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Teething problems for BA as it scraps free meals

We are not slow in holding airlines to account on behalf of our customers but we had some sympathy with British Airways this week when they found themselves in a storm over scrapping free meals on short haul flights.

People don’t expect to be fed if they are on a bus or a train for 90 minutes but step aboard a plane and they do! Simply because they always have been.

BA clearly feel the need to cut costs to compete with low cost airlines. And introducing an M&S menu as a paid alternative is a clever move.

While one passenger complained there were only three sandwiches for 110 people going to Fuerteventura, another tweeted about the lack of food on a Geneva flight last Sunday.

But these may be isolated incidents as one of our directors was aboard a BA flight that same day, also from Geneva, which did not run out of food.

He said: ‘The food was actually pretty good with real coffee served in cups with filters. However the service was painfully slow. They no longer accept cash so each transaction has to be fed into an iPad and a card run through a machine. Because the flight was so short they only just got to the people at the back.’

Hopefully these are just teething problems. But here’s a tip: Cityflyer with its BA branded planes are still serving free food and drink onboard.

Teething problems for BA as it scraps free meals

We are not slow in holding airlines to account on behalf of our customers but we had some sympathy with British Airways this week when they found themselves in a storm over scrapping free meals on short haul flights.

People don’t expect to be fed if they are on a bus or a train for 90 minutes but step aboard a plane and they do! Simply because they always have been.

BA clearly feel the need to cut costs to compete with low cost airlines. And introducing an M&S menu as a paid alternative is a clever move.

While one passenger complained there were only three sandwiches for 110 people going to Fuerteventura, another tweeted about the lack of food on a Geneva flight last Sunday.

But these may be isolated incidents as one of our directors was aboard a BA flight that same day, also from Geneva, which did not run out of food.

He said: ‘The food was actually pretty good with real coffee served in cups with filters. However the service was painfully slow. They no longer accept cash so each transaction has to be fed into an iPad and a card run through a machine. Because the flight was so short they only just got to the people at the back.’

Hopefully these are just teething problems. But here’s a tip: Cityflyer with its BA branded planes are still serving free food and drink onboard.

Previously...

Teething problems for BA as it scraps free meals

We are not slow in holding airlines to account on behalf of our customers but we have some sympathy with British Airways this week which found itself in a storm over scrapping free meals on short haul flights.

People don’t expect to be fed if they are on a bus or a train for 90 minutes but step aboard a plane and they do! Simply because they always have been.

BA clearly feel the need to cut costs to compete with low cost airlines. And introducing an M&S menu as a paid alternative is a clever move.

While one passenger complained there were only three sandwiches for 110 people going to Fuerteventura, another tweeted about the lack of food on a Geneva flight last Sunday.

But these may be isolated incidents as one of our directors was aboard a BA flight that same day, also from Geneva, which did not run out of food.

He said: ‘The food was actually pretty good with real coffee served in cups with filters. However the service was painfully slow. They no longer accept cash so each transaction has to be fed into an iPad and a card run through a machine. Because the flight was so short they only just got to the people at the back.’

Hopefully these are just teething problems. But here’s a tip: Cityflyer with its BA branded planes are still serving free food and drink onboard.

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Bid to curb airport boozing culture

Will strict licensing laws be introduced at British airports?

If you are one of those passengers who enjoys a pint or two of chilled lager while waiting at the airport for an early morning flight, then you may have to think about changing your drinking habits.

For airlines are calling on the Government to introduce strict licensing laws in a bid to end the boozing culture at British airports, in which some pubs and bars open as early as 4am.

The move comes after a five-fold increase in air rage incidents in the past three years. Last year alone, 422 such incidents were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority - up from 85 in 2013. And most of them were alcohol related.

At present, licensing laws do not apply to airports and many bars start serving when the first check-in opens, which, with the rise of early-morning flights, is often in the small hours.

