : Latest News

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”.

Heathrow Expansion Threatens Ancient Village

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

“We have a historic village with buildings that go back 600 years. You cannot replace that. You cannot buy memories.”

So says a resident of the beautiful village of Harmondsworth, which is under threat from Heathrow airport’s expansion plans.

Harmondsworth Village Green

Harmondsworth Village Green

About Heathrow expansion – The death of a village?

Harmondsworth is home to St. Mary’s Church, a delightful building dating back to the 11th century. It boasts the famous Great Barn, a beautiful 15th century oak-framed beast a whopping 192 feet long nicknamed the Cathedral of Middlesex by the poet John Betjeman.

These treasures would apparently be saved, but there doesn’t seem much point when the proposed runway would be so close to what’s left of the village that no one would be able to bear visiting, never mind living there. And the place isn’t alone. More pretty English villages are threatened by the plans.

The issue is so toxic UK politicians set up an independent commission to sift through the options. Now the General Election is over, a final decision is due, perhaps in June. Once the Commission makes its recommendations it’s down to our political leaders to make a final decision. But as the Archaeological scientist and village resident Justine Bayley says, the developers “have no concern that they are screwing up the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for their shareholders.”

Harmondsworth is under threat because experts feel the south east and London need more airport capacity for business travel and tourists. If it goes ahead the cost of expansion is likely to be around 18 billion pounds – an eye-watering amount of money – although it’s probably more realistic to work on a ‘think of a budget and double it’ basis.

However those in power choose to handle the proposed expansion, homes will be destroyed and surviving neighbourhoods will be faced with extra noise, pollution and traffic.

The news begs several important questions: just how far do we let the planners go in pursuit of an airport expansion strategy that many experts feel is simply not needed, with many of the nation’s regional airports currently running under capacity? Is Heathrow airport expansion a matter of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut? If there’s any doubt about the veracity of the plans, surely they shouldn’t go ahead.

Do we carry on and let it happen, destroying peoples’ homes, peace of mind, futures and an invaluable part of Britain’s historic heritage while we’re at it? Or do we take a step back and think again about a monstrously destructive development project that might not even be necessary in the first place?

Let’s see what the media are saying. First there’s WRAL, a CBS-affiliated virtual television station based over the Atlantic in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. It just goes to show how important the subject of expansion at Heathrow airport is, being talked about all over the world.

WRAL comments on UK airport expansion plans

According to WRAL:

“With its classic red phone booth, pub, and medieval church, Harmondsworth’s center looks quintessentially British. But the search for a twee English village isn’t what brings millions of people within a stone’s throw of its boundaries.

The attraction is neighboring Heathrow Airport, which served 73 million travelers last year. Now Europe’s busiest airport is proposing to build a runway roughly through the center of town, leveling the ivy-covered brick walls of the Harmondsworth Hall guest house and two-thirds of its homes. A village that traces its history to the 6th century would be forever altered, and some argue even what’s left would be uninhabitable.”

London Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport

A bitter ongoing PR debate

There’s been a long-running and bitter public relations debate over the issue and the two different plans to expand Heathrow are both set to be obscenely expensive. Various predictions from big business and economics experts are being called into doubt. Does the ability of people and businesses to move and connect faster really make an economy more competitive? Is it really a case of ‘survival of the fastest’? And are unproven economic predictions more important than the certainty of ruining people’s homes, villages and lives?

Is economic growth a good enough reason

A growing number of economics gurus believe a constantly-growing economy is an unrealistic expectation with damaging consequences. They say a steady economy is what we need to avoid the cycle of boom and bust we get under the current ‘growth is everything’ system. So if we don’t need constant economic growth, do we need extra airport capacity?

Heathrow’s External Relations Director says he understands why some people are very upset, though he claims there are some residents in Harmondsworth and the nearby village of Sipson who support the project. If his home and lifestyle were threatened, he probably wouldn’t be quite so sanguine.

