28 NOVEMBER 2011

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Air travel cancelled (continued)

Airlines are all the time cancelling routes and reducing schedules, as well of course expanding. The shutdowns, as we have previously said, gain very little coverage and we are grateful to readers who send in information.  MORE PLEASE.  If a route is not shown for April next year it has probably gone. 

This is the case with Lufthansa between Frankfurt and Guangzhou.  It was launched in 2004 and it has gone the way of the Finnair operation inaugurated from Helsinki in 2005 only for it to be scrapped three years later.  Also departed is Dresden from Heathrow, from the start of next summer’s season.  There are no links to Dresden from any other UK airport.

Flights from London are being dropped by Air Seychelles in January as part of a restructuring which saw the airline recruit its fourth chief executive in as many years last month.  Milan, Rome and Singapore went last week.

Delta has announced that it will be suspending its twice weekly Atlanta – Shanghai route once again from 18 January 2012.  It first began the service as a daily flight in 2008, and suspended it in 2009.  The route was resumed in June 2011.  This column appears from time to time. www.oag.com

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Cabair flies on

Following last week's AERBT report that the long established Cabair professional pilot training organisation was in administration things have moved on and Cabair International (UK) Ltd has been restructured with headquarters at Cranfield University Airport in modern classrooms in what is known as the Innovation Centre.

Under new private funding arrangements Cabair has retained its management team and instructors continuing to offer integrated and modular courses for students training for professional pilots' licences. Tuition continues with a fleet of PA28s, DA-40s and DA-42s, and the aircraft are complemented by three company simulators, two Alsim DA-42s which provide excellent continuity in glass cockpit training, and a Citation model providing an excellent progressive step for the teaching of crew resource management.  Currently 80 students are under tuition.  Cabair International employs around 35 including support staff.

Work started, before the restructuring, on options for a Boeing 737 full flight simulator and students will be able to select this option to conclude their course.  All students undertake an airline preparation course wholly managed and run by current airline pilots with experience on selection procedures. www.cabair.com

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Economy Plus for United Airlines (or is it Continental?)

Continental Airlines should have virtually disappeared by now (see WTM report 14 October) but, for whatever reasons, owner United Airlines has announced the introduction of Continental Economy Plus.  It offers customers four inches of extra legroom in the forward rows of the Economy cabin.

The lead aircraft, a Boeing 767-400, went into service last week.  It also features new flat-bed seats in BusinessFirst and new touchscreen seat-back monitors in Economy.  In addition, the aircraft will be the first in the Continental fleet to feature the popular Channel 9 air traffic control communications.

“The merger of United and Continental is a unique opportunity to build an airline with leading products and services that customers value and are willing to pay for,’’ said Jim Compton, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of United Continental Holdings.  “United’s customers who sit in Economy Plus consistently tell us they are more satisfied with their travel experiences, and we are excited to expand this option to more customers of the new United.’’

United itself introduced Economy Plus in 1999.  Today, the airline offers the extra legroom seating on all mainline aircraft and more than 150 larger United Express regional jets. www.united.com

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London Covent Garden hotel opens business centre

The Mercer Street Hotel in Covent Garden, part of the Radisson Edwardian Group, which re-opened in September has now put the final touches to a state-of-the-art business centre.

The former Mountbatten offers six high-tech meeting rooms capable of hosting 6-50 people complete with the latest HD and touch screen technology.  A novel feature is the availability of quirky lunchtime features including Japanese-style ‘Bento Boxes’.

The hotel boasts 137 designer bedrooms, eight luxurious suites with dressing rooms and Union-Jack design Smeg fridges, the most up-to-date Apple TV technology in every room and free wi-fi throughout.

Ideal for a stay in London, the hotel is situated within a few minutes’ walk of Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square Underground stations.  Very close nearby is Covent Garden with its chic shops and trendy restaurants, whilst its exact location, called Seven Dials, is in the heart of London’s theatre district. www.radissonedwardian.com/mercerstreet

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Paris Mandarin unveils spacious and luxurious suites

Mandarin Oriental, Paris, which opened just two months ago (AERBT 3 October 2011) has now introduced 39 beautiful and elegant suites, including seven duplex suites located on the seventh and eighth floors of the hotel, each with their own distinctive charm and private terraces with spectacular views of the rooftops and monuments of Paris.

The names are evocative.  The Royale Mandarin Suite, Royale Orientale Suite, Cabochons Suite, Broderies de Cristal Suite, Couture Suites and Atelier Suites. The top floor suites and the Royale Orientale Suite can be connected through adjoining doors to form the largest suite in Paris, at almost 1,000sq m.  Utmost privacy can be obtained.

The 350sq m Royale Mandarin Suite is split over two floors with a stunning panoramic view of the entire city.  As with the rest of the hotel’s luxurious accommodation, no detail has been overlooked. The suite features bespoke artwork including a beautifully embroidered headboard by Lesage featuring Man Ray’s Neck, a work of art that took some 650 hours to complete.

On the highest floors are the original Atelier suites, each one individual in layout and distinctive in design.  Decorated in shades of ecru, coral and plum, they provide a luxury retreat away from the city, with windows opening onto the rooftops. www.mandarinoriental.com/Paris

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Singapore connects to all nine other ASEAN countries

With the arrival of Lao Airlines from Vientiane (capital of Laos), Singapore Changi Airport is now connected via direct flights to all nine of Singapore's ASEAN neighbours.  Vientiane is the 11th new city link for Changi this year.

