UK airport chaos as passport controllers join strike

 

Passport controllers have walked out to join the biggest strike for more than five years.

Brits are likely to face delays if arriving back in the UK today, the strike began last night when Border Agency staff did not turn up for work at airports around the country – leading to long queues at passport control.

To keep up with the flow of incoming travellers, managers attempted to fill spaces, but as airports become busier today queues are likely to grind to a halt.

Officials have said delays are likely for incoming passengers, but departures will largely be unaffected.

Managers have been trained to step in to conduct airport passport checks, while courts will prioritise the most urgent cases.

A spokesman for Virgin said: ‘Virgin Atlantic is working closely with the UK Border Agency to support their contingency planning and minimise disruption to our customers.

‘We will keep our passengers informed of the situation through text messages, advice at check-in and onboard announcements.’

On Gatwick Airport’s website, officials have posted a statement warning of potential delays: ‘Arriving passengers may experience delays at passport control today.

‘We are working with UKBA to keep all disruption to a minimum for our passengers, but please help us by having your passport and travel documents ready for inspection at passport control.’

Eurostar said it was ‘not affected’ by the strikes but had laid on two extra trains today between London and Paris.

STRIKE ACTION: WHICH AIRPORTS ARE AFFECTED

LONDON AIRPORTS: TRAVELLERS ARRIVING INTO HEATHROW, GATWICK, LUTON AND STANSTED COULD ALL FACE DELAYS

MANCHESTER: DELAYS POSSIBLE FOR INBOUND PASSENGERS

BIRMINGHAM: DELAYS POSSIBLE FOR INBOUND PASSENGERS

NEWCASTLE: ‘MINIMAL DISRUPTION’ IS EXPECTED

SCOTTISH AIRPORTS: DELAYS POSSIBLE FOR INBOUND PASSENGERS AT EDINBURGH AND GLASGOW. NO MAJOR DISRUPTION EXPECTED AT ABERDEEN

LIVERPOOL: DELAYS POSSIBLE FOR INBOUND PASSENGERS

SOUTHAMPTON: THE SOUTH COAST AIRPORT SAID IT ‘SHOULD NOT BE AFFECTED BY TODAY’S STRIKE’

(Source: www.dailymail.co.uk)

Classic New York Hotels

Nothing can compare to New York hotels. From rooftop gardens to superior personal service and palatial rooms, New York hotels are the standard hotels are judged by. They seamlessly blend respect for personal privacy with a commitment to providing the most pleasure possible. ‘What you want, when you want it, the way you want it ‘ seems to be the guiding principle behind good New York hotels. The best chefs in the world work in New York hotels. Each night you can choose from several gastronomic masterpieces and the best late night libations. The city that never sleeps has set the bar very high with the quality of its hotels.

The name Waldorf Astoria conjures up images of class, culture, comfort, quality and luxury. It was the first hotel to offer room service and it continues to be an industry leader in meeting the needs of its guests. It combines old world charm and attention to detail with all the latest amenities and conveniences to create the world’s most prestigious hotel. Period furniture, handmade rugs and indulgent beds and bathrooms compliment immense beautiful rooms.

Kings, queens, world leaders, movie stars and captains of industry have found rest in its spectacular rooms. Ex-President Herbert Hoover and General Douglas Macarthur both lived at the Waldorf Astoria. Bertie Charles Forbes, (Forbes Magazine), Marilyn Monroe, Cole Porter and Linda Lee all lived in the Waldorf Astoria. Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano lived there too.

The Hudson Hotel New York is a gem often overlooked among New York hotels. The Hudson Hotel New York is an upscale boutique hotel that is adventurous in concept, bold in design and imminently affordable. Opened in 2000 the Hudson Hotel New York draws on all the influences, cultures and styles in this great metropolis to be at once avant-garde and familiar. What is familiar is the high quality of service, superb meals, immaculate, comfortable rooms and stunning views of the park.

The Hudson Bar was an instant success, drawing the city’s best and brightest with its minimalist style, quality drinks and great atmosphere. Its use of modern furniture styles in soft, rich tones serves to relax the guests while their staff fulfills their every wish.

