23 NOVEMBER 2009

YOUR WORDS


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Airbus is a big hit

AIR AUSTRAL, based in Saint Denis (La Réunion), has ordered two Airbus A380s, the aircraft to be fitted out with a mind boggling 840 seats.  Think of three times as many boarding next time you fly on a nearly full Boeing 747.  Administratively La Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France.  It is in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, about 120 miles east of Madagascar.  The A380 will be expected to take around 11hrs 30mins for the flight to Orly.  This new order brings the commitments for A380 to 202 with 20 delivered to four airlines. www.air-austral.com

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Boeing to make first flight?

BOEING has issued pictures of the first 747-8 Freighter straight out of the Everett paint shop and getting ready for its maiden flight.  The aircraft is ultimately destined for Cargolux, and is a vital leap forward for Boeing, the first major development of the 747 since the -400 which made its maiden flight in April 1988.  Some 105 orders have been secured but perhaps more importantly it is virtually the prototype for the passenger 747-8 Intercontinental, the stretched 747 embodying the same engines and similar cockpit layout to the Boeing 787.  At just over 76m long it is the world’s longest airliner.  To date only 30 have been ordered, by Lufthansa.  www.boeing.com/commercial

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Iberia strikes cancelled

IBERIA strikes will not now go ahead following an agreement between the airline and the unions, said to be an average 4% salary increase.  Accord was reached last Friday (20 November).  The unions had already carried out strikes in October and November and another eight days of stoppages were planned between the end of November and the middle of December. www.iberia.com

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Luton to Slovakia

DANUBE WINGS is the name of a new Bratislava (Slovakia) based airline which has announced plans to operate from Luton to Popgrad with three weekly services from 1 December.  Incorporated in 2008 the airline currently operates three ATR 72s on routes from Bratislava to a number of regional destinations.  A Czech Airlines Boeing 737-400 is being wet leased for the route.  Poprad is situated in the north of Slovakia towards the Polish border and with its close location to the High Tatras Mountains is very much skiing country.  Danube Air is part of VIP Wings, a successful executive jet charter company established in 2000.  It is not associated with SkyEurope who failed earlier this year, and who also flew into Luton. www.danubewings.com

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Regional aircraft boom

FORECAST INTERNATIONAL, the market intelligence provider, projects that a total of 3,754 regional aircraft will be produced during the next ten years.  This prediction includes both regional jets, which account for about two-thirds of the forecast, and regional turboprops.  ATR, Bombardier and Embraer will continue to dominate but the study also points to a number of newcomers who could challenge the established players for sales and market share.  These include the Chinese firm AVIC with its ARJ21 regional jet, Mitsubishi of Japan with the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), and the Russian firm Sukhoi Civil Aircraft with the Superjet 100.  The “big three” are not standing still with Bombardier well on its way with the C series and still undecided regarding a stretch of the successful Q400, Embraer talking about a 120-seat plus aircraft and ATR making noises regarding an all new turboprop. www.forecastinternational.com

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Terminal 2 closes

TERMINAL 2 HEATHROW, once called the Europa Building, will close after the final Air France arrival from Paris scheduled for 22:30 on Monday night (24 November).  If all is working on time the AF 1881 should have left its stand for Charles de Gaulle just ten minutes earlier.  No tears will be shed and we have not heard of any action by English Heritage or legacy groups to save the eyesore.  Next door the Queen's Building, once the airport’s control tower, is already being reduced to rumble.  Older readers may recall that in the late fifties and early sixties Tavern in The Sky, the terminal’s public restaurant overlooking the apron, was quite the place to eat on a Saturday night.  Your Editor recalls 12 shillings and six pence for a three-course meal but stands to be put right.  Corrections to info@aerbt.co.uk

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Virgin loses PR chief

PAUL CHARLES, Director of Communications at Virgin Atlantic Airlines, is to leave the company at the end of the year.  A replacement is being sought.  Paul joined the Sir Richard Branson headed airline in 2006 from Eurostar and prior to that was a journalist working for amongst others the BBC.  He is joining technology-focussed London-based international agency Lewis PR as Chief Operating Officer.  Paul took over from Paul Moore, another adroit PR operator.  His successor will have to be equally nimble in outmanoeuvring rival British Airways, a task Paul Charles clearly found fun, and not too difficult. www.lewispr.com

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HAPPY TALK: Michael O'Leary again

Michael O’Leary has been at it again, saying that wet weather is the best thing that ever happens to his airline.  When it’s damp people rush across the tarmac.  It speeds up boarding!