Lao Airlines direct service comes on the back of strong bilateral ties between the two countries.  Singapore is among Laos' top 10 foreign investors, with involvement in sectors ranging from manufacturing to hospitality.  In the first nine months of this year, bilateral trade saw a substantial growth of 40% year-on-year to reach about US$29m.  Singapore and Laos have also been regular co-operation and exchange partners since Laos joined ASEAN in 1997, across areas such as education, healthcare and tourism.

In terms of air traffic, the number of passengers travelling between the two countries has grown steadily over the last five years.

The new direct city link to Vientiane is expected to further stimulate both business and leisure travel between the two countries.  Laos is positioning itself as an attractive place for investment, as well as a scenic destination with a rich heritage which world travellers will enjoy. www.changiairportgroup.com

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UK goes for body screening

In a written parliamentary response the new UK Transport secretary, Justine Greening, said last week that passengers flying to and from the United Kingdom will not be able to opt out of having a body security scan.

Instead of a 'pat down' search, passengers will have to pass through a security scanner, a procedure which could be rolled out across the United Kingdom in the future, she said.

Proposals recently agreed by the European parliament include the right to request an opt-out from scanning.

"I do not believe that a pat down search is equivalent in security terms to a security scan," Greening said.

"The purpose of introducing security scanners in the first place was to protect the travelling public better against sophisticated terrorist threats: these threats still exist and the required level of security is not achieved by permitting passengers to choose a less effective alternative," she added.

Following an incident, Britain introduced trial scanners at Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow airports.  Greening said the development of new scanner software meant images captured by scanning machines would not be copied, saved, transmitted or viewed by human operators in the future.  During the trial there were just 12 refusals out of more than one million scans. www.dft.gov.uk

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CRUISE NEWS NOVEMBER 2011

AERBT takes a look at The All Leisure Group

This month's ship review: Grand Princess


No news review for November.  With the year-end holidays coming up and (some) readers already planning their 2012 holidays we thought we would break with AERBT tradition and produce a special “bargain cruise” edition.   

 

 

The genial Roger Allard has been around the travel trade longer than most.  In the early seventies he was one of the founders of Owners Abroad, now First Choice/Tui, running what was then Europe’s largest seat wholesale business.  By the mid-eighties the company had a full stock market listing with Roger as Group Managing Director.

 

Ten years on and he was looking for new challenges.  It seemed to him that with an ageing, inquisitive, affluent and mobile society, cruising was an area to get into. 

 

A further decade later Roger, as Chairman of All Leisure Group Plc, AIM listed, heads a successful holiday operation that includes Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic, Hebridean and Discover Egypt. 

 

Whilst in terms of passenger numbers one of the smallest serious cruise operations, All Leisure covers the market.  Tiny Hebridean, HM The Queen’s choice as the effective replacement of the Royal Yacht Britannia; Swan Hellenic, destination-led, catering for the British quest to explore, but without effort; and Voyages of Discovery, very much “middle England”.

 

On Tuesday the Group will unveil a trading statement for the year ended 31 October.  This is expected to show nothing extraordinary with, as to be expected, a comment that business is looking positive for next year but that conditions are challenging.       

 

Currently under way is a multi-million pound investment which will reach its culmination in 2013 with Voyages of Discovery for the first time a two-ship operation offering mv Voyager and a re-vamped Discovery after a winter overhaul, Swan Hellenic’s Minerva well settled from its dry dock session now under way and Hebridean Island Cruises very popular with its regulars.  All three are run as separate organisations in terms of sales, but are integrated when it comes to marketing and various operational functions.

 

Voyages of Discovery will see the introduction of Voyager in November 2012 with a full Caribbean, Central and South American programme including a cruise of the Amazon.  At the same time mv Discovery will be undergoing an extensive refurbishment during a three-month dry dock period, including teak decking, expansion of public areas, cabin improvements, updated furnishing and developments to dining areas.

 

Previously named Alexander von Humboldt, mv Voyager complements mv Discovery as an enhancement of the brand’s discovery cruising ethos, but will operate with fewer passengers and larger cabins. Even more intimate than Discovery, the ship accommodates 550 passengers and boasts a modern hotel feel to its cabins, of which 86% are outside. Expanding the Voyages of Discovery brand with the introduction of a second ship will give customers more choice and flexibility in itineraries.

 

Currently under way changes to Minerva include extensions of the internal and external public areas as well as a new wrap-around observation lounge, the Orpheus Lounge, which will provide comfort and extensive forward panoramic views. Innovative design will also extend the size of Shackleton’s Bar and create a new Internet Lounge. Swan Hellenic has also increased the size of 32 cabins by adding balcony facilities, raising the number of balcony suites to 23% of all cabin accommodation.

 

 

All 181 passenger cabins have new upgraded en-suite bathrooms. Minerva will retain her current 350-passenger level and renowned country house style and ambience.  Included in this refurbishment will be a significant technical upgrade to improve the ship’s efficiency, manoeuvrability, comfort and environmental performance. Minerva’s first cruise after the overhaul is now less than 100 days away 

 

Hebridean Island Cruises enjoyed a highly successful 2011 with mv Hebridean Princess, and to further grow the brand and increase the product offering the company has launched a four-cruise dedicated Hebridean Rivers 2012 programme. Royal Crown will sail on the Rhine in spring and the Danube in autumn 2012, on a seven-night itinerary basis. www.allleisuregroup.com

 

 

This month's ship review: Grand Princess

 

We cruised on the Grand Princess in August and were beneficiaries of the multi-million dollar refit carried out earlier in 2011.  This was evident from the moment we stepped onboard.  The ship had a fresh look and feel about it and the overall effect was one of understated elegance.  As well as two speciality restaurants The Crown Grill and Sabbatinis, there is a new piazza amidships which includes a delightful pizzeria called Alfredos.

