15 AUGUST 2011

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Air Asia combines with Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines (MAS), the national airline, and budget carrier Air Asia, together with long haul, sister operator AirAsia X, have entered into a comprehensive collaboration framework that will see the airlines exploring opportunities to co-operate on a broad range of areas.  

AirAsia shareholders will hold 20.5% of Malaysia Airlines and in the other direction the interest will be 10%.

Many see the MAS-AirAsia partnership as a way to help stop MAS from plunging further into the red, while others feel AirAsia will benefit as much as the national carrier from the alliance.  Whether Tony Fernandes, the British-educated Malaysian entrepreneur behind the partnership, can make it work remains to be seen.  His foray into Formula One with Team Lotus has not as yet seen the cars anywhere near the front of the grid even with another venture, Caterham, blazoned on the cars.

Under the arrangement, rationalisation is expected especially in the domestic market.  The airlines’ networks overlap directly on 38 routes, while there are some indirect synergies in some markets.  These include London, where Malaysia Airlines serves Heathrow and Air Asia X flies to Stansted (Gatwick from the end of October) and Paris with Malaysia Airlines to CDG and Air Asia X Orly. www.malaysiaairlines.com www.airasia.com

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Boeing 747-8 completes certification flight testing

A major milestone for both freighter and passenger versions of the ‘all new’ Boeing 747-8 has been reached with the successful completion of the freighter variants flight test programme.

The first 747-8 Freighter is scheduled to be delivered to launch customer Cargolux in September after certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The 747-8 Freighter has flown more than 1,200 flights and 3,400 hours since its first flight on 8 February 2010.  During that time, the five-aeroplane test fleet was used to gather data for more than 1,700 FAA certification requirements.  Boeing tested the capabilities of these aeroplanes far beyond what they are expected to encounter in normal service.  The new aircraft is 18ft 4ins (5.6m) longer than the current 747-400 Freighter.  The stretch provides customers with 16% more revenue cargo volume compared to its predecessor.  That translates to four additional main-deck pallets and three additional lower-hold pallets.

The current order book stands at 114, including 78 of the freighter version, and 36 of the passenger version.  Lufthansa, is expected to receive its first aircraft towards the end of the year or early 2012 and offer a three class format. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Changi Airport service gets even better

Service at Changi Airport Singapore is set to be further enhanced with the introduction of the Changi Experience Agents (CEA) initiative, where roving customer service officers are deployed airport-wide to help visitors and passengers with assistance, as well as the Changi Contact Centre, a 24/7 one-stop centralised call centre facility which consolidates all telephone lines for the airport into a common number.

Both brand-new initiatives are aimed at enhancing what is termed “The Changi Experience” and have been introduced to augment and strengthen the airport’s efforts to provide a stress-free, personalised and positively surprising passage for passengers.

The task of the CEAs includes assisting passengers with special needs, and helping everyone with way finding at the airport.  Locating missing luggage, facilitating passengers with check-in needs and assisting transit or transfer passengers with their onward connections also form part of the CEAs’ duties.  Working in shifts, 90 CEAs are deployed across all four terminals.  They speak a total of more than 20 languages and dialects which include French, Hindi, Japanese, Tagalog and Thai, a reflection of Changi’s top passenger markets. www.changiairport.com

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Dreamliner update

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will enter into service with launch customer ANA has rolled out of the paint hangar.  The aeroplane bears a special livery signifying the core elements of ANA's service brand – innovation, uniqueness and the inspiration of Japan.  The aircraft is somewhat late, it was supposed to go into service in time for the Beijing Olympics, nevertheless its introduction is being watched with bated breath by the whole industry.

"Our teams are making outstanding progress in completing the first airplane to be delivered and achieving certification of the 787," said Scott Fancher, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 programme.  "We are inspired by the airline's enthusiasm for this airplane and look forward to the day when we make our first delivery to ANA."

ANA's first 787 features a short haul international interior design with Business and Economy Class cabins.

"ANA's passengers will be the first to experience the 787 Dreamliner's comfortable interior environment," said Mitsuo Morimoto, ANA Senior Executive Vice President and Member of the Board of Directors.  "Combined with ANA's superior levels of service, passengers will enjoy a spacious interior, larger windows, comfortable seats and touch-panel in-flight entertainment screens."  Current order book stands at 827 firm for the 787. www.ana.co.jp

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Gatwick introduces family arrival procedures

Endeavouring to make arrivals at Gatwick Airport a simpler task, officials have introduced, along with the UK Border Agency, new procedures to reduce queue times and provide better service for those with children or reduced mobility. 

