21 DECEMBER 2009

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Amsterdam to London by rail?

AMSTERDAM has finally been linked to Brussels with a high speed rail link.  The service was introduced last week.  Thalys, the train operator owned by France's railway SNCF, its Belgian counterpart SNCB and Deutsche Bahn, says it expects a 65% rise in traffic between Paris and Amsterdam by 2013.  With trains on the line reaching speeds of up to 300kph, travellers can now save 49 minutes and be in Amsterdam just 1hr 53mins after departing Brussels.  Amsterdam to London could be possible in less than 4hrs and Paris 3hrs 18mins.  With rail travel accounting for less than 1% of the European transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions, governments are keen to promote high-speed rail as a clean alternative to air travel. www.thalys.com

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British Airways strike off?

BRITISH AIRWAYS Christmas strike has been averted following a High Court decision that the Unite ballot was illegal.  The union has called for another vote whilst BA says that common sense must prevail.  In the meantime there is little doubt that the prevailing mood will cause commercial problems for the airline, passengers undoubtedly looking towards alternative, and more dependable, carriers for their forward bookings.  The Christmas holiday will probably provide for an unofficial, but very necessary, cooling off period for both sides. www.ba.com unitetheunion.com

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Doncaster expands

DONCASTER AIRPORT is to be a major base for easyJet from next April onwards.  In what can be considered a real coupe the airport has secured the budget airline as a tenant adding five new destinations and 21 departures per week from the South Yorkshire airport.  The services to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Faro, Palma and Prague, will bring a mix of city break opportunities and sunshine destinations.  Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield (DSA), the former RAF Finningley Vulcan base, opened as a commercial airport in 2005 and moved a record 1,078,000 passengers in 2007.  The figures dipped below the magic million last year but for 2010 easyJet should add 300,000 to the numbers. www.robinhoodairport.com

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Globespan grounded

FLYGLOBESPAN, the air travel operator of the Globespan travel business has collapsed leaving something like 100,000 in limbo regarding their future bookings and insurance remedies.  3,000 passengers booked under an ATOL, and already overseas, are being brought back by the CAA.  This is the second time that an airline controlled by Edinburgh-based Tom Dalrymple has failed.  In 1996 Excalibur Airways, where he was chairman, also went into administration following financial difficulties and technical problems with one of their aircraft.  What makes the problem worse this time around its that many passengers have then had to scramble for seats with the possibility of a BA strike looming up.  PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has been appointed administrator for the Globespan Group plc. www.flyglobespan.com

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Leeds to America

LEEDS BRADFORD AIRPORT (LBA) has unveiled an ambitious scheme to attract an American airline to offer a daily scheduled service to New York by the middle of the next decade.  This would allow a wide range of onward connections to cities throughout North America including the West Coast, Florida, Canada and the Caribbean.  LBA says that 750 US companies are located in Yorkshire and the service would facilitate further growth.  The United States is Yorkshire’s largest international trading partner.  Over 2,000 companies in the region trade with the US and export £2bn, 15% of the region’s global trade.  American visitors to Yorkshire numbered 125,000 in 2007, with an estimated spend of £40m.  This figure would increase dramatically with direct flights. www.leedsbradfordairport.co.uk

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Milan gains Radisson Blu

MILAN is to have a Radisson Blu hotel, Rezidor the franchise holder has confirmed.  Work is under way at the Chedi Milan, originally opened in 2007, to be rebranded in the first quarter of 2010.  The 250 guest rooms have a spacious average size of 37m2, well above the norm.  The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, spa and free internet service.  A tram ride into the centre of the city takes about ten minutes. www.radissonblu.com/hotel-milan

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Open Skies cuts back again

OPEN SKIES, the loss making British Airways Paris-based business class airline, is to retrench even further and withdraw from New York’s Kennedy airport from the new year.  See AERBT 14 December  Effective 4 January the airline will offer only a twice daily two-class Boeing 757 service out of Orly to Newark the New Jersey alternative for Manhattan.  Open Skies is part of BA Miles but with Continental (now part of Star Alliance) the main operator out of Newark, Open Skies concentrates on A to B traffic rather than connecting business.  It is not part of oneworld. www.flyopenskies.com

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Skyteam at T4

SKYTEAM’S new business class lounge at Heathrow T4 is now fully operational although the splendidly re-vamped terminal does suffer from a reduced train accessibility, limited to a free Heathrow Connect service (four per hour) and reduced Piccadilly Line access.  As well as Skyteam qualified Gulf Air, Kingfisher and Olympic Air passengers can use the excellent facilities which are laid out on two floors.  A feature is some splendid foliage along the main internal wall on both levels.  There is room for 300 but AERBT recommends using the very peaceful upstairs (which has a lift) duplicating the ground floor facilities with the exception of the spa and shower area (including a sauna), but offering children’s amenities.  Buffet meals are provided and there is a well stocked bar plus internet and games consoles.  Smoking is totally banned and flights are not called, which can be embarrassing if you are using one of the tempting private rest rooms and decide to have a sleep. www.skyteam.com

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CRUISE NEWS DECEMBER 2009 (Disney Dream)

THE DISNEY DREAM

26 January 2011 may seem a long way off as we prepare for Christmas 2009 but in fact it is just over one year away.  Cruise aficionados will already be looking at their calendars and noting that a new floating palace for children will make its maiden voyage on that date. 

