31 OCTOBER 2011

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Air Pacific adds new Boeing

With an appearance at World Travel Market in London next week Air Pacific, the airline of Fiji, has announced the arrival of its fourth Boeing 737-800 in the Fiji capital of Nadi.  The aircraft replaces the carrier’s single Boeing 767-300.  Air Pacific is owned by the Fijian government (51%), Qantas (46.32%).  Air New Zealand and the governments of Kiribati, Tonga, Nauru and Samoa each hold minor stakes.

The aircraft will be used mainly for the second daily service between Nadi and Sydney (except Sundays) from mid-January 2012 as well as other local routes.

The 767 will be replaced on the Hong Kong route by one of two Singapore Airlines leased Boeing 747s operated by the airline.  With the much larger 747 the frequency will change from three times to twice a week.  From 2013 the venerable Boeings will be replaced with three Airbus A330-200s.

Air Pacific will be with Tourism Fiji on stand AS445 in the Asia Pacific area at World Travel Market. www.airpacific.com

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Electric bus introduced by Hertz

Hertz has announced the use of Chinese automotive company BYD's eBus-12 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), claiming it as a first by a rental car company.

The BYD bus is able to run 150 miles on a single charge in urban conditions, more than enough for Hertz's use at its airport locations, and its energy consumption is less than 100 kWh per 10kms.  At Los Angeles the bus shuttles car hire customers between the terminals and the company's rental facility.  It saves on average US$76 per day, per bus in fuel costs!

"Hertz is aggressively moving forward with its global EV (electric vehicle) programme, introducing electric vehicles into its worldwide fleet and testing other electric vehicles as they become available," says Mark P. Frissora, Hertz Chairman and CEO. "Hertz's mission is to provide the most technologically advanced mobility solutions to our customers, including the buses we use as part of our everyday operations at airports."  In its first year, the Hertz Global EV initiative has grown from a vision to a market presence in cities around the world including New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, London and Shenzhen. www.hertz.com

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Gatwick steals AirAsia X

AirAsia X has successfully transferred from Stansted to Gatwick.  The airline will be flying five times a week to Kuala Lumpur, moving to six flights a week by mid-December.

Commercial Director Guy Stephenson said: “Gatwick offers an attractive proposition to airlines and their customers.  We are within an hour’s drive for around 15m people and we have fast and excellent rail connections to central London.  The combination of these factors means that AirAsia X are in a better position to increase traffic between the UK and Malaysia now that they have moved their London ‘home’ from Stansted to Gatwick.”  Vietnam Airways has also chosen Gatwick (see this issue).

The Gatwick – Kuala Lumpur route will be serviced by AirAsia X’s Airbus A340-300, which has 327 seats including 18 Premium Fly Flat bed seats amidships.  AirAsia X’s Premium Fly Flat beds are standard Business Class specifications of 20” width, 60” pitch and stretches out to 77” in full recline position.  The seats feature universal power sockets, adjustable headrests and built-in personal utilities such as tray table, drink holder, reading light and privacy screen.  Premium seat guests gain the same meals but these are complimentary. www.airasia.com

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Nigerian airline joins IATA

Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, has formally been announced as the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) newest member five years to the day after it made its maiden flight.  The IATA membership follows one year after Arik satisfied the requirements to be registered on the IATA Operational Safety Audit’s (IOSA) register.  Arik is now also a member of the IATA Billing & Settlement Plan (BSP).

Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, Group CEO and President, Arik Air, commented: “Joining IATA is a huge achievement for any airline so needless to say we are very proud of the endeavour it has taken and success we have achieved in reaching this landmark at only five years of age

“The membership provides us the ability with which to link our markets, products and services to the rest of the world via partnerships and associations and we are keen to do so.”

The airline currently serves 21 destinations across Nigeria as well as Accra (Ghana), Banjul (Gambia), Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia), Heathrow (UK), Johannesburg (South Africa) and New York JFK (USA) where it is particularly successful.  The carrier now only serves Lagos from Heathrow having dropped the Abuja route. www.arikair.com

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Ryanair plans growth

Speaking to the Financial Times new aerospace correspondent Andrew Parker, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has outlined the airline’s plans for the future

“I would like to grow to 120m, 130m passengers,” said Mr O’Leary.  In 2010-11, 72.1m passengers flew with Ryanair.  Mr O’Leary insisted he would only buy aircraft at “cheap prices”, but with full order books neither Airbus nor Boeing are likely to be in the mood for a discount deal and would also have delivery problems.  Most industry experts believe that ordering the new Chinese C919 ‘paper aircraft’ very risky.

Ryanair has an all-Boeing fleet, and Mr O’Leary acknowledged it faced increased operating costs if it bought aircraft from a different manufacturer.

Ryanair’s expansion in recent years has focused on Italy and Spain, and Mr O’Leary said the airline now had big growth opportunities in Scandinavia and eastern Europe.

Ryanair paid a maiden dividend worth €500m last year, and is considering a similar payment to shareholders in 2012-13.  A third special dividend might be possible in 2014-15 according to O’Leary if Ryanair had not finalised an aircraft order by then, but he ruled out the company making an annual pay-out to shareholders. www.ryanair.com

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Shenyang (China) gains Maritim hotel

Maritim Hotels, Germany’s largest privately owned operator of conference facilities, has opened a new hotel in the Yuhong district of Shenyang (China), a city not far from the North Korea border.  Built to international 5-star standards, the property features 631 state-of-the-art bedrooms and suites.  It boasts a modern swimming pool and wellness area, as well as sophisticated German and Chinese speciality restaurants and an all-day dining restaurant.  It also has extensive event and conference facilities, with space for up to 1,400 people in the grand ballroom and a further 15 conference and meeting spaces.