Jet2, which has stopped the sale of alcohol on its flights before 8am and banned 75 passengers for life as a result of drunkenness, is among the airlines calling for tighter regulations. Their MD Phil Ward said: "It's not normal behaviour to be drinking lager at 6am and the effects can be much worse.

"The airports don't see it because the full impact of the alcohol doesn't take effect until passengers are half way through the journey and it's my crew and other passengers who have to suffer."

According to easyJet, more than half of air rage incidents are drink related. A spokesman for the budget carrier said: "Alcohol is a major factor in disruption so we strongly believe that two regulatory changes need to be made. Licensing laws need to be introduced at airports to control alcohol sale, and the consumption of duty free drink on board should be made illegal."

Disruptive drunks have become such a concern for easyJet that it has given crews the power to declare flights dry, based on a snap analysis of passengers as they board.

Recently courts have dealt with cases including that of a passenger who said his recollection of threatening to put a gun to the head of an easyJet employee was 'hazy' after drinking whisky at Belfast airport, and another man who went "purple with rage" after being refused alcohol on a Flybe flight.

A senior cabin crew member based at Luton said the problem was much worse than the CAA figures suggest. The stewardess, who asked not to be named, said: "Every day in the summer we are dealing with passengers who are drunk, rude and intimidating. They hide duty free vodka in soft drink bottles.

"They swear at passengers who tell them to calm down and they upset ordinary families going on holiday. Some might not be disruptive enough to be reported to police, but just by thinking they have the right to treat an aircraft like a nightclub they ruin flights for others."

Because airports are not subject to licensing laws that govern alcohol sales elsewhere in the UK, this loophole allows outlets to serve drinks around the clock, with none of the legal responsibilities of the Licensing Act of 2003. This means outlets not usually associated with alcohol consumption, such as Burger King and Pret a Manger, can also sell booze.

After a spate of air rage incidents last summer, the aviation minister Lord Ahmad, promised to look into airport pub opening hours. However, the Department of Transport now says "there are no plans to specifically address the issue." A spokesman added that a voluntary code of practice encourages airports and airlines to refuse alcohol to passengers who appear to be drunk, and make it clear that alcohol bought at the airport cannot be consumed in flight.

The airlines, however, say the airports aren't doing their bit. They point to Manchester airport where beer is sold in two pint measures and where the Grain Loft bar has self-service beer taps. At Gatwick the London Bar serves porn star martinis from 4am and World Duty Free sometimes fails to inform customers that spirits purchased there can't be drunk on the plane.

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Greece stages a comeback

Holidaymakers seem to be falling back in love with Greece

Tempted by the promise of "safe sun", sleepy fishing villages and cozy tavernas, British holidaymakers seem to be falling back in love with Greece this year.

Tour operators say that bookings for 2017 are already up by 40 per cent as travellers shun Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia because of fears of terrorism.

Holiday bookings to Greece slumped in 2015 as it struggled to cope with the huge influx of migrants from the Middle East. At the height of the crisis, 56,000 arrived on Greek shores in one week. Tourists were also put off by limits on cash machine withdrawals.

Now those troubles seem to be largely forgotten as operators fight to meet demand by laying on more flights and bulk reserving more beds.

Value for money appears to be a key factor. One specialist Greek operator said: ‘Prices in Greece have been kept largely the same over the past few years as hoteliers didn't want to price themselves out.’

This is in contrast to Spain, where hotel prices in the Costa del Sol are said to be up by between six and 10 per cent, whereas local prices in the Greek island of Corfu are down by five per cent, according to Post Office Money.

The increased demand for Greece is also being met by airlines with British Airways launching new routes.

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Barcelona a victim of its own success

La Rambla is struggling to cope with the number of visitors it attracts

You really have to pick your moment these days to enjoy a quiet 'ramble' along La Rambla - Barcelona's most famous street - which is struggling to cope with the number of visitors it attracts.

The mile-long avenue that links the Columbus Monument at the port with the Placa Catalunya, carries as many as 100 million people a year and is famed for its shops, colourful flower stalls, souvenir sellers and access to the popular Boqueria food market.

