20 DECEMBER 2010

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787 latest update

Boeing has been very quiet regarding the latest certification and delivery dates on the 787 since the nearly disastrous electrical fire on a test aircraft in November.

Jim McNerney, Chairman, President and CEO, now has been on American TV and was still not able to give a definitive answer to the question that lead customer ANA and the air travel community was waiting for.

"Over the next few weeks we'll get the production schedule better understood as we work with the FAA on the fix to the incident we had on the Dreamliner," he said in the interview.  “We expect to know over the next few weeks what impact the 787 Dreamliner electrical glitch will have on the plane's production and delivery schedule.” www.boeing.com/commercial

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Belfast City to Stansted

bmibaby is to introduce a George Best Belfast City Airport to Stansted service from the start of the summer season on 28 March 2011.  Flights will operate three times a day from Monday to Friday, with one service on Sunday.  easyJet flies four times daily between Belfast International and Stansted.  Parent company British Midland (BMI) competes from Belfast City to Heathrow whilst Flybe has services into Gatwick.

Launched in 2002, as part of the bmi group, bmibaby currently flies from four UK bases: Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands and Manchester to 33 European destinations.  It has not flown into Stansted before.  The airline operates Boeing 737-300 series aircraft in a 148-seat layout. www.bmibaby.com

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Bristol Airport on-site hotel

Planning permission has been given for a new hotel at Bristol Airport.  The 251-room property hotel will be located close to the terminal building and is designed to be eco-friendly, minimising the consumption of energy, materials and water through the selection of construction materials and technologies that lessen site wastage and that are locally sourced wherever possible.

An internationally recognized hotel brand will be selected over the course of the next few months, in partnership with the developer, Pedersen Airport Hotels who already owns three hotels in Bristol – the Novotel on Victoria Street, the Mercure on Welsh Back and the Ibis at the Temple Quay.

Bristol Airport is currently the ninth largest airport in the UK measured by passenger numbers, but is the only one of the top 15 airports in the country without on-site hotel accommodation.  However it still lacks safe dual carriageway road access. www.bristolairport.co.uk

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Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur

AirAsia X, the Malaysian-based long haul low fare airline, today is to introduce a route from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch (New Zealand).  Starting 1 April 2011 the airline will fly four times weekly.

Operating on the route will be a two-class Airbus A330 featuring the airline’s amidships premium flat bed cabin with its 20” width, 60” pitch seats, stretching out to 77” in the full recline position.  These feature universal power sockets, adjustable headrests and built-in personal utilities including tray table, drink holder, reading light and privacy screen. 

This new route is the 15th destination for the airline after points in Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Tehran, UK and soon France. www.airasia.com

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Estonia joins the Euro

On the 1 January 1 2011 Estonia becoming the latest country to adopt the Euro.  How the problems of Greece and Ireland affect its arrival remains to be seen, the change of currency planned for some time. 

Coinciding with the new financial arrangements Tallinn, the capital, joins with Turku (Finland), as one of the two European Capitals of Culture next year.

To welcome the Capital of Culture year the city will host an opening ceremony and music festival, centred around Theatre Square on 31 December with fireworks at midnight, lighting up the city's coastal location, the port a popular summer cruise destination. 

The event will be attended by Estonia's Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip; accompanied by his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts, Valdis Dombrovskis and Andrius Kubilius; European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Olli Rehn; and the former President of the Bank of Estonia, now European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas. www.visitestonia.com

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Gatwick and easyJet expand

Amman (Jordan) is the notable destination in a whole host of new services to be introduced by easyJet at Gatwick next year bringing its total destinations from the South London airport to 92.  The airline will boost its Gatwick-based fleet by four aircraft to 46.  Overall the airline is increasing capacity by 13%.  Next year easyJet will be operating 551 routes between 129 airports across 30 countries.

Already the largest operator at the airport, the airline plans to start six routes in 2011.  New are Aberdeen, Bologna (Italy), Izmir (Turkey), Seville (Spain) and Verona (Italy) as well as the Jordanian capital.  easyJet becomes the first ex-UK low cost operator to fly to the country.  A tourist boom is likely to follow as well as attracting other budget airlines. 

Under new ownership, Gatwick is targeting growth to at least 40m passengers per year by 2018 – an increase of 20% from its current 32.5m, an exceptional figure for a single runway airport. www.gatwickairport.com

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Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf opens

Dusseldorf has a new 5-star hotel, the Hyatt Regency, which opened last week.  Situated in the heart of the trendy Media Harbour area it is located in one of two newly built 19-storey towers at the tip of the peninsula.  A pedestrian bridge connects the hotel with the opposite side of the harbour.  With its central location close to the international airport, and the most important exhibition and conference centres in the city, the hotel will attract business and leisure travellers.  

The hotel is not quite complete but all the 290 guestrooms are available.  The Dox Restaurant, including its bar and sushi bar, a fitness centre, and the hotel’s meeting rooms and ballroom are also open.  Additional services and amenities expected to be finished by mid-February 2011 include the Regency Club™, Rive Spa, the hotel’s premier suites, and Pebble’s restaurant. 

Also available is Regency Club accommodation, a dedicated concierge and access to a private lounge on the 18th floor of the hotel.  Complimentary continental breakfast and afternoon coffee and tea are available, as well as a selection of beverages and canapés in the evening for a minimal surcharge. www.hyatt.com

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Lufthansa's short and medium haul fleet undergo cabin revamp

Recaro the seat manufacture is busy.  Lufthansa has confirmed that it is installing some 32,000 new seats on more than 180 aircraft in its short and medium-haul fleet – within the space of just one year. Thanks to the new, ergonomically shaped seat with its slim backrest, passengers will now have more than four centimetres extra legroom and more hand luggage storage space.  The airline benefits too, Lufthansa is able to increase capacity by about 2,000 additional seats, the equivalent of 12 Airbus A320s.

