Category Archives: Airlines & Airports

Airlines and airports in Europe; the cheapest flights, avoiding airlines payment fees and which airlines offer free wifi.

Using Rome’s Airports

As the Italian capital has two airports, Rome Fiumicino and Rome Ciampino. it is advisable to check at which airport your flight will land, prior to booking your flights.

Rome Fiumicino, officially know as Leonardi Da Vinci, is the airport used by most national carriers, such as British Airways and Alitalia.

Rome Ciampino, it’s full name being Campino-G D Pastine, is mainly used by budget airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air, although it is also used as a military airport. Unusually, for an airport predominantly used by low cost carriers, it is closer to Rome city centre (16kms), that the main airport (it’s 31 kms from Fiumicino to the city centre).

I have used both Rome airports.

We landed at Fiumicino when we flew with Lufthansa from Edinburgh to Rome, via Frankfurt. We took the Leonardi express train into Rome Termini station. We decided to walk to our hotel, near the Trevi fountain, as we felt we’d like some exercise and we only had hand luggage. However, we did get pretty lost trying to find our hotel. I was beginning to wish that we had booked Rome airport transfers in order to have reached our hotel quickly, so that we could have a shower and go straight out to dinner, as opposed wandering around the streets of Rome wheeling our suitcases, feeling hot, sweaty and hungry.

When we flew with Ryanair we landed at Ciampino. The airport facilities were pretty basic, but that wasn’t an issue as our flight was so cheap, only costing around £30 return. In fact it cost almost as much to park the car at Edinburgh Airport, as one Ryanair return flight to Rome from Edinburgh. We picked up a hire car at Ciampino airport, as we were doing a road trip down to Puglia (the toe of Italy). When we were driving back to drop off the car at Ciampino before our return flight to Edinburgh, we could see the perimeter fence of the airport, but had difficulty finding the entrance to airport. It didn’t seem to be very well sign posted. It was an awful feeling that we might miss our flight home, despite thinking that we had left plenty of time to reach Ciampino airport to drop off our hire car, before catching the flight back to Edinburgh.

I came to the conclusion that if you are planning to stay in the city centre when visiting Rome, that it’s a good idea to pre-book an airport transfer to your hotel. That way you can make the most of your time in Rome, by walking out off the airport to a car waiting for you and be taken straight to your hotel. If there are more than two people in your party, then using a Rome airport transfer service can be cost effective, compared to using public transport.

Picking up a taxi at the airport can be a bit of a hit or a miss. You might be able to find a taxi quickly, but you may have to queue for some time.

Taking pubic transport into Rome from either airport could mean a bit of a wait for the next train or bus. Plus you still have to get to your hotel at the other end.

Our Whistle-stop Tour of Airport Convenience and Luxury

You’ve most likely let out a deep and dutiful sigh at the idea of venturing to the airport. While it’s a means to an end, the process of travelling there and waiting in a departure lounge feels like being sent down the mines for a day’s hard graft.

If you’re travel-phobic then you’ll feel this reluctance to hop on a plane more than most. Chances are you’ll simply keep the end goal in sight and trudge through airport security with your head held low.

But travelling can be enjoyable – you just have to know how to do it right.

To prove our point, we planned a trip to Luton Airport and made price no object in the road to convenience and luxury.

Why Luton?

Realistically we could have chosen a major airport like Gatwick or Stansted, but Luton provides a far more common experience for the average air traveller – it’s petite for an airport but still teeming with facilities you might not know about.

This Google Review from user Boban Andreski proves our point, “The airport is of a good size and frequency of flights but it is a bit old and old-fashioned. The prices in the shops and coffee places are just about right, not too expensive. The staff is friendly and helpful through the security checks. It has no ramps to pop directly in the plane, you have to go down a stairway then to walk to the airplane yourself.

So there you go – it has its pluses and minuses, much like any other mid-sized airport, making it the perfect test-case for our experiment with airport luxuriousness.

How our trip turned out

To start our airport trip we drove our way there and used one of the many private Luton Airport parking facilities available, saving us the bother of having to find a decent spot close to the terminal ourselves. The Meet and Greet service we chose cost under £90, a decent price since the company was keeping our car for seven days.

