Hotel lawsuits against internet commentators – think before you complain!

User generated content has revolutionized customer service in a variety of service industries mostly for the better. Nevertheless, hotel (and other) reviews on sites like Tripadvisor.com frequently find operators at their wits end battling biased and inexplicably false reviews posted – as some people just bring out the worst in their vacation experience. And often the cause seems simple: they do it just because they CAN. But now it seems that the time of “anonymous” internert comments is over – as some hotels are taking action.

For example, The Grand Palms Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines, FL, US is suing a woman for a negative review of their services. They filed suit in “October against Jessica Rapillo, accusing the New Yorker of posting a defamatory review that caused a noticeable drop in business. According to the lawsuit, the review on a travel Web site called the Grand Palms “the most disgusting, bug infested, rundown hotel.”

“The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that “These suits are extremely common and starting to make their way through the courts,” said Lyrissa Lidsky, professor at the University of Florida. “Courts are starting to develop balancing tests to guarantee it’s a legitimate libel suit before they uncover the poster’s identity.” She was referring to anonymous posts. As for the libel suits, the Florida professor notes that “it’s often hard to know if such libel lawsuits are legitimate or if companies just want to muzzle their critics”.

The Sentinel article quotes Lidsky as warning that “anonymity on the Internet is not guaranteed. Businesses can subpoena service providers to track down who wrote a review, she said. “All of us are seeking information about the products we buy and the people we come into contact with,” Lidsky said. “A simple Google search is very common before you embark on any business venture. A company is foolhardy if they don’t monitor what is said about them online.”

Source: New York Hospitality by Vijay Dandapani

Transat Holidays promotes Mediterranean: Italy, Spain and Greece

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Transat Holidays has launched its new Italy, Spain, Greece 2009-2110 brochure, devoted to vacation packages to the Mediterranean basin. New for next year are direct weekly flights from Toronto to Rome (starting May 9th), Venice (May 8th) and Milan (May 28th). Transat Holiday’s popular City Packages (flights, accommodation and transfers) are back and include Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. Two- and Three-City Packages have also returned and are now available in Spain and Italy. Seaside Packages are available on the Roman Coast in Anzio and Nettuno for the first time. Coach tours and Island Hopping itineraries are also available, as are car rentals in Greece, Italy and Spain. Travellers can also take advantage of various early booking promotions. Those purchasing a package by Feb. 2 can save up to $200 per couple. This amount rises to $300 per couple for the purchase of a coach tour and $400 for a cruise with an Air Transat flight. For newlyweds, Transat offers a free upgrade from an inside cabin to an outside one on all Greece itineraries that include a cruise.

Estonian Air cutting down on crew, aircraft and routes

In an effort to cut costs, 17 of the 58 pilots working for Estonian Air will be made redundant, the Estonian national carrier’s fleet of Boeing aircraft will be changed to smaller planes and frequencies on several routes will be cut, most probably between Tallinn and Frankfurt, Helsinki, London, Milan, Munich and Stockholm. These routes have the most problems with passenger numbers, Economy Minister of Estonia Juhan Parts said.

Right now, the airline has two Boeing 737-300s and four Boeing 737-500s, but in the near future it will use just three Bombardier CRJ900NextGen aircraft and one Boeing 737. For comparison, Äripaev mentions that airBaltic has 26 aircraft and flyLAL 17, to say nothing of the fleet of 66 aircraft owned by Finnair. The reasoning is that while Boeings have between 118 and 142 seats and can fly between 3,150 and 3,650 km, the Bombardier has 90 seats and can fly up to 3,070 km. In an interview with newspaper Äripaev, Parts is critical of the airline’s management: “There are no ambitions, nor a clear development plan. They are opening and closing routes, then opening other routes. The state is interested in the airline operating and developing efficiently and that Tallinn should have a sufficient number of direct links to other destinations,” said Parts, who oversees the 34 percent state holding in Estonian Air.

 Source: Baltic Standby, Äripaev

Hurricane Paloma: Some damage to Cuba, clear for the Caymans

People stand on the ruins of their houses destroyed by Tropical Storm Paloma in Santa Cruz del Sur Camaguey, Cuba November 9, 2008. Xinhua/Reuters Photo

People stand on the ruins of their houses destroyed by Paloma in Santa Cruz del Sur Camaguey, Cuba November 9, 2008. Xinhua/Reuters Photo

As Hurricane Paloma passed the Cayman Islands Saturday, the “all clear” for the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman was issued. In the wake of Paloma, Grand Cayman returned to business as usual yesterday. Owen Roberts International Airport re-opened Nov. 8 for all inbound and outbound flights. Hotels on the island are currently accepting reservations and new guests.

“It is essentially business as usual in Grand Cayman and we look forward to once again welcoming visitors to our idyllic island destination,” said tourism minister Charles E. Clifford. “Damage assessment continues in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Our first priority is to provide for the safety and basic needs of our fellow citizens on the Sister Islands.” He added, “while Paloma passed 30 miles away from Grand Cayman, sparing us, it strengthened considerably before it hit the Sister Islands.”

Cuba wasn’t quite that lucky. Although Paloma had weakened from a Category 3 storm to a tropical depression while moving across eastern Cuba’s Camaguey province, it roared over Cuba Saturday night with strong winds exceeding 240 kph.

Local media reported Sunday that the hurricane had caused “considerable damages in Camaguey as well as in the nearby territories of Tunas and Ciego de Avila.” Hundreds of thousands of people had been evacuated before Paloma made landfall in Cuba. No deaths or major injuries have been reported so far.

Cuba has been battered by successive hurricanes in recent months, as Gustav and Ike damaged nearly 440,000 homes and forced almost two million people into temporary shelters. Paloma was the eighth hurricane of a busy Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends Nov. 30.

TALLINK signs on their 4th hotel in Tallinn

Expresshotel aka Reval Inn

Expresshotel aka Reval Inn

OÜ TLG Hotell, a subsidiary of AS Tallink Grupp has signed a rental agreement with OÜ Hansa Hotell to rent the 163-room Express Hotel in Tallinn port area.
According to the agreement Tallink will start to operate the hotel from January 2009. The monthly rental payment will be EUR 62.5 thousand (EEK 980 thousand).
The agreement and start of operations will be subject to the approval from the Competition Authority.

The Express Hotel is located just next to the Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel giving therefore good possibilities for synergies between the two hotels.
Express Hotel will be the fourth hotel in the Tallink Hotels chain that already operates the Tallink City Hotel, Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel and Pirita TOP Spa Hotel. The total amount of hotel rooms offered by Tallink will exceed one thousand.

Source: Tallink

LOT cuts Tallinn-Warsaw flights, at least for the winter season

LOT Polish Airlines, the only airline that flew direct between Tallinn and Warsaw, stopped its flights last weekend. Priit Kivik represents the company in Estonia, but he told Eesti Paevaleht that he did not know the reasons for the move, emphasizing that there were no obvious problems with passenger numbers on the route. Questions can be answered by the company’s headquarters in Poland, he said – though so far there have been no comments from there. Lithuanian airline FlyLAL and low-cost airline EasyJet have also announced that flights from Tallinn will be suspended. A flyLAL spokesperson explained that such cuts are common in many airlines in the winter season.

Baltic Standby 

Travel info for the Estonian Song Festival 2009

Finally – something lots of people have been waiting for! We have posted some travel info about the XXV Üldlaulupidu ja VIII Üldtantsupidu 2009 (Estonian Song- and Dance Festival 2009). 

The suppliers are still stalling with the 2009 pricing but we managed to put together some package programs to show you some possibilities for accommodation in Estonia and Tallinn. This is by far not everything we offer, we will be happy to help you customize your trip to Estonia! 

Besides the traditional hotel accommodation we offer “Residence packages” that should be of interest to families and groups of friends travelling together.

Another interesting option is our “Self-Drive” tours where you can see Estonia at your own pace. Small inns in scenic locations, spas and manor house accommodation can be are surprisingly affordable!

You can visit our SONG FESTIVAL TRAVEL INFO PAGE to take a closer look at the possibilities!

Delta eats up Northwest Airlines

 

 

US airlines have been threatening to merge for a while now. As the industry is going through hard times industry in such shambles, it’s another way to survive. Now it looks like the consolidation has begun.

Delta and Northwest announced last night that their plan to merge has become official, creating the world’s largest airline with over 800 planes and $35 billion in annual revenue, offering service in 66 countries and more than 375 worldwide cities – more than any other airline.

The combined carrier will fly under the Delta name, be based at Delta world HQ in Atlanta, and run by the current Delta management. Things won’t change much in the short term. It will take a while until all the kinks will be ironed out: it takes a while to get all contracts renegotiated, reservation systems merged, frequent flier programs organized, etc.

In case you are wondering – here is a page with some practical FAQ on the subject!

Big sun destination discounts: compare prices and taxes!

The last weeks have brought out lots of sales in the vacation package department. As usual, the deals are there to be had for the pre-Christmas season, from November until mid-December. This year the discounted packages are starting really low – I have seen all-inclusives advertised from $178 + taxes.

