Jetstar misses bedtime, fined

Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar has been fined nearly AU$150,000 (US$112,000) for the “wanton and deliberate” breach of Sydney Airport‘s curfew. From 11pm to 6am, takeoffs and landings are prohibited – except when permission is granted. So, imagine the anguish caused when Jetstar flight JQ37’s wheels went up at 11:28pm!

It gets worse.

The flight had been delayed for seven hours, keeping 70 passengers on the ground who had planned to be elsewhere long after the plane wound up taking off. Jetstar asked for an exception to the curfew … and was refused. Though rules were broken, the effect was softened by the fact that the pilot took off over the water to avoid disturbing area residents.

So, for once, an airline effectively announced a grand “Screw you!” to the rules to the passengers’ benefit. Hey, the airline may have its flaws – such as requiring overweight passengers to buy two aisle seats (figure that one out …) – but with this incident, it shows that it does care about its customers.

Could Jetstar have waited for airport officials to come around? Well, this event occurred on December 3, 2007, and those officials are just getting around to levying the fine now.

Do the math.

Pay to play in Aussie airport parking lots

For the past decade, Australians have griped about the escalating cost of short-term airport parking. Accusations of monopoly pricing were leveled, and a year ago, the government got involved, having the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) keep an eye on parking lot fees at the country’s five largest airports. The results are amazing.

Airports pull in 11 percent of their revenue from parking. In Melbourne, it’s a whopping 21 percent, while Sydney‘s airport pulls in a more modest 7 percent of its financial take from the parking lots. Since no government agency is willing to put its head on the chopping block the ACCC would only say that this is “consistent with airports having a monopoly position.”

Of course, there are perks to paying. People parking at the Melbourne airport were the most satisfied customers, with those frequenting Sydney’s lots at the bottom.

But, convenience always wins.

The Sydney airport is only 10 kilometers (a little more than 6 miles) from the city, and only 13 percent of passengers use the airport’s parking lots. Melbourne’s airport is more than twice as far away, making airport parking more sensible.

Watch a ship burn at Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney is the largest international music and light festival in the Southern Hemisphere (at least according to the press release they sent me). It starts May 26 and runs through June 14, so you still have time to book your tickets. If Jetstar fits into your travel plans, just make sure you fit into a Jetstar seat

“The inaugural year of Vivid Sydney is an exciting milestone in the establishment of Sydney as the cultural epicenter of the Asia-Pacific,” says Jodi McKay, New South Wales Minister for Tourism. “Our city possesses a wealth of creative talent across a variety of industries and this unique event illuminates the city’s most vibrant citizens.”

Vivid Sydney consists of four events, artistic villages and performances in and near the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Circular Quay and the City Center. Luminous, a music festival at the opera house, has Brian Eno at the helm. I’ve never heard of him, but apparently he’s worked with the likes of David Bowie, U2 and … you better believe it … the Talking Heads!

Smart Light Sydney, part of the Vivid Sydney experience, offers sculptures in light art and is the brainchild of Sydney born lighting designer and composer Mary-Anne Kyriakou.

Fire Water is a free event that blends “flame, food and spectacle.” A publicist said it, so it must be true. It will showcase an interpretation of the burning of convict ship Three bees, which sank in Sydney Cove in 1814. I have to admit, that actually does sound pretty amazing.

“We have some of the city’s best creative minds working on this festival, and we are confident that in time Vivid Sydney will attract the same level of international attention as the City’s New Year’s Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour,” says Geoff Parmenter, Chief Executive Officer, Events New South Wales.

Spending boom(ers) in Australia

For the past six years, people over age 55 spend more than anyone else on travel, according to Tourism Australia. For the first nine months of 2008, they accounted for 20 percent of all cash dropped on domestic travel. Once open wallets are starting to close, but the empty nesters are still taking advantage of their freedom.

And, they’re getting picky.

Members of the “baby boomer” generation – born between 1946 and 1964 – have high expectations, particularly when it comes to hotels. They want exactly what they want … and insist on being treated like they’re still in their 30s (who could blame them?).

So, when you see the aged tourist making a scene at the front desk, don’t bother shooting dirty looks or muttering under your breath. Either he won’t hear you or just won’t care.

Nine wonders in 26 days

Planning ahead has never paid off quite so much. If you’re thinking about a big trip for the fall, kick around Abercrombie & Kent‘s “Nine Wonders of the World” excursion. A private jet will cart you to the most impressive destinations our planet has to offer over 26 days, and you just won’t want to come back to reality.

The experience kicks off on October 19 at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, where you enjoy a welcome dinner with your fellow travelers. The next day, you dash off to Lima, Peru, which is your gateway to the former world of the Incas. Explore Machu Picchu, and roam around this part of the world for a few days.

Your next stop is Easter Island, which includes a walk through the caves of Ana Kai and a horseback archeological excursion. The lava tunnels will be particularly interesting. After Samoa, it’s off to Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Other stops on this trip include the Angkor complex of temples in Cambodia and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities (home to relics from Tutankhamun). The full list, it feels, is endless.

Of course, this sort of life-changing experience isn’t cheap. You’ll spend close to $90,000 to enjoy the luxury that A&K puts together, but you’ll never doubt your decision.

To get a sense of the trip’s full scope, take a closer look at the itinerary.