Trouble-free Meridiana flies to the island of Sardinia.

Cape Town - With the rand at its present low level against the pound, US dollar and euro it’s not surprising that our international tourism season has got off to an encouraging start with British and continental European visitors already here. What is surprising, though, is that South Africans are also travelling in large numbers and not only to the cheapest available destinations but to the UK and Europe, taking advantage of the seasonal flights available now from Cape Town Airport in addition to those provided all year round by British Airways, KLM and Turkish Airways.

Italy, reached from here by way of Zurich with Edelweiss, from Paris with Air France and from Dubai with Emirates, is as always a popular destination even in their winter. But for those who prefer to wait until the European spring, a new way available from the beginning of April will be from Gatwick Airport with Italy’s second largest airline, Meridiana which, according to London-based on-line Business Travel News, will compete with BA and low-cost airline Easyjet on the route from there to Naples.

Italy’s national airline, Alitalia, is (as frequently happens) in trouble and hop-ing that UAE airline Etihad will invest in it. But Etihad chief executive James Hogan had reportedly not reached a decision last week pending a due diligence report. Trouble-free Meridiana flies to the island of Sardinia, as well as to several domestic and international destinations from Rome and Malpensa airports.


Sky Team

South Africans planning a round-the- world trip that can last 10 days or as long as a year – which all three of the international airline alliances offer – may be tempted by Sky Team’s updated arrangement offering on-line booking with a choice of 1 024 destinations in 178 countries, including several cities in China, travelling with any of its 19 members who include KLM, Aerolinas Argentinas, Aero Mexico, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, US Delta, Kenya Airways, Korean Air and Russian Aeroflot.

The world trips are offered in four different packages based on the number of miles travelled, which vary from 26 000 to 38 000, and allow some backtracking and more than one stop in a single country. The routes, however, must include crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

A valuable advantage is that if you change your mind during a trip about the length of stay in any particular destination you can extend it or cut it short, contacting the nearest alliance member for help in changing your booking. And, of course, not all of us are sufficiently confident to make our own arrangements on-line for a lengthy or complicated trip. It can be booked through a travel agent and, although many young people prefer to make their own arrangements, I hear that travel agents are becoming busier again.


Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year starts at the end of this month and SAA’s flights to Beijing and Hong Kong from Joburg, Cathay Pacific Airline’s flights to Hong Kong from Joburg and Singapore Airline’s flights to its home airport from Cape Town by way of Joburg, offering connecting flights to China, are expected to be crowded with Chinese and Taiwanese passengers who live and work in this country returning home for the holiday celebrations. - Weekend Argus