Warning of the week: Flight delays
Ten top European airlines have very different punctuality rates, according to the 2009 figures published by FlightStats.com , a US aviation monitoring agency. The industry standard of a delayed flight is one that arrives more than 15 minutes late. A fair measure of timekeeping is to look at the percentage of flights that are delayed by this measure. The lower the figure, the better the performance.
Of Britain's leading airlines, easyJet performed worst, with a score of 26. British Airways rated 21; Flybe and BMI scored only 17 per cent – as did BMI's parent, Lufthansa. At the top of the punctuality list, KLM rated 11.5 per cent (though its owner, Air France, scored 19 per cent). SAS was the most punctual major airline in the survey, with only 11 per cent of flights arriving late.
Crucially, Europe's biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair, was not included. "Ryanair is actively working with FlightStats to ensure that the most accurate flight data is used to inform these quantitative reports," say the researchers. Ryanair is one of the most punctual airlines – but its main base, Stansted, is second-worst among major European airports for punctuality. One in three flights (33 per cent) at the Essex airport arrived late. Only Istanbul (39) performed worse. Heathrow (25) and Gatwick (29) were also in the bottom half of the airport top 12, but Manchester (21) made the top half. Amsterdam performed best: only 13 per cent of flights arrived more than 15 minutes late.
Bargain of the week: Malaysia in comfort
The longest haul from Stansted is to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, with a journey time of 12 hours (and even longer coming back because of the jet stream). Air Asia X, which celebrates the first anniversary of its London route this month, has a premium cabin as good as business-class on many mid-range airlines. The return fare for a range of dates is a fairly constant £1,091 return. The airline ( AirAsia.com ) steps up its daily flights to nine a week from July to September, and in December, January and early February.
Destination of the week: Iberia, by train
The train from Irun on the Franco-Spanish border to Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, is known jointly as the Surex and the Sud Expresso. It used to be anything but an express; the journey across the north of Spain and along the Tagus Valley could take up to 24 hours, with passengers incarcerated in the clapped-out rolling stock.
But from this month, according to the new edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, the overnight service has been upgraded to a Trenhotel. This creates the option for a comfortable trip from London St Pancras via Lille or Paris to Irun by high-speed train, connecting to the Trenhotel; renfe.es for more details.
Tip of the week: On board, in touch to Holland
Free Wi-Fi is now available on board Stena Line (08447 70 70 70; stenaline.co.uk ) ferries between Harwich and Hook of Holland. You need to pick up an "access card" from the information desk on board. Mobile telephone coverage is also available for the entire crossing, but because charges can be high it would be much better to make low-cost calls through an internet phone service such as Skype.