Fees are one of those things that either seem to increase or multiply. British Airways is doing both it seems.

First up is the annoyance of the credit card surcharge, which applies to bookings paid with a UK billed:

  • Visa Credit Card
  • MasterCard Credit Card
  • American Express Credit and Charge Card (Including BA’s own Amex Card)
  • PayPal Account

The fee goes up from £4.50 per passenger to £5.00 per passenger per booking. This does not apply if you’re paying by debit card (but you loose the Section 75 Consumer Credit Card protections)

And it’s showing as your get to the payment section of the BA site:

British Airways credit card booking fee
British Airways Credit Surcharge on the payment page, showing the charges

A new feature also on the British Airways site is the option to hold prices for 72 hours.

For a reservation charge of £5/€5 per person on short haul flights, and £10/€10 per person on a long haul flight you can now hold a fare for 72 hours.

British Airways Hold Flight

When the fare lock is paid, the fare won’t go up for 72 hours, and the price is guaranteed not to go up. Prices can go down though, and the fare will reduce. There are restrictions on the fare lock, with the following countries on both BA and Iberia flights:

BA Fare Lock destinations

For those who need extra time to book it can be useful. If you do go through with the booking, your hold fee is refunded.

Still.. more charges are never welcome. These are avoidable in some ways, but if you want to put your fare on a credit card (and be stung for a booking fee), or hold it and not take the ticket, it’s going to cost you a bit more from now onwards….


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Posted by Kevincm | 5 Comments

For those who are coming into the United Kingdom via Heathrow Airport, and want to get to London, you have the choice of the fast train (Heathrow Express), the slower train (Heathrow Connect) and the London Underground (very slow, but gets you there) to speed you the city.

The Heathrow Express area of Paddington Station - Image GhettoIFE.
The Heathrow Express area of Paddington Station – Image GhettoIFE.

Heathrow Express train departing Heathrow Terminal 1-2-3, Image GhettoIFE
Heathrow Express train departing Heathrow Terminal 1-2-3, Image GhettoIFE

However, this coming Bank Holiday Weekend in England and Wales, there will one less option to get to London Heathrow on Saturday 23rd August and the Morning of Sunday 24th August, as Heathrow Express services are suspended.

The suspension will affect:

  • Heathrow Express services all day Saturday 23rd August and the Morning of 24th August
  • Heathrow Connect will only operate between London Paddington and Hayes and Harlington
  • Inter-terminal trains will be suspended from 15:50 on Saturday 23rd August
  • Heathrow Express services commence from London Paddington at  12:25, from Heathrow at 12:2
  • Intra-terminal services will operate every 15 minutes on Sunday

If you’re affected, there’s three routes open to you

  • Bus 140 to/from the Heathrow Central Bus Station to Hayes and Harlington, with a connecting Heathrow Connect train
  • London Underground direct to London.
  • Coach from Victoria Coach station

Engineering work is one of those requirements of the rail network, when people need to travel during a Bank Holiday weekend (and there is a lot going on over this one – see National Rail Enquiries for an overview of what’s shut this weekend)

Either way – allow extra time this weekend if you need to get to and from Heathrow Airport.


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

For those of us not in the USA, but in US Visa waiver countries, a US ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is required to be completed before you travel.

The process itself isn’t difficult to complete, but does require renewal every two years. Thankfully, if you registered an email address when you registered previously, you’ll get a warning email that your ESTA will expire… but in the most simplistic form:

ESTA Renewal notice
Redacted Expiration Warning.

The text goes like this:

ATTENTION! The travel authorization submitted on <redacted date> via ESTA will expire within the next 30 days. It is not possible to extend or renew a current ESTA travel authorization. You will need to apply for a new ESTA travel authorization. Please reapply at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov if travel to the United States is intended in the near future. If there are 30 or more days left on the old authorization you will receive a warning message during the application and be asked if you wish to proceed.

E-mail Security: If you are concerned about clicking the above link, ESTA can be accessed by typing https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov in the address bar of your browser.

Whilst the email itself is very simple (and in some respects does look like a phishing email), the advice at the bottom of the email to type the web address is reasonable, to take you to the US Department of Homeland Security ESTA web site for complete the application.

ESTA Screenshot - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

And pay the $14 fee ($10 for the fee, $4 for processing) for your ESTA to be approved.

This is available for 38 countries in the US Visa waiver programme – a list is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_System_for_Travel_Authorization.

