This review was revised 18 October
* items include readers letters
12 MARCH 2012
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It may be trading in Chapter 11, and is by far not the last US airline to do so, but American Airlines is pushing ahead with a major upgrade of its passenger services.
Last week the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline, a member of oneworld and partner to British Airways across the North Atlantic, announced plans to outfit its entire mainline fleet with what it calls 'Main Cabin Extra'. Essentially what is on offer is more legroom and priority boarding, recognised by business travellers as their main concern with flying.
American plans to begin installations this year, and over time will update all of its existing aircraft. New Boeing 737-800 aircraft being delivered will come equipped with Main Cabin Extra seating beginning this fall. Anticipated future aircraft, including Airbus A321s, A319s, Boeing 777-300ERs and 787s, will also offer Main Cabin Extra.
Members of the airline’s elite schemes who purchase a full-fare Economy Class ticket will receive complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra, subject to availability. For other customers who wish to purchase Main Cabin Extra, prices will range between US$8 and US$108 per segment, depending on the length of the flight. www.aa.com/maincabinextra
UK airports handled 219m passengers during 2011 according to figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an increase of 4.1% (8.6m) on 2010.
The recovery comes on the back of three consecutive years of falling passenger numbers, and left 2011 at the same level as 2004. During months where 2010 was unaffected by disruptive events, 2011 saw passenger numbers increase by 0.6% compared to those carried during 2010, suggesting that underlying growth was still relatively weak.
AERBT brings you the individual airport without any real comment except to say that for 2012 Southend, which moved 42,439 passengers last year, a big rise from 3,583 the previous 12 months, will be into six figures. With easyJet as a tenant it should in 2103 make the one million plus cut off point. www.caa.co.uk/airportstatistics
|Airport||Passengers (000s)||% increase|
Premium class passengers on Etihad Airways are to benefit from an additional 10kg baggage allowance, meaning Business Class clients can now travel with up to 40kg of luggage, before incurring an overweight charge.
The airline points out that this is 8kg more than the equivalent services offered by both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic at 32kg per person. Etihad Guest Gold Members will be offered up to 65kgs. Economy Class remains the same at 20kgs per customer, 3kg less than the other two carriers.
Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Peter Baumgartner. said: “We are delighted to be able to reward our premium guests and loyalty programme members with an additional luggage allowance. At Etihad Airways, we are always looking to make the experience of flying as simple, convenient and rewarding as possible. We believe this increased allowance will prove very popular with our guests.” www.etihad.com
Virgin Atlantic has unveiled a brand new US$7m Clubhouse at New York JFK International Airport. At 10,000sq ft the new facility is more than double the space of the existing Clubhouse. There are wide windows on both sides enabling Upper Class travellers to see a landmark of an earlier era, the former TWA Flight Centre, one of the world’s greatest examples of airport architecture.
Highlight of the new Clubhouse is the Central Park Lounge with, at its heart, a chic cocktail bar where, according to Virgin, passionate resident mixologists will tempt passengers to try the delicious selection of well-constructed signature cocktails. They are also experts at mixing the classics. Also available is the Entertainment Zone, The Den and JFK boasts the first Clubhouse Spa outside of London.
Take a right at the entrance of the Clubhouse and enter the Talking Lounge which boasts a VIP area. With its large windows offering glimpses of the Saarinen terminal, the Talking Lounge is really a place to kick back and relax after a hard day’s work. Finally there is the Brassiere. Food can be ordered from anywhere in the Clubhouse, but for passengers preferring a slightly more formal dining experience this restaurant area is provided. www.virginatlantic.com
Beijing will begin construction this year of an airport that is likely to replace Atlanta Airport in the United States as the world's busiest, local media has said. The existing Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) dates from 1958 although it was extensively re-built for the 2008 Olympics to a design by Norman Foster and Partners.
China Radio International said that the new airport, with nine runways, will handle more than 130m passengers and 5.5m tonnes of cargo annually.
The airport, yet to be named, will cover an area of 2,680 hectares (6,620 acres), the online edition of Beijing Youth Daily said, quoting an unidentified airline executive.
