Trottings: Do not take Easyjet insurance.

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Travel stories from The Fox & Friends.

2010 March 29


Trottings: Do not take Easyjet insurance.



ore on Easyjet insurance. Recently I took out a policy covering flight cancellation, lost/damaged baggage, etc.

I needed to cancel my flight, so I called the number given on my insurance booking, a UK number. I explained my query, and was asked to hold while she checked the terms of the contract. Ten minutes later another agent greeted me; the first had obviously gone.

Her answer was quicker. She told me to call another number in the country where I reserved the flight, and that her office dealt only with UK policies.

In other words the wording on my policy –

‘If you have any queries regarding your policy please call +44 (0) 20 8603 9694’

– should actually read –

‘If you have any queries regarding your policy do not call +44 (0) 20 8603 9694’


I then called that another number of the insurance company, not Easyjet.

They told me quickly that the flight cancellation clause did not cover me for flight cancellations – yes, you read it right. Unless I was dead, or the flight crashed.

In fact, the reasons acceptable to Easyjet are in the small print of the contract, which is in legalese French. The insurance company blamed Easyjet for the tight restrictions. So do I, but it is also the insurance company – Mondial Assistance. They are not forced to sign a deal with Easyjet, so they are as much to blame for this unacceptable practice.

This is my second loss on an Easyjet policy this year. My cases are clearly not far from scams. I now know that Easyjet’s insurance is unreliable, and its practices are geared to encourage the uninformed buyer to buy a policy not worth what it seems. It seems to be little more than a money-making machine for Easyjet.

So, my advice?


The Fox & Friends; MB


Trottings: not-so-Nice airport bus.

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Travel stories from The Fox & Friends.

2010 March 18


Trottings: not-so-Nice airport bus.



 never thought that I would be writing about an airport-bus service. After all, there are more important things in life. But my experience of the Nice Airport service from the train station warrants an entry for the PAGPFT forum. (PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed); People Are Getting Paid For This.)

Here goes:

1. The incoming bus parks across the road from the proper bus stop, to wait for the scheduled time. Signage is bad – just one of a list of buses at the bus stop, even though many-perhaps-most, of the passengers are unfamiliar with the service. And because, again many-perhaps-most don’t know which direction the bus goes, and the bus has its destination lights on (‘Nice Airport’) and so some cross the road to board the bus. When the driver turns up, he can tell them to cross back over the road. I am not sure how, but surely there is a way to stop this? Probably just signage?

2. There is no sign showing the cost of ticket (although I am sure it is hidden somewhere on the many lists of schedules; it was €4) so nearly every passenger asks the driver or another passenger. Why not a sign in the bus – such as ‘€4 Station-Airport One-Way’. Not nuclear science, eh?

3. The clock in the bus was wrong by one hour (it showed summer time, so it has been wrong for about six months). Not good for any schedule bus service, but worse for an airport bus. Could the driver stretch up and change it, or is that not his job?

4. At the airport the bus goes first to Terminal 2. There are probably good reasons for this, but surely many-perhaps-most passengers would expect the bus to go to T1 first? The problem might not be a problem if there was a public address announcement saying something similar to “This is Terminal Two; next stop Terminal One”. There was no announcement. I asked the driver if he had a PA system (thinking it might be broken, which would be half an excuse), and he replied “just the voice”. And, sure enough, he did tell passengers, in French, if they asked. But why would many-perhaps-most ask? They would assume the first stop was T1. I guess that there is an average of 1 passenger in 25 who gets off at the wrong stop (because some passengers would wait for the second stop for their T2, only to discover they were at T1).

5. The driver added there was “no money” for a PA system, although I was a bit surprised to hear he knew the financial state of the company (actually, the city of Nice) he works for. If it is a problem of money, I can suggest they reduce the weight of the ticket issued, to make it a normal-size paper one, and B&W rather than colour. And end the practice of stamping the ticket the moment it is issued, which has a cost factor also. Why can’t the ticket be printed with the stamp on? This would give the city of Nice some savings to add a PA system in the bus.

