30 APRIL 2012

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Airline trolleys

Don’t be alarmed if on your next flight you see a somewhat re-modelled airline trolley-cart staring at you.  Eyelevel, a UK-based supplier of luxury products to private jets and luxury airlines, is now focussing on the commercial airline market and has launched Cartmax as an attractive point of sale proposition.  It is provided as a flat packed, fold-out, recycled, cardboard unit that sits within the deep tray compartment of the trolley.

Matthew Delamere, Managing Director of Eyelevel explains, “People buy with their eyes and retail in general has always provided strong points of sales for their goods.  You’d never see a supermarket display products without graphics to attract attention, and Cartmax simply takes this proposition and puts it on aircraft.” 

A number of airlines are already considering trials and Matthew is aiming for initial on-board tests to begin in May.  UK airline Flybe has already seen the product and is currently reviewing the potential.  Raymond Kiersey, General Manager of Inflight Sales at Flybe commented: “Airlines are always looking at means of developing ancillary revenue and it seems that Cartmax could offer great potential for increased revenues which is why we’re reviewing trials.” www.eyelevelmedia.com

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BA sponsors pilot training

For the first time for more than a decade British Airways' is to sponsor cadet pilot training.  The announcement has met with the expected unprecedented response, just 90 places available for the 18 months’ course.  Those winning a placement will be of university graduate standard and will undertake basic training with flying academies at Oxford, Southampton and Jerez in Spain.  The final piece of the pilot licence jigsaw is undertaken at the airline’s Cranebank training establishment near Heathrow. 

Whilst they will have flown initially single piston-engined aircraft, and later twin-engined machines during the course, the young pilots will join the airline’s flight deck team without having actually flown a commercial jet.  All the final training is done on a full motion simulator.  BA presently employs about 3,500 pilots, of which 5% are women.  In order to privately qualify as a professional pilot it could easily cost £100,000. www.ba.com

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Basel lounge wins Priority Pass

The Swiss Lounge at Basel-Mulhouse EuroAirport, has been named best in the world by members of Priority Pass, the world’s largest independent airport lounge access programme.

Announcing the results, Jonathan French, Head of Brand, Priority Pass, said: “As we celebrate over 20 years of offering Priority Pass to global travellers, we are delighted to present this award to the Swiss Lounge and congratulate them on this excellent achievement.  They have consistently delivered an outstanding experience and have distinguished themselves ahead of over 600 worthy competitors in the eyes of our members.”

The spacious Swiss Lounge was nominated for its size, design and exclusive atmosphere.  With a vast glass dome allowing natural light to flood in, the ambience is designed specifically with relaxation in mind.  There are 200 seats and 40 places at the bar spread over 1,700sqm.  The lounge also has showers available. There is a Business Centre.  Hot and cold buffet snacks are offered with an extensive selection of drinks. www.prioritypass.com

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Edinburgh Airport sold

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), who own both Gatwick and London City airports, has won the race to take over Edinburgh after the current owner BAA was forced to sell by the Competition Commission.  GIP say they hope to complete the £807.2m deal by the end of May.  With Stansted due to be sold (although still subject to appeals) BAA will finish up with a single London airport and two in Scotland, Aberdeen and Glasgow, whilst rival GIP will have two operations at the nation’s capital (City and Gatwick), plus just Edinburgh in Scotland.  Glasgow’s other airport, Prestwick, is up for sale.

Adebayo Ogunlesi, Chairman and Managing Partner of GIP, said: "Edinburgh Airport is a high-quality infrastructure asset.  Its acquisition is a landmark deal for GIP.

"We see significant opportunity to apply our tested and successful operational expertise and our knowledge of the global airports sector to develop and enhance the performance of Edinburgh Airport in years to come."

For many years Edinburgh and Glasgow vied with each other as Scotland’s top airport but with the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh has outperformed its rival in recent times.  Last year the figures were EDI 9.3m (+9%) and GLA 6.8m (+5%). www.baa.com www.global-infra.com

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KLM re-vamp

Whilst details have yet to be revealed KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, sister company of Air France, has embarked on a re-design of its World Business Class on the long haul fleet.  Due first to get the treatment will be the airline’s 22 Boeing 747-400s but the actual work, which will initially take up to one month for each aircraft, will not start until June 2013.