In all, Lufthansa is investing about €170m in the cabin upgrade as part of a comprehensive programme to revamp the airline’s in-flight product.  Passengers travelling in Economy Class will again be offered snacks such as muesli bars and chocolate, even on domestic routes.  On cross border services of more than two hours hot meals will be available and a wide selection of beverages. www.lufthansa.com

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Travel market exhibition changes

Business Travel Market (BTM), the conference and exhibition for European travel buyers at London’s ExCel, has announced changes to its management team. 

There are three new appointments: Neil Simpson joins as Sales Director in January from Centaur Media where he was directing their Travel Technology Show.  Nikki Stimson, has already taken up the role of Marketing and Partnerships Director, expanding her short term contract involvement in BTM into a permanent role and Judit Mora has been appointed to a Sales and Administration Support position.  Loraine Holdcroft continues her role as VIP Hosted Buyer Programme Director for a third year.  The Operations continue to be looked after by Anna Anson of IQ Events.  Mark Harris of Travel Intelligence Network has left following the completion of his contract. 

Business Travel Market took place for the second time in 2010, when buyers from 20 countries with a collective travel spend of over €15bn, attended 2,500 pre-arranged meetings. 

The event is now firmly established in the corporate travel calendar having garnered support from the buyer and supplier communities across Europe, culminating in a new partnership with ACTE.  All the 2010 sponsors are returning for 2011. www.businesstravelmarket.co.uk

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ON TOUR: Paris Disneyland

If you are thinking of a family trip next spring or summer Disneyland Paris is to be highly recommended.  Yes it is in one sense very ‘plastic’ but it can be combined with an opportunity to use Eurostar, visit the capital of France and pick up some culture, and make the most of the chance to utilize the French being taught at school.

It is fully open over Christmas and the New Year too, with some excellent special attractions closing at one in the morning on 1 January.

Since its opening in 1992, Disneyland Paris has established itself as the leading tourist destination in Europe, welcoming more than 215 million visits.

Disneyland does not have to be expensive and in fact the park entrance fee is good value when, for instance, compared to 90 minutes at a Premier Division soccer match.  Booked well in advance Eurostar is also realistically priced and (except for the Disneyland Hotel sited at the entrance) the hotel costs are reasonable.  AERBT stayed at the Radisson Blu with a courtesy bus service, a fine breakfast and internet included in the package plus an indoor swimming pool.  Paris is an easy RER ride away with its attractions and can be in itself part of the trip.  Visitors choosing to come by car will find countless lodging offerings at all price ranges.

Eating in the park can be very expensive.  These days Disney does allow one to bring your own food and provides plenty of covered space for informal consumption.  The many food outlets provide wholesome grub in quantity (and some fine dining too if you look for it).

Once you have paid for your travel, accommodation and entrance you need not spend another penny.  But that will be something of a struggle.

We travelled via Kings Cross/St Pancras and Eurostar direct to the park.  There is a daily service (also from Ashford – Kent) except Tuesdays and Saturdays outside of school breaks, or you can tailor your journey via Lille.  Station to station it is 2hrs 35mins London to Disneyland and the park itself greets you on arrival.  If you don’t speak French most of the staff are multi-lingual.  Don’t worry about your luggage.  The hotels will collect it at the station and offer the same service for the return

Disney at Paris is two adjoining theme parks connected by an eating area and other leisure activities called the Disney Village.  You can view the whole scenario by taking a ride in a tethered balloon.  The Disneyland Park itself is recommended for a minimum of 1½ days and the Walt Disney Studio Park for a half day.  Two nights minimum.

Someone a long time ago coined the expression “The Magic Kingdom” and it certainly is, for youngsters from five upwards (with the record age for a visitor of 106).  It is best to keep away from the French school holidays when the queues can be horrendous.  For some of the more popular rides you can sign up early in the day with “Fast Pass” and then come back at your allotted time.  Patience is the one virtue that is required at Disneyland and getting your timing right.  It is perfect for children.  If you are really tired take the Disneyland Railroad and stay on for a second circuit.  Don’t try and get on at the Town Square station, the more distant stations are less busy.

Arriving at Disneyland Park wander down Main Street and get in the mood for the place.  You may be lucky and there is a parade going on.  Mickey, Minnie and their friends will be around to entertain you.  Make your way to the Central Plaza and then decide.  Your choice is Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland.  The names more or less described what they offer.

Adventureland is just that, and is clearly for the most part designed for the more thrill engaged types and those who with some rides (Indiana Jones) should not wear toupees or indeed enjoy upside down trips.

Frontierland includes “Big Thunder Mountain” and a leisurely ride on a massive sternwheeler across the Disneyland lake.

For the younger people Fantasyland includes “Peter Pan’s Flight” and the ever popular “It’s a Small World”.  “Le Theatre du Chateau” is a good place to sit down.  Look in the programme for the show times.  You will not have a language problem. 

Finally “Discoveryland” has the ever popular “Space Mountain”, a chance to drive your own car in “Autopia” and “Star Wars” a space flight simulator for an intergalactic excursion into the Star Wars galaxy. 

The park normally opens at 10:00 and goes on (in the summer months) until 23:00 and sometimes later.  Not so the Walt Disney Studios which closes much earlier.

Without doubt the best offering at the studios is the “Back Lot Studio Tram Tour” a fascinating trip showing just how some of the great films of the past were made in the days before digital production.  It can get hot in places and it is easy to get splashed.  The “Back Lot” is full of surprises.

If it is stunt driving you want to see the “Motours” spectacular is a 45-minute show in a specially built stadium.  And yes you will be caught out in the way it is done. 

The Walt Disney Studios is once again divided into theme areas, but the walking is much less and there is plenty of time to relax in the “Animagic” show where a host of Disney characters produce a host of songs from unforgettable films since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of 1937.  Produced today it would probably be banned as politically incorrect.

If none of this is for you but family commitments insist on a visit there is the Disney Golf Course which adjoins the Radisson Blu hotel!  It is of championship standard and combines three 9-hole courses that can be combined into a serious 18-hole par 72 challenge. www.disneylandparis.co.uk

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CRUISE NEWS DECEMBER 2010

THE QUEEN ELIZABETH

A news review follows

It is going to be the social talking point amongst the cruising aficionados.  Which is better?  Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria.  There is nothing like a bit of competition to keep the standards up and on 5 January they both depart Southampton for New York.  Which ship arrives first?  The Captains should toss a coin, and a Sterling one too. 