 

The aft end of the ship’s profile has been improved and this includes a very modern new nightclub called ‘The One Five’.  With its wicker chairs, sofas and large windows it is comfortable and bright with an ambience which appealed beyond just the younger generation. 

 

There are three main dining rooms The Boticelli, The Michaelangelo and The Da Vinci with two sittings for dinner but also offering anytime dining for those who prefer not to be tied to a set time.  We enjoyed a birthday celebration in The Crown Grill which is designed as an up market American steakhouse and the fillet mignon and lobster were simply superb, finished off with a decadent chocolate mud pudding. Surcharges of US$20-US$25 per head apply in both speciality restaurants.

 

The standard of food in the main restaurants was uniformly excellent and undoubtedly of a higher standard than other cruise lines we have sailed with in recent years.  This was also the case in The Horizon buffet which served an extensive variety of international dishes.  Service in the main restaurants was consistently high and very attentive at all times.  

 

As a nod towards its predominantly British clientele in the summer months, the ship offers a traditional pub lunch every day and afternoon tea in the new ‘Leaves’ library. 

 

Once the biggest cruise liner in the world, The Grand Princess is now medium sized compared with some.  A full complement of passengers numbers 2,600 and although the ship was full, it never felt crowded.  Finding a sun bed wasn’t a problem and deck space has been optimised to increase the number of beds.  ‘Fore’ there is a (paid for) feature called The Sanctuary which offers semi-private sunbathing with luxury loungers and a separate pool.  This is coupled with an exceptionally well-equipped gym, sauna and steam room.     

 

Probably the most innovative new feature on the ship is the giant cinema screen on the sun deck.  This shows ‘movies under the stars’ at night complete with blankets and popcorn; as close to a ‘drive in’ movie experience as you’ll get this side of 1950s America.  The screen is also used during the day and included the slightly surreal experience of watching live premier league football whilst sipping cocktails in 90+ degree heat in Livorno.   

 

We stayed in a mini-suite on Dolphin deck comprising approximately 320sq ft including balcony.  It was very well designed and perfectly big enough for a family of four. even with two adult children.  There was plenty of wardrobe space and drawers and the suite didn’t feel cramped.  The drop-down bunk in the ceiling was a bonus as it avoided otherwise restricted access to the balcony – useful when the ‘children’ can’t get up after a late night in the ‘One Five’.  Thoughtfully there were two TVs in the suite one angled toward the sofa  and bunk bed and the other toward the main bed. Our steward did a fine job and or suite was kept consistently clean.

 

We purchased a soda sticker which offered reasonable value for money as it also included unlimited non-alcoholic cocktails and fruit juice. These provided a welcome change from the standard coke and sprite.  

 

We tend to be excursion DIYers so cannot comment on the quality of the ship’s offerings.  Nevertheless, for those who prefer organised excursions, the choice was varied and extensive.  Our itinerary included Civitavecchia and Livorno and we took the train to Rome and Pisa respectively.  This is quite straightforward and considerably cheaper than the ship’s excursions.  No guarantee that she will be at the port on your return of course but providing you are sensible that should not be a worry.

 

Often you notice the little things on a cruise and cold face towels handed out at the gangway after a hard day ashore were a welcome touch.  

 

The entertainment in the theatre was consistently good and included four excellent and superbly choreographed production shows and a singer who had performed in West End musicals. We all agreed that the overall quality of the shows was undoubtedly the best we had experienced on any cruise.

 

It was evident that this ship attracted multi-generational groups including grandparents and young children although there was a surprising lack of teenagers on the ship for August.  The extra sports and recreational facilities on the larger R.C. ships are possibly more appealing to this age group.

 

Criticisms: very few and only minor.  Compared to other ships we have been on the ‘cruise direction’ wasn’t particularly dynamic.  Reminders for daytime activities wouldn’t have gone amiss.  Extra charges for shuttle transfers out of certain ports also rankles but this seems to be standard on most cruise lines now. 

 

All in all a great cruise and we would be happy to travel with Princess again.

 

PROGRAMME:  Grand Princess is currently based in Ft Lauderdale and offers a series of seven and 14-day Caribbean cruises until 7 April when it departs for Europe with a five-port 14-day crossing off the (mostly) South Atlantic until it reaches its summer home port of Southampton.  From May to October she offers a whole series of trips ranging from thee to 17 days, to Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.  On Saturday 3 November she leaves the Solent port on her way back to Florida, once again via a southern route. http://princesscruises.com

 

Clive Lewis

 

 

CRUISE BARGAINS - A special pre-holiday edition

 

All the prices shown are the starting ones for two persons sharing.  Flights are not included except where noted.  Go to the individual cruise line for extended offers.  Without exception travel retailers will have their own discounted deal with preferred operators. 

