The Travel Detective

British Airports, British Airways and Contrarian Holiday Travel

Locations in this article:  London, England Los Angeles, CA Paris, France Toronto, Canada

Monte Carlo NighttimeNovember 17, 2007

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

We’re coming to you from the principality of Monaco in Monte Carlo. It’s small principality, about 37,000 people total, and I’m being generous on that count. It’s about the size of Central Park.

I’m over here at a convention of the Leading Hotels of the World, where the top hoteliers of the world meeting to discuss your fate, my fate, and your rates. It’s about what’s happening in the world of who owns hotels, who runs them, and a “big H” that we’ve forgotten about.

It’s called hospitality.

Is the BAA Overturning its Stupidity?

For those of you who listen to my radio show and see me on the Today show, you know I’ve announced my boycott, for weeks now, of all British airports, based on the British Airport Authority’s stupid rule about one bag as carry-on. It has completely disrupted the system. It has forced British Airways and other airlines to lose thousands of bags a day. There are pictures you’ll see on the Web of actual mountains of bags on the tarmac.

In recent weeks, British Airways had to fly empty 747s filled with luggage to New York to reunite them with their passengers.

British Airport AuthorityThe BAA could not give us, in any way, shape or form, a logical explanation of why they were restricting your carry-on bags to one per person. You were literally denied the opportunity to transfer terminals to even board your flight if you had two carry-on bags.

Now, the rumor is that on January 7, the BAA is going to relax the rule and allow you two carry-on items. Wow, they’re entering the 21st century in the United Kingdom.

Bottom line is, though, they’re still going to require individual airports to apply to do it. So once again, the British are amazing everybody with another committee meeting. But at least they’re making some progress. As of January 7, the rumor is, and we’ll check on it, they may go back to the two carry-on bag rule.

And, if they do, I may actually show up there. I was originally supposed to fly to Nice via London; I was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to London on American Airlines, and over to Nice on British Air. I refused to do that because of the one-bag rule. So I came on Air France through Paris. A lot of people are bypassing those airports, which is really having an economic impact. That’s probably why they’re changing the rule, but they never should have had the rule in the first place.

Ghost Flights in the Air

Speaking of weird things at Heathrow… You thought it was bad last summer when Northwest Airlines couldn’t field flight crews and on the last 10 days of the month they were canceling flights? Have you heard of “ghost flights?”

That’s right, British Airways had trouble fielding crews, too. So in the last six or seven weeks, it has actually flown 747s and 777s completely empty, because they couldn’t find enough people to fly them as cabin crew. This was British Airways flight 176 to Heathrow, one to Toronto, flight 279 (a very popular one) to Los Angeles, 278 back to London—no passengers on board. It was more important for British Airways to get the plane back to London than to wait for a flight crew.

Now, that’s great management. Forget carbon offsetting. How about intelligence offsetting. How many brains do you have to plant to figure that one out? Unbelievable.

The Perils of Thanksgiving Travel

Canned Cranberry ThanksgivingWe are now on the threshold of the busiest travel day of the year. That’s the day before Thanksgiving. And for those people, I continue to tell you this: You’ll be doing your very own remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

There will be 27 million Americans traveling from the weekend through the end of Thanksgiving.

Interestingly enough, the security waits this weekend won’t be as bad, because they’re going to staff it with even more people. That’s at the big airports. The security waits at the smaller airports? Watch out. Those will all be bad. It’s all counterintuitive. They do it just for the holidays, just to mess you up.

But if you travel on that Wednesday or come back on that Sunday after Thanksgiving, do so at your own peril. Do not write me, do not call me and tell me what a terrible time you had. I’m telling you right now what a terrible time you’re going to have. So don’t do it.

Tips on Contrarian Traveling

If you’re checking bags, the pope can’t even intervene on this one. They airlines are going to lose them. If you do what I do, ship your bags ahead of time, you’ll be a happier camper. If you do that, you can check off a three-day advance on almost all of the waybills and get a discount. And when you’re coming home, nobody says that your dirty laundry has to be there by 10:30 the next morning. Nobody. And that includes me.

One other thing: Do not obey a single airport sign. They have not told the truth since 1947.

Don’t go to departures when you’re leaving, go to arrivals, because there will be nobody there. When you’re arriving, have your friends pick you up at departures because there will be nobody there.

If you don’t check any bags, you’ll beat everybody out of the airport by at least 45 minutes, because they’ll still be in the airport waiting for their bags that weren’t on the plane to begin with. And they’ll be stuck in rush hour traffic. That’s what you’ve got to do. And if you don’t, you’ll be waiting around till Christmas.

Want more Peter? Check out his blog, the Travel Detective Files.

Want more info on traveling during this holiday season? Don’t miss The Trouble With Traveling Near Thanksgiving.

Need new ideas on where to go instead of grandma’s house for Christmastime? Or ways to get good prices near the busiest travel times? Check out Ask Peter: Holiday Travel and Kids on Tours.