Thursday, 29 December 2011

Airline accident rate on course for record low

Statistics compiled by IATA show that the global airline accident rate for this year will be the lowest ever recorded. The global airline accident rate up to November was 52% lower than the average for the previous five years. The current rate for 2011 stands at 0.34 accidents per million flights.

Perry Flint of IATA believes that this is a 'long term trend' rather than 2011being 'some kind of anomaly.' The number of deaths is at its lowest level since 2006 with 486 people dying in air crashes up to November compared with the previous low of 502 in 2008.

The main contributing factor to the improved safety record over the past 20 years is the advancement of cockpit databases which give accurate readings of planes locations. This has lead to a reduction in planes hitting obstructions such as mountains and air collisions.

Africa remains the most dangerous region in which to fly with 3.93 accidents per
millions flights, a figure which is lower than the average for the previous five years in the region.

There were no serious accidents in Europe and North Asia this year, according to IATA. North America recorded one serious accident which occurred on 20th August and killed 12 people. The plane was operated by First Air in Quebec.

The most common type of serious accident in which it was 'sufficient to destroy a jet' is when planes go off the runway during take off or landing and this counts for 23% of recorded crashes.

The statistics do not include crashes involving private aircraft or deaths attributed to acts of terrorism.


Friday, 23 December 2011

Government to crack down on excessive card charges

A campaign by Which? appears to have resulted in a positive result for the consumer as the government has promised to crack down on excessive charges imposed by companies when booking items online.

Which? says that consumers pay £300m a year in card surcharges with airlines being the greatest offenders. We have all been there and felt annoyed when the charges keep creeping up and it is probably a good thing for the government to act in this way. However, the price that the consumer will end up paying once the charges are outlawed will not be any lower than they currently pay now. The effect of the change in policy will be higher ticket prices, higher luggage charges or to describe additional charges as 'administration fees' rather than 'credit card fee'. Ryanair have today come out and spoken to this effect regarding their 'administration fee' which they feel is a justifiable charge. It will be intriguing to see how that progresses.

A point that seems to be overlooked is the charges imposed by credit card companies to businesses that affect their daily business. Presumably they profit rather handsomely from the revenue of their fees? Maybe the Chancellor should look into how these charges along with increases in APD are affecting British businesses who are doing their best in difficult times. Travel companies are also at daily risk from fraud from customers. When this occurs the travel companies are often left exposed and to foot the bill for a fraudsters holiday. At times like this the protection offered from the banks is pitiful.

It is correct and proper that companies should not profit from credit card fees but fares wont be cheaper and the people who continue to profit will be the the banks.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Is First Choice really the 'Home of All Inclusive'?

It has been well documented that holiday giant First Choice has decided to move to being an all inclusive only operator and the recent excellent TV advert has boosted awareness further. Everyone here at Alihoco thought the advert was superb and our hats go off, for once, to some savvy advertising executives who were responsible.  

The advert has helped to reinforce the First Choice brand and to drive home their change in strategy and I am sure that this will be successful as people continue to book all inclusive holidays. As a fellow supplier of all inclusive only holidays, we have been monitoring First Choice to see the reaction to its new direction, its offerings and price points. The First Choice website is excellent and attractive to use. However, the problem for these behemoths with huge running costs is the selling price.

At Alihoco we have run some exact holiday price comparisons with First Choice holidays and the results showed significant price differences between companies. The first comparison that we ran was for two people to travel from Manchester to Tenerife from 22nd May – 1st June with accommodation at Gran Oasis Resort in Playa de Las Americas. The holiday included 20kg hold luggage per person and airport transfers.
  • First Choice Total Price -   £1512
  • Alihoco Total Price -          £1180
  • Alihoco cost saving -         £332
The second search that we ran was for a family of four to travel from London Gatwick to Ibiza from 12th – 20th July with accommodation at Tropic Garden Apartments in Santa Eulalia. The holiday included 20kg hold luggage and airport transfers.
  • First Choice Total Price -  £2540
  • Alihoco Total Price -         £2173   
  • Alihoco cost saving -         £367
The final search that we ran was for two people to travel from London Gatwick – Malta from 8th – 15th May with accommodation at Seashells Resort at Suncrest in Qawra. The holiday included 20kg of hold luggage per person and airport transfers.
  • First Choice Total Price -  £1126
  • Alihoco Total Price -         £930
  • Alihoco cost saving -         £196
It would be improper and incorrect of us to claim that every holiday is cheaper with Alihoco.  First Choice is very competitive when it comes to hotels which are solely operated by themselves and include flights operated by Thomson Fly and Thomson Airways. This is particularly true for some of their hotels in Dominican Republic and Cancun.

However, recent reports have found that more and more holiday makers will travel all inclusive and to traditional holiday destinations such as the Costa’s and the Canary Islands. Alihoco is able to offer the widest possible choice of hotels and with all airlines except Ryanair and for you to see how much each element of your holiday costs rather than one overall price.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Kingfisher Airlines grounds 15 planes as liquidity evaporates

Kingfisher Airlines have grounded 15 of its planes in a further sign of trouble for the airline. The latest report comes after it was reported that 100 of its pilots have quit the airline and creditors such as airports and oil companies have stopped extending credit to the airline.

The chairman of State Bank of India, Pratip Choudhuri which leads the consortium of Kingfisher lenders has said that 'We are trying to help Kingfisher'. Despite the trouble at Kingfisher, there are reports that the airline will receive lending of 2.5 billion rupees from Indian conglomerate Sahara and that this would assist greatly with Kingfisher's short term financial position.

If this was the case, Kingfisher may try and eliminate all competition in the Indian market as only one of India's six airlines currently makes a profit due to agressive price competition.

It is certainly a risky gamble by Sahara if they were to do this, as Kingfisher has never made a profit under the leadership of its flamboyant owner Vijay Mallya. Kingfishers share price has dropped by 67% since the start of 2010.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Hotel development booms prior to Olympics

The economic situation is showing no signs of dampening the opening of new hotels prior to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Budget hotel chain Travelodge has announced that it is to open a further 146 locations of which 65 will be based in the capital. Travelodge have managed to open 38 new hotels in 2011 and in prime real estate locations such as Liverpool Street, Covent Garden and Old Street. The chain have also developed in areas of natural beauty such as the Lake District and in their usual out of town destinations such as Ruislip.

The vast expansion has been put down to the chains ability to raise credit quickly compared with its rivals and to snap up lucrative sites to put it ahead of its competitors. Guy Parsons, the group CEO said "This, coupled with our ability to be flexible and innovative in terms of the development schemes we can undertake, ensures we are in a very strong position. The expansion of our target list reflects the confidence I have in the ability of our property team to move quickly and secure the best sites,”

The expansion of Travelodge represents an interesting issue going into 2012 and beyond. The first is if Travelodge will be able to maintain high occupancy rates after the Olympics. If they are unable to do this it could create problems in terms of paying back credit which has been easy to obtain. The group could also be affected adversely by fluctuations in the property market if they are to acquire sites at the wrong time. Despite the issues mentioned, the largest effect could be felt by independent hoteliers who are driven out of the market by the low price and convenience of Travelodge properties. We are constantly being told about the homogenisation of Britain's high streets and Travelodge will not slow down as an act of sympathy for the small business owners.

Time will tell if their business will continue to flourish or if there will be a steady backlash from British citizens and tourists who become tired of the same old hotel stays.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Egyptian tourism feeling chill compared with 2010

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The Christmas and New Year periods are usually a time for operators in the Red Sea to make profits to see them through the leaner periods but occupancy rates for this year are expected to be around 50% lower than levels in 2010.

The occupancy rates of around 20-25% are due to Egypt being hit badly by several key factors. The first being the January 2010 uprising to topple Hosni Mubarak and the continued uncertainty surrounding the future of the country which continues to rumble on with elections and violent clashes in November.

A further reason is a decline in the disposable income of potential travellers from UK and Eurozone where the enture region is clouded in a feeling of uncertainty over the economy and jobs.

Moataz Sedky, deputy director of tourism at Travco Travel which operates 48 hotels and resorts across Egypt thinks that 2011 has been a bad year:

'The Red Sea is mainly dependent on charter flights from European cities, English visitors, for example rank as number one tourists coming to the Red Sea, especially for Travco Group’s hotels. They usually fly first to Sharm El-Sheikh with a frequency of about 60 flights per week. This year, there are about 30 flights a week from the British market.'

The Red Sea has also been a popular destination for Russians but this has been damaged by banning travel to the area which continued for a few months after the revolution. The actions by the Russian governments have left a hangover for The Red Sea as it has damaged the reputation of the safety of the country.

Despite this, Moataz Sedky has reported a rise in new clients from areas such as Romania and Serbia due to the deals on offer 'but these are not our regular clients. Our regular clients are mainly from Britain, Germany, or Russia.'

Tourism revenue in Egypt is expected to reach around $9bn this year compared with $12.5bn in 2010.

