7 MAY 2012

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Air China to Gatwick

The London – Beijing air route is now even more competitive with Air China last week adding Gatwick to its UK operation.  The four times per week service complements the airline’s long established daily Heathrow route.  British Airways also flies daily from Heathrow to Beijing.  Air China is the second airline this year to use Gatwick for additional London flights, Korean Air recently arriving at the UK capital’s second airport.

Mr Wu Xiao Ming – General Manager UK & Ireland for Air China, said: "This is a true milestone for Air China and an ideal opportunity for the company to respond to the ever increasing demand to China and beyond."

Mr Malcolm Day – Sales & Marketing Manager UK & Ireland for Air China said: "Adding London Gatwick to our UK network now gives passengers a real choice of departure points within the South-East.  London Gatwick is well placed for us for passengers to connect to Central London as well as the City with an efficient and seamless train service."

For the 10-hour flight Gatwick will be served by a two-class Airbus A330.  The Heathrow operation is flown by a Boeing 777 which has First in addition to Business and Economy Classes. www.airchina.co.uk

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British Airways to Seoul

Following the acquisition of bmi, and its slots, British Airways has quickly stepped in with the announcement of a six times per week service to Seoul (South Korea), in direct competition with Korean Airlines who now offer both Heathrow and Gatwick as London destinations.

The service will begin on 2 December 2012.  Operating the route will be a Boeing 777, offering First Class, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins. 

Drew Crawley, British Airways’ Commercial Director, said: “We have seen significant growth in customers wanting to travel to Seoul for both business and pleasure.  It is a vibrant city with a strong economic base, rated eighth in the Global Cities Index this year.

“Equally, there are vast numbers of South Korean companies wishing to come to the UK to do business as Asia’s economies continue to grow.  We want to ensure that we do our bit in bringing as much business and tourism to the UK as we can.” www.ba.com

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Edinburgh Sheraton re-opens

The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh has re-opened following a multi-million pound renovation.  Located in the heart of the City, in Lothian Road, beneath the Castle, the property features 269 guest rooms, designed in a contemporary Scottish style with frosted glass-walled bathrooms and state-of-the-art technology.

Facilities include a newly-installed Sheraton Club Floor, where Club guests receive exclusive access to a bright and spacious Club Lounge which serves breakfast, drinks and light snacks throughout the day.  There is also a new dedicated meetings and events complex offering 14 stylish and flexible function rooms, making it the largest conference and banqueting area in a hotel in Edinburgh.  The property also boasts the six-storey, 3,250sqm One Spa, one of Europe’s most advanced city spas.

Guests at the Sheraton Grand will also be able to enjoy new signature brand experiences, including the Link@Sheraton experience with Microsoft – a unique communications hub in the lobby providing complimentary wi-fi and PC workstations. www.sheratonedinburgh.co.uk

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Flybe winter schedule

Flybe, part-owned by British Airways, has published its 2012-13 winter schedule with 4.8 million seats on sale, offering a total choice of up to 2,760 flights a week on a comprehensive selection of 100 routes.

Two new routes operating for the first time are between Birmingham and Waterford, and Newcastle to Bergen (Norway).  The airline will also offer a series of popular, winter only, ski and sun destinations.

The introduction of Flybe’s first five new 88-seat Embraer 175 jet aircraft have also now taken to the skies and are becoming extremely popular with passengers.  These, added to the many product improvements, such as the airline’s New Economy product, the removal of debit card charges and increased technology to reduce the hassle of air travel through UK airports will greatly benefit passengers travelling this winter.

Andrew Strong, Flybe UK’s Managing Director, comments: “Our extensive 2012-13 winter programme brings together all the elements of our ‘Making flying better’ philosophy, demonstrating our commitment to better serving our passengers in a fair and transparent way.  The return of popular winter sun and ski destinations as well as key business travel routes offer a wide choice of both leisure and business destinations.” www.flybe.com

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Teesside Airport and KLM

Durham Tees Valley Airport, its official title, is to embark on a marketing campaign supported by major operator, KLM, who offers a three times daily service to and from Amsterdam.

The promotion is one of the first initiatives since the announcement in February that Peel Investments (DTVA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Peel Group, acquired the majority shareholding in the airport, securing the continuation of operations and business at the airport.

Airport Chairman Robert Hough explained: “We all recognise that one of our most important assets is the long-standing commitment of KLM to Durham Tees Valley and the importance of their service to the area’s economy.

