12 DECEMBER 2011

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Air China to Gatwick

Gatwick has now confirmed a start date of 1 May for a four times weekly Air China service to Beijing.  This is considered another coup for the South London airport now fast becoming a serious UK gateway for the Far East with Air Asia X transferring from Stansted in October, Vietnam Airways arriving last week (see below).  Hong Kong Airlines and Korean Air will commence flights in 2012. 

Air China is the only airline offering both major London airports to Beijing.  It already serves Heathrow daily with Virgin Atlantic codesharing on the route.  BA also flies to Beijing from Heathrow.

Departures from Beijing are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 01:35, with the return leg from Gatwick leaving on the same day at 13:15.  The 10-hour route will be operated by A330-200 aircraft in a two-class aircraft, similar to the Heathrow operation. www.airchina.com.cn

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Cathay to offer Premium Economy in the New Year

New Premium Economy Class seats will be progressively introduced by Cathay Pacific on its long haul flights from March 2012.  At the same time the airline will upgrade a new Economy product, also beginning from March.

The new Premium Economy product will feature a quieter, more spacious cabin than the existing Economy Class with between 26 and 34 seats.  The seat pitch will be 38 inches – six inches more than Economy Class – and the seat itself will be wider and have a bigger recline.  It will have a large meal table, cocktail table, footrest, 10.6-inch personal television, in-seat power outlet, multi-port connector for personal devices, and extra personal stowage space.

On the ground, travellers will enjoy priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding before Economy Class passengers.  There will also be an increase in baggage allowance from 20kg to 25kg.

In the air, passengers will also receive an environmentally friendly amenity bag with dental kit, socks and eyeshade.  Larger pillows and noise-cancelling headsets will be provided to enhance the onboard experience.  Improved catering will be provided too, and drinks upon boarding. www.cathaypacific.com

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Gatwick’s new ‘Family and Assistance’ security lanes

Going through airport security can be the least favourite part of flying for any passenger, but particularly for young children.

Gatwick has created an ‘adventure walk’ for children going through security in Gatwick’s South Terminal.  To enter security, children can now walk through their very own eight-foot high castle and join their parents at the other end.  Pupils of Milton Mount Primary School in nearby Crawley have helped in the design and testing of the scheme.

Geoff Williams, Head of Security at Gatwick Airport, said: "The input from the school-children has been fantastic – making the security environment more welcoming and inviting for younger children.  We have improved every aspect of security – from the preparation area right through to the moment passengers hit the lounge – and are confident that the changes we have made will make a huge difference to all those travelling through the airport.”

The new impressive 19-lane South Terminal security area now has a separate entrance with two lanes dedicated to families with young children and passengers with reduced mobility. The ‘Family and Assistance’ lanes include a spacious preparation area with specially trained staff and customised facilities to provide a more tailored service for these passengers, including wider lanes and x-ray machines. www.gatwickairport.com

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Leeds Airport development

An £11m expansion of Leeds Bradford International Airport is now under way with planned completion by summer 2012. The impressive new facilities will significantly improve passenger experience.

John Parkin, Chief Executive, said: ‘I am delighted to announce the next stage of our planned investment to transform the passenger terminal at Leeds Bradford Airport.  It marks an important milestone in the development of Yorkshire’s airport and our desire to provide the very best facilities for our rapidly growing numbers of customers and airlines.”

“The broad economic conditions are challenging, but we are the UK’s fastest growing regional airport and with the strong support of our shareholders, Bridgepoint, we are confident now is the time to invest in our future.”

“The terminal development will provide a 65% increase in airside space over two floors, creating a new departure lounge, a new range of upgraded food and beverage offers, a major walk-through Tax and Duty Free store and additional retail units.”

We will also be enlarging the security search zone, all of the boarding gate areas and building a covered walkway to aircraft from the terminal to deliver the very best in facilities and experience for our customers.” www.leedsbradfordairport.co.uk

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Newcastle Airport Hilton

Hilton has opened its 10th DoubleTree property at Newcastle International Airport.  The brand already has 25 European outlets which is expected to double in the short term.

Located just steps from the terminals and the express car park at the airport, the newly built 179-room hotel is situated just 15 minutes by road from the city centre, and much the same using the excellent Metro system.

The property’s contemporary guest rooms feature complimentary wired or wireless high-speed internet access; soundproof windows; 37-inch, flat-panel televisions; spacious work desks; MP3-compatible clock radios; refreshing Crabtree & Evelyn Citron bath and body products; and in-room tea and coffee making service. Guests will also enjoy an array of hotel services, including a well-equipped fitness centre, inviting coffee lounge, valet and laundry services, and gift shop.

