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Archive for December, 2010

Commuters told to expect travel price hikes in the new year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Londoners using the travel network to get to work are being warned that the new year brings with it an astonishing rise in ticket prices. The withdrawal of some tickets on the underground will also force many to pay massive increases for their daily commute.

As of 2 January, those with an Oyster Card, travelling within central London’s zones 1 and 2 will have to pay £1.80 for a single journey. The cap on journeys, which is the maximum a passenger can be charged in a single day, will increase by 80 pence, for those choosing to travel during peak periods, from £7.20. Those travelling during off-peak times will see the daily cap go up to £6.60, a price hike of £1.

A Travelcard from zone 1 to 4 is also set to increase by £1 to £7.30. The price rises will be compounded by the fact that passengers will no longer be able to opt for a ticket covering zones 2 to 6. Instead of paying £5.10, travellers will be forced to invest £8 in a zone 1 to 6 Travelcard.

The zone 1 to 3 and zone 1 to 5 Travelcards will also become unavailable in the new year. London TravelWatch said the disappearance of the cards is most likely to affect those who do not regularly travel into the capital and those who live further from the centre of town.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has defended the fare increases by saying that they are necessary to support the upkeep of the capital’s travel network.

Cathay says sorry to stranded passengers

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has said it is sorry that more than 1000 passengers were forced to endure hours sitting on planes at John F Kennedy airport. Some customers had to wait 11 hours before they were allowed to disembark because of blizzards which caused the closure of all airports in the vicinity of New York. Cathay has since said the delays were caused by a lack of available gates at the terminal.

Many of the passengers are angry that the airline did not communicate with them about the situation. Others are asking why; if it knew about the weather problems on the east coast of America, planes were allowed to take off from Hong Kong in the first place. The airline has said it will be looking into what went wrong so that the fiasco is not repeated in the future.

The snow storms which have ravaged the east coast are the worst for 60 years. Some 1.2 million airline passengers have had their travel plans disrupted by the cancellation of around 8200 scheduled flights. Frustration is mounting as airlines struggle to shift a backlog of customers.

The storms have come at one of the busiest times of the year for airlines. Most planes are already flying at close to full capacity which is making it difficult to re-seat customers who have had flights cancelled.

Brandon Macasta, from the Association of Passenger Airline Rights, said that carriers needed to come up with strategies on how to deal with situations such as bad weather, especially in terms of communicating with their passengers.

Motorists hit by new year petrol price hike

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Britain’s motorists should prepare themselves for a 3.5 pence per litre price hike at the petrol pumps in the new year, warns the AA. Just before Christmas, the price of a litre of fuel hit a record high of 123 pence as the price of a barrel of oil crept over the $90 mark. On 1 January, the government will increase fuel duty by 0.76 pence per litre and on 4 January VAT will go up by 2.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

A spokesman for the AA said that motorists should be aware that uncertainty in the oil markets and further expected tax rises could push the price of filling their cars with fuel even higher. He added that unless the pound gains on the dollar or unless the oil industry settles down, 2011 is going to be very pricey for the country’s car owners.

The AA has not shied away from blaming oil companies and distributors from profiteering. However, industry experts have hit back at suggestions that speculators are also to blame.

PFG Best Trading analyst, Phil Flynn, said those choosing to blame speculators for rising oil prices do not understand the facts. He explained that a recent US stimulus package has weakened the dollar and pushed the price of commodities up and strengthened demand.

He added that similar spikes in the price of a barrel of oil were experienced during the bailout of Greece by the EU and after the financial crisis in Dubai. None of this can be blamed on the speculators, he said.

Air travel dropped by a quarter during banking crisis

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

The Civil Aviation Authority has revealed that there was a drop in the demand for premium class airline tickets during the recession of nearly 25 per cent. In 2008, when the banking crisis began, there was a drop in business class travel on international routes from and to the UK of 4.6 per cent. By 2009, this figure had risen to 22.2 per cent. Although there are now signs of recovery, the CAA said travel dropped 28 per cent on a year earlier for the first half of this year.

