26 SEPTEMBER 2011
The Business Travel News
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John Leahy, effectively Sales Director of Airbus, was in fine form last week when he gave the annual “State of the Nation” Global Market Forecast 2011-2030 in London.
Of all the plethora of statistics and data given perhaps the most interesting was a statement that the airlines are consuming just 3% more fuel than 10 years ago and carrying 45% extra passengers. Airbus did not give predictions for a decade ahead but with the average size of aircraft increasing year by year (with the arrival of more A380s) the fuel burn could be negative by 2020. Along the same “environmentally friendly” lines he noted that average passenger load factors had risen from paltry 54% at the start of the 747 era 40 years ago to 78% in 2009 and rising.
Airbus sees a demand for 27,800 aircraft with 100+ seats over the next 20 years. Asia-Pacific will account for 34% of demand, followed by Europe and North America both with 22%. The Middle East only represents 7% of the actual aircraft order backlog. Whilst these figures are in general agreement with Boeing, Toulouse says the demand for Very Large Aircraft will be for 1,780, far in excess of Seattle. www.airbus.com/company/market/gmf2010
Exactly two years after the inauguration of its partially underground driverless rail system, known as the 'red line' and serving the current international airport, Dubai Metro has opened its 'green line' serving the Dubai Creek on both banks. Initially 15 miles long the line has 18 stations, with two more to open.
At this stage, with a total length of 43 miles it vies with London’s DLR as the world’s longest fully automatic railway system, but there are plans for further extensions. It is partially underground.
The new line is expected to carry 120,000 passengers daily, the original track now up to around 180,000. The system is operated by the British company Serco.
Purple and blue lines are planned but these are dependant on the completion of the new Al Maktoum International Airport which is the terminal for both lines. Work has not yet started. http://dubaimetro.eu
A new, personal airport guidance display card, developed by Agaidi, is currently being piloted at Helsinki Airport. For the next month or so transfer passengers with a tight connecting time will be met at the gate and provided with the card, which will guide them quickly and easily to their boarding gate.
The light and thin card shows personal, real-time flight information to passengers and keeps them updated about, for example, boarding times and estimated walking time to the gate. The goal of the pilot is to optimize capacity utilization by managing real-time passenger flow and to locate passengers arriving late to the departure gate. In addition, passengers will get information about services, such as cafés, restaurants and shops.
The airport display card is a small device that does not need wire charging and has an operation time up to three years. It is easy-to-use and should provide robust and reliable communication. Unlike smart phone apps, it offers equal service to all passengers regardless of personal devices that the passengers are carrying with them. www.helsinki-vantaa.fi
Lufthansa is to introduce a five times per week Mexico City to Munich service from 26 March 2012 supplementing the daily flights already operated by the carrier from Frankfurt. "We are delighted to be able to offer a connection from our Munich hub to Central America. In economic terms, in particular, Mexico is gaining in importance for the Bavarian market," says Thomas Klühr, Lufthansa German Airlines Board member. Flights will be operated by a three-class Airbus A340.
Mexico City has a population of 30m, making it one of world’s largest metropolitan areas. The city is the political, business, social and cultural capital of the country and also its largest transport hub. Moreover, with its numerous museums and monuments, it is a fascinating tourist destination. www.lufthansa.com
To a younger generation the name Peter Twiss may mean nothing but for those who remember the 1950s the five times married former Royal Navy pilot was a true British aviation hero and a holder of the World Airspeed record, the first man to fly over 1,000 miles per hour.
On 10 March 1956 piloting the Fairey Delta 2 Twiss broke the World Speed Record, raising it to 1,132 mph (1811 km/h), an increase of some 300 mph (480 km/h) over the previous record. As a test pilot for Fairy (later taken over by Westland) he also flew the remarkable and advanced Rotodyne, the forerunner of today’s Chinook. Peter Twiss passed away on 31 August aged 90.
Rolls-Royce has won the contract as engine supplier to the Japanese airline Skymark for its six Airbus A380s, the first to enter service in 2014. Skymark is a new customer for Rolls-Royce, and the carrier is the only Japanese carrier to date to order the aircraft. It was established in 1996 as a budget carrier and currently operates a 20-strong fleet of Boeing 737-800s on Japanese domestic routes. It says it plans to expand internationally with the A380, including Europe. A two-class 400-seat cabin layout is envisaged.
The aircraft will be powered by Trent 900, the contract calling for Rolls-Royce 'TotalCare' long-term engine service and support package. Trent 900 engines powered the very first A380 to enter service in 2007 and have now been selected by 11 of 16 airlines who have ordered the aircraft.
Jim Sheard, Rolls-Royce Senior Vice President – Civil Aerospace, said: “Skymark is a new customer for Rolls-Royce and we are very pleased that they have put their trust in our leading edge engine technology and TotalCare support. This latest order, from a new customer, confirms the Trent 900 as the true market leader and engine of choice for the majority of A380 operators.” www.rolls-royce.com
Hyatt is to open two brand new hotels in Vladivostok, Russia’s largest port on the Pacific Ocean. The Hyatt Regency Vladivostok, Golden Horn and Hyatt Vladivostok, Burny, which will be the third and fourth Hyatt-branded hotels in Russia, are under construction and expected to open in advance of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the autumn 2012.
