Don’t throw in the (beach) towel: Holiday bookings are booming again!
Chalkmarks: Lisbon

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 5th August 2022

CRAWLING through the chaos, why you can’t book with BA and how come bookings are booming? Discover your fact-packed, must-read weekly travel round-up…

It’s Friday!

Crawling through chaos: If you were travelling to or from Manchester Airport earlier this year there’s a good chance you were caught up in the chaos. Everyone and their nan was stuck. Birthdays, weddings and holidays were ruined. Hundreds of fights were cancelled at the last minute and many people had no choice but to go back home. On Monday night Channel 4’s Dispatches took us behind the scenes at Britain’s third largest airport.

Cue the queues: The action kicks off with Loose Women’s Jane Moore catching an easyJet flight to Corfu at 7am. She is up at 3am and in a queue by 4am. She’s waiting to get into the airport. She then waits to reach bag drop. There’s another wait for security. And a last wait onboard the aircraft for passengers stuck in the queues. Luckily, her flight gets off just half an hour late.

A day in the life of a baggage handler: It’s July and an undercover reporter takes a job with Swissport, the world’s largest ground handling company. He’s on £9.67 an hour. We’re told they sacked half of their 6,000 staff during the pandemic. One handler says staff aren’t turning up for work. The secret filming shows suitcases arriving for multiple flights from check-in. These need to be sorted and sent off to the correct aircraft. The conveyor belt soon jams. His mood is dark. It’s too physically demanding for one person. He says there used to be 200 bag handlers. He’s angry. It’s not just the travellers who are upset. “F*****g chaos,” he says.

Awks: Another day, frustrated passengers poke their heads through the conveyor belt hatch asking for their bags and some offer to help. Others have been aggressive and abusive. This “happens all the time,” we hear. 

In fact The documentary focuses on disruption to flights with Tui, Virgin, British Airways, easyJet and Wizz Air. OAG flight research reveals that in June, over half of easyJet flights were delayed, eight out of 10 BA flights were delayed and 7 put of 10 Wizz Air flights were delayed. The airlines were all sorry. 

Who’s to blame? No answers come. And there’s is no happy ending. That’s a distant dream. Staffing issues are the long-term effect of the two-year pandemic. Airports, airlines and Swissport say they are rehiring. The conclusions are much the same as the BBC Panorama investigation we reported on two weeks ago: until baggage handlers and other airport staff get proper money, little will change.

Airports v airlines: Martin Chalk (no relation), of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, says up to 40 people are needed to ensure one flight departs on time. If just one team in the chain has a problem there is a domino effect. Julia Lo Bue-Said from Advantage Travel Partnership, a group of travel agents, says passengers can expect higher flight prices in the future. 

Why you can’t book with BA: British Airways has suspended selling flights from Heathrow to European countries until Monday 15th August. This is due to the 100,000 daily passenger cap at Heathrow and to free up seats for travellers who are re-booking seats after their flights were cancelled earlier this year. The Sun has the story.

Meanwhile bookings are booming: Incredibly, despite all the bad press, holiday bookings are surging. With just a couple of weeks of airport chaos headlines behind us, trade mag Travel Weekly says travel agents are seeing strong sales for late getaways, autumn trips and 2023 holidays. One said: “Sales are ramping up more than ever.” Another said: “My target for the year was £3million and I will have done that by the end of this month.” Another said they’d had their best July ever adding: “We keep thinking the bubble will burst.” It goes on and on….

On top of that: The surprising destination for holidaying Britons is Indonesia. According to Travel Weekly Britons were the country’s biggest market in the first half of 2022 with 15,000 visitors. Unfortunately, they don’t say which islands they’re visiting but enjoy our postcard from Bali.

Lovely Lisbon: Holding our pint-sized cocktails high, we carefully make our way on to the cobbles where the night is getting well and truly underway. There are hundreds of revellers who have crowded into a nook of Lisbon to let their hair down and get their groove on. Yet despite the never-ending number of bars in the heart of Portugal’s capital city, the real party is in the street…down the road and around the corner. The alfresco scene just goes on and on. Nobody really shouts about this westernmost corner of Europe compared to the Algarve known for its beaches and energetic party scene.  But Lisbon boasts a year-round Mediterranean climate, has its own stunning coastline and offers a nightlife that can be surprisingly sweaty, noisy and crowded. See here for the full experience.

Rolling and riding: The world’s coolest water sport in the world’s coldest waters – way up in the Arctic Circle. There are six of us at the Unstad Camping surf school in the Lofoten Islands, northern Norway. It might not be the place to sunbathe but Unstad Beach on Vestvågøy island offers some of the best waves in the world. While it’s easy to think that a trip into these Polar isles would be blisteringly cold given that they lie further north than Iceland and parts of Alaska, it is actually warmer than you’d think because of the Gulf Stream that sweeps across the Atlantic Ocean. This means there’s are no polar bears or sea ice. The average winter temperature is around the same as in Britain while in the summer it has been known to hit 30C. The landscape is stunning with needle peaked granite mountains covered in fresh snow and paradise-white beaches that provide the perfect playground for outdoor-types. Watch us go.

Sekt in the city: Don’t go to Germany just for the beer, it’s home to the Riesling grape which comes from the Rhineland region. Grown on the steep banks of the river in slate rocks, the vines hold the warmth of the sun long into the evening which enhance their sweetness. In Koblenz, you’ll find Weingut-Hagn – a family run business that has been growing vines for some 300 years. Visit Mainz (just outside Frankfurt), known for its old town, but listed as one of the world’s Great Wine Capitals. Further along the Rhine you’ll find Kupferberg for a tasting fir bubbly Sekt. Here’s how we got to know our grapes.

Flyaways!

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