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COMMENT SPECIAL: British Airways and hacking

British Airways needs to get itself a new IT supplier, and fast. On Thursday the company admitted that bank details of 380,000 passengers had been hacked. The breach occurred on 21 August. Private financial information remained available to the hackers for more than a fortnight. Some customers, BA concedes, may already have had money stolen from their accounts, depending on the skill of the criminals.

Maybe BA needs to get itself a new online security system as well. Not for the first time, compensation payments will have to be negotiated. In July, the airline blamed an IT glitch for the cancellation of dozens of flights. The previous month, more than 2,000 prospective customers were turfed out of their legitimately-booked seats because BA said their tickets had been sold “too cheaply”. In May last year, 75,000 passengers were stranded at Heathrow and Gatwick after the company asserted that an engineer had accidentally shut off the IT system. Maybe, taking a longer view, that engineer had the right idea.

“We’ll take good care of you” has given way in popular parlance to Abba: anyone but British Airways. Scrapping meals in Economy Class on short-haul flights has not helped. Surveys suggest that Aeroflot is now considered to have superior catering to Britain’s so-called flag-carrier. Ethiopian Airlines has a newer fleet. BA lounges have begun to look tired compared with those of its rivals.

Given the polarisation of the industry between premium and economy brands, BA needs to decide where it should position itself in the flight pattern. It has to compete with both low cost, short and long-haul airlines, and against quality carriers from the Gulf and Far East. At present, it’s stuck in the middle. It ought, given sufficient imagination and acumen, to be able to navigate a path to serve both markets.

This COMMENT SPECIAL is not from BTN.  It is reproduced from The Times of Saturday 8 September.  As “The Thunderer” noted in another column that day this is not the only time Britain’s flag carrier has been in the news the wrong way. Last year’s May bank holiday meltdown was due to a power outage – the intrepid work of some contractor, who switched everything off and then blew out the IT system turning it on again. And lest we forget, Willie Walsh ran away from the media when the opening of T5 took place in 2008. He does not like to get involved with bad news.

Aeroflot takes more SSJ100

Aeroflot and the United Aircraft Corporation have signed an agreement for the delivery of a further 100 Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100).

The aircraft made its maiden flight in May 2008 and undertook the first commercial service in April 2011.  Today around 175 have been delivered to a variety of airlines including Aeroflot, who have 54 to date, Irish wet lease aircraft supplier CityJet with seven from an order for 15, and the Mexican carrier Interjet 22, with a 30 aircraft order.  

The Aeroflot agreement assumes the delivery of 100 SSJ100 during the period from 2019 till 2026. The planes will have 12 seats in Business Class and 75 in Economy.

Air Albania maiden flight

The maiden flight of Air Albania, the country’s first national airline company, a joint venture with Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY), took place last Friday (14 September).

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Turkey's ambassador to Tirana Murat Ahmet Yörük and Albanian ministers as well as officials from Turkish Airlines participated in a ceremony at Tirana's Mother Teresa Airport.

Speaking at the event, Rama said Air Albania was a strategic and long-term institution backed by Turkish Airlines, an undisputed global actor in the airline industry.

"We could not be here without the initiative and generous support of [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan," Rama added.

He described the new air carrier as a "bridge" between Turkey and Albania.

"Turks and Albanians will be able to visit each other faster and cheaper."

Turkish Airlines board member Mithat Görkem Aksoy said this was only the beginning.

"We will make much bigger investments in Albania," he added.

Air Albania currently operates a single 160-seat one class Airbus A319.

Airport slots – changes at ACL

Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL) has announced the appointment of Edmond Rose as the company’s new CEO, effective immediately.

ACL is the world’s first independent slot coordinator and is headquartered in Staines, near Heathrow. It supports 39 airports worldwide, including 24 London and regional airports in the UK; plus Dublin, Cork and Shannon in the Republic of Ireland.