But here’s a little catch: when looking through the price offers – keep in mind that every tour operator seems to make up their own taxes these days… It used to be so that for every destination the taxes were the same as they were really the airport taxes and the amount depended on the flight routing. Now the operators add fuel and other different surcharges into the tax amount. This year I have seen package taxes for one destination range from $199 to $368 CAD. So when looking at the prices printed out big-and-red, look at the tax amount behind them and do the comparison from there!

Also – once the prices are in an affordable range – choose a property that has at least a 4-star rating. The extra $100-or-so difference from 3* to 4* can make an enormous difference in the quality of your vacation!

Deals are offered by all major Canadian tour operators including Signature, Nolitours, Sunquest, etc.

Nolitours offers $6 flights to Florida

Nolitours is offering roundtrip flights to Florida from Toronto for only $6. The rate is applicable on roundtrip flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando on the following departures only: Fort Lauderdale: Nov. 6, 13, 20 and 27 and Dec. 4 and return Nov. 13, 20 and 27 and Dec. 4 and 11; Orlando: Nov. 14, 21 and 28 and Dec. 5 and return Nov. 21 and 28 and Dec. 5 and 12. Taxes are an additional $223. All offers are subject to availability at the time of booking.

Finnair baggage allowance now 2 x 23 kg

Finnair introduces the new piece concept baggage allowance from October 26, 2008. The new piece concept allowance (2 x 23 kg) on flights to/from USA and Canada is valid for the tickets issued on October 26, 2008 or after. For tickets issued on October 25, 2008 or before, the previous piece concept allowance (2 x 32 kg) still applies.

New baggage allowance for PC concept:

  • Business and Economy class: two bags each of dimensions not exceeding a total of 158 cm/62 in. (length + width + height) and each of weight not exceeding 23 kg/50 lb.
  • Infants: one bag not exceeding a total of 115 cm/46 in. and weight of 10 kg/22 lb. plus one folding stroller or pushchair.
    The following articles may be considered as a piece of 135 cm/53 in. irrespective of their actual dimension: sleeping bag, a rucksack, skis (one pair of skis, ski poles and ski boots), golf bag (golf clubs, shoes), a duffel-type of bag, a suitably packed bicycle, a pair of water skis or one slalom water ski, fishing equipment. Any portable musical instrument not exceeding 100 cm/39 in. in length shall be considered as one piece of 100 cm/39 in. Passengers shall contact the airline for advance arrangements for the transportation of baggage over 203 cm (80 in.) or 32 kg (70 lb.). Excess baggage charge: In the piece concept the excess charges shall be collected whenever the weight of one piece or the number of pieces exceeds the baggage allowance.
  • Excess charges on North Atlantic flights:
    – each additional piece in excess of baggage allowance: 1 charge
    – each piece in excess of 23 kg (50 lb.) but not more than 32 kg (70 lb.): 1 charge
    – each piece in excess of 32 kg (70 lb.) but not more than 45 kg (99 lb.): 3 charges
    – each additional 10 kg (42 lb.) in excess of 45 kg (99 lb.) or fraction thereof: 1 charge
    – each piece in excess of the dimensions up to 203 cm (80 in.): 1 charge
    – each piece in excess of number and dimensions up to 203 cm (80 in.): 2 charges
    – each piece in excess of the dimensions over 203 cm (80 in.): 3 charges
    – special baggage items in excess of the dimensions over 203 cm (80 in.) or 32 kg (70 lb.): 3 charges
  • The value of one charge between Finland and North America v.v. is USD 90/USD 110 depending on the origin or destination in North America.

Estonian Song & Dance Festival tickets on sale from November 1st!

The online sales for the Song & Dance Festival are announced to start from November 1st. The easiest way is to buy the tickets from www.piletilevi.ee.

Here are some tips as quite a few of our readers find the purchasing procedures at the Piletilevi site confusing and hard to understand…

The basic instructions from the site are HERE

The easiest way is to choose for the delivery terms “pick up at sales office EEK 10” – this way you can purchase the ticket on the site using your credit card, print out the confirmation and pick up the actual tickets after your arrival in Estonia at any Piletilevi sales counter. Those can be found in most Selver, Maksimarket and Prisma supermarkets all over Estonia (mostly at the info desk), there are over 30 locations in Tallinn. Ticket pickup at Piletilevi vendors is very easy: you just show them the purchase confirmation printout and your ID – and they will print out the tickets for you on the spot. It costs 10 EEK per one order. You can buy 10 tickets in one order unless stated otherwise.

Printing the tickets out yourself in PDF-format (ZebraTicket) is free of charge, but you can do it only if you have an internet banking account in one of the major Estonian banks.

Getting the ticket delivered within Estonia costs 75 EEK, outside Estonia it is quite pricey.

NB! When paying by credit card, due to security reasons the internet sales finish about 6 days before the event and for the same reasons it is not possible to choose ZebraTicket (print yourself).

You can pick the festival events you want to see from the schedule:

Thu, 2.JUL
15.00 PILLIPIDU Raekoja platsil – Folk Music Celebration at Town Hall Square

Fri, 3.JUL
19.00 TANTSUPEO I ETENDUS Kalevi staadionil – I Concert of Dance Celebration on Kalev Stadium

Sat, 4.JUL
11.00 TANTSUPEO II ETENDUS Kalevi staadionil – II Concert of Dance Celebration on Kalev Stadium
14.00 LAULU- JA TANTSUPEO RONGKÄIK – Festive Parade from Vabaduse Square to Song Festival Grounds
19.00 LAULUPEO I KONTSERT Lauluväljakul – I Concert of Song Celebration on Song Festival Grounds

Sun, 5.JUL
11.00 TANTSUPEO III ETENDUS Kalevi staadionil – III Concert of Dance Celebration on Kalev Stadium
14.00 LAULUPEO II KONTSERT Lauluväljakul – II Concert of Song Celebration on the Song Festival Grounds

 

PLEASE NOTE: We are not associated with www.piletilevi.ee and are posting this link only because it is the easiest and most convenient way to purchase the tickets. For more info on all the ticket-buying-procedures please contact info@piletilevi.ee

 

25 Strangest ever travel insurance claims

Travel insurance is a must wherever you go – it can save you a bundle as while out and about trotting the globe, you might get into some very unexpected situations. As you would imagine – strange situations might result in strange insurance claims, sometimes more bizarre than you could ever imagine! From wardrobe-raiding monkeys and camera-stealing dogs to a haircut gone bad, 84 kg of lost Bombay mix* and a “guitar made out of a pumpkin”…

My practice has seen only claims that have really helped out people in need – but there are all sorts of travellers in the world… As, according to one long-serving insurance underwriter, there have been more Rolex Oyster watches, worth upwards of £1,000, recorded as lost in the Costa Del Sol in the Spain than have ever been manufactured.

Here you can read about the 25 most bizarre travel insurance claims compiled from the files of just a couple of insurance companies in the UK. But don’t laugh too hard… You never know what’s ahead behind the next turn! 🙂

* Bombay mix is the name used in the UK for a traditional Indian snack known as chiwda or chevda (चिवडा) in India, or chanachur (চানাচুর) in east India and Bengal. The English name originates from the city of Bombay, now called Mumbai. It consists of a variable mixture of spicy dried ingredients, which may include fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles, corn, vegetable oil, chickpeas, flaked rice, and fried onion. This is all flavoured with salt and a blend of spices that may include coriander and mustard seed.

Islands dodge Hurricane Omar

Hurricane Omar approaching Puerto Rico. Photo by AP

Hurricane Omar approaching Puerto Rico. Photo by AP

The 15th hurricane of the season dissipated in the Atlantic last week after passing by several major Caribbean islands. The category three hurricane caused some flooding and minor damage in the Northeastern Caribbean. The following reports have been issued:

• St. Kitt’s: minimal damage, airport open; some standing water and beach erosion; no reports of serious damage to hotels, most of which have already been reopened for business.
• St. Maarten: no deaths or significant damages to infrastructure or hotel sector; some beach erosion and scattered debris; airport open. Roads were flooded and littered with tree branches and other debris. Two hotels – Divi Little Bay Beach Resort and Royal Islander Club – might close temporarily after heavy water and wind damage. A disco and restaurant at the Caravanserai Resort were destroyed, and construction of 260 new rooms might be temporarily halted.
• Bonaire: 48 hours of rain resulted in beach erosion, trees down, standing water in low-lying areas and loss of planking on docks; hotels, roads and airports all open.
• St. Croix: minor flooding, some damage to trees and boats. Ports were closed, the island’s Hovensa oil refinery, one of the 10 largest in the world, shut down operations for the storm.
• Antigua: At least 30 people were evacuated, emergency officials in boats rescued people stranded on their roofs as floodwaters rose and lifted some homes from their foundations.
• British Virgin Islands: emerged largely unscathed, said Deputy Gov. Inez Archibald, noting there was little damage beyond some mudslides and scattered debris.
• Puerto Rico: On the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the storm flooded roads and downed tree branches.  One death was reported on Puerto Rico’s tiny island of Culebra. Authorities say a 55-year-old man collapsed from cardiac arrest while trying to install storm shutters on his house.

