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It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2014 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics. Now we take a brief look back at the best and worst of 2014 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,or as we fondly refer to themThe Jauntys.
2014 brought fresh airports, but one really caught our eye for more than just new coats of paint and updated design elements. London City, the little airport that is positioned so close to one of the British capital, that you might be able to wave to the Queen upon collecting your luggage, takes home the prize for the most improved airport for 2014.
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London’s smallest airport, London City-LCY, does a lot of things right; it’s close to the city and easily accessible by public transport, its size means passing through is quick and easy, and it manages to do the tiny things that make travel so much better well.
Having overhauled the pre-security area you find when you go up the single escalator to departures a little while ago, we saw some major changes to the pre-gate waiting area when we took a flight from City airport last week. Since you only make your way to your gate when it’s announced on the screen right before boarding, this is where you will spend most of your time before your flight. Above what it looks like today; a shot from a few months ago after the jump to compare.
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Major long-haul international flights to London usually find themselves landing at London-Heathrow, but this won't be the case for Odyssey Airlines, if their hopes and dreams come true. The new airline is planning to fly passengers from London's very conveniently located London City Airport across the Atlantic.
Naturally the convenience of an airport near the city center does warrant a higher price tag, and Odyssey is looking to outfit the Bombardier CSeries aircraft with an all-business class configuration.
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In case you were wondering how big an Airbus A380 really is, perhaps this picture will provide some sense of perspective: it shows the brand new British Airways A380 nose-to-nose with its smallest cousin, the teensy Airbus A318. How cute is that? You can almost hear the Disney Planes dialogue: “Move over, little one”. “I ain’t going anywhere, big guy!”
This unique photo-op happened at Shannon Airport (SNN) in Ireland. Why there? The Airbus A380 is on its rounds of familiarization flights before it will start flying to and from Los Angeles on September 24, and made a trip to Shannon as part of this cycle. The A318 of course makes its daily stop on the way to New York-JFK from London’s City Airport, where it refuels, and if you’re on the magic flight number BA001, you can clear US immigration.
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How many of London's airports can you name? There's Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, uhhh Luton and....City! It's that last one that's often forgotten because it's the smallest of the bunch and nearest to downtown, though the most innovative (and not just because they offer free WiFi).
We just flew through London-City for the first time and came out of the experience a little more hopeful for the future of air travel. It's true they have some freedom to experiment because the airport is tiny, the passengers are mostly frequent flying professionals, and the flights are mostly limited to Europe, but that's all the more reason to detour away from the mega airports to try City's particularly civilized "boutique" airport experience.
Here's what LCY has got going on that makes it so...so fly:
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Everyone is always asking, "how can I get cheaper airfare?" Well today's your lucky day as Air France announces a bare-bones ticket that's nothing but cheaper airfare, and they're calling it the "MiNi."
One-way "MiNi" fares would start at €49 (including tax), which is around €20 less than a normal economy ticket, though MiNi means no itinerary changes, no seat selection at booking, and no mileage earning. Still, if you can keep it to carry-on only (checked baggage is €15 per piece in advance, €30 at the airport), it's a heck of a lot cheaper than taking the Eurostar from London to Paris and the TGV on to Nice.
There are 58 starter destinations, all short- and medium-haul, for example from London City to Brest, Nantes, Pau, Avignon, Toulon and Paris-Orly. If you're like, "what the heck in Toulon," then know that it's an airport much nearer to St. Tropez, Cannes and Monte Carlo than Marseille, so that's our first choice right there. Other MiNi fare hubs are Paris-Orly, Marseille, Toulouse and Nice.
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Back in the day (though not all that long ago), there was no more exclusive way to travel from London to New York than on BA001, the British Airways flight number for Concorde. With the supersonic jet now retired, BA uses this famous flight label for the next best thing: one of its two daily all-business-class flights from London City Airport to New York JFK.
We recently flew this interesting service, which not only has the benefit of just 32 full-flat seats on a tiny Airbus A318, but also offers pre-clearance of US immigration during a brief refuel stop in Shannon, Ireland. We’ll give you the full breakdown of the BA “baby bus” experience below.
Another year, another new all-business class airline. There’s a fresh carrier in town looking to link New York City with London, although this has proven in the past to be a less than successful business model—ah hem Silverjet and L'Avion, just to name two. However, we’re hoping the latest option is a success, and we’re pretty sure the investors and officials over at Odyssey Airlines are hoping the same.
Odyssey plans to use a different type of plane on the new venture, as they’ve got some Bombardier CSeries jets on order. Sure these are hardly widebody long-range aircraft, but there’s plenty of room for some comfy cozy airline seats along with sufficient space for enough airplane fuel That’s a good thing too, as there’s really no place to pull over for a quick fillerup in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
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By the beginning of next week, it's going to be easier than every to hop across the pond from New York City to London. The reason? Starting March 27, an "enhanced relationship" between American Airlines and British Airways will mean 15 daily flights between the two world capitals; it's almost like hopping a bus, but not really since it costs hundreds of dollars and travels at 35,000 feet. You know what we mean.
The departure airports for the increased flight schedule (up from 11 daily flights) are London-Heathrow, London-City, Newark-Liberty and New York-JFK. Here's a little bit of what to expect thanks to AA and BA becoming super BFFs:
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Attention: people who fly private jets and those who drool thinking about doing so. There is something very important you need to know regarding in-flight meals onboard your jet, and it's that the French macaron house Ladurée has opened an airplane catering business, servicing all five airports. This means you're no longer stuck with club sandwiches or filet mignon; you can order a "Club Champs-Elysées" (dried tomato, aubergine, courgette, black olive, riquette salad, mozzarella, parmesan cheese with pine nut, rosemary and basil dressing) or Duck foie gras with a seasonal macaroon and kugelhopf brioche instead!
We knew you'd love it. If you are lucky enough to fly a private or business jet and order the Ladurée service, your options aren't just limited to their printed menu [pdf]. The Ladurée delivered to the tarmac comes straight from their kitchen in the Harrod's Food Halls, so feel free to order up anything else you know could be down there as well. Perhaps a chocolate shaped like a shoe? Can do; we've actually seen those there.
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So it turns out the biggest issue impacting travel to and from London over the Christmas holiday will be the arrival of fresh snow, instead of the now-averted British Airways Strike. After eight inches of snow fell in Kent, Sussex and Essex, and a few inches in London, flights from London's Gatwick, Luton, City and Heathrow airports have met with a rash of cancellations and delays.
But because of the panic of the British Airways strike threats earlier this week, many travelers opted to grab earlier flights, the ones which are now affected by the snow. To hear the worst of it, we swung by BusinessTraveller and found that flights to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are severely affected, Gatwick had their runway closed earlier, London City Airport was completely closed but just reopened, and easyJet cancelled a slew of flights, which you can see a list of here.
If you're trying to fly to or from the London area, keep your web browser tuned to your airline's website, and it would be pretty smart to install FlightStats' mobile apps on your smartphone, where you can keep up to date with your flight delays and information on the go.
[Photo: Na :-/]