Monthly Archives: June 2016

An upgrade when you are flying

We all love the idea of getting something for nothing but the chances of getting a free flight upgrade these days are slimmer than Kate Middleton’s waist. Fluttering your eyelashes or flashing a Bond-like smile at check-in just won’t cut it. But it’s not impossible to work your way up from crushed cattle class to something a little cushier, especially if you know how to work the system.

Airlines always overbook so you may be asked at check-in if you’re willing to be bumped to another flight, and be offered cash for your trouble. If you accept the alternative flight, now is a good time to politely ask if you could possibly be upgraded as well, which sometimes works. If you don’t want to change flights however, ask if there’s any chance of an upgrade on the current flight instead.

This did the trick for Sue Jones, an office manager on her way back from vacation: “They offered me a different flight but I told them I just had to be on the one I’d booked to make a business meeting next day and they bumped me from economy to first class, which was brilliant!”

Sue’s case is rare however. I tried it once on my way to the Cannes Film Festival, having turned down the airline’s offer of around £300 compensation to fly next day. No luck. They managed to squeeze me onboard in my booked economy seat.

As with everything else, it’s often about who and not what you know and networking at 30,000 feet is no exception. If you have a family member or friend or even a friend of a friend who works for the airline, it can be worth its weight in gold so butter up those contacts.

You can also become ‘friends’ with your favourite airline. In fact, frequent flyer programmes are among your best chances of getting an upgrade, especially at check-in. Frequent flyer Richard Ellis, who’s had some success, said: “Show your frequent flyer card at check-in and politely ask if they are upgrading passengers that day. Offer to pay. Go to the business class queue. Explain that you’d like to get some work done and ask if there’s a waiting list you can go on. It helps if you are carrying a laptop.”

How to handle the lost luggage

So there you are, watching the same three pieces of luggage go round and round the airport carousel and wondering if your bags are going to show up. Have you lost forever the handbag you bought for your niece, or that fetching sarong from Phuket or are you going to be left without a stitch of ski gear for the ski holiday you are about to start?

A staggering 29.4 million items of luggage were ‘mishandled’ – that’s delayed, damaged or stolen last year, according to the 2011 Baggage Report from air transport experts SITA. That’s 12 bags for every 1000 passengers.

The good news is that around 98% of all airline luggage does turn up when and where it’s supposed to, according to theInternational Air Transport Association. IATA also says that missing items usually turn up within 48 hours, thanks to a global tracking system called WorldTracer.

It’s a huge inconvenience if you are one of the unlucky ones, but there are ways to improve your chances of arriving at the airport at the same time as your luggage.

The best way to avoid lost baggage is to stick to a carry on, especially if you are only away for a few days. Pack a capsule wardrobe and rinse things out overnight or send them to the hotel laundry. Take travel-sized toiletries and toss the empty containers before you return home to make room for any souvenirs you’ve acquired. Another tip is to pack a change of clothes and everything you need to survive for the first 24 hours in your carry-on in the event your luggage gets delayed or lost.

If you must take a suitcase, travel with one bag rather than two to lessen the risk and make it the expandable kind to accommodate items bought abroad. Avoid the ubiquitous soft-sided black bag on wheels –it’s all too easy for some weary traveller to pick it up by mistake. If you can’t live without black, tie some bright ribbons to the handle or use colourful stickers or a coloured strap. Some airports offer a baggage wrapping service for extra security.

Make sure your contact details are on the outside and inside of the bag, though leave off your home address. Locks are a moot point – in the US, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) may break them open if they are not of an approved kind.

Take advantage of new technology and get a smart tag. Several companies including Back2you.com offer traceable tags using an online database for the price of an annual subscription which could pay for itself if you travel frequently.

How to get first class on cabin

Cathay Pacific Airways offers the crème de la crème of first class travel – and that’s official. TheHong Kong-based airline scooped the latest World Airlines Award title for best First Class Airline seat. And when you check out the details, it’s not difficult to see why. Among the longest and widest in the sky, the first class seat is 92cm (36 inches) across and can quickly recline into a whopping 206cm long (81 inches), 180-degree flat bed.

Private screens on the aisle help transform the ergonomically-perfect foam seat or bed into a private relaxation suite. When you’re in need of 40 winks, don your complementary sleepsuit and dive under a luxurious duvet. Feeling peckish? Indulge in the first class, made-to-order Asian and international cuisine on offer, or watch the latest movies on your own personal 43cm (17 inches) widescreen TV. Fancy some pampering? Reach for your own top range beauty kits (Acca Kappa products and Ermenegildo Zegna travel bags from Italy for him and Aesop products from Australiaand Ipa-Nima travel pouches for her).

With only nine first class seats on Cathay’s Boeing 747-400s and just six seats on the Boeing 777-300ERs, you can fly smug in the knowledge that you’re one of the privileged few.

Qatar Airways has rapidly built a stellar reputation since it first took to the skies in 1994, bagging the coveted title of world’s best airline in 2011.

As you might expect, you’re treated in style from the minute you clamber onboard the aircraft. The service is personable and professional, and the dining exquisite, with 10-course meals cooked to perfection by award-winning chefs. Loosen your belt and feast on caviar, lobster and Arabic specialities, before washing it down with fine wines and champagnes. Then sink into your ultra comfortable, 56cm (22 inches) wide seat and switch on the built-in massager to ease away any lingering tension. When sleep beckons, enjoy a personal turn down service and the privacy and comfort of a 200cm long (79 inches), 180-degree flat bed complete with a feather duvet.

If you really want to join the high rollers, Singapore Airlines’ suites, exclusively available on board the A380 aircraft, are even more decadent. Twelve suites featuring roomy, armchair-style seats, hand-stitched by Italian craftsmen, are complemented by leather and wood finishes. And in an exciting innovation for airline travel, there are separate, standalone beds measuring 198cm long (78 inches) shielded by sliding doors for unparalleled privacy.

Emirates

Ever felt the need for a revitalising shower when you’re on a plane? Now you can wash down weary muscles as a first class passenger on board Emirate’s A380 Airbuses in one of two fancy walnut-and-marble designed shower spas which have all the trimmings of a world-class hotel bathroom.

Head for the onboard lounge where you can socialise over ice cool drinks with other high rollers or instead retreat to your personal suite where the seat converts to a fully flat bed with a mattress, measuring 58cm wide (23 inches) and 218cm long (86 inches). Equipped with its own sliding door and adjustable privacy divider, you can relax in your private sanctum complete with a personal mini-bar, touch-screen TV offering 600 channels, music and games, adjustable ambient lighting, vanity table, mirror and even a wardrobe.

A dine-on-demand service means you can tuck into seven courses of delicious international cuisine whenever you feel.