Hurricane Omar forced at least three cruise ships to divert course. Flights were canceled on several islands.

Cash & Fly… Bizarre incident with Estonian Air

Last Saturday the Estonian Air flight from Munich to Tallinn was late for an hour and a half. The reason was quite bizarre: The plane needed refueling but for some reason the captain’s credit card was not accepted and he had to go downtown Munich to find some cash. «We were sitting in the plane for 20 minutes, then the Second Officer announced that they need gas but the Estonian Air’s credit card was not accepted,» told one of the passengers. «He said that only cash was accepted and that the captain will go an try to find some.» The passengers were sent back to the waiting area.

The plane was eventually refueled and the flight left 90 minutes late. What happened? Was the fault with the bank or Estonian Air? «Aviation is going through tough times, many companies are tightening their credit policies, » told Estonian Air’s PR manager Ilona Eskelinen. «That day it was just a misunderstanding with the payment procedures.» That is why the pilot had to take cash out on the same card. Eskelinen stressed that it was the first time their major credit card issued by an international bank was decilined.

The Munich flight required about 4-5 tons of fuel, one liter costs approx. 1 EUR. Eskelinen added that paying with a credit card for such a big amount of fuel in nothing out of the ordinary. «Usually we pay with an invoice and bank transfer but the pilotes have credit cards in case there is a need to pay locally. Estonian Air buys fuel from the same company in Germani and in Italy. The same day payment was done in Milan with the same credit card with no problems. 

Source: Postimees

US soon visa free for Estonians

Washington has announced that Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and South Korea will be added to the US visa waiver program. Citizens of these countries will be eligible for visa-free entry to the USA for tourism or business purposes for periods of no longer than 90 days. The agreement should come into effect in mid-November.

FAQ – about travelmoments.ca

Here are a few questions that people ask about our company and our web site:

What is travelmoments.ca?   Travelmoments.ca is a web site that we created as a means of keeping in contact with our clients and giving them up-to date news and interesting stories from the world of travel.

What is your connection to Advantage Ultra Travel?   We work as home-based independent travel agents and make our bookings under Advantage Ultra Travel. When you buy a ticket from us, you buy it from Advantage Ultra Travel. All the ticketing, payment and accounting procedures are done in our Whitby Head office and tickets are sent out from there as well. Your purchases are covered by TICO, the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund.

How can you work from home?   Very easily! Basically all we need is a computer with an internet connection. Through the internet we can securely log onto the Advantage Ultra reservation system, so that we can see the exact same computer screen as the Advantage Ultra staff sees at the office. We make the bookings from our end – and tickets are printed out at the office from the same file. It is as easy as us sitting in the next room! For convenient communications we have a Toronto phone number at our home office so that most of our customers can reach us with no long distance costs – or we can call our customers back wherever they are in North America. We also use Skype and most of all – EMAIL… Isn’t technology amazing!

Does it cost me extra money to buy a ticket from you as compared to the Advantage Ultra office or any other agency?   Absolutely not! We have negotiated contracts with a lot of our suppliers and our service fees are very competitive as compared to other agencies. And if you for some reason cannot reach us for an urgent travel-related matter, then the helpful staff at the Advantage Ultra Travel office will be just a phonecall away.

Do you offer any online booking options? Not at this time. The goal of our web site is to give you ideas and inspiration for your travel plans – and some interesting reading about how travel really works… For any booking needs please contact us and we will get back to you ASAP! Please be sure to include as much details as possible (dates, destinations, budget, special requests).

What happens after I send in a booking inquiry? We might send you some additional questions and after we have all the required information, we will send you some options with prices. Once you approve one of the options, we will make a booking for you (put a seat on hold, make a hotel reservation etc). Usually we send you an e-mail confirming the details, including the dates and price of the services and payment deadline. On some airlines we cannot hold the seat and have to put on the payment at the time of booking. After the payment has gone through, all the necessary documents (the receipt of your invoice and your e-tickets, vouchers etc.) will be mailed to your home address.

What kind of information do you need for a booking?   In order to make a booking, we need the names of all passengers exactly as they appear in their passports and the mailing address, contact phone number & e-mail of the “lead passenger”. It is good to have birth dates for everyone (that is a must for insurance quotes and children under 12). You can note also your seatwishes on the plane (aisle or window) and if you require any special meals (vegetarian, etc) or assistance (wheelchair, etc). For hotel bookings made in our res system we need a credit card number with exp. date to guarantee the room. If we book a hotel through a contract we usually don’t need the CC number at the time of reservation.

What forms of payment do you accept?   The easiest is to pay by credit card (VI, MC, AX) as we generally can take the card number and exp. date over the phone. Some suppliers request a signed authorization form for CC payments. For some services there is a 3% credit card processing or “vendor” fee that we have to apply – but most tickets can be issued against CC payment without any extra CC fees. You can also pay by Cheque. CHQ-s should be made out to Advantage Ultra Travel and delivered or sent to our head office in Whitby, ON. Cash payments can be accepted only at the Whitby office.

What do I do with the electronic ticket?   Please see our FAQ post about e-tickets.

Do you sell travel insurance?   Of course! Travel insurance is an essential part of travel arrangements. First we ask our clients to find out if they have any coverage of their own through their work or credit card conmpany. For travel we recommend Medical coverage (for travel abrouad and even out of province in Canada) – and another popular item is cancellation/interruption insurance. Usually an insurance package is the best deal, but sometimes it works better to buy the products separately. Insurance costs generally depend on the traveller’s age, health situation, duration of the trip and the non-refundable portion of the travel services. Call us to discuss the best options for your trip! We offer RBC Travel Insurance because they have reliable coverage, competitive rates and the biggest world support network in Canada.

Hidden Treasures: Unclaimed Baggage Centre in the US

From the previous article you read about what happens to lost baggage in Canada. But the fate of the baggage depends on which carrier “misplaced” the bag and where it happened… Bags abandoned at Heathrow Airport are auctioned off at Greasby’s in southern London. In the United States, thousands of unclaimed suitcases are unpacked each year and their contents sold at the 40,000-square-foot Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Scottsboro, Alabama.

This Alabama facility is one of the most exciting destinations for especially savvy shoppers: What began as a few pieces of luggage sold from card tables 24 years ago is now a sprawling glass and granite complex that takes up more than a city block. It has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state because you have to actually arrive in person to shop there. The centre has exclusive contracts with airlines to buy the unclaimed baggage – the suitcases are then unpacked and contents sorted. About 1/3 is thrown out, another 1/3 is donated to charities and the best items are sold in the store. About 60% of the merchandise is clothing with the balance of the store dedicated to cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, designer optical, books and of course, luggage.

Besides the “usual” change of underwear and toiletries that can be found in pretty much every bag – the staff at the facility have made quite a few different discoveries over the years… When a small plastic bag was found with a mysterious stone, it took expert help to identify the rock as a huge 40.95-carat natural emerald! Another employee discovered a 5.8 carat diamond ring while inspecting a very plain suitcase. Besides the occasional valuables, some rather bizarre items such as an authentic replica of a 19th century original full suite of armor, a suitcase full of Egyptian artifacts dating back to 1500 B.C., a special camera designed for NASA’s Space Shuttle and a navigation system for an F16 fighter jet valued at a quarter of a million dollars. The latter two of course were handed over to the US government agencies. The scariest thing that has come out of a bag was a live rattlesnake!

Here you can watch a news story about this immensely popular bargain hunters’ Mecca!

Source: www.unclaimedbaggage.com

 

Related articles:

Lost Baggage: Where does it go in Canada???

Lost Baggage: where does it go in Canada???

Luggage claim can be a nerve-wrecking experience for travellers. Each year, millions of suitcases don’t arrive where they should. Most find their way to their proper destination within 24 hours, but some sit at airports for months waiting to be claimed, before their contents are finally sold, donated or dumped. What happens to travellers’ new cameras and dirty underwear depends on which airline carried the suitcase, and where in the world the plane landed.

 At Canadian airports, each airline is responsible for its unclaimed baggage. Air Canada and WestJet both have customer service agents at each airport who try to reunite baggage with its owner. After several days, unclaimed bags are sent to the airline’s central baggage tracing office. Air Canada sends its bags to Montreal-Trudeau Airport after five days, and WestJet to its hangar in Calgary after three days.

Every airline handles the lost baggage issues according to their own policy, but the general guidelines are the same. For example if your baggage does not arrive from an Air Canada flight, you should check with an Air Canada baggage service agent in the arrivals area who will take immediate steps to find your bag and return it to you quickly. You’ll be asked to describe your baggage, and to provide detailed contact information. We’ll then give you a File Reference Number. (This number is required in all communications regarding your delayed baggage.) Once your file has been opened, you can review it on the WorldTracer web site. You can also contact the Air Canada Central Baggage Office, toll free, at 1-888-689-BAGS (2247).