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COMMENT: Passenger delay compensation

Not widely reported by the national media on Friday (20 November), a decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will have a significant effect on air travel.  Essentially what the European judges have ruled is that airline passengers facing long delays should receive the same cash compensation as those whose flights are cancelled.

The judgement, which is not statutory, stems from cases brought in the German and Austrian Courts regarding Condor and Air France.  In these cases the delays were much worse, 22 and 24 hours respectively.

The Judges definition of a “long delay” was one which delivers travellers to their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time.  What the Court of Justice said in this case is a guideline but what is clearly contentious is the three-hour break point.  Clearly European Judges do not have much patience. 

At this stage no statistics are readily at hand regarding the number of flights that are delayed longer but waiting this amount of time in an airport lounge is not uncommon.  If every delay of this length were to trigger compensation the cost to airlines would be horrendous.  Should UK passengers who have waited, say four hours, now decide to claim via the British Courts surely the guideline requires to be the result of a serious study by the CAA, or an approved research organisation.  One could argue that is is an excuse to print money for the compensation lawyer industry.

However the judges noted: “Such a delay does not give rise to a right to compensation if the airline can prove that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which are beyond its actual control and which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.”

They ruled out technical problems unless “by their nature or origin are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control.”  Another point of contention.

Existing Denied Boarding Regulations only cover cancelled departures, although airlines are obliged to offer passengers assistance if delays are expected to go beyond a certain length, with the starting point a two-hour delay on a flight up to 1500 kms (932 miles).  The cancellation compensation currently stands at between €250 and €600 per person per flight.

The European Parliament needs to look at the regulations again.  The current rules were established in 2004.

MALCOLM GINSBERG

Editor in Chief

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Arik Air expands international routes

ARIK AIR, now Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, will introduce a five times per week non-stop service between Heathrow and the national capital Abuja next Thursday (26 November).  The flights will operate five times per week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.  The service will run parallel with the airline's daily flights to and from Lagos, both now using Heathrow Terminal 4.  Unlike Lagos, which operates an Airbus A340-500 on the route, Abuja will use the much smaller Boeing 737-800, the brand new aircraft offers 20 Business Class seats and 126 in Economy.  On 29 November the airline will introduce a non-stop Lagos – New York service, also with an Airbus A340-500. www.arikair.com

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GOL talks to London's City

GOL boss Constantino de Oliveira Jr was in London last week, speaking to the City and the media.  He said that in spite of the mistakes made during the Varig takeover (GOL earlier this year withdrew all the Varig long haul international services disposing of eight of the Boeing 767 fleet leaving it with six aircraft) the airline was very well positioned.  GOL made a profit of US$45.8 in the last quarter.  However there was “no chance” of GOL operating over the Atlantic again.  He said that the code shares that had been signed with Air France and Iberia were very good news meaning that GOL could sell long haul flights without the costs of that type of operation.  Passengers to and from Europe were being made aware of a first class airline.  The airline is continuing to develop new routes in South America and would be taking between three and five Boeing 737 new generation aircraft per year until 2016 when the fleet would be 181 strong. www.voegol.com.br

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Japan Airlines up in the air

JAPAN AIRLINES may be about to introduce Premium Economy on the Tokyo – Sydney route (from 1 December) but readers should take note that the airline posted a half year loss of about US$1bn and has both Delta Air Lines and American Airlines fighting for future control.  The essential claim is that JAL has been badly managed and could run out of cash within a few days.  It is thought that the new Japanese government would not want the airline to flounder, although it has publically stated that bankruptcy is a possibility.  Should Delta find the finance, much of which would come from private equity sources, it would mean JAL leaving oneworld for SkyTeam, a complicated process.  An American Airlines involvement would suit British Airways.  Up for grabs is the highly lucrative Japan – USA air trade.  The JAL Sky Shell Seat, which won the 2008 Good Design Award, is the world's first shell-shaped seat in Premium Economy Class.  It is already available on routes between Tokyo (Narita) and JAL's main gateways in Europe – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Moscow and Paris, as well as the four destinations in mainland USA served by the airline – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. www.jal.com