Located in Daxing, 46 km (28 miles) south of Tiananmen Square, Beijing's political centre, construction is due to be completed in October 2017. What is very clear is that with astonishing growth rates Beijing's two existing airports have reached their maximum handling capacities. Last year PEK became the world’s number two with a 75m throughput. It is about 20 miles to the northeast of the city centre. Beijing Nanyuan Airport, the even older small domestic airport 10 miles south of the city, is expected to close when the new operation is up and running. http://en.bcia.com.cn
Trans-Pacific routes have been chosen by Qantas for in-flight connectivity trials offering passengers access to the internet and emails throughout the flight.
The assessment has commenced aboard six Qantas A380s, equipped with internet technology, for flights between Sydney and Los Angeles and Melbourne and Los Angeles and will last for eight weeks. Customers will be able to access the internet via their wi-fi enabled laptops and personal electronic devices, such as iPhones, iPads and BlackBerrys.
The connectivity service, provided by OnAir, uses Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband and global satellite based connections to transfer data between the passengers in the aircraft to the ground.
The trial will initially be available to customers travelling in the First and Business cabins and will form part of Qantas ongoing strategic evaluation of connectivity options, including the review of next generation technology platforms. www.qantas.com
Marking a key milestone in its plans to introduce the TRYP by Wyndham brand in major cities throughout the Americas, Wyndham Hotel Group has confirmed the opening of the 173-room TRYP New York City Times Square South. It is the first TRYP by Wyndham hotel in the United States. It is located in the heart of Manhattan at 345 West 35th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
Distinguishing features and amenities include a spacious lobby called Plaza Central; on-site tapas-style dining at The Gastro Bar at 35th; the LobbyFriend, a temporary online social network; and signature Fitness, Family and what is termed “Samsung Experience” rooms.
TRYP by Wyndham represents over 90 hotels and over 13,000 rooms across Europe and the Americas. The mid-priced brand currently caters to business and leisure travellers in cosmopolitan cities including Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris in Europe. In South America these are situated in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Sao Paulo. TRYP recently added the 242-room TRYP Quebec Hotel PUR in Quebec City (Canada), and the 98-room TRYP San Jose Sabana in San Jose (Costa Rica). www.tryphotels.com
You’ve got to give UK Transport Minister Justine Greening her due. The lady really entered into the spirit of the evening. Guest of Honour at last week's AOA annual dinner she was aware that Southend Airport, or the Stobart Group if you like, has offered Ed Anderson, AOA Chairman, £200 each time the speaker mentioned the airport, the money going to the night's chosen charity, the Orbis flying eye hospital.
“Yes I was at Southend Airport this morning to open the new terminal,” she said. “I took the train to Southend.” She noted that Southend made her welcome, and that there was a new air route from Southend to Dublin. Ed thanked her for her support of Southend and she said that Southend was a fine airport. No mention of the pier.
The evening raised £12,234, including £2,200 from Southend Airport, towards the costing of fitting out the new Orbis DC10, which, it was pointed out, would not be based at Southend.
Read down in AERBT and you will find a story entitled 'OFT passes BA-bmi takeover to the European Commission'. This is a classic case of evading responsibility and must raise serious questions concerning the Office of Fair Trading and who is running the United Kingdom, our Parliament in Westminster, or unelected officials in Brussels. The man from the Ministry himself, one Sheldon Mills, Director of Mergers, summed it up beautifully. "The proposed acquisition of bmi by IAG has generated a significant level of concern in the UK, especially in Scotland, the North West of England and Northern Ireland." We will repeat. “Scotland, the North West of England and Northern Ireland.”
Just what has this to do with Europe? Surely the Office of Fair Trading has enough skills within its organisation to make its own judgement. Or is its track record so appalling that when it comes to a vital commercial judgement, it is scared to get it wrong?
Some of the OFT’s latest decisions regarding air transport have been odd to say the least, this week highlighted with Eastern Airways returning to Brussels from Southampton after being effectively pushed off by Flybe, the result of an OFT pronouncement. Southampton Airport and its customers should consider themselves lucky that Eastern were happy to fill the breach.
The most serious case in recent times also involves Flybe, the 5 November 2010 decision that it had no grounds to take action over alleged predatory entry by the airline against Air Southwest. As far as Cornwall and Devon are concerned the result is the same as would have been the case if Guy Fawkes had succeeded with his dreadful plot. Plymouth Airport has closed and Newquay’s traffic for last year is down 50%. Air Southwest has gone to the great hangar in the sky! It would not have taken a brain surgeon to spot what was to happen.
