More airlines offering stripped-back fares

More airlines are offering stripped-back fares to help compete in the growing market of budget-conscious travellers.

European airlines, KLM and Air France are the latest so-called legacy carriers to introduce a reduced fare that doesn’t include seat selection, check-in luggage or the ability to change a booking.

Reports from the UK say that the fares – scheduled to start in April on transatlantic flights – are part of a growing trend among European airlines.

Alitalia is also offering an Economy Light fare that limits passengers to one piece of hand luggage and does not offer booking amendments or ticket refunds.

Lufthansa also offers a similar fare.

A few months ago, we were charged a fee to slightly amend two tickets on Aegean Airlines.

American, Delta and United airlines also offer basic economy fares – some of which do not allow use of overhead lockers.

And British Airways made headlines last year after it announced that people who bought its basic fare would board its planes last.

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Was Santorini really Atlantis? See for yourself.

“All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends, from all lands, were from fair Atlantis”.

That song from 1968 and a handful of movies over the years were all we really knew about the myth of Atlantis – until we visited the Greek Island of Santorini.

As we now know, the Atlantis legend dates to about 360 BC, describing a prosperous land that disappeared into the sea.

There is a school of thought that Santorini – the famed isle of white buildings, blue rooftops and glorious sunsets – was once Atlantis, until a volcanic eruption wiped out the Minoan culture.

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The Atlantis theory centres on the former Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, destroyed by a volcano about 1450 BC – and now partially excavated.

All this talk of a mythical land beneath the sea adds plenty of spice to one of Santorini’s most popular attractions, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which displays ancient artefacts unearthed at Akrotiri and similar sites.

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Although relatively small and housed on the site of a former church at Fira, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira covers Santorini’s history from the late Neolithic period to late Cycladic times.

There’s decorative ceramics; religious and ritual objects; stone and ceramic vases; bronze tools; and complex wall paintings.

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The museum has four specific sections containing findings dating from the 5th millennium B.C. (late neolithic era) to the 17th century B.C.

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We were particularly impressed by the glowing gold ibex goat figurine, measuring around 10cm in length, dating from the 17th century B.C. which was discovered in mint condition in 1999.

There were also some remarkable fossilized olive tree leaves that dated to 60,000 B.C.

Age-Friendly rating

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9/10: From our experience, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira is well suited to visitors of any age and mobility.

Because it is located on the ridge at Fira, the museum does have about 12 steps on its main approach. However, a level alternative entrance is provided.

When we visited, the cost of admission was a modest three Euros. There was a reduction for senior visitors from within the European Union and free admission for children under 18 and students from the EU.

Once inside, the layout of the museum is simple and easy to follow. The exhibits are clearly labelled in relatively large writing – and all explanations and direction signs are in both Greek and English.

The floors are level; there are public conveniences; and a shop – again all on the same level.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thira could be viewed in a little over an hour, but a thorough visit would take a little longer.

The building is air conditioned; staff are multi-lingual; and the attraction is open year-round.

So, why only 9/10?

Because of its central location in Fira, visiting the museum may require navigating the narrow village streets, which are often extremely busy – particularly in summer. This can be a real effort for anyone- regardless of fitness or mobility.

 

Age-Friendly event ratings

Sales are open for new route to Europe

People planning to fly to Europe from Asia and Australia have another option – and tickets are already on sale.

Scoot, the low-cost arm of the Singapore Airlines group (SIA) has launched initial ticket sales for a second long-haul service to Europe.

From June 20, Scoot expects to start non-stop flights from Singapore to Berlin, Germany.

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

The airline already operates popular flights between Singapore and Athens, Greece.

And it recently also began long-haul flights to Hawaii via Japan.

Launch fares

Confirming the starting date of the Berlin corridor, Scoot announced promotional fares from Perth, Australia at $379 one way, with additional charges for baggage and food.

Flying in the airline’s premium ScootBiz class, from Perth to Berlin initially will cost $1199 one way.

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Dreamliner magic

Scoot says that flights from Melbourne or Sydney to Berlin are on sale for $439 one-way (bags and food extra) or $1299 in ScootBiz.

Fares from Australia’s Gold Coast initially are $429 (bags and food extra) and $1299 in ScootBiz.

For more on ScootBiz inclusions, see our age-friendly review of the premium service.

