21 MARCH 2011

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American Airlines and British Airways offer New York shuttle

New York and London are to be linked with virtually hourly services by oneworld carriers American Airlines and British Airways following EU approval of the airlines’ relationship. 

Previously, of the 11 daily flights to New York, five left Heathrow at almost exactly the same time, leaving gaps of up to three hours between services.  Now flights will depart every hour, on the hour between 13:00 and 20:00 from Heathrow.  There will also be a maximum of only an hour and a half between morning departures with the first outbound (BA) at 08:30 arriving at JFK 11:00 (all times local). 

A mixture of Boeing 747s and Boeing 777s are used for the services. 

American only links Heathrow to Kennedy whilst British Airways flies from both Heathrow and London City to that airport but also from Heathrow to Newark, New York’s New Jersey airport.

The Chicago flights have also been re-organised as have Miami. www.ba.com www.aa.com

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Boeing's "new" 747 makes it first flight

The actual aircraft destined for a 'private' customer later this year, Boeing’s “all new” 747-8 International, made its debut flight from Everett yesterday (20 March 2011). The aircraft landed four hours and 25 minutes later at Boeing Field in Seattle. 600 hrs of flight testing will be required. Currently 1,418 Boeing 747s have been built since the original aircraft, just like this one in a company paint scheme, first flew on 9 February 1969.

The 747-8 is a stretched and re-engined version of the 747-400.  At 251ft it is the world’s longest aircraft.  To date orders have been received from Lufthansa (20), Korean Air (5), Air China (5).  Eight executive versions have been confirmed.  A freight version has sold in larger numbers, the total order book standing at 109.

Whilst details have not been released by either Boeing or its client carriers the aircraft is expected to offer around 50 more seats than its predecessors, about 467 passengers in a typical three-class arrangement.  Boeing claims the GE engined aircraft will consume 11% less fuel per passenger than the 555-seat Airbus A380.  Many of the features of the 787 cabin will also be incorporated in the 747-8 including LED lighting and brand new lightweight seating. www.boeing.com/commercial/747family/747-8_facts.html

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ERA goes to Malta

Malta’s Westin Dragonara is the venue for the ERA Regional Airline conference 2011 6/7 April 2011.  Some 29 airlines are attending including Aer Arann, Aigle Azur, Air Contractors Ireland, Air Iceland, Airlinair, Amapola Flyg AB, Atlantic Airways, Augsburg Airways, Aurigny Air Services, Belavia – Belarusian Airlines, Binter Canarias, Blue1, Brit Air, Cimber Sterling, CityJet, Darwin Airline, Eastern Airways (UK), KLM Cityhopper, Luxair Luxembourg Airlines, Malmö Aviation, OLT, Olympic Air, PGA-Portugália Airlines, Régional, Sky Work Airlines, Sverigeflyg Service AB, Welcome Air, Widerøe

This year’s conference will focus on the importance of the passenger experience from pre-flight to airport to boarding.  Each of the four conference sessions will focus on one of the key stages of a passenger’s travel experience and will conclude with a ciscussion on additional challenges which the industry will face during the ‘twenty tens’. www.eraa.org

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Iberia swops with Vueling

Vueling has taken over the Madrid (MAD) to Warsaw (WAW) route from Iberia, which holds a 46% shareholding in the low-cost carrier.  Flights now operate four times weekly with the airline’s 180-seat Airbus A320s, competing with LOT Polish Airlines’ five weekly flights.  During the summer season, the route is also operated by Wizz Air.

The Warsaw announcement was made at the same time as the airline announced its 2010 results.  Vueling carried 11,036,183 passengers in 2010 an increase of 35% on that of the previous year.  Now Spain’s second largest airline Vueling increased its revenue by 32% posting a profit of €46m, an increase of two-thirds over the previous year’s €27.78m.  However the results for the last quarter have been affected by the sharp rise in the price of fuel.  These have increased by 45%, whereas the remaining costs have dropped by -0.3%.

Vueling continues as the lead carrier at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport with a 26% share of passenger throughput.  It is also number one at Bilbao, Seville and Ibiza. www.vueling.com

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Jersey gains new London flights

Blue Islands, the Channel Islands airline, is to launch a twice daily return service between Jersey and London City Airport starting on 18 April.

