Volcano ash never existed, says head of BA; but airports closing again today
More flight interruptions in the UK and Ireland today because of volcanic ash from Iceland. It's a very fluid situation, as it were, so folks travelling today to or from London, Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Edinburgh and the like should stay tuned. And perhaps pray to the volcano gods, I don't know.
I was delayed getting out of the UK a couple weeks ago, but my "penalty" was merely a long travel day getting from Belfast to London and then two days working in London for our foreign editor, and getting paid and having my food and hotel taken care of. Hardly a hardship.
I feel badly for folks stuck on either side of the pond because of the continuing problems. And there's simply no way of knowing if they'll continue. I have a flight to Paris on May 14. Will I make it? Who knows. But, again, I'm going to write travel stories; not for a wedding or a funeral or a 50th anniversary party that I simply can't reschedule.
Meanwhile, the CEO of British Airways has gone rather squirrelly, methinks. I mean, it's one thing to suggest that aviation authorities overreacted, and perhaps continue to overreact by shutting down airspace and inconveniencing so many people. But BA's Willie Walsh took it WAY FURTHER than that the other day, telling ATW (Air Transport World) online that the whole thing was a sham.
"There never was any ash; I'm convinced of it," he told ATWOnline. "There was just a computer model that said there was ash."
So, what was all that stuff we saw spewing out of the volcano? Pixie dust?
Probably what the imaginative Mr. Walsh is saying is that there was ash in Iceland but not so much over the UK. Probably.
HUZZAHS FOR HAZELTON HOTEL IN TORONTO - A VERY GOOD SURVEY BY EXPEDIA
The folks at expedia.ca have issued what they call their "2010 Insiders Select" results, an annual ranking of the world's best hotels for quality and value as determined mostly by traveller reviews. Three hotels in Canada made the top 20, topped by Cambridge Suites in Sydney, Nova Scotia in the number nine spot.
"Located in the heart of Sydney (ed's note: like, there are major suburbs somewhere?), this hotel provides great comfort for travellers on business trips, vacations or extended stays and features Trio, the in-house restaurant, a roof-top patio (sounds nice) and a well-equipped fitness centre," Expedia said.
Toronto's Hazelton Hotel grabbed the 15th spot. "Located in the chic Yorkville area...this five-star hotel offers a unique mix of stunning rooms, sensational art, private screening room and world-class cuisine at 'One' restaurant, from famed chef Mark McEwan.
In the number 14 spot worldwide was Chateau Beauvallon in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; cited as a jewel with five championship golf courses nearby (I've played a couple and they're wonderful) and great fishing. Expedia called it "the perfect destination for a relaxing outdoor getaway in any season."
All three properties received perfect 100 scores.The top five, and this is something I like, include luxury properties and lower-priced chains. Anybody can pick a Wickanninish or a Hazelton as a top hotel, but what I like is that this covers budget spots, business hotels and luxurious hotels in exotic locales. Here's the top five:
1. Galaxy Iraklio - Heraklion, Greece
2. Hide Away Guest House - Knysna, South Africa
3. Drury Inn - Indianapolis
4. Al Manshar Rotana - Kuwait City
'5. Conrad Bali - IndonesiaFor the full list from Expedia, click here.
You'll also find a list of the top 10 in Canada:
1. Cambridge Suites - Sydney (9th overall)
2. Chateau Beauvallon - Mont-Tremblant (14)
3. Hazelton - Toronto (15)
4.Four Seasons - Whistler (38)
5. Delta Guelph Hotel and Conference Centre - Kitchener (39)
6. Sterling Inn and Spa - Niagara Falls (42)
7. Auberge St. Antoine - Quebec City (50)
8. White Oaks Conference Centre - Niagara (87)
9. Cox Bay Beach Resort - Tofino, B.C. (74)
10. Loden hotel - Vancouver (78)
Editor's note: I was surprised the Wickanninish in Tofino isn't on the list, but that's just me. I have stayed at Quebec's Auberge St.-Antoine and it's simply magnificent; great rooms, wonderful historical artefacts and a tremendous restaurant, all tucked away in the cozy lower town of Quebed.
The Loden in Vancouver is also a terrific property, with very up-to-date and well-equipped rooms, privacy controls for women and a great restaurant. Pretty terrific bartender last time I was there, too.
GOOD NEWS FOR WESTJET
WestJet struggled with its new reservation system and had delays in rolling out its guest loyalty program (frequent flyer program for those of you who don't speak WestJet-ese). But they appear to be recovering. Somewhat.
Today (Wednesday), they announced April traffic results with a record load factor of 84.0 per cent. Revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increased 12.1 per cent year over year, and capacity, measured in available seat miles (ASMs), grew 8.3 per cent over the same period. The airline flew an additional 70,000 guests in April 2010 compared to April 2009.
"We are very pleased to report double-digit improvements in traffic and our highest-ever April load factor while growing capacity," said WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky. "We can attribute this successful growth to our expansion in southern markets and the ongoing contributions that WestJet Vacations is making to our business."
As detailed in the Star's business section today by reporter John Spears, on the other hand, WestJet has seen a major drop in profits. But they also have signed a cooperation deal with Cathay Pacific that should improve service for WestJet customers heading to Asia, and they still appear to be moving towards a so-called "code share" deal with Delta.