17 AUGUST 2009

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AirAsia delays

AIRASIA, based in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) (Malaysia), has delayed the delivery of eight Airbus A320 series aircraft for up to four years (in effect 2014), citing the current "infrastructural constraints" at KUL, a reference to the delay in the construction of a low cost terminal at the airport.  The airline has a target of 175 of the short to medium range aircraft by 2015.  Its long haul division, AirAsia X, also hubs at KUL and operates daily A330 services to Stansted with connections to a variety of South East Asia destinations and also Perth and Melbourne (Australia). www.airasia.com

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Boeing training renamed

ALTEON, an odd choice of name for the company when it was founded some years back, is to be called in the future Boeing Training and Flight Services, which says it all.  The company has locations around the world and operates more than 100 full flight simulators.  The customer support team provides 24-hour support to more than 12,000 in-service aircraft.  The new name reflects the organization's expanded capabilities for providing flight, maintenance, cabin safety and flight operations training.  With the addition of flight services, the organization's expertise now includes customized flight and despatch documentation, aircraft performance data, operational consulting and safety analysis. www.alteontraining.com

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Continental a star

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES says that it finally expects to begin participation in the Lufthansa-led Star Alliance programme from the beginning of the winter airline season 27 October.  The airline was previously with Skyteam which included rivals Delta and Northwest and is led by Air France.  For the most part the airline complements its new Star Alliance ally United Airlines.  www.continental.com

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Hogg Robinson hotel survey

HOGG ROBINSON GROUP (HRG) has unveiled its six month hotel survey noting that corporates continue to consolidate their travel policies and negotiate more favourable corporate deals.  Moscow once again tops the chart as the most expensive destination for business travellers.  However, for the first time since the city entered the HRG survey in 2005, the rate saw a year on year decline (-14%).  Abu Dhabi is now in second place and is the only city in the survey to have achieved average rate growth of 5% in real terms when measured in local currency.  London has seen a 4% decline in average rate in the first six months of 2009, down from the 3% growth over the same period last year.  Average rates increased in the Americas by 15% and rose marginally in Western Europe thanks to the strength of the US Dollar and Euro against the Pound.  However Sterling’s recent gain in strength will help travellers from the UK. www.hrgworldwide.com

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OAG August

OAG (Official Airline Guide), the Dunstable (England) based schedules supplier to the world’s airlines says that in global terms carriers around the world will operate 2% fewer flights in August 2009 as compared to August 2008.  Although just marginal, after months of negative growth there are positive numbers regarding actual seat capacity.  These total 314,198,752, an increase of 472,839 from August 2008.  Middle Eastern region continues to reflect impressive growth with flights up by 19%.  In comparison, the North American region continues to show decline with a drop of 6%.  Traffic in Europe continues the downward trend August 2009 with 4% less seats than August 2008. www.oag.com

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Thai International returns

THAI INTERNATIONAL is to return to Abu Dhabi after an absence of nearly six years.  The airline, which like most has been struggling in financial terms recently, will begin a four times per week service on 26 October operating a 280-seat two-class Airbus A330.  The airline admits that after monitoring figures for the route it was encouraged enough to re-introduce the service saying that the destination has "growing potential". www.thaiairways.com

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Vueling gets closer to Iberia

VUELING, or if readers prefer, the new Vueling, is to become part of the Iberia Plus frequent flyers programme.  It is the first tangible benefit to passengers from the recent merger of the two airlines.  Clients of new Vueling  may now earn and spend Iberia Plus points on the same terms as those who flew with Clickair.  Iberia Plus, which claims to be Europe's first international airline loyalty programme, has more than 70 associated companies which award and/or accept points.  Since its launch in September 1991, the programme has grown steadily in the scope of its services and the number of members, which last year reached nearly four million.  www.vueling.com

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COMMENT: 'Express' to Stansted

Last week in COMMENT we asked a question of Lord Adonis, master of the UK universe on all matters concerning transport.  With his known love of trains here is something he can get his teeth into.

The news that the two non-stop train services from central London to both Gatwick and Heathrow are to go their own ways in the future (see Airport Express below) highlights just what a mess the Stansted equivalent is.

