Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Carlton Hotel Group urged staff to write positive TripAdvisor reviews

One of Ireland's largest hotel chains planned a campaign involving its own employees who were instructed to write false reviews on TripAdvisor. Communications found by The Irish Times show that the Carlton Hotel Group sent an email to at least 29 employees in the summer of 2010 to create a “a more pro-active management of the reviews on Trip Advisor” and that a plan had been agreed which would see managers nominate five people from each of the groups ten hotels to post fake reviews.

A memo from the Carlton Group's sales and marketing head Jean O'Connell said that 150 'TripAdvisor Posters' would be contacted by a senior member of staff and would be told which hotel they were to review and that 'by pooling TA posters it will give better flexibility and IP addresses will be from across the country.'

General managers of the hotels were also asked to nominate someone 'to take a minimum of 30 photographs that reflect the excellent product you have and key USPs you want to get across. Not professional photos but good quality from a digital camera is fine.'

When contacted about the allegations Jean O'Connell confirmed that she had sent the email but that it was only a proposal and that then policy was never implemented.

Trip Advisor's head of communications Emma Shaw said that a “full and detailed investigation” was under way and the company had “a zero tolerance approach” to such activity.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sir Stelios launches diatribe against easyJet chiefs

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has launched an astonishing attack on the employees at the highest level at easyJet by claiming that bonuses have been crafted with 'phoney calculations.'

In a three page document he accused the company of being a 'gravy train gone wild' and that the method of calculating return on capital employed (ROCE) was done in such a way that results are three times than the rate of return using a different method. Sir Stelios also launched a broadside at easyJet's key investors such as Standard Life and Legal & General who he believed are in cahoots with easyJet over a bonus culture:

"I am aware that many of the other EZJ shareholders are listed companies themselves so they have a conflict of interest as they want to carry on with the same fat-cat City bonus culture! Turkeys will never vote for Christmas. "

The latest attack by Sir Stelios show him at his cantankerous best yet the board may feel aggrieved to be on the receiving end of such criticism after the recent business results which showed strong growth and an increase in numbers of business passengers.

The airlines chief executive Carolyn McCall was bullish over easyJet's performance and progress made from the start of 2012: "EasyJet has made a strong start to the year. This is due to firm control of costs, the strength of easyJet's network, tight capacity discipline and pricing actions taken in the second half of last financial year."

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cameron faces Tory revolt over 'Boris Island

David Cameron is facing a revolt from his own cronies over the plans to build 'Boris Island' on the Thames Estruary. Six of his MP's have voiced concerns over the huge environmental damage that it would cause.

The MP's who have written to the Prime Minister voicing their concerns are Remhan Chishti, Tory MP for Gillingham and Rainham; Tracey Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford; Gordon Henderson MP, for Sittingbourne & Sheppey; Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham; Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford and Mark Reckless MP for Rochester and Strood.

It look's like it will soon be Dave, George, Boris and a famous architect (in line for his biggest ever pay day) who will be in favour of 'Boris Island.'

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dubai passenger numbers continue to surge

Dubai's airports have registered another year of growth as it's passenger numbers reached 50.98 million in 2011, up 8% over 47.2 million in 2010. December was a particularly busy month with 4.69 million, an increase of 10.2% compared with December 2010.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports is clearly thrilled at the progress:

“Recording 51 million passengers in our 51st year of operations may be somewhat coincidental but it speaks volumes of the momentum building at one of the world’s fastest growing international hubs. In a year that was characterised by economic uncertainty, political instability and high oil prices passenger growth continued unabated driven by new routes and additional frequencies as airlines capitalised on Dubai’s attractiveness as a business and tourism destination and efficiency as a transfer hub. That trend will continue in 2012 with our two largest airlines – Emirates and fly dubai – are set to receive additional aircraft throughout the year”

The success of its passenger numbers can be attributed to the large number of super jumbo's that operate into it along with the increased destinations that it serves as a hub. These growth figures are also backed up by the boom in its duty free services which continue to post record profits.

The news is clearly excellent news for Dubai's airports but it would be intriging to see the numbers that actually leave the airport and visit Dubai. It is not necessarily a problem for Dubai but it could become a destination where people ask if you have been to Dubai and the answer is no, but I've passed through the airport.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Further cracks found on A380 wing brackets

Engineers in charge of inspecting A380 aircraft have found a similar flaw on at least one further aircraft, according to industry sources.