 

If you have not cruised before most operators ‘suggest’ an overall gratuity offering of between £5 and £10 per day.  Some top-of-the–range lines take in service and drinks.  Port taxes are usually included.  You can spend a great deal by using the ships’ shops, casino and spa plus shore trips.  Or nothing.  The Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships offers a fine unbiased review of the individual ships. www.berlitzbooks.com

 

This is just a small selection of what is available. www.discover-cruises.co.uk 

 

CARNIVAL FUN SHIPS prices start from just £989, inside cabin including flights for an eight-night holiday departing London 29 February 2012 on Miracle.  Out of Ft Lauderdale your Southern Caribbean cruise is on a 2,974-passenger ship featuring 22 lounges and bars, duty free shopping mall, 14,500sq ft health and fitness centre, four swimming pools and a cascading water slide; plus wi-fi access throughout the ship and Carnival’s Seaside Theatre, 270sq ft LED screen showing movies, concerts and spectacular laser shows! www.carnival.com

 

CELEBRITY CRUISES Constellation is on a 16-night Exotic Caribbean fly/cruise departing 15 December from £2,066.  One-night pre-cruise hotel is included. www.celebritycruises.co.uk

 

COMPAGNIE DU PONANT, new 264-passenger L'Austral has availability on two Antarctica 10-night voyages departing either 20 or 30 January 2012 from Ushuaia (Argentina).  If booking the voyage plus flights on a double cabin basis, there will be a saving of £450 per person applied to the flight cost.  Voyage only fares from £5,251 www.ponant.com

 

CUNARD has on offer some fantastic deals out of Southampton on QM2 to New York, including return flights, from £979.  Slightly more expensive the other way around, and you can add hotels from £100.  Seven nights on a real liner with superb entertainment and facilities.  She’s in for a multi-million pound refurbishment at this time and AERBT will have one of the first reports. www.cunard.co.uk

 

HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES, MS Europa 5-star+, travels through the magnificent landscape of Mexico and Hawaii this winter.  The package is from Mexico City to San Francisco starting 4 January, 16 days with five stops in Mexico and four in the Hawaii Islands.  A category 4 veranda suite for £3,600. www.hl-cruises.com

 

HURTIGRUTEN has space on its five-day Arctic Adventure voyage departing on selected dates between 5 January and 21 March 2012.  Travel from Tromsø to Kirkenes and back in search of the Northern Lights.  Prices start from £465 three nights half-board on the ship and one night bed and breakfast in Tromsø. www.hurtigruten.co.uk

 

ONE OCEAN EXPEDITIONS has availability on their 11-day Antarctic Peninsula Adventure cruise onboard the Akademik Ioffe, departing Ushuaia (Argentina) 18 December 2011 from US$6,590. www.oneoceanexpeditions.com

 

P&O has two great offers on for the holiday period out of Southampton.  Oceana has a 12-night Canary Islands Christmas cruise from 15-27 December 2011, featuring ex-Drifters lead singer, Ray Lewis.  Also includes Santa's grotto for children, carol-singing, pantomime performances and of course, Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.  From £1,161.  Ventura has a 14-night Caribbean fly/cruise including Barbados, St Maarten, Tortola, Catalina Island, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia, Dominica and St Vincent. £2,162. www.pocruises.co.uk

 

REGENT SEVEN SEAS, at the top end of the market, includes flights, excursions, service and premium wines.  The best deal is for the Mediterranean with 10 nights from £2,153 starting at Barcelona and finishing Istanbul 2 April on Seven Seas Mariner.  Monte Carlo is included too. www.rssc.co.uk

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN Independence of the Seas departs Southampton 12 January calling at Vigo, Lisbon, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, Tenerife, Funchal and La Coruna from £756.  An alternative is an eight-night Dubai fly/cruise on Brilliance of the Seas.  Starts at £872 and this includes the flight. www.royalcaribbean.co.uk

 

SEADREAM YACHT CLUB – mega yacht SeaDream II has availability on a 20-night Amazon cruise departing Bridgetown (Barbados) on 13 February.  From US$16,620 including onboard gratuities, wine with lunch and dinner, a complimentary open bar and use of the yacht’s ‘water toys’. www.seadream.com

 

SILVERSEA CRUISES Silver Wind, one of its pair of small ships, leaves Cape Town 24 January for a 10-day return trip into the Indian Ocean.  Suites are available from £3,428 including complimentary air travel and US$1,000 on board credit.  This is also a bridge-themed voyage. www.silversea.com

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COMMENT: Positive news from Government – or not

Perhaps surprisingly to some, but not to others who believe that industry pressure is at last beginning to have an effect, the Government has published its draft Civil Aviation Bill, this year rather than next, a decision applauded by all.  Words have been found by the Department of Transport to effectively acknowledge that the future of the air transport industry is getting increasingly precarious and that action is needed now.

Highlighted in the draft is a proposal to give the CAA new powers to promote the interests of passengers, including the ability to fine airports for poor performance.

Parliament itself has been quick to react, the Transport Select Committee, an official all-party grouping of MPs, has requested written comment from interested parties (not more than six pages they say) and pointing out that once submitted the views are public property.  Two oral evidence sessions are expected before the end of the year with a report expected by early 2012.

On Tuesday the Chancellor announces the autumn statement with Air Passenger Duty (APD) expected to feature.  This will of course affect airports.  The Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo MP, has written to the Chancellor urging him not to bow to "self-interested lobbying" from airlines who want to see a cut in APD.  Mr Yeo has grown up children.  Unlike the majority he does not presumably pay their holiday air taxes, assuming they fly from time to time.  Mr Yeo’s views seem to be in a minority, even the normally august Institute of Directors pointing out the damage that high taxation produces.

Virgin Atlantic in many ways summed up the general view regarding new Secretary of State Justine Greening’s statement.

“Reform is long overdue – the current regulatory regime has failed passengers. Airport charges have been allowed to increase way above the rate of inflation, hitting passenger pockets and completely ignoring the economic climate. Last winter’s snow showed that the performance of airports had not improved at the same rate.

