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August 4, 2010

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    London to Naples
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Cheerio from Europe! Last week we left off from London. From there we are flying to everyone's dream destination, the Amalfi Coast. In the coming weeks I will tell you all about my stay in southern Italy, including my flight to Naples on British Airways, which is happening as I write this! We also have a story on an island much closer to home-Catalina, just 26 miles off the Los Angeles coast but a world away. And for those who have a timeshare, you won't want to miss reading about a new site that eliminates the exchange fees.

FREE TICKET
If you missed last week's story on London, here is my write-up on my stay at the Draycott Hotel and my glimpse of the Queen. The week before I checked out the swanky Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair and attended a British Airways (BA) party. While at the BA party (with CEO Willie Walsh), I asked one of their PR reps, How about you guys fly me down to Italy so I can write about it? And they agreed. The kicker is, I was going to fly them anyway, because it was between BA or Alitalia and I wanted to get there on time even with BA's strikes taking place. That saved me $200, so I was stoked-and you know I write about everything, no matter who's paying or how good or bad the experience. My Italian adventure is off to a great start.

PACK LIGHT
I left the Draycott Hotel at 8 A.M. and walked a couple of blocks to the Sloane Square Tube station in the rain. The trains come every few minutes and it took just five minutes to get to Victoria Station. I prefer the Tube because I not only save time (avoiding traffic) but money (taxis are expensive). If you are going to go the same route, it's imperative to pack light, as there were no escalators in either station (there might be elevators, but I didn't stick around long enough to find out). What's nice is that the Tube stations do have a special entry/exit for those with luggage so you don't have to squeeze through. Victoria Station was a mad house at 8:15 A.M.-just like Grand Central Terminal-so stick together if traveling with other people.

GETTING TO GATWICK AIRPORT
I'm pretty much an expert on getting to Heathrow Airport, as I've been there so many times and taken almost every possible mode of transport to get to/from: bus, tube, taxi, private limo, and Heathrow Express. (The latter is by far my favorite and the quickest.) But I've only been to Gatwick a couple of times and it's been a while, so I asked my local friends what was the best way to get there. They said what I thought they were going to: Gatwick Express.



GATWICK EXPRESS
The Gatwick Express train is similar to the Heathrow Express except it takes longer (30 minutes total) and leaves from London's Victoria Station rather than Paddington Station. Trains depart every 15 minutes Monday to Sunday after 5 A.M. FYI: The first train leaves at 3:30 A.M. and the last train is 12:32 A.M. (or in English time, 00:32). The trains in the off hours have their own schedule so double-check times before leaving.

VICTORIA TO GATWICK
Gatwick Express trains leave right on time, just like mine did, so don't be late. The best place to get your tickets is online so you can get a 10 percent discount (you need to purchase a day in advance). Another way to save money is to buy a return ticket for one of their two classes of service: Express Class (coach) and First Class. First class really isn't worth the extra money unless you have an expense account and want more legroom, a car to yourself, and a free newspaper. Express Class Single tickets begin at £15.20 (US$24), while First Class Single is £22.00 (US$35). Children under five travel free in both classes. FYI: There's no Wi-Fi on the train. It's possible to buy tickets onboard the train and there is no penalty charge. For more info, log on to GatwickExpress.com.

GATWICK AIRPORT
Since my flight was going out of the North Terminal, I needed to hop on the airport's free bus to transfer from the South Terminal . It takes nine minutes during peak times and six minutes off-peak. I checked in for my flight online from the hotel and I wasn't checking bags, so I went straight to security. There was no line and I took my laptop out and belt off, but left my shoes on. Unlike in America, the screeners will bust you for not taking your liquids out, and once they do they will hand-search your bags, which takes more time, so it's best to have liquids in the three-ounce clear plastic bag (just like in America) and take it out of your carry-on at security.

AIRPORT BARGAINS
I cleared security so quick that I had plenty of time to kill. I wandered around trying to find the good deals. The best I came upon was at Boots, where two bottles of water were going for £1.79 (US$2.84) instead of one for £2 (US$3.17). The other deal was £1 (US$1.58) for the big Cadbury candy bars sitting on the checkout counter-I grabbed one.

EXIT ROW
What's nice about British Airways is that they offer complimentary magazines to passengers. What's not friendly is that they charge £10 (US$15.80) to choose your seat in advance. However, from 24 hours before departure it's free to select a seat, so it's best to check in online like I did-I scored an exit-row seat (12F). Sitting in the exit row makes flying coach a joy, and it helps when you have cool seatmates. One of them was reading the Sun newspaper, whose page 3 has a different naked girl each day (no wonder they sell so many papers). FYI: British Airways doesn't allow passengers who sit in the exit row to store any bags underneath the seat.

LONDON TO NAPLES
We boarded the 737 right on time, there was plenty of overhead bin space, and the flight was full. We pushed back exactly as scheduled at 10:55 A.M.. We taxied for 25 minutes, and 8 minutes after takeoff the seat-belt sign went off, even though we were still climbing. Why can't U.S. airlines do this? Instead they keep it on for what seems like an hour after takeoff. Flight time for the 988-mile flight was 2:20.

