16 JULY 2018

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COMMENT: Caring for the less-able

Media coverage last week of the CAA’s latest annual report on the accessibility services provided by the top 30 UK airports concentrated on the low ratings given to Birmingham, Gatwick and Stansted.

This is a shame, since the overall tenor of the CAA document was positive.

But it shows there is no room for complacency as the needs and numbers of less-able travellers increase. 

There are also questions to be asked about the conclusions.

None of the airports rated as very good are large. Luton is said to be good but does not have any air bridges and BTN has seen families waiting for help. Heathrow is considered good in spite of its size, which is a fine achievement, but BTN’s experience of Gatwick, one of those criticised, is that the help available there is excellent.

It suggests one danger from the study is that an airport’s standing is down to what happens on the day and one bad report might affect the CAA opinion. In BTN’s experience, airports for the most part do try.

Birmingham, Gatwick and Stansted were ticked off for “not meeting the CAA’s expectations” and have been told by the authority they must improve. In addition, fast-growing Manchester Airport received a ‘poor’ rating for the second year in a row; the only airport, as the CAA pointed out, to receive this rating this year. The authority said it had monitored the airport’s performance and had identified “issues in relation to long waiting times for assistance and issues with the recording and reporting of performance data”.

The importance of the situation can be gauged from the fact there are more than 3m requests a year for assistance at UK airports – a rise of almost 80% since 2010. However, the CAA said, satisfaction levels remain high, with 83% of people requesting assistance stating they are “satisfied” and 54% of those saying they are “very satisfied”.

In all, the report reveals 16 UK airports have been rated “very good”, up from six in last year’s review. The figure includes Edinburgh Airport, which was rated “poor” two years ago and the CAA says good progress has also been made by Heathrow, which has this year been classified as “good” following its “poor” rating last year (see separate story in this issue).

The CAA says its framework, the first of its kind in the world, was introduced to drive improvements in performance and help to deliver a consistent, high-quality service for disabled passengers across UK airports. Airports are assessed against a number of measures to establish how well they are performing for disabled passengers, including asking those passengers using the assistance service how it performed for them.

Consumers and markets director Paul Smith said: “We are pleased surveys show satisfaction levels remain high and the vast majority of passengers’ journeys go smoothly. The improved performance of many airports means disabled passengers should have even more confidence to travel.

“However, there are still too many occasions where things go wrong. We will continue to focus our work on ensuring that standards are maintained and improved, particularly for those whose experience has not been as positive as it could have been. Where we see examples of bad practice, we will not hesitate to hold airports to account and take the necessary enforcement action.”

Despite the bad scores by some airports, it seems clear the momentum is in the right direction, a point reinforced by aviation minister Baroness Sugg in her reaction. She said: “It’s essential passengers with reduced mobility or hidden disabilities get the service they deserve every time they fly. The CAA has stepped up its work in this area and plays an important role in showing where improvement still needs to be made. I welcome the progress made by airports to improve accessibility and will continue to work with all of the aviation industry to make flying easier for disabled passengers.”

Air Tattoo celebrates RAF 100 in style

A record crowd of 185,000 people last weekend enjoyed a feast of flying as the Royal International Air Tattoo staged international celebrations at RAF Fairford marking the Royal Air Force’s Centenary.

In total, 302 aircraft, from 43 air arms representing 30 nations attended the airshow, of which 121 took part in the flying display.

Flypasts included a Lancaster bomber from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly in formation with the squadron’s current aircraft, the Tornado, and the RAF’s new state-of-the-art F-35B Lightning II.

Other highlights included displays by the US Air Force Heritage Flight; the Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker; the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet; the French Aeronavale Rafale; the Italian Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display team and the Red Arrows.  Visitors on Saturday watched a flypast by a US Air Force B-2A Spirit stealth bomber making a round trip from its base in Missouri.

Prior to the airshow, history was made as the first transatlantic flight by a civilian-registered Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) touched down, ushering in a new era in unmanned aviation.