Cunard is perhaps the only truly international brand in cruising, with nearly a half of its guests coming from the UK, a third from North America and the balance from a wide range of markets – notably including Australia, Germany and Japan.  Whilst the pair will spend more half their lives working out of the UK port, the American owners insist on the Dollar as the on-board plastic currency, and 15% service charges too.  Perhaps our only criticism.  And to make the point British three point plugs are everywhere (and also US two pin).  The ships sail under the Red Ensign too. With P&O, also under the same ownership, they would not dare!

The new Queen Elizabeth is unique.  It is probably the only current ocean going liner, not only to have a distinguished predecessor with the same name but its precursor too.  Fortunately there are three Queens of England that we can all recall with the QE title, the lady was in charge when we defeated the Spanish Amada, the wife of King George VI, and of course the present incumbent who with her sister Margaret was on board RMS Queen Elizabeth when she did her speed trails in 1946.

With the arrival of the latest Queen Elizabeth, Cunard, now owned by the US Carnival Group, has the greatest total passenger accommodation in its 170 years of history with Queen Mary 2 (2,620 without children’s berths), Queen Victoria (2,014) and now Queen Elizabeth (2,092).  The original 1940s Queen Elizabeth could carry up to 2,283 and came in at 83,000 tonnes gross as against the 21st century version at 92,000 tonnes.  The earlier ship was a lot quicker with a top speed of 30 knots plus. in an age when it was competing with its contemporaries for North Atlantic domination.  The new liner is limited to just over a leisurely 20 knots.

The 2010 Queen Elizabeth is a sister ship of the 2007 Queen Victoria with some minor improvements brought about by the in-service experience of the earlier vessel, plus 39 more cabins (which will keep the bean counters happy).  This has been achieved by giving her a larger superstructure aft with more deck space over the stern on Deck 9.

Other differences on Queen Elizabeth over Queen Victoria include the introduction of The Verandah ‘fine dining’ restaurant (for which there is a charge per course – probably a first on a quality cruise ship) instead of Todd English.  For cruisers in the highest graded balcony cabins the Britannia Club is a separate dining area open from 18:30 until 21:00.  As with her sister ship Queen Elizabeth offers The Queen’s Grill (for butler suite clients) and Princess Grill (these suites do not have the butler but clients can use the Queen’s Grill lounge).  French-style doors open from each Grill onto the Courtyard – an exclusive patio area, where al fresco dining is offered, and steps lead up to the Grills Terrace – a secluded retreat on the ship’s uppermost deck. 

Other changes include a fixed glass roof over the garden lounge which also  hosts occasional evening ‘Supper Clubs’ with musical entertainment and dancing, a new layout in the Queens Room, a larger bar area on Deck 3 at the top of the Grand Lobby and the first Fortnum and Mason at sea.  On a sun deck all the way forward, Cunard has created a new sports deck with English garden bowls, paddle tennis and croquet (all on artificial grass).

QE2 regulars will feel at home on the new ship.  It is better laid out to start with and certainly in the lesser grade of cabin (the great majority) the offering is far superior, with proper windows replacing portholes and over 700 balconies available.  The old ship had just 33 with balcony.  Perhaps best of all, the vast majority of staff have moved across.  There is nothing more re-assuring that seeing a familiar face when boarding.  They will tell you, quietly, that “fings ain’t wot they used to be”, but you would expect that.  Pressed they will agree that the new ship is superior.

On entering the ship you have to say ‘wow’ with a unique piece of art by David Linley (the Queen’s nephew for readers who are not sure of the Who’s Who in the Royal household).  The 18.5ft “sculpture” is crafted from nine natural woods and depicts the port bow from the original Queen Elizabeth as seen from sea level. 

The new Cunarder is very much an Art Deco ship in the tradition of the mighty “Queens” that ruled the North Atlantic before the advent of the jet airliner.  There is memorabilia galore and dotted about a history of the world’s oldest shipping company.  Cunard Place, the space between the grand lobby and the Queens Room, is a bit of a Cunard museum paying tribute to the line's long time ties with royalty, politicians, sports people and stars of stage and screen.

Cunard has abandoned the generally unpopular (and presumably not money making any more) tradition of onboard art auctions.  The art gallery – organized by London's Clarendon Fine Art – is a real gallery, focusing on shows that highlight specific artists.

The Royal Arcade is for upmarket shopping.  Besides Fortnum & Mason with its unique teas, preserves and biscuits, Hackets has men's designer wear, Harris Tweed, offers its world-renowned hand-woven Scottish woollen fabrics and Anya Hindmarch has the latest bespoke designs of handbags and accessories are for sale. There is Chopard the jewellers with the ‘Chopard Queen Elizabeth watch’ – a limited edition watch combining the dual branding of Chopard and Cunard and available at $18,000.

When it comes to informal food The Lido Restaurant, up on Deck 9, offers breakfast and lunch buffet style. In the evenings South American cuisine is one possibility with ‘Asado’, Mexican dishes in ‘Aztec’ whilst ‘Jasmine’ serves Asian fare.  The extensive Café Carinthia continues the popular concept introduced on Queen Victoria with sweet pastries and fine teas and coffees.  In a central position on Deck 2 overlooking The Grand Lobby, clearly this is the place to see and be seen!

The Golden Lion Pub, another Cunard tradition, offers traditional English pub food for lunch in a typical British pub setting.  It’s good for karaoke and watching sport, live, on TV.

Cunard is rightly proud of the facilities on offer to children throughout the fleet and Queen Elizabeth easily meets the previous high standard.  The Play Zone and The Zone feature the very latest equipment for kids from 1-17 and are open from 09:00 until midnight except for a lunchtime break where parents takeover.  There are certified nannies on board to change nappies, bottle feed and entertain the youngest guests.  Youngsters are extremely well cared for with arts and craft, board games, sports, movies, video games, discos and parties.  All with the compliments of Cunard.

