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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Top tips for getting a flight upgrade

Lady Flying in a plane

Getting upgraded on a flight is one of the best travelling perks around, there's nothing like relaxing in first class knowing you paid for economy! But the thing is getting a flight upgrade need not just be a stroke of luck, there are ways to get upgraded on a flight and here's how...
Blagging, flannelling, verbal gymnastics, sweet talking – you know what we're referring to: that ability to talk yourself into a business class or, better still, first class seat when you haven't paid for it! Almost everyone, provided they're not bags-of-money travellers, wants to buy a cheap economy ticket and get upgraded so that they're travelling in business class or first class. After all, who out there doesn't want more legroom and better service when they're travelling – especially if it's free?
To improve your chances of getting that much-sought-after upgrade , check out realbuzz's following tips – which should help to get you rubbing shoulders with the first class jet-set while being pampered by attentive staff and stretching out on a flatbed chair!
Top tips for getting a flight upgrade
- Become a member of your airline's frequent flyer mileage club. The more miles you rack up against your name, the greater your chances of getting an upgrade will be if there is one available. Also, remember that you can be a member of many different airlines' clubs.
- Travelling alone may help when you're trying to secure that cherished upgrade. You won't have a realistic chance of getting bumped up to a higher-grade seat if you're being trailed by others – particularly if you're travelling with the whole family.
- Travelling with someone else who is holding a higher-class ticket than you and asking to sit together may reap rewards. And you may be even more likely to blag an upgrade if you, as the lower-class ticket holder, have good status in a frequent flyer programme.
- Really try to look the part if you're looking for an flight upgrade . Smart casual wear or business attire should ensure you fit in, while some decent-looking luggage will complete the picture. A battered rucksack and sandals are unlikely to fit the bill!
- Make sure you're early at your flight's check-in, because your chances of getting an upgrade will quickly diminish over time. If you're one of the last to check in, then it's a certainty that you're going to be one of the last to be enquiring about an upgrade – by which time they will probably all be taken.
- If you can help it, don't order a special meal if you want to get upgraded. This is because a meal cannot usually be moved up with you – plus an airline would never want to be seen serving an economy meal in business class in the same way that you wouldn't want to be seen eating it!
- You should nearly always be willing to move from your seat when asked to do so by the cabin crew, as it's quite possible that the seat you are being offered as a replacement is in first class. Of course, there's always the possibility that you may not get a better seat than the one you had before – but you never know!
- It may sound obvious, but make sure you're courteous. Being nice to ground staff – who are probably used to being on the receiving end of hassle and abuse – can go a long way towards making you stand out and getting you that upgrade.
- If you feel like laying it on thick, then make it known that you have been inconvenienced on a previous flight. Do this in such a way that you don't make a scene, however – otherwise you might end up in the worst possible seat! If you handle this well, the airline may be more willing to accommodate you.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ground transportation taken looked closer

When air travelers touch down at an unfamiliar airport, they have a few options for the next leg of their journey.
Rent a car. Take a taxi. Step onto a shuttle. Board a bus or a light-rail train.
While online travel agencies such as Hotwire, Orbitz or Travelocity make it easy for travelers to book a rental car when they make flight and hotel reservations, customers who prefer not to drive have largely been left to their own devices once they're on the ground.
"The ground transportation category has largely been ignored," said Charles Fraas, CEO for GroundLink, a global car service. "For years, it has really never met the consumer’s needs."
The industry is widely fragmented with numerous local suppliers, Fraas said. That's made it difficult for travelers to find broad, geographic coverage and reliable service, he added, and there's a wide discrepancy in pricing. “We’re really challenging the travel industry to think broader.”
GroundLink lets customers book a car via phone, online or through a mobile app and offers 12 classes of service, from sedans and sport-utility vehicles to stretch limos and party buses. Customers can see the price of their car before they book and view their driver's location.
GroundLink currently is available in 5,000 cities and 110 countries. “Many of these countries, you can actually book a car with us with one-hour notice,” said S. Daniel Leon, general manager of mobile for GroundLink.

