18 DECEMBER 2017

The Business Travel News
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Business Travel News and its staff would like to wish all our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018. We are back on Monday 8 January but in the meantime do try the holiday quiz and even put an entry in. The results will be published on 8 January. You may have forgotten some of these airlines existed.

Airbus top execs on the move

Two more heavyweight executives at Airbus are leaving, the company announced on Friday, headed by chief executive Tom Enders, who will not seek re-election when his term expires in 2019.

Chief operating officer and head of the main commercial aircraft division Fabrice Bregier will step down in February and will be succeeded by Guillaume Faury, currently chief executive of Airbus Helicopters.

Observers noted Bregier had long been seen as the natural heir to Enders, although there have been reports of tensions between the two. Plans to find a successor to Enders are under way, Airbus said.

The news follows the announcement earlier this month that Airbus’ chief salesman of 20 years, John Leahy, is also leaving the company on his retirement (BTN 4 December).

An Airbus statement on the departures of Enders and Bregier said the board had acted to secure an orderly succession at the company, which has long been the object of speculation about rivalries and abrupt changes at senior management level.

However, chairman Denis Ranque said: "We are confident we have taken the right decisions to ensure Airbus' long-term stability and future success and we fully support Tom Enders to lead Airbus through this generational handover."

British Airways cabin service

BA Cityflyer is to carry on with its established traditional cabin service into 2018.

In April this year British Airways mainline introduced a no refreshment policy with tea, coffee and sandwiches available to purchase from an M&S trolley.  Its reception was lukewarm.  

When this might change with Cityflyer, perceived as just BA by most travellers, remains to be seen? 

In a statement the airline said.  “If you're travelling on any flight operated by our subsidiary BA Cityflyer to and from London City, London Stansted, Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh or Manchester you can continue to enjoy our complimentary food and drink service but look forward to the M&S on board menu in 2018.

Depending on the time and duration of your flight, we will offer you a light snack or something more substantial, along with a soft drink of your choice from the bar”.

Does this delay with Cityflyer mean that BA is having second thoughts? At the Aviation Club two weeks ago (see BTN 11 December) chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz was adamant that free refreshments would disappear on all European short-haul regardless of the airline.  But BA is known to change its mind.  With the Christmas quiz in mind readers may recall the ethnic tailfins and years back a bright idea to offer boxed refreshments on boarding.  Neither lasted.

Conrad arrives in Colombia

Marking the debut of the brand in Colombia, Hilton luxury brand Conrad Hotels and Resorts has opened an oceanfront property in Cartagena. With 109 rooms and suites and more to come, it becomes the third Conrad in Latin America.

The rooms and suites feature neutral tones, contemporary wood furniture, marble décor, and artwork from Colombian artists Pedro Ruiz and Kiko Kairuz. Large windows and high ceilings provide natural light and views of the Caribbean or the Jack Nicklaus golf course. 

Each room has a spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower, two sinks and custom toiletries. The hotel, which houses seven food and drink outlets, is due to unveil an additional 159 rooms early next year.

At 20min from Rafael Nunez International Airport, Conrad Cartagena offers more than 24,000sq ft of flexible event space, including a 9,000sq ft Grand Ballroom and five 500sq ft meetings rooms, with settings for conventions and receptions of up to 1,400 guests.

Conrad global head John Vanderslice said: “As the brand’s debut property in Colombia, Conrad Cartagena represents our continued commitment to expanding the brand’s footprint in Latin America.

“We look forward to offering guests an innovative way to stay inspired by introducing travellers to the brand’s exceptional hospitality and curating experiences that pay tribute to luxury living.”

Delta orders 100 A321neos

A firm order for 100 Airbus A321neo aircraft with options of up to 100 more aircraft was signed last week by Delta Air Lines and Airbus. Deliveries are set to begin in 2020 and run to the end of 2023 to replace smaller, less technically advanced aircraft.

In addition, Delta’s TechOps division is to become the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) centre for the next-generation Pratt & Whitney geared-turbofan engines that power the new jets.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the order was “the right transaction at the right time”, adding: “Delta, Airbus and Pratt & Whitney share the same commitment to safety, efficiency, innovation and continuously improving the customer experience.” 

Delta said it will configure the A321neo to 197 seats: 20 First Class, 30 Delta Comfort Plus and 147 main cabin, with on-demand inflight entertainment, fast 2Ku in-flight wi-fi, power ports and streaming video content available at every seat. 

The airline said the aircraft cabin will also feature expansive bookshelf-style overhead bins, 25% larger than those they are replacing, as well as full-spectrum LED cabin lighting.

EasyHotel's fast rebrand

What is claimed to be the fastest rebranding of its kind has seen easyHotel open in Newcastle with a property centrally located between the city centre and the quayside and an 8min walk from Central Station. 

The building started the day as the Newcastle Tune Hotel with clients checking out in the morning as easyHotel’s team checked in with the mission to have the property ready to open under its new name in time for the day’s new guests.

EasyHotel said the property, which opened as a Tune hotel in 2014, was in excellent condition and would be offering easyHotel’s signature comfortable and affordable bedrooms just in time for the busy pre-Christmas season.

Marketing manager Jorge Rodriguez said: “This is a great hotel in a fantastic location and we were delighted to be able to have the doors open so quickly. 

“Over time, we’ll be introducing our trademark extras including bedside USB ports for phones while for now we look forward to providing our trademark welcome with rates that enable guests to keep their cash in their wallets and spend it on a great time out on the Toon.”

EasyJet unveils Berlin plans

Leasing former Air Berlin aircraft, taking over other assets of the failed airline including slots and offering jobs to former flying crew are among the results of easyJet acquiring part of Air Berlin’s operations at Tegel Airport.

EasyJet confirmed the deal – which will also result in it operating 25 aircraft from Tegel – last week, with easyJet’s new CEO Johan Lundgren describing the move as a “milestone”.

