14 AUGUST 2017

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COMMENT: MPs and aviation

Anyone with the wider interests of our industry at heart would have been cheered by the formation earlier this year by a group of like-minded MPs of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to promote the interests of general aviation within the UK political system.

APPGs are alliances that work across party lines to pursue a particular topic or interest. Inaugural chairman Byron Davies, MP for Gower, said at the time: “General aviation faces a number of major issues in the UK from Brexit to the future of airfields and we need to tackle these issues in parliament.”

How true. That was why, Davies said, he and Grant Shapps MP, who has now taken over as chairman, had decided to create an APPG “to seek to influence change in government policy and to support the general aviation community”.

Issues raised at the inaugural meeting included a plea for the APPG to focus on the preservation of GA airfields as an absolute priority. Roger Gale, MP for Thanet, said he was “fighting like hell” to get Manston airfield re-opened (see also this issue of BTN). Shapps added that his own local airfield, Panshanger, had a good chance of reopening thanks to local authority support.

In the way of parliamentary matters, where the wheels, to misquote Longfellow, do indeed grind exceedingly slow, not much happened then, with the announcement of the general election calling a halt to Westminster activities for the duration and the summer recess now upon us.

New chairman Shapps, however, has now issued an update to tide over the recess, hopefully reminding those of us who care that progress may yet be made. Indeed, there may be more support out there than you think – Shapps says he is “delighted” to report the group now has 28 parliamentarians from across nearly all the political parties in its membership.

He adds: “This is a huge increase in our numbers since the general election and proves that there is a clear interest in general aviation and a consensus across both Houses that this is a sector which needs a strong voice in parliament, in order to promote the high-tech jobs and growth it brings to our economy.”

He says the group over the coming months is keen to focus on the big policy areas surrounding general aviation, such as changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which were proposed in the recent housing white paper, and general aviation policy from central government through its new Aviation Strategy. Tellingly, he adds: “Our primary focus will be on getting a shift in government policy in order that a network of GA airfields is protected.”

To that end, the APPG is in the process of arranging meetings this autumn with both the secretary of state for transport and the minister for aviation to discuss the government’s plans for the general aviation sector – with Shapps adding: “As someone who is interested in how airfields can help propel our economy and jobs, we would welcome any comments and suggestions.”

He adds that the APPG does not seek to replicate the work of other “excellent” organisations already active in the general aviation sector: “Rather we seek to work alongside and to ensure that GA as a whole is far better represented in parliament and with ministers, who might not otherwise appreciate the full importance of GA to promoting jobs and growth in this country.”

In one sign of further progress, there is now a website. BTN urges everyone to do what the man says, and let him have those comments and suggestions.

BA heads for Nashville

A new route to the Tennessee capital Nashville, known as Music City, is being launched by British Airways in May with a five-a-week service from Heathrow Terminal 5. BA will be the only airline flying direct between Europe and the destination.

It takes the number of US destinations the airline flies to from London in summer 2018 to 26, and the number of daily flights offered by BA and American Airlines as part of their transatlantic joint business to 67 a day.

The route will be operated by a three-class Boeing B787-8 with World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World cabins on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Director of network and alliances Sean Doyle said: “Nashville is a dynamic city with one of the fastest growing economies in the US, so we are confident the route will be a big hit with British business travellers as well as tourists in the UK and US.”

BA is also increasing services to Philadelphia and Phoenix from a daily service to ten flights a week from Heathrow, and will also be introducing the Airbus A380 on one of the two daily flights to Chicago.

BTN at Stansted summit

The tenth Destinations and Travel Management Summit, formerly known as the Venues & Destinations Summit, takes place at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted during the weekend of 20 – 21 November.

Free places are offered to buyers to meet sales teams from airlines and airports as well as representatives of hotels and a range of venues such as stately homes and academic centres, along with rail companies and travel agencies.

BTN contributor John Burke is among the speakers providing advice, and suppliers range from Royal Caribbean to the House of Commons along with Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways and some of the 21 airlines using Stansted.

The conference is organised in association with PALife, the magazine for personal and executive assistants in the UK and worldwide and consists of one-to-one business meetings, interactive seminars and networking opportunities.

Personalised appointments are arranged for meeting and travel buyers and suppliers to meet in their own dedicated meeting booth. Each supplier has a series of 25min get-togethers with key decision makers throughout the two days, over lunch and during the networking gala dinner.

Cathay boost for Newark

The daily flight from Newark’s Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Hong Kong operated by Cathay Pacific will switch from a Boeing B777-300ER to an Airbus A350-900 operation from 29 October.

