Wednesday, 29 February 2012

New Heathrow Terminal 2 takes shape

The completion of major structural work on Heathrow's new T2 has been celebrated with a topping out ceremony today. The new terminal is to open in 2014 and will capable of handling 20m passengers annually.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA said the latest work: "puts us within touching distance of a future where Heathrow has some of the best facilities in Europe There's a lot still to do, but the opening of Terminal 2 could move Heathrow into pole position among European hub airports and allow us to set our sights on elite airports such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Incheon in Seoul."

The previous Terminal 2 was opened in 1955 but demolished in 2010.

Are you following this story Boris?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Virgin Upper Class crew taught how to whisper

In a move to make Virgin Atlantic the standard bearer for premium travel the airline has appointed a 'whispering coach' so that its crew can speak with their passengers as discretely as possible.

Richard Fitzgerald has been appointed as the 'whispering coach' who will teach crew to speak at between twenty and thirty decibels. Commenting on the new policy, Mr Fitzgerald said:

"The crew are now trained to whisper at tones between twenty and thirty decibels due to its calming effect and the fact that it won't disturb other passengers whilst lights are out. It is incredibly important that all Virgin Atlantic's cabin crew have their skills honed in order to provide the most comfortable experience possible for our passengers. The new Upper Class Dream Suite is the ultimate in luxury and comfort and it's touches like these that make our in-flight service second to none."

The latest innovation by Virgin Atlantic is part of a wider overhaul of its Upper Class cabins.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Salmond drops referendum date clanger

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond looks to have created a problem for the 2014 referendum as the likely date to vote will be during autumn half term in almost entire of the country.

The proposed date of 18th October was meant to increase turnout as it was thought more people would be likely to turnout on a Saturday. Speaking to a radio programme, Mr Salmond said:

"Obviously, in something as important as a referendum on the future of Scotland, you want to hold it on a day where the maximum number of people are able to vote."

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory Leader has taken the opportunity to mock Mr Salmond's likely choice of dates:

"In Alex Salmond's rush to cosy up to Rupert Murdoch he has chosen a date which threatens to disenfranchise a huge number of Scots.The SNP's rationale for holding a vote on a Saturday is to boost turnout, but this date would result in exactly the opposite. Why does Alex Salmond want to call a poll when many voters are away on holiday?"

Common sense is not very common, certainly with politicians!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Does anyone still use holiday brochures?

Do you remember going to Lunn Poly on a wet Saturday and dreaming of the holiday on page 54? Recent development to technology and ways of booking travel has meant that holiday companies such as ours do not use brochures because prices fluctuate, availability changes and huge inventory of stock means that our brochures would be the size of the Yellow Pages.

Despite this, the major package tour operators continue to use brochures as a selling tool when customers visit their high street shops. But as more and more high street shops close and with customers use brochures to find what they would like and then book online, a boss at Tui Travel has admitted that brochures could become a thing of the past within five years.

Nick Longman of Tui Travel told Travel Weekly: 'Brochures are an interesting debate. My challenge in the business is to think about at what point do we need zero brochures. There is going to be a point where we need to stop producing brochures and I think it will come within the next five years.'

What do you think? Do you continue to use brochures or now solely rely on the web?

I think brochures may continue to be used by UK clients but they will be gradually phased out along with high street travel agents.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Thomas Cook shares rise by 4p (or 30%!)

Shares in Thomas Cook rose by 30% on Wednesday to the grand sum of 17p per share. The rise came after analysts Investec Securities said that investors were underestimating the brands survival. 

According to Investec, the future is also said to look brighter as the position of chief executive is soon to be filled and the balance sheet improved from the sell off of several assets.

Yet despite this boost in confidence from Investec, they do go on to be cautious over the future as families struggle to afford a holiday and customers are cautious over the safety of Thomas Cook. Investec also pointed towards consumers increased ability to DIY their own holidays and to save significant costs which go with package holidays.

It seems as though we would not be talking about a 4p rise in share prices unless that price is ultra low and such a difference creates a major percentage increase and headlines. On the same day, TUI, who are faring much better than Thomas Cook saw it's shares fall by 5p to 202 per per share. Pretty fickle stuff!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

LOCOG considering charging for fresh air during Olympics

Not really, but it is getting that way. It has recently been announced that LOCOG are to sell tickets at Box Hill 

section of the course under the pretense that it will keep numbers low due to it being an area of outstanding national beauty.

