Virgin Atlantic plans to increase flights from London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has said that it is planning to increase its flights at London Heathrow in an effort to challenge the dominance of IAG, which owns British Airways, at the airport.

The move is also in line with the government’s Aviation Strategy green paper which seeks to facilitate competition between airlines through the allocation of slots at Heathrow. This will offer customers more choice and lower fares, as well as enhanced domestic connectivity and connectivity to international destinations.

Currently IAG holds more than 55 per cent of all take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic said that it will compete on 26 routes where there is an IAG monopoly, including Accra in Ghana, Austin in the USA and Bogota in Colombia. The airline will increase its long haul route network and launch a new inclusive network of domestic and European routes when the airport expands. The plans include a significant increase of Virgin Atlantic’s current network, including flights to exciting destinations such as Kolkata, Jakarta and Panama City, where passengers are unable to fly non-stop currently.

In total, Virgin Atlantic plans to serve 103 domestic, European and long haul destinations – up from just 19 long haul destinations in 2020. Of the 84 new destinations planned, 12 are domestic – including Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester, 37 are European – including Barcelona, Dublin and Madrid, and 35 are global – including Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Santiago.

‘Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow Airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens of thousands of travellers,’ Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said. ‘Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this. Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.

‘Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long. The third runway is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.’

Norwegian launches Autumn sale at London Gatwick to Europe, the US and South American destinations

Norwegian has launched its Autumn sale at London Gatwick, offering travellers savings on over 35,000 flights to Europe, the US and South America.

Customers looking to book their next holiday or city break will be able to obtain discounted nonstop fares from London Gatwick to 16 destinations including Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Rovaniemi, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Tampa, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

Matthew Wood, SVP Commercial at Norwegian said: ‘We are once again giving consumers the opportunity to travel even more affordably across the globe in our Autumn sale. These fantastic offers will allow holidaymakers and business travelers to take advantage of our low fares while enjoying exceptional levels of quality and service on board modern aircraft that reduce our impact on the environment’.

Available for travel from November 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, holidaymakers can now book a flight to the US from £134.90 one-way, fly to South America from £199.90 or head to Europe from £28.90. All sale prices are on the Low Fare ticket type, and include a 10kg hand baggage allowance, which includes one cabin bag and a small personal item as well as free onboard Wi-Fi. Seats are available to book now at www.norwegian.com/uk/offers/big-sale/, with the fares on offer until 22.59 BST on September 16, 2019.

The flights to Europe will be operated on the modern 186 seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft while passengers travelling out to the US or South America will fly on a 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

One of Europe’s low-cost airlines, Norwegian carries more than 5.8 million UK passengers each year to over 50 global destinations.

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays launches six new routes from Birmingham Airport for summer

Airline and package holiday specialist Jet2.com and Jet2holidays has announced the launch of six new routes from Birmingham Airport for this summer, including services to Bourgas, Bulgaria; Chania, Crete; Izmir, Turkey; Verona, Italy; Pula, Croatia; and Bergerac, France.

Starting May 6 until September, Jet2 will operate twice-weekly flights and holidays on Mondays and Thursdays to the Bourgas region from Birmingham Airport. With a range of 2-5 star hotels on sale, holidaymakers can soak up the Balkan sun in resorts such as Sunny Beach, Nessebar, Obzor and St Vlas.

Tom Screen, Aviation Director at Birmingham Airport said: ‘Welcoming a new route to the airport is always exciting, but in this case, this is the first of six! Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ inaugural flight to Bourgas in Bulgaria marks the start of the six new routes giving passengers the chance to visit Chania, Izmir, Verona, Pula and Bergerac from their local Airport. This added to the other 36 destinations on sale from Birmingham Airport this summer marks the beginning of the biggest ever programme from Jet2.com and Jet2holidays providing passengers with a variety of destinations and packages to suit their needs.’

In addition to Bourgas, between May and September, the travel and holiday company will operate to Chania once a week on Tuesdays. Chania is a popular spot among local holidaymakers looking to enjoy the northwest coast of Crete, with its fine beaches and attractive resorts like Rethymnon, Aghia Marina, Chania Town, Kalyves, Stalos and Kolymbari.

From May through to the end of October, Jet2 will operate every Wednesday to Izmir, another popular destination with beautiful beaches and Dilek National Park located within easy reach.

The company will operate weekly Saturday services from Birmingham to Verona, from May 11 until October, offering city break options as well as holidays in the Lake Garda area.

Further, Jet2 will operate weekly Sunday services to Pula from May 12 until September, offering further choice of sun destinations. Starting from May 25 to late September, Jet2 will operate weekly services to Bergerac every Saturday, providing access to the Dordogne region of south-west France.

With the launch of the six new routes, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays is offering nearly 40 destinations from Birmingham Airport this summer.

