23 MAY 2011


© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.

45 Park Lane is the Dorchester Collection

The Dorchester Collection has confirmed that 45 Park Lane, sitting opposite the grand hotel of the same ownership, is scheduled to launch in September this year following a soft opening period in August. 

45 Park Lane will offer 45 contemporary rooms and suites all with views of Hyde Park, and a further penthouse suite with panoramic views across London.  The small number of rooms will allow for an unprecedented level of guest service, with a 24-hour host team offering a dedicated point of contact for guests, managing all requirements from arrival to departure.  This superior level of guest interaction will enable the hosts to deliver bespoke services.

The opening of the new property follows the September 2010 launch of Coworth Park country house hotel and spa in Ascot, Berkshire.  Guests at Dorchester Collection’s hotels in the UK will enjoy the ease of seamless bill signing privileges when using any of the three hotels’ outlets.  The Dorchester Park Lane is part of the group.

A short film featuring hotel manager Marie-Laure Akdag reporting on plans for the hotel from within the development site is available. www.45parklane.com/film

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Airbus v Boeing – ref calls it a draw

On Wednesday of last week, two press releases arrived in the AERBT office, virtually simultaneously, from Airbus and Boeing, both claiming legal victories.  The only real winners were the aviation lawyers.

In two separate findings the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the referee, found firstly that the US defence budget could not be used as a vehicle to subsidise the civilian aerospace industry and Boeing must repay US$5.3bn of illegal subsidy.  Secondly, the WTO partly overturned an earlier ruling that European Governments' launch aid constituted unfair subsidy.  Part of the US$18bn in low interest loans received would have to be repaid eventually but no pressure was applied regarding a date.

Airbus Chief Executive, Tom Enders, said that Airbus could and would continue to partner with governments to build its aircraft.  "We now can and will continue this kind of partnership on future development programmes."  However, it is clear that low interest rates are from the past.  The WTO still has to rule on an appeal on a separate report earlier this year that found Boeing had benefited from at least US$5.3bn in US subsidies.

Concluding their 645-page report, WTO judges voiced some frustration that the dispute remains unresolved.  Costs are thought to be US$100m. www.airbus.com www.boeing.com/commercial

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Bahrain International Air Show goes ahead

Farnborough International (FIL) and the Bahrain Civil Aviation Affairs Directorate have confirmed that the second Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) will take place 19-21 January 2012 at the Sakhir Air Base, which adjoins the Formula One Grand Prix circuit.  

75% of chalet space has already been sold.  Amongst the latest companies to join the existing list of participants are BAE Systems, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, GE Aviation, as well as Bahrain-based Comlux Middle East.

Amanda Stainer, Exhibitions & Events Director for FIL, commented: “Industry feedback after BIAS 2010 was extremely positive and undoubtedly the chalet sales to date reflect our client’s enthusiasm.  With so much of our chalet space now sold, still six months from the show, we are looking at new ways of accommodating those companies who wish to have a representation at BIAS 2012.  We are exploring a number of innovative ideas, additional to existing sponsorship opportunities, which will fit within the BIAS brand model to accommodate this increasing demand, whilst at the same time retaining our very high level of exclusivity.” www.farnborough.com

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EBACE a great success at Geneva

European (and Middle East) executive aviation types met at Geneva last week for the 11th annual EBACE show.  Housed at the impressive Palexpo complex adjoining the terminal, visitors could also walk straight onto the apron where display aircraft competed for visits from prospective buyers, operators and users.  

This year's event smashed the 2008 record with 12,673 visitors over the three days, more than 500 exhibitors and 62 shiny aircraft out on the static display.  As business aviation in Europe starts to lift again highlights of the show included Dassault's announcement of a new mid-size cabin Falcon S2000; Piaggio moving closer to its first light jet, dubbed the P1XX and a return to nine-digit orders – from European operators VistaJet and Comlux.  In the halls there were strong showings from Malta – where some 100 business jets are now registered; Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, which used the occasion to announce its new DhabiJet FBO brand and Eurocopter, which presented a luxury Mercedes-Benz EC145 designed helicopter. Alison Chambers and Jane Stanbury of Emerald Media will report next week. www.ebace.aero

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Glasgow Airport gets a new food hall

A stylish new £1.5m food hall and contemporary café bar has opened its doors at the BAA operated Glasgow Airport.

