21 JUNE 2010

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Aer Lingus and Shannon transatlantic

SHANNON is finally to lose its all year round Aer Lingus transatlantic services, a not unexpected move following the 2008 USA – Europe “Open Skies” agreement which removed the airport’s gateway status.  Flights from Shannon to New York and Boston will be suspended for an 11-week period from 5 January to 27 March 2011.  For the rest of the year the airline will operate four services per week to both destinations.  Recently Shannon has struggled, the current throughput only two-thirds of the record 3.6m passengers for 2007.  Both Continental and Delta however continue with their all year round services to Newark, and Boston and Kennedy respectively.  British Airways London City – Kennedy flights use the airport for refuelling stop and crew change. www.shannonairport.com

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Ancillary services

EASYJET and its founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou were in court last week debating whether ancillary services are part of the airline operation, or a bonus.  Under the terms of a brand licence agreement made when it floated in 2000 the non-frills carrier can only make 25% of its income this way.  The case hinges on whether services such as baggage and speedy boarding, as well as food sold on board and charges for infants, should be classed as ancillary or core services.  More representations are due to be heard this week with judgement expected in late summer.  Sir Stelios will again be in court shortly, this time taking on Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, after the outspoken Irishman portrayed the “easy” entrepreneur as a Pinocchio figure in an advert querying the Luton-based airline’s punctuality figures. www.easyjet.com

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BA to return to Cancun

BRITISH AIRWAYS is to return to Cancun, the Mexican Caribbean resort, for the first time since 2002.  The twice weekly flights operating out of Gatwick will be introduced in November of this year.  It will compliment the airline’s four times weekly service from Heathrow to Mexico City.  A Boeing 777 will serve the route, offering a choice of three cabins, including BA’s Club World Business Class with fully flat beds.  Richard Tams, Head of UK and Ireland Sales and Marketing, said: “We’re delighted to be the only UK scheduled airline offering direct flights to Cancun.  It is the perfect addition to our Gatwick long haul premium leisure network.  As well as offering upmarket internationally recognised luxury hotels, unspoilt beaches and award winning golf courses and spas, it is also the gateway to the Yucatan Peninsula with its Mayan ruins and ancient history.” www.ba.com

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Doha arrivals terminal to open shortly

QATAR AIRWAYS is currently in the throes of completing a new arrivals terminal at Doha to help further speed up passage from airside to landside for all passengers with Qatar as their destination.  The building was initially the reception for the Asian Games and will be used until the brand new Doha International Airport opens towards the end of next year.  Last year 14m passengers passed through the existing airport, 80% clients of Qatar Airways, and about the same percentage connecting onwards. www.qatarairways.com

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Houston to Lagos

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES has confirmed plans to start daily 787 flights between Houston and Lagos in November 2011, launching what would be its first-ever service to Africa (subject to government approval).  Like Texas, Nigeria is a major oil producer.  The approximately 6,500-mile flight will be operated with a Boeing 787-8 seating 36 passengers in BusinessFirst and 192 in Economy.  Flight time is about 11 hours eastbound and 12 hrs 30 mins in the other direction. www.continental.com

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Marriott expands Courtyard in Europe

BUDAPEST and ST PETERSBURG are the latest beneficiaries of Marriott’s planned European expansion of it Courtyard brand.  The 235-room Courtyard Budapest City Centre is located on Blaha Luiza Square in the Pest section of the Hungarian capital.  Whilst a very modern hotel featuring a spa/gym, all rooms including flat screen TVs, refrigerators and work desks, the building itself boasts a beautifully restored façade.  The new 273-room Courtyard St Petersburg Centre West/Pushkin Hotel is located in central St Petersburg within a ten-minute walk of the Marinsky Theatre, St Nicholas Cathedral and the Hermitage.  It is Marriott’s second Courtyard-branded property in St Petersburg. www.marriott.com

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Private jets for British Airways

