2 March 2011
Each week Luke McCormick, Wexas Channel Editor, provides an inside look at the latest headlines and gives his independent, expert comment.
This week: Christchurch quake update, Boeing’s jetliner shake-up and trekking in Peru.
Christchurch quake update
After the horrific earthquake in Christchurch this week, travellers considering a visit to New Zealand are being advised that all regions outside the Canterbury area remain open.
Although considerable damage has been reported in the Christchurch Central Business District and in Lyttelton, the rest of New Zealand is unaffected.
Christchurch International Airport is open for domestic and international flights and all other South Island and New Zealand airports are open and operating.
In Christchurch passengers are being advised to confirm check in times and revised flight details with their airline, with delays expected. Departing passengers should not go to the airport unless they have confirmation their flight is scheduled.
Tourism New Zealand said in a statement that a state of national emergency has been declared, however this only applies to the Christchurch area and does not have any direct impact on other areas of New Zealand. It is expected to last for seven days at this stage.
There is currently a cordon around the Central Business District in Christchurch and rescue work and damage assessment is ongoing. Travellers intending to travel to or from Christchurch over the next seven days are advised to avoid any non-essential travel.
All trains in the Christchurch region are stopped until further notice. Trains are moving south of Ashburton and are able to move north of Rangiora to Picton.
The TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal passenger trains are currently cancelled due to track damage. It is hoped operations can resume on 01 March, subject to infrastructure inspections and repairs being completed.
The popular ’TranzAlpine’ operates from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass, while the ’TranzCoastal’ runs from Christchurch to Picton via Kaikoura and Blenheim. The ’TranzScenic’ will review start dates as progress is made.
Should you be considering Christchurch as a destination, please call our consultants for the latest. Certainly for the time being look to avoid Christchurch and consider other areas of the South Island, such as Queenstown, Milford Sound or the many glaciers along the coast.
Nearby Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs are also popular. You may need to fly into Wellington if your plans to travel around the South Island are immediate, however all reports suggest Christchurch Airport itself is operational.
For people wondering about the quake’s impact on Christchurch’s ability to fulfill its 2011 Rugby World Cup responsibilities, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he hoped that the city would still be able to host its allotment of games for the competition in September and October.
"It’s a very important city to New Zealand and it would be a demonstration Christchurch is back up on its feet," he said.
But the head of the Cup’s organising committee said it was too early to make such a decision.
"Any assessment by us must wait while the rescue efforts take priority," said Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden.
He said no games would be shifted offshore, to Australia.
Boeing’s jetliner shake-up
Boeing last week unveiled the new 747-8 Intercontinental jet in front of a crowd of 10,000 people in Everett, Washington, USA. The 747-8 is the world’s longest plane and the largest Boeing has ever built.
The company is hoping this redesign of the classic 747 will rival the Airbus A380.
The jetliner retains the shape of the iconic Boeing 747 that first revolutionised air travel 40 years ago, but that’s where the similarities end.
"You’re looking at a new wing, a new body, new engines and when you look inside, you’ll see an all-new interior," said Pat Shanahan, Airplane Programs Vice President and General Manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The aircraft will be more than 76m long, 6m longer than any of its predecessors, with a wingspan of 68.5m. The plane can carry 467 passengers - 51 more than the current version of the 747 - and will feature interiors inspired by the anticipated, yet troubled, 787 Dreamliner jet.
Boeing promises the new aircraft will provide passengers with a ‘world-class experience’, as well as boasting improved performance.
"The new 747-8 Intercontinental features the latest in innovative technologies - applying many of the breakthroughs also found on the 787 Dreamliner," Jim Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes President said.
The 747-8 may look like any other 747 jet, but in addition to new engines and an all-new wing designed to reduce drag and increase performance, the aircraft has increased in volume by 16%.
Boeing hopes the extra size and efficiency will tempt airlines and passengers away from the Airbus A380. That may be a way off though as the 747-8 will not be with launch customer Lufthansa until early 2012.
Even with all the extra space the Boeing 747-8 will still not be able to carry the number of passengers - 550 in a 3-class configuration - possible on the Airbus A380.
The first 747-8 is due to take to the skies in about six weeks time, launching a 600-hour flight test programme.
There have been a total of 33 orders of the jet so far, including Korean Air and Lufthansa, which has ordered 20 and will be the first to receive the new model.
Just as Boeing was revolutionizing air travel 40 years ago, Dr Ian Wilson launched Wexas in 1970 - then the World Universities Expeditionary Association. The travel club has grown from providing cheap flights for students to providing an all-round tailor-made travel service to 30,000 discerning travellers.
To celebrate our 40th anniversary we’ve teamed up with Mountain Lodges of Peru to create a once-in-a-lifetime lodge-to-lodge trek to the celebrated Machu Picchu - exclusive to Wexas members.
This fabulous 12-day trip begins in Lima on 29 October 2011 and includes a visit to Cusco before following the ancient Inca trail, the Salkantay Route, through stunning mountain scenery, all in the company of fellow Wexas members.
The Salkantay Route is the only lodge-to-lodge trek to the ancient Inca citadel and given the recent changes to the way permits are released for the classic, and at times overcrowded, Inca Trail, there’s all the more reason to consider it as an alternative.
For more information on this special trek, contact one of our Peru specialists.
Authorities in Peru have recently changed the way they allocate permits for up to 500 people who are given permission to walk the trail each day.
Until this year, permits for the entire year were issued in January on a first-come, first-served basis. Tour operators that requested permits earliest were given priority, so travellers who booked their holiday well in advance could be sure they had a place.
Under the new system, allocations are being staggered throughout February and March, with different tour operators given priority on different days.
For example, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, permits for travel in July were allocated, and this weekend permits for visitors arriving in August are being distributed to tour operators.
As a result and to ensure you obtain the correct permits it is always best to book as far in advance as possible.