Maximum compensation by airlines ranges from $250 to $1,650, but airlines are generally not liable for fragile or valuable items, including jewelry, business documents and electronics.
Agents at the central offices then open and search through the luggage for tags, business cards, personal documents, drug prescriptions or anything else that can help identify the owner. If agents can’t identify or contact the owner, descriptions of the bag and its contents are entered into a system called WorldTracer, which acts as a lost and found system for over 400 airlines and ground handling companies worldwide by matching bags with claims.

Travellers who still haven’t located their missing bags after a few months should probably give up hope. WorldTracer files expire after 90 days, and Transport Canada only requires airlines to hold on to loss claims for three months. After that, Air Canada and WestJet agents unpack the bag and donate usable items such as clothing to local charities and shelters, and dispose of the rest.

According to SITA, the Geneva-based organization that provides WorldTracer and other logistical technology to the air transport industry, 42.4 million checked bags were damaged, delayed or lost in 2007. That translates into 18.86 bags per 1,000 passengers. Most of them were eventually reunited with their owners, but three per cent never made it home. That’s only 0.06 per cent of all checked bags, but it amounts to 1.26 million bags worldwide. Mishandled baggage cost airlines and airports $3.8 billion last year.

What can you do to avoid your bags ending up in the “lost luggage carousel”?

  • Arrive early at the airport to allow sufficient time for your baggage to load.
  • Tie coloured ribbon or attach other unique markers to your bags to prevent mix-ups with other travellers.
  • Place your name, itinerary and contact information inside your luggage to help airlines contact you if your bag is found (external tags can sometimes get lost or ripped).
  • Keep a list on you of unique or personal items inside each bag to help agents identify yours among the others if it is found.
  • If your baggage is missing on arrival, file a claim before leaving the airport. Airlines often require losses to be reported within a limited time period for compensation.
  • Pack valuables and essential medications in carry-on bags, and purchase additional insurance for high-value checked baggage.
  • Avoid taking connecting flights if you have a lot of baggage to check in. Transfers from one aircraft to another account for almost half the bags missing on arrival.

Source: CBC News; www.aircanada.com

Related articles:

Hidden Treasures: Unclaimed Baggage Centre in the US

12 Tips for preventing and dealing with lost luggage

Finnair adds Friday flights to non-stop Toronto-Helsinki routing

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Finnair has added Friday departures to their summer period non-stop Toronto-Helsinki flights. The ever-popular “summer flights” now operate from 07 June to 11 September, 2009 – on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

You can download the Finnair 2008/2009 pricelist from here!

If you can plan your flight for the second half of June – then you can take advantage of Finnair’s amazingly affordable shoulder-season pricing. You can fly to Helsinki from $700 + taxes; Stockholm, Goteborg, Oslo and Copenhagen from $750 + taxes and to Tallinn, Riga, vilnius, St. Petersburg and Moscow from $800 + taxes.

Some of the summer flights start filling up already – for example the “hottest” date this summer is 25 June, the last “cheap” flight when the other airlines are in hight season already. The availability for the least expensive seat allotment on the Toronto-Helsinki flight shows “0” at this point – but there are still seats available for $50 more. This is still about $300 savings over the next flight on 26 June that falls into the high season already.

For more info and exact prices please contact Eva-Maria!

Documents and money matters: Things to think about before your trip

WHERE TO START? Make a check-list list of the ID documents (passport, visas, drivers licence, student card etc.) and travel documents (tickets, vouchers, rail passes) that are required for every country you plan to visit.

PASSPORTS: Although it has been said many times before, it is well worth saying again: Make sure that your passport is not going to be expiring within 6 months while you are away. The ‘6 month rule’ is commonly accepted by most countries in the world. You will not be allowed to enter a country if your passport expires within this time period, even if you have a pre-paid airline ticket or train pass. Renew your passport ahead of time and save yourself the hassles. Please remember that all Canadians entering the United States MUST present a valid passport when arriving by air as of January 2007. This includes all children regardless of age will require passports to enter the USA.
On occasion, it may be necessary to leave your passport with a business or organization as collateral, such as if you decide to rent a motorbike or sporting gear. This is not a good idea as you should always have your passport with you. Instead, if possible, take an old, expired passport with you on your trip and keep it stashed away in your backpack. They will probably not notice (or care) that it has expired and will accept it as a valid passport for collateral.

TICKETS & VOUCHERS: As most airlines have switched over to e-tickets, you don’t have to worry about the old fashioned coupon ticket that you could not lose. But you should always have a printed “passenger receipt” of your e-ticket with you, listing your flights, ticket numbers and airline record locator. Although the check-in person can pull up your file by your flight number and name, it is important to have the information at hand, just in case you forget the exact time of your flight etc. But what comes to vouchers for prepaid travel services (hotel vouchers, cruise documents etc.) – you have to present them as a proof that the reservation or service has been paid for through your travel arranger. Leaving the vouchers behind or losing them can cause a lot of trouble. It is especially important for rail passes – once lost, you just have to buy a new one to get on the train!

VISAS: Check and double-check the visa-requirements for countries you are planning to visit. This info can change very quickly. And there can be a lengthy processing time for visas to certain countries. Take a few passport photos with you. If you require a visa to get into another country that can be obtained on the border, you may need to have one of these pictures to attach to it. But rather than hunting all over the city looking for a photo booth or photography store (or paying lots of money), you will already have the photos.

DRIVER’S DOCUMENTS: If you are intending to rent a car, you might need to get an international drivers permit (IDP). This is a little booklet you have to show together with your actual licence that explains what category of a vehicle you are allowed to drive, etc. in different languages. It can be purchased through any CAA office or travel agency – and it is valid for 1 year. Most car rental agencies will request an IDP, even though it may not be required to drive in their country.

MONEY MATTERS: Although it is always good to have some emergency cash at hand – credit cards are a safe and convenient form of currency when traveling abroad. Not only can you use them to make purchases, but you can also get cash advances with them (provided you know your PIN number). The problem with cash advances is that you begin paying interest on the “loan” immediately. To avoid the 18% (or more) interest charges, over-pay your credit card before you leave if you intend on using your card for cash advances. Contact your credit card company in advance to let it know which countries you will be using your card in. Your credit card company, suspecting something is amiss when you’re overseas, may cancel or put a hold on your card when charges from some distant country show up on a card that previously had been used only locally.
Don’t leave your credit cards in the small safes offered by some hostels and hotels. Staff has keys to these so-called security devices and could ‘borrow’ your card to either make purchases (which you probably wouldn’t find out about until you got home) or make a copy of your card which could then be used over and over. When you do make credit card purchases, don’t let your card out of your site for more than a couple of minutes. It takes very little time for someone to make an extra charge or two while you are waiting for your card.
Usually the exchange rates are higher at the airports, so it is worth exchanging larger amounts of money downtown after comparing the exchange rates between the different banks. Some banks charge a fee for currency exchange or cashing in Travellers Cheques, so be sure to always ask first.

KEEPING IN TOUCH: Before you leave, prepare yourself to use internet services abroad. Set up an internet-based e-mail account (such as Hotmail), become familiar with the log-in process, make sure you remember your password and give your new e-mail address out to friends and family. You will also want to write down your friends’ e-mail addresses or better yet, email them to your own address for easy access. Scan the main page of your passport and e-mail it to your own web-based e-mail address. That way, if you lose your passport, you will have a copy that you can access and print out from any computer with internet access. This works for health insurance forms, credit card information, phone numbers and addresses, and any other paperwork as well.

You can visit the web site for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada for more useful information:

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/consular_home-en.asp

Tallinn Airport rated most punctual according to Lufthansa

Newly reconstructed Tallinn Airport

Newly reconstructed Tallinn Airport

Lufthansa has announced that the services provided to passengers and airlines by Tallinn Airport are the most punctual in the world. The Estonian airport’s services were the best out of 960 airports around the world to where Lufthansa flies. Criteria included the punctuality of flights, the speed and accuracy of registering flights, boarding, compliance with safety requirements and the characteristics of serving passangers.

“What is particularly positive is the fact that the result was achieved in an environment of limited possibilities – at a time when the new terminal in Tallinn was not yet completely ready for service,” noted the airport’s CEO Rein Loik.

Steve Woodward, the manager of Lufthansa Nordic and Baltic countries, said that giving the certificate to an Estonian company is extraordinary since it is the first time during his 30-year service.

Source: Äripäev

Related articles: Tallinn Airport: Another milestone and a bit of history

Chinese airport workers pushing an airplane

Here’s a Monday joke for you: How many Chinese airport workers does it take to push a 20-ton plane with 69 passengers and 7 crew? The answer: 30.

If you’re not laughing yet, it’s because it’s not actually a joke, but a true story. This week in Zhengzhou a CRJ7 plane landed with a faulty front hydraulic system, which apparently meant it couldn’t be attached to the tow truck. So airport officials sent out 30 staff to push the plane instead.

Two hours later, the 30 exhausted workers had pushed the plane less than half a mile but it was neatly out of the way and the passengers could disembark.