The Cunard Royal Spa and Fitness Centre features the latest spa and beauty treatments for both men and women, as well as a hydro-pool and thermal suite.  Forward of the Spa is an expansive gymnasium and aerobics area with state-of-the-art cardiovascular fitness equipment including inclining treadmills and bikes complete with their own personal LCD television screens.  In addition to the large hydro-pool in the Spa, there are two outdoor swimming pools on Deck 9.  There is also a large aft sunbathing area where The Lido Pool is located.

There are nine different ‘types’ of suites and staterooms: Grand Suites, Master Suites, Penthouses, Queens Suites, Princess Suites, Britannia Club, Balcony, Outside and Inside.  Even the smallest inside cabin, of which there are just 162, start at 150 sq ft in size and have the same amenities as all guests using the Britannia restaurant including daily newspaper, a bottle of wine per couple on arrival, replenishable fruit basket, bathrobe and slippers and multi-language TV and music channels.  Cunard point out that many of these facilities are chargeable on competitors.  There is 24-hour room service too.

As noted Queen Elizabeth leaves Southampton on 5 January 2011 for New York (and Manhattan not Brooklyn), the first leg of a 103-day World Voyage that visits 36 ports and arrives back home on 19 April.  For the rest of the year (with the exception of one US/Canada transatlantic return trip) she will undertake European cruises from five to 23 days’ duration.

There will be some who will say that the Queen Elizabeth is not as good as QE2.  They are wrong.  The earlier ship had many (forgotten) deficiencies. 

If this report seems to a sales brochure for the new ship in truth Cunard have put together the sort of package that it knows from its vast experience its regulars want, and that will also appeal to the new (and younger) breed of cruisers.  A product in the British tradition (except for the dollars) without too many frills and theme park embellishments.  It is a fine advertisement for the country.

Malcolm Ginsberg

 

OUR TEN-STORY NEWS REVEW

Berlitz Cruise Ships 2011 is now available for the iPhone, iPhone Touch and iPad.  The App features in-depth searchable cruise ship reviews of Douglas Ward's authoritative and hard-hitting review book, now in its 26th year of publication.  As the most extensive cruise ship information available anywhere, the App allows users to find out about each cruise ship's accommodation, cuisine, entertainment and fitness facilities, and to see images of every vessel. www.berlitzpublishing.com

Carnival Cruise Lines has been forced to cancel more Carnival Splendor sailings in order to carry out longer than expected engine room repairs after a serious fire in September.  Splendor will be out of commission until 20 Feb 2011 with thousands of guests on her 16, 23 and 30 January sailings and 6 and 13 February all out of Long Beach, California. www.carnival.com

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has announced the introduction of a new dining service – An Evening In – on its longer cruises, offering a more casual dinner, delivered to the suite or cabin.  The new service will initially be launched on Balmoral and Black Watch, from 5 January 2011, and, if successful, will be rolled out to the other ships in due course. The new in-cabin dinner service will not carry any extra charge, and will be offered in addition to the existing Room Service. www.fredolsencruises.co.uk

Holland America is the latest cruise line to publish its full 2011 and winter schedule with the highlight Westerdam and Rotterdam sailing three 30-day “Circle Hawaii, Tahiti and Marquesas Islands” explorations.  Westerdam’s voyage sails round trip from San Diego, California ., and departs 29 September 2011.  Rotterdam also sails round trip from San Diego and departs 4 January and 4 March 2012. www.hollandamerica.com

Libya wants to get into the cruising world , a country which passport holders from regimes it does not like, notably Israel, are banned.  State-owned shipping company GNMTC has signed a contract with the French STX shipyard for a 139,000-tonne vessel slated for delivery in 2012 featuring 1,739 passenger cabins, and according to the company will be “similar to MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia in design and architecture but greater in size and passenger capacity”.  Clearly Haifa will not figure in its itinerary. www.gnmtc.com

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) will base four Freestyle Cruising ships in Europe for 2012 and 2013.  The 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit will sail in Europe for the first time from April 2012, operating a 12-day Grand Mediterranean voyage during summer and autumn and a nine-day Canary Islands itinerary during winter and spring.  Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Sun will continue cruising seasonally from Barcelona and Copenhagen respectively.  The ships joins Norwegian Jade which offers year-round itineraries in Europe. www.ncl.com

Princess is to operate two world cruises ex-Australia in 2012.  Clients will have a choice of a 104- or 75-night voyage departing from Sydney.  Sun Princess departs 16 May 2012 and visits 38 ports in 28 countries including maiden visits to Reykjavik (Iceland), Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) and Lerwick (Shetland Islands, Scotland).  The itinerary will also feature overnight calls in New York and Venice.  The shorter voyage, on Dawn Princess, will call at 28 ports in 13 countries including Northern Asia, Russia, Canada, Alaska and the Pacific islands.  She departs 27 July 2012. www.princess.com

Silversea is just about to distribute its 2012 “cruise collection” brochure.  The Ft Lauderdale-based company now has six ships ranging from the 192-passenger Prince Albert II exploration vessel ship, the original 1994 300 capacity Silver Cloud, and Silver Spirit which entered service just one year ago and has 258 double cabins. www.silversea.com

Southampton has unveiled plans for a new £30m cruise terminal, the fifth for the port.  It is expected to be operational in late 2013 or early 2014.  300 separate ship visits would have been undertaken by the year end 2010 with an extra 60 for 2011.  The purpose-built terminal will add 90 ships to the capacity.  2011 starts very well for the port with six ships departing on 5 January, including, as noted elsewhere in AERBT, both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. www.southamptonvts.co.uk

AND FINALLY does anyone want to use an aircraft carrier as a cruise ship or floating hotel (three available)?  The British Ministry of Defence has listed HMS Invincible for sale on a government website in a bid to raise funds for the armed services.  The biggest problem is meeting the environmental commitments but she would be ideal for holiday makers who fancy a trip in Somalia waters.  Moored off Greenwich in the Thames she could help to reduce London’s shortage of accommodation with helicopter connections to Heathrow but guests for the most part will find their cabins windowless, except for the Admiral’s suite, which itself would need very much upgrading. www.bringinvinciblehome.co.uk

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COMMENT: Snow and ice in the Three Counties

BBC Three Counties Radio, usually called 3CR, and based in Luton, is probably not known to our international readers.  Nor probably outside the three counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire after which it is named.

