• Gatwick called ‘neighbour from hell’ as it confirms plan to use emergency runway for routine flights
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    The Independent

    Gatwick called ‘neighbour from hell’ as it confirms plan to use emergency runway for routine flights

    Gatwick Airport has been accused of planning "a second runway by stealth" after it announced it was pressing ahead with proposals to use its emergency runway for routine flights. Calling it "the neighbour from hell", local campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions said the plan "flies in the face of the Government’s pledge for 'net zero' CO2 emissions by 2050."The UK's second busiest airport announced it will prepare a planning application seeking permission to bring the airstrip into full passenger use, while insisting the measure aligns with the Government's policy of "making best use of existing runways".If the plan is approved it would enable it to accommodate an extra 109,000 flights every year. The West Sussex airport first suggested it could use the emergency runway to increase its capacity last October. A final version of its "master plan" published provided more details of the proposal.The emergency runway could be operational by the mid-2020s and would be used for departures only.Operating as a two-runway airport would enable Gatwick to accommodate up to 109,000 extra flights a year. If the plans are approved, the airport would aim to be serving around 70 million passengers, almost doubling the amount it currently caters for. Gatwick lost out to Heathrow in a bid to obtain Government approval to build an additional runway, amid a need for more airport capacity in the southeast.The centre lines of Gatwick's main and emergency runways are separated by 198 metres. If the plans was improved the emergency runway would be widened by 12 metres to comply with safety regulations.Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said a 12-week public consultation shows there is "strong support for Gatwick and the local area's ambitions".He added: "The plans would deliver additional capacity for Gatwick, which will provide choices for the future - including incrementally growing our airport to meet demand and continuing to provide solid operational performance for passengers and airlines. Gatwick's global connections are needed more than ever but as we take our plans forward, we must do so in the most sustainable and responsible way, and in full partnership with our local councils, communities, passengers and partners."But a spokeswoman for Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions criticised the proposal. “This clearly illustrates Gatwick’s greed comes before everything and must now be seen as the neighbour from hell for all the communities of Sussex that already find aircraft noise unbearable," she told The Argus. “It is totally disingenuous to the residents of Crawley to continue to safeguard land for a third runway when housing demand is high.”In order to gain planning permission to routinely use the stand-by runway, Gatwick must follow the Development Consent Order process that culminates in a final decision by the transport secretary.

  • Train given rainbow makeover for Brighton Pride
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    The Independent

    Train given rainbow makeover for Brighton Pride

    A train has been given a special rainbow livery in celebration of Brighton and Hove Pride.Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has unveiled the makeover of a 12-carriage train that will form part of its fleet running to and from the city on the south coast from 2 to 4 August.The “trainbow”, as it’s been dubbed, was designed by GTR apprentice Maggie Luckhurst and celebrates the company’s LGBT+ community.“This was a really special project to work on for me,” said Luckhurst. “Whether you’re a member of the LGBT+ community or not, I hope that the train brings joy to everyone who sees it and that it also raises awareness of LGBT+ issues.”The rainbow design will also be used on GTR’s first ever float in the Pride parade, which will carry members of the company’s LGBT+ network, accompanied by the motto: “Our people bring out our best colours." “We are absolutely delighted to see the train out in passenger service,” said GTR’s train services director Stuart Meek, who also chairs the company’s LGBT+ network.“This symbol of support shows how everyone is welcome on our services and celebrates our LGBT+ colleagues.”The operator, which runs Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services out of Brighton, will also be offering an enhanced service during Pride weekend. Extra trains will be running late into the night on Saturday 3 August to transport revellers home following the Pride in the Park concert, this year headlined by Kylie.Pride organisers and partners have worked closely with GTR to create a queueing system to direct passengers leaving the event into the appropriate queue for their train before they get to Brighton station.The company has been planning for the event since January, working closely with the Brighton and Hove Pride organisers, Sussex Police, Brighton and Hove City Council and other local partners.“We are really proud to play our part in making sure travellers can get to and from this year’s Pride, which promises to be another dazzling celebration of inclusivity,” said Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern and Gatwick Express.She added that, although extra services are being provided, passengers are advised to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get home due to the popularity of the event. Other Pride events over the weekend include the Community Parade, which this year celebrates the theme: “Generations of Love – Celebrating 50 years of campaigning with Pride”.

  • The best boutique hotels in Rome
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    The Independent

    The best boutique hotels in Rome

    With its abundance of classical treasures, historic churches and Michelangelo masterpieces, not to mention the designer stores, manic traffic and men dressed as gladiators, Rome isn’t the most relaxing city to visit. With so much to see, it can be easy to fall victim to sightseeing fatigue.This is where boutique hotels come into their own: chic retreats that are small enough to offer a personal service but with the comforts of a much larger hotel. They provide serene spaces where you can unwind and often take advantage of a spa treatment, before returning to the fray. Thankfully, Rome is teaming with such establishments, ranging from restored palaces offering five-star luxury, to friendly, family-run establishments.Here are the best. Best for a Sicilian spa experience: Hotel de la Ville Neighbourhood: Piazza di SpagnaSet in an 18th-century palazzo perched at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Hotel de la Ville has reopened following a major revamp. It’s larger than most boutique hotels, but has both individuality and style – think strong colours, rich fabrics and bold designs in the bedrooms. The superb spa uses organic skincare products from Sicily and offers everything from Kneipp foot baths and a salt inhalation room, to a hydropool and 24-hour gym with Technogym equipment.From €665 per room including breakfast roccofortehotels.com Best for cosy charm: Boutique Hotel Campo de’ Fiori Neighbourhood: Centro StoricoThere’s a real feel of old Rome at this family-run hideaway, just a few paces from the colourful fruit, flower and vegetable market. It’s an oasis of calm with ivy-clad walls and atmospheric bedrooms with features such as coffered ceilings, frescoes and antiques. After a day’s sightseeing, you can head up to the little roof garden, snuggle up in a comfy chair and watch the sun set over the city. From €307 per room including breakfast hotelcampodefiori.com Best for budget stays: Nerva Boutique Hotel Neighbourhood: MontiFor uncluttered urban chic at a reasonable price, the Nerva takes some beating. Situated across the road from the Forum di Nerva, which was the smallest of the imperial fora, it once housed a temple to Minerva. Rooms are modern and comfortable, decorated in muted shades enlivened with pops of colour, sleek pendant lights and contemporary artworks. If you want to luxuriate like an emperor, go for the Master Suite, which has a marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi.From €156 per room including breakfast hotelnerva.com Best for flash fashion: Fendi Private Suites Neighbourhood: Piazza di Spagna> View this post on Instagram> > fendiapartmentsromekarllagerfeldsroomrihannasleptinthesamebedbeautifulplacedeluxesuite> > A post shared by Veronika Černá (@vercerka) on Dec 8, 2017 at 9:33am PST

  • BA baggage failure: Hundreds of British Airways passengers flown from Heathrow without their luggage as system crashes
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    The Independent

    BA baggage failure: Hundreds of British Airways passengers flown from Heathrow without their luggage as system crashes

    Hundreds of British Airways passengers will arrive at their destination without their luggage after another failure of the baggage system at BA’s main base, Heathrow Terminal 5.The actor Eddie Izzard tweeted: “Luggage belts down at Heathrow Terminal 5. I hope BA can get this moving soon as passengers have been waiting a long time now.”The airline told The Independent: “We apologise to customers and our teams are working hard to minimise disruption after a baggage system issue slowed down customers dropping off their bags this morning.“A small number of flights left without all customers' baggage loaded.“We're in contact with those customers and their bags will be put on the next available flight to get them back to them as soon as possible.”Dan Maby tweeted: “Watching people frantically re-pack bags into hand luggage and being told by British Airways staff to leave their suitcase but they ‘can't guarantee the luggage will arrive at your destination’.”One passenger, who did not want to be named, reported that he queued for over an hour before his flight to New York. He later said: “The guys at Heathrow have hundreds of cases on the Tarmac with security around them and they are loading them by hand onto the plane.“Fingers crossed everybody will get the luggage.”British Airways, which operates almost all the flights in and out of Terminal 5, says that the problem has been fixed, but at least 25 flights left more than half-an-hour late. The delays could cause problems for the schedules in the afternoon and evening, on what is an extremely busy day.

