August 2016

  • Armageddon’s off. Let’s head for the sun

    Fares bonanza as airlines struggle to fill seats

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  • Guess the most popular sun spot for MPs ?

    Yes, it’s Europe. And here’s where you may bump into your Member of Parliament

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  • Airport VAT rip-off

    Passenger power forces change in airport tax scam

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  • Star gazing at sea

    Themed cruises boom as celebs are signed up to entertain this season’s holidaymakers

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  • My best holiday Ever

    Lord Mervyn King, loves the great outdoors and knows the value of a good holiday

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  • Travel Gossip

    Burglars, blue wine and Brits getting ripped off

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  • Quirky hotel of the month

    A Grape Escape that’s out of this world

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  • What people are saying

    A selection of customer comments from Trust Pilot

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  • What's on offer?

    A selection of this month’s top money savers...

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Armageddon’s off. Let’s head for the sun

Fares bonanza as airlines struggle to fill seats

call a specialist
Snap up First Class fares for bargain prices

THERE are lies, damn lies and statistics. And the referendum saw them all.

But since then what has really happened?

Consumers held their breath to see if the dire warnings would materialise. But when Armageddon was postponed they started spending again and retail sales climbed in July. Our own sales are now above pre-referendum levels.

But the really good news for us all is that we are seeing a surge in travel from small and medium sized businesses heading overseas to look for new markets. Our clients include several thousand of these, accounting for more than £100 million of turnover, so that’s always a good barometer of what is happening.

Holidaymakers too, are enjoying a bonanza this summer and we have been very busy helping airlines with too many seats to fill. First Class fares to popular destinations such as Miami have been available for as little as £1000 as the Mail on Sunday’s travel editor discovered.

But we expect prices to rise sharply as soon as the schools go back. Early September has become increasingly popular with those wanting to avoid noisy schoolchildren.

WELL worth reading this week is the post from Adrienne Robins on Trust Pilot. She couldn’t find what she wanted on the internet so she visited her High Street travel agent. Nobody could help her simply because one of her group wanted to return to a different airport.

Luckily, she ran across DialAFlight and it was sorted in seconds. Our staff can do this in their sleep but sadly the skills needed to build complicated airfares are increasingly rare in the travel industry.

You can read the full post in What People are Saying

Guess the most popular sun spot for MPs ?

Yes, it’s Europe. And here’s where you may bump into your MP

The Azamara Quest
A deserted house as MPs take a much needed break

Our MPs need a holiday after all the Brexiting and back stabbing that has been going on at Westminster over the past few months.

So, now that Parliament has gone into recess, where will our elected representatives be heading to recharge their batteries this summer?

The Sunday Times newspaper asked all 649 MPs where they would be taking their holidays, but only 144 responded, so it's difficult to get an accurate picture of where they will be putting down their beach towels. But some were very forthcoming.

About four in 10 plan to cross the Channel, with France being the most popular destination.

And despite all this year's drama, at least one MP still craves excitement. Steve Baker (Con, Wycombe) is planning to spend at least part of the recess in Spain pursuing adrenaline sports of the scariest kind. "I want to reinvigorate my skydiving then learn to fly a wingsuit," he says.

And he isn't the only adventurer in the Commons. Rachael Maskell (Lab, York Central) will be hiking coast to coast across the UK, Stewart Macdonald (SNP Glasgow South) is driving coast to coast across America and Melanie Onn (Lab, Great Grimsby) is exercising her right to roam by wild camping in Monmouthshire.

Surprisingly, the most common destination for those who supported Brexit is Spain, with the Balearic Islands particularly popular. Tory Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) and Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) will be sunbathing in Minorca, Mallorca or Ibiza, as will Labour's Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton).

Other Leave campaigners including Rebecca Harris (Con, Castle Point), Bill Cash (Con, Stone) and Gerald Howarth (Con, Aldershot) are off to France with Sir Gerald waxing lyrical: "We love the warmth, ambience and people sitting outside, drinking wine and playing boules," he says. He even has a soft spot for the French themselves, "as long as they speak English."

They will be sharing the country with Mike Grapes (Lab, Ilford South) who is visiting the First World War battlefields, Damian Green (Con, Ashford) who is off to Provence and Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley), who says she's going to pitch her tent at a campsite in France with 22 Brummies.