There are also five airports in New Zealand; Dubai International and Dubai World Central; Poland’s Poznan and Warsaw Airports, Luxembourg Airport and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Last month, ACL announced the addition of Vilnius Airport in Lithuania, following a competitive bid.

Rose, a former Board member of ACL, brings 20 years’ aviation industry experience to his new role, including expertise in airline regulatory affairs for Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. A former British diplomat for 11 years with postings in India and China, Rose more recently served on Virgin Atlantic’s leadership team as commercial director.

“We are delighted to welcome Edmond, with his fine pedigree of industry experience, to this enhanced new role of CEO,” said ACL board chairman Jeff Halliwell. “This senior and important appointment is a major boost for us.” 

In confirming Rose's appointment, he also acknowledged the "excellent contribution" delivered by Mike Robinson, who was interim managing director following the departure of Chris Bosworth in April this year.

Aviation Club and Udvar-Hazy

It was a packed Aviation Club, plenty of bankers and city types, but not that many airlines, who last week came to London’s Institute of Directors to hear Steven Udvar-Hazy, the doyen of the aircraft leasing business. 

Udvar-Hazy (72), a US citizen, fled his native Hungary in 1958 following the Soviet occupation. He helped to found ILFC in 1973 and now heads Air Lease Corporation. As of the end of 2017, Air Lease reported ownership of 244 Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and ATR aircraft, which it leases to more than 91 airlines across 55 countries. It has close on 400 aircraft on order. 

Udvar-Hazy's belief is single-aisle aircraft will increase their dominance of the global airline fleet as it grows over the next decade. They had upped their share from 70% to 75% of in-service commercial aircraft. "That trend will continue," he predicted.

He singled out the long-range narrowbody Airbus A321LR as a crucial aircraft in the medium-haul market, suggesting that "we will see a lot more of them on transatlantic routes" because the variant offers "close to the Boeing 757's capabilities, but uses 30 to 35% less fuel".

As regards the Airbus A380, he summed it up: "How do you estimate residuals when so much of the fleet is in the hands of one airline?"

Bombardier and the Q400 aircraft

While there has been much emphasis on the C series aircraft and its reincarnation as the Airbus A220, Bombardier’s passenger aircraft division has been quietly concentrating on a product line that now consists of the Q400 turboprop and CRJ Series jet.

On 1 August it was announced that the Q400 had been certificated for 90 passengers with SpiceJet of India the lead customer and delivery of the first aircraft later this year.  This will give a 15% cost reduction on the current 78-seat version and is the world’s largest passenger prop jet.  CIB leasing is also to take five of the new variant.  Biman Bangladesh has ordered three Q400s to add to the two it currently has in service.

Just over 1,250 aircraft have been delivered, the plane starting life as the De Havilland Canada Dash 8.

With the CRJ series the total order book is approaching 2,000 since the first flight of the original 50-seat 100 series back in 1981.  The latest customer is Uganda National Airlines Company with a firm order for four 100-seat aircraft which will include the new Atmosphère cabin (See BTN 25 June).

Delta unveils Airbus 220-100

Last week saw the rolling out at Bombardier’s Mirabel, Québec, plant, of the first of 75 Airbus A220 Delta Air Lines has on order.  Formerly called the C Series the A220 is now unique in being produced by one aircraft company and sold and supported by another.

No details have yet been published regarding the breakdown of the order in terms of the 100 Series (maximum 133 seats) and 300 Series (maximum 160 seats) nor the build mix, with Bombardier busy at the present time putting together an assembly line at Mobile Alabama for US orders only, that is currently Delta (who also has an option for a further 50) and JetBlue for 60 of the larger aircraft.

Airbus has confirmed a total of 402 firm commitments with 42 aircraft delivered, 11 to Air Baltic (see last week’s BTN) and 22% fuel burn improvement over the same size Boeing 737-300, seven Korean Air and 25 to Swiss.