“Regulation must produce better outcomes for our passengers and as the Bill enters Parliament, our focus will be on ensuring that the new framework delivers improvements in practice.

“We are also pleased the Government has responded to our call for airlines to be given an equal right of appeal to CAA decisions.”

According to Government the draft Bill is designed to modernise the key elements of how the industry is regulated and contributes to economic growth.  It also extends to aviation security, the 'user pays' principle which exists elsewhere in the sector (eg safety regulation).  This will involve the transfer of certain aviation security functions, such as monitoring and enforcement, from central Government to the CAA which charges the industry for its activities.  However, the responsibility for setting aviation security policy and making aviation security directions to the industry will remain with the Secretary of State for Transport.  It is estimated that this move could save UK taxpayers over £4m a year whilst seeing a better quality service delivered.

By publishing a draft at this stage, the Government says that it aims to give the Select Committee and wider stakeholders the opportunity to consider the Bill before it is brought before Parliament.

Much of the legislation surrounding aviation dates back to the 1980s and is in need of modernisation.  It is possible that the scope of the Bill may be extended before it is introduced.  One area which could be included is the reform of the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL), following the recently finished consultation on measures to protect consumers better in the 21st century holiday market and help create a more level regulatory playing field for businesses.  Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) also issued a statement supportive of the proposal.

Progress is still slow.  Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, thinks that an estuary airport could be built in eight years once approved.  But how long will that take?  The Government now says that the new Civil Aviation Bill will actually be published early into the New Year.  Let us hope so.  Air transport needs some good news.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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Allocated seating for budget airlines?

Budget airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air are both set to introduce limited allocated seating, the Irish airline after a trial period and, presumably, the Budapest-based carrier after seeing what its competitors are up to.

easyJet is also trialling a more ambitious scheme.  It seems that the mad scramble for seats on low-cost flights, highly advocated by those now considering the opposite, might be a thing of the past.

With Ryanair a €10 fee includes priority boarding and allows passengers to pre-reserve seats in the front two rows or in over wing rows.  The airline continues to offer unreserved seating in the remaining rows, and priority boarding for a fee of €5.

The scheme with Wizz Air is more or less the same with pre-booking at €8 and the service available at the departure airport for €16. www.ryanair.com www.easyjet.com www.wizzair.com

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Concorde into the New Year

Arguably the most exclusive event this coming New Year’s Eve must be Brooklands Museum’s Concorde Gala Dinner.  Just 40 people will experience fine dining in the Edwardian Clubhouse, hosted by Capt Harry Linfield, British Airways Concorde Captain, before seeing in the New Year with Champagne and Auld Lang Syne on board the iconic supersonic airliner, and a spectacular fireworks display.

The black-tie evening begins with a Welcome Champagne Reception followed by a specially-created six-course Concorde Gala Dinner featuring Beef Concorde and Mach 2 Mélange!  All drinks are included.  Entertainment and music for dancing will be provided by Heather Simmons and the Hot Rhythm Boys and there will be an informal chat with Capt Linfield.

Shortly before midnight, guests will board Concorde for the special ‘flight’ to welcome in 2012 and this will be followed by a spectacular firework display with Concorde as the centrepiece.  The price for this exclusive dinner is £295 per person. www.brooklandsmuseum.com

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flydubai in Eastern Europe expansion

Dubai’s pioneering low-cost airline, flydubai,has inaugurated services to its 46th destination – Belgrade (Serbia).  The new route is the airline’s 12th destination in Central and Eastern Europe, a key region in airline’s development strategy. 

The service further strengthens flydubai’s international route network which currently spans 46 destinations in 27 countries across the GCC (Arab States of the Gulf), Middle East, North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Asia and the fringes of Europe.

Located at the convergence of the Danube and Sava Rivers, Belgrade is both the capital and the largest city of Serbia.  With a population of 1.7m, it is one of the world’s fastest growing cities and has developed strong tourism and financial sectors.  It is also the regional base for a large number of regional MNCs (multi-national companies) including AXA, Intel, Kraft Foods, Microsoft, Motorola,P&G and Unilever amongst others.

The city is a major draw for arts, culture and music enthusiasts, having developed a prolific music, arts, architecture and theatre scene, with mainstream and alternative movements existing side by side.

Flights to and from Belgrade operate four times a week. www.flydubai.com

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Lufthansa into Moscow’s third airport

Moscow’s third airport, Vnukovo, but much closer to the city centre than Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo (the home of Aeroflot) will have flights by Lufthansa from Frankfurt next summer.  The airline already flies to Domodedovo, which in recent times has expanded enormously in terms of airlines worldwide who use it as their gateway to the Russian capital, from Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich.

Moscow, with a population of 14.6m, constitutes the biggest metropolitan region in Europe ahead of Istanbul and London.  Of the major international airports serving Moscow, Vnukovo is the closest to the city centre.  It takes but 35 minutes to get there on the express train.  Additionally, the new Lufthansa destination offers good communications to the Kaluga industrial base, a centre of the automotive industry where a number of foreign companies have established assembly plants.

All in all, with the flights to Moscow-Vnukovo, Lufthansa will be laying on a total of 153 weekly connections between Germany and Russia to nine destinations.  Besides the flights to the two Moscow airports, the airline is flying to Nizhniy Novgorod, Perm, Samara, Kazan, St Petersburg, Rostov and Yekatarinburg. www.lufthansa.com

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Qantas gets flights guarantee

With the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) issuing a declaration that it will not launch an appeal against the decision by Fair Work Australia to terminate all industrial action Qantas has seen fit to issue a robust statement. 