  • Airline apologises for explaining where on a plane you’re most likely to die
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    The Independent

    Airline apologises for explaining where on a plane you’re most likely to die

    KLM has been criticised for a tweet in which it explained where on the plane passengers were least likely to die if the plane crashed.In a now-deleted post, @KLMIndia published information about the likelihood of death based on where passengers were seated. “According to data studies by Time, the fatality rate for the seats in the middle of the plane is the highest," it read.“However, the fatality rate for the seats in the front is marginally lesser and is least for seats at the rear third of a plane." It was followed by the hashtags TuesdayTrivia Aircraft and Facts. An image of a KLM airline seat suspended in clouds accompanied the tweet with the words “Seats at the back of a plane are the safest!” Twitter users were quick to condemn the tweet, which was posted on the fifth anniversary of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014 killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard. The doomed flight also had a KLM flight number – KL4103 – and was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The post was soon replaced with an apology.“We would like to sincerely apologise for a recent update,” it read.“The post was based on a publicly available aviation fact, and isn’t a @KLM opinion. It was never our intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments. The post has since been deleted.” A spokesperson for KLM told The Independent: “The post of our team in India was based on a publicly available aviation fact and isn’t a KLM opinion. KLM apologises for any distress the tweet may have caused. “We will be reviewing our Twitter protocol to better ensure appropriate content. The post has since been deleted.”The blunder came after a KLM spokesperson said that breastfeeding mothers could be asked to "cover up" when feeding their babies during a flight.

  • Summer getaway puts more pressure than ever on Britain’s airports
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    The Independent

    Summer getaway puts more pressure than ever on Britain’s airports

    In the busiest-ever summer for overseas travel, tomorrow Friday 19 July will be the first of several extreme days for Britain’s airport infrastructure with a record number of travellers expected through several of the nation’s airports.The Independent has surveyed a dozen of the UK’s top airports, as well as leading airlines.Both of Scotland's leading airports expect record days on Friday 19 July. At Edinburgh airport, 52,000 passengers are expected to fly in and out. The same number is predicted on two Mondays: 22 July and 12 August.The busiest routes are to and from Dubai, New York and Palma.Glasgow’s busiest day of the year is set to be Friday 19 July, with 33,800 passengers; though Sunday 8 September is expected to top that with 34,100.Friday 19 July is expected to be the busiest at Liverpool John Lennon airport, with an estimated 8,800 departing passengers. The following Friday, as well as Tuesday 13 August, is predicted to be almost as busy.For inbound arrivals, Friday 6 September is likely to have the longest queues at passport control, with 8,900 passengers touching down. That will also be the busiest day in the airport’s history, with an estimated 17,600 travellers in total.Liverpool’s top destinations are both on the island of Ireland, Belfast International and Dublin, with the next three all in Spain: Palma, Malaga and Alicante.Manchester’s busiest day for departures is expected to be Friday 26 July, with 56,653 passengers expected to depart from the UK’s third-biggest airport.For arrivals, 57,825 passengers are predicted on Friday 30 August. The busiest overall day is Friday 23 August, with 112,599 passengers expected to depart and arrive – an average of 1.3 per minute.The top five destinations are Palma, Amsterdam and Dublin.From London Stansted, Monday 29 July will be busiest for outbound travellers, with 49,358 passengers expected.The following Friday, 2 August, will be busiest for arrivals and overall in the summer, with 101,028 passengers expected to depart and arrive. Palma is the top destination, followed by Rome’s Ciampino airport and Faro in Portugal.Across at Luton, Friday 9 August will be busiest for both departures and overall passenger numbers, with a total of 66,000 expected.The two final Fridays in July will see 33,000 departures.Amsterdam, Bucharest, Tel Aviv and Budapest are the top destinations, with Malaga squeezing in at fifth as the leading Spanish choice.At Newcastle, Sunday 21 July will be busiest for departures, with 11,500 passengers leaving. The same number will arrive on Sunday 1 September. The busiest day overall is expected to be Sunday 4 August. Palma, Alicante and Malaga are the top destinations.For Birmingham, Tuesday 23 July is busiest for outbound passengers, with almost 25,000 taking off. The busiest day overall Friday 16 August. The top destinations are Dublin, Palma and Dubai.Nearby East Midlands is expecting its busiest day for arrivals to be much earlier than other airports: Friday 26 July, with 10,906 passengers expected. This is ahead of the busiest day for departures, Monday 29 July with 11,253 passengers expected.Palma once again tops the destination screen, with Alicante and Faro next most popular.For Aberdeen, Tuesday 23 July is predicted to be busiest for inbound services, with 4,800 passengers, while Friday 6 September will be busiest overall at 9,300. The top overseas destinations are out of line with other airports: Amsterdam, Stavanger and Paris.Southampton will be busiest on Monday 22 July, with 6,700 passengers passing through.Belfast International has already had its forecast busiest day of the year, on 31 May, but it is predicting almost as busy a day on 2 September. The busiest domestic routes are to Gatwick, Liverpool and Stansted, and the top three abroad are all to Spain: Alicante, Malaga and Palma.Friday 19 July will be the busiest day ever for easyJet, with 312,000 passengers on 1,970 flights across Europe. More than 100,000 of them will be taking off from UK airports.The airline told The Independent that it will fly a record 9.4 million passengers to and from UK airports this summer between Thursday 18 July and Sunday 8 September. The busiest single day for UK operations for easyJet is expected to be Friday 6 September, with 193,125 passengers flying in and out of British airports. The previous Monday, 2 September, will be almost as busy with 191,883 passengers.The easyJet routes with the highest number of passengers are all to and from Gatwick: to Milan Malpensa, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Malaga and Geneva. Ryanair says it will fly 8.3 million passengers in the same spell – fewer than easyJet because it now has a much smaller UK domestic operation. The peak days in the spell are Saturdays and Mondays, when more than 160,000 passengers a day are predicted.The airline’s busiest routes are all to and from Dublin – from Stansted, Gatwick and Manchester.Thomas Cook says 19-21 July will be the busiest weekend of the year, with 54,000 passengers on 244 outbound flights to 47 destinations.Dalaman and Antalya in Turkey are the most popular locations.Jet2 is planning its busiest-ever summer, with 100 aircraft in operation. Every Saturday from 20 July to 31 August is expected to be busy, with a peak on 24 August.Long-haul, Virgin Atlantic predicts Saturday 20 July to be a peak day, with 9,500 outbound passengers. Inbound, Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September will be busiest, with over 9,600 travellers flying to UK airports.Heathrow-New York JFK is the busiest route, closely followed by Gatwick to Orlando and Manchester to Orlando.Gatwick and Heathrow airports declined to provide the requested information.

  • easyJet poaches top Ryanair executive
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    The Independent

    easyJet poaches top Ryanair executive

    Ryanair has lost one of its key executives to its main rival, easyJet.Peter Bellew announced a week ago that he was leaving the Irish airline, where he is chief operations officer.Mr Bellew, 54, is widely credited with turning around Ryanair’s operations after the disastrous winter of 2017-18, when thousand of flights were cancelled due to a shortage of pilots.He had left his role as chief executive of Malaysia Airlines to return to Ryanair.Mr Bellew is to join easyJet, Britain’s biggest budget airline, in the corresponding role – as chief operating officer.His new boss, easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren, said: “Peter has an exceptional level of experience across commercial and operational roles in both low-cost and full-service airlines and is a great leader with a proven track record in delivering results.“I believe we have secured the very best person for this role and I am delighted to welcome Peter.”Mr Bellew said: “I look forward to focusing on the customer and on time performance which is a key driver for success. easyJet have always been an innovator among global low-cost carriers and there is a super opportunity to capitalise on its data and digital skillsets to further improve customer experience and operational performance.”Ryanair and easyJet have been arch-rivals for the past 25 years, and there has been very little movement of top staff between them.Mr Bellew will bring many years of experience at the Irish airline. He had been expected to remain with Ryanair until the end of the year, but is not expected to play an active role at the Dublin HQ.The news was revealed along with easyJet’s third-quarter results, covering the months from April to June 2019.The airline’s performance was in line with expectations, and there has been no change in the financial forecast for the full year. Revenue rose by 11 per cent while cost per seat, excluding fuel, decreased by 4 per cent. The airline has sold 78 per cent of its available seats to the end of September. Mr Lundgren said: “Our customers experienced significantly reduced cancellations and long delays largely as a result of our investment in operational resilience.“We remain very focused on delivering our revenue initiatives and driving costs down to enhance our profitability per seat. With second half forward bookings at 78 per cent, we have better visibility on the second half and expect to deliver a profit before tax of between £400m and £440m, in line with market expectations.”Passenger numbers rose by 8 per cent to 26.4 million, a slower rate than the 10 per cent increase in capacity. The airline’s load factor – the percentage of seats sold – fell from 93.4 to 91.7 per cent, due to “late yield initiatives” – raising fares steeply shortly before departure – and exceptionally high comparatives a year earlier due to the collapse of Monarch.But easyJet warned of “softening of demand due to tougher macroeconomic conditions across Europe as well as Brexit-related consumer uncertainty in the UK”.