The maiden flight of the aircraft is expected shortly with deliveries starting next Spring.  New York’s La Guardia airport is thought to be considered as the home base for some of the fleet, tantalisingly opening up the possibilities of flights to London City Airport.   “It is an absolute widebody feel on a narrowbody,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said of the CS100.

Dublin to Lisbon

Lisbon is to go four times daily from Dublin starting 1 April 2019.  At present it is served by a 06:45 Ryanair departure and one at 18:45 by Aer Lingus, an arrangement that seems to suit both airlines.

A resurgent TAP will introduce a morning service at 10:35 arriving in Lisbon at 13:15 and an afternoon flight departure Dublin at 17:30 arriving in Lisbon at 20:10.  The timings have been made to connect with the extensive TAP South American programme. Airbus A320 series aircraft will be used for the operation

TAP chief executive, Antonoaldo Neves, said the new Dublin service was part of an expansion programme that was "another step in the path of strong strategic growth that the company has been going through in recent years and will continue to develop".

The historic capital of Portugal is in the same time zone as Dublin and is one of Europe’s less expensive capitals.  It is a vibrant city with a rebuilt tram system and plenty of small boutique hotels in the Baxia downtown area.

France invests in TGV

Much to everyone’s surprise (given the country’s budgetary constraints) the French government has approved five new sections of high-speed rail track.

Some lines are totally new. Others will be extensions of existing TGV lines.  Completion is expected by 2023.  According to transport minister Elisabeth Borne this figure represents a 40% increase on the five-year period before French President Emmanuel Macron was elected.

The five new TGV routes are:

Montpelier − Perpignan
Marseilles − Nice
Paris − Le Havre
Paris CDG to various destinations in Northern France
Bordeaux − Toulouse:  This upgrade means passengers will be able to travel from Paris to Toulouse in 3hr 10min in future rather than the current 4hr 15min.
Access from from Chantilly, Creil, Pont-Sainte-Maxence, Clermont, Compiègne (Oise) and Amiens (Somme) to Charles de Gaulle airport will now be by direct services. on a direct train.
But these are not the only changes set to hit France's much-lauded rail network.
Paris − Limoges line is to be improved. 

The government has also sanctioned the upgrade of the Intercité (now called TET line) between Paris and Toulouse via Limoges.

The low-cost TGV service Ouigo is also set to grow its service and will start running services from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Marseille and the Côte d'Azur from December.

Grayling recruits Williams and Collier

Keith Williams, the former chief executive of British Airways, has been recruited by transport secretary Chris Grayling to head a review of Britain’s railway systems.

The latest review will explore the relationship between state-owned Network Rail and privately-run franchises. Grayling has long been keen on closer integration between track and train.

Williams, 62, will juggle the job alongside his chairmanship of Halfords, his deputy chairmanship of department store chain John Lewis and non-executive posts at Royal Mail and Aviva.

Mr Grayling had previously announced the appointment of Declan Collier as his preferred candidate for the role of Chair of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) following an open competition.  Declan Collier late last year stepped down as CEO of London City Airport, a role which he held since 2012, and prior to that he was CEO of Dublin Airports Authority for seven years. 

Following standard parliamentary procedures for a public appointment, the Transport Select Committee will hold a public scrutiny hearing with Mr Collier later this year.  The final decision on the appointment will be subject to the outcome of that hearing and he is expected to start work as Chair on 1 January 2019.

Hawaii to London via Boston

A new Hawaii – UK routing has opened up with the introduction of a five-times-weekly service by Hawaiian Airlines between Boston and Honolulu (HNL) next April.

Traditionally if you wanted to go between the Pacific islands and Britain, the way was via Los Angeles, although there were alternative routings from the west coast and Hawaiian Airlines began operating a JFK – HNL daily service in 2012.

The Airbus A330 operation will also become the longest domestic flight route in the United States at 5,095 miles and will have a 2+2+2 flat-bed Business Class, Economy Comfort 2+4+2 with 36in seat pitch, and Economy at 31in.  