The airline has 16 of the A350s in its fleet delivered since the aircraft’s launch last year. Each features a refreshed Business Class cabin as well as new Premium Economy Class and Economy Class seats.

The A350 will also be deployed on one of Cathay’s three daily San Francisco – Hong Kong flights beginning on the same day, while the four flights per day from New York JFK will continue to be operated by the Boeing B777-300ER, which forms the bulk of Cathay’s ultra long-haul fleet.

Senior vice-president for the Americas Philippe Lacamp said: “The A350-900 is unrivalled in terms of sustainability and passenger experience.

“Its introduction as part of our five daily flights from the New York metropolitan area means passengers can choose from five different departure times and for the first time factor in aircraft preference as well.”

Delta launches LaGuardia project

Surging airport redevelopment across the US has been joined by another major project with Delta Air Lines breaking ground on a $4bn 37-gate facility at New York LaGuardia.

It is the carrier’s largest airport investment in its history and forms part of a programme that was launched last June to transform LaGuardia into a completely rebuilt 21st-century asset.

Other features of the transformation include a new roadway configuration and the creation of new LaGuardia Gateway Partners passenger terminal concourses on the western side of the new airport.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said at last week’s ceremony: “Together with our private-sector partners, we are making rapid progress to create the world-class gateway to the Empire State that New Yorkers deserve.”

Delta’s new state-of-the-art terminal will feature four concourses with flexibly sized gates that can accommodate the airline’s full fleet; a new, larger Delta Sky Club with a Sky Deck, and new waiting lounges with more seating.

CEO Ed Bastian said Delta’s new facility was building on the $2 billion-plus the airline has already invested in New York airports over the past seven years and underscored its commitment to LaGuardia and to the city it served.

Expansion for AerLingus

A major expansion to Europe and North America was signalled last week by Aer Lingus adding 300,000 extra seats to its winter schedule, its largest so far, led by a new three-a-week Dublin – Miami service from 1 September.

This is in addition to existing flights to Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles, Newark, Hartford and Toronto via Dublin and Boston and New York via Shannon.

In all, the airline is putting on 350 additional transatlantic flights, a 13% increase. The Dublin – Toronto service alone will see a 96% increase in capacity with four flights a week operated on a larger Airbus A330.

The Dublin – Washington service moves to a daily during peak months, a 44% capacity rise, while Aer Lingus' UK and European networks will also enjoy significant expansion this winter.

Birmingham – Dublin will gain 50,000 additional seats and the Heathrow – Dublin service will be allocated an extra additional early morning flight, resulting in 56,000 extra seats.

Capacity has also been increased to key European cities such as Hamburg, operating up to 10 flights a week, double the frequency of last year, and Zurich, also operating 10 services a week. Dublin – Bilbao is a new winter route, flying three times a week.

FT aviation briefing

A special executive briefing hosted by the Financial Times and Inmarsat Aviation on “Sky High Economics” takes place in London on 12 September with the aim of quantifying commercial opportunities for the global airline industry.

The breakfast event is based on a report commissioned via LSE Consulting using data from recognised bodies including IATA in face of the technological  revolution facing the industry as aviation connectivity becomes more widespread.

Organisers say the event will help to show airlines how superior inflight broadband solutions will help to exceed passengers’ connectivity expectations and drive ancillary revenue opportunities.

Speakers include Spafax vice-president – development Maura McWalters Chacko; Dr Alexander Grous from the LSE Department of Management and the Department of Media and Communications, and Inmarsat vice-president aviation David Coiley.

Chaired by FT transport correspondent Tanya Powley, the briefing, to be held at Painters’ Hall, London EC4, will include a panel discussion and Q&A, and will end at about 11:40.  Attendance is by invitation only and anybody interested is invited to register in advance. Latest details on the agenda and application criteria are on the event website below.

Helping hand for drivers

British travellers facing new regulations when driving in Europe have a new helping hand to navigate driving laws that can sometimes vary significantly when compared to those in the UK.

The guide, from Airport Parking and Hotels (APH), highlights road regulations in 20 popular destinations in Europe, with an infographic showing quirky road signs British drivers may not recognise.

The research also includes a table comparing the driving rules and regulations in 20 European countries, including regional limits for both speed and drink driving, the minimum age to drive, toll road payment methods and extra requirements for drivers.

The legal drink driving limit for example varies, from a zero tolerance policy in the Czech Republic to 0.8mg/ml in Malta, the same as the UK. Eight countries including Ireland and Spain also have lower drink driving limits for drivers under a certain age.

Cars must also be correctly equipped, with 19 countries requiring motorists to carry safety items such as warning triangles, and 10 more specifying dipped headlights at all times, even in daylight.

