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Long-time Jaunted readers will remember how the winter of 2009-2010 more or less shut down air travel across Britain. Then-28 year old British resident Paul Chambers, who had a ticket to fly out of Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport to Ireland and found the airport shuttered, tweeted "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" Dumb and not really funny, but clearly a joke.
And then, in a Kafkaesque move that ended up becoming a national punchline, Chambers was arrested under the UK's far-reaching Terrorism Act. He was convicted, he appealed, he had his appeal denied, he appealed again, and he had his appeal denied again. A country that prides itself on wry humor ruined a guy's life because judges literally didn't get a joke. At the time of the arrest we commented that Britain's counter-terror officials manifestly "don't know what Twitter is" and are "so untrained [that they can't] identify genuine threats" broadcast over social media.
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There are times when we think of QR codes the same way we think of particularly stupid social media projects. Which is to say, not highly. This isn't just a standup punchline any more. There really are tourist attractions, museums especially, that plaster QR codes inside subway and metro cars. What species of idiocy is that?
Other times we can't help but smile a little at the sheer earnestness of towns trying to attract tourists with shiny things. The Welsh town of Monmouth, for instance, is according to Wikipedia not only thousands of years old but has also "been established as a tourist centre for some 200 years." So you can already tell they're innovators.
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There's something jarring about partaking in the miracle of heavier-than-air flight, of literally dining in a chair in the sky as you fly across an ocean, and then - upon arriving at your destination in mere hours - having to stand in some horrible airport's interminable passport control line. Really? We can build commercial jets that break the sound barrier but we can't figure out how to efficiently stamp people's passports?
Here's a list of three of the worst wait time offenders. We're hoping that - all other options having been exhausted - maybe sustained public shaming will get through to them. Two are in so-called Alpha++ and Alpha+ global cities, so you'd think they'd try something now and again, and one is in West Africa, because we just can't get over how bad it is.
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Some peoplecontemporary economists, most historians, journalists on every inhabited continent, academic and professional political scientists, not a few government officials, etchave taken to suggesting that Britain is facing inexorable decline. Having once ruled the high seas and controlled an empire upon which the sun never set, the Brits have seemingly shifted their focus from having a navy to obsessing over "Jersey Shore" knockoffs.
Quite the opposite, says the tourism board officials at VisitBritain. Not only is 2012 going to be the best year ever, but the United Kingdom itself is simply great! To show you just how great the United Kingdom is, and also to "deliver long-term economic benefits from the unprecedented level of interest generated by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games," they've launched a tourism campaign called GREAT.
Big Ash Problems / Volcanoes / Iceland Travel / Grimsvotn / Delays / Travel News / Weather / Britain / Britain Travel / → All Tags
When the volcano started erupting on Rapture Day, experts at EuroControl, the European air safety organization, predicted literally zero impact on European airspace. Greenland had to cancel flights and Iceland's Keflavik airport was closed over the weekend, but the rest of Europe was supposed to escape a repeat of the Big Ash problems from last year's Eyjafjallajokull eruption.
Scientists pointed out that winds were blowing north rather than south, that the ash was large and coarse rather than fine and pointed (it matters for jet engines), and that the clouds were so heavy that the ash would fall to the ground. Gunnar Gudmundsson, of Iceland's Meteorological Office, insisted that the eruption would not "shut down airports abroad." Not so much, it turns out.
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The timing of the royal wedding, coming as close as it does to Easter, means that Brits are in for an unprecedented four bank holidays in close succession. Many have made vacation plans to go to Europe mainland or further, and the country is ramping up to shake off winter with a wave of travel. So naturally British Airways workers have decided that now is the perfect time to organize an airline strike, because that's what they do.
Though we kind of hate them, we really have to admire how Ryanair is approaching the potential strike. The Irish airline sent 18 red roses to union bosses, and announced that "Ryanair is starting to really warm to the UNITE union, who continue to cause uncertainty for BA holidaymakers at peak times of the year and now, with their fourth set of strikes in less than 18 months, they will encourage even more BA passengers to switch to Ryanair’s low fare." That sounds about right.
After the jump, what you need to know about how the strike will affect you.
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There's an old joke about Old English Sheepdogs, an endlessly affectionate but hopelessly stupid breed, which says that the reason they're like that is because they were bred to communicate with sheep. The closer they were to thinking like sheep, the joke goes, the better they would be at interacting with the animals. We're beginning to think that something similar might be going on with UK airport security officials, who we mocked last Friday for being incredibly stupid. Turns out, that might be more of a feature than a bug.
