Friday, October 30, 2009

Speaking of... bad airlines


I've come across a couple of badly run airlines, but the worst one I've experienced is by all means Ryanair. When the actual ticket costs £0.00, after you're done with the booking you can easily pay £100. How is that? No idea.

Taxes, fees, online check-in, airport check-in, hand-luggage, baggage to check-in: everything has a cost. And when you think you are finished, here it comes that last surprise, you have certainly done something wrong: another fine.

I'm not a very patient person, so after two dodgy events, I deleted Ryanair from my airline-related world.

The first fact was related to the luggage weight. Ryanair is the only company that allows only 15 kg in the luggage: quite not handy, but at least we know it. Then, suddenly they changed it: passengers were allowed to check-in 20 kg each. Marvellous. So I packed my suitcase, with all the shopping from Italy and the delicacies my parents had prepared to take to London with me, very careful not to overcome the weight as Ryanair's intolerance is legendary. I arrived at the check-in stand and here was the surprise: "We got back to 15kg, you have to pay for the 5kg in excess." And why on earth didn't you email anybody about this? "Oh, I'm sure it's included in the Terms and Conditions." It was, the tiniest characters ever at the very end of a 20-page email.

Let's forget about it, at the end of the day, it was still convenient.

Shortly after that, I bought a return ticket London-Alghero and, at the end of the whole booking process, after inserting credit card information and personal details, the amount to pay was about 150 euro. I hit "confirm" and then surprise: I had payed 170 euro. Was it not 150? Too late to amend, tickets are not refundable, but at least I wanted to be sure I wasn't going completely crazy.

I did the whole process a second time: yes, I was right, the original amount was 150 euro. So where were the further 20 euro? Credit card fee? Impossible, in the figures breakdown there was already mentioned the visa fee (5£). Ok, I had got that, those 20 euro were to pay a not better identified fee, one of the many, actually.

Ryanair fees keep getting higher: hand-luggage started with 8 euro and are now 15 euro per bag. You can choose if checking-in online or at the airport, if you choose to check-in at the airport you have to pay a fee (the 5-minute labour for the employee?), and once at the airport you have to self-check-in anyway. So what's the point to pay the labour-fee?

After these and some other clues I realised that maybe it wasn't the case for me to fly with Ryanair anymore. The only thought that I could be welcomed by other surprises once at the airport, such as being refused to board because my bag has some irregularity or being forced to pay a non-foreseeable fee, just puts me off from buying a Ryanair ticket.

So I "quit" and am flying with other low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, which I found reliable, affordable, and with no last-minute surprises. So far, so good, I hope it'll keep this standard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is London becoming intolerant to tourism?



Not only tourism, but also simple life in London is becoming harder: "security reasons."

What security? And especially, what's the danger? Now that the excuse of international terrorism is becoming more and more incongruous, Londoners and tourists in the UK are wondering what are the reasons for this increasing hostility and harshness from the police and security services in general.


I had written an article back in April about this topic, when a tourist was stopped and asked to delete all his pictures from his camera. That seemed to have been an isolated case, but unfortunately it wasn't: a photographer friend of mine was asked (read: forced) by the police to delete all her pictures from her camera. Reason? "You can't take photos of buildings?" Um... What??? "But it's my job!" My friend tried to explain. "Sorry, luv." The end.

Yesterday I read an article from Tom Gates, editor at Matador Nights, about his recent misadventure at Heathrow Airport. He was pretty gentle, I would have put in place all the loudest aspects Italians are (in)famous all over the world for. Easy prey, he might have been, but the truth is that security, or whatever officers, shouldn't be allowed of treating people like this.

After CCTV all over the place, a disgraceful anti-terror media campaign, able only to foment fear of your neighbour, the atmosphere in the UK is getting heavier. Good aspect of all this? The late campaign didn't work, people are waking up and human empathy is growing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Savage building on Sardinian coasts



Savage building on Sardinian coasts doesn't seem to come to an end: after the project of building wind power plants in S'Archittu, despite there are many other more suitable areas and this would destroy the summer tourism, let alone the marine fauna locals are trying to reproduce, and let alone the fact that this will inevitably spoil the view and destroy thousand-year-old arch formed throughout the centuries between the sea and the coast, this is not the only area in the island affected by unrestrained building.

Although current President Cappellacci's main message during the electoral campaign was to protect the pristine coasts from savage builders always in the lookout for new untouched spaces, it seems like this is not going to happen: the regional council has approved a new law making it possible to build 300 mt away from the sea.

For Sardinians this sadly sounds like a déjà-vu: the Emerald Coast is not Sardinia anymore, belonging once to Prince Aga Khan and now to a not-better identified US company is mainly private beaches, villas and 5-star hotels where CEOs and presidents (and their escorts) come to spend their holidays. Truth be told, the Emerald Coast is beautiful, but Sardinia has many other equally or more stunning sceneries, so the population turned a blind eye and sucked that up: "Never mind, we'll go elsewhere."

Then, from the Emerald Coast, the building wave kept spreading, northward, southward, and now on the west coast. Is unrestrained building the only problem in Sardinia? Apparently not: NATO bases are carrying out poisonous experiments, DU-based. I come from London to breath some clean air and I find this situation: now it's a bit of too much.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to destroy a paradise. And the dream of it



If you want to visit this corner of paradise, hurry up: it's about to be destroyed by the latest plan of a foreign energy corporation.

There is a not-better-identified company, seemingly from Montecarlo but with strong bonds in Luxembourg, that has secretely applied for the permission to build a huge wind power plant all over Sardinian western coast. If approved, it will frustrate the beautiful landscapes of Is Arenas, Torre del Pozzo, S'Archittu, Santa Caterina di Pittinuri.

For the first time in Italian political history (well, after the Constitution of 1948), all parties agree in fighting this plan and the President of the Region, Ugo Cappellacci, is said he will not grant such permission. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be as easy: at a national level, our legislator has just made a new law that deprives regional politicians of any power on renewable energy matters. What a coincidence.

Are Sardinian people against renewable energy? Absolutely not: the island is full of allowed areas where it's possible to build wind and solar power plants.

Locals have been demonstrating and fighting with every legal means at their disposal, will it be enough? 
I can't believe there is the chance I won't be able to spend my ritual week a year stretched out on my favourite beach, anymore.
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