At a higher level, back in November the OFT issued a Statement of Objections to British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic in its civil law investigation into alleged collusion over the pricing of passenger fuel surcharges for long haul passenger flights to and from the UK between August 2004 and January 2006. We are still waiting to hear more.
The anticipated joint venture between Alpha Flight Group Ltd (Alpha) and LSG Lufthansa Service Holding AG (LSG) has been handed to the Competition Commission for further investigation. No decision once again.
Mind you, the OFT has never been scared to get involved with airline matters that some may say were none of their business although both carriers have substantial involvement in UK aviation. In January of last year the OFT wrote to Ryanair Holdings Plc setting out that it believes it is 'in-time' to review the company's acquisition of a minority interest in Aer Lingus Group Plc. Where is the review?
The BA-bmi issue should not be allowed to drag on. It is no good for either airline, and disastrous for Lufthansa. AERBT does not have a crystal ball. Based on previous airline decisions whatever it comes up with will probably be wrong. But the judgment should be made here in the UK, and not by Europe. Frankly it is none of their business.
Editor in Chief
On the day that Continental Airlines died (29 February 2012) Bob Baartz passed on too aged 74. Bob is credited with inventing sports logo placement, coming up with the idea of putting a big S on Slazenger tennis rackets, an idea which very quickly caught on. A Newcastle based Oz (work that one out) he was for a long period Mr Continental in the United Kingdom. Prior to working for the then Houston based outfit he was with British Caledonian, and before that BOAC. He was a great sports fan and a mate of former Australian Test Captain, Richie Benaud. Bob mentored his younger brother Ray in cricket and soccer. He was dismayed when Ray opted to give up cricket to concentrate on soccer – until Ray starred as a Socceroo – a feat Bob greatly admired! Bob will be greatly missed.
BAR UK (The Board of Airline Representation UK) has put out a statement concerning the Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) reform, which is under way in Parliament. It has been in use since the 1970s, when traditional ‘package holidays’ formed the great majority of holidays purchased.
Since those days, the way that leisure travel is presented and purchased has changed beyond recognition. The internet has been a great enabler to self-book ’dynamic-packaged’ holidays, part through a travel agency and part independently, as well as a host of other variations.
In practice, because of the complexity of arrangements that now exist, a lot of uncertainty exists with consumers as to whether or not they actually do enjoy ATOL protection. BAR UK says that with the proposed reforms consumers could be worse off. It advocates that only traditionally-packaged holidays should be subject to mandatory ATOL protection, and that consumers must be told that any other type of holiday purchase is NOT covered. This stance is at odds with other members of the travel industry, but all admit that the reforms are far from perfect. www.bar-uk.org/consultations/consultations.htm
The Americans, working for a British company, have come up with a new hotel brand styled 'EVEN', part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group). According to a statement this meets “a large and growing customer demand for healthier travel, at a mainstream price.”
While wellness means different things to different people, IHG are convinced guests want healthier options around four priority areas – exercise, eat, work and rest.
The unique features of EVEN Hotels will include:
Exercise – Guest rooms designed for in-room workouts with multi-functional room amenities (eg coat rack that doubles as a pull up bar); a gym with group exercise activities and personalised services at no added cost to the guest.
Eat – Nutritionally designed menus with a particular focus on natural, fresh, fit and energizing meals – available anytime; an open air café and bar; free flavoured filtered water with glass bottles; free coffee and mini-smoothies in the morning.
Work – Rooms with high-speed wi-fi.
Rest – Rooms include hypoallergenic linens, powerful showerheads, natural lighting, LED dimmers and antibacterial wipes.
IHG plans to announce the first EVEN location in Q2 2012 and expects the first hotel to open in the first part of 2013. www.evenhotels.com
India's Kingfisher Airlines received a fresh jolt after federal revenue officials froze 40 bank accounts over the non-payment of taxes, according to the Press Trust of India.