Although the financial troubles were obviously a massive contributing factor, the first half of 2010 was marred by airline staff strikes and an ash cloud which grounded planes across Europe for close to a week.

Last year saw services between the UK and Europe most severely affected with a drop in travel of 25 per cent. There was also less demand for travel between the UK and America with numbers reduced by 20 per cent.

Airline revenues were severely dented, not only by fewer people choosing to book airline seats, but by business customers saving money on short-haul journeys by choosing to fly with budget carriers or opting for an economy class ticket. According to the CAA, and British Airways boss Willie Walsh, there is little reason for this trend to change even though the world’s economies are beginning to recover.

Director of regulations at the CAA, Harry Bush, said it was not yet clear how the money saving tactics employed by many firms during the downturn would continue to affect aviation travel.

Travel chaos as blizzards hit east coast of America

Monday, December 27th, 2010

The east-coast of America is being buffeted by blizzards which are causing many to have their travel plans disrupted. US airlines have already cancelled a number of services from New York’s three airports and are warning that more cancellations could happen throughout the day. Services from airports in Chicago, the Carolinas, Washington DC and Baltimore have also been disrupted. However, some airlines are saying that they hope to have flights back on track by Tuesday.

Motorists are being warned that the roads have become hazardous and there have been reports of a number of accidents due to the icy conditions. The severe weather is bad news for those who intended to venture out to the post-Christmas sales.

More than 12 inches of snow has been forecast for the cities of Boston and New York. National Weather Service meteorologist, William Babcock, warned that up to 16 inches of snow could fall in eastern-Massachusetts and that blizzards should be expected across Rhode Island.

The north-east is expected to receive the most severe wintry weather, with forecasters warning New York it will be getting between a foot and 16 inches of snow. Icy winds are expected to reduce visibility in the city as the blizzards hit.

Travellers with tickets for buses and trains are also being stranded along the east-coast as services are cancelled. Amtrak has cancelled trains in Virginia and between Maine and New York City. By the end of Sunday, US Airways had cancelled more than 100 flights for Monday to prevent passengers from becoming stranded.

Car hire prices set to drop in 2011

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Holidaymakers faced with austerity measures, weak currencies and a rise in flying taxes can at least look forward to reduced car rental prices as the New Year approaches. The vehicle rental industry at last looks as though it is beginning to recover from a recession which saw prices in some cases rocket by as much as 500 per cent.

The banking crisis meant that many financial institutions withdrew the funding necessary for car hire companies to replace older vehicles and grow their fleets to meet a demand that has always remained high. Customers quickly learnt that booking a vehicle at the last minute meant paying a lot more money than they were used to and did not necessarily guarantee a car would be waiting for them at their holiday destination when they arrived.

Last summer, hire firms in popular resorts in countries such as Spain and Portugal were running disastrously low on vehicles and charging astronomical prices for those that they did have. However, experts predict that with the returning confidence of the banks to offer the capital the companies need to expand their fleets once more, the price of hiring a vehicle will drop.

As a wider range of cars become available competition will also return to the industry; meaning that the consumer will once again be able to take advantage of cheaper deals as firms battle to attract custom.

However, experts continue to advise customers to book a vehicle as early as possible to ensure they get the best price and to guarantee they get the vehicle that is right for them.

Toyota agrees to pay US fine

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

One of the world’s largest car makers has been fined in the US because of the way it has handled the recall of faulty vehicles. Toyota was earlier this week told it must pay a $32.4 million fine to the US authorities for two cases in which it did not adhere to US regulations. The announcement was made by the US transportation secretary, Roy LaHood, on Monday and the carmaker has since agreed.

One of the fines has been imposed because the manufacturer was forced to recall close to 5 million cars due to a problem with accelerator pedals jamming against floor mats. The result of which was a slew of complaints from drivers that their vehicles were unexpectedly accelerating.