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Munich gains Continental

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES is to launch a daily non-stop service between its New York hub at Newark Liberty International Airport and Munich, effective 27 March 2010.  Flight CO106, a Boeing 767, will depart Newark daily at 17:25 local and arrive in Munich at 07:50 the following morning.  The return departs 09:20 arriving 12:35.  The schedule  complements new Star Alliance partner Lufthansa's existing daily New York-Newark – Munich service, which departs Newark Liberty about three hours later and Munich about six hours later.  It is very likely that the new flights will be introduced with Continental’s latest BusinessFirst seats already fitted (see 9 November AERBT).  Continental currently offers non-stop service between New York-Newark and Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg.  The airline launched a service from Houston to Frankfurt on 1 November this year.  Munich will be the 30th destination in Continental's trans-Atlantic route network. www.continental.com

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Rolls-Royce powers Air China

AIR CHINA has signed up with Rolls-Royce to supply Trent 700EP engines to power 20 Airbus A330 aircraft taking the airline’s fleet of Rolls-Royce powered A330s to 43 once all the new aircraft are delivered by 2014.  Air China is listed on both the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges and recently disclosed it is to acquire a 29.99% stake in Cathay Pacific, which in turn will gain 18.09% of the Beijing-based airline.  The carrier serves London from Beijing on a daily basis. www.air-china.co.uk

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Toronto goes for growth

CITY CENTRE TERMINAL CORP (CCTC), operator of Toronto’s downtown airport terminal facility, has taken the unusual step of inviting airline competitors to mount a presence at what is becoming a very successful enterprise.  CCTC is owned by Porter Aviation Holdings, the parent company of Porter Airlines, the major carrier at the airport.  Under construction is a new terminal which will include ten air bridges, customs and immigration facilities, and a mix of food service, duty-free, and other retail outlets.  A larger ferry is part of the scheme although the possibility of a bridge or even a tunnel to service the airport has not been ruled.  For the future the facility will be known as Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in memory of the Canadian WWI flying ace. www.torontoport.com/airport.asp

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ON TOUR: The Dubai International Aerospace Show

Word and pictures by Eryl Crump:

It is amazing to be reminded but last week’s Dubai Airshow was the 11th in the biennial series with 890 exhibitors from 47 countries and getting on for 50,000 visitors. 

Dubai attracted the world’s most advanced aircraft to its air show but organisers had few surprises with contracts for new aircraft.

The value of deals announced during the five-day event, £13bn, paled in comparison with two years ago, when Gulf airlines led a US$155bn spending spree.  Activity in the halls and static display area was a little more energetic with a third exhibition hall available and more than 120 aircraft on display.

Opening the show Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, described it as “timely and on the cusp of a business upturn.”

He said: “The air show comes at an important time for the aerospace industry.”

European plane maker Airbus was the clear winner in the sales race receiving more than five times the orders by value of US rival Boeing, but in truth the figures are academic, plane makers always keen to use show opportunities to announce sales. 

Airbus received US$5.3bn (£3.2bn) in orders and letters of intent, against two orders worth US$800m from Boeing.

Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said: "We had a good air show, better than many expected.  Our industry is not out of the woods yet.  There will be a difficult winter ahead of us.  But with the deals we made in Dubai and the interest in our products that we saw here, spring may not be that far away."

Yemenia ordered ten Airbus A320. Ethiopian Airlines placed a commitment for 12 Airbus A350-900s worth US$2.9bn, and Senegal Airlines, the new national carrier of the Republic of Senegal, signed a letter of intent to purchase four A320 family aircraft and two A330s.  The airline will launch services in early 2010 from its hub in Dakar to destinations in Africa and Europe.  Airbus officials also announced a requirement for one A330-200 and one Airbus A320 from Nepal Airlines.  The manufacturer also revealed its sharklets, a new fuel-saving device on the wings of its best-selling A320 aircraft.  Air New Zealand will start taking delivery of these aircraft in 2012.

Boeing announced deals for seven 737-800 jetliners to Algeria's government-run Air Algerie and four to Tassili Airlines, also of Algeria.  Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s marketing chief for commercial planes, was encouraged by the order that the economic downturn was ending.  He said 2010 would be the year of recovery and airlines would return to profitability in 2011.  Mr Tinseth added the growth would come from the Middle East as well as “China, India and other emerging markets with dynamic populations and growing incomes.”


His comments echo those of Airbus President Tom Enders earlier this week.  Mr Enders had said the market was improving and added there was no longer talk of cancellations and deferrals.

He said: “We are at the end of a very difficult year for both airlines and manufacturers.  But the orders and announcements made at this air show in Dubai send a very strong signal of recovery in 2010 for the whole industry."