APH managing director Nick Caunter said: “Many British travellers feel apprehensive about driving abroad due to unfamiliar road signs and local laws. Our guide aims to help understanding local rules and regulations so drivers feel more comfortable.”

Italian job, bmi style

A new codeshare partnership signed by bmi regional with the Italian airline Air Dolomiti sees five new routes – Venice, Verona, Bari, Bologna, and Florence – added to its network via Air Dolomiti connecting flights to and from Munich.

Air Dolomiti already has a strong existing relationship with bmi regional, working as its Italian general sales agent with a view to growing the UK airline’s presence in the Italian market.

The new codeshare routes are the next step in bmi regional’s ongoing network development from its Munich hub. It has extended frequencies over the past six months on several existing routes and launched a new route to Lublin in Poland.

In November, bmi regional will also be launching a new route between Munich and Saarbrücken in the west of Germany, a short 1hr hop that will be operated twice daily on weekdays, and once daily on Saturdays and Sundays.

Chief commercial officer Jochen Schnadt said: “The extension of our relationship with Air Dolomiti to include codeshare cooperation is a logical next step for us. The new routes also allow passengers from our existing markets to enjoy convenient connections to some of Italy’s most exciting locations.”

London greets Residence Inn

Marriott International has brought its top extended-stay brand to London for the first time with the opening of Residence Inn – London Bridge, featuring 87 studio and one- and two-bedroom suites with separate living, working and sleeping areas.

Each also has a fully equipped kitchen including a refrigerator, microwave, hob, oven, dishwasher and cookware with other amenities such as free hot breakfasts, communal laundry facilities, free wi-fi, and a 24/7 “Grab ’n Go” market in the lobby.

The complex also has an onsite state-of-the-art fitness centre and custom running routes can be accessed via MapMyFitness, thanks to the brand’s global partnership with Under Armour Connected Fitness.

The brand plans to open a second property in the capital later this year in the shape of the Residence Inn London – Kensington with 307 suites and easy access to the Olympia exhibition centre, Royal Albert Hall and the city’s top muesums.

Both properties, owned by a controlled affiliate of Starwood Capital Group, will be operated under franchise by hotel management company and extended-stay market specialist Cycas Hospitality, London’s second largest company of its kind.

The two London properties will be joined by new openings in Aberdeen and Amsterdam in early 2018, with another seven properties anticipated by the end of the following year.

Lufthansa Hong Kong upgrade

With Delta Air Lines and Hong Kong Airlines joining the Airbus A350 club last week (see story), Lufthansa also joined in to announce it will be offering flights to Hong Kong, one of the longest routes in its schedule, from 12 September on its A350-900.

Wilken Bormann, CEO of the airline’s Munich hub, said the 10,000km (about 6,200mi) route would be served by two aircraft, the fourth and fifth A350-900s due to be delivered this month and next, flying alternately.

“Passengers can now experience the world's most advanced long-haul aircraft on a flight to the Far East,” he added. “The A350-900 gives passengers an extraordinary experience and the low level of cabin pressure ensures they arrive feeling more rested.”

The first of 15 Lufthansa A350-900s arrived in Munich in February with five taking off next month to fly to Boston, Delhi and Mumbai as well as Hong Kong. The A350-900 has space for 293 passengers – 48 in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy and 224 in Economy. Lufthansa has placed orders for a total of 25 of the aircraft.

MAG airport reshuffle

New chief executive officers are taking charge at Manchester and Stansted airports after a management reshuffle by the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), with Manchester’s Ken O’Toole moving to the London facility.

MAG chief strategy officer Andrew Cowan is replacing O’Toole at Manchester, with Collette Roche, who has been interim CEO at the northern hub, assuming a new role as MAG chief of staff.

At Stansted, O’Toole will lead the airport, which last month passed the 25m passengers a year landmark, as it plays a critical role in providing runway capacity in the south-east over the next 10-15 years.

Stansted has planning permission for a new arrivals building and has announced it is also to apply for approval to make full use of its existing runway, projects on which O’Toole will lead while focusing on developing Stansted’s route network, building on recent additions including scheduled flights to New York and Boston.

Cowan joins Manchester in time to oversee a start on the £1bn Transformation Programme (MANTP), which will provide the UK’s third largest airport with a world-class terminal facility to allow it to make use of its two full-length runways.

He will also be charged with cementing the airport’s position as the UK’s global gateway in the North, and will draw on his expertise from the infrastructure and construction sector before he joined MAG.