The Hyatt Regency Vladivostok, Golden Horn will feature 217 guest rooms and suites, food and beverage outlets, a spa and health club and banqueting and meeting facilities. Located at the Korabelnaya Embankment in the city’s central business district, the property will be situated along Svetlanskaya Street – the city’s 'High Street' – with the back of the hotel directly facing the Golden Horn Bay. Guests will be within walking distance of the city’s main government and business buildings as well as its exclusive shoreline.
Hyatt Vladivostok, Burny will boast 218 guest rooms and suites, as well as food and beverage outlets, banquet and meeting facilities, and a spa and fitness annex. The property, which will have a direct view of the Amursky Gulf, will be situated at Cape Burny on the western side of the city and will have quick access to the city’s main thoroughfares. www.hyatt.com
A grizzled old man was eating in a truck stop when three Hell's Angels bikers walked in. The first walked up to the old man and pushed his cigarette into the old man's pie, and then took a seat at the counter. The second walked up to the old man and spit into the old man's milk, and then he took a seat at the counter. The third walked up to the old man and turned over the old man's plate, and then he took a seat at the counter. Without a word of protest, the old man quietly left the diner. Shortly thereafter, one of the bikers said to the waitress, "Humph, not much of a man, was he?" The waitress replied, "Not much of a truck driver either. He just backed his wagon over three motorcycles."
This week’s COMMENT tries to reflect on just where the UK is going on the air transport front. Or is not!
Three major issues dominate the scene. Air Passenger Duty (APD), runway capacity and the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Last week the Prime Minister used a platform in New York to expand on the merits of the UK for tourism. Did not his minders remember that Heathrow is full? London is where the vast majority of people want to go. Nothing is going to change. A few airlines may have successes with limited operations from regional airports, but these are pinpricks in the overall scene.
When the current government came to power just 16 months ago the first thing they did was overrule a fully (legally) considered approved plan, Heathrow’s third runway. Clearly nobody thought out the consequences of such a move. It was a knee-jerk reaction of getting into power.
Perhaps Mr Cameron should have also mentioned in his speech that flying to the UK is tax-free. It is getting out that is the very expensive problem. Or does he expect travellers to only depart on a ferry or Eurostar which is not taxed?
In today’s issue of AERBT there is a mention of a new runway at Munich and a note regarding other major continental airports and their future plans. BA’s Keith Williams says that cutbacks in Caribbean service are due to the high APD. John Leahy, the world’s finest aircraft salesman, speaks very positively on the future of air travel.
Theresa Villiers, the Junior Transport Minister, spent time at Southend Airport last week full of platitudes. Perhaps she should visit Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and London City and be briefed on where they are not going.
Unless this island is to sink in some form of economic catastrophe we need an urgent new air transport policy, one that creates the runway capacity needed in the South East and at least gives some hope for the future. If the passengers cannot get to London they will go elsewhere. Next year’s review will be a complete waste if all it does is talk about 2030. Action is needed now, not trite promises.
Gatwick and Stansted can be expanded and the Thames Estuary scheme does have merit, although, rather like High Speed 2, the fulfilment problems dominate.
It would appear that the political dogma is such that Heathrow Three (or whatever it is called) cannot be quickly resurrected.
Let us consider Northolt as a short term answer to the slot problem. AERBT has promoted this solution before and will continue with its encouragement. In fact it meets every criteria politically (but one must agree it is not as good as the third runway). No new tarmac is required, the current RAF costs can be eliminated saving the Government money, public transport already exists, and routes to regional cities saved, reactivated and introduced. The local MPs would love that. Air traffic difficulties can be overcome with goodwill, and of course a prototype exists in the form of London City Airport (LCY). Regional jets of the 21st century are far quieter than those approved for LCY 25 years ago. Ban helicopters at Northolt, the worst offenders when it comes to noise. That will be a decent swop for the local community. And of course it would open up slots at Heathrow and with its routes to emerging markets.
Is this a Government that seems to have no regard to air transport except as a source of revenue? Or is this Prime Minister big enough to admit a serious mistake was made when he came to power?
It takes a great politician to admit he is wrong.
Editor in Chief
easyJet, the largest operator at Bristol Airport from where it currently serves 42 destinations, has confirmed the addition of a new route to Naples. Bookings have opened and the flights will operate three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) starting 12 May 2012.
Naples, Italy’s third largest city, is very popular with visitors thanks to its lively atmosphere and close proximity to some famous landmarks. Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii are both easily accessible from the city as well as the islands of Capri and Ischia. The railway runs along the coast via Vesuvius to Amalfi which make Naples a good base for exploring.