The situation in Egypt represents an interesting case study of the situation of tourist areas in the world. It could be argued that tourism levels from 2006-2010 were artificially high and that too many hotels have been built for a realistic number of visitors. This will lead to tourism levels to decline or plateau.  Alternatively it could be that 2011 was a particularly bad year. The new Egyptian government will hope this is the case but maybe the boom years have been and gone.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

More high street woe: Thomas Cook to close 200 stores

This morning saw the release of Thomas Cook's trading figures, which made particularly grim reading. The £430m of writedowns has pushed the tour operator into a full-year pre-tax loss. The group have so far managed to re-coup funds through the sale of stakes in Spanish and Mexican hotels, National Air Traffic Service and reduction in the size of its aviation fleet.

Thomas Cooks restructuring is likely to be felt hardest in the UK as the operator will attempt to turn round it's business through the closure of 200 stores. This is particularly bad for the employees of these stores but also for Britain's high streets.

Mary Portas has recently unveiled an action plan to improve Britain's high street's but the closure of travel agents on high streets may not be entirely down to the reasons which she gives in her report. Unfortunately the traditional model of visiting your travel agent to book a holiday has now become outdated. Customers are able to learn more online about destinations and hotels than ever before and also have greater confidence in booking online.

A survey conducted by Alihoco found that 92% of people aged between 25-40 were happy to book a holiday online without talking to anyone or entering a shop. The results are not surprising as by booking online you are able to book at any time of day, in the comfort of your own home and to also directly compare prices between rival companies. It is also likely that the operating costs of online travel agents are lower than high street chains and the online agents are able to sell holidays at a lower cost which is often ultimately the deciding factor for customers.

The situation on Britain's high street certainly needs to be improved, but sadly it seems that it will have to do this without travel agents occupying as much space in Britain's towns.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Jet2 Survey: People to still holiday despite recession talk.

A study by Jet2 has found that people will not be deterred from holidaying despite talk of a double dip recession or the eurozone crisis. The study focused on 2012 plans with 28% of people thinking that a holiday is vital to their wellbeing, while 25% would forego other luxuries in order to have sufficient money to go on holiday.

The survey also found that popular Spanish destinations such as Alicante, Majorca and Malaga will remain popular along with Turkey and Crete. It is also expected that many Brits hope to flee the country during the Olympics with 64% saying that they would like to be on a beach rather than in the UK during this time.

What do you think? Do you see a holiday as a necessity or is it really a luxury to be enjoyed every few years?

Alihoco a FCO 'Know Before You Go' Partner


We are pleased and very proud to announce that Alihoco (The All Inclusive Holiday Company) has been made a partner of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign.

The stated purpose of the partnership is to bring together the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with key travel industry partners to help British nationals stay safe overseas.

Alihoco Managing Director, Tom Warsop said: “We are very proud to be made a partner in this important campaign and we support the FCO aims and messages fully.  The benefits that the ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign can bring to our customers and British tourists in general are vital to happy, trouble free traveling.”

About the Know Before You Go Campaign

Whatever your reason for travelling abroad, you’re sure to want a trouble free trip.  Many of the things that often go wrong for travellers can be prevented or made less stressful by taking a few simple precautions. So it makes sense to spend a little time getting prepared before you travel – you could save yourself a lot of problems later on.

With this in mind, we are working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to help British nationals stay safe abroad. The FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk/travel) offers straightforward travel advice, top tips and up to date country information to help you plan your holiday.

Tips include:

·       Make sure you have valid travel insurance, even if you’re only planning a short trip.
·       Check what vaccinations you need by visiting www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk, your travel health clinic or GP at least 6 weeks before you travel
·       Read up on your destination, including local laws and customs.
·       Make photocopies of your passport, visas and insurance details and leave a copy with a relative or friend at home.

You can also find handy checklists to use before you set off and whilst you’re away. Plus it’s worth reading up on what the local British Consulate can do to help you if you run into problems abroad – and what they can’t do.

For all this and more information, visit the FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk/travel. Or if you prefer, call the 24 hour FCO travel advice line on 0845 850 2829

Huge holiday complex planned for Magaluf

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Plans have been unveiled for a 'super-modern hotel' complex in Magaluf, Majorca. The complex is to be named the Sol Cavia Resort and will be implemented on land occupied by existing hotels after planning was granted for the complex. The work is to begin in winter 2012.

Jaime Martinez, the advisor of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism of Spain thinks that the project could be 'ideal' for the environment and investors as it will use existing hotel space.

The new resort will incorporate several functions including hotels, tourist attractions and shopping areas and hope that it will be the catalyst for an improvement to Magaluf which has been in decline in recent years. The projected costs for the resort is €130-140m and will be undertaken by Melia Hotel's the largest operator in Spain. Itwill be designed for 5000 people in total at the peak season.

The move is clearly good for Magaluf in the short term and the jobs that it will provide. I just hope that these large chains don't borrow too much to finance these projects and to exacerbate a culture of projects with the assistance of vast loans.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Traveller spends €50,000 on wine at duty free in Paris

An airline passenger has made a record purchase at Paris CDG Airport by buying six bottle of wine for €50,000. The six bottles included some of the most famous bottles in history with a bottle of Romanee Conti 1995, a Chateau Margaux 2003, two bottle of Chateau Lafitte 1982 and two bottle of Petrus 1980.

The purchaser was described as a shopper from 'the far east' and beat the previous record last year when a woman spend nearly €30,000 on three bottles of wine.

A spokesmand for CDG airport said that 'high quality wines sold better at the end of the year.'

More than a million bottles of wine and nearly 400,000 bottle of champagne are purchased from Paris' two airports each year.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Etihad Airways introduce chefs in first class cabins

Etihad Airways have introduced trained chefs in its first class cabins on board flights to London, Sydney, Melbourne and Paris. There are to be further destinations launched by early 2012.

The implementation of chefs comes after an announcement in May and the recruitment of 110 chefs who will be dedicated to the diners in its Diamond First Class cabins. The chefs will prepare dishes from a pre-stocked pantry which includes the finest cuts of meat, sauces, spices and fresh vegetables. Etihad have also timed the change with the introduction of a new menu now called The Mezoon Grille. Passengers will now be able to choose from six meat and seafood options, four sauces and four side options all prepared to order.

Commenting on the move, Lee Shave, Etihad Airways' Vice President said: "By introducing First Class Chefs and refocusing our unique Food and Beverage Managers in business class, Etihad Airways has created the most robust inflight culinary team in the skies. We have consistently elevated our inflight dining experience by putting culinary experts in airline roles as opposed to airline experts in culinary roles. In this way, our innovative team is challenging industry standards and finding new ways to bring a fine dining restaurant experience to our guests, both on ground and in air."

Very cool!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Duty free scammers jailed

Two airport workers who stole more than £16,000 worth of duty free goods to sell in a pub was jailed on Monday.

John Hedley and John Christie were responsible for stocking duty free trollies at Heathrow Airport but instead helped themselves to the items. The pair smuggled out items including jewellery, perfume and watches and sold the items at a nearby pub. Hedley and Christie were each jailed for 12 months at Isleworth Crown Court.

It is thought that the pair would store the items in their van before taking the remainging stock on board to be sold in flight. On 26th November the pair were arrested at the Three Crowns Pub and £9,500 worth of goods were found in the back of Christie's car.

Both pleaded guilty to their offences.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

easyJet to trial specialist volcanic ash detector

A Norwegian inventor is in the final stages of developing a specialist detector which will give accurate readings of the level of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. Dr Fred Prata has created the Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector (or Avoid) in the hope that it will detect dangerous ash if it is in the atmosphere or if a volcanic eruption has occured. It will then test that it is either unsafe to fly or fine to operate and not cause huge disruption to passengers and the aviation industry.

Avoid has been created after easyJet contacted the Norwegian Institute for Air Research who pleaded for a rational approach to dealing with ash clouds.The tubular devices will be attached to the wings of aircraft and operate through infrared radiation to find where an ash cloud is, giving the pilot time to fly around it. It will also use satellite data and atmospheric modelling to create a comprehensive picture of where ashclouds are and in which direction they will move.

Explaining the device, Dr Fred Prata said: "It has two fast-sampling thermal infrared cameras which make images of anything that's in front of the aircraft. The two cameras have been tuned to see the signature of silicates, which are the components that make up volcanic ash. They're able to see silicates up to 100km – maybe more – away if you're flying at 33,000ft, and that information can be relayed straight back to the pilot in the cockpit and he's able to see volcanic ash in the atmosphere ahead of the aircraft and manoeuvre around it."

Avoid has so far been used for around 30 hours of testing around Mt Etna but not yet attached to a passenger jet and this is likely to be the true test of the device. If this can be done and approval granted by the European Aviation Safety Agency, easyJet will start using the technology from summer 2012.

It is hoped that the technolgy will allow the industry to deal better with the an eruption should Katla eventually erupt.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Westin Hotels launch in Abu Dhabi

Luxury hotel chain Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. have today announced the launch of The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa in the emirate. The hotel features 172 guest rooms, several restaurants amd lounges as well as being located along the fairways on the Abu Dhabi Golf Course.