Switzerland-based executive jet operator Comlux announced the purchase of its third Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) at the show.  The order brings its total fleet of Airbus corporate jets to ten aircraft including four A318s, three ACJs, two A320 Prestiges and an A330-200 Prestige.
 
However it was not just the “big two” who were announcing orders.  Brazilian manufacturer Embraer brought its new Lineage 1000 to the show.  A conversion of the poplar E-190, the aircraft can be configured for a variety of roles.  A few places further down the static line Embraer's brand new Phenom 100 VLJ was on display.  Oman Air signed a contract for five Embraer 175s at the show.  The deal also includes purchase rights for another five aircraft.  The initial delivery is scheduled for the first quarter of 2011.

But the main activity in the executive market appeared to be the recycling of older airframes.

A luxuriously appointed Avro Business Jet attracted a large number of visitors during the week.  Buyers can expect to receive change from US$20m for a fully refurbished and bespoke styled aircraft Steward Cordner of BAe Systems confirmed. 

Following its early successes with the conversion of Bombardier CRJ-200s Project Phoenix, a Dubai-based company,  is looking at moving into new airliner types including Airbus and Boeing.

328 Support Services in Germany announced its securing FAA Repair Station Approval enabling them to expand conversion activity on the type into the USA.   

Several Gulf-based firms were promoting the sale of Boeing 737s.  AeroToy Store had a hush-kitted 737-200 on display.

At all the major air shows it is always the big plane orders that make the headlines, but in fact it is the lower echelon deals that take place in the chalets and halls that are the nuts and bolts of the industry.  Typical was DAE Capital, part of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise US$40m order for wheels and carbon brakes for its planned Boeing 737 fleet.  The pledge, to supply 70 Boeing 737 next generation aircraft to be delivered from the US plane maker from next year, went to Messier-Bugatti of France with DAE Capital CEO, Bob Genise, citing its “lightweight design, lower cost of ownership and resultant fuel burn reduction” as key selection factors.

The location for the next show was still in doubt as the doors closed for the last time.  Plans had been made to move the entire exhibition to the new airport being built at Jebel Ali in time for this year, but completion of the new facility has been put back until June 2010 and there were clear indications exhibitors, buyers and onlookers will be back at Dubai's current airport in early November 2011.


Eryl Crump
eryl.crump@btinternet.com

dubaiairshow.aero

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Air Canada gets inflight internet

AIR CANADA has begun trials on Toronto – Los Angeles and Montreal – Los Angeles routes to offer its customers the Gogo Inflight internet service.  Following the test period which runs until 29 January 2010, Air Canada will analyze usage and customer feedback before it proceeds with introduction of the facility on other routes.  Customers can access the service using their own wi-fi equipped laptop at a cost of US$9.95 per flight or Personal Electronic Device (PED) at a cost of US$7.95 per flight.  Initially, the Gogo system will be powered by Aircell's existing network and only available in the continental USA in order to make Air Canada's rollout fast, economical and simple.  Air Canada intends to extend the system on other routes in North America with the deployment of the Canadian Air-To-Ground (ATG) network.  Aircell plans to collaborate with the Canadian ATG licensee in supporting the establishment of a Canadian ATG network and in facilitating the fleet-wide deployment of Air Canada's onboard connectivity service. www.gogoinflight.com

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Berlin fights Emirates

EMIRATES passengers to Germany will have to pay more for their tickets according to a report in the London Financial Times.  Emirates said the “imminent threat of significant fines” had forced it to raise the price of business fares on routes including Frankfurt to Johannesburg, and Hamburg to Singapore by as much as 20%.  The airline says the “anti-consumer” and “commercially nonsensical” policy was unfair because it has not been applied to other airlines flying out of Germany, and it plans to raise the matter with the European Commission.  The head of Germany’s central transport watchdog, the Federal Office for Goods Transport, wrote to Emirates earlier this week confirming it was “not allowed to engage in price leadership” on routes out of Germany to non-EU countries.  A spokesperson for Lufthansa said it was nothing to do with them. www.emirates.com

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Heathrow travellers please read

HEATHROW travellers who use the Feltham bus connection for trains on the lines that start out of Waterloo and up from the south west should note that a bridge in the Feltham area has been damaged in the recent gale, affecting services.  At the time of writing the line remains closed between Feltham and Whitton and between Feltham and Hounslow, affecting the routes from Reading to Waterloo via Staines and from Windsor to Waterloo via Staines.  The alternative arrangements currently in place on weekdays will continue into the week until a Network Rail temporary solution is in place.  Check before you travel. www.southwesttrains.co.uk

