Sunday, 28 June 2015

Heathrow's slick new transport screens

Real time traffic, weather and transportation options come to Heathrow T2 baggage claim, in the traveller's language
A new innovation has been unveiled in the Baggage Claim area at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 2.

Conveniently located where most arriving passengers will do most of their waiting - for their luggage to arrive at the carousels - the new digital smart screens will display all transportation options. Information on the Heathrow Express airport train, Heathrow airport bus service and London taxi service is now available for the traveller to browse.

What's innovative is the way the screens integrate real-time weather and traffic information, as well as updates on rail service. With this data, the screens can generate relatively accurate travel times for each transport method. They will even estimate taxi fares, allowing the traveller to compare with other options.

Equally innovative is the way the screens will adapt the displayed language translations to those of most passengers arriving on each flight. For example, Japanese translations will be displayed when All Nippon Airways flights arrive, and Egyptian for flights arriving from Cairo or Luxor.

We laud the innovation, as this is the kind of relevant, just-in-time up-to-date information consumers are coming to expect from their portable devices, and from the institutions they frequent. By pulling all this data together and displaying it in baggage claim, when arriving passengers may not have connected their devices, and are most in need of it, Heathrow is setting the standard.

Expect to see the initiative rolled out to Heathrow's other terminals in the not so distant future. Expect to see a mix of adoption of the technologies in the industry as a whole: we wonder who the early adopters will be (a favourite airport near you, you hope!), and fully anticipate those airports that are still charging for WiFi to remain in the PaxEx dark for some time to come.

Related resources:

Heathrow’s new transport screens are such a cool and useful airport amenity
Journey comparison screens simplify onward travel options for Heathrow passengers
Heathrow announces Microsoft as the launch partner on the Towers@T5
Heathrow clinches ACI EUROPE Best Airport 2015 Award
London Heathrow International Airport (LHR) transportation guide
London Heathrow Private Car Transfer - BOOK NOW

Friday, 26 June 2015

The stunning Atlantic Road in Norway

Atlantic Road, Norway
Posted by 3dfirstaid visual architecture on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Friday, 15 May 2015

Myanmar adds airports to meet tourism demand

Departure Lounge
Departure lounge at  Myanmar's Yangon International Airport
creativecommons image by mikecogh on flicrk
Look at any list of the world's hot travel destinations, and Myanmar will probably be on the list. The former nation of Burma, emerging after decades of being closed to tourists, is busy making plans to handle all those new visitors.

Myanmar currently has 3 international airports (along with about 30 domestic airports):
The on-again, off-again, plans to build a 4th is back on again with the recent announcement of new investors for the Hanthawaddy International Airport project [more]. Located in the central Bago region, just 80 kilometres from Yangon, the new greenfield Hanthawaddy International Airport will be capable of handling 18 million passengers, and is expected to open in 2018.

Construction on a 5th is already underway. Expansion of the renamed former domestic Tavoy Airport to international standards has commenced, with runway and other facilities to follow. Dawei International Airport (TVY) is being developed in conjunction with the Dawei Deep Seaport project, and will be fully operational by 2017.

Related resources

Singapore-Japan consortium wins deal to build new airport
Myanmar reboots new airport tender
Myanmar to add two new int'l airports to meet future development
Myanmar Coming to a Crossroads - Travel Pulse
Myanmar airport transportation guides

Friday, 3 April 2015

Even taxi drivers are chill about Cairn's free airport bus

Even the Cairns taxi drivers support the new airport bus
Cairns Airport has a new airport shuttle bus service - and it's FREE.

The new service, Airport Connect, provides a vital missing link between the city's public transportation system, and the Cairns International Airport, which has no public transit options. Passengers, airport staff and pedestrians who have no desire or budget to pay for a taxi or shuttle, or who are not staying at hotel with shuttle service, have had little choice but to walk.

Airport Connect will operate just once an hour, so it may not work for most passengers. But now, at least, they have a choice.

The motivation behind the move is sad, but also inspiring: 2 months ago a pedestrian died after being struck while walking along Airport Avenue. The new service means that Dinah Boughton's life was not in vain.

The Airport Connect service is not without its detractors, but we'll take a free bus service over no bus service at all. If the only thing better is a direct bus service from the city centre, well maybe that would be a good outcome. And if advocates for cycling and walking paths are heard, and additional facilities are created, then all the better.

The free bus experiment is limited to a 3-month trial period, which we think is a shame, as this isn't nearly enough time for visitors to learn about the service and begin to use it.