There are to be some 15,000 tickets made available for the Men's and Women's road races. If I were to do some basic calculations I would estimate that the tickets would cost £60 per ticket, the revenue to LOCOG would stand at £900,000. Is this how much the event would cost to steward for two days? Please don't pretend that you are doing this for the sake of the enviroment.

The move has been slammed by British Cycling president Brian Cookson who told The Daily Telegraph: “It would be absolutely better if it was free of charge because cycling is a sport that is traditionally free to watch. I do appreciate the difficult environmental issues that have to be resolved in the sensitive environment of Box Hill, and you can't have an unrestricted free-for-all like the Tour de France. But while the numbers have to be managed, it would be absolutely better if it was free of charge."

The news has also come at a time when it has been announced that vistors will be required to pay £10 to watch Olympic coverage on big screens within the Olympic Park.

Where exactly has our £7.25billion been spent and what benefits are we getting?

Take a nice holiday with Alihoco.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ryanair to sue travel agent over 'unauthorised selling' of seats

Budget airline Ryanair has announced that it is to sue Irish travel agent Budget Travel over alleged unathorised selling of tickets.

Ryanair have accused Budget Travel of 'screenscraping' where travel agents take information before marking the fare up for a profit. Commenting on the case Ryanair's Stephen McNamara said:

'Budget Travel has no permission or agreement with Ryanair and we have been forced to take legal action to insist that they immediately desist from unlawfully scraping and selling Ryanair’s low fare flights often at inflated prices to unsuspecting consumers.'

Budget Travel has rejected the claims.

Ryanair have also accused Budget Travel of not passing on passenger details which means that Ryanair cannot communicate directly with customers in the event of a change in schedule or flight disruption.

Is the real reason that by doing this Ryanair can't sell all of their optional extras to customers and that they simply want all of the consumer data for themselves? Surely the current situation is one of win-win for you Mr. O'Leary?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Education Secretary 'to ban term time holidays'

Education Secretary Michael Gove is to take a tougher stance on parents who take children out of school in order to go on holiday. The move will come into practice by withdrawing headteachers ability to sanction up to two weeks a year of 'authorised absence' for each pupil.

It is estimated that 4.5 million days of schooling are missed by pupils each year under the current system where headteachers are said to be pressured to grant absence in order for children to go on holiday, while holiday prices are lower. The period of 'authorised absence' has traditionally been meant to cover illness, bad weather or bereavements.

Time will tell whether this means that attendance records will improve or that now only well off families will be able to go on holiday when they are officially allowed to.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Only in America - Government funds Las Vegas mobster museum

Las Vegas opened it's doors to it's latest attraction on Tuesday, a museum dedicated to the city's story as a centre of mob violence and rule.

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement sets out to depict seminal times in The Mob war's hits and ways of operating their illegal enterprise. What is most surprising is that the opening of the museum has been assisted by $42m of government funding.

The museum will attempt to illustrate the battles from both sides of the law and how The Mob helped to build the original Las Vegas strip and to police the city without the assistance of the law.

The museum's operators have denied that by opening the museum they are sensationalising events and they may have a point given the tale of how Las Vegas began.  But on the other hand, could you imagine the Chinese Government funding a museum about Triad Gangs or the British Government funding museums about Yardies?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Live sport mid flight with Gulf Air

For sports junkie's flights can be a bit boring when it comes to getting your fix. Highlights of Djokovic winning Wimbledon? Check. Europe's victory in Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor? Check.

However, this issue could soon be a problem of the past after an announcement by Gulf Air which indicates that from 1st March the airline will be launching a sports channel called Sport 24. Sport 24 will show live action from the Olympics, Formula 1, Roland Garros Ryder Cup, The Masters and German Bundesliga football.