The hotel is also in an excellent location to down town and five miles from the vast exhibition centre. The property has been opened in conjunction with the Tourism Development & Investment Company who develop cultural, residential and tourism destinations in Abu Dhabi.

Roeland Vos, the 'grand fromage' of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Europe, Africa and Middle East is clearly pleased at the development:  “We are excited to introduce the Westin brand in Abu Dhabi in association with the Tourism Development & Investment Company and with this opening, we hope to elevate the emirate’s position as a leading tourism destination in the region. We believe that the hotel will be a leading wellness retreat in Abu Dhabi’s emerging centre.”

Good luck with the venture!

Alec Baldwin kicked off plane for playing game on phone

Actor Alec Baldwin was ordered off a plane yesterday at Los Angeles Airport after having an argument with a flight attendant over a word game he was playing on his mobile phone. The actor was asked to get off the plane which was bound for New York for playing the game Words with Friends while the plane waited at the gate.

Baldwin's spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik said: "He loves 'Words with Friends' so much that he was willing to leave a plane for it." Hiltzik said that Baldwin left the plane and boarded another American Airlines flight to New York.

This was not the end of the matter as Baldwin took to his twitter page to mock American Airlines flight attendants by saying its - 'where Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950's find jobs as flight attendants.'

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sir Stelios to launch Fastjet in Africa

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has announced that he is to bring his brand of low cost travel to Africa. The airline will operate under the Fastjet brand which was launched in September. The popular entrepreneur will take a 5% stake in the venture which will be funded by Rubicon, a London based investment fund. His stake in the venture could rise to 10% if the brand is to grow and be established for 10 years.

When Fastjet was created it was seen to be a direct rival to easyJet with whom Haji-Ioannou is having a fractional relationship despite owning 38% of the budget carrier. It was foolish of those including myself to think that Haji-Ioannou would bite the hand that has paid him handsomely and the move into Africa could be a masterstroke.

Commenting on the move, Sir Stelios said: "Africa must now represent the final frontier of this aviation revolution, which started in the US in the 70s and which I was proud to have led in Europe in the 90s."

Haji-Ioannou will receive £80,000 per month from Rubicon for his expertise. The move by Rubicon will not be completely new as the venture will be run with Lonrho who already control the African airline Fly540 and a stake in the market.

The move is likely to earn Sir Stelios further revenue as Lonrho have already signed up to use easyHotel brand on a chain of 50 hotels to be opened across Africa by 2016.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Air France in budget flight fight back

Air France have announced that they are to launch 16 new routes from Toulouse from April 2012. The new routes will see the national carrier fly to destinations such as Berlin, Prague and Vienna in an attempt to fend off and capture easyJet's market.

The 16 new routes will create 28 in total from Toulouse. The move marks further progress after the airline set up a hub in Marseille and a further six routes from Nice.

Air France hope that the new hubs will contribute an estimated €950 in sales in 2012. Commenting on the move, Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said 'The idea is to add the best practices of low-cost carriers, with the full services of Air France and attractive fares.'

This investment is in contrast to airlines cost cutting measures that are currently taking place. These cost cutting measures include refurbishing business-class cabins in the Boeing 777 fleet rather than new aircraft. They also
plan to utilise Airbus SAS A320 aircraft in Toulouse which can fly for 11hrs 30 minutes a day compared with being used for 8 hours and 15 minutes whilst in paris.

The airline's low cost traffic accounts for around 24% of the national market which is around half of similar operators in Germany and Spain. The ploy by Air France will be an attempt to replicate Germanwings and Vueling SA. However, It looks as though Air France could be in for a battle as easyJet have also announced that they are to dedicate two Airbus A319 planes to its bases in Toulouse and Nice.




Look's like their will be plenty of choice!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

CAA takes specialist advice over Thomas Cook situation

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has hired US firm Alvarez & Marsal to offer advice on how to handle a major insolvency should the situation at Thomas Cook worsen.

It is a sensible move by CAA as despite receiving £2.50 per passenger as ATOL protection, a problem with a major player such as Thomas Cook would put the CAA under huge financial strain. The organisation is still estimated be £40m in debt after the collapse of large operators such as XL, Goldtrail and Holidays 4U.

A similarly serious prospect for Thomas Cook is for CAA to revoke the airlines Air Operator's Certificate (AOC). This could potentially happen if Thomas Cook's financial problems pose a threat to aircraft safety.

The final risk that A&M is likely to be helping the CAA with is if Thomas Cook was to be broken up as part of a restructure programme. The CAA will be keen to protect their own interests and ensure that its income from their scheme will be protected and maintained should such a process take place.

Commenting on the issue, the CAA were predictably cagey: "We never comment on the financial position of any ATOL holder. Anybody who books an ATOL-protected holiday in the UK can be confident their money is fully protected by the CAA."

Friday, 2 December 2011

Passengers to pay additional tax on flights already purchased

Following on from George Osborne's speech this week, it has been announced that passengers who have already bought tickets which depart after 1st April 2012 will be required to pay the additional APD on their fares.

Airlines are expected to collect the money from passengers and the cost will depend on flight duration and class of travel. APD on economy short-haul flights will rise £1 from £12 to £13. Tax on destinations in Band B will increase £5 from £60 to £65. APD on flights to destinations such as the Caribbean and Thailand will increase £6 from £75 to £81. The destinations furthest afield will be required to pay £7 extra if they have an economy class ticket.

Passengers in premium classes will be required to pay double these rates.

Commenting on the issue, Julie Southern of Virgin Atlantic said - “It’s completely unacceptable that millions of passengers now face an additional tax bill on tickets they have already paid for. We have been warning the government for months of the impact this will have and urged them to avoid this unnecessary situation. Hundreds of thousands of passengers have already booked travel with us after April 1, meaning millions across the industry are likely to be impacted. People would never be expected to pay extra duty for the petrol already in their cars or wine in their fridge. Why does the Treasury think it acceptable to retrospectively charge airline passengers?”

What do you think? Will the coalition get another term at this rate? They seem to be upsetting just about every section of society!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

American Airlines insist Boeing and Airbus order still 'rock solid'despite bankruptcy

American Airlines announced plans five months ago to buy 460 planes from Airbus and Boeing in a deal worth £24.7bn, with a further option to buy an additional 465 planes. Despite this weeks news of filing for financial protection, the airline insists that it will still proceed with the worlds largest order of commercial aircraft.

The airline filed for bankruptcy protection after it's fourth consecutive yearly loss attritubed to high fuel process and large staff costs. Commenting on the situation, Tom Horton, Chief Executive of American Airlines said - "When we're completed with this process, our company will be competitive and poised to grow and prosper and capitalise on these aircraft orders,"

Mr Horton's optimism is encouraging but the deal is likely to be out of his hands and at the mercy of a New York bankruptcy court. Part of the bankruptcy is the court's power to reaffirm or reject contracts that require spending a troubled company's money during the 18 months after Chapter 11 reorganisation.

Commeting on the likely outcome, Stephen Selbst of New York law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP said: "The court would be extremely reluctant to approve entering into a new agreement at a time when the shape and direction of the reorganisation plan is uncertain."

It appears that American Airlines are in a problematic situation where their current fleet is inefficient and unattractive to consumers but need new planes to attract business and operate cost effectively.

Time will tell what will happen with the iconic airline.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hilton Hotel's plan expansion and new jobs for 1,500 people

Hilton Hotel's have announced plans to open over 20 new hotels in the UK which will create jobs for 1,500 people. The move in Britain is part of a wider plan to open 110 new hotels across Europe by 2014.

Hilton have made plans for hotels in areas including Lincoln and Burton upon Trent. The property in Burton on Trent will sit alongside the new National Football Centre and the area will also see budget Hampton by Hilton operate from this site. 

Simon Vincent, Hilton's area president, Europe, said:  "While unemployment figures in Europe continue to rise, Hilton Worldwide is experiencing an exciting period of growth which will see us continue to offer a wealth of rewarding career options."

Business jet passengers receive extended APD reprieve

Despite the government introducing a hike in APD for commercial passengers, it has been revealed that those travelling by private jet will not have to pay Air Passenger Duty on aircraft until 2013.

The tax was due to be implemented in April 2012 but has now been moved to the following. Commenting on the news, The British Air Transport  ssociation which represents airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Ryanair described the move as 'unfair.'

Chief Executive Simon Buck said: “It is a year's grace for the wealthy man in the business jet, but for millions of people who cannot afford to fly by business jet, they will have to pay APD increases at twice the rate of inflation from April next year. How is that fair?”

What planet are you on George?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Willie Walsh lambasts PM over lack of aviation policy

Willie Walsh, the chairman of IAG, last night went on the offensive to David Cameron for having 'no policy on aviation.'

Mr. Walsh is particularly upset that British Airports are being overtaken by foreign competitors due to our inhibitive aviation taxes. Britain's Air Passenger Duty tax has been raised at twice the rate of inflation which makes it the highest taxed aviation industry in the world.