Nonetheless, it's a brilliant idea, and whoever seized the funding to get the project off the ground should be congratulated. Now it's up to both the public to show their support - by using the bus - and for airport executives to show their leadership - by standing their ground and extending the service. If government officials drop the ball by failing to permanently fund the initiative, then it really will be a shame.

Cairns taxi drivers not fazed by free Cairns Regional Council bus service to Cairns Airport
The Cairns Airport bus service is set up to fail
How the Cairns Airport Connect shuttle bus works
Cairns International Airport (CNS) transportation guide
Cairns Layover Ideas & Things to do in Cairns

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Don’t let sensationalized travel fear invoke paralysis

standing at the precipice
creativecommons image by charleskremenak on Flickr

by Todd Romaine

Let’s face the obvious fact – you will die at some point. Now, getting over this depressed reality should not paralyze you from living life and seeing the world in real-time versus from in front of a television set.

It seems all too often that the world is becoming a small place to travel within when the broad strokes of generalization of ‘no-go zones’ are factored into trip planning. Generally speaking, the Middle East is considered very volatile with the usual images of suicidal bombers and revolution. Africa is considered dangerous for contacting deadly viral diseases to war and to horrific crimes against locals and tourists alike. Much of Asia, with the exception of the southeast portion, is considered to share the same traits as the Middle East and Africa.

Right off the bat, most people now eliminate 2/3rds of the world and stick to safe countries in safe regions to ensure a continuance of life as they know it. And with the overload of information in people’s lives, we thrive and make decisions based on a combination of news or research snippets followed by gut reasoning.

When Ebola hit the news, people were avoiding Africa and all parts of it, despite the fact it only impacted three countries in West Africa and left the remaining 51 countries alone. While images of the Middle East show chaotic conditions, much of the region is peaceful or safe to travel, or countries considered dangerous generally have pockets of it, versus a wide swath of territory (exception being ISIL in Iraq, Syria).

Unfortunately official country reports tend to reinforce these stereotypes and this compounds the issue further with insurance companies, travel companies and the likes also terminating or intensifying their view of the area.

I am not suggesting you shrug this information off completely but spend time doing research on where you want to travel and what areas to avoid.

Admittedly, I went to Yemen last year as a tourist, a country that only receives a handful of American tourists and likely even less Canadians. Despite the political issues, kidnappings etc., I was able to find pockets of the country that were very safe and was able to enjoy it without dealing with hordes of tourists.

Traveling solo or with a small group tends to attract less negative attention and spending money with a reputable tour group also greatly assists with navigating away from potential dangers.

Maybe the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, but most of the world is still relatively safe and if do your own detailed research, and do proper planning, you have the opportunity to see reality in your own eyes versus the often drummed up sensationalism of mass media.

Related resources
Fear, Risk and Travel - Gary Arndt, Everything Everywhere
Travel warnings and advisories - Independent Traveler
Why you should ignore travel warnings - Reid's Italy
Travel in the time of Ebola
May the odds be ever in your favour
What counts as a country visited?

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Spain’s ‘white elephant airport’ comes back from the dead

El hombre avión
The Plane Man, by Juan Ripollés - sadly, the sculptor was left out-of-pocket for expenses associated with the stunning work

The desire of some European politicians to spend future public funds to help reinvigorate their domestic economies resulted in numerous civil work projects, many of which were abandoned shortly after construction. In places like Spain, the situation is glaringly obvious with public buildings, pools and even airports sitting empty, based on failed speculative theories on increased consumption and use.

In Castellon, a province in NE Spain, a 15 year plan to construct an airport to increase tourism to its postcard-perfect beaches eventually came into existence 4 years ago. The project was launched with the hope it would tap into various regional carrier markets, on the assumption that foreign money would continually flow into the region’s hospitality and that the real estate market would see increases on par with other parts of the world .

Europe’s sustained economic recession, however, has resulted in high levels of unemployment and corresponding less continental travelers flocking to Spain, let alone relatively undiscovered regions such as Castellon.

Despite the airport sitting idle beyond a few charter flights, expenses were paid for security and rodent and bird exterminators, anxiously preparing for the days when the airport would receive national approval and international use.

This was more than an unneeded, useless €150 million boondoggle - the former politician who cooked up the idea, Carlos Fabra, is currently serving 4 years behind bars for tax fraud associated with the project. The renowned sculptor Juan Ripollés was left out of pocket for his masterpiece gracing the airport's grounds. A whopping €30 million was wasted on advertising. The private contractor hired to operate the airport for 50 years sued for cancellation of his contract. And it took f4 years to be approved as meeting regulatory requirements. No wonder Spaniards were sore about the ghost airport.

