* items include readers letters
29 JUNE 2009
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IATA (International Air Transport Association) figures for May show a slowing down in the dramatic collapse in air travel which has dominated the airline scene over the last six months. Passenger traffic declined 9.3% compared to the same month in the previous year while freight demand was down by 17.4%. The average load factor stood at 71.2%, reduced from 74.5% recorded in May 2008. Besides the economic factors May was the first full month to feel the impact of the Swine Flu outbreak. Mexican carriers saw their traffic fall almost 40%. European airlines, in addition to weak long haul routes, saw some loss of market share to European low cost carriers whose traffic grew by 2.1%, while the network operators reported a 9.4% decline. www.iata.org
AIRBUS has delivered the first A320 from its new Chinese assembly line to Sichuan Airlines. Back in 1995 the domestic carrier became the first Chinese operator of the A320 and now has a fleet of 40 with a further 12 on order. Chinese airlines have ordered close to 600 A320 family aircraft in total. Eleven A319 and A320 aircraft are scheduled for delivery from the plant at Tianjin (northern China) in 2009 which will be ramped up to four aircraft per month by the end of 2011. www.airbus.com
BA is to increase its services to Bermuda (from five to six a week), Barbados (from nine to ten a week) and St Lucia and Port of Spain (from three to five a week) this winter. These are in addition to the previously announced new routes from Heathrow to Las Vegas and Gatwick to Montego Bay (Jamaica), Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Male (Maldives), Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) and Innsbruck (Austria). The number of flights from Heathrow to Barcelona is increasing from five to seven a day and Prague from three to four a day. For winter 2009, Gibraltar, Malaga and Pisa will move from Gatwick to Heathrow. Gatwick flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Krakow, Madrid, Malta, New York and Palma will cease. BA will now fly to Varna (Bulgaria) from Gatwick during the summer months only. www.ba.com
SKYBUS, the little airline that links the Isles of Scilly to the English mainland, will celebrate its 25th birthday later this year. The airline was launched on Wednesday, 22 August 1984, with a single BN Islander. It competed, and still does, with a helicopter service to Penzance, and also the (sometimes turbulent) sea crossing. Skybus is seeking former members of staff, and early customers, for a commemorative brochure it is publishing. From those early times the airline has expanded and, while still one of the UK’s smallest, now has a fleet of three Twin Otters and three Islanders serving six airports including a route from Newquay to St Brieuc (France). If you were around 25 years ago please see www.skybus.co.uk
LONDON'S Mayor Boris Johnson has tested the first of London’s new air-conditioned Underground rolling stock which will be introduced from next summer on the Metropolitan line. New trains will also be rolled out on the Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines. The London Tube is the oldest metro system in the world and the vast majority of the network was built long before air conditioning systems were developed for train use. However, much of the Tube is made up of deep and narrow tunnels built with insufficient space for air conditioning and finding cooling solutions is one of the many challenges being addressed by the Underground's Cooling the Tube project team. www.tfl.gov.uk/tube
RYANAIR passengers might have to carry their own bags to the aircraft’s steps. Airline CEO Michael O’Leary promoted this most bizarre idea last week, perhaps forgetting that carry-on baggage has to meet certain size standards. The idea of the elderly lagging their suitcases through security, across the departure lounge, along a corridor and then down the steps to the tarmac, is simply ludicrous. He said passengers could watch their luggage being loaded onto the aircraft – which conjures up the sight of passengers milling around the tarmac as if they were on a coach trip and refusing to board the plane until the luggage went into the hold. He also indicated that he was thinking about removing restrooms (adding seats), leaving a single washroom on a 180-seat passenger aircraft. The Ryanair press release talking about the baggage requirements has not been added to the airline’s usually comprehensive web site. www.ryanair.com
STANSTED AIRPORT seems to be reeling with passenger numbers down 18.5% for May and a public enquiry for a second runway yet again delayed. John Denham, the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has written to all parties saying essentially that with the whole question of BAA airport ownership under appeal “it was neither feasible nor realistic to announce the start date for the Stansted G2 public enquiry until such time as the outcome of the appeal is known”. This could take as long as nine months. In the meantime the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) appeal to the High Court in relation to the 'G1' expansion of the airport, which will see ten million extra travellers a year, has been thrown out opening up a growth to a potential 35m annual passengers passing through the airport at some point in the next decade. www.stanstedairport.com
I kid you not, Air New Zealand is taking safety briefings on its domestic jet services to new heights with body-painted staff set to feature in a pre-take off video that is a must watch (literally). 'Bare Essentials' is a fresh new twist in the airline’s hugely successful 'Nothing to Hide' ad campaign, which has been viewed by more than two million people on YouTube. The television commercial features pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and even CEO Rob Fyfe wearing nothing more than body paint.
