9 JANUARY 2012

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3 million passengers for London City Airport

For the first time since 2008 three million passengers have passed through London City Airport, the exact figure 3,005,759, still short of the record 3.2m of that year but 7.6% up on the previous 12 months.

Figures show that Zurich (418,323) remains the most popular destination from the airport followed by Amsterdam (383,431) and then Edinburgh (343,932).  A dramatic increase of 34% on the Glasgow flights (148,746) would seem to indicate that London-bound passengers, who in the past have used the now cancelled bmi Heathrow services, have transferred their allegiances to London City (148,716) although this number is under half that for the Scottish capital.

Richard Gooding, the outgoing Chief Executive, said: “It's encouraging to see increasing passenger movements in what has undoubtedly been a challenging period for the travel industry.”

"We have invested over £7m in the terminal over the past year, extending the Central Search area, as well as other improvements, to ensure that the airport continues to deliver the time saving proposition promised, even with an increased number of passengers.”

“We expect passenger figures to remain strong ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer and look forward to welcoming visitors to the capital from across the globe.” www.londoncityairport.com

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BARUK and its New Year message

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BARUK), the industry association covering all scheduled carriers represented in Great Britain, has published a definitive statement setting out what it calls “top priority” for 2012.  Chief Executive Mike Carrivick is emphatic stating that the top priority is to get government to accept that aviation is a vital part of the solution to the country’s economic recovery.

According to Mr Carrivick two key achievements are required:

“The first must be to achieve a decisive and positive UK hub airport policy.  Continuing in the same drifting manner and the current state of inertia is not only unacceptable, but will be a great impediment to the country’s economic revival.

The second must be achieving the decision to halt the ever-increasing tax burdens laid upon aviation in the form of double taxation through Air Passenger Duty and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.”

He notes that aviation is already a net contributor to the economy.  “Continuing to use it as an easy target by which to replenish Treasury coffers will simply drive business and airlines away.”

The full statement can be read on www.bar-uk.org/newsletter/newsletter.htm

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Chinese challenge to EU emissions scheme

The China Air Transport Association, which represents the country's four major airlines including flag-carrier Air China, says Chinese airlines would not pay any charges under the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

"China will not co-operate with the European Union on the ETS, so Chinese airlines will not impose surcharges on customers relating to the emissions tax," Deputy Secretary-General Cai Haibo said.

It is believed that India, also highly critical of the ETS, could refuse to co-operate by withholding emissions data.  Last month an attempt by Airlines for America failed when the Court of Justice of the European Union said that the inclusion of aviation in the scheme was valid.  Airlines could be fined or even excluded from the region if they fail to comply with the ETS.

The EU began charging airlines for carbon emissions on flights to and from Europe from 1 January. http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/index_en.htm

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DoubleTree by Hilton with London City and Westminster hotels

Hilton’s DoubleTree has expanded in central London.  Following the acquisition of eight Mint Hotels across the Netherlands and the UK, renamed are the DoubleTree by Hilton London-Tower of London and DoubleTree by Hilton London-Westminster.

The 583-room DoubleTree by Hilton London-Tower of London is ideally positioned in the heart of The City near Tower Bridge, with easy access to Barbican, The Globe Theatre, The Whitechapel Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral.  Located adjacent to the Tate Britain museum, the 460-room DoubleTree by Hilton London-Westminster is within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye.

Guestrooms and suites at each hotel are spacious and designed for comfort, featuring a variety of essential and innovative in-room amenities including an Apple iMac computer which functions both as a TV and computer, generous work desks and a gourmet in-room coffee and tea service.  Complimentary high-speed internet access is available throughout each hotel.

Just 20 minutes from LCY via DLR, DoubleTree by Hilton London-Tower of London is located at 7 Pepys Street EC3N 4AF.  The DoubleTree by Hilton London-Westminster is located at 30 John Islip Street SW1P 4DD, just over half a mile from Victoria Station. www.doubletree.com

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Gatwick adds to Istanbul services – Far East airlines confirm dates

Turkish Airlines has launched a daily service to Istanbul’s main airport on the European side of the Bosphorus.  The airline already serves the commercial capital of Turkey from Heathrow, as does British Airways.  From Gatwick easyJet also has regular flights, but to Sabiha Gökçen, the Asian gateway to the city.