He added: “This move is consistent with easyJet’s strategy of purposeful investment in strong number-one positions in Europe’s leading airports. EasyJet will now operate the leading short-haul network at Tegel and with our existing base at Schönefeld means we will be the leading airline to and from Berlin.”

In other easyJet news last week, the airline launched its first flight from Southampton to Geneva with Olympic skier Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards joining in to chat with passengers and pose for photos with fellow skiers before take-off. It is the first time easyJet has operated from the South Coast airport.

The airline has also announced it will operate four new routes from London Southend Airport in 2018 – Bordeaux from 25 July; Prague and Pula from 27 July and Dubrovnik from 28 July.

Etihad to fly Team England

Team England will be flown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast by Etihad Airways, an airline synonymous with sport and the carrier for thousands of athletes, coaches and supporters from around the world.

Team England chef de mission Sarah Winckless said: “Etihad is renowned the world over for the quality of its service so we can be sure our Commonwealth Games will get off to the best possible start the second the athletes begin their journey.”

Etihad UK general manager James Harrison added: “The UK market is very important to us. We operate to 13 Commonwealth countries and will have flown a record half a million Britons via Abu Dhabi and beyond in 2017. 

“The Commonwealth Games will be hugely inspirational and we look forward to helping Team England achieve their dreams in 2018.”

Etihad will be transporting more than 650 Team England athletes and support staff to Australia, where Team England preparations begin in Brisbane with a holding camp from 19 March before the games themselves begin on the Gold Coast on 4 April.

Etihad has 33 connecting flights a week to Australia from London, Manchester and Edinburgh and in the past year has flown some 65,000 passengers to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Grayling acts on general aviation

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation last week praised transport secretary Chris Grayling for his “enthusiastic response” to its campaign to ensure the general aviation sector is safeguarded in future plans for the UK airline industry.

The group said Grayling had taken “several encouraging steps”, including appointing a respected general aviation champion to his department, and was promising an action plan by 14 February.

“The department has finally woken up to the fact that they are the government department responsible for sponsoring the general aviation sector,” the APPG said in a statement.

“GA directly contributes £3bn to the economy, employs 38,000 people in high-skilled jobs and is critical to the success of the wider £53bn aviation sector. Aviation cannot thrive without general aviation.”

Earlier, the group had taken communities secretary Sajid Javid to task after it said he claimed existing planning protection for airfields was sufficient and had responded in a letter from chairman Grant Shapps with “compelling evidence” about the need for action.

Spokesman Matthew Bolshaw added that the group was continuing to work hard to ensure the general aviation sector was safeguarded and now enjoyed the support of a record 85 MPs, making the GA APPG one of the biggest in the current parliament. 

Heathrow expansion milestone

The programme to expand Heathrow has taken a significant step towards delivery with the launch by the airport of the first 10-week phase of public planning consultation on the project set for the new year.

It will begin on 17 January and run until 28 March, giving local communities and stakeholders an in-depth opportunity to shape the expansion proposals, which are aimed at supporting an even more sustainable future airport operation. 

The consultation will be in two parts. The first is on infrastructure design options for an expanded Heathrow and the approach to managing and reducing environmental and community impacts, while the second will focus on future design principles for airspace around the airport. 

Heathrow has been working with local stakeholders and airlines to evolve the expansion plans and says the consultation starting next month will be allow the public to view and comment on emerging proposals and options.

These include suggestions for the design of the expanded airport facilities, the reconfiguration of the M25, changes to local roads and rivers and use of nearby land for construction and other uses.

Heathrow executive director Emma Gilthorpe said: “Delivering expansion affordably is a key priority for the airport and we urge everybody to participate.”

Historic motorsport on show

Six very special racing cars will deliver the sound of thunder as they take to the Grand Avenue at the 2018 Historic Motorsport International show at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands from 15-18 February.

Following a highly successful opening show this year, the event is expanding and moving halls within the exhibition complex to join its sister operation, the London Classic Car Show.

Organisers say the change allows a selection of “star cars” to drive along the Grand Avenue automotive catwalk. “The sight and sound of all manner of classics and supercars on the move adds a totally new dimension to the exhibition,” a spokesman added.

HMI aims to make the most of the move by assembling its own paddock supported by Octane magazine and featuring six one-of-a-kind racing cars that fit with the Grand Avenue’s 2018 theme of “Specials”.

The first of the six to be announced is an Edwardian Fiat, better known as the “Beast of Turin”, a flame-spitting 28.5-litre behemoth that claimed a world land speed record in 1911 of 116mph (See also this month’s Motoring feature in this issue).

Ibis Air poised for US launch

Final plans are in hand in the US for the launch of a new “low-cost, high-tech” airline which aims to fill gaps in the market internationally and between highly-populated US cities using high-capacity Boeing B747s.

Florida-based Ibis Air is headed by its co-founder and former British Air Ferries (BAF) and British World Airlines chairman and CEO Ian Herman, now a naturalised American citizen, who has more than 30 years' experience in the industry.

UK-based Constellation Aviation Consulting is assisting the start-up, with CEO Paul Moore saying innovative graphic marketing and utilisation of targeted revenue centres will enable Ibis to offer discounted fares while prioritising customer service. 

Ibis also plans to focus on business travellers, who the company says will enjoy high-tech amenities in a comfortable, separately dedicated work zone, while parents will have child-friendly spaces with family-friendly entertainment.

Food lovers will be able to pre-order meals for delivery fresh onboard, while Ibis says its “significantly lower” fares will be available on all flights, with no hidden extras.  All passengers are also promised “the Ibis treatment" of "consideration and courtesy".

It's the Biz for Eurowings

A new Business Class product called simply Biz is being introduced on selected long-haul flights by Eurowings when the summer flight schedule starts in 2018. The carrier says it is the first low-cost airline to make the move.

Eurowings has already published a picture of its new “Bizclass” on social media including Facebook and Twitter and the product will be premiered at the ITB travel fair in Berlin in March before entering service at the end of April.