Heathrow extra runway compensation packages

While the airport would offer ‘compensation packages’ for people whose houses would be demolished and others who’d find themselves living right next door to a runway, is mere money enough compensation for being driven out of your home against your will?

It’s a tricky balance to strike, to achieve growth while safeguarding our heritage. A cynical few say the objections would be fewer if the village of Harmondsworth wasn’t quite so pretty and historic, but that just seems like sour grapes. It doesn’t matter what your home looks like or how old it is. If the very fabric of the place you live might be taken from you, you’re unlikely to feel happy about it, especially when you’re forced to leave through a draconian Compulsory Purchase Order.

What about the Government?

In 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party pledged to fight Heathrow expansion. Now the Conservatives seem to have changed their minds. And the locals are feeling let down. As one said, “My grandparents worked this land. I have war dead in the cemetery of the church. This is my home and if I am forced to leave here, who will it be for? Foreign investors. The message I would give to the world is that the British government can be bought.”

david cameron

David Cameron

Airportwatch’s comments

The Airportwatch website delivers much the same message:

“Heathrow’s plan for a north west runway would mean the devastation of the medieval village of Harmondsworth. The airport boundary would come almost to the centre of the village, with everything south of that line demolished. It would level the ivy-covered brick walls of the Harmondsworth Hall guest house and two-thirds of the village’s homes.

A village that traces its history to the 6th century would be damaged so badly that even what is left would be uninhabitable. People don’t want financial compensation, they just don’t want their village destroyed or the bulldozing of a historic village with buildings that go back 600 years which cannot be replaced.”

Airportwatch also comments on the Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s response to the Airport Commission’s air quality report, as follows:

“The Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) have submitted their response to the Airports Commission’s consultation on air quality. They comment on the inadequacy of the consultation, and the difficulty for lay people in understanding it.

They say that with at least 100,000 people affected by a worsening of the air quality resulting from Heathrow expansion, plans, it is not realistic for the government to approve such a plan. The various possible mitigations for NO2 “may not be sufficient to avoid delaying compliance with standards that are already being breached. This will mean that if expansion were approved by the Government, it would knowingly be planning to continue breaching standards without a realistic plan to put this right.”

The RHC put – in plain English – some of their concerns about the Jacobs study, done for the Commission, and the things it has left out. Just a few of these include: the date chosen to assess air quality is 2030, when a runway would only be perhaps 35% full; much of the anticipated reduction in air pollution is from a higher proportion of air passengers travelling to and from the airport by rail; the cost of the necessary enhancements of rail services would be a huge cost for the taxpayer; health impacts, especially of vulnerable groups, have not been assessed.”

Learn about London’s history of expansion with Time Out

Time Out London has created a fascinating take on urban expansion, tracing the history of the expansion of our capital over the centuries. If Heathrow expansion goes ahead the city will take another step towards mega-status, a vast and still-growing thing eating up villages and towns and leaving and endless urban sprawl in its wake. As they say in their salutory tale:

“You might dispute some areas’ village status nowadays, but back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people were farming in Islington and building country piles in West Ham.”

The resulting article goers on to examine five fascinating old maps tracing the city’s relentless growth. Will pretty little Harmondsworth fall victim to London’s gaping maw or will the remarkable power of public protest saving the day?

Predictions for Heathrow airport expansion

On the bright side for the hundreds of thousands of Brits who live along the flight path or on land that could be grabbed for airport expansion, getting permission is one thing but actually getting the work done is another. We may have a famously stiff upper lip but when we’re threatened, us Brits batten down the hatches. We keep calm and we carry on.

Observers predict an ongoing battle with planners, builders, developers and the government. Sit-ins, protests, petitions, social media outrage… it all goes towards slowing unpopular development projects if not stopping them in their tracks.

What do you feel about expansion at Heathrow airport?

Conservation and green issues, noise, pollution, urban sprawl… what bothers you most about airport expansion? Maybe you’re all for it. In which case we’d love to share your opinion with our readers. Feel free to comment.