The promotional fares are subject to availability and will remain on sale until one-minute to midnight on January 31 in Perth; until 0159 on February 1 in the Gold Coast; and 0259 on February 1 in Sydney and Melbourne.

These fares are for travel between June 20 and October 26.

Scoot is also offering an additional $30 off selected FLYBAG and FLYBAGSEAT fares for people who key in the promotional code GOBERLIN while booking.

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Photo courtesy Scoot

The four-times-weekly Singapore-Berlin return flights will feature ultra-modern, widebody, twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliners, subject to regulatory approval.

See our detailed review of the remarkable Scoot 787 Dreamliner.

Germany applauds new service

Director of the German National Tourist Office in Sydney, Stefanie Eberhard, described the new Scoot flight to Berlin as “fantastic news for Germany”.

“It opens up many new opportunities for Australian visitors and, with additional flights, travellers can easily explore the capital Berlin and nearby cities such as Dresden, Leipzig and Hamburg.

“Berlin is a happening city packed with exciting events, concerts, exhibition and shows all year round. Germany’s focus for 2018 is ‘Culinary Germany’ which aims to introduce travellers to the country’s gourmet highlights”.

Taste of Scoot

Scoot’s taste of Germany – photo courtesy Scoot

Continuing to expand choices

Scoot’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Lee Lik Hsin, said the airline’s long haul flights to Athens and Honolulu had lived up to expectations.

“Our guests tell us that the 787 Dreamliner has been key to convincing them to travel long-haul on low-cost.

“With Berlin, we continue our mission to add more choices for great value, long-haul, low-cost travel.”

Scoot currently flies to 63 destinations across 17 countries.

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Powering the Scoot Dreamliner

The airline has a fleet of 16 Dreamliners and 24 Airbus A320’s – with a further four Dreamliners and 39 Airbus A320neo aircraft on order.

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Berlin cathedral

The new Berlin route will be flown four days a week – each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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Leaning toward a ban on plane seat reclining

We were flying Economy from London to Sydney with British Airways when a man in front abruptly reclined his seat the full distance, almost striking Sue in the face.

He then took a tablet and seemed to fall asleep. This occurred so quickly that there was no chance of negotiation.

Before his companion had time to do the same, I raised my feet and pushed hard on the back of the seat to prevent that one from also reclining.

The woman tried several times and then gave up.

Standing on the seat

Now, Sue is, by nature, a gentle soul, but when she was unable to lower the table for a meal and was forced to stand on the seat to get out for a call of nature, she alerted the cabin crew.

However, neither the man nor his companion could be woken by the crew  and the steward finally shrugged and promised to seek an alternative seat for Sue.

We didn’t want to be separated, so we suffered the situation for most of the trip.

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Hence, we’ve watched with interest as the question of banning reclining seats – initially on domestic flights – has become a hot issue in recent months.

This is not an ‘Age-Friendly’ issue: fully reclining seats can cramp the space of all passengers.

However, it is one of the biggest travel complaints that we hear – and we’re not alone.

Late last year, several flights were diverted after midair passenger fights over reclining seats.

And in the past few weeks, British Airways, announced that it would ban seat reclining – at least on short flights. In doing so, it joined several other  airlines, including RyanAir.

For decades, it was assumed that if you bought a seat, then you had the right to recline it.  This argument still has plenty of supporters.

Times change

But, times change and a few recent online polls of air travellers appear to have  shown a preference for non-reclining seats. Obviously, the issue has been simmering for some time.

The way we see it, whatever space there is in Economy, is effectively shared space.

If, for some genuine reason, we needed to recline a seat, the person behind would be informed first.

Most people wouldn’t consider reclining their seat sharply in a car. So why is a plane any different?

What do you think?

Air news

Review: Hotel Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt, Puch, Austria

‘High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo’

If you want to explore the Salzberg district of Austria, why not also add a village experience where lush meadows meet stunning snow-capped Alps.

We spent a few days in the quaint village of Puch bei Hallein, using both train and bus to easily travel the 10 kilometres to and from Salzberg city.

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And, as part of the village experience, we stayed at the traditional Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt, a beautiful hotel complete with balconies and eye-catching flowerboxes.

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Here’s our ‘Age-Friendly’ rating of the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt:

Q: Does The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt have street appeal?

A: Does it ever! The hotel is centrally located in the small village – and it’s impossible to miss, with a traditional Bavarian look and a blur of colourful flowers on each balcony. The position is perfect for coach-travellers, as buses to and from Salzberg pass the building and the train station is only a short walk.