The new development, which cost £1.5m has transformed the airport’s landside food and beverage area, with bars and restaurants that would not look out of place in a busy city centre.  The refurbished units are located on the first floor of the main terminal – opposite the entrance to security search, and on the ground floor international arrivals hall.  They seat around 324 and 78 customers respectively.

The new retail food concepts are the creation of Delaware North Companies (UK), the British division of the global hospitality and food service provider.  Other outlets include the hospitality services at the Emirates and Wembley stadiums, both venues have won numerous awards for hospitality and catering excellence. www.glasgowairport.com

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Olympic airspace reservations to open

As previewed in last week's AERBT Philip Dykes of the UK Department for Transport Aviation Directorate said at EBACE (see above) that general aviation movements would be allowed in a restricted zone around London during the 2012 Olympics.  From 13 July 2012 to 12 September 2012 flights would only be allowed for aircraft if they could comply with a set of requirements defined by aircraft type.  Other than scheduled services, operations into a central area are prohibited.

Mr Dyke said that slots would be bookable from autumn of this year and that early reservation was essential.  “People will be disappointed if they don’t get in quickly,” he said.

Estimates are that there will be 700 extra charter operations during the Olympic period and 10,000 GA movements.  240 State flights are anticipated. 

Whilst a number of small aerodromes are in the restricted zone no problems are envisaged with club and light aircraft movements.  These include Denham (for which special arrangements have been made), Elstree, Fairoaks, North Weald and Stapleford.

The Department for Transport has published a 62-page book detailing 26 airports in SE England suitable for Olympic operations.  It is also available on the web. www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/london2012/airportoptions www.airspacesafety.com/olympics

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Sydney to Dallas

Qantas has inaugurated a four days per week non-stop service between Sydney (Australia) and Dallas/Fort Worth (USA) (DFW).  Flown by a three-class Boeing 747 the flight leaves Sydney at 13:25 local time and arrives 13:50 on the same day.  QF7 is in the air for around 15½ hours.  On the return leg the aircraft is routed via Brisbane.

From Australia Qantas Group currently serves in the USA Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York (Qantas and Jetstar) and now Dallas.

Chief Executive Officer, Mr Alan Joyce, said that the airline was delighted to be providing the first direct connection between the Antipodes and Texas.  “This new service takes Qantas customers into the heart of the United States, with a wide range of options for onward travel,” Mr Joyce noted.  “Dallas and Fort Worth are attractive destinations in their own right, combining rapid economic growth with Texas’ rich heritage.

“However, what sets DFW apart are the connections its world-class airport provides to other major cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.  This makes it the perfect platform for Qantas to develop its relationship with our oneworld partner American Airlines, beginning with a significant expansion of codesharing to capitalise on DFW’s hub location.” www.qantas.com.au

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AND FINALLY: You would not believe it!

EBACE is normally a pretty friendly occasion.  They may be deadly rivals when it comes to business but the executive aircraft family eat, drink and debate together, normally in harmony. 

Not so this year at Geneva.

On the eve of EBACE, a bank, Swiss but nameless, in a supporting presentation, stated to the assembly that a certain manufacturer would be out of business within 12 months.

You could hear a pin drop.

Your Editor would like to tell the young, and one would guess overpaid, so-called finance man, that even if the plane maker were to go bust tomorrow 50 years or more of production would leave a fine heritage requiring support (and hence business).

No writs have been delivered to date as far as we know.

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COMMENT: Seventy years of the jet engine

Just 70 years ago the first truly practical jet aircraft, the Gloster Whittle E28, flew for the first time.  Its birth had been due to perseverance of one man, Frank Whittle, born in Coventry 1907, and for many years a resident of nearby Leamington Spa.  Today there is a unique memorial to him on a major roundabout near the village of Lutterworth just off Junction 20 on the M1 (LE17 4HB). 

