Raising the bar Economy-class passengers flying Cathay Pacific's Moscow route (and onwards from there to Manchester from March 27) will be charged for all alcoholic drinks served onboard. This is because Cathay provides a code-share service on the sector with Russian carrier Aeroflot, which operates the flights. On January 18, the Russian carrier issued a press release under the encouraging heading, 'Aeroflot to improve onboard catering for economy class', promising a wider choice of meals and drinks, but also announcing that owing to a 'limited budget resulting from an upsurge in fuel prices', the latter would no longer be complimentary. Northwest Airlines, meanwhile, has started charging US$5 for each alcoholic beverage (including beer) on all its Asia-Pacific flights, a price to rival the minibars of even the most upmarket hotels and resorts. The airline is also reported to have told cabin crew to stop offering complimentary beer, wine and champagne to passengers celebrating birthdays or wedding anniversaries, or those on honeymoon. This means all American airlines flying out of Hong Kong are now in the alcohol-retail business. Travellers' tales 'The Europeans who have settled here, and who are not more than two or three hundred in number, are far from being contented, however, as trade is not half as good as they at first expected it would be. Many of them erected ... splendid edifices, which they would now be glad to sell for half the cost price.' So noted Ida Pfeiffer of Hong Kong's fledgling property market in the late 1840s, following her stopover here, described in A Woman's Journey Round the World (1850). This and a couple of hundred other travel volumes are available to download free at explorion.net, a site dedicated to travel and exploration. While many of the titles are unlikely to interest general readers, there are some gems, including several books by the intrepid Isabella Bird (Among the Tibetans ; Unbeaten Tracks in Japan ), G.E. Morrison (An Australian in China ) and explorer Richard Burton (Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Mecca ). Also worth a look is millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's Round the World (1884), which includes tales of Hong Kong and China. Samui special The Renaissance Koh Samui Resort and Spa on Laem Nan Beach (above) is offering a special rate to promote its recent renovation. Accommodation with individual outdoor terrace whirlpools and breakfast for two will be available for US$225 a night (plus 17 per cent tax and service charge) until March 31. New facilities at the property include the Quan Spa, which offers a range of treatments using Jurlique products, an upgraded fitness centre and 'enhancements' at the resort's two tropical swimming pools. See www.marriott.com for reservations and further details. Plane facts The 5,000th Boeing 737 rolls off the production line this month for delivery to Southwest Airlines. The 737 (below) is the best-selling commercial jet in history and has a string of superlatives under its belt (including some the company is unlikely to trumpet, such as the fact it is the most hijacked airliner in history, with a score of 96). Boeing says 12 billion passengers have flown in a 737 since its first commercial flight in 1968 and claims 1,250 of the planes are in the air at any one time. It also estimates that, somewhere in the world, a 737 takes off every five seconds. Meet and greet Following widespread complaints from overseas tourists about rude treatment by airport officials, the United States government has launched a 'model airport' scheme in the hope of promoting a more positive image. New measures at Washington Dulles International airport have seen the broadcasting of welcome video messages and the appointment of 'friendly greeters' to help travellers through immigration. Attempting to convey something of the kinder, gentler approach, Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, suggests people 'think of when you go to DisneyWorld'. Now there's an enticement for you. Deal of the week Tiglion Travel is selling three nights' accommodation in Perth, Australia, with round-trip, economy-class flights on Cathay Pacific, from $4,690 a person, twin share. There is a choice of three hotels at this price: the Ibis Perth ( www.ibishotel.com ); the New Esplanade ( www.newesplanade.com.au ); and the Metro Hotel on Canning ( www.metrohotels.com.au ). With luxury being something less than a watchword at these three properties, the Crowne Plaza (below; www.ichotelsgroup.com ) might seem a better deal at $5,290. Breakfast and round-trip airport transfers are included in both these prices, which are available until the end of March. For further details and bookings contact Tiglion Travel on 2511 7189, or e-mail email@example.com , quoting package ID: 3085.