The move comes after federal income tax authorities earlier stopped other accounts of the struggling carrier which did not meet its payment requirements. In addition to back taxes, Kingfisher owes suppliers, lenders and staff, millions of dollars and has scrapped scores of scheduled flights with only 28 of its fleet of 64 aircraft in operation. Many of its planes have been reclaimed by lessors or are awaiting spare parts. It has also been suspended from the IATA clearing house.
Industry body, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, has estimated that Kingfisher requires an injection of at least US$400m to keep in business.
Company Chairman and brewer baron Vijay Mallya has said closing Kingfisher "is not an option" and is seeking fresh capital infusions to avert collapse.
Late last month, media reports said Mallya told employees in an email that the airline had raised money to pay back salaries. Rumours continue that IAG, parent company of British Airways, and Etihad Airways, flagship carrier of the United Arab Emirates, might be interested in a Kingfisher stake. www.flykingfisher.com
In a classic civil service move the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has decided not to review BA-owner International Airline Group's (IAG) deal to buy bmi from Lufthansa. It has passed the decision on to the European Commission. As already noted by AERBT this will have further repercussions regarding the internal fitment of Heathrow T2, and also Lufthansa’s cash flow.
The Commission has until 16 March to decide, although the deadline may be extended.
Leading the opposition to the deal is Virgin Atlantic which would lose important regional links previously operated by bmi. It says that passengers could face higher fares and reduced services linking the North West, Scotland and Heathrow if British Airways succeeds in taking over rivals bmi, Virgin Atlantic has claimed.
"The proposed acquisition of bmi by IAG has generated a significant level of concern in the UK, especially in Scotland, the North West of England and Northern Ireland," said Sheldon Mills, OFT Director of Mergers.
"We consider that the transaction should be subject to a careful and detailed review and we will continue to work closely with the European Commission to ensure that UK airline passengers will not lose out through the proposed deal," he added. www.oft.gov.uk
Eastern Airways has stepped in to secure the future of the Southampton – Brussels route which has been dropped by Flybe.
Daily flights (except Saturdays) will be offered by Eastern, as well as the service being fully inclusive.
Eastern Airways previously operated the Southampton – Brussels route for over two years until April 2008 when Flybe had started services on this niche route.
Kay Ryan, Commercial Director, Eastern Airways, said: “The continuation of the Southampton – Brussels route is great news for business and leisure travellers on the south coast of England as there have been strong trade and tourism links between the two regions for many years. Services will start on 16 April after the Easter holidays. Business travellers flying on Sundays in time for Monday morning meetings will benefit from later flights, as well as all our customers having fast track security as part of our fully inclusive service.”
Passengers flying with the airline are not charged for check-in, baggage, choice of seat or onboard drinks and snacks. All passengers have access to the fast track security channel at Southampton, and check-in closes just 30 minutes before the departure time. A 29-seat pressurised J41 turboprop will be used for the service. www.easternairways.com
It is not very often that the Editor pulls rank on AERBT’s distinguished Motoring Correspondent. Ted Wilkinson has been earning a living this way for 40 years and is, of course, a member of the British Guild of Motoring Writers. But when an invitation from Jaguar Land Rover arrives offering a day driving a variety of their best at the Gaydon National Heritage Motor Centre it is not to be turned down. Some prestigious oldies were included too. And let’s put a marker down. Your Editor owns a 2.7 Jaguar XF and is delighted with it, getting on for four years old now and 40,000 miles.
Jaguar was founded by Bill Lyons in Blackpool in 1922. Rover goes back to 1904 with the first Land Rover produced in 1947. Today both companies are owned by Tata Motors of India who have proved to be an industrious and forward looking proprietor. Last year Jaguar Land Rover produced 274,280 vehicles, a 17.8% increase on 2010, in itself a record figure.
A DAY AT GAYDON
Gaydon is in essence mostly a collection of what was British Leyland but includes cars from Ford, Lotus, Morgan, Vauxhall, and others. Sitting by the M40 it is by itself a fine day out. Within the site, a former RAF bomber base, is a Jaguar development facility, the Aston Martin production factory, and a private test track. These were off limits.
Jaguar/Land Rover had done their homework. Fifty journalists and 26 different models to drive on public roads. As far as we know no cars were bent and whilst police were noticed in the area, speeding and other offences do not appear to have been recorded.