The Waldorf-Astoria and the Hudson Hotel New York epitomize the range of establishments the city has to offer. They continue to ensure that New York hotels are the best and most innovative in the world.

Virgin Holidays has been arranging holidays since 1985 and are the largest, most successful transatlantic tour operator, and market leader for travel to the USA and the Caribbean.

Why Swedish Lapland is not just for Christmas

After a December that was the coldest in Europe for 100 years – many of us dream of heading south to the warmth.

Some adventurous Britons, however, have moved in the opposite direction, setting up home in Swedish Lapland in a string of remote communities straddling the Arctic Circle.

The area (Lapland comprises the northernmost parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and part of Russia) is sometimes described as Europe’s last wilderness, and it is certainly cold; this winter, the first snow fell in the first week of October. Temperatures can plunge to minus 30C, and snow covers the ground until at least April.

Patricia Cowern traded the West Midlands for the village of Porjus (population 400) after visiting the area in 1995 with her son, Toby, who was on an outdoor survival course.

“The space, quiet and proximity to nature just overwhelmed me,” says Patricia, a photographer who runs a gallery (pictures of the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are her speciality) and rents out four self-catering flats in the village.

Toby, 31, also decided to move permanently to Porjus, and now makes a living as a tour guide, taking visitors on snowmobile and dog-sledding trips. In the short Lapland summer, he offers canoeing and hiking, and helps out as a part-time fireman. His two daughters, aged six and nine, go to the village school and speak perfect Swedish.

“Lapland gives the girls freedom to be children,” says Patricia, of her grandchildren. “The village is simple, but it’s safe. Weather permitting, they are out on their bikes all the time, and only come home when they are hungry. In the winter, they love to ski. You could call it a rather old-fashioned kind of life.”

But Patricia has advice about putting down roots in Lapland: “First, you can’t live here and not like the outdoors.  Secondly, you need to be resourceful and make your own job.” Meanwhile, brown bears, lynx, elk and the ubiquitous reindeer roam the hills and forests. In the warmer months, fields are full of flowers, and huge mushrooms and tiny wild strawberries abound.

David and Kerstin Carpenter, both from Essex, have helped a number of British expats set up home in and around Jokkmokk. With 3,000 people, it is the capital of a municipality of less than 6,000 permanent residents spread over an area larger than Northern Ireland.

Jokkmokk is well known for its Sami (indigenous Lapp) crafts fair, which has taken place every February for 400 years. The fair features reindeer racing and traditional singing. A wide selection of pelts and furs are on sale.

Homes in Lapland are traditionally painted red with white trimmings around the door and windows. “The vast majority of houses are made of wood,” says David. “They are not just timber-framed, they are made entirely of wood.”

Wooden houses can last for decades in the predominantly dry climate. Homes have large grounds, often with saunas.

Snow on the roofs might be picturesque, but it can be a problem because of the weight. “In the early spring, snow begins to melt in the day,” says David. “Then it freezes overnight. As a result, it turns to ice and of course becomes heavier and heavier if not removed.”

Transport problems experienced in Britain after a light coating of snow are unthinkable. Ploughs clear main roads as soon as snow falls, and locals use tractors to clear minor roads and tracks. And what about airports shut down because of wintry weather? “I’ve never heard that Lulea airport [115 miles from Jokkmokk on the coast] has had to close in the winter for any reason other than fog,” says Patricia.

While depopulation is a problem in Sweden’s far north, communities are becoming multicultural. There are up to 30 different nationalities in Jokkmokk town, which has about a dozen British residents. Patricia estimates that there are now 14 different nationalities in Porjus. German, British and Dutch incomers are the biggest national groups.

“In the long term, these communities are declining,” says David. “For every 200 people who move in, from southern Sweden and abroad, we lose 225 as the older generation dies, and young people move out to a University or job in the south of Sweden”.

In an effort to reverse the trend, the local council, a regional bank and Vattenfall, the nationally owned power company, have set up Emigrate2Jokkmokk to attract new residents, particularly young families, and offer help when they arrive.

David administers the programme: “We have a lot to offer here: lakes with water fresh enough to drink, wonderful fishing in all seasons, and peace and quiet. Prices for many things are similar to the UK.”