“That is why, as one of our first priorities, we have worked with the airline to develop a joint marketing campaign aimed at highlighting that, wherever you want to be in the world – whether for business or leisure – you can get there with KLM from Durham Tees Valley.”

Added Vincent Kas, Commercial Director for Air France-KLM UK and Ireland “KLM has historic ties with the region that hark back to 1974.  The new ownership of the airport means a renewed partnership with KLM and local stakeholders which will further consolidate KLM’s leading position in the North East.” www.durhamteesvalleyairport.com

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United from Manchester

Manchester has become linked with Washington DC following the introduction of a United Airlines eight-hour non-stop daily flight last week.  The route complements the airline’s service to Newark New York also daily and non-stop.

Bob Schumacher, United’s Managing Director Sales, UK & Ireland, was joined by Andrew Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion.

Mr Schumacher said: “Having operated our Manchester – New York/Newark service successfully for 17 years, the new Manchester – Washington/Dulles flights will further benefit our customers in the North West, offering reduced journey times between the two cities as well as increased travel options.”

Andrew Harrison noted: “The merger between United and Continental created the largest airline in the world.  The USA is such an important target market and we are keen to serve more destinations, so we are pleased to see Washington, DC added to United’s existing Newark service and the wider route network offered from Manchester.  The link to a hub of the size of Washington Dulles not only provides a great direct service to the American capital but also onwards to cities across the Americas.” www.united.com

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ON THE SOAPBOX: Carolyn McCall

 easyJet CEO

A vision for London Luton Airport

Our vision for London Luton recognises the importance of the airport to the region, as well as to easyJet, and the airport’s potential which would see London Luton grow passenger numbers, destinations and local employment.

We also recognise the vital role which London Luton can play as part of the Government’s strategic intent of more effectively using airport capacity within the South East of England.

Our vision reflects the need for improved airport infrastructure, increased accessibility and a wider need to build a positive consumer image of London Luton Airport.  At its heart is the desire to deliver for the passenger and to support the easyJet aim of making travel easy and affordable.

The key elements of our vision are:

*    Making the airport easy to get to – improved frequency of fast trains to and from London, removal of the charge for the Luton Airport Parkway shuttle bus and delivery of Junction 10a.

*    Passenger friendly terminal facilities – Reduce waiting times at security and immigration. Increase the number of stands to remove the need for bussing to planes, an improved terminal experience – more seating and retail on the way, not in the way.

*    Airfield infrastructure to enable efficient operations – cost effective parallel taxiways, wider taxiways to avoid airfield congestion.

*    Delivering at the right cost base – efficient and cost effective development alongside matching airline growth commitments.

*    Growth and infrastructure phased – Airport development should be phased alongside realistic growth targets – to deliver value for all stakeholders.

It’s clear that at present London Luton Airport is not as good as it could be, and it should be positioned to play a bigger part in overall airport capacity in London and the South East.

We therefore broadly welcome the infrastructure development plans from the Council and London Luton Airport Operations Limited.  However, developing the airport infrastructure is only one part of what is needed at London Luton.

We believe that the airport and the Council should work proactively with airlines to find the best solution for passengers and for the local taxpayers who ultimately own the airport.  This solution must cover airport infrastructure, improvement of road and rail access and the changing of old perceptions which are holding us back.  It goes without saying that all of this has to be achieved at a sensible cost.

Therefore, if we grasp this opportunity now London Luton will grow, deliver a great passenger experience and significantly contribute more to the local and regional economy.  With this framework we look forward to seeing the plans develop as quickly as possible.  easyJet has a unique interest in the future vitality of the airport given that it represents around 50% of current passenger numbers, bases 16 aircraft, operates 34 routes and employs over 1,000 people at the airport.  In addition, London Luton serves as the airline’s International Headquarters.

Carolyn joined easyJet on 1 July 2010 as Chief Executive.  Prior to this, she was Chief Executive of Guardian Media Group plc.  Carolyn was a Non-executive Director of Lloyds TSB from 2008 to 2009, Non-executive Director of Tesco Plc from 2005 to 2008 and Non-executive Director of New Look from 1999 to 2005.  She was Chair of Opportunity Now and a former President of Women in Advertising and Communications London (WACL).  Carolyn was awarded the OBE for services to women in business in June 2008.  In April 2008, she was named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year.  She graduated from Kent University with a BA in History and Politics and from London University with a Masters in Politics.  We have launched our strategic vision for London Luton Airport.  This follows on from the two recently published master plans from Luton Borough Council and London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL).