BRITISH AIRWAYS and CitationAir have launched a new private jet service exclusively for BA customers flying within North America and the Caribbean.  It resurrects a scheme first introduced just prior to 9/11 in conjunction with Air Partner and cancelled in the meltdown that followed.  The ‘PrivateConnect’ service will give customers ‘pay-by-the-trip’ access to a network of private aircraft operated by Citationair and its parent, the Cessna Aircraft Company.  With the actual bookings made with CitationAir the arrangement is not subject to US fifth freedom restrictions, and involves only a small marketing investment by the airline.  An online registration and dedicated phone number allows BA customers to simply ‘pay and go’ with a credit card, avoiding the long-term commitment and up-front fees normally associated with private jet hire.  The service is not restricted to the gateway airports.  The announcement comes within days of Delta Air Lines confirming a not dissimilar scheme. See AERBT 14 June www.citationair.com/privateconnect

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HAPPY TALK: The new airline Managing Director

The new airline Managing Director assembled his staff at head office.

After he had finished talking to his team, a woman came up and said: "You were much better than the previous MD.  He would speak for an hour and say nothing."

"Thank you," he replied.

"Yes," she continued. "You managed to do it in 15 minutes."

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COMMENT: BA ditches British Airways News

In a week when The Times stops the free ‘on line’ edition, British Airways has ceased publication of its weekly award winning staff newspaper “For the people of British Airways.” 

According to Chief Executive Willie Walsh “BA is moving with the times.”  The publication has been replaced by “Up to Speed” a monthly, and “Up to Date”, a digital newsletter, both trendy titles.

Which is the right decision?  They are diametrically opposed.

The Times sees the way ahead as the printed edition, with on-line as a back-up.  BA is moving in the opposite direction with electronic news its main means of communications.  All this at a time when Apple launches its flat 9” screen “iPad”. 

Are we going to read the newspapers at 35,000ft, or take out our tablet PC?  You can’t give your companion half a computer!

British Airways News, a colourful weekly tabloid, was distributed to all the 40,000 staff plus something in the same order again of retired employees.  For a fee outsiders could go on the distribution. 

Whilst including mainly BA and industry news plus chit chat about staff (and their pictures too) it often contained small but useful items worth a mention, typically including lounge upgrades, change of menus, new and departing personnel and even short cuts on how to get to Heathrow.  Cargo and engineering were highlighted too.  For all (including journalists) it was a good source of news.

BA News was always worth a casual glance.  Will the same happen with “Up to Date?”  As a monthly “Up to Speed” has plenty of in depth material, but lacks immediacy. 

British Airways is of course heavily involved in the London Olympics.  The new publication has an interesting challenge.  Does it inform or is it an extension of the social web sites.  The first issue featured former gold medallist Denise Lewis but nothing on the build-up at and around the Olympic sites.  Or their visibility in and out of London City (Stratford) and Heathrow (Wembley).

The Times emphasizes the printed word whilst BA says digital, all in the same week.  Older readers will recall the introduction of ITV in the United Kingdom.  “The end of newspapers,” cried the pundits.  “All advertising will transfer to the Box!”  It never happened.

Willie has got it right with his tough stand regarding Unite.  With the lesser issue of BA News AERBT is not so sure. 

At least he will now only have to write his column once a month.


Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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Airport slot trading launched

AIRPORT COORDINATION LTD (ACL) is to help airlines wishing to buy, sell, lease and swap landing slots with a product called “SlotTrade”.  ACL is an independent schedule coordination company and international aviation consultancy business based in the UK.  Its owners are British Airways, bmi, EasyJet, Flybe, Jet2, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways.  SlotTrade is aimed at making the previous grey market in airport slots more open, efficient and transparent via its website.  This is increasingly important at airports with limited capacity.  Slot trading was essential to the implementation of the EU-US Open Skies agreement in 2008, when US carriers like Continental and US Airways were able to quickly start Heathrow services using slots acquired from incumbent airlines.  Previously larger carriers gobbled up smaller ones, BA buying Brymon and taking over its Heathrow landings an example. www.slottrade.aero