In a past life your Editor dubbed the Stansted Express, “The Stansted Slow”.  The title was and still is a complete misnomer, worthy of one of Stansted’s most prominent tenants, Ryanair, whose statements are often completely misleading. 

The train operates from London’s Liverpool Street main line station via Tottenham Hale and depending on its mood (and timetable) Harlow and Bishops Stortford to a three-platform station under the Stansted terminal.  When it was built it was a quick and cheap fix in case anyone asked deep questions regarding communications to the airport, a short branch line off the existing tracks from London to Cambridge.  It is hardly an express and seems to suffer from industrial action on a regular basis. 

The real problem with the railway line is not its inadequacy and operating hours that are not always in line with that of the airport but the fact that the majority of passengers use the road for their airport access making the M11 one of the most congested and accident prone highways in the country.  Listeners to local radio in North London, and on Mr Wogan’s (BBC Radio 2) early morning programme will testify that the M11 now competes with any other motorway in the country as far as airtime is concerned, seemingly always featuring an accident or serious congestion.

If any AERBT readers care to take a look at the Stansted master plan they should arm themselves with a magnifying glass to try and find any reference to rail surface links.  There are virtually none.

AERBT supports the expansion of Stansted.  It does not support the growth unless this is coupled to some sort of high speed mass transport link to a major London gateway.  It does not have to be a traditional train, a light railway or monorail could do the job.

In spite of the very high charges which must make Heathrow Express one of the world’s most expensive railway lines there is little doubt it has been a success, a very clever integration of a dedicated service into the heart of Paddington.

Airport Express was up and running with Gatwick and Heathrow prior to Stansted joining.  We do not know why the three-way partnership failed to work, but in any event the Stansted line is now run by the operator ‘One’.

If Stansted is really to be a success, whoever the owner is, a proper rail link is a priority, even before a second runway.  It is all probably too late for the Olympics with Stansted earmarked as a major gateway.

We wish the Gatwick and Heathrow dedicated London train operators every success with their new arrangements.  And we thank them for highlighting Stansted.  The rail link is a very serious problem which has been pushed under the carpet, in a manner of speaking, for too long.  Lord Adonis might just be the man to come up with a solution and show the air transport world that he really cares for that vital part of British commerce.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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Airport Express departs

AIRPORT EXPRESS, the alliance of Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express is to be to be disbanded when its current contract expires on 21 September.  Paul Brindley, Commercial Director for Airport Express, said: "Both Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express are very strong brands and want to refocus priorities on their core business so they can continue to deliver excellent customer service”.  Southern, the majority train operator at Gatwick, and the effective owner of the brand, took on the service last year after a Department for Transport (DfT) intervention.  Southern will now look after the Gatwick Express sales and marketing but the situation with Heathrow Express, a dedicated operation, is unclear at the present time.  Stansted Express has not been part of Airport Express since 2004.  www.airportexpressalliance.com

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British backing for Airbus

BRITAIN is to back the development of Airbus all new A350 XWB to the tune of £340m repayable launch loan.  According  to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, under whose aegis this comes, the aid will create and sustain more than 1,200 jobs within Airbus across Filton and Broughton sites as well over 5,000 within the supply chain across the UK.  The support  announcement follows on from a  commitment to provide £60m of support for GKN to design and develop the rear spar and trailing edge of the aircraft.  The UK aerospace industry is the second largest in the world behind the US.  It employs more than 100,000 people with a turnover of more than £20bn annually.  The UK accounts for more than 13% of the total turnover in the world aerospace market.  Aerospace exports from the UK were £14.3bn, making it one of the country’s biggest exporting industries.  www.berr.gov.uk

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Durban and FIFA World Cup 2010

DURBAN will have a new international airport in time for the Football World Cup next year.  Scheduled for completion in May 2010 is the King Shaka International Airport.  Now virtually complete the airport will initially have a single runway 3700m long with a parallel operation planned for the future.  The airport is about 20 miles from the city and connected by the N2 Freeway.  A railway link is intended but work will not start until after the World Cup.  A series of strikes has disrupted work and also at other infrastructure projects including a new 54,000 capacity soccer stadium to be used for the football.  The existing Durban gateway airport is expected to be decommissioned once King Shaka is open. www.kingshakaairport.com