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Arik Air Business Class

Business Class customers using Arik Air to Lagos from Heathrow can now take advantage of a dedicated car service.  The chauffeur driver arrangement will collect a passenger anywhere within a 50-mile radius of Heathrow and drive them to Terminal 4 using a fleet of new climate controlled vehicles where customers can enjoy plenty of space and comfort as well as receiving free daily newspapers and wi-fi.

The new scheme only applies to UK booked and originating clients.  The passenger will receive an SMS notification confirmation of the booking at the time of booking, a day before departure and when the driver is 15 minutes away from pick-up and when the chauffeur is outside the pick-up point.

Simon Cook, VP Sales UK & Europe, commented on the introduction of the chauffeur drive: “We are delighted to introduce this new, very convenient service for our Business Class passengers and I am sure that it will be well received.  The new product is another example of Arik Air offering its customers the very best in expediency and comfort with a reliable door-to-door service, thus removing all the stress of travelling to and from the airport.” www.arikair.com

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Cimber Sterling grounded

Founded as far back as 1950, Cimber Sterling has finally been grounded and declared bankrupt after a series of financial problems, and a number of owners.  Several airlines have come in with offers for stranded passengers.  According to OAG, 27 routes were being operated.  From its base at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport the carrier serviced a number of regional airports and flew holiday charters to mainly Mediterranean resorts.

Cimber Sterling is registered in the Travel Guarantee Fund.  This means that clients may be able to obtain a ticket refund if bankrupt insurance was taken out at the time of booking.  Tickets paid for by credit cards may well be under the same rules.

As of the time of the bankruptcy Cimber Sterling operated 19 aircraft (9 ATRs, 6 Boeing 737-700s and 4 Bombardier CRJs on behalf of SAS. www.cimber.com

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OAG and China

China is now at the forefront of aviation expansion.  In a review OAG, the airline data specialist, has looked at the situation with a detailed analysis following the Routes Development conference in Chengdu.

OAG says that China has led airline expansion over the previous decade, but that challenges in passenger yield and fuel costs may have slowed expansion plans.  Looking at the development of capacity from the two main Chinese airports (Beijing and Shanghai) on long haul services, the line appears to be diverging from trend.  Shanghai seats to the US are slowing (just 2%) and growth in the Beijing expansion to the US has stopped and is starting to decline (-3%).

Capacity between Shanghai and Europe is also continuing to grow, though the pace of expansion is slowing too. 

China’s expansion of seat capacity to international markets in general will increase by 14% for May, suggesting a more diversified expansion away from the two main centres.  However, expansion to China is significantly stronger than the Asian long haul market in general.  Despite growing economies and deliveries of aircraft to local carriers, some Asian markets are clearly struggling to maintain a growth trajectory – capacity growth between Asia/Pacific and Western Europe is zero for May 2012, for example. www.oag.com

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One thousand ATRs

ATR, the Franco-Italian manufacturer based in Toulouse, has marked an important stage in its history with the delivery of its 1,000th aircraft, an ATR 72-600 for Spanish airline Air Nostrum, which operates a franchise with Iberia.  This delivery symbolizes the success of the ATR programme and the ATR 42 and ATR 72 family of aircraft.  ATR delivered its very first ATR 42 on 3 December 1985 to the French airline Air Littoral, joining the exclusive ranks of aircraft manufacturers having delivered 1,000 planes.

Speaking at the handover ceremony Filippo Bagnato, Chief Executive Officer of ATR, said: “Today, ATR planes are present in over 90 countries and are flown by 180 airlines.  Few programmes can boast such a global presence.  Over the years, ATR aircraft have established themselves as the benchmark in regional aviation on all continents.  We are very proud of the resilience that ATR has demonstrated since the launch of the programme.  The perseverance, the unfailing commitment to our turboprop aircraft and their many benefits for regional airlines are what allow us to celebrate the 1,000th delivery today, and these same qualities will continue to provide us with opportunities in the years to come.” www.atraircraft.com

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Park Inn Glasgow City Centre

Rezidor is to develop the Park Inn by Radisson Glasgow City Centre.  The property, featuring 91 rooms, is scheduled to open in Q1 2013.  It is Rezidor’s 31st Park Inn by Radisson in the United Kingdom, bringing the group’s total portfolio in the country to 5,400 rooms in operation and under development.

“The United Kingdom is a key development region for our young and dynamic mid-market brand Park Inn by Radisson.  We aim to grow the brand in the core market London, and in further primary locations such as Glasgow,” said Kurt Ritter, President and CEO of Rezidor.  Glasgow is a one of the most important markets in the UK.