Peak slots have been secured at London City Airport which will provide travel straight into London’s financial district.  Flights will depart from Jersey on Monday to Friday at 07:25, returning from London City at 09:15, with an evening service leaving Jersey at 17:15 and departing City at 19:05.  A further flight is scheduled for Sunday evenings at the same times as the weekday service.  There are no services planned for Saturday.  Flight time is 1hr 20mins.

The route will be serviced by a Blue Islands latest acquisition fast new ATR 42-500 series aircraft, specifically purchased for the London service, seating up to 48 passengers.  The same aircraft will operate the carrier’s route to Geneva and Zurich in the middle of the day from Jersey.

Blue Islands airline dates back to 1999 and is owned by Healthspan Leisure Ltd, a major UK distributor of vitamin supplements.  The airline operates inter island routes and to several mainland destinations including Southampton with a fleet of BAe Jetstream and BN Trislander aircraft. www.blueislands.com

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Manston changes for Flybe

Flybe is to pull its service from Manchester to the Kent airport of Manston from 4 April and to replace it with a three times per week flight to Belfast City Airport on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.  The airline said that passenger numbers made the Manchester route economically unviable.  The new service will be flown by a Bombardier Q400 72-seat turboprop with a flight time of 1hr 40mins. 

The daily service to Edinburgh continues and here the flight time is 1hr 35 minutes.

Manston, which calls itself “Kent’s International Airport” is the most south easterly airport in the UK and with its long 2752m runway was once a RAF “Major Diversion” airfield.  It is four miles from Ramsgate, 18 miles from Dover, and 75 miles from London. www.london-manston.com

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Santiago Chile Intercontinental gets new tower

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced the opening of a 16-storey addition to its existing property in Santiago (Chile).  The stunning new extension features 81-guestrooms, two swimming pools, VIP lounge, Lobby Café, four restaurants and 20 meeting rooms, totalling 27,200sq ft of meeting and function space, making the 377-room InterContinental Santiago one of the largest convention centres in the country.

Ideally situated in ‘El Golf’ area of Las Condes, the hotel is in the heart of Santiago’s financial district and a short distance from exclusive restaurants, upscale shops and top attractions such as San Cristobal Hill, Plaza de Armas and La Moneda Presidential Palace.

Along with this flagship InterContinental Santiago, IHG has a strong presence in Chile with nine properties currently open in the country.  IHG also recently announced it has signed a 20-year agreement with Chile-based Inmobiliaria Punta Piqueros SA for a new-build InterContinental hotel in Punta Piqueros, within the district of Concon, in north central Chile, and in close proximity to Viña del Mar, one of the country’s most fashionable resort areas. www.intercontinental.com

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COMMENT: The UK Budget

About half of AERBT readers will be directly affected by what the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has to say next Wednesday (23 March) when he addresses Parliament with his Budget plans for 2011.  APD (Air Passenger Duty) is bound to be mentioned. 

About 50% of readers are resident in the UK.  We don’t have numbers on AERBT regulars from abroad who travel to and from this country but it is probably another 25%.  AERBT has about 80,000 readers per week.  APD will affect 75% of them!

Let us hope that having been nearly 12 months (May 2010) in office the Coalition would have seen what a commercially disastrous tax APD is (and at least Government has admitted it is nothing to do with environment), a real incentive for travellers to bypass the United Kingdom and its airports.

Just in case you are not aware APD was introduced by the then Chancellor Kenneth Clark in 1994 starting at £5.  It was doubled by Gordon Brown in February 2007, increased again in November 2009 and yet once more in 2010.  Travellers on private jets do not pay a departure tax at all.  The increasingly popular Premium Economy product offered now by most airlines is subject to the same rate of tax as First Class. 

If you are offered a “space available” upgrade you have to pay the tax, but if you are upgraded due to overbooking by the airline you don’t!  As far as we know Her Majesty’s’ Treasury has not yet resorted to men in brown raincoats booking seats and then marching through the cabin demanding to see how much APD you have paid.