In addition to modern amenities and a convenient location, the DoubleTree by Hilton Newcastle International Airport has more than 2,200sq ft of flexible meeting room space and an attractive ballroom for events, meetings and functions of up to 100 guests.  Support services include catering and banquet facilities, state-of-the-art audiovisual and connectivity solutions and a 24-hour business centre. www.newcastleinternationalairport.doubletreebyhilton.com

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South African Airways adds to African network

Rwanda and Burundi have been added to South African Airways (SAA) route network as part of the airline’s growth plans.

Effective 17 January, SAA will commence operations from Johannesburg to Kigali (Rwanda) and onwards to Bujumbura (Burundi) using a two-class Airbus A319.  The return flights will operate from Bujumbura to Kigali and onwards to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport.

“SAA is focused on strengthening its intra-Africa network in line with its Africa Expansion programme.  Adding even more destinations to our already extensive Africa route network gives our customers more travel options to thriving destinations that were previously difficult to reach by air,” says Gary Kershaw, Country Manager UK & Ireland.

In addition to being the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali is also its economic, cultural and tourist transit hub.  Bujumbura is Burundi’s capital and largest city and is close to the country’s main port, shipping coffee as its primary export.

SAA’s most recent addition to its African route network was the start of flights to Ndola (Zambia) on 2 October.  The Ndola service is largely aligned to growth in demand from mining executives, especially those flying into South Africa from countries such as Australia. www.flysaa.com

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Zara lands at Heathrow

AERBT does not for the most part feature airport (or station) shops, but clearly our readers are interested.  Something for the future perhaps?

With the holiday present buying period upon us we must mention that Zara has opened its first ever UK airport store at Heathrow Terminal 3.  It is also one of the first in the UK to receive the retailer’s new global design concept, recently unveiled in Westfield Stratford, and will offer lines from its premium women’s collection, ‘Zara Studio’, as well as a wide-range of accessories such as bags and shoes.

Since Zara’s first store in 1975 in Spain, it now has over 1,700 stores across the globe in 78 countries. With new garments landing in stores twice weekly, passengers passing through the terminal will have plenty to look forward to.

Muriel Zingraff-Shariff, Retail Concessions Director, at Heathrow, said: “We’re thrilled to have Zara at Heathrow.  It is such a popular retailer, not only in the UK but around the world, so we’re confident it will be a welcome addition to the brands we already house at Terminal 3.  These include Paul Smith, Miu Miu, Mulberry, Harrods, Ralph Lauren, Hermes and Kurt Geiger to name but a few.” www.zara.com

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INDEX plus AND FINALLY: For plane spotters!

ARCHIVE OF ISSUES - ROAD TESTS – CRUISE SHIP – ON TOUR and ON THE SOAPBOX

(for 2010 index follow the link)

ROAD TESTS
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 TB Lusso
Chrysler Delta 1.4 Multiair SE
Ford Focus Titanium 1.6 Eco
Infiniti FX30d Premium
Jaguar XF 2.2 Diesel Premium Luxury
Kia Sportage MY 10 1.7 CRDi
Mazda CX-7 2.2 D Sport
Mitsubishi i MiEV
Mitsubishi Outlander Juro 2.2 DI-D Automatic
Peugeot RCZ and VW Sharan
Renault Wind Roadster 1.6 Dynamique
VW Golf Estate SE Blue Motion

ON THE SOAPBOX
Sandra Bloodworth - Chair of BARUK
Mike Carrivick - Chief Executive of BAR UK
Conrad Clifford, Chief Executive, Monarch Group
Alex Cruz – Chief Executive Officer, Vueling Airlines
Richard Davey, Chief Executive Officer, Nyras
James Dillon-Godfray – Business Development Director, Oxford Airport
Peter Foster – President, Air Astana
Peter Hill CEO of Oman Air
Vernon Murphy, former Managing Director, BAA Scottish Airports
Laurie Price of Mott MacDonald
Antonio Vazquez, Chairman of the International Airlines Group
Stewart Wingate - Chief Executive, Gatwick Airport

“ON TOUR” DESTINATIONS 2011 (2010 2009)
Astana - Capital of Kazakhstan
Battle of Britain Exhibition at Brooklands Museum
Biggin Hill – The business airport for (South East) London
Brooklands makes a comeback
Christmas in Shakespeare Country
Edinburgh – Capital of Scotland
Editor Highjacked – Successful end to Lufthansa A380 crisis (Miami)
Egypt and the Jews – plus an update
Florence
Goodwood Revival 2011
HMS Belfast
Israel and the Galilee
Mallorca is a gastronomic heaven
New York - New York
Oahu - The main island of the Federal US State of Hawaii
The Children’s Holocaust ‘Paperclip’ Memorial Museum (Atlanta plus Delta)
Toronto and Porter Airlines
Vigo – a town on the move
Where is La Rioja?