In a separate announcement the airline says its commercial performance continues to be robust across the network, with particular strength on city routes used by business and short break leisure travellers. As a result, the increase in total revenue per seat at constant currency for the second half of the year is expected to be towards the upper end of expectations at around 6% and for the full year 3%. The airline's Board is predicting a healthy profit before tax for the year ending 30 September 2011 of between £240m and £250m. The airline has also introduced an 'interesting' advertising campaign. www.easyJet.com/holidays
Now in its fifth year, Future of Business Jets Conference will be hosted by London’s Thistle Hotel, Marble Arch, 2-3 November 2011. It will build on the success of previous years’ events by once again bringing together senior industry figures to network and debate key issues. Chairing the sessions is AERBT contributor and specialist aviation lawyer Sean Gates.
The two-day event will once again focus on regulatory, legal, financial, insurance, and technical issues. There is a cocktail party and gala dinner to ensure that networking can continue in a more informal atmosphere.
Speakers Include Brian Humphries, President, European Business Aviation Association (EBAA); Phil Dykins, UK Department for Transport (DfT); Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol; Steve Jones, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC); Charlie Bodnar, Euro Jet; Paul Walsingham, SG Finance; Mark Byrne, ICM Group; David Goldberg, QC; Stephen Creamer, Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and Rod Arnold, British Antarctic Survey.
For those coming specially to London for the conference on 4 November the organisers are running a separate half-day seminar 'Implications of the UK Bribery Act for Business Aviation.' www.quaynote.com
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is seen as a huge growth opportunity by London-based International Hotel Group (IHG). Speaking in Moscow, and part of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trade mission last week, Angela Brav, CEO for IHG in Europe, explained. “In Moscow alone there are just over 9,000 international standard rooms, which is equivalent to around 10% of the hotel rooms in London so there is still a terrific opportunity for international hotel operators with a presence here.”
IHG first entered Russia in 1998 when it opened the Holiday Inn Vinogradovo in Moscow. Thirteen years later, IHG is expanding into regional centres and new fast-growing cities with well-established business communities and tourist attractions such as Samara, Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk. IHG currently has 16 properties across Russia and the CIS including 11 hotels in Russia. The plan is to have 100 hotels open by 2020.
In November 2011, IHG’s luxury InterContinental brand returns to Russia after a decade away with the opening of 203-room InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya. Under way in Moscow is Europe’s largest Holiday Inn, with 1,000 rooms, due to open in 2014. www.ichotelsgroup.com
With bmi baby coming in with a new fares initiative (see 'bmi baby with ticketing innovation' in 12 September issue) rival Monarch Airlines has hit back with a scheme of its own which, it is claimed, will save customers 20% when booking flight extras.
Called Monarch Air Packs there is a choice of two. 'Value Pack' offers pre-allocated standard seat, in-flight meal and on-line check-in available from £10.40 per person per flight. With 'Comfort Pack' customers gain extra legroom seating, once again an in-flight meal and on-line check-in. Prices start at £14.40 per person per flight depending on the route.
Commenting on the launch of the new products Managing Director Kevin George, said: “We understand that not all customers are looking for the same optional extras when they fly so we have introduced two Monarch Air Packs, one for the budget conscious traveller and one for those looking for extra comfort.”
The airline points out that customers now booking flights benefit from zero debit card charge fees and a fixed fee for all credit card bookings, regardless of the transaction value or number of people travelling. www.monarch.co.uk
Czech Airlines has introduced a four times weekly service between Prague and Abu Dhabi, breaking a recent tradition whereby the various airlines of the Gulf have made the pace with new routes. The airline envisages a variety of new travel options and connections via Prague to Central and Eastern Europe, and in the other direction has entered into a codeshare arrangement with Etihad Airways.
A two-class Airbus A319 will be used for the service.
The new route will bring the number of destinations served at Abu Dhabi International Airport to over 85 across more than 45 countries around the world.
Miroslav Dvoøák, President of Czech Airlines, stated: “Thanks to the perfect harmonization of departure and arrival times at Abu Dhabi, destinations in the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Asia and Australia have never been as accessible from Prague as they are now.” www.czechairlines.com
Minister for Transport, Theresa Villiers MP, joined Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler, COO William Stobart and Stobart Air Managing Director Alastair Welch at Southend Airport week to officially open a brand new railway station.
Operational since July the station is on the Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street line, offering up to eight services to London per hour and taking passengers from the airport into the City of London in just 53 minutes, or to Stratford – venue for the Olympics in 2012 – in 44 minutes.
The new railway station represents an investment of £16m by Stobart Group which includes a new terminal building, runway extension and realignment, and a new hotel. Running more or less parallel all developments should be completed early next year, well in time for the London Olympics, Southend the only airport with direct frequent train services to the main Olympic site.
Currently Aer Arann is the only airline with daily service at Southend. In April of next year they will be joined by easyJet who are basing three aircraft and offering flights to Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Ibiza, Jersey, Malaga and Mallorca, with more to come as the new operation matures. www.southendairport.com
A jazz band, a big red London bus and gourmet cuisine were just some of the unique features of the Business and General Aviation Day (BGAD) 2011, held at Cambridge Airport and hosted by European Business Air News last week.
