Something to Declare
The column that gives the global picture
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 07 July 2001
Bargain of the week: generosity from BA
Business travellers, and other people who need flexibility in their journeys, could be the surprise winners from the new range of World Offers. Faced with big losses on its European services, British Airways ( www.britishairways.com, 0845 77 333 77) is selling most short-haul flights at flat fares of £80 to £160 return; the price requires a Saturday night stay. BA guarantees that some seats will be available for any day of departure – though not for every flight, and with limited availability.
The cheapest fare includes flights to Dublin from Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds/Bradford, London Gatwick, Newcastle and Plymouth. A flat £100 will get you from Heathrow to any BA destination in Germany, plus some long flights such as Birmingham-Rome and Manchester-Madrid.
The £160 band includes distant destinations such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Kiev, which previously cost much more.
Add-on flights to London from most of BA's domestic destinations cost £65 return.
Where the fares really score is with their flexibility. You can "open-jaw" between any two destinations, for example fly out to Rome and back from Venice for £120. Changing the inbound flight is possible for £40. To make more substantial alterations, you can upgrade to a higher fare level – in other words, you are allowed to put the cost of the ticket towards a more expensive and flexible fare, rather than the usual case of having to throw it away and start again.
Warning of the week: where Tupolevs still fly
Yet another Tupolev 154 jet crashed in Russia this week, killing all 143 people on board. No fewer than 55 of these Soviet-built aircraft have been lost in crashes, but those that survive are still employed on some routes that are likely to be used by holidaymakers.
Aeroflot uses Western-built Airbus and Boeing aircraft on its route from London Heathrow to Moscow, but services to St Petersburg are still operated by a Tupolev 154 – as are connecting flights in that are popular with British budget travellers, for example from Moscow to the Gulf States and the Nepali capital, Kathmandu.
Domestic flights in Cuba are mostly flown with ageing ex-Soviet aircraft. A series of crashes has given the national airline, Cubana, the worst accident record in the world. The Tupolev 154 is used for the prime tourist route from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. The private airline, Inter, which flew Western-built planes around the island, was closed down because of the US economic blockade against Cuba.
On the Belavia route from Gatwick to Minsk, capital of Belarus, the aircraft used is the even older Tupolev 134.
For more details on the Tupolevs, visit aviation-safety.net; for other aircraft types, and individual airlines' safety records, see www.airsafe.com.
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