Chosen to head the creative team is leading Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, briefed to modernise the WBC product, uniting international allure with emphasis on the airline’s Dutch heritage. 

Erik Varwijk, Managing Director, KLM said: “By choosing to work with Hella Jongerius, KLM is opting to engage a top Dutch designer to help make our Business Class passengers feel at home on board.  As a designer, Hella has broad experience which she can apply to the needs of KLM and its customers, in accordance with the specific requirements for cabin interiors in the airline industry.

Her previous projects demonstrate her ability to process such criteria into top-quality designs such as the ‘polder sofa’, which is both comfortable and beautiful.  With her expertise and focus on quality, she is keenly aware of what makes a brand unique. An outstanding match!” www.klm.com

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Sharklet Airbus A320

Airbus has produced the first new-build A320 with Sharklets.  Depicted here at its roll-out in Toulouse, MSN 5098 will be one of several A320 Family aircraft in the certification flight-test campaign starting in May this year and lasting around 600 flight hours.  These Sharklet tests follow the successful ‘early flight-test’ campaign with Airbus A320 MSN 001 test aircraft (see AERBT 26 March).

In total, seven new-build A320 Family aircraft fitted with both CFM56 and V2500 engine types will test the production-standard Sharklets.  The results of the tests will lead up to the certification of these fuel-saving devices on each combination of aircraft model and engine selection.  The first member of the family to enter service with Sharklets will be the CFM56-powered A320, from the fourth quarter of 2012.

Sharklets, which have been specially designed for the Airbus A320 Family, will reduce fuel burn by up to 3.5%, giving an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft.  This is equivalent to the CO2 produced by around 200 cars annually.  Sharklets are now offered as an option on new-build aircraft, and are standard on the A320neo Family. www.airbus.com

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Tony Tyler at the Aviation Club

Formerly CEO of Cathay Pacific, IATA’s new Director-General Tony Tyler, pulled no punches in confronting the UK government on aviation policy and taking a side-swipe at the European Commission when addressing the Aviation Club last week.

“As the UK’s de facto current policy is to constrain capacity and milk the industry for taxes, there is plenty of scope for improvement…..things are going badly wrong and it would be disappointing if we did not seize the opportunity of a policy review to make them better and capture fully the positive impact that aviation can have economically and socially,” he said.

The national aviation policy discussion was a great opportunity to replace the “tax, regulate and restrict” policy of today with one that supported connectivity, jobs and economic prosperity with sustainable growth.

Tyler went on to criticise the European Commission on issues including the slot trading rules, emission tax and the  lack of progress on the Single European Sky.  “The modus operandi of the European Commission seems to be to set rules and regulate – whether it is needed or not – and never mind about any intended consequences,” he commented.  Heathrow came in for criticism too.  He called for a re-think on a “political cul-de-sac.” www.iata.org

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Wizz Air to Warsaw Modlin

Claimed to be the largest low fare airline in Central and Eastern Europe, and now effectively based in Geneva, Wizz Air has confirmed that it will move its entire Warsaw-based operations to the civilianised Modlin Airport on 18 July (See last week’s AERBT).

Wizz Air took the decision to move its Warsaw operational base from Chopin to Modlin for commercial reasons.  The new airport will operate on a 24/7 basis and will allow the carrier to fly its schedule more efficiently without the operational constraints that exist in the main airport.  Most importantly it notes, costs associated with Modlin Airport will be significantly lower, enabling the airline to slash fares for the travelling public.

The airline flies to Luton 25 times per week; and to Barcelona (3 times weekly), Bourgas (3 – seasonal), Brussels Charleroi (7), Cork (2), Doncaster Sheffield (2), Forli Bologna (2), Glasgow Prestwick (2), Gothenburg (3), Malmo (3), Milan Bergamo (4), Oslo Sandefjord Torp (5), Paris Beauvais (4), Rome Fiumicino (5), Stavanger (3) and Stockholm Skavsta (7).

Ryanair is also moving its Warsaw operations to Modlin and on 28 October introduces a three times per week Liverpool service. www.wizzair.com

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AND FINALLY: Dine off a tablet

The latest ‘in’ way to select your repast in Hong Kong is the use of a tablet computer.