The SkyGuardian is the latest version of the General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted air system. Capable of flying for up to 40hr at a time at altitudes of up 40,000ft, the aircraft will be known in the RAF version as ‘Protector’.

CAA challenged over age rule

Legal papers have been served by law firm DMH Stallard on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) seeking a judicial review of the CAA’s age restrictions for commercial pilots.

The company is acting for Wayne Bayley, a former captain with TUI Airways, who has nearly 26,000hr flying time and was 65 earlier this year. Under EU Aircrew Regulations, he is now prohibited from acting as a pilot in commercial air transport.

Stallard says Bayley was a training captain for more than 22 years and spent four years as a fleet manager with TUI, responsible for more than 30 aircraft and associated pilots.

The law firm says he has passed all medical and competency examinations during his career at an above average level. In 2013, he flew the first Boeing B787 Dreamliner from the UK to Barbados.

The firm also points out non-EU countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada do not have upper age limit restrictions on pilots but base a pilot’s competency to fly on medical tests.

Bayley said: “The age limit of 64 for commercial pilots is out of date and there is also a clear benefit in having experienced pilots operating in the UK to help to address the current shortage of pilots, especially experienced training captains.”

Concern over airfields

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG) has expressed concern about “significant disparities” between the outcome of a meeting with the defence minister Tobias Ellwood and his subsequent letter to the organisation.

The APPG says the minister, in a meeting with group chairman Grant Shapps, pledged to look again at Ministry of Defence plans to sell off 15 military aerodromes across the UK.

However, the group says the minister’s follow-up letter failed to acknowledge many of the outcomes of the meeting, including working with the Department for Transport in its strategic review of the general aviation sector. The APPG says it has now written back to the minister asking how the commitments from the meeting are being progressed.

Shapps said: “Our meeting was worthwhile and extracted some helpful commitments. These included supporting continued aviation use at the 15 military aerodromes being disposed of, where possible, so parliamentarians were very concerned to see no mention of these commitments in the minister’s follow-up letter.”

The aerodrome sites planned for disposal in the years indicated include Abingdon (2029), Alconbury (2023), Arbroath (2020), Brawdy (2024), Chivenor (2027), Colerne (2018) and Dishforth (2031).

Also listed are Halton (2022), Henlow (2020), Mildenhall (2024), Molesworth (2024), North Luffenham (2021), Wethersfield (2020), Woodbridge (2027) and Wyton (2018).

Congestion charge action call

A decision by Transport for London (TfL) to consult on removing the exemption from the Congestion Charge for private hire vehicles (PHVs) has won a guarded welcome from London Assembly transport committee chairman Caroline Pidgeon.

She noted her committee had called for private hire vehicles to be charged the same as others entering the Congestion Charge zone and members therefore welcomed the consultation given the number of minicabs in the capital had “exploded” in recent years.

However, she added: “TfL and the mayor should understand that the Congestion Charge itself is a very blunt instrument which encourages more road use by those who have paid the one-off charge, as drivers may think driving around means they get their money’s worth.

“Even Transport for London’s own estimate of the impact of this policy is that it would only see a reduction of 600 minicabs per day, which is a tiny amount relative to the overall number of cars.

“Only a new, smart road pricing scheme, where people pay relative to how much they use the roads, can cut congestion.”

Double win for Liverpool

Fresh from marking the 85th anniversary of is official opening, Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL) has again been awarded a 5-star rating for punctuality by air travel intelligence agency OAG.

LPL’s on-time performance saw 85.4% of flights running on time over a rolling 12-month period. It remains the only airport in the North of England and one of just three across the UK alongside Birmingham and Cardiff to achieve the 5-star rating. Globally, it is listed in the top 10% of airports.

Meanwhile, LPL has been marking the anniversary of the day in July 1933 when secretary of state for air Lord Londonderry performed the opening ceremony, which was followed by one of the largest civil air displays seen at the time.

First thought about in the late 1920s, Speke in south Liverpool was chosen for the location of the airport because of the geography of the site and its good year-round weather record – reasons which still hold today.

