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

Sunday 1 March 2015

New Multan Airport targets March liftoff

New Multan International Airport Pakistan from Shujaat Azeem on Vimeo.

Pakistan's 'new' Multan Airport will finally... hopefully... be operational later this month.

The airport has been fraught with challenges. As recently as February 10th, the airport was set to be inaugurated before the end of February. While this target was not met, there was a final inspection of the facilities on February 27th.

Arrival of passengers on the first test
flight at Multan Airport today
Today saw the landing of the first test flight on the tarmac at Multan Airport, and an announcement that the airport will be operational sometime during May. Let's hope.

The new airport was apparently completed last year, but a lack of power prevented it from becoming operational (there is now a new grid station).

Previous stumbling blocks included cancellation of plans for a new greenfield construction, due to lack of funds, and modified plans to replace the existing terminal instead.

First bags!
Test flight photos by Saqlain Kazmi
via @raisinganchor
Along with new runways and an ILS (instrument landing system), the essentially new airport will boost capacity from 100,000 to 1 million passengers a year.

Information on transportation options for the new terminal are hard to find, even for us. For now, expect to take a taxi, and keep any eye on our Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide for updates.

The Mango Season  | Explored In addition to passenger services, the new airport will double mango exports from the region from 10,000 to 20,000 tons (how many planes does it take to fly 10,000 mangos?).

For more pictures, see the Multan Airport Facebook page.

Related resources:
Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide
New Multan airport to be inaugurated this month (March): Shujaat Azeem
Luck to smile on Multan in March
PM likely to open New Multan Airport on (February) 27th
Upgraded Multan airport likely to open next month (February)
New Multan Airport to complete by end of 2014
Qatar Airlines to start flights from Multan to Europe