* items include readers letters
5 JANUARY 2015
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A new route from Gatwick to Heraklion (Crete) is amongst the expansion plans for Aegean Airlines in the UK for 2015.
Powered by GE’s CF34-10A, the first Chinese regional jet developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd (COMAC), the ARJ21 has received type certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), paving the way for the aircraft’s entry into service.
China already assembles versions of the Airbus A320 but its own indigenous passenger aircraft is a major step forward.
It may be a contributory factor, with Ebola placing a shadow over the whole of West Africa, but in any event Gambia Bird Airlines Ltd suspended operation on 30 December “until further notice”.
British Airways sister carrier Iberia is to fly from Madrid to Edinburgh, Gatwick and Manchester airports next summer. All the routes will be served under the Iberia Express banner.
Mark Schwab is Chief Executive Officer of Star Alliance. As the world’s first and most experienced global airline alliance, Star Alliance offers worldwide reach, seamless service and recognition to the international traveller.
Schwab earlier held numerous positions at United Airlines, US Airways (where he launched the London operation) and American Airlines. As Senior Vice President Alliances at United, he served on the Management Board of the Star Alliance organisation. He has spent most of his career outside his home country, the United States of America.
Schwab has a degree in Latin American Affairs from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Willie Walsh, the IAG boss, sprang a surprise just before the holidays by announcing a bid for Aer Lingus (EI), an airline he had once headed. It was rejected. No surprise. A takeover battle is expected imminently.
What should have been a party time for Air Asia with the lead up to the new year turned out to be a tragedy for the airline with the loss of an Indonesian Air Asia Airbus A320 on 28 December in the Java Sea. On board were 162 souls.
It was all smiles at Toulouse just before the holidays when HE Akbar Al Baker, President of Qatar Airways, took delivery of the very first Airbus A350 XWB.
The airline has committed for 80 A350s out of a total current Airbus order book for 778 from 41 customers.
The hand-over had been delayed slightly due to what was described as “small technical issues”. The aircraft will be introduced on the Doha – Frankfurt route on 15 January.
United Airlines is suing a web site developed by New York based Aktarer Zaman, who has found a loophole in the way airlines charge for tickets.
Whilst eligible passengers can still use the virtually identical Virgin Revivals facility, Delta Air Lines has opened its own exclusive Delta Arrivals Lounge, at the arrivals hall of Heathrow Terminal 3. It is slightly nearer than the Virgin operation and you do not have to use the lift.
The Etihad engineering base at Abu Dhabi was chosen for the spectacular arrival of the airline’s first A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner on 18 December.
The airline also showed its new uniforms with an outstanding display by staff, to the untrained eye as good as a professional fashion show.
On Monday 29 December a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 with landing gear problems made a safe "non-standard" landing at Gatwick Airport, which was forced to delay outbound flights with all incoming aircraft diverted to other airports.
It is amazing to think that Etihad Airways was only formally established in July 2003 and commenced operations in November of that year. Today it is one of the world’s major airlines, award winning with a very modern fleet of just over 100 aircraft, which will at least double by the end of the decade.
In December 2014 Etihad took delivery of its initial Airbus A380, incorporating “The Residence by Etihad”, becoming the only airline in the world to offer a pair of private suites on a normal scheduled flight. At the unveiling ceremony it was joined by the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for a Middle East carrier. Etihad is clearly going places. (see “Etihad arrivals” in this issue).
Over 250,000 passengers have used Emirates’ free on-board wi-fi since October 2014, taking advantage of the airline’s service to connect with family, friends or colleagues when they fly. With rival Etihad now charging just US$12 for two hours, and in Europe Norwegian also offering it for free, BTN believes that just as with hotels all airlines will eventually have to offer internet as part of their service.
London Midland has introduced a new timetable and more capacity which should significantly improve its whole operation between Euston and Birmingham New Street. Ten extra four-car trains mean passengers will benefit from 139,000 additional seats every week. This includes 64,000 extra seats in and out of London Euston and 75,000 more seats in and out of Birmingham. £62m worth of new trains will significantly increase capacity and help the operator introduce new and faster services.
The Flybe Inverness – London City route is to be suspended in February and the service from Exeter to the dockland airport reduced. For the Scottish operation the airline faced competition from easyJet to Gatwick and Luton with A319 equipment as against Q400. Now with spare capacity it is upgrading flights to London City from Edinburgh to six a day and from Belfast to four a day.
How long before all hotels globally offer wi-fi unconditionally for free? The sustained campaign by Business Travel News and others is now really beginning to have an effect with Hyatt Hotels the latest announcing plans to offer internet access at all its properties worldwide, beginning in February.
Now open in Bangkok is Thailand’s first upscale hotel under the Avani brand.
Scandinavian budget carrier Norwegian is to introduce services from Birmingham Airport.
The airline will serve Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga from next summer and is also adding a Malaga route from Edinburgh. Norwegian is in fact replicating its successful strategy at Gatwick where it originally based a minimum number of aircraft and spread thinly it operations to popular destinations.
Just before the holiday break Travelodge, the UK’s largest independent hotel brand, announced the completion of a £57m nationwide hotel modernisation programme, claimed to be the largest hotel refurbishment project to have been accomplished in such a short space of time.