Geoff Williams, security chief at Gatwick said: “We understand that the return journey can often feel long and exhausting.  This is especially true if you are travelling with young children and you just want to get back home as quickly as possible.  That is why we have become the first UK airport to introduce lanes in the immigration halls dedicated entirely to families, and those who might need a bit of extra support.  Staff who man these lanes have received extra training in customer service so that they know how to provide the right level of help.”

The immigration halls now also have a selection of ePassport gates that enable EU passengers with biometric passports to get through passport control much more quickly and conveniently.  The gates use facial recognition technology to compare a passenger’s face to the photograph recorded on the chip in the passport.  Once the checks are made, the gates open automatically.  www.gatwickairport.com

AERBT would be delighted to hear from families who have experienced the new procedures.

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Open all hours car hire!

From September 2011 busy travellers will be able to benefit from seven-day opening at more than 60 Europcar locations across the UK, allowing them to pick-up and return hire vehicles on the day that suits them – even if that’s a Sunday! 

“Conventionally, the car hire market comes to a halt for the weekend after 1pm on Saturdays,” explained Ken McCall, Managing Director, Europcar Group UK.  “So customers either have to use an out of hours service or take another day’s hire, which is not always convenient and adds to the cost.  And this is pretty inconvenient for customers who are used to accessing most other consumer and retail services seven days a week.  Therefore we are extending the opening hours of these key locations to make hiring a car even more convenient for our customers.”

The new opening times included 22 airports and 38 city centre branches, as well as 24-hour opening at six major airports.  Europcar’s remaining 128 locations will be open six days a week, 08:00-18:00 Monday to Friday and 08:00-13:00 on Saturdays.  Seven-day openings in these locations will be rolled out to respond to customer demand. www.europcar.co.uk

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Tiger Airlines returns to the air

The Australian offshoot of Asian budget carrier Tiger Airways has been given the green light to resume flights after the enforced five-week grounding.  However, the airline’s wings have been severely clipped as it will be restricted to operating just 18 sectors a day (nine return flights) for the remainder of August.  The budget carrier had its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) revoked by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on 2 July due to concerns that serious safety issues posed an imminent risk to air safety.

Tiger Airlines is an offshoot of the Singapore-based carrier of the same name, whose shareholders include Singapore Airlines.

The agency has confirmed a subsequent thorough investigation into safety issues within the carrier and said last week that it had developed a new set of conditions addressing key areas of operational importance.  “To continue to operate, Tiger Airways Australia must comply with the conditions while they are in place,” it said.

The airline is now operating what it calls “a simplified flight programme” initially between Melbourne (Tullamarine) and Sydney, with more to follow.

Prior to its suspension Tiger Airways Australia operated more than 450 weekly flights on 42 routes with a fleet of 10 Airbus A320s. www.tigerairways.com

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AND FINALLY: Where is central London?

It is not for AERBT to argue where is the centre of London but according to the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) it could be London Bridge, that is on the south side of the Thames close by where HMS Belfast is moored. 

Now knowledgeable readers may be aware that Shangri-La Hotels will soon be promoting the Shard as the middle of the universe but we are not so sure if most people would agree on Bermondsey as the centre of town.

In any event the ASA has now wrapped the knuckles of Gatwick Express for promoting their service from Gatwick Airport to Victoria as the quickest route to London.  The ASA seem to think that Capital Connect's trains to London Bridge is shorter.  Southern's Gatwick Express claim is 'misleading' according the agency.

At the end of the day the choice is yours but at least the Gatwick Express is a true non-stop express, unlike some other so-called expresses that stop twice on the way to an airport.

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COMMENT: Parking mad

This week features AERBT’s monthly motoring review and so it seemed justifiable to highlight one of the problems of a simple life.

Is it just your Editor but is the world of parking going mad?  Should there be a “Minister of Parking”?  OK the Government has more serious problems than dealing with annoyed motorists who can probably deal with their own inconveniences but surely in this day and age of technology some consistency can be brought about when it comes to paying, often a very high price, for the privilege of parking a car.

Motorists in order to place your automobile in a designated bay you have to be armed with the following.  If one item is missing you can be sure that is what is required of that particular spot.  Every parking area seems to have a different way of paying!

Sterling coins are needed to the value of 20p, 50p and £1.  Some machines might take the £2 pieces, but not all.  A very few machines take £5 and £10 notes.

A credit card.   A machine recently visited would only take debit cards.

