Our online guru Eli Orzessek answers your travel questions.
I'm a bit scared of flying and will be taking my first overseas trip in quite a few years this October. Just to ease my mind, where is the safest place to sit on a plane if an accident occurs?

Anxious flyer

Time Magazine

did a study on this last year, which looked at all the aircraft accidents in the past 35 years, with both fatalities and survivors. Researchers found 17 accidents with seating charts that could be analysed for the study.

It found the seats in the back third of an aircraft had a 32 per cent fatality rate, compared with 39 per cent in the middle and 38 per cent in the front.

When it came to row position, the middle seats in the back of the aircraft had the best outcomes, with a 28 per cent fatality rate - compared with the aisle seats in the middle third of the cabin, which had a much higher fatality rate of 44 per cent.


A 2008 study from the University of Greenwich also found that survivors seated near an exit were more likely to get out alive.

However - and I'm sure you've heard this a million times before - flying is stastically very safe and you're more likely to get into trouble on the roads. If you're sensitive to turbulence, between the wings of a plane is the steadiest place to sit - even if it's not technically the safest when it comes to fatality statistics.

I have a real wish to see the Dolomite mountain area of Italy up close. As I am in my 70s, tramping is out, but walking in easy terrain is okay for an hour or two. Is there an English-speaking bus tour that goes into the area, staying in mountain villages?

Bev Cheesman

A number of tours head into that region, but many only include one night's stay, so choose carefully. Premium escorted tour operator Insight Vacations is offering a new 10-day Romantic Northern Italy holiday travelling to and from Milan, including three days in the Dolomites and two days' hotel accommodation in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Departure dates are between April and October. Insight Vacations offer English-speaking tour directors and a mix of guided sightseeing and free time to explore.

Adventure World offer tailor-made walking holidays in Europe. A contact says a classic Dolomites holiday could include seven nights of four-star accommodation in the mountains, and five days of walking. Many travellers would expect to walk 10km a day, so a trip based in one location means you can do as much walking as you wish - liaise with your tour operator and they can help plan shorter walks.

Readers respond

I received a lot of handy tips from readers in response to my last column. Thanks to Chris Wilcox for suggesting Sage Traveling for disabled travellers. He says it's a fantastic site on which to book transfers, hotels and tours - and they even helped him organise help to repair a flat tyre in Rome.

I also received several suggestions for helping with blocked ears - Ann suggested putting eucalyptus on your hanky to sniff during a flight, as well as chewing gum and wearing earplugs. Pamela Russell, a former flight attendant, wrote to say she had worked out a way to yawn with her mouth closed, to save face in front of passengers.

Brian Turner suggested "Earplanes", which are small tube earplugs that equalise pressure - they can be purchased online at netpharmacy.co.nz. Keep the tips and questions coming!

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