But La Rambla, just like the Catalonian capital itself, has become a victim of its own tourism success, and as a result Barcelona has launched a global search for ideas to rejuvenate it and balance the tourism industry with the needs of residents.

The problem is that in recent years, particularly with huge cruise ships arriving daily at the port, La Rambla is always clogged with people. The city's deputy mayor Janet Sanz said: "The issue is not that there are tourists, but that there are only tourists.

The council has announced that it will begin work on the 'recovery' of the street in 2019, but it seems that there is a lack of ideas, as well as doubt over how the city will cope during renovation, prompting the need for an international design competition.

The plan so far is to return La Rambla to its neighbours and the people of Barcelona. This means, among other measures, laws to remove the stalls of caged animals and birds and reduce the length of kiosks.

The design competition for La Rambla follows the passing of a radical law in January to ban new hotel openings in zone one of the city which includes the central district and old town. In Zone Two, which includes the Sagrada Familia, tourist accommodation that closes can be replaced, but new openings are not permitted.

Barcelona as a whole has become a victim of its own success as its main attractions suffer from overcrowding. Last year an estimated 32 million tourists visited the city outnumbering its 1.6 million residents who complain that the narrow gothic streets are filled with tours and that rising costs are preventing locals from finding homes.

A strategic plan for tourism in the city up to 2020, published earlier this year, suggested that a new tax may be introduced for day trippers - particularly cruise ship passengers who fill the streets but don't eat or drink because that is provided on board.

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My best holiday ever

Melanie C prefers tracking tigers, rafting on the Zambezi and chilling in Tuscany

Melanie C recalls her jet set life with the Spice Girls and tells of tracking tigers in India and avoiding hippos in Africa

When did you first travel?
When I was a kid my dad was a holiday rep, so I'd spend summers in France and Spain. I got into that continental habit of having dinner late and playing in the squares. Growing up in the northwest in the 1980s, not everybody got to go abroad, so I felt a bit sophisticated.

How about travel with the Spice Girls?
I've been lucky enough to travel a lot with work. When we completed the first Spice Girls album in 1996, the first place we went to promote it was Japan. It was so different culturally, we felt like aliens. We'd be taken out for traditional meals and the five of us would get the giggles. We discovered so much together. We were catapulted into this world of staying in insane places.

Most adventurous holiday?
I'm not really a thrill seeker, but I've been whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River for Comic Relief - learning how to paddle and put up a tent was an incredible experience. We went canoeing past a family of hippos one afternoon and all my technique went out of the window. . . . I've never been so scared.

Most memorable holiday experience?
I was lucky enough to travel to Rajasthan with a tiger charity. I was with a film maker who had tracked a family of tigers for 15 years, and we saw a mother and three cubs. Watching a huge tiger walking past was breathtaking. Before that, my boyfriend and I stayed on a houseboat in Kashmir - it was so serene with all the birds and snow capped mountains.

What do you like to do on holiday?
I like to keep fit. I was in the Maldives recently, on Baa Atoll, which was incredibly beautiful. There was a gym on the beach, where they had great trainers who put you through your paces. I also went snorkelling, which was like being in an exotic fish tank.

Most memorable brush with nature?
When I was a judge on Asia's Got Talent, I went to a turtle reserve on the Indonesian island of Bintan. On the second day the turtles hatched and all the children helped them down to the sea. They're so tiny they can get stuck in footsteps in the sand. The birds were circling but left them alone because we were there. My little girls loved it.

Favourite place to go?
Italy is chaotic, but the hospitality, food and wine are the best. We had a fabulous time in Tuscany last year. My sister has two little boys so we went together and rented a house with a pool. We got into a routine - exercises in the morning, then a big lunch and splash about in the pool before heading into Siena for the evening.