Turkish Airlines is operating an Airbus A321-200 on the route, with 195 passengers in a typical two-class cabin layout.  The airline is emphasising connections to its extensive Middle Eastern and Asian network. 

Under fresh management Gatwick is aggressively competing for new services with airberlin, AirAsia X, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Vietnam Airlines introduced last year.  2012 will see the 8 March inaugural for Hong Kong Airlines and Air China (1 May) and Korean Air (29 April) have now settled dates. www.gatwickairport.com

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IAG announces takeover of bmi

International Airline Group (IAG) sprung something of a surprise on the Thursday before Christmas, announcing it had reached a binding agreement to acquire British Midland Ltd (bmi) from Lufthansa by the end of Q1 2012.  The cost is £172.5m, though the price will be reduced if the German airline cannot dispose of separately bmi regional and bmibaby.

Sir Richard Branson, on behalf of Virgin Atlantic, and a bidder for the airline, was quick to respond.  He argues that the deal cuts choices for consumers and puts the travelling public at a disadvantage.  He contends that the European Competition Commission should block the agreement noting that British Airways already dominates at Heathrow.  Virgin will lose vital UK feeder traffic into Heathrow routes where it competes with British Airways.  BA says that its major competitors hold the majority of slots at their hub airports.

Currently BA’s parent company IAG holds 44% of the slots at Heathrow, which will now rise to 53%.  Under the arrangement bmi disappears from Star Alliance and BAA will have to reconsider the total logistics for T2, currently under construction.  From a BA point of view, whilst it will be saddled with bmi losses for the next three years, new routes and increased frequencies can be introduced, duplications dropped, and poorly producing destinations eliminated. www.iairgroup.com

 

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Norfolk Island via Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has been selected by the Australian Government to operate air services from both Brisbane and Sydney to Norfolk Island.  Once only served by a Shorts flying boat service from Sydney, Norfolk Island is around 600 miles east of Australia (which it is part of) and has a population of just 2,000 souls.

The Australian services will complement Air New Zealand’s weekly flights between Auckland and Norfolk Island.  Air New Zealand Group General Manager Australasia, Bruce Parton, said: “Air New Zealand will now be flying five days a week into Norfolk Island from either Australia or New Zealand, with services on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Mr Parton says the new services, utilising a 168-seat A320, are a good fit into the airline’s short haul schedule.  “We are excited about the opportunity to deliver our award-winning, uniquely Kiwi experience to customers who will be travelling with us between Australia and Norfolk Island.”

“Another benefit for our customers and Norfolk Island Tourism is our ability to offer dual destination travel – for example, Australian travellers will now be able to choose to visit both Norfolk Island and New Zealand on the same itinerary.” www.airnewzealand.co.uk

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Christmas quiz - the answers

How many did you get? Perhaps we made it too hard, the winner Micke Carrivick, Chief Executive of BARUK, scoring 28 out of 30.  Through the good offices of www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk first prize is indoor skydiving.  No comments please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ON THE SOAPBOX : Keith Williams - Chief Executive Officer, British Airways

Keith Williams has been the Chief Executive Officer of British Airways since January 2011 a company he joined in 1998.  As Chief Financial Officer of BA over the previous five years, Mr Williams played a leading part in the airline’s achievement of a record operating margin in 2007, before steering it through the worst recession in its history and masterminding a solution to its long-standing pensions deficit.

A chartered accountant (and graduate of Liverpool University) he previously worked for a range of major corporations including Arthur Anderson, Reckitt and Coleman, Apple Computers and Boots plc.  He serves as Non-Executive Director of Transport for London.

The great thing about the start of January, like the two headed Roman God it was named after, is that you can always spend a little bit of time looking forwards and backwards.

And for me January also marks the end of my first year as British Airways chief executive and the start of an exciting second.

Looking back, 2011 has been a year of focusing with absolute clarity on our objective of putting customers at the heart of everything we do.

