29 NOVEMBER 2010

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Americans prefer security

A security screening rebuttal, noisily promoted by some of the US media, seems to have been ignored by the American travelling public.

Typically at St. Louis’s International Airport very few have chosen pat-downs instead of full-body scans, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Small groups of protesters holding signs have shown up at some airports to demonstrate against the heightened security measures but reports seem to indicate that this is usually happening with TV camera’s in tow.  It does seem that for the most part travellers stoically accept that body scans are a necessary evil, rather like security queues. www.tsa.gov

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Congestion Charge Auto Pay (CC Auto Pay)

Transport for London has announced that motorist can now pre-register for Congestion Charge Auto Pay (CC Auto Pay) accounts.  Once it has been set up drivers need never worry about being fined again as they will only be charged for the days they travel within the zone and charges will be automatically deducted from their debit or credit card.

To pre-register for CC Auto Pay drivers will need a credit or debit card and will have to pay a £10 registration charge for each vehicle on the account.  The new scheme will go live from 4 January 2011.

Next year the daily charge for driving within the Congestion Charging zone will increase to £10.  For CC Auto Pay customers it will be £9. 

A number of other changes to the Congestion Charge scheme will also come into effect soon, including the removal of the Western Extension.  The last charging day for this area is Friday 24 December 2010.  The Congestion Charge will be suspended as normal over the festive period.  From Tuesday 4 January 2011 the Congestion Charging zone will revert to substantially the same boundaries as existed prior to the Western Extension. www.cclondon.com

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Etihad partners Ryanair!

Ryanair is making the pace by an unprecedented alliance with some unlikely partners including Etihad Airways, Norwegian and Australia’s Virgin Blue, to lobby for an extension of government credit to airlines.

The US and leading European Union governments, including the UK, offer credit to overseas purchasers of expensive technology and infrastructure, including aircraft, to encourage exports. 

However, carriers in Europe and the US cannot access the credit under an agreement between Brussels and Washington, as this would be deemed state aid. 

Calling itself “The Aviation Alliance”, and headed by the redoubtable Michael O’Leary, the group wants no limit on the amount of export credits extended to all airlines, no increase in the fees for credit and no reduction in the proportion of the cost of an aircraft that can be financed.

British Airways boss Willie Walsh (and the major European and US carriers) is against the practice, arguing the expansion of Emirates and other Middle East airlines was being subsidised by tax payers. 

The issue is coming to a head in talks on a new set of global rules due to be finalised by the end of this year through the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.ryanair.com

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Lord Bishop

Sir Michael Bishop has been elevated to the House of Lords and will sit on the Conservative benches. 

A keen advocate of Heathrow it remains to be seen whether he will mention when the opportunity arises that the present Government has overturned the results of an expensive and time consuming public enquiry regarding the third runway.

Lord Bishop (his title is yet to be announced) is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company which he personally sponsors.  A product of Mill Hill School in North London he was the senior partner in a management buyout of British Midland Airways in 1978.  Bishop sold his majority shareholding to Lufthansa in 2009, retiring from the company.  He led the campaign which eventually became ‘Open Skies', the opening up of the North Atlantic to airline competition.  With Bishop it was the winning rather than the taking part.  Bmi did not take up the opportunities offered by the new treaty. www.guardian.co.uk/media

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SkyTeam captures Indonesia

Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national airline, is to join the SkyTeam airline alliance.  Garuda will expand SkyTeam’s presence in Southeast Asia, adding 30 new destinations to the alliance network.  The airline serves 28 domestic and 18 international destinations and recently flew back into Europe (Amsterdam) for the first time in this decade.

Garuda already co-operates extensively with China Airlines, China Southern, Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines, and will establish additional codeshare agreements with other SkyTeam partners.  The joining process leading to full entry is expected to be completed by 2012. www.skyteam.com

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Trent engine makes further orders

Rolls-Royce, whilst it struggles to sort out the Qantas A380 blowout and its consequences, has, on the positive side, announced a large contract to provide engines to Air China. This brings the company’s total value of deals in the Asian country over the past fortnight to US$3bn.