Why Lutterworth you may ask?  It was here that the industrial company British Thomson-Houston had a works and the engineering support essential if Whittle’s advanced ideas were to come to fruition.  It is the true home of the jet engine.

Whittle was in the tradition of the great British engineers of Victorian times, slightly mad (eccentric perhaps) and certainly neurotic.  An accomplished pilot he gained a first at Cambridge sponsored by the RAF.  

His original jet patent dates from 1930, the next decade filled with highs and lows as he laboured with his visionary concept.  Financial support came in fits and starts and work pressure affected his health.  He had a nervous breakdown in 1940.

The Gloster E28 made its 17-minute maiden flight from Cranwell, Lincolnshire, on 15 May 1941.  On 1 June 1944 the Gloster Meteor F1 was accepted into the Royal Air Force, the allies first operational jet aircraft. 

It was not until 1948 that a fully practical jet turbine airliner flew for the first time, and this was a propeller jet, the Vickers Viscount.  Among its many 'firsts' was the maiden passenger jet crossing of the North Atlantic with designer, Sir George Edwards (and wife) on board.  In December 1957 another propjet, the Bristol Britannia was introduced on the London – New York route, followed on 4 October 1958 with the inaugural service by a pure jet, a de Havilland BOAC Comet 4.  The Boeing 707 was to follow just a month later.

Concorde was introduced by BOAC from Heathrow to Kennedy New York on 22 November 1977.  The speed record is held by British Airways G-BOAD in 2hrs 52mins 59secs from takeoff to touchdown on 7 February 1996.  According to OAG the present quickest service today east to west scheduled at 7hrs 30mins, although with the prevailing wind around six hours is possible in the other direction.

The real question is where do we go from here?  When Sir Frank was born no one in the UK had flown in a controlled powered flight, and the ‘planes that had struggled into the air were rudimentary to say the least.  Even in the 1940s the idea of getting up to 800 people in the air at one time (as per future Airbus A380s) was but a dream.

It is impossible to speculate what will happen in 70 years into the future.  Maybe Concorde is as fast as we will ever go.  The motor car is now limited to 70mph on public roads in the UK.

Perhaps there is another Whittle around struggling to get out.  Wireless meant ‘steam’ radio not that far back.  The 21st century has a long way to go. 

Malcolm Ginsberg - Editor in Chief

PS.  In commemoration of Sir Frank Whittle’s amazing achievements Coventry Airport’s AIRBASE, the home of Classic Flight, will be celebrating a weekend of jet engine activities from Friday 27 May to Sunday 29 May when a fly-in of vintage jets is being organised including what is thought to be the world’s oldest operational jet aircraft, a Gloster Meteor. www.classicflight.com

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Air France 447 news update

French crash investigators have successfully extracted data from the 'black boxes' of the Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009.  228 people lost their lives.  The successful transfer includes all information from the flight data recorder, which monitors aircraft systems, and a loop containing the last two hours of cockpit voice recordings.

The whole airline industry is waiting on the results of the investigation.  Whilst satisfactory explanations have been put forward, with the rescue of the ‘black boxes’ a firm clarification of what went wrong can probably be established.

The recorders from the Airbus A330 aircraft were hauled from the seabed nearly 4km (2.5 miles) to the sea surface at the start of May after a lengthy search operation.  Investigators had earlier said any information gleaned from the 'black boxes' would take months to process and that they did not expect to issue a report until early in 2012. www.airfrance.com

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Airline PRs get together

Qatar Airways was the sponsor of the Airline Public Relations Organisation’s APRO supper networking party held at the Hyde Park Corner Continental Hotel.  Some 60 journalists, in-house media types and PR consultancies attended.  Qatar’s Head of Corporate Communications, Updesh Kapur, well known in the UK from his time at Virgin Atlantic and Travel Weekly, came over especially from Doha for the occasion.