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Anti-luggage campaign continues with Ryanair

RYANAIR, whose official policy is to encourage passengers not to fly with luggage, has added a new fee to its extra’s list.  Passengers can now choose a larger (20kg) checked-in bag allowance for £25 as an alternative to Ryanair’s standard (15kg) bag allowance which costs £15.  It is a discount on their previous policy of charging up to £10 per kilo extra.  Passengers who require a second bag can purchase an additional 15kg allowance for £35.  Unlike competitor easyJet, which is unrestricted, Ryanair has a 10kg hand luggage restriction, more like 7kg for items when the bag weight is taken off. www.ryanair.com

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Battersea heliport hotel to open

LONDON’S unique Verta Hotel will open at the Battersea Heliport on 12 September.  Part of the von Essen Hotel group and its Metropolitan Set, a sister hotel to the Forbury in Reading, the boutique property offers 70 contemporary designed guest accommodation on seven floors.  Facilities for up to 200 reception guests can be provided in a number of meeting rooms.  The luxurious spa includes an innovative hydro-vitality pool consisting of air loungers, air seat, standing air station and two neck massage stations, sanarium, heated lounges, steam room, sauna, gym and signature spa treatments in the four therapy rooms.  All day dining of traditional English and modern European dishes will be available in the elegant Patrisey Restaurant (an Anglo-Saxon name for Battersea). www.hotelverta.com

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Gatwick to Tel Aviv

EASYJET is set to increase its successful Luton to Tel Aviv service from six days per week to seven at the end of October.  Reports from Israel indicate that Gatwick will also be introduced at the same time.  The airline uses both the main and north terminals at the south London airport where it is the largest operator.  easyJet is to also start a four times per week flight from Israel to Geneva from 30 September.  Kosher food is available on the current flights from Luton to Tel Aviv. www.easyjet.com

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Istanbul to East Africa

TURKISH AIRLINES has inaugurated a new three times weekly service linking Istanbul to the East African capitals of Entebbe (Uganda) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) which brings its total international destinations up to 123 worldwide.  The 6 hrs 20 mins flight to Entebbe is operated by a Boeing 737-800 in a two-class configuration.  The onward leg to Dar es Salaam is just less than two hours. www.turkishairlines.com

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Parliament and the Transport Committee

LOUISE ELLMAN, the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Riverside, has been re-elected as Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, a post she has undertaken since May 2008, when she was selected to succeed the late, and very popular, Gwyneth Dunwoody.  She has been a member of the Transport Select Committee since 2002. www.louiseellman.co.uk

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Virgin fits out its new Airbus A330

PANASONIC is to supply the in-flight entertainment and passenger messaging systems on Virgin Atlantic’s new fleet of ten Airbus A330 aircraft, the initial batch of five due to arrive next year.  These will be the first ‘twins’ in the Virgin fleet, Sir Richard Branson initially very much committed to four-engined aircraft.  The Panasonic eX2 system includes eXphone – which will enable passengers to email, SMS and has the option for passengers to make airborne phone calls using their own mobile phone.  The seat back screens will be 9” in Economy, 10.6” in Premium Economy.  Passengers can connect their own devices including iPods, USBs, and camcorders.  A news update service will be provided during the flight and the system is expected to include an E-reader to display digital newspapers and magazines on the seatback with touch screen technology to turn the pages. www.virgin-atlantic.com

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Aviation Club members and their friends should note that the 8 July lunch, with guest of honour Willie Walsh, was sold out in a record 48 hours and that there is a substantial wait-list which is not being added to.  Please do not put in any more requests for seats. 