Air China has selected the Trent XWB engines for the ten Airbus A350s it has on order and Trent 700 engines for ten Airbus A330 aircraft in a deal worth US$1.83bn.

The latest contract comes soon after a US$1.22bn order from China Eastern Airlines to supply Trent 700 engines for 16 A330s – a transaction that was announced in Beijing with great fanfare during a visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron. 

As regards the A380, Qantas at this point of time has put one aircraft back into service and hopes to run a full Christmas programme. www.rolls-royce.com

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Washington to Lagos

United Airlines is to introduce a Washington to Lagos service on 13 December 2010.  It is a continuation of a Washington Dulles – Accra service introduced in June of this year.  Departing Lagos at 21:30 it arrives just after 06:00, just in time to meet most of the nearly 300 United daily departures.

Flights from Lagos will be operated with Boeing 767 aircraft.  It features six seats in United First, 26 in United Business, and 151 in United Economy, including 74 United Economy Plus with extra legroom and more personal space.

Delta Airlines operates daily from Lagos to both New York Kennedy and Atlanta, both flights connecting to Baltimore Thurgood Marshall Airport. www.united.com

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COMMENT: FIFA World Cup 2018

On the face of it the selection of the host nation for the FIFA World Cup in 2018 is of little consequence to a publication such as AERBT. 

In fact this is not true, as our readers are in the travel industry or are travellers.  Either way the event will have an effect on them.  With its two major elements the Olympic Games is spread out over six weeks.  The World Cup takes up about the same number of days. 

Unashamedly we back the England bit.  Worldwide more people watch the Premier League than any other (how many in Thailand tune into Russian matches every week?).  We already have the stadiums and the hospitality set-up that are an essential requirement (Spain can offer a huge amount of vacant property as lodgings but that is another story).  Since it is a solo bid the Football Association (of England) does not have to deal with a partner (on virtually every minor detail).

We note below the full text of a letter by the AERBT’s Editor in Chief published in The Times which whilst not directly involving the World Cup is clear in its intention.

What concerns AERBT is that the selection voting has deteriorated into a political farce, open to corruption, and not on the merits of the bid.  With just 22 votes (out of 208 country members of FIFA) the system cannot be justified.  Rather like the lack of goal line technology it is completely discredited in this modern world.  The head in the sand attitude by the Zurich hierarchy is to be despised.  All members should have an equal opportunity of having their say in a secret ballot.  If a worldwide vote of football supporters were to be taken on whom should be the host nation one wonders which of the contenders would be win!  That is how the winner should be chosen if all the presentations are equal.

Hopefully Prince William and the team will be successful later this week (2 December).  Logic makes sense for the home of football to host the world tournament once every 50 years.  Flying all over Russia will not be popular with teams and spectators and, if what we are being told is true, Portugal (and maybe Spain) might well need a financial bailout very shortly.  They hosted the World Cup only in 1982.  Who is paying for their bid and will they be able to sustain it?  As for Belgium and Holland what language will they use?  English!

AERBT

 

Letter to The Times and published (in reduced form) Saturday 20 November

Ferguson for England

There can only be one choice as Manager of the Great Britain soccer team for the 2012 Olympics.  Sir Alex Ferguson.  The precedent has been set.  For the 1948 games, also held in London, in charge was the then Mr Matt Busby.  He selected amateurs from the England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, who reached the Semi Finals.  If Scotland was concerned whether it should supply players it would still be extremely visible at the very highest level.  Hampden Park is a venue.

Sir Alex's appointment will be universally accepted and might just help the FA in its 2018 World Cup bid.  He can also speak to the BBC without compromising on his current Manchester United policy and after the games would be in a position to decide whether retirement was for him.  A win and a raising to Lord Alex of Old Trafford would not be out of place.  The Upper House might just enjoy some of his wisdom. 