The seventh annual event exuded friendliness and flair, and with a sizeable static display right next to the exhibitor hall it had the feel of a mini-EBACE about it. Nearly 500 delegates, 45 companies and 15 rotary and fixed wing aircraft combined to produce an informal yet productive networking event. BGAD welcomed a high proportion of UK delegates alongside a growing international audience with visitors from Spain, the USA and Switzerland. Catherine Gaisenband, founder of FBO consultants Aviacare, a Spanish-based company said: “This is a completely new exhibition for me, but I’d definitely return, it’s informal, yet informative, not like many others I’ve been to.”
James Dillon-Godfray, Business Development Director at Oxford Airport also commented on the high calibre of visitors. “I’ve not stopped talking all morning, and have had a lot of interest in what our airport can offer.
Hot on the agenda of topics that people were talking about at BGAD was the Olympics and a morning seminar Question Time style moderated by Charles Alcock, International Editor of Aviation International News with a senior panel of aviation executives, tackled just how they are getting prepared for what will be the biggest event of the year – in just 10 months’ time.
Cambridge Airport is just one of five airports that have been given 24/7 slot availability and it is already well under way in their Olympics preparations. Airport Director Archie Garden estimates they will have to recruit some 40 more people and training them up will take up to three months. Other airports with the green light to take traffic 24/7 are Northolt, Lydd in Kent, Manston and Southend. Oxford Airport will be open to midnight. Longer opening hours will be important because some of the events will not finish until 22:00. Terrific opportunities for these regional airports, yes, but a major challenge for the chauffeur car companies that need to get their VIPs and executives swiftly to the Games.
Any executive coming into the area on their private jet may be able to get a slot into these airports and the primary ones such as Luton, Farnborough, Stansted etc, but once on the ground they will be the same as everybody else.
A special Olympic lane is going to be reserved for the Olympic Committee and special dignitaries will occupy a fleet of sponsored vehicles. "Who will be driving these cars? - We do not know," says Graham Coate, Managing Director of First Class Cars. “Will they be Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checked? – If they are, this process must already be underway. Many VIPs that we drive into central London stay in the main hotels in Park Lane and this is where the Olympic lanes start – so if they come to town they may be forced to join everyone else and get the Underground out to the Olympics!”
"There will be a meeting in early October of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) and things should become clearer," he said. "At the moment as a chauffeur company who has invested in high end cars and chauffeurs for people who expect and are prepared to pay for a high standard of customer service, we are worried that the Olympics will prevent us from achieving our usual high standards when it comes to ground transportation."
Another problem concerning access is the lack of helicopter sites and use of helicopters. The Games have been declared a ‘green games’ and helicopter movements will centre around London’s only licensed heliport – the London Heliport at Battersea. See related story.
An afternoon seminar featured Magnus Henriksson, Business Manager from Avinode, the online b2b charter marketplace, discussing European Charter trends in 2011.
“From January to August 2011 demand for air charter within Europe was up between 15-25% on last year. Summer demand was fuelled by leisure travel but was followed by a down-turn through the autumn. Figures from the last two to three weeks however suggest a greater than usual fall in charter uptake.”
While it may be too early to form a conclusion, Magnus suggested that the recent global economic jitters may have contributed to a greater reluctance to spend. Events such as snow in the UK in December 2010, the Icelandic volcano in April 2010, the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011 along with the Arab Spring early in the year have all led to considerable peaks in demand for air charter globally. “Business aviation is highly effective and in great demand in an evacuation situation,” he surmised.
An eye-catching exhibit in the hall was a former London Transport Routemaster bus sponsored by Privatefly.com who announced a partnership with Addison Lee the UK’s largest mini-cab firm. For the first time ever Addison Lee customers can now book private jet charter alongside premium minicabs, chauffeur vehicles, taxi-bikes and couriers.
Attracting a large audience mid-afternoon was an impressive catering demonstration from London-based inflight catering service Alison Price On Air.
Richard Cubbin, Executive Chef Director, demonstrated the company’s innovative approach to providing catering products that enable flight attendants to quickly and efficiently present gourmet style food to their passengers. “We’ve received a growing demand for our unique fine dining system over the past year,” said colleague Daniel Hulme, Director of Inflight Services, “and have responded by extending our opening hours to seven days a week. We also recently achieved DfT security clearance for the leading London business aviation airports so wanted to take the opportunity to tell delegates here more about what we can offer.”
Out on the static a number of aircraft were on display. FlairJet flew their stylish Embraer Phenom 300 in from their Oxford home. Base operator Marshall Executive Aviation displayed their whole fleet including their Stansted-based Challenger 300, an aircraft type which Bombardier just named a new Ambassador, none other than the actor and aviator John Travolta. He is the new face of the Challenger, Global and Learjet families. Embraer showcased a simulator of the new Legacy 500, currently on a worldwide tour and Cessna displayed a CJ3. Some of its senior executives were over to support the event.
