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Diary of a travel writer: Airports big it up and scale it down

THURSDAY Pier pressure, you could call it. The air heads at Dublin Airport have decided to give those piers of theirs the P45 and rename the gates. They start on the right with Gate 1010 and work their way round to the left with gate 342, and there will be 18 numbered from 400 up when the new terminal opens. You have to hand it to them for giving Dublin that extra lift -- no airport in the world has 400 gates. It is nice to pretend.

FRIDAY Willie Walsh can breathe again. BA's big loss was only a slightly overweight loss. Walsh talks about averting the cabin-crew strike and dropping business class from short-haul flights. Business class to Europe is a thing of the past for Irish fliers since Aer Lingus and then bmi dropped it. From this summer it will be impossible to get a business-class flight from Dublin to London. Long-haulers will miss it.

SATURDAY There are more than 76,000 in Croke Park for the easiest match of the Six Nations series. Everyone goes home happy and the stadium is in good shape. They still overcharge for hot dogs on rugby weekends.

SUNDAY A question dawns in the middle of a long conversation with the new president-elect of the Irish Travel Agents Association. Is Pat Dawson the first person in Irish public life whose mother is a retired nun?

She joined up as a late vocation, after his father died. The Cork travel agent has another distinction: he is the first president of the Travel Agent's Association who can't swim. He grew up in Bagenalstown and calls it a "disadvantage of a Midlands childhood".

A fervent Manchester United supporter, his best holiday ever was the 1999 Champions League final.

He needs two injury-time goals to turn his Association around. The tide is going out fast for his trade -- just short of 100 travel agent retail shops closed down last year.

MONDAY A week to midterm and ski places still left. Austria is the piste of choice for Irish people. No matter what the tour operators do they cannot get us to go to France.

The hotels chart shows that Moscow is, once again, the most expensive city in the world. Not good news for soccer fans. Dublin hotel prices are down 20pc. Great for the Russians. Not that it matters. Sports fans go around with a "gouge me" sign on their backs.

TUESDAY Message from Gatwick: they have gone gaga over baggage. Passengers are being asked to fit their bag into the Gatwick cage. This, apparently, is smaller than Christophe Mueller's Aer Lingus cage or Michael O'Leary's Ryanair cage. O'Leary and Mueller get an extra €30 if your bag doesn't make it. The security guards at Gatwick get to indulge the bullying that was denied them in the schoolyard.

WEDNESDAY The joys of live radio. I am warbling away on Raidio na Gaeltachta's Glor Anoir when I realise I've used the wrong word: roinn margadaiochta, marketing department, somehow came out as roinn marcaiochta, riding department. Embarrassing that. I have come across a few gouging departments, yes. But riding?

In the travel industry, that would be telling.


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