Something To Declare: Gridlock at US gateway; avoiding Milan; bargain business class; head for Fez
Saturday 06 February 2010
Warning of the week: Gridlock at US gateway?
More British travellers to North America arrive at New York JFK than anywhere else. It is already one of the most congested airports in the US; only La Guardia and Newark, New York's other two airports, score worse in a FlightStats.com survey. But JFK will be more sclerotic between March and June. The airport has four runways, but the longest and busiest one is to close for repairs on 1 March for four months: the "Bay" runway (13R-31L) is normally used for about half the departures.
The Federal Aviation Administration has asked the three biggest airlines at JFK to cut back flights to minimise disruption, mainly by refraining from the usual increase in services for the summer season. The world's biggest airline, Delta, is predicting 10 per cent fewer flights than in the same time-span last year.
JFK's largest carrier, jetBlue, expects some delays. Its spokeswoman, Alison Croyle, said "We prefer a four-month closure over the alternative: part-time work that extends for more than a year".
American Airlines is also trimming back flights. But British Airways, the only European airline with its own terminal at JFK, does not plan to alter its schedules to and from London.
BA's subsidiary, OpenSkies, last month abandoned JFK and is now operating only into New York's Newark airport from its one remaining European airport, Paris Orly.
Tip of the week: Avoid Milan this month
England's two top football teams are in Champions League action in Milan this month. Manchester United are playing AC Milan on 16 February, and Chelsea play Inter on 24 February. Air fares will rise steeply and accommodation will be in short supply. Fans could also be targeted by villains. "Be alert to theft in Milan's Malpensa airport, particularly at car rental agencies," warns the US State Department. "Clients of internet cafes in major cities are also targeted." It adds: "Tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken arms and collar bones."
Destination of the week: Head for Fez from 4 May
Fez, the birthplace of Imperial Morocco, is the most complete medieval city in the nation. The tangle of lanes in the Medina, unchanged for centuries, is complemented by the fascinating French quarter, the Ville Nouvelle.
From 4 May, Fez will once again be the most exotic destination accessible withing three hours' flying time from Stansted. Ryanair abandoned the link when Air Passenger Duty on the route was increased to £40. The tax has now fallen to £11, and the route has been restored. See independent.co.uk/fez for our 48 Hours film.
Bargain of the week: Business class, two by two
Marriage, or at least travelling with a partner, is back in fashion. As airlines try to fill their expensive and empty-looking business-class cabins, they are seeking to entice holidaymakers to trade up.
The trick is to impose conditions stringent enough to prevent existing business travellers taking advantage of them. The "companion fare" is one answer: tickets sold only to pairs of travellers who complete the whole itinerary together. Thai Airways (0870 606 0911; thaiairways.co.uk) is a leading practitioner, with business-class seats from Heathrow via Bangkok to any destination in Thailand (including Phuket and Krabi) for a flat £1,474 return.
First class is available at £2,293 return. You must book by the end of March and travel before the end of June. Note that if one partner is subsequently unable to begin (or end) the itinerary, a much higher fare is payable.
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