AERBT does not think that this marketing ploy is transferable to Europe. Can you imagine Richard Branson, beard and all, prancing about only in Maori war paint. Or Willie Walsh resplendent with his latest crew cut. Michael O’Leary will try anything but would anyone watch! www.nothingtohide.co.nz
(The plan above views the Olympic Park from the direction of the West End. London City Airport lies to the right, about four miles)
In just 36 months' time, on Friday 27 July, the 30th Olympiad will be officially declared open in London. With the Paralympics following on more or less straight away (and closing on Sunday 9 September 2012), for six weeks it will be virtually impossible to get a hotel room in London, nor a flight in or out. And for a period before and after the games. No marketing skills will be needed to gain 100% occupancy.
London is very fortunate to have won the games with the worst economic conditions since WWII now upon us. We have something to look forward to. A great tract of derelict land in East London is being brought to life and we will be left with a working legacy founded on the efforts of a small team that persuaded the world that London was the place for the Olympics of 2012. Think of Stratford (and much else) without the challenge of the Olympics. It is a grim outlook.
To make the most of the games the travel industry, in all its diverse activities, needs to get involved at this time, and not just for a few busy weeks three years away. We need people to want to come to London now. The usual tourists the city will always attract but what is needed over the next three years is the Olympic bonus. The extra visitors that would not usually come. We want them to see as much as possible of what is going on. And to take the message back home persuading others to follow. The more the merrier.
The start has been slow with British Airways becoming an Official Partner 12 months ago and in more recent times Holiday Inn, part of Intercontinental Group (IHG) joining as an Official Supplier. Such is the machinations (or you might say commercial expertise) of the Olympic Organising Committee (based in Lausanne) BA ranks below Coca Cola as a UK supplier only, with Holiday Inn even lower down the ladder.
But you don’t have to be involved with the official organisations to make the most of the Olympics. After all we are all paying for it. There are enormous possibilities for the travel trade to greatly benefit from this once in a lifetime opportunity, and to do this during the next three years. And afterwards too.
AERBT visited the Olympic Park last week, hosted by ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) Australian Chief Executive David Higgins and Paul Deighton who holds a similar position with LOCOG (London 2012 Organising Committee). In simple terms ODA is building the games and LOCOG running them.
You have to be impressed. We are told that everything is on time with the centrepiece, the athletics stadium, virtually structurally complete with the seats ready to go in. In 12 months’ time it will be finished as will be the aquatics centre, velodrome and other sports venues.
Organised tours for the general public are not available due to the complexity of Europe’s largest building site. ODA has gone out of its way to organise school bus visits and this is a rolling programme, with a similar operation for local residents.
If you want to see the Park, and it is worth seeing, take the Tube to Stratford Regional and then the DLR to Pudding Mill Lane. Walk down the Greenway. You also get a good look at the site by parking on the A12 southbound in the Waltham Forest area. The most spectacular view however is taking off from London City Airport where, if you are lucky with both wind and flight routing, you can go right over the stadium. Likewise if you are sitting at a starboard window inbound to Heathrow. BA captains please tell your passengers.
An alternative is the webcam at www.london2012.com
The 80,000 capacity centre piece could be reduced to a 25,000 stadium after the event, but nothing has been decided at this moment in time. It is a very flexible edifice.