For the full interview read The Times online

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What people are saying

A selection of customer comments from Trustpilot

Sebastian and his colleagues are the best in the travel business

Sebastian at DialAFlight has personally dealt with our long haul flight bookings and car hire in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for up to 5 years. The service is the best I have experienced from anyone in the travel business. I have complete confidence in him and his colleagues when he is away, to search for the best deals, make the bookings efficiently and send confirmations in a timely manner. Receiving a cheery call the day before we leave is the icing on the cake.

Richard Gisborne gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot.

Sparkling footnote: Richard's name was pulled out of the hat in our monthly Trust Pilot draw and a case of Prosecco is on its way.

As an experienced traveller I was seriously impressed

It was the first time I have used DialAFlight and didn't know what to expect. I couldn't have been more agreeably surprised. Everything was handled in a most professional and friendly manner, and as someone of advanced years, and a great deal of travel experience behind me, I think I can truthfully say it is the first time any travel agent has personally called me shortly before departure to check that everything was OK. That I call service!

James Naylor gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot

Extra confidence and competitive prices. Better than booking yourself

Spike could not have been more helpful from our first enquiry until our departure. And we did make quite a few calls to discuss options. My husband has health issues that affect his mobility so we had to choose our travel options and accommodation carefully. In the event, everything went like clockwork. The quality of everything was tip-top and we felt the prices were very competitive. In the past I have made all the holiday bookings myself but booking with DialAFlight gave us extra confidence when travelling to a completely unknown destination. We had a superb time and would definitely use them again and recommend them to others.

Caroline Dye gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot

An outstanding team on top of their game

The telephone is answered within seconds and e-mails by return. Their advice is impartial, helpful and totally reliable. Bookings are made without delay. A no-nonsense but charming service from a team on top of their game.

Nicholas Bosanquet gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot

Outstanding travel organisers that that find amazing deals

I cannot recommend this company highly enough. I have used them multiple times and have had nothing but outstanding customer service the whole way through. They really know their stuff and nothing is too much trouble. Value for money amazes me every time. They find flights that I can’t even see on Skyscanner and they are especially apt at multi-city itineraries. My latest trip was booked through Elliott who spent over half an hour finding me the best flights for my trip. Thanks DialAFlight!

Carol Reddin gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot

Read more reviews at the Trustpilot website

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This month's new hotels

Unico Hotel: An adults only resort with three pools and a holistic spa

Unico Hotel - Mexico

Set on the stunning white beaches of the Riviera Maya, Unico 20°87° opens its doors for a soft opening this month, ready to introduce the world to its bright, spacious rooms filled with local inspiration. All-inclusive and adults-only, the Unico immerses guests in the culture of the region, from the exciting tastes of locally-inspired cocktails and cuisine, to the laid-back culture reflected by three unique pools and the holistic spa.

Cempedak Island: A private island with 20 bamboo villas

Cempedak Island - Indonesia

Cempedak is a tropical retreat which combines the private island experience with stunning, eco-friendly design, with twenty bamboo villas overlooking azure waters. Each villa boasts a spacious lounge deck and a plunge pool, making for the most holistic of stays. Also accessible from Singapore, this intimate location is perfect for lovers of soft white sand, gentle ocean breezes and sparkling waters.

1 Hotel: Moments from Manhattan and some of the Big Apple’s hottest spots

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge - New York

For expansive views of the East River and the famed Manhattan skyline, look no further than a waterfront retreat at the Brooklyn Bridge. Designed by local artists using greenery and reclaimed metals, this stylish hotel makes nature home in Brooklyn. Primed for exploring New York, guests will enjoy the perks of being moments from Manhattan, premier shopping and some of the Big Apple’s hottest spots.

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What's on offer?

Our top 6 money savers you can't afford to miss

Vegas in style: Save 10% at Delano at Mandalay Bay

The Delano is set in an elegant tower of its own within the famous Mandalay Bay complex sitting right on the Las Vegas Strip. With a full casino, over 20 dining options, 4 swimming pools, a lazy river, a man-made beach, shops, spas and an array of entertainment venues, it offers the full high-octane Las Vegas experience. Save 10% on a 3 night stay including direct flights with Virgin Atlantic from £699pp when you travel in November.