The tax is deduced by distance flown from London to the capital of the country concerned.  Taking the US for example, Washington is 3,662 miles from London, Boston 3,265 and Honolulu 7,223.  You pay £60 and £120 depending on class of travel to any American city.  Hawaii wins on flight value!

For Bermuda at 3,440 miles you are in the US band, but once south of Miami it is the next area.  A two-centre holiday works out well starting in Florida.   The tax has been disastrous for the Caribbean holiday islands!

Both Tel Aviv (2,200 miles) and Nicosia (2,007 miles) come into the same band (2,000-4,000 miles – as USA), but with Athens the tax is just £12 and £24.  Turkey likewise is a winner, with Ankara the capital 1,750 miles from London.

Travellers to the Queen’s domain of Australia donate £85/£170 to the UK government.  If you want a greater form of comfort for the 26-hour journey and are prepared to pay for Premium Economy with a 2+2 family (any youngsters benefiting from an airline seat discount), the tax is £680.  Better to take a cheap ticket to a European gateway and pick up your long haul service at that point.  You can fly back direct at no extra cost.  You may well take a foreign airline too, of no advantage to Great Britain Ltd.

Where the tax has had little effect is for travellers who plan to come to the UK for a visit and then take the train (tax free) or a flight to a Continental point.  Tell your friends planning a European vacation to visit these islands first.

How the British APD is to be incorporated in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for 2012 is yet to be seen.  Likewise whether this will impose a further tax.

Airlines and airports, plus big business and the leisure industry have been lobbying the Government hard on the question of APD.  Sadly there is no real leader for this disparity assemblage to robustly put forward views.  More is the pity.  A spokesman of consequence is urgently needed. 

On Wednesday we shall see the results of the efforts. 

Note: All the mileage figures are taken from the OAG Flight Guide) 

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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Amsterdam to Havana

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will launch thrice-weekly service to José Martí International Airport on Cuba with effect from its 2011 winter schedule starting 31 October.  Cuba will then become KLM’s 68th intercontinental destination.

Havana is still a banned destination from the USA and has limited services from Europe, including a three times per week single class nine-hour Boeing 767 operation by KLM subsidiary Martinair from Schiphol.  Virgin Atlantic flies weekly from Gatwick.

The new KLM flights will also operate three times weekly on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Cuba returning overnight the same day.  The service will be flown by MD11 equipment, offering 24 seats in World Business Class and 261 in Economy. www.klm.com.

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CityJet takes over French Ryanair route

Following Ryanair’s controversial decision to withdraw its Stansted – Pau operation at the end of March, Dublin-based Air France-owned CityJet has stepped in with a new service from its hub at London City Airport.  The initial schedule will offer three return flights a week between the East London airport and Pau, three return flights from Dublin (one direct and two via Amsterdam), and two return direct flights a week from Amsterdam.

All flights will be operated by 95-seat Avro RJ85 jets with 32” seat pitch and a 3+3 configuration.  CityJet offers a seat choice, and a complimentary food and beverage service.  Golf bags travel for free.

In addition to launching the new service to Pau, CityJet will also be adding the popular French cities of Avignon and Toulon to their network this May.  These newest destinations in France are in addition to the already established CityJet network including, Brive, Deauville, Nantes and Paris-Orly. www.cityjet.com

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Glasgow and Manchester to Iceland and on to the US

Icelandair is to change its current arrangements with respect to Glasgow and Manchester to Iceland starting 20 September 2011.  Out goes the current Keflavik – Manchester – Glasgow "triangle route" and in comes direct non-stop services.  The Glasgow operation will be three times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.  From Manchester flights will operate up to three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

Keflavik International Airport (KEF) is 30 miles from the Iceland capital of Reykjavik (RKV) which has its own small airport for regional flights. 

The result will be additional capacity from both Glasgow and Manchester, as well as quicker elapsed flying times to Icelandair's North American destinations.  With the new flights, Icelandair claims to offer the fastest time from Glasgow to Boston, New York City (JFK), Orlando and Seattle too.  It is also quickest from Manchester to Boston and Seattle. www.icelandair.co.uk

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International mobile check-in for United

United Airlines has expanded its mobile check-in and mobile boarding pass capability to customers who are travelling internationally.  The domestic paperless boarding option, now available at 62 US airports, can be used by fliers heading overseas as well.

