Celebrating the very best in air travel, a mercy flight to rescue an elephant, plus kicking off Humpback Whale season, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield takes a look at another week in travel
We celebrated independence on the fourth of July by sending out an email to members of West Travel Club to launch our own Festival of Travel. It’s our idea, our way of doing things, cooked up and presented by us on August 19. We’ll be taking the feel that we have in our weekly supplement and going live with it. I hope you’ll join us.
We’ve had a bit of a tricky week — but nothing compared with the Americans trying to travel for the fourth of July holidays in the US. With more than 100 million Americans under extreme weather warnings, more than 3000 flights were delayed or cancelled. United Airlines alone had more than 300 flights affected on Monday. Nightmare.
THE LYON’S SHARE
I’m very pleased to see Qatar Airways has landed its inaugural flight in the French city of Lyon. It has four flights a week from Doha, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It’s a good place to arrive, particularly for some joining French river cruises. In the Rhone region, it is on the doorstep of Burgundy, and about two hours from Paris by train. I like it as a hub. The flights, in a Boeing 787-8, are part of Qatar Airways’ commitment to increase its global network of more than 160 destinations.
Qatar Airways has just won World’s Best Business Class for the 10th time in the Skytrax 2023 awards. It also won World’s Best Business Class Lounge, World’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining and Best Airline in the Middle East. Congratulations to them. I’ll be passing through the airport in Doha on Friday, on the way to Oslo, in Norway.
After five years of planning its expansion, it looks like the team at London’s Gatwick Airport will submit an application for its second runway soon, with work on the expansion expected to start in 2025. It is the second busiest airport in England and reached its capacity before the pandemic. The team says the airport’s northern runway, which is used only for emergencies, could become its regular runway by adding 12m to meet the standard. It would then be used for smaller departing aircraft. The team says this approach which maximises the use of existing infrastructure could add up to 15 additional aircraft an hour. Gatwick is aiming to cater for 75 million passengers a year by 2038.
And a big happy birthday to terminal two at Munich Airport, which is 20 this year. It is worth a mention because the terminal was planned and financed by Munich Airport and Lufthansa. At the time (in 2003, obviously), a partnership between an airport and airline was unprecedented, though it is common now. Over those 20 years, terminal two has been used by about 475 million people, on more than five million flights.
MIX AND MATCH
Air Inuit is buying three Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 aircraft, and they are rather interesting. This airline flies in Nunavik, a huge territory in the northern part of Quebec, Canada, and in both the Arctic and subarctic climate zones. And it customises its aircraft with an innovative passenger and freight configuration. “The addition of these aircraft to our fleet enhances our capacity to efficiently transport passengers and deliver essential cargo to the communities we serve,” says Christian Busch, president and chief executive of Air Inuit. “Acquiring these modern aircraft also supports our airline’s goal of reducing carbon emissions and doing our part in the fight against climate change.” The Boeing 737-200s will cut fuel emissions by nearly 40 per cent, compared with the current aircraft being used.
MUTHU HEADS HOME
Muthu Raja’s flight from Sri Lanka to Thailand cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But then, Muthu is a 29-year-old elephant. After more than two decades abroad, and living in a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, it was found the elephant had suffered neglect and torture. He was rescued following a campaign by the Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE) group and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena apologised to Thailand for Muthu’s condition.
The 2023 Humpback Whale season has started in Australia’s Coral Coast, with the first encounters on boat tours from Coral Bay last weekend. Tours run until October from Coral Bay and from August 1 to October from Exmouth. It is estimated that 40,000 humpback whales migrate annually along WA’s coastline and the Ningaloo Reef is the only place in WA where people can swim with them. Up to seven people at a time are allowed in the water.
ECLIPSED BY MOON
Forget 62 seconds of solar eclipse in Exmouth (what was all that about?) — I’ll settle for a super moon any time. This week’s has been beaming around the world, with the moon appearing brighter as it was closer than usual in its orbit around the Earth. Its orbit is not a perfect circle, but oval, because of the earth’s gravitational pull.
A July full moon is known as a Buck Moon — a Native American name given because the antlers of male deer are in full growth.
HOSTIE WITH MOSTIE
Gloria Feanich read with interest my recent story on the weight restrictions imposed on cabin crew flying with the Chinese airline Hainan. In her own words, Gloria says: “In the late 1960s and 70s I was a hostie with Ansett Airlines, based in Melbourne. Weight-height policy was the same — rules and regulations — gloves, nail polish, eye shadow, hairstyles, minimum jewellery, uniforms measured, weight recorded every month.
“Ansett had a change of uniforms and my weight had slightly gone over limit. I was not entitled to be outfitted with the new one until I was the required weight. It did not bother me and I loved the green. Once married your position was terminated. How times have changed.
“We felt privileged to fly and did enjoy the company, fun and good times.”
THINGS TO TREASURE
Tina Spadaccini says she enjoyed reading Steve McKenna’s story about the tiny, quaint 1885 Victorian restaurant on Platform 4 of the railway station at Stalybridge in the Midlands in England (it is now online at thewest.com.au/travel). Tina says: “Amongst several intriguing images included in the feature was a snapshot of a cosy sitting area, reflecting the quintessentially elaborate, yet elegant, decor of this interesting era. It was mentioned in the article that these original Victorian-era station bars are dwindling in England, and I hope those remaining will be highly valued and preserved, for Britons and overseas travellers, alike.”