Simon Calder: The Man Who Pays His Way

Check your baggage into the twilight zone

The nights draw in with a vengeance tomorrow. Or do they? That depends on which country you live in. Countries in higher latitudes, north and south of the Equator, are inclined to put the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn in order to maximise the light summer evenings. The result for globetrotters and schedulers is chaos.

The nights draw in with a vengeance tomorrow. Or do they? That depends on which country you live in. Countries in higher latitudes, north and south of the Equator, are inclined to put the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn in order to maximise the light summer evenings. The result for globetrotters and schedulers is chaos.

First, the clocks move in different directions in the northern and southern hemispheres. Any unkind assertion that when landing in New Zealand you should put your watch back 30 years is wrong. The time, in fact, should advance by either 11 or 13 hours, except for a few weeks in October and March when Auckland is 12 hours ahead of London.

Next, not every part of every nation adopts daylight saving. American states are the worst offenders, despite the existence of a federal law called the Uniform Time Act. Hawaii keeps to the same time all year, as does Arizona – except those parts of the Grand Canyon state that happen to be Navajo Indian territory, which today is in step with other states observing Mountain Daylight Time and tomorrow will switch back to Standard Time.

Texas observes Central Time – except the city of El Paso, which prefers the Mountain variety. And woe betide anyone with a plane to catch in Indiana. The state has 92 counties. Ten of these are in the Central Time zone, and flip between daylight and standard time. The rest are in the Eastern Time zone, but only five make the switch – the other 77 stay on standard time all year long. A drive across the state today could take you through three separate time zones.

Winter begins at 2am (or is it 1am?) tomorrow, according to Europe and those parts of the US where they know how to adjust clocks. But when does summer return? In Europe, on the last Sunday of March; in America, on the first Sunday of April. The intervening week is a nightmare for airline schedulers. With so many flights involving quick connections in America or Europe, losing an hour causes travel chaos.

Australia follows the European dates – with the exception of Tasmania. In the island state, summer began three weeks ago. The Falklands welcomed summer even earlier – it began in mid-September, and extends longer than any other southern hemisphere nation apart from Tonga.

When you move east, a whole new set of rules applies. Western nations traditionally make the switch in the early hours of Sunday morning because that is when activity is at its lowest; in Islamic countries, the day of rest is Friday – which is when many nations choose to change clocks. Finally, Israel makes up the dates as it goes along, although the law stipulates that summer must last at least 150 days. If only.

The people of Cairo showed considerable grace and tolerance in hosting the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) annual convention, not all of whose delegates are noted for observing local traditions to the letter. Luckily, the conference centre was way out of the city centre, many miles from real life.

Abta prides itself on recruiting top-class motivational speakers from outside the travel industry for its get-togethers. This year the celebrities included Anita Roddick of Body Shop fame, and the immensely brave Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who has survived several skirmishes with frostbite while exploring the earth's extremes without the benefit of Body Shop carrot cream.

My friend and fellow travel journalist Richard Hammond, who runs the travelmole.com website, was running late for the conference, so he decided to get a cab from the hotel. A distinguished-looking gentleman was also trying to hail a taxi to the same destination, so they shared.

Along the way Richard made small talk – had he been at the sessions the day before, no, that sort of thing. When they got there Richard turned to his new friend and said: "Oh, a word of warning, the air conditioning is pretty fierce – you might get a bit chilly." Three hours later, he realised he'd been talking the great explorer.

"Do we sometimes piss people off? Of course we do," says Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary. "But 60 per cent of the complaints we get are people looking for refunds of what everyone knows is a non-refundable ticket. And the answer to that will always be, 'No, you're not getting a refund, we told you it was non-refundable, go away.'"

Say what you like about Ryanair, but you cannot accuse the Irish airline's boss for raising passengers' expectations too high. This week, though, the European Parliament voted to make airlines pay compensation for delays, cancellations and overbooking.

It is nearly a century since powered aviation began, but passengers still have precious few rights – a ticket is nothing more than a vague promise to take you from A to B, possibly via C, at a time of the airline's choosing and with or without your baggage. Air travel worldwide is still governed by the 1929 Warsaw Convention. A replacement was agreed in Montreal three years ago, but has yet to be ratified.

So surely the new rules that the European Parliament has passed, which will force airlines to pay up for meals and hotels when flights are delayed, are to be welcomed? Not necessarily. Of course all passengers welcome the prospect of being treated more humanely by carriers – and to some extent the airlines have collectively brought this upon themselves by failing to treat people decently. But the stricter legislation is likely to mean higher fares. If Britain's air-traffic control collapses again and causes the sort of chaos passengers experienced on several occasions earlier this year, the cost for airlines under these new rules could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Could the new law affect safety? If delays become extremely expensive occurrences for airlines, it is not inconceivable that one aircraft captain will one day feel impelled to fly when he or she is not 100 per cent happy about the condition of the aircraft. Better to leave it to the market to set compensation levels for the travelling public. When I fly on Ryanair I am taking a bet that the plane will fly to something like the scheduled time, and I am prepared to face the consequences when it does not. Conversely, other airlines offer much more in return for higher fares. This weekend two British airlines are promising a new deal for travellers. Flybe and Bmibaby are saying they will no longer overbook, and both airlines set out the compensation they will pay when things go wrong.

Mr O'leary could be doing us all a favour this week. Those same Members of the European Parliament who voted to force the airlines to pay out will, from Hallowe'en, benefit from lower fares between London and Strasbourg. Ryanair is offering the chance for British representatives in Europe to save taxpayers a fortune on MEPs' travel expenses by starting no-frills flights from Stansted to one of the European Parliament's homes. So how much will this save us taxpayers? I called Richard Balfe, the MEP who defected from Labour to the Conservatives earlier this year. He is one of five Quaestors – the committee that looks after members' interests.

What travelling expenses, I wondered, are our representatives entitled to?

"They can claim a full economy, fully flexible fare, or such amount that they care to claim that is less than that."

So how many claim less than the maximum?

"We keep all financial effects of members at a confidential level."

Quite right – how absurd it would be to let voters know how their money is spent.

Just so you know, return fares from Stansted to Strasbourg of £24 are widely available in November. A full economy, fully flexible fare on Air France costs £532.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence