Trottings: Direct Ferries – False Promises.

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Trottings: Direct Ferries – False Promises.

Direct Ferries (DF) is a UK-based wholesaler of ferry trips. The other week it offered a 25% discount on Italy’s GNV ferry company for sailings to Sicily booked before September 30.


I did it; I booked Sicily on the 30th on GNV via DF.


Where was the discount? It did not seem to be there. Indeed, DF even added a booking fee to the price it quoted.


I contacted them.


First contact after getting my details was to inform me that a bus transfer was not available on the DF site, but it was available on the GNV site. As I had not enquired about a transfer, bus or other, this explanation was a puzzle.


I reverted, and another agent replied, apologising for the reference to the transfer. The agent added that he/she did not know why I had received that first message. I replied perhaps he/she should ask the other agent, and would then know the reason, and could then tell me.


The agent also told me that the fare I was quoted included the 25% discount – if I had clicked through the discount offer on the DF site.


In fact, that is what I did – clicked through on the DF site. But I had also checked on another system on another computer, and the fare was the same as the one available from a click-through. Also, the fare was the same as when I checked two weeks earlier.


In other words, the DF agent either did not know, or believed that was the system, or was lying. Given that they sent me no further message, I am tempted to believe that they were lying.


I never got my discount.


Obviously, the moral of this message is for travellers to beware statements by Direct Ferries, and to assume they may not provide what they seem to be offering.



*Trottings = Trip Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.



Trottings*; Nogo Opodo.

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Trottings*; Nogo Opodo.

A series of operational issues indicates serious faults at the Opodo OTA.


On booking a flight, the site indicated that I would be given the opportunity to book baggage before making the final payment. So I continued with the process. When I reached the procedure to pay, I still thought that a window or other opportunity would be given to add baggage. But no, it simply confirmed the booking – thus with no baggage included.


I then check under My Trip, or similar, where I was given the opportunity to add bags. So I clicked.


The wording, precisely, was ‘Whoops! It seems we can’t book this online’. In other words, Opodo could not do what it said it could do. But the solution, again in Opodo’s words, was ‘Please call us to add your baggage!’


So I called the number and made my request. After being put on hold and what seemed a long wait for a simple request (but perhaps it was only 2/3 minutes), the agent said No, they could not book the baggage now. Only 24 hours before the flight!


This means that on three occasions, Opodo had offered what it did not provide.


I asked the agent how much the extra baggage would cost. She could not tell me; I had to wait until I booked the baggage – but obviously there is a risk that just 24 hours before the flight, this would be costly.


On two separate log-in occasions (on different days), I went back to the Opodo site, My Trip, and opened chat. Four windows were requested, of which two were obligatory (first and last name; duh!). I could not connect with those two and so added the two others. No luck.


The message: ‘There was an issue starting your chat session. Please verify your connection and that you submitted all required information properly, then try again’.


The information required was obviously correct (as it was my name and there was no connection to a reservation or email address), and so I presume it is another Opodo fault.


Of course I will not use Opodo again. Even if the operational hitches described are fixed, there is still the matter of Opodo’s relationship with the airline. I chose Opodo because of its known reputation, but it seems that is no longer enough. There are services that Opodo cannot provide if its arrangement with the airline does not allow this.


And so if the price difference between the OTA and airline offer is not great, I will in future select the airline’s offer – although I might try one of the big others such as Expedia to see if they are slipping as Opodo is.


The Fox. Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.


*Trottings = Trip Jottings

To all animals – don’t fly United

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To all animals – don’t fly United

I had some sympathy for United when guards dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight. Because overbooking happens all the time, and it is the passengers’ fault – because if everyone turned up for their flights and/or never wanted a refund, the overbooking problem would not be there.


And it was the guards, not actually ‘United’, that did the dragging.


But that’s another story.


Here’s another:


I have just learned (via colleagues at Washington Aviation Summary) that of the 24 animals that died in major US airlines’ care last year, 18 were in the care of United. Another 13 animals on United suffered injuries.


Two of the other top-3 US airlines, American and Delta, each reported two animal deaths.


But whatever United is doing wrong (one dog died in an overhead luggage bin), things might get better.


Two senators (one D, one R) have introduced Wooff (sorry; it means Welfare Of Our Furry Friends) to ban storage of live animals in overhead compartments. And there’s another proposed act, also from two (different) D & R senators, and also with a baby acronym, Pets (Planes Ensuring Total Safety).




The Fox. Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.

*Trottings = Trip Jottings


Scoop*! Peach & Vanilla to merge!

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings


Scoop*! Peach & Vanilla to merge!

The All Nippon Airways group plans to merge its Peach and Vanilla airline subsidiaries**, starting this year and finishing before March 2019.


It wants the merged airline to become the leading ‘low-cost airline’ in Asia.


Our comments:


-Neither Peach nor Vanilla is what we define (according to a set of our definitions) no-frills-airlines, see below.


They are an attempt by ANA management to follow an NFA businessplan, but are basically just lower fares and some lower costs. More like an LCA, see below.


-ANA management has shown no clear understanding of the NFA business-model. They thus seem incapable of making Peach-Vanilla bigger than the region’s current biggest, Air Asia, whose various divisions sold about 70mn seats in 2017, according to our counts.


-In 2014 we called ANA’s businessplan for Vanilla ‘soft’***.


-One further indication of this incompetence is the long time to merge these two – 12 months. We believe this should take no longer than three.






*Headline-convenience only; this is not news.


**Peach started flying from its Osaka Kansai base in March 2012 (another mistake; it should have used Osaka Itami airport). ANA’s JV with Air Asia, from Tokyo Narita (it should have been Tokyo Haneda or best Tokyo Ibaraki), started in late 2011 and stopped in late 2013. After that ANA launched Vanilla, also from Tokyo Narita, in December 2013.


***What we said in 2014:

-Its base is Tokyo Narita, the worst choice of three Tokyo airports – best would be Ibaraki, then Haneda.

-It has three destinations in Japan plus Tokyo, plus international to Hong Kong, Kaohsiung (due next February), Seoul, Singapore, Taipei. Generally, a 2-hour maximum flight is better for NFAs – which means Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Singapore, look to be financial risks.

-Even domestic routes seem to be chosen for their length – Japan’s top north or top south.

-Fares look cheap – US$60 (¥6300) one-way for the shortest route, NRT-Sapporo. But they are fixed – no discounts if travellers book early, no higher if they book late. That is bad for Vanilla’s profits.

-Schedules are not standard. It is better to have, say, 10.00 daily departure to Sapporo. Vanilla has different times and different days.

-Its initial publicity noted flight destinations, aircraft types, flight times, etc. But not fares. For us, the essential items to be included in NFA publicity are two only – Route, Price.




*Notes: Our airline-type definitions:

-FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.


-LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a no-frills-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs – cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for example), fewer fare types, may have first and business cabins as well as economy, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. If relevant, usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.


-NFA = no-frills-airline. We believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: shorthaul point-to-point routes; market freedom in terms of fares, routes; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; extremely-low fares when bought at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no (free) service frills; single economy-class cabin; no (free) seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more.


The Fox. Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.




Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

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Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

Relaunched Air Belgium has delayed plans for its Brussels-Hong Kong flights to April; they were planned to start October 2017.


It plans to start six more routes into China by this summer.


We expect AB’s new businessplan, from new owners in 2016, to fail before year-end. Some of the reasons:


-Frequency/routes. 4/week is not enough for its target market – upmarket. At least daily is needed.


-Routes. AB’s potential customers will fly other to other places as well of course, thus use other airlines. As most upmarket travellers are likely to be members in loyalty programs, they may prefer to stay with those other airlines when they fly to Hong Kong. If AB cannot start other routes itself, it should sign deals with other airlines on selected routes.


-Aircraft. The 4-engine A340 is a good aircraft, but costly for fuel, particularly for a start-up airline. Many would try to operate a 2-engine A350 or B787 on this route if traffic is not enough for B777s A380s etc.


-It has two A340s at present. That is enough for schedule reliability for Hong Kong flights, but at least four more will be needed to operate those other planned routes and to offer schedule reliability.


-Airport. AB plans to use Brussels Charleroi, not good for connections.


-China. AB considers Hong Kong a ‘China’ destination. Although correct in theory, it is not ‘China’ in terms of politics or in airline route-rights. Six by summer is not impossible of course, but looks over-ambitious.


-Sales via internet, but also GDS and travel agencies. GDS and agencies are usually too costly for a start-up because of fees.


-AB plans to employ 100 in Hong Kong this year. That is a foolishly-costly decision. We would think one staff member (Hong Kong Manager), with a handling agent for operations, and a GSA for sales – at least until it is established and/or the first 2/3 years.


-AB’s A340s will have economy, premium, business classes. That is at least one too many, and will also cause confusion, eg is ‘premium’ above ‘business’?


The Fox

*Trottings = Trip Jottings



Malta Treasure Hunts

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


‘Revolutionising’ the way to visit the Maltese islands

Mosta, 25/09/17 – Island Publications ‘revolutionised’ the way tourists and residents toured the islands in 2010 with their Malta Treasure Hunts.


Today, the Mosta-based travel industry publisher has just produced the third edition of Malta Treasure Hunts (the second edition was published in 2013).


Devised, written and illustrated by veteran journalist Terence Mirabelli, this third edition of Malta Treasure Hunts is a 64-page booklet that contains a series of themed hunts that will take tourists and residents alike on a self-guided voyage of discovery around the Maltese islands.


For instance, Gozitan odyssey is a 45-kilomtere long treasure hunt that takes in the principal and offbeat sights of the island. Gozitan odyssey is an exciting tour undertaken by car or bicycle.


Other, shorter, pedestrian, hunts let one discover Victoria, Valletta, Mdina (aimed at children), Birgu, Zejtun, Zabbar, Rabat, St Julian’s as well as the popular resort of Bugibba and Qawra (dubbed ‘Bugiwra’).


For ‘techies’ Sliema – smart therapy is a pedestrian hunt that requires a smartphone. Clues come as QR codes and geographic coordinates.


All treasure hunts are colour coded, denoting levels of difficulty. Green hunts are easy, yellow ones are slightly harder and red ones require (a bit of) thinking and deduction.


Each hunt has a set of questions that sometimes lead to a landmark or require an answer to find a hidden password. Hunts are either circular or linear, meaning they either end where they start or not. A map is recommended for car and cycle hunts, otherwise one is not necessary for the pedestrian treasure hunts. Unlike previous editions, where hunters had to go online, answers are now available in the book – but it does require a bit of working out to figure them out.


No treasure hunt requires the payment of any entrance fees. Some hunts do go past sites, museums and landmarks that may require payment to visit, but entering these sites is at the discretion of the hunter.


Malta Treasure Hunts is the fun way to discover and tour the islands and see what they have to offer”, says Terence Mirabelli – managing director of Island Publications and originator of the hunts.


“The booklet is not intended solely for tourists, but also for residents of the islands. And hunts can be enjoyed singly, with friends, as a family or as a team-building exercise at whatever time of year.


“Moreover, Malta Treasure Hunts is the perfect tool for language students as they can be used as an exercise in English comprehension” Mirabelli adds.


“Producing Malta Treasure Hunts has been so much fun and educational, that I’m already planning a fourth edition”.

Malta Treasure Hunts is available from Agenda bookshops and from other leading book retailers and stationers at €10.


The hunts will also be available individually for download – as pdf files – from from October.


For more information, contact:

Terence Mirabelli

Island Publications Ltd



The Fox’s Friends; TM

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Rethinking Alternative Facts and Fake News

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

Rethinking Alternative Facts and Fake News

I had always thought that the great polemic, started in the US, over Fake News and Alternative Facts was a mental-cum-political deficiency of those currently in power in the US.


I now believe it is something different. It is a Grammatical Deficiency on the part of Trump and the Trump Troggies (troglodytes).


I’ll explain:



Alternative Facts

The phrase is of course absurd. There can only be one fact about something, right? But no.


Rephrase it: Facts Expressed in an Alternative Way. One explanation is a half-empty/half-full cup. If you say ‘the cup is half-empty’, that is fact. That fact expressed in a different way is that ‘the cup is half-full’.


I realised this after reading a report (in Wikipedia, I think) where the report said (something like) ‘the CIA and the US Embassy deny involvement in…’ (the subject is inconsequential for my argument). That is, presumably, factually correct, but clearly the implication is that those two were involved.


Why did the Wikipedia report not add that the Russian Embassy, the Japanese bird-watching association, and the Barcelona football club, also deny involvement? That would be fact as well.





Fake News

My take on this is not so technical. But I believe that Trump meant “(this) is not worth a news item”, or “(this) is not a valid news item”. Perhaps he was speaking as though he were an editor/sub-editor.


But because of his limited grasp of grammar and the English language (read his tweets), he appears not to have the grammatical capability of saying precisely (when it is necessary) what he means.


He meant, if you will, ‘Irrelevant News’ or ‘Not Valid News’. But after he called it ‘Fake News’ the first time, grammatical probity was irretrievable. And the Trump Troggies piled in; perhaps they also are grammatically-inferior beings, or feared challenging the Great White Chief.


But I admit that ‘Fake News!’ is a better verbal counter than “I Am Of The Opinion That This Particular Item Of News Does Not Warrant Such Prominent Coverage”.





Johnson (Dr Samuel, the English man of letters, not the US ex-president or the UK foreign minister) would be turning in his grave. If the man ever existed, of course. Probably Fake News.



The Fox

Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.


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