Something To Declare: Tarmac time; safe in the fells; Denmark to Dunkirk; Polish beaches

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The Independent Travel

Warning of the week: Tarmac time

Regular flyers will be accustomed to the frustration of being stuck on a stationary aeroplane waiting for it to move. In the US, the concept is known as "Tarmac time" – the period that an aircraft spends on the apron before take-off or after landing.

An extreme case afflicted Ryanair passengers last month on board a flight from Prestwick to Girona: a six-hour delay, caused by a French air-traffic controllers' strike. Passengers were instructed to remain on the plane while the pilot awaited authorisation to take off, during which time the food and drink facilities on-board remained closed. Eventually police came on board with supplies of water and chocolate.

In the US, Department of Transportation (DOT) rules give passengers the right to disembark after three hours; airlines face heavy fines if these times are exceeded.

The DOT also publishes a league table of Tarmac time for leading US airlines, based on the number of waits of one hour or more.

Best-performing is Hawaiian, perhaps unsurprisingly given the relatively benign weather and quiet airports of the Pacific island state; in the past year only two flights (out of more than 27,000) have exceeded an hour of Tarmac time.

Next best: Alaskan, an impressive performance given the climate in its home state and the fact that it serves busy Californian airports.

At the other end of the table, American Airlines is third worst, with one flight in 122 delayed on the ground for more than 60 minutes. The world's biggest airline, Delta, is even worse, with one flight in 82 having a Tarmac time of an hour or more.

Worst of all is JetBlue, whose main base is at the delay-prone JFK in New York. About one JetBlue flight in 70 spends an hour or more on the ground.

Tip of the week: Safe in the fells

The walking guide publisher Cicerone has sponsored a new mountain rescue leaflet aimed at hill walkers in the Lake District. Some of the advice ("Charge your phone", "Eat well before you start out") may seem obvious, but an alarming number of people fail to take simple precautions: "Footwear should have a treaded sole, and provide support for ankles. Clothing should be warm, windproof and waterproof – layers work best. Even in summer, always carry spare clothes, including hat and gloves. Take ample food and drink; high-energy foods such as chocolate and dried fruit are ideal. Always carry water – even in cool weather it's easy to become dehydrated." You can download the leaflet at www.bit.ly/aL8zgr

Bargain of the week: Denmark to Dunkirk

The takeover of Norfolkline's ferry routes by DFDS Seaways (0871 882 0885; dfds.co.uk ) has been completed, opening a couple of cut-price "open-jaw" ferry options combining the two operators' services.

If you book online at dfds.co.uk/celebration , DFDS says two people plus a car can sail outbound from Harwich to Esbjerg (below) and return from Dunkirk to Dover for £261 for a car plus two people; this allows an exploration of Denmark's beaches, the fascinating German cities of Hamburg and Bremen, plus rural Holland and Flanders.

Alternatively, you can combine the Dover-Dunkirk and Amsterdam-Newcastle crossings for £158 for a car plus two people and focus on the beaches and cities of Holland and Belgium.

Destination of the week: Polish beaches

The undisputed European budget beach location for August is Poland, with plenty of cheap flights plus low prices for accommodation, meals and transport along the hundreds of miles of Baltic coastline. Top destination is the fascinating city of Gdansk, which has a big, lively beach resort attached in the shape of Sopot – about 15 minutes away by suburban train.

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