Travellers' checks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am

Brought to book

The past few years have seen a stream of kiss-and-tell books by former flight attendants, each volume filled with steamy anecdotes about what airline staff supposedly get up to both in the air and on the ground. The original, a bestseller in its day, was Coffee, Tea, Or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses, published in 1967 but reprinted in 2003 on the heels of Around the World in a Bad Mood: Confessions of a Flight Attendant, and In-Flight Entertainment, which both appeared a year earlier. This month sees the publication of Air Babylon by the team of Imogen Edwards-Jones and 'Anonymous', which lures readers with true-life tales of 'the births, the deaths, the drunken brawls, the sexual antics and the debauchery behind the scenes of the ultimate service industry'. Last year Edwards-Jones and another 'Anonymous' lifted the lid on the hotel industry with Hotel Babylon, also reprinted this month. Both books are available from

Travelling right

'When is a holiday not a holiday?' asks Tourism Concern, a British organisation that promotes ethical and politically correct tourism. 'When it's a guilt trip!' comes the strident reply. Reading through the organisation's latest campaign literature, you might feel like you're already on one, with a stern warning that 'cheap holidays often result in poverty for local communities', and the admonition that 'we must end the exploitation of those who work for us while we're on holiday'. Visit www.tourism and you'll find a list of 10 ways to become a more sympathetic and right-on traveller. There are also a couple of cynical T-shirts on sale, illustrated and emblazoned with 'Child Labour Villas' or 'Exploitation Hotel', either of which should attract sideways glances the next time you check in to a luxury resort.

Fighting back

Hot on the heels of a successful lawsuit brought by a passenger against Air Jamaica for providing a substandard business-class service, Virgin Atlantic has made an out-of-court settlement with a passenger who claimed the carrier failed to provide him with 'adequate seating'. Seat pitch in Virgin's economy-class cabins varies from 30 to 32 inches, and it was 1.9 metre-tall Michael Downey's bad luck to be squeezed into the former. Downey, who said he spent the flight from London to Miami with his legs in the aisle, was offered #300 ($4,060) plus #30 in legal costs before the case went to trial 'as a gesture of goodwill and without admission of liability'.

Historic sale

The government of West Bengal has finally put Calcutta's Great Eastern Hotel up for sale after years of mismanagement and neglect. The property, which was built in 1841, was first known as Wilson's Hotel, then the Auckland Hotel before being renamed the Great Eastern in 1865 and becoming one of Asia's first air-conditioned buildings in 1912. The French filmmaker Jean Renoir was a long-staying guest in 1949 and 1950 while preparing and filming India's first Technicolor film The River, and the hotel was Ravi Shankar's Calcutta base around the same time. In the 1960s, Queen Elizabeth's entourage stayed there during a royal visit, but today the one-time Jewel of the East is in a sorry state. A number of hotel chains are reported to have visited the property, whose promotional literature announces that 'we serve more with endearing warmth of our heart than with shot-hot hi and hellows'.

Deal of the week

For travellers in search of a healthy holiday, Farrington American Express Travel is offering a package to the Farm (above) at San Benito near Manila. Two nights at this 'Centre for Holistic Medicine, Spirituality and Living Foods' start at $3,990 from August 28 to December 21 ($150 more for travel before then), but include three 'gourmet' meals a day, a one-hour relaxation massage, a foot scrub or reflexology massage and a 90-minute spa treatment. Round-trip, economy-class flights with Cathay Pacific are included, as are airport transfers and travel insurance. The Farm has a number of ground rules worth bearing in mind before booking, including bans on smoking, mobile phones, outside food and children under 12. Accommodation is in a Sulu Terrace room, but you

can upgrade to a Garden Villa for an extra $1,000 and there are a couple of other options in between. Visit to see the various suites and villas. For further details contact Farrington American Express Travel on 3121 3000 (Hong Kong) or 3121 3900 (Kowloon), or

e-mail, quoting package ID: L2005FSP0173.

A pleasure doing business

Thailand's 'most chic city hotel', the Metropolitan Bangkok (left), is offering business travellers a Best Business Deal package this summer. The offer, which costs US$150 plus tax, includes one night in a deluxe Metropolitan Room, breakfast at either of its 'signature' restaurants, a welcome cocktail, one-way airport transfer, 24-hour high-speed internet access, use of the hotel's Shambhala gym, hydro pools, steam rooms, swimming pool, daily yoga and stretch classes and standard extras such as a daily fruit platter, welcome herbal tea and newspapers. The package price, which is available until the end of August, is valid for a two-night minimum stay and can be booked at