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Kings Cross upgrade

KINGS CROSS-ST PANCRAS (KX) station users will be pleased to learn that a new Underground ticket hall is opening next Monday (29 November) taking pressure off the hopelessly overcrowded present facility.  Users of the First Capital Connect services to and from Peterborough and Cambridge (and Potters Bar – Your Editor’s station) from KX platforms 9, 10 and 11 will particularly benefit cutting the change time by half.  Also benefiting will be commuters on theThameslink line from Bedford and Luton plus south Londoners wishing to make Eurostar.  This will not mark the full completion of the project – the step-free works will continue until the middle of next year – but it's certainly a major milestone. See London Reconnections

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Olympic fever hits the CAA

OLYMPIC FEVER already seems to be hitting normally conservative bodies including the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and sadly giving attention seeking MPs and the anti-airport lobby yet another opportunity to gain exposure.  The CAA has put out a statement concerning London 2012.  "As the UK's specialist aviation regulator one of our roles is to manage the UK's airspace.  We have therefore started to gauge the demand that will be placed on the system by the extra flights associated with the London Olympics and together with Government and stakeholders we are developing a number of options to help safely meet that capacity demand.  This is similar to work undertaken by every other nation hosting such a major event.  This work is still at an early stage and no decisions have been made.  Any decision on changes to airport night noise regimes would be taken by the Government rather than the CAA."  Readers will appreciate that extra scheduled services are highly unlikely due to operational reasons and lack of spare capacity.  The cost of opening up Heathrow for a series of night flights is horrendous and any flights would also have to work in with the airport at the other end.  It is virtually a non-starter.  Business jets and private aircraft will be using regional airfield facilities 24/7 during the games. www.caa.co.uk

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Sheffield gets more trains

EAST MIDLANDS TRAINS has confirmed plans to offer two trains an hour between Sheffield and St Pancras London from Monday 14 December.  This marks a significant improvement from the current hourly service.  With the new and much improved timetable, passengers on weekdays will have a choice of 34 departures in each direction.  Some of the trains will call at Luton Parkway, the station for the airport.  The much improved frequency is seen as a major breakthrough for South Yorkshire linking in as it does with the St Pancras Eurostar operation.  On board catering is provided in both First and Standard Class. www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk

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Upper Class upgrade?

VIRGIN ATLANTIC is experimenting with an extension of its VIP arrival facility at Heathrow with a view to incorporating it permanently.  At present the service is only available to Upper Class passengers arriving in a Virgin chauffeured car.  Instead of dropping passengers off in the seemingly always busy area in front T3 Virgin chauffeured arrivals now drive up a ramp to the reception area where they are met by a Virgin hostess.  Luggage is quickly disposed of, and it is to a small lounge where paperwork formalities are sorted out.  Next stop is a special Virgin-instigated Fast Track security check, through the shops and on to the Virgin Upper Class lounge.  The plan is to open this excellent facility to all Upper Class travellers whether they arrive by Virgin, taxi or private car. www.virgin-atlantic.com

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CRUISE NEWS NOVEMBER 2009

It is getting towards the time of year when we all try and think forward to next summer and holidays.  For our main piece in this month’s cruise news AERBT thought it would take a look at the 2010 version of crossing the Atlantic.  Only  Queen Mary 2 offers any frequency on this relaxing way of travelling.  And in true next year mood, for our Christmas edition we will review Disney’s latest The Disney Dream.  If you are new to cruising read An Introduction to Cruising in the AERBT archive 20 April 2009.

TRANSATLANTIC 2010


It was the arrival of the jet-powered de Havilland Comet 4 in October 1958 that signalled the end of the transatlantic luxury liners.  If you were going to North America no longer were five , sometimes rough, nights needed at sea.  The bonus was a dawn arrival at New York, the Verrazano Narrows (now a bridge), past the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River to Piers 90/92, the New York home of Cunard – White Star.  The Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth offered top quality fare for those in what we now call “the front end” in airline terms, and a more robust service for the majority, travelling in third class, the equivalent of today’s economy.  Cabin class, a sort of premium economy, was also provided.

Fast forward to December 2003 and the arrival of the RMS Queen Mary 2.  RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship, a traditional title that QE2 did not have.  Here was a ship worthy of the name and at the time the world’s largest passenger liner.  QM2 is now a mature lady, leader of a fleet that includes Queen Victoria, and in 2010 the new Queen Elizabeth.