Organisers estimate that some 7.7 million tickets would be available for the Olympic Games, and 1.5 million tickets for the Paralympic Games. They will be going on sale in January/February 2011, with at least 50% of these priced under £20. To reduce traffic, ticketholders would be entitled to free use of London's public transportation network on the day of the event.
With modern technology, such as used at Wimbledon, it is hoped that the empty seats seen at Beijing will not happen, standby patrons able to quickly take up space not being used. However 20,000 press will be accredited as well as a similar number from the so-called Olympic ‘family’. Events such as the marathon, triathlon and road cycling will have no restrictions on spectators and the organisers are working on a scheme for non-seated (fee paying) visitors to enter the Olympic Park and watch events on huge screens. This could add substantially to numbers and should prove a wonderful day out. It is a proper park, a recreational area with the River Lee running from north to south, various canals, and plenty of green space. Two thousand trees are growing in a nursery, ready to be transplanted.
Sitting next to the Olympic Park is Stratford City, which shares Stratford International Station, a UKP1.45bn development by Westfield also responsible for the White City site of the same name, again adjoining a former London Olympic venue. Westfield Stratford City is due to open in 2011 and includes 300 shops, with John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose already signed up, and 5,000 car parking spaces, presumably with the same excellent electronic vehicle management system indicating vacant spaces used in the west London venture. Sited not far from the Olympic Village it should prove very popular with the rich 2012 professional competitors.
If you want to get a real feeling for the games a London 2012 Open Weekend takes place Friday, Saturday Sunday 24/25/26 July – a series of events across the whole country enabling access to excellence in the arts, culture and sport celebrating three years to go.
AERBT supports London 2012. Britain’s wonderful Beijing results may not have come about had Paris been the venue for the next Olympics.
We commend the efforts the current and previous Mayor of London in backing the games and acknowledge that there is a Minister for the Olympics. Visit London is doing its bit. However it is the airline and hotel industry that has the most to gain over the next three years with a vast potential for visitors. We have something that nobody else has in these most difficult of times. The London Olympics 2012. Team GB is all of us. www.london2012.com/openweekend
Editor in Chief
BMI, the former British Midland Airways, will effectively become part of Lufthansa on Wednesday 1 July, the finale of what was sometimes a saga started in 1999 when the German carrier agreed to purchase the Donington-based airline. An out-of-court settlement has been made to pay Sir Michael Bishop (technically BBW Partnership Ltd), a total of UKP223m (E265m) for the BBW stake of 50% plus one share in the UK carrier. bmi’s remaining minority shareholder, SAS, has indicated that it is interested in selling its 20% interest to Lufthansa. bmi holds around 11% of the Heathrow slots, not as valuable as they have been in the past. A sale of its low cost arm bmi baby is thought very likely as is a major reappraisal (and reduction) of the main line operations. Integration should not prove a problem, both carriers now happily together in Heathrow T1. Marketing and route selection might prove more interesting. www.flybmi.com
VUELING, the Spanish airline, will at some point in July become Heathrow’s latest resident. It will fly to Bilbao, La Coruna, Seville and Vigo as the carrier completes a union with Clickair, which will disappear. CEO of the combined airline is Alex Cruz, who created Clickair in 2006 with the backing of Iberia, the owner of 45% of the merged carrier. At a very comprehensive briefing in London last week Mr Cruz pointed out that Vueling will be the only true ‘low fare’ airline operating out of Heathrow and emphasised its independence from the Spanish national airline. At this stage joining oneworld was not planned. With both companies reducing their fleets and commitments over the last year or so the combined operation will finish up with 35 Airbus A320s and 90 routes. The closing of the Clickair head office in Barcelona and other efficiencies will reduce the overall work force by 250 to around 1,350. Vueling expects to carry 11m passengers this year, a little more than bmi and nearly twice Flybe. About 30% will be flying on business. www.vueling.com