Marriott links with Alibaba

A joint venture designed to improve the travel experience for hundreds of millions of Chinese travellers has been established between the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group and Marriott International.

The partnership will leverage the hotel company’s global portfolio of brands and hospitality expertise as well as Alibaba’s digital retail leadership to reach more than 500m mobile monthly active users across its platforms.

The partners say the joint venture will draw on resources from both Marriott and Alibaba to manage and operate Marriott International’s Chinese-language digital channels.

These include Chinese language versions of and; the Marriott Mobile App and SPG App as well as the Marriott storefronts on Alibaba’s travel service platform, Fliggy.

Marriott says its owners and franchisees globally will benefit from the joint venture by capturing a greater share of the growing Chinese travel market and lower distribution costs associated with the joint venture.

Alibaba Group chief executive Daniel Zhang said: “We are proud to join forces with Marriott International – combining our large-scale consumer base, leading-edge technology and consumer insights with their unparalleled hospitality expertise.

 “Together, we are elevating and redefining the travel experience for Chinese consumers to be more seamless and personalised as they embark on adventures to discover the world.”

More headlines for A350

Three carriers kept the new Airbus A350 in the news last week with Delta Air Lines leading the way as the newest member of its fleet touched down in Atlanta following a trans-Atlantic crossing from Toulouse, where the aircraft was assembled.

Hong Kong Airlines was also celebrating as its first A350-900 completed its maiden flight in Toulouse and now enters the final phase of production, ground checks and test flights before being prepared for delivery at the end of this month. Lufthansa has also joined the A350 club (see story).

Delta’s A350 will spend the next two and a half months preparing to enter service, with its first flight scheduled for 30 October from Detroit to Tokyo-Narita International.

The airline also plans to deploy the aircraft, featuring Delta One and Delta Premium Select cabins, on its route between Atlanta and Seoul-Incheon, home of Delta’s trans-Pacific joint venture partner Korean Air from next March. This route joined the Delta network in June.

Hong Kong Airlines, which has 15 A350 XWBs on order, has already assigned the first to its newly launched long-haul route to Los Angeles starting from 18 December. The carrier is expecting to receive two more A350s by the end of the year.

Move to reopen Manston

Plans to create a state-of-the-art cargo hub with complementary passenger and engineering services are moving ahead at the former Manston Airport in Kent, which has been closed for three years.

Campaign groups and local MPs have been fighting to reopen it after the site, which has one of the longest runways in Europe, was bought for £1 and plans announced to build thousands of houses on it.

Now private-equity company RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) has applied to the government for a development consent order, with a decision expected by the end of this year or the beginning of 2018.

If this is accepted for examination, the airport could be protected, leaving the way clear for RSP to go ahead with a promised investment of around £300m over 20 years for new infrastructure and 19 aircraft stands.

Campaigners say as well as creating thousands of jobs in East Kent and beyond, the plan would alleviate a situation caused by congestion at major airports where cargo is regularly bumped off because of passenger demand.

One estimate suggests £1m an hour is lost in the UK by freight being flown into less-busy European airports and having to be trucked back.

Pegasus adds premium

A new premium flight package called Business Flex has been launched by Turkish carrier Pegasus Airlines allowing passengers to change tickets and cancel bookings without charge.

Other features include 15 kg of free check-in baggage on internal flights in Turkey and 20kg on all international flights as well as 12kg free cabin baggage and seat selection, including seats with extra legroom.

Business Flex is one of four flight packages offered by the airline to suit different travel preferences and budgets. The others are Pegasus Basic, Essentials and Advantage.

Pegasus launched as a charter carrier in 1990, transferring to low-cost scheduled services after being acquired by ESAS Holding with the mission that “everyone has the right to fly”.

It now operates to 36 destinations in Turkey and 72 in the rest of the world for a total network of 108 destinations in 40 countries from its hub at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia.

Pegasus made the single largest aircraft order to date in Turkish civil aviation history in 2012 for 100 new Airbus aircraft including 25 options with a total list price of some US$12bn.

Qatar scraps visas

Visa-free entry to Qatar with immediate effect for citizens of 80 countries, including the UK, was announced last week jointly by Qatar Airways, the interior ministry and Qatar Tourism Authority.

Citizens of the countries named will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa. Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free at the port of entry on presentation of a passport valid for at least six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.

Officials said the move was part of a series of measures Qatar has taken to facilitate visitor access and follows the issue last month of an e-visa platform to make applying for tourist and visitor visas easier and more efficient.

Qatar is also said to be considering further enhancements including a waiver scheme that would allow eligible visitors to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation via a simple online application at least 48 hours before travel.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the visa-free entry announcement “places the state of Qatar as the most open country in the region – it is a momentous occasion”.