The event also marked the publication of the APRO 2011/2012 media guide to airline contacts, now 54 pages.  The DL size booklet lists all airlines, airports, affiliates and PR agencies involved with the industry, plus useful contacts. www.airlinepr.org

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Beijing gets courtesy arrivals facility

Air China is, for a trial period, to provide complimentary airport lounge services to air travellers arriving at Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport, starting on 1 June.  Passengers will be able to relax, take showers, use the internet, and print and fax documents in the lounge for free by making reservations at Air China’s transfer counter.  Complimentary beverages will also be provided.

The facility will be available for all Air China clients although First and Business Class clients will have priority.  Initially the service will only be available for flights from Frankfurt, Vancouver and Yekaterinburg. www.airchina.com

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Flying Scotsman makes a comeback

One of the most iconic names from the age of steam is to make a comeback.  Today (Monday 23 May) East Coast is launching its new prestige express ‘Flying Scotsman’, which will complete the 393-mile journey from Kings Cross London to Waverley Edinburgh in just four hours, calling only at Newcastle.  This is at least 50 minutes quicker than the competing West Coast Virgin Trains offering.

The introduction of the new service is part of the launch of East Coast’s new timetable, which represents the biggest improvement to services on its route in 20 years.  The revised timetable includes 19 additional services, while East Coast will also introduce a complimentary food and drink service for customers in First Class, and a new First Class Quiet Coach.  The ‘Flying Scotsman’ leaves London at 05:40 arriving 09:40.  Later trains will take 20 minutes longer.  Southbound the train departs the same time and arrives at the same time too.  From Newcastle it is just 2hrs 17mins to London. www.eastcoast.co.uk

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Helicopter to the Olympics

Biggin Hill Airport has come up with the best scheme so far for VIP's travel to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for London 2012.  Helicopter in to a temporary licensed heliport, operated by the airport, just by Ebbsfleet railway station in North Kent and take the Javelin train to Strafford International.  The rail journey time is 10 minutes. 

The alternative is to take a chance by road, or use other forms of public transport.  Typical journey time from London City Airport by the extended DLR will be 25 minutes.  From St Pancras station, the terminus for Javelin (which starts at Dover), the trip is shorter, just seven minutes.  Access to St Pancras by road is likely to be congested.

“By using the Ebbsfleet heliport link, business aviation customers arriving at Biggin Hill will be able to access the Olympic Park in the fastest possible time and under the most convenient arrangements,” says Robert Walters, Business Development Manager for the airport.

“An additional benefit will be that passengers on this routing are not subject to the usual constraints of other forms of transport,” he says. www.bigginhillairport.com

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Oman Air to Zanzibar

Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, has re-commenced its services between Muscat and Zanzibar.  Flights will operate non-stop from Muscat to Zanzibar three times a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Zanzibar represents the airline’s third destination in Africa and second in Tanzania.

Historically Oman has strong links with Zanzibar.  The East African island, now part of the Republic of Tanzania, was for 300 years ruled by the Sultan of Oman, and a centre for trade and commerce along the coast.  Tourism has long since replaced dhow-building as the town’s major industry, but the essence of Zanzibar’s olden days and its cultural heritage can still be found.

Oman Air offers both internet and in-flight phone connectively on its long haul services.  Two years ago it unveiled its new, lie-flat Business Class seat, which offers greater levels of comfort and amenity than many other airlines’ First Class products and is fitted on all the new Airbus wide-body fleet. www.omanalr.com

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Virgin Atlantic in flight uncertainties

With British Airways well on their way to sorting out its cabin staff problems Virgin Atlantic has now become embroiled with union difficulties that could, just like BA, see travellers looking for an alternative carrier.

The Virgin problems are with the flight deck crews, and in this case the airline cannot rely on the goodwill of those not drawn into the action to help keep the aeroplanes flying.  85% of all Virgin’s 750 pilots belong to BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association).  According to General Secretary Jim McAuslan they have not had an increase since 2008.