The new flight will go into service on 4 April 2019, and will be offered five days per week. Flight time from Honolulu is just over 10hr and in the other direction 80min longer.

Hawaiian Airlines' flight HA90 was given this number in honour of the airline’s upcoming 90th anniversary.

Heathrow hotel openings

Arora Group has announced that it has entered the final stage in the two-year construction of its two linked Heathrow Terminal 4 hotels.

The dual-branded property, ‘Crowne Plaza London Heathrow Terminal 4’, and ‘Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow Terminal 4’, between them boast a total of 761 bedrooms.

The hotels are a three-minute walk to the terminal building and when finished in October, will be the largest hotel complex directly connected to a British airport terminal.

Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4 is a 456,000-sq ft development, which will feature 304 bedrooms and a range of business and meeting facilities, including five meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, executive lounge and three food and beverage outlets. In addition, this upscale hotel boasts enhanced facilities such as dedicated quiet zones, a Sleep Advantage Programme, including premium bedding and guaranteed wake up calls, executive lounges and luxurious bedrooms.

The 457-room Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow T4 will be a ‘next generation’ Holiday Inn Express hotel, featuring the latest technology, an Express Bar and Café and the brand’s new larger, cosier beds. Over 100 guest parking spaces will be available at the hotels.

Lufthansa catering

In order to make travel easier for those customers in a hurry, Lufthansa has now developed a smart solution called "Delights to Go".

The new catering option will initially be tested at Munich Airport for six months starting on 5 September. Centrally located in Terminal 2 near Gate G19, Lufthansa passengers with lounge access can now enjoy high-quality snacks and drinks in a designated self-service area. Using the boarding pass the guest can select one of three connoisseur boxes from the categories listed on the screen.

The categories include Classic (main component, for example, a tuna wrap or Greek salad), Balance (for example a sprout sandwich with pear and fig mustard or a quinoa ginger salad) or Local (for example Munich sausage salad). These are complemented by a sweet or savoury snack, a piece of fresh fruit and a small bottle of water. 

Once the category is selected the box slides into the output compartment directly under the monitor. The guest has the choice between a coffee, speciality, tea, water and a variety of juices. When the drink is designated the cup can be put into a built-in place holder in the box, the entire meal packed into a paper bag and the passengers can rush to the departure gate.

Luxury Travel Fair

Back once more at London’s Olympia is the Luxury Travel Fair 1−4 November, again with the support of Condé Nast.

The successful mixture is as before with a series of talks and demonstrations in the Traveller’s Tales Theatre and the ability for face to face discussions with people who really know the business and have actually been to the places and events they are selling.  

Uncover exclusive resorts and unique boutique hotels, luxury tour operators, first-class concierge companies, undiscovered destinations and original once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences will all be at the easily accessed West London venue.

Cruise lines seem to be dominating this year with a number of the top operators participating, and there is the return of some really high quality hotels in unusual places.  Luminary rail providers have booths and will be ready to provide one-to-one advice.  Out-of-the-ordinary adventures are provided for too.

The Luxury Travel Fair will also feature a Sketch for Survival exhibition in honour of the Fair’s official charity partner, Real World Conservation Trust which is part of the Explorers against Extinction Campaign.  

Over 300 famous names and artists from 22 different countries have taken 26 minutes to sketch pictures of animals to highlight the fact that one African elephant is poached for its tusk every 26 minutes.

Morgan asked to consider his position by transport chief

Sir Terry Morgan, the chairman of Crossrail, refused to contemplate resignation when asked to consider his position by Caroline Pidgeon,  Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, at a testy public meeting in City Hall London last week. Now officially the Elizabeth Line, it was due to open in December 2018. No new date has been set yet for the opening.  (See BTN 3 September “Year’s delay for Crossrail”)

In October 2017, there was a serious fire at the Pudding Mill substation which caused a four-month “inconvenience”. The project was already under pressure and nobody would admit it. “On time and on budget” was the oft-repeated cry, but it was not the case. Val Shawcross, deputy mayor for transport, retired in May, and was replaced by Heidi Alexander.