Some news sources have announced that it was actually the passengers who were forced to get out and push the plane… It sounds to me that the translation has gone a LITTLE overboard. 🙂  if something’s “too good” to be true – it probably is…

United loses food fight and reinstates hot meals for transcontinental flights

United airlines had announced that from October 1st, 2008 they would discontinue offering hot meals for transatlantic economy class passengers, as a TEST, under the pressure of trying to keep up with the climbing fuel prices.

Fortunately – the airline decided to reinstate the meal service, mainly because of a wave of feedback that was rolling in, all from the dissatisfied customers not liking the prospect of dishing out $$$ for their overseas tickets – and paying restaurant prices for canteen food – or starving all the way over the ocean. In the letter to the customers they offer a “Thank you for your direct, candid feedback on the test we had planned to launch in the fourth quarter for food choices on some of our flights. We heard you and have decided not to move forward with the test of offering customers buy-on-board options in United Economy on certain trans-Atlantic flights.”

Good for you, United, for listening to your customers. Although the “test” question was a little bit of a no-brainer…

Hurricane Ike – link to some thought-provoking pictures

Galveston, TX, 13 Sep, 2008

Galveston, TX, 13 Sep, 2008

This is something I wanted to share with you – a friend sent me a link of pictures reflecting the aftermath of Hurricane Ike…

Click here to see the pictures posted by Alan Taylor

In its brief lifespan of only 13 days, Hurricane Ike wreaked a great deal of havoc. Affecting several countries including Cuba, Haiti, and the United States, Ike is blamed for approximately 114 known deaths (74 in Haiti alone), and damages that are still being tallied, with estimates topping $10 billion. Many shoreline communities of Galveston, Texas were wiped from the map by the winds, storm surge and the walls of debris pushed along by Ike – though Galveston was spared the level of disaster it suffered in 1900.

Looking at the numbers – many lives were lost, but there is no account for how many lives were shattered by loss and damage to the homes and workplaces. Only after seeing those images you can start to imagine the whole scale of the devastation…

Lithuanian tourists left without bus in Italy

Forty Lithuanian tourists were shocked during a bus tour around Italy when they were told that their tour bus had been stolen. Many of them had left personal belongings on board. The trip’s organisers immediately rented another bus so that the tours could continue across Italy, while the Lithuanian bus company Vilneda agreed to transport the tourists back to Lithuania.        Source: Baltic Standby 23/09/08

When renting a car in Italy, it is mandatory to buy full CDW and theft insurance, regardless that you might have rental car coverage on your credit card. It is a good idea to always get full baggage coverage for your trip whenever you go to Italy… Or any other country for that matter as weird and unexpected things can happen pretty much wherever you go…  🙁

Week of “Fun & Games in Beijing”: Special from $1249 CAD

Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

A week in Beijing including a flight from Canada, 4* hotel, guided tours, some meals included… And all this from $1249 + taxes? Normally it costs more to just fly there! Sounds too good to be true… But this time it isn’t!

After the Big Games are over, the Chinese capital is left with an abundance of top notch hotel rooms – and now they are trying to find ways to fill them… for those who did not make it there for the time of the Olympics – this is your deal of the century!

 

The “Fun & Games in Beijing” package offer coveres 3 departures:

October 07 – 13, 2008
October 28 – November 03, 2008
November 27 – December 03, 2008

And here’s what you get:

Day 1 Canada – Toronto
Fly to Beijing, the political, economic and cultural center of People’s Republic of China.

Day 2 Arrive Beijing
Arrive in Beijing, where you will be escorted to your selected hotel for a five nights’ stay.

Day 3 Beijing (Breakfast/Lunch)

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

This morning visit the Ming Tombs, the beautifully decorated burial place of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty also known as the Underground Palace. After lunch experience the unforgettable! Visit the No. 1 World Wonder – the Great Wall of China (Ju Yong Guan Section), built over 2,000 years ago by Emperor Qin. The Great Wall stretches over 6,000 km across the top of China. Later, drive by the Olympic site and see some of the new structures including the National Aquatic Centre (the Water Cube) and the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest).

Day 4 Beijing (Breakfast/Lunch)
Visit historic Tiananmen Square where Mao Tse Tung first raised the flag of the People’s Republic. Then tour the Imperial Palace, also called the Forbidden City and its gardens. After lunch, visit the Hutong by pedicab and take a leisurely stroll through the 700-year old narrow, winding streets that surround the Forbidden City. Watch the daily routines of the local people in their courtyard. This evening enjoy a spectacular “Legend of Kung Fu” show.

Day 5 Beijing (Breakfast/Lunch)
Today starts with a visit to the exquisite Summer Palace, a former retreat for the Imperial family. Then marvel at the splendid Temple of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Bountiful Harvest.

Day 6 Beijing (Breakfast/Special Dinner)
This morning, visit the 798 factory and shop at the silk market in the afternoon. This evening, enjoy a farewell Peking Duck dinner.

Day 7 Depart Beijing (Breakfast)
Today, head to the airport for your flight home. Bon Voyage!

Air-Inclusive Package Price Includes:

  • Return economy class airfare;
  • Return airport transfers by air-conditioned coach;
  • Hotel accommodations as chosen;
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary;
  • Sightseeing with admissions as specified;
  • Private air-conditioned coach with English-speaking guide;

There is a choice of two different hotels (4* and 5*) for each departure – and the prices vary accordingly. The best deal seems to be $1249 (from Vancouver) and $1399 (from Toronto / Ottawa / Montreal) for leaving on 27 Nov and staying at the Best Western Premier Hotel (4*). Taxes and Chinese visa are additional, coming to approx. $485 CAD. The most expensive option – and not bad at all for all this – is $1999 for a stay at the Ritz-Carlton (5*) on the 7 and 28 Oct Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal departures. 

Prices are subject to change due to availability. Contact us for further details!

Tallinn Airport: Another milestone and a bit of history

Tallinn Airport 2008

Tallinn Airport 2008

On September 19th, 2008 Skanska EMV handed over the renovated Tallinn Airport to the operating enterprise on Friday. The reconstruction cost EEK 615 million (EUR 39 million) and lasted for nearly two years. The terminal building was extended, a gallery was built to connect all the gates, thus making the building into a T-shape. The passenger traffic will be conducted in two levels: arrivals and departures. Offices, shops and waiting areas received a considerable facelift. Due to Tallinn now being part of the Schengen system, various security features were added and systems upgraded.
On March 29, 2009 the airport will be officially named after Lennart Meri, the first Estonian president after the Soviet era. On that date the late Lennart Meri would have celebrated his 80th birthday.  

Aviation activity in Estonia started in the 1920s. Here is a selection of most important facts about Estonian aviation and Tallinn airport.

1922 – Estonian first airline “Aeronaut” was established. The flights were operated on the routes Tallinn-Stockholm and Tallinn-Riga. In the same year Russian-German airline “Deruluft” started their flights on the route Leningrad-Tallinn-Riga-Köningsberg. In 1923 Finnish airline “Aero” also started operating on the route between Tallinn and Helsinki.

1923 – Aviation port was built on the shores of Lake Ülemiste.

Tallinn Airport 1934

Tallinn Airport 1934

1929 – Parliament adopted expropriation act for the land and buildings in the possession of the successors of the company Dvigatel and Vagnerid in order to establish a public airfield in Tallinn.

1932 – There was also a winter air traffic from Lake Ülemiste, daily number of passengers at the time was 30-35.

1934 – Newspaper Postimees announced that the private airport of Tallinn, located in Lasnamäe, on the shores of Lake Ülemiste, where planes had the possibility to land on the ground as well as on water, could rightfully be referred to as one of the largest in Europe. “At least in Eastern Europe no airport can compete with it neither regarding the number of passengers nor the frequency of air traffic,” the newspaper wrote at the time.

1936 – On September 20th Ülemiste airport with a concrete runway, hangar and navigation radars was opened. 40 meters wide and ca 300 meters long runways that were completed in the first phase enabled aircrafts to take off and land in six different directions. Tallinn Airport Ltd considers the date to be the company’s birthday.

Tallinn Airport 1957

Tallinn Airport 1957

1938 – The construction of the passenger terminal, designed by the architect Artur Jürvetson, started. The passenger terminal was finally completed in 1954 and it was in use until the Moscow Olympic Games.

1945-1989 – The entire Tallinn airport was used by Aeroflot and all the flights took place within the borders of the Soviet Union.

1980 – During the preparations for the sailing regatta to be held in Tallinn within Moscow Olympic Games the runway of Tallinn airport was extended and new passenger terminal was built.

1991 – On December 1st a state enterprise Estonian Air was established based on the assets of the local Aeroflot.

1998 – Reconstruction of passenger terminal started in March, during which the capacity of the passenger terminal was increased to 1.4 million people a year.

Tallinn Airport 1990-s

Tallinn Airport 1990-s

1999 – On December 12th President Lennart Meri opened the reconstructed passenger terminal of Tallinn airport.

In 2005 the Tallinn airport became a “million-passenger airport”, i.e. more than million passengers were served during a year. The magical number was reached on 20th September 2005.