Also on the apron First Class Cars complemented the line-up with a stylish fleet of cars including Rolls-Royce Bentley, Jaguar and the new Range Rover Evoque.
Alison Chambers and Jane Stanbury – Emerald Media
Landing time reservations for non-scheduled aircraft at some 40 designated airports, mainly in the south of England are now available from Airport Coordination Ltd for the London Olympics. An anticipated 10,000 aircraft movements are anticipated in the period 21 July-15 August 2012.
All parties, that is airport operators, charter companies and air taxi suppliers, seem to agree that the CAA, working in conjunction with the Department for Transport and the Home Office, have organised a practical and workmanlike scheme, with Airport Coordination Ltd managing the whole project.
The big cause for concern is getting passengers from the airports to the actual Olympic sites. Competitors, diplomats and members of the “Olympic Family” will have special privileges regarding road transport (and the use of 4,500 chauffeur driven BMWs) but passengers on executive jets have no such rights. Ebbsfleet Station’s temporary heliport will enable passengers to transfer on the Javelin train to Stratford International in 11 minutes. Luton arrivals can take the service to St Pancras and then a seven-minute Javelin journey to the Olympic Park. Southend Airport offers a direct 44-minute rail link to Stratford.
Aircraft operators should speak to their Olympic airport who will make the slot coordination booking. www.acl-uk.org
Following a successful test run through the Channel Tunnel to the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) plans to start a full continental service sometime in 2013. New trains have been ordered. Using Brussels as the connecting point routing will be provided to Rotterdam/Amsterdam and also Cologne/Frankfurt. The initial plan of the German national rail network is to run three services a day to Brussels.
Following the test run Dr Grube, Chairman of the DB Management Board, said: “This historic train journey will bring Germany and the UK closer together in the future. We have now reached the first milestone on the road to a regular direct ICE connection from 2013. By making full use of the opportunities afforded by the liberalisation of the European rail transport market we are able to offer our customers genuine alternatives to air travel.” Travel time from London to Cologne and Amsterdam is expected to be under four hours and to Frankfurt just over five. www.bahn.com
British Airways will make a number of changes to its Gatwick long haul schedule for the summer 2012 season.
BA will increase from seven to 10 flights per week from Gatwick to Orlando but at the same time will reduce the Barbados service from 10 flights a week to seven.
Out goes the twice weekly operation to Montego Bay in Jamaica. However services to the island’s capital Kingston will increase from two to three flights a week. Also gaining is Antigua which will be seven flights a week instead of the previous six. BA will reduce frequency on flights to Port of Spain (seven to six flights per week), Tobago (two to one flight per week), San Juan (two to one flight per week).
Speaking to delegates at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) annual conference in St Maarten, British Airways CEO, Keith Williams, said the UK Government’s tax regime was jeopardising routes to the Caribbean.
“The Caribbean is a very important destination for us and we have a long and proud heritage of serving the region. However, we can’t deny the reality that demand is not as high as it has been. Taxation is most certainly a factor in this.” www.ba.com
Starting on 30 October Iberia's franchise partner for regional flights, Air Nostrum, will launch a daily non-stop flight between Manchester and Madrid competing head on with Ryanair. Unlike the Irish carrier Air Nostrum is a full service airline, passengers also gaining advantage of oneworld membership and British Airways affiliation. Flights will be operated by Bombardier 100-seat CRJ-1000 equipped with Air Nostrum's Business Class.
The timing of the flights are ideal for making connections with Iberia’s late evening departures to typically Johannesburg, and various South American cities including Buenos Aires, Lima, Montevideo, Santiago and Sao Paulo.
Planning permission has been given for Munich Airport to construct a third runway, which will be entirely funded by the airport operator. Special conditions were incorporated in the approval for the protection of the airport's neighbours and the surrounding region.
Germany’s premier airport, Frankfurt, had previously gained agreement for a fourth runway, work on which should be completed this year. Berlin’s rejuvenated Schoenefeld Airport (Brandenburg International), due for completion late 2012, has only a single runway.
Amsterdam (Schiphol) Airport has six runways (of which one is only suitable for A320/737 size aircraft) but only three are operational at any one time. Paris Charles de Gaulle has four runways, two of which can handle the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747. www.munich-airport.de
Seletar, Singapore’s largely forgotten original airport on the northern aspect of the island, has achieved a key milestone in an upgrading plan with the completion of its runway extension project. Measuring 1884m (6,000ft plus), close to 250 metres more than its original length, the extended runway allows it to support larger jet operations, as well as heavier take-off loads.
Managed by Changi Airport Group (CAG), Seletar is positioning itself as a niche airport for business aviation, general aviation and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities. Singapore has seen strong growth in the business aviation sector, with aircraft movements growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 17% from 2007 to 2010. The expansion in traffic at Seletar Airport is expected to continue in the coming years, driven by the increase in private jet usage in Asia, as well as the Singapore Government’s efforts to develop Seletar Aerospace Park into a leading-edge world-class aerospace facility.