  • Environmental damage caused by travel and tourism to be assessed by MPs
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    The Independent

    Environmental damage caused by travel and tourism to be assessed by MPs

    Travel and tourism damages the planet. But just how badly, and what can be done to reduce the impact? MPs are set to tackle those questions.The Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster is to assess the effects of the industry. Its new inquiry will study the impact of extreme visitor numbers in destinations such as Venice, and the global effects of tourism in the light of the government's commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.The Labour chair of the committee, Mary Creagh MP, said: “Families are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. But when we book a cruise, flights or visit a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to forget about the environmental impact our holidays are having. “The recent cruise ship collision in Venice, as well as protests both there and in Barcelona, are a sharp reminder of the effects of ‘overtourism’ and the damage that can be done to the environment and local quality of life.”Ms Creagh said the travel and tourism industry adds five percent to global greenhouse emissions, putting the 2050 emissions target at risk.“While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the Government’s actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised,” she said.Air and sea travel also causes local air and water pollution, while fragile ecosystems can be damaged by new tourism infrastructure. The committee is looking at ways to make inbound tourism to the UK more sustainable. It will also consider whether the British government should take responsibility for the impacts of outbound tourism – for example by taking action to protect habitats and reduce impacts on communities and cultures.The thorny question of finding a balance between affordable travel and influencing sustainable travel choices, perhaps through taxation, will also be tackled.The report is expected to be published early in 2020.

  • easyJet passengers from Stansted warned of ‘check-in chaos’
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    The Independent

    easyJet passengers from Stansted warned of ‘check-in chaos’

    Check-in staff working at Stansted for easyJet have announced a series of strikes every weekend during the main school summer holidays in a dispute over pay.Their union, Unite warns: “Thousands of easyJet passengers could face severe delays.”But a spokesperson for easyJet said: “Should this go ahead we plan to have contingency plans in place so there should be no impact on our passengers.”Industrial action is set to begin at 3.30am Thursday 25 July, with a five-day strike to the early hours of Monday 29 July.There will then be stoppages every weekend in August: 2 to 5, 9 to 12, 16 to 19 and 23 to 27.The 43 passenger service agents are employed by Stobart Aviation Services Ltd, which has the easyJet handling contract at Stansted.Unite says the workers voted unanimously to strike over what it says is the company’s refusal to match pay at similar companies at Stansted.It claims workers employed by other companies at Stansted are being paid up to 20 per cent more for doing the same job.Unite also claims Stobart refuses to recognise the union for collective bargaining purposes, though The Independent understands the company is currently considering a draft negotiation agreement.The union’s regional officer Mark Barter said: “These 17 days of strike action will cause severe disruption to thousands of easyJet passengers using Stansted for their summer holidays.“But our Stobart members experience staffing issues, a lack of basics such as drinking water during their long shifts and many other smaller but nonetheless important issues that are ignored due to not having proper trade union recognition.”No progress was made in talks held last week, he said.“However, there is a window of opportunity for the management to sit down with Unite and hold constructive talks to resolve this strike before the travel chaos kicks in on 25 July.The union has urged passengers to contact easyJet and ask the airline to put pressure on Stobart to give ground.The easyJet spokesperson said: “We would urge Stobart Aviation and Unite to reach a suitable resolution as soon as possible.” The Independent has asked Stobart to respond.

  • Disney World theme park visitors warned of rabies outbreak
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    The Independent

    Disney World theme park visitors warned of rabies outbreak

    Visitors to a Disney World theme park in Florida have been warned to avoid stray dogs and wildlife after a rabies outbreak.The 60-day rabies alert has been issued for the area around the popular Epcot Park in Orlando, after a feral cat was found to be carrying the deadly disease.As well as the theme park, the area is home to multiple resorts, hotels, golf courses and other tourist attractions.The public have been warned by officials to avoid “feral cats, stray dogs and all wildlife particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes".According to the NHS, rabies is a rare but very serious infection of the brain and nerves. It’s usually caught from the bite or scratch of an infected animal, most often a dog.It’s almost always fatal once symptoms appear, but treatment before this is very effective. There’s also a vaccine for people at risk of being infected.“Animals can spread the infection if they bite or scratch you or, in rare cases, if they lick an open wound or their saliva gets into your mouth or eyes,” reads the NHS website.“Rabies is not spread through unbroken skin or between people.”Advice of what to do if you’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal in an area with a risk of rabies includes: immediately cleaning the wound with running water and soap for several minutes; disinfecting the wound with an alcohol or iodine-based disinfectant and applying a simple dressing; and going to the nearest medical centre or hospital as soon as possible.Treatment should ideally be started within a few hours of someone being bitten or scratched.Symptoms of rabies usually appear three to 12 weeks after infection, and can include: a high temperature of 38C or above, a headache, feeling anxious or generally unwell and discomfort at the site of the bite, followed a few days later by confusion or aggressive behaviour, hallucinations, producing lots of saliva or frothing at the mouth, muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and paralysis.Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

  • New trains herald rail revolution for Cuba
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    The Independent

    New trains herald rail revolution for Cuba

    “There are no timetables, only rumours.” Charles Nicholl’s assessment of Latin American travel happens to describe the railways of Colombia, but it sums up trains in Bolivia, Panama and all stations to Havana Central equally well.At least Ferrocarilles de Cuba, the state railway of the Caribbean’s biggest island, has an excuse for the woeful state of the network: it has been crippled after six decades of the US economic embargo.Rail travel in the tropics always has an arbitrary quality, but trains in Cuba are exquisitely unpredictable: lumbering old diesel locomotives haul cast-off carriages. Rolling stock that had become obsolete in Germany or Mexico was shipped to the island as a charitable alternative to the scrapheap.As the train wafts past sugar plantations and nameless villages, air conditioning is mainly of the natural variety – aided by the absence of many windows and, sometimes, doors. Meanwhile dubious snacks of uncertain provenance are purveyed by freelance caterers. The main line between the Cuban capital and the second city, Santiago, is in terrible shape. The horse-drawn buses crossing the track in the central city of Santa Clara look plausibly faster than the trains that ply the length of the island.Even buying a ticket requires reserves of patience, optimism and small bribes. Bookings open only five days before departure, and often close abruptly. “Offering the stationmaster (jefe) a small gift of cigarettes or chocolate may enhance your chances of success,” says my guidebook, which adds: “If your principal concern is speed or reliability, you should probably fly.”Anyone expecting punctuality is in the wrong country: one sunny morning I had to clamber down from an overnight “express” that had stalled many miles outside Havana, then hitch a ride to the capital’s airport for my flight home.So I was delighted to learn that this weekend a rail revolution takes place in Cuba. The news comes from Mark Smith, himself a former jefe – though he was stationmaster on commuter lines in Kent rather than on the trans-Cuban railway. You may know Mr Smith as The Man In Seat Sixty-One. He runs the Seat61.com website, named for his favourite location on Eurostar trains (first class, solo seat). On Thursday, he excitedly posted the prospect of “A new dawn for rail travel in Cuba?”.For the first time since Fidel Castro’s revolution, “brand-new trains” and “Cuban railways” can be used in the same sentence. Chinese-built carriages are entering service on the island’s main line. They have arrived fresh from the factory with air conditioning and even a buffet car.The speed and frequency have increased, but don’t expect miracles: Train No 1 from Havana to Santiago averages a sedate 36mph, and runs only on alternate days.It is, though, a start. You can even book the new trains up to a month in advance, reports Mr Smith.Cuban and foreign travellers alike must hope that the new dawn heralds comprehensive changes on the island’s railways – especially on the westbound line from Havana to Pinar del Río, which is a distance of less than 100 miles.My guidebook reports: “The journey can take anything from five to 10 hours and derailments are unusually common.” By comparison, even the worst British rail journey looks a delight.

  • Japanese hotel opens room with flight simulator for aviation geeks
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    The Independent

    Japanese hotel opens room with flight simulator for aviation geeks

    A hotel in Japan is opening a room with a flight simulator to appeal to aviation enthusiasts.The Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu, inspired by its location near Tokyo Haneda Airport’s terminal 2, is launching the Superior Cockpit Room from 18 July.However, avgeeks have to book the experience separately as it is not included with the room price.The simulator experience, which must be taken with an instructor, lasts 90 minutes and costs 30,000 yen (£221).Meanwhile, if guests book the Superior Cockpit Room – 25,300 (£186) a night for the twin room – they are not allowed to “sit in the pilot’s seat in the simulator or touch the instruments”, according to the hotel website. Those who do book in for a flight will be able to simulate the experience of manoeuvring a Boeing 737-800 aircraft and “flying” from Haneda to Osaka’s Itami Airport.The room’s refit cost about 10 million yen (£75,000), a hotel spokesperson told CNN.It’s not the first time brands have used flight simulation as a USP.First Airlines restaurant opened in Tokyo last year, offering guests a unique “in-flight” Virtual Reality (VR) dining experience, with virtual tours of cities including Hawaii, Rome, Paris and New York. Diners “check in” to the flight, sit in a comfortable first-class seat and are treated to a realistic pre-flight safety demonstration, before enjoying an array of dishes similar to those served on flights.After “take-off”, guests are treated to a four-course meal themed around the cuisine of their VR destination. The New York experience, for example, includes chopped salad, Manhattan clam chowder, Angus beef steak with bacon and balsamic truffle sauce and cheese cake, while those “travelling” to Italy can enjoy dishes such as salmon carpaccio and tiramisu.

