17 JANUARY 2022

The Business Travel News
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COMMENT: First or standard class *

The electric trains being re-deployed to the Luton Airport Express (which runs between London St Pancras and Corby) are being internally refurbished. Part of the work involves removal of the First Class accommodation: trains will in future be standard class only. This follows the lead of Stansted Express, which only provides standard class on its new trains.

OK, these airports do not carry as many business passengers as Heathrow and Gatwick. But after lockdown, there has been a trend for leisure passengers to trade up from Economy to Premium Economy or Business for their flights; with encouragement, they could be persuaded to trade up to First Class on the train to the airport.

Siren voices sometimes call for the routine declassification of First Class accommodation on commuter trains in the peak. This misses the point: providing two classes give choice. When I wish to travel from St Albans to London in the peak, I have three choices. I can travel standard class on a stopping train, where I know I will get a seat. I can travel standard class on a fast train where I know I might have to stand. Or I can choose First Class on a fast train, where I will be able to get a seat.

Consumers have a choice of newspapers (I can buy the FT at one price or the Guardian at another): they have a choice of cars (I can buy a Mercedes or a Ford Fiesta). Why shouldn’t I have similar choices when I travel by train?

Railways offering First Class accommodation have another advantage. If they mess up a passenger’s journey, they can always offer a free upgrade as part of the compensation!

When Heathrow Express started, market research showed that a viable number of people would pay a premium for First Class accommodation. Moreover, a significant number would not use the service unless there was First Class seating on the train.

And a tip for those travelling between Luton Airport and London – if you want to ride in First Class to ensure more space or a seat, you can. Just ride the semi-fast Thameslink trains instead. They stop at St Albans, Harpenden then Luton Airport and take 32 minutes instead of 25 – but connections to the London Underground and Central London are better!

Andrew Sharp
Andrew is BTN’s rail expert and a former Director of the International Air Rail Organisation (IARO).


With the winner of the 2021 quiz announced it seemed appropriate to highlight this letter which can be viewed at the end of the answers.

Air Partner launches JetCard

Cheaper by charter or scheduled?  A new app helps with the decision.
Air Partner, the aviation services group, has launched a new mobile app for UK members of its JetCard programme to conveniently access their account details and begin the booking process via smartphone. Travel organisers can quickly compare the cost of using fixed scheduled services or flexibility, and higher cost, of a private jet.

Taking the sample of a product launch in Monaco for three nights a 10-seat private jet from Stansted to Nice would be in the £25/£30k region.  For a 50-seat aircraft £40k to 50k is being suggested.

Looking back in retrospect Air Partner says 2021 was a particularly strong year for growth of the JetCard membership programme in the UK with increased demand from flyers who flew privately for the first time, having previously travelled in Business or First Class.  

Commenting on the launch, Kevin MacNaughton, Managing Director, said: “Air Partner is transforming the way both corporate and leisure travellers fly private by making our private aviation services more accessible and convenient than ever been before. At our core, we are focussed on providing the best service and meeting our customer’s needs where they are. Our new mobile app does just that. Providing an even more seamless experience to our JetCard members and helping them save time, effort, and money when arranging their private charter needs.”

Airbus 2021

With commercial aircraft assembly plants in Alabama, Hamburg, Montreal, Tianjin and Toulouse, Airbus delivered 611 aircraft to 88 customers in 2021.

Arch rival Boeing by contrast only managed 340.

“Our commercial aircraft achievements in 2021 reflect the focus and resilience of our Airbus teams, customers, suppliers and stakeholders across the globe who pulled together to deliver remarkable results.  The year saw significant orders from airlines worldwide, signalling confidence in the sustainable growth of air travel post-Covid,” said Guillaume Faury, Chief Executive Officer, Airbus.  “While uncertainties remain, we are on track to lift production through 2022 to meet our customers’ requirements.  At the same time we are preparing the future of aviation, transforming our industrial capabilities and implementing the roadmap for decarbonisation.”  

In 2021, Airbus doubled its gross order intake compared to 2020 with 771 new sales (507 net) across all programmes and market segments demonstrating the strength of the company’s full product range and signalling renewed market confidence.
A big success was the A220, formerly Bombardier C series, which won 64 firm gross new orders and several high-profile commitments from some of the world’s leading carriers. During the first week of 2022 leasing company Azorra signed up for 22 examples of the aircraft, a fine start for the year.

