3 OCTOBER 2011

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65 millionth easyJet passenger

Actress Lorraine Chase, who checked-in as easyJet's first ever passenger in 1995 at Luton Airport, was on hand to toast the airline's 65th million passenger.  The occasion also marked the introduction of a new route to Corfu, the carrier's 34th destination from the airport. 

All involved celebrated in style with easyJet's award-winning Louis Mondeville Côtes de Gasgogne – recently voted the best airline white wine and featured in AERBT.

Lorraine has been synonymous with Luton since the Campari advert – which kick-started her career – spawned her catchphrase “Luton Airport!” as a reply to the question "Were you truly wafted here from paradise?”  The ad then inspired the 1979 hit record "Luton Airport" by Cats UK.  As part of the celebration easyJet previewed its new TV commercial, which will be airing from October. www.easyjet.com

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Airline wins APD battle

Continental Airlines, and for that matter Northern Ireland, are celebrating a Government back-down with regard the APD (Air Passenger Duty).  Whether it is the precursor of a Downing Street re-think regarding tax on passenger departures remains to be seen.  We will know around 29 November.

Continental (soon to become United Airlines) is the only carrier offering a service between Belfast and the United States (Newark – New York).  Faced with competition out of Dublin, where the tax is just £3, as against £60 for Economy Class and £120 for all premium operations, the Chicago-based carrier threatened to pull out.  It has this year closed its marginal Bristol – Newark service.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, said the announcement was a “proactive measure” to protect the service and the jobs of those who serve the Belfast route.

“Northern Ireland faces a unique challenge in attracting traffic – including very valuable business customers – into its airports,” he said.

Other regional gateways have quickly followed with pleas “why not us?” but the Government will cite Belfast as a special case.  See also ON THE SOAPBOX

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China Airlines joins Skyteam

SkyTeam has welcomed China Airlines as its 15th member at a joining ceremony held in Taipei.  The flag carrier of Taiwan and one of the world's leading cargo carriers, China Airlines becomes the first Taiwanese airline to join SkyTeam and cements the alliance's  position in the Greater China region.

From its hub in Taipei, one of Asia's strongest economies, China Airlines operates a diverse passenger and cargo network throughout the wider Asia-Pacific region, North America and Europe, with a total of 224 daily departures to 80 destinations worldwide.  The new member also brings three new destinations to the SkyTeam network: Okinawa and Miyazaki (Japan); and Surabaya (Indonesia).

Extensive choice of destinations in the Greater China region China Airlines complements the network of existing members, China Southern and China Eastern, and offers an extensive cross-strait operation to 20 major destinations in China.

China Airlines is both the flag carrier and the largest airline of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and semi-state owned.  Currently it operates 49 aircraft and has the A350 EWB on order. www.china-airlines.com

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Kazan and Ufa from Dubai

Flydubai, the Dubai-based government-owned budget airline, has doubled its network in Russia to four points with the addition of flights to Kazan and Ufa, not the most accessible of cities.

Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and the second largest city of the Volga economic region.  Ufa, likewise is the major city of the Republic of Bashkortostan.  Both are part of Federal Russia.

The Kazan Kremlin, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, is just one of the attractions the city has to offer. Kazan will also host the XXVII World Student Games in 2013 and several matches during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with the new flydubai routes ensuring that the UAE’s football fans will have a direct flight option to attend matches.

Ufa, with an economy based on fuel, energy and engineering complexes, is also the largest oil refining centre in the Volga and the Urals, as well as a scientific and transport hub for Russia.

flydubai also recently launched flights to Kiev, Donetsk and Kharkiv (Ukraine) and in addition to the new and existing routes in Russia, Baku (Azerbaijan), Yerevan (Armenia), and Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), the airline now flies to 10 emerging CIS destinations. www.flydubai.com

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Mercure UK network expansion in the UK

Accor, the French hotel operator whose brands include Sofitel and Ibis, is to expand significantly its operation in the UK following the signing of a franchise agreement with Jupiter Hotels Ltd, the new owners of the former Jarvis hotels. 

In what is the largest franchise deal for Accor this year, 24 hotels – or 2,664 rooms – the Mercure hotel brand across the UK will expand to 68 properties.