But some things you can’t easily buy in Britain, cold winter or not. In Swedish Lapland, for as little as £500, you can be the proud owner of a second-hand snowmobile.

Ensure summer safety with a current passport for your child

The advent of the summer season brings schoolchildren, newly released from the confines of the classroom, ready to explore the outside world, make new friends, and enjoy new experiences. Summer is a time when families can reconnect, enjoy quality time together, and create lasting memories.

Modern parents now recognize the great benefits of bringing children along on summer travels, whether near or far. Elementary school-aged children are at a wonderful juncture to absorb the many and varied experiences which travel abroad provides. From vastly different cuisine to the richness of new climates and languages, children will recall the wonder of these new experiences for many years to come. High-schoolers may gain lasting impressions from the “culture shock” of many days immersed in locales without wireless Internet or familiar foods.

Increasingly complicated regulations for air travel can put a damper on plans to capture these fleeting summer days exploring new cultures as a family. In addition to the practical logistics of planning any journey, many parents remain unaware that passports must be obtained for each family member, including children of all ages, as well as infants. In addition, most parents are not aware that a very specific subset of regulations applies to obtaining passports for their children. Parents or a legal guardian must present valid evidence of a child’s US citizenship, present valid personal identification, provide evidence of parental relation or legal guardianship, and take a signed oath, in person, before an authorized passport agent. Further information pertaining to passports for minors are available for consumers on the US State Department website at www. travel.state.gov .

Once these required steps have been completed, a child’s passport is then subject to the standard federal processing time of 4-6 weeks. Utilizing a passport expediter while preparing for a family vacation can not only help speed along a lengthy “to do” list, it can ensure that the passport application and delivery process are supervised by qualified professionals. Travel Document Systems, Inc. Vice President, Dean Orbell, noted:

“Most parents don’t realize that stringent travel documentation requirements extend to the whole family, and are surprised when they learn that obtaining proper documentation for their young children can be a major roadblock to successful family vacations. We are delighted to assist so many customers annually with fulfilling their child passport needs.”

Travel experts highly recommend asking children to pitch in with trip planning. Helping to choose an itinerary, to pack their own bags, and to decide some of the daily activities can all positively engage children in their trip abroad. With preparation and qualified professional assistance, international vacations can be delightful for the whole family.

Summer school holidays could be cut to just four weeks

Michael Grove, Education Secretary, has this week called for drastic changes to the current school holiday system. The changes would see families given just a four week summer break to take a holiday.

Mr Groves reforms could lead to British children havign the shortest summer holiday in Europe. Traditionally state-educated children have had a six-week break between July and September.

The changes would include changing from three to six terms per year, with schools possibly lengthening their hours. Those serving large numbers of working parents could stay open for 51 weeks a year, closing only over Christmas.

Compared with school’s across Europe, British children already have one of the shortest holidays. In America they get between 10-12 weeks, in Greece and Italy it’s 12 weeks, in Austria and France it’s 9 weeks. Only Germany has a 6 week holiday the same as he UK.

Powers granted by Mr Gove to free schools and academies last year saw them take control of their own pay, conditions and term dates, and would allow them to change the traditional school timetable.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank in London, Mr Gove highlighted the Norwich Free School, where ‘the school premises will be open for six days each week, 51 weeks of the year’ from September. It will close only for bank holidays and the week of Christmas, and adopt a six-term structure with a four-week summer break.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, hit out at Mr Gove’s latest plans. ‘For schools to be open six days a week, 51 weeks of the year, is not what we need,’ she said.

‘Children and young people are after all entitled to a family life.

‘It is also essential that they have time to relax and recharge their batteries after a long and often intensive week at school.

‘This idea, although not new, is ridiculous.’

BA wont strike .. but talks continue over Virgin walkout

Traveling with BA this summer? You can breath a sign of relief as the two year long cabin crew dispute looks to be over.

However those travelling with Virgin have more to worry about. Virgin Atlantic pilots have so far refused to back down from the walkout and could ruin tens of thousands of family holidays this summer.

Hitting key long-haul routes, including flights to Disneyland in California and Florida, as well as the Caribbean, the Far East and Australia, strikes would be incredibly disruptive for many holiday makers.

Strike dates have not be revealed yet, but the first is expected to take place in July, with further walk outs to follow over the summer.