Another option for travelers is, an online marketplace for private car service. CEO T.J. Clark said his company's mission is to make it as easy to book a car service as it is to book a hotel or flight online.“Many places in New York, you can get a car with us in five minutes,” Leon said, adding that the company plans to expand to more U.S. cities in 2012.
“What is so surprising is that less than 5 percent of the bookings in this category are being done online,” Clark said. has aggregated 2,000 local suppliers from around the globe and entered them in a single, common interface that lets customers input, for example, the number of passengers and where they are going, and see instant results that include price comparisons, star ratings and customer reviews. will be live with five of the 10 largest airlines, two of the four largest hotel chains and three of the top six online travel agencies in early 2012, Clark said.
“Car service is a great service,” Clark said. “It’s reliable, safe and it can be affordable.”
Clem Bason, president of Hotwire Group, told that until about six months ago it was difficult to compare prices for ground transportation options. He thinks and GroundLink can help fill in that information gap. “It’s clearly meeting a need,” he said.Bob Lewis, director of ground transportation for Sabre Travel Network, the world's largest global distribution system, said corporate travel agents often are able to book private cars for their clients but he sees significant opportunity for growth in the leisure-travel market.
"I’m not sure that a cab is always the most comfortable choice,” Lewis said.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Civilization's most important places to Travel'

By Rob Lovitt
Philippe Renault / / Aurora Photos
Where Cultures Took Shape: The bullring in Ronda is thought to be one of the oldest in Spain.
Consider “Great Places of History: Civilization’s 100 Most Important Sites” (TIME Books, $29.95), a new, 154-page hardcover book that captures the span of mankind’s time on the planet through more than 200 photographs.
“It’s a book about culture and history and human beings,” said editor Kelly Knauer. “We didn’t want it to be a series of ‘postcard’ shots.”
According to Knauer, the book is an outgrowth of TIME’s Person of the Year feature, which annually profiles a person the magazine’s editors consider to be the most influential on the world stage.
“We looked at the globe and said, ‘What are the 100 places that really influenced history, where historic events happened, where great trends began or societies crystallized that affected the course of civilization’,” Knauer said.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the book features several of what Knauer calls “the usual suspects” — the Acropolis, Angkor Wat, Moscow’s Red Square — but it also highlights lesser-known places that played roles in culture, war, scientific inquiry and other fields of human endeavor. Among them:
  • Avebury: “Everybody knows Stonehenge,” said Knauer, but this nearby Neolithic ruin “was actually a larger site back in the day and probably more important.”
  • The Silk Road: “It wasn’t just a highway for goods,” said Knauer. “It was the conduit by which Asian culture traveled to Europe and vice versa.”
  • Shakespeare’s Globe: Yes, the London theater is a replica of the original, but its inclusion speaks to the importance of its one-time resident scribe. Said Knauer, “Shakespeare shaped the way we think because he shaped the way we talk.”
At the same time, including such modern sites underscores the book’s premise that there’s more to history than a compilation of dusty archeological sites. It’s a living thing that’s happening all the time.
Consider, for example, the last entry in the book, which captures a trio of giant sculptures rising above the Nevada desert during the festival/encampment/cultural experiment called Burning Man.
“Who’s to say history isn’t being made there?” asks Knauer. “We may not know what comes out of there for 30 or 40 years but I bet something interesting will.”
Philippe Lissac / Godong / Corbis
Sacred Spaces: Pilgrims gather outside the Church of St. George, a rock-hewn church in Lalibela in northern Ethiopia.
Domingo Leiva / Getty Images
Bastions of Power: Tikal, an archeological gem once ruled by the Mayans, is located in northern Guatemala.