And a mobile phone.  Certain Councils in London will only take your parking booking by phone.  It’s automatic once you have established contact and in truth getting through is relatively easy. 

For the future 'smartphone' parking will be with us.  That is if you have such a device and know how to use it.

Receipts are not the norm.

Be careful with NCP.  They only take cash and do not give out change.

A “Minister of Parking” why not?  At least some guidelines please regarding uniformity.  Surely every motorist has a credit card.  Make them compulsory for parking meters.  Do something positive for the motorist.

MALCOLM GINSBERG

Editor in Chief

PS.  The Department for Transport does have a Traffic and Parking Management web site.  View it by all means. www.dft.gov.uk/topics/tpm

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Air India and Star Alliance fall out

Star Alliance and Air India have made a joint statement which affirms that the integration of India’s national airline into the multi-carrier grouping has been suspended.  Essentially this is due to the fact that Air India has not met the minimum joining conditions that were contractually agreed in December 2007 and highlights the serious financial position that the Indian national airline finds itself.  At present it is in the middle of (yet another) financial restructuring plan, due to be completed within three months.

Star Alliance CEO, Jaan Albrecht, said: “With the collective decision to put the integration efforts on hold today we aim to contribute to Air India’s flexibility to concentrate on its ongoing strategic reorientation.  In this process our member carriers will continue to provide assistance to Air India wherever required.”

Existing bilateral relationships with Star Alliance member airlines are not affected by this decision, which also leaves room to discuss a potential Alliance membership at a future stage, if deemed appropriate by both parties. www.staralliance.com www.airindia.com

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Bombardier Q400 goes VIP

The Toronto operation of Field Aviation has delivered to Avitrade Belgium a pair of Bombardier Q400 aircraft with custom designed interiors, the first such installations in the type.

The aircraft, with 28 and 40 seats respectively, were uniquely-configured with a combination of single VIP style seats and standard economy seat pairs.  One aircraft features a separate cabin with four individual fully flatbed VIP seats in club configuration.

Selected by Avitrade on behalf of their end use customer, Field Aviation was engaged to design, engineer and integrate unique mixed class interiors for each aircraft.

Finished to the highest standards, the VIP and First Class seats include individual touch screen LCD monitors for IFE and moving map displays.  Installed throughout is in-seat power for lap top charging, side ledges with fold-out tables and cabin class dividers.  Sky Connect real-time satellite tracking system installation, cordless satellite phone handsets, custom carpets and specialty leather finishes are also featured.  Specialized modifications and amenities are incorporated into the aircraft rest rooms and galleys.

Developed from the original 1980s de Havilland Canada Dash 8, the Q400 is the current production model.  Over 1,000 Dash 8 variants have been built. www.fieldav.com

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Chilean-Brazilian airline merger makes progress

Brazil's finance ministry antitrust unit has recommended the approval of a plan by Chilean airline LAN to buy rival Brazilian rival TAM, saying the deal will not harm competition in the country's civil aviation market.

The ruling is the first of three antitrust decisions in Brazil for the transaction, which was announced a year ago.  The other agencies that may pronounce in the coming months are the Justice Ministry's antitrust unit and the country's antitrust council Cade.

In Chile a similar process is taking place with the airline optimistic that the deal will go ahead, although not until well into 2012.  www.lan.com www.tam.com.br

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Durham-Tees Valley Airport closure threat

Eastern Airways has dealt another UK airport what could be a fatal blow with the announcement that it is dropping its Durham-Tees Valley Airport to Southampton service from next month.  The twice daily service routes via Leeds Bradford Airport, which will also lose its Southampton flights.  Eastern’s four flights a day from Tees Valley to Aberdeen, used mainly by staff in the oil and gas industry, will continue.  The carrier has been blamed for the probable closure of Plymouth City Airport where it has also cancelled operations.

The announcement came after airport bosses admitted they were struggling to secure new routes that would turn around the fortunes of the loss-making facility.  Peel Airports Chief Executive, Craig Richmond, told The Northern Echo last week that the airport will close unless more people use the facility.

Passenger numbers have dropped  from about 650,000 in 2008 to an expected 200,000 this year.  KLM serves the airport three times daily to Amsterdam and there are seasonal charter flights to holiday destinations including Spain, Italy and Egypt.

Plans to resurrect Northolt as a scheduled service airport would include Durham-Tees Valley, perhaps under its previous name Teesside.  This maybe the airport's last hope if it were to happen. www.durhamteesvalleyairport.com

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Glasgow opens up for Jet2

Jet2, new to Glasgow International Airport this year, is to add Rome to the destinations already announced for 2012.  It is already well established at Edinburgh from where its flies to Avignon, Chambery, La Rochelle, Murcia and Toulouse.

