Tag Archives: China Southern


A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

Pacific sunset
Sunset from San Clemente, taken from the Amtrak Surfliner | ©IBIT G. Gross

Travel writers love making lists. We all do it. And so does the New York Times.

They’ve published a list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012.”

At the top of their list is a place near the top of mine, Panama. Vibrant, a growing economy, small enough to explore, and a mix of indigenous, Latin and African cultures.

It’s an extremely eclectic list. It must be if it includes Myanmar and Oakland, CA in its top ten. And that’s just part of what I love about it.

Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has his own list of places to go if you want a better understanding of the rapidly changing world we face. Top of his list, India and China.

He especially recommends breaking away from the big cities like Beijing and Mumbai and getting out into the countryside in both those countries. Good advice, but tough to do when you have only a handful of days “in-country.”

Your best bet is to do some research, decide what interests you the most, and focus on that.

London’s daily Telegraph is reporting that one of China’s four main airlines, China Eastern, has just trained 20 of its flight attendants in kung fu. The company considers the pilot project so successful that they will now train up all 2,600 of their attendants.

The idea, apparently, is to enable them to act as the first line of defense against an on-board terrorist attack, and give the air marshals (who are on every Chinese flight) extra seconds to intervene.

You can read the entire Daily Telegraph story here.

Don’t be surprised if the other three major Chinese air carriers — Air China, China Southern and Hainan Airlines — adopt similar measures.

For years, Los Angeles traditionally has hosted a major travel show each winter bringing together tour companies and travel experts with would-be travelers. This year, there will be two.

The Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, which had been held for the last couple of years at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is moving back to Long Beach, where it had been held in years past. That one’s scheduled for this weekend.

Then there’s the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, which will be held at the LA Convention Center Jan. 28-29.

Confused yet?

The Times, after several years of co-sponsoring the other travel show, decided to break off and do its own thing.

Each will have its share of high-powered presenters with the likes of Andrew Zimmern, Samantha Brown, and Rick Steves. But my two favorites are always the man I call the Godfather of Travel, Arthur Frommer, and his daughter, Pauline, herself an accomplished travel writer.

This is the kind of overload I like!

Believe it or not, one of my favorite travel activities is to watch television. You can learn a lot.

One of the things you learn is that there’s a lot of great stuff being aired around the world that will never make its way to the States. Another is that network news elsewhere in the world is not the joke it has become here.

While in Paris, I was able to compare CNN, the BBC, France 24 and Al Jazeera during their coverage of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Al Jazeera blew them all away — thorough, professional, level-headed, fresh.

What made me think of this today is word that a six-part mini-series is in the works about the life of Nelson Mandela, an international production to be shot in South Africa. It’s to be called “Mandiba.”

You can pick up more details about the series from The Guardian story here.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:


from We Blog the World
Here’s a thought: Instead of donating money to charity, why not donate some of your frequent flier miles? Yes, you can do that.

from Eurotriptips
Some tips for avoiding add-on fees on low-cost European airlines.

from Budget Travel​
Another day, another fee. Airlines are adding a $6 fee to cover a “carbon fee” imposed by the European Union. Still, considering what US airlines charge to check a suitcase, it’s hard for me to get too upset.

from the New York Times
Another list from the Times, this one of useful Web sites for saving money on flights, lodging and a whole lot else. Many of them are the “usual suspects,” but you’ll find a few new names, as well.

from USA Today
Before we write off airport security as a total joke, TSA screeners say they’re finding an average of four guns a day at US airports. Say WHAT?

from Pushing the Limits
His name is Andy Campbell. He’s paralyzed. And he’s out to travel 30,000 miles around the world…in a wheelchair. What was your excuse again?

from Smarter Travel
The ST crew gives you their outlook for cruise travel in 2012. The good: new ships, refurbished ships, a big year for river cruising. The bad: smaller cabins and more add-on fees.

from USA Today
The comeback continues. Cruise ship sailings are breaking marks set prior to Hurricane Katrina.

from Travel Weekly
After three years’ absence, Royal Caribbean resumes cruising the Panama Canal.

from USA Today
Have you heard of or seen a “5-D” movie? The next new Carnival cruise ship will boast a 5-D movie theater.



from the East African Business Week (Uganda)
Hundreds of elephants and other wild animals are stampeding out of Uganda’s largest wildlife reserve and into inhabited areas, trashing farmers’ crops and generally raising hell. The suspected culprit: oil exploration inside the park.

from the Citizen (Tanzania)
Tanzanian tourism officials crow after their country cracks the top ten of the NY Times’ list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012,” and look to build on that momentum.

from the Herald (Zimbabwe)
Tourism minister rails against “shylocks” whom he says charge exorbitant prices at the country’s tourist resorts, inhibiting tourism growth in the country. ​


from USA Today
If you live within easy travel distance of a US national park, the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday weekend would be a good time for a visit. Admissions are free.