Malcolm Ginsberg
Member:  International Society of Olympic Historians (recognised by the IOC)

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Armenia to Dubai

Flydubai has inaugurated services to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, making it the 25th operational route for Dubai’s first budget airline.

Said to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Yerevan is set to the spectacular backdrop of Mount Ararat, the Biblical location of Noah’s Ark. 

Initially the service is twice weekly, a third flight being added on 15 December.  The airline currently operates 12 Boeing 737-800 aircraft fitted with 189 passenger seats in a high-density all-economy class cabin layout, virtually the same as Ryanair.  The price of the flight includes all taxes, one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 10kg, and one piece of checked baggage, per passenger.  Flydubai operates from a modernized and enhanced Terminal 2 on the north side of Dubai International Airport. www.flydubai.com

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Eastern Airways Scotland to Wales

A Cardiff to Aberdeen link is being introduced by Eastern Airways in the New Year.  By road it is one of the most difficult imaginable within Great Britain, 600 miles and around ten hours.  By air total travel time is 2hrs 15mins south to north and 2hrs 35mins in the other direction.  The weekdaily flight plus Sunday goes via Newcastle operated by a BAe J41.

Eastern point out that all their passengers departing from Aberdeen Airport have access to its dedicated business lounge.  Light snacks/refreshments are served on flights and a full complimentary bar is offered on most services appropriate to the time of day.  All seats are allocated at check-in and the popular emergency exit (extra leg-room) position can be requested on a first-come, first served basis. There is no charge for this. www.easternairways.com

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Executive jet costs

PrivateFly.com has introduced a booking platform that enables prospective users of its executive aircraft booking service to actually obtain an indicative costing for any pair of airports. 

The request for a quotation for four people to fly from London City Airport to Berlin Schoenefeld came up with some interesting figures.

For a small propeller aircraft the cost is (from) £7,070 with a flight time of 1hr 55mins.  With a small jet the charge is £9, 010 for 1hr 18mins in the air.  A middle size jet is no quicker but the price rises to £13,270 whilst for a long range jet the quote comes up with £23,520.  VAT is not included nor certain other charges but the flight does not attract APD.

The advantage of a private aircraft is obvious.  You can fly from where you want, to the place you need to get to, at times to suit.  You are not dependent on airline schedules or city pairs.  Hangar8, one of Europe’s largest operators of private jets, predicts a bumper year in 2011 for business as the commercial benefits of private jet travel becomes more recognised in the marketplace. www.hangar8.co.uk www.privatefly.com

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Oxford Airport arrival

Hangar8 plc, one of Europe’s leading operators of privately owned business jets, has today welcomed the arrival of an Embraer Lineage 1000 to its fleet.  Last week it became the largest ever aircraft to touch down at the company's Oxford Airport headquarters.

The US$52m aircraft is configured in an executive layout, with five separate cabin zones including a large lounge area featuring a fully integrated entertainment system, 52 inch TV screen, a separate master bedroom suite with a full sized double bed and private shower facilities.  It boasts a range of 5,000 miles enabling it to fly non-stop from the UK to the Middle East, Dubai to Johannesburg, New York to Moscow, or from Singapore to Sydney.  Long haul destinations such as Los Angeles and Tokyo can be reached from the UK with one fuel stop.

The Lineage, the largest in the Embraer family of aircraft, is an executive version of the E190/195 which is successfully flying with British Airways, CityFlyer and Flybe. www.hangar8.co.uk 

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Stockholm hotel opens

Nobis Hotel will open in Stockholm on 1 December located on Norrmalmstorg Square in the heart of Stockholm’s business and shopping district.  The 201-room property will have a very personal approach to service and will offer 800 square metres of public spaces, including the Italian restaurant Caina, 24/7 Bistro, The Gold Bar and The Lounge.

