Travel: Something To Declare

NEWS FROM THE TRAVEL WORLD
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Bargain of the week: First class to Paris

The price of first-class travel between London and Paris has just fallen to a ridiculous level: a mere pounds 28 more than the cost of the cheapest second- class ticket - and with a night in a hotel in the French capital thrown in.

Eurostar, the company which operates trains from London and Ashford through the Channel Tunnel to Paris, is offering automatic upgrades to first-class. The idea is to mark the launch of its subsidiary Eurostar Holidays Direct. First-class travel entitles you to a roomier seat, plus free food and drink.

To qualify, two people must travel together; one leg of the journey must be made on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday; a package comprising a return ticket and one or more nights in a hotel must be booked before 14 November; and outward travel must begin before the end of January next year.

If you meet these conditions, you get a free upgrade. The cheapest package for which these conditions apply is a night at the one-star Hotel de Bordeaux, close to the Gare du Nord. Before the end of October, this costs pounds 127 per person. From 1 November, the price falls to pounds 117. Eurostar's cheapest second-class fare, without a hotel, is pounds 89. The lowest first-class ticket is pounds 159. So your saving is pounds 42.

You can book only by telephone to Eurostar Holidays Direct (0870 167 67 67), 9am-6pm from Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm on Saturdays. If you call Eurostar's main reservation number, 0345 808080, or ask at a travel agent, you will not be told about the deal.

A likely story

"Jasmin invariably uses scheduled flights of British Airways and the national airlines of the countries we visit" - this from the company's new brochure of escorted journeys, 1999.

Travellers can be reassured with this assertion, printed in bold type, that they are likely to enjoy direct flights, without the need to change planes.

This, however, is not the case if you travel with Jasmin (0181-675 8886) to Nepal or Yemen. Flights to Kathmandu are on Qatar Airways, and require a change of plane in Doha; to the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, travellers use KLM via Amsterdam.

The company says this is a mistake: the airlines used for those destinations were changed at the last minute, but it failed to alter the statement about flights.

Is this a good idea?

Foreign Office travel advice on Serbia: "In view of the increasingly volatile situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), we advise against all travel to the FRY. We also advise British nationals in the FRY to leave immediately."

The Travel Advice Unit also advises against all travel to: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chechnya, Guinea Bissau, Iraq, Jammu and Kashmir (India), Lesotho, Liberia, Somalia, southern Sudan, north and west Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan and Western Sahara.

Contact the Travel Advice Unit on 0171-238 4503 or 4504, or fax 0171- 238 4545; on the Internet, at www.fco.gov.uk or on BBC2 Ceefax from page 470 onwards.

A good idea

Unlike most US low-fare airlines, Reno Air has a first-class cabin. And you can upgrade to it for just $25 or $50 ( pounds 15 or pounds 30), depending on the length of the flight. Full-fare ticket holders can book this privilege in advance; discount passengers can standby at the airport for an upgrade.

Reno Air operates from Chicago and Detroit via its Nevada hub to the Pacific Coast and Alaska. Call 001 800 736 6247 from the UK, or 1 800 RENO AIR within the US.

True or false?

Scandinavian airports can be music to your ears

True. The Danes and Norwegians have found novel alternatives to the schmaltzy piped music that plagues passengers from Aberdeen to Zagreb. "Airports are boring" is the cheerful admission by Elisabeth Frederiksen of Copenhagen airport. "Which is why we hired the singing cleaners."

The tidy tenors and sanitary sopranos were recruited from among music students in the Danish capital. "They used to be dressed as cleaners, work quietly somewhere in the terminal and then suddenly start to sing barbershop-like", says Ms Frederiksen.

Sadly, the operatic operatives had to return to college, which was something of a relief for the regular cleaning staff: "When our crooning cleaners were off duty, our regular cleaning personnel would have impatient passengers demanding that they start singing".

Few travellers were singing with joy when the old airport at the Norwegian capital, Oslo, closed down on Thursday this week.

Instead of the short hop to Fornebu, just six miles from the city, travellers are having to find their way to a site four times further away. But if the journey winds them up like the subject of Munch's The Scream, when the anxious passengers finally reach the airport they will be able to take advantage of what are called "sound showers" while waiting for their flights.

Apparently, the idea is that you stand under something resembling a shower head, and listen to the sound of the wind, a man laughing or a baby crying.

The national musical hero, Grieg, does not yet get a look in - a shame, because the main terminal at the new airport could have been named "The Hall of the Mountain King", and instead of calling the route to the departure gates "Pier One", the authorities could have used Peer Gynt.

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