Shenyang is considered to be the cultural and industrial centre of Northeast China and describes itself as “a city full of vitality”. 

The opening comes after the success of Maritim Hotels’ first property in China, an elegant venetian-style property in Sanshan, inland from Shanghai, called Maritim Hotel Wuhu.  With expansion in mind the luxury hotel chain will open a further two Chinese hotels in the coming months, in Anting, and Changzhou.

In addition to 37 hotels in Germany, the company has 15 hotels around the world in locations as diverse as China, Egypt, Latvia, Malta, Mauritius, Spain and Turkey. www.maritim.com

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Vladivostok Air connects Singapore to the Russian Far East

Singapore Changi Airport has welcomed the arrival of Russian carrier Vladivostok Air.  One of Russia’s most established airlines, it will operate twice-weekly services between Singapore and Vladivostok via Hong Kong.  Vladivostok Air will use an Airbus A320 aircraft in a two-class configuration on the route.

The new service gives an alternative routing from Europe to the Russian Far East. 

Vladivostok Air goes back to the 1930s and became an airline with its own title (rather than Aeroflot) in 1994.  In 2004 it passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit, becoming a full member of IATA. www.vladivostokavia.ru/en/passengers

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AND FINALLY: Hold it in!

We never gained a response to the question whether it is true that Ryanair are taking out a loo, but travellers with a delicate bladder should not be unduly worried.  The number of seats on a Boeing 737-800 is fixed by safety rules and not the whim of a managing director.  The maximum number allowed is 189 and that is it.  Just like the idea of standing up throughout a flight. It’s illegal.  But that too did get media coverage.

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COMMENT: Speed up the review

UK Olympics Minister, Jeremy Hunt, will open World Travel Market 2011 next Monday (7 November) at Excel in London’s Docklands, a venue for the 2012 Olympics. 

Does the Minister’s appearance at the event mean a change of Government policy to aviation with the majority of inbound tourists (and for that matter outbound too) arriving by air?  Or is it just a sop for the Games?

We could have written his speech.  If our guess is correct he will praise the travel industry and steer very much clear of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the Government’s airport policy.  Of course he will emphasize the Olympics.  He will note that tourism contributes £115bn each year to the UK economy, and acknowledge it has the potential to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the years ahead. 

However Mr Hunt’s words are a full seven days away. 

Another Minister involved with the travel trade is actually introducing herself today at a major gathering – Justine Greening the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport.  Her platform is the Airport Operators Association Conference.  What a pity she is not speaking on the second day when Colin Matthews (BAA), Willie Walsh (IAG) and Dan Moylan (TfL), are amongst the participants.

This Monday is really very busy as it sees the of publication of ‘Flying in the face of jobs and growth’, a report published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).  The comprehensive 56-page document sets out recommendations that would see the UK’s aviation infrastructure improved to support growth in the private sector.  They include building additional capacity at our airports and scrapping proposed increases to APD taxation.  The report also includes analysis which demonstrates that the lack of a clear aviation policy means the UK could miss out on millions in GDP, and much needed jobs.

According to the BCC, Heathrow is still the number one as far as international traffic is concerned but we are 4th with seat availability from China and 5th from Brazil, both rapidly developing economies.  It paints a possible bleak future.

Simon Buck, Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association, summed it up:  “This report by the BCC provides clear evidence that if Britain is to be able to compete for new business with emerging markets then we must be allowed to grow and invest in our airport infrastructure.”

Also reacting quickly to the review was Virgin Atlantic, a spokesperson saying:  “This authoritative report by British business confirms exactly what we have been saying for months.  This new research shows there is a very real risk that the UK economy could lose billions of pounds and thousands of jobs if aviation policy continues on its current path.”

“With sky-high taxes and insufficient capacity, it is clear that UK plc is being left behind the world’s major economies.  It is vital that the Government heeds these warnings and takes action to prevent this.”

Two events, the airport operators gathering and the opening of World Travel Market, a week apart, are both supported by Government Ministers.  Both are vital get-togethers.  The hosts should not be full of platitudes when speaking to their Right Honourable guests.  They should include words of listening quality. 

Comment on what is known as “the scoping document” is now closed.  Instead of waiting until sometime next spring for its assessment the Government should recognise that air travel is in crisis.  Prioritise the review.  Let us see some results before Christmas.  Tell the Ministers such.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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bmi Regional to be sold?

Rumours persist as AERBT goes to press that bmi Regional is to be sold to Scottish interests as owner Lufthansa begins to dispose of some of the parts of bmi that do not fit into its master plan for the loss making airline once owned by Sir Michael Bishop.  The names of Graeme Ross and Ian Woodley have been mentioned.  Both were involved with bmi Regional’s predecessor, Business Air.

Based in Aberdeen, bmi Regional presently has a fleet of 19 Embraer regional jets seating up to 50 passengers.

bmi said the sale includes all the shares of bmi Regional and all assets used by the unit, including the aircraft fleet, as well as the route network and staff.