The A320neo Family won 661 gross new orders. In the widebody segment, Airbus won 46 gross new orders including 30 A330s and 16 A350s of which 11 were for the newly launched A350F which also won an additional 11 commitments.

At the end of 2021, Airbus’ backlog stood at 7,082 aircraft.

Austin Texas by Virgin Atlantic

A four times a week service between Heathrow and the 4th largest city in Texas will launch on 25 May flown by Boeing 787-9 aircraft boasting 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium and 192 Economy Delight, Classic and Light seats.

At the same time the airline announced a recruitment drive to hire 400 cabin crew. This will be seen as a positive step for the airline – the first external cabin crew recruitment in almost two years – thanks to the easing of travel restrictions across the world.

To capitalise on the increased leisure tourism to the region, Virgin Atlantic Holidays will be launching a holiday portfolio in Austin and throughout Texas including hotels and fly drive holidays.

Austin is also known as a growing tech hub with businesses such as Apple, Tesla, Facebook, IBM and Oracle all opening up bases, giving the city the nickname ‘Silicon Hills’.  

As well as flying customers, Virgin Atlantic will offer 20 tonnes of cargo capacity on each flight. This fast cargo service will offer new opportunities for companies looking to export and import goods such as high-tech products and e-commerce between prime markets in the UK and US.

Aviation Club lunch

The Aviation Club's first lunch of 2022 will be held at the RAC, Pall Mall, on Tuesday 8 February. 

Joining the event as guest speaker is Adel Abdullah Ali, CEO of Air Arabia.  

Adel Abdullah Ali is well known for his innovative achievements and contribution to air transport and tourism in the wider Arab world which are globally recognised, transforming Arabian aviation in October 2003 when he set up Air Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa’s first low-cost carrier.  Headquartered in Sharjah the airline has a fleet of 43 Airbus A320 series aircraft.

Air Arabia is today the largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as well as the first publicly-owned airline in the Arab world and its biggest by market value.  Destinations include Gatwick and Manchester in the UK, and many European countries.

With 28 years of experience with industry leaders including Gulf Air and British Airways, Ali has guided Air Arabia to deliver a profit for eight years in succession.

BAs new LCY routes *

British Airways is launching four new routes across Europe in time for the summer season.

Operating from London City Airport, customers can now book to fly to Barcelona, Luxembourg, Milan and Thessaloniki – adding to BA CityFlyer’s already extensive network.  

Flights to all destinations will operate with BA CityFlyer’s two-class Embraer E190 aircraft.  

Luxembourg and Milan (Malpensa – the city’s international airport which replaces Linate) will take flight on 27 March and both will operate daily.  On 18 June, Thessaloniki will launch weekly Saturday flights and on 19 June, Barcelona will operate six times a week – every day apart from Saturday.  

Tom Stoddart, Managing Director, BA CityFlyer, said: “As customers start to plan their next summer getaway, we wanted to offer new routes to some of the most popular European destinations.  Conveniently accessible from London City Airport, they are a great addition to our extensive network.”

See also Mr Stoddart's On the Soapbox BTN 10 January.

Cruise ships in the US *

Cruise ships operating in the US will no longer be required to follow mandatory Covid-19 guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) health agency as reported in last week’s BTN.

Cruise ships operating in the US have moved to a voluntary system of Covid-19 rules.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, Director, CDC, told US Senate members last week that the sailing order would automatically lapse, as the health agency “transitions to a voluntary Covid-19 risk mitigation programme.”

Walensky told US Senators that the cruise industry had “stepped up” in the way it had implemented Covid-19 procedures and was now “interested in exceeding the compliance” necessary to meet the sail order’s requirements.

Cruise lines can decide individually voluntarily on their anti-Covid-19 rules with the CDC continuing to carry out oversight and provide technical support.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the CDC’s decision to move to a voluntary system showed the industry’s “unwavering commitment” to implementing Covid-19 health procedures.

“Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires – prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew – exceedingly high levels of vaccination and 100% testing of every individual,” added CLIA in a statement.

Electronic document system first

Korean Air has launched a full-scale digitization of travel documents by introducing an e-Document system (e-DOC), and claims to be the first airline in the world to implement such an approach.