SPECIAL “ON TOUR” REPORTS (2010 2009)
“To Fly to Serve” A new spirit at British Airways
A long day's journey into night by Jo Bacon (People worse off than you)
Aircraft Interiors Expo Hamburg
Arik Air of Nigeria
Ash in Europe (David Learmount of Flight International discusses the problem)
BGAD raises the Games at Cambridge
Business Travel Market and World Travel Market (Excel London)
Collaboration, Co-operation and Competition (EIBTM Barcelona)
EBACE (Geneva)
Europe’s regional airlines meet in Malta (ERA's local gathering)
Future of Business Jets
I know I am mad but I am harmless (around the World with Michael Bartlett)
IATA’S AGM at Singapore
ITB Berlin
 London City Airport nearly 30 years on
London Prepares
Northolt revisted
Premium Economy A special report on Air New Zealand 
The European regional’s gather in Rome (ERA General Assembly)
The Future of the New York Region (A discussion on airport requirements)
The IT brains gather (SITA conference)
The past, the present and the future of Dubai Airshow
The World's Quirkiest Museums (By Virgin Atlantic)
Times Gone By – with Tony Hesketh-Gardener
Transport Times Conference
With Pegasus Airlines to Tehran
You can still fly across the water (Hovercraft)

CRUISE SHIP REVIEWS
Azura
Balmoral
Crystal Serenity
Diamond Princess
Discovery
Disney Dream
Glen Tarsan
Golden Princess
Grand Princess
Hebridean Princess
Independence of the Seas
Minerva
Murray Princess
MV Eric
NCL Jade  
Portsmouth Port
Prinsendam
Queen Elizabeth 
Queen Mary 2
Queen Victoria
Royal Princess
Seven Seas Navigator
Star Flyer

AND FINALLY (At least finally for 2012)

http://www.funstufftosee.com/goodbye.html   A fine link for airliner and aircraft enthusiasts

Time to say goodbye – with sound.

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Oh what a year that was!

How will 2011 be remembered? 

For business travellers it has been traumatic, not knowing if an airline, hotel, or even a country was going to remain in existence.  Or whether volcanic ash would lay low the most carefully organised plans.

However for the most part the major carriers continued to fly on, even if some changed their name (Continental), or used financial manipulations to stay in business (Chapter 11/American).  Iceland’s natural firecrackers tried to upset airline schedules but thankfully technology has intervened.

What was the most important travel event of 2011?

It has to be the introduction into airline service of the Boeing 787. 

We don’t know what the future holds but it is fairly safe to say that in 20 years’ time over 1,000 further copies will be flying and all the aggravations of the last three years will be forgotten.  The aircraft was due to be the transport star of Beijing 2008!

easyJet, under new management, if not ownership, has emerged as a truly responsible airline, now Britain’s biggest.  It is using its resources and financial strength to mitigate the problems that nature, in the form of volcanoes, can cause to the airline scene.  At this stage we truly don’t know if it is a false trail.  The system that the airline espouses may become standard for all airlines, its origination forgotten.

Politically, in the UK, it has been a disastrous year, with a new government clearly not sure in which direction to pursue its aviation policy.  Not for the first time the Minister, fresh to the job, and getting his act together, was suddenly moved.  His successor has arrived with the burden of fundamental Heathrow hostility upon her.  How she is able to pursue a balanced and objective point of view remains to be seen.

Europe dominated the final weeks of the year, with Britain’s financial position and treaty posture dominating.  Mr Cameron walked away from the bargaining table, but left with a goodwill gesture, from his point of view, of ever increasing airport taxes, a present to European countries and their airlines. 

How will 2012 fare?

We have the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics.  There will be full aeroplanes, full hotels, and by the sound of it full roads.  Southend will be welcomed back as a proper scheduled service operation (and with it a direct airport train line to the Olympic Park).  Will British Airways become the majority airline at Heathrow, or will a repositioned Virgin Atlantic emerge as Virgin Unlimited?  BAA for one needs to know.

Enjoy the quiz. 

It’s been a bumpy but enjoyable crossing on QM2.

All the best for 2012 from the team at AERBT (An Executive Review of Business Travel).

MALCOLM GINSBERG
Editor in Chief

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Airline and airport codes on your phone

Avianet, Munich-based provider for global IT services and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aviareps AG, has just launched its first app.  Having a strong affinity to airline solutions, Avianet’s 'Travel Code' also deals with the daily issues of air travel.  The app can be downloaded free of charge in the iTunes store and is based on an Apple iOS platform.