The aircraft operating the route will be Gulf Air's A330 whilst on long haul destinations or Gulf bound routes. The launch has been enabled through a link up with IMG media. Commenting on the development, Richard Wise, senior vice president for IMG Media said:

"Sport 24 will revolutionise the way passengers watch live sports on airlines and cruise ships. For the first time ever viewers will be able to enjoy the greatest sporting events live while travelling on business or holidaying abroad. Sport fans will no longer have to miss their favourite team, or event on this new dedicated sports channel,"

Gone are the days when the flight captain announces who has won The Masters, watch them scrape up the 18th from 30,000 ft!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Website offers quickie divorces, whilst on holiday

For those going through a difficult divorce, one website may have come up with a novel idea to make the process quicker, cheaper  and more relaxing than thought possible. Quickdivorceuk.com have created a holiday package which incorporates return flights, accommodation and the divorce completion for a cost of £4,500.

Quickdivorce UK hope that the benefits of the system will far outweigh the time and cost that it takes to get divorced in the UK and be pain free, provided issues of conflict such as custody of children and ownership of assets have been agreed in writing.

The system is also helped by Dominican Republic law which allows British citizens to be trated as domiciled even thought that they are only theretemporarily. The new venture has already attracted criticism for making the process of divorce too easy. Norman Wells, director  of the Family Education Trust believes that:

"Any system that allows for swift, no-fault divorces inevitably devalues marriage. Marriage involves a lifelong commitment and is therefore not something to be entered into lightly or ended in haste. Instead of providing struggling couples with a quick escape route, we should be encouraging them to talk through their difficulties with a view to resolving their differences and restoring their marriage."

Seems like a pretty novel idea to me. Good luck with the venture!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Nice Friday news for BA & Virgin

The top dogs at BA and Virgin Atlantic will today be pleased that the Nigerian government have decided to drop $235 million in fines imposed on the airlines over allegedly fraudulent price fixing on tickets.

The panel investigating the claims ruled that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority lacked enough regulatory power to fine the airlines when the alleged price fixing took place between 2004-2006. This means that the only action that could have been taken at this time was to issue orders to impose bans on carriers who inflated fares.

Travellers to Nigeria have good reason to feel agrgrieved after a six month investigation in 2004 found that fuel surcharges increased by £27.50 per flight, despite the cost of aviation fuel dropping. BA and Virgin Atlantic currently control around 90% of all traffic from UK to Nigeria and it is a particulalry lucrative market.

The airlines may be particulary relieved and the Nigerian Government very aggrieved after the ruling as both BA and Virgin Atlantic have previous for price fixing and fuel surcharges over flights to America.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

New safety drill policy for cruise ships after Costa Concordia tragedy

In light of the tragic scenes on board the Costa Concordia last month, mandatory drills are now to be imposed before cruise ships leave port. The previous policy stated that muster drills can happen at any time within 24 hours of passenger embarkation.

All cruise operators have voluntarily undertaken the policy with immediate effect.

In a statement from The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council and the Passenger Shipping Association, they said:

"On rare occasions when passengers arrive after the muster has been completed, passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The formal policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.”

Lets hope that valuable lessons have now been learnt and the cruise industry can recover from the Costa Concordia tragedy.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Flying economy class does not increase risk of DVT - report

New guidelines released from the American College of Chest Physicians has offered clarification on what may or may not cause blood clots whilst flying.

Most significantly, the guidelines refute the notion that people flying long haul in economy class carry a greater risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. The report also reiterates the heightened risk of flying for those who have had recent surgery or a broken bone, people with active cancer, pregnant women or women on birth control pills, the elderly, those with limited mobility, or those who have previously had blood clots.

The report did note that those who may be at risk are those who occupy window seats as they are less likely to get up and move around whilst on board for fear of making a nuisance to their fellow passengers. The American College of Chest Physicians also recommended drinking lots of water for two reasons. Firstly to ensure that you are well hydrated as this reduces the risk of clots and secondly, so that you need to go the toilet and therefore move around more in the process!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tui bookings boosted by Thomas Cook uncertainty

TUI Travel have today claimed that they have managed to take UK business from its arch-rival Thomas Cook during the January booking season.

The travel giant has now sold more that a third of its 2012 summer holidays, despite increasing prices by 8%. Thomas Cook are due to release a trading update tomorrow which will reveal its new year performance.

Peter Long, TUI chief executive is not shy in explaining why he feels his firm has performed better than industry competitors:  "I think we are clearly a beneficiary of the uncertain environment that our competitor is operating in. We have always said that was likely."