The flaws relate to two types cracks on the same type of bracket inside the wings. The airlines have until Friday to complete the first phase of checks established by European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa)

Easa has also ordered compulsory inspections for A380's that have flown more than 1,300 flight cycle to take place over the next six weeks. A380's which have flown more than 1,800 cycles will have to be checked by next Friday.

The planes that are likely to have been used most are the 10 owned by Singapor Airlines, 7 owned by Emirates, one owned by Air France and two test planes.

Although the cracks are cause for concern, there are more than 2,000 brackets on each A380 and the cracks have only been found on a few of the brackets. Airbus have also said that the cracks are on the 'non-critical' brackets.

Despite this analysis from Airbus, an Australian engineering union has accused airbus of playing down the problem. Stephen Purvinas, the federal secretary or the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association said:

"I would be worried that Airbus aren't taking seriously the ever-increasing number of cracks being found in the wings of their A380 aircraft. Put it this way: I wouldn't put my family on an A380 at the moment," he said.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Thomas Cook bookings down 33%

Thomas Cook could be faced with fresh cash flow problems after it has been reported that it's trading in the first half of January were down 33% compared with early January 2011.

It would be unfair to claim that Thomas Cook were the only company to see a decline in bookings as other tour operator have seen a drop compared with last year with sales down around 15%. It is the further 18% difference that will be worrying to Thomas Cook after it was damaged by it's debt crisis last year. Thomas Cook's January decline is three times as bad as its main rival Tui Travel whose bookings are down 11%.

The troubled travel giant has previously been criticised for not moving fast enough into the online sector and figures show that  its online bookings are down 45% from this time last year. This is indicative of them not capturing the boom in the travel industry of  for people booking from the comfort of their own home.

If the liquidity crisis continues and Thomas Cook can't sell it assets fast enough it may spell trouble for the CAA who would be dwarfed by the failure of such a huge business. This is of course all hypothetical and if it were to happen it would be a disaster for customers, employees and agents alike.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Clegg not keen on 'Boris Island'

Nick Clegg today voiced his opinion on 'Boris Island' and revealed that it could become a source of tension in the coalition.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, the Deputy Prime Minister said: "I'm totally un-persuaded by the evidence and think we should take a common-sense, hard-headed look at the facts. I don't think we should as a country decide to concrete over vast swathes of the Thames Estuary on a whim. As it happens if you look at the facts, we have four big airports around London, three of which aren't even being used to capacity yet. Call me old-fashioned but it seems like you should first look at things like that."

I don't believe that the Tories are concerned over annoying their coalition partners as recent Tory policies have been indicative of this. A more contentious issue in the eyes of The Prime Minister is that Johnson spoke out of turn in briefing the plan to the Telegraph without warning the government and that Downing Street had already signed up to his proposal.

A further issue is the commitment of IAG to Heathrow after the vast expansion of Terminal 5. It has also been reported in today's Telegraph that the cost to land at 'Boris Island' would be far higher than to land at Heathrow due to the loans to be repaid for building of the project. These costs would clearly be reflected in higher air fares for the consumer as airlines will not be inclined to soak up the additional costs as a gesture of goodwill.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Heathrow gears up to let hundreds of Olympics firearms through security

The upcoming Olympics has raised issues regarding security and the potential threat of terrorism but it has also revealed the more unusual issues that are required to overcome in order for the event to go smoothly.

One such issue is the arrival of 390 athletes from all over the world who will be in possesion of firearms as they are required for their Olympic event. The Olympics will see 780 firearms arrive into the country and a further 20 firearms for the Paralympics later in the year. A document has been released by Heathrow which outlines how it will deal with such an unusual occurence. It states:

"When the competitors arrive, firearms will be collected and transported by approved handler to airside Locog (the London 2012 organisers) vehicles where they will be secured and subsequently transported to the Royal Artillery Barracks (RAB). On the day of issue of firearms to athletes, UKBA (the UK Border Agency) will perform necessary checks against required paperwork within the armoury at RAB."

Up to 80% of Olympians and Paralympians are expected to use Heathrow as their arrival and destination point into the city.