  • The places on Earth that look like the moon
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    The Independent

    The places on Earth that look like the moon

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.Half a century on, and experts believe we’ll soon be able to book commercial space flights. In the meantime, why not opt for the next best thing – a visit to a lunar landscape on our very own planet? The Bardenas Reales, Navarre, SpainThis beautifully bizarre natural park might look familiar – it’s been a backdrop for Game of Thrones and James Bond flick The World Is Not Enough. This semi-desert landscape is an hour’s drive from Pamplona, and its twisting rock formations are the result of millions of years of wind and rain-related erosion.There are three main hiking routes, although we recommend the longest one, El Fraile. You’ll climb 200 metres above the valley floor for breathtaking views over the boulder-strewn landscape. Spotted Lake, Osoyoos, CanadaWe’re employing a bit of artistic license with this one – let’s face it, even the moon can’t lay claim to spotted lakes (or at least, not that we know of). But there’s a definite lunar-like mysteriousness to this Canadian oddity, which looks its weird and wonderful best in summer, when water levels drop and individual pools of briny water form. Their colours – some are yellow, others are green or blue – are the result of the high concentration of minerals (including calcium and magnesium sulphate) in the surrounding rock. These minerals inevitably seep into the pools of water, which are believed (by some) to have healing properties. We’ll stick with the bottled stuff, thanks. El Valle de la Luna, Atacama Desert, ChileIt doesn’t get more moon-like than Chile’s El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), which you’ll find in the Atacama – one of the world’s driest deserts. The valley gets almost no rain, hence the dramatic landscape of dried lake beds, wind-sculpted rocks and salt-dusted mountains. And we’re not the only ones who think it’s got a lunar-like quality – its landscape is so similar to the moon (as well as certain planets) that scientists have tested several rover prototypes here. The Pinnacles, Western AustraliaOK, the moon might not have kangaroos, but that’s beside the point – just ask Roger Federer, who commented on the landscape’s lunar-like qualities during a post-Australian Open visit. The thousands of limestone structures, some of which are over five metres tall, were formed 25,000 years ago when limestone-rich sand and ancient sea shells were pummelled into a fine powder before being blown inland by coastal winds. Rummu quarry, Rummu, EstoniaOnce used for the mining of Vasalemma marble (a type of limestone), this Estonian quarry was abandoned in the Nineties. The pumps which sucked away much of the water were turned off, causing the entire area to flood. The buildings subsequently abandoned included a Soviet-era prison (the mine’s workforce was made up largely of inmates) and today, Rummu quarry is popular with divers, who come to explore the sunken cellblocks. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USThe shape of Goblin Valley’s rock formations – known as hoodoos – is the result of the varying hardness of the park’s sandstone. They’re the reason the area was once known as Mushroom Valley, a name given to it by businessman Arthur Chaffin, who conducted extensive explorations after stumbling across it in the Twenties. Don’t be surprised if it’s another landscape which looks familiar – it was the backdrop for cult sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest. Fly Geyser, Nevada, USThe beauty of this geothermal geyser is that it constantly sprays water into the air – hence the multicoloured layers of mineral deposits. But the constant eruptions have another effect – the formation of brightly-coloured algae, which changes colour as it grows and reacts with the mineral deposits. For this reason, its appearance constantly changes (with the downside being it’s now one of Nevada’s most popular selfie spots). The geyser was only opened to the public relatively recently – it’s located on a plot of private land. Suddenly the average garden-based water feature looks rather boring. IcelandWe’re not naming a specific location for this one, simply because there are so many Icelandic locations which resemble the moon. Take the Krysuvík geothermal area, with its boulder-dotted slopes and steaming craters, or the Westfjords, with their barren valleys and black sand beaches. It’s another country which features in various sci-fi films – the Dettifoss waterfall appears in the opening of space exploration flick Prometheus, and other locations have featured multiple times in Star Wars and Star Trek. It’s also been a training ground for various astronauts, including Neil Armstrong. Sarakiniko, Milos, GreeceThe beauty of this barren landscape – the area’s volcanic rocks are entirely free of vegetation – is down to the contrast between the bright blue water and the salt-crusted cliffs. Add to that a spot of wind and sea-induced sculpting and you’ve got the Aegean’s most photographed destination. Apparently it’s also a popular swimming spot, although we can’t imagine it’s the comfiest place to lay out your beach towel. Hawaii With road-gobbling, Triffid-like tendrils of lava and huge volcanic craters (Haleakala Crater on Maui is our favourite), it’s hardly surprising Hawaii is a popular destination for astronauts in training. Nasa astronauts first came to the Big Island in 1967, and with sites like Mauna Loa, which is the world’s largest volcano as well as a doppelganger for the moon, it’s easy to see why. This particular volcano has erupted dozens of times since it first blew its top in 1843, and its lava-strewn slopes stretch as far as the eye can see.

  • The best hotels in Chicago
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    The Independent