The attitude of Peter Long has also been reflected in TUI's advertising campaign amidst Thomas Cooks' wobble last year which claimed: "No worries about your holiday company and no worries about what you're spending. Unlike a certain holiday company we could mention, you don't need to worry about the way we run our business."

Tui's strong performance is indicative of British customers faith in the tradional package holiday and to be understandably risk averse when purchasing their annual holiday. The 'risk' factor whether it is real or otherwise will continue to be a problem for Thomas Cook and tomorrows figures should make interesting reading.

Alihoco's sales have continued to improve and January 2012 has been our best month to date. Thank you to all customers who have chosen to book with us.

Monday, 6 February 2012

China hardens line over EU carbon tax

It has been reported that the Chinese government has banned its airlines from paying the new European Union carbon  charge, which could lead to trade tension over use of EU airports.

China is not alone in its opposition to the scheme as the US and India are also strongly opposed to the scheme which will see a levy applied to all airlines which operate through EU airports.

Commenting on the development, The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said

"China will consider adopting necessary measures to protect interests of Chinese individuals and companies, pending the development of the issue."

The Chinese opposition to the scheme has come after they feel that it is unfair to apply a levelly to developing nations and for the costs to be passed onto the aircraft manufacturers.

I'm not sure the 'developing nation' argument will wash for much longer.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Glorious news for Liverpool

It has been reported that Liverpool City Council is to repay up to £9m to the government which will allow its port to become a turnaround port for cruise liners.

Public funding was given to the project on the stipulation that the port was only used a stop off, not turnarounds. The new plans would allow it's cruises to begin and end their journey and also where boats can be serviced in between cruises.

Councillor Joe Anderson believes that cruises can begin withing three months as the government agreed to allow the plans to  begin once the issue over grants had been resolved.

The decision to pay back the money will also resolve the conflict between Southampton City Council and Liverpool City Council after Southampton council leader Royston accused Mersy side of having an 'unfair advantage' over Southampton due to the government grants.

Well done to all involved to get the issue resolved and for bringing business into the city.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

LOCOG returns 120,000 hotel nights for Olympic period

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have realeased 20% of their allocation of rooms back to hoteliers who are now able to sell them on the open market.

LOCOG originally reserved 600,000 room nights in 40,000 rooms across 200 hotels to provide accommodation for media, global sport federations, sponsors, workers and the International Olympic Committee. Part of the deal was that LOCOG would return the rooms to hoteliers in sufficient time for the rooms to be re-sold.

Sandie Dawe, the chief executive of the Visit Britain thinks that this is great news for people wishing to experience the games: "The fact that such a wide spread of rooms in London will now be made available to the public is great news for overseas visitors wishing to come to the UK to experience the Olympics and all the other wonderful festivities that are taking place."

What happens next will be an intriguing example of free market economics as hoteliers either decide to take a bird in hand worth two in the bush or to hold out for big prices amidst gloomy times. I'd take the bird!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

BAA loses appeal against forced sale of Stansted airport

A tribunal over BAA's ownership of Stansted airport has ruled that the decision by the Competition Competition was correct and that BAA must sell the airport due to BAA's dominance in the UK.

The tribunal came after BAA were told in 2009 that it should sell three of the seven British airports and that this adversley affected passengers and airlines which use BAA airports. Since 2009 BAA have sold Gatwick airport for £1.5bn and is poised to sell Edinburgh airport this summer. This has lead to BAA saying that the measures take since 2009 have gone far enough and BAA could still appeal the decision by the tribunal in order to overturn  this decision.

BAA are keen to retain Stansted airport as it is a particularly busy short haul hub with 550 aircraft movements per day and some 18 million passengers per year.

Commenting on the decision, a spokesperson for BAA said: "We are disappointed by the decision of the competition appeal tribunal, which we will now carefully consider before making any further statements."

One airline who are particulary pleased with the ruling is Ryanair who have felt that the airport has been poorly managed and expensive to use. Stephen McNamara of Ryanair said: "These repeated delays in the sale of Stansted must now end. Ferrovial [the 49.99% shareholder] and the other owners of Stansted are unfairly enriching themselves at the expense of UK passengers/visitors who are suffering higher charges and third-rate service."