Even Basil Fawlty would find this hotel substandard
LETTER OF THE WEEK
I’m in my hotel waiting for my Qantas flight tomorrow morning from Rome to Sydney via Perth. It seemed like a good idea to spend the last day of two months in the UK and Italy sitting by the airport pool, especially as tomorrow’s flight requires early check-in. Why didn’t I check Tripadvisor? The check-in line at the hotel (yes, the hotel, not the airport) was two hours long. For the next 24 hours we couldn’t get internet, our TV required the mini bar to be removed to be turned on, the restaurant was so full we couldn’t be fed, room service left us hung up on 20 times so we went to bed without eating and then we were locked out of our room because the computer didn’t realize we were staying two nights. This is not a two star hotel in downtown Rome but the Airport Hilton which has a monopoly on the airport. Even Basil Fawlty would refuse to stay again.
Ray Ward, Potts Point, New South Wales
Eight months ago we booked a Western Australia bucket list trip with a major tour company; the trip was recently canceled with no reasonable explanation given. Also, we were advised that it would take 45 days for our money to be returned and that no assistance would be given for refunds of other bookings on either side of our trip. My other major complaint, however, was getting ripped off by a 3% merchant fee from American Express, especially when other service providers absorb the fee or charge between 0.95% (our little local framer) and 1 .53%. . This tax has not been refunded.
Anthony Palmer, Southbank, Vic
Qantas, along with other airlines, are taking bookings before announcing the resumption of flights to a destination. Japan is a destination. You can book Qantas from Sydney to Haneda, the closest airport to Tokyo, but, at least at the time of writing, there’s no certainty the airline will actually fly on that date, or cancel. or not. Cathay Pacific is doing something similar, accepting bookings through Hong Kong to ports in Japan, then canceling them shortly thereafter. It just happened to some family members. The money had already been paid and a possible refund takes four to eight weeks.
Geoff Oliver, East Malvern, Vic
SIN OF OMISSION
I can’t believe the beautiful city of Strasbourg didn’t make Ben Groundwater’s list of Europe’s best old town nominations in his recent article (TravelerJune 25). The old central “Petit France” district of the city has breathtaking architecture dominated by the magnificent cathedral and the Place Notre-Dame. One of the most beautiful old towns we have ever visited.
David Parker, Geelong West, Vic
DUTCH IS LIFE
I read with interest the letters concerning the reasons for the trip to Europe while a war is being waged against Ukraine. I sympathized with the fact that Hans van den Tillaart was unable to return home after the death of his father from COVID-19. But I was horrified that Ross Allan used his letter to chastise Hans for doing “the unthinkable” – referring to his homeland as Holland rather than Nederland. Ross was right that the Dutch called it Holland when they used another language and that’s exactly what Hans did.
Jill Graham, Kellyville, New South Wales
IT’S A PLEASURE, JOYCE
After apparently extracting millions from the public purse to prevent the century-old airline from being grounded for good, Qantas now wants to cut services, raise fares (fuel prices) and give staff a $5,000 bonus. Yet this is the same airline whose chief executive has blamed the traveling public for delays at airport check-ins. Then there was the impermissible conduct of charging passengers twice and making them wait for refunds. In the words of the late Graham Kennedy, it’s a Joyce joke, and whichever way you look at it, Qantas has us cornered.
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, New South Wales
EDITOR’S NOTE Dear readers, the rants currently far outweigh the praise for this column, with complaints to Traveler about Qantas overwhelmingly dominating our inbox. We understand these are tough times for travel, but we’d also love to hear about your positive travel experiences here and abroad. To restore balance, preference will be given to letters of this nature in the coming weeks and we are about to have to declare a pause on Qantas-related missives, lest we set up a separate page or two for welcome all.
Is it just me or does Sydney International Airport look very shabby and very sad? Yes, I understand it’s been pretty much locked down for almost two years, but surely now would have been the time for the owners to mess it up a bit. I went there last weekend and felt very embarrassed that it was our main airport. What do foreign travelers think?