6. There might be another way…There is an electronic indicator board in the bus. That could be programmed to read ‘T1’, ‘T2’, ‘Station’. That’s not rocket science either. At present the board tells passengers (except those in the first third of the bus…) that they are on the ‘Airport Express’. And they are told that 300 times during the trip.


The Fox & Friends; MB

Soccer Cup. South Africa’s goals.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 March 17


Soccer Cup. South Africa’s goals.



occer’s FIFA World Cup – scheduled for South Africa starting June 2010 – is now generally accepted as the world’s biggest sporting event after the Summer Olympic Games.

South Africa Tourism was expecting around 450,000 overseas visitors to attend the event, which starts in June 11. SAT has apparently not estimated how many would-be visitors will not visit at that time, because of expected disruption, higher prices, etc; I estimate 100-150,000.

But the football association has now said that the number of visitors will not reach expectations, and that only 2.2mn of the 2.9mn match tickets have been sold so far. As a result, it plans to sell more at the cheaper local prices (many of which will probably then be sold on to visitors at higher prices).

The association did allocated 11% of the tickets to the local category, but now expects this will be 20%. I am not clear on my maths, but I believe this means a growth from 320,000 cheap tickets to 580,000.

And what will happen to South Africa’s visitor numbers? Growth has been falling over recent years – after 13.9% in 2006, it was 8.3% in 2007, then 5.5% in 2008, and then about 5% in 2009.

SAT was hoping two other sporting events earlier this year would have helped to reverse the slowdown, but a strengthening rand may slow growth (US$1 bought R10 at end-2008 but only R7.60 end-2009). But it seems a non-sporting macro-event – the broadly-improving world economies – is causing better growth.

But because of that loss of the regular tourist flow, there is a real chance that growth will still be around 5% for this year.



The Fox


Air Asia. New routing reports.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 March 08


Air Asia. New routing reports.




ony Fernandes, head of Air Asia said , in what I believe he thought (still with me?) was a private conversation, that his longhaul subsidiary Air Asia X (AAX) airline, will start a route from Kuala Lumpur to Copenhagen this year.

I know no further details. But unusual is the fact that one reason he gave for planning the route, or the reason he liked Copenhagen (his comment was not clear), was that he has a Scandinavian girlfriend.

Whether true or not – and there has been a similar report (about the route, not the girl) in a Danish newspaper – the story is strange, not least because there is really no such thing as a ‘Scandinavian girl’.


But perhaps Fernandes meant that the girlfriend works for SAS-Scandinavian Airlines as a stewardess. Get it? In the same way that a stewardess on Singapore Airlines is a Singapore Girl, so an SAS stewardess is a Scandinavian Girl?




’ve picked up more market data on AAX. These paraphrased comments from Azran Osman-Rani, head of the airline:

On our Australia routes, 67% of our outbound passengers had never been to Australia. And 47% of our inbound passengers did not even have a passport before that trip. (I find that hard to believe for such a market as Australia; I presume Osman-Rani has missed some key qualification.)


On our London flights, 10% are Malaysians, 43% British, and 48% from the rest of Europe. (This is a one-flight analysis, and may not hold for all flights and seasons.)


We forecast an average one-way fare on London this year of US$278 (£175).


We have been told that we beat Ryanair in terms of sales in one day. (I don’t know who told Osman-Rani, but this cannot be true; Ryan sells about 150,000 seats daily; AAX about 1000.)


We spend 4% on marketing. (This is probably the same as regular airlines – who generally spend 2-3% – because LFAs get lower revenues.)

The Fox

British Airways’ Open Skies. ‘People are getting paid to do this…’

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.



2008 June 20







British Airways’ Open Skies. ‘People are getting paid to do this…’

I am still respectful of authority, despite all the growing and continuing evidence against it.


So with the airline Open Skies, sic (I am obliged to add the ‘sic’ because surely no-one would name an airline so?). I assumed that British Airways, of which OS is a subsidiary, knew what it was doing. But when I started to think (admittedly, not a frequent occurrence), I noted:

-BA has started two other airlines in recent years, DBA and Go. After floundering, both were sold for a song (well, €1, which might be worth a bit less).