The highlight of the day had to be a self-drive trip around Gaydon’s punishing off-the-road test circuit, with seemingly near vertical muddy hills and deep water troughs, one after the other. Brave instructors sat with nervous (experienced) drivers who were told to put it in that gear and this, not to touch the brakes, and just keep it straight when climbing a hill with no forward visibility.
The Land Rover Discovery 4x4 takes it all in its stride never missing a beat. It may not be the prettiest motor vehicle around but the Discovery has now sold one million copies. The test course shows why. It copes where others can’t.
You too can try the circuit for a fee and there are many similar offerings around. But this one is the approved Land Rover circuit.
1938 SS Jaguar 100 2 ½ litre. Let us start at the beginning. The media were not allowed to drive the historic cars. Just being treated to an exhilarating drive around the local roads by retired Jaguar staff clearly enjoying their day out was a privilege. The SS Jaguar (the name was dropped when production got back to normal after the War) could do 0-60mph in less than 9 seconds, very respectable even by today’s standards. It was the cheapest 100mph car in Britain at the time. All agreed that as a passenger it was very draughty with the hood down on a cold February day.
1958 Jaguar XK150 3.4 litre DHC. Like all Jaguars the original XK turned heads in its time and was remarkable value. Some 30,000 were built. It offered disc brakes, developed by Dunlop for the Jaguar C series at Le Mans. Even today it gives a very fine ride in real comfort. Production models could do 130mph, legal on the roads of the 1950s. The engine seemed as smooth as ever, the gearbox clearly dated and showing just how far we have come in that area.
1969 Jaguar E-Type series 2. Enzio Ferrari said it was the prettiest car of all time and the E Type is still the standard by which others are judged. Just sitting on one makes you feel great and styling wise the car has not aged at all.
With the greatest respect to Brigit Bardot, one of the earliest celebrity patrons, this lady has not aged at all as far as looks are concerned. In fact being driven around in it is a joy.
70,000 were built, it had a top speed of 150 mph and could do 0-60 in 7 seconds.
Land Rover Evogue. The latest Merseyside baby Land Rover has had rave reviews and just a week or so back at Geneva a convertible was announced. It certainly has the looks and you can buy two- and four-door versions. Of all the cars on test this one was not for your Editor. That’s why we employ a motoring expert for him to compare with the competition (But Jaguar please note the editor would be delighted to take one on loan for a report). It was seemingly narrow, and whilst it had fine grip is not for belting around runabouts, and noisier than the other cars on test. Perhaps it is not fair to compare it with the Range Rover and at a starting price of £27,955.00 offers terrific value. It is Jaguar/Range Rover quality inside and four-wheel drive. Rover has got the way of building off the road vehicles down to a fine art.
XJ 3.0 ltr standard wheel base diesel. In some ways this is the best car of the lot. It just oozes power, has lovely lightweight steering and is fitted out like a gentleman’s carriage, 21st century model. From the driver’s position you cannot of course see the split screen which allows passengers to watch TV whilst sitting in the front seat but if you are used to the smaller, and excellent, XF don’t worry about the baulk of the larger car. There’s a TV monitor for rear parking and various audio appliances scream at you if there is anything in the proximity. Yes the start button is hidden behind the steering wheel but once found is not forgotten. £55,515.00 is the tax paid UK price for the basic car limited to 150mph.
2.2L XF diesel Premium Luxury. This car offers remarkable value and is well on the way to becoming Jaguar’s top selling car of all time. Your Editor was sceptical, as already mentioned, a happy owner of a 2.7 XF. However the eight-speed auto box with its sequential shift is superb, absolutely smooth. Play about with the steering wheel paddles and all the acceleration needed is available. Whilst Jaguar claim over 50mpg, 40 plus to the gallon should be easily obtainable. The starting price is £29,950 and even with plenty of ‘toys’ added it will still come in at less than the original XF in 2008. It looks the part and has just been joined by the XF Sportsbrake. It is what we used to call an estate car!
