News: Cheaper flights to Isle of Man

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The new airline is AlphaOne (08703 833 324; www.flyalpha1.com), founded by Martin Halstead, aged 19. Sir Richard Branson has been offering him advice. The £600,000 of capital behind AlphaOne includes financial backing from a Dubai banking family. The airline has bought a Jetstream 31 aircraft, and has recruited a dozen pilots.

Delays in training have pushed back the proposed start date to Monday, 21 November, when a link to Southampton is due to begin. Fares will start at £99 return. Blackpool and Edinburgh are set to follow.

The new airline will offer plenty of frills, says Mr Halstead: "Our offering is very similar to Virgin's, with champagne included".

The Flemish airline VLM (020-7476 6677; www.flyvlm.com) began daily flights from London City to the Isle of Man on Tuesday this week. It already flies from the Docklands airport to Jersey, Liverpool and Manchester. The lowest fare for travel to the Isle of Man found in test bookings for travel later this month was £190 return.

From 24 November the new links will face competition from another London airport. The Irish airline, Aer Arann (0800 587 23 24; www.aerarann.com), will fly to the Isle of Man twice a day from Luton. Return flights to the island start at £48.

By sea, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (08705 523 523; www.steam-packet.com) has return foot-passenger fares of £34 from Liverpool and Heysham.

VISITORS TEMPTED by the low fares will find the most liberal licensing laws in the British Isles. Pubs, restaurants and the casino in the island's capital, Douglas, are allowed to serve alcohol 24 hours a day.

But Isle of Man Tourism warns that "The island has strong anti-drugs policy and illegal possession of banned substances can lead to a jail sentence".

No cabs? We'll take the sleigh

PASSENGERS ON Ryanair's latest route from Stansted to Poland can be met at the airport by a horse-drawn landau. The destination is Rzeszow in south-east Poland, one of the most economically deprived areas of the European Union.

Ostoya Manor (00 48 17 77 23 405; www.ostoya.rzeszow.pl) is a country-house hotel hoping to cash in on the new flights from London - though it has some way to go before it reaches Western standards. The hotel lies in attractive countryside only five minutes from the airport - though slightly longer if you take the horse-drawn option. In winter, visitors will be met by a sleigh. In summer, the hotel swimming pool is open, and Shetland ponies are available for children to ride. All this for £100 per night for the presidential suite, complete with grand piano and Jacuzzi.

Rzeszow itself is an old spa town, with a fine Renaissance square. It is also the gateway for one of the last primeval forests in Europe, in the Carpathians where wolves and bears still roam. You can even take an air taxi straight from Rzeszow airport to a bed-and-breakfast in the forest.

In winter, reasonable skiing - at very low prices - is available. Many users of the new flight will be travelling to or from Ukraine, which does not yet have low-cost flights from Britain. The border is barely an hour from Rzeszow.

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