The Disney Dream is the first new Disney cruise ship since Disney Wonder entered service in August 1999, joining Disney Magic introduced a year earlier.  In 2012 Disney Fantasy arrives.  The two new Disney ships are a great deal larger than the earlier vessels at 126,000 tons, over 1,000ft long and each featuring 1,250 staterooms. 

The Disney ships have been a resounding success mainly operating in the Caribbean and normally calling in at Castaway Cay, a private island in the Bahamas designed as an exclusive port of call.  The ship actually berths at Castaway Cay saving the usual problems associated with using tenders.  Mickey and his friends are ready to entertain the children but parents are looked after too.  One of the three glorious beaches is designated “adults” only. 

And there is even better news for those who need a Disney fix but don’t like the idea of flying to Florida.  In 2010 Disney Magic is crossing the Atlantic.  Disney Magic is about the same size as the original Queen Elizabeth (83,000 tons), has two funnels and can carry up to 3,000 passengers. In these “eco times” one funnel is a dummy which includes a teen centre called Aloft.  Sounds fun.

On a series of 13-day cruises out of Dover, Disney Magic will overnight in St Petersburg, giving guests plenty of time to experience the city known as the "Cultural Capital of Russia".  Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Warnemunde, the gateway to Berlin, are on the list of ports visited.  At Warnemunde the train to the German capital sits actually at the dockside waiting for its passengers. 

Departing out of Barcelona, Disney Magic will sail four 10-night and four 11-night cruises in the Mediterranean in April, May, August and September.

Disney Dream
Let’s stay with the adult theme when taking a look at Disney Dream.  Just like its sister ships, whilst the children are having the time of their lives in the elaborately themed youth areas, adults can look forward to incomparable indulgences and relaxation with exclusive areas and offerings designed exclusively for them.  Wither you are parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents, Disney will look after you, away from the kids.  However there is one negative for some.  Gambling is banned on board.

If your pocket does not run to the balcony cabins do not fret.  All inside staterooms on the Disney Dream featuring a Virtual Porthole that provides guests with a real-time view outside the ship.  High-definition cameras placed on the exterior of the vessels feed live video to each Virtual Porthole.

At night adults can escape to The District on Deck 4, a night time entertainment area with five unique venues.  There is Cove Café, District lounge, Metro Pub, Skyline and Vista Café.  Everything for grown ups has been thought out, after all it is them who are paying for the trip.  Palo is a unique dinner experience at sea offering ocean vistas with a pianist softly serenading guests.  The Senses Spa & Salon again offers adult tranquillity with 17 private treatment rooms, spa villas with indoor treatment rooms and private outdoor verandas, and Rainforest, a special section of the spa offering the benefits of steam, heat and hydrotherapy to relax the mind and body.

AquaDuck Water Coaster
At the end of the day however well the adults are treated Disney is fun ships for children.  Without doubt unique is the AquaDuck!  Guests will get swept away on an exhilarating high-speed flume ride featuring twists, turns, drops, uphill acceleration and river rapids all while traversing the upper decks of the ship.  AquaDuck stretches 765ft in length – more than two and a half times the length of a soccer pitch – and spans four decks in height.  Guests slide 13ft over the side of the ship in a translucent "swing out" loop allowing them to look down on the ocean 150ft below!  They experience coaster-like thrills as high-powered water jets push them upwards and forwards at 20ft per second.  AquaDuck continues through the forward funnel, encounters a 335ft stretch of river rapids and splashes down to an end on Deck 12.

Whether parents (and indeed grandparents) will want try AquaDuck remains to be seen.

A Magical Oasis for Children
Repeated on the new ships Disney's Oceaneer Club and Disney's Oceaneer Lab, children ages 3-12 years old play in spaces fuelled by Disney storytelling and participate in a variety of activities hosted by specially trained, caring Disney counsellors. From pirate training with Captain Hook, do-si-do-ing with Snow White, a slumber party with Goofy and much more, kids are immersed in Disney fun that will be remembered for years to come. Disney also offers the longest operating hours at sea, so the fun doesn't have to end for kids; and parents can also enjoy a night out knowing their kids are well taken care of and having a ball. The clubs are open continuously from 9 a.m. until midnight and provide kid meals during lunch and dinner hours at no extra charge.

The list goes on and on.  They can play among larger-than-life characters from "Toy Story" in Andy's Room; Explore the Laugh Floor with loveable monsters Mike and Sully from "Monsters, Inc" and dive under the sea with Nemo and friends or visit Tinker Bell's fairy forest.  At Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, children feel as though they are embarking on a great seafaring adventure in a room filled with maps, maritime instruments and swashbuckling artefacts.  Here youngsters can try their hand at animation, become a pop star or navigate ships through digital seas. 