The airline, originally a spin-off of the Dart Group Plc cargo operation Channel Express, now serves eight UK airports and carried 3.3m passengers in 2010.  Its main base is at Leeds Bradford Airport.

For summer 2012, Jet2 will offer nine destinations from Glasgow including Alicante, Barcelona, Dalaman (Turkey), Nice, Palma, Monastir (Tunisia), Paphos and Tenerife, plus now Rome. www.jet2.com

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Skyscanner and Aeroflot

Aeroflot has joined the increasing number of airlines that are now dealing directly with Skyscannner, said to be Europe’s leading flight comparison site.  The Edinburgh-based company says the new partnership will allow Skyscanner users to view Aeroflot prices when searching for flights on the Russian airline’s route network, and will further cement its position as the number one flight comparison site in the Russian Federation.

“We are delighted that Aeroflot has chosen to join the hundreds of other airlines that are in partnership with us,” said Dmitriy Konovalov, Partnerships Manager at Skyscanner.

“Russia is a hugely important market for us – it is our second biggest market and Aeroflot obviously recognize the benefits of working with us.  Our commercial partners benefit from double digit conversion rates – in fact in the last 12 months we generated downstream revenue of more than US$1bn.” www.skyscanner.net

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ON TOUR: With Pegasus Airlines to Tehran

NOTHING CHEAP AT PEGASUS EXCEPT THE PRICE

Michael Bartlett, that Brother of the Anglican Order, ‘Oratory of the Good Shepherd’, whose enthusiasm for air travel must be the bane of many airlines and travel agents, last week enjoyed 24 hours flying aboard two Boeing 737-800s of the Turkish carrier Pegasus.  His purpose was to experience a little ‘Turkish Delight’ (of a slightly more exciting flavour than that found in the sweet shop), in celebration of achieving travel with 250 of the world’s international and domestic airlines. 

Michael for years has held a longing to set foot upon Iranian soil, So when he read in AERBT of Pegasus Airline’s intention to operate a scheduled service from Istanbul’s very modern Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of the Bosphorus (SAW) he jumped at the chance to add yet another airline, country and two more airports to his lengthy lists. 

Having chosen a date for travel to and from Tehran’s Imam Khomeine International Airport (IKA), without stopover, the difficulty was not making a reservation but in discovering whether or not he would be in need of a transit visa. 

The Gospel according to “OAG”, on their website under the Passport and Visa Information section states clearly: General Transit Information:  “Required by all except those noted above and 1) Persons continuing their journey within 12 hours provided holding confirmed tickets and documents for their onward travel”.  Michael contacted the Iranian Embassy and Consulate in London and received no reply.  Travel agents, tour operators and visa companies suggested application (£80) but informed the would-be-traveller that it can take up to 12 weeks to obtain the necessary documentation. 

Michael did not have 12 weeks and decided to travel with the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity; his ‘faith’ of experience, joined with the ‘hope’ that there would be help and assistance when necessary and the expectancy of ‘charity’ on behalf of officials at Tehran’s Airport!

Stansted Airport was heaving with families struggling to get away for their summer escape to ‘not-so-far-away’ destinations. 

Michael, with his small 3kg bag holding no more than a book to read, a spare shirt and trousers, toothbrush and paste and the medicines prescribed by his GP was horrified by the size of the baggage being taken by so many.  He wondered if some were moving house.  Remembering his flights with Ryanair his question to Pegasus (Servisair) ground staff when waiting at the bottom of the front steps was: “Why does it take so long to board?”.  The reply?  “Sir, look at the hand luggage.  Some passengers are carrying two bags and many too large.  It takes time to get them in the rack”.  Notwithstanding that, PC 502 took off from London 23 minutes late but made up 10 minutes en route.

A number of the families referred to earlier were aboard “Hande”  (the name of the aircraft) judging by the screams and tears at various stages of the flight.  All passengers appeared to be travelling for leisure.  Most were in T-shirts and shorts or jeans.  Michael searched without success for any other passenger wearing a tie.  His tie attracted the interest of many, the picture being of an aircraft on the map of the world.  The plane was continuing on to Northern Cyprus.  Of those leaving at Istanbul there were but a few joining Michael at the transfer desk where he began to make enquiries of his turnaround at Tehran.

He was informed that they could not issue a boarding card at Istanbul for the return flight from Tehran. 