Customers will be able to fill out 23 types of documents, including pet transportation declaration, unaccompanied minor and health condition declaration forms, on their digital devices. In addition, information gathered upon reservation, such as email address, contact information and frequent flyer number, will automatically be reflected on the documents, further facilitating the document fill-out process.

Data shared by customers will be safely managed in a secure server. Information stored in the server will be accessible in real time through dedicated terminals at domestic and overseas branches. Rapid information processing will significantly reduce customer wait time, and security of personal information will be strengthened as documents are automatically stored and deleted in a managed server.

“The introduction of the e-DOC system is the result of Korean Air’s efforts to enhance customer-centred services as a leading global airline,” said Seungbum Lee, Korean Air’s Chief Customer Service Officer & Executive Vice President. “We plan to actively engage in ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] management and further improve customer convenience by providing innovative solutions.”

Emerald and Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus has confirmed that tickets are now on sale for a range of franchised services operated by Emerald Airlines with bases at Dublin and Belfast airports.  

Flights will commence on 17 March.  They were not due to start until January 2023, Emerald winning the business in June 2021 from Stobart Air, which subsequently collapsed.  All services will be flown by ATR 72-600 turboprops.

As Aer Lingus Regional, Emerald Airlines will operate over 340 flights per week.  High-frequency routes, including Dublin – Edinburgh and Dublin – Glasgow, will be served up to four times daily.  At Dublin, UK regional airports will connect to 11 North American destinations.

With plans to expand Aer Lingus Regional at George Best Belfast City Airport Emerald has applied for a UK Air Operator Certificate (AOC) as a British airline.


French open up

Travellers from the UK vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer need a compelling reason to enter France or self-isolate when they arrive.

However, a negative Covid-19 test, taken 24 hours before leaving the UK, will be required, vaccinated or not.  France brought in the restrictions on 18 December in an attempt to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

However, the country is still battling a surge in Covid-19 infections.  Last Thursday, there were a record 368,817 new cases and 341 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.   

Non-vaccinated travellers will still need a compelling reason to enter France, and must still isolate for ten days upon arrival.  This will affect sports people who have not had the jab and are not prepared to quarantine.

Following confirmation of the decision, Julia Simpson, Chief Executive, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said: “We welcome the reopening of French borders to UK travellers.

“Once a variant is endemic closing borders is pointless and only damages livelihoods especially in travel and tourism one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.

“France is one of the biggest markets for UK tourists who, according to our 2021 Economic Impact Report, account for 14% of overseas visitors.”

Hans Airways

First reported by BTN 30 August 2021 Hans Airways has brought in the New Year with a Letter of Intent for its first Airbus A330-200.

The aircraft has been operating with a leading European airline since 2008, is configured with a two-cabin layout, which Hans Airways will operate with 275 Economy and 24 Premium Economy seats.

“We are delighted to have achieved this very important milestone in our two-year journey,” said Satnam Saini, CEO, Hans Airways.  “Our scheduled operations centre on the Airbus A330, a popular and spacious long-haul widebody, excellent for cargo too, and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us to ratify this agreement at the start of the new year.”

Hans Airways has applied to the UK Civil Aviation Authority for its Air Operator’s Certificate and is hopeful of obtaining the status in time to start revenue service this summer.  The airline will operate to secondary cities in India from Birmingham Airport.

Inverness suspended by BA *

The daily air service to Scotland’s Highland capital Inverness from Heathrow has been suspended by British Airways.

The airline says it is on a temporary basis and should return by the end of February.  In the meantime easyJet continues with its seven days a week route from Gatwick.  

There is known to be a general malaise on UK domestic routes currently, due to this time of the year not being popular for travelling, and the pandemic.

Inglis Lyon, Chief Executive of Inverness Airport's parent company Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), described retaining the link between Inverness and Heathrow as its biggest current challenge when he spoke at a meeting of Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee this week.

“That is an essential piece of business for the Highlands to retain, especially as we were successful in attracting it,” he said.

London Congestion Charge changes *

Following a ten-week consultation that saw nearly 10,000 responses, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed permanent changes that they claim will help prevent car use from rising above pre-pandemic levels.