A trial train was run to Abbey Wood in May of this year but it was no more than a PR exercise, with proper testing due to commence on 22 October. 

Morgan refused to set a date for the start of the central London services. He would not even indicate. He did confirm that Abbey Wood to Canary Wharf was looked into as a pre-full introduction service, thus admitting that the sector could be easily isolated while a Silvertown Station was built.

Sir Terry has resigned as chairman of LCY and has taken up the post of chairman of HS2.  

For the hearing please go to webcam from where these images were taken.

Northolt update

BAe Systems has been awarded a four-year £42m contract from the UK Ministry of Defence for the provision of the Command Support Air Transport (CSAT) fleet of four BAe 146 jetliners operated by 32 (The Royal) Squadron from RAF Northolt in West London.
The BAe Systems Regional Aircraft team joined with Serco to win the contract through a competitive tender process. The BAE Systems-led team will deliver a 20% increase in aircraft availability for a reduced operational cost.
The BAe 146 fleet consists of two BAe 146-100s – originally delivered in 1986 to The Queen’s Flight at RAF Benson − along with two BAe 146-200QC (Quick Change) variants with a large freight door in the rear fuselage.

What the announcement does not answer is the question of Northolt’s runway repairs, or the situation regarding any progress with the Flybe proposal for scheduled operations now that Air Marshal Sir Timothy Anderson has become chief operating officer.  The fixed wing part of the airport was supposed to close in April this year for a £40m runway upgrade but this seems to have been delayed with no news published by the Ministry of Defence.  Alternative airports, typified by Biggin Hill and Oxford, were watching the situation.

Norwegian drops Singapore

Singapore from Gatwick has become the first Norwegian Airlines major long-haul route to close, with the carrier confirming that no bookings would be taken after a final LGW departure on Thursday 10 January with the closing return Friday 11 January 2019. 

The four-times-weekly two-class Boeing B787 service, 12hr 24min, at the time the world’s longest low-cost flight, seemingly did not meet the airline's expectations.

With the airline reticent regarding the reason for the abandonment of the service, speculation has arisen regarding added competition on the route, with Qantas transferring its connecting flights from Dubai, and discounting with services through the Gulf, to serviceability problems with the B787’s Rolls-Royce engines. 

Norwegian has applied for Brazilian licensing, similar to its Argentine operation, and with it the possible introduction of flights from Gatwick to either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

Norwegian reported strong passenger growth as it carried more than 3.6m passengers in August. The total number of passengers increased by 10% compared to the same month of the previous year. The load factor was around 90% on the entire route network and 94% on the company’s long-haul routes, operated by the B787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Priority Pass new lounges

There are new lounges aplenty with Priority Pass and we highlight a few.  Please however note that some lounges are not open 24 hours and it is easy to be caught out if connecting late night or early morning.

New is the Song Hong Business Lounge, Terminal 2, Hanoi Noi Bai International (Vietnam).  It is open 06:00 – 02:00 daily and offers a peaceful oasis that exhibits the cultural heritage of Hanoi. Priority Pass members and eligible travellers are able to enjoy a wide range of facilities including complimentary Asian and Western food, drinks, luggage storage and wi-fi access.

At Lima (Peru) the Hanaq VIP Lounge, Jorge Chavez International, has been refurbished.  Open 24 hours daily, the facility offers guests an even larger space including two new cafeterias, a bar area and a Peruvian buffet.  Located near Gate 17, this spacious lounge is a respite for guests to catch up with work, grab a bite to eat or simply unwind in the recently refurbished resting area.

Plaza Premium is the operator of a new lounge at Ahmedabad International, the airport of India’s fifth, and fastest growing city, 360 miles north of Mumbai.  It is open 24 hours a day, landside in International Departures, is located near Gate 3.