The concept of 'Travel Code' is simple: The app facilitates the tracking of IATA codes.  It enables a quick and easy reference by either typing in a name of an airline, airport or country providing the respective two or three letter code within seconds or by entering a code and getting the full name of the airline, airport or country immediately.

'Travel Code' is designed for industry professionals, passionate travellers and consumers alike.  “The app is a simple tool that allows easy handling and shows immediate results for the user,” says Arshad Mughal, General Manager of Avianet.  “Even when working in the aviation business, hardly anyone can keep all codes in mind or know the full facts behind them.  With our new app, a convenient solution is provided for anyone keen to have all codes at hand.” www.aviareps.com

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Etihad order takes its 787 commitment up to 41

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has announced an order for 10 more Boeing 787 Dreamliners taking its commitment up to 41, becoming the largest operator worldwide of the all new aircraft.  Two 777 Freighters have been added at the same time.

“Our decision to expand our Dreamliner fleet is testimony to Etihad’s commitment to operating one of the youngest and most fuel efficient fleets in the skies,” Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, said. “It also reflects our confidence in the 787’s ability to have a significant impact on our operating efficiencies and the passenger experience we can offer onboard this revolutionary aircraft.  Both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the 777 Freighter offer highly attractive operating economics and will facilitate our global expansion plans by allowing us to transport passengers and cargo into new global markets from our hub in Abu Dhabi.”

Founded in 2003, Etihad Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world and currently operates scheduled flights to 84 passenger and cargo destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and North America. www.etihadairways.com

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Jakarta gets Pullman

Accor, which claims to be the largest hotel operator in the Asia Pacific region, has inaugurated the 317-room Pullman Jakarta Central Park.  Pullman is Accor’s upscale hotel brand targeting worldwide business and leisure travellers.  Jakarta is the administrative capital and business hub of Indonesia. 

Based in the centre of Podomoro City Super Block – the new business, commercial and residential area – the hotel is the ideal “place to meet” for both international and domestic business and leisure travellers.  Pullman Jakarta Central Park provides a unique concept of hospitality through the integration of the shopping mall, as well as business and leisure entertainment options.  It has also adopted a contemporary urban art-style design as its signature in guest rooms and in doing so created both a stimulating yet quiet space in which guests can retreat or efficiently work.

The hotel’s facilities are extensive with two restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool and sunbathing terrace, a state-of-the-art gymnasium and a roof top Sky Terrace Garden.  In addition, the hotel offers the latest conference and banquet facilities with over 5,700sq m of pillar-less function rooms, designed to cater to a wide spectrum of corporate and social functions. www.pullmanhotels.com

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London gets free New Year’s Eve travel

Not that he needs a free travel pass, and is more used to a somewhat quicker means of travel, Lewis Hamilton is promoting Diageo’s sponsorship of free travel on London’s Tubes, buses, trams (and some trains) this New Year’s Eve.

It is all part of a bid to encourage party goers to get home safely this festive season.  Diageo is of course eight of the top 20 premium spirits brands plus Guinness.

The Responsible Drinking feature across the TfL network including on the Underground, buses and at Tube stations.  In addition, Tube travellers at selected central London stations will receive top tips and free bottles of water on some of the busiest party nights of the year as part of Diageo’s ongoing commitment to a safer night out. 

A number of celebrations will be taking place across the Capital including the spectacular fireworks display on the Southbank organised by the Mayor of London.  Londoners will benefit from free travel from 23:45 on New Year’s Eve until 04:30 on New Year’s Day. Tube, DLR and tram services will run all night on New Year’s Eve, as well as night buses and 24-hour bus routes as usual.  Free travel will also apply to London Overground trains running after 23:45 until last train times. www.tfl.gov.uk

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Newquay Cornwall Airport in dramatic passenger slump

Now the only scheduled service airport west of Exeter, following the closure of Plymouth City Airport in September, passenger numbers at Cornwall Newquay have slumped dramatically.

Cornwall Council has reputably spent £76m transforming the former RAF St Mawgan into the county gateway as a civil airport since 2005.  Passenger numbers rose steadily from 337,000 in 2005 to their peak in 2008 of 431,000.  Estimated figures for 2010 are likely to be less than 200,000.  Airlines have pulled routes, including Ryanair, but the largest loss has been due to the closure of Air Southwest, whose Plymouth transit passengers were a major contributor to the figures.

The current passenger numbers are in stark contrast to the growth projections.  They were predicted to rise to 1,010,000 by 2015 and to 1,430,000 by 2030.