The mobile boarding pass option is also available to customers departing from eight European and Asian airports, including Heathrow, Munich and Osaka.

“The expansion of our mobile check-in feature and paperless boarding option to international travel enables our customers to enjoy even more flexibility and control throughout their travel experience,” Martin Hand, Vice President of Customer Experience, said in a news release.

United Airlines recently merged with Continental Airlines, which offers the mobile boarding pass option at 70 airports.  The two airlines are operating under their own names during a transition period. www.united.com

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London Mayor in about turn

Boris Johnson, once the Member of Parliament for Henley, which is effectively a Heathrow constituency, has done something of an about-turn calling the Government “crazy” over its unwillingness to discuss new airport capacity in the south east of England.  Mr Johnson, as Mayor, opposed the Heathrow (LHR) third runway project and heavily promoted a questionable scheme for an airport in the Thames Estuary. 

Speaking at a People’s Question Time event last week, Mr Johnson warned that a lack of new runways is hindering London's long term competitiveness highlighting figures that Beijing (inevitably – Editor) had overtaken LHR in the pecking order of world airports in terms of passenger throughput, and also behind Atlanta and Chicago.  It still leads as the world’s busiest international airport.  Soaring air passenger taxes he called “an absolute disgrace”.  He did not make it clear if he was now in favour of expansion at Heathrow, or Gatwick/Stansted.

BAA Ltd took the opportunity of issuing a press release.

“We believe that London needs more airport capacity to strengthen the trading links on which future economic growth depends, and we welcome the Mayor’s comments,” said Nigel Milton, Heathrow Airport’s Director of Policy and Political Relations. www.baa.com

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New Engine Option (neo) for Lufthansa

Lufthansa, who were the lead airline 40 years ago for the Boeing 737, has become the biggest customer yet for the Airbus new “neo” aircraft, a more fuel-efficient version of its A320 family of single-aisle short haul jets.

The German flag carrier said it had ordered 30 of the aircraft, 25 A320neos and five of the larger A321neos, for delivery in 2016.  Airbus claims that the re-engined aircraft will burn about 15% less fuel than the current models.  Lufthansa also has committed for the smaller, and as yet unproven, Bombardier C series, due to fly in 2013.  Also announced at the same time was an order for five Boeing 777 freighters. 

Lufthansa says it expects revenues and operating profit to continue to increase in 2011 on the heels of a sharp upturn in profit in 2010.

The company confirmed it made a €1.1bn net profit in 2010, up from a loss of €34m in 2009, thanks to a recovery in long haul traffic and cost cutting measures in the airline group.  However no mention was made of the Japanese crisis which will affect the bottom line. www.lufthansa.com

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ON TOUR: Battle of Britain Exhibition at Brooklands Museum

The role of Brooklands in the Battle of Britain is celebrated in a new exhibition at the  Brooklands Museum which will run through the summer of 2011. 

Brooklands, just off the M25, near its M3 junction in South London, was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit in 1907 the prototype for Indianapolis and true forerunner of today’s Silverstone.  Brooklands was not just a car racetrack but the centre of motoring excellence . 

When WWII began in September 1939 the motor racing, for which Brooklands was renowned, ceased and was never to return.  Instead, attention turned to the war effort and aircraft production was expanded on a huge scale.  The Vickers-Armstrong and Hawker aircraft companies had exclusive use of the site for military aircraft production; ultimately, 2,515 of the 11,461 Vickers Wellington bombers built, and 3,012 of more than 14,000 Hawker Hurricanes, were assembled at Brooklands.

The new exhibition – entitled "Brooklands in the Battle of Britain" – is situated in the Museum's 'Wellington Hangar' beside a Hurricane aircraft which was recovered from Russia in 1997, and explains why Brooklands was a prime target for the Luftwaffe in 1940.  The distinctive shape of the 1907 motor racing circuit made Brooklands an easily identified target and major efforts were employed to try and camouflage it, with netting strung on poles set into the concrete and mock buildings erected on the track to disguise its outline.  Defences provided for the site include a series of 'Bofors' gun towers, one of which still survives on Members Hill.