Source: http://www.tallinn-airport.ee

WestJet removes fuel surcharges

WestJet has announced the removal of its fuel surcharge, in acknowledgement of the recent decline in fuel prices. According to officials, the elimination of the fuel surcharge supports WestJet’s commitment to providing the best value to its guests, the premise for the airline’s new advertising campaign. Three new television commercials shot in Toronto during August and airing now represent the fourth iteration in the airline’s owners campaign, which highlights how the more than 7,300 WestJetters care about WestJet guests.

This is quite a refershing piece of news – as we always hear about surcharges going up, never down! It won’t make too big of a difference in the price of a single ticket – but it is the thought that counts, right? GO WESTJET!

Air Canada cuts baggage fees, incorporates fuel surcharges into advertised fares

In response to decreasing fuel prices, Air Canada is eliminating all second checked-bag charges ($25) implemented in the spring. The airline also announced it is incorporating fuel surcharges into its advertised base fares on North American flights. “Although the cost of fuel remains highly volatile and far above historic norms, the recent retreat in oil prices is enabling us to reinstate our previous baggage policy. We are eliminating the second checked bag charge on North American Tango and Tango Plus fares…,” said Ben Smith, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer. “Further, Air Canada is making its pricing more transparent by removing add-on fuel surcharges for flights within North America and instead adjusting its base fares to cover the total cost of fuel.” As well, starting Oct. 14, Air Canada will simplify its excess baggage fees by introducing a single $75 fee for travel within North America ($100 international) for overweight and/or oversize pieces.

Sunwing Sale: All-inclusive vacations for $495 CAD + taxes

Toronto-based Sunwing Vacations has launched its biggest sale ever to the sun – offering a choice of 10,000 one-week all-inclusive vacations to Cuba, Mexico and Dominican Republic for as little as $495 p.p. + taxes, double occupancy, with departures from right across Canada. The sale applies to departures from Nov. 1 onwards. Holidays are available from Ontario for $495 (plus taxes); Atlantic and Western Canada from $695 (plus taxes) and from Quebec from $795 (taxes included). All featured hotels are all-inclusive. Taxes depend on the destination but they are generally between $200 and $300 CAD per person. The bookings have to be made by September 26th.

Take a look at the flyer that lists some of the properties – but keep in mind that there are more to choose from – and that for each property there are specific dates when the $495 sales price applies. Also -AVAILABILITY is always a big factor as there might be only a few seats available for each property with such an amazing price… and that of course at the time of printing! So finding the good price on the dates YOU want might not be that easy.

You can contact us for more info on the availability and other details. Please note that a booking fee of 36.75 incl. GST applies for bookings.

Rent-an-island: Estonian style!

Now you can have this small island in the Baltic Sea all to yourself for your vacation! At this point your imagination probably takes you to the sunny Caribbean, picturing Hollywood celebrities sipping coctails on the beach of their private island… The one in Estonia… Not exactly in that category. 

Vahase Island is located just West of Abruka, a mere 30 min boat ride from the Estonian largest island Saaremaa. There are 4 houses for the vacationers’ use on the island, only one of them (main cottage) with running water and a bathroom. The rest of the buildings (small cottage, sauna-house and an old farmhouse) have facilities of a more basic kind. There is only 12V electricity on the island for TV and radio. The stoves and the fridge run on gas. There is a sauna as well, although you have to fetch the water yourself with a bucket from the well. The complex can accommodate a min of 4 to a max of 8 guests, the min stay is for 3 nights. They will allow only one “party”of people to the island at a time.

In the yard there is a outdoor „summer kitchen“ for preparing food and BBQ and an “nice” outhouse. Make sure your phone is charged before you come – there is mobile phone coverage. And that’s it – junipers, two big stones (one of them rated among the 20 biggest in Estonia), a little forest and pebble beach all around. And endless amounts of peace and tranquility.

Be sure to bring all the food and necessities you need as the corner store is quite a workout away… You’ll have a rowboat at your disposal – to get to Abruka, a bigger nearby island with actual civilization.

The night on the island will run around $100 per person. So as you do the math – the minimum stay of 3 days with the minimum occupancy of 4 will run you $1200 and a week from $2800. If it is a little or a lot for a private island adventure – that will be for you to decide! But surely it would be a very unique experience.  Pictures: Baltcott

Estonian Air’s new route Tallinn-Kuressaare

Estonian Air has started selling tickets on its new route Tallinn-Kuressaare. The Estonian national carrier will start flying on the route from October 2. Estonian Air will operate the route with a 33-seat SAAB 340 aircraft eight times a week, on Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri and Sun. The flight takes about 45 minutes.

The ticket cost depends on date and availability but you should estimate a little over $100 CAD for round-trip ticket including taxes and service fees. Ask us for the flight times by different days or a quote with the exact dates!

Finnair prices out for 2008/2009!

Recently Finnair released their pricing for the 2008/2009 season. Good news is that those who book early – have a chance to get a good deal on Christmas flights with Finnair. They don’t increase their price levels for the holiday season – it is just that the cheapest seats are going fast, so book yours well in advance!

The Low Season rates from Toronto are as follows:

  • Helsinki…………………………………………………… from $575+taxes
  • Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, St. Petersburg……………. from $675+taxes
  • Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, Copenhagen…. from $595+taxes 

 

For early planners we have another treat for SUMMERif you depart before or on June 25th, you can fly from Toronto to:

  • Helsinki…………………………………………………… from $700+taxes
  • Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, St. Petersburg…………… from $800+taxes
  • Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, Copenhagen…..from $850+taxes 

Please remember that all fares are SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY at time of booking!

You can download the full 2008/2009 pricelist for Finnair from here:

Be ready to pay for the bags… now with Continental

Continental Airlines has become the fifth major US carrier to charge $15 for the first piece of checked luggage. The airline already charges $25 for the second-checked bag. As is the policy for the other carriers, elite members of the airline’s frequent-flier program and those traveling in business and first class will not have to pay for their checked baggage.The move leaves Delta Airlines as the last one of the “Big Six” ( the remaining 4 of which are American Airlines, US Airways, Nothwest Airlines, United Airlines) not charging for the first-checked bag. However, Delta charges twice what the others do for the second piece of checked luggage — $50 each way.

All this applies for US domestic travel. Transatlantic passengers for most scheduled-service airlines still have a (general) free baggage allowance of 2 x 23 kg.

Flight Rights Canada – DID they get it right?

September 5th, 2008. The Government of Canada announced Flight Rights Canada, an effort to better inform passengers of their air travel rights. Here is this document in a nutshell :

Passengers have the right to take the flight they paid for.
If the plane is overbooked or cancelled, the airline must find the passenger a seat on another flight operated by that airline; buy the passenger a seat on another carrier with whom it has a mutual interline traffic agreement; or refund the unused portion of the passenger’s ticket.

Passengers have the right to punctuality.
Depending on the length of the delay, the airline is required to provide the passenger with a meal voucher; pay for an overnight stay at a hotel and airport transfers; or provide drinks, snacks and the opportunity to disembark if the passenger has already boarded the aircraft.

Passengers have a right to retrieve their luggage quickly.
If the luggage does not arrive on the same flight as the passenger, the airline will deliver the luggage to the passenger as soon as possible and will provide the passenger with an over-night kit as required.

Read the whole Flight Rights Canada document here.

Quite amazing, isn’t it? I mean the fact that government has to regulate things that you would think you PAY FOR when purchasing the ever-so-expensive plane ticket! On closer observation this document is VERY general, leaving lots of loopholes and defining hardly anything… I did find one helpful statement in the whole thing…

Passengers may seek corrective measures or a refund of direct expenses incurred, if they believe an air carrier has not lived up to the commitments in its published tariffs. 
If a complaint is not resolved between a passenger and the air carrier, the passenger can contact the Canadian Transportation Agency at 1-888-222-2592 or by e-mail at
info@cta-otc.gc.ca.

Meaning – you have it on black and white – at least now you have someone to complain to!

12 tips for dealing with lost baggage – or preventing it altogether

No matter what airline you fly – there can always be a chance that your baggage can get lost or delayed. Here are some tips for you that help to prevent such loss or at least make it easier to deal with it.
1. Make your bag stand out. Buy luggage that is a color other than black – because with the high % of black luggage out there, yours will stand out. Attach a brightly coloured piece of ribbon or tape to the handle.

2. Put your name and contact address (both at home and at your destination) on the outside and inside of every bag. This will make it easier for the airline to reunite you if you are separated from your luggage. If you’re traveling extensively, put a copy of your itinerary inside the suitcase, including contact details at each stop.

3. Remove old luggage tags, so that the airlines don’t get confused on the suitcase’s destination. Always check that the baggage will be tagged to the correct destination.

4. Make sure that you keep the stub from your checked luggage – in case it will be needed if your luggage is lost by the airline or if you are trying to prove that you own a piece of luggage. At some airports your baggage won’t be released to you without presenting the stub.

5. Never pack fragile or very expensive items, prescription drugs or important documents in your checked-in luggage. If possible, try to take them on board with you.

6. Immediately report the loss of checked luggage to the baggage agent on duty or to any other available representative from your airline. Airlines may reject your claim if you delay.

