By Steve Vickers
September 23, 2014
September’s journey through the travel news jungle includes trips to space, another chance to ‘fly’ Pan Am (cocktails and all), and the hotel website that promises discounts for high-profile tweeters.
Win a trip to space… someday
Virgin Galactic and Land Rover have launched a new competition. The prize? A trip to space for you and three pals. All you have to do is connect with Land Rover through Facebook, upload a 30-second video about what the ‘spirit of adventure’ means to you, and then share it with your friends.
Even if you win the competition, don’t expect to be orbiting the Earth anytime within the next few weeks; according to the very long list of terms and conditions, no date for the flight has actually been set. And as this article shows, Virgin’s trips to space are taking a little longer to organize than first planned…
Another chance to ‘fly’ Pan Am
Have you ever sat in cattle class and wondered what it must have been like to fly during the golden age of air travel, when Pan Am ruled the skies? Well now it’s possible (almost) to find out for yourself. A film studio in Los Angeles has created an exact replica of a Pan Am 747, complete with original-style interiors. Stewardesses in 1970s Pan Am uniforms will greet visitors who sign up for the four-hour ‘flights’ (the plane doesn’t actually move an inch), before serving cocktails and a gourmet meal. After that, guests can kick back and watch the in-flight movie. Tickets cost $197 clipper class, or $297 first class.
Hotels: can tweets get you discounts?
Earlier this month I discovered Hotelied, a website that analyses users’ social media profiles to offer them tailored discounts on hotel stays. The idea is that hotels offer reduced rates to ‘influencers’, or people with lots of followers. I only have a measly 300-odd followers on Twitter, but following Hotelied’s logic, that should still be worth something – even if the saving is just a few cents per night.
I gave the website access to my Twitter feed and searched for a room in New York in December. My ‘personal rate’ for a room at the five-star Viceroy New York was $499 – $50 more than I was quoted for the same room at Expedia and Hotels.com, on exactly the same basis. I tested two more hotels in New York, just to be sure, and again found cheaper or identical rates with online travel agents, or through the hotels’ own websites.
Got more followers? Give it a try and let us know whether you saved cash.
Ryanair eyes America
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has once again hinted that the airline will start running cheap transatlantic flights, but warned that such a move was ‘unlikely’ within the next five years. For now, the focus is still very much on Europe. The Irish airline recently ordered 180 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft, whose maximum range – 3115 nautical miles – is just shy of the distance between Dublin and New York.
Eat airline food at home
Inflight food doesn’t have a great reputation. So it’s surprising to see that a website in Germany has teamed up with the catering company Sky Chefs, giving folks the chance to have airline meals delivered to their homes. Instead of, you know, ordering a normal takeaway. Two main types of meal are being offered through the Air Food One delivery service: one meaty version (€9.99) and another one for veggies (€8.99). These are the same kind of dishes that are served up at cruising altitude for Lufthansa’s business class passengers (think corn-fed chicken, or cannelloni stuffed with ricotta).
The meals are delivered to subscribers every Wednesday night by a DHL courier – cold – and must then be heated up in the oven. If that doesn’t put you off, there is one other snag: the service is currently only available in Cologne and Dusseldorf.
Final call: Autumn in Hokkaido
It’s autumn, and at this time of year nowhere looks prettier than Hokkaido, in Japan’s northern reaches. Away from Sapporo, the capital, you’ll find frozen mountaintops, bubbling sulphur pools and dreamy forests in shades of orange and red. No more holidays until 2015? Don’t worry: this video will take you there – if only for a few minutes.