Travel: Simon Calder

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The Independent Online
The Independent's travel desk, unlike those of other newspapers, pays its own way. So I am hypersensitive about rip-offs. I also try to buy air tickets that do not allow changes, since they are vastly cheaper than the flexible variety.

I cheerfully bought a pounds 135 return ticket from London to Amsterdam with the stipulation "No changes, no refunds". Then British Airways found itself unable to deliver me to Amsterdam punctually, owing to a technical problem, and I couldn't get to Amsterdam airport in time for the flight home.

No problem, I assumed. The airline has fouled up, so surely BA will allow me to change the booking without penalty.

"Certainly, sir, you can upgrade to the next fare level. That'll be pounds 156."

Could EasyJet find me a seat on its flight back to Luton? "Certainly, sir, that'll be pounds 42."

The prize for guessing which I took is the now-useless return half of a BA London-Amsterdam ticket.

All of which is a long-winded way of applauding the no-nonsense approach of carriers such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Debonair. This week they were joined by Go, the airline with the shortest name in the world. Go, as its rivals are keen to remind us, is an offshoot of British Airways. But it needs to distance itself from the self-styled "World's Favourite Airline", for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the European Commission is watching closely for evidence that BA is underwriting Go in a bid to put its rivals out of business.

The second, and possibly more critical, reason is that BA may lose its existing high-fare customers to the new low-fare airline.

The condition that restricts almost all cheap tickets within Europe is that you have to stay away for at least a Saturday night. If you have ever found yourself sleepless in Stuttgart on a Sunday when you'd rather be in Stranraer, Shrewsbury or Slough, you will realise why the airlines can get away with charging so much to people who would prefer to be at home.

But Go - which EasyJet claims has "photocopied" its business plan - applies no such penalties. You can save a fortune on short-haul flights to Europe in return for forgoing an in-flight meal. The term the travel industry uses to describe turning high-yield customers into your own, low-value ones, is "cannibalisation". That'll give BA something to chew on.

The first occasion when the strength of British Airways' links with its new offshoot will be tested is likely to be when a Go plane "goes technical" somewhere in Europe, and there happens to be a BA aircraft heading back to Britain. If the Go (or no-Go?) passengers aren't keen to sit quietly and wait for the problem to be fixed, they may well argue a case for seats on the next BA flight home. Now, there's a good scene for a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The new film Oscar and Lucinda opened last night. Say what you like about the screen adaptation of Peter Carey's novel (it's half-an-hour too long, I'd say) the movie will do wonders for tourism. The story, about high-stakes gambling between an Australian entrepreneuse (Cate Blanchett) and an uncannily acute British preacher (Ralph Fiennes), was shot almost entirely on location.

The Australian portion was filmed "at practically every National Trust house in New South Wales", says the producer, Robin Dalton. Sydney was originally to be played by Hobart in Tasmania, but Ms Dalton says, "We couldn't afford it, so we masked out all the tall buildings."

The most beautiful location of all is, sadly, out of bounds to the tourist. The place to which the preacher delivers a crystal chapel is a river bank at Jacadgeree, west of Grafton in northern NSW. "We had to build a road in order to get to it," says Ms Dalton - "then take the road away."

Some British scenes, such as New College and Merton College Chapel in Oxford, look familiar. So, too, does HMS Warrior in Portsmouth. But if you think the scenes set on the Devon coast look uncharacteristically wild, that's because they were shot in north Cornwall. The venerable Prideaux Place, near Padstow, is open for paying visitors from Easter; call Peter Prideaux-Brune on 01841 532411.

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