Evidence suggests traffic was back to pre-pandemic levels prior to the most recent government advice to work from home if you can.

The main measures mean that, from 21 February, there will be no charges in the evenings after 18:00, and operating hours on weekends and Bank Holidays will reduce to 12:00-18:00. The current charge level of £15 will be retained.

It is unclear how having charges at the weekend will benefit the economy or be anything other than a tax on travel, especially given the area covered by the congestion charge zone.

Norse nearly airborne

Norse Atlantic, in many ways the successor to Norwegian’s long-haul routes, has been approved by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) for the operation of flights between Norway/The European Union and the United States.  No mention in the official press release of flights from Gatwick.

“We are thrilled by the Department of Transportation’s approval of our affordable transatlantic flights. This significant milestone brings Norse one step closer to launching affordable and more environmentally friendly service to customers traveling between Europe and the United States. We appreciate the USDOT's constructive and prompt approach, and we look forward to working with them in the months ahead,” said Norse CEO and Founder Bjørn Tore Larsen.  

In December 2021, Norse received its Air Operator Certificate by Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority and took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Norse plans to start commercial operation in spring 2022 with the first flights connecting Oslo to select cities in the US.

Radisson Collection in Berlin

With the start of 2022 Radisson has announced the launch of its redesigned Radisson Collection flagship property at Berlin-Mitte in the heart of Germany’s capital.

This unveiling comes after an extensive 12-month renovation, which encompassed the redesign of all guest rooms, a reimagined front-desk space, and an exciting new lobby, bar and restaurant design.  The famous AquaDom, the world’s largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium with 1,600 tropical fish, remains the centrepiece of the hotel lobby and underwent a thorough modernization.

The hotel offers 427 rooms and suites across six floors.  Select rooms feature private balconies and overlook the Spree River with views of the cathedral and Humboldt Forum, or City Hall and the famous TV tower. The Nikolai Suite on the sixth floor offers the ultimate Radisson Collection experience with its living room overlooking the city, a dining room with kitchenette, and a bathroom with whirlpool tub.

In March the Balaustine Restaurant will open as the hotel’s main dining venue.  During summer, the Balaustine Terrace, overlooking the Spree River, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The hotel offers 2,750sqm of meeting spaces spread over 15 multifunctional meeting rooms on three floors for up to 550 attendees.  Heaven Spa, the hotel’s spa and wellness facility has an indoor swimming pool, a Finnish sauna and new state-of-the art training equipment, and is open to guests 24/7.

Scotland for Virgin Hotels *

Virgin Hotels, with five active properties in the US at Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Nashville and New Orleans, is planning its first overseas ventures with two opening in Scotland later this year.

Making headway is Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, due to open in the spring. The hotel is located in the landmark India Buildings in Edinburgh’s Old Town near The Royal Mile. The new hotel will feature 222 Chambers and Grand Chamber Suites: multiple dining and drinking outlets, including Commons Club, Virgin hotel’s iconic cultural hub. The property promises a stunning mix of old and new to fully capture the uniqueness of the iconic city of Edinburgh.  

Also expected to open spring 2022, Virgin Hotels Glasgow is located at 236-246 Clyde Street, a prime City Centre position. The panoramic river views will be a highlight of this location, as it overlooks the River Clyde in the heart of Glasgow’s shopping area, making it an ideal base to explore the city.

Smart motorways change of thinking *

Recommendations by the House of Commons Transport Committee has forced a change of thinking on all-lane running (smart) motorways.

Without a continuous hard shoulder they have been criticised by both private and professional drivers and allegedly have caused 63 deaths in five years.  A review is to take place and where work is already under way on smart motorways, additional emergency refuge areas and Stopped Vehicle Detection will be installed.

The Government will now move to collect five years of safety and economic data for every all-lane running scheme introduced before 2020.  The Committee’s report had concluded that the March 2020 decision to make all new motorways all-lane running was premature as the evidence base was insufficient.

Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said: “This is the Committee’s second inquiry into smart motorways. Back in 2016, our concerns about safety were not addressed. Assurances were given and not delivered. This time, Ministers have accepted all our key recommendations and we welcome today’s response.

“It is important that this extra time is not just spent on evaluation – it must be focused on making smart motorways safer. The existing network of smart motorways must be improved to deliver more emergency refuge areas and better technology to close live lanes and reduce the risk for stranded motorists.”