-OS is part-starting its flights (Paris-New York) by contracting flights to another airline, L’Avion (sic). Who starts a new airline with flights operated by another airline?

-L’Avion? Eh? My French is good enough to translate this as The Aircraft? Does that sound like a good name for an airline? However, I suppose there is at least that link with Open Skies (sic), which also doesn’t sound like an airline.

-And they are in good company; well, were. Eos went bust a short time ago. I thought Eos was a new Greek wine and was determined to try it. I now understand it was an airline…pity, because it is a good name for a wine.


Back to Open Skies, sic. I have now learned about OS’s cabin configuration – three classes, with only 82 seats, in a B757.


At the top will be ‘Biz’ (sic; that word again), presumably because BA thinks ‘Biz’ is hip; ah well.


Then there is ‘Prem+’ (sic; sorry). Wait a minute…I presume Prem is a (hip?) abbreviation for ‘Premium’…but my thesaurus puts ‘premium’ as ‘top’, ‘finest’, ‘first class’. But people at BA – who are getting paid to do this – have decided that it is time for a change. And so Premium gets knocked down a rung. So shouldn’t it be ‘Prem-’ rather than ‘Prem+’?


After Prem (sic; which, remember, is after Biz, sic) is economy class. No ‘sic’ needed, surprisingly, because the OS economy class is called ‘economy’. Surely that’s a trick? Not ‘Eco’ – too green? Not ‘Cat’ – for cattle? I suggest ‘Simple’, no, ‘Plain’ – which might at least leave a hint that Open Skies, sic, and L’Avion, sic, are airlines…



The Fox

France. Socialism in the travel business.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


2010 March 05



France. Socialism in the travel business.

I have already written what I think about a plan from Atout France* (don’t ask) to financially help people it believes disadvantaged – including the young and old , and many in between – to travel in France.

The second of AF’s major projects is as misguided as the first. It is, no less, to raise quality standards for hotels. Reports indicate that AF will spend an estimated US$2bn (€1.5bn) over the next three years for the modernisation of France accommodation establishments.

It is not clear, but the spending will probably be in the form of subsidies and loans to, I suspect, French hotel management companies, or French-owned hotels in France. I wonder what the government thinks it can do. Add bathrooms in older hotel rooms? increase green hotelery? add more 5-star hotels? add technology?

Whatever, I believe the plan will make no perceptible difference to standards – although hotels will , not surprisingly, accept the money. And the government will produce an impressive report saying that the program has been a great success.

Part of the reason I believe it is wasted money is that the hotel industry already supplies pretty close to what the market demands. If there is a demand for more 0-star hotels or more 5-star ones, they will eventually be supplied.

And who has confidence in AF knowing what the market wants?

There are two other points.

One is that standards in hotels in France are good or at least acceptable – even for those 0-star number-punching budget hotels where the check-in desk is a machine – and the price is remarkably fair.

The other point is that a clear way to increase quality is in software – primarily, people. To improve that would normally be a matter of training or educational. But in today’s France, the answer is more complex.

I believe there is a resistance in the country at large to ‘service’ – an essential part of the hotel business . This cannot be overcome by throwing money at the problem; it is related to the psyche of the people.

There is one case to follow. Australia was also once a service-shy destination. It began to change around the time of the Summer Olympics in 2000 when Australians realised that they did not need to ‘prove’ themselves. They were a mature nation.

Today I believe France is morphing from a mature nation into one full of self-doubt, needing to prove itself. It is reflected in many industries, including the travel business.

Solving that is at least a 10-year-job and not necessarily US$2bn over three years, or 100-times that. It needs a je-ne-sais-pas quoi, a glorifying event or occasion. Nothing seems likely to be coming soon. What a pity that Paris lost the 2012 Summer Olympics to London when Paris is clearly a better destination.

In the meantime, France agonises about its long-ago-great soccer team. It cheated to get into this June’s world cup, and was booed off the pitch in Paris this week. All it is is a bad team, but France seems to think it is an all-France matter. Hey man, this is football…

*(Oh, all right. Atout France is the new dumb name for the destination’s tourism marketing office. Think of it as Tourisme France – which is the name it should have chosen.)

The Fox