The social media teaser gives an idea of what passengers can expect, including larger seats with more legroom, convertible at the touch of a button into a fully-flat 2m-long bed. Existing Eurowings booking classes – Basic, Smart and Best – remain unchanged.

Eurowings says Bizclass will not only provide a more comfortable seat but special catering and other “new services”. CCO Oliver Wagner said: “We are fine-tuning and have some great surprises in store which will be presented for the first time at ITB.

“We see strong demand for another top product from our company on routes with a higher proportion of business travel, for example US flights from Düsseldorf to New York, Miami or Fort Myers.” Wagner added. “We’ll be entering the Bizclass race with our usual budget-priced Eurowings tickets.”

Loganair steps up expansion plans

Future plans for 2018 including the first non-stop services linking Manchester with the three main Scottish islands of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles were unveiled by Loganair last week. 

The emphasis was firmly on expansion as the carrier, dubbed “Scotland’s Airline”, was launching its schedule for its first full summer of flying under its own name and brand in recent years. 

Loganair is also planning a new three-times-weekly jet service linking Manchester and Inverness with Bergen. Operating year-round, it will be Inverness’s second regular international service, joining Loganair’s existing flights to Bergen from Glasgow, Shetland and Orkney.

The Scottish islands development will see weekly services to Stornoway and Sumburgh join twice-weekly flights from Manchester to Kirkwall as part of Loganair’s network.  

New flights will also operate over the summer between Norwich and Inverness; from Norwich to the Isle of Man, and from Glasgow to Guernsey, where a new Saturday service from 26 May will mark Scotland’s only direct link to the second largest of the Channel Islands.

Managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: “We’re delighted to be launching a brand new range of services. Since we started flying under our own name again we’ve seen a tremendous response to Loganair’s strong Scottish identity and the friendly service we offer.”

London City gains Surf Air

Surf Air celebrated its first flights from London City Airport to Zurich last week with members and special guests aboard its Embraer Phenom 300 business jet.

This new all-you-can-fly membership model allows travellers to fly as often as they wish on a growing route network. There is a one-time joining fee of £1,000. Thereafter, memberships are available from £2,550 per month. Surf Air ushers in complementary addition for frequent flyers at LCY as the airport marks its 30th birthday.

Operating from the private terminal, the London Jet Centre, Surf Air affords clients a super-quick, stress-free and discreet experience. Surf Air COO Peter Evans was in Zurich to welcome the maiden flight.  

He paid tribute to City Airport’s management team, especially new COO Richard Hill, for grasping the vision of this innovative model, which is well established in the US. 

Surf Air's move from Luton Airport, where Ibiza and Cannes launched in June, came in response to members’ wishes, said CEO Simon Talling-Smith, himself a former British Airways senior executive. 

At the Zurich launch, he confirmed the start of Pilatus PC-12 SETops commercial services from Zurich to Luxembourg, plus other European cities from next February. Surf Air’s operating partner is FlairJet, which pioneered Phenom 300 operations in Europe.

Luton Airport press conference

Luton Airport held a press conference last week. Nothing wrong with that except that there was not a representative of the airport in sight. The gathering was hosted by London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), a company owned by Luton Council (see BTN 11 December). The local press were for the most part compliant and only Business Travel News  asked any questions after the 30min briefing. We were told an unnamed technical team was helping the council.

The airport is operated by a Franco/Spanish company which has a concession until 2031.

The council unveiled an (expensive) 28-page brochure showing its plans for the future. Called  Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050, it said passenger capacity would go from 18m to 36-38mppa (million passengers per annum). No mention of where this expansion would come from, nor potential destinations. 

Cllr Andy Malcolm, chair of LLAL and Luton Council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “London Luton Airport is a huge success story. On the back of 44 consecutive months of passenger growth, it is the fifth largest and fastest-growing major airport in the UK, sustaining an estimated 33,000 jobs across the region, and contributing more than £1.5bn per year into the UK economy”.

At its present growth rate, Luton is due to reach the permitted capacity of 18mppa in 2021.

Musical send-off for Virgin Barbados

A Caribbean steel band paid a VIP visit to Heathrow last week to serenade passengers on the first Virgin Atlantic Heathrow – Barbados service in true Bajan Christmas style.

The twice-weekly service is the only direct link between the two points and also opens up easy connections to Barbados for passengers from around the UK including Scotland thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s codeshare with FlyBe.

Flights are operating on Tuesdays and Saturdays as part of the winter 2017 schedule using an Airbus A330 and mean Virgin Atlantic now offers up to 11 Barbados flights a week from Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow.

Chief commercial officer Shai Weiss said: “The Caribbean has always been a core market for Virgin Atlantic and we’re excited to be offering more choice to our passengers with the option of flying direct from three airports to Barbados.”

He added: “Virgin Atlantic has seen strong demand for the Upper Class and Premium Economy cabins on Barbados flights and so we took the opportunity to utilise the A330.”

The aircraft is configured with 31 Upper Class, 48 Premium Economy and 185 Economy seats. Heathrow – Barbados has become Virgin Atlantic’s fifth new service to launch in 2017.

New ibis for City Airport

Travellers using London City Airport now have a wider choice of hotel in the area following the opening of the ibis London Canning Town, opposite Canning Town station and a key element in the newly-established Hallsville Quarter.

As well as serving the airport, the 196-bedroom property, which features free super-fast fibre wi-fi and 24hr reception service, gives easy access to a host of London’s most bustling business and leisure hubs.

The Hallsville Quarter is a £600m town-centre project established in conjunction with the London Borough of Newham and property development company Linkcity and a key part of the much wider £3.7bn Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Programme.

This aims to transform and establish the east London area as a thriving and prosperous community, while ibis’ commitment to the local area includes the creation of 25 jobs at the hotel and supporting local food and beverage providers.

The property will also feature ibis’ guest welcome initiative introduced this year, which involves guests greeted on arrival by staff with room keys in hand and linked to the ibis online fast check-in and check-out service via smartphones.