Well, the day of waiting has come to an end.
Ryanair will start operating flights to/from Castellón de la Plana Airport, or Castellón-Costa Azahar Airport, with multiple weekly flights from London Stansted and Bristol. Ticket sales have opened, and flights commence in September.

Related resources

Spain's 'ghost' airport finally gets ready to welcome its first flights as Ryanair confirms routes between Castellon and the UK
Ryanair to serve Castellón Airport from Bristol and Stansted
Spanish 'ghost' airport's unused runway to be dug up - 2012
In Spain, a Symbol of Ruin at an Airport to Nowhere - 2012
Castellon de La Plana Airport (CDT) transportation guide (watch for updates)

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A few thoughts on Frankfurt Airport

This feature originally appeared on our LayoverIdeas blog:
Frankfurt airport
creativecommons image by bortescristian on Flickr
While we are often inspired by innovative airport design and unique features, Frankfurt International Airport takes the cake, by going above and beyond what has become to be expected of world class airports.

Among the many passenger-friendly services at Frankfurt International Airport, the following strike us as definitely created with human creature comforts in mind [continue reading... ]

Related resources
Layover City: Frankfurt
Frankfurt Layover Private Sightseeing Tour with Airport Transport
Frankfurt International Airport private transfer service from IHateTaxis
Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) transportation guide
Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN) transportation guide (120km away)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Taxi prices drop in Manila... or do they?

All taxis in Manila - in the whole country of the Philippines actually - have been ordered to drop their fares.

The story is that the move is necessary with the reduction in oil prices around the world, but many are speculating that this is an Uber ridesharing countermove. Either way, it's being rolled out quickly (they've even called it "provisional"), and it's causing no shortage of confusion.

Type of signage you're
likely to see in your
Manila taxi
pic @AceGapuz
Here's the lowdown:
  • All Manila taxis have been ordered to reduce the starting meter fare by PHP 10
  • For Manila airport taxis, this means the starting fare has dropped from PHP 70 to PHP 60
  • Elsewhere in Manila, the starting fare drop is from PHP 40 to PHP 30
  • For reasons that are unfathomable, the fare drop does NOT appear on the meter!
  • It is the driver's responsibility to deduct the PHP 10 off the fare
  • There are severe penalties for drivers who do not give the reduction
  • Expect the reduction and pay attention to make sure you get the correct rate
  • The reduction applies elsewhere in the Philippines as well

It's not hard to see the flaws with this system: how is the traveler to know if the reduction is in place, if their driver does not tell them? With how quickly the change was rolled out, and the fact that it is being called "provisional", the possibility exists for the change to be reversed just as spontaneously (there is a pretty big pushback).

It's also making for some pretty dismal taxi drivers, all of who are taking the hit of the reduced fare. If you have a heart, tip well.

Avoid the hassle: book an Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport private transfer with IHateTaxis!

Related resources:
LTFRB cuts taxi flag-down rate nationwide by P10
Provisional rollback on taxi flag-down rate ‘unreasonable’–taxi operators
Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) transportation guide
Manila Clark International Airport (CRK) transportation guide

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Baja Mexico's double dipper gas scam

Pemex gas stations are a common sight in Mexico - and it's at
one in Los Cabos that this rental car gas scam happened
creativecommons image: mcrael on Flickr

Heading to Baja, Mexico? Watch out for the double dipper gas scam!

Many Americans and Canadians, especially those located on the continents’ west coast, frequently visit the Baja region of Mexico. This is a place increasingly popular for weddings, kite surfing and general rest and relaxation. More frequently, however, it is starting to get a reputation of numerous scams on well heeled tourists.

Most notably is the double dipper gas scam where travelers head to a gas station before returning to their rental car to the airport to find out that their credit card does not work when it is inserted into the processing machine - followed by a demand is required to rectify the bill in cash; albeit in Pesos or US Dollars. More often than not, travelers with limited time before catching a flight assume their credit card transaction did not go through and readily handover cash, sometimes driving accompanied to a nearby ATM machine to make a withdrawal before speeding off to the airport for their flight home.

Fast forward several weeks and the traveler discovers that their credit card transaction for fuel actually did go through, so they paid twice. Then begins a contestation with the credit card company over the disputed charge.

While this scam is not isolated to the Baja region of Mexico, it is safe to say that the best way around this is to put aside cash (in local currency) as your last and final transaction payment before leaving the country. This will mean for future trips you will need to build this into your overall currency exchange at the beginning of your trip.

Related resources:
Beware the gas station scam in Mexico
The hidden cost of car rentals in Mexico
How to protect yourself when renting a car - Advice from IHateTaxis
Are cross-border car rentals possible?
Renting diesel in North America