Good luck to all of the workers, volunteers and athletes for a very stressful few weeks!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tory plan for 'Boris Island' continues

The start of 2012 has brought some grand plans for the future from the Conservative lead government. A £32bn train line? Check. An £80m yacht for HM The Queen for her tireless national dedication? Check. £50bn airport on The Thames Estuary? Maybe, check.

The government has today announced that it is to hold a formal consultation on the current state of UK aviation and this will include further talks on the viability of an airport on the Thames Estuary dubbed 'Boris Island' after the enthusiastic backing given to the project by the Mayor of London.

It is also believed that the idea has the provisional backing from the Prime Minister and Chancellor but strong opposition from their new friends, The Liberal Democrats.

We are continually being today that there is no money yet to add a huge airport would make a mockery of this claim. It is important to realise that London has the largest capacity of any other city in the world at 130m passengers per year. Surely it would be better for the Chancellor to reduce APD which would guarantee passengers numbers. In turn this would help UK trade and businesses without harming the landscape and our other excellent airports.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

easyJet to expand at Newcastle Airport

Low cost airline easyJet have announced plans to station a new plane at Newcastle Airport in order to increase its presence at the airport.

The airline will do this through using a 150-seat Airbus A320 replacing a 124-seat A319 which will fly to Belfast, Malta, Paris, Bristol, Alicante and Malaga. easyJet believe the new plane will create space for up to 13,000 more passengers this year.

The move by easyJet coincides with expansion by Flybe to fly to Bergen in Norway and Newquay in Cornwall along with Jet2.com flying to Rome, Venice, Bodrum and Reus. Tour operator Cosmos have also announced that they will soon fly to Orlando.

Why aye man!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Virgin Atlantic angry over IAG expansion strategy

Virgin Atlantic have stepped up their displeasure for the proposed takeover of BMI by IAG by calling for UK competition authorities to scrutinise the deal in the hope that they will be more inclined to block a deal than the competition authorities in Brussels.

Steve Ridgway, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic believes the move is "so anti competitive" that it merits an in-depth investigation by the UK Competition Commission. The real rub of the deal for Virgin Atlantic is the acquisition of BMI's landing slots at Heathrow as the airline is second behind BA for the highest number of slots. If the deal does go through  between IAG and BMI it would leave IAG with 53.5% of slots. This figure is 17 times larger than Virgin Atlantic's share as the airline currently only have 3.1% of slots.

Ridgway also stated that if Virgin's bid for BMI had been successful, it would have retained important internal flights  between Heathrow and Edinburgh. He goes on to state that if the deal does go through it must be on the basis of IAG selling a "large number" of Heathrow slots.

The infighting between the two largest British airlines could be good for British customers but the airlines must keep an eye on other carriers such as Etihad and Emirates who continue to grow exponentially rather than each other.

Friday, 13 January 2012

British holiday makers to travel to Spain in the main

A report by The Post Office has found that Spain represents the best value for money for Britons looking for a holiday. The annual Holiday Money Report compares the cost of eight essential purchases which includes a restaurant meal, drinks and toiletries across 40 different destinations.

The calculations found that the average total cost for the eight items was less than £38 in Spain compared with more than £70 in Egypt and £60 in Turkey. The only other destination which fared cheaper than Spain was the long-haul destination of Sri Lanka where the cost of the eight items was around £28 on average.

The cost of holidaying in Spain is also around 40% cheaper than five years ago. This has been attributed to the rising value of the pound and the cheaper cost of travel to the area. Further afield, the best value long-haul destinations are South Africa and Mexico where the pound continue to strengthen.

For some outstanding deals to Spain, the Balearics and the Canaries check out Alihoco's best deals at www.allinclusive.co.uk

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ex-airline chief - fat passengers 'should pay more'

A former aviation executive has sparked controversy and debate by claiming that fat passengers 'should pay more' for their airline seats. Tony Webber believes that the additional weight has lead to higher fuel bills and that costs were now rising not  just because of increased fuel costs but "because the average adult passenger is carrying a bit more heft."

Webber believes that the case and argument is simple, commenting: "If the passengers on the aircraft weigh more, the aircraft consumes more fuel and the airline's costs go up. "In turn, the airline will need to lift airfares to recover these additional costs. And when they do, the burden of these higher fees should not be lumbered on those who are shedding a few kilos or keeping their weight stable."