But there was better news for passengers today though, as BA’s union Unite balloted several thousand of its members, recommending acceptance of an agreement thrashed out between the two sides after 18 months of conflict.

The agreement includes a two-year pay deal and the return of travel concessions for thousands of staff who took part in 22 days of strikes last year, which cost BA £150million.

Sir Richard Branson’s airline said it was disappointed but was preparing ‘contingency plans’ to deal with any walk-out.

Travel industry experts condemned the strike as ‘disappointing and frustrating’.

Balpa chief Jim McAuslan said: ‘There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say enough.

‘With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation this is now a six-year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline.’

He added: ‘We do not want to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted flair to settle this.’

A spokesman for the airline said its pay offer was ‘industry leading’ and ‘double the national average for a UK business’.

He added: ‘We are naturally disappointed with the result of the ballot but remain committed to further talks with our pilots’ representatives to find a solution.’

Venice accommodation tax delayed

Following scenes of protest, walkouts by certain councillors, and ultimately a lack of quorum, the debate and vote on Venice’s proposed accommodation tax was delayed on Monday evening (June 20). Outside the chambers, people held up banners decrying money being wasted and suggested that not just tourists but also locals will feel more tax burden under the various proposals on the table.
The fallout from these events is that the council reconvened on Thursday, June 23 and that any resolution would mean that an accommodation tax is unlikely to come into force before August 23.

Prior to the council meeting, Mayor Orsoni held conciliatory meetings with the local hotel association, which has expressed its opposition and made clear that it sees managing tourism in the city as a very delicate balancing act. While the proposed tariff system is very similar to Florence’s (one euro, per star, per person, per night), there remains some uncertainty about whether Mestre and minor islands would be charged a lower rate.

“This is an interesting development, even surprising, given that initially this vote was seen as a formality,” said Nick Greenfield, Head of Tour Operator Relations at ETOA, “ETOA has spoken in the past about the need to consult with the travel industry and also to work to a realistic and sensible timetable that respects business cycles. Rome and Florence have caused a lot of bad will by introducing these taxes in a very haphazard, last-minute way. Perhaps, belatedly, Venice will now recognise the need for dialogue and clarity.

“Venice is a unique city, a very popular destination, and tourism is crucial to its economy. The city faces some challenges in terms of infrastructure; the very nature of the place means that it feels pressures that other cities do not. The way to move forward is to involve our industry at every stage to ensure that the future of the city’s most important sector is in safe hands.”

Cape Town short-listed for World Design Capital 2014

Cape Town has been short-listed for the World Design Capital 2014. From a team of 56 hopefuls, Cape Town now stands alongside just 2 other world cities – Dublin and Bilbao – in the race to earn the World Design Capital title.

Being named a World Design Capital bears a prestigious status. The title is designated biennially by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (CSID) to cities that are dedicated to using design for social, cultural, and economic development.

The announcement is pivotal for Cape Town’s reputation as a destination that has adopted design for transformation and social cohesion. Design as a principle for changing lives began with the end of apartheid and, increasingly, has become a guiding philosophy in the repositioning of Cape Town as a sustainable city, committed to a journey to improve the quality of life of all its citizens.

Cape Town Tourism greeted the news with great enthusiasm. Said CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold: “This is a significant moment for Cape Town. Our shortlisting is an acknowledgement that design is an asset and a massive catalyst to align different sectors across the city with the ultimate goal of making Cape Town a more liveable city. Many people associate Cape Town with our beautiful natural surrounds, but design and innovation is leading the way for us to become a city that people are increasingly choosing to explore and discover from an urban context.

“More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and urban tourism dominates the international tourism landscape; over 70% of international tourism spend occurs in urban areas. Cities are incubators of innovation and ideas, epicenters of modern, living culture. Design is increasingly becoming a fundamental tool to ensure that Cape Town is more competitive, liveable, and efficient.

“Cape Town’s position as innovation hub sets us apart from any other South African and African city. As Cape Town moves into the future, we are convinced that it will become an ever more exciting place to live in, work in, and visit.