SAA cash crisis worsens

A simmering financial crisis at South African Airways took a new turn last week after the state-owned carrier said it needed a government loan of 13bn rand (£750m) for operating costs and to meet debt repayments to stay in business.

In a new plan submitted by SAA to the South African parliament’s finance committee, the airline said it believed it can return to profit by 2019. Finance minister Gigaba Malusi is expected to make a statement in October.

The government has said that a recovery plan must be "aggressively" pursued, while opposition finance spokesman Alf Lees has said the airline should file for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, SAA has finally appointed a chief executive, Vuyani Jarana. He replaces a string of acting CEOs who have run the company since 2014, with the government saying his arrival will help the new turnaround strategy to save the company.

Last week’s crisis emerged after a run of positive news from SAA including the launch in June of its new Airbus A330-300 on the route between Washington Dulles and Accra.

The service complements the existing Washington Dulles – Dakar route also operated by the A330-300, which features SAA’s new luxury Premium Business Class product with enhanced privacy and direct aisle access at every seat.

SWISS CS100 at London City

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft last week celebrated another important milestone for its C Series aircraft programme with the first revenue flight into London City Airport (LCY) of a Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) CS100 from Zurich.

The C Series is now the largest passenger aircraft certified to operate from LCY, with the longest range. With a single-class range of 2,200nm (4,074 km), it is also the only commercial aircraft that can fly London City – New York non-stop.

SWISS C Series fleet chief Peter Koch said: "As part of our fleet modernisation plan, we are gradually replacing the Avro aircraft with the C Series and today we start with our CS100 flight operations from Zurich to London City.

"We are the world's first airline to do this and we are excited to offer our guests the many benefits that the C Series has to offer on this important route, including a high level of comfort.” Geneva joins the SWISS schedule from next summer.

LCY chief commercial officer Richard Hill said: “As one of the quietest and most fuel efficient commercial jets in its class, the CS100 means we can unlock opportunities for new routes, including non-stop services to the US east coast, Russia, the Gulf and Middle East.”

• The 30th anniversary of LCY in three months’ time is being commemorated with a souvenir book, London City Airport – 30 Years Serving the Capital, written by BTN editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg and published on 5 November.

UK debut for Hilton Digital Key

Hilton has launched its Digital Key in ten of its UK hotels and is expecting to connect 100 properties by the end of 2017 – the largest implementation outside the US – and then to 2,500 hotels across the world.

The mobile-enabled room key technology follows the rollout of digital check-in and room selection, still the industry’s first and only tool that lets guests select the exact room based on the hotel layout and its outside surroundings.

Digital Key enables Hilton Honors members to open the doors of their rooms simply and securely, as well as any other area of the hotel that requires a key, at the touch of a button available through the Hilton Honors app.

Hilton chief marketing officer Geraldine Calpin said: “We previously invested $550m in global technology infrastructure to lay the foundations which have enabled us to bring to market, at scale, the digital tools we have today.

“Guests are looking for more choice and control over their travel journey and tools such as Digital Key and digital check-in with room selection give them the ability to personalise their stay at every stage anywhere in the world.”

Wanted: 600,000 pilots

A demand for more than 1.2m key airline personnel including 600,000-plus pilots over the next 20 years has been highlighted by Boeing in its newly-released 2017 Pilot and Technician Outlook.

Now in its eighth year, the outlook is a respected industry study that forecasts the 20-year demand for crews to support the world’s growing commercial airplane fleet.

Boeing forecasts that between 2017 and 2036, the world’s commercial aviation industry will require some 637,000 new commercial airline pilots, 648,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians and 839,000 new cabin crew members.

The 2017 outlook shows a slight increase of 3.2% for pilots over the 2016 outlook, and a slight decrease of 4.6% in the need for airline maintenance technicians, primarily driven by the reduction in maintenance hours required on the 737 MAX.

Broken down by region, the guide shows the greatest demand over the next 20 years will be from the Asia-Pacific area, with an expected need for 253,000 pilots, 256,000 technicians and 308,000 cabin crew.

The corresponding figures for North America are 117,000 pilots, 118,000 technicians and 154,000 cabin crew, while for Europe it is estimated 106,000 pilots will be needed, 111,000 technicians and 173,000 cabin crew.

ON TOUR: Colorado summer

New air services have focused attention on the US state of Colorado. It’s known as a wintersports haven but it’s fun in summer too, as Richard Cawthorne reports.