from the Los Angeles Times
Turning ice into art in the Chinese city of Harbin. SLIDESHOW

from the Quirky Traveller
Hanoi is emerging from the shadow of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) as a tourist destination.

from the Telegraph (London UK)
A massive snowfall in Austria strands thousands of skiers. ​

from CNN
North Korea. Rogue state…cult of personality…tourist destination? Really?


from msnbc
Cheapest European cities to hit in 2012.

from Budget Travel
How to fly around Europe for ridiculously small amounts of money. One key advantage, low-fare airlines. Another, smaller airports. The tradeoff, a longer cab, bus or train ride to your destination.

from the Guardian (London UK)
Brussels may not get as much respect as Paris when it comes to cuisine, but these folks know how to throw a food festival. For one thing, theirs lasts most of the year. Turn a tram into a resto? A dining room suspended from a crane? Top that, Monsieur Michelin!

Edited by P.A. Rice


CATHAY PACIFIC: A good airline gets better

© Maurie Hill | Dreamstime.com

After upgrading their Business Class section, one of Asia’s best airlines is turning its attention to the back of the airplane, all in response to competition from regional rivals.

According to the British airline rating site Skytrax, there are exactly seven airlines in the world worthy of a 5-star rating. One of them is Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, which flies throughout Asia and across the Pacific.

Having recently remodeled their Business Class cabins, they’re now turning their attention to the back of the airplane in a big way. And if you’re going to be on one of those 14- or 16-hour trans-Pacific aerial ordeals, that’s good news, indeed.

Especially when it comes from an airline whose reputation for cabin service is among the best in the world.

I flew this airline many years ago between Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok. That reputation was well-deserved then, and judging by their Skytrax rating, it still is.

CP’s plan for their economy seats is a two-parter. Part 1 is to create new cabins in Coach on their long-range Boeing 777ERs and Airbus A330s. That’s the good news.

The bad news? The Coach seats aboard their older planes, such as the Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s, won’t be upgraded.

This is why you need to pay as much attention to the airplane you’re flying on as the price of your ticket.

CP had tried this kind of Economy upgrade five years ago, replacing the traditional reclining Coach seats with hard-back seats that slid forward to recline, similar to the hard-back, lie-flat seats you find in many Business and First Class sections.

But they didn’t sit well with a lot of passengers, so it’s back to the future with old-school reclining seats in Sardine Class.

I had my own experience with hard-back, lie-flat seats early this year on British Airways between LAX and London Heathrow. Absolutely, positively, hands-down the most miserable two flights of my life.

The amount of legroom in the new Cathay Pacific economy seats — measured by what the airlines call “seat pitch” — will remain at 32 inches. That’s more or less standard industrywide, and for most passengers, it’s decent.

(I’m hoping they give those seats just a touch more hiproom as well, but I doubt it. That’s where the real misery is these days on long flights — and not just because I’m as wide-bodied as any jumbo jet.)

What will be different will be the amount of recline in each Coach seat. You’ll be able to lean back an extra two inches. The airline also is promising more personal storage space in Coach.

For those who have trouble sleeping in Coach on flights of any length, that extra two inches of recline should be good news. For those who like to use their laptops while the passenger in front of them sleeps, maybe not so much.

What can I say? In life, there are tradeoffs.

The other half of their plans involves creation of a new Premium Economy section on its long-haul flights. Wider seats, with a generous 38 inches of seat pitch.

Anyone shorter than, say, Yao Ming should be able to stretch out in grand style.

Add in a touch-screen video monitor for entertainment, wi-fi Internet access and outlets for Apple digital devices, along with CP’s usually glittering cabin service, and you may be reluctant to get off the airplane.

Naturally, you’ll be paying extra for the comforts of Premium Economy. How much extra, the airline didn’t say in their announcement yesterday.

This is all due to take effect starting next March — first on flights to/from Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver and New York. The rest of their long-haul routes,including Los Angeles and San Francisco, will follow.

(NOTE: When it comes to flying to Asia from the West Coast, San Francisco often is somewhat cheaper than LAX, and Vancouver may be cheaper, even substantially cheaper, than both of them. That combination can create some intriguing vacation opportunities).

Cathay Pacific is facing heavy economic pressure from Singapore Airlines and China Southern. Both are flying the double-deck Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet, which carry more passengers per plane than anything else flying.

Cathay Pacific’s way of fighting back, as explained by CEO John Slosar, is “providing a superior experience in all classes of travel.”

If you’re accustomed — or perhaps more aptly, resigned — to the way US-based airlines treat their passengers, you may find that statement more than a little eye-opening.

Facing increasing competition from rivals, airlines in this country typically respond by cutting back on the number of available seats, or reducing seat pitch to cram in a few extra seats, or raising ticket prices — or charge for services that had always been free in the past.

How many would try to meet the challenge of competition by offering all their passengers — not just the high rollers in First or Business Class — a better flying experience?

Am I the only one who thinks our airlines could learn a lot from these guys?