Thursday, 29 September 2011

BA to introduce first and business class on flights to Moscow

British Airways have announced that they are to introduce first and business class cabins on flights from London Heathrow to Moscow from April 2012. The move was announced during a UK trade delegation to Russia which was attended by British business leaders and hosted by David Cameron.

Sir Martin Broughton, chairman of BA is pleased with the development. he said - “We are proud to have been flying to Russia for over fifty years. It is an important and growing market for us and we want to reflect our commitment to the region and our customers by enhancing our services and increasing the number of seats that are available to Moscow."

The new cabins will feature fully flat beds, state of the art entertainment and a wider selection of food and drink. BA currently operates three flights a day from Heathrow to Moscow and has forged closed ties with Russian Airline S7 following a code share agreement to allow BA passengers the option to connect with S7 flights further afield.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chancellor cuts APD on Belfast flights

There are signs that the government is concerned about the impact of the rise in Air Passenger Duty as the duty has been slashed for flights from Northern Ireland.

APD on direct long-haul flights from Northern Ireland will be reduced to the same rate as short-haul flights from November 1. In real terms this means a reduction in tax on economy fares to US from £60 to £12 and in premium cabins from £120 to £24. This is good news but not likely to make a great deal of differenceto government coffers as there is only one scheduled long-haul service from Belfast to Newark per day.

Chancellor George Osborne said: Osborne said: “The government has taken measures to protect the only direct long-haul service operating from Northern Ireland and with it the jobs of those who serve the Belfast route. Northern Ireland faces a unique challenge in attracting traffic – including valuable business customers – into its airports. By announcing this immediate cut and our intention to devolve aspects of APD, the government is renewing its commitment to stimulating and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy.”

Could this be the start of something wider and a sign that Osborne is backtracking on APD?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Swedish hotel unveils hotel room, 500ft under ground!

A hotel in Sweden have opend a very unique hotel room located 500ft under ground. The room at the Sala Silvermine Hotel can only be accessed through a mine shaft which sends guests 509ft under the ground and where communication can only be made through the hotels intercom system.

The £380 per night bedroom comes complete with a luxurious double bed, dining area, seating area and a champagne platter.

Temperatures in the room are believed to remain at around 18 degrees as the room is located in a warm air pocket. The hotel room has been ten years in the making as it was created using a slow mining method called fire setting which involves burning wood which is used to heat up the silver and for it to be chipped away more easily.

It look as though the hotel could be on their way to a profitable venture as the room is fully booked every weekend for the next 12 months.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Stelios launches new airline

EasyJet's founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is to launch a new rival airline called FastJet.

The news is exciting and equally controversial as easyJet have released a statement saying that any new airline controlled by Stelios would be an infringement on their rights. EasyJet go on to say that "EasyJet has a number of rights under its agreements with Sir Stelios and easyGroup IP Licensing Ltd (a subsidiary of easyGroup Holdings Limited) as described in the Circular to shareholders dated November 16 2010.To the extent that any activity of FastJet, Sir Stelios or any company controlled by him infringes or would infringe those rights, easyJet will take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders."

Easyjet also rejected claims by Sir Stelios that easyJet has breached the terms of a binding letter between him and easyJet of 10 October 2010 and that that letter is no longer in force.

Watch this space..

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thomson and First Choice customers to pay more for 2012 holidays

TUI Travel plc who own Thomson and First Choice have today announced that selling prices for holidays next year will be 10% higher than this year. The travel giant have attributed this additional charge to rising costs of fuel and accommodation. A statement from TUI Travel said - 'We anticipate that in the UK, cost inflation will be just over 5% for summer 2012 and our prices are designed to recover these input costs in this competitive market.'

The move by TUI Travel to undertake this practice may be short sighted and could alienate its client base. The company is forecast to make profits of £352 million this year or £964,000 for everyday of the year and an additional 10% on top of the cost of a £1000 holiday could be too much for customers to afford.

Time will tell whether this move will be in the best interests for TUI Travel or whether such moves will be to the advantage of holiday companies who don't have the huge costs running costs of travel behemoth's and can deliver quality holidays at lower prices.

What do you think?

