Something To Declare: France for €5; bag charges; US business class

The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel

Bargain of the week: anywhere in France for €5

Thursday 21 September will be an interesting day for people seeking to book tickets through Rail Europe (08708 304 862; www.raileurope.co.uk).

From 11am on that day, 50,000 tickets will be available at a flat rate of €5 (£3.50) for journeys of any distance within France between 5 October and 9 December.

The aim of the promotion is ostensibly to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the high-speed TGV network, but it is also a good way of filling space at a time of year when few leisure passengers are travelling.

You could travel from Lille to the Mediterranean or from Paris to the Pyrenees for the same price. Tickets are also being sold from the Rail Europe shop in central London, at 178 Piccadilly. It is anticipated that the normal booking fee at this office will be suspended during the promotion.

Up to six passengers can be included on a single booking. The catch is, though, that French travellers are also able to book the same deal simultaneously. The sheer weight of numbers could mean that few British visitors will benefit. Rail Europe - which is part of the French Railways enterprise, SNCF - recommends booking online.

Warning of the week: charges rise for bags

Europe's largest low-cost airline yesterday raised the price for checking in baggage. Ryanair now charges £3.50 for a bag weighing up to 20kg if you pay at the time of booking your flight, or £7 if you pay at the airport.

These are per bag, per flight, so a family of four each with one case to check in for a return flight would pay £28 extra if they book the bags in advance, or £56 at the airport. These charges apply regardless of the crackdown on cabin baggage triggered by the recent terrorist alert: at present only one small bag is allowed for each passenger leaving the UK.

"This won't be the last increase by any means," said Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary. "We're going to keep increasing the charges for hold luggage until we persuade 90 or 95 per cent of passengers on one-hour flights to travel with one bag only." From 1 November, Ryanair will reduce its maximum allowance for checked-in baggage by 5kg to 15kg.

Flybe, which started the policy of charging for hold luggage in February, has kept its charge fixed at £2.50 in advance, £5 at the airport; it also allows bags up to a maximum of 25kg.

Simon Calder

Destination of the week: the US, in business class

Competition among business-class-only airlines is getting tougher. As well as Eos and MAXjet, which nine months ago began flying from Stansted to New York JFK, a new all-business-class transatlantic airline is planning flights to start soon from Luton to New York - possibly by December.

The average fare is promised to be £999 each way, higher than MAXjet's fares but less than Eos's. Silverjet will have a 30-minute check-in and flat beds for every passenger, something that MAXjet lacks but Eos has. "It's a good time to launch," said Mike Powell, airline analyst for Dresdner Kleinwort. "Whether they're there in two or three years' time, we'll see. It's beginning to look like quite a crowded space and if you ask me in the long-term if they will all survive I would say no."

In addition to its existing network serving New York and Washington DC, MAXjet has announced a new route from Stansted to Las Vegas. From 2 November it will fly twice a week to Nevada's largest city, for fares starting at £999 return.

Matthew Fitch

Comments