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Britain’s Busy Airports Get Busier

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

As we move inexorably towards the 2015 summer holiday season, it looks like Britain’s already-busy airports are getting even busier. What’s going on, is it a long term trend and what – if anything – can you do to make the entire experience as painless as possible?

heathrow airport

Heathrow Airport – Getting Busier

Heathrow and Gatwick airports getting more crowded

Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports experienced record passenger numbers during March 2015. Just under 3 million of us travelled through Gatwick, more than 9% more than the same time last year. Heathrow airport handled just under 6 million people during March 2015, up 3.4% on March 2014.

Total passenger numbers at Heathrow for 2013 were 72,367,054 and for 2014, 73,405,330. That’s more than the entire population of the UK travelling through Heathrow airport. Gatwick’s passenger numbers look like they’re steadily going up too, from 35,444,206 in 2013 to a total of 38,103,667.

Both airports are waiting to find out the outcome of the Airports Commission capacity review in the south east of England, allegedly due ‘shortly after the general election’. We can’t find any news yet, but feel free to correct us if you know different. In the meantime, watch this space. We’ll be reporting on any decisions about airport expansion.

Are busier airports a growing trend in Britain? According to figures on Wikipedia, yes. Their table detailing the top 40 busiest UK airports reveals only a handful of airports with falling passenger numbers, eleven in total. The rest have steadily increased year on year from 2013 – 14.

The UK’s 8 next busiest airports

  • Manchester airport is our third busiest, with an impressive 20,751,581 passengers throughout 2013 and 6% more during 2014, offering over 200 destinations and more than 100 airlines. But there’s more. Almost 30,000 more of us travelled via Manchester airport in April 2015 than April 2014. The rolling annual passenger total is currently a vast 22.3 million, up 6.7% year-on-year.
  • London Stansted airport is the fourth busiest UK airport, connecting with more than 145 destinations via 12 different airlines. They handled almost 18 million travellers during 2013 alone and just under 20 million in 2014.
  • London Luton airport handled just over nine and a half million travellers in 2013 and just under ten and a half million in 2014, up 8.1%.
  • Edinburgh airport comes next, the sixth busiest in Britain with 9,775,443 passengers in 2013 and 10,160,004 in 2014, up just under 4%.
  • Birmingham airport comes next, with 9,120,201 passengers in 2013 and a 6.4 rise in 2014 to 9,705,955.
  • Glasgow airport looked after 7,363,764 of us during 2013 and 4.8% more, 7,715,988, the year after.
  • Bristol airport is the ninth busiest in Britain, handling 6,131,896 people in 2013 and 3.4% last year.
  • Newcastle airport is tenth busiest, with almost four and a half million passengers during 2013 and 2.2% more in 2014.
manchester airport

Manchester Airport – Terminal 3

Which UK airports are handling fewer passengers in 2014?

If you can’t stand the crowds you might prefer to travel to a quieter airport. So which UK hubs handled fewer passengers in 2014 than they did in 2013? Obviously the figures for 2015 aren’t anywhere near ready, but the 2013/14 numbers provide a reasonable indication.

  1. Liverpool John Lennon airport – down 4.8% years on year
  2. Leeds Bradford airport – down 1.3%
  3. Cardiff airport – down 4.5%
  4. Glasgow Prestwick airport – down 20.3%
  5. Isle of Man airport – 1.3%
  6. Norwich airport – down 1%
  7. City of Derry airport – down 9%
  8. Scatsta airport – down 6.2%
  9. Blackpool airport – down 14.7%
  10. Durham Tees Valley airport – down 11.6%
  11. Alderney airport – down 2.4%

What’s happened at Glasgow Prestwick, with over 20% fewer passengers?

As Wikipedia says:

“In physical terms, Prestwick is Scotland’s largest commercial airfield, although in passenger traffic terms it sits in fourth place after Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow International, and Aberdeen Airport. Passenger traffic peaked at 2.4 million in 2007 following ten years of rapid growth, driven in part by the boom in no-frills airlines, especially from Ryanair which uses the airport as an operating base. There has been a significant reduction in passenger traffic with around 900,000 passengers passing through the airport in 2014.