In a statement BALPA said “Despite marathon talks that started in 2010 and despite the involvement of the Government's conciliation service ACAS, pilots in Virgin Atlantic have been unable to reach agreement with the airline on an overdue pay and conditions settlement.”

The ballot of members will start on 24 May, and will last four weeks.  Virgin is making positive sounds.  “The company has made a fair, affordable and sustainable offer that is in line with the rest of the industry and we continue to be open to dialogue.” www.balpa.org.uk www.virgin-atlantic.com

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ADDED NEWS: Heathrow Express to run throughout industrial action. + Iceland

In spite of industrial action by the RMT union the Heathrow Express will be operating a half-hourly service between Paddington Station and Heathrow Airport T5 via Heathrow Central (T1 and T3) on Friday 27 May and Saturday 28 May between 08:00 and 20:00.  Journey times will be 15 minutes from Paddington Station to Heathrow Central with a further 6 minutes to Terminal 5.  Between 05:00 and 24:00 a free bus replacement service will be operating between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 departing every 15 minutes.  The Piccadilly Underground provides an alternative service.

Members of the RMT union will walk out for 48 hours from 03:40 next Friday, with a further 24-hour stoppage planned for 24 June and others scheduled for July.

Richard Robinson, Managing Director of Heathrow Express, is strong with his views, "During the pay talks process we have consistently asked the RMT to consider the unnecessary inconvenience to passengers caused by such industrial action.  We have put forward a good offer which reflects the challenging economic environment and our need to be more efficient. www.heathrowexpress.com/amendedtimetable 

And as of just before AERBT was distributed at midnight GMT, Iceland has closed the two main airports after its most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting on Saturday.  However, the country's meteorological office says that it is short term and should not cause widespread disruption to air traffic. http://en.vedur.is

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Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia’s joint network

Having secured government approval for their newly founded alliance Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic have announced their future joint plans.  The routes become effective at the start of what for Europe is the winter season.

The alliance will connect Air New Zealand’s domestic network of 26 airports to Virgin Australia’s 31, offering the largest ever Australasian route network for trans-Tasman travellers.   

Under the new arrangement Air New Zealand will operate approximately 70% of the capacity and what was Virgin Australia’s Pacific Blue will handle 30%, similar to the relative market share the airlines had prior to the commencement of the Alliance.  Pacific Blue, as a marketing strategy, will disappear by the end of the year reverting to Virgin Australia.  Total capacity to and from Auckland remains unchanged, including Air New Zealand’s wide body services on Auckland – Sydney, Auckland – Melbourne and Auckland – Brisbane.  Schedules will be generally adjusted to ensure more convenience for passengers. www.airnewzealand.co.nz www.virginaustralia.com

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Austrian Airlines simplifies baggage rules

New baggage allowance rules are to be brought in by Austrian Airlines.  The revised ‘baggage item concept’ has already been in use on flights to the USA and Canada for some time, where it has been proven to be successful.

Under this latest scheme passengers can check in a specified number of baggage items free of charge as per their allowance.  This number is defined by their flight class.  In practical terms they will be able to take more luggage on flights within Europe and long haul routes to Asia and the Middle East.

For Economy Class the allowance goes up to 23kls.  Business Class passengers will be able to take two items of baggage, even if each weighs up to 32kls or a total weight of up to 64kls.  Until now they have been restricted to 30kls.  With children under the age of two who do not have their own seat, parents can pack one item of baggage weighing up to 23kls and a foldaway pram in future.

For excess baggage, Austrian Airlines has also simplified its cost structure and will distinguish between European and Intercontinental flights in future.  Lufthansa, which owns Austrian Airlines, is matching these rules at the same time. www.austrianairlines.com

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City of London hotel’s soft opening

The 5-star Montcalm Hotel, just by the Barbican concert hall in heart of the City of London, opens for business today (Monday 23 May).  In what is termed a “soft” launch 100 rooms are available.  The “Grand Opening” when the balance of the 235 rooms will be complete is likely to be in September.