One of the highlights was undoubtedly the launch of our first major brand campaign for more than ten years, and judging from my inbox our TV advertising, which captures the very heart of British Airways, has certainly made an impact.

2012 will see us develop the brand campaign further as we build on the successful first few months.

The year will also see further improvements in what customers experience onboard as we continue with our £5billion investment plans.

Our engineering teams will be particularly busy this year as we have more than 30 long haul aircraft being either refitted with new cabins from back to front or refreshed with a greatly improved look and feel.

We also welcome the delivery of two new Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, which will take that fleet up to six.  These aircraft continue to receive excellent reviews from our customers as well as paving the way for our 12 new Airbus A380s and 24 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners which begin to join the fleet in 2013.

We have also been strengthening our global network in the past 12 months, launching five new routes – to San Diego, Marrakech, San Juan, Tokyo Haneda and direct flights to Buenos Aires.  I hope that we will be able to add some more cities to this list during the coming months.

The past year has also seen us developing our joint transatlantic business with American Airlines and Iberia, which now features flights from Heathrow to New York JFK more or less every hour from 11:00 to 20:00. 

The news last month that American Airlines, has begun the Chapter 11 process, is I believe an opportunity for our joint business to become stronger still, once American emerges on the other side, as so many of its rivals have already done.

Consolidation and setting up joint business arrangements will shape much of the aviation landscape for many years to come.  The over capacity and associated inefficiencies across the industry need to be addressed more than ever in light of the prevailing economic headwinds.

I have no doubt that British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group will be a leading figure in that consolidation and just before Christmas it signed a binding agreement with Lufthansa to purchase bmi, subject to all the necessary regulatory approvals.

Buying bmi’s mainline business gives IAG a unique opportunity to grow at Heathrow.

It will also mean IAG can use its slot portfolio more efficiently and it also provides the option to launch new long haul routes to key trading nations while supporting a broad domestic and short haul network.

Customers will benefit from access to new destinations, more convenient schedules, enhanced frequent flyer benefits and greater investment than had been possible for loss-making bmi.

The deal requires regulatory clearance and I hope there will be more news from IAG in the months ahead.

Taxation is another issue which will be in the headlines during 2012, just as it was in 2011.  The UK government talks about creating the conditions for jobs and growth – but I am sorry to say the reality is the opposite.  Its tax policy, which is uniquely hostile to aviation, is costing potential jobs and growth at British Airways.

The rises in Air Passenger Duty, which will cost our customers over £350million next year, have left us with no alternative but to cut back on our planned 2012 recruitment from 800 new jobs to nearer 400.  Many of these opportunities would have been for young people.  At a time of high unemployment for new graduates and school-leavers, it is deeply regrettable that these additional tax increases have propelled us into this decision.

To end on a happier note, as the official airline partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, our teams across the airline are particularly looking forward to working together in welcoming the world to our home city next summer.

This is a great opportunity for the whole of the UK to show the world, the very best of what our country has to offer.

Whatever you are doing, or wherever you are flying, I wish you all a successful 2012 and we look forward to serving and caring for many of you on our flights in the year ahead.

KEITH WILLIAMS   www.ba.com   see British Airways historic Speedbird Centre reopens

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airberlin has new shareholder

Etihad Airways has become the largest shareholder in airberlin with a 29.21% stake, created by new shares.  On the commercial front the move connects the two airlines’ extensive networks and frequent flyer programmes offering travellers 239 destinations across 77 countries.

Speaking in Berlin, James Hogan, CEO of Etihad, said:“This new partnership expands our network reach, gives us access to 33 million new passengers, and provides us with a real opportunity for global growth.  Through airberlin, we gain immediate access to a broad and complementary European market, with outstanding connectivity options for customers of both airlines.”

Hartmut Mehdorn, who holds the same position at airberlin, noted: “The strategic partnership with Etihad Airways opens up enormous opportunities for the future of our company.  “This applies especially to future market development and the realisation of synergies.”