In 2007, Toyota recalled around 55,000 vehicles to replace the floor mats. However, two years later, one of its Lexus models was involved in a fatal crash due to a faulty mat.

This led to the mass recall and further investigations by the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority. It found that simply removing the mat was insufficient and the accelerator needed to be redesigned. The NHTSA said Toyota had held back on reporting a safety defect it knew could cause a serious problem.

Toyota was further embarrassed when it claimed a defect with steering in some of its vehicles only applied to those being sold in Japan. The company later admitted that a number of models in the US could also suffer from the problem. The admission resulted in the recall of just under a million vehicles.

Cathay offers pilots new pay deal

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Cathay Pacific is close to settling a pay deal with its pilots after the union representing their interests reached a tentative deal with the airline. The news will be welcomed by passengers wishing to travel over Christmas and the New Year as possible industrial action has all but been avoided.

Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association head, John Findlay, confirmed that a deal had been reached which would now be put to the vote. Although he could not say when the results of the ballot would be in he pointed out that nobody wanted the issue hanging around forever. A vote will therefore probably take place some time in the next few weeks, he added.

According to a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman, talks between the carrier and union representatives had been courteous and professional. She added that although there had been differences in opinion; the end result was that there was a deal on the table which was agreeable to both parties.

Local media have already suggested that the agreement reached is below the amount originally called for by the airline’s pilots. Both the union and Cathay Pacific have refused to give out any information on the details of the deal.

According to sources, the pilots had originally asked for a salary increase of 30 per cent to be delivered over the coming four years. If members of the union decide to reject the proposed pay offer, then flights could be disrupted as pilots decide that they will only man the services they have already been scheduled to fly.

Heathrow passengers could be stranded for Christmas

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Travellers planning to fly home for Christmas from Heathrow Airport could be in for a miserable time as the airport’s operator warns delays and cancellations should be expected beyond 25 December. BAA has said it will not be able to operate any more than a third of all services until at least Wednesday; explaining that it did not have the resources to keep more than two runways operational.

BAA’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, said the airport had been over optimistic about how quickly it would be able to clear ice and snow from the aircraft stands. Transport minister, Philip Hammond, said BAA had also made a mistake in trying to fly a full service on Saturday. He explained that there had been too many aircraft on the ground as the snow started to fall and this caused inevitable congestion.

An aviation source at the airport warned that stocks of de-icer for the runways were running low and that the Department for Transport needed to be aware of this.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has expressed outrage that in this day and age, workers are unable to pull together, grab a few shovels and clear a bit of snow from the runways and beneath planes.

Former BA manager, John Strickland, has warned that the airline is going to have trouble clearing its passenger backlog before Christmas as any flights which are able to take off are already likely to be fully booked. Hammond said it was clear that something had to be done about the unacceptable state of affairs.

Snow tyres advised for UK motorists

Monday, December 20th, 2010

British drivers are being warned that where possible they should be fitting snow tyres to their cars as the severe weather continues to grip the country. The snow and ice is expected to cause a hike in the number of insurance claims made, with motoring organisation, the AA, already recording a jump 10 per cent overall. Of these claims, 21 per cent were due directly to the wintry weather.

In Wales and Scotland the situation is already looking much worse. Over a third of all claims in Wales are now being directly attributed to the snow and ice and over half of all claims in Scotland are being blamed on the weather.

AA insurance director, Simon Douglas, has warned drivers to leave at least a ten second gap between themselves and the car in front if they are driving on icy roads. This should minimise the risk of a rear-end collision if the vehicle begins to slide after the brakes are applied.

According to the AA, the most common type of insurance claim in the current weather conditions is from people who have had a rear-end prang at a roundabout or a road junction. The next most common cause of claims is collisions with parked cars. Mr Douglas said one of the ways of minimising the chance of such accidents is to fit snow tyres.

Mr Douglas also advised drivers to listen to the advice of the local authorities. If the police are advising that it is unsafe to drive, he said, then it is probably best not to drive.