Last Saturday the station produced a quality piece of broadcast journalism, which does show for all the (sometimes justified) criticism it comes in for, the BBC has an in-depth quality not really apparent elsewhere.

Normally the Saturday sports programme starts at 14:00 and runs through until 18:00.  On this particular occasion the local soccer team playing in the Blue Square  Conference (that is Division 5 of the English league for those that don’t know) had been told by the police to kick off at 12:00. 

It was an early start for the radio people and everyone else.  In spite of deteriorating snow and ice conditions the match began in front of more than 6,000 spectators (including 200 hardy souls from York).  Soon after half time the referee had no choice but to abandon the game with a blizzard descending upon the ground.

And then the fun began.

Getting out of Luton was difficult but once on the M1 it was chaos, all five lanes virtually at a standstill, a 30-minute journey taking 8½ hours.

The redeeming factor was 3CR.

For all that time the radio station kept up a continuous banter of news and information, helped considerably by its (very good spirited) listeners, who phoned in and text becoming the eyes and ears of all.  Luke Ashmead, the sports anchor man, became the snow and ice anchor man, plus a whole team of BBC ‘volunteers’.

Amazingly the station did not rely on pre-recorded music after each piece of news and was very much aided by valuable contributions from the public via their mobile phones. 

We learnt of some poor soul whose car had spun in the middle of the M1 going north and was eventually told by the authorities that he was number 30 in the queue.  3CR did its public duty, announced the situation and demanded action. 

The M1 was then blocked going south and it was a passenger going the other way who informed the BBC and the world what was going on, not the Highways Agency.  A Simply Red record was found for a would-be attendee for the group’s last ever concert at the O2 stuck on the M1.  And well done to those local council people who did make themselves available for comment and questioning.

There is a lesson to be learnt from the mayhem. 

The idea of radio people in a studio and looking at strategically located cameras to inform on the state of a road is fine but what is needed on these occasions is for experienced press officers to be sited in the road control rooms, passing on information to the news media. 

Drivers out on the road want to know what is going on.  It is very frustrating sitting behind a wheel in a stationary vehicle feeling utterly frustrated.  The airlines (or at least some) have learnt that lesson and Heathrow in particular has been very good over the great freeze in keeping the media (and hence the public) well informed.  Even London Underground now informs you via loudspeakers that you will be stuck in the tunnel for ten minutes!

AERBT does not know what time 3CR finished its special broadcast.  Yes there was a hotel next door to accommodate the broadcasters and presumably it has a bar.  But very well done.  You kept at least one listener (very) happy.

Can we take this opportunity of wishing readers and contributors all the best for a happy and healthy 2011.  We will be back on 10 January next year.

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Air transport is bar coded

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced a historic milestone in passenger travel with the 100% worldwide implementation of 2D bar coded boarding passes (BCBP).  These replace the previous generation of more expensive and less efficient magnetic stripe boarding passes.

The completion of the industry project gives passengers greater choice in checking-in at home, at a kiosk, on a mobile device or at an airport check-in counter.  BCBP also allows airlines to issue a single, printed boarding pass for multiple flights, simplifying the journey for passengers with flight connections or those travelling on different airlines.  Moreover, BCBP opens the door for automated access to premium services.  For example, with a scan of a BCBP, eligible passengers can access fast-track security lanes or lounges.

“Airlines issue over 2bn boarding passes every year.  The conversion to printed 2D BCBP has been a five-year project and will save the industry up to US$1.5bn every year.  With more and more airlines offering the possibility to receive the bar code via a mobile device, we are well on the way to truly paperless travel,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. www.iata.org

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BM makes a comeback

British Midland International (bmi) has unveiled a new logo and visual identity to help strengthen its brand.  It has been said that Lord Bishop, the airline's former majority owner, was never keen on the remodelling of the old BMA which took place in 2001.

The airline undertook a strategic review of its brand when it became part of the Lufthansa family last year.  The new logo offers bmi a much stronger identity by using the full name of British Midland International, rather than just bmi. 

According to the airline the new brandmark refreshes the heritage blue colour that bmi is known for but also creates a larger logo footprint for bmi, enabling it to achieve greater presence and standout in its communications. www.flybmi.com

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British Airways and Unite

2011 is turning into another 2010 with strike threats from Unite, the trade union representing cabin crew at British Airways.  In a statement last week it said it would ballot members over fresh industrial action in a dispute that has so far cost the airline £150m and much goodwill with the travelling public.

BA said it had drawn up contingency plans that would allow it to operate a "substantial proportion" of its short haul flights, and all of its long haul flights, at Heathrow airport in the event of another strike.

Services at Gatwick and London City would be unaffected.

The ballot will begin on 21 December and end on 21 January.  Action could take place from seven days of that date.

Unite's General Secretary Elect, Len McCluskey, said last month that any ballot on fresh industrial action was likely to get a "substantial" yes vote, somewhat distorting the facts with less than 50% of its members actually bothering to vote last time around. www.ba.com www.unitetheunion.org.uk

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Diesel cars for hire

Avis has issued figures showing that 40% of the fleet is now diesel powered, a doubling of the numbers over the last five years.  Typical is the Jaguar XF from the Avis Prestige Cars brand.  The vast majority of UK sold vehicles by the now Indian owned company have a 3.0litre turbo diesel unit.

British UK marketing and communications manager for Avis is Darren Peacock.  “Thanks to their greater fuel efficiency it is no surprise that we have seen a significant increase in the demand for diesel cars over the last few years.  As a result we have doubled the amount of diesel cars on our fleet during the last five years and we look to increase this by 15% in 2011”.

Avis currently has a fleet of around 26,000 cars in the UK spread out a over 100 locations.  Also part of the AvisBudget Group is Budget which has a more limited vehicle choice.  These range from the Ford Punto 1.2 to the Mercedes E Class and VW Sharen.  Avis itself offers the at the top of the range Aston Martin and Bentley products. www.avis.co.uk

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French hotel group opens hotels around the world

Sofitel, last week celebrated the opening of three new properties just in time for the holiday season; the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom (Austria); Sofitel So Mauritius; and Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra (Cambodia).