Niki fate hanging in the balance

The fate of Austrian budget carrier Niki, which filed for insolvency last week, was still in the balance at the weekend after founder and former Formula One champion Niki Lauda was reported to have offered to buy the airline back.

Administrators have been locked in urgent talks to find a buyer after 5,000 passengers were stranded by the collapse, which happened as Lufthansa pulled out of an attempt to buy Niki from the bankrupt Air Berlin.

Lufthansa abandoned the plan after the European Commission said the deal would lead to higher prices and less consumer choice. EU officials said it was feared the takeover would create monopolies on dozens of routes.

Another concern was that taking over Niki would increase Lufthansa’s already strong position as the market leader at a number of congested airports, making it difficult for competitors to enter.

“It was clear from the start, that Lufthansa and Air Berlin overlap on a very significant number of routes, with clear risks to Austrian, Germans and Swiss consumers and to effective competition,” the commission said.

There was better news in the AirBerlin case for easyJet after the EU said it had no competition concerns with its purchase of the bankrupt carrier’s operations at Berlin Tegel Airport.

Norwegian surge after slots coup

Plans for continued growth at Gatwick are in hand from Norwegian Air after it acquired 28 more weekly take-off and landing slots at the airport.

The slots were purchased from Lithuanian-based carrier Small Planet Airlines, with the transaction taking effect from next summer.

Also last week, Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos said the airline was expanding its long-haul network with four new routes between Europe and the US: New York JFK and Los Angeles to Madrid; New York JFK to Amsterdam; and Los Angeles to Milan.

On the Gatwick development, Kjos said the new slots would allow Norwegian to plan for continued growth in its busiest year yet in the UK in 2018. The airline already flies more than 4.6m passengers a year from there to more than 30 destinations. 

“Gatwick is at the heart of our global growth ambitions so securing these crucial new slots will allow us to offer our passengers even more new routes, additional flights and affordable fares,” he added. 

“Together with the launch of new routes to Argentina, Chicago and Austin in 2018, gaining extra capacity at Gatwick is another huge boost as we get ready for our biggest ever year in the UK.”

Passport service extended

Passport holders aged 16 or over can now use the latest and most convenient way to renew the document online. The service, which takes an average of 10min to complete, has previously been available only to those over the age of 26. 

The move follows a Passport Office survey that found, with more than 300,000 16-25 year-olds a year renewing their passports, that 63% of people would prefer to use the online method. 

Officials said the expansion of the scheme meant they would all now be able to benefit from the service, which provides an easy, convenient and secure service to British nationals across the globe.

In another digital development, the Passport Office has introduced an option for applicants to upload photographs taken on their tablets or smartphones or at photo shops or booths.

When a photograph taken in this way is uploaded, a special code is generated and is then used to start the online application. 

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis said: “We are harnessing technology to transform our services – we want to ensure we have a modern and easy-to-use service for our millions of passport holders and applicants.”

Pilatus wins certification

The first Swiss business jet has passed a major milestone after obtaining type certificates from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US-American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Certification of the Pilatus PC-24, labelled the Super Versatile Jet, prepares the ground for initial customer deliveries less than three years after the first prototype completed its maiden flight in May 2015. 

The three prototypes used in the certification programme have flown a total of 2,205 hours worldwide so far, with some flight tests conducted in extreme environments and at altitudes and speeds not usually encountered in everyday operations. 

Other tests have included bird impacts, structural stress tests, noise tests and general function. 

Pilatus chairman Oscar Schwenk said: “The requirements associated with obtaining certification for this sort of aircraft as the first in its field were extremely rigorous, and I need hardly mention that we faced some big challenges. 

“We announced in 2013 the PC-24 would be ready in 2017, and now, shortly before the end of the year, we have achieved exactly that. And all performance data, including maximum speed of 440 knots (815kmh), promised to our first 84 customers have been achieved or even exceeded.”

Plymouth Airport ‘progress’

Supporters of a plan to restore Plymouth Airport, which is currently mothballed, for future use as a general aviation facility have said they are optimistic of a successful outcome to their campaign. 

The FlyPlymouth group says 2017 has been a positive year following the Joint Local Plan, which sets out policies that safeguard the airport, being approved and submitted by the relevant local authorities to the government.

The group said last week: “The authorities have decided rightly the airport should be reserved for transport use and have identified sufficient land reserves to 2034 that means residential development on the airport would be surplus to requirement.

“FlyPlymouth’s plan is to acquire the site and recommission it to deliver general and business aviation services in line with local policy. We have the plan, the team, key customers and the private sector investment lined up to execute a transaction and get on with the work.”

FlyPlymouth said the next step will be early next year at an Examination in Public when a government-appointed planning inspector will review the Joint Local Plan to ensure it is sound. 

The group said it would participate in the hearing with the local authority and the airport leaseholder, following which the planning inspector will produce a report setting out findings and recommendations.

PriorityPass names top lounge

Club Kingston at Jamaica’s Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston has been named global Airport Lounge of the Year by specialist membership operator Priority Pass.

Now in their 13th year, the awards are based on 72,000 ratings by Priority Pass members and recognise airport lounges offering the best service, experience, refreshments and business facilities.  

The company, which claims to operate the world’s largest lounge access programme, with more than 1,000 facilities open in 500 cities, has been celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. 

Announcing the 2017 winner, Priority Pass said Club Kingston offered “a decidedly Jamaican flair”, with artwork and décor from across the island, as well as local food and drink including patties and pea soup – all served to a gentle soundtrack of reggae music.

In Europe, Tallinn Airport Business Lounge at Estonia’s Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport was crowned the best lounge in the region. Other regional winners were in Malta, Quebec, Singapore and Dubai. 

“Airports and airlines are increasing investment in lounges, with features like sleep pods, cinemas, a whisky distillery and even a swimming pool,” Priority Pass said. 