7. File your claim with the right carrier. It’s standard practice for the carrier you last traveled on to handle your luggage claim, regardless of who you think lost your bags.

8. It’s important if you’re backpacking or travelling on a non-specific route to tell the airlines where you expect to be in a week or two. Your luggage may arrive before you, but it’s better than waiting around some city until it finally shows up.

9. Ask about reimbursement. You’ll typically need to submit receipts for purchases. Airlines may not reimburse totally, citing the so-called residual value of your purchases. They also cap spending, often at $25 a day.

10. Before you leave home, insure yourself against lost baggage. Look for a policy that will cover lost luggage and check to see if they also cover delayed luggage or luggage that missed your connection. That way, when your baggage is rerouted across the world, you’ll be able to claim for an emergency baggage allowance to get you through until your things can be located and forwarded to your destination free of charge. Always read the fine print to see what the stipulations are and most of the time, if you want your super expensive (insert object here) covered, you’ll need to upgrade your basic baggage insurance.

11. When getting baggage insurance, keep in mind that in most cases this usually protects your belongings not only from the sloppy airline baggage handlers – but from loss, damage or theft during the whole trip.

12. Please note that baggage insurance handles claims differently from airline claim policies. Airlines usually pay for your lost baggage by weight. Insurance company asks you for a list of lost items specifying prices – and also requires some proof of ownership for all of them, usually receipts or photos. As people usually don’t keep the receipts, then a good idea is to make a list of everything when packing – and taking a picture of your belongings by spreading them out on a bed etc. before putting them into the suitcase.

Estonian Song & Dance Festival 2009 PROGRAMS posted

The Great XXV Estonian Song- and Dance Festival will take place in Tallinn, from July 2-5, 2008. It is an amazing event where hundreds of thousands of people gather together to be united by the glory of music. It is held every 4 years and for a lot of Estonians living abroad this is sort of a pilgrimage back to homeland. We have posted the programs for this upcoming event on our site – please visit our Laulu- ja Tantsupidu 2009 page to see the schedule for the concerts and rehearsals.

We are working on putting together some flight- and accommodation info for you, it is coming soon!

Non-stop from Toronto to the Land of Fire & Ice

Fire and Ice…? Where else could that be other than Iceland! Take advantage of the fall fares and take on a very cool adventure to one of the hottest new destinations! It is the country offering the minimum in human activity and the maximum in endless landscapes and natural wonders. But hurry, the direct Toronto-Reykjavik flights operate only until 25 Oct this season. During the rest of the year you can fly there twice a week via Halifax as Icelandair has promised us year-round service from there starting 2009.

When I just checked the fares, I found for example some dates in October that you can fly to from Toronto to Reykjavik for less than $600 CAD including taxes! That is a pretty amazing price, considering that even flights to Washington DC tend to run over $700 CAD these days.

We can also offer packages that include a flight, 2 nights at a hotel in Reykjavik with Scandinavian breakfast, transfers from and to the Keflavik airport and airport taxes. These deals start from $845 CAD per person in double occupancy for the two nights. Of course it depends on the flight and hotel availability on the selected dates. You can add extra nights, tours and activities to your package and make it a very unique holiday. I am not listing ALL the things to do over there – but I just have to mention the unforgettable riding trip and the fabulous Blue Lagoon. For more info on Iceland you can click here

And here is some info about the flights out of Toronto: Icelandair began flight services from Toronto (YYZ) on May 2, 2008. Flights depart from Toronto at 9:15pm – arriving in Keflavik, Iceland the following day at 6:25am, local time. The total flying time is 5 hours, 15 mins.

Flights operate as follows:
May 2 – 24 – Sun, Wed, Fri
May 25 – Jun 1 – Sun Tue, Wed, Fri
Jun 2 – Aug 31 – Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri
Sep 1 – Oct 25 – Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri

Flights from Toronto will connect in Iceland to other European cities, including Copenhagen, Oslo, Bergen, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and Glasgow. Today Icelandair operates 160 flights per week to 25 cities in North America and Europe via its hub in Reykjavik, Iceland. So… don’t forget considering Icelandair when you need a flight to Europe. You might be pleasantly surprised about the rate!

Sleeping in the sand castle…

Yes, you read it right… The the world’s largest and only sand castle hotel made entirely of sand was built to Weymouth beach in Dorset, UK.

Everything is there – except closet space and of course toilet and shower facilities. The beds and all other “furniture” is made of sand and only sand. One word of warning, the sand does get everywhere, and it is a bit of an adventure since it has no roof. For example, the open air family room with a sea-side view has a double and single bed made of sand which will set you back a mere £10 a night to sleep under the starry skies – until the tide comes in…  

The hotel was the brainchild of sculptor Mark Anderson who was commissioned by the website LateRooms.com, designed to look like a giant sand castle. It’s made from Weymouth beach sand, the finest in the world for making sand castles, says Anderson. It took a team of 6 and a digger eight days, laboring 12 to 14 hours a day – 600 hours altogether – to build the 50 foot (15 meter) square by 13 foot (4 meter) high sand hotel using 1,000 tons of sand and water from the sea – and a lot of hard work.

The sand hotel was orchestrated as a publicity stunt by the hotel company, and the biggest sand structure ever built in the UK, designed for the renaissance of beach holidays after its research found that 57% of the country’s holiday-makers were shunning foreign destinations in favor of British seaside resorts.

Sources: BBC and News AU

Hannah and Ike… What’s next?

SALVO, North Carolina (Reuters) – Hurricane Ike menaced Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico as a potentially ferocious storm while Tropical Storm Hanna began a rain-swept march up the U.S. Atlantic coast after barreling ashore on Saturday in the Carolinas.

The densely populated Miami-Fort Lauderdale area in south Florida was not out of the line of fire from Ike, a powerful Category 3 hurricane, and visitors were ordered to flee the vulnerable Florida Keys island chain from Saturday.

Computer models, however, indicated Ike was increasingly likely to target Cuba as a devastating Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, presenting a severe threat to the crumbling colonial buildings of Havana.

The storm might then curve into the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of this week’s Hurricane Gustav, plowing toward an area that produces a quarter of domestic U.S. oil, and slamming ashore near New Orleans, which was swamped and traumatized by Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

The deeper Ike goes into Cuba, the weaker it will be once it re-emerges over the Gulf of Mexico early next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Hanna, meanwhile, did not reach hurricane strength before sloshing ashore between North and South Carolina overnight.

Ike was far more threatening than Hanna as it charted a course that would take it through the Turks and Caicos islands and southeastern Bahamas toward eastern Cuba, where it was projected by the hurricane center to pummel a long stretch of coastline.

Once in the Gulf of Mexico it might find deep warm water to allow it to grow bigger and stronger, although Hurricane Gustav may have stirred up colder water from the depths before crashing into Louisiana on Monday.

By 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), Ike was located around 210 miles east of Grand Turk Island and moving toward the west-southwest at 16 mph (26 kph), the hurricane center said. Its top winds of 115 mph (185 kph) made it a weak Category 3 hurricane. Category 3 and higher storms are known as “major” hurricanes and cause the most damage. Katrina was a Category 3 when it struck near New Orleans on August 29, 2005, swamping the city and killing 1,500 people on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Ike’s winds were projected to peak at 132 mph (213 kph) just before landfall in Cuba in 48 hours.

South Florida, where up to 1.3 million people could be forced to evacuate, was preparing for Ike. Visitors were ordered to evacuate the Florida Keys on Saturday and residents were ordered out beginning on Sunday. Officials in Miami urged residents not to be complacent.

Storm alerts were issued for the Turks and Caicos islands, the Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and would likely be issued for eastern Cuba later on Saturday, the hurricane center said.

The alerts in Haiti included the city of Gonaives, where at least 495 people died this week when it was flooded by up to 16 feet of muddy water after Hanna dumped torrential rain on the island of Hispaniola, a police commissioner said. In total, Hanna killed 529 people in Haiti.

The Bahamian government sent soldiers and emergency supplies to Mayaguana and San Salvador, southern islands left short of food and water by an overdue mail boat.

Tropical Storm Josephine, meanwhile, dissipated far out in the Atlantic, knocking out the weakest of three storms that followed Gustav’s rampage through the Caribbean to Louisiana.

Travel warning for Thailand

Foreign Affairs Canada is advising Canadians travelling to Thailand to exercise extreme caution after the Government of Thailand declared a state of emergency in Bangkok yesterday due to ongoing violence between pro- and anti-government forces. Travellers are also advised to follow the advice of local authorities and avoid gatherings and areas targeted by protestors. Significant political demonstrations have been reported in Bangkok and travellers are advised to stay away from areas where they might occur. As a result, significant traffic delays, as well as disruptions and suspensions to air and rail services, have been reported. Canadians are encouraged to verify travel schedules and services with local authorities or travel service providers prior to departure as further disruptions may occur and delays can be expected. Travellers may also encounter additional security measures, such as road checkpoints.

Finnair takes off to the Urals

Finnair will launched scheduled passenger service to Yekaterinburg, previously called Sverdlovsk, Russia, three times per week from Helsinki on Sept. 2. Yekaterinburg, the largest city (population 1,293,000+) in the Urals Federal District in Russia, will be Finnair’s third destination in Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg. The route, flown with Airbus A319 aircraft, will be operated in cooperation with Ural Airlines.