Upon arrival at The Peninsular Hotel’s top floor avant-garde Felix Restaurant each patron is presented with a sleek iPad.  Carefully you browse through the menu, replete with crisp photos of every dish, with tasting notes and characteristics for wine choices and pairings. It’s magnificent food!
 
For guests looking for the surprise novelty factor, the interactive iPad menu also features a spinning “bottle” colour wheel, where the digital sommelier chooses the best wine to suit guests’ moods and tastes.  

The problem is that one’s dining companion gets completely taken in by the gadgetry and finishes up computer drunk.

Is this the way to spend an evening?

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COMMENT: Thomson beats BA (and the taxman)

They must have been somewhat startled both at Waterside and 11 Downing Street when Thomson Airways (once called Britannia) unveiled what might prove to be the definitive Boeing 787 Dreamliner cabin at Manchester Airport last week. 

What Thomson has produced is a “Premier Economy” product with a 38” seat pitch (and many other quality innovations) that meets the criteria for ‘standard’ tax.. 

Not only is the new cabin likely to become a real cash cow for the airline but it is a significant gesture at both at British Airways and the Treasury. 

BA will of course say it is not a competitor for its own 787 Economy plus interior, and the bean counters  at the Exchequer will go away and think of another way of changing the rules, as they always do (APD was introduced as an environmental tax).

But a 38” pitch improved economy product, up to 39.99” under the rules, could become the norm for airlines attempting to offer a better grade (and more expensive) cabin and not wishing to be trapped by the taxman.  The problem is that any change of layout, either in a new aircraft or one being refurbished, takes time to plan and even longer to implement.  The Treasury can change the rules overnight.

No doubt some time later this year we will learn of British Airways plans for the Boeing 787, and indeed Airbus A380.  Will the airline try to beat Mr Osborne or just go for a superior Premium Economy 40” plus product?  Will First remain branded “as is”, become First Suite, or be offered with some other label (we’ve suggested Concorde Class – it sounds superior)? 

Well done Thomson.  Is the Treasury going to send inspectors out to measure every seat on every aircraft?  Or will they change the rules once again?

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Alitalia for WheelTug

WheelTug, the aircraft ground manoeuvring option, has been taken up by Alitalia, the first Airbus 320 Family operator to sign for the innovative kit which offers environmental and operational flexibility.  The Gibraltar-based design company is already developing the system for the Boeing 737 series in conjunction with El Al. (See AERBT 21 November)

The patented WheelTug electric drive system consists of an electric motor – called "Chorus" – installed in the aircraft nose wheel and powered by the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), the auxiliary engine installed in the tail of aircraft which provides energy to the on-board systems when the main engines are off.

The equipment allows aircraft to taxi both forwards – without the use of main engines – and backwards – without the use of a tow tug.  The Chorus electric motor allows movement of the aircraft from departure gate to runway, and upon landing, from runway exit to the stand for passenger disembarkation.

This new technology is claimed to offer an 80% reduction in the fuel consumption for aircraft ground movements, with a significant reduction in cost, noise and environmental impact.  It also makes the aircraft independent from the tractor for push back, helping to increase operational flexibility and improve on-time operations. www.wheeltug.gi

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ATOL changes

Changes to the ATOL requirements do not go far enough according to a report published today by the Transport Select Committee.  Package holiday sales by airlines must also be covered and comprehensive arrangements are needed says the influential all party group.

Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said, “We welcome the changes to the ATOL scheme that are being introduced today.  Flight Plus (part of the scheme – Editor) will extend financial protection to millions of people who put together their own travel packages with travel agents, mainly over the internet.  New ATOL certificates to be issued with holiday bookings should provide greater clarity for holidaymakers.

“But other aspects of ATOL remain unsatisfactory.  The charges are unfair to some consumers and to sections of the travel industry.  The Government does not have a plan for comprehensive reform.  It has not researched the views or booking behaviour of passengers and holidaymakers.  There is no clarity about protection for passengers who book a flight only.”