Teens have their own exclusive club aboard the Disney Dream with Vibe, a trendy and inviting indoor/outdoor space created especially for guests ages 14 to 17.  A ”teen-only” swipe card provides access to the nearly 9,000sq ft club.  They can create and edit videos, play computer games, access the onboard social media application or try their hand at spinning and mixing dance tracks.  Teens have their own private outdoor deck area with chaise lounges for sunbathing, two wading pools, misters and pop jets for cooling off, and deck games such as ping-pong and foosball.

Personal Touches with Rotational Dining
Disney Cruise Line continues its innovative rotational dining concept onboard the Disney Dream with elaborately themed restaurants, distinctly Disney touches, and world-class cuisine to create a magical dining experience.  Throughout the cruise, guests rotate through three different restaurants for dinner with their servers accompanying them, providing guests with friendly, familiar, personalized service each night. 

Disney Dream is scheduled to depart on its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral, Florida 26 January 2011.
www.disneycruise.co.uk/Overview.asp

 

AND OUR TEN NEWS HEADLINES

2010 could be a boom year for the UK cruise industry in spite of the prevailing economic outlook.  At least 16 new ships are expected to be introduced and those dedicated to the UK market include P&O Cruises' Azura, Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth and Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Eclipse.  P&O have announced just in the last few days the resurrection of the name Adonia, with the re-badgeing of Royal Princess with just 700 passengers the smallest P&O liner for many years. 


AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES
is the new name of Azamara Cruises the two-ship brand launched in 2007 by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  The 694-guest Azamara Journey and sister ship Azamara Quest are refocusing with a newly refined focus, and a series of fresh attributes designed for upmarket, experienced travellers. Azamara Club Cruises will visit 140 ports in 50 countries in 2010, with itineraries featuring more overnight stays to allow guests to immerse themselves in communities and cultures. Among the overnight locations are Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento, Italy, which offers a host of tour options along the Amalfi Coast and Capri; a full three days and two nights in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Azamara’s Scandinavia and Russia Itineraries; and multiple overnight stays in Azamara’s Southeast Asia region, including Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.  www.azamaraclubcruises.com

CRYSTAL has broken with traditions and will from 9 January trial a six weeks Saturday opening of its reservation centre.  It will enable both travel agents and potential cruise clients to talk to the real experts at the company when hopefully they are more relaxed.  The timings are 10:00 to 15:00.  Also for the European 2010 season Crystal is offering more seven-night options than ever.  Six itineraries in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Baltic and British Isles allow travellers to enjoy the award-winning Crystal Experience and a wealth of intriguing ports in a shorter time than Crystal’s more prevalent 11- and 12-night European cruises.  www.crystalcruises.com

DISCOVERY, part of the All Leisure fleet (which includes Minerva, Hebridean Princess and the recently acquired Alexander von Humboldt – see next month) has just completed a major revamp of the public areas and cabins.  These latest projects are part of a continued investment programme which includes the refurbishment  and improvements to the Yacht Club, as well as a further roll out of cabin upgrades.  Discovery will winter mainly in the Indian Ocean before returning through the Suez Canal for a spring programme which includes the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, followed by a season operating out of Harwich.  www.voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk

HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES in August will operate a 24-day Northwest Passage itinerary on the 184-passenger Hanseatic.  The bilingual voyage will depart Kangerlussaq (Greenland) on 16 August to sail along Greenland and near the Arctic Circle, ending in Nome (Alaska) on 9 September.  The Hanseastic premiered the Northwest Passage for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises in 1994.  Since then, both Hapag-Lloyd expedition ships, the Hanseatic and the Bremen, have successfully cruised through the Northwest Passage a total of 12 times.  Last summer, for the first time, both ships travelled in opposite directions and met in the Northwest Passage.  www.hl-cruises.com

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE for 2010 will feature seven ships cruising the Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe from Civitavecchia (Rome), Venice, Barcelona, Dover (London), Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Athens and Amsterdam.  Both Nieuw Amsterdam and ms Noordam will sail the Mediterranean all season.  The Nieuw Amsterdam, which debuts on 4 July 2010, will offer 12-day sailings while the Noordam will feature seven and 10-day cruises.  Ryndam will sail a series of Mediterranean and Northern Europe cruises ranging from seven to 21 days.  Rotterdam will also sail Northern Europe and Mediterranean itineraries of seven to 12 days, including some that feature the Black Sea and the Holy Land.  Rotterdam will also sail two nine-day historic transatlantic cruises mid-season.  The Eurodam begins her 2011 season with two seven-day Mediterranean sailings and then offers ten- and 12-day cruises in the Baltic.  Both the Prinsendam and Maasdam will also feature European cruises, the Maasdam again sailing its traditional transatlantic roundtrip itinerary from Boston that visits Greenland and Iceland. www.hollandamerica.com