"The intended sale of bmi Regional is part of the strategic review of bmi," said the airline's Chief Executive, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer.

"It is our goal to find sustainable solutions for all parts of the bmi business and we, as well as the shareholder, continue to assess options."

Presently bmi Regional has aircraft based at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and East Midlands, serving 17 destinations across Scandinavia, plus Brussels, Lyon and Zurich.  Bmi expects to complete the deal by the end of this year. www.flybmi.com

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Electric gadgets for Samsonite

Samsonite, better known for hold and cabin baggage, introduced a range of electric powered gadgets designed to meet the needs of the modern traveller.  Priced from just £12 they include adapters, chargers and a retractable pocket mouse.

In addition there are handy Business Tech packs, Travel Tech packs, and what is described as Essential Tech packs.

The accessories have been put through rigorous internal tests and now also meet the requirements of SGS, said to be the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.  Samsonite quite rightly say that the modern traveller wants to be confident that his equipment is reliable and durable when being taken around the world.  Getting caught out with the wrong plug in the wrong place can be most embarrassing. www.samsonite.com

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Hyatt 48 Lex for New York

New York has a new boutique property with the luxury Hyatt label attached on prestigious Lexington Avenue.  Called the Hyatt 48 Lex it breaks the mould with 116 'pied-a-terre' studios and suites designed by renowned architect Nobutaka Ashihara and decorated by Vennie Lau.  Guests are greeted at curbside and escorted directly to their rooms, as though welcomed into the Manhattan home of a close friend.

“We have taken inspiration from the best of New York City and brought it to life in the design, style and service at the new Hyatt 48 Lex,” said Mark Wagner, General Manager of Hyatt 48 Lex.  “We are very proud to welcome guests to see the hotel this fall, and are excited to be part of this vibrant neighbourhood.”

The Lexicon Lounge overlooks one of the hotel’s green roofs arrayed with Japanese Maples and Boxwood bushes.  Open daily from 06:30 to midnight, two staff members and the concierge are available for conversation and local advice.  A pair of dramatic Penthouse Suites will debut later this fall, each with terraces perched above skyline views. www.48lex.hyatt.com

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Recaro takes seat win

Whilst the more glamorous First and Business Class seats get the media exposure it is those at the back that actually make for the big volume.  German company Recaro are rightly patting themselves on the back for resounding success in the “Focus Open – International Design Award Baden-Wuerttemberg” competition.

The outstanding design quality of the new Recaro BL3520 Economy product convinced the panel of experts to choose the seat for top honours in the “Transport/Traffic” category.

“This award is widely recognized in the design community and clearly shows us that we have created a product that is consistent in many respects – not only in terms of quality, lightweight engineering and passenger comfort, but also in design,” explains Recaro Aircraft Seating CEO Axel Kahsnitz.  “The acclaim from the expert judges is all the more rewarding, because we want to stand out from the competition with the Recaro design of our seats.  Our engineering department focuses on ‘ingenious design’ with a strong emphasis on functionality, ergonomics and customer benefits.  We see awards like this one as an acknowledgement of our work.  They also serve as an incentive to continue along the same path.”

Lufthansa is one of the airlines that have taken the new seat. www.recaro-as.com

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SAA introduces Airbus A330 on London Cape Town route

The swing to twins continues with South African Airways replacing its older generation A340s with brand new A330-200s on its non-stop London – Cape Town route. 

UK and Ireland Country Manager, Gary Kershaw, commented: “We are very proud to have this brand new aircraft operating the Cape Town route.  It is a massive improvement that I know our customers will really appreciate.  To have a consistent product on the UK routes is something we have been striving to achieve for some while.  The A330-200 is not only more fuel efficient which reduces our carbon footprint but offers greater service enhancements for our customers and the feedback to date has been excellent.”

All aircraft feature a two-class configuration: Business Class and Economy Class.

Business Class customers can get a full night’s sleep on the 180-degree fully flat-bed seats complete with full size pillow and a duvet.  In Economy Class new IFE (in flight entertainment) technology has been integrated into the seat structure allowing more space and comfort for passengers to stretch their legs in order to relax further and arrive in better shape.  A 2+4+2 configuration ensures that no-one is more than one seat from the aisle. www.flysaa.com

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Swiss adds new destinations as of winter timetable

Beijing will become Swiss International Air Lines latest destination next February as the airline adjusts its range of service to comply with demand during the 2011/2012 winter timetable period.  The reduction of selected frequencies and withdrawal of flights to some destinations is being offset by an increase in frequencies on other routes.

As of February 2012 Swiss will introduce new Zurich – Beijing and Geneva – Nice services.  Flights from Zurich and Geneva to London, Moscow and Madrid will be increased.  Beijing thus joins Hong Kong and Shanghai as the airline's third destination in China.  It already serves Hong Kong and Shanghai.

For the period of the winter timetable Swiss will serve a total of 72 destinations (47 in Europe, 25 intercontinental) in 38 countries with a fleet of 88 aircraft.  Passengers on all Swiss-operated long haul flights from Zurich and Geneva have a choice of three classes of travel, the airline claiming to be the only carrier in Europe offering this full selection on every one of its intercontinental flights –  First, Business and Economy. www.swiss.com

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ON TOUR: Christmas in Shakespeare Country

Before we know it the New Year holidays will be upon us and for many an extended break.  This preview offers a whole host of festive activities in Shakespeare Country with spectacular Christmas lights, festive markets, traditional carols, candlelit tours, storytelling, craft fairs, cake decorating workshops, nativity shows, ghost stories and a Royal Shakespeare Company performance of The Heart of Robin Hood. 