Save 40% at 5* Colony Club Barbados

Escape to the beautiful beaches of Barbados this spring and save 40% at Colony Club on the island’s platinum west coast. Feel the soothing Bajan sunshine on your face and the soft, white sand between your toes by day and, if you can tear yourself away from your luxury surroundings, venture out to nearby Holetown by night to enjoy fine dining and sophisticated nightlife. Our offer includes 7 nights with daily breakfast and direct flights with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick from £1299pp.

Save 20% at Park Hyatt, Mallorca

You don’t need to venture to far flung, tropical shores to enjoy an ultra luxurious break in the sunshine. Mallorca’s Park Hyatt offers a more authentic taste of Spain away from the tourist beaches and bars. Mountain biking, trekking, sailing and fishing are all highly recommended, and back at the hotel there’s a landscaped pool and terrace for relaxation. For an extra touch of indulgence, head to the hotel’s beautiful spa where you’ll be greeted by the scent of lavender and rosemary before enjoying a choice of treatments, sauna, sensory showers and vitality pool. 4 nights from £935pp including breakfast and flights this May.

Save £650 per couple on board the Venice Simplon Orient Express

There is simply no more stylish, relaxing or sophisticated way to travel between Venice and London than on board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. It's wall to wall luxury the moment you board this world famous train and nothing can prepare you for this once-in-a-lifetime experience as you travel across Europe. Save £650 per couple on this 4 night trip which starts with 3 nights at the 5* Danieli, Venice before your night on this famously glamorous train. 4 nights from £2059 including your flight to Venice.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel Flash Sale: Save £700 in Dubai

5* Jumeirah Beach Hotel is instantly recognisable for its striking wave-like design, and is famed for its amazing value and wealth of activities. Guests of every age and disposition are catered for whether you want to relax on the beach or next to one of the five swimming pools, play tennis or spend the day testing out the 30 rides at the Wild Wadi Waterpark. Stay at this iconic hotel this spring and save £700 on a club level room with complimentary half board and direct flights with Royal Air Brunei included. 3 nights from £1399 when you travel April 2017.

Cuba on two wheels – Save £75pp on a sensational cycling tour

See Cuba on two wheels and explore the island in memorable fashion before a blissful beach break at Cavo Leivsa. You'll glide past Havana's sights before you head for Cienfuegos, along Caribbean coastline and through the captivating Topes de Collantes National Park. Why not extend your stay and ask about more of Cuba's wonderful beach locations? Save £75pp with our offer including some meals, transfers and flights with Iberia Airlines from £2249pp.

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10 things we didn't know last month

1. Carry on regardless - it's in the hold

Up to a quarter of airline passengers are being forced to place their carry-on luggage in the hold, despite their bags meeting size and weight restrictions. According to Which? Ryanair has the worst record of eight major airlines with 26 per cent of fliers reporting that their cabin bags were taken from them because of a lack of space in overhead lockers. For easyJet passengers, the figure falls to 15 per cent, while 11 per cent of Aer Lingus and seven per cent of Monarch passengers can expect to find their carry-on bags put in the hold. It means passengers face a wait at the airport for their luggage to arrive and valuables placed in the hold are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance. Our tip is to try and board as early as possible including paying for speedy boarding where available.

2. A new beer with altitude!

Hong Kong's flag carrier has claimed to be the first airline to develop a beer that maintains its flavour at 35,000 feet. Cathay Pacific says its Betsy Beer - named after the company's first aircraft, a Douglas DC-3 initially used in 1946 - has been handcrafted to keep its taste at altitude, where most food and drink loses flavour. The beer, which will be served in first and business class on flights between Hong Kong and Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester until the end of April, uses ingredients such as dragon eye fruit and honey. It will also be available in the airline's lounges.