HURTIGRUTEN is offering this summer a series of expedition cruises that takes guests to the front line of climate change research in the Arctic.  The 11-day voyage, aboard one of the world’s newest polar exploration cruise ships, MS Fram, offers guests the opportunity to visit research stations, track wildlife, participate in field studies and meet with some of the field’s top research scientists – getting the facts from those who are best informed.  Together with partners from some of the most prominent scientific communities Hurtigruten will provide passengers with up-to-date climate information and show how to observe basic indicators of climate change in a high Arctic environment.  Hurtigruten’s goal is to create ambassadors for Arctic Norway and Svalbard and the wildlife threatened by the drastic changes in climate.  www.hurtigruten.co.uk

MSC has put out some figures which show that an estimated 1,085,000 passengers will have cruised with the company by the completion of this year, an increase of 36% on 2008.  In the UK, which represents about 15% of the total market, growth was more than 60%.  In 2010 the 2004 launched 60,000 ton MSC Opera will operate out of Dover for the summer season offering a really modern mostly balcony ship, and much more capacity.  There are rumours that MSC will transfer to Southampton for 2011 and with that port adding the Mediterranean on a regular basis to the list of ex-UK destinations. www.msccruises.co.uk


QUEEN ELIZABETH will make her debut in October 2010, the third incarnation and a sister ship to Queen Victoria.  No doubt Cunard’s most active PR team will find for the maiden voyage people who have cruised on its two predecessors.  The new QE comes in at 92,000 tons and will carry just over 2,000 passengers.  Fully booked out for her inaugural Canaries cruise the ship will depart on her maiden world cruise 5 January 2011.  In total Queen Elizabeth will call at 38 ports in 23 countries as she makes her way west around the globe with maiden transits of both the Panama and Suez Canals and calls at Los Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Lisbon.  All three Cunard Queens will meet in New York. www.cunard.co.uk


STAR CLIPPERS’ three historically styled, fully-crewed four-masted, tall ships will return to Mediterranean waters in April 2010.  The company is offering new short break trips for cruises for those looking for an unusual long weekend or three-night break that combines the comfort of a private yacht with the exhilaration of travelling full sail.  Star Flyer will be based at Cannes and it is this clipper that is offering the short break trips, a taster for something longer.  The ship can carry up to 180 guests, has 70 crew, and even Jacuzzis in the higher grade cabin.  It was never like that on the Cutty Sark. www.starclippers.com

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COMMENT: Have a happy holiday

The British Airways sales people have put together this list of the best holidays for 2010.  You may not agree with all the destinations but at least it will hopefully opens up discussion on the priorities for next year.   They do need your custom.

Landmark sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games influence the travel calendar.  A growing trend towards eco-tourism puts Stockholm on the map, while Istanbul is expected to be one of the most visited European destinations in recognition of its recent title of European City of Culture.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

 

1.  Cape Town, South Africa
Nearly half a million supporters are expected to visit South Africa during the FIFA World Cup in June.  With Cape Town home to stunning beaches, mountains, vineyards and the Cape Town Stadium, it is sure to be a popular base for fans.

2.  Istanbul, Turkey
As European Capital of Culture for 2010, Istanbul is Europe’s hotspot in the New Year.  Offering great value for money and something for everyone – from beaches and bazaars to the breathtaking Bosphorus.  Secret music gigs, rooftop bars and underground clubs dominate the social scene for the party-hard locals.
 
3.  Las Vegas, USA

The film The Hangover has rekindled our love affair with the entertainment capital of the world.  Not just a haven for partying, Las Vegas is firmly established as a family friendly destination with everyone from U2 to Cirque de Soleil performing on the famous strip.  AERBT must add at this point that it was BA that followed Virgin Atlantic into this family holiday spot.

4.  Vancouver, Canada
Already a must-go destination for skiing and snowboarding, it is no surprise that Canada will play host to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February and March.  In the summer the Canadian Rockies and the Atlantic seaboard make it a pretty attractive place too.
 
5.  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana is one of the emerging destinations for holidaymakers in the New Year, with top tour operators citing local beaches as the most stunning in the Caribbean.  Known for its golf and spa facilities, the island is one of the best-kept property secrets in recent times.  Boasting a five-mile oceanfront, local hangout Cap Cana is rumoured to be the new playground for the rich and famous.

6.  Dubrovnik, Croatia
Known as the  Pearl of the Adriatic, Croatia offers privacy and tranquillity making it a popular hideout for the jet set, including recent visitors Jay-Z and Beyonce.  The cruise ships drop by too.

7.  New York, USA
New York has always been hip, but the New Year will give us yet more excuses to plan a trip.  Due for theatrical release in 2010 are two film sequels celebrating Manhattan – Sex and the City 2 and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2.  There are up to 30 flights a day between London and Big Apple’s two airports, Kennedy and Newark.

8.  Stockholm, Sweden
Recently voted the best city in the world to live in, Stockholm has become the model city for others to follow.  Europe's epicentre of biodiversity and ecology will celebrate its official title of  European Green Capital in 2010, making it a popular choice for eco-tourists.
 
9.  The Maldives
Set in the Indian Ocean, this tropical paradise will be one of the hottest destinations for holidaymakers and honeymooners in 2010.  Collections of coral reefs boast unrivalled facilities for diving, while the picture postcard beaches offer chill-out bliss to the maximum.