In the meantime all the luxurious amenities expected of a top quality hotel are available, including a butler service for the suites and studios, the executive Club Lounge, meeting and banqueting rooms and The Chiswell Street Dining Rooms.

Formerly the site of Whitbread & Co, Britain’s first purpose-built mass production brewery, the original building dates back from as early at 1750 when Samuel Whitbread moved his brewing operations to Chiswell Street on the ‘eastern rim of Georgian London’.  The last beer brewed there was in 1976, when the site was then turned into Whitbread plc’s head office and a conference and banqueting centre, The Brewery. www.themontcalmlondoncity.co.uk

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Gatwick to gain another Travelodge

Travelodge, already established at Gatwick in the Crawley area, has acquired the former 4-star Mercure hotel close by the North Terminal.  The 257-room property hotel will undergo a significant refurbishment and expansion programme to convert the hotel in line with the Travelodge brand.  This investment will include refurbishing the rooms and updating the reception area alongside the conversion of the hotel’s 11 meeting rooms, three restaurants, swimming pool and gymnasium into an additional 146 rooms – increasing the room total to 400.

Guy Parsons, Travelodge CEO said: “We have been looking for some time to increase the number of rooms we have at Gatwick, to match our offering at Heathrow airport.  With this deal we have tripled our room stock at the airport but there is still a huge potential to grow further at the UK’s second largest airport and we are looking for more new sites."

Travelodge currently has 18 hotels, located in all the major UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Luton, Stansted, Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle and East Midlands.

The new hotel will be called Gatwick Airport Central Travelodge.  It is located at Povey Cross Road, Gatwick, RH6 0BE. www.travelodge.co.uk

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Inverness to Amsterdam

Flybe is to link Inverness and Amsterdam from Monday 5 September with a daily service (six times weekly for the winter schedule).  The new route is the direct result of discussions between Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) and Flybe with collaborative support and key funding from Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE).  Support funding also has also been contributed by the Highland Council, the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) and VisitScotland.

Amsterdam is seen as an important hub for Inverness, with the loss of Heathrow, now the only true long haul international airport connected to the airport.  The route will also provide for two-way leisure traffic.  Flight time is around two hours. www.hial.co.uk

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Shangri-La at Manzhouli (Inner Mongolia)

Manzhouli is not a city that is well known to Europeans.  It sits right on the border of where Inner Mongolia, Northern China and Russia come together.  It now has a Shangri-La.  The city also features the world’s tallest Matryoshka Doll (the famous Russian ‘doll within a doll’) at 30m tall.

To reflect the unique cultural mix, the hotel displays tapestries and furnishings of various influences, including Mongolian pattern carpets, Chinese bed runners and Russian motif lamps.  It has 235 rooms, including 24 suites, with sweeping views of the nearby Xiaobei Lake, the city and the expansive grasslands beyond. 

There are three restaurants and a lounge.  Café 99 is an all-day dining venue with an international menu, and the Shang Palace – Shangri-La’s signature Chinese restaurant – serves Cantonese and Northern Chinese cuisine.  The restaurant also has 12 private dining rooms.  The property houses the city’s largest health club and a 25m indoor swimming pool.  On the top floor is an Executive Club. www.shangri-la.com

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ON TOUR: I know that I am mad – but harmless

Michael Bartlett, or Brother Bartlett, as is his official title, has set yet another world travel record.  A member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, an international community of Anglicans, the 70-year old recently flew both east and west around the world from London with one circuit being inside the other.  In the space of eight days he used scheduled services to Australia from London, with a total time in the air of 215hrs 31mins. 

Until sent out to Zululand as a voluntary worker in 1969, Michael Bartlett was an avid train spotter.  Flying from Heathrow to Durban via Lisbon, Windhoek and Johannesburg he stepped off the Viscount at Louis Botha Airport 1 September 1969 with the immortal words, "From now on – never a train – always a plane."