Frequent travellers note that this needs to renewed or applied for 72 hours before departure -  and ideally a lot further before. You can also check the state of applications that are pending, or the validity of your current wavier at the site.

However, even years after the introduction of ESTA, there are still “scams” and “assistance services” to complete your form and charge you more for the privilege of completing the process (which you can do yourself, and takes a total of 10 minutes). So do yourself a favour (protecting 1) your wallet and 2) your identity) by heading to the official site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/

Still, it’s another $14 for a Visa that’s not a Visa. At least the price hasn’t shot up since 2010…


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

I’ve got to admit, I do have some time for my local airport – Birmingham Airport, even though I don’t frequent it as often as I should.

Birmingham Airport at Night - Image GhettoIFE

Birmingham Airport at Night - Image GhettoIFE
Birmingham Airport at Night – Image GhettoIFE

It’s network whilst focusing on Low Cost Carriers and European Carriers (connecting traffic onto the hubs of Paris CDG, Amsterdam and Frankfurt), with a reasonable Star Alliance presence makes it a good regional jumping off point.

However, it does attract its fair share of oddities… such as a drunken man boarding an empty Lufthansa plane and breaching security at Birmingham Airport by climbing through a baggage carousel, on 17 July.

 

The person in question – Lee Jezard – as well as breaching airport security, also stole £36.45 worth of food at the airport branch of Cafe Nero.

When discovered aboard a Lufthansa flagged Embraer 195 by cleaning staff, and initially told them “I’m the co-pilot”.

It doesn’t get much better.

It seems Mr Jezard maybe had one too many drinks that night he breached security with very little idea how he arrived at the airport.

It is a bit of a comedy, but there are questions why Birmingham Airport security did not respond, with the airport conducting a full investigation into the incident.

Birmingham Magistrates fined Mr Jezard £95 for each of the three offences, along with the £36.45 from Cafe Nero, £185 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

The story is at The Guardian and The BBC.

But if you’re partying in Broad Street, The Chinese Quarter, or anywhere in Birmingham… control your alcohol. Last thing you want is to end up at the wrong side of Birmingham Airport…


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

There’s going to be one heck of a capacity boost to Rome, with Emirates adding a third daily service between Rome-FCO and Dubai this winter.

The two services that currently operate to Rome utilise a pair of Airbus A380 aircraft on this route (which has around 517 seats in the high density version of the aircraft, 489 seats in the low density version).

Emirates Airbus A380 - Image GhettoIFE
Emirates Airbus A380 preparing to take off at Heathrow – Image, GhettoIFE

It seems this is not enough passenger uplift, as the airline will deploy a third daily service – operating the EK99/EK100 rotation. This will use a slightly smaller Boeing 777-300 aircraft from October 2014.

The combined timetable is shown below:

Dubai – Rome-FCO

EK099 DEPART DXB 03:55 ARRIVE FCO 07:35 Boeing 777-300
EK097 DEPART DXB 09:10 ARRIVE FCO 12:40 Airbus A380
EK095 DEPART DXB 15:05 ARRIVE FCO 18:45 Airbus A380

Commences 26th October 2014 with extra service
Equipment booked as per flight
Operates Daily
EK098 DEPART FCO 14:40 ARRIVE DXB 23:20 Airbus A380
EK100 DEPART FCO 11:00 ARRIVE DXB 19:35 Boeing 777-300
EK096 DEPART FCO 20:45 ARRIVE DXB 05:30+1 Airbus A380

Commences 26th October 2014 with extra service
Equipment booked as per flight
Operates Daily
Data: AirlineRoute

So, why an extra service? Lets look to last weeks news where Etihad is to take 49% share in Alitalia, and boosting its services from Rome, as well as other Italian regional destinations. What we have here is a mixture of capacity increase and Emirates countermanding the move that Etihad has made.

Whilst I wouldn’t expect a fare war, there is an amount of capacity dumping appearing on this route which could start some interesting price appear in the future.


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

Once again, its time to hold onto your hats as another Icelandic volcano could look like cause some chaos.  The last eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 caused major disruption to both European and Transatlantic routes (and almost caused me to miss a trip to Atlanta).

This time, the Icelandic volcano Bardarbunga is increasing its activity, with signs of onward management movement according to Iceland’s meteorological office.

As a result, the risk to aviation has been raised to level orange – the second highest level of alert.