The extended runway is one of several airport infrastructure improvements from which Seletar Airport users can benefit. When completed by 2014 the airport upgrading project will include a new control tower and fire station, significant increase in the number of parking stands, additional taxiways and an ILS. www.changiairportgroup.com
Guoman, the Hong Kong based leisure group, has previewed its impressive £20m refurbishment of the Grosvenor Hotel at London’s Victoria Station. The iconic Grade II-listed property, which opened in 1862, is currently being restored to its full splendour. Work is on course to be completed in January 2012, when the property will officially become the fifth hotel in Guoman’s London collection.
During the course of the 18-month project Guoman has worked hand-in-hand with experts from English Heritage to lovingly preserve and revitalise the building’s original architectural features. This included the reinstatement of £100,000-worth of gold leaf on columns in the grand lobby and the uncovering of original white marble on the iconic pillars – discovered as the works progressed.
When the Grosvenor Hotel Victoria joins the Guoman Hotels collection, it will be striking with all of its 346 bedrooms transformed to a high specification. There is a new residents’ gym, finely decorated conference rooms are all named after iconic trains and this is a spectacular bar, Réunion, which overlooks the platforms of the station. Previous regulars will already know of the discrete entranceway direct to the station’s enclosed concourse. www.guoman.com
Our ten-story news update
This month's cruise review: Fred Olsen’s Balmoral
For whatever reason it did not gain much coverage in the UK nationals, nor trade papers, but AERBT would like to brief readers on a serious cruising incident from which one operator emerged with much credit, whilst with the other we will leave readers to make up their own minds.
With the 2011 hurricane season reaching its vicious peak towards the end of August two ships were caught in the Puerto Rico port of San Juan, Carnival Victory and Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. For the vessels own safety the authorities ordered them both to sea three hours before the advertised departure time leaving a total of 450 passengers on land, many without passports, money, and only the clothes they stood up in. It could happen to you.
Carnival and their agents appreciated the problem and to their credit organised accommodation and flights, the passengers catching up with the ship in Barbados. Legally they did not have a responsibility, the situation being 'force majeure' and covered under various Conventions and liabilities.
Sadly not so Royal Caribbean who were within their rights to abandon the once happy passengers.
The following statement has been issued by the cruise line:
“As a gesture of goodwill, and in recognition of the time they missed on board Serenade of the Seas, Royal Caribbean provided each guest who was not able to arrive to the ship before it departed San Juan but met the ship later, with a future cruise certificate for 30% of the cruise fare paid for their sailing.
“We are in the process of contacting those guests who were not able to sail with us at all to inform them of their compensation, and would prefer that the impacted guests learn of the amount directly from the line before it is disclosed publicly.
“We are compensating these passengers because we understand that this was an unusual situation, and we want to provide our guests with another opportunity to sail with Royal Caribbean International in the near future.”
Compare this with Viking who had trouble kicking off the St Petersburg to Moscow riverboat season a couple of years back. The ship was not ready and clients had to be accommodated in a local hotel for two nights. Faces lit up when arriving home after what turned out to be a fine trip. A substantial compensation cheque was on the doormat. Guests are rebooking.
Cruise review: Fred Olsen’s Balmoral Mini Cruise
Having survived an office move, and domestic one too, plus the 21st century technological consequences, your Editor felt that a short ex-UK cruise might fit the bill for a break. He would be joining experienced cruisers plus nearly 50% of passengers who had never been to sea before. It would also be a first time with Fred Olsen the world’s second oldest shipping company, after P&O.
Established in 1848 Fred Olsen is a large Norwegian shipping company headed by the fifth generation of the family with its cruise operation very British and based in the UK. The company offers four ships, all of previous ownership but maintained to the highest standards. Ours was Balmoral, 43,000 tons and 1,350 passengers. She is big enough to incorporate just about everything much larger ships include, two heated outdoor swimming pools for instance, but the reduced numbers on board means that getting on and off at ports is easy (or joining the ship – often a source of aggravation), and there is more than enough deck space for everyone to sit out.
Somehow Olsen’s manage to include just about everything one would get on a longer voyage including a nicely presented formal night when the Captain welcomes the guests. It is also the leaving party!
Our mini-cruise was typical, leaving Southampton mid-afternoon for a leisurely meander down the English Channel to Ijmuiden, the direct port for Amsterdam. With a lunchtime arrival it was possible for a quick visit by road or canal to Holland’s largest city. Overnight on to Antwerp (Belgium), and a mooring right in the middle of the city. The local open-top bus did splendid business on a glorious autumn day, a one hour trip long enough to gain a very favourable impression of the world centre of the diamond trade. Our visit coincided with ceremonies commemorating the relief of Antwerp in 1945 by the Canadian Army, commanded by a Czech.
Next stop Dunkirk and a visit to the beaches of 1940, these days just miles of sand dunes and not a hint of the terrible carnage suffered by the British and French Divisions during those few June days. Churchill, then the new Prime Minister, turned what was utter defeat into a propaganda victory. Well worthwhile visiting is the Operation Dynamo (Dunkirk) Museum, housed in a bastion built to defend France in 1874 following the Franco-Prussian war. A film using dramatic period footage, with a duration of approximately 15 minutes, gives an excellent overall view of the events of May-June 1940.