Monday, 7 November 2011

No passport required - See the world

Fascinated by foreign culture but turned off by the high cost of international airfare?
Think globally, travel locally. From the “Danish Capital of America” in Solvang, Calif., to the docks of “Greek Town” in Tarpon Springs, Fla., cities and towns across America offer a glimpse of foreign lands without the cost or hassle of going overseas.
“It’s hard for a lot of people to go abroad right now,” said Anne Banas, executive editor of Smarter Travel. “ Travelling domestically and getting the flavor of some of those places has a huge appeal, especially in this economy.”
Carol Barrington
Der Lindenbaum is a German restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas.
If that sounds appealing, the following places all offer a warm willkommen, velkommen or kalos orisate.
Fredericksburg, Texas: Founded by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach in 1846, this town in the Texas Hill Country doesn’t wear its Germanic history on its sleeve — or, apparently, its pant leg: “You’re not going to see chalets with people running around in lederhosen,” said Daryl Whitworth of the local convention and visitor bureau, “but the town still harkens back to the way the old Germans lived.”
The results of their efforts are on display throughout the city’s downtown, much of which is contained within a National Historic District. Stroll the Marktplatz, or Market Square; explore the historical exhibits at the former Vereins Kirche, a church-turned-pioneer-museum; and enjoy some Black Forest cake or German pancakes at one of the town’s many cafes and bakeries.
New Glarus, Wis.: Looking for a place where you can eat, drink and yodel? Head to America’s “Little Switzerland,” where chalet-style buildings, Swiss flags and bilingual street names honor a history dating back to 1845.
In summer, that history is on display at popular attractions like the Swiss Historical Village Museum(closed for the season) but come fall you can get a taste of it at local favorites, including the New Glarus Hotel — try the kalberwurst, or veal sausage — and the New Glarus Brewing Company. Gatwick Taxis
Wherever you go, you’re likely to get a sense of “heimat” or home, said Beth Zurbuchen, president of the Swiss Center of North America: “It doesn’t have to be a building or a place; it can be what’s in your heart and people come from all over the world to experience it.”
Solvang, Calif.: Already famous for its windmills, thatched-roof buildings and copies of Copenhagen landmarks like the Little Mermaid statue, the self-proclaimed “Danish Capital of America” is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. 
Tarpon Springs, Fla: Thirty miles north of St. Petersburg,Tarpon Springs has maintained a close cultural link to Greece ever since the first generation of Greek fishermen came to harvest sponges from the local waters in the early 20th century.To join the festivities, check out the folk crafts at the Queen of Arts Show & Sale (Nov. 4-5) and the Julefest parade (Dec. 3), which features holiday floats, vintage vehicles and displays of Danish music and dancing.
Since then, the sponge industry has had its ups and downs but the Greek connection is alive and well, especially on the sponge docks along Dodecanese Blvd. During monthly (April­-November) Night in the Islands events, for example, the street is closed off, lights are strung and live Greek music provides a backdrop for dining, dancing and conversation.
“It’s not a performance; it’s a participatory event,” said Tina Bucuvalas, curator of the city’s art and historical resources. “Everybody gets up and dances — it’s a lot like being in Greece.”

Monday, 31 October 2011

7 Smart Ways to Bypass Baggage Fees

In 2010, U.S. fliers spent more than $9.2 billion on baggage fees and other ancillary surcharges from the airlines. This suggests that legions of passengers are continuing to shell out hundreds of dollars for optional charges that can be avoided with modest effort.

baggage airportNaturally, packing light is one of the best ways to avoid these extra fees. But traveling with the bare minimum isn't always an option -- especially for passengers taking month-long cruises or families that need multiple pieces of luggage. Even those of us who've mastered the art of packing light are getting hit with full-size fees. Spirit Airlines recently added a downright obscene carry-on fee of up to $45, and a single checked bag costs as much as $50 per roundtrip flight on most major airlines. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the industry's barrage of baggage fees -- tricks that the airlines probably don't want you to know about.

Know Your Policy
Navigating the airlines' complicated baggage policies is no small undertaking. Baggage fees change constantly, and can vary by airline, destination, date of travel, number of bags, and bag weight and size. Even if you've secured an affordable plane ticket, you could end up paying a lot more than you bargained for when flying on a carrier that charges baggage fees.

We searched for nonstop weekend flights from New York to Las Vegas in August and found two fares for travel on the same dates: $471.40 roundtrip on American and $527.50 roundtrip on Southwest (including taxes and fees). The American Airlines flight is cheaper. But check two bags at a cost of $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second each way on American, and your total fare climbs to $591.40 -- more than the cost of the Southwest flight, which includes free first and second checked bags.