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Japan Airlines shows eco

JAPAN AIRLINES is making a clear public demonstration of its commitment to the environment by placing the second of its so-called ‘Eco Jets’ on its London services.  The aircraft concerned is a Boeing 777-300ER in the same distinctive colour scheme as a similar series 200 aircraft used in the Far East.  For more than 15 years, JAL has been implementing a variety of measures designed to reduce and offset the impact its business activities have on the environment – from the introduction of more fuel efficient aircraft to the fitting of specially developed air-sampling equipment on its aircraft to help scientists better understand the causes and effects of global warming.  JAL currently has twice daily services between Heathrow and Tokyo.  www.jal.com

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Ryanair opens another UK base

RYANAIR is to open another UK operation next March at Leeds Bradford Airport which is bound to cause a draught with the airport’s established main operator Jet2.  The airline already serves Alicante, Girona and Dublin from the airport which is half way between the two Yorkshire cities.  Two 180-seat Boeing 737-800s will cover 14 new routes.  New are Carcassonne, Faro, Ibiza, Knock, Krakow, Limoges, Malaga, Malta, Montpellier, Murcia, Nantes, Palma, Pisa and Venice (Treviso).  Ryanair says that with the fresh destinations its traffic at the airport should top one million passengers per year, with 63 weekly return flights. www.ryanair.com

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Traders hotel opens

TRADERS HOTEL, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, a four-star property has opened.  This is Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ second Traders property in the Middle East, bringing the group’s total number of hotels in the region to five.  The hotel features 301 guest rooms and suites.  The hotel is part of the Qaryat Al Beri complex, which includes a luxury Shangri-La and offers a wide variety of dining, retail and recreation. These include an authentic Arabic souk (market), with informal waterfront dining and boutique shopping;  CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La; a health club; outdoor swimming pools; children’s play area; and restaurants featuring Chinese, Vietnamese, French and international cuisines. Guests can easily access the complex by club car or a short abra (Arabic gondola) ride on the waterway. www.tradershotels.com

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ON TOUR: The Peak District - Part 1

The Peak District, often called the Derbyshire Peaks, is a huge area in central and northern England, lying mainly in northern Derbyshire, but also covering parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, and South and West Yorkshire.

Most of the region falls within the Peak District National Park, whose designation in 1951 made it the first national park in the British Isles.  With the M1 on one side and the M6 the other it is very accessible from all parts of the country and with an estimated 22m visitors per year it is thought to be the second most-visited national park in the world (after the Mount Fuji National Park in Japan).

Your editor drove up from London, two hours, and based himself at Makeney Hall Hotel, part of the Folio Hotels Group, and a former Victorian country mansion.  Situated just a few hundred yards off the old A6 is it eight miles north of Derby and two miles from the flourishing market town of Belper.  From Makeney the A6 winds it  narrow way, with picturesque countryside on both sides, and stone walls, through the small towns Matlock Bath, Matlock, Bakewell (known for its tarts) and eventually Buxton (famous for its water), considered the capital of these parts.

AERBT took advantage of the Smartbox gift package (as advertised on the home page).  It included a (very) welcoming drink, deluxe room, dinner, bed and breakfast.

Our overnight, two day visit consisted of visiting three stately homes, all very grand in their own way and each from a different period of British history.  Haddon Hall, Chatsworth and Hardwick.  Hardwick is named after Bess of Hardwick, said to be the second richest women in England during Elizabeth I’s reign, outliving four husbands, and the potency of a line that is still with us, that of the Dukes of Devonshire.

Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall is very easily accessible just south of Bakewell actually on the A6 with the car park across the main road.  Just like Chatsworth it has been with the same family for hundreds of years.  Again like Chatsworth numerous films and TV series have been produced within its confines, the latest being Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and The Other Boleyn Girl. 

Haddon Hall is not a castle but a fortified manor house and a home.  What you see today is much attributed to the 9th Duke of Rutland who during the 1920s restored the house and gardens.  It is classic Tudor although parts are even older.  The banqueting hall (with minstrels' gallery), kitchens and parlour date from 1370 and the St Nicholas Chapel was completed in 1427.  Most impressive is the panelled Long Gallery, light and airy and facing south.  It is 110ft by 17ft.  The gardens are terraced and include a 20th century fountain and pool.