Balmoral has nine decks and a crew of 510. She was extensively refitted in 2008. Named after the Scottish home of the Royal Family, the ship offers 710 cabins and suites.
All Balmoral’s public rooms have a Scottish theme, its principal restaurant, Ballindalloch, named after the Speyside village and castle; while the ship's other two formal eateries, Avon and Spey are titled in honour of two of Scotland's loveliest salmon rivers. These two restaurants are amongst the nicest afloat each overlooking the sea with the galley and buffet area in-between, open for breakfast and lunch, but very much hidden away for dinner. Unlike the rest of the ship, which is very much art-deco, these dining places are modern in design, quiet and reserved. The food is good also, the same menu as the Ballindalloch, best described as British with a continental flavour. And some eastern dishes too.
You can eat informally in Palms Cafe, with a different menu. Unlike some other cruise lines there is no alternative dining at a premium, the variety more than enough. Nor 24 hours public area eating, but there is a more than adequate cabin menu outside the normal extensive dining hours. No charge of course. For the young at heart there is a midnight buffet (which starts at 23.30).
Balmoral also benefits from an on-board pub, which has been recently refitted and offers evening entertainment as an alternative to the main cabarets and dancing in the Neptune or Lido Lounges. Or you could just relax with a drink in the Observatory Lounge, with its spectacular views out to sea and later in the evening dance the night away there on its popular disco-dance floor.
Bar charges are very reasonable. There was no time to practice our golf swing in the nets, but one visit only to the well provided gym, and just four laps of the promenade deck for a walk, which equalled one mile. Madam inspected the beauty salon and spa and said it met her approval. If you want to try on a taster cruise book ahead.
There is a fine library, internet room (which worked very well), gaming facility and a selection of slot machines.
On this short trip the excursions manager provided a 45-minute talk on the destinations which also went out on the ship’s TV circuit. If you want to keep in touch with what is happening in the world a free shipboard version of the Daily Mail is provided and there is of course BBC TV, Sky and Bloomberg for the share watchers.
Limited facilities for children are provided and during the school holidays carers too. Balmoral seems to cater for all age groups and the few youngsters on board during the mini-cruise seemed very happy. Three- and four-berth cabins are available. Smoking is permitted on specially designated outside areas only.
Accommodation is mainly of 165sq ft cabins, with or without a balcony, and a decent size shower room. Cabins are very well thought out with enough hanging space for long cruises. All have interactive TV and some are equipped for disabled passengers (who will have no trouble with the ship). The beds can be single or double but if you want a double duvet, forget it. It’s a single or nothing! Our cabin had a large window and being on deck six made both the Ballindalloch restaurant and main reception/central atrium very accessible. A unique feature of the ship, on this deck, was a long central lobby with a fine selection of prints from the Ballindalloch estate, and some original paintings. And just a step from the cabin.
If a suite is what you want these cover two decks at the top of the ship, and of various sizes. There are separate sleeping and dining areas, a bath (rather than a shower) and large balconies. A welcome bottle of wine is provided, fresh fruit, flowers and an afternoon canapé offering. A complimentary pressing service is provided for formal nights. Binoculars too, and an umbrella, if needed, for when on shore. These book very quickly.
Fred Olsen surprised us with a thoroughly well thought out good value package. The pre-cruise paperwork was outstanding, typically being luggage stickers with one's name and cabin number already provided.
PROGRAMME: There are 11 three and four night mini-cruises planned for next year plus an ex-Southampton Titanic centenary voyage which is of five days duration. Prices range from £339 to which you can add £4 per night tips. Terrific value. The service on board is excellent.
Fred Olsen mainly cruises out of Dover, Portsmouth and Southampton with a limited programme from Greenock, Newcastle and Rosyth.
OUR 10-STORY NEWS REVIEW
VIETNAM RIVER CRUISES
AmaWaterways has launched its second new vessel on the Mekong River, the 124-passenger MS AmaLotus. The 7-night maiden voyage set sail last week after a traditional Vietnamese praying ceremony at the shipyard. The MS AmaLotus joins the MS La Marguerite (2009) in providing distinctive river cruises from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as part of the highly-popular 'Vietnam, Cambodia and the Riches of the Mekong' programne. She features some large suites, the biggest at 624sq ft, 10 juniors at 290sq ft and standard staterooms at 226sq ft.
DESTINATION GUIDE ARRIVES
Azamara Club Cruises has published its 2012 Destination Guide. It is unique in that the photographs within the 144-page glossy production features lifestyle images by two student photographers who captured the cruise line’s exciting destinations and the service delivered by the staff and crew. The brochure highlights the cruise line’s two ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, their worldwide itineraries carrying guests to ports throughout the Mediterranean Sea, Northern and Western Europe, South America, Asia, India and the West Indies, and a variety of culturally-immersive Land Discoveries (shore excursions) and cruise tours. Your local travel agent should have the quality production, or contact Azamara direct.
