Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield stops to smell the roses in his latest weekly round up of travel news
Considering I’ve just done the longest flight in the world, the lead-up to flying the three hours from Perth to Adelaide on Tuesday was very confusing. Thought I’d booked with and paid Virgin Australia, I received an email telling me that the flight would, in fact, be with Alliance Airlines. The message from Virgin said: “Key aspects of your travel experience remain unchanged.”
+ Except it would be a Fokker not a Boeing 737-700.
+ And “onboard catering will include complimentary coffee, tea, and water. Additional food and beverages will not be available for purchase.”
So I asked the Virgin media team why there was a change, and they said there wasn’t — it would still be a Virgin flight. And then, as a paying passenger, I received another email re-stating that it would be an Alliance flight. When I turned up at the airport, it was indeed a Virgin flight, complete with Valentine’s Day chocolates and food to buy on the plane. None of it really matters that much, of course — except that two things I’d like an airline to be really good at are procedures and communications.
MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved the Virgin-Alliance partnership in April 2021, with Virgin Australia saying it would cover 40 regional routes across Australia. The idea is that Virgin and Alliance work together to get affordable air travel going to smaller communities.
Buying an airline ticket is still a funny old business. Seeing as there are a precise number of seats on an aircraft, and the airline knows precisely how many seats they have to sell, what other industry could get away with this:
“Airline flights may be overbooked, and there is a slight chance that a seat will not be available on a flight for which a person has a confirmed reservation. If the flight is overbooked, no one will be denied a seat until airline personnel first ask for volunteers willing to give up their reservation in exchange for a payment of the airline’s choosing. If there are not enough volunteers the airline will deny boarding to other persons in accordance with its particular boarding priority rules.” — Virgin Australia terms and conditions.
Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris has reopened. And if there is one place that premium travellers can use a lounge, this is it. The 1000sqm lounge has two dining areas — The Brasserie and The Global Deli — and can hold more than 200 passengers. Qatar has 18 weekly flights to Paris from Hamad International Airport in Doha, which often less than its 11 hours, 30 minutes flying time from Perth. (And I think Hamad is my favourite airport in the world, because so much attention was paid to the acoustics and reducing cacophony. Which is always a good thing.)
Artbox makes its grand return after three years between February 24 to 26 and March 3 to 5. Situated at Singapore Expo Hall, attendees can look forward to more than 300 food, fashion and lifestyle global and local brands all in one place. Find out more about Artbox 2023 at feverup.com.
KING FOR A DAY
In Vietnam, Ambassador Cruise has launched a five-star ship for day cruises in Halong Bay, with restaurants and bars, an outdoor jacuzzi and a glass bridge that juts from the vessel’s bow to give great views. The Ambassador Day Cruise II started on February 10. The ship has 574sqm of sundecks across two floors, giving 360-degree views of Halong Bay’s limestone karsts. It has an elevator for the elderly and people with disabilities. Until now, Halong has been all about overnight, but the new cruise, for up to 500 passengers, is from 9.45am to 4.30pm and visits Sung Sot Cave, Ho Dong Tien Cave, Trong Cave, Me Cung Cave and Cua Van Floating Village. The day is priced from about $A160 per persons. ambassadorcruise.com
+ At first sight, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s prediction of this year’s biggest travel destination in the US might appear a little odd. And the winner is… Orlando! It is expected to take around $A45 billion — $A3.9 billion more than before the pandemic. The WTTC’s Cities Economic Impact Report analysed key metrics and put Las Vegas second in the US.
+ Ah, but back to my original point — and it is not odd to have Orlando, Florida on top, as it is home to more than a dozen theme parks including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
+ The report also shows that northern Africa has bounced back, with Cairo, Marrakech and Tunis visitor spending at pre-pandemic levels.
WORKING 9 TO 5
Country singer Dolly Parton rose from rags to riches but never forgot her roots, or what it takes to get on. And she is still living that philosophy through her theme park Dollywood — where she has struck on an innovative idea to encourage and reward the 11,000 staff (both full and part-time and seasonal). She has told them she will pay all tuition fees, and cover the learning materials, for anyone who would like to continue to higher education. She is not asking them to take hospitality classes or attain a hospitality degree — just continue with education and learn. There might be a labour shortage across the travel and hospitality industries, and this might be a way to make them feel valued, but what an inspirational and long-lasting way to do it.