On 8 March 2012 the airport owner Infratil announced that they had placed the airfield up for sale. The airport remained unsold until October 2013 when the Scottish Government announced it was in negotiations to take the airport back into public ownership. Subsequently the Scottish Government took ownership on Friday 22 November for £1, Infratil having incurred annual losses of £2m.

It is expected the airport will continue to operate as normal and there will be no job losses. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told BBC Scotland that work would now begin for “turning Prestwick around and making it a viable enterprise”. On 1 April 2014, the public petition committee at Holyrood heard that The Robert Burns World Federation wished to rename the airport to Robert Burns International Airport. In June 2014, Ryanair announced the relocation of some routes from Prestwick to Glasgow Airport by October 2014, among them are the flights to Warsaw and Dublin.”

prestwick airport

Prestwick Airport Entrance

Busiest April EVER at Edinburgh and Glasgow airports

On 11th May the BBC announced that Scotland’s two biggest hubs had their busiest April on record, partly down to Easter bank holiday travel. Just under 930,000 of us hit Edinburgh Airport in April, up 10.2% on the same month in 2014, and 665,000 headed for flights out of Glasgow Airport, 15.4% more than April 2014, probably due to an increase in flights between London and Edinburgh plus more long-haul destinations from Glasgow.

According to the BBC news website:

“Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “Our passenger numbers have continued to rise each month in 2015 and last month was our busiest April on record. “We’ve seen strong performances on both domestic and international routes, with London doing particularly well. “A number of new routes have also launched since April last year, including Madrid with Iberia Express, Malaga with Norwegian and Copenhagen with SAS.”

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said: “We have enjoyed double-digit growth in our passenger numbers for six consecutive months, but to have recorded our busiest April ever is hugely encouraging. “There certainly appears to be a renewed confidence amongst passengers and airlines alike, and with the launch of nine new services, including direct flights to Prague and Halifax, Nova Scotia, May promises to be yet another busy month.”

What about the long-term?

Cheap, no frills air travel is probably partly responsible for the rise and rise in the popularity of Britain’s airports. If low cost flights ever nosedive for whatever reason, the upward trend might slow.

This might happen if, for example, aircraft, airlines and airports are forced to go greener and end up having to charge passengers an environmental premium. If the bottom drops out of the economy again, whether at home or worldwide, the trend could also slow. But as things look right now, UK airports will probably just keep on getting busier.

There’s some excellent insight into the next generation of environmentally friendlier aircraft here, reported by the Washington Post in January 2015.

Book an airport lounge in advance…

If you’re stuck using a particularly busy airport and can’t stand the crowds, you’ll probably appreciate the calm and peace of a good value, cosy, well equipped airport lounge. But as things get ever-busier, it’s more important than ever to book your airport lounge in advance.

… and book your airport parking early

The same goes for airport parking and airport hotels, both of which might be busier than you expect. Book your airport parking early and you’ll still be able to sail through smoothly. Leave it to the last minute and you might find your journey is a lot less convenient and nowhere near as pleasant.

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Gatwick Airport and Heathrow Airport News Round-Up

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

With the Uk General Election less than 24 hours away, expansion plans for Gatwick airport and Heathrow are dependant on the result. At the same time the continuing terrorist threat means security is hotter than ever, with airport alerts on a weekly basis. Here’s the latest airport news.

London Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport

Politicians go quiet over Heathrow and Gatwick expansion plans

It’s a sure sign politicians from every party are aware of how unpopular airport expansion is with the people who actually live in affected areas. Very few of us would welcome all the extra noise, pollution, crowded roads, terrorised wildlife and all the other disadvantages of having an even bigger airport right on your doorstep. So it’s no wonder, with the General Election only a few hours away, that the main political parties remain ominously silent on the airport expansion front.

gatwick airport

UK Gatwick Airport

The timetable for airport expansion has been artificially lengthened, and big decisions about the nation’s air transport infrastructure will still affect voters’ decisions in west London and Sussex. As an article in The Guardian newspaper says:

“Decisions over the nation’s infrastructure after the 7 May election will involve billions in spending; affect tens of thousands of jobs; consign many communities to blight, noise and pollution; and alter the economic map of the UK. Yet political debate about the two most critical transport projects undertaken in decades is all but absent. On HS2, the £50bn high-speed rail scheme, parties have nailed their colours to the mast, officially backing it. But when it comes to airport expansion, a decision is imminent, yet neither of the largest parties will show its hand.”