Southend easyJet return *

EasyJet will resume services from Southend to Palma de Mallorca and Malaga for next summer.

EasyJet first came to Southend in 2012 but closed the base as a consequence of the pandemic.

Flights to Palma are scheduled to take-off from 1 May four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Malaga will launch from 2 May with departures six times a week. Both routes will operate throughout the summer season.

Glyn Jones, CEO, Southend Airport said: "We are delighted at the prospect of a return of easyJet flights to London Southend Airport. The restart of easyJet operations would be a real asset to the airport, and an endorsement of London Southend Airport’s attractive offering. In a recent and comprehensive London Southend Airport survey of people living in London and the east of England, Spanish destinations topped the list of places people most want to fly to next year. The prospect of flights to these hugely popular destinations from our quick and easy airport will greatly benefit us, the airline and people living in London and the east of England.”

Stansted parking *

Stansted Airport has installed Videalert CCTV enforcement cameras to eliminate the incidence of the dangerous tailgating as drivers attempt to leave the drop-off zones and short-term car parks without paying. 

The cameras have been installed at the exits of the drop-off zones and short-term parking.  Each monitors two lanes simultaneously capturing the number plates of every vehicle that passes through the barriers.  They transmit data to Videalert’s hosted digital video platform where evidence packs are automatically compiled for review by operators at the parking enforcement provider, NSL, at Oldham Shared Service Centre.  

Penalty charge notices are then sent to the owners of all vehicles committing an offence.

NSL has also provided the airport with a Videalert mobile enforcement vehicle (MEV) to reduce the incidence of drivers stopping or parking on access road verges.  These roads are designated as no stopping areas and the MEV will act as a deterrent to the many taxis, private hire vehicles, friends and relatives that cause traffic congestion and safety issues in these areas by waiting to drop off or pick up passengers.  With front and rear facing cameras, the MEV automatically captures the number plates of stopped vehicles in unattended mode and transmits footage to the Videalert platform.

Steve Mills, Surface Access Manager, Stansted, explains: “NSL has provided us with a cost-effective enforcement solution that will enable us to rapidly achieve high levels of compliance, particularly in respect of the repeat offenders that try to avoid paying their parking charges.  This has been a particular issue in short-term car parks where people have routinely stayed two weeks without paying.  The cameras will help us to eliminate lost parking revenues and improve safety for all passengers around the airport.”

ON TOUR: Discover Qatar *

In last week’s issue BTN focussed very much on the 2022 FIFA World Cup due to be played in Qatar next November/December. 


Editor-in-Chief Malcolm Ginsberg continues with his tale.

“Qatar is a fine, and different, destination, under seven hours from London, and about the same from Manchester and Edinburgh.  Spend a week or so there between now and June, after which it gets very hot.  And don’t worry too much about costs.  Qatar is not expensive.  It has a fascinating history exemplified by The National Museum, one of world’s great historical assemblages, given a modern twist.

Whilst it is possible to track Qatar’s lineage for many hundreds of years it was WWI that brought the 4,500sq mile peninsula into prominence, previously under Ottoman (Turkish) control, but becoming a British protectorate.  In 1971 Qatar became an independent state, and since that time, not withstanding various internal and local squabbles. It has developed at a prodigious rate, and with its mineral resources one of the richest countries in the world per capita income.  Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir, replaced his father in 2013, prioritising the domestic welfare of citizens with advanced healthcare and education systems, and especially sporting facilities.  With the World Cup in November, it now resembles a vast building site, but construction is due to stop two months before the soccer begins.  Today Qatar Airways is one of the world’s most successful airlines.  Only about 12% of the inhabitants are local, the rest drawn in for financial gain, but many many considering Qatar as their home.

Assuming your arrival is by air at the ultra-modern Hamad International Airport (opened in 2014) one can take a taxi into Doha City (less than £10) or try the Metro.  Construction work started in 2014 and the first of three lines opened in 2019.  Things happen fast in Qatar.


Park Hyatt
If yours is a business trip a very good selection might be the Park Hyatt in the fast-developing Msheireb downtown area where the three Metro lines (red, green and gold) converge and just 15mins from Hamad International. It is a 2–3min walk from the station.  