The current resident custodians are Lord and Lady Edward Manners whose brother is the 11th Duke of Rutland and lives in Belvoir Castle, also in the Peak District.  With 50,000 visitors a year it is never that busy but offers a quiet and low key understanding of how the gentry lived 500 years ago.  About three hours will easily cover including a visit to the timbered restaurant, high up in the old stable block overlooking the fast flowing River Wye.

Chatsworth
Chatsworth is one of the great houses of England, dates from the 1550s, and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire.  It lies just a few miles off the A6 south of Bakewell and we would suggest at least half a day to explore the house and the magnificent and extensive grounds. 

It was Bess of Hardwick who instigated the house as we know it today persuading her then husband Sir William Cavendish (number two) to buy the estate in 1549.  A resident of the newly completed property was Mary Queen of Scots, although she met her end at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire.  One hundred years later William Cavendish, who was raised to be the first Duke of Devonshire, re-built the property completely including many of the state rooms.  The fourth Duke, another William commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, one of the greatest English landscape gardeners, to create the magnificent park.

In the 19th century the 6th ‘Bachelor’ Duke employed the young Joseph Paxton as head gardener.  Paxton went on to create the Crystal Palace and any number of iron structured buildings.  This particular William was a great collector and many of the unique pieces seen around the property are the results of forays into Europe or ‘blind’ bids made at auctions.  Some of the rooms cannot be bettered in their opulence anywhere in Europe, including Versailles and St Petersburg. 

In 1981 the charitable Chatsworth House Trust was set up by the 11th Duke to ensure the long term survival of the house and collection for the benefit of all.  Since 1949 the entrance money paid by more than 20m visitors has made a vital contribution to the maintainace of the house, garden and park.  The Duke of Devonshire and his family pay rent to live in part of the house and manage Chatsworth with the support of the Trust’s Council of Management.  Today a master plan is currently underway the results of which will be completely seen in 2010 when the final part of the scaffolding covering some of the buildings is due to be cleared away.

Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England and the ancestral home of Bess of that name.  Situated very close to J29 of the M1 and since 1959 it has been owned by the National Trust.

The property  was a secondary residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, whose main country house was at nearby Chatsworth.  It has altered little over the years and indeed, from the early 19th century the antique atmosphere has been consciously preserved.

Bess was born at Hardwick.  Clearly, besides husbands and the 12 children she bore overseeing building work must have taken up much of her time.  Old Hardwick Hall, the ruins of which are opposite and is included in the admission fee was never completed.

Hardwick is a proper country house not fortified in any way and is essentially pure Elizabethan.  It was one of the first English manors where the great hall was built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.
Bess for the most part remained on good terms with her Queen and was forever inviting her to Hardwick.  She never came for one reason or another but what you see today are rooms designed to welcome the Monarch. 

What is surprising is that the state rooms are on the second floor, which includes one of the largest long galleries in any English house and a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze of hunting scenes.  The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury.  There is a large amount of fine tapestry and furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries.

You can visit the three venues easily with an overnighter and perhaps a stop at one of the small market towns on the A6.  We even managed to visit an old mill converted into a factory outlet, the 17th century industrial plant retained and changed into a museum.

www.Visitpeakdistrict.com
www.foliohotels.com/makeneyhall
www.haddonhall.co.uk
www.chatsworth.org
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hardwickhall

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Air France children's charity North Atlantic flight

AIR FRANCE has decided to auction 380 seats on each of its two inaugural flights on the Airbus A380, operating from Paris to New York on 20 November and from New York to Paris on 21 November 2009.  These will be the first ever scheduled A380 flights across the North Atlantic.  This exclusive auction sale, the terms of which will be presented at a later date, will take place on the internet in October 2009 and will be available to all markets (France, United States and other countries).  The winners will travel on the A380 outbound inaugural flight to New York and return on a commercial flight.  Departures will only take place from Paris and New York.  The profits of this operation will be used to fund three humanitarian projects supported by the Air France Foundation for children in distress which since 1992 has supported over 500 projects in 67 countries. www.airfrance.co.uk