Some do not like flying
Whilst most of us enjoy flying the North Atlantic there are some who will not take to the skies however much you might bribe them.  There are others who prefer a more leisurely form of transport, and there is a third group who just enjoy being at sea, being pampered and taking in what is on offer, for up to seven nights.

Cunard, for the last ten of its 170 years part of the mighty Carnival cuise ship empire, was quick to grab this market and now has it more or less to themselves.  However it must be pointed out that at the start and finish of the European season many cruise lines reposition their ships, with some very attractive prices on offer.  QM2 will make 26 crossings of the Atlantic in 2010, its New York home Red Hook, just prior to the Brooklyn Bridge, and very easy for Kennedy Airport.

RMS Queen Mary 2 is big, very big.  From a pure tonnage point of view, and also in terms of passengers, even larger vessels have arrived in service but these are pure cruisers, not ocean-going greyhounds capable of crossing the Atlantic at nearly 30 knots in the height of winter.  QM2 is something special, a real showstopper.  On her World Cruise this winter she will cause traffic jams at virtually every port she visits.  QM2 carries a maximum 2,700 privileged passengers.

If your need is to cross the Atlantic in 2010 make the time to try QM2.  The cost is not excessive, starting at £949, one way by air via British Airways World Traveller.  Throw in three nights at the Marriott Marquis in the heart of New York at Times Square and the starting price is £1,294 including transfers, a great deal.  Of course you can upgrade and a junior suite including balcony, concierge service and dining in the splendid Princess Grill starts at £2,499.  Add Virgin Upper Class or BA’s Club World and at £4,898 the price is less than the business class return fare.  By taking the ship westbound you also escape Britain’s punitive airport taxes.  Compare that with a week in a 4/5-star hotel in Spain during the holiday period. 

On the QM2 you get full board and literally 24-hour entertainment.  You can fly to Southampton from most UK regional airports.  There are organised connections to the south coast port from either Gatwick or Heathrow.  If you are trying to budget for the cruise expect to pay £6 per person per day as an all in tipping charge in Britannia Class and slightly more in the Grills. No shore excursions to include off course!  Drinks are approximately at UK pub rates.  The days of cheap booze at sea are long gone.  The ship may be British but everything once on board is calculated in dollars.

An Art Deco Ship
Internally QM2 is very much art deco in design with some fine embellishments and pieces of decoration.  There are plenty of reminders of an earlier era when the stars and politicians used the original Queen Mary as their transport from America to Europe.  Churchill was a regular and Crosby spent much time on his crossings actually assisting in the ship’s darkroom.  Photography was his hobby. 

A frequently asked question is whether to take an eastbound or west crossing of “The Pond” bearing in mind that as many as 500 passengers will be making a round trip.  There are certain advantages of the westbound crossing.  You get a 25-hour day as the ship makes up for the time difference between the UK and USA.  Marvellous for the late night types.  Entering New York harbour at dawn is one of the great seaborne sights, although sadly the passage up the Hudson is no longer.   Eastbound you can have your holiday Stateside and get your strength back on the way home, except here you are limited to 23-hour days and with the entertainment going on late it can be well into the early hours when you put the clock forward and go to bed.  But it is straight into British time when you get home and no jetlag. 

Your cabin determines where you dine.  For those with the largest of suites there is the Queen’s Grill and butler service.  Princess Grill guests are offered much the same superb fare, fine junior suites and the use of the concierge service.  There is also Britannia Club (a small private portion of the Britannia Restaurant) for the top Britannia grade passengers with one
sitting and an assigned table (as in Queens and Princess grills) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   The main standard class Britannia Restaurant itself, with its sweeping staircase, is awe inspiring with a dining room team only too happy to satisfy any specific requirements.  There are two sittings.  Getting around the ship is very easy, although it involves a lot of walking, and the disabled are very well looked after.  QM2 is spacious and has not one but two proper theatres, The Royal Court and Illuminations, which also doubles as a real large screen cinema.  However regular cruising types who try not to use the lifts in an effort to defeat one’s eating should be warned.  QM2 has 13 active decks.  Mechanical transport wins in the end.
 
Plenty of swimming pools

Old cruise hands will quickly take to QM2.  Essentially it is the 21st century development of QE2, a ship that evolved over the years.  QM2 has a great deal more balcony cabins and amidships a large swimming pool with retractable roof, perfect for the North Atlantic.  The stern of the ship is traditional with two more swimming pools and on the top deck a sunning area complete with daytime café (plus a helicopter pad).  Deck 7 includes the promenade deck, each lap one-third of a mile.  It is exposed to the elements but this did not seem to deter the many hardy souls happy to jog or walk along, everyone at a different speed, whatever the weather. 