10.  Delhi, India
Thanks to the growing trend for tiger safari, nearby destinations Bandhavgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kanha National Park provide another reason to get off the beaten track and visit Delhi in 2010.

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Bali is back

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has re-commenced flights to Denpasar (Bali) from Amsterdam.  Initially three times per week, a fourth rotation will begin in mid-January.  In another move the airline has introduced what it calls the Economy Comfort zone offering passengers up to 10cm more legroom and more recline.  The seats are at the front of the Economy cabin.  The fee for an Economy Comfort seat will range from €80 to €150 for a one-way trip, depending on the distance covered.  Flying Blue Platinum members and passengers flying on a fully flexible Economy Class ticket can reserve Economy Comfort seats free of charge.  Flying Blue Gold members will get a 50% discount and Flying Blue Silver members will get a 25% discount. www.klm.com

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Caribbean flights

GRENADA AND ST KITTS are set to benefit as British Airways grows its Caribbean services with 14 destinations and 55 flights a week next summer.  Flights from Gatwick to Grenada will increase from one to two services per week on 28 March, departing Sundays and Tuesdays via Barbados.  Currently the airline serves the island with two weekly flights in the peak winter season and one service during the summer months.  Flights will double to twice weekly at the same time, these being on Saturdays and Tuesdays via Antigua.  Both the Grenada and St Kitts services will be operated by Boeing 777s in a three-class configuration – World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World. www.ba.com

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East Midlands Airport gets better railway access

SHEFFIELD AND SOUTH YORKSHIRE travellers will benefit from a new hourly service to East Midlands Airport which was introduced last week.  Chesterfield passengers will also benefit from 16 direct train services to and from the airport.  These new services are being introduced as the result of a successful partnership between East Midlands Trains, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency.  Also improved is the service between Sheffield and London with the introduction of two trains an hour.  East Midlands Parkway station is 10/15 minutes from the airport with a fare of £2 single (children half price). www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk

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Iran Air ups profile

IRAN AIR is raising its profile on the London – Tehran route following its association with Alternative Airlines, the Gatwick-based management operation.  The airline operates wide-bodied aircraft, either an Airbus A300 or a Boeing 747, three times weekly from Heathrow T3 direct to Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.  Onward connections to Isafahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz are available and provided the transit time is less than 24 hours these destinations have the same applicable fares as a London to Tehran return.  Iran Air's UK office is at 73 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QX. www.iranair.co.uk www.alternativeairlines.com

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Leicester Square hotel

LONDON will have a new prestige hotel open by the summer of 2010 in an outstanding setting.  Starwood’s W London Leicester Square is now well on its way and has reached the fitting out stage.  With 192 stylish guest rooms, and ten two-level branded residences, it could not have a better position in the heart of the West End's famous Theatreland pedestrian precinct.  A formal opening day has yet to be set.  www.starwoodW.com

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Munich Airport presents stopover guide

MUNICH AIRPORT (MUC) connecting passengers can now plan their transit time in the terminal much more effectively following a new initiative that is bound to be copied.  The new “Waiting and Connecting” web link features an online Stopover Guide detailing an impressive variety of stopover options at MUC.  The link naturally promotes the 30 minutes connecting times and presents options for travellers with from one hour to a full day to utilise.  The shopping experience is promoted and also the culinary highlights such as the world's first airport brewery, Airbräu.  You can plan your time before leaving your home or office and in the future actually on board. www.munich-airport.com/viamuc

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Paris 5-star property

INTERCONTINENTAL has opened its second Paris property, sited on the  Avenue Marceau.  A stone's throw away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées it was until recently the Crowne Plaza Paris Champs-Elysées.  The 55-room hotel which opened in 2008 is located in three heritage buildings from different periods in Parisian history and overlooks a central courtyard. It has two penthouse suites, including a terrace suite with a private roof patio looking onto the Eiffel Tower.  The hotel also has a conservatory restaurant, Le M64, which opens on to the courtyard and offers outdoor seating in the summer months. a separate entrance as well as a 24-hour gym. It complements  the existing InterContinental Paris Le Grand, an historic building originally inaugurated by Empress Eugenie in 1862 and reopened in 2003 following a multi-million Euro restoration. See AERBT 27 April

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ON TOUR: The Bahrain Airshow 2010

The Middle East region has witnessed unprecedented growth within the commercial and private aviation sectors over the past decade and this is forecast to continue at a similar rate well into the next decade.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is determined to be part of this expansion and is not only developing the main international airport in order to cater for 20m passengers per annum by 2015 but is also encouraging the aerospace industry to develop on the island.

Bahrain sits at a most convenient location in the Arabian Gulf, connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia and within a short flying time of the major cities in the region.  The new Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) is part of this investment.

Networking may be the latest in-phrase but let’s face it, it is nothing new.  People have been getting together for political and commercial reasons since Roman times, and probably Greek too.  And the bible tells us that Jerusalem was a centre of gossip and talk.