“Design is one of the fundamental pillars of the positioning of Cape Town as a place of inspiration. As with the World Cup, the bid process has given us a common platform to elevate Cape Town’s place on the world’s stage. We urge all Capetonians to get behind the bid. Citizen support and ownership will be key to the success of our bid.”

The story at the heart of Cape Town’s bid theme is about the city’s use of design to overturn the negative legacies of its colonial and apartheid past that saw design dividing people, disconnecting the city, and relegating both people of color and the urban poor to its fringes. This both denied these people equitable access to resources and opportunities, not least the opportunity of making their own contributions to a better city. It also made the country a pariah in the eyes of the world, and excluded it from many opportunities to engage in the globalizing economy.

At a handover ceremony of the World Design Capital 2014 Bid Book from City to Provincial hands, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille commented on the accolade: “We are building an inclusive city, one based around 5 pillars: the opportunity city, the safe city, the caring city, the inclusive city, and the efficient city. Design is a tool for all of these areas of transformation. It is able to inform us as to how we can best provide employment and upliftment to improve the quality of life of our citizens.”

With predecessors such as Seoul, Korea (2010), and Helsinki, Finland (2012), proving that living design can, in fact, transform lives, Cape Town’s status as a top 3 contender shifts the city onto a new world platform and into a new era.

The Cape Town Partnership (who has been mandated to manage the bid), the city of Cape Town, and Cape Town Tourism will now host a delegation of World Design Capital 2014 judges in the city between July 10-24, 2011. An important stage in the process, this is when the content of the Bid Book and the city’s priorities, in terms of design as a tool for social transformation, will tread its proving ground. The World Design Capital 2014 winner will be announced on October 26, 2011.

Extracts from the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 Bid Book are available on www.capetown2014.co.za and case studies for design in Cape Town can be viewed at www.capetown2014.co.za/gallery/ .

3 Day Yoga Retreats in Cornwall from £99

London based Yoga Holidays announced today that it is the first Yoga School in the UK to offer consumers holidays in Cornwall (England) from £99 per person this summer. Aimed at those feeling the pinch during the economic downturn these cut price trips will last for 3 days and follow the recent trend towards ‘Glamping’ (Sleeping in a tent, tipi or yurt where bedding and other equipment is supplied).

Included in the price customers will get healthy continental breakfasts, a private tent with a comfortable mattress and two yoga classes per day. Laura Watson, Founder of Yoga Holidays stated “After doing a significant amount of research we found that many yoga retreats cost £500 or more per person.” Watson went on to suggest that this is simply too expensive for many people in the current economic climate. She also stated that “In our opinion yoga should be accessible to a wide range of people not just those with a high disposable income.”

The format the retreats will take is flexible with customers able to do as much or as little as they want. “On full days yogis will be taught twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and in between it is up to them what they do. We have partnered with a number of local businesses to supply rewarding activities such as surfing, kayaking and mountain biking which can be enjoyed as additional extras.”

Bargain hungry holiday makers are advised to visit www.yogaholidays.co/99pounds to book tickets as soon as possible, places are limited and expected to sell out fast!

(Image: Vlado)

Chilean volcanic ash cloud reaching Cape Town airspace

The ash cloud from the Chilean Volcano Puyehue-Cordón Caulle that has been erupting since June 4 has reached Cape Town airspace, affecting flights in and out of Cape Town International Airport. The ash cloud has circled the globe and has, in the last 2 weeks, disrupted flights in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand.

Deon Cloete, General Manager of Cape Town International Airport, said on Saturday evening: “Airports Company South Africa would like to advise all passengers traveling today and in the next few days to contact their airline in order to confirm their flight details, as volcanic ash has been sighted in the Cape Town airspace and has impacted various flights in and out of Cape Town International, Port Elizabeth, and East London airports. Other airports will be affected as well. ACSA and the Air Traffic and Navigation Services company are monitoring the situation and will update travelers as and when new information becomes available.

Said Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism: “The volcano sent a massive plume of ash around the Southern Hemisphere, delaying flights out of many airports and causing inconvenience for thousands of passengers. It is still too early to gauge the ash cloud’s impact on tourism in Cape Town. We are expecting a marginal and short-term knock-on effect on tourism arrivals to the Mother City and are in close contact with ACSA to bring the latest updates to the tourism industry.”