8 JUNE 2009

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Arik Air starts Johannesburg services

ARIK AIR has started a daily Lagos to Johannesburg service using an Airbus A340-500. This is the airline’s second long haul international service and the aircraft is configured in a two-class layout with a total of 237 seats, 36 in Premier Class and 201 in Economy Class.  Arik Air has secured rights to fly a further ten international routes and will in the near future serve destinations as diverse as Beijing,  Dubai, New York and Sao Paulo, when their new aircraft are delivered.  www.arikair.com

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Emirates start two new services

EMIRATES AIRLINES has started two new Airbus A380 scheduled passenger services from Dubai.  The airline has begun a daily Dubai to Bangkok and a three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Dubai to Toronto using the large A380 airliner.  Emirates Airlines A380 has 14 First Class, 76 Business Class and 399 Economy Class seats making a total of 489 seats available on the aircraft.  The next destination for the Dubai-based airline is Seoul in South Korea, the first Emirates Airlines A380 service in North East Asia and due to start on 1 December 2009.  Emirates Airlines has ordered 58 Airbus A380s from the European aircraft manufacturer. www.emirates.com

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Holiday Inn becomes 2012 Olympics sponsor

HOLIDAY INN and Holiday Inn Express has become  a third tier sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics.  Holiday Inn, part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) will provide LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) with additional capability and expertise in the accommodation sector and will supply experienced personnel to assist in the planning and operation of the Athletes Village.  The Holiday Inn personnel will work alongside the Accommodation and Protocol teams in the lead up to the 2012 Games.  Holiday Inn and other hotels in the IHG will also provide accommodation and meeting rooms for LOCOG and partners in the lead up to the games.  London 2012 Chairman Lord Coe commented: “Providing a smooth customer experience for athletes, spectators and dignitaries throughout their time at the Games can be a key challenge for any Organising Committee.  For us to have Holiday Inn join our family provides us with another great pool of knowledge and skills to ensure that all of those attending the Games, whether from within the UK or from abroad, as competitors or spectators, will have an enjoyable and memorable experience.  The global expertise of Holiday Inn in welcoming visitors and meeting customer needs will be vital between now and 2012.”   Andy Cosslett, CEO, IHG said: “With the UKP600 million re-launch of Holiday Inn well underway, being selected to welcome guests from LOCOG and its partner organisations to our hotels is perfect timing.  Just like the world class sportsmen and women who will stay in the Athletes Village, we’ll bring our own world class team to Stratford to make life as easy as possible for the athletes so they focus on the task in hand – competing and winning medals.”

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More services for Newquay Cornwall Airport

NEWQUAY AIRPORT welcomes another airline last week as Jet2 introduced two destinations from the airport, three times a week to Leeds Bradford on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and to Belfast International twice weekly on Sundays and Wednesdays.  Irish low cost airline Ryanair has re-instated from 2 June a twice a week flight, on Tuesdays and Saturdays to Alicante using Boeing 737-800s.  The Cornish airport now has eight airlines operating from it to 19 destinations in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe. www.newquaycornwallairport.com

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Sirenis Hotels plan new hotel

SIRENIS HOTELS AND RESORTS GROUP, the Ibiza-based family run hotel group is planning to open a new hotel in Costa Rica.  The Costa Rica hotel was due to be opened in late 2009 but it was decided to wait and open sometime in 2010 once the worst of the recession had passed.  The group began in 1970 and currently has 13 hotels, eight in Ibiza, two in Mexico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in Cuba. www.sirenishotels.com

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United to order up to 150 aircraft

UNITED AIRLINES has contacted both Airbus and Boeing with proposals for a significant aircraft order, the airline hopes to sign with a manufacturer later in 2009.  This is good news for the manufacturers just prior to the Paris Air Show.  United Airlines is looking to order up to 150 aircraft valued at around USD10bn.  These aircraft could replace 111 wide bodies and 97 Boeing 757 narrow bodies in fleet renewal plans. www.united.com

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Wireless adds another

VIRGIN AMERICA claims to be the first US airline to go totally wireless.  The California-based carrier, which made its first scheduled flight on 8 August 2007, is charging exactly the same as American Airlines and Delta who are also fitting the kit on their much larger fleets.  Cost is USD12.95 for daytime flights of over three hours, USD9.95 for daytime flights of less than three hours, USD5.95 on red-eye flights and USD7.95 for handheld devices.  The airline has a current fleet of 28 Airbus A320 series with a further ten on order.  Its two main hubs are Los Angeles and San Francisco and also JFK New York for transcontinental services. See last week's story on wi-fi in the US. www.virginamerica.com