Going further with his criticism, Willie Walsh said: "When Cameron went to China, he said we need to establish trade links and announced a Rolls-Royce deal worth £740m for engines to a China Eastern airline. But while he rightly praises Rolls-Royce, he fails to recognise that Rolls-Royce's success and growth is on the back of China's investment in aviation. The Chinese see aviation as a building block of growth. But this government has no policy on aviation. Cameron will not even acknowledge the link between Rolls-Royce and British aviation (it is as if one is divorced from the other)."

"China has built 45 airports and, by 2020, it will have built a further 52. Or look at the Middle East: Dubai was 99th in the league table of world airports; last year it was 14th; today it is 4th and, by 2014, it will leapfrog Heathrow for the No 1 slot. China, Dubai, Brazil – wherever you look, they are taking advantage of our lack of ambition. These economies are investing in aviation the way the Victorians invested in railways."

The airlines chief goes on to make a comparitive costs of a family of four flying in economy to Australia before and after the potential tax rise. Current taxes would see the family pay £680 in APD but in 2015 would be required to pay £979 if the taxes increases were put in place. There are no taxes in place for people flying from China and the Middle East and these countries are seen to be growing at the fastest rate. Countries such as Holland, Denmark and Norway are countries which imposed aviation taxes and subsequently scrapped them due to the damage they caused to their economies.

Take the hint Mr. Cameron!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Thomas Cook share price bounces back

Shares in Thomas Cook have bounced back this morning after news over the weekend that the company have received additional financial assistance of £100m.

Shares were as low as 9p on Tuesday but were the biggest riser on the FTSE 250 index this morning of the 30p. Anyone who better that the firm would be rescued at that point and bought shares would have tripled their money. It is believed that short-sellers in the market who targeted Thomas Cook made gains of more than £60m in the last five months as more than 85% has been wiped off the value of the company.

Despite the slight games, analyst Nick Batram of Peel Hunt believes that the shares are best avoided -

"As expected the banks have stepped up to the plate, and this is to be welcomed. However, a recapitalisation of the business is still likely to be painful for equity investors. Trading was challenging enough, but this could have been further exacerbated by the events of the past week. We continue to believe that the shares are best avoided."

Everyone here at Alihoco hopes that Thomas Cook remains steady for a long time.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Public sector strike to create major disruption at Heathrow

The COO of Heathrow Airport has warned airlines that public sector strikes on Wednesday could caused potential 'gridlock'.

Norman Boivan has written a letter to all airlines which says: "The delays at immigration are likely to be so long that passengers could not be safely accommodated within the terminals and would need to be held on arriving aircraft. This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations or departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft. Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers."

In order to relieve the potential strain on the airport, Boivan has asked airlines to half capacity of international flights as immigration staffing levels are likely to be between 30-50% and that most staff would have no experience and little training. One of the main problems is that during previous strikes, border agency managers continued in their role and worked, however these employees are also expected to strike on Wednesday.

An additional major worry is nearly 100 long-haul services are due to arrive  at Heathrow before 9.00am on Wednesday. In light of the potential disruption BA have allowed to switch flights free of charge and Virgin Atlantic have also allowed passengers to change flights four days either side of 30th November.

What do you think about the strike and pensions issue?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Las Vegas takes gamble in uncertain times with new airport terminal

Las Vegas official's have decided to continue with expanding the city's airport despite it being affected by the global downturn.

Plans were made for a $2.4bn new airport terminal when Las Vegas' popularity showed little sign of slowing down. Rather than taking stock the Las Vegas big wigs have decided to 'go for broke' and attract additional visitors to the gambling mecca.

It is hoped that the new terminal will allow flyers to use Las Vegas as a hub to fly onto further destinations or as a stopover destination for people to enjoy as a short break. The new terminal will also promote itself on processing passengers faster than nearby airports such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The additional terminal at Las Vegas McCarran Airport will boost capacity up to 53 million passengers per years and allow more than 20 airlines to operate at the airport. One of the major players in the new plans is Korean Air who fly passengers directly from Seoul three times per week with a view to moving to daily flights.

John Jackson III, VP of Sales for Korean Air Americas said - "We see Las Vegas not just as an origin and destination point, but also as another hub for us. We aim to connect passengers from Salt Lake, from Denver, from Phoenix, from Albuquerque via Las Vegas when they're going to Seoul," Jackson said. "And on the other end of the Pacific, connecting Seoul to one of those 80-something destinations that are served nonstop from Seoul."

One person who does not think that the expansion plan is a good idea is Mo Garfinkle, CEO of GCW Consulting who specialize in aviation markets in China and other Asian markets - "I wouldn't call the new terminal a white elephant, but it's going to be quite empty for a long time if they're looking for flights to Asia. The Asians don't need to come to Las Vegas to get Las Vegas-style gambling,"


No risk, no reward!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rock star vows to resurrect failed airline

Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, has vowed to ressurect an airline which has gone into administration. Dickinson has risen to prominence in the last few years as a pilot for Astraeus Airlines and was at the helm for the airlines last flight from Jeddah to Manchester.

The rocker is forming a plan to resurrect the airline or to start a new brand utilising the existing staff and aircraft. Dickinson also claims to have received contact from a 'number of prospective investors.'  Commenting on the issue, Dickinson said:

"I'm extremely upbeat about these opportunities, particularly the potential for a revival, in some form, of Astraeus. The enthusiasm is also fuelled by the deluge of messages I received from the second I switched on my phone after landing the last Astraeus flight on Monday, and, of course, the interest of a number of prospective investors. I will be back at the controls of a commercial airliner before I am very much older - but I may also be at the controls of the company that operates that airliner, and others like it."

The airline has been in operation since 2002 but has blamed its downfall on lower business than forecast over Summer 2011 and prospective bookings for Winter 2012.

Dickinson famously flew Iron Maiden, their crew and equipment on the bands world tour on their own Boeing 757, Ed Force One which is named after the band's mascot 'Eddie.'

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hotelier's blackmailed by clients who threaten with poor TripAdvisor reviews

It has been reported that guests of hotel's and B&B's are blackmailing hoteliers with the threat of writing poor reviews on TripAdvisor in order to obtained free upgrades or compensation. The report shows that more than 80 hoteliers have been subjected to threats from customers.

Examples of threats include requests for 50 per cent discount when a guest checks-in in order to prevent a 'one star review' while other cases involve guests reporting false cases of food poisioning and theft.

A post from the TripAdvisor's own message board from one owner reads: "I am fed up of blackmail by guests either asking for upgrades and promising to put a good report on trip advisor (sic) or people who complain stating if we don't get our money back + compensation I will put a bad review on."

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for TripAdvisor said: "We take allegations of blackmail or threatening behaviour by guests against property owners very seriously. Not only is it strictly against our guidelines, but it may also be illegal."

Monday, 21 November 2011

Knock Knock, who's there? Ryanair!

Budget airline Ryanair have announced that they are to open four new routes from Knock Airport in Co Mayo.

The new destinations will be Barcelona, Frankfurt, Milan and Paris and the airline hopes that the new routes will take their annual passenger numbers past the 500,000 barrier to and from Knock. The move is also good news for the local economy in Knock as it is proposed that it will create 500 jobs in the region when launch takes place in Summer 2012.

Joe Gilmore, Managing Director of Ireland West Knock Airport is clearly pleased at the new development -
"We are delighted to welcome these four new 2012 routes to and from some of Europe's biggest tourism markets. In 2012, Ryanair will deliver over 600,000 seats to and from Knock, providing low-cost direct access for European tourists to the beautiful west coast of Ireland, which will boost tourism in this region."

The new destinations added by Ryanair takes the total number of routes to 14.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Fancy watching Corrie at 32,000 ft? Better fly Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways have announced that they have done a deal with Panasonic to provide live in-flight televison on board its long-haul aircraft. The deal is to last 10 years and is valued at more than $1bn to the technology company. It will see its eX2 and eX3 IFEC systems installed on 100 new planes in addition to the 16 aircraft that are already equipped with the technology.

The state of the art systems offer broadband internet and live TV for passengers on board and will be seen on future Etihad Airbus A380s, Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A350 XWBs. 

Commenting on the move, Etihad CEO James Hogan said: “It is essential that we offer the most engaging and dynamic in-flight entertainment for our guests – especially on long-haul flights."

Which programme could you not live without whilst you were on holiday?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Aviation heavyweights go on attack over APD

Four of the world's leading airlines have called for the government to scrap Air Passenger Duty over claims that it is more damaging to the economy than the revenues that it provides to the treasury.

In what has been dubbed 'Axe The Tax' campaign the chief executives of Ryanair, IAG, eayJet and Virgin Atlantic publicly signed a ltter to George Osborne, challenging him to conduct an independent review of the economic impact of APD. The main strands to the argument include that the tax is damaging leisure and business tourism, potential jobs and putting of foreign investors.

Commenting on the isse, Willie Walsh said: “This is the probably the first time the chief executives representing Ryanair, Virgin, British Airways and easyJet have ever sat down together and that shows how important this is to us. It's an issue that goes beyond the fierce rivalry that exists between us.  Passengers numbers at UK airports have fallen in the last three years and are now at a lower level than 2004. In 2010, there were 7.4 million fewer passengers using UK airports while numbers using European airports increased by 66.3 million."