Airport Managing Director Al Titterington said: “The airport is continuing to work with its airline partners, both existing and new carriers, to grow sustainable air services. Flybe has introduced a new year-round service to Manchester, Loganair will operate services to Glasgow from April and British International Helicopters will operate its helicopter services to the Isles of Scilly from the airport next year. www.newquaycornwallairport.com

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US outbound travel

The US citizen outbound market totalled 28.2m travellers for the first six months of 2011.  It is not possible to compare the figures with the previous year as the authorities have now gone over to a paperless system.  For the future it is hoped that the figures will be available monthly.

Canada (4.6m) and Mexico (10.3m) take the lion’s share with 53% of all ex-US travel.

Travel to Europe was 18% of the 5.2m visitors.  The Caribbean was popular too at 3.2m followed by Asia 2.0m.  The number of Americans visiting Africa is very small, 175,000, just 1% of the total market.

With the exception of Canada and Mexico these are air-only figures and give some indication why the United States invests heavily in such exhibitions as ITB Berlin (in March), and London’s WTM, traditionally in November. www.tinet.ita.doc.gov

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CRUISE NEWS DECEMBER 2011

 Queen Mary 2 (QM2) has graced the seven seas since 2004.  Your Editor was privileged to travel on her from New York to Southampton when she was new, and was last week most fortunate to take her first passage in the opposite direction following a 14-day multi-million pound remodelling in Hamburg. 

This report comes to you as we approach New York, docking this morning (19 December).  Such is internet technology.

QM2 is unique.  It is a true ocean liner, probably the last of the breed.  But they said that of QE2 too.

Her so-called rivals may now be bigger (she was the world’s largest passenger ship when constructed) but these are purpose-built cruise ships, effectively floating mobile hotels, slower, more ponderous, and whilst perfectly able to cross the Atlantic, not designed for regular appearances on that sometimes most challenging of passages, as was the last seven days.

QM2 is a multi-purpose ship, designed that way, spending perhaps one-third of her life on the North Atlantic, one-third cruising in Europe and the Caribbean, and one-third on what is now the traditional World Cruise. 

According to Commodore Christopher Rynd, Cunard’s senior Captain and in charge of QM2 in its maiden crossing after the re-fit, no other passenger ship could have contended with last week’s gruesome weather.  “She (QM2) has performed exactly as she was designed to do.  No other ship could deal with the conditions experienced in such a way.  We’ve kept up a steady 21 knots but even we have had to steer a course to mitigate the circumstances.”  The bridge reported winds up to 70 knots at gale force 11. 

Damage on board seems to have been minimal and holidaymakers for the most part took it all in their stride.  Some are reported to even be enjoying the experience.  New York historian, Ted Scull, on board to lecture passengers on the city that never sleeps said: “I just love this weather.  That is what the North Atlantic in December is all about.”

Which way – East or West?


Let us begin by answering a simple question.  If you are not going to take QM2 both ways should one go westbound or eastbound. 

Out of Southampton, if you are flying back, it is cheaper in that you don’t have to pay the enormous British government airport departure tax, you gain an extra hour per day as you put the clocks back, and the entry to New York, even although it is now Brooklyn and not the Hudson, is magnificent. 

In the other direction the prevailing sea should make for a smoother crossing and arriving at Southampton, refreshed from seven days at sea, and with your journey home organised makes for a restful end of a lovely holiday.

Either way Cunard still have on offer the fully inclusive (except for tips) ship’s travel and return flight from less than £1,000 in 2012.  Terrific value.  For the cost of a Business Class return fare London – New York, you can travel Princess Grill one way and fly back.  If you need to go the United States make the time to have a holiday one way or the other.  It is a real experience.  You can have a leisurely crossing, or cram into every moment of the day some activity.  Or use each day to suit your own agenda.  

To put things in perspective the old Queen Mary was capable of crossing the Atlantic in less than four days.  Today her splendid successor currently takes seven nights.  When introduced the journey time was six nights but Cunard have now discovered that their passengers prefer more time on board, not less.  The longer passage sells better for much the same money, costs less in fuel, but is more expensive operationally.

Let us put one misinterpretation to bed.  QM2 is not a three-class ship.  Yes there are separate resturants for Grill Class passengers, but you get what you pay for.  Queens Grill clients benefit from the use of butlers, and can lead very private exclusive lives in their magnificent suites if that is what is wanted, whilst those in Princess Grill have slightly lesser staterooms.  For boarding there is priority, a private lounge and hostess, but for the most part all mix throughout the ship.  It is a very seamless society.  Grill Class clients also have what the Americans call tubs.  For the rest it is a (large) shower.

Refurbishment

RMS Queen Mary 2 made her first transatlantic crossing in January 2004.  She comes in at 151,000 gross registered tonnes.  She can carry up to a maximum of 2,600 passengers serviced by around 1,250 crew.  On this crossing she was full, plus five dogs in luxurious kennels.