Your best bet is to thoroughly read your airline's policy before you book your flight. You may also want to check out TripAdvisor's flight search tool, which has a fee estimator that lists fares in conjunction with airline baggage fees based on how many pieces of luggage you plan to travel with.

Join a Frequent Flier Program
Travelers who fly often can save on baggage fees by joining their favorite airline's frequent flier program. Virtually all major airlines offer some kind of frequent flier program that includes baggage fee discounts or waivers for "elite" or "preferred" members. (Most airlines, including the big ones -- Continental, American, United, US Airways, Delta -- bestow elite or preferred status on frequent flier members who've flown at least 25,0000 miles annually with the airline.) Contact your airline to learn more about its frequent flier program benefits. 

If racking up 25,000 miles a year doesn't seem attainable, consider applying for an airline credit card. Several major airlines waive checked bag fees for cardholders. For example, Delta SkyMiles cardholders can check one bag for free on Delta flights, and Continental Airlines Presidential Plus cardholders can check two bags for free. (Restrictions and annual credit card fees may apply, and vary based on airline and type of card. Programs change frequently, so contact your airline 

Fly on a Discount Airline
southwest planeKudos to the no-frills discount airlines that don't charge travelers the price of a steak dinner just to check a bag. Southwest Airlines allows two checked bags per passenger, while JetBlue lets passengers check one bag for free. Unfortunately, not all discount airlines have magnanimous baggage policies. Last year, Spirit Airlines began charging travelers $45 ($30 when reserved online) for carry-on bags that don't fit under the seat, in addition to its checked bag fees.

Take the Train
While airlines are charging left and right for big bags, extra bags and even carry-on bags (we're looking at you, Spirit), train travel is a different story. Amtrak's baggage allowance policy says passengers may carry on up to two pieces of luggage (not including personal items like purses, strollers or computer bags) and check up to three pieces of luggage -- for free! Additional bags cost a surprisingly low $10 per bag. Plus, for a small fee (usually $5 to $10, depending on your route), train travelers can bring big-ticket items like bicycles, surfboards or musical instruments onboard. The best part? You won't have to worry that your acoustic guitar will end up smashed to bits on the tarmac. reading to Heathrow taxis

Use a Luggage Scale
Overweight baggage fees can be exceedingly more expensive than checked bag fees. Although you may manage to heroically stuff two weeks' worth of clothes into a single checked bag, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars per swollen, overweight piece of luggage (Delta charges as much as $450 each way for each checked bag that weighs more than 71 pounds on some international flights). 

Purchase a small luggage scale and pack it with you when you travel. If your bag is just under the weight limit on your outgoing flight, extras you pick up along your trip, from souvenirs to soggy rain coats, could add some serious heft on the way home. Avoid overweight baggage fees by weighing your luggage each time you fly, including before your return flight. Is your luggage too heavy for the flight back? Stuff some things into your travel partner's suitcase or ship them home.

Ship Your Bags
At first glance, shipping one's bags may sound like a prohibitively expensive prospect. But take another look at your airline's baggage policies (most major airlines charge $50 roundtrip for first checked bags), and suddenly standard delivery services and even luggage shipping companies don't sound like such a bad idea. 
international shipping
luggage carouselHow much does shipping luggage cost? Prices charged by standard delivery services like FedEx, UPS and USPS vary based on size and weight of bags (luggage shipping companies such as Luggage Forward and Luggage Concierge tend to be slightly more expensive). UPS charges $56.60 to send a 40-pound suitcase from New York to San Francisco in five days. And there's no need to wait in lines at the check-in desk and baggage carousel when sending luggage through the mail. 

Upgrade Your Luggage
Thanks to high-tech materials like ballistic nylon and polycarbonate, it's not difficult to find a 29-inch upright suitcase that weighs less than 10 pounds. We discovered an ultra-light 7.1-lb. Salsa Air 29" Multiwheel Trolley Suitcase on for $525. A more affordable 21-inch upright roller that weighs just under 8 pounds is available on for $120. We'll admit these bags are pretty expensive. But so are overweight baggage fees, which range from $49 (for checked bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds on AirTran Airways) to Delta's aforementioned $450 fee for extra-heavy bags on international flights. These fees, which apply each way and per bag, can amount to thousands of dollars for passengers who don't travel light. Because most high-quality luggage brands are designed to be both lightweight and exceptionally long-lasting, they can help frequent travelers avoid overweight baggage fees over time. 

