Buy a seat-only deal on a charter flight, and you may get more than just a ticket. Often the tour operator will issue an accommodation voucher, to maintain the fiction that you are being sold an inclusive holiday rather than simply a cheap flight. You are not expected to take up the offer. On a Thomson charter to Athens, I arrived at the allocated hotel and asked to be shown to my room. Instead, I was shown two things: first, the notice threatening heavy "service charges"; second, the door.
It appears I was lucky to be given accommodation in the correct country, let alone the right city. Richard Madge of Bexhill writes with an inside story. He used to work in telephone sales for a tour operator whose policy was to discourage uptake completely. To this end, he was told to supply accommodation "at a campsite 400 miles away across the Slovakian border in the Tatra mountains." Anyone who persisted was warned of "unspecified charges for linen, washing facilities, etc." Mr Madge never heard any complaints from returned customers, and supposes they are still stuck halfway up a central European mountain. The practice, as far as he is aware, continues.
This week TWA joined the ranks of smoke-free airlines between Britain and the United States. Robert Breckman of London writes to suggest that no-children flights are the obvious next step. "Having been subjected to a cacophony of screaming babies on two recent flights, it is surely intolerable that the majority should be held at the vocal mercy of the minority. Parents seem incapable of controlling their infants and blatantly refuse to take any action against the noise."
Mr Breckman accepts that his view may not be universally popular, but says he would be prepared to pay a premium to travel in peace.
Holiday bargains, as Jeremy Skidmore says overleaf, may be in shorter supply this summer than last. But reassurance that Britain's travel industry offers the best value in Europe arrives from Prague. An entrepreneur has combined the cheap coach trip between the Czech capital and London with a standard First Choice package to the Gambia. So if all the sun-beds at your resort have already been reserved by Kafka novels, you'll know why.
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