3. Watch out for Qantas free films

Qantas offering free on-board entertainment

Passengers flying with Qantas will be able to watch thousands of hours of television and films for free, enjoy live sport and choose to listen from a playlist of more than 30 million songs. The Australian carrier has negotiated a deal giving its customers free access to usually paid-for subscription services Netflix, Spotify and Australian TV app Foxtel. Travellers will retain membership for a brief time after the aircraft touches down. Qantas has also launched a super-fast Wi-Fi service on some of its domestic routes and is looking to also offer this service on international flights.

4. Tut, tut, Egypt visas to go up

Egypt is more than doubling the amount tourists must pay for a visa to enter the country. The cost of a single entry visa will increase from 25 dollars (£20) to 60 dollars on July 1 at a time when the country's tourism sector is struggling to recover from setbacks caused by outbreaks of terrorism. Multi-entry visas will soon cost 70 dollars. The introduction of the new prices has been delayed at the request of under-pressure tourism industry leaders.

5. Famous pigs are swimming in booze

Holidaymakers are being blamed for killing some of the Caribbean's swimming pigs - by giving them alcohol. Images of the pigs paddling in turquoise water have made Big Major Cay - known as Pig Beach - famous, and many people travel to this part of the Bahamas to swim with them. However, seven of the honey-coloured animals have been found dead, and the man who started the colony 30 years ago says tourists are responsible. Wayde Nixon said: "We have people giving the pigs beer, rum and riding on top of them, all kinds of stuff."

6. Bison are dropped back into Banff

Wild bison take their first steps in their new home in Banff National Park

After more than a century bison have returned to one of Canada's best known national parks - and they arrived in style. The herd of 16 were airlifted into a pasture in the east of Banff National Park, having been flown from Elk Island National Park, a refuge for the animals near Edmonton. They will be closely monitored at first, before being allowed into the wider park next summer to interact with other species including wolves, bears . . . and hikers. The American bison once roamed Canada's plains in their millions, but were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century.

7. Chance to fly away on the Scotsman

For train lovers the defining image of last year was the Flying Scotsman crossing the Forth Bridge as part of a celebratory return to Edinburgh after a £4.3 million revamp. And for those who missed it there will be two new chances this year to take part in a recreation of the journey. On May 14 rail specialist Steam Dreams will be running two Flying Scotsman trips starting and ending in the Scottish capital that will cross the spectacular bridge over the River Forth. Tickets, which range from £69 to £215 are now on sale. Call 01483-209888 or log on to cathedralsexpress.co.uk. Outside Scotland there will be other opportunities this year to travel with the Flying Scotsman on a variety of heritage lines. For full details see nrm.org.uk.

8. It's the Lights, not the bitter officer!

Tourists driving erratically in Iceland have been stopped by police on suspicion of drink-driving - only to explain that they had been distracted by the Northern Lights. Officers have become increasingly concerned by visitors struggling to keep their eyes on the road while the aurora borealis puts on a show overhead. In the north of the country, visitors have been warned not to stop in the middle of the narrow snow-covered roads to take photos of the natural phenomenon.

9. Wow! More low cost long haul flights

Direct low cost flights to five continents could soon be a reality for British travellers as part of ambitious plans announced by two airlines. Norwegian, which already flies to 10 transatlantic destinations, has launched an Argentine subsidiary, opening up the possibility of flights from Europe to cities such as Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza by the end of the year. Now Wow Air, its no-frills Icelandic rival, plans to launch flights to destinations in South America, Africa and Asia. At present, Britons wanting to take advantage of Wow Air's low prices must fly via Reykjavik, but a new long haul base is being sought, and London is in the running.

10. Drawing a Vail over more ski resorts

The task of sampling ski slopes the world over has become that little bit easier with the purchase of a Vermont ski area by wintersports giant Vail Resorts. The £40 million sale means that Stowe Mountain, on the east coast of the United States, will be added to Vail's Epic Pass for 2017/18, a season-long ticket that affords subscribers unlimited access to resorts in America, as well as days in Perisher, Australia, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada and a number of ski areas in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Niseko in Japan is also included on the pass.

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