Airbase and the Gaydon Motor Museum are both open during the period but for all the attractions visit the individual web sites to check opening times. www.shakespeare-country.co.uk details them all and also features accommodation if you are a visitor to the area.

Christmas lights provide the perfect backdrop for festive shopping.  The lights are switched on in Royal Leamington Spa on 20 November, in Stratford on 24 November and in Kenilworth on 25 November.  Visit Christmas Markets in Leamington held every Sunday from 20 November-18 December and every Thursday in Stratford from the 24 November until Christmas.  The popular Warwick Victorian Christmas Evening with over 60 craft stalls with traditional entertainment and attractions takes place on 24 November from 17:00-21:00 when the Christmas lights are switched on in the town.

 

Enjoy a magical performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company which presents The Heart of Robin Hood from 18 November-7 January 2012.  See the world premiere of this new play which is based on the myth of Robin Hood but with a definite twist as Maid Marion takes centre stage.  Great swashbuckling fun for all the family!  Go on a backstage tour, see inspiring art around the building with two exhibitions and drop in for fun activities for all the family.  Or take the lift to the top of the theatre tower and look out over the twinkling Christmas lights of Shakespeare’s home town from the 32m high viewing platform.

 

Christmas will be in full swing at Warwick Castle from Saturday 17 December.  Guests can see the Great Hall and State Rooms decked out for Christmas fit for a King!  Enjoy all the traditional trimmings along with festive food and drink served in the 13th Century Undercroft.  Children can visit Santa who will be making himself at home in the State Rooms.

 

See all the Shakespeare Houses dressed for Christmas from 1 December-6 January 2012.  Visit the beautifully decorated Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and discover more about festive traditions from Tudor to Victorian Times.  Experience a magical evening of traditional carols with mulled wine, mince pies and a rare opportunity to visit the beautiful Cottage in the evening on 3 December.  Wrap up warm and enjoy carols in front of the Cottage sung by the children’s choir from Temple Grafton School from 19:00.  Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and shopping for Christmas decorations and gifts.  Christmas lights will brighten your way through the garden at Shakespeare’s Birthplace where traditional Christmas decorations of ivy, holly and spiced fruits will hang in the parlour and hall plus a Christmas feast will be set on the table.  On 8 December take a candlelit tour at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie for the special entry price of £1. 

 

Ease yourself into the festive frenzy with Christmas storytelling in the dramatic setting of Kenilworth Castle on 3 & 4 December.  On 8 December join local sugar craft teacher Lynne Rigby who will show you how to perfect your Christmas cake decorating.  Bring along your marzipaned cake and learn techniques for decorating it then take it home to enjoy.  Take part in a traditional toy-making workshop with historical games experts Heuristics from 27-31 December plus carols, fun games, stories and refreshments. 

 

Enjoy a programme of themed events at Hatton Country World.  Wander around a Christmas Craft Fayre on 5 & 6 November selling handcrafted Christmas gifts.  Enjoy a host of free festive tastings at the Christmas Food Fayre on 12 & 13 November from delicious pates, wines, dips and nibbles to tasty cakes and puddings. Christmas shopping weekends with traditional nativity shows featuring live animals take place on 26 & 27 November, 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 17 & 18 December.  Enjoy roasted chestnuts, free mulled punch and mince pies whilst listening to the festive choirs.  Late night Christmas shopping is available on 2, 9 & 16 December with Santa on his sleigh accompanied by his adorable reindeer.

 

Visit Compton Verney and re-kindle the magic of a traditional Christmas.  The mansion will be decorated with Christmas trees and sparkling lights.  Christmas themed weekends take place on 3 & 4 and 10 & 11 December.  Enjoy drop-in Christmas decoration and card making workshops, festive music in the galleries,  Christmas storytelling and a children’s Christmas trail in the galleries.  On 4 & 11 listen to Musica Figurata sing seasonal carols.

 

Coughton Court’s Winter Festival takes place from 26 November-4 December.  Festive stalls will sell local produce, crafts, and gifts.  Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and roasting chestnuts.  Visit the house dressed for a traditional Victorian Christmas and see the Green Father Christmas.  Listen to your favourite carols being played on the baby grand piano.  The festive celebrations culminate on 10 & 11 December with a Christmas Wassail with stories and carols from Birmingham Crescent Theatre.

 

On Christmas Eve, enjoy ghost stories by lantern light at The Falstaff Experience in Stratford where mulled wine and mince pies will be served. Santa will also be paying a visit to his Secret Grotto accessed via the magical cobblestone courtyard.

 

Santa Claus will be in his magical workshop at the Creaky Cauldron from 17 November-24 December and then for those who have had enough by Boxing Day – Ebenezer Scrooge will visit from 26-31 December.  Assisted by his team of helpers, children will be able to wander through a magical winter wonderland stopping off at Magic School and the Enchanted Manor before a visit with the great man himself in his magical toy workshop.  Santa’s Magical Victorian Frost Fair runs from 17 November-24 December.