The Swedish Nobis Group is an expanding conglomerate that has doubled its turnaround over the past six years.  At present, the company includes the Operakällaren restaurant, Café Opera nightclub and three other restaurants as well as conference facilities in the Opera House in Stockholm, Stallmästargården Hotel & Restaurant, Hotel J and Restaurant J in Nacka Strand, Factory Event & Expo Centre, Fabrikörsvillan and Tornvillan meeting venues, Täby Park Hotel & Conference, and the recently opened Hotel Skeppsholmen. www.eng.nobis.se

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UK air traffic grows in October

NATS Ltd (formerly National Air Traffic Services Ltd) says that flights in the UK’s controlled airspace last month was 0.9% higher than the total for October 2009.

The company, 49% owned by the Government (and the balance by seven UK airlines + 5% by staff), also provides air traffic control at all BAA airports as well as others including Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, London City, Luton and Manchester airports.

Overall, traffic at the airports decreased by 0.3% except Heathrow, which saw a rise of 5.8%; Southampton (4.7%); Bristol (2.9%) and Edinburgh (2.3%).  Transatlantic the traffic grew by 6.9%, the only routing to show any significant growth.

Strikes by French air traffic controllers led to a number of flights to and from France and some overflights, notably to Spain, being cancelled. www.nats.co.uk

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ON TOUR: Is There a Future for Business Jets?

“Is there a future for Business Jets?” posed Edwin Brenninkmeyer, CEO of Oriens Advisors during the final panel of Quaynote Communications’ third annual Future of Business Jets conference held in London this November. 

Delegates were debating how to best educate the business travel market about the benefits of private jets.

It would seem from the senior industry figures in attendance, including delegates from Amex, Wexas and Limelight Access, that the majority of travel planners still lack the information required to immediately think ‘private charter’ when asked to plan an itinerary that may take in Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam.  This would typically be a 2-3 day trip.  Yet, by chartering a business jet the client becomes his own route planner, makes the whole trip a single day and, can be back home for supper.  “There are occasions when the business jet is the only option if you want to seal that deal and get there ahead of the competition,” said David Macdonald, Director Private Jets at Air Partner plc.

Entrepreneurs, sports personalities and the news media are key clientele to charter small jets.  And of course business users.

Overall executive aviation traffic now accounts for 6.9% of IFR traffic and is set to increase to 8% by 2015, according to Eurocontrol.  It has become a vital part of aerospace infrastructure, significantly increasing productivity for its corporate users.  European Business Aviation (EBAA) statistics show that there has been an increase from 2,000 aircraft in 1990, when EBAA first formed, to 4,000 business jets in Europe today, supporting business.  However, as this event heard, for many travel management companies, private jets are the preserve of the elite and without easy access via GDS systems to private jet charter options, this market is likely to remain untapped.

Brenninkmeyer highlighted the cluster of partnerships between legacy carriers and small jet providers and questioned if there could be merit in incorporating private charter options in web portals such as Expedia?  Gordon Mowatt from Wexas Travel Management suggested this would be difficult to implement because they are so intrinsically linked to the scheduled carriers. 

Brian Stoll, who arranges travel for celebrities, international football players and pop stars, said that his clients like to experience the service first. “When our clients buy a luxury car they go to a showroom, and take it for a drive and at that point they make a purchasing decision.  Realistically or not, this may well be the way private jet companies may have to court this business.”  However, business jet charter isn’t being exclusively used by those looking to raise productivity.  Laborious airport routines, schedules constantly changing and the restrictive hub and spoke systems have increased those using charter for leisure.

David Macdonald noted that at Air Partner private jet charters used for leisure had increased from 10% of their market in 2005, to 30% in 2010. 

Following on the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) theme of “no plane, no gain” the conference also explored the productivity value that is associated with private jets.  Fred Reid of fractional ownership business Flexjet presented statistics that showed companies using business jets outperform those who don’t use them with 22% higher growth.