With a prime location in central Glasgow on West George Street the new Park Inn Glasgow City Centre was previously an office building.  It will feature an all-day dining restaurant, lounge and bar, gym and 200m2 of meeting facilities with a conference room and four meeting rooms.

Park Inn by Radisson was launched in early 2003 and comprises today more than 150 hotels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  The mid-market hotels offer comfortable rooms, contemporary restaurants and flexible meeting facilities. www.parkinn.co.uk

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Sana gains flydubai

flydubai, the budget airline of the Emirate, has inaugurated four times per week services to its latest destination Sana'a (or Sana), the capital of Yemen, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  The city does not have any direct flights to Europe and limited links to various points in the Middle East.

flydubai’s CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, said: “Since beginning operations in June 2009, flydubai has built up one of the industry’s strongest regional networks.  With the addition of Sana’a, we now fly to 20 destinations across 11 countries in the Middle East alone.”

Yemen, which incorporates Aden, has had an unstable history but is the only state in the Arabian Peninsula to have a purely republican form of government.  The fact that flydubai is operating at all would indicate some confidence in the current government.

In parallel to the launch of commercial passenger flights, flydubai now also offers cargo services between the cities through its recently-launched division, flydubai Cargo.  With perishables anticipated to be its main consignment, flydubai’s newest cargo route will strengthen trade links between Sana’a and Dubai. www.flydubai.com

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Toronto - New York

With Porter Airlines now up to 12 flights per day from Toronto City Airport to New York Newark, Air Canada, flying the flag for Star Alliance, has hit back with a new commuter service from Lester Pearson International Airport to JFK.  Air Canada is now unique in serving all three major New York airports, the aforementioned plus LaGuardia.

The Toronto – JFK flights are operated by Air Canada Express using a 50-seat CRJ regional jet.  The JFK service, using Terminal 7, will have early morning, mid-day and evening arrivals and departures.  With the new operation, Air Canada will offer a total of up to 38 return flights a day to the New York metropolitan area from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver.

Air Canada's New York service, with hourly flights, is ideally-suited for business travellers.  Customers will have a choice of three airports across the New York City region, the option to purchase flight passes, access to Maple Leaf or Star Alliance partner lounges at all airports with priority ground services where applicable.  In addition, Air Canada flights to LaGuardia and Newark feature Executive Class; the only Canadian airline offering Business Class service. www.aircanada.com

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Travel compensation decision

A British court has awarded a family compensation for when they were stranded in Madrid following the Icelandic volcanic ash disruption in 2010.  Iberia has been ordered to pay the Marshal family the cost of alternative travel and accommodation plus compensation totalling £10,000.  The airline had refunded the cost of the flight tickets of approximately £1,000.  It is estimated that fighting the case cost Iberia £50,000.

Judge William Birtles said the airline had breached its contract and air industry regulations in failing to re-route the family as soon as possible.  In fact it took the family four days to get back to London overland although a flight did become available the next day. www.iberia.com

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ON TOUR: World’s greatest commercial airliner

Last week Lufthansa, and Boeing, introduced to the media the all new 747-8 Intercontinental, the fourth incarnation of what is arguably the world’s greatest airliner.  In fact some would argue it is at least the tenth version of Boeing’s mighty Jumbo.  There was the 100 series, 200 – now called the Classic, 300, SP, SR and Dreamlifter, plus several cargo variants and of course the Shuttle Carrier.

Who would have foreseen in April 1966, when Pan Am announced an order for 25, that until at least 2015 the Boeing 747 would remain in production, extending to a minimum of 1,524 units.  It could be for a lot longer too.  A great deal depends on the public reaction to the Dash Eight, and of course how it works out commercially.

The aircraft boasts significantly improved aerodynamics and newly developed wingtips, and also provides tangible improvements in terms of eco-efficiency over the very successful 694 built 400 series.  The Gent GEnx-2B engines use less fuel and achieve a substantial 15% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per passenger.  In addition, noise emissions have been reduced by 30%.  Less than 30% of the original aircraft remains.

The new Lufthansa aircraft can carry up to 362 passengers in comfort unthought-of of in the 1960s.  By way of comparison the airline’s A380s offer 100 more seats, but it is very much the previous generation of accommodation.  The Dash Eight is the world’s longest airliner, a one metre stretch on the Airbus A340-600.