 

Enjoy a Victorian Christmas at Hill Close Gardens in Warwick on 3 December from 16:00-19:00.  The gardens will be decorated with lights plus there will be a large Christmas tree and festive stalls.  Take part in a Christmas raffle with prizes donated from local businesses.  Children can enjoy a Christmas Workshop on 9 December with Christmas related activities.

 

St John’s House Museum is hosting a special Contemporary Craft Fair on Sunday 11 December where you can shop for handcrafted gifts in festive and historical surroundings!  Create a unique handmade wreath to adorn your door on Saturday 3 December.  On the same day visit the Warwickshire Record Office and listen to Richard Churchley, musician and local historian perform local folk songs from a rich heritage of traditional songs.

 

Purchase handmade crafts at Upton House’s Christmas Market on 3 & 4 December.  Enjoy the Christmas celebrations for the servants of Lord and Lady Bearsted at Upton in the 1930s Servants Hall with a Christmas Ball during weekends in December.  Father Christmas will be in his magical grotto to greet children with a Christmas gift on weekends in December.

 

See the Great Hall at Sulgrave Manor swathed in seasonal greenery and listen to the Lord of the Manor and his Cook tell tales of feasting, festivity and frolicking.  Visit the Manor for its Winter Wassail on 27 December.  Sing, dance and make a lot of noise in the orchard to wassail the apple trees to ensure a good crop next year.  Hear stories of the 12 days of Christmas and discover the ancient customs of the Lord of Misrule and Plough Monday.

 

Take part in a workshop about Edible Gifts at Hidcote Manor Gardens on 1 December.  Learn how to make sweet and savoury treats that make ideal gifts.  Walk up and over the impressive Meon Hill with stunning views of the Cotswolds followed by a festive three-course lunch on 3 December.  Discover how to make a stunning table centrepiece on 15 December at Green Grows the Holly workshop.

 

Make Vintage Cupcakes at Farncombe Estate on 4 December.  Christmas is the perfect time to let your creative skills go wild and produce a beautiful tray of 12 cupcakes to take home and admire.  And on 11 December make creative cupcakes shaped like Christmas baubles, Christmas puddings, Christmas trees, and much more! 

 

Drayton Manor’s Magical Christmas, which runs from 26 November-2 January 2012, will see Thomas Land transformed into a winter wonderland with festive music, spectacular decorations and snow machines.  New for 2011 is Santa’s Magical Workshop, where children will experience the North Pole by travelling through the ice caves and enchanted forest where the talking Oak Tree will guide them to see Santa hard at work, with his elves making all the Christmas toys.  Another new offering for Christmas will be the Christmas market, with log cabins and marquees keeping customers warm. www.shakespeare-country.co.uk

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Air France and Qantas strike updates

The Qantas strike and shutdown is off following a ruling by Fair Work Australia, a government sponsored independent tribunal, on Sunday.  The day before the airline’s CEO Alan Joyce grounded the Qantas Group and threatened locking out all those involved with the dispute from 20:00 local time today.  This followed weeks of disruption by the airline’s unions and threats by management.  

By the end of last week there had been 129 cancelled flight with another 387 delayed and 70,000 passengers had been affected.  Four Boeing 767s and three Boeing 737s remain grounded.  The cost is put at £50m with passengers flocking to other airlines.

Reports from Australia indicate that the decision of the panel is seen as a victory for the airline which is making big losses on its international routes.
 
Air France is also undergoing one of its regular strike situations with disruptions over the weekend.  Several unions are urging cabin staff to strike until the end of Wednesday, raising the prospect of serious problems during what is a busy travel period.  One of their grievances is a plan to reduce staffing on long haul trips. www.airfrance.co.uk www.qantas.com

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Boeing delivers 777-300ER to Biman Bangladesh

Biman Bangladesh’s first new Boeing 777-300ER has arrived in Dhaka after a 16hrs 8mins non-stop flight from Seattle.  Another will follow shortly and a further two next year.  They will replace elderly DC10s.  The airline has four 787s on order, these replacing the carrier’s Airbus 310s.  Biman Bangladesh Airlines currently flies to 18 international destinations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The Bangladesh aircraft is Boeing 777-300ER number 300, the most popular version of the 'Triple Seven', the best selling of the model range.  In total some 1,288 variants of the 777 have been ordered, the current backlog standing at 325.

Boeing's updated Current Market Outlook forecasts the twin-aisle as the fastest-growing segment of the market over the next 20 years with a demand for 7,000 new aircraft in the 777 and 787 size range. www.biman-airlines.com

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Ferry lines affected by new air pollution rules

Airlines (and road companies) are not the only transport operators who are being affected by ever-stringent air pollution rules.  The Passenger Shipping Association put out a statement last week, ahead of a UK Parliament Transport Select Committee meeting, suggesting that the public could see increased prices and greater road congestion due to the introduction of new rules.

Ferry companies including Brittany Ferries, DFDS Seaways, P&O Ferries and Stena Line say the new rules will have far-reaching implications.  Fuel costs will increase by up to 87% and many ferry services on the English Channel, North Sea and in the Baltic face closure.  They also warn of the threat to seafaring and port jobs if ferry services close down.

The International Maritime Organisation and EU member states want ships to burn fuel with a low 0.1% sulphur content from 2015 instead of the 1% sulphur content in use today.