The 14-day refit required a team of thousands of craftsmen working around the clock replacing the equivalent of almost ten football fields of carpet and turning about 18 miles of fabric into over 6,000 individual items.

Peter Shanks, Cunard President and Managing Director, summed it up:

“Queen Mary 2 is an iconic leader in the world of luxury ocean travel and continues to receive high ratings by guests and the cruise industry.  A ship that still turns heads everywhere she goes, she is unquestionably the pride of our fleet.  We are committed to maintaining that impeccable reputation, and this significant refurbishment is an important investment on behalf of our guests.” 

One simple innovation worthy of mention is the installation of eight photo image readers in a gallery filled with the work of the on board photography team.  Just insert your cabin card and very quickly all their efforts with your stateroom number attached come up.  It saves looking through literally thousands of prints.  Cunard might well scrap the gallery at some future point in time and no doubt others will copy.

Also, gone are the art auctions, replaced by interesting lectures (and your editor was honoured in being able to give a 45 minute discourse on the Olympics, which went down well) .  The Rolf Harris story was standing room only.  An amazing multi talented man. The ship is now entirely wi-fi which works well.

Looking in more detail all 1,310 staterooms received a fresh look with new carpeting, curtains, bedspreads and some gained new furniture.  Flat screen TVs are now standard.  On board is some of the finest accommodation at sea, including four outstanding duplex suites which look out over the stern pools, but the standard cabin, with or without balcony, is more than adequate, a pullout bed/settee available if needed.  No tea or coffee making facilities are provided but a complimentary 24hr cabin service includes soups, pastas and a whole range of sandwiches.  You can dine in your stateroom during restaurant hours.

QM2 regulars will straight away notice changes in the popular Golden Lion pub offering traditional lunch menus, live sporting events on TV, regular quizzes and nightly music.  The new design retains the British pub atmosphere and also evokes, according to Cunard, an American country club feel similar to the warm colours and plush seating in the same venues aboard sister ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

An extensive refurbishment of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub includes the teak surrounds of the hydrotherapy pool and adjacent wet areas and a general upgrade of all the facilities.  Most impressive is the new touch screen TV exercise machines in the fitness centre, which also offer computer games to take your mind off the agony you are putting yourself through.

Both the Queens Grill and Princess Grill Restaurants feature new, lighter carpet designs but if you have not travelled on QM2 before, or in recent times, the Club Britannia dining area is well worth a consideration.  It is available for those booking what is really the standard balcony cabin, but on deck 12, with quick access to the Pavilion Pool, with its sliding roof.  Club Britannia is the seagoing version of Premium Economy, the same extensive menu as the main (Britannia) restaurant but is more exclusive and a quieter area.  The service is personal and you can eat at a time to suit rather than the two sittings of the main dining area.

With the Princess Grill the menu is extensive but mainly European.  King’s Court offers a variety of self-service meals and both Italian and Lotus silver service dining, for which there is a supplement.  Often considered the finest fare at sea New York restaurateur Todd English offers his award winning cuisine, also mainly European, in a fine intimate facility.  It is popular for private celebrations. There is a charge al la carte but vastly less than one on dry land.  Such is its success it has been replicated on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

Other alterations and improvements include an upgrading to the Commodore Club overlooking the bow with a new carpet design and additions to the white leather furnishings of chairs, sofas and bar stools.  Remodelled also is the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar with a new carpet and soft furnishing.  Sir Samuel’s, the busy social venue, which features speciality coffees during the day and an impressive menu of wines at night, has also received new carpeting and furniture coverings.

The Play Zone / Kids’ Zone, of which Cunard is justifiably proud, has undergone a complete refurbishment, including new soft play areas, plus upgrades to the very latest in electronic gaming technology and entertainment.

Queen Mary 2 was recently named the world’s Top Large Resort Ship in the new Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.  By continuing to invest in both her technical and hotel areas and retaining her grand status with the largest ballroom and the only planetarium at sea, plus the largest library, Cunard is ensuring that its 170 years of tradition are being kept.  137 tableaux spread around the ship describe the line's fascinating history of the line.  It is also an account of the social scene over one and a half centuries.

In many ways QM2 is a throwback of the liners of the 1930s, art deco throughout, with a great deal of walnut panelling.  It is a very quiet ship.  No sales pitches and bingo announcements for Cunard customers.  Art auctions have been eliminated but the gallery has been retained and Clarendon Fine Art are on hand to discuss your requirements. 

A tuxedo is obligatory on certain nights in the resturants main dining areas.  However the alternative eating areas will make you very welcome if your dress code wish is more relaxed.