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HAPPY TALK: An awful breakfast

One morning in a highly-rated hotel breakfast room, a guest called over the head waiter. "Good morning, sir! I'd like to order two boiled eggs, one of them so undercooked that it is runny and the other so overcooked that it is tough. I also want some rubbery bacon, burnt toast and butter that is so cold it is impossible to spread. Finally, I'll have a pot of extra-weak coffee, served at room temperature." 

The bewildered waiter almost stuttered.

"Sir! We cannot serve such an awful breakfast to you here!

"Why not?" the guest replied. "That's what I got here yesterday!"

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COMMENT: Air France and APD

Sadly, in the last week there has been an aircraft lost with the loss of all souls on board.  The accident is the worst aircraft loss of life since 2001. It is not AERBT's intention to say any more but only that our thoughts are with those families and friends who have lost loved ones.

Now on to Air Passenger Duty, it should by now be apparent to those in government that Air Passenger Duty – APD is really not liked by the airlines and is just another un-necessary tax that the travelling public has to bear at a time when that same government should be trying to help airlines survive the recession that we and other countries are facing. 

Again at the same time legacy carriers from each country should be at the front of a crowd of interested parties pushing and persuading the UK government to remove this un-wanted tax. 

ABTA is to lead a summer campaign to make holidaymakers aware of rising air passenger duty charges.

Among measures being considered as part of the campaign are handing out leaflets on aircraft and including them in holiday documents.  The leaflets would highlight the increases in APD and encourage people to put pressure on their local MPs to scrap them.

ABTA and other industry leaders have accepted that it is a fruitless task directly approaching MPs to drop the charges when they are currently embroiled in an expenses fiasco, the country is heavily in debt and many want to be seen to support environmental policies.  But they feel that the campaign may be successful if constituents put pressure on local MPs to drop the charges, particularly in marginal seats where MPs will need all the support they can get.

APD currently costs from UKP10 to UKP80, depending upon seat class and destination.  From 1 November 2009,  there will be four bands of APD, depending on mileage and those in economy will pay from UKP11 to UKP55, with people travelling in anything other than the lowest class of travel paying from UKP22 to UKP110.

From 1 November 2010, the fares will rise again.  Anyone travelling for example to Australia in anything other than economy will pay an APD of UKP170.

Andy Cooper, Development Director at ABTA, attended a round-table discussion with around 20 other members of the industry this week, and is drawing up a policy document which will detail the action to be taken.

“We have not finalised our plans yet, but we know we are pushing against the tide if we go direct to MPs,” he said.

“But if we can highlight the issue to the public and encourage them to write to their MPs, that might be more successful.  Most people are not really aware of the changes and how much they will have to pay.

“We believe that the rates should stay as they are to reflect the environmental impact of flying.”

Where is British Airways in this campaign?  Our national carrier should be leading and helping ABTA in the fight to get this un-wanted tax scrapped.  If the travelling public don’t have to pay this duty it will make flying a little more affordable and help to fill up British Airways planes helping the airline make profits.  The US online travel agents realise that one way to help increase sales of air tickets is to waive their booking fees, why aren’t we doing more to get an un-wanted tax scrapped that could help get people flying again?

 

Terry Spruce

Guest Editor

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Business Travel Market 2009

BUSINESS TRAVEL MARKET is being held at the Excel in London on 17 -18 June 2009.  The event is a must for anyone involved with organising and booking business travel.  The show is a perfect forum for business travel arrangers, buyers and managers to network, share ideas and to develop future relationships with one another.  The Business Travel Market is dedicated to giving advice, tips and information on business travel. www.businesstravelmarket.co.uk

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Happy Birthday Tokyo

VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS celebrated 20 years of flying to the Japanese capital Tokyo last week.  The airline began the London services to Tokyo from Gatwick Airport in May 1989 moving the service to Heathrow in 1991.  The route has been successful enough to carry nearly three million passengers in the 20 years and currently the route is operated by an Airbus A340-600.  www.virginatlantic.com

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Manchester gets third easyJet A320