Nor was anyone able to provide information about the Station Manager at IKA.  It was suggested that Michael go “on-line” and check in before leaving for Tehran.  (72 hours before travel Michael tried to check in on-line.  This was not possible for travel beginning at Stansted.  A friendly computer wizard, highly experienced in programming and the internet, tried for him without success). 

So Michael searched the bright clean terminal building for internet facilities.  There were none.  The “Priority Pass” Club Lounge and the hotel were closed.  Michael asked “Wings Lounge” and all the stores, restaurants and faces if they had internet in their offices.  All said “No”.  He was stuck.

Before taking his seat aboard Flight PC 512 Michael asked the cabin crew what might be the situation at Tehran.  One member had lived there for five years and said that security being so great, in her opinion it would be unlikely for him to get clearance to return on the same aircraft.  She considered it unwise for him to travel.  He asked if he might meet the captain to request permission to stay aboard the plane during the turnround.  He had anticipated this and so during his three-hour wait in the terminal had written a letter to the Captain which was accompanied by copies of press releases relating to his travels, a list of his Guinness World Record achievements and some photographs and cards.

The Captain’s reply was that he could not permit this “eccentric globetrotter” to stay aboard the aircraft at Tehran because of Iranian Airport Law.  However he would wait an extra 15 minutes, allowing the ‘mad monk’ 75 minutes to get clearance. 

Michael then had to take the risk.  The Head Stewardess, Gursah, said that she would ask the Pegasus Manager/Agent at IKA when they opened the door to take Brother Michael through immigration and security.  Her words were: “Go for it”.  Michael knew he had two people supporting him.  The Captain and the senior member of the cabin crew.  He reminded himself of the few occasions in the past when he had lost out because of indecision.  So the “skonk monk” (a title given him by another Guinness Record Holder) smiled, thanked the crew and took his seat 15c (emergency row) ready to enjoy the flight to Iran – his 125th country of travel.

A few minutes before landing Michael was taken to an empty seat in row 3 in order for him to be the first off the plane and meet the Station Manager, Amirreza Zahdi.  Mr Bartlett’s position was told to him with a request that he escort Michael through the necessary departments and controls.  Mr Zahdi explained that it would not be possible for Michael to get through in time and that it would take a minimum of four hours.  It could be anything up to 24 hours for a transit visa to be issued.  He spoke good English.  The monk, by now wondering if he had done the right thing, remembering something he had learned years ago – always “To say Please, Smile and accept anything”, said to the six foot tall young man in front of him: “Please let me get back on the plane or come with me through immigration”. 

He showed him photographs and papers and stood there trying to look lost and helpless!  It worked.  After asking the stewardess to inform the London Office of Pegasus if he did not return, he followed Amirreza.

The first port of call was the door into the terminal used by staff and not passengers.  He was introduced to the policeman guarding the gate.  Following an exchange of smiles and an hand shake Michael was permitted through to the terminal passing the passport queues.  He went through another gate and shook hands with another guard.  His story was told again, pictures shown.  He then passed to a third entrance where he was asked to wait whilst Amirreza went ahead to discuss the case with a senior official in an office.  To this nervous man it appeared a long time.  It was probably no more than the two minutes observed in silence around the UK on Remembrance Day each November.  His carer returned with the good news that Michael would be permitted to rejoin Pegasus without the need for a visa.

The difficulty came in obtaining a Boarding Card!  The Manager had to go “land side” to sort that out and left Michael at the gate.  Passengers were waiting to board PC 513 to Istanbul.  His Boarding Card arrived with the check-in clerk, a lady wearing traditional dress in black.  He happily went through to the plane where he was met by Mr Zahdi.  Each took a photograph of the other and exchanged addresses.  Michael went back to the first policeman and thanked him – for it was he who could have initially said, “NO” – before stepping aboard  TC-AAV to begin his homeward bound journey.  He was met by the Captain and crew to which he said “Thank you.”  He was to enjoy two more flights with Pegasus...the flying horse… the logo being on the wing tips of the aircraft.

The flight to Tehran had been nearly full but the return flight half empty.  Many passengers slept across three seats.  There were few families on this sector and most passengers were wearing T-shirts and jeans.  The majority of ladies wore western style clothing, relatively few being in traditional Middle East attire.  Michael was somewhat disappointed in that, expecting to see a wider array of clothing, professional appearance and nationals.  During his travels around the African continent he had always enjoyed admiring the widely differing styles of dress and headwear.  He did note that, as within western Europe, the majority had mobile telephones.  Many, especially the younger generation of men and women, possessed and were using laptops in the terminal whilst waiting for their flights. 