Michael O'Leary of Ryanair used an example of a similar tax in the Netherlands in 2008/2009 which was abandoned after 12 months as the £300 million revenue it produced was dwarfed by the £1.2 billion damage that is was estimated to have caused the economy. Similar schemes were alse scrapped in Belgium, Denmark and Norway.

Steve Ridgway of Virgin Atlantic said that a prime example of people being put off the UK can be seen in the 3 million of Chinese vistors who travel to Europe and only 175,000 who travel to the UK. He added that the value of spending by Chinese tourists would far outweigh the revenue received in APD

In the letter the 'Axe The Tax' campaign details how all people will be affected by the tax and not just the wealthy and business people - “For hard-working families, APD is a tax too far for the privilege of taking a well-earned holiday. It is also a tax on tourism and a tax on business. Aviation doesn’t just drive exports - it is a major exporter in its own right with our airlines earning nearly £11 billion of foreign revenues every year. Tourism is one of the UK’s most important earners and is worth £115 million to the UK economy.”

The Chancellor's statement forecast will be made on 29th November and it is expected that APD is to rise from £12 per passenger to £16 per passenger for flights up to 2,000 miles for flights after 1st April 2012.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

China's luxury hotel boom threatened by low occupancy rates

I previously reported on China's booming hotel sector and how it had become a magnet for some of the world's most prestigious hotel chains. Recent figures have shown that occupancy rates are at the lowest in Asia after India and that occupancy in Shanghai stood at around 50% compared with 80% for Singapore and Hong Kong.

Nigel Summers, a director at Hong-King based Howarth Asia-Pacific which tracks the hospitality industry believes that the offering is at saturation point:

“Hotels in some markets of China are clearly oversupplied in the next three to five years, and they won’t be generating good returns, China has had a very strong demand. The question is whether the increase in demand is going to be big enough to handle all the new hotels.”

One chain who show no sign of stopping is Hilton who plan to have 100 hotels in the country by 2014, four times as many as they currently have in operation. Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc have also said that one in four of all future hotels that it opens will be in China.

The hotels in China that seem to be faring better are those at the budget end of the market. Home Inns & Hotel Management Inc who operate 1,004 properties had an occupancy rate of 94% in third quarter while 7 Days Group Holdings filled 85.5% of rooms at its 838 properties. The rates at Home Inn's in Shanghai cost approximately £25 per night compared with £250 at Hilton in Jingan district of Shanghai.

One area that looks like to struggle is Tianjin which has a population of 9.8 million and a hotel occupancy rate of 45%. There are plans to double the amount of hotel space in the next three years with no guarantee of increased vistitors. One possible reason for these development projects between global hotel chains and local business people is the kudos attracted with owning a prestigious property such as a hotel rather than projects which make sound business sense.

The move may also be of risk to shareholders of the chains and Ricco de Blank CEO of the worlds biggest developer Sun Hung Kai Properties thinks that chains "Carry the risk of diluting their brands. It’s a worry just to see all these brands going to China and other places in Asia at such a rapid race because they can’t go anywhere else, and Wall Street is expecting certain growth.”

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Las Vegas hotel failing to attract gamblers

One of Las Vegas' newest hotels is said to be struggling for a fundamental reason - its lack of gamblers. The $3.6bn Cosmopolitan Hotel has reported a loss of $58.4 million in the third quarter of the year.

Hotel revenue for the Cosmopolitan Hotel during the third quarter was $49.3 million, food and beverage revenue at $68.9 million and gambling revenue stood at a figure of just $23.8 million. The issue with the gambling revenue lies in its 'hold percentage' or the amount it makes from gamblers which stood at 7.6%. This figure lies well below industry norms and projections of between 12-15%. The Cosmopolitan hopes that its new areas for high rollers 'The Talon Club' will reverse these figures and provide income on a similar level to other hotels on the strip.

Further reasons for the third quarter loss include costs attributed to promotion of the new property in a highly competitive market during the recession.

Tired of passport control? You better go by private jet

The saga involving Home Secretary Theresa May continues to rumble on as leaked emails have shown that thousands of passengers travelling by private jet were allowed into the UK without going through immigration or customs.

The emails also reveal the selectivity of the checks as staff were given a list of postcodes to check against every new passport application or renewal. The applicants who lived in 'higher risk' areas face several weeks additional delay to receive their passports. The only areas in London not deemed to be at risk are postcodes that begin with WC and EC, the most central and prosperous areas in the city. Emails also show that women over 50 are deemed to be less risk.

In addition to this leaked emails have shown that from March 2 2011 anyone on a private charter did not have to show their passports and could bypass customs. Figures estimated there to be approximately 80,000 private flights each year.

The Home Office refused to comment on the pilot scheme last night. What do you think? Is this common sense or a policy that is dangerous to national security?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Emirates sign jumbo sized order with Boeing

Emirates airlines has placed the largest value order in Boeing's history. The order will see Boeing produce fifty Boeing 777-300 with an option for a further twenty of the same aircraft with a total value of $26 billion. The latest sign off is in addition forty 777-300 already on order with the maufacturer.

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group said:

"This affirms our strategy to expand our long haul destinations and continue to excel as a world leading carrier, connecting the world to Dubai and beyond. The Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft plays a pivotal role in Emirates development of a modern fleet to meet the demand for global air travel for the future."

The sign off was completed yesterday during a ceremony at the Dubai Air Show bu (H.H) Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, and Jim Albaugh, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Kingfisher Airlines heading for business turbulence

Kingfisher Airlines look likely to be in business trouble after its shares slumped 18 percent to an all time low today. The airline has continued to cancel flights and reports suggest that lease companies were planning to take planes back from the airline.

Todays news comes six weeks after Kingfisher decided to stop its low cost service Kingfisher Red due to it having an unviable business plan. The services that remain in place are based on full fare seats and not the heavily discounted model that it had previously been run on. This has been put in business jargon by Kingfisher Chairman Vijay Mallya who said: 'No shutdown, only ensuring loss minimization by a flight rationalization and enhanced revenue through reconfiguration of aircraft.'

The airline has never made a profit since it began in 2005 and had tried to receive private investment in 2008 and 2009 but failed to attract sufficient interest. It appears that the he only way out for Kingfisher would be to sell a stake in the carrier to another airline which is against currently against Indian law. Despite this, India's industry secretary secretary said last month that the government is likely to approve a plan to allow foreign airlines to buy stakes in Indian carriers.

Fancy it Mr. O'Leary?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Foreign Office's strangest requests revealed

The British Foreign Office have today revealed some of the strangest requests received by members of the general public. Over the past six months staff have had a request from a man stranded at the airport by his dominatrix (a citizen in trouble after all) to more bizarre requests such as a Spanish couple asking for Prince Charles' shoe size so that they could send a pair of shoes to him as a present.

Further unusual requests to consular staff include:
  • A caller asked staff in Malaga in mid-September where she could get a Christmas lunch as everywhere was already booked up
  • Staff in Greece were asked for tips on the best fishing spots and where to purchase good bait
  • A man called the consulate in Florida to report that there were ants in his holiday villa and asked for advice on what he should do
  • A lady complained to the embassy in Moscow about a loud buzzing noise in her apartment
  • A man asked a consulate in Greece for information on how to go about putting a chicken coop in his garden
Commenting on the issue, Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "Our priority is to help people in real difficulty abroad and we cannot do this if our time is diverted by people trying to use us as a concierge service.
We need to be able to focus primarily on helping victims of serious crimes, supporting people who have been detained or assisting people who have lost a loved one abroad."

The Foreign Office dealt with over 19,000 cases of genuine assistance to it citizens in 2010 and a new call centre was opened in Malaga in the same year which is said to have made significant difference in non consular enquiries.

Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fairmont hotel dip's toe in all inclusive water

Fairmont Hotels have announced that they are to test an all inclusive style policy at their luxury Fairmont Mayakobe Riviera Maya property in Mexico.

The move is a first for Fairmont Hotels and is a sign that no matter how wealthy its customers, there is no escaping the demand and allure of a one price holiday to cover the majority of costs.

The hotel's manager Ian Robinson doesn't expect the new packages to be the norm for its guests but is an important option to have available "We noticed since the recession that we're losing some ground to some of the more upscale all-inclusives, and we want our market share back."

The Fairmont Mayakoba is located in Riviera Maya where approximately 75% of hotels are all inclusive. Other properties in the area that are not all inclusive are from the major high end chains such as Ritz Carlton, Westin and Intercontinental.

The all inclusive package at the hotel suggests that a family of four could save $311 per day if they were to dine in the hotels standard restaurants and stick to entry level drinks produced by premium brands such as Johnny Walker or Absolut vodka.

If the all inclusive experiment goes well at Fairmont Mayakoba it could be the start of all inclusive being opened up to Fairmont's other properties in sunny holiday destinations.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Antigua and Barbuda to get new airport

Plans for a new airport for Antigua and Barbuda were unveiled at World Travel Market today and will be open for business by the end of 2013. The new facility will receive investment of $43 million to make the process of entering the island more efficient and impressive.