Almost 100m passengers have travelled to or from the airport since and Liverpool continues to play a significant role in the connectivity of the North West and beyond, currently handling 5m passengers a year with flights to almost 70 destinations in the UK and Europe.

Easyjet apprentice drive

EasyJet has appointed the first group to a new cabin crew apprenticeship scheme, the first of its kind under new government apprenticeship standards, with 25 hopefuls preparing for a 12-month training programme from this September.

After completing the initial phase at easyJet’s training academy at Gatwick, the apprentices will receive further on-the-job coaching and development, including regular progress checks with their training coach.

Successful candidates will fly as cabin crew from Gatwick to more than 100 destinations across Europe, helping to serve the 18m-plus easyJet passengers who fly to and from the airport each year.

EasyJet director of cabin services Tina Milton said: “This apprenticeship will give recruits the opportunity to earn an industry-recognised qualification, as well as gain their easyJet cabin crew wings.”

Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “We need to inspire the next generation to pursue rewarding careers in aviation like cabin crew, air traffic control and engineering. EasyJet’s investment is ensuring young people have the skills they need to join our flourishing aviation industry.”

Heathrow highlights special facilities

Assistance options available to airport users needing extra support were put on show by Heathrow on Saturday at the first of a series of open days, passengers with disabilities welcomed on a tour of Terminal 5.

The events are designed to promote accessible air travel by showcasing the help available at each stage of a journey and to listen to feedback on how to improve further the services available to passengers who require support.

The open day coincided with the launch of the Civil Aviation Authority’s annual report on special assistance service, which has classified Heathrow’s service as “good” following improvement in service levels, oversight and investments since last year (see also COMMENT in this issue).

The open day was run by the Accessible Transport Forum (ATF), part of the Heathrow Access Advisory Group (HAAG), in conjunction with the airport, British Airways and the airport’s special assistance provider, OmniServ.

HAAG chairman Roberto Castiglioni said: “Engaging with persons with disabilities is essential to keep accessibility at the forefront of Heathrow’s thinking, especially now that the expansion plan has entered a more dynamic phase.

“In the coming months, our group will be working with Heathrow to help develop the accessible airport of the future, an environment for everyone to use.”

HSRL progresses

Plans for a new rail service linking Woking, Guildford and Basingstoke with Heathrow and onward to Old Oak Common for HS2 and London Paddington for the Elizabeth Line have taken another step forward.

Heathrow Southern Railway Limited (HSRL), an independent venture which says it can transform the rail network serving Britain’s busiest airport, has submitted a market sounding questionnaire, a crucial part of the planning process, to the Department for Transport (DfT).

HSRL says it intends to create “fast, easy and relaxing” rail access to Heathrow by building eight miles of rail infrastructure from the west end of the existing Terminal 5 station.

Chief executive Graham Cross said: “HSRL’s scheme will provide the DfT and the public with high-quality rail capacity to and from Heathrow while being privately financed and avoiding any need for government subsidy.

“Rail development experts in our team, including those provided by our investor Aecom, have spent two years refining HSRL’s proposed route. We know how to allow trains to operate over our railway without needing new paths into congested London termini.

“This is a mature proposal for bringing urgently needed surface access relief to the congested two-runway Heathrow and is essential for the planned expansion of the airport.”

Istanbul Airport update

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set his seal of approval on Istanbul’s new airport with an official visit aboard the presidential jet, marking the first landing at the complex by a passenger aircraft. The airport is due to open on 29 October.

The construction is being carried out in four phases, the first of which, to be completed this year, will see the opening of three runways and a terminal with capacity for 90m passengers.

The complex, to be known simply as Istanbul New Airport, is being run by the İGA company, founded in October 2013 to oversee the construction and then operate the airport for 25 years.

It is being built over an area of 76.5m sq m (about 823m sq ft) 35km (about 22 miles) north of Istanbul, and once complete is planned to host around 100 airlines flying to more than 350 destinations with an annual passenger capacity up to 200m.

