Traveller Letters: This might explain Qantas' baggage handler problems

JOYCE'S CHOICE

Travelling recently at night on a very late and delayed Virgin Australia arrival from Melbourne, I encountered several baggage handlers on the shuttle bus to parking who may have explained one reason baggage is a problem. All used to work for Qantas and lost their jobs. All were re-employed by [the aviation services company] Swissport after a period without work, although some received Jobkeeper. They had nothing good to say about the disloyalty and lost benefits and more. Has Alan Joyce plucked his golden goose?

Paul Gerrard, Kellyville, NSW

HARD SELL

If Qantas wants to improve its game it should stop flogging wine, insurance, health care and heaven knows what else and just focus on the business of air travel.

John Swanton, Coogee, NSW

LETTER OF THE WEEK

GONE IN 60 SECONDS

Sue Williams' article "the art of outwitting con artists" (Traveller, July 9) was an excellent reminder of the difficulties that can be faced by Australian travellers overseas. As my wife and I were boarding a train from Lisbon to Porto, Portugal, I was struggling to lift two heavy cases onto the train when a man offered to help me. A minute later, the train moved away and I stowed the cases on a rack and we found our seats. It was then that I noticed my wallet had gone. I thought I must have dropped on the floor of the train but eventually realised I'd been robbed. The conductor's assistant said she'd seen two suspicious men running away as the train departed. By the time the train had reached Porto some hours later, the robbers had used my credit card and cash card with a considerable amount of cash also lost that was in the wallet. We went to the tourist police in Porto the next morning but it was a waste of time. Robbing tourists at railway stations is a regular event and our travel insurance company refused to accept my claim on the basis I wasn't sufficiently vigilant. A lesson learned.

John Aarons, Brighton East, VIC

TOMB WARRIOR

I disagree with the choice in your guide to Buenos Aires of Recoleta as the one cemetery to visit there. To visit the tomb of Evita, yes, but if you want to pay homage to Carlos Gardel, the "king of tango", you must visit the La Chacarita cemetery. A train or a bus trip from downtown Buenos Aires takes 30 to 40 minutes. It then takes 10 or so minutes to find the tomb and statue of the great man. When we were there someone had placed a carnation on his suit and a lit cigarette in his hand. It was well worth the time to pay tribute.

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, NSW

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

Regarding Ray Ward's comments (Traveller Letters, July 9) about his stay at Rome's Fiumicino Airport Hilton, we were confronted with the same problem of an early morning flight and we chose to stay in Fiumicino town itself. We were collected by a free shuttle from the airport station to go to our accommodation. Fiumicino is a town seemingly devoid of architectural merit but with no shortage of cafes and restaurants. We spent an afternoon walking through the town, along the waterfront and the town canals where fishermen were selling their catch. Later we had pizza at a small cafe before returning to our accommodation. Next morning we were taken by the shuttle back to the airport in time for check-in. It was an interesting and rather different way of spending our last night in Italy and cost less than half the airport hotel.

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Dawn Lumley, Fitzroy, VIC

I'm sorry that Ray Ward was disappointed with the airport hotel in Fiumicino. Our experience, admittedly not as recent, was quite the reverse. Efficient and convenient, our stay there was exactly what we needed for a departure the next day.

Graham Hannaford, Ainslie, ACT

My wife and I recently returned from our third self-drive tour of Italy, this time mostly in the south-west. Like Ray Ward, we, too, had a morning flight from Rome airport (Rome-Doha-Melbourne) and as usual we chose to stay at the Best Western, Rome. The hotel is easily accessible from the airport with a shuttle bus service even for the earliest of flights. The hotel itself is clean and modern, the staff are friendly and helpful and the restaurant has great food and wine at very reasonable rates.

Brad Downs, Bairnsdale, Vic

My only stay in an airport hotel was wonderful. Our flight from Johannesburg was delayed overnight, and we were transported at midnight to the Southern Sun Airport Hotel. The dining room was kept open for us and the next day, we were treated to a smorgasbord of South African delicacies at breakfast, tea and lunch. The train direct to Sandton City shopping centre was an added bonus for last-minute shopping.