EASYJET is to base a new Airbus A320 at Manchester Airport immediately and will now serve 12 destinations from the airport. This is the third Airbus A320 the UK low cost airline will base at Manchester.  The airline has started to fly to the four new services from Manchester to Athens, Corfu, Dalaman (Turkey) and Bastia (Corsica) already.  Originally these routes were to start in August but due to customer demand since the airline began services last year these new services were brought forward. www.easyjet.com

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New Boeing 777s for British Airways

BRITISH AIRWAYS has taken delivery of two new Boeing 777s, one of which flew its first revenue service last week.  The second aircraft was delivered to Cardiff before it will enter service.  The airline also withdrew the last Boeing 737-300 in the fleet.  British Airways will take delivery of the first Airbus A318 in August that will be used out of London City Airport and the first Embraer 170 is due to be delivered to CityFlyer in September 2009 again to be based at the City Airport. The airline has re-introduced services to Saudi Arabia after an absence of four years, flying to Jeddah using a Boeing 767 and to Riyadh using a Boeing 777. www.britishairways.com

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SkyTeam opens co-branded lounge at Heathrow

SKY TEAM alliance has opened the first co-branded lounge at Heathrow Terminal Four.  The new lounge occupies two levels and is some 1,600 square metres, this will accommodate around 300 passengers.  The lounge was jointly designed by the alliance and associate members offering all that a passenger might require whilst waiting for their flight.  The first level was opened on 4 June 2009 with the second level planned opening in November 2009, the later opened area will have dedicated premium check-in for First, Business Class and SkyTeam Elite passengers as well as a common use self-service kiosks and bag drop off.  Currently, only four airlines operating from Terminal Four are able to use the first level of the new lounge but as more members of SkyTeam begin to operate from the terminal, their passengers will also be eligible to use the new lounge.  However they are still able to use the two SkyTeam lounges in Terminal Two until then. www.skyteam.com

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US airfares should get cheaper

FLYING should get a little cheaper, at least for US travellers as four of the online travel agencies are waiving the booking fees for both domestic and international airline tickets.  Orbitz Worldwide, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline all hope that by waiving the charges this action will stimulate travel bookings and maintain market share for each company.  Whilst this will hopefully get more people to buy air tickets during the recession as both business and leisure air trips reduce, it will reduce the amount of revenue each travel agency accrues.

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ON TOUR: Luxembourg blink and you'll miss it

It seemed to be the standing joke about Luxembourg, because it was so small that if you did blink you would miss the country.  However, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is celebrating its national day on the 23 June.  As befits a national day there are many ceremonies that mark the occasion, including a torch-light parade and a fire-works display on the evening before.

The royal family will attend the solemn Te Deum before the national celebrations are closed with a military parade and 101 gun salute.

But Luxembourg is not just about an old fashioned little part of Europe, it does have a thriving banking sector.  Yes, Luxembourg was even grey-listed by the G20 in London on 2 April 2009 for being a tax-haven.  But the Luxembourg finance ministry had said in March that it would relax banking secrecy so bankers in the Grand Duchy are perplexed at why the G20 placed them on the grey-list.  Luxembourg does have much more to offer than just banking, there are plentiful restaurants, bars and nightclubs as well as cultural centres too.

A couple of restaurants of the many and varied cuisines on offer Am Tiirmschen in the rue de L’Eau  www.amtiirmschen.lu  caters for all tastes including those who want to eat local and traditional cooking.  The restaurant offers different areas by arches and columns, ancient exposed stonework and ceilings, situated in the old town it can be called a romantics restaurant.  Bella Napoli in the rue de Strasburg is altogether different, modern and stylist décor and of course good wholesome Italian pasta or pizza food, a place where the staff are cheerful and will ensure the customers are cheerful too.

 

Now the nightlife, just two of the many cafes and bars the town has to offer, the Café de Artistes in monte de Grund is classic French in style not far from the Alzette River and has piano evenings most nights of the week. Zanzen in the rue Notre-Dame is right in the centre of the city, this bar is ideal for after work drinks accompanied with bar snacks and nibbles like cheese, olives and cashews. The bar restaurant has large windows for views out onto the street and has a veranda which is usually full and busy during the summer evenings.