The new hotels are located in a range of locations across the UK, including popular tourist destinations like Brighton, York, Edinburgh and Inverness, and key towns such as Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Bristol, Gloucester and Leicester.  The partnership with Mercure will allow the hotels to retain their individuality and style whilst joining an established network of over 700 midscale hotels operating in more than 50 countries across the world.

Jean-Jacques Dessors, Chief Operating Officer of Accor UK and Ireland, said: “This major franchise agreement is a significant milestone for Accor in the realization of our ambitious growth targets.  This expansion further demonstrates our commitment to building the Mercure hotel brand in the UK, which is such an important market for Accor.  We will continue to pursue further franchise growth opportunities this year and beyond.”  www.accorhotels.com

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Ritz Hotel gathers the Berkeley, Claridge’s and the Connaught

Three of London’s most famous and iconic luxury hotels, The Berkeley, Claridges and The Connaught, have been acquired by the owners of perhaps the daddy of them all, the Ritz.  Making the purchase was Britain’s most secretive landowners, brothers Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, residents of the Channel Island of Brecqhou, and owners of the Daily Telegraph.

The London properties have been acquired from the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), the Irish Government agency which was created to manage the bad property debts of certain insolvent banks in Ireland.

With the purchase of the three hotels the Barclays now have a powerful cartel at the very top end of the market, most of the other properties considered competition, including The Dorchester and Fairmont Savoy, essentially stand alone although each is part of a major group in marketing terms. www.the-berkeley.co.uk www.claridges.co.uk www.the-connaught.co.uk

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Two years of London City - New York flights

British Airways has celebrated the second anniversary of its unique Business Class-only operation between London City and New York’s JFK airports.  Launched in the middle of a deep recession, the service has defied sceptics to win over business travellers flying between two of the world’s largest financial centres. 

The airline’s confidence coincides with the announcement of a seven-year deal with Iberia to maintain the CFM engines on the Airbus A318 aircraft used for the services.  London City is British Airways only A318 operation.  Also new is the offer for every passenger of a 64GB iPad, enabling them to watch bespoke in-flight entertainment programme. Pursers on board are getting iPads too. (see AERBT 26 September).

The Airbus A318 aircraft operate with a maximum of 32 fully flat seats and offers customers 15-minute check-in to departure and US customs clearance in Shannon (Ireland), where the flight stops westward for a brief refuelling.  Inbound passengers can be airside in the terminal within 10 minutes of actually landing, impossible at Heathrow or Kennedy. www.ba.com

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ON THE SOAPBOX: Sandra Bloodworth - Chair of BARUK

Sandra Bloodworth is the UK and Continental Europe Area Manager for Royal Brunei Airlines.  Having worked within the airline industry for over 29 years, she has a depth of expertise in both the UK and international travel market.  She has been Chairperson of The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) since 2008, an industry association that promotes the business interests of scheduled airlines with a British operation or representation.  Membership is almost 90 carriers.


The 'Scoping Document' cut-off date is near – 20th October

The sole British aviation policy for the next few years is to place a well-advertised lid on trading capacity between the UK and overseas markets.  That lid is due to the denial of any additional runway capacity, not just at Heathrow but also Gatwick and Stansted.

Puzzling?  That’s the least that can be said.  Overseas competitors cannot believe their luck.  Heathrow will fall behind Frankfurt and Paris to become Europe’s third busiest airport within ten years unless the Government acts soon to free up more capacity.

International trade is the mainstay of most countries, and has been a foundation upon which Great Britain has thrived in the past.  Within the UK, the region of London and South East England remains the focal point of aviation development, something that seems inconvenient to the coalition government.

It has swept away the policies of the previous administration and replaced it with a lengthy period of consultations.  The result – a gap of at least ten years between the publication of the Department for Transport (DfT) white paper ‘The Future of Aviation’ in 2003 and a new aviation policy in 2013 at the earliest.

The first of those consultations is due to close on 20 October; it will be the cornerstone for yet another consultation in 2012.  It may already be costing Britain £1.2bn a year in missed business opportunities which is going instead to competitors with better air links.  Failure to provide direct flights to cities in emerging markets could deprive the economy of £14bn.