Colorado is the gateway to the West with direct flights from the UK to Denver served by British Airways and indirect flights by Icelandair. From 16 September, Norwegian will introduce direct flights to Denver from Gatwick, with a twice-weekly service, while Denver is also a major hub for United Airlines, which is launching a daily non-stop seasonal service from Heathrow from 24 March – 26 October next year. Wintersports may be big here but Colorado's adventures throughout summer deliver an adrenaline rush for all ages too – from canyons to coasters. Here are some of the highlights.

Camp on a cliff ledge

Thrill seekers can live life on the “ledge” by setting up camp on the side of a mountain. Kent Mountain Adventure Centre guides outdoor enthusiasts through Estes Park with a selection of adventures, from a “cliffnic” lunch on a ledge set up 50ft from the ground to rappelling down a cliff face with just a sleeping bag for an overnight on a vertical wall. Prices are from $1,600 for two people overnight or $860 for a group of four for cliff picnics.

Make your own adventure

The “Gear Garage” service at Denver's newly opened Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek is filled with a selection of hand-picked gadgets and kits specially put together for a range of outdoor thrills. Visitors can ride into downtown Denver on a Vespa, rent a cruiser bike or e-bike to explore the city's 85 miles of paved bike trails, or skate through the Cherry Creek district on a Halcyon longboard. Adventure packs, comprising a rucksack, outdoor camera, binoculars and refreshments, are fully stocked for a picnic in the sun or for hiking up one of Colorado's 58 “fourteeners” – mountains with an elevation of at least 14,000ft.

Cycle Snowmass' new trails
New for summer 2017, Snowmass has brought in more bike trails adding to the 80-plus miles of terrain accessible from Snowmass Village. Routes include the Seven Star Trail – an advanced four-mile dirt track which snakes along the hillside to Brush Creek and into town. 

New adventures in Breckenridge

Breckenridge has launched an on-mountain summer activity programme called Epic Discovery, with 13 activities for the family. Available daily until 10 September, the family-focused adventures include interactive exploration zones, an Ariel Adventure Tour, a climbing wall, tubing down a river, ziplines and more. Breckenridge is the latest of Vail Resorts' ski destinations to introduce the selection of summer adventures, with an all-day Adventure Pass costing $82 for adults and $40 for children.

Drop inside a mountain

New for summer 2017, the Haunted Mine Drop at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will leave guests breathless as they drop some 100ft on the first ride of its kind in the world that descends inside a mountain. The park is the only mountain-top theme park in the US with thrills for the whole family, from exploring caves to being launched over Glenwood Canyon on an exhilarating Giant Canyon Swing.

Explore the canyons
Ouray is known for its ice climbing in the winter, but during the summer months the same rocks and waterfalls can be explored by canyoning. It entails repelling down waterfalls and exploring river canyons, with the Canyoning Colorado company offering new guided descents with training for all abilities. The cost is from $89 for a half-day course and from $169 for a full day.

North America’s longest coaster

Steamboat is set to welcome the Outlaw Mountain Coaster opening this month, the longest ride of its kind in North America. The gravity-driven bobsled carts will descend more than 400 vertical feet down a mountain track with a total riding length of more than 6,280ft. Single ride tickets are $20 with additional rides available to buy on-site at $15.

Wild and scenic rivers

Colorado's only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River, the Cache la Poudre, carves down Poudre Canyon through narrow sections flanked by alpine mountains and natural rock cliffs west of Fort Collins. The thrill of paddling over a rapid named Devil's Staircase is second only to the views and the chance to spot bighorn sheep and deer along its rocky hills. Rafting guides lead groups through rapids of all difficulty levels based on experience, so everyone gets just the right amount of adventure.

Swing above the Royal Gorge

The Royal Rush Skycoaster sends adrenaline seekers free-falling over the Royal Gorge Canyon at speeds of up to 50mph to dangle 1,200ft above the Arkansas River. The thrill is heightened with views of the 1,000ft red-granite walls of the canyon and the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the US. The canyon and panoramic views can also be experienced by aerial gondola, zipline and at photography lookout points.

Test your dream bike
Outerbike, billed as the biggest mountain bike demo event on earth, comes to the Rocky Mountains for the first time from 18 – 20 August, showcasing Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley's 750 miles of mountain bike trails. Visitors can trial as many of the latest and greatest bikes as possible or bring their own bike and enjoy the trails.

MOTORING UPDATE: Lotus financial turnround

No car test this month, writes BTN editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg, but some good news followed by a feature article, both about a quintessential British car company that has been established for more than 60 years and epitomised the ‘swinging Sixties’. It looks like it is going to be around for a lot longer. 