Erdoğan told ground crew and workers the “magnificent airport” would be a leading hub for global air traffic, one of the three biggest in the world and a brand for the country.

JetAirways greets B737 MAX

The first Boeing B737 MAX for Indian international carrier JetAirways has been inducted into the fleet, carrying on a tradition which has seen the B737 series form the backbone of the airline’s operations since it began in 1994.

CEO Vinay Dube said: “The arrival of our B737 MAX is a proud moment that marks the start of an exciting new chapter for our airline and Indian aviation as a critical part of our future strategy.”

The JetAirways aircraft features the Boeing Sky Interior with new sculpted sidewalls, anti-glare LED lighting, redesigned overhead storage bins and other enhancements to maximise passenger comfort.

It will offer a standard two-class configuration with 12 Première Class and 162 Economy Class seats with JetAirways’ in-flight entertainment system JetScreen, which offers more than 330hr of the latest entertainment on personal devices.

Seats in Première are equipped with in-built USB ports, laptop chargers and portable electronic device holders along with a 40in pitch and a recline ranging from 7in-10in to provide what the airline calls “an appropriate mix of productivity and comfort”.

Economy Class seats will have variable pitch ranging from 29in-31in, with a 5in recline and again with USB ports and portable electronic device holders.

JetBlue first for A220

A Memorandum of Understanding for 60 firm orders for the newly-rebranded Airbus A220 was signed last week by JetBlue, making the New York-based carrier the first customer for the aircraft.

JetBlue has ordered the A220-300 model, previously known as the Bombardier CS300, and is reported to have earmarked them as replacements for the Embraer E190 .

In addition, the airline converted 25 of its current orders for Airbus A320neos into orders for the larger A321neo. Both the A220s and A321neos will be powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF engines.

Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz said: “JetBlue’s selection of the A220 to complement its growing A320 Family fleet is an endorsement both of the A220 itself and of the way the two aircraft can work together to provide airline network flexibility and a great passenger experience.”

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes added: “We are evolving our fleet for the future as we approach our 20th anniversary and the A220-300’s impressive range and economics offer us flexibility and support our key financial and operating priorities.

“The A220, with our A321 and restyled A320 fleet, will help to ensure we deliver the best onboard experience and meet our long-term financial targets as we continue our growth.”

JetClass adds destinations

Scheduled business jet flights to new destinations in Europe are being offered by Vienna-based airline service JetClass as it celebrates its one-year anniversary.

The new schedule launched last week and is effective until 30 September. In addition to existing routes connecting European business hubs, JetClass will operate on Saturdays between Zurich – Nice, Nice – Olbia and Nice –Palma de Mallorca. Connections are offered on Sundays between Nice – Olbia and Nice – Palma de Mallorca.

CEO and co-founder Wagas Ali said: “Seeing Nice – Olbia – Nice again on our schedule is a proud moment, as this route was our starting point and the fact it has come full circle gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come.”

JetClass, which began operating in July last year, claims to offer passengers the convenience of private jet travel with prices at or below the cost of Business Class fares on commercial flights.

It has seen steady expansion during its first year and last October introduced a new schedule of flights connecting among other centres Paris – Milan, Warsaw – Vienna, Berlin – Strasbourg, Hanover – Amsterdam and London – Chambery.

John Meredith

Back in 1990 when the world’s airlines saw need for a global pressure group to promote the economic benefits of air transport and press for infrastructure improvement, they turned to one man.

John Meredith, a widely-experienced British Airways executive, was duly seconded to IATA to help create and lead the influential Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

Meredith, who died at the end of last month aged 83, went on to serve IATA as head of corporate policy and communications until retirement in 2000.

He began his career with BOAC in 1958 and went on to hold management posts with the former state airline and its successor British Airways. Meredith served in 21 countries, including as general manager, Americas, responsible for trans-Atlantic Concorde operations. His final BA post before moving to IATA was head of commercial & government affairs.