Then in the early l980s, when a Mr David Springbett flew around the world using Concorde and set a record, Michael vowed to "get into the Guinness Book of Records".  A colleague suggested he would never do it.  He did.  In 1988 he achieved the most scheduled passenger flights in one day – 18.  He was beaten by a young lass in the Channel Islands – 24, which Michael turned round to 42 in 1990.

Brother Bartlett holds the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on scheduled flights with a single airline at 59hrs 58mins when he travelled with Air New Zealand from Heathrow to Hong Kong, and then Auckland – Los Angles and back to Heathrow 21-24 November 2006. 

He holds 21 certificates issued by the Editors of that well known tome, now called "Guinness World Records."

Michael's latest adventure was to celebrate his 70th birthday when he flew round the world once in each direction eastwards and then westward taking 8 days, 23hrs 31mins.

These are his words.

“I am booked to fly from London to Dubai and then Bandar Seri Begawan (Sultanate of Brunei) and onwards to Brisbane aboard a Boeing 777 of my 250th airline, I will spend 36 hours with the Brethren and  then return to London with Royal Brunei.  After a night’s sleep near Heathrow Airport it’s off to join Air Canada and fly to Vancouver.  A few hours rest and fly on to Sydney (14hrs 30mins flight) where, on arrival, I will hop aboard a Virgin Blue B737 to Brisbane.  That means I will have flown westward around the world, Brisbane to Brisbane.

Having begun the holiday by flying to Brisbane, I will continue the eastward journey by returning immediately to Sydney.” 

He continues with some more notes.

“I arrived home yesterday (Friday) from my ‘Twice Round the World, once in each direction’, and can report all went well.  It was interesting.  Royal Brunei with their 777s, the service was excellent.  The girls were beautiful and for the first time ever, I saw that one attendant's job was to check the loos after each use by a passenger.  Excellent.  Food beautifully presented, hot and with proper cutlery.

Air Canada, no youngsters in the crew but the attendants were in all ways professional, addressing passengers by name as you walked on.  Every 30 minutes walking round with water (and anything else you requested).

However the difference in the 777s was noticeable.  More room on the Canadian ones than the Royal Brunei, though I can't complain because I had the front row aisle seat "C" in all cases but one (window seat K).  Royal Brunei was full and Air Canada 60% full on the two return flights.

We the passengers are encouraged to read the Safety Card on each flight are we not?  I was on Virgin Blue Sydney/Brisbane return.  I was in 13C and two young lasses A and B.  They took out the card and held a conversation about their safety, very sensible chatter.

They looked under the seat for the life vest and around the plane for the life rafts which were described as being "in the roof rack".  They (and me) therefore WE could not see them.  So when the attendant came round we asked where they might be.  His reply?

"There are no life rafts on this aeroplane."

We asked "Why?"

"Because this plane flies over land and not the sea."

Strange that we flew out from Brisbane over the sea and into Sydney Airport over the sea and very low down too!

Airline safety. Bah!

Does not say much for Virgin Blue to have cards on their Boeing 737-700s and 800s showing life rafts and there are not any aboard.

I have no objection to security at airports – BUT.  I have flown how many times and used a see through bag bought at Lloyds chemist 10 years ago and no one has objected until a silly woman at Terminal 3 Heathrow last Sunday.  Said it was not acceptable.  She could see my toothpaste and eye ointment and one toothbrush.  She made me change it.  I told her that I had flown around the world using that for 10 years showing it every time and no one had challenged it before.  She replied "Not acceptable at this airport".  I could not be bothered to argue – but ridiculous.

Dubai is equally silly. One gets off the Royal Brunei plane for the re-fuelling, goes through security and then straight into the lounge awaiting boarding.  At Brunei (BWM) one goes into the transit lounge, buys water and not permitted to take it aboard – ridiculous.

I was given an excellent tie by my brother with a world map upon it and a picture of aeroplanes.  I looked carefully on all 12 flights and I did not see one other Economy Class passenger wearing a tie.  Many commented on the fact that I was wearing one and admired it.

A wonderful experience.  Most of the time.

And I shall repeat:  I know that I am mad – but harmless.”

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