Under the partnership airberlin will transfer its Middle East operation from Dubai to Abu Dhabi; airberlin will operate four A330-200 flights a week between Berlin and Abu Dhabi with European travellers having immediate access to a total of 29 flights a week to and through Abu Dhabi from four German hubs.  Etihad Airways will sign codeshare agreements with the airberlin group for all European activities including Niki, the Austrian airline, and Belair, the Swiss carrier. www.airberlin.com

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Beijing gains new SkyTeam facility

SkyTeam has unveiled its brand new check-in situated in a common area at Terminal 2, Beijing Capital International Airport.  The facility brings together Air France, Aeroflot, Alitalia, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air, KLM and Vietnam Airlines, as part of SkyTeam members’ efforts to collaborate in order to improve customer benefits and improve efficiency.  This is the first time that SkyTeam has operated out of a common location in China. 

SkyTeam’s Beijing facility includes 50 check-in desks, with a further 10 self-service kiosks available by the end of the year.  Premium passengers benefit from dedicated check-in counters.

“The co-location of SkyTeam carriers worldwide is an integral part of our strategy as it offers tangible benefits to both our customers and our members,” said Gordon Humpherys, SkyTeam’s VP of Airport Services. “With so many SkyTeam members serving Beijing, the shared facility strengthens our brand in this region and makes travelling through the airport easier for passengers, while enabling airlines to realize a number of important synergies.” www.skyteam.com

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Credit cards to change

Airlines and online retailers are to be banned from levying “excessive” and opaque surcharges on card purchases next year, in a move being presented by the Treasury as a dose of Christmas cheer for struggling consumers.

Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the (UK) Treasury, announced just before the holiday break that excessive charges on all forms of payments – not just plastic cards – would be banned by the end of next year and that it would extend across most retail sectors including transport.  Charges would need to be shown up front.  His statement pre-empts moves by the European Union to achieve the same goal, but not due to become law until 2014.

The move follows a campaign by the consumer organisation Which?, which claims that airline passengers alone pay more than £265,000 a day in card surcharges.  It says that it costs between 10p and 20p to process a debit card payment, but that airlines and retailers often then add a much greater charge.  To compound the problem, this payment is sometimes not apparent until the very end of an online transaction.

The consumer group has singled out low-cost airlines for particular criticism.  Ryanair, for example, charges a £6 “administration fee” per person per sector for the use of debit cards.  This is the only practical way of purchasing a Ryanair ticket. www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/press_148_11.htm

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Emirates Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow

Arriving First and Business Class passengers from Dubai on Emirates services can now organise themselves in a dedicated landside lounge before using the airline’s complimentary chauffeur-drive service.  The lounge is situated near the kerbside, soon after passing through the customs channel on the ground floor of Terminal 3.

"Heathrow is our biggest UK airport operation, with two of our five flights served by Emirates A380s and we anticipate that around 200 passengers will use the Chauffeur-drive lounge every day," said Laurie Berryman, Vice President UK & Ireland.

The facility includes seating for up to 30 people with tea, coffee, beverages and snacks.  Newspapers and magazines are available, along with a TV news and a business area with desktop computers and complimentary wi-fi throughout.

Emirates chauffeured vehicles will be parked just 15 yards from the lounge, enabling passengers to go directly to their limousine rather than wait in the car park area.  A porter service to assist with taking baggage to vehicles will also be provided. www.emirates.com

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Germanwings expands UK route network

With owner Lufthansa backing out of the direct UK market with its sale of bmi, Germanwings, its low-cost subsidiary, is to further strengthen its British operation.

The airline will launch new routes from Heathrow to Stuttgart from February and between Manchester and Stuttgart from July replacing Lufthansa.  The carrier will offer 21 flights a week out of Heathrow and five weekdaily flights from Manchester to Stuttgart.  At Heathrow it will compete with British Airways.

The news affirms the carrier's commitment to the UK and Irish markets.  Germanwings already serves Stansted (Cologne, Hannover. Stuttgart and Vienna), Manchester (Cologne) and Edinburgh (Cologne) all year round, and Dublin during the summer months.  It says it is reviewing additional options within the market for future opportunities.

