25 SEPTEMBER 2017

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Delta’s Atlantic challenge

First shots in what is shaping up to be an intensely-competitive 2018 for transatlantic business have been fired, with Delta Air Lines claiming pole position with more total departures, destinations and seats than any other airline.

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Facelift for London Mandarin

The first phase of an extensive restoration has been unveiled by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s European flagship, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London. The group says the work is designed to confirm the property’s position as “one of the best in the world”.

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Premium move by Austrian

The trend towards Premium Economy has picked up a new recruit, with Austrian Airlines moving to introduce the service from 6 March next year. It has begun refitting the 11-strong Boeing B767 long-haul fleet, with a 12th aircraft joining next spring.

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COMMENT: Would the Treasury please read this?

Of all the many present causes for concern in our industry, one stands out. It is the vexed question of Air Passenger Duty, or APD. And it is back in focus thanks to major interventions last week led by Heathrow. 

The unnecessarily-complicated and iniquitous burden on airlines and their passengers was introduced in 1994, disguised as a trendy eco-measure which would help to save the planet.  The more cynical among us could be forgiven for seeing it instead as just another money-grabbing exercise by the government in power at the time.  Perish the thought. 

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COMMENT EXTRA: Ryanair and O’Leary. “You ain't seen nothing yet”

For a man who likes to be seen flying by the seat of his pants, the past week has probably not been Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s best of times. A misguided attempt by the airline to alleviate a pilot shortage by cancelling flights went badly wrong when the number of flights involved was revealed to be in the hundreds.

See also AND FINALLY: Home Truths

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Airport rail scheme boost

A private-sector venture set up to transform Heathrow’s rail access and wider regional connectivity has received a significant boost by agreeing terms for a major investment with global infrastructure firm Aecom.

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Double beds on Qatar

Another world first was claimed by Qatar Airways last week as it unveiled double beds in Business Class on its daily Boeing B777 flights between Heathrow and Doha.

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Four more 787s for JAL

Boeing strengthened its position in the Far East market last week with a joint announcement with Japan Air Lines of an order for four B787-8 Dreamliners. Valued at $900m-plus, the order takes the JAL B787 fleet to 49 aircraft.

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Heathrow’s food initiative

Inflight eating has taken on a new meaning with Heathrow launching a food and drink pre-order service via the airport app in partnership with US provider Grab. The service covers at least one restaurant per terminal, with more to come.

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Hong Kong signs with WestJet

Travel between North America and the Far East received a further boost last week with Canadian carrier WestJet and Hong Kong Airlines signing a codeshare agreement.

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Start date for St Helena

The island of St Helena’s long-awaited scheduled air service to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town is due to start on 14 October with weekly flights by Embraer E190 operated by the South Africa-based carrier Airlink.

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Turkish Dreamliners

Fresh from unveiling an important Japan Air Lines order (see this issue) and projecting a demand for 4,210 new aircraft valued at $650bn over the next 20 years in South East Asia, Boeing last week landed a new deal with Turkish Airlines.

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Virgin's First Class auction

Last-minute upgrades for First Class tickets are being offered at auction on Virgin Trains’ east coast services via a new upgrade app called Seatfrog. Virgin says the partnership is a first to enable more passengers to experience premium service.

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ON TOUR: Bahrain rediscovered

New tours of Bahrain have been announced to enable a growing number of visitors to discover more about the kingdom. As  BTN’s Richard Cawthorne reports, they vary from day-long adventure treks to shorter trips catering for special interests to give an introduction to the country.

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AND FINALLY: Home truths

From the letters page of  The Irish Times  (more or less)

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Air China on the march

Two major new non-stop routes are joining the Air China network shortly, with Beijing – Athens service from next Saturday, 30 September, and the launch of Beijing – Brisbane on 11 December.

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All change at Escape lounges

Change is on the menu for three UK Escape Lounges run by the Manchester Airport Group (MAG). The company is taking the catering operation in-house and at the same time refreshing the branding, menu options and beverage offer.

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Etihad’s new payment plan

Fully-automated credit card Instalment payment plans are being offered by Etihad Airways for the first time by an airline in the Arab world after the company partnered with online payment service provider PayFort.

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Monarch at Airlines UK

The future shape of Monarch Airlines is up for scrutiny at the Airlines UK annual lecture on 4 October when the carrier’s CEO, Andrew Swaffield, is guest speaker. The event is from 16:00-18:00 at the head office of Deloitte in New Street Square, London.

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O’Toole in capacity plea

Unlocking spare airport capacity currently available should be a key part of the government’s national aviation strategy, according to Stansted’s new CEO, Ken O’Toole.

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Rosewood lands US Embassy

A management contract for a hotel in the former US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, London, has been awarded to the Rosewood group. The property was acquired by real-estate investment firm Qatari Diar last year.

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Star connecting at O’Hare

A new Connection Service has been launched by Star Alliance at Chicago O’Hare Airport to help arriving passengers to reach onward flights with other alliance member carriers.

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Ultra United

A new title as US leader in ultra-long-haul flights was claimed by United Airlines last week with the announcement it will begin daily, non-stop service between its Houston hub and Sydney on 18 January.

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Wizz Air goes flexible

A “Flexible Travel Partner” service allowing passengers to create a new reservation without including all passengers’ names at the time of booking has been introduced by Wizz Air.

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