All sorts of questions are asked in it, including many that challenge well-known and proven precepts, such as the value of connectivity, hub airports and flights that arrive early morning and depart late evening.

Environmental matters naturally need to be addressed, but if there is an industry that has consistently addressed them it is aviation.  It has a great proven record of reducing noise and emissions whilst simultaneously improving fuel consumption.

The Chancellor stated that Britain is open for business, but is it?

It might be, but only up to the point that the current, overloaded, infrastructure can handle it.

That infrastructure is paid for by the industry, not government.  Aviation is part of the answer, not a part of the problem! 

Whilst the current policy vacuum exists, the UK’s economy stands to lose out in a big way.

International companies, planning to expand, will be enticed by the additional flights and connectivity offered elsewhere.

The Secretary of State is urged to understand just how vital aviation is for the UK’s economy and deliver a sustainable plan for added capacity in a shorter time frame than currently envisaged.  Yet the Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers, said “We are determined to deliver a new approach to aviation policy, one that ensures the aviation sector both supports economic growth and addresses the environmental impacts of flying.”

We meanwhile risk sleepwalking into a situation where the UK is isolated from some of the most important markets in the world.

At least the Government last week admitted for the first that they had got it wrong concerning long haul Air Passenger Duty (APD).  Transatlantic flights out of Belfast will (from 1 November) cost £12 Economy and £24 for premium classes, as against £60 and £120 for the rest of the United Kingdom.  Dublin, for similar flights, charges only £3.

Any planned increases should be binned and APD further reduced by at least the level of income from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. 

Send your comment in to the Department for Transport regarding Scoping.  The final day for observations is getting very close.

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80mph UK speed limit

UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that the 70mph (113kph) limit will be increased to 80mph (128mph) by 2013, subject to a consultation period of several months.  France has a motorway speed limit of 130kph (110 in rain), Netherlands 130, Spain 120 and Germany none at all.

Mr Hammond says that raising the mostly ignored limit will increase transport efficiency.  Those opposed to any increase say that “speed kills”.  The Minister points out that when the present limits were set in 1965 the average family car could hardly reach 70mph, had inefficient brakes, equally poor handling and for the most part cross ply tyres, notorious in the wet.  All round today’s cars are very much safer.  The number of people killed on British roads has fallen by more than 75% since that time.

It will be fascinating to see the policies carried out by Chief Constables over the coming months.  Clearly some will stick to the current guidelines (no prosecutions for up to 77mph) whilst others might be more generous in their understanding of the law.  What will be interesting is whether an upper notional limit of 88mph will be applied, nearly a 25% increase on the current legal top speed. www.dft.gov.uk

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Business Traveller Awards 2011

British Airways was the 'Airline of the Year' at the Business Traveller Awards 2011 held at Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel and presented by radio presenter John Humphrys last week.

Sponsored by Heathrow Express and supported by Panasonic Avionics and Aeromobile, the awards have been a fixture in the business travel and hospitality calendar for more than 25 years.

BA also won Best Short Haul Carrier and Best Frequent Flyer Programme. Singapore Airlines continued to show strongly, taking Best Business Class, Best Economy Class, Best Long Haul Airline, Best Asian Airline and Best Cabin Staff. Emirates won Best First Class, with Virgin Atlantic winning Best Premium Economy and also taking the award for Best Airport Lounge for its Clubhouse at Heathrow Terminal 3.

Four Seasons won Best Business Hotel Chain Worldwide, as well as Best Luxury Hotel Chain, and the Four Seasons George V in Paris was named Best Business Hotel in Western Europe. Hilton Hotels and Resorts was voted Best Business Hotel Chain in the UK and Europe with Marriott taking the North America prize for the sixth consecutive year.  Jumeirah was first in the Middle East for the seventh year in a row, and Shangri-La continued its 17-year dominance of Asia-Pacific. www.businesstraveller.com

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Congo airline launched

ECAir (Equatorial Congo Airlines), the new national flag carrier of the Republic of the Congo, entered into service and took-off on 24 September 2011 with its premiere flight between the country’s capital Brazzaville and the port city of Pointe-Noire.  Lufthansa Consulting managed the complete start-up process preparation and thus continues its successful co-operation with the Congolese Government. In previous projects the consultancy service supervised the development of the country’s three main airports and  'Airport City' at Brazzaville named Maya Maya Village.