“While we fully support the good and green intentions of the changes, we are having to tell the Transport Select Committee that the proposals are unrealistic both on grounds of cost and in the time available to us,” said William Gibbons, Director of the Passenger Shipping Association. www.the-psa.co.uk

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Lord Glendonbrook

Sir Michael Bishop should be a familiar name to anyone in aviation over the last nearly 50 years.  Somehow AERBT missed his raising to the peerage (and congratulations) in February as Baron Glendonbrook of Bowdon in the County of Cheshire (where he was born in February 1942).  He has contributed to the arts and education over the years and is Chairman of D'Oyly Carte. 

In 1963 Bishop joined the Manchester-based Mercury Airlines, a small scheduled and charter carrier, which was taken over by British Midland Airways (now bmi) in October 1964.  By 1969 he became General Manager and three years later Managing Director.  The rest is aviation history with a succession of mergers and takeovers until the final selling of the UK’s largest privately owned airline and second biggest slot holder at Heathrow to Lufthansa for a reputed £300m+.

The present bilateral airline arrangements between the European Union and the United States owe much to the efforts and perseverance of Lord Glendonbrook. However when the deal was made bmi declined to invest in transatlantic routes, the by now Sir Michael deciding it was all too risky.

His name is again in the news as Lufthansa decides what to do with its loss making subsidiary. www.flybmi.com

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Russia to get A380

Independent Russian carrier Transaero Airlines has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus to acquire four A380s becoming the launch customer for the SuperJumbo in Russia, the CIS and Eastern Europe, according to Routes on Line.  The tentative agreement was signed on Friday (28 October) by the carrier’s Chief Executive Officer, Olga Pleshakova, and Christopher Buckley, Executive Vice President Europe, Asia and the Pacific of Airbus.

Transaero plans to start operations with the A380 on its “long-range network of high density routes from Moscow,” according to the manufacturer.  The aircraft will feature a three-class cabin layout, seating about 700 passengers, one of the most densely configured examples.

”Transaero is experienced in operating long-range wide-body aircraft, and is now ready to offer the A380.  I am sure that the operation of this high capacity aircraft will stimulate the development of Russia’s aviation sector, in particular airports infrastructure while passengers will benefit from a completely new experience,” said Olga Pleshakova.  A380 orders now stand at 240 with 59 delivered to 19 customers.  The Emirates order is for 90 aircraft of which 17 have been delivered. www.transaero.com

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Shanghai Andaz

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has announced the opening of Andaz Shanghai, as mentioned in February by AERBT, introducing the lifestyle brand to Asia.  The newly constructed 28-storey hotel is located in Xintiandi, a landmark entertainment area in the heart of downtown Shanghai and a short walk to the Metro and Huai Hai Zong Road, one of the city’s main shopping areas.

The Xintiandi neighborhood, on the edge of the former French Concession, retains the antique walls, tiles and façades of the traditional shikumen (stone-gate) houses of old Shanghai, while the interiors showcase prestigious modern brands, fashion boutiques, stylish restaurants and bars, creating a landmark destination that combines the historical and cultural identities of the city.

Andaz Shanghai features 307 guestrooms, including 47 premier rooms and suites, ranging in size from 850 to 2,000sq ft (80 to 193sq m), all enjoying vibrant views over Xintiandi or the city.  In an effort to make a stay as uncomplicated as possible, all non-alcoholic mini bar drinks and all-day light snacks in the Andaz Lounge are complimentary, as are local telephone calls and wireless internet access. www.andaz.com

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Vietnam Airlines on its way to Gatwick

Bookings have now opened for Sky Team member Vietnam Airways new non-stop service between Gatwick and both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City which is launched on 8 December.  ‘Open jaw’ itineraries will be available.  The airline is at World Travel Market (AS960).

Boeing 777-200ER aircraft will be deployed on the route, configured with Economy, Deluxe Economy and Business Class cabins – all with seat-back entertainment systems.  Operating non-stop from Gatwick’s North Terminal, the new service will offer a reduction in journey time of up to seven hours for UK passengers transiting through South East Asia or the Middle East. 

Dr Pham Ngoc Minh, President and CEO of Vietnam Airlines says: “We are delighted to be adding London to our expanding global operation, and to provide UK originating passengers with the only non-stop flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and convenient onward connections to our comprehensive network within Vietnam, Indochina and the sub-Mekong region.  Our plans envisage increasing frequency on the routes to become a daily operation to both destinations by 2014.”

The new Vietnam service comes after the transfer from Stansted of both Air Asia and Air Berlin flights. www.vietnamairlines.com

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CRUISE NEWS October 2011

This month's cruise review: Prinsendam – Holland America Line
Our 10-story news update (which on this occasion is the Passenger Shipping Association's own preview for 2012)

More Brits are choosing to begin their ocean cruise holiday from a UK port than ever before, according to figures released by the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA). 

In spite of the gloomy economic outlook 2011 has been another strong year for the UK cruise industry with growth of more than 5%. 

The trend for British port departures is predicted to continue as the number of passengers taking a cruise holiday slows after a period of sustained growth.  This year, more than 760,000 passengers will have started their cruise holiday from one of the 20 UK departure ports, sailing to destinations including Russia, Scandinavia, the Norwegian fjords, Iceland, the Mediterranean, America and closer to home, the coast of Britain and Ireland.  This is a 28% increase for cruises departing from British ports over the last two years indicating that the high cost of flying (APD) to an overseas boarding point is having its effect.