Ryanair and London

Michael O’Leary himself was on hand last week to launch Ryanair’s summer 2019 flight programme, the largest ever through the nation’s capital.

Five suitable London airports will be served, including Southend for the first time, with a total of 23 new routes being introduced, bringing the total up to 180 in total.

O’Leary used the opportunity to again blast the British government on a number of aviation matters.

Last week Ryanair submitted a complaint to the European Commission over discrimination by UK air traffic controller NATS at Stansted, who refused, according to Ryanair, to explain why 52% of all London ATC delays in Q1 were at Stansted while there was zero such delays at Heathrow and just 10% at Gatwick where (NATS’ shareholders) BA and easyJet are the main airlines.

Mr O’Leary has always been against Brexit and was outspoken with his rhetoric.  “We remain concerned at the increasing risk of a hard (no-deal) Brexit in March 2019.  While we hope that a 21-month transition agreement from March 2019 will be agreed, recent events in the UK have added uncertainty, and we believe that the risk of a hard Brexit (which could lead to flights being grounded for a period of days or weeks) is being underestimated.”  This is a downgrading of his previous stance suggesting no flights.

Toulouse job swap

He did not have to move far from a physical point of view.

ATR chief executive Christian Scherer moved just across the road last week to Airbus as chief commercial officer after Eric Schulz resigned less than ten months into the job.

Schulz, who joined Airbus in January, stepped down “for personal reasons.”

Schulz took over as sales supremo from Airbus veteran John Leahy who announced his retirement late last year. Airbus CEO Tom Enders said the company regretted the former Rolls-Royce executive’s decision and wished him “all the best for his future.”

Christian Scherer joined ATR in 2016, after a 32-year career at Airbus. ATR is 50% owned by Italian company Leonardo, and 50% by Airbus.

“With Christian Scherer we see one of our most customer-focused leaders at the commercial helm of Airbus. Over his various assignments I greatly valued his international mind-set, his strategic vision, and tremendous commercial expertise,” CEO Enders said.

Born in Germany and raised in France, Scherer has an MBA from the University of Ottawa in international marketing and is a graduate of the Paris Business School.

World’s busiest air routes revealed

Currently taking place in Guangzhou (China), World Routes 2018 was the launch pad for the publication of the 2017 world airline statistics.

Although the US remains the world’s largest aviation market, the analysis by Routesonline found that air services in the Asia-Pacific region dominate the top 100 busiest routes by passenger numbers, accounting for more than 70% of the total.

With more than 13.4m seats on offer, the 280 mile short-haul domestic service journey from Seoul's Gimpo Airport to the holiday island of Jeju wins as the world’s busiest air sector. The route has an average of 180 scheduled flights per day, one every eight minutes.  It carried a staggering 4,369,364 more people than the second busiest, Melbourne – Sydney Kingsford Smith.

Although the US remains the world’s largest aviation market, the analysis by Routesonline found that air services in the Asia-Pacific region dominate the top 100 busiest routes by passenger numbers, accounting for more than 70% of the total.

Hong Kong – Taoyuan (Taiwan) is the busiest international route with 6,719,029 passengers flying the 500 miles in 2017. But London – New York, 3,470 miles, does remarkably well with 4.5m split over two airports at either end.  It is easily number two.

ON TOUR: Philadelphia

Among America’s East Coast cities, New York and Boston have traditionally commanded the most attention. That could be about to change, as Richard Cawthorne reports

Alongside its array of historic sites, lively neighbourhoods and major museums, the US city of Philadelphia has been lining up new tourism developments in 2018. As an icon of American history, the city’s fame is already assured. It is the home of the Liberty Bell, around which several tangled tales are told; Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed, and it houses several other prominent American Revolutionary sites. More recently, the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art were immortalised by Sylvester Stallone in the first of the Rocky films.