In its report the Transport Committee calls on Government to clarify its objectives for ATOL reform and suggests that the CAA should work with the airlines to develop a code of practice covering information for all consumers making overseas holiday or travel bookings. www.atol.org.uk

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Fuel from air produced

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) says it is a step closer to achieving its aim of producing a practical alternative to fossil fuels, with the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuel – claimed to be a sustainable fuel for the future and a solution to the problems of supply and cost with Jet A1.  Unlike fossil fuel prices once established synthetic fuel prices should remain stable.  AERBT reported on this exciting project in our 21 October 2011 issue.

The company’s demonstration unit fuel reactor has now produced methanol fuels from carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and also from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.  The production of these first liquid hydrocarbon fuels – a real alternative to fossil fuels – completes a critical stage in the development of the technology.  This achievement provides a springboard for commissioning the company’s CO2 air-capture system.

Air Fuel Synthesis Chairman, Professor Tony Marmont, one of the UK’s leading authorities on renewable energy commented: “This is a significant achievement.  The production of methanol in the fuel reactor verifies our core approaches, technologies and processes, proving our intellectual property”. www.airfuelsynthesis.com

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Puma Hotels’ Collection

The 21 UK properties previously operated by Spanish chain Barceló, which has pulled out of the UK, will now be known as the Puma Hotels’ Collection.
 
The 4-star chain includes the Marine Hotel Troon, Carlton Hotel Edinburgh, Lygon Arms Broadway, Hinckley Island Hotel (M69) and Cheltenham Park Hotel.

Jane Rawlinson, Head of Marketing and e-Commerce, Puma Hotels Plc said: “In such an exciting year for British tourism, we are delighted to have successfully launched new British hotel group Puma Hotels’ Collection, following the smooth handover from Barceló UK.

“The new brand will focus on the unique characteristics and location of each hotel, whether through the local cuisine, the grounds (particularly in the case of the flagship countryside properties), or the nearby facilities and attractions.”

The 21 hotels offer more than 2,800 bedrooms and around 20,000sqm of conference and meeting space.

As part of its launch, Puma has announced that from 1 May all of the properties will offer complimentary wi-fi access, “in direct response to customer demand.” www.pumahotels.co.uk

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Southend Airport extension

With the new airport terminal now fully operational Southend Airport has learnt that the local council has approved plans for a further extension that will take capacity up to around two million passengers annually, a figure expected to be reached by 2020.  Work is expected to commence shortly with completion next year.

The terminal building will now become 90 metres longer stretching towards the control tower.  Included in the design is an increase of the number of check-in desks and baggage drop-off points, plus extra security screening channels.  A larger arrivals area will have enhanced baggage reclaim facilities and a larger immigration section. Retail and catering facilities will be expanded throughout the terminal.

easyJet is by far the largest operator now at the airport with 70 departures each week to Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Faro, Ibiza, Jersey, Malaga and Mallorca, with flights to Geneva (starting December 2012) and Venice (starting February 2013).  Aer Arann operates 10 weekly departures from Southend to Waterford joined on 10 May by Aer Lingus Regional with three daily return services to Dublin, with transatlantic connectivity to Boston, Chicago, New York and Orlando. www.southendairport.com

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Virgin Bank Holiday trains

Network Rail capital work means changes to Virgin Trains services over the May Day Bank Holiday next weekend.  There will be normal services all day on Friday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoon and evening.  

On Saturday 5 May after 08:00 there will be no train services between Liverpool and Crewe although a replacement coach service will run. 

Because of route improvement work between Crewe and Warrington from 11:00 and between Crewe and Wigan after 18:00, Birmingham to Scotland services will be diverted and terminate at Carlisle.  Replacement coaches will then convey passengers to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  Virgin is suggesting that passengers travelling between London and Scotland should use the East Coast route.

On Sunday 6 May route improvement work will take place all day at various locations between Rugby and Euston.  An approximate hourly service will run from Nuneaton to Euston calling at Coventry for connections to the West Midlands.  Chester and North Wales services will run between Holyhead and Crewe.  Passengers travelling between London and Liverpool are advised to travel via and change at Manchester and Nuneaton.  The route between Crewe and Glasgow is closed with bus with connections available.

On the Monday normal services are due to return from 12:00. www.virgintrains.co.uk

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ON TOUR: Warsaw

Poland, together with Ukraine will host the UEAFA Euro 2012 soccer competition that runs from 8 June until 1July 2012. 