 

ECAir will fly three times a day, seven days a week, on the Brazzaville – Pointe-Noire route with a Boeing 737-300, configured 12 Business Class seats and 108 Economy.  Operational support is supplied by the Swiss company PrivatAir, a long-time associate with the Lufthansa Group.  The opening of further routes to international destinations and the acquisition of additional aircraft are planned. www.flyecair.com

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London Covent Garden hotel opens

The Mercer Street, arguably one of the best-located hotels in London, has opened in Covent Garden after a £15m refurbishment.  Formerly called The Mountbatten, The Mercer Street is located at the heart of avant-garde Seven Dials area near Leicester Square and some of the best shopping, restaurants and theatres that the capital has to offer. 

Part of the Radisson Edwardian hotels group The Mercer Street offers 137 guest rooms, all with bathrooms and the most up-to-date Apple TV technology, free wi-fi and other benefits including free printing for guests, enabling those travellers working in London to do business easily.  There is also a fitness room.  Valet parking is available.

Eight sumptuous suites have great views over Seven Dials, walk-in showers in their large bathrooms, and dressing rooms complete with an enormous Union-Jack painted SMEG fridge – perfect for keeping that bottle of champagne nicely chilled.  For meetings, events and conferences, there are six meeting rooms capable of hosting 6-50 people and equipped with the latest HD and touch-screen technology. www.radissonedwardian.com/mercerstreet

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Olympics’ ‘hotspot’ news

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has unveiled a new website which, although designed for the capital’s small and medium enterprises to avoid transport disruption during next year's Olympic Games does actually work for everyone.  The function of the ‘one stop shop’ is to help businesses plan ahead and manage transport impact during summer of 2012.  Information showing how the busiest stations and locations across the Tube and road networks will be affected during the Games is shown with the promise of further comprehensive information to come.

London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, struck a cautionary note: “Our analysis shows that no two days will be the same during the London 2012 Games.”

The public transport data, full details of which are due to be released in November, will show how services on all Tube, DLR, London Overground and key National Rail stations are expected to be affected on a line-by-line, day-by-day basis during the Games, in intervals of 30 minutes.  Preliminary information for London’s road hotspot locations, based on recent highways modelling is due to be released in November. www.tfl.gov.uk/2012

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Stratford Westfield for Premier Inn

Part of the massive Stratford Westfield shopping complex (which adjoins both Stratford Regional station and the Olympic Park), Premier Inn has opened its latest London 267-room London property.  As with all Premier Inns it features en-suite bathrooms, TV with Freeview, and wi-fi internet access and, whilst the Whitbread-owned company is keen to promote its own bar and restaurant, clients will find an amazing selection in Westfield itself.

Premier Inn, which claims to be the UK’s largest hotel brand, has announced a major expansion drive in London with over 50% rooms' growth in the next two years with an intention to double its size in the capital by 2016.  Over the next 24 months it will be opening 20 new hotels in London with locations including Leicester Square, Blackfriars, Old Street, Holborn and Islington. 

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham, who also attended the event, said: “I was delighted to be here today at the opening of this very swish brand new Premier Inn – I absolutely love the panoramic views of the Olympic site the hotel offers.” www.whitbread.co.uk

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ON TOUR: The European regional’s gather in Rome

Alison Chambers reports

“You are in Bern, you don’t need to hurry,” says Tomislav Lang, CEO of SkyWork Airlines, inviting us to test the airline’s 20-minute check in claim.  We are en route to the ERA General Assembly in Rome and Bern, in stark contrast to the chaotic Rome Fiumicino Airport on our return, is an oasis of calm. 