With a seven-night crossing, and no interruptions regarding shore excursions travellers can take in some of the offerings on board.  The word is “some”.  Frankly it is impossible to visit all that is available in that short time.  Even a return trip would be pushing it.  Two large theatres.  Entertainment and films galore and a variety of sporting activity.  The Mayfair shopping arcade should be mentioned too, also upgraded during the dry dock period.  It is easy to bypass if not for you, but many spent much of their trip deciding what to buy, tax free.  Try and catch a bargain day.

In 2,000 words it is impossible to fully describe QM2.  If your business trip takes you across the Atlantic towards the front end of the aircraft, for no more money, treat yourself to an week’s holiday on board this magnificent liner.  You will enjoy it.


PROGRAMME

From New York QM2 takes a 15-night holiday trip through the Caribbean before returning to Brooklyn and thence another transatlantic crossing to Southampton.  On board are 728 clients for the whole trip.  On 10 January she commences the 108 days 2012 World Cruise, but it is not a global circumnavigation.  That she does of Australia taking the southerly route.  From Sydney, for the second time, it is up to Tokyo and South East Asia.   Singapore to Mumbai follows and then Dubai, the Suez Canal, Mediterranean and home.  A great variety of sectors and combinations are available.  To date only 280 passengers have booked the whole voyage but that is more than made up by those who want to go all around Oz, a very rare offering.

Next summer QM2 is back on her regular sailings across the Atlantic, the only ship to do so, and capable of doing so.  In between there are voyages from New York up the St Lawrence, and Southampton to both Northern Europe and the Canaries.  The short sample cruises, two to five days out of Southampton, are very limited in 2012.  Cunard clearly feels that the cruising world knows all about QM2.  The vast majority of passengers are regulars.  That speaks for itself. www.cunard.com

Malcolm Ginsberg

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bmi not a done deal

British Airways proposed purchase from Lufthansa of bmi is not a done deal.  Virgin Atlantic has come in with a bid which, whilst thought to be less than the BA offer, has certain advantages for the German airline. 

A Virgin Atlantic takeover of the former British Midland Airways would probably happen far quicker, with significant cost savings, as it would not be subject to regularity examination and may well draw the airline, 51% owned by Richard Branson’s interests, into the Star Alliance fold.  Minority shareholder Singapore Airlines is a member of the global grouping. 

For BA the great advantage of taking over bmi is the added slots it would give at Heathrow, allowing for flexibility and future expansion given the Government’s ‘no new south east’ runways policy.  Duplicated routes would be eliminated. 

Owned by Virgin Atlantic, bmi would feed into the airline’s Heathrow hub more so than it does now, but the Crawley-based carrier lacks any experience in the short haul area.  A stronger British Airways would not be seen in the best light by Lufthansa in spite of short term monetary gain.

Virgin may also want to use some slots for long haul and become the dominant airline from Terminal 2. www.flybmi.com

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CAA reports on Aviation Policy for Consumers

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), last week published a report entitled “Aviation Policy for Consumers” in which it said that capacity restraints would “increasingly limit the choice and value available to consumers.”  Air fares would rise, the quasi government department noted, and cited London City Airport where charges, which the airlines pass on to passengers, would increase. 

The CAA pointed out that available capacity at Heathrow was affecting efforts to liberalize air service agreements with foreign states.  These are normally on a 50/50 basis.  New destinations might well not be developed.

Iain Osborne, CAA Regularity Director, said: “ We frequently hear that the UK is losing out to Europe in its aviation network and that there is a connectivity crisis in London.”  In an effort to get over this problem airlines are likely to look at long haul routes to the detriment of regional and short haul traffic.

The CAA made it clear that, in its view, the Government needs to put passenger requirements at the top of the pile when it outlines its aviation review next spring. www.caa.co.uk

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Finnair is very smart for 2012

It now calls itself a boutique airline and let us face it, Finnair will never be as large as some.  It is a niche product, and a very good one too, offering a north Europe hub from Helsinki to the Far East.

For 2012 it has come up with new uniform designs, but not just any uniform. A real ‘in-house’ product.

The carrier has created a Service Design Unit, the first of its kind in the airline business.  The job of the Service Design Unit is to create a holistic approach to customer service that optimizes the customer’s experience at every stage of their journey, from the initial point of contact – researching when, whether, and with whom to fly – to the arrival at the final destination.  The scope of the unit’s work encompasses not just flight crew and cabin service, but virtually every aspect of Finnair’s behind-the-scenes operations, from chefs and gate agents to top management.  From the UK, routing from both Heathrow and Manchester you should see the results of this innovation soon. www.finnair.com

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Kempinski Career Day 2012

Looking for a job in the hotel industry?  Where would that journey take you?  To China?  The United Arab Emirates or Thailand? 