The news, marking a major milestone in the history of Lotus Group International Limited (LGIL), is that the company finished the 2016/17 financial year on plan, with positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £2m, a major achievement compared to 2015/16, when a £16.3m loss was recorded.

There has also been a significant improvement in profit before tax, from a £41.2m loss in 2015/16 to a £11.2m loss overall in 2016/17, the company recording a profit before tax improvement of £10m in the second half of 2016/17 compared to the first six months of the year.

“Looking ahead, it allows Lotus to concentrate on the next stage of the business’ development, and a return to full year profit before tax for FY17/18,” the company said.

Lotus said key to the turnaround was the successful introduction of a completely revised product portfolio, with new benchmark sports cars within the Evora, Exige and Elise model ranges together with the new Lotus 3-Eleven.

“Focusing on its core strengths of engineering and core brand values, Lotus is now producing its strongest ever line-up of cars, and the results pave the way for future investment and the development of new models,” a company statement continued.

Lotus has launched products in new markets, including the US, and opened new dealerships across the globe, increasing from 138 sales points in 2014 to 215 today.

CEO Jean-Marc Gales said: “This is a proud moment for Lotus and to have achieved so much is testament to the hard work of all our staff. Our vastly improved profitability, together with an increase in revenue, means that for the first time in many years Lotus is now a self-sufficient and sustainable business.”

For the background, BTN is publishing the following article from Club Lotus News, with thanks to Alan Morgan, chairman of Club Lotus since the early death in 1984 of the club’s founder Graham Arnold, the former Lotus Cars sales director. The club has around 5,900 members with some 90% in the UK and the rest scattered around the world. Club Lotus has 31 local area organisers in the UK who run various events including four annual track-days and offers regular stand presence at major events including the Silverstone Classic, Le Mans Classic, Donington Historic, Lotus Festival and the NEC Classic Car Show.

Towards the end of June, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH) completed the purchase of a majority stake in Group Lotus from DRB-HICOM, the parent company of Proton. This momentous news brings to an end the speculation and rumours about Hethel’s future that have been doing the rounds for several years. The initial deal is for ZGH to purchase a 51% majority stake in Lotus worth around £100m, together with a 49.9% stake in Proton. DRB-HICOM will retain 50.1% of Proton and will look to sell its remaining stake in Lotus sometime in the future.    

Unsurprisingly, since the news broke I’ve spoken to many people who are as keen and interested as we are to chat about what the future now holds for Lotus. They’ve included main dealers, trade specialists, enthusiasts, Club Lotus members and journalists. We’ve kicked around plenty of possibilities, wishes, fears and hopes but there’s one feeling that came out of pretty much every conversation and that is optimism. ZGH are making all the right noises about their intentions for developing Lotus and you only have to look at what they’ve achieved with Volvo to believe they mean what they say. They had a game plan for Volvo, invested huge sums and then let the management get on with running the business… and it’s worked out brilliantly. If they do the same with Lotus – and why wouldn’t they – there’s a very, very bright future ahead. It’ll not happen overnight mind, these things never do and it took 5 years for Geely to turn Volvo around.

The last ten or so years haven’t always been easy for Lotus Cars, with a switchback ride of direction and emotions. When the much loved and hugely respected Mike Kimberley retired as CEO in 2009, the business was in very reasonable shape. Evora had just been launched to a warm reception and Elise, Exige and 2-Eleven sales were good. Then along came Dany Bahar and suddenly there’s a whole forest of money trees in Norfolk. Yes we’ll be building 5 brand new models, yes we’re going into F1, yes we’re building a new test track, yes we’re going to take on Ferrari, yes we’re going to sell 5,000 cars a year…

It all seemed way too good to be true and of course it was. Mr Bahar duly departed in 2012 – the less said about the circumstances the better – and the genial Aslam Farikullah took over as CEO. The new cars were of course cancelled and Hethel returned to, let’s say, more regular operation. Now it would be grossly unfair to criticise Proton’s overall stewardship of Lotus since 1996 in any way. They’ve presided over continual development of Elise and the birth of Evora, a new Exige and allowed Lotus freedom to launch the 3-Eleven; in short they’ve been loyal to the company and its heritage. But Proton have been struggling in recent years and consequently any serious investment in Lotus has been sorely lacking.

Since 2012 Lotus has been treading water and trying simply to keep its head above the waves. Jean-Marc Gales became CEO in 2014 but was immediately shackled by zero investment. He was forced to cut costs just to find some cash to launch updated versions of existing models whilst at the same time striving to bring the business into profit. Sadly this included cutting around 300 jobs – a quarter of the workforce – including many experienced, skilled and loyal staff. Many talented others, frustrated by the lack of resources, have left of their own accord. It’s not been easy for the remaining staff, or to watch from outside, but progress is being made and J-MG can only work within the resources available to him. Let’s not forget that at least Lotus still exist – unlike TVR and many other specialist British car companies – and there’s every reason for those lost staff to hotfoot back to Hethel given the right circumstances.  