SkyWork, a relatively new regional airline, is one of the 65 intra-European airlines which makes up the Association.  ERA members collectively carry 70.6m passengers on 1.6m flights, flying 867 aircraft and serving 426 destinations in 61 European countries.  Together, they recorded a 7.1% passenger growth in the first half of the year, although the real value was only 4% taking into account the impact of last year's volcanic ash cloud.  Average sector distance was 390 miles and seat load factor was up .7% to 64%.  “Once again our airlines have demonstrated their resilience and shown themselves to be resourceful,” said Director General Mike Ambrose.   

However, as the industry, under the blue skies of Rome’s Marriott Park Hotel highlighted, the stability of the industry is still threatened – by bleak economic uncertainty, proposals to change the way in which airport slots are allocated, (to the detriment of regional airlines flying smaller aircraft), VAT on international air fares, preferential treatment by some airports to low cost airlines and even bankruptcy protection for consumers.

An animated industry panel session chaired by Malcolm Hart, MD of Aurigny, together with Krzysztof Kapis from the Polish Ministry, Abdul Wahab Teffaha, Secretary General of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, Boet Kreiken from KLM Cityhopper, Vijay Poonoosamy of Etihad Airways and Matthew Baldwin, the European Commission’s Director of Air Transport prompted Jesper Rungholm, boss of Danish Air Transport, to plead to legislators “please leave aviation alone, we have enough problems coping with fluctuating oil prices,” (making aviation reduce its emissions).  Vijay Poonoosamy observed that the Middle East had seen a “paradigm shift.”  Countries in his region supported aviation, contrary to the often confrontational, punitive approach in Europe.  But Matthew Baldwin said that a major challenge in Europe was its “27 separate airspaces,” referring to the continuing air traffic control problem.

Hart, always an entertaining speaker and a newly elected addition to the ERA Board, quizzed Baldwin on how regional carriers can escape blanket legislation. “We are not in the business of making regulation for the sake of it,” he replied and called for more interaction, especially from airline CEOs.  Observer Kam Jandu, Aviation Director from Budapest Airport, opined that maybe the industry needs a completely independent ambassador – not an association or airline – to lobby hard for the air transport industry.   

High points noted Ambrose were EC commissioner Kallas's Bruges Declaration, recognising the critical importance of air transport – that such further burdens should not be placed on the industry; the need for tougher performance targets for Air Navigation Service Providers and the need of the new White Paper to lead to a better balance between transport modes.

ERA released a new independently commissioned study Air and Rail: Setting the Record Straight, which shows an imbalance in the way the two transport modes are treated by the EU and the Commission.  The study identified massive rail subsidies, 125 times higher than State funding for air transport needs.  It clearly confirms that the political bias towards rail – and high speed rail (HSR) has not resulted in successful modal substitution, despite the subsidies poured in.  We are not seeking to become the ‘preferred’ transport mode, but we just want a level playing field based on fair competition and equal treatment between competing modes.”  

The aircraft manufacturers were in bullish mood in Rome.  ATR, now in its 30th year, especially having notched up 145 orders since January.  “There has been no holiday for ATR,” quipped CEO Filippo Bagnato, noting the company will up production from 54 aircraft this year to 72 aircraft in 2012, 80 in 2013 and 85 the following year.  At ERA it signed a contract with leading regional aircraft leasing company Nordic Aviation Capital for one ATR72-500 and another -600, adding to the 10 -600s the Danish based company signed at the Paris Show. 

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company/SuperJet International (SJI) said launch customers Armavia and Aeroflot have collectively logged over 850 flight hours to date on the SJ100 twin-engined jet.  EASA certification is slated for December, paving the way for deliveries to European customers. It is also set to make an impact in the executive VIP market and will announce a partner, potentially a cabin design partner, at NBAA in Las Vegas this month. 

Bombardier Commercial SVP sales marketing and asset management, Chet Fuller, gave an update on the C Series and also defended the CRJ 1000, when one well known journalist suggested had that model been a mistake?  To the contrary, the aircraft is delivering a performance better than specifications – just ask Brit Air and Air Nostrum, he said, pointing out the aircraft’s service entry came at a very tough time.  Colleague Steve Aliment voiced operators’ concerns that they are very worried about the Euro and the global downturn when selecting new aircraft.  “One doesn’t even know what currency they’ll be using next year.”  He acknowledged interest in the C Series from CEE countries, Romania in particular, primed by a Romanian journalist.  Carpatair Nicolae Petrov confirmed the interest.  “This is a good aircraft – an aircraft with a mission.  All the lessons with CRJ series have been ironed out with this model,” he said, hinting it could indeed be the aircraft for Carpatair to further its London ambitions.  “C Series to London City Airport even,” he told AERBT.

