Something to declare: Spanish practices; Reykjavik; Jersey; safety in the Maldives


Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Warning of the week: Spanish practices

Iberia is losing millions of euros on its short- and medium-haul routes from Madrid. To stem the losses, the Spanish national airline is moving unprofitable services to a new, lower-cost carrier, Iberia Express.

However, Sepla, Spain's airline pilots' union, says this move breaks labour agreements. A sequence of strikes begins on Friday and will cover 10 weeks. Flight crew will stop work roughly every three days until 28 May.

The action is shrewdly calculated to disrupt travel to, from or within Spain over Holy Week, Easter and right through the first month of the main summer season. On a typical return trip, at least one leg is likely to be hit, especially those involving Madrid connections.

The airline, whose ultimate boss is the combative Willie Walsh, calls the move "an intolerable challenge to the company and to Spanish society" and urges pilots to "negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement".

With the sides so entrenched, there seems little prospect of a deal soon. So, take care if you are booking flights to Madrid from Heathrow. British Airways "code-shares" with Iberia, applying a BA code to flights operated by the Spanish airline. At present these are easy to spot because of the number: the first Iberia flight out is BA7053 and leaves from Terminal 3. But from 25 March, it becomes BA510 and will depart from Terminal 5. (Or, depending on the effectiveness of the pilots' strike, won't depart.)

Destination of the week: Reykjavik

Competition for trips to Iceland's capital is about to intensify. At present Icelandair flies from Glasgow, Heathrow and Manchester with Iceland Express from Gatwick and Edinburgh. But, on 27 March, easyJet starts flights from Luton, and on 1 June a new airline – Wow – begins services from Stansted. Expect good deals as the airlines slug it out to a country that has only as many inhabitants as the city of Sheffield.

Bargain of the week: Jersey

May is an excellent month to visit the largest Channel Island. With British Airways Holidays (0844 493 0758; jersey), flights from Gatwick to Jersey and back, with two nights in the Metropole Hotel included, costs £298 for two. Breakfast is included, but transfers are not.

Availability is good throughout May, but you must book by close of business next Tuesday, 13 March.

Tip of the week: Safety in the Maldives

Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is now deemed to be safe by the Foreign Office. Earlier this year, following violent clashes between government and opposition supporters, the city was placed off limits.

This week the official travel advice was softened, and British visitors are now free to explore – though the Foreign Office says "You should exercise caution, avoid large gatherings and beware of spontaneous demonstrations."

The US State Department has also updated its advice, saying "Protests are generally confined to Malé, during the evenings, but have been known to take place on other islands. There have not been any demonstrations on the resort islands."