The massive width of QM2 allows for a great deal of flexibility regarding the internal design of the ship and this is particularly noticeable with the informal eating area, on most cruise ships not much more than a glorified cafeteria.  With QM2 the location, known as Kings Court, is divided into four quarters (which become themed restaurants at night) with small dining recluses actually projecting out into the promenade deck (but somehow not obtrusively).  It is more intimate and you can eat when you like as an alternative to the main restaurant.
 
On the North Atlantic each day can be very busy, or you can sit out and catch the sun.  Cunard Captains attempt to keep with the good weather.  Long gone are the days when each liner tried to be the quickest. QM2 has evolved a sunshine route across the Atlantic and has more than enough speed to meet a six or seven day schedule.  Choose your crossing to suit your interest with the specialist lectures that are featured.

Early risers can take a continental breakfast from 0400, or in their cabins at any time.  From 0815 the ship swings into life with the Canyon Ranch Fitness Classes.  There is Bridge from 0900 (for beginners too) and every day a series of lectures and talks typically covering history, politics (Cunard Insights) and even an acting workshop by RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art).  You can play darts in the Golden Lion pub, get involved in a cookery demonstration in the Chef’s Galley, or just relax in the splendid spa. There is also bingo.  After all this is a British ship and in the same vein, karaoke.  Each evening a spectacular show will delight all in the Royal Court Theatre and you can dance away the night in the elegant Queen’s Room, the largest ballroom on the seven seas.  A 24-hour buffet makes it all possible.
 
There is a suite of private rooms which also double small lecture theatres. Cunard is making efforts to get into the conference market Queen Mary 2 (and Quenn Victoria + Queen Elizabeth for the future)  very well equipped and the North Atlantic crossings ideal for a "get away from it all" proffesional gathering with relaxation not far away.   Some attractive packges are being put together.

The ship’s daily newspaper keeps you up to date with the British news (other language versions available) and printed internet adaptation of the nationals are available.  The ship is best described as computer literate.  Every cabin has an interactive TV screen and keyboard and for a nominal sum you can send and receive email.  Keeping in touch in the middle of the Atlantic has never been cheaper.  Or you can cut yourself off completely.
 
It all started back in 1936 with QM2’s Clyde-built distinguished predecessor.  The legend of the Queen Mary is still very much with us. http://www.cunard.co.uk/QM2
 
Please note the prices noted above are only a guideline.  Call Cunard on 0845 071 0300 for an accurate quote   www.cunard.co.uk


AND OUR TEN NEWS HEADLINES

THE 2010 UK CRUISE CONVENTION, the fourth of what is becoming one of the outstanding travel agent events of the year, will take place at the Port of Southampton from Thursday 24 to Saturday 26 June and will feature visits to four cruise ships, including the newly launched Celebrity Eclipse, P&O Cruises’ Azura and NCL’s Norwegian Epic.  Even the “not new” ship is outstanding and unique.  Cunard’s ever-popular Queen Mary 2.  More than 600 delegates are expected to attend with sessions taking place in the QEII Cruise Terminal.  These will include business seminars, keynote speakers and the main conference along with a cruise trade fair, networking events and the popular ship visits. www.the-psa.co.uk

ALL LEISURE GROUP, which operates Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery and Hebridean Island Cruises, has added the former “Alexander von Humboldt” to its fleet.  The 15,271 grt vessel came into service in 1990 and has 250 passenger cabins, 90% of which are outside.  The Group intends to undertake an extensive upgrade and refurbishment programme, bringing the total investment in the vessel to approximately £15m.  All will be revealed tonight (23 November) when All Leisure Chairman Roger Allard hosts a prestige dinner on board Hebridean Princess at South Quay, just by London’s Canary Wharf. www.allleisuregroup.com

AMAWATERWAYS, which claims to be the fastest growing river cruise line in Europe, has launched its first ever dedicated brochures for the UK market, featuring new itineraries, sterling prices and a wide choice of pre- and post-cruise choices.  The Europe and Russia brochure offers 20 cruises on some of Europe’s best-loved rivers – the Danube, Main, Mosel, Rhine and Rhône and also Portugal plus the MS Tolstoy between St Petersburg and Moscow.  The separate Vietnam and Cambodia brochure details Amawaterways’ newest product: cruises along the Mekong River. www.amawaterways.com