Surrounded by the aeroplanes themselves and photographs and artefacts from the time, the story is told of aircraft production at Brooklands and the attempts by the Luftwaffe to destroy it.  The exhibition also features recently discovered photos of extensive bomb damage to the Vickers and Hawker factories during the Battle of Britain.  In what is believed to be the first such public tribute to them, the names of all those on both sides who were killed in the bombing raid on the Vickers works on 4 September 1940 are also displayed in the exhibition.

A special plaque unveiled by HRH Prince Michael of Kent when he opened the exhibition pays tribute to the heroism of one man, Lieutenant John Patton of the Royal Canadian Engineers, during another raid on 6 September 1940.  Saving hundreds of lives (and safeguarding aircraft production from almost certain disruption) through an extraordinary act of courage Patton, along with some colleagues, removed an unexploded delayed-action German bomb that fell through the Hurricane assembly building to a safe crater where it later detonated harmlessly.  Lt Patton was awarded the George Cross, with two of his comrades being awarded the George Medal, for this brave action.

After the WWII Brooklands became the home of Vickers Aircraft and later BAC.  Whilst assembly of Concorde took place at Bristol and Toulouse, much of the design work and sub-assembly manufacturing was done by engineers who had worked on the Viscount, Vanguard, VC10 and BAC 1-11.   

The Brooklands site not only explores the aviation heritage of the location (and offers the world’s only working Concorde simulator), but includes the famous banking where on 7 October 1935 John Cobb recorded an astonishing record average lap speed of 143.44mph in his 24-litre Napier Railton.  Also on display in the various original buildings is a car, motor cycle and cycle collection which includes some of the earliest 1920s Aston Martins, an assortment of Formula One cars, and various distinctive Bentley’s. 

Normal admission charges to the Museum apply but there is no extra charge for entrance to the special exhibition.

Brooklands Museum, at Brooklands Drive Weybridge KT13 0SL, is open every day from 10:00 to 17:00. www.brooklandsmuseum.com

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Air New Zealand hosts "Oscar"

Paul Franklin got stopped by the Los Angles Airport security staff last week.  They were interested in the gold statuette he was carrying.  It’s called Oscar. The interest was genuine.  Normally winners don’t go by scheduled jet but Paul was travelling home to the UK and needed to go through the scanner on his way to the (excellent) Air New Zealand lounge.  The Academy (The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) does not even provide a box to store the sculpture, this one awarded for visual effects.

Paul was part of the creative team from London-based company Double Negative who won the award for the hit film Inception, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

The ANZ lounge, also used by Virgin Atlantic, is a two-way effort, hosting flights to New Zealand and in the other direction to London.  New passengers out of California use it too. 

The airport provides a security check for passengers in both directions, and also immigration as required by US law.  This procedure is now “much improved” and has been described as an inconvenience rather than a nuisance. www.airnz.co.nz

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Asian Aerospace enjoys massive increase in VIP attendance

As reported in AERBT last week the status of Hong Kong’s Asian Aerospace as the region’s premier commercial air transport event has been dramatically demonstrated with the number of VIP delegates up more than 130% over the 2009 show and the number of Chinese delegations increased by 50%.  Overall attendance over the three days reached a record high of 12,300 delegates, with a further 5,300 attending Asian Business Aviation.  The show was lucky as clearly the Japanese disaster, which started just after the show closed, would have severally affected participation.

The overwhelmingly positive mood currently prevailing amongst Asian / Chinese carriers was perfectly reflected in orders worth approximately US$10bn being announced on the first day of the show.  As a sign of confidence about Asia’s future, Cathay Pacific Airways later placed orders for 25 widebody Airbus and Boeing airliners worth US$6bn, following the announcement of a record profit of US$1.8bn for 2010.

Asian Aerospace, which was previously held in Hong Kong in 2007 & 2009, won ringing endorsement from exhibitors and visitors alike for its high quality of attendees and the smooth organisation.  The shift of timing of this year’s show to March was widely welcomed by exhibitors, with the weather much more conducive to business and fitting better with the overall internationa show calendar. www.asianaerospace.com

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Dubai hotel on hold

Kempinski Hotels has said it has delayed by two years a project in Dubai, even as it expands elsewhere in the Middle East because the market has become oversupplied, Bloomberg has reported.