Finnair has released throughfare rates from Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver to Yekaterinburg starting from October 1st, 2008. Rates start at $695 CAD plus taxes for low season travel.

Gustav’s destruction finished

Hurricane Gustav has made it into the “breaking news” as New Orleans has narrowly escaped its wreath. Everyone was fearing the repeat of Katrina – but Gustav actually lost its grip and was downgraded to category 2 before it hit the land near Cocodrie, a thinly populated town west of New Orleans, leaving towns to the west, such as Lafayette and Baton Rouge intact. 

Gustav had already wrought devastation across the Caribbean. It first struck the Caribbean last Tuesday, killing 76 people in Haiti and eight in the neighbouring Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. The hurricane weakened to a tropical storm before hitting Jamaica making a long sweep across the island, ripping off roofs and bringing down power lines. There were no reported casualties or injuries after Gustav hit the Cayman Islands on Friday, but intense winds of up to 130kph (80mph) tore down trees while heavy rains flooded streets.

Gustav gained strength before it hit Cuba as a powerful category four hurricane. It made a direct hit on the Isla de la Juventud, south of the Cuban mainland, on Saturday, with winds reaching 220kph. As the storm marched across Cuba’s western tip, it damaged or destroyed 86,000 homes. Gusts reached 340kph in the western town of Paso Real del San Diego — a new wind speed record for a country often hit by major hurricanes. Luckily – nobody was seriously hurt and most of the 250,000 residents evacuated to shelters were back home by yesterday evening.

No serious damage has been reported from the major resort areas in Cuba and Dominican Republic.

The Jamaica Tourist Board reports it is business as usual as there was little or no damage to the island’s resorts and attractions following a brush with tropical storm Gustav. Most entities were up and running during and immediately after the storm. Both international airports in Kingston and Montego Bay reopened on Friday. As of Monday (Sept. 1), power had been restored to 92 per cent of the country. No structural damage to hotels has been reported.

The Florida Keys tourism infrastructure also escaped significant damage from Hurricane Gustav’s tropical storm-force winds that brushed over the Lower Keys and Key West late Saturday and early Sunday morning. Impact was primarily confined to some downed foliage and water on several seaside roads in Key West. The Keys infrastructure is fully functional and there were no resident or visitor evacuations for the storm. Key West Airport remained open throughout the storm and commercial air service resumed normal operations Sunday.

Zoom Airlines grounded, filing for insolvency

Zoom Airlines Inc. and Zoom Airlines Ltd. filed for insolvency yesterday, cancelling all scheduled flights and grounding all of its aircraft. A Transport Canada spokesperson confirmed that Zoom had voluntarily surrendered its operating certificate and that all of its planes were on the ground.
Exactly how many passengers have been stranded by Zoom’s shutdown is still being determined.
In a statement posted on its web site, Zoom founders Harry and John Boyle expressed deep regret that the carrier had been “forced to cease” all operations, describing it as “a tragic day for our passengers and more than 600 staff.”
The Boyles’ statement also said that even as late as August 27, “we had secured a new investment package but the actions of creditors meant we could not continue flying.”
“The collapse of Zoom is a result of matter beyond our control. Only last year Zoom Airlines made profit, but that turned into a loss in the last year due to the unprecedented increase in the price of aviation fuel and the economic climate. The price of oil resulted in our fuel bill jumping by nearly $50 million in one year and we could not recover that from passengers who had already booked their flights.”
The web site statement advised passengers with future travel plans involving a Zoom flight for which reservations and payment have been made, to contact their credit or debit card company to apply for a refund. It also provide information on other airlines operating the same or similar routes to those flown by Zoom that might provide alternative arrangements. Source: Travel Press

Zoom Airlines Inc. is a Canadian low-fare scheduled transatlantic airline based in Ottawa, Ontario. Zoom operated year-round scheduled services to Europe, as well as charter services to South America, Caribbean, and Southern United States destinations with Canadian tour operators. On August 28, 2008, Zoom suspended all operations and filed for bankruptcy protection due to its deteriorating financial position.

Services offered by other airlines which may be of assistance to Zoom customers:

London Gatwick to Toronto: Canadian Affair, Air Canada, Fly Globespan, British Airways
London Gatwick to Vancouver: Canadian Affair, Air Canada, Fly Globespan, British Airways
London Gatwick to Calgary: Canadian Affair, Air Canada, Fly Globespan, British Airways
London Gatwick to Montreal: Canadian Affair, Air Canada, British Airways
London Gatwick to Ottawa: Canadian Affair, Air Canada
London Gatwick to Halifax: Canadian Affair, Air Canada
London Gatwick to Winnipeg: No direct flights. See Air Canada for options to change planes at airports in Canada to fly on this route.
Glasgow to Ottawa: No direct flights
Glasgow to Halifax: No direct flights
Glasgow to Calgary: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Glasgow to Vancouver: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Glasgow to Toronto: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Manchester to Vancouver: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Manchester to Toronto: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Belfast to Toronto: Canadian Affair, Fly Globespan
Belfast to Vancouver: No direct flights.
Cardiff to Toronto: No direct flights
Cardiff to Vancouver: No direct flights
Montreal to Paris: Air Canada, Air France, Air Transat
Toronto to Paris: Air Canada, Air France, Air Transat
Calgary to Paris: Air Transat
Vancouver to Paris: Air Transat
Montreal to Rome: Air Transat, Alitalia
Toronto to Rome: Alitalia

Shoulder season $avings

Taking a trip in the shoulder season, the period of travel between low and high seasons, offers some serious advantages to holidaymakers with an eye on their wallet but who still want to enjoy the best a destination has to offer. Travelling in high season doesn’t only mean you’re paying the top bracket for your holiday. Beaches are fuller, lineups longer, tourist attractions more crowded. But tickets are at their cheapest in the low season for good reason. Monsoons, hurricanes and just inappropriate weather (it’s fairly obvious that there’s no point going skiing in the Alps in the middle of summer, even if it is cheaper than February) can make the bargains available seem less than appealing. But choose your holiday time with care and you can enjoy good weather, un-crowded resorts and still pay considerably less. Enter the shoulder season.The shoulder season is a little known term for a fairly straightforward concept. If you avoid visiting a destination at the same time as the rest of the world, prices are cheaper and your holiday is bound to be more enjoyable. The shoulder season falls at the start and finish of the high season, and many hotels, flights and holidays are reduced in price to tempt people to travel at slightly different times. The weather should still be good, something you can’t be sure of if travelling at low season, but you’ll pay less for avoiding the most popular times.

A general rule of thumb for picking a shoulder season is to avoid school holidays and the “obvious” times to travel, but to keep as close to high season as you can. Ski resorts, for example, open in late November, but see little traffic until the Christmas week. Head out in early or mid-December and not only will your package or flights and hotel be cheaper, but you’ll find the slopes less crowded, lift queues shorter and, usually, a substantial reduction on the cost of ski rentals and lift passes. Alternatively, consider later March or April (be sure to check when Easter falls to avoid the school holidays) when the resort is starting to wind down. An added bonus of travelling at the end of the season, particularly if skiing, is the prevalent sales in shops as they try and get rid of their stock before the end of the season.

For a Caribbean beach holiday, consider late November or early December. The weather is still beautiful (although it could be a bit windier) and you’ve far more chance of having a beach all to yourself as most people are busy at home before the Holidays.

Also be aware of festivals and local holidays – no matter where you’re thinking of going prices will rise over the Christmas week and New Year. If you’re travelling to America, prices will rise over Thanksgiving. March break in Florida could be scary for someone seeking peace and quiet. And remember events like Carnival and Easter. If you’re not going to join in the fun, then it’s not worth paying the extra money.

Travelers’ laptops may be detained at US border

US Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop’s contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’ ”

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

Source: washingtonpost.com

Living at the airport…

I am sure quite a few of you have seen the movie “The Terminal” – where Tom Hanks had get comfortable and survive at an airport terminal. But this scenario is not so far-fetched: recently it became news that a 48-year old German woman known as “Bettina” lived at the Palma de Mallorca airport with her 3 suitcases, a blanket, a pile of books and her white cat Mumu for 10 years!!!

British journalist Tom Mitchelson decided to try out what is it like to live for 3 days (and nights) at Gatwic Airport…  How did he make out? Read more about it in this article.

Hi-tech face scanners being tested in Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is trialling the new facial recognition scanners, which aim to improve security and reduce long queues at immigration checkpoints.
The device works by comparing a digital photo of a passenger inside their UK or European Union biometric passport with their face as they stand in front of a small camera. The system means passengers can avoid queues to have their passports checked by immigration officials.
The scanners check whether a passport has been tampered with and that the passenger is not on any security lists.If they pass that check, the passenger passes through to another gate where a small camera captures an image of their face.

Soon we can expect to see similar technology at Stansted Airport – and if the project proves to be successful, it will include all the British airports by the year 2010.