In many countries, from Austria to Britain, the mother road is named – or numbered – the A1. There it is, an arrow pointing north from Paris to the very top of France (the same latitude, incidentally, as Barnstaple and Irkutsk). In America, US Highway 1 from Maine to Florida is far more rewarding a road than the better-known Route 66. And the UK's A1 connects the English and Scottish capitals, spending a fair amount of its time in Yorkshire.
I travelled along the Dutch A1 a fortnight ago, on the final stretch of a Netherlands bicycle adventure (about which you may have read last week). The bike ride does not actually share the main carriageway, which would be incautious even by Holland's relaxed standards of health and safety; an excellent Tarmac cycle track runs alongside the motorway from the east for a couple of miles during the tricky approach to Amsterdam.
Above me, on probably the most expensive advertising hoarding in Holland, rose a magnificent poster of the Yorkshire Dales. The image tweaked the collective Dutch nose by saying: "Just in case you get fed up living in the flattest country in Europe..." Beneath it, though, was revealed the main sell: easyJet urging the Dutch to fly from Amsterdam to Doncaster for €35.
Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield airport, to deploy the full title of the former RAF base, lies within the ancient county of Yorkshire. Besides serving the birthplaces of such luminaries as Jeremy Clarkson (Doncaster) and Michael Palin (Sheffield), it is also handy for Scunthorpe. But a Dutch traveller who imagines they will step out of the airport and into a bucolic scene of hillside embroidered with dry-stone walls and populated with contented cattle is sadly mistaken: to reach anything like a Yorkshire Dale requires an arduous 90-minute drive – partly along the A1, as it happens.
You cannot blame easyJet for taking advantage of the old county boundaries as it seeks to cash in on the Dutch appetite for altitude, nor for failing to mention that Leeds/Bradford is a much better placed Yorkshire airport for the Dales – it is served from Amsterdam by rivals Jet2 and KLM. Good luck to easyJet in persuading Amsterdammers to forsake the intensely cultured and civilised capital of the Netherlands – whose canals this month deservedly earned Unesco World Heritage status – in favour of South Yorkshire.
One little-known benefit of booking a return journey with easyJet is the opportunity to transfer to an earlier flight to one of the London airports. Book on the 9.40pm flight from Amsterdam to Gatwick, and – if space is available – you can switch free of charge to an earlier flight, such as the 5pm or 7.15pm. This concession can also save you cash. When I checked the fares for last Friday's flights from Amsterdam to Gatwick, the final flight of the night was priced at £78 with the peak-time departure at 5pm £40 more expensive.
So, if you don't mind the risk of being stuck in Schiphol for a few hours (and with an annexe of the Rijksmuseum adjacent to Pier D, that's no hardship), you can book for the 9.40pm fully intending to take off earlier. Turn up at 4pm and with luck you will get home early, having spent less cash.
British Airways used to be just as flexible, informally at least, but losing nearly £2m a day has evidently concentrated its collective mind. I happened to show up at Schiphol in time for a London flight 90 minutes earlier than the one on my ticket. I could switch – but only by buying a new ticket, price €205, which works out at 4p a second. I declined. No complaints: I was travelling on a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket. But easyJet's offer is closer to A1 service.
Flights full of fizz
British Airways will give you a beer in flight, while easyJet will sell you one for €4.50 – but you have to make do with a can. Until this summer selling draught beer on board an aircraft had been impossible, because of the safety risks of using a high-pressure canister of carbon dioxide.
Now the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) is offering beer on tap on domestic flights, thanks to a cunning keg that uses dry ice to effervesce the brew. The price of 1,000 yen per pint converts to £7.50, but includes a snack – and is still cheaper, sip for sip, than easyJet. Yet ANA is the very airline that has been asking passengers not to use the toilets on domestic flights, in an attempt to reduce fuel burn (the idea being that if people spend a yen before they board, the payload will be lighter).
British real ale requires no fancy pressurisation, so UK airlines could install hand pumps. No doubt about the brewer. It's the one based in Barnard Castle, Co Durham: High Force.Reuse content