Stewart Cordner from BAE Systems supported this argument that the niche market that BAE’s VIP converted 146/Avro RJs jets serve is focused on offering cost effective solutions for clients’ business travel requirements.  Converted VIP regional airliners have a strong role in the current economy, he said.  “We provide an effective and affordable first step for many companies into the world of executive charter.  Our clients then go on to the Learjet or Challenger purchase once they realise how effective flying business jet can be.  Our long-standing BAE 146 customer Titan Airways is the first in the world with the new Legacy 650. (see Alan Sugar gets new jet first)

However, growth requires finance, and discussions about availability were rife.  Aoife O’Sullivan, Partner at aviation law firm Gates and Partners presented a number of alternative sources for those seeking finance. “Finance is still out there,” she said, noting that Islamic finance, regional finance, and good old fashioned cash and refinance, as viable options.  The presence of a number of financiers reiterated that banks have returned to explore aviation finance, although perhaps in reduced numbers.

OEMs, including Bombardier and Cessna presented a cautious view of the market going forward.  Barry Mackinnon Director of Market Development at Bombardier Business aircraft commented on the importance of the BRIC countries ie Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Whilst these countries continue to grow they need to access the established economic markets, and private jets are increasingly utilised for this purpose.  However, he argued “don’t let them overshadow the Middle East or existing markets.”

MacKinnon suggested other drivers maintaining the more established aviation sectors include a slowly rejuvenating economy, aircraft renewals, and increased accessibility to business aviation through programmes such as Flexjet.

Reid, of Flexjet, confirmed that aviation business needs to stay agile and presented a number of innovative solutions from the Flexjet stable including a variety of ways to buy into the programme, exclusive membership promotions such as being offered the “ungoogleable”, and perhaps significantly a tie-in with Korean airlines providing their passengers with one point of call for commercial and private aviation options.

This alliance between business aviation, and a commercial airline is not unique.

There are a number of commercial airlines such as Qatar Airways and Lufthansa, developing their own private aviation offering, and others are forming partnerships such as British Airways’ partnership with CitationAir in the USA.

Once again there were murmurings that this where the Future of Business Jets (in the short haul market) will lie.

Jane Stanbury, Emerald Media
www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

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787 problems sorted?

Boeing has released a statement in somewhat technical detail which seems to indicate that the fire emergency on board a prototype 787 was caused by a “foreign object” left behind by an engineer.  In layman’s language it appears that a tool, or maybe even an oily rag, was forgotten, with dire consequences.  We’ve all done it.

How much the incident has delayed the 787 programme remains to be seen but Boeing says that they are developing minor alterations to the electrical panel that caused the problem.  Software changes also will be implemented to further improve fault protection.  The offending aircraft, ZA007, should be returned shortly to Seattle from Laredo, Texas. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Cannes acquisition for Radisson Blu

Rezidor Hotel Group has confirmed its arrival at Cannes with the Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso Cannes.  It was formerly known as 1835 White Palm Hotel.  The Group already has a Radisson Blu property at nearby Nice.

The Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso Cannes enjoys a prime location on the edge of the picturesque old quarter Le Suquet, overlooking the harbour and just across the street from the beach.  It is within walking distance of La Croisette, Cannes’ famous main avenue.

The hotel, a masterpiece by the French interior designers Marc Hertrich and Nicolas Adnet, was renovated in 2009.  Besides 134 guest rooms it features six meeting rooms and three restaurants:  In contrast the spa has an outstanding ultra-modern design and offers 46 treatment rooms, a fitness centre, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hammam (Turkish bath), sauna, caldarium (Roman bath) and whirlpools. www.radissonblu.com

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Ecuador capital to get new airport

Quito’s much heralded new international airport for the city is now scheduled to open next November.  However a recent request by AERBT to visit the site was turned down.  It will replace the existing Mariscal Sucre International Airport, once on the outskirts of the city but now very much in a commercial and residential area.  Present schemes include a plan to turn the site of the old airport into a park.