The 182-room Vienna hotel, located along the Danube Canal will become the brand's flagship property in Europe.  Each of the hotel's façades is a different monochrome shade, creating the effect of a life-size piece of abstract art, which constantly changes to reflect the shifting colours of the Vienna sky.

Sofitel So, the latest brand from Sofitel Luxury Hotels, makes its mark located on the island's less developed South Coast, offering 92 individual suites and villas carefully positioned in the natural landscape to take advantage of the lush gardens, the natural lagoon and views of the Indian Ocean with access to the resort's own beach.

Surrounded by gardens and set on the banks of the Bassac River, near the business and embassy district, Sofitel Phnom Penh Royal is reminiscent of a Khmer palace. It luxury destination in its own right as it boasts four restaurants, a sports complex and clubhouse, tennis and squash courts, two pools and extensive lawns and gardens. www.sofitel.com

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German routes go from Ryanair

Ryanair has blamed the new German airport tax for a decision to axe 34 routes from its schedule next summer.  Flights from Liverpool to Bremen and Birmingham to Dusseldorf are among those to be scrapped as a result of Germany’s €8 (£6.79) tax on flights, which comes into effect at the start of January.

Four routes go from Berlin, eight from Bremen, 13 from Weeze and nine from Hahn.

Ryanair flights between Kerry in Ireland and Dusseldorf will also be stopped as part of reductions in its German operation.  How much is due to poor passenger numbers on the routes is difficult to discern but the loss of service, unless taken up by another carrier, will affect the airport passenger throughput.  Ryanair’s cancelling of Stansted to Newquay services is the main factor in a 20% drop in numbers at the Cornwall airport.  Stansted itself is substantially down mainly due to the reduction of Ryanair flights. www.ryanair.com

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Liverpool rail link

Travelling to Liverpool John Lennon Airport is now easier for rail passengers from West and North Yorkshire, following the start last week of a new service calling at nearby Liverpool South Parkway station.  For the first time, trains run by First TransPennine Express now link Scarborough, York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester direct with the station.

The train station itself has a dedicated airport bus service every 20 minutes, which operates door to door, taking passengers from the entrance to the front of the airport terminal in just ten minutes.  To make travel as simple as possible all-in-one discount tickets, including rail travel with First TransPennine Express and transfer on the Airlink 501 bus to the airport, will be introduced.

There are now 16 daily services between Yorkshire and Liverpool, except on Sundays when there are 14. www.liverpoolairport.com

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Qatar delays new terminal opening

Doha is shortly to open a hastily built dedicated arrivals terminal at its existing airport.  The New Doha International Airport, 5km east of the current operation, is now scheduled for completion in 2012, at least three years behind the original schedule.

Features of the new Doha Arrivals terminal include an increased number of baggage belts, more immigration counters, Duty Free retail shopping, bus and taxi stands, and an enlarged meet and greet waiting area for those receiving passengers at the airport.

Frequent shuttle buses will provide passengers who have parked their vehicles at the Main Terminal – which will be renamed the Departure and Transfer terminal – with transport from the Doha Arrivals terminal on their return.

Soon after the new Doha Arrivals terminal becomes operational, work will begin on reconfiguring the existing arrivals terminal into the expanded Departure and Transfer terminal which will accommodate increasing passenger flows. www.qatar-airport.com

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UK Government switches on Plug-In Car Grant and charging network

The British ultra-low carbon car market has received a boost with the announcement by Government of the first set of vehicles eligible for the new ‘Plug-In Car Grant’.  Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and Business Minister Mark Prisk set out details for the incentive and announced the UK locations that will receive funding in the second round of ‘Plugged-In Places’.

From 1 January 2011, motorists will be entitled to a Plug-In Car Grant of up to £5,000 when buying any qualifying low carbon car with CO2 emissions less than 75g/km. 

Available now are the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Smart for two electric drive and Peugeot iOn.  Early next year the Nissan Leaf, Tata Vista and Citroen CZero arrive.  In 2012 they will be joined by the Vauxhall Ampera, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt.

The announcement also detailed the five successful areas that bid for Plugged-In Places funding.  The Midlands, Greater Manchester, East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will share £20m to further the development of the ultra-low carbon infrastructure, installing 4,000 more charging points.  These new zones join round one winners London, Milton Keynes and North East England that will install over 11,000 charging posts across the three regions by 2013. www.smmt.co.uk/publications www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/olev

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TED WILKINSON'S MOTORING MILESTONES 2010

Car manufacturers have been both pro-active and re-active to a vastly changing world in 2010. Their actions have included a quest to reduce C02 emissions, to promote the battery powered car to a dubious consumer and the improved performance in hybrid powered cars though again with challengeable fuel economy results.

There has been a strengthening acceptance of the stop+start systems that include power retrieval during braking action as a contribution towards cutting emissions and fuel consumption though little appears to have been claimed for savings on engine wear.

When it comes to progress Suzuki has demonstrated a clear intention to become a stronger contender in the mainstream markets with the introduction of the new Swift hatch back that has benefited with co-operation from Volkswagen, the Korean Hyundai (new ix20 small cross over model and the closely related Kia Venga) is proof that both makers are on target to become major players on a world-wide scene.  Finally, Audi has proved that operating under a recession can actually generate strongly increased sales for those who come up with the right products.  Where some manufacturers have had to cut production Audi claims that all its factories, including in China, are at full stretch with waiting lists!

One wish that has come true (for me at least) is that the antiquated London ‘black cab’ is finally being challenged by a modern design based on the Mercedes-Benz Vito.

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The AERBT Christmas Quiz

We are delighted to offer the AERBT Christmas quiz with some terrific prizes.  It is open to subscribed readers only, with the  closing date Sunday 9 January 2010.  AERBT’s Editor in Chief’s decision is final.