KEMPINSKI will re-open Le Mirador Lake Geneva on Wednesday (1 July 2009) after a ten-month E50m refurbishment. Located 800 metres above Lake Geneva, facing the Alps in the heart of the Lavaux vineyards, the hotel features 62 spacious suites, three restaurants offering Swiss specialties, Mediterranean cuisine and fine dining, the only Givenchy Spa in Switzerland; a high class medical centre and a 14-metre Sunseeker yacht for exclusive trips on Lake Geneva. The main challenge of the project was to make the breathtaking view the focus point of the whole property. The architecture, the interior design and the selected materials all enhance the exceptional panorama. Large windows cover the south side of the building to frame the aerial landscape. The suites are elegantly decorated in warm tones contrasting elegantly with the blue sky. The East Wing of the property has been turned into 14 serviced deluxe residences for sale. www.mirador.ch
LIBREVILLE, capital of Gabon, which is only currently linked to Europe via Air France and at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), is to gain a five times per week service from Frankfurt. From Wednesday 15 July Lufthansa is to add the destination to its current Accra (Ghana) flights using a three-class Airbus A340. Gabon has extensive petroleum and manganese reserves and is an important exporter of timber. Through its trade in raw materials with companies in the United States, China and Europe, the country has an above-average GDP. Gabon lies on the Atlantic coast of Central Africa and straddles the Equator. Libreville is a port city with a population of more than half a million. Lufthansa now offers customers flights to 16 destinations across Africa. www.lufthansa.com
LUFTHANSA has won permission from the EU antitrust authorities to purchase 45% of Brussels Airlines in a deal worth E65m, with an option to take the rest from 2011. The total price will depend on performance-related factors and, initially, on 2010 results. The Commission, which had cleared Lufthansa's takeover of bmi last month, is now looking into its proposed purchase of loss-making Austrian Airlines, with the deadline for that review set for 1 July. www.lufthansa.com
LONDON’S prestigious Savoy Hotel has suffered a delay in its UKP100m restoration programme which means that it will not open until the first quarter of 2010. It was supposed to be ready by May of this year. London is in the throes of a major five-star hotel expansion with the Langham in Portland Place just opened, the Four Seasons at Hyde Park Corner in a similar state as the Savoy, and Corinthia working hard on their Whitehall/Charing Cross project. Fairmont Hotels, who will operate the property, blame the delay on “two key factors”, namely the poor condition of the hotel’s services infrastructure, and the discovery of original design elements that needed to be protected. www.fairmont.com/promo/savoy
IAIN BURNS, a former Head of Corporate Communications at British Airways, is returning to the United Kingdom after nearly three years with Etihad. Iain, an elderly father at the age of 50, says he is leaving Abu Dhabi with many regrets, but with the goodwill of boss James Hogan. Iain started life in PR at Manchester International Airport, claims to have had nothing to do with the City sponsorship deal (he is useless for tickets – even as a true blue supporter) but sees the UK as a family home. During a consultancy period based in London he looked after Emirates and has also American Airlines on his CV. email@example.com
AIRBUS has signed a contract with Virgin Atlantic which will add ten A330 aircraft to the fleet. Due to late delivery of 15 Boeing 787s on order these will be the first twin-engined aircraft flown by Sir Richard Branson’s airline, an indication of how engine technology and reliability has moved on since the entrepreneur’s '4 Engines 4 Long Haul' campaign knocking 'twin' operations. Integrating the new aircraft into the fleet should prove no problem, the sister A340 flown by the airline since 2002, although with reputed introduction problems. With no new routes announced it is thought that the A330s will replace most of the airline’s Boeing 747s. A very large question mark remains regarding an order for six Airbus A380s. A cancellation, or 'wait and see' deal could be part of the A330 package. www.airbus.com
BRITISH AIRWAYS is taking the fight for customers to the no-frills carriers by launching a ‘value calculator’ on ba.com. It will allow customers to check the true cost of Ryanair and easyJet’s added charges versus the value of BA’s full service. In a sharply worded press release it points out that on a round trip customers can be paying up to UKP375 on Ryanair and UKP79 on easyJet for ‘extras’ in addition to their fare. The system enables customers to select how they are choosing to travel, be that checking in at the airport or online, selecting a seat 24 hours before they fly, taking a bag, or opting for food and drink on board. It will then calculate what Ryanair, easyJet and BA will charge in total for those options. View the value calculator on www.ba.com/valuecalculator.