XKR convertible 5.0I naturally aspirated. There is plenty of room behind the driver for a pair of holdalls and computer case in this outstanding sporty car. It is a pure two-seater that pretends to offer more space. There are coupe and supercharged versions but the convertible is a fine compromise with a hood that goes up in just 18 seconds, ideal if it starts raining and you are stuck at the traffic lights. On the M40, which runs just past the site one was able to get an idea of how quiet it is cruising with the hood up. Open to the elements it is great fun. Needless to say the performance and handling are outstanding. The XKR version, supercharged will get you to 60mph in 4.2 seconds if needs be and tops out at 186mph. 15 miles to the gallon is quoted. All the XKs run on petrol. A diesel cannot be that far away. £65,400 gets you the coupe. The convertible XKR is £103,400. www.jaguar.com www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk
UK Transport Minister Justine Greening was guest of honour at last week's Airport Operators Association (AOA) dinner held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel in front of a 1,200 assembly. In her five months in office this was her second AOA appearance, also speaking at the Association's annual conference. After a fairly unwelcome introduction she seems to have made inroads with the industry members noting she was at Southend Airport earlier in the day and has in recent times visited Birmingham, Gatwick and Stansted airports, viewed as a praiseworthy effort.
AOA Chairman Ed Anderson opened the proceedings. “Aviation contributes £50bn a year to the UK economy and pays £8bn in tax. Next month we have a double inflation increase in APD. Enough damage has been done. There should be no more increases.”
Previously a Treasury Minister, Greening responded. “I hear what you say about APD and will make sure my Treasury colleagues hear it too.” "However," she said, “APD has become more important than ever as we pay down the debt.” No comment on the eagerly awaited aviation consultative document due towards the end of the month either. “We will call for evidence on maintaining effective UK hub airport connectivity,” she said. www.aoa.org.uk
Also see AND FINALLY.
Boeing will build 10 787 Dreamliners per month by the end of 2013, Commercial Aircraft Division boss Jim Albaugh has confirmed, shrugging off industry concerns that a glitch in the fuselage will put the goal out of reach.
Last month Boeing reported signs of "delamination" on the rear fuselage of some 787s. Delamination occurs when repeated stress causes laminated composite materials to separate.
Boeing has said that the problem would affect the first 55 787s that were assembled but the issue is now contained and will not be repeated. The company says that the repair will take 10 to 14 days per aircraft, but will be done concurrently with other work. Boeing said it has increased the 787 production rate to 3.5 per month. The company delivered no 787s in February.
The World Tour of the 787 continues with Canada the latest country to see the finished article. It looks increasingly likely that its European debut (except for ANA’s very quiet Frankfurt introduction) will not be until around the time of the Farnborough Airshow, unless Seattle plans to steal a march on Airbus at Berlin, traditionally a Franco/German homecoming.
To date 873 firm orders for the aircraft have been taken. www.boeing.com/commercial
Hilton is continuing to roll out its franchised DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel product with what is the first of its type in China.
The DoubleTree by Hilton, Shanghai-Pudong, has opened, its tenth hotel in what is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. The 850-room, two-tower, iconic hotel complex soars majestically 47 storeys over the Shanghai’s Pudong New Area and offers convenient access to Shanghai New International Exposition Center (SNIEC), Shanghai Central Business District and the Shanghai High-Speed Maglev Train to Pudong International Airport.
As part of the conversion of the former Sofitel JJ Oriental Hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton, Shanghai-Pudong, has commenced a multi-million-dollar property refurbishment programme with a variety of new product, service and design enhancements throughout the hotel that are forecast to be completed in 2013.
Hotel amenities include more than 16,000sq ft of flexible meeting and special event space, a fitness centre, spa with men’s and women’s sauna and steam facilities, outdoor tennis courts, indoor swimming pool and extensive retail shops. As part of the hotel’s refurbishment programme, a new 800sq m (8,000sq ft) ballroom will be constructed, while all food and beverage outlets, meeting and banquet space and retail offerings will also be re-designed and revitalized. www.shanghaipudong.doubletreebyhilton.com
Gatwick Airport last Thursday (8 March) welcomed Hong Kong Airlines first ever service from Hong Kong to London. The A330-200 aircraft, configured with an all Club Class offering, arrived to an official welcome from the airport’s Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate.
“We are very excited to welcome Hong Kong Airlines to Gatwick. This is a unique service which provides a real choice to business and premium leisure traffic to one of the world’s great cities, with excellent connections to other points in Asia. We are committed to matching the superior service Hong Kong Airlines will be offering their passengers on board with a premium service at the airport.”