 

Those searching for culture have many places to visit in Luxembourg, again just a couple.  The Musee D’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg in rue du Saint-Espirit www.mhvl.lu  just one of the many places you must visit and if only to see the unique lift, you will discover much history about the town there too. 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the Grand Theatre in Rond-point Schuman  www.theatres.lu for those who crave dance, theatre and opera.  The theatre was built in the 60s and has a restaurant that opens before and after performances.  It has two auditoria which can be adapted for whatever is being performed.  An outside feature is the water fountain useful to keep cool on those hot summer evenings.

 

 

 

And to finish 21 November 2009 is the centenary of flight in the Grand Duchy, a number of events are taking place during the year to celebrate this including the World Balloon Trophy in Echternach from 29 July to 2 August.

 

 

 

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American Airlines goes cashless

AMERICAN AIRLINES domestic flights on the continental USA, Canada and Hawaii have started to not accept cash for snacks, meal, headsets and other onboard services.  Flight attendants will now accept all major credit or debit cards in payment for these items instead of paper money.  The cabin crew will use onboard register machines to take payment and issue receipts if requested to do so.  This will mean no more need to carry cash onboard the aircraft and save time whilst trying to find change for the passengers.  Cabin crew have been using these machines for a number of months on international services so many personnel will be familiar with them already.  However, American Eagle and AmericanConnection services will still accept cash only. www.aa.com

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Copenhagen and Oslo adds more services

COPENHAGEN AND OSLO Airports will be adding new services from 17 August 2009 after Norwegian Air Shuttle announced six new passenger services.  The airline will begin to serve Copenhagen to Dublin, Rome, Vienna and Warsaw and from Oslo to Dublin and Vienna using their fleet of 24 Boeing 737-300s that carry up to 148 passengers.  Norwegian now operates 27 destinations from Copenhagen. www.norwegian.no

 

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Hilton expands in Turkey

HILTON has signed a contract to license a franchise operation in Bursa, Turkey’s fourth largest city.  It is just 40 minutes drive from the slopes of Mount Uluda Ski Resort, the country’s main winter sports destination.  The 170-room upscale Hilton Bursa Convention Centre & Spa and 106-room Hampton by Hilton Bursa will be located next to each other and will represent the first dual-branded development in the country by the hotel group.  It is scheduled to debut in the second quarter of 2011.  Turkey currently ranks as Hilton’s most successful international development market and is expected to gain 40 properties (comprising 5,500 rooms) over the next five years. www.hilton.com

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Mandarin Oriental to open first hotel in Caribbean

MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL GROUP will open their first hotel in the Caribbean in 2010, the Mandarin Oriental Dellis Cay on the Turks and Caicos Islands.  The hotel will have 197 rooms and a white sand beachfront location with protected mangrove reserves and coral reefs.  Another feature of the hotel is a 2,000 square metre spa built over a lake. www.mandarinoriental.com

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Ryanair makes a loss

RYANAIR has posted an annual loss for the financial year ending 31 March 2009.  The Irish low cost carrier declared a E169.2m loss for the year on a turnover of E2.94bn but the airline announced an after adjustments profit of E105 million.  Ryanair carried 58.5 million passengers in the financial year up 15% but adjusted profits for the year 2007/8 was E480m and the E105m was 78% down over the same period in 2008/9. www.ryanair.com

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Taiwan gets Crowne Plaza

CROWNE PLAZA, the IHG five-star hotel brand, is to open its first Taiwan property by the end of 2009.  Called E-Da World, located in Kaohsiung County, it is the biggest mass development project in the former Formosa.  The development includes hotels, shopping malls, a theme park, a university and various real estate areas. The property will have full service facilities with five restaurants, two ballrooms and ten function rooms.  IHG's current Taiwan portfolio includes Holiday Inn East Taipei, Holiday Inn Express Taoyuan and Holiday Inn Express Taichung Park.  In what it calls Greater China IHG currently operates 117 hotels open and more than 100 in the pipeline.  It has recently surpassed the United Kingdom to become IHG's second largest market in the world by number of rooms. www.crowneplaza.com

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US government disallows Kenya flights

DELTA AIR LINES has postponed indefinitely flights to Kenya after the US government failed to give approval for the services to go ahead.  The US Homeland Security Department had ordered more security checks to be made on the flights to the East African country.  The Kenyan government has protested in the strongest terms to the American government as the Kenyan Foreign Minister had summoned to US Ambassador to Kenya for a meeting in Nairobi to make the strongest protest at the last minute cancellation of the flight. www.delta.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Motoring briefs

HYUNDAI: Hyundai’s small 5-door i20 hatchback range is one of the first cars to win a 5-Star NCAP safety rating under the new upgraded tests. The model scored high marks in all tests - adult occupation, child protection and safety assist. Car is available in 1.2 and 1.4 litre petrol and a 1.4 diesel from UKP8,645.


