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Monday, 18 February 2013

Why Pay Mile High Club Travel £5K?

There's nothing glamorous about paying £5K to join the Mile High club

Woman and man flirting on an aeroplane (© Rex Features)

Once upon a time, air travel was pretty glam. Who hasn’t watched Airplane! and thought that even though the journey was disastrous, they quite liked the look of the  huge seats, smart crockery, steak Dianes and luxurious vibe?

Back in the day, we unwashed masses would read about moguls and movie stars jetting off in order to have exotic adventures. Sometimes, the adventures would start before landing. For some young men and women, joining the Mile High club (becoming one of a small group of people who had been physically intimate with a partner in an aeroplane bathroom) was one of the most risque and sophisticated things you could do.

No amount of yoga can prepare you for sex in an aeroplane toilet.

In many ways, we’re lucky that we now all live in an age of taking air travel for granted. Obviously, there are environmental concerns, but it does mean that almost anyone who wants to can explore the world around them, no matter what their income.

But cheap air travel is not glamorous air travel, and as airlines squeeze more and more passengers on their planes, the champagne cocktails and steak Diane have been abandoned like forgotten luggage on a carousel.
As for the Mile High Club - well, no yoga class can prepare you adequately for arranging your limbs in those tiny bathrooms.

However, experience company is looking to change all that. It’s offering the amorously inclined a Mile High Package, which lets you get your leg over while you’re up in the air.

People who book the experience get to travel in a private plane for £4,999, with additional charges for extras like champagne. Even if it doesn’t entail queuing for the loo in economy, I don’t think there can be anything less sexy or romantic than hooking up with your partner whilst airborne. And if my boyfriend sprung the better part of five grand for this “luxury travel experience”, I’d probably dump them.

Why spend money on something you can do comfortably in a hotel room?
Air travel is only exciting when there’s a great destination at the end of it. And, unless you have a particular yen to make love in the presence of a pilot, or get especially excited about turbulence, it seems crazy to spend an enormous amount of money to do something that could be undertaken more comfortably in a smart hotel room.

Also, people boast about being in the Mile High Club for two reasons. Either that they’re daring risk takers who delight in breaking the rules, or their relationships are powered by lust so intense that they just can’t wait until they’re through passport control.

The only thing that makes the experience anything like glamorous, old school airline travel is the hefty price tag. If you’re thinking of spending thousands of pounds on a lavish romantic gesture, the Mile High Experience won’t get you any brownie points. You’ll remember it forever, but for all the wrong reasons. Splash your cash on the holiday of a lifetime instead.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Airline Compensation: Your Rights

A Ryanair plane (PA) 

A new EU ruling may have opened the way to claiming compensation for delayed flights.

No-frills airline Ryanair broke EU law when it refused compensation to a passenger stranded by the 2010 volcanic ash cloud, according to a court ruling yesterday, while a district judge has also ruled that travel group Thomas Cook should have compensated a couple whose plane was delayed.

These two rulings are expected to trigger a wave of claims from other passengers, so what are your rights when your plane is delayed or flight cancelled, and how can you claim. The following answers may help.

What is significant about the rulings against Ryanair and Thomas Cook?
The two rulings concerned flight delays, which the airline operators claimed were outside their control. The Ryanair flight was grounded because of a volcanic ash cloud, while in the Thomas Cook case, the flight was delayed because of technical difficulties.

This is important because EU law allows passengers to claim between £200 and £480 compensation for delays over three hours in EU countries or on EU airlines. However, airlines have traditionally had a get out clause they only had to pay cash if the delay turned out to be the airline's fault.

In the Thomas Cook case, the airline had claimed the technical difficulty with the plane was not the fault of the airline. However At Stoke-on-Trent County Court on Monday, District Judge Peter Rank disagreed and awarded a couple €800 (£687).

Ryanair had claimed that the ash cloud that had grounded thousands of flights between April 15 and 22 should be treated as an extraordinary event, and so it did not have to pay for passenger care when they were stranded. However, the EU court overturned Ryanair's appeal and said that customers needed compensation for access to essential services in the event of issues such as the ash cloud.

But my flights have been delayed lots of times. Why have I never been offered compensation?
The airlines don't tend to hand out compensation on a plate, so if you want it you have to ask.

It all sounds very complicated. How can I tell whether an airline will compensate me?
If your flight has been delayed for more than three hours, you may be entitled to the compensation. However, if it came from a non-EU country on a non-EU airline, you will not be able to claim under EU rules.

How much could I get?
Compensation for flight delay is between £200 and £480, depending on how delayed your flight is and how far you are travelling.

What difference do the two rulings above make to all this? Airlines have been very good at claiming that delays are not their fault and not giving compensation. The rulings above make it more difficult for them to do so. In addition, passengers who are stranded somewhere due to adverse weather conditions are be entitled to money for food and accommodation.

Would I get a refund on my ticket price as well as compensation?
Potentially. If your flight is delayed by five hours or more and you decide not to travel, and the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of what airline you were flying with, you could get your ticket cost back too. If you are on an EU airline and landed at an EU airport, you are also likely to be eligible for a refund. Even if you aren't on the plane, oddly, you could get the compensation and the refund. However, if you decide to have a refund you lose your right to passenger care.

If only I had known sooner I would have claimed for delays before. Can I still do it? Yes, as long as your flight was after February 17 2005, you can still reclaim.

How do I do it?
Contact the airline in the first instance. There is no standard timescale for replying to a letter of complaint. There is also no ombudsman. If you are unhappy with the airline's response you can complain to the Civil Aviation Authority, or the European Consumer Centre / or the regulator in the country from which the aircraft departed.