BOEING has again delayed the maiden flight of the 787 and also last week lost half of a Qantas commitment which is now down to 15 aircraft. The order book still stands at a very healthy 866. These days a first rotation is a complex business, unlike 27 July 1949, 60 years ago, when de Havilland’s Chief Test Pilot John Cunningham sitting in the cockpit of the prototype Comet (now Comet 1) , noting that Sir Geoffrey de Havilland was visiting Hatfield, got airborne for what tuned out to be a 31-minute maiden mission. Cunningham, extremely professional, and a famous night-fighter pilot of the Second World War, would have fully explored the flight envelope before getting airborne, like his Boeing contemporaries, but at the end of the day it was his judgment, and not a computer and the authorities that said go! A special moment in the history of aviation. Will the 787 fly before 27 July 2009? www.boeing.com
HOLIDAY INN is to open an 'Express' product at Heathrow, essentially aimed at travellers using BA’s T5. Presently a Quality Inn, it sits at the junction of the Colnbrook By Pass and the London Road close by J5 of the M4. Work has already started on the property, the first phase of 125 rooms is set to be completed in May 2010. With 300 guestrooms when finished 12 months later it will be the largest Holiday Inn Express in Europe. Snacks and complimentary continental breakfast will be available in the hotel's informal café. Business guests will benefit from the properties four well-equipped meeting rooms, providing space for up to 80 delegates. A regular shuttle service will be provided to T5. www.holidayinn.co.uk
BRITISH AIRWAYS, as predicted last week by AERBT, has published details of its London City Airport – Kennedy New York twice daily air service. Take-off day is Tuesday 29 September. Bookings have now opened and the services have been designated with the old Concorde flight numbers, BA001 for the 12:40 departure (arrives 17:05) and BA003 for the 16:00 (20:25). In the reverse direction the timings are BA002 18:30 (07:05 next day) and BA004 21:50 (10:25). Westbound the flight takes about two hours longer than from Heathrow and eastbound 30 minutes plus. Fares start at UKP1,901 return for a very restricted offering. The business tariff begins at UKP4,912 and a fully flexible ticket is UKP5,625. The service is only flown six days per week, London City Airport closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. www.ba.com
PITTSBURGH, the one time steel town of America, is again to be linked to Europe with direct non-stop flights. Both US Airways and BA have in the past withdrawn flights. Delta Air Lines has launched a new five times per week service to Paris CDG using two-class Boeing 757 aircraft. At the same time the airline has also introduced a similar operation out of Raleigh-Durham, also five times weekly. The airline says that the new routing is made possible by Delta's successful joint venture with Air France. Flight time for both services is about eight hours. www.delta.com
SKYEUROPE AIRLINES, who fly from Luton and Manchester to Bratislava and various Slovak points has obtained the local equivalent of Chapter 11 protection and continues to fly. Listed on the Vienna stock market the airline says it is restructuring. In April the airline carried 202,839 passengers, a dramatic drop of 27% on the same month one year ago, but in fact the load factor increased from 70.4% to 76.4% due to a severe cutting back in services and reduction in the aircraft fleet. www.skyeurope.com
Sharon Ross our editorial assistant reports
Let’s face it when you take a 20-month old toddler on a holiday / work trip, it is not like she needs a break from the monotony of life, or has been dying to see another part of the world. I am sure our daughter, Gabriella, would have got a similar amount of pleasure if my husband and I had taken two weeks off work and been with her the whole time letting her play with her toys, enjoying her food and generally just making a mess of the entire house.
Nevertheless, go on holiday we did – because we needed a break – a two-centre trip to Boston and San Diego / Los Angeles. We wanted to go there and thus Gabriella was obliged to come with us.
There were all sorts of concerns I had about the trip – the flight – Would she be upset during take-off and landing? Would she sleep? Were there appropriate facilities on board for a toddler? The holiday – what would we do in the evenings when she was asleep? How would I ensure she got her daytime nap? Would she play up? As I will explain, we got through all these things quite well – however, there was one consideration that we did not think of – more of that later.