“This year's survey reveals that many of the world’s best lounges are in far-flung locations, but still rate highly with travellers for food and drink, service, facility and ambience.”

Regions in connectivity plea

Efforts for all parts of the UK to be connected to the UK’s global hub at Heathrow are being ramped-up by the Regional and Business Airports Group (RABA), under chairman Neil Pakey.

He is presenting evidence today (18 December) to Parliament’s influential Transport Select Committee on the cause, central to which, he says, is policy change to allow UK regional slot ring-fencing.

Pakey, the former CEO of Shannon Airport and Peel Airports, says regional airports should have a comprehensive review of Heathrow routes and access stemming from the increased capacity created by the third runway.

This should also apply from the extra 25,000 annual movements Heathrow intends to create even before the third runway opens, he adds.

Pakey says he fully acknowledges Heathrow’s many efforts to increase UK connectivity and he champions RABA’s own advisory role in Heathrow’s £10m Route Development Fund to develop new UK routes. 

But he says he still thinks “the UK government needs an Airports National Policy Statement which enables the public and private sectors to work together to deliver this ambitious connectivity strategy”.

Ryanair bows to unions

Threatened disruption over the Christmas period by Ryanair pilots appeared to have been averted at the weekend.

It followed the airline announcing it was willing in the interests of its passengers to change its long-standing policy of not recognising unions.

CEO Michael O’Leary said: “Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before. 

“Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week.

“If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written to these unions inviting them to talks … and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action.”

Unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal were contacted and invited to talks to recognise them as the representative bodies for Ryanair pilots in each country.

However, Ryanair said recognition was contingent on the unions establishing “committees of Ryanair pilots to deal with Ryanair issues, as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere”.

Success for Sustainable Aviation

Significant progress in the battle against carbon and noise emissions from aircraft operations was reported last week by the Sustainable Aviation coalition of UK airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and the air traffic service provider.

The group’s latest Progress Report shows growth in passenger numbers has been disconnected from the rate of growth in emissions, with CO2 emissions from SA airlines increasing by less than half a percent since 2014 despite a 9% increase in passenger numbers. 

Launching the report at an SA reception in the House of Commons, SA chairman Ian Jopson noted there had also been a reduction of more than 12,000 people in the noise contour areas at five SA member airports.

He added: “Aviation is a UK success story. However, delivering environmentally sustainable aviation growth in the UK, with the significant economic benefits that it brings, is a challenge that our industry is ready to meet. 

Also speaking at the launch, aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “Sustainable growth is one of the key objectives of the government’s long-term strategy for UK aviation and I am encouraged by the actions of the aviation industry to embrace that commitment.”

Terminals on the map

Detailed plans of Heathrow’s terminals are now available on Apple Maps after the airport collaborated with the digital giant to give passengers a powerful new tool to enable them to navigate through the airport and find what they are looking for. 

Passengers can plan their journeys through the airport by accessing Apple Maps on their iPhones or iPads to find points of interest such as baggage claim areas as well as nearby restaurants and places to buy last-minute essentials and gift.

Indoor positioning gives passengers an instant view of where they are within the terminal to help them get to where they need to go next, and the system allows them to toggle easily between floors. 

Senior digital manager Stephen Glenfield said: “This marks a huge milestone in improving the digital experience at Heathrow. 

“Improving navigation and giving passengers information about the services, shops and restaurants we offer as well as logistical information about where restrooms and information points are will give them the opportunity to plan every step of the journey.”

The terminal maps are available to all iPhone and iPad users running iOS 11 and above. Detailed airport maps are also available covering more than two dozen airports worldwide.

Two more for InterContinental

Two more luxury city properties have been added to the line-up at InterContinental Hotels, joining the new InterContinental Perth City Centre, the brand’s sixth opening in Australia, announced last week (BTN  11 December). 

The recently opened 73-storey InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown is a landmark on the California city skyline at 1,100ft, making it the tallest building on the West Coast of the US. 

The hotel occupies floors 31 to 73 of the Wilshire Grand Centre and has 889 guestrooms plus a Club InterContinental Lounge, a swimming pool and five dining outlets.

These include Spire 73 on the 73rd floor, the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere, with 360deg views of LA’s cityscape and skyline. Features include fire pits, fountains and innovative cocktails.

The InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is set in a busy neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its wide array of restaurants and art galleries, and offers 225 studios and suites, including a penthouse.

This property also boasts a 24hr Club InterContinental Lounge, four dining options including the 389-seat Publico Italian restaurant and bar, five meeting and event spaces, a swimming pool and a 24hr fitness studio.

UK airspace on film

A short film explaining how UK airspace works, what modernisation involves and why it is required was released last week by the Sky’s the Limit (STL) group, a coalition representing airlines, airports and UK air traffic control.

The video, The Need to Modernise, is launched as new analysis by the organisation shows more than 1m flights could be delayed by more than 30min within 12 years if the UK does not update – one in three of departures expected from UK airports in 2030.

STL acknowledged the government was looking at the problem “as a first step in preparing UK airspace for the future”, but said the industry and ministers would now need to work together to make modernisation a reality.

STL spokesman and Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade added: “The STL film will be used to raise awareness across the country of airspace as the invisible but critical infrastructure of the UK and the benefits modernisation will bring.

“The views of local communities, as well as airline passengers and businesses that rely on aviation and the connectivity it provides, must be an integral and fundamental part of the modernisation process.”

The video can be found at 


Wideroe adds Kristiansand

Norwegian airline Widerøe has announced the first direct flights between Stansted and the southern Norwegian city of Kristiansand on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays, beginning on 13 August next year, using a 78-seat Dash-8 Q400. 

Widerøe CEO Stein Nilsen said: “Following extensive market research, we believe that the new Stansted – Kristiansand service will be a popular addition to our network map.

“London is always in high demand among Norwegian travellers and we see enormous potential for growing inbound travel and opening new links for Brits travelling to southern Norway.”