For the first time, Lufthansa First Class passengers will be seated in the front section of the main deck, favoured by most carriers.  On the B747-8, this area is quiet – thanks to the outer skin insulation, sound-absorbing curtains, which minimise specific noises, and the sound-deadening material used in the aircraft flooring.  Each of the eight First Class seats can be converted into a lie-flat bed, which is 2.07 metres long and 80cms wide, enabling passengers to enjoy a deep, relaxing sleep.

However it is the 92-seat Business Class which is the economic backbone of the aircraft.  The upper deck, often referred to as “The Bubble”, has always been popular with airlines, with large window boxes, and exceptionally quiet.  For the Dash Eight Lufthansa has fitted 32 seats.  With a single aisle and 2+2 it is less daunting than the same carrier’s upper deck J class A380.  Where Lufthansa has been very clever is to split the main Business Class cabin into two with the galley in-between.  This gives a far more exclusive feeling. 

When the 747-8 enters scheduled service on 1 June 2012, Lufthansa passengers will have their first opportunity to experience the cabin (which will be retrofitted onto the A380s).  The new seat offers exceptional comfort in a sitting or recumbent position, intuitive adjustment features, additional storage space and an individual entertainment system with much larger, 15-inch screens.  At the press of a button, it converts into a comfortable bed with a horizontal sleeping surface measuring 1.98 metres in length.  The aircraft also features an entirely new seating arrangement in the form of a “V”.  Two neighbouring seats are angled towards one another along a central axis. This virtually doubles the distance at shoulder level between the seats, giving Business Class passengers even more privacy.

Intriguing is the TV system.  The screen not only swings out to suit any position the passenger requires, but slides and can be tilted too. A very, very flexible way of organising viewing.  There are 30 radio channels and over 100 video options which are available in up to eight languages.

Lufthansa has spared no effort in getting the interior right, throughout. 

For 362 Economy Class passengers the seating is exceptional with an articulating pan that moves forward automatically when the backrest is reclined, resulting in a much more comfortable and ergonomic posture.  The gain is 5-7cms over the Boeing 747-400.

The 9-inch TV screen is tilt mounted in the rear of the seat and offers some 50 video options, radio and games.  PC power is provided for travellers to plug in their own iPads and portable devices. 

There are small but important improvements that will not be noticed by most passengers.  The literature pocket has been positioned higher up, behind the one piece tray table in order to provide additional legroom.  Once again Lufthansa seems to have got the cabin size right in the way it has been divided up into sections.  There is more headroom thanks to a slight change in the curvature of the roof, and the overhead bins have been increased in size.

The airline will take delivery of 20 Boeing 747-8s up until 2015.  The first five aircraft are due to be delivered to Lufthansa this year.  They will be deployed on routes from Frankfurt to Washington DC, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Lufthansa itself says on the front cover of the Boeing 747-8 magazine “Experience the Legend”.  We hope to bring you a report on this extraordinary aircraft shortly. www.boeing.com/commercial

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AC by Marriott – Nice

Marriott is to expand into France with its joint venture AC brand, already established in Italy, Portugal and Spain,  where combined there are already over 80 properties.

The AC by Marriott is a 4-star European lifestyle brand that fits in nicely with the Marriott choice of properties.  With a superb location in the centre of Nice, the 143-room former Elysée Palace Hotel is situated just a stone’s throw from the old town and the magnificent blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  With a lively rooftop terrace featuring an outdoor swimming pool and restaurant offering panoramic views of Nice and the Mediterranean, the property is set to become one of the most stylish addresses in the city.  All AC Hotels by Marriott offer complimentary wi-fi and free mini-bars.

Work has already started on the conversion with the hotel expected to be open in early 2013. www.marriott.co.uk/ac-hotels/travel.mi

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Bmibaby to be grounded

British Airways will over the next few months disembowel BMA, the once proud British airline vanishing from September, Peter Simpson MD of BA CityFlyer now managing affairs.  Some 500 staff will be affected.  BA owner IAG says that it is unlikely to find a buyer for bmibaby but it is understood that negotiations are still going on regarding bmi Regional.  Where it fits in as a stand-alone feeder, charter and point-to-point operation, is uncertain.  Eastern Airways and Loganair could have an interest.

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easyJet expansion

easyJet is to become the first low-cost carrier to launch flights between London and Luxembourg taking on the BA and Luxair duopoly.  Now the UK's largest airline in terms of passenger numbers, easyJet says that it plans to service Luxembourg from Gatwick from 29 October 2012.  This is the first time a low-cost carrier has launched services on this important route, the airline saying that 20% of passengers are on business travel.