Commenting on the inaugural flight, President Yang stated: “The latest addition to the Hong Kong Airlines network highlights our commitment to the UK market, and our ongoing work to strengthen our position in one of the world’s leading aviation hubs.” The carrier is part of Hainan Airlines, China’s 4th largest carrier. Most of its business is expected to be to and from destinations within mainland China. www.hongkongairlines.com.
A BAe Jetstream 31 of the virtual airline (an air service booking agency) Manx2.com was involved in an incident on Thursday night (8 March). It appears that part of the undercarriage collapsed as the aircraft landed following a flight from Leeds Bradford Airport resulting in it skidding off the runway. There were 12 passengers and two crew members on board the flight. Nobody was hurt and airport was closed for 50 minutes.
Registered G-CCPW the plane, operated by Links Air, a Humberside Airport licensed air charter company, suffered a problem with the right-hand undercarriage after landing. The UK Air Accident Investigation Branch is looking into the cause of the accident. In February 2011 Manx2.com suffered a fatal accident at Cork Airport. On a positive front the airline plans to introduce daily services from Oxford Airport to both the Isle of Man and Jersey from 8 May. The airline currently operates 15 routes including the Welsh Assembly backed service between Cardiff and Anglesey. www.linksair.co.uk www.manx2.com
The BBGA, the UK’s executive and light aviation industry association's annual gathering at Sopwell Manor, St Albans, was dominated by the forthcoming London Olympics, and how this was being dealt with air traffic wise. The BBGA are lucky. Sir Roy McNulty, former Chairman of both the CAA and Short Brothers Plc (now Bombardier) is also Deputy Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority. He set the scene admirably, explaining that the whole construction project was twice the size of Heathrow T5 and came in one billion pounds under budget, and on time. There are 19 weeks to go until the opening ceremony.
The CAA chose the occasion to publish a short and informative document “London 2012 Airspace.” This details airspace restrictions for south-east England during the games, how to access the restricted zone, slot coordination, and the area known as ‘Atlas Control’, split into North and South. To date only 20% of the predicted bookings have been made, senior executives and VIPs notorious for making late travel decisions. It was emphasised that it is ‘first come first served’ and that all aircraft would be treated the same including Heads of State. 40 airports are involved. www.airspacesafety.com/olympics
Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Aer Arann, is to open a new three times daily route between Southend and Dublin offering not only excellent access to Ireland’s capital but also transatlantic connectivity to the USA. Start date is 10 May with the route flown by ATR 42 and 72 aircraft. Flight time is around one hour 45 minutes.
With this new service, travellers will be able to take advantage of transatlantic connections through Dublin on Aer Lingus flights to New York, Boston, Chicago and Orlando. Passengers will also benefit from the unique US Customs and Immigrations pre-clearance facilities at Dublin Airport that will allow them to arrive in the US as domestic passengers.
In the other direction the operation will provide one of the quickest ways to the 2012 Olympics at Stratford. Up to eight trains per hour operate to Stratford National from the airport station and on to London’s Liverpool Street.
Now owned by the Stobart Plc transport infrastructure organisation Southend Airport will also see the introduction of easyJet services to Alicante, Amsterdam, Belfast, Barcelona, Faro, Ibiza, Jersey, Majorca and Malaga from Monday 2 April. www.aerarann.com
Audi Q3 2.0 TDI SE Quattro
Q3 Has the Solution
With a third of the width of the average suburban road often occupied by parked vehicles, it did not surprise me that my local authority has acted to reduce the number of parked vehicles on this type of road. Problem is cars have got wider and if two large 4x4s, customised pick-up trucks or large People Carriers converge from opposite directions when the road width is reduced by parked cars then there can be a number of problems.
Even more problematical if there is snow or ice on the road and the idiot driving downhill does not give way to the uphill driver!
It was under these circumstances that I was glad that I was driving the latest 4x4 or Quattro model from Audi, the compact sized Q3 powered by a mightily efficient 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine.
Usually I say that snow is only for skiers or to be pictured on Christmas cards but, by jove, I was delighted to have it visit while using the Q3.
Here is a premium class product (actually made in the ultra-modern SEAT factory outside Barcelona though maintaining the high quality standards that is the Audi hall-mark) that proved to have impressive competence in these conditions yet had the road driving performance qualities of an immensely competent medium-sized hatch back.