In the 20th century the motor shows came along quickly followed by the Paris Salon for aviation types.  After the Second World War the British developed the Farnborough Airshow model and now the international flying world also gathers at Berlin Schönefeld (newly named Willy Brandt), Dubai and Hong Kong plus at a host of other minor events.

Bahrain has limited oil and gas reserves and is a collection of causeway-linked islands covering 257sq miles, or about the area of the Isle of Man.  The population is something less than one million split 50/50 between ethnics and expatriates, mostly from the Indian sub-continent.

Down the road Abu Dhabi has a World Championship Formula One event.  Dubai we have mentioned.  What the Islamic Kingdom has done is to out-manoeuvre its two near neighbours.  In 2010 it will not only have a Grand Prix but a major aerospace gathering too.  When you have the money, and the site, plus the wherewithal you can do these sort of things.  Joining the list 21-23 January 2010 is the Bahrain International Airshow.  


The Sakhir Airbase
The 2010 Bahrain International Airshow is different.  The three-day event hosted at the Sakhir Airbase, a little over 30 minutes drive from the international airport, is a unique and innovative concept.  Not for them endless chalets and an (expensive) indoors display area.  Together with the same team that organises Farnborough the Department of Civil Aviation Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain, has in a little over two years put together a show with a limit of just 40 exhibitors, each with their own chalet.  There is plenty of apron space for aircraft to be parked and also an outside display area.

The contract for the main exhibition site was not signed until July 2009 but in a mid-December visit AERBT was told that BIAS was on time and on budget.  For a fee of just US$155,000 exhibitors gain a fully fitted stand, site hospitality for the entire show (except for liqueurs – and no problem here – the Bahrainis are very pragmatic) and all the minor items that such a gathering needs, typically a car and driver is provided, plenty of entrance tickets are supplied, and there are two daily passes to the Royal Pavilion.  Gulf Air, repositioning itself as the airline of Bahrain rather than the Emirates, has come in as a part sponsor.  The Ritz Carlton is providing catering.  Everyone is going to be very well looked after.

All the big players
No wonder all the big players in aerospace, both civil and military, have rushed to take part – airframe makers such as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin; BAE Systems, who don’t actually make aircraft but are a massive defence contractor in the US and UK; and Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Gulfstream, makers of executive jets; Bell and Sikorsky represent the world of helicopters.  It is both an armed forces and commercial aircraft gathering.

Sakhir Airbase can be compared to London’s Northolt Airfield, a sort of little sister to the major gateway just down the road.  And just like Heathrow to Northolt the flight paths do not clash.  

Essentially it is a little used military transport airport, and for the future the home of Bahrain’s Royal Flight.  A massive hangar has been built capable of holding two Airbus A380s, there is a 3000m runway, and also, and somewhat inconveniently, a military camp, out of bounds to all and sundry.  It also adjoins the Bahrain Formula One circuit with the first round of the 2010 series due to take place less than two months after the show.  A pair of temporary grandstands from the circuit will be moved to the Airshow area to provided 2,000 seats of accommodation for the three-hour flying display planned for each day.

British companies
Two British companies are responsible for the construction of the exhibition site on what was undulating desert wasteland on the edge of Bahrain City.  Combined as ArenaLea they are Arena International Events Group, exhibitor contractors of renown, and Lea International whose airshow experience includes both Paris and Farnborough.  ArenaLea will undertake three events, in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Some 200 tonnes of steelworks are involved with the construction and the landscaping involved the excavation of 600,000 cubic metres of earth including 425,000 cubic metres of which was rock which has now been crushed and is being put to use as fill elsewhere.  With the Formula One circuit so close access is no problem, dual carriageway as a minimum all the way from the airport.

Three gates are provided, one for VIPS, one for exhibitors and another trade visitors.  Bahrain has a very close eye on security but the way things are done can be gauged from the arrival experience.  AERBT was landside within ten minutes of the touchdown.  At Heathrow for the return journey it took 40 minutes from runway 27L until the air bridge was actually in place.  And then it was a march through T4.

The 40 chalets and other structures have all been constructed to a high quality and are permanent.  There is talk of using the airshow facilities during the Grand Prix and other events as hospitality units but any decision will be left until the show is over.  

There is a fully air conditioned reception area, a restaurant for those not invited into a chalet, and also a media centre.  Aircraft on display at the show, and those bringing in visitors, will be able to bypass the international airport.  The A380 hangar is being utilised as a customs and immigration post.  It can’t be easier to fly in using your personal jet.

Overlooking the site is a Hummer off the road training track.  Both the Hummer course and the motor racing circuit have open days when members of the public can try their skills.  The desert Hummer course looked particularly daunting and can be considered as an ultimate motoring experience.

Public area

Completely separate from the main chalet line and the outdoor display exhibition is a public area with a heritage fort, catering and a large fun fair.  Access is via a specially developed gate.  Bahrain has no public transport to speak of and everyone will be coming by road.