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Airshow by train from the north

FARNBORUGH visitors on Tuesday 20 July might want to make use of a rail package being put together by the First Group.  Departing from Preston at 06:30 a special train will call at Wigan North Western, Warrington Bank Quay, Crewe, Stafford, Birmingham New Street and Coventry, before finally arriving at Farnborough Main from whence there is a courtesy shuttle to the show.  The return leaves as 18:00.  Cutting out all the hassle of the road a Standard Class ticket costs £52, First Class includes an at-seat trolley service of drinks and light refreshments priced at £79, whilst Premier Dining includes a full English breakfast on the outward journey and thee-course dinner on the return and is priced at £135.  A buffet serving drinks and light refreshments will be available throughout the journey travel.solutions@firstgroup.com

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Argentine's airline gets the country colours

AEROLÍNEAS ARGENTINAS, now 99.4% government-owned (staff hold the minority shares), is launching a fully renewed image.  Privatised back in 1989 the carrier went through a torrid period of changing ownership and financial woes before being re-nationalised in 2008.  The new branding includes a light blue on the aircraft exterior, more akin to the national flag (and the colours displayed by the Argentine soccer team in South Africa).  Over a period of time the whole inventory of supporting signage and marketing material will be rebranded in a similar style. www.aerolineas.com.ar

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Delta upgrade

FIRST CLASS is to be introduced by Delta Air Lines during the autumn on all domestic flights longer than 750 miles, or about 2 hrs 30 mins of flight time.  When the upgrade is complete, 50 routes that currently feature Delta Connection flights with only one class of service will be upgraded to two-cabin aircraft with First and Economy Class service.  Delta's domestic route upgrades are part of the airline's ongoing US$1bn investment in products and services across its network, including the retrofit of Delta Connection 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft.  By October Delta's fleet will include 219 regional aircraft with two-class service flying on 272 domestic routes.  Delta Connection aircraft featuring First Class cabins include Embraer 170, Embraer 175, Bombardier CRJ700 and Bombardier CRJ900 models.  First Class service onboard flights operated with these aircraft is consistent with the amenities offered on Delta mainline flights.  Meals, china and linen service, pre-departure beverages, and complimentary cocktails, beer and wine are offered on all Delta Connection flights featuring a First Class cabin. www.delta.com

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Home Office Minister visits Heathrow

THERESA MAY, the new Home Secretary has visited Heathrow T5.  Here she met frontline officers from the UK Border Agency and was given a chance to see the latest detection technology in action.  During her visit she saw staff as they checked passports and quizzed passengers.  She also watched a demonstration by detection dogs, saw forgery detection equipment and looked on as officers used the latest technology to search bags for hidden smuggled substances.  A briefing was also given by the Operation Paladin Unit, a joint UK Border Agency and Metropolitan Police team working at the (technical) border and the other side of the controls (i.e. within the UK) to identify child victims of trafficking and prosecute facilitators. www.homeoffice.gov.uk

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Manchester upgrade for Singapore

SINGAPORE AIRLINES is to go daily on its Manchester – Munich – Singapore services from 1 September.  Introduced on 29 March the route was initially five times per week.  A Boeing 777-300ER is used for the operation featuring the airline’s First Class cabin, said to be the largest in the industry, a 30” wide full Business Class and an ergonomically designed Economy Class seat similar to the Airbus A380.  On the Manchester – Munich route competition is offered by bmi/Lufthansa with three flights daily and easyJet with a single rotation.  With the South East Asia leg the German Star Alliance member is the sole competitor. www.singaporeair.com

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Philip Hammond gets active

BRITAIN’S NEW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT Philip Hammond has unveiled a new group tasked with reducing long queues and delays at airports.  It will comprise key players from the aviation industry and be chaired by the former Shadow Minister Theresa Villiers, with the initial focus on Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.  Ms Villiers is not the most popular with the business community and the airline industry due to her opposition to Heathrow’s third runway.  The task group features representatives from airlines, airports, passenger groups, business, environmental groups and other industry bodies such as the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS.  Airline members include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Ryanair, and all three major London airports are represented.  Hammond said: “I have a clear vision for our airports which sees greater reliability, shorter queues, less hassle and better services for passengers.  It is absolutely crucial that we get this right as aviation is vital to our national economy.” http://nds.coi.gov.uk

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ON TOUR: Business Travel Market + Willie Walsh

Last week’s second Business Travel Market has established the June date as a must for European corporate transport buyers.  The location near London City Airport helps (some 400 flew in from the Continent), with plenty of hotels nearby and easy access to Central London and all its attractions.