Bumper pay day for Sir Stelios

The founder of Easyjet, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is to receive £72m from his family's stake in the airline after the airline bowed to pressure to pay a special divident.

It marks the end of a three year battle between Haji-Ioannou and the easyJet board but the airlines chief executive Carolyn McCall said the payout was not due to pressure from him alone.

"Market sentiment has definitely shifted. There is no question that since things got harder in the eurozone shareholders have definitely shifted their emphasis to capital returns," McCall said.

The payout has been authorised after the airline upgraded its profit expectations for the current financial year from £200-230m to between £240m -£250m. EasyJet attributed the improved results to a strong business market, city break flights and people still travelling for holidays which are deemed to be sacrosanct despite these tough times.

Are you going to treat yourself to anything nice Sir Stelios?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Duty free customer spends $200,000 on bottle of scotch

Have you ever regretted buying that £50 bottle of premium vodka from duty free with the last of your holiday money? One person who may be feeling  the same way is a Chinese businessman who spent $199,000 on one bottle of single malt. The man in question was travelling through Singapore's Changi Airport when he saw the 62-year old bottle of Dalmore whisky. It was at this point that he immediately set up a bank transfer to cover the deposit on the bottle.

The purchase would make the bottle one of the most expensive ever sold and it is one of only 12 bottles in the world. The bottle will remain safely in the glass case until payment has been received in full!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Second Ibiza forest fire now under control

A forest fire which swept across 115 hectares of Ibizan landscape has now been brought under control and virtually extinguished.

The fires began on Sunday afternoon to the north west of Cala Llonga and was luckily fanned away from the golf course and expensive property by strong winds across the coastal area. The fires lead to around 1000 people being evacuated from their homes and all roads surrounding the area to be closed.

At this stage it is believed that one home has been destroyed and two further properties have suffered significant damage with the pine forest suffering the worst of the effects.

Officials from the fire service and Guardia Civil are certain that the fire has been caused by negligence, possibly a barbeque as the fire started in a different manner to a natural fire.

It is the second fire of the summer but thankfully not as bad as the first which was the worst in Ibiza's history.

Qantas to trial iPad for in flight entertainment

Qantas is to begin a trial next month which will see passengers use iPads as a source for their in flight entertainment. The move will see passengers on board one Boeing 767-300 use wireless technology as an alternative to the standard TV in the rear of the seat in front.

Alison Webster of Qantas said: “We see this as potentially being a breakthrough capability to be able to give more choice and more flexibility to customers’ in-flight entertainment.”

The Qantas iPad's will be loaded with the airline's own Q Streaming app which has been developed to offer the entire in flight library which is currently available on the airlines super jumbo A380.

Qantas also believe that iPad's could become commonplace on board planes and that plane seats could be made without built in technology which would save weight and fuel costs in the long run.

Interesting stuff!

Monday, 19 September 2011

M&S launch tailormade travel insurance

M&S Money have today announced the launch of a new travel insurance system which allows customers to pick and mix their insurance requirements. The new system will allow customers to have a varying level of excess, cancellation and curtailment cover, baggage, time limits and optional cover for winter sports.

The new insurance cover will replace the old system of 'Premier' and 'Standard' options and will be able to be more specific for individuals needs. Crawford Prentice, Director of M&S Money thinks that the changes are for the better -

"One size doesn't fit all when it comes to holidays and the same applies to travel insurance. Our new policy  enables  customers to tailor their insurance to their holiday so it means  people  only  pay  for  the  cover  they  need. This is particularly important in the current economic climate where holiday budgets need to stretch further.”

Friday, 16 September 2011

Potential payout likely for pilots and cabin crew

There is likely to be good news for pilots and cabin crew as a European court has ruled that holiday pay should be based on overall earnings not just basic pay. The case relates to a conflict between BA bosses and its staff and if the final verdict is given in favour of pilots and staff it could mean that other airlines would be affected. The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) claim that airlines might have to pay out £20m to pilots and £30m to cabin crew following the decision.