So the flights – we opted for British Airways. We went on the various mother and baby websites and these reassured us that BA were very good with kids. And indeed they were – we were priority boarded, were offered bulk head seats, were given a bouncer for her to sleep in, a belt so that I could strap her round me when we took off, and a Paddington Bear suitcase so that she could throw crayons on floor which kept her occupied for quite a while. The staff on board were also very helpful. Of course, even with all these facilities the flight was not the best time she has had in her life, but they did make it bearable and transatlantic sectors generally went well for us. It helped that Gabriella has, even if I say so myself, a pleasant disposition and even on take-off and landing she did not complain.
However, going from Boston to Los Angeles (a six-hour flight) was an altogether different experience. We went United Airlines. We were not priority boarded, we did not have bulk head seats or ones with extra space (although to be fair these are often the emergency exits – banned for little ones. We did not have an extra seatbelt (apparently these are dangerous according to the US authorities but not those in the UK), a bouncer or a Paddington Bear fun pack. Indeed it was not surprising that there were no other babies on the flight. This meant that Gabriella sat on either one of us for the entire flight. She was good, but it was difficult and an experience that we would rather not repeat.
San Diego (and its Zoo)
We opted for most of the holiday to stay in a seaside apartment in Oceanside just north of San Diego. An apartment makes great sense for anyone with a child. It means that the little one has plenty of space to roam around in during the day and when she is asleep her parents can do as they please, without fear of waking her up. Sea World, a most absorbing experience for the parents, was not far away.
For a couple of nights we did stay in a hotel. However, we were surprised that when presented with the bill we were asked to pay USD15 per night for the travel cot supplied. There seems to be the general trend in the US at the moment that you are asked to pay extra for everything (USD10 per day for a child’s car seat from the car hire company – we brought our own, USD4 to rent a trolley at the airport, USD15 to park the car at Sea World). With a 20-month old the hotel room is a mess within two minutes (Gabriella has a desire to move shoes from one place to another, and clothes, leaflets and anything else she can lay her hands on) – the apartment worked much better for us.
America, as you would expect, is generally a child-friendly country. Sea World especially was a doddle, with wide avenues and great changing facilities. She enjoyed San Diego Zoo, but you cannot take the ‘stroller’ everywhere so you end up walking long distances to get to the same places as everyone else. What was surprising at these major attractions was that we were asked to leave our ‘stroller’ in a given place for 15-30 minutes whilst we went to see an attraction (eg the Shamu show). We just left our stroller unlocked, went to the show and came back and it was still there in one piece. Does that happen at British attractions I wonder?
I think it was a sign of the generally trusting nature of the American people and also perhaps a sign that petty theft in this sort of place is minimal. Our visits included historical Boston and the Queen Mary ship on Long Beach – and these like many others I suspect are all possible places to visit with a wee one as long as you ask for an ‘elevator’ and not a lift.
But there are free things to do with a child, which are just as great. She of course, loved the beaches (as indeed did her parents). Clean and beautiful you just could not go wrong. We also donned our baby rucksack carrier and went on some lovely hikes – Torey Pines being an example of short hikes that are an easy drive from San Diego. Southern California has some beautiful terrain and high up in a rucksack Gabriella loved the views.
So when we landed at Heathrow I was relieved. We had had a great holiday. Gabriella had been good on all the flights. She had got used to the new pattern of her day quite quickly (ie sleep when she got the opportunity and stay up quite late) and all was well. However, what we did not account for was that between LA and London is an eight-hour time difference. Although adults can gently acclimatise to this new change because they are aware of the time difference, a little one has no accounting for why she feels wide awake but mummy and daddy want her to go to sleep. After three nights of being up for four to five hours we decided enough was enough and let her scream for a couple of hours. Eventually she fell asleep. Cruel is kind – she had to get used to the new hours, but we did feel sorry for her. I am not sure if there was another way.
So – holiday with a child – yes. But if there are large time differences make sure that you are not going to work for a few days following your return (it is a good idea to come back on a Friday) because you might not have gotten any sleep.