    The best hotels in Chicago

    The most American of all the big cities in the US, Chicago stands out not just for its ease-of-use (its O’Hare airport is the world’s busiest) or its eminently friendly locals (they call it “Midwest Nice”), but also for its stunning architecture. Walk among its 77 distinct neighbourhoods and you’ll find International Style skyscrapers, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed single-family homes, and everything in between.Food is the big draw in this city of nearly three million souls, but if you’re looking for a killer place to spend the night, you can rest and digest for as little as $109 a night in a former factory filled with tattooed hipsters or drop serious coin in a Magnificent Mile tower.Most first-timers to the Windy City (named for the windy political climate of the 1930s, not the extreme gusts peeling off Lake Michigan) choose a room with a view of the water, but heading west affords more neighbourhood escapes where actual Chicagoans hang out. So pick your poison, and bring comfortable walking shoes. Best for hanging with the cool kids: The Hoxton Neighbourhood: Fulton MarketThe British chain makes its Midwest debut in Fulton Market, in a former warehouse where anyone off the street is welcome to hang in the double-height lobby for some free wifi and water. As such, the buzzy Hox has quickly become steep (and free) competition to Soho House across the street, and the go-to rendezvous spot for impromptu meetings and friendly gatherings. Each of the 182 guest rooms (Snug, Roomy and Cosy) draw inspiration from the building’s industrial past, with mid-century flair, and afford easy access to celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s white-hot Cabra Cevicheria and the rooftop pool. Rooms from $129 (£103) hoxton.com Best for the social scene: Chicago Athletic Association Neighbourhood: The LoopWhat was once an exclusive men’s sporting club was reborn in 2015 as the coolest place to sit by a fire with a hot toddy or challenge a colleague to a round of darts in the Games Room. The Chicago Athletic Association’s 240 sporty-chic rooms (note the gymnastic horses at the foot of the beds), designed by Roman & Williams, take over most of the circa-1893 Venetian-Gothic pile, but there’s still plenty of space for seven bars and restaurants, including glassy Cindy’s Rooftop, a mainstay in summer overlooking Millennium and Grant Parks. Rooms from $169 (£135) chicagoathletichotel.com Best for shopping: Park Hyatt Chicago Neighbourhood: Magnificent MileSet across from the flagship Ralph Lauren and its ladies-who-lunch dining room, the Park Hyatt towers above the stretch of Michigan Avenue where out-of-towners come to spend their cash and locals befriend their personal shoppers. Try on your new Burberry trench or Gucci costume rings in an expansive suite with glorious views over Lake Michigan and the Water Tower. Don’t worry about overindulging and struggling to fit into that Row dress purchased at nearby Ikram; beloved NoMI Lounge has a semi-secret six-seat sushi bar serving deliciously fresh fish by the piece or full 13 or 18-course omakase meals that won’t bust your belt. Rooms from $350 (£280) hyatt.com Best for summer soirees: The Robey Neighbourhood: Wicker ParkFurther west than one typically considers when choosing a Chicago hotel, The Robey has much to beckon visitors to the six-point intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North Avenues. The Art Deco building, for one, captures the storied spirit of Chicago; it’s the only skyscraper for miles, and stretches 203 feet, so the views are spectacular in every direction. Then there’s the rooftop experiences, starting with a sixth-floor pool and deck, the raucous Cabana Club (try a frozen cocktail), and the hard-to-get-into Up Room, on the 13th floor (guests get preferential reservations). For something more intimate, try to muscle your way into The Grotto – a secluded, private alcove tucked within The Robey’s bell tower. Come for the people-watching, stay for the cosy rooms. Rooms from $240 (£192) therobey.com Best for people watching: The Viceroy Neighbourhood: Gold CoastThis urban resort rises 18 storeys and also claims one of the city’s prized rooftop pools: summer weekends often find “overserved” brunch diners in their linen finest falling into the water. This prime location, right above what Chicagoans affectionately call the Viagra Triangle, overlooks the best restaurants and shopping through floor-to-ceiling windows – not to mention sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the cityscape beyond. Definitely book a meal at Somerset on the ground floor, which spills onto the vibrant sidewalk, then take a lounger at the rooftop bar and watch the city’s beautiful people in action. Rooms from $205 (£164) viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/Chicago Best for architecture junkies: Hotel Julian Neighbourhood: The LoopThis 218-room hotel clearly draws inspiration from the landmark Atlantic Bank Building’s original architect, Chicago icon Benjamin Marshall. Homage is paid to the city’s industrial history he celebrated, as well as to the man himself – brick walls in the lobby and restaurant are hewn from the original 106-year-old bricks, while in the lounge, these kiln-fired clay pieces provide the canvas for a mural depicting Marshall and his greatest achievements. Light wood walls and ceilings create an open and airy vibe, while the existing brickwork and new metal accents revisit Chicago’s industrial boom. Book a Millennium King room with floor-to-ceiling windows framing Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and that famous Chicago skyline. Rooms from $129 (£103) hoteljulianchicago.com Best for luxury lovers: Peninsula Chicago Neighbourhood: Gold CoastConsidered by many to be the best Peninsula in the world, service here is as personal as the rooms are high-tech. Change the music or the lighting, or call your butler with a touch of a button, though in all likelihood, he or she already knows to bring you an espresso (you looked tired!) and have your suit pressed (this is where all the boldface names stay when they’re in town for a gala). In keeping with its Asian roots, the opulent 331-room hotel has the best Chinese restaurant in town, the Shanghai Terrace, and keeps privacy paramount. Still, don’t be surprised to run into a basketball star in the lobby or an A-list Hollywood producer in the indoor pool. Just remember to play it cool. Rooms from $425 (£340) peninsula.com Best for minimalist design: Langham Hotel Neighbourhood: The LoopFrom the moment you step into the Mies Van der Rohe building, walk past the Jaume Plensa marble sculpture, and up to the 12th floor lobby hung with glass pebbles, you know you’ve entered a spiritual space. Austere it may at first seem, the 316-key hotel is rife with whimsy: in the children’s play room, in the private cinema (first-come, first-served, always free), and in the playful flavours on the menu at Travelle, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant. Some 140 pieces of art brighten the light-filled building (you can even take a guided tour), while the Chuan Spa provides the ultimate pampering reprieve from the Windy City winters – and is anything but ascetic. Rooms from $384 (£308) langhamhotels.com Best for a big night out: The Thompson Neighbourhood: Gold CoastLunch is a big deal at the Thompson – its Nico Osteria is one of the few places to offer it in these parts – but then again, so are weekend brunches, where sharp-dressed locals linger for hours over bruschetta and prosecco. Upstairs is quite a scene, too, with 247 rooms dressed in masculine greys, blues and browns that echo the skyline and the Lake. The amenities are few (there’s no spa or pool), but it’s still a Chicago favourite for its darkly cool atmosphere and thoughtfully chosen art collection (nip into the four-storey secret stairway for a peek at the works of some of Chicago’s revered graffiti and street artists). The smart money use the Thompson for romantic staycations: start an evening drinking and dining at the bar – who knows who you might run into? – then sleep off the night before in one of the plush guest rooms. Rooms from $199 (£159) thompsonhotels.com Best for music lovers and grown-up scenesters: The Sophy Neighbourhood: Hyde ParkOpen for less than a year, the first boutique hotel to hit swanky Hyde Park has quickly become the social hub for Southsiders. Along with 98 guest rooms (many with custom artwork and turntables with curated vinyl) and an unbeatable location on the buzziest section of South 53rd Street, the hotel offers a thumping lobby bar that gives a nod to the Nobel laureates who taught at nearby University of Chicago, and a restaurant, The Mesler, decorated with book jackets by notable Chicago authors. Mingle with poets, artists, foodies, politicians, scholars, musicians, and anyone who’s anyone in this industrial-style building inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s nearby Robey House. Rooms from $239 (£192) sophyhotel.com

  • Which Greek island should be your next holiday destination?
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    The Independent

    Which Greek island should be your next holiday destination?

    It’s hard to imagine somewhere better equipped to deal with every kind of traveller – whether it be fly-and-flopper, anxious parent or squealing kid – than the Greek islands. Beyond the textbook beaches, brilliant blue waters and boat trips, there are Trojan-era temples, mustn’t-miss museums and everything in between: from pop-up book seaside towns to nuttily brilliant vineyards. Here’s which Greek island will suit you best. Best for couples: KefaloniaMost Greek islands rely on postcard good looks alone (electric blue waters, umbrella-free beaches, sugar cube houses; you know the drill), but the largest of the lush, green Ionian islands is more an A to Z of Greco hits. There are pine-clad mountains and bat caves, snoozy vineyards and soft-sand beaches, eager locals, greenback turtles and goats. Hundreds of them. Sometimes, it’s possible to spot wild horses grazing on the slopes of Mount Aenos. Add in a dash of literary romance – Lord Byron hung out here and it’s where Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was set 25 years ago – and it could be the Greek island you’ve always been hankering for. Better still: it’s never been in fashion like neighbouring Corfu or Zante, and the further from capital Argostoli you travel, the more the crowds thin out.Don’t miss: Fiskardo – the harbour town in the island’s northeast will fill you with sudden, inexplicable joy. Best for going slow: HydraPinned on the map 68km south of Athens, this delightful, vehicle-free spot in the Saronic Islands off the Peloponnese coast feels a world away. In fact, outside of peak season when hydrofoils glide in from the capital with a Mykonos-esque crowd, it’s free of much of the package tourism that’s blighted so many other islands. Overdevelopment has never been a thing here and there are few concrete block buildings to scupper the views. Instead, come for cliffside galleries that lure art collectors, lemon tree-lined squares and clay-roofed mansions. Indeed, to wander its 18th century port, cutely arranged with shingle houses and time-goes-slow streets, is to see Greece as locals do. With no temples, no must-see museums and no water parks, it’s all blissfully free from box-ticking. Music fan? Canadian crooner Leonard Cohen had a home here for years.Don’t miss: A day trip to a water taxi accessible beach like Agios Nikolaos Bay. Best for time travellers: DelosOff the coast of Mykonos, this island really has the Clash of the Titans vibe nailed. With some of the most extensive temple excavations in the Mediterranean, the Unesco complex delivers on big-money views, labyrinthine passages and high school history myths. Here, Ancient Greece clings to life. Amid the ongoing archaeological digs, there is plenty to wow you. Start with the Temple of Lions and the Minoan Fountain, and don’t miss the House of Dionysus. There are also plenty of colonnaded halls, market squares and titter-ye-not phallus-shaped reliefs. Effectively, the entire island is one gigantic open-air museum, so you’ll need to be based on neighbouring Mykonos (or Tinos or Naxos further away). Thankfully, day trips are easy. It’s also a prudent reminder as to what can happen to the worlds of wealth and power: mosaics are fractured and once beautiful mansions lie in ruin.Don’t miss: Any of it, really. The Archaeological Museum of Delos also helps make sense of it all. Best for keeping busy: CorfuOnce overrun with package tourism, Venetian-influenced Corfu is on the bounce. So much so it’s becoming known as a fabulous place to ditch the sun lounger completely. Íssos beach, all backed by sloping curves of dune-contoured sand, is the go-to for reliable cross-shore and onshore winds, and is as good as anywhere in Greece for wind-powered watersports. Windsurfing schools, kitesurfing and sailing are all on offer. Unlike elsewhere, Corfu lacks the pounding beach breaks to attract the more hardcore element of surfers, but it still has a laidback scene. Beginners should beeline to Chalikounas on the south coast, or try waterskiing or parasailing on Acharavi beach further north. Prefer staying dry? The meandering Corfu Trail, a 200km walking route of zigzagging mule tracks, runs the length of the island and offers fabulous coastal scenery. The trail is marked by karst plateaus, steep gorges and rolling hillsides blanketed in olive groves, while along the way are idyllic tavernas to duck into.Don’t miss: Íssos beach and the Achilleion, the summer palace of Kaiser Wilhelm, both of which make appearances in 1980s James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Best for foodies: SifnosWhile Mykonos and Santorini grapple with the lion’s share of glammed-up restaurants in The Cyclades, far quieter Sifnos, three hours by catamaran from Athens, draws visitors for lower-key experiences. It simply fizzes with flavour. Historically, this is down to Nikolaos Tselementes (1878-1958), a local chef who wrote one of the country’s defining cookbooks – and his ongoing influence is easy to spot today.Even the air, scented with wafts of sage and oregano, smells like a kitchen. Locals say the success of Sifniot cooking also has its roots in the handmade terracotta casserole dishes that became the hallmark of the island. While most potteries have closed, plenty of knock-out dishes still start life in the earthenware pots, such as grilled octopus, wood-oven feta pies and hip-trembling chickpea casseroles (skepastaria). Other factors include the influence of Turkish cuisine during the Ottoman rule from 1617 and the sheer variety of ingredients. Honestly, with lamb chops, baby squid, goat, squeaky cheese, anise, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, fava beans, anchovies, olives, marjoram and mint, it’s hard to go wrong. Don’t miss: Try Maiolica on Platis Gialos beach for the perfect taverna stop and refuel at Theodorou’s Sweet Shop for honey and cinnamon bourekia pastries. Best for wine lovers: CreteSantorini? Pah. For new adventures in wine, Crete throws up plenty more surprises. The oldest wine-producing region in continuous use in Europe, it’s where wine good enough for the gods is practically a human right. The island mixes it up with a blend of indigenous varieties, including delicious, lemony white Vilana and Vidiano, originally from Rethymno and Crete’s most coveted grape. Cretan reds, meanwhile, span the spectrum from Kotsifali to legendary Romeiko. For the most interesting tipple, finish a trip with the lonely monastery of Toplou, where clay soils and arid conditions combine to turn the deep ruby fruit into something divine. By Zeus, it’s phenomenal.Don’t miss: The north. The most fruitful part of the island, it’s where grapevines snuggle up to olive groves shielded from the south’s warmer winds. Travel essentialsJet2.com offers flights to several Greek islands, including Corfu, Crete and Kefalonia, from various UK airports. Flights start from £55pp one way.