William Gibbons, Director PSA, explains: “Looking forward, we anticipate modest growth in 2012 as capacity slows following the reduction in the number of new ships being built,” he said.  “However, we remain confident that growth will continue over the coming years as companies introduce new ships including the 3,611-passenger vessel for P&O Cruises, the largest in their fleet, due for introduction in early 2015.  The great choice of ships now providing cruise holidays from the UK to a wide variety of destinations will lead to more passengers sailing from British ports.” 

Mr Gibbons continued: “Cruising is expected to continue to outperform other areas of the holiday market with travel agents, who account for around 80% of sales, continuing to play an important role.  The all-inclusive nature of a cruise holiday, which can be purchased in sterling and which offers exceptional standards of quality, innovation, choice and customer service, continues to make it a compelling and mainstream holiday choice.”

Cruise Review: Prinsendam – Holland America Line

Holland America Line sails 15 ships of varying sizes, ranging between the Nieuw Amsterdam (2,106 passengers) and the Prinsendam (835).  Having now travelled on five HAL ships, I enjoyed the Prinsendam more than the others. 

Not all the ships are equal in their amenities due to their differing sizes and the Prinsendam was not built for HAL, so her fittings and layout varied from other ships of theirs that I have sailed on. 

These differences enhanced our cruise experience!  The staterooms were fitted with walk-in closets, refrigerators, etc and all of them opened from a small passageway off the main corridor thus ensuring greater privacy.  The flat screen TV and DVD player could be enjoyed any time as there is an extensive DVD lending library.  There was also wireless internet connectivity.  Our cabin, forward on the lower promenade deck had an uninterrupted view and was most convenient.  Many extra benefits were provided, such as substantial sail away prizes at the first port, two chances for us on this voyage.  Really decent prizes were awarded for Trivia quizzes and other competitions; twice including universal power adaptors, selling for US$30 in the ship’s shop.  Who would cherish a ship’s pin realistically? 

Although the ship had only one specialty restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, it mattered little.  This locale was transformed into ‘an evening at La Cirque’ (top NYC restaurant) each cruise.  The elegant La Fontaine Dining Room had a wonderful menu; no items were repeated on a cruise and the quality and service were excellent without exception!  Dining was always a great experience and we found open seating dining to our liking, rather than fixed early or late seating.  There was also the overwhelming Lido buffet with so many choices, a terrace grill, a café and very extensive 24-hour room service choices.  All dining matters are under the guidance of a Culinary Council and well known Executive chefs.

The ship’s artwork and antiques, beautiful floral arrangements, elegant furniture and stylish public rooms, made us feel most comfortable in these pleasant surrounds.  There are two banks of lifts and the several wheelchair users were able to access all facilities.  There is one general store and a jewellery shop which also sold perfumes etc.  It is easy to get around this ship and the only time I felt crowded was at the initial lifeboat drill! 

There are many good facilities on the Prinsendam such as the Spa and Salon, Fitness centre, two swimming pools, whirlpool, hot tubs and so on.  There were many daily classes in yoga, Pilates, tai chi and health issues. 

The Library is an excellent one for a ship of this size; it also held many computers with internet access, which was, as usual aboard ship, very pricey and slow. 

Classes were available with chefs, on wine and food, floral arrangement, cake decorating and naturally, napkin-folding, all in the Culinary Centre (which doubled as the movie theatre)  There were digital workshops – ‘techspert’ classes on editing photos, video etc.  Other activities included trivia quizzes, name that tune quizzes, bridge instruction and play, dance classes, deck games, bingo, and daily religious services as well as a beautifully catered Jewish Sabbath service each week (Jewish people don’t drink a lot but do enjoy their food).

The Showroom at Sea was the venue for full-scale musical and dance productions by a very talented and experienced troupe.  There were also individual performances by comedians, vocalists and pianists which were delightful.  The ship had a movie theatre (for which my husband suggested enhancements of the sound and picture quality), a casino, an excellent and talented orchestra plus a classical trio and a small band.  There was a piano bar, with DJ and dancing as well as other activities.

Port information was disseminated by a staff member; shuttle buses were usually provided in port to the centre of town.  We were given information including ‘Lodestar’ maps of each port which unfortunately lacked important details for personal touring and they were not to scale.  Shore excursions were handled efficiently and they were quite satisfactory; in particular an evening tour arranged solely for passengers of our ship to the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Missing were learned lecturers on the special area of the Arctic that we were exploring – geology, history etc.  A member of the excursion staff gave two lectures on the Vikings but they were of a very general nature and boring.  What a missed opportunity!  This seems to be one of many small cutbacks which have been made and are so noticeable to regular cruisers.  The room stewards also clean more staterooms, the table stewards handle more tables, cocktail parties have been replaced with a drink before a scheduled show to see the captain and senior staff lineup!

We are HAL regulars as noted.  The product is very good but HAL have to be careful.  The ship is only as good as the last voyage.  We will be returning.

Evelyne Perks Cohen – a habitual traveller living in both the USA and Australia.