NOTHING CHEAP AT PEGASUS EXCEPT THE PRICE, is the airline slogan obviously referring to their standards of safety and service.  Our traveller of 250 airlines has seen and experienced a wide variety of services.  Quite regardless of his hope for a trouble free visit to Tehran, from the beginning of his check-in at Stansted airport, this “Globetrotter Extraordinary” took note of the attention and attitude of each Pegasus employee.  Throughout the 24 hours he was with the airline each one he met smiled  thus creating the impression that they were interested in the passenger.  On both occasions he passed through Istanbul the staff at the Transfer Desk were friendly and within the sphere of their responsibilities did their best to assist though maybe Michael had expected more than they had authority to perform.

The Brother’s plan to try each of the four main meals offered on their website failed to materialise.  First, because as reported above, his attempt to log on and book failed.  The system had crashed at the local library where this traveller goes on-line.  Secondly, because of other engagements he did not get near a computer in time, 36 hours before the flight.  Fate was on his side, for aboard both the Istanbul – Tehran and the return flight, the meal was provided as part of the service.  Michael was very happy with the chicken, pasta and carrots alongside a cake, roll and butter.  What more could one want at one o’clock in the morning?  Most passengers were trying to sleep.  As for the return flight, the sun was rising in the East.  Passengers were given scrambled egg with sausage and tomato alongside a small tray of fresh fruit (delicious), a roll with butter, honey and cheese with tea or coffee.

Whatever the moans and groans of the air passengers as read in travel magazines, newspaper supplements and heard on radio and television with regard to meals aboard aircraft, Michael’s opinion is that when related to cost, time and available facilities, the standard is usually good.  In his opinion this was so aboard Pegasus flights.  The scrambled egg was tasty, hot and enjoyable.  He would have enjoyed another sausage!  Being tired Michael tried to relax on PC 501 back to London.  She was full.  The passengers appeared to be families and friends visiting relatives as opposed to tourists and business people.

The language on all flights appeared to be Turkish with a short English translation.  He found this hard to decipher though that might have been because he was not paying attention!

One compliment made by that “mad fool” (another title earned in the past) was that Pegasus earn 5-star rating because there was no background music when boarding and to announcements.  He did enjoy four QUIET flights.  He says,  “Thank you Pegasus.”

Pegasus have set the trend or copied that of a few other airlines, by using children on screen to lead the well known safety mumble at the beginning of the flight.  This reminds those seated to belt up, place their luggage where it has already been placed (in the locker above or the seat in front).  They then show from where the oxygen mask will fall and how to handle it.  The bored non-listening passenger is advised of the life-vest under the seat.  How many passengers checked it to be there?  Michael did.  It was!).

Michael finished where he began.  He enjoyed four safe flights with Pegasus – the Flying Horse.  He enjoyed his “Day Away”. NOTHING CHEAP AT PEGASUS EXCEPT THE PRICE www.flypgs.com

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2010 airport figures

ACI (Airports Council International) has released World Airport Traffic Report 2010 which indicates that a strong traffic rebound demonstrates the industry’s resiliency.

Launching the statistics Director General Angela Gittens said: “This annual Report is ACI’s flagship publication, a unique and comprehensive industry reference presenting data from over 1,300 airports in 157 countries.  The Report for 2010 documents a strong rebound from the two-year industry slump.  Global passenger traffic rose by 6.6%, topping the 5bn passenger mark for the first time.  Cargo volumes also hit a record, surging past 91m tonnes with 15.3% growth.  Once again, our industry has shown its resiliency in recovering from a downturn and resuming its historical trajectory of impressive growth.”

In more detail the growth was Middle East (+12%), Asia-Pacific (+11.3%) Africa (+9.5%) and Latin America-Caribbean (+13.2%) showed high growth.  Increases in the mature North American and European markets were 2% and 4.3% respectively; but they remain the top two regions for market share, although Asia-Pacific is rapidly closing the gap.

Worldwide domestic traffic increased by 5.8% while international traffic jumped by 7.7%.  Worldwide aircraft movements increased 1.1% to 74m a very strong indication that airlines were using larger, and hence more efficient, aircraft. www.aci.aero

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Airport retail experience

Retail Eyes, the store knowledge operator, is currently looking to expand its database of mystery shoppers to take part in an ongoing customer experience research programme at airports across the UK and Europe.  Travellers taking part in the scheme are not only relieved of boredom whilst waiting at an airport but given the opportunity to earn extra cash too.