The importance of the two-day event was emphasised with the opening address by the airport’s CEO Richard Gooding OBE on the Wednesday, and British Airways boss Willie Walsh addressing a packed conference session on the afternoon of Thursday.

With a customer base comprising 70% business travellers, Gooding spoke with authority. He reiterated that other major airport hubs such as Madrid could soon be a threat to UK trade as a whole and not just the business travel industry if the government does not invest wisely.  British Airways flies to Madrid twice daily from London City.

Gooding invited the audience to join lobby groups to ensure that business travellers’ voices were heard on subjects such as passenger duty, runways and economic regulation.  He said: “This industry has a great record of lobbying, and it is essential that our voices keep being heard.”  London City Airport is investing over £7m and is working with their partners BA, Cityjet, Lufthansa group etc to ensure that they are ready when the upturn happens and are able to still provide excellent service to all of their customers.

 

 

Debate thrived in the four simultaneous conference streams

With companies diving head first into the field of mobile technology, social networking and other online areas, Christa Manning from Amex expressed concern that the big corporates need to “catch up and give access” to their employees so they are able to better connect and develop areas.  She said that social networking offers a cheap and fast way to change end user and consumer behaviour. 

Speaking in the same session 'Nextgen Interaction' Charlie Osmond of Fresh Networks questioned whether return on investment (ROI) should be a consideration for companies when using social networks.

Justin Bovington from River's Run Red was to the point, telling companies to be cautious – “don't use technology for technology's sake”, he said.  Johnny Thorsen from ConTgo, who is providing the mobile meetings assistant technology at Business Travel Market agreed “it's all about focus”.  Addressing the delegates he said: “In the next few years, technology will become more important than service... and if your company isn't already using a mobile travel service, you are already behind the trend?”

“Is your trip really necessary?”

Moderated by Emma Harris from Eurostar this session raised a number of interesting points that travel management companies (TMC) and travellers should consider when booking travel for meetings. 

Nick Cocking from Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) opened the debate describing how travel over the last five years has become wasteful and people are heavily relying on air travel as a necessity, without thinking of alternative ways of conducting the meeting, i.e. videoconferencing or getting the train.  He believes by “changing customer behaviour and removing the stigma that people need to attend meetings in person” is vital in reducing frivolous travel expenditure. 

Geoff Allwright of Airbus commented on the demand aspect of travel management.  Many travellers book on limited information and are not given other options from their TMCs which could further reduce costs.  Again, there was a call to change the culture of that status of appearing in meetings face to face.  The ash cloud situation really highlighted if all of these meetings are indeed a necessity.

BCD Travel’s Chris Crowley estimated that at least a third of travel spend is without planning, i.e. crisis management, and travel approximately the second largest expense in a company.  Does the volume of sales qualify into business, are these travel meetings quantifiable?”  Cowley said:  “Especially when the economy is down, how can you quantify the ROI?”
 
Playing airlines at their own game

Peter Dunkin moderated this session, which included David Macdonald of Air Partner, who made the point that as the customer you were your own airline planner.  “Make the aircraft fit around your needs,” he said highlighting examples of the value of private aircraft charter.

French company Sidel, headquartered in Le Havre, 150 miles northwest of Paris, has for the past two years, been using an Italian charter company to regularly fly its Le Havre based workers to and from the local airport to Parma in Italy, three times a week.  “Not only does this save us money, but we have happier executives,” said Yann Le Goff, Sourcing Director.  “They are home with their families, not overnighting.  We have a great social advantage too because on our nine-seat aircraft our people get to know each other.  Our aircraft is a valuable business tool.  We work on board, we hold private meetings.  It is discrete.  But most importantly we save precious time.”  Significantly for Sidel, the service is supported by the Unions, and used by the staff.