The tournament kicks off at the impressive and brand new 58,000 capacity National Stadium sitting on the on bank of the River Vistula in the Warsaw suburb known as Praga.  Poland v Greece is the opening game.

If you are going to the competition the following will be of interest (however England will play in the mini-league part in the Ukraine and only go to Poland if they finish runners up).  If this is not the case do read on.  Add Warsaw to your list for a mini-break (or business opportunity).  It is a fascinating and welcoming city, with a heart-rending past.  Prices are about half of those associated with London with the Zloty the currency, not the Euro. Public opinion research from March 2011 shows that 60% of Poles are against changing their currency. Warsaw is very walkable, and with 1,000 years of history.

Poland is very accessible from 15 UK airports.  Your Editor flew to Warsaw International by Wizz Air from Luton (twice daily and most pleasant).  This will change shortly to Modlin (see above).  British Airways and LOT provide services from Heathrow.  Frederick Chopin International Airport is 5 miles outside the city and access is provided by bus or taxi.  We stayed at the Metropol Hotel, an excellent 3-star functional property, with in-room courtesy tea and coffee, and free internet access.  Right in the city centre it is a little bit noisy but you soon get used to the hum of the traffic. It’s not expensive.

Poland’s relationship with Russia is delicate.  The Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943 eliminated the 400,000 Jewish population.  In August 1944 the Poles rose against the Germans with the Russian Army poised to cross the Vistula.  Stalin deliberately held back allowing the flower of Poland’s resistance to be decimated.  The siege lasted 61 days.  In April 2010 a Russian Tu 154 carrying the Polish President crashed on the way to a memorial gathering commemorating the wartime Katyn massacre.  Conspiracy theories still abound.  The Warsaw Uprising Museum provides for a very interesting visit, housed as it is in a former power station.  Do also take in the Ghetto area, a poignant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.  www.1944.pl



To gain an overall view of the City of Warsaw probably the best place is the University library roof garden, first opened in June 2002 and now well established.  It covers more than 10,000sqm.  The two greatest attractions of the open space – the fish pond and the artificial stone with a small fountain – are connected by the stream with ducks waddling about.  Trees, shrubs, and perennials were found in shades of blue and pinkish-white. The Library plans to plant more trees: oak (Quercus), larch (Larix), spruce (Picea), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), rowan (Sorbus), and linden (Tilia).  www.roof-garden

Just a short walk away is the Copernicus Science Centre, of which Warsaw should be very proud. If you are taking a child to Poland’s capital it is an absolute must (at least half a day) and even for adults you will learn, your time spent wisely.  It is a newly built (2010) design containing over 450 interactive exhibits that enable visitors to single-handedly carry out experiments and discover the laws of science for themselves, and just across the river from the National Stadium.  The Centre is the largest institution of its type in Poland and one of the most advanced in Europe.  During our visit it was filled with masses of children.  We gather it is a little less busy during the holiday period.  But don’t let the numbers put you off. www.kopernik.org.pl/en
 
No visit to Warsaw is complete without viewing the Royal Castle, completely re-built in Communist times from 1971 onwards after its utter destruction during WWII.  The castle tour takes you through the magnificently restored property including The Great Assembly Room, The Knights' Hall, The Throne Room, The King's Bedchamber, The Old Audience Chamber, The Canaletto Room, The Small Chapel and The Marble Room.  Since 1995 work has been undertaken on the conservation of the Kubicki Arcades and the reconstruction of the gardens.  Once these works are completed, and the Tin-Roofed Palace refurbished, the rebuilding of the Royal Castle complex will have been completed.  From time to time there are special exhibitions including this summer The Lanckoroñski Collection featuring Rembrandt.

The Old Town is a lovely walk and at night time the bars and restaurants really do come alive.  The cuisine is East European, of good quality and very inexpensive.  At the lively Folk Gospoda a three-course lunch was around £5.  Restaurant "Entropy" in a cozy, atmospheric 19th-century building in Praga which has smoking and non-smoking dining rooms.  If you are into art the City Council is active in promoting inexpensive accommodation for all manner of hand craft workers who are keen to show you (and sell) their impressive output.