Germanwings is essentially a low-cost airline but does guarantee flight connections at its main airports.  Passengers can reserve a seat during or after the booking process (up to three hours before departure) for €8/£7 and “Best Seat” is offered with more legroom for 15€/£13 in rows 1-10.  The airline currently operates 30 Airbus 319s with an outstanding order for eight. www.germanwings.com

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Maldives 'Spa' ban lifted

One of the world’s most unique holiday areas had something of a scare during the holiday period when a minority religious fundamentalist group attempted to close the nation's luxury spas and health centres, a major feature of the Maldives leisure industry.  Any ban was quickly revoked with President Mohamed Nasheed himself attending a press briefing and stating that any change in the law should be referred to the Supreme Court.  The President said he was confident that all the institutions of state would realise the importance of placing national development first and will not act in a way that would damage the tourism industry.

The move was welcomed by Paul Jones, better known perhaps for his previous involvement with the highly inspirational One and Only brand, and whose latest concept Lux Islands Resorts is active in promoting specialist destinations in the Indian Ocean region.  “A very powerful alternative to the usual island resort holiday."

Situated on Dhidhoofinolhu in South Ari Atoll, the Maldives property consists of 193 pavilions, suites and villas supported by no less than seven restaurants and bars and some of the finest beaches and diving anywhere in the world.  Lux Islands also has properties in Mauritius and Réunion.  Mr Jones praised the personal involvement of the President. www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv www.luxislandresorts.com

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World Travel Market’s Fiona Jeffery awarded OBE

Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of London’s World Travel Market (and also holding the same position at Business Travel Market), has been appointed an OBE in the New Year Honours list for services to the tourism industry.

As a long-term advocate of sustainable travel, her achievements include creating World Responsible Tourism day in 2008, after which she was awarded Shine Woman of the Year.  She was also responsible for creating the (Tourist) Ministers’ Summit at WTM.  Jeffery, who is also founder and Chairman of the international water aid charity Just a Drop, joined Reed Exhibitions Ltd, the organiser of World Travel Market, in 1986.
 
In 1992, she helped launch Arabian Travel Market in the Middle East and in December 1993 took over responsibility as Exhibition Director of World Travel Market. www.wtmlondon.com

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AND FINALLY: Christmas leftover

One evening over the holiday period a police officer stopped my car at a routine ‘advisory’ point.

"Good day to you sir," he said. "How are you this evening?"

"Fine," I replied. 

The officer continued, "Anything to drink this evening?"

I entered into the correct spirit.

“No, but can I thank you very much for the offer!”

And now into 2012.

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Readers booked on Iberia today (Monday 9 January) and Wednesday (11 January) should check on the airline's website as to whether their flight has been cancelled due to industrial action brought about by pilot opposition concerning the new Iberia Express low cost airline to be launched in summer 2012. http://grupo.iberia.es/portal/site/grupoiberia

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Amman to Nairobi

Royal Jordanian, part of oneworld, has launched a new route between Amman and Nairobi.  It operates four times per week with two-class Airbus A319 aircraft.  A full Business Class is provided and personal video screens available for all passengers.  

During the first quarter of 2012 Royal Jordanian plans new services to Algiers and Lagos.  The airline says it is also conducting studies to see whether it is feasible to inaugurate operations to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and Accra, capital of Ghana, with a view to adding to its route network during the first half of 2012.

RJ President/CEO, Hussein Dabbas, said that the company's effort to inaugurate the route comes in line with the expansion strategy RJ is undertaking in an attempt to find new tourism and travel markets, given the decline in tourism movement from the traditional markets of Europe and North America.

Mr Dabbas said that these five additions to its 59 global destinations constitute a real leap for Royal Jordanian's volume of air transportation.  The step will also support the national efforts that aim at enhancing Jordan's position as a gateway to the Middle East and a hub that connects this region to the whole world. www.rj.com

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Burmese capital gets new airport

Myanmar opened a new international airport in its capital, Naypyitaw.  Naypyitaw International Airport (ELA) will be Myanmar's third international facility after Mandalay and the commercial capital Yangon.  It is located about 10 miles south-east of the city centre.

The airport was developed by Burmese construction company Asia World with technical assistance from Singapore engineering firm CPG.  Government sources said China provided financial assistance for the project, the cost of which has not been disclosed.  Construction began in April 2007, two years after the then military government announced it was switching the capital from Yangon to Naypyitaw, a city built in secret on a mountain plateau about 390km (240 miles) further north.