On the second Kempinski Career Day at the Kempinski Hotel Airport Munich, a chance will be given to approximately 1,000 ambitious and talented applicants to kick-start their career in the luxury hospitality business.

On 10 March Kempinski Hotels' Management Board, senior executives and over 60 General Managers will be present to meet the candidates in 'speed dating' style.  Various presentations throughout the day will give participants the opportunity to learn more about the company as well as the working conditions in the regions Kempinski hotels can be found.

Over 22,500 new recruits are needed internationally. There is one condition: Interest in new cultures and a pioneer spirit.

"Our aim is to double our portfolio by 2015," says Reto Wittwer, President and CEO of the Swiss run group. "Finding new talent, which will push us further in the future, is and will continue to be our utmost priority."

Currently, Kempinski operates 66 properties, including the Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin, and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. There are 43 projects under way. www.kempinski.eventbrite.com

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McLaren road car for Christmas?

Hertz UK have announced a partnership with luxury supercar hire company Première Velocity. 

Michel Taride, President, Hertz International and Executive Vice-President, Hertz Corporation, said: “By partnering with Première Velocity, we are able to offer an exhilarating and truly memorable drive for our customers.  The full range of cars will be available on the Hertz website, so customers will have access to sporty, high-end vehicles for their driving pleasure.  The new partnership perfectly complements our own existing Prestige Collection of luxury vehicles.”

With an extra cache of exclusivity, the Lamborghini LP560-4 Bicolore, Porsche Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet, Ferrari 458 Italia, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes S Class Brabus are only available to renters through the Première Velocity service.  Other super cars on offer include the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador, Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster and McLaren MP4.

Première Velocity and Hertz supercars are available for hire by customers over 25 years of age and with no more than six points on their driving licence (subject to previous convictions and accident terms). www.hertzsupercars.com

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Recaro seats for SAS

Passengers on SAS European flights operated by Boeing 737-800 will find new and more comfortable seats from the start of next year as German company Recaro begins to deliver the first batch of an initial 1,484 order.

After orders from the Lufthansa Group, SAS is the latest Star Alliance member to choose this market-acclaimed Recaro seat.

“We are pleased to welcome SAS as a BL3520 customer,” says Axel Kahsnitz, the CEO of Recaro Aircraft Seating.  “The airline chose our latest Economy Class seat, which sets the standard for short-range flights in terms of both design and comfort.”

SAS says that it was particularly convinced by the significantly lighter construction as well as the extra space it gives passengers.  Recaro managed to reduce the weight of this new model by 3kg – making it about 30% lighter than comparable seats.  It offers passengers more living space due to a leaner, space-saving backrest combined with a higher literature pocket.  Instead of being placed in the passenger’s knee area, it is located above the tray table which ensures an outstanding level of passenger comfort. www.recaro-as.com

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Virgin Atlantic’s pet travel a howling success

The British have long been known as a nation of pet lovers.  Virgin Atlantic is a beneficiary of the devotion to our four-legged friends.  Since 2003, the airline has seen an extraordinary 1500% increase in the number of dogs leaving the UK to be reunited with their owners as they go on holiday or relocate abroad. 

Cat travel has increased by 325% in the same period.

This rise is likely to continue into 2012 as the Government introduces new regulations which will make pet transport easier for animal lovers.  Owners have to place their animals in quarantine for just 21 days for those cats and dogs coming into the UK. 

John Lloyd, Director of Cargo, Virgin Atlantic said: “We’ve transported so many breeds all around the world – ranging from Siamese cats to Australia and Yorkshire terriers to the Far East.  We’ve carried animals for customers who want to make sure their pets also get a holiday in the sun, for those starting a new life abroad and we’ve even flown police sniffer dogs trained in the UK to the Caribbean.” www.virgin-atlantic.com

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The 2011 AERBT Christmas Quiz

 The AERBT Christmas Quiz this year is not for plane spotters (although AND FINALLY might be considered in that mode).

However, this is a business travel publication, with some emphasis on flying.

Through the good offices of www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk first prize is indoor skydiving.  If it is not for you it can be offered to someone of your choice and you can watch.  We’ve some tickets for Miss Pam Ann when she returns to London in April, and third prize is dinner for two on the DC6 Diner at Coventry Airport.

All you have to do is tell us where the pictures were taken.  Every one of the 30 are in places featured in 2011 AERBT.  The general feeling in the office is that they are not easy, so even if you cannot answer all you still might win a prize.  

The Editor’s decision is final.

The competition closes midnight Friday 6 January 2012.

Send your answers to quiz@aerbt.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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