In 48 hours it is just not possible to do justice to one of Europe’s great cities, admittedly not that large with under two million inhabitants.  It must be short of builders as a number of the imaginative schemes programmed to be completed in time for the soccer tournament are incomplete. 

If England qualify from their group matches and play in Warsaw the fans will enjoy the city and clearly spread the word of its splendid hospitality. The Tourist Board is one of the best and publishes, gratis, some excellent guides.  Put it in your list of places to visit. www.visitpoland.org

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Aberdeen to London City

British Airways CityFlyer is to introduce a three times per day service between Aberdeen and London City on 24 September operating both Embraer 175 and 190 jets.  The BA subsidiary already serves both Edinburgh and Glasgow and is now the largest carrier at the Dockland airport.

Whilst the announcement does more or less coincide with BA’s take-over of bmi, and its six daily return flights from Heathrow to the oil capital of the north, the routing has been touted for some time and is already being welcomed by business and leisure users.  Currently British Airways operate seven daily flights between Heathrow and Aberdeen, the Scottish airport also served by Flybe (Gatwick) and easyJet (Gatwick and Luton).

Prestwick (Glasgow) is not connected to London City whilst Dundee has a twice daily CityJet/Air France operation flown by a Dornier 328 jetprop. www.ba.com

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Boeing 747-8 bookable

Lufthansa has announced seats on its (and the world’s) first Boeing 747-8 can now be booked.  The new flagship will fly to Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Delhi and Bangalore by late summer as more aircraft join the fleet.  Tomorrow (1 May) the aircraft will be handed over in Seattle.

From 1 June, Lufthansa will operate six flights per week with the "Queen of the Skies" on the Frankfurt – Washington route. 

Once the 747-8 enters scheduled service, passengers will have an opportunity to enjoy Lufthansa’s revamped Business Class.  The new Business Class seat provides exceptional comfort, whether in an upright or reclined position or as a lie-flat bed, plus intuitive adjustments, additional storage space and an enhanced in-flight entertainment system.  Regulars will be comparing with the airlines fleet of Airbus A380 which are being introduced.

The 747-8 Intercontinental will bring double-digit improvements in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions per passenger over its predecessor, the 747-400.  It is also much quieter, and generates a 30% smaller noise footprint.

On a more mundane level Lufthansa is to introduce from 1 October a twice daily service between Munich and Rotterdan with a Lufthansa CityLine CRJ-900. www.lufthansa.com

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Hong Kong Airlines martial arts

All operational flight attendants on Hong Kong Airlines new daily Gatwick service to the carrier’s hub are now fully Wing Chun martial arts qualified.  The initiative was launched in March 2011. 

The Wing Chun training is compulsory for the airline’s cabin crew members.  It aims to promote inner balance and core strength, needed for the rigors of the job, and enables them to deal with any potential challenges.  Primarily taught as self defence, the moves are designed to be accomplished in a restrictive space – like on board an aircraft. 

As well as the obvious safety benefits, Wing Chun enhances general well being and reinforces physical health and mental wellness. 

Yang Jian Hong, President for Hong Kong Airlines, stated: “We are very proud to celebrate the completion of Wing Chun martial arts training across all of our operational flight attendants.  Aside from the obvious physical, mental and safety benefits, this demonstrates our commitment to delivering exception passenger service.”

Each cabin crew member must complete a three-hour training course before they operate on their first flight.  Flight attendants train in their uniforms to prepare them for real life situations. www.hongkongairlines.com www.aerbt.co.uk/article/4204

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Reykjavik hotel opens its doors

The Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina has opened its doors in the up-and-coming harbour district of downtown Reykjavik.  The 108-room residency is centrally located for all the capital's attractions with a backdrop of majestic Mount Esja and the beautiful Faxafloi Bay.
 
All the elements of style and design throughout the public areas and rooms have been sourced from Iceland.  The Slipp Canteen is open 24 hours.  It is a quirky sit down café.  The property also houses what is claimed to be Iceland's largest cocktail bar.  There is an in-house movie theatre screening Icelandic films (with English subtitles).

The hotel has on offer a number of room styles including Studio 4, perfect for families up to 4 people; Studio 6, ideal for groups of up to 6 people.