JAGUAR: You have been warned! Various Police forces throughout the country are currently testing a Police specification Jaguar XF diesel model.


MITSUBISHI: Over 21% of UK dealer sales were made under the new scrap page sales incentive scheme. The company has announced keen low deposit/low interest offers linked to the 5/10-year car scrappage scheme.


CITROEN: Latest Citroens to become available under the Motability scheme are the new Citroen C3 Picasso and the highly practical Nemo Multispace. The French car maker is one of the UK’s leading car suppliers under the Motability scheme.

LEXUS: The Lexus E50h hybrid 4x4 is now being fitted with a key data head up display (HUD) system based on jet fighter technology. This enables the driver to see a LED readout on the lower part of the windscreen providing a range of information, including satellite navigation and safety warnings via the car’s adaptive speed control system. Car is priced from UKP41,600.


ALFA ROMEO: The Italian specialist car maker is bucking the UK downward car sales trend which has recorded a 28.5% downfall on year to date, by posting a sales increase of 76.8% in April. The recently launched MiTo compact hatch back model has been a major contributor to the make’s sales figures.


HYUNDAI: Extra discount on top of the current Scrappage scheme is being offered on 1.4 Hyundai i30 small hatch back model range, bring prices down to UKP8,295, including a 5-year warranty.


NISSAN: To meet increased demand for a number of its mainstream models under the Scrappage scheme, Nissan has recently increased its workforce by taking on 150 extra manufacturing staff on a 4-month contract basis.

Audi's New R8 V10 Has Serious Pedigree

Audi has already succeeded in becoming a highly rated prestige car brand and in doing so has proved that economic adversity is no barrier to forging ahead with probably the most energetic current new model programme of any car manufacturer. Customer demand is reported to be much stronger than most rivals
Under these circumstances I am not surprised that an awesome 517 bhp 5.2 litre V10 turbocharged version of the highly rated and much coveted Audi R8 has been created and on sale in the UK from this May.


Upstaging the original (and still available) 4.2-litre V8 powered Audi R8, this 196 mph mid-engine super car, priced between UKP99,575 (6-speed manual) and UKP104,665 (R tronic selective automatic) draws on a Le-Mans-winning pedigree allied to Audi’s universally acknowledged product quality to seriously ‘mix it’ with the established exotic Grand Touring cars from Italy and Germany.


Utilising craftsmanship standards of finish and assembly techniques combined with advanced engineering, including the extensive use of lightweight aluminium components and the world’s first all-LED headlight system, this new Audi R8 provides the discerning owner with an iconic car that offers both ultra fast performance potential - 62 mph (100 kph) is claimed to take a mere 3.9 seconds and, not surprisingly by Audi policy, a very user friendly car.


Returning a claimed combined fuel consumption in the 20 mpg region, which is respectable for this class of car, the R8 V10 can certainly entertain, the power unit providing a melodious burble when idling along with the bonus of an occasional automatic blip of the throttle when the automatic transmission unit changes down, the steering wheel mounted override facility ensuring driver involvement when desired and the sophisticated Quattro all-wheel drive transmission and race-proven braking systems ensuring pure power delivery without embarrassment.
Want even more driver involvement? Then opt for the manual gearbox car, though on the winding roads used for part of the launch test route in Southern Spain, a colleague ahead of me in a manual gearbox car occasionally demonstrated just how much punch this amazing Audi can unleash.


The Audi R8 V10 is undoubtedly a car for the serious types, serious about the finer things in life (customers have a major say in the personalisation of their chosen car), serious about their driving and with a seriously healthy bank balance. But then Audi has become a master at creating a whole range of car products aimed at seriously sensible customers.


Established producers of top people’s sports cars have more to contend with then a new kid on the block with the arrival of the Audi R8V10, they might find they have a new pack leader when sales figures get down the road a bit!

 

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