On the other hand airport expansion delays are nothing new. The Airports Commission was set up by David Cameron in 2012 to explore, yet again, for the Nth time, whether more airport capacity is actually needed. It won’t report back until July this year, long after the election result is a done deal. And the Chairman Howard Davies isn’t afraid to admit the expansion timetable was specially lengthened ton deliver a post-election decision.

So, where are we right now? According to the Conservatives, they’re making a pledge to “respond to the commission” quickly, and Labour promise to “make a swift decision”. Neither of which is the slightest bit of help for the people living in places that might – or might not – end up living in the path of an extra runway.

Love them or hate them, Heathrow early morning flights might end…

You crawl out of bed at two in the morning, heave yourself into your car or onto a train and you’re in the air by 5am. Some people appreciate mega-early morning flights, others hate them. If you live under a flight path, you probably don’t think much of them, waking you, your family and animals up with all that antisocial engine noise. But it looks like they might be a thing of the past at Heathrow if a key compromise is made in an effort to secure agreement for an extra runway.

As the Evening Standard says:

“Up to 18 planes currently land at Heathrow between 4.30am and 6am each day, but campaigners want these to be stopped amid noise complaints from those living under the flight path.”

Get West London also reports the story, saying:

“Heathrow’s chief has said he would look at scrapping night flights altogether were it a condition for expansion to be allowed.”

The airport has already promised not to increase the numbers of pre-6am flights if it builds a new runway. If you live under the Heathrow flight path, would cancelling all the early morning flights make you feel happier about the planned extra capacity?

Local MPs back residents’ objections to Gatwick expansion

An awful lot of local people are standing firm in protest against a second runway at Gatwick airport. And they’re delighted to have the support of the majority of the region’s parliamentary candidates. So say the splendidly vocal Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign, which strongly opposes plans for extra runway capacity at the airport.

According to them all eleven local Tory candidates are against the development, as are the area’s UKIP and Green candidates.

How do the locals know? They surveyed local parliamentary candidates and found most of them were happy to sign a pledge to fight a new runway. And the reasons are the same as usual: more aircraft noise, negative environmental effects and the need for yet more destructive infrastructure in the shape of new roads and even more rail connections. Worse still, evidence that extra capacity will have a positive economic and social effect is under serious question, and many experts believe the justifications simply don’t stack up.

Locals are thrilled because if all eleven local Conservatives are re-elected their votes in a hung parliament situation could – with a bit of luck – be exactly what’s needed to stop new runway plans for good.

Imagine having to wait years and years to find out whether or not your home might suddenly drop in value because it’s directly under a new runway, or your village might become so noise polluted life isn’t worth living there. The delays and the resulting uncertainty must be driving residents nuts, so let’s hope for everyone’s sake a decision is finally made, at long last, in late May or early June.

Airport security as hot as ever

Three people were arrested in connection with a security alert at Gatwick Airport recently, and it was all down to a suspect vehicle. Sussex Police said the alarm was raised early in the morning by someone who spotted the vehicle parked in a lay-by just off the A23, and bomb disposal experts subsequently blew it up with three ‘controlled explosions’. No suspect devices were found, no flights were cancelled and services soon returned to normal.

uk border control

UK Border Control

The report doesn’t say what the vehicle’s owners felt about it being blown to smithereens, but imagine your surprise if you’d parked up, perfectly legally, just off the A23 only to find it in bits on your return.

