Migrating from Manila
The Guide to Sleeping in Airports (www.sleepinginairports.net) is one of the oldest travel websites on the internet, having been online since 1996. Since then, the guide's criteria for what makes a slumber-friendly airport have been elevated from clean toilets and comfortable benches to free Wi-fi and pay-per-visit premium lounges, but it's still very down-to-earth and aimed primarily at the budget traveller. This month the site released its annual lists of the top and bottom 10 international airports, compiled from a range of sources including votes, reviews, Facebook comments and administrator appraisals of what the world's airports have to offer in terms of 'comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service'. Topping this year's best list are Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul, with the heavily criticised Terminal 1 (above; the terminal used by all but one international carrier) at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport topping the worst. Among the less alarming shortcomings mentioned were the long queues at immigration, although this looks set to be less of a problem if Dutch flag-carrier KLM goes ahead with its recently announced plan to stop direct flights between Amsterdam and Manila, routing them instead via Hong Kong. If this happens, the Philippines will be left with no direct flight connections with Europe. KLM cites heavy taxation of international airlines, something which has reportedly driven out British Airways, Sabena, Lufthansa, Alitalia, SAS, Swissair (now Swiss International Airlines) and Air France since the levies began, in 1997. Starting this week, there will also be a 12 per cent tax on airline crew accommodation, giving KLM, which books 11,000 room nights a year in Manila for its staff, another reason to walk away. Sleeping at the airport is, of course, not really an option.
By the book
There should be ideas aplenty for travel over the coming year in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2012, which will be on bookshop shelves from tomorrow. The publishers are being cagey about what will be on offer, although among the 17 'Top Travel Lists' will be 'Best Travel Experiences', including avoiding the Apocalypse on the Ruta Maya and commemorating the Titanic's centenary. Listed events will include the Muscat Festival in Oman and Cuba's Christmas festival, Las Parrandas. Best in Travel 2012 is already on sale at about half price at Amazon.co.uk.
Following its rather humiliating failure to achieve the much-coveted official 'Palace' category when the latter launched earlier this year, the Hotel Ritz in Paris has announced that it will close its doors next summer for a 27-month 'unprecedented renovation project'. The hotel has been criticised in recent years for its fading grandeur and high prices, and the arrival in the past year of Asian brands such as Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La will have done nothing to boost occupancy rates at the 19th-century icon. The hotel, which hasn't been substantially renovated since 1979, is also said to be laying off 470 of its 500 staff. For now, bookings until the spring can be made at www.ritzparis.com.
Deal of the week
Cathay Pacific Holidays' new Shanghai Business Class Special package, which will be available from Tuesday until the end of January, starts at HK$4,550 per person (twin share) for business-class flights and two nights at the Swissotel Grand Shanghai. Most of Shanghai's top hotels are also available, with the most expensive still being quite reasonably priced. The top three are the Park Hyatt and the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund - both offered at HK$6,120 - and The Peninsula (left), which starts at HK$6,660. These rates include daily breakfast (full or buffet) and travel insurance, but not the HK$651 that will be added for the fuel surcharge and tax. Flights depart daily. For reservations and further details, visit www.cxholidays.com or call 2747 4388.