Norwegian announces biggest ever USA sale from the UK and Ireland

Norwegian has announced the launch of its autumn sale offering holidaymakers from across the UK and Ireland the chance to book flights to the USA for lower fares.

Available for travel from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, travellers can now book transatlantic flights from London Gatwick starting from £140 one-way in economy and £415 one-way in Premium. Flights to the east coast of America from Scotland and Ireland are available from £139/€99 one-way at www.norwegian.com. The sale fares are available to book at www.norwegian.com/ie/fall-flight-deals. The autumn sale will end on Monday September 17, 2018.

Norwegian’s 11 nonstop routes to the US from London Gatwick are included in the sale with prices starting from New York JFK from £155 one-way in economy and £465 one-way in Premium; Boston from £140 one-way in economy and £415 one-way in Premium; Orlando from £165 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Fort Lauderdale (Miami) from £160 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Denver from £165 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Las Vegas from £180 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Los Angeles from £175 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Oakland (San Francisco) from £165 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Chicago from £140 one-way in economy and £430 one-way in Premium; Austin from £170 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium; Tampa from £160 one-way in economy and £515 one-way in Premium.

Passengers from Scotland will also be able to avail a flight to the U.S. east coast with Norwegian this winter. Daily flights from Edinburgh nonstop to New York Stewart International Airport are included in the autumn sale offering access to New York state. Fares are available from £139 one-way from Edinburgh. Passengers in Ireland looking to explore New York state and New England can also enjoy discounted fares on Norwegian’s transatlantic flights from Shannon and Dublin this winter, with fares from starting €99 one way.

Thomas Ramdahl, Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian said: ‘We are giving consumers in the UK and Ireland the chance to fly to the States for less with fares from £140 one-way from the UK and €99 from Ireland in our autumn sale.

For the first time, we are also offering passengers flying from Gatwick the chance to upgrade their trip for less as our Premium cabin is also included in the sale. With further savings on long-haul routes from the UK and Ireland, Norwegian is continuing to make US travel even more affordable for thousands of British and Irish passengers.’

easyJet announces spring and early summer flights on sale across Europe

easyJet, the UK-based budget airline, has announced the sale of its flight services for spring and early summer 2018, offering flights across Europe for booking until June 24, 2018.

The European budget airline is offering a number of routes from across UK airports to destinations including Bristol to Faro from £28.49, Bristol to Cyprus Paphos from £58.49, Bristol to Barcelona from £24.99, London Gatwick to Barcelona from £24.99, Liverpool to Alicante from £17.99, Newcastle to Malaga from £17.99, Bristol to Naples from £30.49, and London Stansted to Naples from £26.99. Fares are per person, one way, based on two people travelling on the same booking. Tickets are available for booking at www.easyjet.com, the airline said.

Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK Director, said: ‘We’re really pleased to be putting our flights for spring 2018 on sale today. Passengers can look forward to even more low fares to Europe’s best beach and city destinations.’

‘For those who are looking for inspiration on where to go on their break, our Inspire Me app available on our website helps travellers to find flights tailored to their budget and travel dates.’

easyJet Holidays have also launched holidays up until June 24, 2017 with an offer of up to £120 off per booking, including peak season times such as Christmas and New Year, when booked by November 2, 2017.

easyJet has bases across 11 UK airports and flies to more than 800 routes on its network across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

easyJet to launch new routes to Stockholm and Athens from Bristol Airport

easyJet, the UK-based low-fares airline, has recently announced plans to start two new routes from Bristol Airport to Stockholm and Athens later this year.

The new service to Sweden’s capital city – Stockholm – will start on October 31, 2017, operating twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays year round with fares starting from £26.49 one-way. The new route to Athens, the capital city of Greece, will operate every Monday and Friday starting from November 6, 2017 with fares starting from £28.49 one-way.

The new routes are available to book at www.easyjet.com. The fares are one-way, including taxes and based on two people on the same booking.

Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK Country Manager, said: ‘We’re really pleased to announce these two new beautiful destinations to our network from Bristol Airport and we are confident they’ll be very popular with our passengers. Many people are already starting to plan ahead for their Winter holidays and with flights now on sale, they can take advantage of our low fares.

‘With these two new routes, easyJet now flies to 64 destinations across Europe and beyond from Bristol Airport. It’s one of the biggest bases in our network and we’re committed to ensuring we continue to provide the best service and choice of destinations to our passengers in the South-West.’

Nigel Scott, Bristol Airport’s Business Development Director said: ‘The announcement of these two new routes by easyJet is very exciting news for Bristol Airport. Athens and Stockholm are destinations our customers have frequently told us they would like to see served directly from the region, and their addition to our network increases the number of European capital cities we serve to 18 – the largest number in the airport’s 60-year history.

‘These new routes will also support our ongoing efforts to grow inbound tourism to the South West and Wales, and we look forward to working with easyJet as well as our partners in the tourism industry to promote the fantastic attractions of the region to an even wider audience.’