Meredith was a long-standing member of the Aviation Club UK, sat on its committee and as head of ATAG was guest speaker on two occasions.

Along with executive posts at BA, he served as a board member of Air Mauritius and CityFlyer Express.

Following a private family funeral, a memorial service to John Meredith is planned for later this year.

Makeover at the Marriott

Business travellers staying at one of the London Docklands hotels and flying out of the nearby London City Airport will find a new welcome awaiting at the London Marriott West India Quay.

The distinctive property, working with M Studio London, has completed a full makeover of all 301 rooms and suites with an emphasis on incorporating intelligent technology to create luxury interiors tailored for business and leisure.

All the rooms have plentiful natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows while some also boast scenic views over West India Quay and the Curve Suites showcase the sights across the Canary Wharf skyline.

Each room has a flat-screen TV and plush mattress, while suites come equipped with Nespresso coffee machines. Up-to-the-minute technology includes high-speed wi-fi and eight USB ports.

General manager Bertrand Dijoux said: “The makeover has been inspired by our guests from start to finish. We have a mix of business and leisure travellers, so we’ve integrated quality, easy-to-use technological features and amenities, while maintaining a sleek and understated design.”

Features include the Manhattan Grill steakhouse and G&Tea bar, a fitness centre and sauna, plus 19 modern event and meeting rooms equipped with high-speed internet and modern audiovisual facilities with capacity for up to 290 people.

New Embraer at London City

Claimed to be the world’s quietest and most efficient aircraft in its class, Embraer’s E190-E2 arrived at London City Airport (LCY) for the first time last week on a demonstration flight officials hope paves the way for future accreditation and commercial operation.

The newest aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer entered service in April. The company said the visit to LCY of one of its test fleet, with special "shark's nose" paint job, on its way to Farnborough demonstrated the importance it places on being able to offer LCY capability to airlines.

Embraer Commercial Aviation chief commercial officer Arjan Meijer said the visit also indicated the company’s intention to work with the airport to certify the E2 to meet customer demand, which he said is likely to rise as LCY increases connectivity.

He added: “For Embraer, London City feels like home. Wherever you look, our aircraft are there, so it’s a big moment for us to bring the newest-generation Embraer jet to this important European hub.

“We know passengers will love the new aircraft, still with no middle seats and featuring larger overhead bins, and Londoners will also appreciate the quietness of the aircraft and its low emissions.”

Phone booking probe

Four out of five of the most popular airlines have been found to charge a higher fare when passengers book over the phone. The investigation, by Which? Travel magazine, names Ryanair and Tui as the worst culprits.

The publication said the two carriers each charged customers an additional £20 when booking over the phone. Easyjet was said to add an extra £15, while British Airways increased fares by £10 when customers called in to book.

The magazine added that Jet2 was the only airline in the investigation that did not charge customers extra for booking via the phone.

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Customers should not be penalised for booking over the phone. Airlines that are charging customers more must be clear and transparent about these additional fees."

Easyjet said: “We encourage passengers to book online. Those using our telephone service are informed of the online discount at the beginning of the call.” Passengers needing special assistance could still receive the online price by phone, it added.

Ryanair said fewer than 0.5% of its customers choose to book over the phone, while BA and Tui both claimed phone bookings added an additional admin cost.

Priority Pass on the rise

Airport lounges are continuing their surge of popularity, with operator Priority Pass adding 141 more to its portfolio in the 12 months since it celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

The company, which claims to be the world's original and largest airport lounge membership programme, says the growth means members are now able to access more than 1,200 lounges, dining and spa experiences globally.

Of the newcomers, 13 of the most recent are in Europe, led by the Premium Traveller Lounge in Terminal 2 at Frankfurt Main, which joined the programme as of last week, with the Executive Lounge at Norwich Airport also adding to the list.

Three lounges in Russia have also joined, led by the Kandinsky lounge in the new Terminal B at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, along with others at Nizhnevartovsk and Surgut airports.

