Welcome to your travel news roundup – the weekly installment on the Travelstart Blog designed to keep you on the cusp of what’s what in the travel world including industry news, airline anecdotes, travel advisory’s and a pick of the week’s most important stories impacting travel around the world and in South Africa.
‘The cockpit is no place for a woman’: Female pilot stunned by sexist note from passenger
A female WestJet pilot was left stunned when she received a sexist note from a male passenger which said ‘the cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman’.
Entrepreneurs offer relief for travellers
Dubbed ‘entrepeeneurs’ due to the nature of their business, New Orleans natives Max Gaudin and Travis Laurendine have introduced a new concept in web travel businesses inspired by the Mardi Gras which takes place in their home city each year.
The startup called AIRPNP (yes, it’s a play on of the popular vacation rental site Airbnb.com) has one primary objective: to take care of lavatory logistics so you don’t have to.
Users of Airpnp are matched with bars, restaurants, offices and homes where they can pay to use the lavatory, usually for a fee of $5 or less. Users can select from among pictures posted on the site, which also have descriptions of the amenities.
They are able to rate their experience afterwards so, in the words of the website, “others can see how each restroom stacks up.”
The site so far is available only online, although its founders say a smartphone app is in the works.
Thai protests scaled back
Although anti-government protests are continuing in Thailand, the protestors have left major roads in Bangkok and consolidated all action at Lumpini Park.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), travel to the country is still going ahead despite the political protests. “In fact, stats show that there was a 51,58% increase in South Africans travelling to Thailand in January 2014 [compared with 2013],” says a spokesperson.
Marketing representative for Thai International Airways South Africa, Tom Liangman, says while a few passengers have postponed their trips, the majority are travelling to other parts of Thailand, avoiding Bangkok.
“Thai operates as normal and this situation is not affecting the airport’s operation. The other parts of Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui still welcome visitors.”
However, the TAT spokesperson says there is little reason for travellers to avoid Bangkok altogether as the protest sites are easily avoidable and that no tourists have been targeted.
Helen Fraser of Development Promotions says there doesn’t seem to be any concern regarding the political unrest in the country and that no cancellations have been received as a result of the situation. “The operators handling tours on the ground there know exactly what to do to ensure the safety of the tourists and we have received no warnings to stay away,” she adds.
Mango heightens security checks
Travellers flying Mango must present the credit or cheque debit card used for payment of their flights at check-in or the boarding gates.
After a rise in cloned and stolen cards, the airline is intensifying its efforts to combat bank card fraud and will be stepping up security checks. Passengers who are unable to present the relevant card or a verifiable copy will not be able to fly.
“While it is an inconvenience, the reality is that bank card checks protect consumers against illicit use and spend on fraudulent transactions,” says Mango spokesperson, Hein Kaiser, adding that in the past two months an 8% increase in attempted card fraud was noted by the airline.
New Domestic Lounge for Cape Town Airport
Standard Bank has launched a pop-up lounge at Cape Town International. It caters for domestic departing travellers and offers free use of WiFi and iPads, complimentary coffee and quiet comfortable seating options. Visitors can also make use of the facility to recharge their laptops and cellphones.
The lounge is open to all domestic departure travellers at no extra cost. All they need to do is register their details with staff working in the lounge.
The initiative was launched in Cape Town off the back of the success of Standard Bank’s pop-up lounge at OR Tambo International.
“Whilst sipping on a complimentary cup of coffee, visitors will also be able to enjoy the novelty of a free shoe-shine service and read a daily newspaper. For those looking for an opportunity to catch up with work or merely enjoy a few moments of peace in a busy day, quiet areas, comfortable seating and cubicles are available. The pop-up lounge allows us to connect with our customers in ever-more engaging and interactive ways,” says Jacqui Carnelley, head of marketing for personal and business banking at Standard Bank.
Wi-Fi in the sky looks set for takeoff
Wi-Fi in aircraft, hobbled in the past by slow speeds, could soon take off as new technology enables passengers to surf the web as if they were in a coffee shop, internet executives say.
Air France A380 to fly to Hong Kong
Air France will fly its A380 to Hong Kong daily during the summer season.
From May 27 to June 8, the airline will operate four A380 and three Boeing 777-300 flights a week. This will switch to a daily A380 service between the two cities from June 9 to October 25. Flight AF188 will depart PAR at 23h25, arriving in HKG at 17h20 the following day. The return flight, AF187 departs HKG at 00h50 and arrives at CDG 08h00 on the same day.
The Air France A380 is configured with nine seats in La Premiėre, 80 in business class, 38 in Premium Economy and 389 in Economy.
HKG will be the second city in China, after Shanghai, that is serviced by Air France’s A380.
SAA Non-stop flights between Johannesburg and New York’s resume
South African Airways is pleased to announce that from 9th March 2014, non-stop flights between Johannesburg, South Africa and New York’s JFK International Airport will resume.
Over the years, this service has proven to be very popular because of the schedule, the ease of connections across Africa and the United States and the unique South African hospitality on board. The non-stop flights are timed to arrive in New York in the early morning, so you can quickly make your connecting flight to destinations throughout North America.
Condor to add third weekly FRA-CPT flight
Condor will be increasing its seasonal flights between Cape Town and Frankfurt from two to three times a week.
In addition to the Tuesday and Saturday flights, which commence at the end of September, the airline will operate a third flight every Thursday from November 6.
The airline says the third flight will be added to accommodate increased demand from South Africa and Germany, although the strongest demand was from Germany. Condor spokesperson, Carolin Welsch, says: “We are constantly looking to increase our share of passengers originating from South Africa and hope to see a bigger share each season.”
Etihad passengers can now clear U.S. Immigration in Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways guests flying to select destinations in the U.S.A will have access to Abu Dhabi International Airport’s United States Preclearance facility located at Terminal 3.
The new facility enables guests flying Etihad Airways to preclear the U.S. Customs and Border Protection formalities before boarding their flights in Abu Dhabi. Upon arrival in the U.S.A, guests will be treated as though they are domestic arrivals. Shorter connection times are possible for onward flights in the U.S., with your luggage arriving to the final destination.
As the first facility of its kind in the region, guests flying to select destinations in the U.S can now look forward to worrying less about long queues. Experience an easier, quicker and more comfortable journey with Etihad Airways to Washington DC, Chicago and New York. Future US destinations will also benefit from the facility.
For more info visit: www.etihad.com/uspreclearance