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

First prize is a night for two at the splendid Sol Melia White House, Regents Park, London, and tickets for the hit show Dirty Dancing (this must be taken by 11 February).

Second prize is a flight for two in a Classic Flight de Havilland Rapide at an airport near you during Air Atlantique’s 2011 national tour, details which will be published shortly on the airline's 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 are honoured in receiving the first three pairs of tickets for a new IMAX presentation at London’s Science Museum presented by Boeing.  “Legends of Flight” in stunning 3D, after a very successful, run has now come off.

In the age of personality AERBT thought it would be a good idea to add some aviation celebrities to the quiz.  Had they been alive today all of them would have made for good paparazzi fodder.

There are five photographs, but we want six answers.

And we would like to make it clear Douglas Bader does not look like Kenneth Moore, or General George Patton (not strictly an aviator) like George C Scott.  None of these are in the quiz.

There is a simple question to answer to get you started. “Who is reputed to have made the first ever flight in Australia?”.  The tie breaker is "what makes AERBT a terrific read?"

NAME THE AIRCRAFT AND THE PEOPLE? 

 

Photos from the Cowin Collection and other sources

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It's not just London

"The winter weather over the past few days has severely disrupted flight operations and kept passengers stranded on the ground, especially at Lufthansa’s home airport in Frankfurt.  Since the weather is expected to get even worse, Lufthansa has been forced to operate to a special timetable, in which numerous flights on German and European routes into and out of Frankfurt will have to be cancelled."  From Lufthansa media relations.

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American Airlines expands at Manchester

Manchester is expected to get an all year round service to both Chicago and New York following moves by American Airlines.  Such was the popularity of AA’s summer seasonal Manchester – JFK route introduced last May, the airline says it will relaunch the flights and turn them into an all year round operation.  American will compete with Delta, who are established with a daily service.

As an additional bonus, the departures in both directions have been re-timed by over an hour so that they will now depart Manchester earlier and leave New York later, making for better onward connections and giving more time in the Big Apple.

The route will be operated by two-class Boeing 757-200 with 16 passengers in Business Class and 166 in Economy.  As American’s second non-stop daily flight to the US from Manchester, it will complement the existing Chicago route which celebrates its 25th anniversary of operation in 2011. www.aa.com

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Bournemouth and Newcastle gain new hotels

Rezidor Hotel Group is to open two new properties in the United Kingdom.  Both the Radisson Blu Hotel, Newcastle, (170 rooms) and the Park Inn, Bournemouth, (172 rooms) will welcome the first guests in 2013.

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Newcastle, will be one of the best-located hotels in town, with frontage on the central thoroughfare (Westgate Road) and adjacent to the main train station.  As with all Radisson Blu properties free high speed internet access will be provided and the property will offer a restaurant, bar, 400 m2 of conference space and a fitness centre.  Parking will also be available.

The Park Inn Bournemouth will be located in the town centre, equidistant from the beach and the main train station (journey time to London by train is under two hours).  Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) is also within walking distance.  It will have a restaurant, bar, gym and meeting rooms.  The hotel is an integral part of a mixed-use development which will include residential towers, office space, retail areas and extensive parking. www.rezidor.com

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Chinese high speed train

A Chinese-made new generation high-speed train planned to connect Beijing and Shanghai peaked at 300 mph in a test on 3 November, setting a new world record for a passenger express.

The old figure was also made by China.  Earlier this year the Shanghai – Hanzhou high-speed train ran at 260 mph which is faster than any other high-speed train in operational tests globally.

The Beijing – Shanghai line goes through seven provinces and municipalities between the two cities and connects the Bohai Ring and Pearl River Delta, two major engines for China's economy.  With 24 stations, it runs for 820 miles from Beijing South Rail Station to Hongqiao in Shanghai.  Current travel time is 13hrs +.

So far the high-speed railway track in operation in China has reached a length of 4,700 miles, the longest in the world.  The country holds many records in high-speed railway, including the most comprehensive technologies, the highest integration capability, the longest operation distance, the top speed and the biggest projects under construction. www.cnvol.com

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Dublin to Bristol

Aer Arann and Aer Lingus have announced a new Aer Lingus Regional route between Bristol and Dublin from next March with onward connection options to the United States.  Earlier this year Continental dropped direct flights to New York Newark.  Regional routes will offer customers the convenience of flying from their home airport with through links to Boston, Chicago, New York and Orlando.  Connecting passengers will also benefit from the new US Customs and Immigration clearance facilities in Dublin allowing them to arrive in the US as domestic passengers.

Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Aer Arann, will fly three return flights on six days each week and two return flights on Saturdays between Dublin and Bristol offering new morning, afternoon and evening frequency options for business customers.  The 20 weekly return flights will also boost leisure and tourism travel in both directions between the UK South West’s largest city and Dublin.

Aer Lingus Regional already operates from both Cork and Shannon to Bristol and the new Dublin route revives the first ever Aer Lingus route in the airline’s 75th birthday year. www.aerlingus.com

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Fuel surcharge increase by British Airways

British Airways has increased its fuel surcharge by £10 on all long haul flights (£20 for a return).  In truth passengers will not notice the rise that much as the airline shows an all in price inclusive of taxes, fees, charges and surcharges.  BA is also very much into discounting and specialist marketing of flights, Los Angeles from Heathrow for March 2011 recently available for £400 both ways in Economy, but as of today (Monday, 20 December) coming in at £538.  With three other carriers competing on the route the prices might come down again.

BA said that there would be no surcharge increases on its short haul flights. 

The rise comes only a few weeks after the rise in the UK airport departure Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax. 

In a separate statement BAA has pointed out that since the Irish government has reduced APD in a bid to attract passengers the UK should do the same. 

It seems clear that both the Treasury and airline financial chiefs will monitor passenger throughout over the coming months to see what effect the charges are having.  Record figures at Heathrow indicate no concern presently. www.ba.com

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Havana Airport expansion

Cuba has reported 2.4m tourists arrived in 2009, with Canada the largest provider at close to 915,000, followed by Great Britain at 172,000 and Spain at 129,000.