Stansted aviation director Mats Sigurdson added: “We’re delighted to welcome Widerøe to the airport, another new airline providing even more choice for Norwegian travellers wishing to visit London and the east of England as well as the Norwegian community in the UK.”

Southern Norway destination marketing CEO Heidi Sørvig said: “A London service has been highly requested in the region for many years and will open up business opportunities as well as leisure travel experiences.”


Fiat 124 Spyder v Mazda MX-5

Editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg found the little Italian roadster an easy fit. Fun motoring.

BTN  in the past has reported on somewhat exotic, or at least unusual, cars for the year-end road test.  Last year it was the Tesla S, and before that we compared the Jaguar F type with the Lotus Evora.  

My choice for 2017 is a sports car, at an economic price, a Japanese-assembled Italian interpretation of a classic little two-seater.  The Fiat 124 Spyder is light years away in looks from the Colin Chapman Elan, said to be the prototype for the one million plus MX-5 that have come down the production line since the car was first unveiled back in 1989.  

The question is why buy the Fiat rather than its sister car.  Despite extensive similarities both underneath and inside, the two are said not to share a single body panel.  At the front the Italian is noticeably just a little longer than its Japanese counterpart whilst at the rear it has a 2in stretch giving a slightly larger boot. There is just enough room for a couple of weekend bags but the 124 does not pass the golf clubs test. For that sport you need to use it as a single seater with your clubs in the passenger seat.  There’s also a lockable storage space between the seats and cupholders that can slot into a few different locations around the cabin to keep your drink ideally positioned.

One thing that did surprise me was the getting in an out. Very easy with the wide doors and a low starting point.  

Besides the exterior style features the most important difference is the motor.  In place of the naturally aspirated 129bhp 1.5 and 158bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines deployed in the MX-5, the 124 gets Fiat’s own outstanding turbocharged 1.4-litre Multiair unit in 138bhp and 168bhp configurations, the latter used exclusively for an Abarth version.  These are shipped from Turin to the assembly line in Hiroshima.  

A six-speed gearbox comes standard with both cars.  There is cruise control and a speed limiter.  The Spyder is a sort of compromise, a cruiser not requiring the foot down approach needed to get the most out of the less powerful Japanese version.    You can still belt into a roundabout, stand on the powerful brakes, and avail yourself to some nimble handling.  In the wet one has to treat the Italian as a normal saloon.  Don’t try and be too clever 

Having owned an MX-5 my impression was that the Italian version was perhaps a little more relaxing, the original a scaled down muscle car.  Perhaps in that sense it can reduce the fun.  But it is Italian and has style. Let’s face it, the traffic-light grand prix is not for either version, 0-60 for the 129bhp Mazda in 8.3sec, and the 7.5 sec for its 138bhp counterpart.  It is all a trifle academic, as is the top speed of either car around the 130mph mark.  And as for petrol consumption both can drop into the low thirties if you really open up the throttle. 

This report is not supposed to be a comparison of what is in many ways the same car.  The Fiat design office has fiddled about with the suspension to give a more supple ride and it is clearly happy on a motorway using top gear virtually all the time.

This, the Lusso Plus model, comes with heated seats, a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, a premium sound system with nine speakers, four of which are integrated in the headrests, a rear-view camera, LED headlights and 17in alloy wheels.  There is automatic climate control. It is a nice warm environment.  

The Fiat Spyder 124 Is not perfect.  The handbook was eventually found in the glove compartment mounted on a panel behind the driver and passenger.  The handbrake, when raised, is in an annoying position near the gear shift.  It is a copy of the Mazda and very obtrusive when on. No post codes on sat-nav. No electric folding mirror.  No seat height adjustment compensated by a moveable steering wheel to suit.  The rear view is limited but here there is true compensation.  The Spyder has the quickest car roof erection system ever invented.  Put your left hand behind you.  Grab a handle and in not much more than five seconds you are in lockdown.  With the fastest electric drophead you will still be getting wet.

If you are thinking of buying something in the tradition of the British sports car of 50 years ago, think again.  The 124 Spyder is not an overgrown Austin Healy Sprite or Triumph Spitfire.  Nor a MGB.  The Fiat is a fine sophisticated small glamour puss with enough zip and handling qualities to put the fun back into your motoring.  

And back to a comparison.  It’s different to the ubiquitous Mazda.  In its own way much more pleasurable. 

As equipped £25,600.


STAR RATINGS (out of 10)

Performance 7

Handling 9

Transmission 7

Noise 8

Economy 8

Ride and Comfort 8

Accommodation 7

Styling 9

Brakes 8

Finish 9

TOTAL: 80%


For the holiday edition of  Business Travel News'  monthly cruise feature, we interviewed Nick Wilkinson, vice-president and managing director UK&I and MEA for Norwegian Cruise Lines. There is also a news update on what is happening in the industry, a few cruise bargains, and the result of a visit to Europa 2, Douglas Ward’s top cruise ship. 

Nick Wilkinson can be best described as a cruise enthusiast with a commercial hat on.  Having worked at Norwegian for 15 years, his passion for travel and cruise has not dwindled. He continues to play a key role in the significant growth of the award-winning operator, spearheading the brand’s sales and marketing direction in what is its largest market outside North America.

Wilkinson for one is looking forward to 2018. “A particular exciting year for Norwegian Cruise Lines,” he said. “On 21 April, Bliss leaves for New York and will traverse the Panama Canal before embarking on an Alaska Highlights programme based in Seattle. It is the fourth and final European-style ship in the hugely successful Breakaway Class”. A fifth Breakaway, yet to be named, is under construction at Meyer Werft in Germany, a dedicated ship for the Chinese market.

For the future, Norwegian is planning for a new class of ship smaller than the 4,000-passenger Breakaway’s, named project Leonardo. Due for delivery from 2022, these will be of around 140,00grt with a 3,300 capacity, and said to be revolutionary in design. They will be built by Fincantieri in the former STX yard at St Nazaire.