Qantas resumes flights after bitter labour row

Around 70,000 stranded travellers hope to carry on their trip as Qantas flights resume after a huge strike
Passengers boarding a Qantas Boeing 717 at Perth International Airport on October 31 (AFP)
Australia's Qantas returned to the skies Monday, after a tribunal ended a destructive industrial dispute that grounded its entire fleet, sparking passenger and political fury.
Qantas commercial flights began taking off at 0441 GMT as the company began clearing the backlog of passengers, ending an extraordinary 46-hour shutdown that threatened to damage Australia's economy and the airline's brand.

The shock grounding, announced Saturday by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, stranded 70,000 passengers in 22 cities worldwide, dramatically escalating a long-running feud with airline unions.
Investors hailed the government industrial tribunal's order early Monday to resume services and put an end to months of strikes and industrial action by baggage handlers, engineers and pilots.
Qantas's share price surged to close 4.4 percent higher as Joyce hailed the tribunal for giving Qantas the certainty that the airline, its passengers and shareholders needed. Gatwick airport passenger transport
"The clouds are gone, people can now move with confidence with Qantas," he told reporters.
He vowed "a safe and phased approach" to a full resumption of services Tuesday and apologised to customers for the disruption.
"We will be doing all that we can to put things right," he said, playing down any long-term damage to the "Flying Kangaroo" brand and vowing to press ahead with an Asia-focused restructuring that has infuriated the unions.

But ratings agency Moody's Investors Services was less positive, saying it was considering downgrading Qantas's credit rating after the fleet grounding.
The shutdown and the airline's troubled industrial relations were "likely to place pressure on the airline's forward bookings, profitability and longer-term brand equity," it said.
And anger among passengers marooned in departure halls and hotels around the world remained strong.
"I'm furious, this whole experience has been so frustrating that I'll never fly Qantas again," said South African executive Jackie Sasso, 40, who was stranded while on a business trip to Sydney.
"It's been terrible and I haven't been able to find out what's going on -- I was on hold on the phone to Qantas for two hours and got nothing," she said as she struggled to get home. "Frustrating isn't the word."
The iconic 90-year-old flag carrier, the world's 10th largest airline by traffic, stunned the nation Saturday when it announced its decision to ground all aircraft in a bid to bring the acrimonious labour row to a head.
Joyce however did not believe the grounding would have a lasting impact on Qantas's brand or spark a long-term flight of its passengers to other airlines.
"I have every confidence that we will recover back to a 65 percent domestic market share and recover internationally," he said.
Fearing the grounding would wreak serious economic damage, Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the rare step of asking the industrial regulator Fair Work Australia to step in to end the action.
After a marathon hearing, the tribunal granted Qantas's wish and Monday ordered a complete end to industrial action by both sides, as tourism officials expressed anxiety about the long-term impact on Australia's image.
Management and three unions are locked in dispute over pay and Qantas's plans to refocus its international business on Asia. They now have 21 days to settle their differences or face a compulsory arbitration decision.
Joyce welcomed the ruling, but defended his action, saying he had no choice as union leaders had threatened strikes could last a year. Qantas says industrial action was costing it Aus$15 million (US$16 million) per week.
Unions were disappointed at the Fair Work decision, saying they may challenge it and questioning whether Qantas would negotiate in good faith in the next three weeks.
"I think they (Qantas) will end up stonewalling us for 21 days, and we'll end up in forced arbitration," pilots' union vice-president Captain Richard Woodward said.
Gillard and her ministers were angry that Qantas had been grounded with virtually no notice on a busy weekend ahead of the Melbourne Cup horse race and while Australia was hosting the 54-nation Commonwealth summit. travel to heathrow airport taxis
Joyce insisted he had warned a grounding was possible, but Gillard branded the action "extreme" and unnecessary.
"I believe that that action by Qantas was an extreme action to take. It has caused chaos for the travelling public and Qantas had other options available at its disposal," the prime minister said.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

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