  • UK airports score highly on accessibility for disabled passengers, says aviation watchdog
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    The Independent

    UK airports score highly on accessibility for disabled passengers, says aviation watchdog

    Fourteen UK airports have been rated as “very good” when it comes to accessibility for disabled passengers, according to new data.In a ranking by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), airports including Belfast City, Edinburgh and Glasgow were deemed “very good”.The aviation watchdog ranked 31 UK airports on how accessible they were for disabled passengers.Sixteen airports were rated as “good”, which included London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London Stansted.Only Manchester airport, the UK’s third busiest, received a “needs improvement” status – an improvement on its “poor” rating for the past two years.There were 3.7 million requests for assistance at UK airports in the past year, a rise of 80 per cent since 2010, said the CAA.“These results show significant improvements to the experience many disabled passengers faced before our reporting began. We hope this will help passengers to feel confident and empowered to travel from UK airports,” said Paul Smith, consumers and markets director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority.“While it is good to see the general improvements, airports will need to continue to work hard to improve, so that they are able to meet the more demanding performance standards that we have now introduced. “Where we see examples of bad practice, we will not hesitate to hold airports to account and take the necessary action.”“It is encouraging that almost all of our main airports are rated highly, but there is much more to do,” said aviation minister Baroness Vere.“The UK Civil Aviation Authority has introduced more demanding performance measures for airports, and the sector will continue to work to improve the experience for disabled passengers at every stage of their journey.”Ceri Smith, policy and campaigns manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “The fact that there has been such a positive change amongst so many airports since the CAA began its reporting shows the importance of shining a light on service provided to disabled passengers and holding transport operators to account when service isn’t good enough.“It’s good to see that accessibility at airports is improving, but it’s vital that disabled passengers also receive good service once they get on the plane.“We frequently hear horror stories from disabled passengers about their distressing experiences travelling by plane, such as being stranded on planes for hours after take-off.“Disabled travellers should be able to expect a fair and consistent service from all transport providers and we look forward to the work the Government, CAA and airline industry are undertaking to ensure disabled people are able to travel by air with confidence.”Earlier this week it was revealed that two thirds of disabled rail passengers experience problems travelling by train, according to new government research.Looking at the experiences of disabled travellers all around the UK, the Department for Transport found that inaccessible toilets, ticket offices being closed and attitudes of other passengers all created barriers to travel.The report, compiled in collaboration with Transport Focus, was based on a combination of 1,400 online survey responses, 150 face-to-face survey responses, 50 qualitative interviews, 12 expert interviews and 15 rail journeys conducted by passengers wearing a small camera to capture their experiences. Airports with “Very Good” statusAberdeen, Belfast City, City of Derry, Cornwall Newquay, Doncaster Sheffield, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Humberside, Kirkwall, Norwich, Southampton, Sumburgh. Airports with “Good” statusBelfast International, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Inverness, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Southend, London Stansted, Newcastle. Airports with ”Needs Improvement” statusManchester

  • Uluru locals angered by tourists ‘defecating, urinating and discarding nappies’ on sacred rock
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    The Independent

    Uluru locals angered by tourists ‘defecating, urinating and discarding nappies’ on sacred rock

    Hundreds of tourists are descending on Uluru in Australia each day to climb the sacred rock before it closes, leaving “sickening” amounts of rubbish in their wake.Locals have accused visitors of discarding human waste, nappies and rubbish on the attraction in the northern Territory’s Red Centre, where a climbing ban will come into effect from 26 October.The number of climbers has skyrocketed from around 140 each day before the upcoming ban was announced in 2017, to between 300-500 daily visitors.Broadcaster ABC shared a photo it had received from a member of the public, showing a long line of people snaking up the rock. The local resident who sent the picture said it was “the busiest they’ve seen [Uluru]”, adding that there were cars parked for 1km on either side of the road leading up to the car park at the base.“It makes me sick looking at this photo at the disrespect and disregard shown for the traditional owners’ wishes,” said a spokesperson from the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation.“Not only do people climb it but they defecate, urinate and discard nappies and rubbish on it.“I for one cannot wait for the climb to be permanently closed and our sacred lore, culture and traditions to be acknowledged and respected.”Stephen Schwer, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia, told the ABC: “When there is the kind of influx of drive travel as we are seeing at the moment, there is an influx of waste.”“There’s just rubbish everywhere, including used toilet paper,” added Lindy Severin, the owner of cattle ranch and campsite Curtin Springs Station about 100km away. She said thousands of campervans heading to Uluru had been dumping toilet tanks on the roadside.The massive sandstone monolith, sometimes known as Ayers Rock, is sacred to Aboriginal Australians, who have long campaigned to stop people climbing it.There is already a sign at the bottom of the path, reading: “We, the traditional Anangu owners have this to say. The climb is not prohibited but we ask you to respect our law and culture by not climbing Uluru. “We have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land. “The climb can be dangerous. Too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru.”The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced in 2017 that tourists would be banned from climbing the rock from 26 October 2019, after a 12-strong board voted unanimously to introduce the measure.“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” said chairman and senior traditional owner Sammy Wilson at the time. “If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it. It is the same here for Anangu. We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”Tourists will still be able to walk around the base and take a cultural workshop.

