East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Monday, 20 March 2023

Strikes threaten Heathrow Airport operations over Easter

Something is rotten in the state of Brexit.

Following on the heels of a threatened strike at several passport offices, industrial action at Heathrow Airport is being planned for the Easter holiday period.

Travel Mole reports that security officers at the airport's Terminal 5 will strike over Easter as part of a pay dispute.

Union Unite said over 1,400 workers will strike for 10 days starting from March 31.

“Our members are simply unable to make ends meet due to the low wages paid by Heathrow,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.

"They are being forced to take strike action due to need, not greed.

“Unite has a laser-like focus on prioritising the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and HAL needs to be in no doubt that the workers at the airport will receive the union’s unstinting support.”

Heathrow management says it has plans to mitigate any disruption

“Passengers can be reassured that we have contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operational,” it said in a statement.

The airport says it has offered a 10% increase in pay.

The airport strike follows news that 1,000 passport office workers are due to strike throughout April.

The PCS union said this strike action will likely to have a "significant impact" on new passport deliveries.

Angry passenger takes on shoddy airline behaviour - and wins

An angry airline passenger has gone to court and had bailiffs sent to an airport after being let down by a budget carrier.

Russell Quirk sent bailiffs to Luton Airport to confront Wizz Air over money owed to him after his family's flights to Portugal were cancelled at the last minute, the BBC reported.

Quirk said he was left to to find another route to Portugal which cost him £4,500 ($8,170) and after months of waiting for Wizz Air to reimburse him he went to court and ended up sending in the bailiffs.

Wizz Air paid up, apologised and said its performance "fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations".

The company is one of a number of budget airlines facing county court claims against them, consumer magazine Which? has reported.

The way customers have been treated by Wizz Air has been "shocking, shambolic and shoddy", Quirk told the BBC.

He had booked flights from Luton Airport to Faro, in Portugal,  in January last year for a family holiday with his wife and three daughters.

He awoke early on the morning of their flight to find a message from Wizz Air saying it was cancelled.

"There was no explanation, no alternative offered and no apology," he said.

"I had to wake my three daughters and tell them we weren't going on holiday - they were very upset."

With hotels, transfers and an airport lounge already paid for, he said the only viable option was to find another carrier, with which the family flew the following day.

Those flights, together with money lost on a night in hotel rooms and other expenses, cost him £4,500, he said.

On his return he tried to get recompense from Wizz Air, but he said it took almost two months for the cost of his original flights to be returned along with other legal compensation.

But, he said, Wizz Air repeatedly ignored his claim for "consequential losses" - the £4,500 extra he had spent.

He took his case to the county court but said Wizz Air "ignored" the judgement made against the company, so bailiffs were sent in to the Wizz Air desk at Luton Airport.

"Their option was to hand over the money or the bailiffs would take it in goods - it might have been chairs, tables, computers or an aircraft," Quirk said.

He said taking his case to court cost him about £180 in court fees, plus £60 to send in the bailiffs - although additional costs associated with the bailiff visit would have had to be paid by Wizz Air.

"Increasingly businesses are thinking they can treat customers like dirt and I'm determined to eradicate that," Quirk told the BBC.

"My message is, where big companies stonewall you, if you persevere you can get what is owed to you."

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said: "In the summer of 2022, due to unprecedented levels of disruption across Europe and the UK which affected the entire industry, we fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations.

"When things went wrong, we did not react quickly enough to manage the high volume of customer claims that resulted from this disruption. We are sorry about this and we are working to ensure that our customers' experience with Wizz is better this year."

Alleged pest banned from an entire region

Now here is a great idea.

A man who has been tagged as a serial pest has been banned from the entire English county of Norfolk.

Stepehn Cutts, 51, was given the court order after being accused of abusive behaviour and begging in Norwich city centre.

Cutts, from Surrey, was charged during the week with a public order offence.

He was released on bail but given conditions not to enter Norfolk unless to attend court or other pre-arranged legal appointments.

If only courts around the world would follow suit. 

Idiots banned from city centres because of silly haircuts. 

Loudmouths banned from the radio for having extreme views. 

Or being banned from downtown Melbourne for being a loud Collingwood fan. 

The possibilities are endless. 

Image: Norwich city centre. No pests allowed. 

Sunday, 19 March 2023

The affordable business class route to Europe


Many business class travellers opt for the tied and trusted.