In April, Norwegian introduced Premium All Inclusive, in which items formerly classed as ‘extras’ were included in all cruises. Wilkinson describes it as a win-win for both clients and travel agents: More value for passengers and greater flexibility for the trade who can add-on holiday packages at each end of the cruise.

As he said when it was unveiled: “The launch of our product as Premium All Inclusive is a game-changer for the large ship ocean cruise market and it offers a wealth of opportunity for our valued travel partners. We have armed them with a powerful sales tool, helping to convert customers who may not yet have considered cruise as a holiday option, whilst also introducing new-to-brand cruisers to the Norwegian product. We know that our travel partners have seen an increase in enquiries for all-inclusive holidays, and our new pricing will continue to keep a cruise holiday with Norwegian in the equation.”

Premium All Inclusive includes premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in all bars, lounges and dining venues at any time throughout the cruise. Unlimited juices, water and soft drinks for children and teenagers. Lavazza coffee specialities during meals. One free bottle of water per person, per day in staterooms. All service charges and gratuities are included. For guests in suites and the very private Haven area, there are further exclusive benefits and privileges.

Wilkinson pointed out that the UK was the largest Norwegian market outside North America. Surprisingly, Israel comes in at number six with 85,000 bookings for 2017. For 2018, Jade will again be based at Southampton (see BTN 4 September) with Epic, Spirit and Star operating out of a number of Mediterranean ports.

Norwegian’s sister companies are small ship specialist Oceania and very much up-market Regent Seven Seas. All are based in Miami.

L O N D O N    C R U I S E    S H O W

Europe’s largest cruise show returns to London Olympia on Saturday and Sunday, 18 and 19 February. If you have never been cruising, it is a very good introduction to what is fast becoming the largest specialist sector of the holiday market. Collect all the brochures, listen to the talks, and take advantage of the special offers that can usually be found.

Olympia is easy to get to in west London, a short walk from Hammersmith and its transport connections. On Saturday afternoon and Sunday all day, most of the local parking restrictions are lifted. Olympia Station serves both London Overground and Southern, but has limited Underground services. Check before you travel.

Highlighted this year is adventure travel, which has grown 65% in the past five years, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). It is at the top end of the cruising market, still retaining the luxury element, so fewer backpacks and hostels and more 5-star dining with a slice of adventure. For those who love nature and wildlife and are itching to discover properly the destination they’re visiting, expedition cruises allow for more niche, experiential excursions such as hiking, kayaking, and personal encounters with locals. 

A destination now opening up is Cuba and anyone considering a visit to this unique island should do it quickly before it catches up with the rest of the world. Few places can be considered retro but Havana is, steeped in history and culture and bursting at the seams with vibrant music and salsa dancing. Ships also call at Cienfuegos, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and Santiago de Cuba, home to the best musicians on the island. Cruisers can experience Cuba’s vibrant Latin scene, salsa clubs and of course some local rum. The Tropicana Night Club in Havana has existed for 60 years and been graced by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra. The nightly show is breathtaking, with 200 singers, dancers and cabaret acts, plus a splendid orchestra (See BTN 13 January 2014)


TILBURY,  London’s only cruise terminal with the proposed Greenwich quay waiting for any action, continues to invest in its facilities. The baggage hall is being refurbished and with it the renewal of the roof at a cost of £2.5m. The second part of the landing stage was completed at the end of September, providing for a quay 350m long and 10m deep.

Visiting the port this year were Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), with 55 visits out of the total of 64, Voyages to Antiquity with Aegean Odyssey, TUI Cruises and AIDA Cruises.

For 2018, 71 are booked, with 2019 also looking promising. On 12 September, TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3 called as part of a seven-night European cruise. The 293m-long vessel carrying 2,700 passengers is the largest the terminal has welcomed to date.

With the tender station at Greenwich closed due to high winds, a November a surprise visitor was Europa 2 (See below).

As with all visiting ships, arrangements were made so passengers can travel on Thames Clipper vessels into Greenwich (35min) and Tower Bridge (50min). Tilbury is not the smartest of terminals but is easy to get to and very quick and efficient for passengers.

HAPAG-LLOYD’S 500-passenger Europa 2 was a surprise visitor to Tilbury last October (See above). The sparse but congenial facilities did not seem to worry the mostly high-worth German holidaymakers, many of whom used the Thames Clipper service to get into town. Europa 2 was on a maiden voyage after an extensive makeover at the Blohm+Voss Hamburg dockyard.

Designed specifically for an international market, Europa 2 is Hapag-Lloyd's first fully bilingual ship. All on-board announcements, as well as signs and written material, are in English as well as German. Shore tours also are offered in both English and German. Public contact staff are all bilingual

The refurbishment of Europa 2 included extensive work to the forward-facing observation lounge at the top of the ship. Called the Belvedere, it was transformed into a coffee bar with a newly-integrated library. Also on Deck 9, the auditorium has been redesigned as a studio for workshops, talks and cinema viewings. Yoga classes can also be held here.

Extensive construction work was also carried out in the spa area on Deck 5, with all four saunas being renovated. One is now a Finnish sauna, another is now a Deep Ocean sauna, the third is a herbal sauna with Black Forest-inspired decor and the final one is now a mineral steam bath. The spa area also now has a lounge corner with an electric fireplace, while new lounge furniture has been added to the outdoor area.

Elsewhere, the Herrenzimmer gin bar on Deck 4 has been renamed Collins and now features what is claimed the largest gin collection at sea (45 varieties). Opposite, the former Jazz Club has been named Club 2 and more lounge areas added.

With a crew of 370, Europa 2 has one of the highest crew-to-passenger ratios of any cruise ship at sea. At 42,830 tons, it also offers the highest space-to-passenger ratio of any vessel. Douglas Ward continuously rates it the best cruise ship in the World, but BTN begs to differ. Once on board, you certainly get the feeling of being in a top-class hotel rather than a cruise ship. But if you are disabled in any way, you are going to struggle. Yes, there are ramps throughout the ship, but the doors seem to be numerous and very heavy. Sad to say if you are wheelchair bound or have walking difficulties, give this ship a miss.