Apparently the people walking through British airports are having problems remembering that country's equivalent of our 3-1-1 law. They're going through lines with their drinks and their makeup, grinding things to a halt. British authorities have tried posting signs, they've tried hanging up posters, and they've even tried putting people inside giant deodorant cans and having them walk around. Nothing works. So now Manchester airport officials have resorted to trying to get people's attention by showing them something shiny. It's the security equivalent of moving a reflection around the carpet so your stupid kitten will chase it.
Snowpocalypse 2010 / Winter Travel / New York Travel / New York / JFK / LHR / Britain Travel / Britain / Airline Industry / Airports / → All Tags
If you're looking for further verification of our "wow, the Brits are kind of whiny about air travel aren't they" thesis from last week, you need search no further than the Twitter feed of the Economist's New York bureau chief Matthew Bishop. The largest city in the United States was functionally shut down to air travel for a day and what's the biggest new media travel story about JFK? How much Bishop complained when he got stuck on the tarmac for seven hours.
And while that would drive us insane too, you'd think that there would have been at least one prominent New Yorker who complained more than a random British guy, or someone from that Cathay Pacific flight that was stuck on the tarmac for ten hours. Apparently not.
More evidence: in order to placate the (barely) metaphorical mobs of pitchfork wielding Londoners, the British government is coming down hard on Heathrow and other airports. UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is threatening massive fines forand we're going to quote the Daily Mail directly, the better to give you a sense of the British mood"inflicting misery on passengers."
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American travelers delayed for two days in the Midwest will be feeling lucky that they're not in Europe. Half the continentand pretty much all of Britainis frozen over, with many travelers expected to not get home until after Christmas. Travel reports are being brought to you by the letters H and O, the number 2, and the words "chaos," "misery" and "havoc."
But beneath all the articles about the weather itself, there's this other theme developing, where travelers are endlessly griping at British airport authorities over the weather. The Associated Press ran the headline "Anger rises as travel havoc snarls Britain, Europe," and relayed quotes from snarky politicians about how airports should have shovels or something.
It is thought that there are over 200 indigenous terrorist cells operating in Britain. So we're sure British citizens will be heartened to know that their anti-terrorism forces are chasing and prosecuting frustrated hipsters for posting nonsense to Twitter. Or whatever the opposite of "heartened" is.
At the beginning of January, the heavy snow storms were taking their toll on the Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster, UK. Like many other airports in Europe it was having trouble getting planes off the ground, and cancellations were rampant. Local resident Paul Chambers, who was set to fly out of the airport to Ireland on January 15, got a little frustrated and tweeted "Robin Hood airport is closed... You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" He didn't at-reply the airport or anything. He just posted it to his stream. Fast forward a few weeks and he's been suspended from his job, banned from Robin Hood airport for life, and is facing trial.
Are you under 30 and British? If not, don't stop reading yet because you can at least be super jealous of those who are. Qantas has planned a ridiculously sweet with STA travel agencies: the Ten Pound Pom promotion, offering tickets from London to major Aussie cities for just £10 ($16).
It sounds too good to be true, but it's for real, and is a nod back in history to a scheme from just after World War II when the Australian government needed immigrants and let British would-be-Aussies pay just ten pounds for their passage from Britain to Oz. This time around it's limited to just 150 tickets for under 30s, with a valid Working Holiday Visa.
STA and Qantas are expecting people to camp out for the tickets, which go on sale at selected STA travel agents across Britain on August 5. They are also offering discount fares for those who miss out on the ten pound fare, starting from £679 ($1,100), which is nice of them but doesn't sound anywhere near as good as ten pounds.
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While most people expected the recent ban on smoking in British pubs to make the air cleaner and fresher, there's been a surprise development: all these years, cigarette smoke has actually been masking a whole heap of other smells. As Oliver Devine, a marketing manager in the pub business, delicately puts it:
Appetising food smells have increased but others are less attractive, such as stale food and beer, damp, sweat and body odour, drains and -- how do you put this nicely? -- flatulence.
So one large pub chain is now trying out various artificial scents that should sweeten up the air. (Reminds us of a certain hotel chain.) Smells of ocean breezes, freshly cut grass and beer are all on trial, so give your nose a good workout next time you're in an olde English pub.
· Make Mine a Pint of Chanel [UK Times]
· Travel Stories in England [Jaunted]