I had to go to Melbourne Airport to provide language assistance to an elderly, non-English-speaking couple travelling from Launceston to Singapore. They were flying with Jetstar from Launceston and were booked on a Singapore Airlines flight from Melbourne. They had requested wheelchair assistance for the wife for the transit, confirmed before departure.
Jetstar provided a wheelchair but not an employee to push it. When I met them, I was shocked to see the 73-year-old husband pushing the wheelchair while dragging his hand luggage. The wheelchair passenger had her handbag on her lap and her hand luggage on her feet.
With more luggage collected at the carousel, they were unable to walk to the international terminal. When I approached the duty supervisor at the Jetstar customer service desk, I was told that as a budget carrier, Jetstar didn't provide transfers within the airport if the connecting flight wasn't with Jetstar. When I sought help from Singapore Airlines, it willingly sent an officer to pick up the passenger from the domestic terminal.
When a budget airline promises a wheelchair, it doesn't necessarily mean it will provide a staff member to push it. If the person travelling with the wheelchair passenger isn't physically capable of manoeuvring a wheelchair and luggage, it's better not to travel with a budget airline.
Warm tips for icy travel
In response to Graeme Miller's letter about driving in Europe in winter (Traveller Letters, April 13-14), I have a few tips after holidaying there for the past three winters. Always insist on winter tyres. They are not necessarily provided by rental companies but are a must. If you are going into alpine regions, it is worthwhile having chains. Some rental companies provide them free but you need to ask; otherwise, they are cheap at car accessory shops. In three trips and many kilometres of driving in the Alps we have never had to use them. The Europeans know how to keep roads open and relatively ice- and snow-free. When it does get icy, just take your time and reduce your speed.
Piracy on the high seas
My family and I recently returned from a 12-day cruise on P&O's Pacific Dawn. Each day I would check emails and the like on my iPad for 20 minutes. Total usage would not have exceeded four or five hours. The ship had its own data network, which made connecting relatively easy. When not in use, I would disable data services. The bill just arrived: $3000. I guess all those stories about international data charges are true.
My husband and I will spend our last-ever night in Paris on my birthday. We are staying near the Gare de Lyon and are considering dining at Le Train Bleu. Does anyone have other suggestions?
All in the timing
Two years ago in Paris we picked up a fantastic tip from a local: when visiting the Louvre, go on a Friday just after 6pm. The busloads of tourists and their guides will be gone, there won't be any groups of schoolchildren and children get in free. We got in within five minutes and with few other visitors we could go straight to the galleries and artwork that we wanted to see (for example, the Mona Lisa). Although the three hours you get isn't enough for all 32 kilometres of corridors, it certainly is enough to see the main attractions.
I enjoyed Craig Tansley's piece on Singapore (Traveller, April 13-14) as I often stay with my daughter and her family at Pandan Valley Condominium, mentioned in the article. I can recommend another eatery in the complex: The French Ladle. It's small, so bookings are a good idea, but children are welcome and the slow-cooked beef cheeks melt in the mouth.
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