Craig McGrath, Armidale NSW
GOING THE DISTANCE
The last time I flew, back in the pre-pandemic era, I was in my 60s in pretty good shape. I have since managed to acquire mild heart disease as I entered my 80s. And now, having just had my first flight in two and a half years, I wonder if Sydney Domestic Airport has a secret agenda to depopulate Australia (like its contribution to saving the planet, perhaps? ) annihilating the less able and elderly flyers who have to walk ridiculously grueling lengths from the Qantas terminal, dragging their luggage to the far-removed express pick-up location. Melbourne Airport has managed to keep its pick-up points reasonably close to passenger exit gates, and I see no reason why Sydney Airport cannot revert to a similar arrangement.
Anne Ring, Coogee, New South Wales
TIP OF THE WEEK
My wife and I are over 80 but still love to travel and are currently planning our fifth tour of India, an incredibly interesting and colorful country. With a history dating back thousands of years, there are a number of fascinating sites to see, such as temples, palaces, castles, and more, as well as a wide range of geographical features. We use a travel agency, based in Kochi in South India, called Emperor Tours. He offers private car and driver tours with a local guide provided at each location we visit. There is a range of accommodation choices including glamping in the Thar Desert, overnight cruise on the backwaters of Kerala (simply stunning), havelis (mansions), converted former Maharaja palaces in hotels as well as many modern four-star hotels. Tours cost no more than half of what Australian travel agents charge and are usually coach tours.
Ivan Gregory, Rowville, Vic
Renting a car in the Red Center is by no means simple. Booking months in advance is essential, one-way fees are high, and cars cannot be driven from sunset to sunrise. However, the biggest problem is finding a car rental with unlimited mileage. The Alice Springs Visitor Information Center offers unlimited mileage as well as much cheaper fares. Also, a 4WD vehicle is not necessary unless you plan to drive the Mereenie Loop. One last thing, Insure and Go is one of the few travel insurance companies that covers a $7,500 rental vehicle excess as well as a $5,000 cancellation due to COVID-19.
Rita Ciavarella, North Eltham, Vic
ON THE SPOT
I have just returned from five weeks in and around London, rural UK, Paris and Alsace in France and they are living well and truly with the pandemic there. Hardly anyone wore a mask anywhere, including on the London Underground, a British Airways flight to and from Paris and a fast train from Paris to Strasbourg. We were always required to wear a mask on our Singapore Airlines flight to and from London, but they were virtually non-existent everywhere else. It’s also a good time to go as there were few tourists from some traditional popular tourist markets such as China, which means very few tourist buses and a lot more room for everyone at the attractions and Site (s.
David Parker, Geelong West, Vic
MAKE MY BLOCK
I’m in France, it’s 2022 and I figured I could pay a bill and buy an SNCF train ticket online using my mobile with its Australian SIM card. Bad. ANZ, Westpac, Macquarie and Latitude all require me to respond to a security text message which I never receive. Other text messages from Oz are good, but not from banks. Macquarie won’t even let me access my account without an SMS response. Banks seem to block foreign security messages. This makes them completely safe and completely useless abroad.
Michael Britt, MacMasters Beach, New South Wales
FROM PO TO P.O’ED
Eight weeks after I applied for passport renewal via my local post office and no passport. Passport applications are sent by registered mail, which has a tracking number. When the post office staff used the tracking number, which had not been given to me, they discovered that my application had not been signed as received at GPO Sydney. The local post office could not help me further and suggested that I call Australia Post customer service. I called, was given an incident number and marked urgent. Three weeks have passed and still nothing. Eventually, help came from the foreign minister’s election office. My passport has now arrived. So the lesson is to get your passport application tracking number from the post office.
Denis Brennan, Bellingen, NSW
WRITE TO US AND WIN
Letter of the Week author wins Hardie Grant travel books worth over $100. For July, that includes Kate Ulman’s Vantastic; The Great Wonders of the World by Michael Turtle; and Emma Shaw’s Ultimate Weekends Australia.
The author of the tip of the week wins a set of three excellent Lonely Planet travel books, including Ultimate Australia Travel List, The Travel Book and Armchair Explorer.
HOW TO WRITE TO US
We give preference to letters of 100 words or less and they can be modified for space, legal or other reasons. Please use complete sentences, do not use textual language, and do not include attachments. Email us at [email protected] and most importantly include your name, address and phone number.