ENTERTAINMENT/FOOD
There was no entertainment on board, so be sure to bring a book, iPod, computer, or Sun newspaper. However, BA does offer free food. The flight attendants came down the aisles passing out drinks (first alcoholic one is free) and sandwiches: One half was Coronation chicken, Red Leicester, and Chutney, and the other was a cheese sandwich .

ARRIVAL
We landed a few minutes early and deplaned by descending open-air stairs and then boarded a bus. The line for passport control was really long for EU citizens, but after a few minutes the agent started waving them all through, just glancing at their passports. For non-EU citizens like me the line was short (eight people in front of me) but had a longer wait. I stood there anxiously for 12 minutes until it was my turn (I was the second to last person in line). After the agent stamped my passport I headed to the fairly clean bathroom so I could change out of my jeans and into shorts-it was hot out.

NEXT WEEK
Capri, Italy!



*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Note: This trip was sponsored by British Airways







Copyright 2010 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

BA CEO Willie Walsh

 

Victoria Station

 

Gatwick Express

 

First Class on Gatwick Express

 

Bus to North Terminal

 

Gatwick Airport

 

Departure Board

 

BA 737

 

Woo Hoo!

 

Boarding

 

Exit Row

 

My Cool Seatmates

 

They Just Got Cooler

 

Bye Bye Rain

 

Takeoff

 

Free Food

 

Ciao, Italy

 

Landed in NAP

 

Bus to Terminal

 

Walk to Customs

 

Passport Line

 

Next Week

 

MEDIA ALERT
SOME OF LAST WEEK'S READER AIR-eMAIL
  • We were in London last week, too. We stayed on Queen's Gate, in a flat we rent from In The English Manner, a terrific company with flats all over town. Great value, especially if you are traveling with kids and desperately want to have separate bedrooms and bathrooms and don't wan to have to pay for two hotel rooms. They are based in London but have a US booking office and phone number: 800-422-0799. www.english-manner.com Joyce F Ė Darien, CT


  • Big thanks for your great review of the Draycott. We will surely stay there on our next trip to London. Your thorough report -- with informative photos -- make it easy for us to accept your findings -- and book a visit. Keep up the good work. PS -- Would you tell us if something was really disappointing? Ken W Ė Philadelphia, PA


  • Great newsletter, as usual Johnny Jet! Punchy, with lots of timely stuff! Scott M Ė Anchorage, AK


  • Very pleased to hear from your latest newsletter that you enjoyed your trip to London (my adopted city for many years now). Your report is excellent. The next time you come to London you might like to consider a home exchange. Our agency is based in London and has been running a home swap service for 25 years. We also provide a service for the Guardian newspaper and so have a very large choice of exchange offers throughout the city (and worldwide). Hope youíll have a look! Our newly designed website will be launched within the next three to four weeks. Then, we will be concentrating on attracting overseas visitors planning to come to London 2012 (only two years away) to consider a home exchange at a time when hotel rooms will be expensive and at a premium. As home swaps can sometimes take a little time to arrange, itís not too soon to start making plans for exchanges to London in 2012! Lois S - Home Base Holidays, London


  • Just amazing. I told my daughter about your site and she usually E-mails about one of your stories or info and before I get around to scroll down to your site I know [what] she has already seen. Keep up the good work. If there is anything I can ever do for you let me know. You have helped us so much. John S. - Modesto CA


  • Please do not start with faggot news and by the way the word gay use to mean happy get the real word please Johnny you start this from pressure we will boycott. K.V.- Las Vegas


  • You are a true jet setter JJ - I love it! Gus M - NYC


  • I want to share the experience my wife and I had on a return flight from St. Louis to Phoenix on the 6th of April with U.S. Airways. I bought round trip tickets from Bakersfield Ca. to St. Louis back in January from Travelocity. The flight to St. Louis was very good but we did have to pay an extra $85 for our baggage. When we went to check in for our return flight, I was asked to swipe my card. I assumed, bad word, it was for our luggage to be returned to Ca. Nothing was said by the agent about our seating. When we got our boarding passes I noticed that we had been upgraded to First Class. We got to the boarding gate and I asked the agent there about the tickets and she said you must have been upgraded and she stated, ďDonít ask, donít say. We enjoyed our flight and came home. Then, here comes my credit card bill. The airline has charged us for the First Class seats, an additional $150 each. I emailed the airline and said they were sorry and they were working on procedures to alleviate the problem we had. They also offered two ticket discounts on future flight if we bought directly from them. I also called Travelocity and when they called the airline, the airline said we had requested first class. Why would I do that if I got the cheap flight to begin with? Here is the kicker, the plane was full, I had already purchased my seats and had a confirmation so the airline sold our original seats to someone else. What would have happened if I had refused the First Class tickets? The airline would not respond to that. Please inform people to be careful when asked to slide their credit card at check in. We contacted the credit card company, but the responses from the airline were conflicting. After much consideration we just chalked it up to an expensive lesson that will never happen again! Rick W - Porterville, CA




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