Elsewhere in Germany, Priority has welcomed the Open Sky lounge in Terminal C at Dusseldorf International Airport while in the US the Minute Suites facility at Charlotte NC Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is also new.

In Ukraine, Lviv International Airport now has two business lounges in Terminal A in the programme, one for international flights and one for domestic services. In Bulgaria, the airport lounge at Burgas Airport is another newcomer as of last month.

Qatar menus boost

Enhancements to Economy Class on-board menus, including an increase of 25% in content for all Economy Class hot meals, are being brought in by Qatar Airways in a phased introduction across the airline’s network from this month.

Newly-designed and larger casserole dishes have also been created while other additions include revamped Economy Class in-flight menus featuring new meals to be offered on medium- and long-haul routes.

The revamp follows the introduction by the carrier in May of what it calls a new on-board dining experience for premium passengers on European routes, including newly-designed tableware, in-flight menus, chinaware and cutlery.

The enhanced signature dishes and in-flight menus also feature regional influences and locally-sourced produce based on route destinations and in alignment with the four seasons.

Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is delighted to launch the latest on-board dining enhancements with a view to offering our passengers an even higher level of service and luxury.”

The airline, which serves a network of more than 150 key business and leisure destinations worldwide, is planning to add several new destinations this year, including Tallinn, Valletta, Langkawi and Da Nang.

SIA details 'Ultra' plans

Non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles using the new Airbus A350-900ULR are being launched by Singapore Airlines (SIA) in November. The airline is also increasing its existing daily non-stop Singapore – San Francisco services to 10 a week.

Together with the non-stop Singapore – New York services announced earlier (BTN 11 June), it means SIA will link Singapore and the US with 27 weekly non-stops by the end of this year.

Singapore – Los Angeles will begin on 2 November, served initially three times a week, with daily operations from 9 November 2018 after an additional A350-900ULR enters service.

From 7 December, a further three services a week will be added, lifting total non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles to 10 times per week. SIA’s one-stop service to Los Angeles via Seoul ends after 30 November.

SIA is also increasing frequency on the Singapore – San Francisco route with three more weekly flights from 28 November. Together with the current daily one-stop service via Hong Kong, San Francisco will also be served 17 times a week.

CEO Goh Choon Phong said: “Our US services have always been popular with our customers and we are pleased to be able to provide even more travel options as SIA becomes the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR.”

Swiss lounge redesign

A redesigned Lounge Centre A aimed mainly at short-haul travellers has been opened at Zurich Airport by Switzerland’s national airline Swiss. It includes both a Business and a Senator lounge with separate entrances and digital access control.

In addition to a traditional reception desk, each entrance has two automated entry gates permitting swift boarding-pass access. Inside, the new-look facilities adopt the same zonal concept used in Swiss’s existing Dock E lounges.

This enables guests to select the level of privacy to meet their specific needs, from lounge niches, a bar area with views of Zurich’s Airside Centre, workstations and individual offices to a relaxation room complete with inviting loungers.

Travellers wishing to freshen up before or after flights have access to showers accessible from either lounge, while food areas have been devised along market-hall lines, with each including both a large bistro section and a front cooking zone.

The centre is open from 05:30 to 22:30, with the Business Lounge available to all Business Class travellers on Swiss and the Lufthansa Group, Miles & More Frequent Travellers and Business Class travellers on other Star Alliance airlines.

The Senator Lounge is available exclusively to Miles & More Senators, Star Alliance Gold Members and First Class travellers on Star Alliance member airlines.

ON TOUR: Meetings Show thrives in London

Once again, regular contributor John Burke has taken himself and his camera to Olympia to what may now be the busiest opportunity for hosted buyers to evaluate conference products at home and abroad.

Now in its sixth year, the Meetings Show is firmly established for conference networking internationally, with the added prestige of being opened by the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Events. After cutting the ribbon, James Heappey MP joined 15 professionals in a discussion entitled A winning welcome; securing business for Britain. Discounting  the “short-term political uncertainty” of Brexit, he was upbeat, although he recommended a national approach to winning bookings, whether to Wales, Scotland or English regions.