Rhoda Silber, Manly, NSW

SINGLE MINDED

Well done, Lee Tulloch, for pointing out ageism and wrongly held assumptions in the travel industry about older travellers (Traveller, July 9). Spare a thought also for single older travellers. Travel articles and advertising place a heavy emphasis on couples, yet among the over 50s there are plenty of cashed-up singles who would appreciate recognition that they exist and have particular accommodation needs. Articles, advertising and photographs almost invariably promote king beds and "romantic getaways". Older singles usually only need a double bed at most, and singles travelling together appreciate twin rooms where the beds are not so close together that they may as well be doubles.

Liz Edwards, Orange, NSW

TIP OF THE WEEK

CAUGHT MAPPING

We are in the middle of a 10 week trip to Norway and Iceland. An app called Maps.me has transformed our travel. It is a free app, whereby you can download different countries and use it offline. It has detailed information including hotels, ATMs, petrol stations, tourist sites and grocery stores. The app provides driving, walking and other transport route options and estimated times. It has helped us hike to the highest mountains in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway with most hiking routes and parking spots marked and the ability to track your progress. A traveller's must.

Jenni Davidson, Balmain, NSW

GREETER GOOD

Ute Junker, in her story on free attractions and experiences around the world (Traveller, July 10), possibly hasn't heard of the International Greeter Association (internationalgreeter.org). Visitors to 130 destinations (including Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane here in Australia) can meet a local Greeter for a free walking tour to explore the greeter's home city. They will discover spots known only to locals and get an inside perspective from someone who lives there. It's a great introduction to the city you're visiting without the expense.

Joanne Karcz, Dangar Island, NSW

PUT THE "FREE" IN FREEDOM

Another fantastic free experience to add to the list is Boston's Freedom Trail. This self-guided walk takes you through the top 16 historical sites in Boston. There are organised tours for a small fee but it is easy to walk and there is information at each site to read. There are also wheelchair accessible routes. The website (thefreedomtrail.org) has many resources to help you prepare your visit. I lived in Boston for eight years and this was my go-to activity for visiting friends and family and was always a big hit.

Kay Hartman, Willoughby, NSW

BALI LOW

I recently flew to Bali for a hoped-for relaxing break but Bali airport was a shemozzle of queues and chaos. First there is a long queue to show your vaccination certificate. Then Australians need to queue again to pay $US35 for a visa - an impost recently reinstated by the Indonesian authorities - with a mass of queues for immigration. My advice is to stay calm because, while the process took almost two hours, I also still had to wait for my bag before facing the fourth queue to go through customs. It's such a pity because the Balinese people need our support so much at the moment and are being let down by their airport.

Simon Benedict, Docklands, Vic

RED HOT

I recently returned from a trip to Alice Springs where I had booked a car to hire 12 months ago. The day before I was due to pick up the car, I received an email confirming my booking. Upon closer inspection, I fortunately noticed that the charges had increased by 50 per cent. After a phone call, adjustments were made so that the original charge was honoured. Even with that amendment to the car hire fee, it proved to be an expensive trip to visit the Red Centre but the beauty and magic of it was compelling. I can't wait to go back.

Jane Buckingham, Apollo Bay, Vic

CONDITIONS APPLY

We hired a car in Italy recently through the aggregator rentalcars.com. When renting, the pick up was clearly Rome and the drop off Naples. Be careful because deep in all the terms and conditions there was a clause saying the car company used (Locauto) can effectively charge you what they like as a drop off fee, even though we thought that this was covered off by nominating pick up and drop off. My credit card was ultimately charged an additional €100 or so.

Vince Vozzo, Blairgowrie, Vic

GRATUITIES ADVICE

One of your recent Traveller articles mentioned Australians not understanding the US "tip culture". By way of explanation when travelling in the States, it's important to be aware that service staff, such as waiters and baristas, unlike here in Australia, don't receive a decent wage. Americans doing the same jobs receive such a paltry wage that they are utterly dependent on the tipping generosity of patrons.

John B. Quinn, Avoca, Vic

WRITE TO US AND WIN

The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100. For July, that includes Vantastic by Kate Ulman; Great World Wonders by Michael Turtle; and Ultimate Weekends Australia by Emma Shaw.

See hardiegrant.com

The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Ultimate Australia Travel List, The Travel Book and Armchair Explorer.

See shop.lonelyplanet.com

HOW TO WRITE TO US

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