Travel

Irish dad's ashes found after baggage blunder

Losing a piece of luggage is very stressful for international travellers but when that case contains the ashes of a beloved relative, the pain is acute.

This is what happened to the Gilmour family from Tasmania enroute to Ireland last week.

Bob Gilmour (63) and his family had travelled from Australia with the remains of his parents to fulfil their wishes of being laid to rest in their Irish and English birthplaces.

But when they landed in Dublin last Saturday off a flight from Italy, Mr Gilmour made the grim discovery that his luggage, and the ashes, were nowhere to be found.

However, after a scramble by Aer Lingus staff to locate the bags they were finally found on Tuesday at Milan’s Malpensa Airport where they had been forgotten by baggage handlers.

Mr Gilmour told The Irish Times a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“It feels great,” he said of the prospect of being able to scatter his father’s ashes over his grandparents’ grave in his hometown of Ballymena, Co Antrim.

The luggage containing Sam Gilmour’s ashes were discovered at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

The luggage containing Sam Gilmour’s ashes were discovered at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

“I know it’s what he wanted. I am sure he will be at peace knowing that he is at home with his mum and dad.”

Bob’s late father Sam Gilmour met his wife Marjorie, who was from Birmingham, while serving in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. They later married and in 1967 emigrated with their 11-year-old son Bob to Australia.

Before their deaths, the couple said they wanted to have their remains brought back to their respective home countries and scattered on family graves. So when Bob Gilmour’s youngest daughter was offered the opportunity to train at a ballet school in Italy the family seized the opportunity.

“Honestly my dad would be laughing his head off,” he said of the drama.

An Aer Lingus spokesman said the airline was very sorry over the blunder.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” the spokesman said.

Most airlines, including Aer Lingus, permit passengers to carry ashes contained in an urn as either checked or cabin baggage.

“The undertaker or funeral director must ensure that the urn is secured in a padded, leak-proof container that is not made of metal, as it must pass through an X-ray machine,” the Aer Lingus website says.

“The urn is then part of your normal baggage allowance. You must be in possession of a death certificate and cremation certificate to be allowed carry ashes on board.”

Fare war delivers amazing flight deals to Ireland

Airlines are offering amazing flight deals to Ireland with return fares as low as $1039 on offer.

A fare war has broken out between carriers flying one-stop into Dublin from Australia’s major cities resulting in record low fares.

While an economy trip to Ireland at peak periods like Christmas can often cost close to $3,000, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Cathay Pacific are all promoting return fares under $1500 if people are prepared to fly between September and November or between January and May.

Flights to Dublin airport from Australia have never been cheaper.

Flights to Dublin airport from Australia have never been cheaper.

Until July 22, booking return flights from Perth to Dublin will set travellers back as little as $1,029* when flying with two or more people on Qatar Airways.

The Doha-based carrier is offering similar deals from Sydney ($1059), Melbourne ($1039), Adelaide ($1029) and Canberra ($1079).

To take advantage of the See the World Together offer, travellers need to book on select dates between September 21, 2019 and March 31, 2020, excluding the busy November to December Christmas period.

ALSO READ: Echo lists the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time

Cathay Pacific, the most recent carrier to offer a one-stop option into Dublin, also has a Global Sale on until the end of July.

Travellers can fly to Dublin return for as little as $1210** from Perth. The Hong Kong-based carrier is also offering great return economy fares from Sydney ($1326), Melbourne ($1310) and Brisbane ($1332). Some exclusion dates apply and travel must be completed by the end of May, 2020.

Etihad, meanwhile, is offering great return deals into Dublin from Melbourne ($1294***), Sydney ($1322) and Brisbane ($1477). Bookings must be made by July 26 and travel must be completed by May 31, 2020. Once again, exclusion dates and some terms and conditions apply.

*Qatar Terms and Conditions: Offer valid until 22 July 2019, unless sold out prior. Fares (AUD) quoted above are the lowest adult return prices per person including taxes, fees, and airport charges departing from the mentioned cities to Dublin when booked with one or more companions. Other sale dates may be available. ‘Companion’ refers to a minimum of two (2) and maximum of nine (9) people travelling together on the same booking for the entire journey. Economy Class companion fares shown above are for departures from 21 September - 22 November 2019, 23 December - 31 December 2019, and 12 January - 31 March 2020. Business Class companion fares shown above are for departures from 1 October - 30 November 2019, 23 December - 31 December 2019, and 1 February - 31 March 2020. Inbound blackout dates apply: in Economy Class between 25 September - 15 October 2019, 12 December - 22 December 2019, and 1 January - 26 January 2020; in Business Class between 15 September - 31 October 2019 and 10 December 2019 - 31 January 2020. All travel must be completed by 31 March 2020. Fares may vary due to currency fluctuations. Seasonal surcharges, weekend surcharges, and blackout periods may apply. For all other terms and conditions please review at time of booking.

** Cathay Pacific Terms and Conditions: Offer ends: 31 JUL 2019 23:59 (AEST) Departures: UK & Europe: 11 JUL 2019 – 26 JUN 2019; 8 JUL 2019 – 12 Dec 2019; 28 Dec 2019 – 31 MAY 2020. Prices displayed are based on the lowest fare available for travel in low season. Prices are inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, current as at 12 Jul 19. Seats are limited and availability may vary based on flight number, departure date and airport.