Following a recent planning visit to the site, Farnborough International Ltd Exhibitions & Events Director Amanda Stainer commented: “Work is coming on extremely well at the site.  One of the ways in which we keep participants informed as to how the build is progressing is via a time-lapse camera, which can be viewed via the show website, so that interested parties can literally watch the show as it comes together.  We are certain that this will be well received among show participants because through our contact with them, we know that they are as excited about this inaugural event as we are ourselves!”

On the same visit, His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa also highlighted the positive impact of the show on the national economy of Bahrain and said that the Royal family looked forward to demonstrating the country’s capability for hosting a world-class aerospace event.

What has been achieved in such short a window is quite remarkable.  Hundreds of palm trees have already been planted.  These will mature over the years.  Most of the roads are now completed and during the AERBT visit an enclosed walkway behind the chalet line was being completed.  Once fully air conditioned it will link the individual chalets to the Royal Pavilion and each other.  Everything is permanent.  Planned to take place early in the year, biannually, The Bahrain International Airshow intends to quickly establish itself in the diary as a serious place to exhibit and be seen.

www.farnborough.com

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THE AERBT CHRISTMAS QUIZ

 

 

We are delighted to offer the AERBT Christmas quiz, open to subscribed readers only, with a closing date Friday 8 January 2010.

Please send your answers to quiz@aerbt.co.uk

The quiz is a total aviation one with a really superb first prize.  For the winner it is a night out in London for two staying at the splendid Millennium Copthorne Mayfair hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, dining in the hotels chic Avista restaurant serving rustic/modern Italian food followed by Dirty Dancing, the hit stage musical.  And breakfast in the hotel next morning  (which must be taken by 28 February).


Second prize is a flight for two in a Classic Flight de Havilland Rapide at an airport near you during Air Atlantique’s 2010 national tour details which will be published shortly on the website.  However if the overall winner, who has to be an aviation buff, wants to swop prizes that is up to them.

For the runners up we have a number of Berlitz pocket travel guides

There is a simple question to answer to get you started and it is “Who made the first American transcontinental flight, when and in what”.

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And as a final tie breaker, and here the editors decision is final, please complete the following.   “I read AERBT on a Monday morning because

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Here are 30 aircraft.  Please name them.  Some new, some not so new, and some very old.

 

 

 

Here are 30 aircraft.  Please name them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our thanks to the Cowin Collection archives hughw.amas@btinternet.com

 

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A Eurostar problem!

EUROSTAR travellers were severely inconvenienced over the weekend when services were suspended with trains actually stuck in the tunnels.  Some passengers had to wait up to 15 hours before being released.  No trains at all operated on Sunday or planned for today (Monday 21 December) and readers should go to the Eurostar website to ascertain travel for the rest of the week.  Test trains were being run to try and ascertain the problem.  With road conditions poor due to icy weather, the knock-on consequences affected the motorways on both sides of the Channel.  The train breakdowns coincided with strike action by Eurostar drivers in a 48-hour dispute over pay which began on Friday.  www.eurostar.com

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Boeing Dreamliner

BOEING finally flew its much delayed 787 Dreamliner last week, demonstrating its complete confidence in the aircraft, the day itself wet and murky, some would say typical Seattle.  The three-hour maiden flight was described by the test crew as “completely successful”.  A second aircraft is almost ready to get into the air and a total of six 787s will be used for the certification programme.  ANA is expected to take delivery of the first customer aircraft sometime late next year.  About 840 are on order making the 787 the most successful aircraft in terms of pre-first flight commitments in history. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Coventry Airport and the future

COVENTRY AIRPORT remains closed (see AERBT 14 December) whilst its future is discussed between the administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), prospective buyers, and the freeholder Coventry City Council.  In the meantime the airport's tenants are operating in a restricted manner with, for the most part, their aircraft positioned elsewhere.  While it is not currently possible to undertake commercial activity at Coventry Airport, maintenance and ferry flights for the based operators are being undertaken from the currently unlicensed facility with the co-operation of both the CAA and insurance companies who have proved understanding and helpful. www.coventryairport.co.uk

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Finnair offers a cool remedy for travel fatigue

FINNAIR has opened up what it calls the Via Spa complimenting the Via Lounge at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.  The lounge and spa offers wellness and comfort services, particularly for transfer passengers travelling between Europe and Asia.  The Via Lounge will be open to Finnair Plus and oneworld top-tier members and Business Class customers as a courtesy and to all other passengers for a fee.  The special services include short treatments designed especially for transit passengers in rooms tailored for the purpose, as well as a cold water paddling pool and a mineral water pool to alleviate travel fatigue and the effects of jetlag. www.finnair.com

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Japan and Open Skies

AMERICA AND JAPAN have reached an agreement to fundamentally relax the current bilateral air agreement between the two countries.  In essence it is similar to that struck between the USA and Europe which came into effect earlier this year.  It should also be a boost for Japan Airlines, currently trying to restructure under the watchful eye of the government.  Another beneficiary could be American Airlines who, under the current regulations, were not allowed direct flights.  Secondary (major) cities on both sides of the Pacific will also profit with the possibility of non-stop services. Wall Street Journal