The general secretary of Balpa, Jim McAuslan said

"This is a major victory for all pilots in the UK, not just the 3,000 British Airways pilots who had their claims heard by the European Court of Justice.The calculation of holiday pay was a clear example of pilots being short-changed by their employers.We always believed that, under European working time rules introduced in 2004, pilots should be treated like other working people in the UK and should receive their proper pay during holidays.This should not be restricted to basic salary but should include allowances.British Airways and other UK airlines opposed us but, after a six-year legal battle, the European Court of Justice finally agreed with us.

Based on this BA judgement, Balpa will be seeking to agree similar holiday pay arrangements for pilots in other UK airlines."

A spokesman for BA said that it is awaiting the final decision from the Supreme Court. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Man tries to open plane doors at 36,000ft

There was drama on board a flight from Majorca to Newcastle yesterday as a passenger attempted open the doors believing that he was on board a flight simulator. Reports suggest that a friend tried to pull the man away from the door but the 22 year old continued to open the emergency exit, yelling 'It's OK, we are just on a simulator."

The man's actions lead to the plane being diverted to Gatwick where police arrested the man. One passenger said that the man was 'off his head' and he was restrained after receiving a smack on the head.

A spokesman for Thomson said "In accordance with our procedures, the local authorities were notified of this incident and the aircraft was met by the police upon landing at Gatwick where the passenger was removed from the flight. We would like to reassure customers that it would not have been possible for this passenger to open the door whilst the aircraft was in the air.We would also like to reassure our customers that incidents of this type are extremely rare."

Ryanair launches own prepay card as way of avoiding card surcharge

Passengers who choose to fly with Ryanair will be required to use the airline's own Mastercard in order to avoid paying booking fees from October.

Ryanair currently issue a standard 'admin fee' of £6 per one way flight if customers by with a debit, credit or Visa Electron card. Until now it has only been avoided by using a Mastercard prepaid debit card. You may now be thinking that the new Ryanair prepaid Mastercard is nothing new as it already has a similar

card in operation. However, from 1st November the new Ryanair prepaid Mastercard entitled the 'Ryanair Cash Passport' will be the only type of prepaid card that can be used. Any customers who use another type of prepaid Mastercard will be forced to pay the obligatory £6 fee.

Prepaid Mastercards are estimated to be held by 5% of the population and require consumers to load cards with money before paying for items. Martin Lewis, the nation's favourite penny pincher feels that the move could be bad news for Ryanair: "This is anti-competitive, it's an insult to loyal passengers who first got Electron cards so they could pay for free, then were forced to switch to prepaid Mastercards and are now being asked to dance again this time by getting Ryanair's own prepaid card."

Ryanair have defended the move to launch its own prepaid Mastercard and a spokesman said that:"We have suffered from criticism for some time that customers do not know where to get prepaid Mastercards. So we decided that to make it easier for customers they could start getting them from our website."

Last week, results from research by Which? found that consumers are paying an estimated £265,000 a day in debit card surcharges for booking plane tickets.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Emirates to start service from Dubai to Dublin

Emirates Airlines have today announced that they will begin a daily service from Dubai to Dublin from 9th January 2012. It will be the airlines first route to the Republic of Ireland.

The planned route will make Dublin the 29th destination that it flies to in Europe and will offer a direct service to Dubai for those living on the Emerald isle.

Emirates will utilise the Airbus A330-200 for the route which will feature first, business and economy classes. The airline hope to not only capture the market for those travelling from Ireland but the huge number of Irish nationals living overseas with 80,000 living in Australia and 5,000 in the UAE.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Steve Wynn to open vast hotel in Macao

Steve Wynn, the hotel and gaming supremo of Las Vegas is to open a vast property in Macao, China. The billionaire has struck a deal with the government in Macao to build a 1500 room 5 star hotel on a 51 acre-site in the region. The vehicle for the project, entitled Wynn Macau have paid $193m for the use of the land and will have five years to complete the project. The approval of the project is not only good news for Steve Wynn but also for the American government who were getting the impression that Beijing were attempting to limit the influence of American run companies in China.

The growth of gambling in Macao is so fast that analysts suggest that this years gaming revenues will surpass those of Las Vegas by five times.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Suspicious behaviour on plane turns out to be couple canoodling in toilet

There was a security scare on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as a couple aroused (sorry) suspicion on board a flight after spending a prolonged period in the toilet together. The suspicion lead to two F-16 jets being scrambled to shadow the Frontier Flight 623 and for the plane to be met by the police on landing at Denver airport.