So who exactly are Zhejiang Geely Holding Group? Well, they’re based in the city of Hangzhou in South East China’s Zhejiang province and were founded in 1986 by Li Shufu, the company’s present chairman. They launched an automotive division in 1997 which now consists of three main businesses: Geely Auto Group, Volvo Cars and Geely Commercial Vehicles. They also bought the London Taxi Company in 2012. Their main brands are Geely Auto, LYNK & CO, Volvo Cars, Polestar, the London Taxi Company and Yuan Cheng Auto.

It’s fair to say that ZGH are doing rather well of late. Total combined vehicle sales in 2016 were 1.3 million vehicles, with Volvo sales reaching an historic high of 534,332 cars globally and Geely Auto Group sales growing over 50% to reach 765,851 units in total, exceeding the group’s targets. In the first five months of 2017, Geely Auto Group sold a combined 441,854 units, an increase of 89% over the same period in 2016 and achieving 37% of the group's 2017 sales goal of one million units. Volvo sold a combined 223,290 units in the first five months of 2017, an increase of 8.9% over the same period in 2016. ZGH has over 60,000 employees across the world, and has been listed in the Fortune 500 for the past five years. Impressive stuff.

Here’s what Geely’s executive vice-president and CFO Daniel Donghui Li said at the official announcement of the deal: “With Proton and Lotus joining the Geely Group portfolio of brands we strengthen our global footprint and develop a beachhead in South East Asia. Geely Holding is full of confidence for the future of Proton. We will fully respect the brand’s history and culture to restore Proton to its former glory with the support of Geely’s innovative technology and management resources.Reflecting our experience accumulated through Volvo Cars’ revitalisation, we also aim to unleash the full potential of Lotus Cars and bring it into a new phase of development by expanding and accelerating the rolling out of new products and technologies.” Exciting words that will make all of us very happy and, judging by Geely’s record, they’ll be matched by action.

Understandably and perhaps inevitably there has been some speculation regarding the future of Hethel itself which represents a considerable overhead cost when production levels are where they have been for the last 3-4 years. However, at the press announcement Geely made a particular point of saying they will keep production at Hethel. They said that although the group would consider also building vehicles closer to their target markets as part of a longer-term strategy, they would still build Lotus cars at Hethel. To quote their spokesman: ‘We can see no need to uproot a company with more than 50 years of history in BritainThis is just like what we have done with the London Taxi Company; design in Britain, engineer in Britain, build in Britain.” Heart-warming comments indeed and this is exactly the approach they have taken with Volvo whose headquarters has remained firmly in Gothenburg. 

There’s a lot to do and several important questions to answer. What will be the future relationship with Toyota? Will the already announced new Elise still arrive in 2020? When will a brand new model (Esprit?) be launched as well as perhaps an SUV? Will Lotus actively market its highly profitable engineering consultancy services? All key decisions - and there will be many more - but there are certainly sunnier skies ahead and in my opinion the prospects for Lotus Cars haven’t looked brighter for many a year.

BTN editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg was PR manager for Lotus Cars Ltd from 1968 until 1972. He retained a friendship with Colin Chapman, the marque's extraordinary leader, until ACBC’s early death at the age of 54 in 1982. A later edition of Business Travel News will offer an obituary of Team Lotus, which between 1962 and 1978 won seven Formula One Constructors' titles, six Drivers' Championships, and the Indianapolis 500 in the United States. Lotus left F1 at the end of the 2015 championship season.


AND FINALLY: Yvonne's farewell

Just in case you thought female commercial airline pilots were a new phenomenon, Yvonne Kershaw, the first British woman to captain a jumbo jet, has just hung up her wings after 27 years flying Boeing 747s for Virgin Atlantic.

Now a 64-year grandmother, she moved into the left-hand seat in 1993, three years after joining the airline, and amassed more than 2,000 flights, or 18,000 flying hours.

Her final commercial flight was from Cancun to Gatwick.

She said: "It has been a privilege to fly the flag for female captains. I've been humbled to act as a role model for young aspiring female pilots. After being in the driving seat of the world's most iconic plane for years it will be an odd feeling to be a backseat pilot."

About 4% of UK pilots are female, although Virgin Atlantic says 30% of its pilot cadets now are women.