John Maginley, the island's Minister of Tourism said that the current airport built 30 years ago is not able to withstand the large number of vistitors and further strict regulations imposed on travel today.

Maginley has also taken the opportunity to vent his frustration at the effect of APD on vistors to the island's. Commenting he said “The income it brings the UK government is hard for them to walk away from, and I understand that, but we have come up with a way for it to be fairer with a small increase for short haul and everyone else in band B. The argument is that people are still travelling but because it is more expensive those people are spending less time in resort and spending less money when there – it is damaging Caribbean economies.”

Here here John!

World's most boring cruise unveiled

Forget silver seas, pink seas or celebrity seas, MSC Cruises have announced that they are to launch thin cruises with the help of Dr Pierre Dukan, one of  the worlds most famous nutritionists. From January 2012 Dr Dukan will host the event which will aim to allow customers to shed weight, tone up and tan during an 11 day
cruise in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean.

The cruise is aimed at French speaking guests and will be run on the flagship MSC Fantasia. On board the boat will be a team of nutritionists, dieticians and a specialist physician as well as Dr Dukan. The highlight of the cruise is said to be the 'opportunity' to meet Dr Dukan himself at an onboard party.

In addition to this guests will receive a Diet Kit and undergo a personal health assessment at the start of the cruise before being advised on their individual diet and training programmes.

Erminio Eschena, General Director of MSC Cruises is pleased at the partnership: 'Mealtimes are one of the most luxurious features of cruise holidays. It is a time to relax and effortlessly enjoy an array of the finest gourmet gastronomy the world has to offer and Dr Dukan will be able to illustrate how our superb menus can be incorporated as part of a healthy and balanced diet programme.'

I've asked around the Alihoco office and were not particulary keen. Has anyone seen the crunch creams?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ryanair set to make higher profits than forecast

Budget airline Ryanair has raised its full-year net profit forecasts by 10 per cent on the back of strong results in first six months of the financial year. The strong figures show increased revenues of 11 per cent per passenger due to higher average fares and additional fees for items such as reserved seating and online payment charges.

The figures remain particularly impressive from a business point of view as operating costs have risen more than twice as quickly with fuel prices being the main contributor to overall costs. Ryanair have since announced that they are grounding planes as a response and reducing traffic by 4 per cent over the second half of the financial year.

Ryanair Chief Michael O'Leary commenting on the news said - “Ryanair’s capacity cuts will mean that traffic in H2 will fall by 4 per cent. In November, for example, we expect to report a traffic decline of 10 per cent or almost 500,000 passengers as we ground up to 80 aircraft due to higher oil prices.”

Despite this the full year profits have been estimated at €440m, up 10 percent from previous forecasts of €400m.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Drug dealer on cruise liner jailed

A drug dealer has been jailed after being found guilty of supplying drugs on board the world's largest gay cruise. Steven Barry Krumholz from California has been sentenced to 21 months after he was caught on board the 5,400 capacity ship with 142 ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, a small amount of ketamine, and $51,000 in cash.

Krumholz was arrested in February when Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was docked in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. The Allure of the Seas was chartered by Atlantis Events and was billed as the world's largest gay cruise.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Monarch to focus on short and medium haul flights

Monarch Airlines have today confirmed that they are to change strategy and remain focused on short and medium-haul flights. The airline hopes to increase passenger numbers on existing flights and new routes by 40% from seven to ten million in order to expand its way out of trouble.

One company who will be disgruntled by the news is Boeing who were told in September that Monarch's order of six 787's was to be cancelled. Monarch Group Chairman Iain Rawlinson has put off cheap long-haul leisure flying as they are deemed to be uneconomic with the current price of fuel.

The new strategy by Monarch seems to be to consolidate their strengths and focus on the Mediterranean and Canaries whilst using only two or three similar types of aircraft with more efficient planes being brought in over time.

The airline is also to introduce 14 new routes in 2012 to Italy, Croatia and Greece.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Terrorism warning to be shown in 1.2m American hotel rooms

The Dept of Homeland Security (DHS) has done a deal with LodgeNet which will allow a 15 second terrorism security advert to be broadcast in 1.2m hotel rooms across America.

LodgeNet provides the TV content to large hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and Holiday Inn. The clip shows a man acting suspiciously with a package in the boot of a cab before moving away from the vehicle. The advert then ends with the DHS slogan 'If you see something, say something. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano says the move 'is a significant step in engaging the full range of partners in our Homeland Security efforts.'

What do you think? Does this solve a potential disaster or create fear for everyone who is watching TV in hotel rooms?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pilot lands plane on its belly in Poland

A pilot and emergency services today averted a potential disaster by managing to land a plane on its belly at Warsaw Airport. The Polish LOT airlines flight from Newark suffered problems with its landing gear and the pilot circled the Boeing 767 above the airport for an hour whilst preparation was made for the emergency landing and jet fuel was dumped from the plane.

The fire brigade prepared for the emergency landing by laying out special flame retardent foam for the plane to land on. Thankfully no one was injured and the President of LOT Airlines, Marcin Pirog  said: 'There was no panic among the passengers. The cabin crew prepared them for the emergency landing well.'

Pirog also praised Captain Tadeusz Wrona and co-pilot Jerzy Szwartz for carrying out a 'perfect emergency landing' and the two piltos also received praise from Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.


The airport is due to open from 8am tomorrow Wednesday 2nd November.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Virgin Australia seek to make capital from Qantas fiasco

Virgin Australia have moved to capitalise on the Qantas upheaval by launching an advertising campaign aimed directly at Qantas' affected customers.

The campaign has been launched in national titles such as The Australian and The Australian Financial Review under the title 'Information for Australian air travelers' . The article goes on and gives the impression that it is directly from the Australian Government and is particularly concerned about its passengers: 'Virgin Australia is committed to helping any travellers affected by the grounding of Qantas aircraft. This includes accommodating affected Qantas passengers on current services where possible and making arrangements to add extra seats across our network, with the help of our partners, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Delta Air Lines.'

The airline also offers to help stranded passengers with a 'Stranded Passenger' recovery fare with Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue or Polynesian Blue Airlines.

Smart move by Virgin and this could be the start of something ugly between the two carriers.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Vast casino's planned for Florida

The US state of Florida has announced plans to create a huge casino complex to rival Las Vegas. The scheme is backed by many of the states Republican's on the basis of a boost to the economy and provision of jobs. It also hopes to create a specific state gambling agency which would licence, regulate and enforce gambling in Florida.

The rub in the deal for the operators is that The Florida State Gaming Commision will award three casino licences in return for an investment of at least $2 billion by each casino owner.

Current state laws bar casinos from expanding beyond businesses operated by the Seminole Indian tribe and selected race courses.

The potential development has not been met with universal approval as the state has traditionally been more conservative in its outlook. View have already been broadcast from  Walt Disney Co who say that gambling tarnishes the 'family friendly' image of Florida.

It appears that these fears may not be enough to stop the proposal as Malaysian company Genting Berhad announced in May that it was paying $236 million for a 14 acre property on Miami's waterfront.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

easyJet to open Lisbon base

easyJet have today announced that they are to open its 23rd European base, in Lisbon. From next summer, the low cost carrier will operate five new services from Lisbon using two aircraft which will be based permanently at the airport.

The airline will fly on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Lisbon to Amsterdam, Bourdeax and Asturias beginning from 18th April.On 19th April. easyJet will begin flights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Lisbon to Venice and Copenhagen. The services are focussed on business travellers and the early departure times have been set to reflect this.

Easyjet's customers and revenue director Catherine Lynn said the move “illustrates our long-term commitment to the market and it will enable us to grow our operations further. Along with significantly contributing to the local economy,our new base will also boost visitors to Lisbon - with over 2 million passengers travelling to and from Lisbon, and 4 million in and out of Portugal in the first year, all travelling with Easyjet."

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Government warned over rise in APD

Tourism Alliance has warned that a further rise in Air Passenger Duty could have a damaging effect on the UK economy. The Prime Minister has most recently been optimistic about the large number of foreign visitors to the UK next year due to the Olympics and Queen's Golden Jubilee. Despite these one off events, the survey has found that many tour operatorsm hoteliers and restaurateurs are anticipating a significant drop in visitors should APD be raised for a fourth time in five years.

A spokesman for Tourism Alliance said: "Simply hosting the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee does not guarantee that foreign visitors to Britain will increase. The painful truth is that without major changes to underlying Government policy - such as addressing the exorbitant levels of APD - Britain's tourism sector will struggle to compete."

An announcemant on the tax is due on 29th November and an increase of 10% (double the rate of inflation) is expected to be announced. Britain is also expected to join the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme which will also increase the cost of flying to passengers.

Britain has the highest aviation taxes in the world and Tom Jenkins, director of the European Tour Operators Association feels that this is not helping anyone other than the governments coffers: “There is no doubt that people are being deterred from coming to Britain by the extraordinarily high cost of APD. There is now a major cash incentive to ignore Britain as a holiday destination. We are seeing London lose out as a gateway for Europe in favour of Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.”