But with its new developments, Philadelphia is showing it is keeping up its momentum as a place to visit and do business. Of the three headline projects, two – Cherry Street Pier and The Bourse – are about to open officially after making their soft debuts, while the third, Fashion District Philadelphia, which will offer 838,000sq ft of shops, restaurants and entertainment, has just confirmed an opening date for September 2019. If you’ve been on business anywhere near America's first World Heritage City and you have time to spare for a side trip, this is a good time to catch up with Philly.

Both the multi-functional Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River waterfront and the renovation of the steel-framed Bourse, one of the city’s most historic buildings, into a 24,000sq ft food court represent major investment in the city’s visitor product, and in turn help to create a welcoming atmosphere for business. And there’s more. Along with these trendy industrial-chic rebirths, the Penn Museum, one of the most highly regarded research institutions of its kind, has also been undergoing major renovations to most of its gallery space in 2018 in a programme that has included the opening of a suite of new Middle East Galleries this spring.

Cherry Street Pier

Philadelphia's 93-year-old Municipal Pier 9 is now Cherry Street Pier, with four zones of activity. They are The Hub, a food and drink venue at the entrance to the pier; The Garage, a collaborative working space featuring shared offices and studios built out of renovated shipping containers; The Platform, an open programmable space for pop-up retail markets, art installations and public events, and The Garden, an open-air park and café with river views.

Philadelphia Bourse
The historic Bourse, which served as an exchange building from 1891 to 1960, has been transformed into The Bourse Marketplace, a trendy 24,000sq ft food court with ethnic dishes prepared by local chefs. Developers say the renovation has been aimed at providing “a true showcase of Philadelphia by accommodating new, local vendors alongside neighbourhood businesses with established roots”. Targeted as a rival to New York's Chelsea Market or Union Market in Washington, the complex opens officially on 15 November but some outlets began selling last week with sample menus.

Penn Museum
The internationally renowned Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania is undergoing major renovations over the next year to transform the main entrance hall and renew more than 75% of gallery space, including renovation to the historic Harrison Auditorium and surrounding galleries. Founded in 1887, the museum is regarded as one of the world's greatest archaeology and anthropology research institutions and is the largest university museum in the US.

Fashion District Philadelphia
Taking up residence in the former Gallery at Market East, Fashion District Philadelphia is due to open in a year’s time. It will be connected to Reading Terminal Market and the Pennsylvania Convention Center and cover three city blocks. Tenants will include national retailers as well as a dine-in cinema with reclining seats and East Market, a mixed-use space with more shops and restaurants.

Where to stay

As with any large US city, accommodation is varied and plentiful, with the major brands all present. Prominent is the 581-room luxury Loews Philadelphia Hotel in the historic Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) building, which achieved fame as the first modern skyscraper in the US. Set in the heart of Center City, the property is within walking distance of all the main attractions, shops and restaurants.

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia offers 268 guestrooms including 17 suites and 27 King Spa rooms, plus 13,000sq ft of event space, including a 3,237sq ft ballroom overlooking Independence Mall. The hotel is next to Independence National Historic Park and the historic district and within easy reach of the Business District.

In the heart of Center City and a short walk from the convention centre is the newly-opened Cambria Hotel, the brand’s flagship. The15-floor property has 222 rooms and eight suites plus fine-dining restaurant, pool, and meeting spaces, free wi-fi, fitness centre and rooftop bar.

By air from London it is now only oneworld with a choice of American Airlines or British Airways and the centre of the city is only 80 miles from Newark International (EWR) and a host of carriers. 

For a different, and slightly out of date, look at the city see ON TOUR 18 May 2015.

AND FINALLY: Railway on time

Maggie Simpson, executive director of the Rail Freight Group, was nearing the end of her presentation at the UK Rail Industry Forum last Wednesday. The chairman leaned over and urged her to hurry up, saying she was over-running her time. She paused, looked at her watch and said: “I have two minutes left. Just because the last panel session, which you chaired, overran by 15 minutes, I don’t see why I should be cut short.” She ended on time, to much applause.