It just goes to show how careful you need to be when parking anywhere near a major airport. If you need to leave your car in a lay-by near any British airport, it’s probably wise to leave a note in the window saying who you are and where you’ve gone. Or you might come back to find your car in a million pieces.

It’s clear the nation is still on ‘terror alert’. In fact it’s only one of several incidents where suspects have been arrested near English airports.

One 37 year old Venezuelan man, who was caught red handed with a hand grenade while disembarking from a jet at Gatwick airport, is still being quizzed by the anti-terrorism squad. Security has been improved at Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham airports, with new, high profile measures in place. And Scotland Yard announced the arrest of four young men last Thursday in Langley, just 4 miles from Heathrow airport. They weren’t charged but were handed over to the Immigration Service. And Hounslow, near Heathrow, was the scene of two more arrests, with one man released and another handed over to Immigration.

Watch this space…

We’ll be reporting back on the final decision on UK airport expansion, hopefully later this month… unless they delay it yet again. In the meantime exercise common sense in and around airports, just in case you’re thrown in jail until the authorities can prove your innocence!

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UK Election: What Does it Mean for Airport Expansion?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

The election is almost upon us. If the pundits are right it’s set to be the most unpredictable general election for a generation, and the confusing mix ‘n’ match of speculation, rhetoric and counter claims is about to come to a head. So what effect will the elected party or parties have on the ongoing and highly controversial issue of airport expansion in the UK?

polling station

UK Election – Thursday 7th May

What does the Department for Transport say about expanding airports?

The DoT forecasts annual passenger numbers will reach 445 million by 2050, almost double the 2011 figure. But they also feel a maturing market and an end to the long trend for cheap air fares could mean growth actually slows to 1 – 3% a year compared to the past four decades’ dramatic 5% annual rise.

They also think the bulk of increased demand will come from London and the south east of England, where hubs will be under a lot of pressure by 2030. Heathrow airport is allegedly already operating at 98% capacity (or is it? More on the subject later), with regular delays and cancellations in bad weather. And many people who disagree with an extra runway at Heathrow think the nation could relieve the pressure by making more intelligent use of its existing airport capacity.

David Metz, a former chief scientist at the Department for Transport, insists there’s no way to accurately predict demand. He says London’s public transport infrastructure has already benefited from seriously limited road capacity, and believes limiting new runway capacity might force the UK’s aviation industry to get creative about meeting a big hike in demand, assuming one ever arises.

Unanswered environmental questions

Since almost everyone who matters now acknowledges that climate change is human-driven and is already beginning to bite, answers to the environmental questions behind extra capacity for air travel are still absolutely vital for the decision making process.

The Aviation Environment Federation says a full environmental analysis, promised by the the Airports Commission, still isn’t finished and won’t be ready in time for the election. Local air quality modelling hasn’t been completed and there are still a lot of unknowns around the impact on the UK’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

Ed Miliband - Nicola Sturgeon - Nick Clegg

Ed Miliband – Nicola Sturgeon – Nick Clegg

What about the political side of the airport expansion debate?

What about the political side of the debate? We thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the five major parties’ views on expanding British airports to cope with the predicted increase in demand.

What if we vote in another hung parliament?

The financial giant KPMG believes expansion plans at Heathrow and Gatwick airports could be derailed if we end up with another coalition government. They warned recently that the report by the Davies Commission into expanding airport capacity in the south east could die a death if any ‘minor’ party gets to hold the all-important balance of power, with consensus unlikely. On the other hand it’s nothing new, since there has been absolutely no consensus so far anyway.

The final official recommendation is due this summer, taking into account 3 options: a new runway at Gatwick airport, a third runway at Heathrow airport or an extension of the exiting northern runway at Heathrow. Whatever the final decision turns out to be, we can probably expect years of protests, delays and changes of mind, as local people fight their corner against more noise, more pollution and more disruption.