MSC CRUISES: Now on its way to Miami for a naming ceremony on 21 December is MSC’s new flagship Seaside, aptly named for what is a massive, floating, and portable holiday resort. Coming in at 153,517grt, she can take up to 5,179 passengers and will be based at Miami. Sophia Loren will again be the godmother, with Ricky Martin and Andrea Bocellli supplying the singing. MSC Seaside has a number of distinctive and innovative design features. Two unique glass-floored catwalks and a 40m high ‘Bridge of Sighs’ give guests a view of the ocean as never before. A waterfront boardwalk, the widest on any ship ever built, wraps around the ship, while panoramic lifts connect everything together.

VIRGIN VOYAGES:  The kee- laying ceremony of the first of three new cruise ships that Fincantieri is building for Virgin Voyages (part of Virgin Group) has taken place at Genoa. 

Watching the proceedings with a keen eye was Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, his sea-going adventures perhaps now forgotten. Also on hand was Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages. 

Each ship will come in around 110,000grt and is 278m long and 38m wide, with delivery scheduled for 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively. The ships will feature more than 1,400 guest cabins that can host more than 2,700 passengers, accompanied by 1,150 crew members on board to deliver the famed Virgin service. It remains to be seen if the top end suites are named Upper Class.

AND SOME YEAR-END BARGAINS plus thoughts for next winter

CMV’s Magellan departs Tilbury Sunday 7 January for a 42-night trip as far as Manaus, the Amazon city nearly 1,000 miles from the Atlantic. With the ship's overnight stay, it is possible to venture into the amazing rainforest. The itinerary is most impressive and includes calls at Lisbon, Funchal, Cap Verde, on the way south to Brazil, and various West Indies islands on the way back. What a way to remove oneself from the winter cold. Twin Inner from £1,999pp. Ocean View from £2,599pp.

Crystal Serenity, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise liners, has a 23-day meander from Sydney to Manila starting 17 February. This is a voyage rich in tropical beauty, offering adventures to the world's largest coral reef system and rare eco-explorations with two maiden calls in Papua New Guinea. This all-inclusive cruise is priced from £7,825 per person.

Discover Egypt features the deluxe Sonesta Star Goddess on its classic Nile cruise programme for weekly 2018 departures, with one week cruises for £1,299pp during February and March. The price includes return flights from Heathrow to Luxor, seven-night full-board cruise with ten guided excursions and transfers in resort. Star Goddess features 33 suites, each with a private balcony,  plus full-size bathtubs, plasma TV with satellite channels and wi-fi. There is also a spa and fitness centre, sundeck with swimming pool and lounge bar, and passengers benefit from a qualified Egyptologist guide for the ten land excursions to see iconic sites such as the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Temples of Luxor, Karnak, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philae.

Marella Cruises (TUI) is in the Far East for next Christmas with a charter flight departing Gatwick 19 December and picks up the ship at Langkawi (Malaysia) from Penang and then Port Klang (for Kuala Lumpur, Singapore), Ko Samui (Thailand); Laem Chabang (for Bangkok), Sihanoukville (Cambodia) and Phu My (for Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam and Malacca (Malaysia). Price includes return flights, transfers, port taxes, tips and service charges. Prices from £2,697.

P&O has joined forces with Virgin Atlantic to offer a whole series of fly-cruises out of Manchester for next winter when Oceana is based in the Gulf.  First off is a cruise out of Southampton 10 January 2019 for 20 nights visiting Cadiz, Malta, Suez Canal transit, Salalah, Muscat and finally Dubai. Until 21 March,  she embarks on a series of ten-night cruises, each one supported with an air charter. Early Saver prices from £1,099pp and an Upper Class upgrade is available.

Silversea guests can enjoy a 10% early booking bonus when paying in full by 28 December 2017. Single occupancy supplements starting at only 25%. This benefit is available from the heart of London when Silver Spirit departs from Greenwich, on a 12-day voyage to Copenhagen on 3 June 2018. The voyage calls at Falmouth, Cobh, Dublin, Belfast, Stornoway, Kirkwall, Oslo and Skagen before arriving in Copenhagen. Fares start from £4,400 per person based on double occupancy of the Vista Suite.


The Business Travel News quiz

Wecome to the 2017 Business Travel News popular year-end quiz. 

Once again a very big thanks to Rob Simpson of AIR BRITAIN in helping put it together and to our prize supplier, easyjet for a return flight for two anywhere on its extensive system, and to Crecy Publications Ltd, for three second prizes of any of their aviation titles. This year we are also giving away three copies of the commemorative book LONDON CITY AIRPORT - 30 Years Linking the Capital, written by BTN editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg.

Just name the airlines shown on the tailfins (easyJet is not among those on show. That was just a bit too easy).  

Treat the quiz as a bit of fun and point out the website to your friends. If you decide to enter, don't worry that your answers may not be complete. You can be sure others are having the same struggle. But you must be a registered reader to take part. Its FREE. Please note we only use our 48k strong database list once a week for the mailing. 

The tie break is very simple: "Which is the best airline at Heathrow T3 and why?" But in 10 words or less. 

Please send your numbered answers to together with your answer to the tie break.  

Closing date is Friday evening 5 January at 24:00 (GMT). 






































































































































































































































































































































































































AND FINALLY: Flying bartenders

Just in time for the festive season, Virgin Atlantic has enlisted some of London’s top bartenders to mix drinks for passengers on board.

The programme kicked off by marking International Gin and Tonic Day onboard VS45 to New York. Next up is a Christmas and New Year holiday celebration with Grey Goose vodka.

The blenders of the booze have been chosen from award-winners in events organised by drinks company Bacardi and use Virgin’s Upper Class bar to mix their travel-inspired creations. Cheers!