The Cuban National Statistics Office says that Canadian arrivals up to October of this year had increased, while there was little change from Great Britain and a significant drop in Spanish tourism.

Cuba reported 52,455 arrivals from the United States in 2009, but those of Cuban origin were included under a wide separate category of "other."  Local tourism officials said 80,000 US citizens came in 2008, including Cuban-Americans.

The official trade union weekly, Trabajadores, has run a front-page article on the expansion of the Havana airport terminal that receives US flights, saying it would be completed by this Christmas and double capacity.

Legislation that would have lifted entirely US restrictions on travel to Cuba died in Congress this year.  Such initiatives will have even less chance of passage when a new Congress convenes in January, following the Republican Party's success in the November mid-term elections. www.travel2cuba.co.uk

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London City to Normandy

CityJet is to continue the link between London City Airport and Deauville in 2011. The service is re-introduced on 7 January 2011, with some flights also scheduled for Christmas and New Year.  Flights were initiated in June of this year and ran until the end of September. 

Besides a very useful link for British ex-pats living in Normandy, and French exiles in London, the route has proved popular with connections both ways through London City Airport to other large European cities including Amsterdam, Antwerp, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Luxembourg and Milan.

CityJet is planning three flights per week between Deauville and London City on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays, starting at Easter when a Monday service will be added. www.cityjet.com

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Rail franchise up for grabs

Virgin Rail Group has confirmed that it intends to bid for the West Coast franchise following a written statement to Parliament by Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary.  Mr Hammond told MPs that the next franchise would run for 14 years, from 2012 until the planned opening of High Speed 2 (HS2).  Virgin has been strongly campaigning for an extended contract.

Welcoming the offer Tony Collins, Virgin CEO, said: "Longer franchises lead to more investment, innovation and better services for customers.  We are pleased the Transport Secretary has taken the longer-term view which will benefit customers.

Virgin is keen to point out that it has doubled the number of customers in the last six years – to 28m.

"We intend to submit a strong and deliverable bid to retain the franchise and continue the investment, innovation and customer service that have given us record customer satisfaction scores,” he said.

Virgin Rail Group is owned 51% by Virgin Group and 49% by Stagecoach. www.virgintrains.co.uk

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Victoria Station hotel gets an upgrade

Business travellers to London will have a new “home away from home” as Park Plaza Victoria London completes recent refurbishments on 50 executive rooms and studios.  The 4-star hotel, located just the other side of the Apollo Theatre in Wilton Road, features 287 rooms and suites, has seen an increase in business-related bookings and interest on the executive rooms in particular.  It now offers a fully-equipped gym, business centre, and 15 state-of-the-art meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 800 people,

The rooms now feature a contemporary colour scheme with classic finishes and new carpets, in a palate designed to be warm and inviting.  The beds have been replaced with king and queen sized Memory Foam mattresses, which contour to the body giving optimum comfort and support, ideal for a tired employee in need of a great night’s sleep.  Nespresso machines have been added to each room. www.parkplaza.com/victorialondon

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HELP FOR THOSE LESS ENDOWED

Just before the holiday season got under way Aerobility, the British charity that provides light aviation for disabled and profoundly ill adults and children, held its annual Ball at Heathrow’s Sofitel Hotel T5.  A terrific evening raised £82,000. www.aerobility.com

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ROAD TEST - ON TOUR and ON THE SOAPBOX index

(For the full 2009 index follow the link)

 

ROAD TESTS  (also road tests 2009)

Audi A7 Sportback 2.8 T FSI Quattro SE S Tronic

Lexus RX 450H SE-L Hybrid

Mazda6 2.2D 5-door Sport

Honda Insight ES-T 1.3 IMA CVT

Skoda Superb 2.0 Greenline

Infiniti G37S Coupe

Audi A8 Luxury

Mercedes-Benz C180 CGI Sport Blue Efficiency

SAAB 9-3 Saloon 1.9 TTiD Aero

Honda Accord 2.2 I-DTEC EX

Peugeot 5008 1.6 Hdi

Alfa Romeo Mito 1.4 TB Veloce 

 

ON THE SOAPBOX

Mike Ambrose – Director General of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA)

Jean-Claude Baumgarten – President and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council

Sir Roger Bone – Boeing UK

Edwin Brenninkmeyer – Principal of Oriens Advisors

Jonathan Buttery  Director of Voyager Insurance Services

Jim French – Chairman and Chief Executive Flybe

Andrew Haines Chief Executive UK CAA

Colin Matthews – CEO BAA

John McCulloch Managing Partner, oneworld alliance

Shaun Ormrod CEO Farnborough International

Glenvil Smith Constellation Aviation

 

 

ON TOUR DESTINATIONS 2010 (2009)

Absolute Sanctuary Thailand

Almaty

Around the World with Shangri-La

Ecuador "The centre of the earth"

Eritrea Steam Railway

Farnborough Air Show 2010

Florence

Galapagos Islands

Israel – A Short Break

Kazakhstan and Air Astana

Macau

Mount Murray Hotel and Country Club

MSC Magnifica

Okinawa

Oman

Saigon (or officially Ho Chi Minh City)

Samsonite and the holiday season

Seville - Magnificent, fiery and festive Seville, Spain's city of superlatives

Sri Lanka

Steam engine Tornado and a Brunel day out

The top vegetarian destinations

Vancouver International Airport


 

SPECIAL ON TOUR REPORTS (2009)

A Future for Business Jets?

Aircraft Interiors Show Hamburg

Air Asia X

Aviation leaders gather in Berlin

Baboo is the name of an airline

Bahrain International Air Show

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Testing

Business Aviation RAF Northolt - London

Business Travel Market & Willie Walsh

EBACE Geneva

Embraer Phenom-enal

Farnborough preview

Glorious Goodwood preview

Goodwood Revival Meeting

Heathrow Terminal 6 or the third runway debate

Innovation shines at NBAA

Light Jets Europe

Low cost thrives in Asia

London Oxford Airport

Rizon Jet

Routes Worldwide 2010

Singapore Air Show

The European regional airlines meet in Barcelona

Transport Times Conference

World Low Cost Airline Congress

World Travel Market

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