 

On entering the terminal, we already knew what to expect of our security checks, having taken look at the procedure online. We’d recommend you do this too, not least because no one wants to feel like a fool for not taking their shoes off at the right time in front of three burly security attendants.

After a brisk search by the guards, we made our way to Luton Airport’s VIP departure lounge. While there are a few private departure lounges on offer, we chose the Aspire option which cost £26 per person.

Sitting in the Aspire lounge felt like a real treat and allowed us to relax away from the hubbub of the airport, which flies over six million passengers every year. Supplied in the lounge was fresh food, coffee, a spa for a pampering session and plenty of alcoholic beverages if you wanted to start your holiday early! Our only regret is that we didn’t reach the lounge earlier to enjoy more of the amenities on offer.

Then it was time for our flight, so we grabbed our bags and, having priority booking, made our way to the plane without queuing for a significantly long time.

And that was that. We were on our way to Paris without any of the usual strains presented by air travel.

So if you’re a nervous flyer, or simply don’t enjoy the busyness of airports, we’d recommend these great shortcuts for a more pleasurable journey.

Easyjet Runway Closure Flight Delay: Treatment and Compensation

Approximately 48h before my flight from Thessaloniki, Greece to London Gatwick on Dec 1, 2017, I received two text messages from Easyjet. My flight was going to be leaving from Athens instead, due to runway closure issues. Instead, I had to turn up at the airport and take a bus, which would leave 40min before the original flight departure time. The bus departed on time and I was handed a half-baguette cheese and ham sandwich and a bottle of half a litre of water on boarding the bus.

The bus journey time to Athens airport was approximately 7 hours. Upon arrival I had to find my way to the easyjet counter, where I was given a new ticket. The flight then left at 22.30 local time, landing at London Gatwick at 5min to midnight, a total delay of over 8 hours.

As an aside, I was to continue to Edinburgh from Gatwick, again using easyjet.

Thankfully I had managed to change my original flight to one leaving the next morning through online chat with easyjet and without charge. This however, meant that I had to spend the night at cold and draughty ‘hotel Gatwick’ airport, as by the time I arrived from Thessaloniki and would be leaving for Edinburgh, it would have hardly been worth checking into a proper hotel, never mind not knowing if I’d eventually be reimbursed for it.

In the event, the morning flight to Edinburgh, on which I had been lucky to get a seat, since it was quite busy, arrived at Edinburgh 10 min early, at 09.50am.

My total delay was therefore 14 hours from the time I’d have arrived originally, had it all gone smoothly.

Despite the original delay and the overnight stay at the airport, I felt lucky that it hadn’t been worse and I’d managed to get home without further hassle.

Which just goes to show how low a passenger can be made to feel through flight delay.

Although easyjet had not mentioned anything about potential compensation, I thought that a measly sandwich and bit of water were rather inadequate provision for a planned delay of so many hours. Other passengers, including some with families, had asked for a complimentary meal on the flight from Athens to London Gatwick and were told that they’d have to pay normal prices for any meals on board, despite the 8 hour delay.

I eventually submitted two different online claims to easyjet, one for my extra food/drink during the delay (for which photos of the receipts had to be attached) and another under EU261 Flight Delay compensation rules. Both of these forms were available from easyjet online. I soon received an email saying that the meal claim would be paid directly into my bank account within a few days, and it was.

With regard to the EU261 compensation claim, I received another email within 48 hours, saying that the claims assessor had asked the original airport (Thessaloniki) team for reasons as to the delay in order to assess the claim and would get in touch shortly.

Two months after the delay, and despite having again contacted the airline’s claims dept and been assured they would decide within additional, defined time periods, my claim is still unresolved with their own deadlines have not been met.

Regardless of the future outcome for my EU261 claim, I felt that I had been well treated by easyjet staff with regard to my altered journeys. However, the airline had failed to make sufficient food and drink provision during the long expected delay, which, in my opinion, was inexcusable. It was clear that a lot of passengers did not have sufficient food and drink with them; why on earth put them through the extra hassle of claiming for purchasing it? And as for the EU261 compensation claim…not too sure what I can say at present, except that easyjet, I expected better from you.