According to the Transport Ministry, the airport has a 3.6km runway, a control tower 69m high and 10 passenger boarding bridges and can take 50,000 to 65,000 flights annually.

The main airport in Yangon has a capacity of 2.7m passengers a year. www.myanmars.net

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Darwin gains joint Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia flights

Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia have announced the first two milestones of their recently approved alliance: new international and domestic routes to Darwin and the launch of frequent flyer programme co-operation.

As part of a joint plan to increase services to Northern Australia, Singapore Airlines regional full service airline, SilkAir, will begin a four times weekly two-class Airbus A320 service between Singapore and Darwin from the end of March, whilst Virgin Australia will complement these flights with a daily routing between Sydney and Darwin with similar aircraft.

The two airlines also confirmed that they would commence reciprocal frequent flyer recognition, enabling KrisFlyer (SIA) members to earn and redeem frequent flyer points on Virgin Australia’s entire network and Velocity (Virgin Australia) participants to earn and redeem frequent flyer points on Singapore Airlines-operated flights.  Reciprocal lounge access is also available for eligible customers.

Qantas provides competition to Darwin with its Jetstar product featuring a two-class Airbus A330 operation. www.silkair.com www.virginaustralia.com www.jetstar.com

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Frankfurt Airport hotels for Hilton

Hilton has opened two hotels at The Squaire, a huge new commercial complex that adjoins the station at Frankfurt Airport with direct walkway access to the airport terminals.  The project is a first for Hilton Worldwide in Europe with two individually branded hotels operating beside each other under the same roof.

The Hilton Frankfurt Airport offers 249 guest rooms and features two executive floors with an exclusive lounge and 10 meeting rooms with natural lighting.  A 24hr business centre features state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and wireless internet access is available throughout the hotel.  There are various restaurants, a 570 capacity Grand Ballroom and a 24hr fitness centre with a steam room and sauna.

The Garden Inn offers 334 rooms featuring complimentary wireless internet access, a refrigerator and spacious working desk.  The signature Hilton Garden Inn Pavilion Pantry lso provides guests with healthy snacks and drinks anytime of the day or night.  Three contemporary meeting rooms with natural light are also available accommodating up to 28 guests. http://hiltongardeninn.hilton.com  www.hilton.co.uk/frankfurtairport

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Hyatt at Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the latest location to be opened by the rapidly expanding Hyatt Corporation. 

For nearly a decade the Grand Hyatt Shanghai held the position of the world’s tallest hotel.  With the new Abu Dhabi property it has set a record that will take something to beat.  The building tilts at 18 degrees, four times that of the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The architects have contrived so that the inner atrium provides a view to the sky and draws natural light into the core of the building.  Whilst standing at the outer periphery of a guestroom, visitors are made to feel as though they are floating in mid-air, since they cannot see the ground directly below them.

The hotel is strategically located adjacent to the thriving Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), within walking distance of the upmarket Embassy district and only 15 minutes from the international airport.

Occupying floors 18 to 33 of the Capital Gate building, Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi offers 189 luxury guestrooms and suites featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows with bird’s eye views of the Arabian Gulf and the city.  ADNEC offers 19 meeting rooms, two conference rooms, a large banquet hall and 785,000sq ft of interconnected exhibition space. www.hyatt.com

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New Star Alliance CEO is Mark Schwab

Mark Schwab has been appointed as CEO of Star Alliance based in Frankfurt.  The highly experienced Schwab joins from member United Airlines where he held the position of Senior Vice President Alliances.

"With Mark Schwab we have secured an internationally renowned airline executive, who has all the qualifications required to lead our alliance into the next chapter of its success story," said Rob Fyfe, Chief Executive of Air New Zealand and Chairman of the Star Alliance Executive Board.