  • Turquoise lake loved by Instagrammers turns out to be toxic waste dump
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    The Independent

    Turquoise lake loved by Instagrammers turns out to be toxic waste dump

    A beautiful turquoise lake that is a popular selfie spot has been revealed to be a toxic waste dump.The man-made lake in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia, has attracted hundreds of Instagram users thanks to its vibrant blue hue. But according to the Siberian Generating Company, which owns the lake, it’s actually an ash dump from a local coal plant and contact with the water should be avoided at all costs.The bright colour of the water, which has led some to dub it the “Siberian Maldives”, comes from calcium salts and metal oxides dissolved in it which gives it a high alkaline content.In a social media post, the company warned visitors not to get into the water in pursuit of a selfie.Although the water isn’t poisonous, the bottom of the lake was muddy and “almost impossible” to get out of alone, it said.Thanks to its social media star status, the lake even has its own Instagram account: @maldives_nsk.Posts show Instagrammers posing by the lake’s edge or paddleboarding in the azure water.> View this post on Instagram> > Photo: @ekaterina_ch_nsk . . . сибирскиемальдивы новосибирскиемальдивы мальдивынск нскМальдивы озеротэц5 золоотвал золоотвалтэц5 тэц5 бирюзовоеозеро мальдивы мальдивывновосибирске maldives maldivesnsk maldives_nsk тэц5новосибирск> > A post shared by 🌴Новосибирские Мальдивы 😎🌴 (@maldives_nsk) on Jul 3, 2019 at 9:14pm PDT> View this post on Instagram> > Photo: @sup_novosibirsk . . . сибирскиемальдивы новосибирскиемальдивы мальдивынск нскМальдивы озеротэц5 золоотвал золоотвалтэц5 тэц5 бирюзовоеозеро мальдивы мальдивывновосибирске maldives maldivesnsk maldives_nsk тэц5новосибирск> > A post shared by 🌴Новосибирские Мальдивы 😎🌴 (@maldives_nsk) on Jun 27, 2019 at 8:48pm PDTOne user is even pictured riding an inflatable swan.> View this post on Instagram> > Photo: @tweezer_nsk . . . сибирскиемальдивы новосибирскиемальдивы мальдивынск нскМальдивы озеротэц5 золоотвал золоотвалтэц5 тэц5 бирюзовоеозеро мальдивы мальдивывновосибирске maldives maldivesnsk maldives_nsk тэц5новосибирск> > A post shared by 🌴Новосибирские Мальдивы 😎🌴 (@maldives_nsk) on Jul 4, 2019 at 12:28am PDTOne user commented: “Enjoy that toxic water.”This week, it was revealed that a popular Instagram destination in Bali was not quite as impressive in real life.Tourists expressed their disappointment after visiting Lempuyang Temple in Karangasem, often referred to as the “Gates of Heaven”. Many of these tourists come to recreate pictures they’ve seen on Instagram of people standing in the middle of the temple, with water mirroring their reflection back at them.However, in reality, a mirror is used to artfully craft the photos, as there is no water at the Hindu temple at all.

  • Norwegian Air founder replaced as chief executive
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    The Independent

    Norwegian Air founder replaced as chief executive

    The founder of Norwegian has been replaced as chief executive. Bjorn Kjos, 72, has been given a new role as adviser to the chairman.He has been replaced temporarily by the airline’s chief financial officer, Geir Karlsen, 54.Norwegian is the third-largest airline at Gatwick, with 4.6 million annual passengers, and with more than 1,500 UK-based pilots and cabin crew.But the airline has struggled financially as it expanded rapidly.It has also been hit by problems with two of the Boeing aircraft types it uses: the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max following two fatal crashes, and the Rolls-Royce engines on some of its 787 Dreamliners.Mr Kjos said: “I am confident that the board of directors will find the best qualified successor to lead the next chapters of the Norwegian story together with the top management team.“Leaving the exciting future tasks to a new CEO and taking on a new challenge as an advisor, is a set-up I am very happy with."I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian.”Niels Smedegaard, chairman of Norwegian, said: “I am very pleased Bjorn will remain at the company as an advisor to the Board and the Chair.“As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, it will be an advantage for the company to benefit from Bjorn’s extensive network, in-depth knowledge of and experience with global aviation.”In 2018 Mr Kjos turned down an offer from British Airways’ parent company, IAG, which was worth around £1bn. The rejection was widely regarded as unwise.

  • Gatwick flight delays: Thousands stranded after two-hour runway closure
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    The Independent

    Gatwick flight delays: Thousands stranded after two-hour runway closure

    Thousands of airline passengers have woken up far from where they intended to be after dozens of flights to and from Gatwick airport were cancelled. Many more services have been cancelled on Thursday morning as airlines struggle to get planes, pilots and cabin crew back into position.The worst-affected services are those involving aircraft that were due to fly out on Wednesday evening.British Airways has cancelled inbound services from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Jersey to Gatwick, while easyJet arrivals from Inverness, Madrid and Milan have been grounded.Norwegian cancelled a round-trip from Gatwick to New York. Thursday’s 10am departure to JFK has been delayed to 9pm.Problems with the air-traffic control system on Wednesday led to the world’s busiest runway being closed for almost two hours from 5.08pm.Gatwick has the busiest runway in the world, with a take-off or landing every 80 seconds at peak times.Arrivals and departures are handled by Air Navigation Solutions (ANS), a subsidiary of the German organisation Deutsche Flugsicherung, rather than the main UK provider, Nats.A spokesperson for the airport said on Wednesday night: “Flights have resumed at Gatwick following an earlier issue with the systems operated by ANS in our air traffic control tower.“As we move back into full operations, we are likely to see some delays and further cancellations this evening. “We apologise to passengers who have been affected and are aiming to operate a full schedule of flights tomorrow. “We continue to advise all passengers travelling tonight or tomorrow to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport.”Shortly before Christmas, Gatwick airport was closed for 33 hours, disrupting the plans of 160,000 passengers, because of unauthorised drone activity.

  • Falkirk is the UK’s best neighbourhood for walking
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    The Independent

    Falkirk is the UK’s best neighbourhood for walking

    It’s official: Falkirk is the UK’s best neighbourhood for walking.The Scottish town was crowned Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood 2019 by the Ramblers, a charity which promotes walking and protects the rights of walkers throughout the country.Falkirk beat nine other contenders across England, Scotland and Wales to be named the top walker-friendly urban neighbourhood, with 20 per cent of the vote.The Ramblers received more than 80 public nominations for the award, with the list whittled down to 10 finalists by a panel of expert judges.The winner was then decided by a public vote of more than 12,000 respondents.Falkirk clearly impressed, thanks to Helix Park, adorned by magnificent horse sculptures, and its 383 miles (617km) of well-maintained and signposted paths.It also offers easy access to green space – a planning standard introduced by the council means that every house should be within 400m of an open space – and the local authority has also widened pavements and created more off-road paths.Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “Congratulations to Falkirk, a very worthy winner of the Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award. Our vision is of a country truly designed for walking, where everyone is encouraged to walk whenever they set out on a journey, whether they are popping to the shops or going to work. Falkirk is a fantastic example of how this can be achieved.“Walkable neighbourhoods bring not only the physical and mental health benefits of walking and being able to access green space; places where people walk regularly also have more connected communities. Making it easy to choose walking over driving helps to reduce congestion and improve air quality too, bringing us one step closer to our zero emissions target.”

  • Gatwick flight delays: Passengers hit with long waits and crowding after airport suspends flights
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    The Independent

    Gatwick flight delays: Passengers hit with long waits and crowding after airport suspends flights

    Gatwick Airport has resumed all flights after an ”air traffic control systems issue” caused the airport to shut for two hours. After the issue forced Britain’s second-busiest airport to ground all flights, Gatwick eventually announced on Twitter: “Following an earlier air traffic control systems issue, flights to and from Gatwick have now resumed. If you are travelling this evening, please check the status of your flight with your airline before travelling to the airport, as we return to full operations.”In the midst of the issue, which related to the control tower and which lasted roughly two hours, flights were cancelled, delayed or diverted to other airports, prompting complaints on social media and long queues. So far, 28 flights have reportedly been cancelled, with 26 flights diverted to other airports. Despite the issue now being resolved, passengers are continuing to see delays and cancellations, with the airport warning that they may continue into the night. On Twitter, easyJet passengers have shared photos of the chaotic aftermath in the London airport. However, the airline has warned passengers they will not receive cash compensation as the disruption “is beyond our control and is considered an extraordinary circumstance”.According to Gatwick, it is “aiming to operate a full schedule of flights tomorrow”. The disruption comes after the airport was closed for 33 hours in December as a result of unauthorised drone activity. Catch-up on events as they happened belowPlease allow a moment for our liveblog to load

  • Gatwick suspends all flights as airport hit by ‘traffic control systems issue’
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    The Independent

    Gatwick suspends all flights as airport hit by ‘traffic control systems issue’

    Britain’s second-busiest airport has suspended all flights “due to an air traffic control systems issue”.The airport said: “We are working with ANS, our air traffic control provider, to rectify this issue as quickly as possible.“We apologise and advise passengers to check with their airline or on our live flights page for the latest flight information.”The problem relates to the control tower. Gatwick has the busiest runway in the world, with a take-off or landing every 80 seconds at peak times.Arriving aircraft are already being diverted. A British Airways arrival from Tenerife is currently on the ground at Stansted. Another BA plane, inbound from Ibiza, touched down at Bournemouth.Many easyJet arrivals were diverted, included services from Montpellier and Seville which landed at Luton, and from Krakow which arrived in Stansted.The aircraft will remain on the ground in the hope that the Gatwick runway opens swiftly and they can be flown in.Gatwick is the biggest base for easyJet, which in a normal day operates as many as 400 flights to and from the Sussex airport.It told passengers: “Due to an earlier IT issue affecting all flights departing and arriving at London Gatwick Airport we expect delays and possible further disruption.“Although outside of our control, we're very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.” The airline also warned passengers they would not get any cash compensation: “The disruption is beyond our control and is considered an extraordinary circumstance.”Even if a swift fix is found to the problem, disruption will continue well into the evening.The final wave of early evening departures from Gatwick is likely to be wrecked, with many flights cancelled and others severely delayed.Although passengers do not get cash compensation, they are entitled to meals and, if necessary, accommodation until they can be flown to their destinations.Shortly before Christmas, Gatwick airport was closed for 33 hours, disrupting the plans of 160,000 passengers, because of unauthorised drone activity.