ABC news reported that the couple were detained for questioning but released without charge.

The incident was not the only scare of the day as two further F-16s were sent to escort a Los Angeles to New York flight after three passengers made repeated trips to the bathrooms. American Airlines flight 34 safely landed at New York JFK airport later that afternoon.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

BMI up for sale after recent losses

BMI British Midland is rumoured to be up for sale after its losses soared over the first six months of 2011. Figures have shown that the airline plunged £105 million into the red in 2011 and these results lead Lufthansa as parent company to appoint Morgan Stanley to explore the options of selling the carrier.

The losses equate to £38 per passenger but this is unlikely to deter potential suitors as BMI controls 10% of the landing slots at Heathrow which could be worth £770 million alone.

International Airline Group could well be interested in BMI in order to obtain the slots at Heathrow and to also take on a low cost carrier.

Lufthansa have blamed the losses at BMI on the steep increase in the cost of aviation fuel and the uprising in North Africa and the Middle East.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beijing to become world's busiest aviation hub

Beijing is to construct a new mega airport which would overtake London and make the city the worlds busiest aviation hub.

Plans for the new mega airport show that the new project could have as many as nine runways and that China's expansion is happening at unpredented levels. Beijing's current largest airport handled 73.9 million passenger in 2010 and this is expected to rise to 90 million by 2015. The capcity for the airport is forecast at 78 million and lead to plans for the new project.

The proposed new airport would allow between 120 and 200 million passengers to travel per year. If this were to happen it would mean that Beijing the largest hub in the world as both Tokyo and London look after around 100 million passengers each per year. The proposed new airport would have eight commercial runways and one for the military, this would mean that it has three more runways than Denver who have the most runways at six.

The project has already caused alarm with environmental groups who warn that the aircraft will worsen the country's already dire pollution problems.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Duty Free gang jailed after 2.3m cigarette haul

A leader of a gang responsible for purchasing 2.3 million cigarettes through duty free stores has been jailed for 5 years. Michael Pitt, from Islington was jailed along with five other gang members.

The investigation by HM Revenue & Customs found that the gang purchased the huge quantities of cigarettes using counterfeit boarding cards or one way open tickets. HM Revenue & Customs have calculated that the duty evaded between February 2009 and May 2012 amounts to £545,933.

It is believed that Pitt and his gang would purchase the cigarettes in the duty free stores at UK airports and then either exit through domestic arrival channels or travel internally to continue the fraud at the destination airport.

One of the gang, Tracey Smith, worked at Manchester Airport and was key to facilitating the operation from her position. She is to be sentenced in October.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Mexico proving popular with UK holiday makers in 2011

Mexico has proven to be a particulary popular destination for UK travellers in 2011. A survey done by the Post Office has shown that demand for the Mexican currency increased by almost 150% in 2011.

The increased demand for Mexico holidays to resorts such as Cancun has been attributed to low cost flights and excellent deals  on all inclusive stays at the resorts hotels. British Airways have also proved to be keen on this growth area and have subsequently begun direct flights from London gatwick to Cancun.

Mexico is not the only winner according to the Post Office survey. Other destinations such as Barbados, Australia and Thailand have also proven popular with the Post office Bureau de Change.

Is this survey accurate or are the Post Office now simply handling more currency transactions generally?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Monarch cancel Boeing Dreamliner order

Monarch Airlines have today confirmed that they have cancelled their order for six Boeing Dreamliners. The move has come as Monarch have announced that they wish to continue strengthening its short haul network and to focus on scheduled flights.

The short haul strategy can be seen through the airlines introduction of new services to Paphos, Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, Sharm el Sheikh and Corfu.

In a statement Monarch said: 'The decision by The Monarch Group to terminate its order for the B787 does not affect Monarch Aircraft Engineering Ltd’s strategy to support the Dreamliner. Monarch Aircraft Engineering is proud to have been awarded Boeing GoldCare approval and is committed to providing line and base capability for the B787 from early 2012 in addition to its existing support of Boeing’s 737, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft.'