Italy is a cross party favourite. Ian Murray (Lab, Edinburgh South) is celebrating his 40th birthday in Rome, while David Warburton (Con, Somerset and Frome) is taking the family to Venice.

Eight Tories are heading to Cornwall, a firm favourite of their former leader David Cameron, who has just been sunning himself in Corsica, and Wales is popular too with Labour's Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth), Plaid Cymru's Hywell Williams (Arfon) the SNP's Phillipa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) and the Conservative Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) all heading for the hills or the coast.

But it's hats off to one holiday Remainer. Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet in Kent, said: "I have no need to go anywhere other than home, as we have the best possible facilities on the doorstep."

Airport VAT rip-off

Passenger power forces change in airport tax scam

The Azamara Quest
Consumers force airport stores to review their underhand practice

You may recall that last year airport retailers were caught out claiming VAT refunds without passing those savings on to consumers.

Airport shops collect 20 per cent VAT on all purchases made by travellers flying within the European Union and pass it on to HMRC. For anyone flying beyond the EU, however, no tax is payable.

But rather than returning that money to eligible passengers, it was discovered that retailers were using it to swell their reserves. Most airport shops in the UK ask passengers to hand over boarding passes to be scanned at the checkout, a practice few realise is used to help stores claim back the VAT on goods sold to passengers leaving the EU.

Since the bad publicity many passengers have been refusing to hand over their boarding passes. Now WH Smith has decided to do the decent thing vowing to return some of that tax to eligible passengers - but only on items costing £6 or more.

Discounts will not apply to items such as books and newspapers, which are not subject to VAT, or to items costing under £6. To qualify for the concessions, eligible travellers must agree to have their boarding pass scanned.

Looking to the future, this is an issue that will become more pertinent when we leave the EU and are entitled once more to tax and duty free savings when we travel to any country overseas.

Star gazing at sea

Themed cruises boom as a host of celebs are signed up to entertain this season’s holidaymakers

If you want to see stars on your holiday sign up for a cruise.

So many celebrities have been been signed up for themed cruises that you can take your pick between famous opera stars, TV personalities, chefs, authors and even astronauts.

Once the domain of the rich and famous, cruising today caters for a growing mass market... and it's often the rich and famous celebrities themselves who come aboard to entertain the paying passengers.

So here are some that may 'whet' your appetite when looking for an entertaining adventure on the high seas!

Prue Leith
Prue Leith at home in her kitchen

Prue Leith, the cooking supremo, novelist and entrepreneur, will be joining Swan Hellenic's small ship Minerva, known for its highbrow cruises and impressive line-up of speakers. This late-summer sailing from Barcelona to Rome is being organised in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, so passengers can expect lots of garden-themed excursions as well as chances to listen to Leith's colourful life story. She is due to give two after-dinner talks, mingle with guests and join them for meals.

Kiri Te Kanawa
Radiant on the seas - Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who has graced every famous opera house in the world, and sang at Prince Charles wedding to Diana, will be appearing on Bravo, a week-long opera themed cruise from Sydney on board Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. On the voyage to New Caledonia and back she will be joined by a host of other Australian opera stars and backed by a full orchestra. Sideshows include a string quartet, a swing band and a burlesque group.

Colonel Chris Hadfield
Spaceman Colonel Chris Hadfield

Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station, and the man who performed David Bowie's Space Oddity while in orbit, will join Quark Expeditions 17 night Arctic Icebreaker voyage from the west coast of Greenland to the Canada's High Arctic on the expedition vessel Kapitan Khlebnikov. After cutting through the frozen landscape by Zodiac and Chopper, Hadfield will answer questions and share his outer space secrets.

Gregory Porter
Gregory Porter jazzing up Cunard

The ebullient jazz singer and Grammy award winner Gregory Porter will be appearing on Cunard's Gregory Porter and Blue Note Jazz transatlantic crossing in October. He will perform three gigs in the ship's theatre and host Q and As. Porter is the headline act, but jazz diva Dee Dee Bridgewater will also be performing on the seven-night voyage. Lecturers on board include a criminologist and a former astronaut.