I aim to add to this article, when and if I receive a final decision as to my EU261 compensation claim.

Update 27 February 2018 – I eventually received a very late reply from easyjet, stating that my claim was not eligible for compensation. I then examined the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) options, and also contacted a no-win-no fee firm of solicitors. I finally decided that on balance, I was not going to pursue my claim any further.

Review of Blacklane Professional Driver Service

On my recent trip to Porto, Blacklane offered me vouchers to try out their professional driver service for my airport transfers.

I booked my rides around five weeks before my trip. You can cancel your Blacklane ride free of charge up to one hour before pick up. The price quoted includes taxes, tolls, fees and a tip.

I went for the cheapest option which was a Business Class where the vehicle would be a BMW 5 or Mercedes E Class equivalent. The price quoted was around 50 Euro.

My Ryanair flight from Edinburgh was due into Porto at 20.20. Blacklane include a one hour wait at the airport in their pricing. I reckoned that although I would only have hand luggage, that I would play it safe by arranging the pick up for 20.10, as it usually takes more than 30 minutes to get off the plane, get through passport control and walk to the airport exit.

As I like to arrive at the airport two hours before my flight departure time, I allowed thirty minutes for the return transfer. The return journey to Porto Airport was slightly cheaper at 47 Euro.

I was glad I had been cautious time-wise for the Blacklane transfer from Porto Airport, as the flight from Edinburgh was delayed by one hour due to the requirement to find a replacement crew member for the plane.

I switched on my mobile phone when I reached Porto Airport’s terminal building. There was a text message and an email informing me that my driver was waiting for me with a name board. I was also told the name of my driver.

It was great to know that I’d be taken straight to my Airbnb apartment, without having to get to grips with the Porto Metro system and then find my way from the Metro station to the apartment.

My driver was very polite and welcoming. The journey from Porto Airport to my apartment only took around 20 minutes.

The return transfer from my apartment to Porto Airport seven days later went just as smoothly. The driver arrived a couple of minutes before the pick up time. It was a hot day, so it was great to be whisked straight to the airport in a air-conditioned car.

Why Travelling First Class No Longer Represents Luxury Travel

Those that have had the pleasure of flying class know just how luxurious it can be. Whereas economy is loud, cramped and not very private, flying first class allows you peace, quiet, space and incredible service. For many people, their idea of a luxury vacation involves travelling first class on a flight to an exotic destination, but this will all change soon.

Within the last few years, there has been a huge shift towards private jet chartering. Similar to how Uber has changed the way in which people travel by road, the rise of hiring private jets looks set to become the ultimate in luxury travel. Flying in a private jet was previously seen as only for CEO’s and celebrities, but there are more and more companies that now provide the more affordable option to hire a private jet. This has resulted in fewer people owning their own jets and instead relying on this service.

There is no doubt that flying first class is a fabulous way to reach your destination, but it does not come close to flying on a private jet. In addition to the glamour of boarding a cool plane with your party and avoiding the hassle of the airport, you also get complete privacy, plenty of space to move around in and a service like no other. A private jet is, essentially, your own private party in the sky and you will feel on top of the world up in the clouds.

he reason that this will become the future of luxury travel is that it is quickly becoming much more affordable. Many companies offer a subscription model where you pay a monthly fee and can make as many flights as you wish, which can be ideal for businesses that make regular trips.

Alternatively, companies like Fly Victor provide a service comparable to Uber where you pay for a one off trip to the destination of your choosing. Additionally, many of these companies also offer “empty legs”, where you can make huge savings by booking onto the return leg if a private jet is booked only one way. This is a very affordable way to experience this unique way of travelling.

There is no denying that flying first class is an amazing experience and a great way to begin a vacation, but it does not compare to flying in a private jet. Fortunately, this lavish, glamorous and amazing method of transportation is much more affordable with the rise of private jet chartering companies.