Group Executive Government and Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the new workplace agreements would now be determined by the independent umpire for all three unions.  “Our message to customers is that you can continue to book with Qantas with absolute confidence,” she said,  “Fair Work Australia (FWA) put a stop to all industrial action over three weeks ago which meant that Qantas customers could once again book flights with the knowledge that their flights would not be disrupted by industrial action.  This has seen customers return to flying with Qantas.”

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said that the union's energies would be better spent on the arbitration process, which it hopes will be resolved by next year.

"Our resources are better placed in the long-term strategy of making sure aviation workers and aviation passengers receive the best services, best practice and the best training for the people that service their planes in this country," he said.  "If Qantas management are serious about staying competitive in the Australian aviation industry, they will support an industry-wide award." www.qantas.com

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Thames Estuary developments

London Mayor Boris Johnson held a briefing last week regarding his plans for a new London airport, hosted by the Institute of Directors (IoD) and its Director General, former British Airways public relations chief Simon Walker.  Mr Johnson had earlier this year unveiled a scheme nicknamed “Boris Island”. 

This part 2 unveiling discussed the economic benefits of a new hub airport.  The Mayor's project does not compete with the recently announced Norman Foster integrated hub which he praised and is sited much closer to the city.

The report is extremely comprehensive and has been put together by a team from Transport for London together with York Aviation, Volterra Consulting, ERM, SKM Colin Buchanan, Professor Peter Tyler and Andy Rumfitt.  It notes that 10 years ago Heathrow offered almost 200 destinations, which dropped to 167 by June 2011, with more expected.  While European rivals with multi-runway airports lure business away from the UK, London remains without any direct connection to 12 cities in China, expected to be among the 25-mega cities with the highest GDP by 2025. 

Heathrow now offers just 9,000 seats per week to mainland China and only serves two routes.  By contrast Frankfurt has almost twice as many seats and serves four destinations, whilst Amsterdam serves six Chinese destinations. www.london.gov.uk/publication/new-airport-london www.london.gov.uk/publication/new-airport-london-part-2

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United States reviews 2010

The US Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) recently published its annual Year in Review report for 2010.  After possibly one of the most difficult years for the tourism industry since the tragic attacks of 11 September 2001, markedly improved 2010 data was encouraging.

The United States welcomed a record-breaking 60m international visitors in 2010, an increase of nearly 9% when compared to 2009.  International visitors spent more than US$134.4bn experiencing the US in 2010, an increase of nearly 12% when compared to 2009 and the third double-digit increase in travel exports in the last four years.  Travel and tourism exports to every world region increased in 2010 following a year in which all world regions posted declines.  

Total travel and tourism-related employment declined 1.4% in 2010 following a decline of 7.8% in 2009, marking the third consecutive year of declines in industry employment.  Prices for tourism goods and services increased 3.6% in 2010 after decreasing 3.3% in 2009.  Passenger air transportation contributed significantly to the upturn as airlines increased prices to align with demand.

Last week AERBT reviewed the outbound market http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/pdf/2010-year-in-review.pdf

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AND FINALLY: The good old environmentally friendly days

Checking out at the local superstore the young cashier suggested to the elderly lady that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags were not good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

Rubbish!  They both got it wrong.

Back then, we returned both milk and beer bottles to the shop.  You got back one penny a bottle.  For many a school kid this supplemented their pocket money picking up discarded bottles.  In any event the store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. They were recycled.

We climbed up stairs, because for the most part apartments did not have escalators.  Nor in office buildings.  Energy was saved and people were fitter.  We walked to the shops and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

Back then, we washed the baby's nappies.  The throw-away kind did not exist.  We dried clothes on a line with wind and solar energy.

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new this year’s designer clothing.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the black and white set was tiny.  Not one the size of a multi-screen, power gobbling.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us.  When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.  Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol to cut the lawn.  We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a plastic cup.  We refilled writing pens and replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole thing  just because the blade got dull.

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service.  We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.  There was just one telephone line into our school, the ‘property’ of the Headmaster’s secretary.

We were much greener and fitter then don’t you think?!

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Bringing together a diverse collection of some of the most important companies involved in aviation and the aerospace industry Sustainable Aviation is holding an open reception on the House of Commons Terrace today week (Monday 5 December 19:00) where a keynote statement is expected from a senior member of the Government. 

The next two years are a critical time for the aviation industry, both the Coalition Government and the Labour Party reviewing their aviation policies.  Sustainable Aviation will play a key role, demonstrating the work being undertaken to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.  More details from Luke Law on 020 7340 0992 or lukelaw@aoa.org.uk www.sustainableaviation.co.uk

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Astraeus Airlines fails

Based at Crawley in West Sussex, Astraeus Airlines has ceased operations with Mark Nicholas Cropper, Alastair Paul Beveridge and Anne Clare O’Keefe of Zolfo Cooper LLP being appointed as Joint Administrators.

The specialised airline was founded in 2002 by, amongst others, Chief Executive Hugh Parry, the holder of a similar position with British World Airlines (failed 2001), who said: “We battled hard to save Astraeus, but lower-than-expected levels of business during the summer of 2011, a lack of contracts for winter 2011-2012 and some extremely bad luck with a number of technical issues mean that we have no option but to cease all operations and put Astraeus Airlines in the hands of the administrators.”

Astraeus is a 100% subsidiary of Eignarhaldsfelagid Fengur hf, an Icelandic-based travel group that also owns Iceland Express.  That airline had been chartering from Astraeus for its Gatwick operation and is now using a subsidiary of Czech Airlines as its operator.