Lynne Truss
Literary signing Lynne Truss

Lynne Truss, writer, columnist and broadcaster, who is known for her 2003 bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, will be on board Cunard's Queen Elizabeth during a 14 night sailing from Southampton to Spain and Italy. Truss will be giving talks and punctuation tips and signing books - including her comic Gothic novella Cat out of Hell.

Call for latest prices and availability

My best holiday Ever

Lord Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, loves the great outdoors and knows the value of a good holiday

Kelly Holmes
Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England
How often do you travel?

When I was governor of the Bank of England I would travel two or three times a month. I liked to get out and about and talk to people around Britain - I probably visited every town with 50,000 or more people. The job also involved a fair bit of international travel to Washington, Frankfurt or Basel. Over the past few months I've visited the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and various cities in Europe as part of my book tour.

Where did you go on holiday as a child?

I grew up in Wolverhampton and remember spending holidays on the Yorkshire coast, in North Wales and Pevensey Bay in Sussex, where one summer there was a vivid thunder and lightning storm and I fell off my lilo and had to be rescued by my father.

Your first trip abroad?

My geography teacher father arranged a class trip to Voss in Norway. We took a small plane to Bergen and a train to Voss. The thing I remember most was the friendliness of the Norwegians.

Your most adventurous travel experience?

The most unusual place I've ever been to was probably Iqaluit, close to the Arctic Circle in Northern Canada, for a G7 meeting as governor. I got to see how to make an igloo, but the best part was being whisked across a frozen lake on a sledge pulled by huskies.

Most luxurious travel experience?

I crossed the Atlantic from Southampton to New York on the Queen Mary 2 a few years ago, and that was wonderful. At times you wouldn't even know you were on a ship, let alone the sea. Arriving into New York at dawn was a magical moment.

Favourite city?

Rome and New York. I love Rome for its history, restaurants, beautiful views and being able to walk around most of the year in good weather. I spend three months a year in New York every autumn and the city has a buzz like nowhere else.

Most memorable travel experience?

When I was a graduate student in the US I took a train across Canada from Vancouver to Montreal. It took three days and nights and I'll never forget the remarkable contrast between the Rockies, where I stopped off to see Lake Louise, and the flat wheat fields of the prairies.

Best piece of travel advice?

When flying, don't have any alcohol, eat very little food and sleep a lot - then you'll enjoy yourself when you get to the destination, whatever the time difference.

Read the original interview on Telegraph Online

Travel Gossip

Burglars, blue wine and Brits getting ripped off

Northern Lights
Don't adjust your screen: Blue wine is this summer's Spanish hit
A case of the Blues. We’ll drink to that.

It has been described as looking like run off from a paint factory and it’s turning wine afficionados a furious shade of red. The cool new tipple sweeping Spanish bars this summer is blue wine made from a mix of red and white grapes. It’s coloured using two organic pigments, one of which is extracted from grape skins. Apparently it’s crisp, light and surprisingly palatable.

Watch out. There’s a burglar about

We hear suggestions this week that posting and tweeting holiday pictures could invalidate home insurance as it is an invitation to burglars. While policy holders are required to take ‘reasonable care’ many find it hard to resist posting their holiday snaps online.

Car rental Brits hit by 22 miles a day rip-off

Unscrupulous car rental firms have been accused of conning holidaymakers by hiding unreasonably low mileage limits in their small print. Some drivers, who thought they had found a great deal, discovered they were restricted to driving 22 miles a day and charged as much as £100 extra. An AA spokesman said: ‘What can seem like a bargain can turn into something far from it. Our advice is buyer beware.’ Footnote: All car hire booked through DialAFlight comes with unlimited mileage.

Jumbo seats for big passengers

Good news if, despite your best efforts, you find it hard to lose weight before going on holiday. A new aircraft with wider seats to accommodate the more portly passenger has been showcased at the recent Farnborough Air Show. The Bombardier CS100 has 19in middle seats - wider than those of rivals such as the Boeing 737 (17.3in).

Cruise with a boobie prize

If you know your blue footed boobies from your noddies a new cruise around the Galapagos could be just what you are looking for. Thousands of tourists follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin every year visiting the unique islands off the coast of Ecuador to see the strange and exotic birds and animals that live there. But from next March Silverseas cruises is offering special one week trips that take passengers to visit Kicker Rock and Daphne Major, two of the archipelago's top bird watching sites.