Webber goes on to cite flight operations in rural Indonesia where passengers as well as bags are weighed before they board planes. The opinions of Webber seem to be at the extreme end of a shift in aviation policy towards larger passengers.

Virgin Atlantic currently require passengers to pay more if they are unable to fit in a single seat and Continental stipulate that passengers need to fit in seats with both armrests down in order to not be charged extra.

The move sparks an interesting debate about whether this is a genuine case or penny pinching by airlines. What do you and think and where does this lead?  Should we now have fat planes with larger seats, more expensive tickets and thin planes with lower fares and smaller meals on board? 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Global hotel chains create new booking engine

Six global hotel chains have come together to launch their own booking portal in order to capture a larger share of the online market themselves. The site, www.roomkey.com incorporates propertiers from Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group and will offer the best rates, independent reviews of its properties and to share information across their various social networking platforms.

The last time a similar move was made was with the launch of AndBook between Hilton, Accor and Forte Group in April 2001. This site failed to take off due to it not being validated within the EU and more signifcantly with the effects of September 11 which put many people off travelling.

The launch of Roomkey should fare better however with improved knowledge of the online industry together with the ability to sell its own rooms cheaper than anywhere else.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Ryanair bets big on Cyprus

Ryanair have today announced that it is to open its 50th base which will be located in Paphos, Cyprus.

The move marks a $140 million investment and the airline will operate 14 routes from Paphos as a direct challenge to national carrier Cyprus Airways. The main UK hub for the flights will be Stansted and the airline hope to operate 80 weekly flights and some 600,000 passengers annually.

It is believed that the move will create some 600 jobs and Alfred Van der Meer, CEO of Paphos Airport holding company Hermes is clearly delighted with such a deal:

“This is a great vote of confidence in the potential of both the airport and our region from Europe’s largest airline. Today’s announcement will help create much needed jobs and tourism and shows that Ryanair shares our confidence in the tremendous opportunity for strong market growth at the airport.”

You are taking over the world faster than Tesco, Mr. O'Leary!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Super-smooth jumbo suffers super-strong turbulence

Passengers on board a Qantas A380 on Saturday suffered such severe impact from turbulence that four required hospital treatment. The Qantas flight, which was carrying 450 passengers was approximately three hours from Singapore when it entered a storm over Indian airspace and encountered severe turbulence. It is believed that those that were injured were those that were out of their seats at the time and when the air pocket hit.

It has today been reported that the same plane, QF32 is one of several planes which has small cracks on their wings. Australian  aircraft engineers have today called for all A380's to be grounded while they investigate the issue with the planes wings.

Airlines must surely be reluctant to admit to faults and raise further bad publicity surrounding the A380. This,  along with the disruption it could cause to place up to 853 passengers per plance on alternative aircraft would create a major headache for airline chiefs.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Plane forced to make emergency landing at Heathrow

A BA jet was forced to make an emergency landing at Heathrow yesterday afternoon after Captain and first office complained of feeling light headed. The pilots were then fitted with oxygen masks before returning to Heathrow to land.

It is believed that passengers heard a 'panicked' captain call for a member of cabin crew to come to their aid. Once the masks were fitted the plane landed safely at Heathrow but both believed that they were about to pass out. The Airbus A321 was en-route from London Heathrow to Glasgow when the incident occurred.

BA later released a statement saying: "The pilots reported feeling light headed so, as a precaution and following normal procedure, put on their oxygen masks. Our pilots are highly trained to deal with such circumstances. The aircraft landed safely and customers continued their journey after a short delay."

Friday, 6 January 2012

Leading economists urge for HS2 to be built

A group of 28 leading economists have called for the construction of the £32bn high speed rail line and Birmingham to begin as soon as possible. The group lead by Lord Skidelsky believe that the first phase of construction of the line from Birmingham to London could 'support the creation of up to 1m British jobs'.

The group go further in their criticism of the current situation which is a “continuous embarrassment to British business promoting UK plc overseas”.