Mary Kirby, Flight International Senior Editor, delivered an informative presentation about IFE and cabin connectivity, advising regional carriers that they may not need to rush to equip but they should seriously think about adding connectivity if they are feeding traffic to the big alliance carriers.  What won’t appeal to carriers with a firm eye on the bottom line is that airlines who have adopted the systems (in the USA) with GoGo aren’t making money yet.  European carriers can take advantage of Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband (which has global coverage apart from the poles).  Its newly revised lower pricing makes it even more attractive, she noted.  On the horizon from Inmarsat is the “blazing speeds” of Ka-band, which could arrive in 2014.  Kirby said that when this comes along, “it may well be of interest to regional airlines with antennae the size of an iPad.

Air Nostrum of Spain collected this year’s ERA Airline of the Year Gold Award.  Wideroe of Norway picked up Silver and SATA Air Açores, Bronze.  The Airport Achievement Award went to Nantes Atlantique Airport.  Nicola Clark from the International Herald Tribune was the recipient of the Hank McGonagle Journalism Award, while the Director General’s Commendation for Services to the Industry was awarded to Brit Air’s Nicole Huguenot. www.eraa.org

Alison Chambers - Emerald Media
www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

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'And Finally' could be the heading

Boeing has delivered the first 787 Dreamliner to launch customer ANA during a ceremony adjacent to the factory where the plane was assembled.  More than 500 employees representing the 787 programme walked alongside the all-new jetliner to present it to ANA executives as a crowd of thousands looked on.

"Today we celebrate a significant moment in the history of flight," said Jim McNerney, Boeing Chairman, President and CEO.  "The 787 Dreamliner is the biggest innovation in commercial aviation since the Boeing 707 introduced the world to passenger jet travel more than 50 years ago.  I want to thank ANA and all the employees of Boeing and our partner companies for the talent, technology and teamwork that have brought this game-changing airplane to life."

During the ceremony, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO, Jim Albaugh, presented a ceremonial key to Shinichiro Ito, President and CEO of ANA.

ANA and Boeing completed the contractual delivery of the plane on 25 September.  The airline plans to put it into service 26 October.  It will be followed by a further 55 aircraft over the next few years. The current firm order book stands at 821 units. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Air Southwest

Plymouth Airport saw the end of Air Southwest last Friday (30 September), born out of wedlock perhaps, from the remains of Brymon Airways and now joining the once thriving carrier at the great hangar in the sky.  Plymouth, the largest city in the South West, now has no scheduled air services and seems to have taken yet another move towards oblivion.  Its soccer team props up all four English Leagues, and the  harbour, perhaps the greatest in the land, is for some reason scorned by cruise ships whilst less attractive ports prosper.

Plymouth City Airport was officially opened in July 1931 by the Prince of Wales, little more than a grass strip.  The embryo Brymon Airways arrived in 1972, owned by Bill Bryce.  Under Bryce’s energetic management the airport developed and introduced the first services to Heathrow in 1981 but he had overreached himself and by 1983 former BA Director Charles Stuart was installed as Chief Executive.  Brymon pioneered London City Airport with a rejuvenated Plymouth as the prototype.  In 2003 Sutton Harbour Plc acquired the airport and set up Air Southwest, selling out the airline in 2011 to Eastern Airways who subsequently closed the operation. www.airsouthwest.com  www.plymouthairport.com

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Cabin Attendants with iPads

The use of iPads instead of traditional paper training manuals will ensure that staff will always be able to access the latest information wherever they are and cut down on printing and distribution costs for the airline.  The three training manuals currently provided weigh over 2kgs, compared to the lighter and slimmer 0.7kg iPad.  The traditional training manuals had to be updated and reprinted several times a year but this will now be done automatically electronically, increasing business efficiency.