A business hotel, the standard rooms are exceptional in terms of size and amenities.  The staff are outstanding, always ready to help, even escorting us to the Mercure hotel opposite across a dual carriageway for an inspection.  

As with most Qatar hotels there are male/female gyms, and also an outside swimming pool.  As a Park Hyatt it does not have an executive lounge.  There is a Japanese restaurant called Sora on the 21st, top floor.  Near the reception level is Opus, by Michelin Star Chef, Jean-Francois Roquette of Park Hyatt Paris, with a beefburger priced at £35 (Q140)!  At street level, and not well signed within the property, Anis offers very good value alfresco dining, or just a coffee with delightful snacks.  You don’t have to be a resident.

Very close by is Souk Wafi, an authentic marketplace with myriads of passageways, clean and tidy but not as old as you might think. Partly destroyed by fire in 2003 it was enthusiastically and quicky rebuilt retaining its authenticity.  One of many eateries in the Shariq village nearby is the Parisa Restaurant serving original Persian meals in a traditional setting.  Terrific value.

The Torch
There are many hotels all over the world that for various reasons have a ‘wow’ factor.  The Torch, next to the Khalifa International Stadium and the connecting Villaggio shopping mall, comes into this category.  It is a minimum of 30mins from Hammad and sits between two Metro stations (Sport City and Al Aziziyah).  The hotel is happy to provide a buggy ride.  Also nearby is the Aspire Park and lake with children’s activities.  

Completed in 2012, and at this time still the tallest building in Qatar, all the rooms are on the outside and form part of the circular structure.  The gym/spas are separate for each gender, and on separate floors as are most facilities of this type in Qatar.    The large dip pool is cantilevered on the 19th floor.

Spread across 51 floors, each of the 163 luxury accommodation units is equipped with an iPad based customised control system for the lights and curtains operation, in-room dining menu, special requests, room temperature control, TV and radio operation and room servicing.  

Three Sixty is a unique diner located on the 47th floor and the only revolving restaurant in Doha.  Breakfast and lunch can be taken at the Flying Carpet, two floors up from reception and offering Arabic or international, your choice.  On the 21st floor is the ‘Tea Garden’, exactly what it says, but open from 15:00 until 23:00.

A stay in The Torch is a must when in Doha.

Ritz Carlton Hotel
The Ritz Carlton is considered one of Qatar’s premier resort hotels, and not without reason.  It dates from 2000 and at this time of the year is not unreasonably priced.  It offers 374 guest rooms including 61 suites and 42 Club Level rooms.  It is located in the West Bay Lagoon and Lusail islands development and may well become the key hotel for the World Cup.  Via the Corniche the property is a minimum 30mins from the airport and whilst most guests will arrive by personal transport Legtaifiya, last stop on the red Metro line, is a 15min walk, with courtesy transfer available. It has its own marina and water ski facilities.  The hotel is very child friendly with plenty of facilities available.

The Ritz Carlton has indoor and outdoor swimming pools with swim-up bar, whirlpool, plunge pool and children’s pool plus a large and very well-equipped spa. There are two indoor tennis courts and a squash court.  
It is a popular wedding and conference venue with two ballrooms.  The Ritz Carlton has everything you would expect from a 5-star hotel.

A short buggy ride from the main building, and waterside, the B-Lounge offers inside and outside dining, and is a popular dining experience with international and Asian cuisine of a very generous nature and fine service.  Save some space for the cakes. Guests can also dine at STK Doha, a steakhouse on the 23rd floor, or Sel & Miel French Brasserie.


One thing about Qatar is that it’s a very child friendly place, with numerous parks and youngsters generally welcome at the major tourist sites.

Katara Cultural Village

On the red Metro line and just 8 miles north of Msheireb, Katara and its fine beaches is a paradise for children with their own shopping mall, and is pretty good for adults too with quality shops and the Katara Cultural Village.  If you can find one, take a courtesy buggy to the front from the station and then begin to explore.