Located in the Tababela and Puembo areas, 25kms east of Quito, the new airport has a single 4,100m runway, essential if it is to be used to its full potential due to a 9,000ft elevation.

Quito's new airport has been selected by CIFAL, a branch of the UN, as the best practice on environmental sustainability in the Americas which takes into account minimum impact on the environment; emissions and noise reduction; residual water treatment; flora and fauna protection and providing a positive economic impact in the community. www.quiport.com

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Fort Worth adds Crowne Plaza, and at Minneapolis too

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has added a Crowne Plaza to its Fort Worth portfolio.  Previously a Radisson hotel, and the subject of a million dollar renovation with upgrades throughout the six-storey conference hotel. 

The only Crowne Plaza in the Fort Worth area, the hotel is located at the intersection of Interstate 35W and Altamesa East Boulevard and is 30 minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  It is only six miles of downtown Fort Worth.  It offers 247 guest rooms including six suites with separate parlour areas and Jacuzzi bathtubs.  Guests can take advantage of a variety of amenities including a heated indoor pool, Jacuzzi and fitness centre.

Another Radisson conversion recently announced is the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West, 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and 20 minutes from the Mall of the Americas.  The 243-room property has had an even bigger makeover, this time costing US$3.5m. www.crowneplaza.com

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Record figures for WTM

World Travel Market (WTM) has issued official but unaudited figures for the November gathering which show a 10.3% increase over 2009, the halls most obviously busier than the previous year even allowing for the stretch of Excel.

WTM credited the growth in part to a record number of visitors attending under the My Invitations system on Monday 8 November, the first day of the four-day event.

Visitors on the revamped final day, normally notoriously slow, jumped 34%, attributed to the “Talk Business” session with Lord Digby. www.wtmlondon.com

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TAM operates first biofuel flight in Latin America

An Airbus A320 operated by Brazilian airline TAM last week became the first South American aircraft to fly fuelled by biofuel.  And not just any biofuel, an aviation biofuel produced from a Brazilian vegetable biomass the oil of the Jatropha curcas.  The flight was the result of a partnership between TAM, Airbus, CFM International and Air BP.

The Airbus A320 (PR-MHF) normally operates in a 174-passenger configuration on the company’s domestic Brazilian flights.  In addition to the pilots, 18 other passengers, technicians and executives from TAM and Airbus, were on the flight.

The next step in this innovative project is to implement and establish a crop of Jatropha curcas, in reduced scale, at TAM’s Technological Centre in São Carlos, located in the countryside in the state of São Paulo.  The vegetable biomass, source of the aviation bio-kerosene used in the experimental flight, is 100% Brazilian, from family agricultural projects and sizeable farms in Brazil that are dedicated to the pioneer culture of the Jatropha curcas.  Known in Brazil as pinhão manso, it is a plant that does not compete with the food chain because it is not suitable for human or animal consumption, and can be planted alongside pastures and food crops. www.tam.com.br

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Victor Bassey pleads guilty

Excelsis Aviation no longer exists and its fraudulent owner, one Victor Bassey, described as a Nigerian businessman, is facing a possible lengthy jail sentence after pleading guilty at Teesside Crown Court.

At a lavish launch in June last year Bassey promised to restore the link between Durham Tees Valley Airport and Heathrow.  He recruited an experienced airline team and forecast a bright future for Excelsis.

Sadly it was just a dream with the £35m of claimed backing just an illusion.  Contractors were never paid and staff taken on found themselves using their own credit cards, money unlikely to be paid back.  At this time the web site still exists.  It is worthwhile reading and presumably left up by the (presumably unpaid) internet host. www.excelsisairways.com

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HAPPY TALK: Welcome to Ireland

Suggested new sign at Dublin Airport

"You are welcome to Ireland."

Think about it!

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