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BAA delays new terminal

BAA has now confirmed that it is moving ahead with the reconstructed Heathrow Terminal 2 for which it already has planning permission.  However instead of it being operational by the summer of 2012 it is now saying that the building work will not be finally completed until 2019.  The term “Terminal East” seems to have been dropped with the T2 name retained, the Star Alliance carriers being the only tenants.  The cost is put at one billion Sterling.  The terminal will be built in two phases – the first with 185,000m2 of floor space on the site of the existing T2 and Queen's Building, both of which will be demolished later this year.  Construction of the first phase due for completion in 2013, 12 months later than originally planned, while phase 2 will extend the new T2 into the existing T1 site and increase the capacity of T2 to 30m passengers a year.  T1 will close when phase two is complete in 2019, but will remain open throughout construction. www.baa.com

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Carlisle Airport for scheduled flights?

CARLISLE AIRPORT, once RAF Crosby-on-Eden, could become a fully licensed scheduled service operation after the local city council gave planning permission for the owner, Stobart Group Ltd, to develop the facility.  Stobart Air, part of the Group and also the owner of Southend Airport, plans to resurface the 1800m single runway and build a new passenger terminal.  These developments are expected to be completed during next year and also include a 350,00sq ft warehouse and the relocation of a Stobart lorry park.  Stobart Air is known to be evaluating the possibility of starting its own airline whilst in discussions with possible resident carriers. www.carlisleairport.co.uk

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Heathrow leaps ahead

HEATHROW has recorded it best month for three years and the third busiest on record rather showing up its continental rivals who are still for the most part struggling.  Numbers actually rose in July compared with the same month last year and whilst an increase of a fraction under 1% would be considered poor under normal circumstances BAA says it is an indication that traffic is stabilising.  Delivery or more Airbus A380 aircraft is helping the figures with the airlines keen to fill these particular planes and passengers also eager to try the new super Jumbo. www.baa.com

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New York gains Candlewood Suites

NEW YORK now has a Candlewood Suites property. Just opened and purpose-built the 188 suite building is located at 339 West 39th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in the old garment district near to Times Square.  Candlewood is IHG’s rapidly developing midscale extended-stay hotel brand.  With Candlewood guestrooms are all studio suites with wide rooms, including a full kitchen with full-size refrigerator, stove top, dishwasher and microwave, and stocked with pots, pans, plates, glassware and utensils; comfortable recliner; large workspace with desk chair; and deluxe bedding.  Amenities included are a complimentary 24-hour fitness centre, complete with cardio and weight machines, and free onsite laundry for guests.  There is a common eating area as well. www.CandlewoodSuites.com

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Stansted operator moves

GREEK carrier Aegean Airlines will move its London services from Stansted to Heathrow from 25 October, plying the route with a new Airbus A321 aircraft taking advantage of slot availability.  The airline says it is hoped that the move is part of the integration process with Star Alliance which it hopes to complete by June 2010.  Aegean will now fly twice daily from Heathrow, compared with the current three daily flights from Stansted and will be going somewhat upmarket with a full meal service and in-flight entertainment system.  Also making the use of easier Heathrow access for airlines is Aer Lingus who is increasing its Belfast International frequency from four to five return flights per day, again from the beginning of the winter season. www.aegeanair.com

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Ukraine International to the Middle East

KIEV is to be joined to Abu Dhabi for the first time with twice weekly flights by Ukraine International from 25 September.  The service will be operated by a recently delivered Boeing 737-800 new generation; it is the first of the type, in a two-class layout with a flight time of around 5hr 5min.  The airline already operates a twice weekly service to Dubai from Kiev.  Its fleet comprises of 18 Boeing 737s of various marks with two further Dash 800 models due in 2010. www.flyuia.com

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HAPPY TALK: A tale of our times

A policeman arrives at the scene of an accident, in which a car smashed into a tree.

The officer rushes over to the vehicle and asks the driver, "Are you seriously hurt?"

"How do I know?" was the quick response.  "I am not a lawyer!" 

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