Icelandair Hotels also operates the renowned Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, along with a property in the north, Icelandair Hotel Akureyri, and manages a number of other hotels throughout Iceland. www.icelandairhotels.com/hotels/reykjavikmarina

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Tokyo – Seattle early start

ANA has brought forward the launch its Tokyo – Seattle service to 25 July this year.  The Japanese airline will compete head-on with Delta and United airlines, both established on the route.  ANA said last December that it aimed to begin services from Narita much later in the year but has decided to launch the route ahead of schedule in order to capture passenger demand over the busy summer season.

The service will be flown daily, initially using the Boeing 777-300ER, with flights switching to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner during the course of the fiscal year.  This will make it the first ANA operation to the US to use the Dreamliner.  Because of its greatly improved fuel efficiency and range, the 787 is able to operate on longer routes where the market is not big enough to justify the use of jumbo-sized aircraft.

ANA currently serves eight destinations in the US with Seattle becoming the ninth. The airline also plans to launch services from Narita to San Jose during the 2012 fiscal year. www.ana.co.jp

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Wembley re-branded ibis

Accor has started to roll-out a new branding for its ibis hotels in the UK with the London Wembley property the first to get the makeover.  The 210-room economy hotel is in South Way within the Wembley Stadium site and virtually next door to the Wembley Arena and Conference Centre.  It is within a very short walking distance of Wembley Stadium station with its frequent non-stop services to London Marylebone, and northwards to the Cotswolds and Birmingham.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director, Accor UK and Ireland noted: “Last year, we announced our strategy to revolutionise our economy brand portfolio in order to meet the continuous changes our guests have in their lifestyles and consumption modes.  ibis is now the cornerstone of our economy brand portfolio and this is the first hotel in the UK to come under the new ibis branding.  It is a landmark for Accor in the UK as it signals the beginning of a very exciting roll-out of the new branded hotels across the country.

While retaining their own distinct personalities, ibis, ibis Styles and ibis budget hotels all have shared DNA based on the three structuring concepts of simplicity, modernity and well-being.” www.ibishotel.com

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CRUISE NEWS APRIL 2012

This month’s ship review: Silver Shadow by Silversea

This month we have indexed all AERBT’s cruise ship reviews and annotated against the Berlitz cruise ratings 2011. However since John Ward, editor of the guide, ticks boxes against service supplied one cannot directly compare.  For instance the six star boutique Hebridean Princess does not have a swimming pool (it is just not required), whilst the Queen Mary has the excellent “Club” accommodation, which others are beginning to copy, and is not separately rated.  We would also suggest to Berlitz that they include a review of the children’s/young people accommodation on each ship. www.berlitzpublishing.com

Arcadia   P & O 1,490
Azura P & O 1,512
Balmoral  Fred Olsen 1,398
Constellation  Celebrity 1,568
Crystal Serenity Crystal 1,702
Diamond Princess Princess 1,544
Discovery Discovery Cruises 1,111
Disney Dream Disney 1,491
Glen Tarsan Majestic Line  
Golden Princess  Princess 1,499
Grand Princess  Princess 1,496
Hebridean Princess Hebridean 1,680
Independence of the Seas RCCL 1,510
Insignia Oceania  1,574
Minerva Swan Hellenic 1,324
Murray Princess    
MV Eric Ecoventura  
Norwegian Jade   NCL 1,481
Prinsendam Holland America 1,642
Queen Elizabeth  Cunard   
Queen Mary 2  Cunard 1,702/1,541
Queen Victoria  Cunard 1,672/1,483
Royal Princess  retired  
Seven Seas Navigator  RCCL 1,595
Star Flyer Star Cruises 1,402

 

SILVER SHADOW

Our motoring expert, Ted Wilkinson, he of the Guild of Motoring Writers, has been to sea choosing Emirates as his means of transport in order to join Silver Shadow at Singapore via Dubai.

As Ted put it.  “You can’t start a holiday better off than by using the Emirates Lounge at Heathrow and the excellent Business Class offering.”   

“My first experience of flying with Emirates London – Dubai – Singapore indicated that this vibrant and young airline is a premium grade operation in every respect.

Sampling the Business Class lounge at Heathrow proved a welcome start to a long haul flight; 5-star comfort, an abundance of well presented and appetising freshly prepared food and a panoramic view of airport life. Even the sun was shining.