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London hotel opening

LONDON will have just over 1,000-room capacity added when the 14-storey Park Plaza Westminster Bridge has a soft opening on 4 February 2010.  During this period the hotel will offer limited availability as it undergoes final preparations including the completion of its full-service spa, swimming pool and gym.   The £350m  property is situated at the foot of Westminster Bridge opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  Guest room features include 37-inch LCD flat-screen televisions, bedside lighting controls with dimmers, a workstation with international electrical outlets and a mini-bar with separate refrigerator.  The pillar-free Westminster Ballroom accommodates as many as 1,400 theatre-style and more than 1,000 for dinner.  An additional 31 meeting rooms provide an array of options ranging from small board meetings to receptions for 1,200 guests. www.parkplaza.com/london

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Newcastle has new hotel

NEWCASTLE has a new Newcastle Mercure hotel although technically it is in Washington south of the Tyne and with good dual carriageway connections both to the city and the airport.  The Mercure Newcastle George Washington Hotel Golf and Spa sits next to its own 18-hole championship golf course and is suited to both leisure and business travellers to the Tyne and Wear region.  The former country club has undergone a £9m refurbishment, £3m of which has been invested into building a new golf clubhouse, conference centre and bar. The majority the guest rooms are now fully renovated, and also is the restaurant, brassiere area, gym, swimming pool and hair and beauty salon.  Free wi-fi internet access is offered throughout the hotel. www.mercure.com

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Saudi Arabia for Holiday Inn

HOLIDAY INN has announced the venue for its first three Express hotels in Saudi Arabia.  Nine more Holiday Inn Express properties are to be developed over the next five years in the Kingdom.  The property at Madinah Road, Jeddah, will offer 252 rooms, King Abdullah Economic City will feature 183 rooms, and there will be 140 rooms at Knowledge Economic City, Madinah.  John Bamsey, Chief Operating Officer, IHG Middle East and Africa, said: "This is the first limited service hotel brand to enter Saudi Arabia.  The Kingdom receives around 12m tourists a year.  The Gulf markets have been dominated by luxury, upscale hotel brands over the past 30 years but, as markets mature and develop, consumers seek out trusted brands." www.holidayinn.com

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HOLIDAY MOTORING PACKAGE

TED WILKINSON OF THE GUILD OF MOTORING WRITERS WITH A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS UPDATE

INFINITI: Just launching in the UK is Nissan’s Infiniti premium range of cars that include saloons, Coupe, Cabriolets, Crossovers and hybrids.  Established over 20 years and with the UK becoming its 15th market, the brand specialises in a unique marketing style where the showrooms are styled more on luxury hotels and with a distinctive indoors hand-over procedure.

The first of a planned eight Infiniti outlets is located at Reading where potential customers can see the cars in the flesh and also see the model of their choice in the selected colour scheme via a unique audio visual system.  They can even select the colour and texture of the leather from samples and create their own bespoke version. Infiniti’s marketing policy is to allocate a personal contact for each customer and to provide a ‘never alone’ service throughout the country.  All Infiniti models are powered exclusively by medium capacity V6 petrol engines that will be joined by a very refined V6 turbo diesel unit in the very near future.

Price guide: Infiniti G37S saloon £33,500 to £38,600 according to specification.

 

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ROAD TEST, ON TOUR and ON THE SOAPBOX index

ROAD TESTS
Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TDI Quattro Diesel
Hyundai's small 5-door i20 hatchback
Lexus IS-F 5.0 V8
Lotus Evora
Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Sport 150 Expedition
Peugeot 308CC
SEAT Exeo 2.0TDI CR SE
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTI SE NAV Sports Tourer
Volvo  C30 1.6D SE STOP + START

ON TOUR  DESTINATIONS 2009
Accra, Ghana
Belfast 
Chicago
Cotswolds 
Gibraltar 
Iguassu Falls
Jordan
Luxembourg blink and you'll miss it
Malaga
Mallorca - plenty of flights
Morocco
Moscow
Peak District - Part 1
Peak District - Part 2
Rome 
Russian river trip
South Wales and the Brecon Beacons
St Petersburg
Tenerife 

SPECIAL ON TOUR REPORTS
ABTA Travel Conference
Asian Aerospace 2009
EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition)
EBACE preview
Entry Level Jets
ERA
International Luxury Travel Market
Lockerbie
Oxford Airport makes a comeback
Supersonic private jets
Taking your baby to America
The Dubai International Aerospace Show
The low cost airlines gather
The Olympics - Three years to go
The Paris Air Show
World Travel Market

ON THE SOAPBOX
Giovanni Bisignani    Director General and CEO IATA
Sir Richard Branson  Chairman Virgin Atlantic Airlines
Mike Carrivick          Chief Executive Board of Airline Representatives in the UK
Andy Cosslett           Chief Executive IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group)
Peter Davies            Managing Director Air Southwest
Nick Mercer              Commercial Director Eurostar
David Radcliffe         CEO of Hogg Robinson (Travel) Group 
Amanda Stainer       Exhibitions & Events Director Farnborough International Ltd

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