web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, March 27, 2008

EU air passenger rights

For those affected by disruptions to air travel in the European Union, here some information on your air passenger rights by European Commission Regulation 261/2004.

4 page leaflet summarising.

Link to full legislation wording.

Poor start to Heathrow T5 opening

The opening day at London Heathrow terminal T5 turned out rather worse than British Airways hoped. Check out the live reports throughout the day from Flyer Talkers.

It seems a relatively minor baggage problem snowballed into dozens of flights being cancelled, and suspension of checked baggage for all departures. Further flights on day 2 have already been cancelled. As Cranky Flier suggests, if you have to fly from T5 in the next few days try to do so with carry-on luggage only.

Good luck to all those caught out by the mess.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Heathrow T5 finger-printing plan halted

Finally, many months after BAA (owner of London Heathrow airport) announced that domestic passengers at the brand new T5 terminal would need to be fingerprinted, someone in authority is questioning the plan with concerns over privacy. (Source BBC) While it is disappointing that it has taken the Information Commissioner's Office until now to respond to concerns raised nearly a year ago (the fingerprint requirements were made public by last July), at least they are now appearing to act just in the nick of time. Yes, T5 opens in about 12 hours time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

UK flying tips

The Cranky Flier has beaten me to it again. While I've been hunting for a comprehensive schedule for airlines changing terminals at London Heathrow in the Great LHR Terminal Shuffle, he's posted the LHR changes information that is to hand - here. These are incomplete and, I think, optimistic in some cases. Personally I expect there will be delays to the dates published (indeed many are later than originally announced). But getting hard info is difficult as BAA (the airport operator of Heathrow and several other UK major airports) and airlines alike seem reluctant to publicise dates that may not eventuate. For now I'll assume my upcoming trips will continue to arrive at and depart from the same terminals those airlines currently use. If a reliable schedule becomes available I'll be sure to provide an update. In the meantime the old advice is the best - to check with the airline you are flying a few days before departure to ensure you arrive at the right terminal.

Given the complexity of the move - different dates for different airlines, even different flights within the same airline, I expect there will be some teething issues as travellers and staff alike get used to the changes. So, on my trips through Heathrow I'll be checking out StreamThru, a free sms departure information service for UK airports which a friend has let me know about. Normal charges may apply if you are visiting UK with a mobile on a roaming plan.

When online I can also keep up to date using (quick links and live view of current delays in my earlier blog entry).

As for T5, British Airways new terminal opening in a couple of weeks? Until BA resolves an outstanding issue from last year I don't expect to be flying them unless I can avoid it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Too many short hops, not enough long trips

The past month or so have been lots of short trips with no long (or longhaul) ones. I'm hanging out for the next big trip, which is still a month away. Never mind that I have some short (and a couple not so short) trips before then.

My big trip is at that annoying time of the year when a lot of airline schedules change. So far only 4 flights are affected. That is good. The bad bit is I've had to drop one destination as it is no longer possible to fit it in, no matter how I tried to reroute. So I've swapped for another destination nearby - a handful less miles, but the bigger blow is I miss meeting a fellow traveller.

To cheer myself up I've tacked on a side trip to an interesting locale - somewhere I didn't think I'd visit for several years at least.

My itinerary is rather crazy and I'm now experiencing pangs of doubt that it will all come together, especially as some places have infrequent flights (as in daily or less often to any other airport, not just a specific route) and others have all their flights at the same time of day so a hold-up will delay me a day. Hopefully it will all work out. I think I need to do more research on back-up plans.

Still it is always exciting travelling somewhere new, and, like most of my big trips, this time I get to several new places. Yay.

Live flight data

Although I regularly use flightstats, I confess it hadn't occurred to me to check the site for widgets. A post by mj speaks on travel alerted me to it.

Here is a selection of some useful ones.

Flight information is provided by FlightStats, and is subject to the FlightStats Terms of Use.
North America Airport Delays

Flight information is provided by FlightStats, and is subject to the FlightStats Terms of Use.
Europe Airport Delays

Flight information is provided by FlightStats, and is subject to the FlightStats Terms of Use.
Oceania Airport Delays

Flight information is provided by FlightStats, and is subject to the FlightStats Terms of Use.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Update on Hilton HHonors No Blackouts

In the couple of weeks since I previously blogged about Hilton HHonors No Blackout Dates award issues (see here and here), discussion on Flyer Talk has uncovered yet more problems.

So far the following exceptions have been identified, none of which made it into Hilton's No Blackout policy announcement (not even as fineprint).

  1. Exempted hotels - eg Conrad Maldives
  2. Exceptional demand dates
  3. Hotels that are new to the Hilton family chains - exempt for 90 days
  4. Hotels can require a large deposit that is non-refundable if you cancel the award

There is a further out, which is written into the policy, if no "Standard" rooms are available for purchase the No Blackout policy does not apply. Some hotels have no standard rooms.

For those too lazy to click on the policy announcement above, here is what Hilton HHonors says about the No Blackout policy.

No Blackout Dates

The Hilton Family of Hotels has announced No Blackout Dates for all members
of its HHonors guest reward program effective February 1. As long as a standard
room is available, members will be able to confirm that room using their HHonors
points at more than 2,900 Hilton Family hotels worldwide.

"Our goal is always to make traveling easier for our guests, and No
Blackout Dates is a significant way to offer our loyal members more flexibility
to use their points on their schedule," said Adam Burke, senior vice president
of customer loyalty for Hilton Hotels Corporation. "Members have always
considered Points & Miles a highly valuable benefit that distinguishes us
from the competition, and combining this unique offering with No Blackout Dates
reinforces HHonors as the world's most rewarding and flexible hotel loyalty

Unlike some other hotel programs:
  • HHonors program has no capacity controls. All standard rooms are available
    for rewards, not just a limited number each night.
  • HHonors does not require additional points to avoid blackout dates. Some
    hotel programs black out reward rooms and require their customers to redeem
    significantly more points to bypass those blackouts.
  • With HHonors, there are no exceptions. Every Hilton Family hotel worldwide
    offers No Blackout Dates. Some competitive programs exclude selected properties.

Hilton HHonors remains the only hotel loyalty program that offers guests the
ability to earn both Points & Miles® for the same stay at more than 2,900
hotels worldwide. Other global programs require members to choose between hotel
points OR airline miles, while HHonors members enjoy the benefits of both
currencies. Members also enjoy multiple ways to earn Points & Miles,
offering more flexibility and a faster way to earn HHonors rewards.

Hmmm. 2 of the 3 bullet points appear not to be met in some cases. As for extra points to avoid a blackout, Hilton goes one step further and requires a large cash advance which is refundable only on checking out.