Feeling Hung Out to Dry in Greece After easyJet Flight Cancellation

We were due to fly home from Corfu to Newcastle with easyJet on Sunday 9 October 2016. On Saturday morning when I checked my emails, I noticed an email from easyJet informing me that our flight had been cancelled due to a strike by Greek air traffic controllers.

easyjet plane

At that stage, the strike was due to last until Monday 10 October, with the possibility of another two day strike on Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 October.

As I had booked the easyJet flight and our accommodation at the Mayor Capo Di Corfu through Broadway Travel, I thought that I’d better phone them once I received the cancellation email.  When you have not booked your own flight directly with on the easyJet website, you can’t manage your booking online.

After three attempts to call, the final taking more than one hour, Broadway Travel informed that as I had purchased a dynamic package, versus a package holiday, the could only look into alternative flights for me. I would have to arrange and pay for our accommodation and then reclaim it from easyJet.

I asked when I would hear back from Broadway Travel regarding flight options. There was no time given, just that customers with flights the following day were a priority.

When I hadn’t heard back from Broadway Travel by 5pm, I thought that I’d better phone easyJet. The options of departing from a different airport in Greece and/or flying back to different airport to the UK or getting a refund for our flights were discussed. But with the possible virtual back to back strikes by Greek air traffic controllers, the best option appeared to be to get booked on the next Corfu to Newcastle flight on Sunday 16 October.

Once the easyJet customer service rep had re-booked the flights, I asked her for confirmation that easyJet would refund our accommodation costs for the additional seven days. I told her that my intention was to stay on at the Mayor Capo Di Corfu, assuming that they had availability. She told me that I would be reimbursed for the accommodation.

beach-at-mayor-capo-di-corfu

In fact, the strike was called off on the evening of Saturday 8 October, but it was too late for easyJet to reinstate the flight the following day.

On the Sunday morning, I went the hotel reception to check if they had availability for the week.

Our original stay at the Capo Di Corfu was on an all-inclusive basis. However, as I wasn’t sure if easyJet would cover this, as it states on their website that reasonable expenses including accommodation, meals and refreshments (excluding alcohol) will be refunded.

Now as I’m a teetotaler, I wouldn’t have been drinking any alcohol. My husband drinks the odd glass of wine or beer. Personally, I did feel that it was reasonable to continue on the same board basis.

There was also the issue of the cost, as I was going to have to pay for the accommodation upfront. I had no idea how long it would take for easyJet to refund me.

The hotel did have availability for the week They quoted 960 Euro for a seven night all inclusive stay. The cost for half board was 738 Euro.

I decided that, on balance, I had better go for the half board option, I felt that easyJet would be less likely to contest this, and I didn’t want to be even more out of pocket for an undefined period.

We had a hire car, which had to be returned to Corfu Airport on Sunday 9 October. I doubt if easyJet would have refunded another week of car rental. Returning the hire car to the airport was very inconvenient, as it’s a minimum one hour drive from the resort to Corfu Airport.

I will have to pay 70 Euro for a taxi to the airport on Sunday 16 October, assuming that there are no further changes to our flight. I will have to pay this in cash. As I was coming on an all inclusive holiday, I only brought a few Euro in cash with me. I will have to ask the taxi driver to stop at a  cash machine enroute to the airport.

In my opinion, it is really bewildering to be left in this situation.

Now I’m not blaming easyJet. That strike by Greek air traffic controllers was outwith their control. The pay upfront for your expenses and then reclaim procedure, is standard under EU regulation.

What I’d like to see is a change in the EU legislation.

There should be a detailed explanation of reasonable expenses on the website of every airline covered by EU legislation. How on earth can I judge what the airline will consider to be a reasonable expense?

The airline should be obliged to pay the accommodation supplier directly in a situation like ours.

Now while being in Corfu for another week is not exactly a hardship, especially with me being able to work online, the £666 which I have had to pay for our accommodation is weighing on my mind.

My credit card statement is due on 16 October. So I will have to pay the balance around three weeks later. I am not convinced that I will have received the refund from easyJet by then.