Bardarbunga Activity
Notice from the From the Icelandic Met Office with Bardarbunga in orange – http://en.vedur.is/weather/aviation/volcanic-hazards/

According to the Met Office:

The intense seismic activity that started on 16 of August at Bárðarbunga persists. Very strong indications of ongoing magma movement, in connection with dyke intrusion, is corroborated by GPS measurements. There are currently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngjujökull just E of Kistufell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong earthquake (M4) was located in the Kistufell swarm.

This is the strongest earthquake measured in the region since 1996. As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10 km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bárðarbunga aviation color code has been changed to orange. Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood (jökulhlaup) and ash emission. The situation is monitored closely.

Whilst there is no sign that magma has been detected moving to the surface from Bardarbunga, if there is an eruption – it could cause an ash plume akin to what occurred in 2010.

With the travel that chaos that caused too. Those of you with travel plans over the next few weeks could be minded to learn how to pronounce Bardarbunga if you’re stuck somewhere whey don’t want to be when it blows…


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

Another day, another sale in Business Class, with Finnair doing the honours this time.

The sale is both in Business and Economy Class, however there is serious value to be had for oneworld flyers who don’t mind a hop over to Helsinki before going to Asia. The routes on sale include:

  • Bangkok £1,569
  • Chongqing £1,199
  • Delhi £1,349
  • Hanoi £1,499
  • Seoul £1,499
  • Xi’an £1,199

Finnair Business Class sale
Finnair Business Class offers – http://www.finnair.com/GB/GB/special-offers-asia

Xi’an and Chongqing stand out as good value fares starting at £1199 upwards, whilst Seoul, Hanoi and Bangkok are on the higher end of the spending bracket.

Tickets need to be booked by 22nd September (so there’s plenty of time), with the Business class fares restricted on the following dates and destinations:

  • Bangkok, 1 September–10 December 2014 and 13 January–31 March 2015;
  • Chongqing, 1 September 2014–30 April 2015;
  • Delhi, 1 September–17 December 2014 and 4 January–31 March 2015;
  • Hanoi, 25 August–23 September 2014;
  • Seoul, 16 September–17 December 2014 and 7 January–30 April 2015;
  • Xi’an, 26 August–24 October 2014 and 29 March–31 May 2015.

A six night or a Saturday away stay is required, with no stopovers permitted. Departures are permitted through Finnair UK destinations.

For those collecting British Airways Tier points, whilst these aren’t going to set the world on fires, you will pull in 440 Tier Points if you route your fare simply (80+140+140+80). If there’s room for creativity, you might be able to pull a few extra points in.

For those who like to live a little more fun, and enjoy dodging air passenger duty, you may find departing from Stockholm could beneficial, with business class fares on these routes around £1200 to Bangkok (with a blinder of £941 with Jet Airways in Business class)

Alternatives to Finnair Sale
Sales from Stockholm could offer better value. You’ll have to factor getting to Stockholm-Arlanda first
Booking dates 17/10/2014 – 23/10/2014, Business Class. Aggregate date via Kayak.com - http://www.kayak.co.uk/flights/ARN-BKK/2014-10-17/2014-10-23

Whilst not as impressive as the recent KLM sale, this one has more Far Eastern destinations for those who enjoy flying to that end of the world.

Certainly, it’s one to consider if business or pleasure takes you there in reasonable comfort.


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

Regular readers will know I’ve been keeping my eye on Azul Brazilian Airlines as it moves from being a Brazilian domestic carrier into a full blown international carrier.

Azul Airbus A330-200, Image - Azul Airlines.
Azul Airbus A330-200, Image – Azul Airlines.

Well, it sees that the airline have set the first dates for their international network to commence. Two destinations will form the initial long haul network, with routes from Viracopos-Campinas International airport to:

  • Fort Lauderdale from 1st December 2014
  • Orlando from 15th December 2014

The indicated timings have been released by Azul:

Viracopos-Campinas to Fort Lauderdale

DEPART VCP 23:40 ARRIVE FLL 05:20+1
DEPART FLL 18:20 ARRIVE VCP 06:00+1

Commences 1st December 2014
Operates Daily
Booked Equipment: Airbus A330-200

Viracopos-Campinas to Orlando

DEPART VCP 11:00 ARRIVE MCO 17:00
DEPART MCO 19:50 ARRIVE VCP 07:50

Commences 15th December 2014
Operates Daily
Booked Equipment: Airbus A330-200
Data - Azul - http://blog.voeazul.com.br/ultimas/azul-solicita-voos-para-fort-lauderdale-miami-e-orlando/

Commencement of the service is subject to approval by the Brazilian civil aviation authority. The flights will feed in and out of Azul’s domestic network, connecting to 50 cities in Brazil, with 150 flights a day – so there should be some connections for those who need them.