Q: How did check-in go?

A: Without a hitch. Reception staff at the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt were friendly, spoke perfect English and were professional in appearance and manner. We were made to feel welcome.

Q: How about accessibility?

A: We arrived by train and were easily able to wheel our bags the short distance to the hotel entrance. There were no steps to the entrance and, once inside, there was a lift operating between all floors. The lifts had adequate space, the corridors were wide enough and the room keys were easy to use. There were free parking spaces at the front of the hotel. The hotel also offers an airport shuttle for an additional charge.

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Q: How was the room?

A: We had a room with a stunning mountain view and a nice balcony. It was lightly snowing on the mountains and the changing view was fascinating. The room was spacious, with a bed, ensuite bathroom, lounge, desk and ample wardrobe space. Everything was spotlessly clean and was serviced each morning.

There was also complimentary high speed wifi that worked well from our room.

Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: The bed was the two-mattresses-on-one-frame style expected in much of Europe, but the village is relatively peaceful and the hotel is soundproof, so we slept soundly.

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Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: Although we didn’t use it, there was a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer.

The hotel also boasts a wellness centre, including a spa, steamroom, hot
tub, solarium and sauna.

Q: Did the room have adequate charging points?

A: The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt room boasted plenty of charging points, capable of handling our seven electronic devices.

Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: There was a good-sized en-suite bathroom with a modern shower, fluffy towels daily and luxury toiletries.

Q: Did you get breakfast?

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A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. The breakfast room was easy to find and the range of tasty food included a standard buffet selection of cereals, fresh fruits, yoghurt, bacon and sausage meat, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, bread and tea/coffee.

Q: Were there any problems with the hotel?

A: No. The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt provides comfortable accommodation at an attractive price with an endearing old world charm. The location – in a quiet village with awe-inspiring mountain views – makes this hotel an ideal base for visiting Salzberg and the many attractions of the area.

Age-Friendliness Rating

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9/10. From our experience, the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt is accessible for people of all ages. The hotel is simple to find with both bus and train access. There are level, secure and free car parking areas.

In review, it’s a simple matter to use use the reception, rooms and facilities. The staff are particularly welcoming, friendly and go out of their way to be as helpful as possible.There are lifts to all floors and hotel corridors are large; the room door locks simple to use; our room was spacious; and the bathroom was accessible to all. The breakfast room was clearly marked and the floor was level throughout.

The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt also boasts a quality restaurant and, while enjoying a tasty dinner, we were seranaded by a pianoaccordion player – a nice touch indeed.

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Age-friendly hotel ratings Austrian hotels

Review: Hotel Jelovica, Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled is gorgeous.

And this is how we rated one of Bled’s most prominent hotels – the Jelovica (now known as the Rikli)

Our review team visited Slovenia in September, as the forests donned their Autumn livery and snow tops on the Julian Alps were reflected in the mirror-like waters of the lake.

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The Jelovica/Rikli is superbly located only 100 metres from the water’s edge in Bled’s Old Town.

Here’s our full review and rating:

Q: Was the booking process simple and problem free?

A: Yes. We used a few comparision websites to examine accommodation options and prices, then we booked online with booking.com. The process was straight-forward and easy.

Q: Did The Jelovica/Rikli communicate after the booking?

A: Yes, the hotel checked by email that everything was okay several weeks before our visit. This was appreciated.

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Q: Does The Jelovica/Rikli have street appeal?

A: Certainly. The hotel sits high above Lake Bled. It is a substantial building, with four levels of accommodation, a summer terrace and a bar. The position is perfect for coach-travellers, as the town’s terminal is almost adjacent to the hotel.

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Q: How did check-in go?

A: Without a hitch. Reception staff at the Jelovica/Rikli were friendly, spoke perfect English and were highly professional in their appearance and manner.

Q: How was accessibility, particularly for senior travellers.

A: We arrived by coach and were easily able to wheel our bags the short distance to the hotel entrance. There weren’t any steps. The foyer was large and modern – and the lifts were only a few feet away.

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The lifts had adequate space and the corridors were wide enough.

Q: How was the room?

A: We had a room with a lake view – and it was particularly spacious, with a king-sized bed, modern tiled bathroom, plenty of wardrobes, and a writing desk. Our room also featured a balcony with a clear view of the lake; Bled Castle; the skiing areas; and the Alps beyond.

