Q We are flying from Manchester to Guernsey, but will be returning to Exeter Airport with a reserved train from Devon to Manchester on 18 August – one of the rail strike days. We had to cancel our hotel a week before to avoid being charged. Our flights with Aurigny are non-refundable. So do we cut our losses and lose (a lot!) of money on flights? Or go with the plan, hope for the best, and try to stagger home on the train a day later?
One The rail strikes are thick and fast, with all three rail unions set to act in the next three weeks. Today and again on Saturday, August 13, the drivers of Aslef, who work for many of the companies that operate the ships, will be leaving. The next action by the RMT union, which largely represents other professions, will take place on 18 and 20 August – supplemented by members of the Association of Sage Employees Working for a transport company number.
The main disruption in the days that follow will arise from a romp by Network Rail signatories who are on RMT. However, you can still go home. Your flight to Exeter is good and early at 8:30am. That gives you a whole day to fight the railroad. No schedule has been announced for August 18 yet. CrossCountry is unlikely to run trains from Exeter via Bristol and Birmingham to Manchester, but I believe a journey between southwest and northwest would be possible.
Great Western Railway is capable of running trains from Exeter to London Paddington between 7.30am and 6pm. There is no London Underground strike (which happens the next day) so you can easily get from Paddington to Euston Square on Circle Road. West Coast Avanti will probably operate one or two trains an hour from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. The journey will be more complicated than you anticipated, but still manageable in seven hours or so.
Is your CrossCountry ticket valid? It’s still unclear, but I believe staff on GWR and Avanti West Coast will accept it (you’ll likely have to pay for Underground tickets across London).
Finally, you might want to explain the situation to Aurigny and see if there’s any scope for transferring you to a Guernsey-Southampton flight. If that’s possible, you’ll save a lot of trouble as there’s a station right next to Southampton airport, with hourly service to London Waterloo. Personally I would pay £30 or £40 for the easier journey. Again, there is nothing obvious about accepting your rail ticket, so I suggest you simply explain the problem and solution.
Q If I have a flight from Manchester to London Heathrow to Los Angeles and the Manchester-Heathrow part is cancelled, and the airline finds anything else suitable, I can ask them to cancel the Manchester-Heathrow and insist retain Heathrow- Los Angeles section, find your own way to Heathrow?
One It looks like you’ve booked to fly from Manchester to London Heathrow to Los Angeles with a good connection, but fear that British Airways – which has had around 30,000 flights so far this summer – may cancel and may not be able to deliver. provide a reasonable alternative.
In that hypothetical case, you must not drop the Manchester-Heathrow segment without express agreement from BA, otherwise you risk being considered a no-show and forfeiting your entire journey. Your options instead depend on how you define “fit”: for example, an earlier flight with a four-hour connection at London Heathrow, instead of a comfortable 90 minutes, is far from ideal.
If that is the case, you will need to speak with someone at BA to discuss other options open to you. Perhaps the airline could buy you a rail ticket from Manchester to London and onward to Heathrow. However, if there is no way to get you on the same day from Manchester to LA using British Airways, then you could argue that the airline has to find you an alternative that allows you to travel on the original date. .
The obvious choice would be Aer Lingus from Manchester via Dublin to Los Angeles (which also allows you to clear US Customs and Border Protection while at the Irish airport). The two-hour stop is convenient, and the overall journey is 14 hours and 20 minutes – possibly faster than going through Heathrow.
As for future planning: flying from Manchester to California via London makes me feel counter-intuitive as it involves flying in the wrong direction 150 miles and then flying back to Manchester when you depart from Los Angeles. Going through Dublin adds just 35 miles to the direct road between Manchester and the California coast.
Q I’m flying from London Heathrow to Edinburgh in two weeks, with two toddlers. How early should I get to the airport?
One There has never been such a summer of airport anxiety. It is entirely understandable that future travelers will feel anxious about the possibility of missing their flights, following intense scenes at some UK airports over Easter – with passengers missed my flight because I couldn’t get to the gate on time.
Across Amsterdam, queues are so long that Dutch airline KLM has a special rule mandating for passengers who don’t arrive at the gate on time: “In the unfortunate event of missing your flight, you can choose to go on a different flight or cancel your trip and receive a travel voucher. “
London Heathrow is in much better form. There are two obstacles between you and your flight: baggage checks and security searches. (The same situation applies to international departures from Heathrow and other UK airports, as unusually there is no passport check. In most other locations, Border clearance includes a third obstacle.)
I flew this week in the “first wave” of flights at 7 a.m. Tuesday. I departed at Terminal 5 at 5:30 am, carrying only hand luggage; British Airways has an extremely generous 46kg hand baggage limit, making it easy for those who may be bringing their belongings through security to change their luggage.
I realize that with two toddlers, you’ll have pretty much everything on hand without struggling bags into the overhead lockers and will probably want to check the cases. Even so, if you have an early flight, I would arrive two hours earlier than departure. If you come back later, from about 9:30 am onwards, you are not allowed more than 90 minutes.
Next time, however, consider the train: you can arrive at London King’s Cross five minutes before departing for Edinburgh.
Q We have eight days in Lisbon, our first time in the city. Do you have recommendations for some day trips?
One Portugal’s capital makes a great base for day trips – in fact, it’s good to save some money on your next visit to Lisbon. The easiest is a short rail ride along the north coast of the Tagus out into the Atlantic Ocean at Estoril and Cascais. Estoril feels like a throwback to the holiday glamor of the 1930s, while Cascais is chic but somewhat wild.
From Cais do Sodre station southwest of Lisbon’s city center, trains to Estoril take only half an hour, a few minutes longer to Cascais. For some adventurous walks, you can go one step further – to the western end of mainland Europe. Take bus 403 from Cascais bus stop to the village of Azoia, and follow the path to the head of the rock, there is a lighthouse on the edge of a towering cliff – where a needle says “Ponto Mais Ocidental do” Continente Europeu”.
A short distance northwest of Lisbon, also with good rail connections (from Rossio station), is Sintra – with a spectacular palace complex to explore. “A hilly version of Windsor,” my note said.
If you’re prepared to rent a car for a day, the obvious choice is the Setubal peninsula just south of the 25 April Bridge (Lisbon’s take on California’s Golden Gate). Beaches and seafood in Caparica; a beautiful wavy coastline; the film about Cabo Espichel, the site for a large windy monastery; and the city of Setubal, a relaxed fishing and ferry terminal with an open old town. Highlight: Old Camara Municipal (town hall) with top floor bar overlooking the main square. Blissful.
One last option: Obidos, an hour north of Lisbon, a beautiful walled city that still preserves its medieval soul despite all the visitors.
Via the latest Ask Me Anything at Independent.co.uk/travel
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