If they are heading for Europe from Australia then they will opt for Qantas, or perhaps Singapore Airlines.

More recently trips via the Middle East with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Air have been hugely popular.

But those who want business class amenities at a much lower price, a new option is on offer from Vietnam-based Bamboo Airways.

Bamboo PR manager Brad Crawford is talking up bargain basement business class lie flat bed comfort with Bamboo Airways to Europe via Vietnam from only $4,500 including taxes ex Melbourne or Sydney.

Adventurous flyers, or those with some time to spare, can fly to London or Frankfurt via Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Crawford warns that seats are limited and that not all flights have direct links - but a day or two in Vietnam would hardly be hardship. And many flyers - myself included - enjoy breaking up their long-haul flights into two sectors.

I'm hoping to try this route sooner rather than later, so stay tuned for reports.

For details see https://www.bambooairways.com/au-en/

Melbourne boutique hotel gets new look and new flavours

There are some pretty weird ways of promoting a hotel. 

One is having just one room designed by a bloke who appears on TV. Another is highlighting an unusual ingredient featured on the menu. 

The team behind the re-launch of Melbourne boutique hotel Laneways By Ovolo have opted to showcase both those options, although they had solid logic behind the moves. 

The new-look property features reimagined public spaces and rooms by Australian interior designers Luchetti Krelle, as well as a new drinking and dining venue Amphlett House - spearheaded by chef and restaurateur Ian Curley and mixologist Andrea Gaudi. 

All good. But here is where it gets a little odd. 

First the hotel is showcasing Room 303 – "an exclusive suite styled by renowned design aficionado Neale Whitaker". Guests who reserve Room 303 can apparently expect a collection of original art, limited-edition objects and soft furnishings hand selected by Whitaker himself.

Wow! Not my thing, but whatever floats your boat, I guess. Whitaker has apparently stayed in the hotel regularly and asked to be involved.    

But wait. Amphlett House is one of the only restaurants in Australia to be serving beef heart, presented at the restaurant seared on a bed of lentils, creamed spinach and mustard.

A dish that will appeal to a very small minority, I suspect, although someone who has tried the dish describes it as "excelleent". 

One other oddity: in the hotel lobby guests will find an Honesty Bar, offering an assortment of sweet and savoury treats, bottled cocktails, wine and Champagne. Guests note what they take and it is charged back to their rooms.

I wonder how long that will last? 

Anyway, back to the basics. 

The hotel has 42 rooms and the decor takes inspiration from the Memphis Group - a 1980s Italian design and architecture collective. 

It is located at the top of Little Bourke Street, well located for the nearby theatre district.

Guests booking directly with the hotel are guaranteed: breakie to go-go, high-speed wifi; in-room mini bar (first round is on Ovolo); self-service laundry, all-day sweet, welcome goodie, social hour in Amphlett House (below) and a tree planted by Eden Project. 

“The food concept for Amphlett House is elevated pub dining, with a classic menu highlighting quality Victorian produce," says Curley. 

"I’ve loved this part of Melbourne for many years and am looking forward to serving up humble fare with big flavours at the top end of town. We welcome guests to share a meal with family and friends or grab a quick bite with your better half.”

In addition to beef heart, other food offerings might include smoked bone marrow served on toast, parsley and shallot salad, blue oyster mushroom skewer with smoked romesco and moules marinières, aioli and toasted sourdough. 

To learn more, or to make a booking, visit https://ovolohotels.com

Laneways By Ovolo is at 19 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. 

Passport office strike: travel misery post-Brexit goes on and on

Travel in and out of Britain is already a lot more cumbersome and time consuming than it used to be - one of the many "benefits" of Brexit.

Now a passport office strike could spell disaster for the holiday plans of thousands of Britons already suffering from the folly of their political masters and their own stupidity in voting to leave the EU.

Over 1,000 workers at the passport office will go on strike for several weeks from April 3, Travel Mole reports.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union warned of a ‘significant impact’ on the processing of passports

About one quarter of all passport office workers will strike.

The proposed industrial action will impact locations at Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport.

It could potentially affect the handling of an estimated one million passport applications.

The PCS union said the Passport Office strike is over an imposed, non-negotiable 2% pay rise.

The union says it was forced into the "significant escalation" as ministers ‘have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us.’