MARCO POLO OUT OF TILBURY
Cruise & Maritime Voyages is not one of the best known of British cruise operators but over the last three years has built up a reputation for offering value with two 'mature' ships Marco Polo and Ocean Countess. Both are child-free ship and offer British-style cruise with a highly rated entertainment, food and service on board. Whilst Marco Polo is essentially based at Tilbury’s London Cruise Terminal, Ocean Princess cruises from Dublin, Falmouth and Liverpool and offers this autumn/winter a whole variety of short trips with one just an overnight (Dublin to Falmouth and the Eden Project).
CARNIVAL TIMES CRUISES
Crystal Cruises have come up with a real occasion. Shipboard accommodation on Crystal Symphony and overnights in Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival celebrations. From grandstand seating and front-row box seats to luxury VIP sky box suites with gourmet goodies, guests have a choice of several fully escorted, reserved seating programmes at the Sambadrome. There’s even an option to participate firsthand – marching in the parade, dressed in costume and performing with one of the samba schools. Symphony’s Miami to Rio and Rio to Buenos Aires voyages on 6 and 20 February respectively end or begin on the parade’s two best nights, Sunday and Monday, when 30,000 glamorously-costumed members of the top samba schools thrill crowds with singing, dancing, drumming and colourful floats.
Disney Cruise Lines Fantasy, the company’s fourth ship and the second of its two newest and larger vessels will call Port Canaveral home when the ship arrives next year. She is currently under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. While Fantasy will be similar to Dream, Disney says the two ships won’t be exactly the same. Disney’s first two ships, Magic and Wonder, are also similar, but not identical. Fantasy will include a night time entertainment area for adults called Europa, which Disney says will take inspiration from European travel. Fantasy will sail seven-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral with its maiden voyage scheduled for 31 March 2012.
JAPANESE CULINARY ADVENTURE
Orion Expedition Cruises will next April sail Orion II on an eight-night Japanese Culinary Adventure voyage to explore the wonders of Japanese cuisine – a must-do voyage for anyone interested in the rituals, history and philosophy of Japanese culinary art. This should be a remarkable journey of discovery using Japanese cuisine as a window into the culture, art and rituals of this ancient society. Orion II guests will have the opportunity to discover Japan and its ancient culture through the amazing diversity of Japanese food. At each port of call there is the opportunity to discover a different Japanese dish, learn its history and visit local markets to shop for ingredients. Orion II is a luxury ship accommodating 100 passengers in 50 cabins.
ENTERTAINMENT AT SEA
P&O Cruises has confirmed several special guest entertainers for three highlight cruises this winter. Legendary pop group, The Searchers; Drifters lead singer, Ray Lewis, with his act Still Drifting, and the ultimate Abba tribute band, Voulez Vous, will entertain passengers on board Oceana in November and December. Quite rightly described by P&O as a family friendly ship Oceana will cruise year round from the UK for the first time this winter, visiting destinations with warm weather and winter sunshine, including the Canary Islands, Egypt and Greece. Travellers looking to explore the Western Mediterranean on their own next spring can do so with special single cabin fares on Ventura, a 14-night Western Mediterranean ex-Southampton cruise 1-15 April visiting Vigo, Lisbon, Rome (from Civitavecchia), Florence/Pisa (from Livorno), Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Cadiz. Passengers can also take advantage of free cruise connections from all over the UK.
Paul Gauguin Cruises, who claim to be the longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, is to remodel its namesake ship, m/s Paul Gauguin, during an 11-night dry dock in Brisbane next January. The US$7m million renovation will include extensive enhancements to both interior and exterior of the ship. The Paul Gauguin is a custom built 20,000 full featured ship accommodating just 332 passengers with mainly 6/7 night cruises in and around Tahiti.
SIX STAR WORLD CRUISE
Seabourn has announced details of its 116-day World Cruise in 2013 before even the 2012 one takes place (which leaves Ft Lauderdale 5 January – both with the new Seabourn Quest). Seabourn Quest’s 2013 World Cruise will call at 51 ports in 27 countries on six continents, featuring a combination of visits to world famous destinations and hidden gems, as well as overnight stays in some of the world’s greatest cities. It will visit an array of exotic destinations in the South Pacific, Australia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, India, Arabia and the Mediterranean. Rates for the full cruise begin at £31,520 per person, based on double occupancy.
MONACO GRAND PRIX
SeaDream Yacht Club’s 112-guest SeaDream I will give its passengers the opportunity to see the 70th Grand Prix of Monaco 2012. If you have never been it is an unbelievable experience. Forget the motor racing and just watch the people and their waterborne palaces. And you will be joining them. Voyage No 11221 embarks in Nice on 26 May, spends the next day, race-day, moored at Monte Carlo, and then visits St Tropez (France); Portovenere, Viareggio, Elba and Portofino (Italy), with disembarkation on 2 June in a much quieter Monte Carlo.