However, this isn’t the end of the long haul Azul project – far from it, as the airline is planning to introduce services to New York in mid-2015.

American Airlines is responding with an introduction of a service from JFK to Viracopos-Campinas on a three times a week basis and a daily service from Miami to Viracopos-Campinas which is due to commence on the 2nd December using Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.

This has all the makings of something rather interesting ahead – especially if Azul can go toe-to-toe with American Airlines, and make a good going of it…


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A new app has popped up that is meant to help out US and Canadian Travellers arriving into Atlanta Airport.

The app called “Mobile Passport” allows you to complete some of the tedious paperwork and declared items. The technology initially rolling out at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and will spread to US other airports in time.

The system is developed by Airside Mobile, who worked with  Airports Council International-North America and the  U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deliver a product.

If you want to take advantage of this, you’ll need to complete the following steps to use the application

  • Download the Mobile Passport Control App from the Apple App Store prior to arriving (you can do this when you’re in the air on a WiFi enabled flight, or on the ground elsewhere)
  • Create a profile with your passport information
  • Complete the “New Trip” section upon arrival in the United States
  • Submit your customs declaration form through the app to receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued (so don’t generate the form before you need it)
  • Bring your passport and smartphone or tablet with your digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer
  • Clear US Immigration via an appropriate express lane.

In terms of looks, it looks like an app and a form:

Mobile Passport Screengrab

Mobile Passport Screengrab
App images via the iTunes store.

To use the app, there is no pre-enrollment or pre-screening required to use this application. Information that is captured via this app is akin to the information used by the Automated Border Clearance kiosks.

There are restrictions who can use it, namely:

  • US citizens with a valid US passport
  • Canadian citizens with both a valid Canadian passport and B1 or B2 visa status
  • A compatible Apple device
  • Families with four members or fewer can be processed together

Whilst this doesn’t replace Global Entry, the Automated Border Clearance entry kiosks.  You will still require your physical passport to clear immigration – this just handles the paperwork.

Now, this is all well and good, except every fight I’ve been on has warned against the use of mobile phones in the customs hall. In addition, the shouting matches for people daring to use mobile phones in the custom halls do remind me a bit of Eric Cartman shouting “You will respect my authoritah!“.

If this solution stands a chance to work, some of the people working on the Immigration desks will need to change that attitude slightly if someone whips out an iPad or iPhone to be cleared at the US Border.

For those of you who want to try this, this is available through the Apple App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id907024887, and the App is due to be released for Google Android via the Play Store in the near future.

More information from the promoters of the app at http://mobilepassport.us/ and the US Customs and Border Patrol.


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Posted by Kevincm | 3 Comments

It’s Sunday again, so it must be time for some more Airplane Art.

This week, taxing towards Terminal 8 on a chilly January evening is one of the venerable American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft at New York-JFK International Airport, completing a long journey.

American Airlines Boeing 757-200 - Image GhettoIFE

More airplane art next week!


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

Last week KLM were selling cheap fares in KLM Business Class from Amsterdam to the Caribbean.

This week, it’s the turn of departures from the United Kingdom to the world with fares to

  • Accra
  • Mumbai
  • Dubai
  • Osaka
  • Tokyo

All starting from £999 upwards.

KLM Business Class sale landing page

em>Landing page: http://www.klm.com/travel/gb_en/plan_and_book/special_offers/flight_offers/wow_sales.htm

KLM Business Class fares

Details of the KLM Business Class fare offers

From what I can see, this needs to be booked by 18th August 2014. However, travelling can be up until 31st March 2015. Note, that availability is quite limited however , you’ll need to be a bit flexible.

However, these do represent excellent value for money – especially the fares to Osaka and Tokyo (which are notoriously expensive flights).

If these work for you, there are worse ways of spending 11+ hours in the air than in a KLM business seat – least of all for the mile collectors, there should be a reasonable slug of miles for sitting in the air…


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Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

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