***Etihad Terms and Conditions: Discounts only valid for bookings until 26 Jul 2019, for travel until 31 May 2020. Fares are inclusive of applicable taxes, the break down will be shown during the online booking process. Weekend surcharges apply. Flight/day restriction and blackout periods may apply. The airport taxes are subject to change without prior notice and will be confirmed at the time of booking. For full list of destinations and detailed terms & conditions, visit etihad.com .

NZ visa changes to impact Irish passport holders

New Zealand is implementing new visa requirements from October 1, with Irish passport holders among those who will be impacted.

Visitors from Ireland must now request an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) before travelling to New Zealand, which tourists from visa-waiver countries previously did not need.

Irish citizens will need an ETA, which is similar to a visitor visa, to stay in New Zealand for up to three months, while Australian citizens will be exempt from both traditional visa and ETA requirements.

The authorisation does not permit visitors to work in the country.

Irish citizens travelling to New Zealand will need to apply for an ETA.

Irish citizens travelling to New Zealand will need to apply for an ETA.

To apply for an ETA, which is electronically linked to passengers’ passports and remains valid for two years, visitors must provide information such as criminal conviction history and travel intentions, and pay a NZ $12 fee.

Almost four million travellers visited the island country in 2018, which has experienced a surge in tourism in the last five years as people flock to its ski slopes and waterfront cities.

According to Immigration New Zealand, the changes are intended to enhance security, address immigration and smuggling risks, and improve the traveller experience.

Tourists may also need to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL), but Immigration New Zealand has yet to announce which travellers are required to make this payment.


Cathay Pacific's Irish route a 'game changer'

Cathay Pacific cabin crew Christine Wang and Winnie Phan with James Ginns, Regional General Manager Europe, Cathay Pacific, and Vincent Harrison, Managing Director, Dublin Airport.

Cathay Pacific cabin crew Christine Wang and Winnie Phan with James Ginns, Regional General Manager Europe, Cathay Pacific, and Vincent Harrison, Managing Director, Dublin Airport.

Expats and tourists travelling between Australia and Ireland are now spoiled for choice as competition ramps up on the lucrative route.

Cathay Pacific is the latest carrier to offer direct flights from Asia into Dublin, joining Etihad, Emirates and Qatar in an increasingly crowded market.

Cathay Pacific flies to Dublin four times a week on the state-of-the-art A350 aircraft and the new route has been hailed as a great success by the airline and tourism chiefs.

Cathay Pacific General Manager Europe James Ginns said, “We’re delighted that Ireland’s first and only non-stop flight to Hong Kong has been well-received by our customers. Our team is thrilled to be able have a role in fostering bilateral tourism and economic growth between Ireland and Asia. We feel confident that this new route will continue to bring more convenience and choice to the Irish public and optimise opportunities for Irish businesses.”

Tourism chiefs in Ireland have also hailed the route as “a game changer”.

Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said: “China is the largest outbound travel market in the world and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. In 2017, we welcomed an estimated 70,000 Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland; the introduction of the new direct flight from Hong Kong is a major game-changer and offers a real opportunity for us to build on this number.

“We are confident that we are in a strong position to grow this emerging travel market … over the coming years.”

The Airbus A350-900 flies the 12 and half hour route between Dublin and Hong Kong.

The Airbus A350-900 flies the 12 and half hour route between Dublin and Hong Kong.

In the Irish summer months, the flight departs Dublin at 11.55am, arriving in Hong Kong at 07.05am. The return flight departs Hong Kong at 12.50am, arriving in Dublin at 06.45am. In the Irish winter months, the flight will depart Dublin at 11am, arriving in Hong Kong at 7.30am. The return flight will depart Hong Kong at 12.15am and arrive in Dublin at 05.30am.

Connection options to and from Australia are considerable with direct flights to Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. A brief stopover in Hong Kong can mean a ‘door-to-door’ travel time of less than 23 hours from Dublin to Sydney when travelling east.

The Airbus A350-900, which services the Dublin-Hong Kong route, carries a total of 280 passengers , 38 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy.

Cathay Pacific crew at Dublin Airport.

Cathay Pacific crew at Dublin Airport.

The business class service features state-of-the-art seats which adapt to your preference in-flight and include two pre-set settings for sitting and sleeping with additional controls for smaller adjustments. The fully flat bed is extremely comfortable and the friendly cabin crew are sensitive to not disturbing you unless absolutely necessary.

The in-flight food is excellent with a variety of tasty options for each meal, all served with fine wines and a selection of spirits and beers. Business class passengers can enjoy a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music and games on their own generously-proportioned touchscreen TV and top quality headphones. In-flight wi-fi is also available and passengers can pre-download an app for their tablet or smartphone to access the internet in the air.

According to Australia-based Irish specialist travel agents, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Dublin route is proving very popular with expats and tourists alike.

The writer travelled at his own expense but received an upgrade to business class courtesy of Cathay Pacific.