At the time of administration Astraeus operated five Boeing 737s and four Boeing 757.  Its demise leaves Stansted-based Titan Airways as the only British pure charter airline. www.flyastraeus.com

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Cross Channel problems

Readers should be aware that there have been problems with the Cross Channel ferries and should be careful when making a booking.  SeaFrance is not operating.

France’s Transport Minister, officials from SNCF and the Nord Pas de Calais regional council and the CFDT staff union met in Paris last Friday to discuss the takeover bid for SeaFrance by a co-operative of its workers.  Currently the operator is in liquidation and the four ships on its Cross Channel operation laid up.

In the meantime P&O Ferries has introduced more capacity to its Dover – Calais service.  European Seaway has joined the company’s Dover fleet, meaning that P&O Ferries now has six ships sailing between Dover and Calais which between them can make up to 60 crossings a day.

The company says that it has ample capacity to repatriate all tourist and freight customers displaced by disruption to SeaFrance services and to meet demand over the festive season. 

“This is the off-season and we have cranked up to the sort of level we operate at in the peak tourist season, so we can reassure anybody who wishes to travel on the Dover – Calais route that capacity is not an issue,” explained a company spokesman. www.poferries.com www.seafrance.com

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KLM starts scheduled service to Lusaka (Zambia)

Lusaka (Zambia) is the latest target of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  The carrier, part of Air France, and a member of SkyTeam, will introduce a three times per week non-stop flight from Amsterdam on 15 May operating an Airbus A330-200 with 30 in World Business Class and 213 in Economy Class.

Zambia is experiencing strong growth, thanks to its vigorous mining industry.  Moreover, this new destination for KLM will create a direct link between Zambia’s flourishing flower industry and the Netherlands, which is the largest junction in the worldwide flower industry.

Together with Kenya Airways, KLM offers another 13 flights a week to Lusaka via Nairobi.  Thanks to the partnership with Kenya Airways, KLM and Air France can offer an extensive network throughout Africa.  The alliance flies to many destinations including Harare, Mombassa, Lilongwe, and Bujumbura. www.klm.com

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Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Enters West Africa

Accra (Ghana) now has a Mövenpick property, the 260-room Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel.

Originally built and presented as a gift by the UK to Ghana after gaining independence in 1957, the completely rebuilt Mövenpick Ambassador is ideally located downtown in the central business district, close to Government ministries, major financial institutions, Accra International Conference Centre and 7km from Kotoka International Airport.

The hotel blends every aspect of 21st century excellence alongside original artwork from contemporary Ghanaian artists with stunning wooden carvings of animals, artefacts and design features.  This spellbinding collection of over 1,500 pieces of art adds to the quality of the Mövenpick Ambassador.  Many works have been lovingly restored from the days of the old hotel and are displayed in the main lobby and behind the reception area.

All the hotel rooms have free high-speed internet and a 40-inch LCD TV.  Also featured are Executive Club rooms with their exclusive dedicated 24hr Club Lounge, 15 junior suites and a palatial 350sq m presidential suite, overlooking the pool and 16 acres of lush landscaped gardens.  These include the largest swimming pool in Ghana – so large that the staff serve poolside guests on roller blades to ensure the drinks stay perfectly chilled. www.moevenpick-accra.com

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Route expansion for Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has announced its 2012 route expansion programme focusing on Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East with a raft of new destinations set to join the airline’s rapidly growing global network.

Highlights include Perth in Western Australia, the Finnish capital Helsinki, Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb, Gassim in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and three East African cities – Zanzibar, Kigali and Mombasa, in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, respectively.

Operating from the airline’s hub in Doha, capital of the State of Qatar, all seven new routes will be launched over the next few months.  They will join previously announced Baku and Tbilisi, the capital cities of Azerbaijan and Georgia, respectively, which will become part of Qatar Airways family of routes from 1 February.

In Europe, where the airline has launched seven routes this year, the addition of Helsinki and Zagreb will further strengthen its presence on the continent.  Helsinki will become the fourth Nordic route served by Qatar Airways, with already successful operations in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.

Kigali, rich in mining and capital of Rwanda, Kenya’s second largest city Mombasa, and the island of Zanzibar, will significantly boost the airline’s African network, where it already flies to 16 cities. www.qatarairways.com

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Tube station re-opens

Northern Line regulars, and users of the London Underground, will be pleased to learn that both the north and south platforms have re-opened today at Tottenham Court Road station.

They have been closed since April, a team of over 100 people working around the clock to complete the critical structural works, involving the installation of over 1,000 tonnes of new steel tunnel sections.  The work is part of a major package to install new access routes, staircases and lifts by 2016, station capacity dramatically increasing.

The £500m station upgrade is part of the Tube upgrade plan to ease congestion, improve accessibility and provide direct interchange with Crossrail services when they arrive in 2018.

When Tottenham Court Road station was built over 100 years ago, it was not designed to be used by the 147,000 people that now use it daily, or the 200,000 plus daily travellers expected when Crossrail comes to the station in 2018.  When complete the size of the ticket hall will be six times that of the present one. www.tfl.gov.uk/tubeupgradeplan 

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ON TOUR: The past, the present and the future of Dubai Airshow

Jane Stanbury has been on her travels again, this time to Dubai for the airshow.  Here is her comprehensive report.

