The Column that Gives the Global Picture

Destination of the week: Australia in comfort

Who gives economy passengers the most legroom on the long haul Down Under? The specialist discount agent, Austravel, says the most generous carriers are Air China, Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and Thai Airways. Each has a 34in seat-pitch (the distance from the front of one seat to the front of the one behind). Most other leading airlines offer 32in, except British Airways with a seat-pitch of 31in.

According to Austravel's annual customer survey, the best cabin crew and in-flight entertainment are on Singapore, the best catering on Emirates, and the overall value-for-money award goes to Japan Airlines. One reason could be that the carrier gives UK-bound passengers a free night in a Narita airport hotel on the way home, because the schedules demand an overnight stay.

Austravel's Fare Guide (available free by calling 0870 166 2100, or visiting also recommends transit lounge options: Hong Kong airport offers a four-hour city tour for £11; £14 buys six hours in a Kuala Lumpur airport hotel; and a Thai massage at Gate 15 of Bangkok airport is yours for only £10.

For smokers, Egyptair is one of the very few remaining options, along with Garuda of Indonesia – which suffered yet another fatal accident last week.

Bargain of the week: new cheap flights from Gatwick

Within a few months, easyJet has become the second-largest airline – after British Airways – operating from Gatwick airport. On many flights, its one-way fares are lower than those on traditional airlines. From next month, existing easyJet services – Amsterdam, Geneva and Nice – are being joined by five new links. Barcelona begins next Friday; Edinburgh on 12 February; and Zurich the following day. The airline marks St Valentine's Day, and its chairman's 35th birthday, with new routes to Palma and Malaga. Book at or, with a surcharge, on 0870 6000 000.

Warning of the week: medical treatment in France

The Foreign Office warns: "Many doctors in France are currently carrying out industrial action. Patients may not be able to receive emergency treatment from a GP after normal surgery hours and at weekends. It is also possible that the strike will have an impact on emergency services at hospitals, resulting in longer waiting times."