Wakey wakey George, it's not just the passengers that are affected by this

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Starwood Hotels to receive customer reviews directly on its websites

Starwood Hotels & Resorts have today announced a review policy that will allow customers to give feedback directly on the hotels website.

Recognizing the relevance of the ubiquitous TripAdvisor and the importance of customer reviews the move by the chain is new yet very simple, provided that its staff can deliver and uphold the chains reputation. The chain are ensuring that all reviews are verified by cross checking them against the hotel confirmations made by customers.

Chris Holdren, Senior VP of Starwood Preferred Guest said: "Our goal is to provide everything a guest needs to select and book their best hotel experience and there's no better place to offer this information than on our own websites. Starwood's new ratings and reviews platform provides a valuable new way for guests to learn from the experiences of fellow travelers."

The reviews posted by customers will be based on a wide variety of criteria such as Overall Rating, Room Comfort, Staff Met My Needs, Room Cleanliness and SPG Recognition.

Good luck with the policy and I'm sure it will be the start of something wider in the industry.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Virgin hotels first property to be in Chicago

Virgin group have today announced that they are to open their first hotel in the US city of Chicago. The group have purchased the Dearborn Bank Building in the north of the city. The property will have 250 rooms and is due to open in late 2013.

Observers have noted that the choice of building is aggressive in that it is situated in a location which is populated by a great deal of other hotels. Commenting on the transaction, Anthony Marino head of Virgin Hotels said  -

“This transaction is a first step towards our goal of building a portfolio of hotels that anticipate and respond to the needs of today’s travelers and set a new standard for the industry. The Virgin Hotels team is focused on finding the best locations and strongest partners to bring Virgin’s product vision to life for our 60 million customers around the world.”

Virgin Group have instructed The John Buck Company to undertake the renovation project. Jack Buck, Principal, The John Buck Company said: “We are thrilled to be able to partner with Virgin Hotels to revitalize this beautiful landmark building and to create an exciting new hotel destination in downtown Chicago,”

The opening move by Virgin to open a Chicago hotel is part of a wider plan to open properties in further American cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC.

Sir Richard Branson has said that he hopes that the chain "will become the hippest most comfortable in any city."

We look forward to seeing the end result!

Monarch Airlines launch Gatwick to Barcelona flights

There is good news for those who live in the south east as Monarch have announced that they are to launch a daily flight from London Gatwick to Barcelona.The service began on 21st October and the service will be increased to eleven flights per week from 30th October.

Monarch Airlines Managing Director, Kevin George is pleased with the development as he plans to capture a wide range of travellers: 'Barcelona attracts a broad mix of visitors for business, city breaks and leisure and we have been delighted by our customers' reaction to the new service and the demand for the route.'

The move takes Monarchs number of scheduled flight locations to thirteen. Monarch also currently operates a Manchester - Barcelona route.

Friday, 21 October 2011

BA unveils new first class experience

Despite the economic downturn BA are continuing to invest in the future and at the higher end of the market.
The recent advertising campaign has brought the nations carrier into the public consciousness and has a feel good factor about the airline and the excitement of travelling abroad.

The airline have also invested heavily in its now re-named First Cabin which for a premium price, will make it the market leader in commercial aviation.In the new First Cabin, passengers will have private suites with 6ft 6" fully flat bed with a sprung mattress rather than traditional foam. In addition to the lie flat bed, passengers will have their own wardrobe, pyjamas and turndown service.

Catering in the new cabin will also allow customers to eat what they want, when they want with a strong emphasis on British experiences such as traditional afternoon tea inspired by The Dorchester Hotel.

On the ground, First customers can enjoy a dedicated check-in area and fast track security while each customer is allowed three items of luggage weighing up to 32kg each with hospitality in the exclusive Concorde Room. The Concorde Room features a concierge desk, private rooms for meetings and 'The Gold Bar' which stocks some of the worlds most prestigious wines and spirits. If getting typsy at the bar is not for you, there is a further Elemis Travel Spa within the lounge which offers treatments prior to take off.

One day..

Thursday, 20 October 2011

BA ramps up pressure on new transport minister over Heathrow

British Airways have today increased pressure on the government and the new transport minister Justine Greening to address the lack of growth in aviation capacity in the south east.

In a response to the governments 'Developing sustainable framework for UK aviation' BA warned that in order to support the UK economy there must be additional capacity to remain competitive. BA goes further with its opposition through claims that aviation supports more than 900,000 jobs but is in danger of stagnating
if further plans are not put in place.

BA Chief Executive  Keith Williams said: “The Government must take action now. There are no easy choices, but avoiding these choices is to undermine the UK aviation and aerospace industry and to hinder the economic recovery. We are already falling behind other European hubs in providing services to the booming markets of China and India. This will only continue unless the Government commits to allowing sustainable growth. The UK Government has a choice. It can pursue sustainable growth, or simply manage a steady decline. While the number of direct services to China has stalled at Heathrow, rival hubs in Europe have continued to add services."

This has lead to many travellers heading for the Far East being required to change at hubs in Europe such as Paris and Frankfurt rather than flying directly from the UK's largest airport.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Edinburgh Airport to be sold by BAA

BAA have announced that Edinburgh Airport is to be sold following the Competition Commision's ruling that it must dispose of one of its Scottish airports.Despite Edinburgh airports having a greater number of flights and larger passenger numbers, BAA has decided to retain Glasgow as its major presence in Scotland.

BAA hope to agree a sale by Summer 2012 after putting the airport on the market in the new year.

Commenting on the announcement, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Edinburgh is a great airport  with a great team and a great future and we will be very sorry to see it leave BAA. We remain committed to Scotland and we will continue our long-term investment to improve passenger and airline experience at Aberdeen and Glasgow, as well as at Edinburgh until the sale is complete. Choosing which airport to sell has been a difficult decision. Edinburgh Airport has shown itself to be a strong and resilient asset throughout the economic downturn. Passenger numbers at Edinburgh have grown by more than 6% over the past year and in an uncertain market we expect it to be an attractive asset to prospective buyers. Glasgow Airport has great opportunities for future growth and development and we think BAA is well-placed to build on its recent success. Both airports are of national importance and have a bright future.”

Jim Sullivan, Managing Director of Edinburgh Airport admitted that he would be sorry to be leaving BAA owners but was confident in his team at the airport to "continue to deliver for its passengers, the city and Scotland as a whole.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Branson opens his commercial gateway to space

The world's first commercial spaceport was opened by Sir Richard Branson yesterday in a patch of desert in New Mexico. Branson was joined at the launch by Governor Susan Martinez and astronaut Buzz Aldrin along with scores of other future passengers of the project.

Commenting on the new terminal and runway Branson said:

'The building is absolutely magnificent. It is literally out of this world, and that's what we were aiming at creating.We're ticking the final boxes on the way to space,"

The Virgin Galactic boss hopes that enough test flights can be done and that the commercial suborbital flights from the spaceport by the beginning of 2013. More than 450 people have purchased advanced tickets for the project with 150 of those people at the launch.

The crowd were also treated to a flyover by WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership of the project that will take passengers on suborbital flights.Tickets for the flight cost $200,00 and the flight duration will be for two hours with five minutes of that time when passengers can experience weightlessnes and spectacular views of the earth.

Monday, 17 October 2011

First official flight for China Southern Airlines A380

Today was a historic day for China Southern Airlines as its first A380 superjumbo took flight for a trip from Beijing capital Airport to Guangzhou Baiyun Airport.
The passengers on board the flight included journalist and also the Chinese sporting superstar Yao Ming who measures 2.29 meters tall. The move to incorporate an A380 amongst its fleet means that China Southern is the seventh airline to use A380's after Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Emirates, Korean Air and Lufthansa.

Reports from Qianyang Evening News suggests that the first flights are very popular, particularly with the affluent Chinese who are keen to see and be seen in the planes premium cabins.

Liu Qian, the captain of the A380's delivery flight from France to Beijing said that: “I have flown many different aircraft, including Airbus 320, 330, 340 and Boeing 737, 747. The A380’s operating experience has been the best. It’s almost a bit too quiet.”

Paris is expected to be the destination for its flights from Beijing.

Two British tourists killed in Botswana plane crash

Eight foreign tourists including two Britons have died in a plane crash in north Botswana. The plane crashed north of Botswana's Okavango Delta and claimed the lives of four Swedes, two French and two British nationals.
Despite the horrific nature of the crash, a French couple and two Botswana Nationals managed to survive and were airlifted to a hospital in Johannesburg.

The plane was said to be en-route to Pom Pom, a luxurious safari destination in the north of Botswana.

Booze free hotel chains to open in Turkey

A group of hoteliers in Turkey have undertaken a new venture which will see its hotels be free from alcohol on its premises. The chain, Safe Hotels will open in Turkey afters its directors discovered a demand for alcohol free hotels from the public.

Asım Şahinoğlu of Safee Hotels also believes that his hotels will be able to keep costs down as not serving alcohol saves the company about 8 to 12 percent of the costs. According to Şahinoğlu:  'Hotels that serve alcohol have to manage the bar and accumulate stocks [ of alcoholic drinks ] thus become costly, also because bars are not as profitable as in the past anymore,”

Despite the cheaper running costs, the company has not scrimped on its opening investment. Safee Hotels are said to have invested €1bn on four hotels which will all be opened in November. The company aims to open a total of 20 hotels within five years.