There is also the issue of currency fluctuations. If the UK pound keeps falling, a refund of Euro converted a lower rate will leave me out of pocket. To try to avoid this, I have taken a photo of my credit card statement, which shows the amount paid for the accommodation in UK pounds. But the receipt from the hotel is quoted in Euro.

I really feel left hung out to dry. Dealing with the flight cancellation took hours and spoilt the holiday. Now I am concerned if easyJet will fully reimburse me, and when I will receive the cash from them.

 

Overcoming Things Which Annoy Business Travellers

This is a sponsored article brought to you in association with IHG Business Advantage.

I related to several of the things that business travellers find annoying in an article by IHG Business Advantage. Below are my tips on overcoming these annoyances.

Last Minute Flight Delays and Cancellations

Flight delays and cancellations are an integral part of travel. These could be caused by weather, IT issues (I experienced a two hour delay due to IT problems at UK air traffic control), or staff shortages. The sooner that you are informed of a flight delay or cancellation the better, perhaps avoiding an unnecessary journey to the airport. I find that most airlines now have their own apps, which are very handy for up to date information.

easyJet app

Uncomfortable and Noisy Airport Lounges

I haven’t encountered any uncomfortable or noisy airport lounges. I thought that the lounges at Reykjavik and Copenhagen airports were really good, comfortable with a choice of tasty snacks.

aspire lounge at edinburgh airport

Aspire Lounge at Edinburgh Airport

The lounge at Schipol Airport was so far from my boarding gate, that I hardly had any time there between connecting flights.

I was very disappointed by the United lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport. My BusinessFirst ticket gave me complimentary access. I had a two hour delay and there was a very limited selection of food (only crackers, cheese and biscuits). I went to the customer service desk to ask for a food voucher, and was given a measely $7 voucher. I had won the air ticket in a prize draw, but if I, or my employer, had paid full price for the ticket I’d have hit the roof.

Inconvenient Hotel Location and Boring View

If I’m attending an event in a city, I always try to find accommodation within a 30 minute walk of the venue, enabling me to arrive at the event on time and relaxed.

InterContinental-Sydney-View

InterContinental Hotel Sydney

An interesting view is always a bonus, but I’d prioritise on location for a business trip. If the hotel doesn’t have double glazing, a room at the back, away from a busy road, may lack a view, but should enable a better nights’ sleep.

When I organised an event in London for my personal finance website, the Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury combined a convenient location, i.e. a 15 minute walk from both my arrival point at King’s Cross railway station and the event venue in Charing Cross, plus an interesting view of the Art Deco former Daimler car hire garage in Herbrand Street, opposite the hotel.

art deco view from holiday inn london bloomsbury

The view from my room at Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury

Getting Plugged In

It’s so annoying when you arrive in your hotel room with all your electronic devices low on battery, and discover that you don’t have the correct plug adaptor. Evidently, you can buy worldwide adaptors, which work in around 150 countries.

Having an international adaptor would avoid the possibility of taking the wrong adaptor(s). Below is a photo of a UK to US plug adaptor on the right and a UK to European plug adaptor on the left. The main difference is that the UK to US version has two flat pins, whereas the UK to European has round pins, not too easy to spot when packing.

uk to european plug adaptor and uk to us plug adaptor

The vast majority of my travel is within Europe, so I keep a ziplock bag containing several UK to European sockets, plus a three plug European adaptor (in case there’s a shortage of electrical sockets in my room) in my carry on suitcase.

To overcome the issue of scarcity of electrical sockets when travelling in the UK, I take my four plug strip socket with me.

uk four plug adaptor

Getting Online

I always try to book a hotel which offers free WiFi throughout, or at least in the lobby.

Paying-for-internet-business-travel

However, if you have to pay to get connected and still get a slow and/or intermittent signal, you’re left tearing your hair out.

I generally manage to avoid this issue when travelling in the UK, as I can set up a mobile hotspot through one of my mobile phones. It gets trickier when abroad, as roaming charges can be high. Three Mobile’s ‘Feel at Home’ scheme allows you to use your UK plan free of charge in 18 countries.