Retail Eyes is working with a large number of retailers and operators in airports to help them understand and improve their customers’ experiences.  This is where Retail Eyes and its mystery shoppers get involved.  Whether travelling for business or leisure, Retail Eyes is looking to pay genuine members of the public to visit the airports and use their spare time at the airport to shop and get paid for the pleasure of it.

The mystery shoppers provide feedback about their experiences by answering a short questionnaire and are reimbursed for any purchases and can be paid anything from £10 to £60 for taking part.  Visits range from grabbing a quick drink or meal, purchasing a gift from one of the many retail outlets or even a drink or two at a Champagne & Caviar bar.

Readers may have heard about mystery shopping before but never known how to get involved.  The process to register with Retail Eyes is simple and completely free. www.retaileyes.co.uk/flyer

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Car rental disabled criticism

A report by Professor Peter Cook, Buckingham University, on how the rental market is serving the disabled community has been acknowledged by Lorraine Farnon, Managing Director of leading adapted vehicle hire specialist, AVH. 

“I am not surprised by the findings of Professor Peter Cooke’s research,” she said “Many of the major vehicle rental companies are very keen to integrate the services we can provide to enable them to serve the disabled community and their carers.  The challenge is ensuring that staff at all levels of the business – in call centres and branches – fully understand what their company’s obligations are in line with the Equality Act and what services they can access.”

“All too often disabled people who rely on an adapted vehicle as their only means of transport are left in the lurch when that vehicle needs servicing or repairs after an accident.  Disabled people have the same rights as the able bodied and the organisations serving them.”

Professor Cooke commissioned research of the major rental companies to find out how they responded to requests for adapted vehicles.  The findings suggest that the understanding of what can be offered is inconsistent and even across different contact points within individual companies.  The result is that disabled motorists are often left feeling that their vehicle hire option will be complex and expensive. www.buckingham.ac.uk www.adaptedvehiclehire.com

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Docklands Light Railway news plus World Travel Market

World Travel Market 2011 (7-10 November) is poised to benefit from a number of transport improvements including a 50% increase in Docklands Light Railway capacity.  Trains will run every 2mins 30secs during peak periods.  New escalators are being introduced at Custom House (for Excel).

Other news for DLR users in East London is that the new line from Canning Town to Stratford International has still not opened with a date expected imminently.  With this extension West Ham will open as a DLR station,  for the first time providing an interchange with the District, Hammersmith & City and Jubilee lines and also easy access to Upton Park, the home of Championship side West Ham United. 

Readers who have used Pudding Mill Lane DLR in the past, with its splendid views of the Olympic site, should note it will be closed for the period of the Games.  It will also become part of Crossrail.

Visitors to the exhibition (and London City Airport too) will also benefit from a major increase in Jubilee line capacity and a general upgrading of Canning Town station, a vital interchange between the Underground system and DLR. www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/2632.aspx

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easyJet launches 2012 schedule with 300 destinations

Whilst most of us are still taking our 2011 summer holidays, or at least planning a winter break, easyJet, which claims to be UK’s largest airline, has launched its spring schedule with around 300 low fare destinations.

More than 60,000 flights are now on sale until 24 June 2012, enabling passengers to secure the best fares.  With budget carriers the earlier you book the better with 10m seats available for travel from 25 March through to 24 June 2012.

Additional flights have been added to popular destinations including Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome.

Seats are also now on sale from easyJet’s newest base, Southend Airport, with a choice of eight new destinations: Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga, Mallorca. www.easyjet.com

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Manchester to Knock

Flybe is to introduce, at the start of the winter season 30 October 2011, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday flights from Manchester to Knock, in the west of Ireland.  The route will be operated by a 78-passenger single class Bombardier Q400 with a flight time of 1hr 10mins.  At the same time the airline will resurrect a previous service (by other carriers) from Manchester to Newquay – Cornwall, also on a four times per week basis with a flight time five minutes longer at 1hr 15mins. 

Together with its Loganair franchise connections Flybe now offers 44 destinations from Manchester, making it the carrier’s largest hub. www.flybe.com

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Stansted to Barcelona

Ryanair, the world’s most annoying airline, is to introduce a twice daily Stansted to Barcelona (El Prat) service from 1 December 2011 in direct competition with easyJet, long established on the route.  The Irish airline already flies to Girona from Stansted, which it also calls Barcelona, the infuriating renaming practice this time working against the carrier.

