No place like Heathrow for the holidays, Czech Republic shutters Canadian doors
What a messy year for travel to Europe.
Twelve months ago we had the Christmas terror threat and a whole wack of disruptions. In spring there was the Iceland volcano with the name that takes up too much room in cyberspace to reprint. Now comes the Ice Age in England and Europe, with more cancellations piling up at London Heathrow and other airports.
(It's been happening a fair bit. At left is a picture I took in London two years ago after a lighter storm than the one they're having now).
Around 3:30 p.m. today, Air Canada put out an advisory saying that is "is currently planning to operate three flights to London from Canada on the evening of Monday, December 20, in addition to the five scheduled today from Heathrow to Canada."
"Today's flights from Canada to London Heathrow are: AC854 from Vancouver, AC850 from Calgary and AC848 from Toronto," officials said. "Although a schedule for Tuesday, December 21, is not yet finalized, it is anticipated these aircraft will operate return flights from London on that date to these same Canadian cities.
Air Canada also advises that winter weather is causing lengthy delays at other northern European airports.
Customers with confirmed tickets for flights to or from affected areas are advised to check on the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport by consulting the Air Canada website at aircanada.com, or by calling Air Canada's automated flight information system at 1-888-422-7533, or by using a web-enhanced cell phone.
"Due to increased call centre volume, wait times are longer than usual," officials said, which is basically a no-sh-- Sherlock kinda comment but probably needs to be said.
For more information, go to www.aircanada.com. And may the force be with you....
When I was in London in early 2009 it was just after a pretty significant snowfall. I went for a walk near Westminster Abbey and took one of my favourite photos of all time; the one at right of a snowball fight between some private school kids. Love that shot.
Snow and ice and freezing temperatures are a pain for humans. But I also got a kick out of watching some poor sea gulls trying to land on what would normally be open water in Hyde Park in London. They kept hitting the ice and sliding about , the poor things, as if they were drunk.
CZECH REPUBLIC TOURISM DROP
The Czech Republic is closing its Canadian offices, according to a Canadian Press story by writer Mark Fuhrmann.
His story today said the Czech Republic's national tourism marketing agency will close Dec. 31, a cost-cutting move that follows a decline in the number of visitors from Canada.
Last year about 70,000 Canadians visited the Czech Republic, down from over 100,000 in 2007, says Mirjana Sebek, the office's longtime director.Sebek, attributing the drop mainly to Czech Airlines' decision to end direct flights between the two countries.
Sebek said she was told by her Prague headquarters in October that budget cuts were responsible for the shuttering of the CzechTourism Canada office. It has worked with the travel trade and distributed brochures to consumers since 1999, promoting the country under the slogan "a stunningly different destination."
But the closing also follows Ottawa's imposition last year of visa requirements on the Czech Republic. Intended to stop a flood of refugee claimants, the move has angered the Czech government.
It's interesting. Prague was such a hot destination for so long, and now I think I've had one story offered to me on the Czech Republic in the last two years.
But that's often the case here at the Star. We'll go months without a story being suggested to us on a very popular spot, and then all of a sudden we're deluged with stories from that place.
We've had very little offered out of Eastern Europe this year, and almost nothing from Brazil. Not even that much from the Caribbean, which surprises me greatly....