15 DECEMBER 2014


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Article from BTNews 15 DECEMBER 2014

COMMENT: 2014 – We got nowhere and arrived at 2015

2014 looks like going out with a roar for the business traveller with Qatar Airways about to unveil the brand new Airbus A350 XWB (22 December) and Etihad a few days earlier (18 December) its version of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Readers might note Thursday 18 December is 111 years ago plus a day from when Orville Wright made the first ever controlled powered flight at Kitty Hawk.  He flew just 120ft.  The A380 wingspan is 261ft.  Orville did not get as high as the A380 wing!

Looking back at our remarks at this time last year not that much has changed.  The Airports Commission still hits the headlines from time to time and could report as early as June.  Sir Howard Davies has become what Straight and Level in Flight International would describe as “a total aviation man”, none the worse for that, and not a detached civil servant.  The man admits to being a ‘plane spotter’ from an early age, his first flight in 1973 in the de Havilland Trident 3 that now sits in the Manchester Airport visitors centre.  The genial Sir Howard has a lot of friends at the moment but how many will stand by him when the day of reckoning actually comes around.  And more to the point when will the new South East runway actually be built?  He did sum in it up at the RunwaysUK Manchester gathering “We plan to cut off all routes for procrastination!”

easyJet continued to prosper and Ryanair joined the business travel bandwagon saying it too was a friendly carrier.  But you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Still no airbridges and passengers being herded like cattle when it comes to boarding.  At least the Irish airline designates seats for all its clients unlike Wizz who still allow a free for all.

Farnborough came and went and the Bombardier C series did not appear.  When once the Canadian company competed head to head with ATR, not so in 2014.  The Italian – French operation now has an order backlog of more than 350 units.  For Bombardier with the Q400 it is just 42.

Andrew Swaffield took over at Monarch, replacing Kevin George, following his resignation.  Both are ex-BA.  By the end of October the airline had a new proprietor Greybull Capital.  The holiday airline has been owned by Swiss Fabio Mantegazza family since its inception in 1967.

The West Coast rail contract was retained by Virgin Trains in June after an ‘about face' by the Department for Transport (DfT).  Together with Stagecoach, and against predictions, it also won the East Coast franchise in recent weeks.

The Queen opened Heathrow Terminal 2 with the airport CEO Colin Matthews in close attendance.  His planned departure was just a few weeks later.  BTN asked the question at the time “Did he jump or was he pushed?”  No answer has been given.  In any event he was replaced by John Holland-Kaye, who has masterminded the new terminal.  The move from T1, involving many airlines, has been remarkably smooth, unlike the now largely forgotten BA T5 shambles.

Manston Airport closed and Blackpool just about survived, but not for scheduled services.  Edinburgh Airport finally got its trams.  The Airport Operators Association (AOA) raised its profile substantially and can be pleased with its efforts in succeeding in an about-turn by government on the London airport problem.  APD has been reviewed, a positive step.

On the hotel front the London Shangri-La finally opened at The Shard.  All very low key, so low key that BTN is still waiting for an invitation.  Accor expanded in the UK.

Prestwick received a subsidy from the Scottish Parliament, and the Cornwall – London air route got backing from Westminster, a precaution against any rail problems along the South Devon coast.  Will Scotland be free to tax air passengers at its own rate?

The stretched Dreamliner Dash 9 was certificated with Air New Zealand the first customer whilst Norwegian Air launched Gatwick – New York with the smaller version.  Aurigny, the Channel Island airline, added a solo Embraer to its fleet, a brave move.

On Thursday 17 July a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 operating a scheduled service MH17 between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a guided missile in Ukrainian airspace.  All 298 souls onboard were lost.  In March 2014 a similar Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia literally disappeared over the Indian Ocean. 

Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd agreed to sell its 100% interest in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports to a consortium formed by Ferrovial of Spain and Australia’s Macquarie for £1,048m.  Virgin Atlantic confirmed the forthcoming closure of Little Red.  Nick Barton was announced as the new boss of Luton Airport with a major transformation starting straight into 2015.

This publication will continue to promote RAF Northolt as a simple remedy to the UK regions London connection problems.  The airport will be 100 years old in 2015.

COMMENT thrives on the news of the week and ON THE SOAPBOX continues to attract some very important contributors. ON TOUR has featured air travel features and other items that it was felt would interest readers.  Ted Wilkinson’s MOTORING archive continues to build up, and we are astonished on just how many people read CRUISE NEWS.  Travel people usually have few problems in getting to far away boarding ports.

AND FINALLY is always the second most popular port of call for readers every week.  For this issue we were going to point out that El Al is the noisiest airline into Heathrow.  What the observers on the ground would not know is that it is also the noisiest to travel on.  Israelis are very vocal.

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