Take a relaxing holiday to Majorca in October

For those looking for a relaxing holiday towards the end of the year and at good value for money, Majorca may be just the place. October is an excellent time to visit the largest of the Balearic islands with temperatures typically in the low 20's. The temperatures may not mean that you will get a golden suntan but it is the perfect temperature for those who like walking or activities such as golf.

Majorca is a stunning island and Palma is a cosmopolitan centre for those who would like to experience the busier side of the island.

Holiday prices are also cheaper that towards the end of the summer season. A typical long weekend with Alihoco in October on an all inclusive holiday with flights is around £200 per person.

Security stepped up prior to 9/11 anniversary

A warning has been issued by The FBI and Homeland Security regarding Al Qaeda and the approaching 9/11 anniversary. The warning focusses on aviation and those with small aircraft.
Authorities have said that there was no specific or credible evidence for a potential attack but security has been increased as a precaution. Alerts have been raised after intelligence suggested terrorists considered renting planes and loading them with explosives.
A bulletin obtained by the Associated Press details the following: Al Qaeda and its affiliates have maintained an interest in obtaining aviation training, particularly on small aircraft, and in recruiting Western individuals for training in Europe or the United States, although we do not have current, credible information or intelligence of an imminent attack."
In 2002, US Officials claimed to have uncovered a plot by Al Qaeda to fly a plane into a US warship and in 2003, they claim to have uncovered a plot to crash a plane into the US consulate in Karachi.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Rock star kicked off flight for saggy jeans

It is being reported that Billie Joe Armstrong, the leader singer of Green Day was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for wearing jeans so low that they revealed his underpants.

The incident took place at Oakland Airport on flight bound for Burbank. Mr Armstrong is said to have boarded the flight late and was told by an air stewardess to pull his trousers up. Mr Armstrong responded “Don’t you have better things to do than worry about that?” and it was shortly after this point that he was escorted from the flight.

It is suggested that when Southwest became aware of who Mr Armstrong was, they offered him a seat on a later flight at no additional cost.

What do you think? Should Billie Joe pull his trousers up on a plane or should Southwest get with the times? 

Friday, 2 September 2011

TripAdvisor to be investigated by Advertising Standards Agency

The world's favourite reference point, TripAdvisor, is to be investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency after receiving a complaint on behalf of thousands of hotels that its reviews are inaccurate.

The company behind the complaint is who help companies manage their online reputations and have been pursuing TripAdvisor since last year over what it claims are misleading, fake and defamatory reviews which are in breach of advertising code.

The investigate will focus on whether TripAdvisor does what it claims in providing trusted advise and that it's claims are real and honest.Kwikchex claims that the TripAdvisor does not verify any of the 50m reviews and therefore that they cannot be genuine.

What do you think? Is it TripAdvisor's responsibility to monitor all reviews and if so, how would they know if one is real or fake?

Hilton Worldwide open luxury hotel in Koh Samui

Hilton Worldwide have anounced the opening of one of its Conrad Hotels in Koh Samui. It is to be located on the secluded Aow Thai Beach and 28kms from the airport and will be the only west-facing premium resort that allows every villa to view sunset.

Conrad Koh Samui will feature 80 freestanding villas with private plunge pools and sundecks all set within 25 acres of landscaped gardens. All villas are filled with full-height glass panes to allow spectacular ocean views.

John T.A. Vanderslice, global head of luxury and lifestyle brands for Hilton Worldwide thinks that this can only be a positive move: "Conrad Koh Samui personifies the Conrad spirit of individuality and commitment to service, and strengthens the brand's presence in global gateway cities and most sought-after resort destinations."

Any chance of an invite, John?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

AirMiles rebranded as Avios

AirMiles, the brand that did exactly what it said on the tin is to be replaced with a new brand, Avios.

The new name also coincides with a change in strategy by The Mileage Company who operate the scheme. From 16th November customers who collect Avios points on BA and Iberia flights will be able to use them on one way flights rather than return flights and also to use them for cabin upgrades. Avios member will also be able to to travel from regional airports in the UK without having to pay supplements.

There is not all good news howver, Avios customers will now be required to pay taxes, fees and charges on their flights and there will now be no such thing as free flights.

What do you all think of the name?