PROGRAMME: At 40,000 tons and 835 passengers Prinsendam is by far the smallest ship in the Holland American fleet.  As such it can reach ports that are not possible with its larger sisters.  The highlight of 2012 is a 68-night circumnavigation of South America starting (and finishing) 4 January from Ft Lauderdale.  Initially down the west coast and then taking in Elephant Island and Antarctica she visits The Falklands, Buenos Aires, Manaus in the Amazon and Devils Island before meandering home across the Caribbean.  A 62-night return trip across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean follows, and then she is off to Tilbury, London. for the start of a summer programme based in Europe. www.hollandamerica.com


UK HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2012


AmaWaterways’ AmaCerto will debut in Europe in April 2012 with an array of innovative features including an advanced design offering spa­cious staterooms featuring two balconies; a heated swimming pool and multiple fine dining venues. www.amawaterways.co.uk

 
Avalon Waterways has plans to launch a series of revolutionary ‘suite’ ships following the popularity of the first of its kind Avalon Panorama.  Two more ‘suite ships’ are due for delivery in 2012 – Avalon Vista and Visionary. www.avaloncruises.co.uk


Carnival Cruise Line’s new fun ship Carnival Breeze will launch during 2012 and follows the introduction this year of the 3,646-passenger Carnival Magic.  Featuring waterslides, an aqua park and a rope course, the ship has wide appeal to families and couples (of all ages) and has meant that Carnival’s UK business has more than doubled. www.carnival.com


Celebrity Cruises will introduce Celebrity Reflection, the fifth and final ship in the popular Solstice-class in autumn 2012.  At 3,030 guests, Celebrity Reflection, features an additional deck compared to its sister ships offering more accommodation including additional AquaClass Suites.  In addition Celebrity Cruises is also midway through a fleet revitalisation programme, delivering US$200 million worth of enhancements to its existing ships including new restaurants, bars and accommodation suites. www.celebritycruises.co.uk


Crystal Cruises is introducing 20 new ports of call, a dozen new itineraries, more shorter-length cruises and an almost 50% increase in overnights in waterfront destinations around the world.  Strategic planning has most of 2012’s cruises beginning with a shipboard overnight stay in port, while 86% of the voyages include at least one two-day call.  Together, in 2012 Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will visit 182 ports of call in 59 countries on 60 itineraries worldwide. www.crystalcruises.co.uk


Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ award-winning Vistas onboard enrichment programme will welcome even more celebrities aboard in 2012, featuring talks by expedition leader, naturalist, and veteran broadcaster, Tony Soper, wine expert Jilly Goolden, and veteran newscaster and broadcaster, Peter Sissons. www.fredolsencruises.co.uk


Hebridean Island Cruises launches a new dedicated river cruises programme on board the Royal Crown.  Following extensive renovations, the luxurious cruiser will sail on the Rhine and Danube during June and September 2012. www.hebridean.co.uk


Holland America Line has increased the number of no-fly cruises available from Dover which contributed to more than doubling the company’s UK business in 2011.  The company is extending its programme of Asia cruises for 2012/13, offering more sailings from Dover as well as providing two, no-fly winter 2012/13 voyages from Southampton – to the Caribbean and Asia. www.hollandamerica.com


Hurtigruten is offering a series of charter packages in 2012 from Stansted for the Classic Round Voyage, the first time the operator has run charters outside the Northern Lights programme since 2004.  The additional capacity will be offered in April, May, September and October. www.hurtigruten.co.uk


Norwegian Cruise Line’s Studio staterooms, first launched on board Norwegian Epic and designed and priced for solo travellers, have proved to be a successful innovation for the line and due to the continued success of the Studios, they will also feature on board Norwegian’s two brand new ships, set to launch in 2013 and 2014. www.ncl.co.uk


Oceania Cruises’ new Riviera launches in April joining sister ship Marina. Riviera will also feature the Bon Appétit Culinary Centre, the only hands-on cooking school at sea which includes shore-side visits, guest chefs in the school's programme, visiting local markets and involving guests with hands-on cooking at individual workstations. www.oceaniacruises.co.uk


P&O Cruises is increasing the capacity of ships exclusively for adults with the refurbishment of Oriana – the company will now have three ships offering accommodation for over 4,500 passengers.  2012 is the 175th anniversary of when the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company was awarded its first mail contract and P&O Cruises plan a year of celebration culminating in one Grand Event on 3 July 2012 when all seven ships will be in Southampton for the first time. www.pocruises.co.uk


Royal Caribbean International is continuing its international expansion and in 2012 will base Voyager of the Seas in China from May, doubling the size of any cruise ship operating in China and in the Asia-Pacific region.  A £300 million investment programme to introduce features of the new Oasis-class – the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ships – to existing ships in the fleet will continue in 2012 with features such as speciality restaurants, baby and toddler nurseries, new balcony accommodation and 3D technology. www.rccl.com


Swan Hellenic’s multi-million pound upgrade for Minerva will be completed by March for a series of new cruises around the Canary Island, Mediterranean and Black Sea. (AERBT will be reporting on the maiden voyage after the major re-fit). www.swanhellenic.com


Thomson Cruises is returning to ex-UK cruising from May 2012 when the Thomson Spirit will be sailing from Harwich and Newcastle. www.thomson.co.uk/cruise/


Voyages of Discovery add Voyager to the fleet in late 2012 while Discovery undergoes extensive refurbishment between November 2012 and February 2013. www.voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk

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