However, you can still get caught out. When I was on a press trip to Corsica in France, the hotel WiFi was awful and, although France is one of the destinations including in Three’s ‘Feel at Home’, I couldn’t get a mobile broadband signal.

The Taxi is Delayed When You Have An Important Meeting

Personally, I’d rather walk or take the subway, to avoid possible traffic delays.

taxis

Collecting Receipts and Managing Expenses

As I’m self employed, I’m used to keeping receipts for everything. When I arrive back from a trip, one of the first things I do is to add up my expenses and put all the receipts in a plastic folder, which I label with the destination and dates of travel.

calculating travel expenses

KLM’s #HappytoHelp Customer Service Initiative

KLM recently ran a #happytohelp customer service initiative. The control centre was located an office at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam operated by a 30 strong team on hand 24/7.

The KLM #happytohelp offer of assistance to travellers wasn’t restricted to KLM passengers. The team monitored social media channels such as Twitter, looking for travellers in need. Staff were also deployed at serveral airports to approach customers who looked like they could do with a helping hand.

KLM HappytoHelp HQ

The video below features some of KLM’s #happyhelp interventions which included the following:

  • A passenger stuck in traffic in New York who was going to miss his flight was whisked to the aiport by a chartered speed boat on the River Hudson.
  • A family travelling with a baby were offered a family-friendly bedroom equipped with toys, in which to spend their layover time.
  • A honeymooning couple, whose luggage had been lost by another airline, were taken on a quick airport shopping trip to by KLM staff to purchase some clothes and personal items.
  • Weary travellers sitting in the airport were offered a free cup of coffee.
  • A traveller with an early morning flight who couldn’t get to sleep was sung a lullaby over the phone to help him nod off.

Golly, wouldn’t it be great if all airlines could offer such great customer service.

Sometimes, it seems like you can’t even get the most basic information about flights from staff, never mind anything way above the call of duty.

Another Example of Superb Service by easyJet

My easyJet flight from Thessaloniki, Greece on the 16th November arrived early at Gatwick, London.

On that flight, I’d experienced an example of ‘above the call of duty’ service, whereby a flight attendant had retrieved a ticket with luggage stubs from the rubbish, which the young lady sitting next to me had disposed of in error.

easyjet plane

Upon arriving at Gatwick airport and immediately checking the departures, I quickly contacted EasyJet Customer services. I’d realized that, since having left sufficient time for delays between my original flight and its connection to Edinburgh and having arrived early, I might be able to board the earlier easyJet flight and save myself 1 hour 30 minutes.

The lady at Customer Services was very friendly and efficient, acknowledging that passengers usually request to join later, not earlier flights, due to delays (like I did when easyJet saved my Moussaka last year). She agreed that, since I was a return-ticket passenger who’d left sufficient time between flights and there was availability, I could board the earlier flight to Edinburgh free of charge.

I made the flight with time to spare and got home in good time for a relaxing cup of tea before bed time – thanks again easyJet.

Edinburgh Airport’s New Lounge Should Aspire to Having Toilets

I won two United BusinessFirst return tickets from Edinburgh to Chicago in a business card prize draw. These tickets offered us free-of-charge access to the new Aspire Lounge in Edinburgh Airport prior to departure.

aspire buisness lounge exterior

As our flight departed mid morning, we were looking forward to breakfast in the Aspire lounge. There was fair selection of food including cereals, yoghurts, bacon rolls and croissants. The staff were very friendly.

aspire business lounge drinks selection

The lounge had a good mix of seating; comfy sofas, seats at tables, work stations and bar-type stools with plenty of electrical sockets. The WiFi signal was good.

aspire business lounge interior1

However, I was amazed that the Aspire lounge didn’t have its own toilet facilities. You had to exit the lounge and walk down to the nearest public facilities.

I thought that this coming and going of users must be confusing for staff at the lounge reception. I suggested to the receptionist that users’ hands should be stamped on arrival,  a bit like when attending a gig, to provide a quick and easy way to verify legitimate re-access.

In opinion, lack of internal toilet facilities lets down this new lounge at Edinburgh Airport, which should aspire to get its own toilets.