  • Pittsburgh guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Steel City
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    The Independent

    Pittsburgh guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Steel City

    April 2019 saw the launch of British Airways’ new route to Pittsburgh. It’s the first direct link between the UK and Steel City – a name which dates back to its industrial heyday. Today, Pittsburgh is famous for its colourful neighbourhoods and fantastic museums (many of which were founded by Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie).It’s also known for its contributions to the film industry – the brilliantly diverse architecture is the reason it’s been the backdrop for countless blockbusters, including Silence of the Lambs and The Dark Knight Rises. Oh, and Heinz was founded here 150 years ago, so don’t forget to check out the Senator John Heinz History Centre, where you can learn all about the brand behind the nation’s favourite ketchup. What to do Admire the architecturePittsburgh is an architecture buff’s dream. It’s got everything from high-tech skyscrapers (including the PPG Place buildings, made with 20,000 pieces of glass) and ancient churches to military forts and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (his most famous work, Fallingwater, is an hour’s drive away). The city’s varied architecture can also be seen as the backdrop to countless films which were shot here – watch out for Soldiers and Sailors Hall, which doubled as Hannibal’s temporary jail in Silence of the Lambs. Visit museumsThe Frick art and historical centre is a tribute to late Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The sprawling site includes the Car and Carriage Museum and the Frick Art Museum, and you can also tour Clayton, Frick’s family home in the late 19th century. This tour provides a fantastic insight into life during the steel boom – the decor screams Victorian bling, with walls lined with silver, priceless artworks (including a Monet) and the family’s monogrammed dinner plates, laid out on the table where Roosevelt once dined.The Senator John Heinz History Centre, named after the businessman and heir to the HJ Heinz Company, includes a collection of rare Heinz products, such as a bright green limited-edition ketchup and a pickle carrying case used by Heinz’s salesmen.Equally worth a visit are the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, founded by Andrew Carnegie. If you’ve only got time for one, make it the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which has one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur remains. Check out the neighbourhoodsPittsburgh’s city centre is dominated by skyscrapers – with the city’s best bits in the various neighbourhoods which fan out from the downtown core, often across the water. East Liberty, to the northeast, is known for its independent boutiques (locals proudly boast that the only branded presence is a McDonald’s) and historic buildings.Lawrenceville, with its cafés, vintage stores and enormous murals painted onto the side of former steel workers’ houses, is the city’s most up-and-coming area. One of the best coffee shops is Espresso a Mano, with its artfully exposed brickwork and canvases painted by local artists.Shadyside is known for its historic homes and speciality stores, including many antique dealers. Its main artery is Walnut Street, with a dappling of quirky shops, including Scribe, which sells beautiful stationery. Afterwards, wander past the elegant brick houses towards Highland Avenue and Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. At this colourful, diner-style ice cream parlour the speciality is the homemade, marshmallow-filled PGH Pothole – a Pittsburgh version of rocky road. Where to stayThe Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh is a dog-friendly design hotel – even the elevators are jam-packed with art. Bedrooms are an explosion of colour, and corridors feature super-size murals and day-glo armchairs. Doubles from $229 (£173), room only.Recent hotel openings include the Even Hotel Pittsburgh, with its wellness-inspired rooms (there are in-room exercise videos and bed linen is made from eucalyptus) and The Oaklander, with its industrial decor and dark, brooding bar. Spring also saw the opening of TRYP Hotels, based in achingly cool Lawrenceville. Where to eat BreakfastWaffles Incaffeinated is a Pittsburgh-based waffle-house brand with five restaurants, including one in the downtown area. Do as the locals do and order the Breakfast Magic, which comes topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onion. LunchMake like Obama and order one of the famous burgers at Pamela’s Diner, one of the former Potus’s favourite restaurants. There are branches throughout the city but we recommend the one in the Strip District (don’t worry, it earned its name because of its connection with strip steel mills, rather than dubious night spots). DinnerHead to Union Standard for delicious dishes served by legendary Pittsburgh chef Derek Stevens. His menu is inspired by the mid-Atlantic and Appalachian regions, so expect everything from steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes to sea scallops with beet and squash molasses. Where to drinkPittsburgh’s coolest bar is The Speakeasy at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Talk nicely to the barmen at this beautiful prohibition-era bar and they will show you the secret tunnel used by patrons during prohibition times.If caffeine’s your weakness, it’s got to be Lawrenceville’s Abbey on Butler Street, a stylish coffee shop (complete with a nitro brewing system) housed in a former funeral home. Where to shopPittsburgh’s a spread-out kind of place, with its best shops dotted throughout its neighbourhoods. You won’t find much retail therapy in the city centre (although Smithfield Street’s Steel City store is great for souvenirs).Shadyside’s Walnut Street has some fantastic independent stores, along with Roslyn Place – the only street in the US to use wood as a paving material.The Ross Park Mall, a 15-minute drive from the city centre, has 150 brands and Grove City Premium Outlets is a 50-minute drive away. Architectural highlightHard to choose, but it’s a tie between the Regional Enterprise Tower, the world’s first skyscraper with an all-aluminium facade, and the US Steel Tower, with its strangely beautiful, rust-hued external girders. The architects wanted the latter to be a showcase for Cor-ten – a corrosion-resistant material invented by US Steel. The extensive use of steel was only allowed because of the antifreeze-filled pipes inside the girders – steel bends at high temperatures, but in the event of a fire, this antifreeze would give those inside enough time to evacuate. Nuts and bolts What currency do I need?US dollars (USD). What language do they speak?English. Should I tip?Tipping is the norm in the US. As a guide, tip 18-20 per cent in restaurants and around 20 per cent per drink in bars. What’s the time difference?Five hours behind the UK. What’s the average flight time from the UK?Nine hours. Public transportThe downtown area is easy to explore on foot, although you can also use the Pittsburgh Light Rail service and the city’s buses – their route network includes a fare-free zone in the city centre. But some of Pittsburgh’s biggest attractions are in the neighbourhoods just outside the city centre, so Uber or Lyft are your best options for these areas. Best viewFrom the top of the Duquesne Incline – cruise to the top in a century-old funicular for gorgeous views of the city centre and its steel bridge-straddled rivers. Insider tipTake time to wander the city’s alleyways. When the powers that be decided to spruce up the city, these often litter-strewn cut-throughs were seen as a great place to start, and street artists were enlisted to liven them up. Some have colourful murals painted on the ground, while others have ribbons of fairy lights strung from buildings on either side.

  • Virgin flight makes emergency landing after ‘white vapour seen coming from engine’
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    The Independent

    Virgin flight makes emergency landing after ‘white vapour seen coming from engine’

    A Virgin Australia flight has had to make an emergency landing after an “engineering issue” was reported and white vapour was seen coming from the aircraft’s right engine.Flight VA69 from Melbourne to Hong Kong had been flying for around half an hour when the pilot made the decision to turn back rather than continue the nine-hour journey.The captain requested a priority landing into Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and turned the jet around somewhere over Swan Hill in Victoria, before touching down around an hour after take-off.Video showing white vapour issuing from the engine prompted speculation that there had been a fuel leak.A Virgin Australia spokesperson said: “We can confirm flight VA69, travelling from Melbourne to Hong Kong, made an air return and landed safely back in Melbourne this morning after an engineering issue was detected shortly after take-off. “In accordance with standard operating procedures, the Captain made the decision to return to Melbourne as a precautionary measure and our engineers are currently inspecting the aircraft.“The safety of our aircraft, guests and crew is our highest priority and we will work hard to have our guests on their way to Hong Kong as soon as possible.”Passengers have been rebooked to fly to Hong Kong tomorrow, according to local media reports.It follows another flight making an emergency landing after a piece of the plane broke off and flew into the engine. The malfunction occurred nearly an hour into Delta flight number 1425, after the plane had departed from Atlanta to Baltimore on Monday 8 July. Passengers described smoke filling the cabin area before a tense emergency landing in North Carolina.“After we heard the boom, we just saw all this smoke come up into the cabin and that’s when we really started freaking out,” one passenger told Baltimore’s WMAR-TV.