Pound for pound, you're better off with local money

When you're using a cash point or card reader abroad and the machine asks if you want to pay in sterling or the local currency, always choose local. Britons are losing £380 million a year in conversion fees, according to FairFX. The currency trader reports that one in five Brits are persuaded to pay or take cash out in sterling - a process known as Dynamic Currency Conversion, which adds a fee of 3 - 10 per cent. But remember, your bank or credit card company may still levy a fee for using your card abroad.

Cambridge being 'polluted' by tourists

A councillor in Cambridge is calling for a cap on visitor numbers, warning that the university city is heading for a tourism disaster. On one Saturday last month 140,000 day trippers visited the city. "The Chinese have decided that Cambridge is part of their Europe experience", John Hipkin said. " We now have to regard tourism in much the same way as pollution."

Towel wars hot up on Italian beaches

Italian authorities are getting tough with tourists trying to reserve space on crowded Italian beaches. They are fining culprits who leave ‘space savers’ on the beach overnight. In a crackdown in Tuscany last Saturday night coastguards removed 37 deckchairs, 30 umbrellas, a cot, several towels and some swimwear. The owners have been told they need to pay £170 fine to get their property back.

Quirky hotel of the month

A Grape Escape that’s out of this world

Neukölln district
The design was inspired by the Marqués de Riscal wine bottle

Experience the extraordinary at The Marqués de Riscal, architect Frank Gehry's first and only hotel project in the heart of Spain’s Rioja wine-growing region.

Featuring shimmering ribbons of pink, gold and silver titanium, the hotel’s avant-garde structure would be more at home in a galaxy far away than the heart of Rioja wine country, yet the design contrasts beautifully with the lush, rolling landscapes and surrounding vineyards.

The hotel itself is a luxury haven where design, art, gastronomy, wine and the lush landscape combine perfectly. There is also a separate spa wing for pampering and relaxation.

Call us for latest prices

What people are saying

A selection of customer comments from Trust Pilot

My local travel agent cannot do what DialAFlight does

Normally I book all elements of my holiday myself - but this year I decided that I'd let a travel agent do the work. Why? Because the cost of flights to Florida were coming up too expensive and I was certain a package would get me a better deal. So I thought I'd go retro and wandered off to the High Street. Big mistake!

An hour at the consultant's desk and I was no nearer getting what I wanted. The main stumbling block was that one of our party wanted to fly home to Manchester (rather than going back into Gatwick). This was a big No No apparently.

Frustrated, I went back home to look again for flights - and came across DialAFlight. So I gave them a call - just for the air fares. Frank in Croydon seemed as dumbfounded as I was with the difficulties I'd encountered and within minutes he'd identified the flights and reserved them. He then said that they could look for my preferred property - a few more minutes and he'd done that too. Then he organised the hire car. I'm sure if I'd asked he'd have got the Disney and Universal tickets too.

This is A* customer service. To be honest, I don't write reviews - but I was so impressed that I felt I had to. If you haven't used DialAFlight before you should do. Thanks Frank. I guess my days of seeking out everything myself are over

Adrienne Robins gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot.

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

Forget the online agents. I’ve tried them all

I have used most of the online agents in the past but never again. Ross from DialAFlight found me the best flight at the best price and followed up with help right through to check in. Everything was organised exactly as I requested. I have already booked my next flight with Ross and am totally confident that the service will be as flawless as last time.

Chris Vaughan gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot
Honest, amazing customer service and great on price

Having used DialAFlight since last summer I have found them to be a superb travel company to deal with. With so much choice - and I have tried many companies - they excel in all areas. Whenever I need a holiday booking I just call and they take care of everything. Nothing is too much trouble and there's always someone on hand to help.

We recently travelled to the Far East on a multi-stop trip which couldn't have gone better. I had to call them whilst away to deal with something that had cropped up. They had it sorted within minutes.

It's such peace of mind knowing they are on hand when I need them no matter where I am in the world. This is our third holiday now and I wouldn't risk booking with anyone else.