ANA’s new digital manual will make use of voice recordings, video and other electronic training materials to share the knowledge of highly experienced employees.  These will be loaded onto the iPads, helping cabin attendants to master their work more quickly.  The airline says it will help provide customers with an even more Anshin, Attaka & Akaruku-Genki (safe, warm and cheerful) service. www.ana.co.jp

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Finland’s newest airline adds Jyvaskyla

Flybe, which likes to call itself 'Finland’s newest airline' is stepping in to continue flying the key service between Jyvaskyla and Helsinki from 30 October with up to three return Q400 flights a day. The decision follows Finnair’s withdrawal from the route.  This is the first move by the Exeter (UK) based regional carrier since, together with Finnair, it acquired Finnish Commuter Airlines (Finncomm) in August.

Jyvaskyla is the capital of Central Finland and the largest city on the Finnish Lakeland, 91m north-east of Tampere and 170m north of Helsinki.  The city, population 130,000,  has been continuously one of the most rapidly growing cities in Finland since World War II. The city is surrounded by lakes, hills and forests.

In welcoming the announcement, Markku Andersson, Mayor of Jyvaskyla, commented: “We are very happy that flights to Jyvaskyla, which are crucial for commerce, industry, the international operations of our university and conferences, can be ensured and that they will now continue without interruption.” www.flybe.com

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Madrid Airport railway station opens

Journey time from the centre of Madrid to Barajas International Airport has now been dramatically reduced with the opening of a new metro link to Terminal 4, the home of Iberia and its oneworld colleagues.  Trains leave every five minutes from 06:00 to 02:00 the following day. Line 8 goes right to the new Nuevos Ministerios Metro at the heart of Madrid, a journey of only about 12 minutes. 

The single fare is just €2.15, while holders of tickets for RENFE high-speed services travel for free.

Regulars at the airport might also note that Air Berlin and Niki have moved to Terminal 4. www.aena-aeropuertos.es/csee/Satellite/Aeropuerto-Madrid-Barajas/en

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Paris Mandarin Oriental

Located on rue Saint-Honoré, one of the most fashionable streets in the world, surrounded by haute couture and only a few steps away from the city’s famous attractions, the Paris Mandarin Oriental has opened setting a new high standard for a city of renowned 5-star hotels.

The hotel's 138 rooms and suites are among the most spacious in the city, incorporating state-of-the-art technology.  A vast inner courtyard offers outdoor dining, with a choice of restaurants and bars under Executive Chef and Culinary Director Thierry Marx.  The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, brings relaxation in a peaceful, modern setting.  An indoor pool and a fully-equipped fitness centre complete the hotel's leisure facilities. www.mandarinoriental.com/Paris

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Tajikistan-based Somon Air takes first Boeing 737-900ER

Boeing has delivered the initial Next-Generation 737-900ER with the new Sky Interior to Tajikistan-based Somon Air, making it the first Central Asian carrier to operate a plane featuring the innovative cabin. 

Somon Air, the first private airline company in Tajikistan, started operating in February 2008, and is based at the capital, Dushanbe, international airport.  Tajikistan is a west leaning former Soviet one-party state.  Its borders include Afghanistan and China.  It already operates two leased Boeing 737-800s, the Dash 900 a direct purchase.  Some 15 destinations are offered including Dubai, Frankfurt and Moscow.

In an initiative Boeing partnered Somon Air and the US Department of State's Humanitarian Programme and Project HOPE to transport medical supplies to Dushanbe with the delivery flight.  The relief shipment of 2,852 pounds of medical supplies will improve the quality of medical care for the less-privileged in Tajikistan and help alleviate the shortage of medicines needed for oncology, psychiatric health and in the treatment of infectious diseases.

The Boeing 737-900ER is the newest member of the Next-Generation 737 family and is also the highest capacity, longest-range plane in Boeing's single-aisle fleet. www.somonair.com/en

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AND FINALLY: Politicians

Following last week's AERBT COMMENT regarding where the UK is going in terms of air transport, a reader gave cause for reflection.

“You must know that politicians never admit they were wrong – they just regret that you misunderstood them the first time.”

This should be read in conjunction with Sandra Bloodworth’s ON THE SOAPBOX above.

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