The Transport Minister, Justine Greening is expected to give the project the go ahead with an announcement possible as early as next Tuesday. The announcement will be the first major decision for the Transport Minister and the government are likely to face calls for a judicial review before the project is given the green light. One such opponent is Martin Tett, the group chairman of Buckinghamshire county council who has said that he has a team of lawyers reading to scrutinise the decision. Commenting on the scheme Mr tett said -

“Major politicians become obsessed with vanity projects but you get more bang for your buck by focusing on local schemes across the country that stimulate local industry,”

It currently takes an hour and a half from Birmingham to London by train, is a further 40 minutes off this time going to be a catalyst for better British industry at a cost of £32bn? I think I agree with Mr Tett.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sale of RBS Aviation leads to bidding war between banks

It has been reported that China Development Bank and Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group are in the final stages of  a bidding war for RBS Aviation, one of the world's top five commercial airline leasing firms.

RBS, which is 83% owned by the British government (or its citizens) is looking to shed RBS Aviation as part of efforts to pay back the bailout from 2008. The likely sale price is expected to be between $7.3bn and $7.5bn. It is also believed that US bank Well's Fargo remain in the bidding process while Australian firm Macquarie is no longer part of the bidding process.

Aviation industry sources have said that RBS Aviation has 466 aircraft under its ownership and management and that the business is attractive to investors as it offers steady demand and healthy cash flow.

The sooner you get this cash paid back the better.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Maldives hotels fight government spa ban

Holiday resorts in The Maldives are to challenge a government ruling which ordered the closure of all spas, massage parlours and health centres after an Islamist opposition party claimes they are front's for prostitution.

The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry which represents the island's hotels has said it will fight the ban and has applied for a temporary  injunction. The spa's are clearly a significant source of income for the hotels and a key reason why some 850,000 holiday makers travel to the islands each year.

It is also interesting to hear that many of the hotels have decided to ignore the ban and top end chains such as The Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and Shangri-La have decided to ignore the ban.

The ongoing conflict is part of a wider issue of rising Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives which saw anti-semitic protests take place over the governments decision to allow direct flights from Israel to the Maldives. It is also reported that the Islamic groups could put further pressure on the government and campaign for an outright alcohol ban in hotels.

I am sure that once the government realises the importance of income from tourism it will decide against upsetting it's vistors holiday habits.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Should Met Officers fly in business and first class at taxpayers expense?

It has been revealed that The Metropolitan Police spent £2,675,768 on 1,497 business class flights for its officers in the last financial year. A total sum of £44,000 was spent on flying staff first class which is said to have occured when accompanying VIP's who require complete protection.

Business class flights were also purchased to short haul destinations such as France, Ireland and Austria, something that has been called 'indefensible' by Liberal Democrat Dee Dooley.

One of the most expensive purchases was £8000 spent on flying Sir Paul Stephenson to Jamaica to share his expertise with the Jamaican police force who were dealing with a high rate in violent crime.

There is clearly no comparison between the luxury of first and business compared with premium economy and economy cabins but the question has to be asked  if working in the public sector qualifies for being 'on business'. Alternatively,  if police offices are dealing with serious crimes abroad should they be entitled to a flat bed in order to deal with a crime more effectively once they get there?

Baroness Doocey thinks that this spending at a time when front line spending is being cut is "a grotesque waste of money and totally indefensible for short-haul flights to European destinations. It is also difficult to understand why so many Met officers need to travel business class on long-haul flights. The Met should ban these perks immediately and concentrate its resources instead on maintaining police officer numbers."

We are constantly being told that private sector money and perks need to be paid in order to get the best staff in the public sector, yet to spend this much of taxpayers money on luxury flights is unacceptable at any time, let alone when we are being told that the coffers are empty.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Alihoco darts special

To celebrate tonight's final between local darts supremos Adrian 'Jackpot' Lewis and Andy 'The Hammer' Hamilton we are pleased to offer a special discount, no matter who wins.

Despite being the Alihoco office favourite, Hamilton enters tonight's match as the underdog against current title holder Lewis. For this reason we will be offering £50 discount on bookings should The Hammer be victorious and £25 discount should Lewis retain his title.

To redeem this discount, please enter discount code HAMMER if Andy lifts the title or JACKPOT if Adrian wins. Offer valid until 10th January.

Well done to both players on making the final and to keep Stoke as the darts capital of the world without the assistance of The Power!

Good luck to 'The Hammer' and 'Jackpot' tonight.