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The room was spotlessly clean and was serviced each morning while we were at breakfast.

There was also complimentary high speed wifi and air conditioning.

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Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: Extremely. Although there are nightclubs in Lake Bled, the Jelovica/Rikli is located in a quiet and scenic area – and we slept soundly.

Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: Although we didn’t use them, there was a flat-screen TV with a good selection of English-speaking channels and a safe. For a relatively humble weekly charge, we also hired a kettle and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The hotel also boasts an indoor swimming pool, a sunbathing terrace and a studio for beauty and health treatments.

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Q: Did the room have adequate charging points?

A: The Jelovica/Rikli room boasted plenty of charging points, easily capable of handling our seven electronic devices.

Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: There was a large en-suite bathroom with a modern, curved-screen shower, fluffy towels daily and luxury toiletries.

Q: Did you get breakfast?

A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. The breakfast room waseasy to find and the range of tasty food was exceptional.

Q: Were there any problems with the hotel?

A: No. the Jevovica/Rikli provides comfortable accommodation at an attractive price in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.

Age-Friendliness Rating

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9/10. Booking the Hotel Jelovica/Rikli online is easy. Once there, the hotel is centrally located at Lake Bled, almost alongside the coach terminal (which has regular links to the railway station at Lesce Bled) and a gentle six minute walk from the waterside. There are level, secure and free car parking areas.

It’s a simple matter to use use the reception, rooms and facilities. There are few, if any steps; the lifts and hotel corridors are large; the room door locks simple to use; our room was spacious and the bathroom was accessible to all. The breakfast room was clearly marked and the floor was level throughout.

In our experience, the Hotel Jelovica/Rikli is suitable for visitors of any age.

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Age-friendly hotel ratings Slovenian hotels

Positive action toward sustainable tourism

There’s two sides to the question of sustainable tourism.

The past year in Europe produced a surge of resident concern about overcrowding and the impact of cruise ships on places like Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Italy’s Isle of Capri.

Tourism contributes enormously to economies and job-creation, but also creates worrying pressure on local cultures, the environment and energy resources. Anyone who has visited the Greek islands, Venice or Capri in Summer will attest to the problems of cruise ships and coaches disgorging thousands of people into tiny, Medieval streets.

However, there’s another key side to the issue that doesn’t necessarily grab the headlines, but is even more important.

Positive action is being taken across a range of areas to ensure that mass tourism doesn’t destroy the attractions that draw people in the first place.

One of the most high profile measures occurred when the United Nations highlighted the issue by designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

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This gave important impetus to a range of industry measures that were able to be highlighted during the year.

Its tourism body, the UNWTO, encouraged practices like minimizing the use of plastic; protecting natural and cultural heritage such as rain forests and historical sites; supporting local communities by employing local staff, buying local products and engaging in charity work.

However, sustainable tourism measures were well underway before 2017.

The airline industry, for example, has long been investing in new-age planes that burn less fuel and provide health and cost-saving benefits.

For example, we recently rated the Age-Friendliness of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Scoot Airlines between Australia and Athens.

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It was an eye-opening experience.

The Dreamliner is made of composite plastic, uses less fuel, leaves passengers feeling more refreshed upon arrival and seems much quieter than similar-size jets.

And, of course, it is only part of an important trend.

Other notable steps toward sustainable tourism include the TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, which include prominent industry players Trafalgar Tours; Red Carnation Hotels; Insight Vacations; Contiki Tours; Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection; AAT Kings; and Creative Holidays.

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TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit that encourages sustainability by providing grants to protect natural attractions and unique heritages. To date, TreadRight has helped support at least 40 sustainable tourism projects worldwide.

An example is the first-of-its-kind guide for sustainable river cruising. This guide suggests strategies for reducing water and energy use and waste generation on river cruises.

The cruise industry itself has also been involved in ocean conservation measures such as reducing exhause emissions – and has invested in fuel efficient ships and water and waste conservation.

And, importantly, cruise companies are increasingly looking beyond their ships to the places they visit – encouraging onshore tour providers to adopt sustainable practices.

The Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a research organization with the aim of increasing the positive global impact of responsible tourism. CREST says it helps governments; policy makers; tourism businesses; nonprofit organizations; and international agencies to find solutions to critical issues confronting tourism.

For the individual traveller, there are a growing number of online travel purchasing platforms, such as Kind Traveler, claiming to help consumers choose companies that are giving back to their communites.

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