The imaginative design of the A380 accommodation showed that very high levels of comfort had been achieved – Business Class features a full stretch-out bed facility while Economy Class seating is generously wide with equally generous leg space and the head rests have fold/mould side flaps to reduce neck fatigue.

First Class passengers get the luxury of shower rooms in the nose of the plane which have proved more popular than expected.  There is also a comfortable bar at the rear on the First/Business Class Upper floor with stand up and couch accommodation.

The interior decor carries on the 5-star standard of the lounges with burr walnut trim in abundance, even in the toilets!  Cream effect colour scheme with a touch of gold relief here and there is classy without being pretentious.  Communication facilities are well provided for, including air-phone availability and charging facilities for mobile equipment.

An in-house video presentation on the excellent entertainment system by Emirates’ President Tim Clark was certainly zestful, telling of the new Concourse, shortly to be opened at Dubai, that will provide First and Business Class lounge accommodation for around 3,000 passengers and with docking facilities for 28 A380s at one time”.


SILVERSEA: Cruising with the small though generously appointed ‘6-star’ Silversea fleet has become a habit for many of its clientele.  Having tried my first cruise two years ago on Silver Cloud from Rio de Janeiro and northwards up the Brazilian coast and into the Caribbean and culminating in Miami, we have been back again, this time out of Singapore on the larger 28,000 ton Silver Shadow and along the Vietnamese coast to Hong Kong.  Silver Spirit is larger still with accommodation for 540.

For me the attraction is the all-in package (including staff gratuities), though not cheap but very good value, though I would rather do without the US$1,000 on board spend a sort of back-handed discount you have to use up.

Apart from the shop, the spa treatments and hairdresser or some of the very well organised shore trips, about the only place to spend money is in the exclusive Relais Chateau-Le Relais restaurant that offers gourmet themed menus and even finer wines.  Whilst we were on board there were lobster, asparagus and Spanish evenings.  The standard of accommodation and cuisine is very high and with a more than competent choice of complimentary drink.

With just over 300 passengers and about the same number of crew it is almost like a small village community of generally like-minded people – I actually had the same butler from the previous cruise – Andrew – who meticulously looked after our needs, keeping the en-suite fridge topped up with the right liquid refreshment, fresh fruit on the table and a shine on my shoes.

The all-suite ships offer large cabins, mostly with balconies, with curtain separating a lounge area from the bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and a bathroom with separate shower.  There is a choice of up-market toiletries too.

On boarding in Singapore we were greeted by the friendly staff and offered lunch in the attractive main restaurant, after which we went to our suites where our butler unpacked our luggage.

Speaking at dinner with the ship’s Hotel Director, Flavio Giola, I learnt that repeat customers were 70% and membership of Silversea’s Venetian Society (membership acquired after your first cruise) included season cruisers, some having notched up over 1,000 days with Silversea.

Giola’s comment that ships are refurbished every two years was evident in the provision of probably the best sun-loungers I have ever crashed out on.  These basket-work loungers also included some roofed versions rather like a giant cat basket which proved ideal for nodding off with a touch of shade.

There are sufficient dining options with few needs to book but if the weather is right try the on-deck dining which now features an on the rock experience. Yes, the rock is a pre-heated slab of stone on which to cook either an excellent steak, a lobster or two or a fresh fish.

Speaking to some regular cruisers on board, I got the general impression that they considered entertainment a bit limited compared with larger ships and when comparing with my initial and longer Silversea cruise I must concur but given the effort and quality of the six-person entertainment team, I relaxing after a excellent and leisurely dinner in the cosy theatre.

We found it a pleasure to experience the professional yet very friendly attitude of the staff and their expertise at multi-tasking.

On the safety aspect, it was noticeable (and previously too) that well before the ship sailed a full Muster Station drill was carried out, including a roll call.

SUMMER PROGRAMME 2012:  As this review is published Silver Shadow is on its way to Tokyo (17 May) and before an interesting trip across the North Pacific to Seward in Alaska.  The ship then undertakes a series of voyages between that port and Vancouver which lasts until the end of August before she re-positions once again to Tokyo and on to Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok for a whole series of voyages until Christmas. www.emirates.com   www.silversea.com

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