London – Barcelona is one of the UK’s most popular air routes, worth 1.3m passengers last year.  It is fiercely competitive with flights offered from all four London airports and Southend joining in next year. 

easyJet has services from Gatwick, Luton and, as mentioned, Stansted, whilst BA/Iberia offers both Heathrow and London City.  Barcelona is also connected to most UK regional airports. www.ryanair.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 TB Lusso
No More Sporting Than This Alfa!

Alfa Romeo cars are always stylish, its designers apt at creating a practical saloon that usually has the looks of a head-turning coupe.  No more so than the latest Giulietta, a five-seat compact sized car that has the looks and performance to enable any driver to feel young at heart.

So clever has been the styling of this car that when I offered a colleague a lift he called out that there were no rear door handles! In fact, they were incorporated in the rear window frame posing as small quarter lights.

Yes, you would be excused for thinking that this Giulietta was a sporty 3-door coupe though those who had knowledge of the illustrious line of previous Alfa Romeos bearing this name would appreciate that even Alfa Romeo has had to move with the times and accommodate the requirement to provide a practical model of family sized transport though with a product that has enormous doses of the required street credibility.

Additionally this famous car maker has clearly managed to create a car that projects a lot of the DNA of the traditional Alfa Romeo while incorporating state of the art engineering to meet the requirements of a more environmentally friendly world.

To achieve this there is a range of highly efficient power units, no more so than the 1.4-litre 4-cylinder multi-air petrol engine in the mid-range Lusso specification test car.

Would you credit it?  A power output of 120 bhp at a relatively relaxed 5,000 rpm, a carbon footprint of a sensible 149 g/km and a combined fuel consumption figure of 41.mpg.  And this is from a car that is claimed to be good for a top speed of 121 mph and able to reach 62 mph from rest in 9.4 seconds.  In town one can capitalise on the latest stop+start technology so that no fuel is wasted when at a stop and no emissions are leaked into the atmosphere.

What is more there is that familiar free-revving nature of this newly developed power unit and, I gladly experienced, a little suggestion of the ‘Alfa music’ in the exhaust note.

Of course this car is no pussy, it provides the driver with sufficient satisfaction, a touch of involvement when desired but also the ability to provide an easy drive, the enjoyment of a firm and positive changing 6-speed gearbox, potent braking without sharpness and a ride that is sufficiently compliant on the medium profile Pirelli tyres to enable passengers to travel in relaxed comfort…and get out of those rear doors with ease.

The driver’s lot is a good one as I would expect from this maker, the driving seat is of good dimensions with support in the right places, ample adjustment and a adjustable steering column to ensure both comfort and a ‘with it’ driving position.  All seats are part leather upholstered.

Alfa heritage is emphasised by the Italian language on the large clear faced instrument dials…Geri on the rev. counter, Benzina on the fuel gauge and for good measure there is a big round alloy gear knob.

Build quality and finish reflect that strong progress that has been made across the Alfa range in recent years.  Very good I would say, close to the premium grade and equipped to a comprehensive standard.  This model comes with cruise control, a superb BOSE audio system, alloy wheels (space saver spare), very efficient air conditioning and a fabulous panoramic glass roof.  Lacking is satellite navigation.

I don’t think that Alfa Romeo has compromised at all with the Giulietta, it is an individualistic car like its forebears that manages to provide a practical lifestyle (boot capacity is sensible and aided by 60/40 folding rear seats) and above all, a lot of enjoyment. What more do you want?

Rivals include: Audi A3, Honda Civic.

STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 8
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 9
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 89 %

Price from £18,605.


NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON’S MOTORING DIARY

AUDI: Order books have now opened for the 2012 speciation Audi A5/S5 in Sport hatch, Coupe and Cabriolet forms.  Prices start from £25,540 on the road.  Audi is claiming high efficiency figures for the range with fuel consumption at 60 mpg and emissions at 122 g/km. www.audi.co.uk

MITSUBISHI: Potential purchaser of the pure electric Mitsubishi iMIEV can create their own vehicle by logging into a special customer website. www.Mitsubishi-cars.co.uk/customer/graphics.aspx

PROTON: the Malaysian Proton car range has broken into the top ranks of the most reliable cars in the UK.  According to reports from the Direct Line Breakdown organisation Proton ranked fifth behind Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan. www.proton.co.uk

SKODA: A new sales record for the Czech Skoda car range – first 6 months sales worldwide were 454,700 vehicles, a 20.1% increase over the same period in 2010.

Ted Wilkinson is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers

 

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