The Conservative party’s view of the future of air travel

In 2010 David Cameron announced, “No ifs, no buts, there’ll be no third runway at Heathrow.” But in summer 2015, the UK’s Airports Commission is set to either recommend a new runway at Heathrow, one at Gatwick or an extension of Heathrow’s northern runway at Heathrow. Contrary to his promises, a new Heathrow runway is still very much on the cards. Might we see a serious political U-turn if he takes power again?

Analysis reveals UK demand for business flights has been steadily declining for almost ten years. Another runway at Heathrow would have a big impact on air quality and noise pollution in West London, affecting roads and railways far an wide. And the airport already subjects more people to unhealthy levels of noise pollution than any other airport, anywhere, according to Zac Goldsmith, Richmond Park & North Kingston’s current Conservative MP. It looks like mixed messages from the Tories.

The Lib Dems’ attitude to airport expansion

In October 2014 Liberal Democrat members defied attempts by their leaders to change the party’s policy of “no net increase in runways across the UK” and also refused to give in to demands to give party members a choice to support a new runway at Gatwick. It looks as though the Lib Dems have a green hat on as far as airport expansion is concerned, with grass roots members continuing to refuse support for expansion.

What the Labour party thinks about the future of air travel

Ed Miliband publicly opposed airport expansion when he was Environment Secretary, and did the same during his bid for party leadership. Having scoured the internet for Labour’s current views it’s clear they, like most of the other political parties, are unwilling to make airport expansion into an election issue. On the other hand the party has promised to make a quick decision about expanding airport capacity in London if it takes power.

UKIP’s views about expanding Britain’s airports

UKIP’s Manifesto clearly states the party wants to, “campaign to re-open Manston airport to address the lack of airport capacity in the South East”. With no mention of any other airport, we can only assume they reject plans for expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick.

UKIP Leader - Nigel Farage

UKIP Leader – Nigel Farage

The Green party’s take on air travel

The Green Party makes things reasonably clear. They “don’t want to see any new runways across the south east”, maintaining the same position they have always taken.

The Greens feel the debate has had the wrong focus so far. Instead of looking at where to expand, they believe it makes more sense to decide, first, whether expansion really is necessary, full top. And they don’t think the arguments stack up. They believe Britain does not have an air travel capacity crisis. In fact, according to them, every airport in Britain except Heathrow is currently underused. Which, if true, calls a whole host of other statistics justifying expansion into question. Who can we believe?

At the moment 90% of the most popular flights from Heathrow are short haul, easily replaceable by cheaper, cleaner rail travel. Because trains generate ten times less pollution than planes, it makes environmental sense.

More interesting still, recent research by the Aviation Environment Federation reveals that giving the south east a new runway would mean we overshoot the nation’s CO2 emissions target, even if every regional airport in the country was restricted in an effort to keep things under control. Plus, it appears the frequent claims that airport expansion creates thousands of new jobs are simply not reliable.

London Air Transport

London Air Transport

The big aviation scandal

Did you realise that while EU businesses pay 48 cents in tax per litre of fuel whenever they fill up their vehicles, EU-based commercial airlines don’t pay a single penny in fuel tax? The exemptions add up to a shameful 43 billion Euros every year.

In Britain 15% of us account for 70% of flights. The more affluent you are, the more often you fly. In 2013, 55% of us didn’t fly at all. So who, exactly, is all this frantic expansion planning meant to benefit? It clearly doesn’t benefit local people, the environment or the EU taxpayer, and the reasoning behind it seems to be pretty suspect in many ways.

Quite a few commentators believe airport expansion could finally be killed off for good by this election. If, indeed, we don’t need the extra capacity, that can only be a good thing. As Wikipedia says:

The environmental impact of aviation occurs because aircraft engines emit heat, noise, particulates and gases which contribute to climate change and global dimming. Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation. In the European Union, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006.
There is an ongoing debate about possible taxation of air travel and the inclusion of aviation in an emissions trading scheme, with a view to ensuring that the total external costs of aviation are taken into account.

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What’s your opinion?

Do you welcome airport expansion plans or do you think it’s all smoke and mirrors. We’d love to know how you feel about this long-running and spectacularly contentious issue.