Luxembourg is a key commercial European centre with a number of large global companies basing their headquarters in the city, including well known brands like Amazon, Paypal, Exxon Mobil and Skype.

Another new destination is the Isle of Man from Gatwick with a single flight daily except Saturday.  The airline will compete head-on with the established Flybe operation and comes about after the cessation of the Air France/CityJet service from London City. 

For next winter the airline is adding the already announced flights to Tel Aviv (from Manchester) and new services to Amsterdam (from Newcastle), Copenhagen (Bristol), Geneva (Southend), Tallinn (Gatwick), Turin (Gatwick), and Venice (Southend).  There is a new domestic route connecting Birmingham to Belfast, easyJet flying from Birmingham all year round for the first time. www.easyjet.com

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Helsinki Aspire lounge

Servisair, the Manchester-based airport handling company, has confirmed the opening of a re-branded Aspire lounge at Helsinki Vantaa Airport.  This follows similar introductions at Gatwick and Liverpool.

Servisair is currently rolling out the lounge concept to a number of airports in Europe, each individually designed to meet the needs of different passengers and reflect the identity and culture of the location.

The designer lounge at Vantaa Helsinki was created with the assistance of Finnish design and architecture company Gullsten and Inkinen.  It has been imaginatively designed to include features such as a traditional Shake wood wall, carefully selected bubble chairs, distinct zones to meet the needs of different customers along with shower facilities should guests wish to freshen up.

The Liverpool lounge has been specially planned to meet the needs of both business and leisure travellers with the addition of carefully designed side tables within the seating areas, which will facilitate laptop, iPad or gaming console and re-charging facilities.

An extensive range of complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks from the well-stocked self-service bar is provided as well as snacks and light meals to suit the time of day including fresh breakfast and light lunches.  All the lounges offer courtesy high-speed wi-fi.  www.executivelounges.com/aspire

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Hong Kong Airlines

No.1 Traveller, the airport hospitality specialist, has teamed up with Hong Kong Airlines to offer passengers complimentary access to its award winning lounge at Gatwick North.

All passengers flying on the recently launched route from Gatwick to Hong Kong will be able to experience the premium setting and service of what is an outstanding product.  The lounge is on the main floor of the departure area making access very easy.  It offers complimentary hot and cold food, a fully-tended bar, unlimited wi-fi, a spa, business facilities, cinema, billiard and games room.  There are facilities for children quite separate from the main area.

The arrangement follows news that it has been recognised as having the ‘Best Business Facilities of any airport lounge in the world’ at the recent Priority Pass awards.  It beat over 600 lounges across the world to the title, which is voted for by Priority Pass members and based on over 40,000 separate ratings.

Hong Kong Airlines passengers will be able to enjoy premium services – champagne, cocktails, spa treatments and dishes from the à la carte menu –as a complimentary part of their lounge entry.  Spa services too. www.hongkongairlines.com www.no1traveller.com

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Olympic jets

It has been confirmed that during the airspace restriction period of the London Olympics, 14 July to 15 August, Heads of States' aircraft will gain no privileges with slot bookings as the events are not deemed 'State' occasions.

The Foreign Office estimates 150 aircraft visits at that level and say at this stage there have been few bookings.  All non-scheduled traffic will be banned into Heathrow.

The real challenge for all executive aircraft is the road journey to the London Olympic venues with Battersea the nearest helicopter operation and London City, for fixed wing, very limited both with slots and size of aircraft.

Biggin Hill is typical.  VIP arrivals, but only those who are part of the Olympic 'family' have the choice of a road journey of around 30 miles (or at least an hour) to Stratford, or Ebbsfleet (20 miles) cross country trip connecting with the Javelin shuttle, and a further 10 minutes on the train.  The airport says it has been allocated 21 slots per hour during the Olympic and Paralympics period.  Currently it has received getting on for 400 bookings including from Australia and 14% North Atlantic inbound.  About one-third are for the larger types including the ATR and BAe 146 series. www.bigginhillairport.com

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AND FINALLY: The wrong kind!

Just in case you have not heard the border control delays at UK airports which were, according to Immigration Minister Damian Green, “due to the wrong sort of weather”.

This of course follows those well known explanations “wrong sort of snow”, and the daddy of them all, “wrong sort of rain”.

If you are an athlete arriving for an Olympic event please be very careful.

You may have the “wrong sort of visa!” 

THINK ABOUT IT.  They are a sponsor.

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