The show itself testified to continued interest in Britain for both incoming and outgoing conference-goers. There were more than 700 exhibitors covering 136 countries, although many of these simply reflected operations by Liberty International or Moulden Marketing, just two of the 78 destination management companies at the show.  

Even so, international exhibitors occupied half of the Grand Hall, and included 17 of the 47 newcomers, ranging from Radisson to JG Collection and from Rwanda’s convention bureau to Italia Connection, which was among 75 destination management companies.

Meetings Show made a distinction between conference venues and centres for exhibitions or conferences, listing 58 and 48 respectively, although some sites or places were duplicated. A good 23 cities were represented by convention bureaux; they included Hamburg and Singapore as well as New York, Toronto and Vancouver.

Malaysia was among seven Asian countries directly represented, with Penang expanding its presence from two to eight representatives, led by Yasmin Bathanamathan. She expects to double the team next year. A couple of tourist boards were from South America, and the Gulf states had a solid presence, but continental resorts, venues and hotels loomed larger.

Spain and Italy were well represented, but the largest contingent was probably German, including the Steigenberger group highlightng its JAZ and MAXX brands. In fact, the show was dominated by 198 exhibitors from hotels, both independent and in groups, challenged to explain ever-changing ownership and differentiated marketing. 

 “We are educating buyers about the 20 brands among our 9,000 hotels in 80 countries”, said Ria Batson of Wyndham, while Michael Wiseman of Marriott spoke similarly about his group’s 6,000 establishments in 120 countries because the 30 brands range from Sheraton to Bulgari.

Barcelo was keen to project its stability since 1931 as a family business that runs  245 hotels in 22 countries, and the same went for Cairn Group, whose owner, Neeraj Handa, attended the show. His base, Newcastle/Gateshead, gets flights from Paris and Stavanger on top of the DFDS link to Amsterdam, and the venue initiated direct funding with Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester in 2015.

Venues of Excellence also had a stand to promote 44 sites that offer a total of 4,000 bedrooms and 900 meeting rooms in cities as far apart as Cambridge, Bristol and Glasgow. Other sites for gatherings included nine sports centres and 13 seats of learning in England and Scotland. Present for the second year running was Farnborough’s new show centre that has already hosted the Big One and Screwfix. 

Air Malta was among eight airlines represented, while a dozen exhibitors covered ground transport, but cruise lines have yet to make their debut. The other categories of exhibitor were providers of services such as and technological aids such as Shocklogic.   

How artifical Intelligence is disrupting the Event Industry and The Death of Traditional Conferences featured among 68 lectures or workshops, although one-to-one sessions have been dropped. The subjects ranged from catering to ticketing and from security to sustainability.

More than 2,000 professionals visited the show, and while official figures are awaited for the key indicator of hosted buyers (who have a special lounge), several exhibitors saw an upsurge. Vilnius reported  ten appointments for the first day alone, Conference Badges 14 and Newbury Racecourse 200.   

The unprecedented activity suggests an increase on last year’s total of 12,000 scheduled appointments, according to the show’s marketing manageress, Rochelle Jayawardena, who said: “We have cut the show from three to two days, offering intensified focus and concentrated space."

Organised by Centaur Live, the show has an advisory board of 17 members who include directors from Visit Britain and QEII Centre. There is also partnership with 52 bodies that range from the Event Marketing Association to the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers, while some of these are also numbered among 16 supporting associations.

Chief among the latter are the International Association of Congress Centres (IACC) and the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA). Thanks to a marketing award from the latter, Antwerp exhibited for free at this year's show.

AND FINALLY: Plain sailing

Our recent AND FINALLY accounts of passenger reactions to women pilots (BTN 2 July) and the man whose wedding clashed with the World Cup (BTN 25 June) reminded a reader of an advertisement he claims he saw in the classified section of a  newspaper in New England a while ago.

It read: “Wife wanted. Must have boat. Please send picture of boat.”