Mark Schwab held numerous executive positions in the airline industry at United Airlines, US Airways (launching the London operation) and American Airlines.  He began his aviation career in 1975 with Pan American World Airways in Rio de Janeiro.  As a global citizen he spent most of his career outside his home country, the United States of America.  He is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish and during his stint in Tokyo added some Japanese. www.staralliance.com

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ON TOUR: British Airways historic Speedbird Centre reopens

The Speedbird Centre at British Airways Waterside headquarters has reopened after an extensive redevelopment programme.  It is a fascinating collection of memorabilia and archive material reflecting the rich history of the airline since the very first scheduled international flight departed from London to Paris on 25 August 1919 by Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd (AT&T).  Take a slow stroll past the historic photographs, mostly in black and white, and the model aircraft.  Nearly 100 years of real airline history.  And next year compare the Handley Page Hannibal to the Airbus 380 and Boeing 787.

Lord Marshal, Chairman of British Airways 1993-2004, best sums it up.

“The collection provides an important reflection of a proud heritage established by the pioneering spirit, the endeavour and the sheer commitment of our people over many decades.

British Airways and its predecessor companies have been at the very forefront of air transport development since the dawn of this industry.  We will continue to lead in the future."

The most important item on view is the George Medal awarded posthumously to Barbara Jane Harrison (born 1945), a BOAC stewardess.  Only three other George Medals have been awarded to women, all of those in wartime. 

On 8 April 1968 a BOAC Boeing 707 caught fire on take-off at Heathrow.  Miss Harrison organised the escape of many individuals and was last seen attempting to help some elderly passengers who were less than mobile.  Due to her actions (and of others) only five lives were lost.  An aviation medicine award is given annually in her memory.

The British Airways Heritage Collection has existed since the formation of British Airways.  It was created to preserve the records and artefacts of the main predecessor companies BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation), BEA (British European Airways), BSAA (British South American Airways) and the pre-war Imperial Airways.  However those names are only part of the story.  British Caledonian is in the archives as well as Cambrian, Northeast, Go and Brymon and many others, mostly forgotten.

The collection comprises an extensive library recording the formation, development and operations of these companies and British Airways as well as much actual material and documentation.  Amongst many “firsts” Imperial Airways was the first airline to offer in-flight movies.

Over 400 uniforms from the 1930s to the present day are preserved, as well as a large collection of aircraft models. 

A historically important library of thousands of photographs is also available as well as probably the most complete set of aviation posters in the UK.  The Speedbird Centre houses an extensive range of exclusive advertising posters designed by artists such as Frank Wotton dating back to the 1950s and photographs from the 1920s to the present.  These posters are the work of some outstanding artists, often conjuring up the mood of the time, whether it be art deco 1930s, the austerities of the 1950s, or Concorde. 

The Speedbird Centre also showcases the airline's new World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins as well as the award-winning Club World and First seats.

Paul Jarvis, Manager Speedbird Centre, said: “The collection on display is truly unique.  British Airways has a history and a future that many other airlines aspire to and we are proud to be able to show this to our staff and customers.”

POSTSCRIPT

Full tribute must be given to the staff and retiree staff who keep the memories alive.  What it probably needs is real aircraft to go with it.  A BA Concorde still remains at Heathrow and dotted around the UK are Comets, Viscounts, Britannias and even DH Dragon Rapides.  Now is probably not the time to persuade IAG to release redundant land at Heathrow.  But it is something to think about.  Or support for Brooklands which already has Viking, Viscount, Vanguard, VC10, 1-11, and of course Concorde.

It can be done.  Delta has a marvellous museum at its Atlanta Hartsfield headquarters with DC3, Tristar and Boeing 767.  It even has a replica of what was termed “The Delta Air Station” of 1929.  It suffers from the same problem as Waterside in these security conscious days.  It is on airline property and not really accessible to the general public, although in fairness Waterside viewing is available to all, by appointment. 

And at Foynes, in Ireland, is the seaplane base once used by Imperial Airways as a refuelling stop on the way to La Guardia New York.  A full size replica Boeing 314 flying boat is displayed outside of a fine museum.  You can sit in the cockpit and try the on-board lounge.

On sale at the Speedbird Centre (and on-line) are photographic prints, poster copies and a selection of memorabilia and model aircraft.

Linda Press
www.flyingboatmuseum.com
www.deltamuseum.org
www.britishairways.com/travel/museum-collection

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