Yes, two idiots barged down hill in that snow forcing me to stop and though irritating it proved that the traction provided by the Quattro all-drive system and the grip from the Continental tyres on the optionally larger 18inch alloy wheels were able to regain traction.
It is obvious that the immense flexibility of this powerful 174 bhp diesel engine (there are also a pair of 2.0 petrol units in the model line-up) working through the highly rated 7-speed DSG selectable automatic transmission has the ability to provide the performance potential to cope with some pretty awful driving conditions.
That said, apart from a slightly firm ride, the handling qualities under more standard conditions are excellent, the road grip, of course, hard to challenge and the response through the controls, notably the steering, very satisfactory.
It feels an easy driving and safe machine (it has a 5-star NCAP safety rating) and has plenty to offer the discerning driver with one eye on the budget. Top speed is in the 132+ mph region with 60 mph reached from rest in a shade under 8.5 seconds which are good figures for a car of this size/weight and with a combined fuel consumption of 42.9 mpg is sensible even if one gets a real world consumption figure of nearer to35mpg.
I think Audi’s designers have worked closely with the marketing men to ensure that the Q3, though smaller, has an imposing appearance rather like its larger Q5 and Q7 siblings, thus ensuring a good degree of the wow factor that some buyers find essential with this type of vehicle. As one who is conditioned to judging a car more for what it can do rather than what it looks like I suggest that the Q3 is the right balance of sensible size and status just about right.
As I expected when first driving the Q3 I found that the driving position has all the right adjustment facilities to ‘tailor’ a high degree of driver comfort suitable for hours of relaxed and tireless driving. Driver’s forward vision is better than average, rear wards is challenged by the high rear window though parking sensors and visual parking graphics combined with the satellite navigation on the test car complemented the large exterior mirror. Above all, the compact dimensions makes for easy parking access.
Add to that a feel good factor provided by the business-like yet exquisitely finished fascia and instrument cluster that has clearly been designed to cope with a number of cost-extra options requiring fascia space without compromising the overall appearance.
Higher ground clearance makes for a slightly loftier height although the interior height is average rather than generous and with seating space for five occupants the rear accommodation is passable both for head and leg space providing the occupants are none too tall.
Luggage capacity at around 450+ litres with all seats in use is about that of an average boot on a medium sized car but with the 60/40 split, folding rear seats and the ski hatch the practicality is obvious. A metal threshold to the luggage area, incorporating a protective system to prevent the tail-gate catch snagging items when loading is a very sensible innovation, and the practical and logical oddments stowage facility around the car’s interior also indicated thoughtful planning.
All Audis are bespoke ordered rather than off the showroom shelf and on this test car were many of the items that buyers add for their own preferences and according to their budget. Thus this added to a pretty comprehensive basic package items like voice operated satellite navigation, panoramic glass roof panel, leather upholstery, BOSE sound system, larger alloy wheels (but no spare) and glacier white paint and more.
So here’s Audi’s first venture in the competitive so called SUV market and, believe you me, it has hit the ground running.
Rivals include: Toyota RAV 4, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, VW Tiguan 2.0 TDi, Land Rover Evoque.
Ride and Comfort 8
TOTAL: 89 %
Price from: £28,460 on the road – as tested: £40,040.
NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON’S MOTORING DIARY
BENTLEY: The luxury car brand is claiming that its global sales have increased year on year by 47% with the USA and China vying for top market spot. www.bentleymotors.com
HYUNDAI: Anew hybrid model called the i-ONIQ is revealed in concept form. It uses a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine linked to a generator that is mated to a lithium iron electric motor to produce 98.5 bhp. Range in electric only mode is approx 62 miles and approx 430 miles in joint power mode. Emissions are claimed to be 47 g/km. www.hyundai-car.co.uk
SEAT: The Spanish SEAT car maker will be introducing a new Toledo model in the near future. It will be a medium size car, saloon-like in appearance but with a hatch back and, as with previous models bearing the name, will have well above average boot capacity. www.seat.co.uk
VOLKSWAGEN: All VW production plants worldwide are targeted to reduce environmental impact from production by 25% by 2018. www.volkswagen.co.uk