LETTER OF THE WEEK
STARS AND GRIPES
It is always exciting to be heading to New York and even more so on New Year's Eve. Flight arrival is 10pm, just enough time to see in the new year and the new decade. But alas airport arrival in the US continues to be an unpleasant event. A lack of customs personnel always takes the shine out of the experience.
The corrals direct you into a queue on arrival, but just to ensure you follow the line, an authoritarian automaton directs you to wait behind a red line for a non-existent immigration officer. Any chance of moving from your designated spot is met with a firm rebuttal. When will the US recognise that a plane full of non-Americans requires more than three customs officials to process all arrivals in under four hours.
Jan Naughton, Wahroonga, NSW
Cathy Stapleton (Traveller letters, December 21), there's another way to see Antarctica without setting foot on it: a scenic flight of about eight hours from the mainland to Antarctica and back. The view from the aircraft is stupendous, and an unforgettable experience.
David Gordon, Cranebrook, NSW
TRUE TO FORMS
Maybe it is worth pointing out that providing contact details on immigration forms (Traveller letters, November 30) on arrival at overseas airports is not simply a formality. If, for example, it turns out the person sitting near you on a flight had measles or some other communicable disease, wouldn't you like to know about it?
I would so I treat these contact details seriously. If you insist on making up a fake address and phone number at least include a (genuine) email address or social media contact details.
Peter Dawber, Woolwich, NSW
The announcement by the Federal Government to provide financial assistance to those affected by the devastating bushfires will be welcomed, especially by business in communities reliant upon tourism. Money will always help, however the recovery of small operators' businesses will take time.
As life returns to some form of normality, visitors will be welcomed and, with their return, hopefully economic recovery will follow. Given what many people in these communities have and will continue to endure, visitors need to be respectful as they support those who are hurting.
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
We had a family Christmas gathering at Pointer Mountain, near Ulladulla, NSW. We drove from Melbourne and my daughter flew with Virgin from Brisbane. There were intermittent closures of the Princes Highway south of Nowra because of bushfires. By the time we got to Kiama on December 23 the highway had closed again so we got an Airbnb for seven people plus two dogs at very short notice.
The highway closed again on December 26 and when it opened at 3am the next day, we made the decision to leave early. Virgin ticketing staff at Sydney Airport were fantastic and very understanding under unique circumstances, getting my daughter on a flight a day early. Outstanding customer service. Thank you, Virgin Australia.
Maurice Barclay, Yallam, Vic
We booked our extended family holiday with non-refundable tickets to Hawaii through Hawaiian Airlines. Due to the severe drought and high fire risk, my husband (an RFS volunteer) felt he could no longer join us - he's the responsible one and would have worried for the entire two weeks away.
I approached Hawaiian Airlines to see what could be done and they could not have been more understanding. We received a full refund of my husband's airfare minus a small administration fee.
We thank them for their understanding that "Australia is burning". Three cheers for Hawaiian Airlines.
Patrick Star And Pauline Maclaren, Pejar NSW
Thanks to Brian Johnston for his refreshingly even-handed piece on Gibraltar (Traveller, December 7). I was beginning to think Traveller's editorial policy forbid articles on places that aren't life-affirming, unique and wondrously beautiful. Good to be reassured there are still mundane, daggy places with lousy food and obtuse locals.
Drew Grant, St Kilda, Vic
THE EYES HAVE IT ONE
I see that Ailsa Kupsch (Traveller letters, December 21) lost her prescription glasses while in transit on her cruise via the passport check in Xiamen. She did all the right things but had no success in chasing up the matter. All was done to help her to no avail, so what is she complaining about? I lost my expensive glasses in the Singapore Airlines business lounge and after looking for them and asking at the reception desk they were not handed in. Did I make a fuss? No I didn't, I put it down to bad luck and when I arrived in the UK I bought some cheap off-the-peg specs which were fine for reading.
On arrival back in Australia I went to Specsavers and got a cheaper basic brand until my next eye test. I already had some older multi-focals at home so I was quite happy. There is only so much that people can do to help - does it really matter where they were lost? How many other people were inconvenienced by this grumpy thoughtless person?
I now always take a spare pair of older glasses just in case, and the over the counter glasses are fine for a short while. I have a tip - wear a pair of glasses on a chain round your neck.
Paula Watson, Holgate, NSW
THE EYES HAVE IT TWO
Like Ailsa Kupsch, I was treated with suspicion by Allianz Insurance on lodging a lost item claim for spare glasses missing from my backpack on return to my Athens hotel after an idyllic day at Paros beach. Unfortunately, I only realised they were missing on my return to Brisbane as I routinely use my cheaper pair for travel.
My claim included email confirmation that my IC Berlin's had not been found by housekeeping or been volunteered to lost property in Athens after a week's search. I reported my glasses to be mislaid or stolen from my backpack in Paros. This was still insufficient for a successful claim as the Allianz's assessor insisted my belongings had not been searched by Athens hotel staff at the time, to verify the glasses had not been misplaced in the room.
In good-humouredly cajoling that I "could not turn back time to frame my argument" the claims person called me with her adverse verdict late on a Friday afternoon after an accusatory call a week before, spoiling consecutive weekends. Decisions are supposed to take 48 hours at the most.
Joseph Ting, Carina, QLD
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