The second day
 
Qatar Airways' Jo Lloyd led an inspired session on the ash cloud crisis.  The highly fuelled and topical discussion saw speakers from a cross section of the travel industry Ciaran Kelly from FCm Travel Solutions, BA's new General Manager UK, Richard Tams and the BBC's Jamie Hindhaugh – debated how the ash cloud had been handled and what changes would have to be implemented in case of another crisis.
 
Mike Carrivick (BAR UK) began the debate saying that the crisis is not over and there are plenty more volcanoes to come.  With a huge loss of revenue across a multitude of industries, the fall out from the crisis is still being calculated; however, big lessons have been learned. 

Richard Tams agreed saying that even BA “who has a contingency plan for everything” could not plan for this crisis.  Tams reiterated the benefits of being loyal to BA saying that after compassionate cases, their "loyal and most valuable” customers were repatriated as a priority.  He said: “It's not just the price of the ticket companies should consider...but the value.”
 
The big question on everybody's lips and succinctly put by audience member CWT’s Andrew Waller was: "Who will pay for it next time?”  Carrivick stated that there was a huge misapplication of rule EU261/2004 meaning that airlines had to foot the bill last time, but in the future, will it rest with individuals, government or others?  FCm's Ciaran Kelly backed the TMCs saying their “creative and experienced” consultants were an asset during the crisis.  Fortunate to have a volcanologist on their team, they were able to work closely with the government and Met Office to ensure their stranded clients were as up to date as possible.
 
The unifying problem raised by both the panel and audience members was the role of global distribution systems (GDS) such as Amadeus and Galileo, who were unable to respond to the situation with inventory being unavailable, or withdrawn on a number of occasions. 

Newly appointed ITM (Institute of Travel & Meetings) Chairman Jamie Hindhaugh described how the new Phoenix group comprising the HBAA Hotel Booking Agents Association), GTMC (Guild of Travel Management Companies), BA, and other industry professionals would ensure that companies are able to work better together and ensure planning for future similar crisis.

Walsh in a relaxed mood

British Airways CEO Willie Walsh was in a most relaxed mood when he addressed delegates in the session straight after lunch on Thursday.

He outlined his commitment to short haul travel and was adamant that transatlantic business remains robust and mentioned that had it not been for the downturn, BA would have already expanded its network further in the USA and potential further routes to long haul destinations from London City Airport with Boston, Washington and Chicago mooted as possibilities.

Asked by AERBT as to the future of Gatwick he said that successful talks had taken place with the new owners and that the airline was committed to the airport and would see “some expansion.”
 
Commenting on the Middle East carriers, Walsh praised Emirates as “a rational commercial carrier” but agreed with a comment made at last week's IATA conference that “three hubs in such a small area may be reduced to two in the future." 

“An absence of a third runway at Heathrow will be good news for the Middle East airports.  And Frankfurt and Paris,” he noted.

Talking to what is probably BA’s most important audience, the business travel buyers, Walsh said there was a “gulf between the views of Unite and those of the large majority of cabin crew.”  He was adamant that if there was to be further industrial action, BA would build on the success of recent weeks and aim to fly 100% of their long haul operation.

Walsh was emphatic that they “had to get the industry back on an even keel” and “whilst it will be a long hard road, it is achievable.”
 
Future plans for BA include IAG (International Airline Group) with Iberia and Walsh also outlined plans to re-introduce apprenticeships at BA and his continued commitment to the current graduate training scheme to ensure investment in the airline's talent pipeline.

Whilst the figures are still to be officially announced Show Director Paul Robin estimated a record attendance of over 4,000 delegates to a show that attracted 35% more stand booking than the previous year.  Confidence is such that the 2011 dates have already been announced, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 June. www.businesstravelmarket.co.uk

Malcolm Ginsberg

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