Even if you can find your holiday cheaper elsewhere (which I very much doubt) you won't find the level of customer service they offer anywhere. Too many times I have booked with other agents so keen to sell to me only to find once they have the booking the level of service falls flat.

My DialAFlight Travel Manager is Jordan Fell and his approach to his customers is absolutely second to none. His patience is fantastic and his knowledge extensive. There is nothing he won't do or can't organise. In my opinion he is a rare asset in today's world of often poor customer service.

I rarely write reviews but felt compelled to do so on this occasion as he and his team at DialAFlight deserve all the praise they get. Quite simply, if you aren't sure, try them out. Trust me you will not be disappointed

Paul Rock gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot.
Great Service. Now DialAFlight is my first call

I normally organise our holidays myself but was struggling to get flights at a decent price. As a last resort I called DialAFlight and Graham did me proud. He found us good flights with Virgin, outbound directly for a good price but then topped it off with a fantastic deal on accommodation in Atlanta which was exactly what we needed. Communication was good and our holiday was fantastic. I'll use DialAFlight as a first resort in future.

Bruce Self gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot.

Read more reviews at https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.dialaflight.com

What's on offer?

A selection of this month’s top money savers...

Pampered in Phi Phi: Save 40% at 5* Zeavola

Puerto Vallarta

For a postcard picture escape to Thailand with plenty of pampering, it’s hard to beat the idyllic island of Koh Phi Phi for a soothing sojourn. Save 40% on a 6 night stay at the sensational 5* Zeavola. This all –suite resort offers stunning accommodation and a range of activities, from diving to island tours. Also included are transfers and discounted flights from Heathrow with Malaysia Airlines, all from £699pp. Book by 20 August for travel 1 Sep - 25 Oct.

2 FREE nights at 5* Barcelo Asia Gardens, Alicante

Puerto Vallarta

Bringing a taste of Asian luxury to the foot of Alicante’s Sierra Cortina Mountains, Barcelo Asia Gardens offers 5* service and year round appeal. There’s much to see and do at the hotel, from a leisurely walk round the magnificent tropical gardens to a splash in one of hotel pools. There are also classes aplenty – everything from yoga and meditation to aqua aerobics, qi gong, wine tasting and diving to cocktail making and Asian cookery. Stay 7 nights for the price of 5 including flights from Gatwick from £785pp. Valid for travel Oct - Nov 2016.

1 FREE night at The New York Edition

Puerto Vallarta

Situated in the 1909 landmark Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building, The New York Edition is a sleek urban retreat offering everything you need for the quintessential luxury New York city break. Stay 4 nights for the price of 3 flying with British Airways with our offer from £999pp. Don’t miss fine dining from Jason Atherton at the Clock Tower Restaurant which is also on site. Book by 16 August for travel this autumn.

Save over £1100 per couple at Blue Waters Antigua

Puerto Vallarta

Enjoy Antigua’s 365 beaches and a free upgrade to a Cove Suite when you stay 7 nights at beautiful Blue Waters Antigua. Enjoy fine or casual dining throughout your all inclusive stay as well as a huge choice of activities on land and water. 7 nights from £1699pp including flights with Virgin Atlantic. Book by 14 August for travel throughout September.

Business class prices slashed to Sydney: Save £1500pp

Puerto Vallarta

Make the most of huge Business Class savings to Australia with Malaysia Airlines and save of £1500 on this 5 night ultra luxurious trip to Sydney. Stay 5 nights for the price of 4 in a Club Deluxe Room at the sensational Four Seasons Sydney which is situated in the heart of The Rocks, offering those all important views of Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Why not extend your trip to see the Red Centre, The Great Barrier Reef or Australia’s other iconic sights? 5 nights from £2549pp. Book by 20 August for travel Jan 2017.

Dubai in ultimate style: Save 30% at Burj Al Arab

Puerto Vallarta

Arguably one of the world’s most iconic and luxurious hotels, Burj Al Arab rises majestically from the Arabian Gulf and offers white-glove butler service in every sensational suite. Save 30% at this ultra luxurious hotel and enjoy complimentary half board. Plus arrive in style with complimentary one - way Rolls Royce transfers. 5 nights from £2799pp including flights from a choice of UK airports with Emirates. Book by 21 August for travel before 9 September.