Record breaking deals, bag-pipe playing police, stunning air displays and a light helicopter with an ejectable cabin were just some of the highlights at this year’s Dubai AirShow.  Visitor numbers were up on 2009 levels with a footfall of 56,548 and nearly 1,000 exhibitors, making the 12th edition of the show its biggest yet. Halls, pavilions and chalets displayed the colours of the UAE national flag in celebration of the nation’s 40th anniversary.

Celebrations came to a climax as the new aerobatic display team, Al Fursan, made its debut, opening the aerial display with a fly-past alongside an Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft, proudly trailing the colours of UAE national flag to the delight of the crowd.  But it wasn’t just the locals celebrating.

An historic order from Emirates for 50 Boeing 777-300ERs (Extended Range) plus options for an additional 20 of the twin-aisle commercial jetliner was valued at $18 billion, representing Boeing’s largest order ever.  The 787 Dreamliner which stood majestically over the static display, made its debut in the region and an order for six from Oman Air followed swiftly. There were wins for the Airbus A320neo too – from US Florida-based Spirit Airlines and an MoU for 75, 45 A320neo (new engine option) and 30 A320s aircraft. The MoU should be converted into a firm order by year end, a deal valued at U$7bn.

Even the antics of Al Akbar, CEO of Qatar Airways couldn’t dampen the atmosphere. Whilst decrying Airbus for “not knowing how to build aircraft,” his subsequent order for 50 A320neo aircraft and five A380s, totted up a list price spend of $6.4bn. Aircraft yet to fly also featured as the stylish dome enclosed cabin mock-up of the C Series formed the backdrop to the announcement that Turkey’s Atlasjet had signed an LoI to purchase 10 CS300 jetliners, plus options on a further five.  The list price for the firm order is estimated at $776m, and could increase to $1.18bn if the five options are converted.  In total at the close of the show $63.3bn worth of orders for aircraft, maintenance services and flight training programmes had been confirmed.

“The show has given us a great opportunity to really promote the UAE and display how it has come so far since inception,” commented Alison Weller, Managing Director of show organisers F&E. “The presence of so much state-of-the-art technology reflects how the region has become such a significant player in the aviation arena.  This is mirrored by the amount and value of orders placed.” 

One of the hottest subjects was Quest Helicopters’ newly unveiled fly by wire, light twin engine helicopter which will be built in the UAE. The twin rotor machine features an ejectable safety cabin that blasts away should a catastrophic event occur. Mike Creed, Commercial Project Director commented: “We have had great interest at the show from private owners, military delegations and medevac groups. The extra level of safety, combined with an innovative design, is creating a buzz.”

Business aviation was a strong element of the show, and there was quiet confidence amongst players in the sector.  Reflecting the burgeoning growth, Al Bateen, the region’s only dedicated executive airport, saw a 58% increase in business aviation movements during the F1 finales which coincided with the first day of the Airshow.  Steve Jones, General Manager said  “Our newly launched DhabiJet FBO service ensured that during the airport’s busiest period clients and crew had access to some of the most modern and efficient FBO facilities anywhere in the world. ” A pre-show round table hosted by the Middle East Business Aviation Association demonstrated that the market has huge potential – see report opposite. 

ExecuJet Aviation Group announced it would be the first aviation company to offer integrated financing with a new product called SimplyFly. It aims to make ownership easier through a turnkey package that it hopes will appeal to those who until now stayed away from jet ownership in order to avoid the complexity of aircraft financing.  ExecuJet also announced it was setting up an FBO in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Gama Aviation, headquartered in Farnborough, UK announced it was expanding its ME activity with the opening of an aircraft management and charter base in Jeddah, in partnership with Imitiaz Company for Aviation Services LLC. “This is a significant announcement for Gama, now in its 29th year and is the culmination of a substantial period of planning and negotiation,” said Gama CEO Marwan Khalek.

The VLJ Eclipse, with fresh backing from Sikorsky, featured on the static, and the company announced commitments and contracts for five Total Eclipse aircraft to customers who will register their aircraft in the UAE.  Executive Vice President EMEA, Ekim Alptekin said, "many assumed the UAE was an unlikely market for an efficient jet like the Total Eclipse. We are proud to prove them wrong. With these orders, UAE businessmen are proving that they care about efficiency.” Other executive aircraft on the static included Comlux’s ACJ318, with the Swiss-based company also declaring its first-ever order for an Airbus ACJ321.   Gama Aviation announced an ACJ318 had just joined its fleet, becoming the largest aircraft in the company’s Middle East fleet and for Gama globally, its 11th manufacturer type.

The Qatar Executive Global 5000 also generated interest as CEO Akbar Al Baker was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the annual Aviation Business awards, recognising his dynamic leadership in steering the aggressive expansion of Qatar Airways.

Outside of the orders the theme of flight training permeated this year’s show and continued on the final day with the signing by Fujairah Aviation Academy in the UAE with IATA, to develop the facility as an IATA-approved training centre for high school graduates. Ayla training centre also had a strong presence.  It is encouraging pilot candidates to train at its JAA approved facility in Jordan before finishing their training in the UK (Coventry Airport).

“This year we’ve celebrated the past 40 years with our UAE celebrations, we’ve embraced today’s state-of-the art aviation technology and looking to the future we need to focus on training,” commented Alison Weller.  “For Dubai 2013 we will do more to encourage young people to become interested in aviation and also look more at the environmental issues affecting the  sector.” 

Whilst 2011 Dubai Airshow was about consolidating, large orders and the latest technology, 2013 is destined to be a platform for exploring the future development of the region’s aviation industry.

Jane Stanbury  

jane@emeraldmedia.co.uk

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