Something to declare: Shrinking transatlantic choice; Albania; UK hotel bargains
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 22 November 2008
Warning of the week: Shrinking transatlantic choice
This time last year, airlines were bragging about all their new routes across the Atlantic, taking advantage of the "open skies" liberalisation between Europe and the US. This winter, that trend will reverse. Air France had made the boldest move, introducing a direct flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles; it ended last month. On 8 January, Northwest Airlines will end its brief link from Heathrow to Seattle. Passengers with tickets booked will not be offered flights on the competing British Airways service; they will have to choose between alternate flights via Amsterdam or Minneapolis, or a full refund. Two days later, the airline's long-standing Gatwick-Detroit link will be axed. British Airways abandoned its Heathrow-Detroit service earlier this year.
In Manchester, the airport is losing all its transatlantic flights with BMI early next year. The aircraft used on routes to Chicago and Las Vegas will be redeployed between Heathrow and "mid-haul" destinations such as Amman and Cairo.
Destination of the week: Albania
Next Friday is National Day in Europe's strangest state. Albania was the last refuge in Europe of Stalinism, but has now energetically embraced capitalism with reconstruction at a furious rate; if you seek retro-communism, though, some prematurely aged post-war relics continue to function as hotels, equipped with extravagant staircases and inadequate plumbing.
The capital, Tirana (above), is lively, if baffling. In addition, you should visit Durres, a port steeped in history. Under the Romans it marked the start of the Via Egnatia, which stretched across the Balkans to Constantinople. The second-century Roman amphitheatre has gone to seed, and is sinking beneath a tangle of weeds; cattle now graze where gladiators once battled. And the splendid beach is no longer off-limits to Albanians (the communist government wanted to stop them being corrupted by foreign tourists), but is still uncrowded.
Bargain of the week: UK hotels
"The bigger the boom, the bigger the bust: after five years of unbroken revenue growth... the deteriorating economic environment and travel outlook seems likely to mark a change of fortune for UK hotels." So says PricewaterhouseCoopers, which predicts that revenue per available room (Revpar) in London will fall from £94 this year to £83 next year. In other words: travellers can expect big bargains in 2009.
Travelodge, which has 350 UK properties, is responding with an incredibly aggressive campaign. Between February and April next year, you can find rooms on travelodge.co.uk at £9 – which covers up to two adults and two children.
Much of the availability is in less appealing properties, such as Leigh Delamare Services and "Cardiff West" on the M4. But there are some enticing options: the seafront at Brighton, the heart of Aberdeen, and Bath – the city with the most expensive hotels in Britain, according to hotels.com. Note that if you want to stay on Valentine's Night, you should expect to pay many times as much.
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