A 253-room development on Dubai's palm tree-shaped artificial island will remain a "shell" for the time being, with the opening pushed back until 2013, Ulrich Eckhardt, president of the Middle East and Africa division said.  

Kempinski plans to open nine properties in the next three years in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. The company will open 82 luxury serviced apartments and 10 villas on Palm Jumeirah in June. www.kempinski.com

 

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IATA and the Japanese crisis

Geneva-based IATA (International Air Transport Association) has welcomed a joint statement issued by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) on behalf of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), IMO (International Maritime Organization), WHO (World Health Organization) and WMO (World Meteorological Organization), on the continued safety of air transport operations in Japan.  These five organizations confirmed that there are no restrictions to normal air transport operations at Japan’s major airports, including both Haneda and Narita.

IATA is co-ordinating actions among airlines to maximize existing fuel supplies, including voluntary tankering of jet fuel.  Its Tokyo office, which annually manages US$20bn in industry fare settlements, remains open. 

According to the organization the most exposed market to Japanese operations is China where Japan accounts for 23% of its international revenues.  Chinese Taipei and South Korea are equally exposed with 20% of their revenues related to Japanese operations, followed by Thailand (15%), the United States (12%), Hong Kong (11%) and Singapore (9%).

The extent to which these travel markets weaken will be largely shaped by what happens to the Japanese economy.  Many economists are suggesting that once reconstruction begins the economy will rebound. www.iata.org

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Japan delay for Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is to delay the launch of Airbus A380 services to Tokyo and Los Angeles following a drop in demand for flights to Japan following the earthquake and tsunami disasters.

"In view of the developments in Japan, Singapore Airlines is postponing the introduction of Airbus A380 services on flights SQ11 and SQ12 between Singapore and Los Angeles via Tokyo Narita until further notice," the Singapore flag carrier said in a statement.

The flights will continue to be operated with Boeing 747-400 aircraft.  Whilst the later introduction of the aircraft will affect the carrier’s bottom line the postponement will probably bring relief to the flight operations department, still finding it hard going after the disruption caused by the A380 Qantas incident last November.  SIA had originally planned to launch the A380 service later this month. www.sia.com

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Los Angeles to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines, a Star Alliance member, has continued expanding its US network with the introduction of a non stop service  between Los Angeles and Istanbul.  It is operated four times weekly by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with a flight time of 13hrs 15 minutes.  New for Turkish Airlines is Comfort Class, the carrier own version of a premium economy product with a seat pitch of 46”. 

First Class is being dropped on all services with the new 777-300ER configured 28 business, 63 comfort and 246 economy class seats.  From Istanbul Beijing, Guangzhou, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Toronto all have the new configuration with Tokyo (April), Hong Kong (mid summer) and New York (autumn) to follow.

Los Angeles is the airline’s fifth US destination after New York JFK, Chicago O’Hare, Miami and Washington Dulles. www.turkishairlines.com

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Rolls-Royce boost with A380

Asiana Airlines has become the latest carrier to sign up for the Rolls-Royce which Trent 900 engines to power its new fleet six Airbus A380 aircraft.  The deal is the first of its kind since the explosion of a Trent 900 engine on a Qantas operated Airbus A380 in November 2010 and is considered a real boost for the Derby based engine manufacturer .

Based in Seoul, South Korea, Asiana Airlines will take delivery of its first aircraft in 2014.  It had previously ordered Trent engines for 30 firm and 10 option A350 XWB aircraft.

Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines have now been selected by ten of the 15 airline customers for the Airbus A380. www.rolls-royce.com

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AND FINALLY: Problems at immigration

Readers may be aware that the UK immigration authorities have introduced a biometric lane in the immigration area of certain airports.

Passengers are asked to remove their glasses in order for an image to be made as per the photo in the passport.  You are expected to follow simple instructions.

The difficulty for the short-sighted is that with one’s glasses removed it is impossible to actually read the commands. 

PS.  No saving of staff.  Each point was manned!

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