Good luck with the venture guys but I am not sure it will be popular with Alihoco clients!

UK Government reassures airline industry over Greening appointment

The government has reassured the aviation industry that the appointment of Justine Greening to transport secretary will not lead to Heathrow expansion plans being treated unfairly. As an MP Greening has campaigned against the expansion plan and a third runways as her constituency is under Heathrow's flight path. Willie Walsh, boss of IAG has raised concerns that the appointment of Justine Greening will lead to a conflict of interest. The chiefs at BAA are also worried about the appointment as they feel without the third runway Heathrow will become uncompetitive. Despite this a spokesman for BAA released a polite statement regarding the appointment -

"We understand the difference between campaigning as a constituency MP and taking decisions in the national interest as a minister.We had a number of constructive meetings with Justine Greening on Air Passenger Duty when she was at the Treasury and we trust we will receive a fair hearing from her as Secretary of State for Transport"

Friday, 14 October 2011

Ryanair wins €40 boarding fee appeal

Budget airline Ryanair has won an appeal against a Spanish court which ruled that a €40 fee for boarding pass at the airport was illegal. The appeal court in Barcelona ruled that the penalty fee was lawful which is against the original ruling by the Barcelona commercial court in January which had declared that airlines were obliged to issue boarding cards.

A spokesman for Ryanair welcomed the ruling: “This ruling removes any confusion in Spain about the lawful nature of our boarding pass reissue penalty. We understand it cannot be appealed. This is the first of a number of bizarre lower court rulings in Barcelona which we expect will be overturned. We urge all Ryanair passengers to ensure they check in online prior to arriving at their airport.”

Ryanair appear to have won the case on the basis that when clients book their tickets, they agree to check in online and print their own boarding cards. Their lawyers also argued that passengers failing to do this had breached that agreement and were not entitled to fly.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

6.0 earthquake hits tourist island of Bali

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Bali with three people currently in a critical condition and a further fifty injured. Reports from US Geological Survey said that the earthquake's epicentre was in the ocean south of Denpasar and was measured at 38.1 miles deep. Despite the magnitude of the quake, a tsunami warning has not been put in place.

The shakes were felt for several minutes in the main tourist area of Kuta and Endro Tjahjono from the Bali Office of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said"There was panic, everyone ran out of the buildings. When we returned to our office building, we saw some cracks on the wall and plaster had come off the walls,"

The island of Bali sits on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire were high seismic activity is caused by the meeting of continental plates.

We hope everyone in the region is OK.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

MGM Grand Las Vegas to undergo $160 million renovation

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is to undergo a renovation project which will see all of it's 3,570 rooms and 642 suites being revamped. The rooms project is forecast to cost $160m. Executives at MGM Resorts have yet to disclose the proposed costs for the hotels vast communal areas.

Tim Kelly of MGM Resorts said that the first batch of rooms should be completed by mid-November and as many as 700 rooms will be under construction at any one time. The timescale to complete the entire project is by September 2012. Kelly said: “We felt it was necessary to refresh our room product not only for look and feel but also for functionality and from a technology perspective. There are basics customers expect when they come to Las Vegas.”

The renovations will see rooms and suites at The MGM feature mini bars and media hubs as well as LED lighting, solar shades and biodegradable toiletries.

The move by MGM Resorts comes after several other mega hotels such as Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and Stratosphere have all undergone similar renovations rather than building further properties.

Tim Kelly went on to say: "Resorts fight for customers from the same pool of visitors and recognize that having the newest rooms can set them apart. Our goal is to make enhancements to ensure we’re competitive in this city and worldwide.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Virgin Atlantic outline plan to use 'green fuels'

Sir Richard Branson has today promised to introduce a more environmentally friendly fuel within the next two to three years. The Virgin boss announced the move which is being developed on conjunction with LanzaTech which is behind the low-carbon aviation fuel.

The advanced technology involves using waste gases from industrial steel production being captured and converted using technology supplied by Swedish Biofuels who convert it into jet fuel. The environmentally friendly element comes from using the gases which would otherwise be burned into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Virgin hope to be using the technology within two to three years on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to Heathrow as the development facilities are based in China and India.

At the launch event today Sir Richard Branson said: "We were the first commercial airline to test a biofuel flight and we continue to lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation.This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve. With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable and, with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15bn gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting. This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel."

Are you a shareholder in this new company Sir Richard?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Couple to sue First Choice for £35,000 over child stomach bug

A couple from Scotland are thought to be suing First Choice for £35,000 after cryptosporidiosis left their two children seriously ill on holiday in Lanzarote. Roddy and Julie Scotland are pursuing the action after their daughter Emily became ill at the end of their two weel holiday at the Flamingo Beach HolidayVillage in Playa Blanca in July.

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a parasite and can be transmitted through swimming pools. Mr & Mrs Scotland are now said to be in negotiations over the case.

A spokeswoman for First Choice refused to comment on the case later added: “The Holiday Village Flamingo Beach remains popular with our customers and scored highly in customer satisfaction questionnaires throughout summer 2011.”

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Boris does London landmark deal with Emirates Airlines

London Mayor Boris Johnson has done a deal with Emirates Airlines which will see the airline become the main financial backer behind the city's cable car project.

Transport for London hope that the scheme could be completed by the end of 2012 and will see the O2 arena and the Excel Centre joined by cable cars. Plans show that the cable car system will have 34 gondolas carrying 2,500 passengers per hour with the journey time being around 5 minutes.

The deal will see Emirates Airlines pay £36 million over 10 years as sponsorship of the project. The sponsorship is at its most controversial however due to a condition of the agreement being that Emirates will now be shown on London's iconic tube map. All future designs of the tube map will show two new stations - Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docklands. The flight path of the cable cars will also be illustrated in 'Emirates Red'.

What do you think? Is this good business by Boris or is he selling his city's soul?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Plans proposed for Gatwick and Heathrow high speed rail link

A proposal by civil servants has highlighted the possibility of connecting Gatwick and Heathrow Airports via a high speed rail link to create journey time of 15 minutes.

The plan is said to have a cost forecast of £5bn and would mean that there would be no need to build another airport or to expand Heathrow further. The proposal is in its infancy and is likely to attract criticism from Heathrow who would be keen to expand on their own and also from residents in area who would be affected by the plans.

The plans outline that the trains would minimise disruption by travelling at 180mph and would follow the route of the M25 with some of the journey carried out underground. The proposals are also clever in that passengers would not need to go through seperate immigration checks or check-in twice because both airports would be considered the same 'hub'.

Civil servants have been instructed to come up with an appropriate plan as the current infrastructure in the south east is making Britain less competitive as a destination. The distance between the two airports is 35 miles and it would also take less time to build this line than to create a new airport on a new site in a very congested area.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friends of the Earth unfriendly over Thomson biofuel flight

I recently wrote about the Thomson flight travelling from Birmingham to the Canary Islands using a plane fuel with a mix of standard jet fuel and biofuels. Since the announcement and the plane travelling, Friends of the Earth have rubbished Thomson's claim of sustainability and that the flights are simply a PR gimmick.

FoE have also warned that the biofuels flights will not make flying greener and that the use of biofuels will wreck rainforests, increase food prices and increase emissions.Contrary to Thomson's claims of the launch being delayed by testing and safety clearance, FoE claim that the delay was due to being unable to source enough fuel in time.

FoE campaigner Kenneth Richter said: "It’s not surprising Thomson couldn’t find enough used cooking oil to fly to Lanzarote – it would take about a hundred years for each passenger to save up enough chip fat."

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Full profit forecast for International Airlines Group

There is to be good news for International Airlines Group (IAG) as they are forecast to deliver full year growth after an excellent September. Traffic in September 2011 rose by 4.3% compared to September 2011 with a 9.3% rise in first and business class travel during this period also.

IAG is forecast to make profits of €544m in 2011. Despite the strong forecasts, IAG is cautious over October which has traditionally been seen as a sluggish month.

There could be more worrying news for its transatlantic partner American Airlines as there is talk that the airline could be headed for bankruptcy. The poor results have been blamed on huge labour costs which have spiralled for the airline.

Watch this space..

Dubai duty free sales continue to boom

Amid the doom and gloom of the world economic news there is one sector that is continuing to boom, sales of luxury products in the Middle East.

Sales at Dubai Duty Free over the last nine months have hit US$1.036 billion, a rise of 16.4% compared to the same period in 2010. The sales place the retailer on track for year-end sales of an extimated US$1.45 billion.

The largest seller has been perfumes which have risen to US$150 million with sales of gold rising by 24% to reach US$118 million over nine months. Sales of liquor alseo rose by 17% to $142 million.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free said “We have had a fantastic year so far and I am pleased that our penetration level and average spend has been consistently high. We are heading into a busy sales period for the last quarter and are optimistic that we will have a record year.”

Different world's indeed.