Katara is a maze of winding alleys and you can pop in and out of the dozens of galleries and venues hosting the creations of local and international painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists.  Behind the scenes it hosts the offices of numerous educational and scholastic institutions including the World Cup management.  What is remarkable is that nothing much existed here except sand at the turn of the century.  In its development the buildings and facilities were deliberately arranged in order to reflect the country's cultural and architectural heritage.
The imposing 5,000 seat amphitheatre was officially opened in 2011 with a concert by Greek composer Vangelis and has since hosted a variety of music performances, traditional dance shows and open-air screenings.  Just a few steps away is the Golden Masjid mosque covered with tiny golden chips. Katara is also home to an opera house, the only facility of its kind in Qatar and even more out of context is a Galleries Lafayette, the stylish French department store.  There is a planetarian and a theatre too.  They don’t do things by half in Qatar.

Unmissable are the Pigeon Towers an example of traditional Islamic architecture. In times gone by pigeons were domesticated not for their meat but rather for their droppings, which were used as fertiliser by the locals.

When it comes to dining clustered around the sea front is a whole variety of eateries ranging from Lebanese Arabic, through Greek and of course seafood.

Very close by are the Katara Gardens, a vast landscape of plants and flowers and a large number of evergreen trees adapting beautifully to the local conditions.

Qatar National Museum
Qatar is keen to promote its heritage.  The National Museum, opened in 2019 and replacing an earlier one dating from 1975.

Time Magazine named it one of the World's Greatest Places to Visit in 2019, citing the integration of "immersive video screens and dioramas" into architect Jean Nouvel's expansive design.  It is difficult to disagree with this interpretation of Qatar and its history. The building has a sandy hue that evokes the desert landscape.

A tour of the museum takes visitors through a loop of galleries that address three major, interrelated themes. The galleries are loosely arranged in chronological order, beginning with exhibitions on the natural history of the desert and the Persian Gulf, artefacts from Bedouin culture, historical exhibitions on the tribal wars, the establishment of the Qatari state, and finally the discovery of oil to the present.  The displays and installations that explore these themes present audio-visual displays with selected treasures from the museum's collections.

The Pearl Qatar
Opposite the Ritz Carlton is the Qanat Quartier, an artificial island covering nearly 4sq km.

Within its Murano precinct with its pastel-coloured low-rise buildings, intricate canals, pedestrian-friendly piazzas, is the State of Qatar’s very own little Venice.  Each waterway is spanned by stylish bridges further evoking the soul of Italian romantic living.  It’s the home for 30,000+ ex-pats who have a wide choice of boutiques and outlets to offer a great shopping experience. Residents and visitors can pick from a large variety of eating outlets.  No alcohol of course.  In the centre, on a separate island, is a Kempinski Resort and Spa.  But don’t get muddled up with The Palm, Dubai, or for that matter The Venetian Las Vegas. This one is much better.    

My four nights was not nearly enough.

For a truly authentic desert experience, nothing beats a camel ride over the soft dunes, before embarking on an exhilarating desert safari over the dunes to Khor Al Adaid, accessible only by 4x4 vehicles with drivers able to demonstrate fantastic skills in what appears to be impossible sand dune conditions.  I’ve done this previously, but time did not permit another desert journey.  An overnight (luxury) safari camp was also suggested.

There is a lot more to see”.  

Malcolm Ginsberg’s ground programme was organised by Discover Qatar, available at most good travel agents worldwide.

The quiz winner

Taking first place, and a trip for two on easyJet, is Phil Spicer, who lives at Harrow, near Heathrow.

Runner up was  Simon Gregor,  last year's winner, who failed on question 4, the Spitfire replica.  The correct answer is a Supermarine, rather than a Jurca Spit of which only two were built. Other prize winners. with Crecy vouchers, will be contacted this week.

Phil was very lucky as he got the (unnecessary in this case) tie breaker wrong.   Virgin Atlantic does not at this time fly out of Gatwick North.  Phil also won in 2017 and was second in 2020.

Nobody gave the right answer to 41, a BOAC Vickers Vickers VC10 at Auckland.


With BTN highlighting the World Cup this is one we could not resist. 

A man takes his seat at the World Cup final. He looks over and notices there's an extra seat in between himself and the next guy.

The man says: "Who would ever miss the World Cup final?”

The guy replies: "Well that was my wife’s seat. We have been to the last five World Cup finals together, but sadly she passed away.”

The man says back: "That’s terrible, but couldn’t you get another close family member to come with you?”

The guy says: "No. They're all at the funeral."