CRYSTAL SYMPHONY has emerged from a US$25m makeover and on AERBT publication day is at sea out of Ft Lauderdale, on its way through the Caribbean and via Devils Island to the Amazon and Manaus.  Following the dockyard visit the vessel boasts completely transformed Crystal Penthouses, Lido Café and pool areas, and refurbished Prego Italian restaurant.  The former Neptune Pool has been replaced with what might turn out to be a very popular bistro area with a sliding roof and full air conditioning.  The December edition of “Cruise Update” will have a full report on the makeover.  www.crystalcruises.com

HELSINKI PORT was visited by 263 international cruise ships over the last year, a remarkable achievement considering that due to the northerly location of the city the season only runs from 3 May until 28 September.  Visitors even in early June can find remnants of snow around.  The cruise terminal is within a short walk of the city centre.  Total visitors numbered 360,000, approximately 22% from the USA, 19% from the UK and 17% from Germany.  Representatives of 148 countries went through the very simple passport control. www.portofhelsinki.fi/english

MAGNIFICA, the latest MSC vessel, is currently fitting out in Bremerhaven.  The ship is expected on a two-day visit to Southampton at the end of February 2010 where it will be shown to the travel trade and media.  At 90,000grt Magnifica is a sister ship of Musica, Orchestra and Poesia and offers 1,275 cabins and up to 3,000 passengers.  MSC Magnifica will next summer cruise the Eastern Mediterranean offering a  8 days - 7 nights, departing from Venice (Italy), calling at Bari (Italy, Katakolon (Greece), Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), Dubrovnik (Croatia) and returning to Venice (Italy).  www.msccruises.co.uk

OCEANIA CRUISES has introduced a new booking service that will allow guests to make advance reservations for the specialty restaurants on board the company’s three 684-passenger luxury cruise ships – Regatta, Insignia and Nautica.  Oceania Cruises' ships offer a choice of four different dining venues, all under the watchful eye of renowned master chef, Jacques Pépin.  Guests can choose from The Grand Dining Room, Polo Grill, Toscana and Tapas on the Terrace. www.oceaniacruises.com

SILVER SPIRIT, the world's newest ultra-luxury, all-suite ship, will make her maiden "Holiday Spirit" voyage in just one month’s time on 23 December from Barcelona to Lisbon.  Silver Spirit is much larger than her sister ships, 540 guests against 382 on Shadow and Whisper, and just 296 on Cloud and Wind.  However the design of the ship follows the successful layout pioneered on Silver Cloud with all the cabins forward and the public areas towards the stern.  This should make for an exceptionally quiet ship.  Silver Spirit will cross the Atlantic early in the New Year and will then visit Los Angeles via Cape Horn (and a good many ports en route).  Then it is New York via the Panama Canal followed by a season in the Mediterranean. www.silversea.com

THE YACHTS OF SEABOURN has announced that the company will not operate a planned series of voyages in the Indian Ocean aboard Seabourn Legend in late 2010 and early 2011.  The vessel has repositioned back to Fort Lauderdale and is currently engaged on a series of cruises through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica and back.  Calling the decision “regrettable”, Seabourn’s President and CEO Pamela Conover said that while the shore-side destinations remain safe for visitors, the high seas routes between them are currently vulnerable to incidents of piracy that have not been adequately controlled.  “It makes me sad to have to cancel these cruises,” Conover said. “I personally loved touring Kenya’s game parks, and the islands of the Seychelles, Madagascar and Zanzibar are lovely and exotic destinations where we sincerely had hoped to be able to take our guests.  We look forward to a time when the sea routes are controlled enough for us to cruise there for a season.” www.seabourn.com

WORLD TRAVEL MARKET included an interesting and well attended forum on cruising.  The panel consisted of Andrew Magowan (Seabourn), Jo Rzymowska (NCL), Stephen Park (NCL) and Peter Pate (MSC), chaired by Jane Archer of Travel Weekly.  Essentially the theme was that it had been a good year for the cruise industry and whilst new ship orders were thin on the ground from 2012 onwards, none of the participants viewed the future with real concern.  Next year looks good with much of the peak period well on the way to being sold out, real bargains available in the winter months.  From the floor Bill Gibbons of the Passenger Shipping Association made the point that his association represented 40 cruise brands, not just the four lively panellists.  The curiosity of the whole discussion was that whilst the packed room clearly showed the interest in cruising not a single operator actually chose to exhibit at Excel. www.wtmlondon.com

 

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