67% of travel-booking websites display unreliable pricing, Europe report

While booking hotels and flights online is increasingly becoming popular, problems with online travel services have become one of the most common types of consumer complaints, according to a study by the European Commission.

Following complaints received by European consumer centres, in October 2016 the European Commission and EU consumer protection authorities launched a coordinated screening of 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across 28 countries (26 EU countries, Norway and Iceland).

The study revealed that two thirds – 67 percent – of travel comparison and booking websites checked displayed unreliable pricing. In one third of the cases, the price first shown was not the same as the final price; in one fifth of the cases, promotional offers were not really available; and in almost one third of the cases, the total price or the way it was calculated was not clear.

The consumer protection authorities have asked these websites to comply with EU consumer legislation. This legislation requires them to be fully transparent about prices, and to present offers in a clear way, at an early stage in the booking process.

Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: ‘The Internet provides consumers with plenty of information to prepare, compare and book their holidays. However, if the reviews on comparison websites are biased or prices are not transparent, these websites are misleading consumers. The companies concerned need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would. Consumer authorities will now require the websites to solve these issues. Consumers deserve the same protection online and offline.’

Leading European regional airlines Ryanair has welcomed the European Commission report as well as EU’s decision to invoke national enforcement procedures to ensure that the websites comply with EU consumer legislation. Ryanair has been engaged in several legal cases across Europe against ‘screenscraper’ websites such as Opodo and eDreams to ensure that Ryanair has appropriate contact details to communicate with its customers.

Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs, commented, ‘The Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, herself said that if reviews on comparison websites are biased or prices are not transparent, then these websites are misleading consumers. It’s patently obvious that consumers across Europe are being misled and overcharged by some of these websites. We welcome this report, which exposes these anti-consumer practices and we hope its findings will lead to greater protection for consumers. Our advice to customers is simple: book directly on the Ryanair.com website to avoid being misled or overcharged.’

British Airways adds new German routes from London City Airport

British Airways has announced plans to expand its German network and aircraft fleet at London City Airport this summer with two new routes and an additional Embraer 190 jet.

As per the plan, the British airline will launch new thrice-a-day flights to both Berlin and Hamburg. Together with the existing services to Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, the airline will operate more than 70 flights each week to Germany direct from the Docklands.

This is the first time that British Airways has operated to Berlin from London City. The new route will commence on June 19 on an Embraer jet and each way hand baggage only fares are available from GBP49. While Hamburg is currently served by British Airways’ franchise partner SunAir, starting May 8 British Airways will serve the route using larger Saab 2000 aircraft, more than doubling the number of seats available. Each way hand baggage only fares are available from GBP79.

The new 98-seat aircraft, which will arrive in June, will be the 20th Embraer to join the British Airways fleet at London City, and will create 20 new jobs at the airport as well as additional roles for the companies that supply the airline.

Luke Hayhoe, British Airways’ general manager commercial and customer, London City, said: ‘Germany is a very important market for us and these new routes give both our business and leisure customers a much wider choice of destinations with a well-timed schedule. As the largest airline operating at London City we are giving customers what they want, excellent network and frequencies, a choice of 32 destinations in the UK, Europe and the USA and low all-inclusive fares.

‘We are also delighted to take delivery of our 20th Embraer, an aircraft which is very popular with our customers for its comfort, style and low noise and emissions levels.’

With the extra routes, British Airways will have its busiest ever summer at London City Airport where it will operate over half the flights. The airline has recently announced more seats to European holiday hotspots this summer from Heathrow (to Athens, Lisbon and Gibraltar) and from Gatwick (to Tenerife, Lanzarote and Funchal).

 

Ryanair urges Google to enforce greater transparency following customer complaints

Irish low fares airline Ryanair has urged Google to enforce greater transparency on its online advertising following extensive complaints from Ryanair customers who have been misled into booking Ryanair flights on non-Ryanair websites, purposely designed to mislead customers.

According to the airline, screenscraper websites such as eDreams have been paying for Google advertising to have their websites rank above the official Ryanair website on Google searches, which Ryanair claims is misleading Ryanair customers into visiting the eDreams website, masquerading as Ryanair.com, and booking with eDreams.

Ryanair also urged customers to book directly on Ryanair.com and called on Google to enforce greater transparency on its advertising rules, to prevent European customers being misled and overcharged.

Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: ‘As Europe’s largest airline, Ryanair has received numerous complaints from our customers who have inadvertently purchased Ryanair flights on the eDreams website, as a direct result of the misleading advertising provided by Google. EDreams has been unlawfully selling Ryanair flights, by masquerading as Ryanair.com, and then offering customers a substandard service, with additional fees, or by often selling fares that don’t even exist. While we have no issue with Google advertising in general, it is unfair that it is used as a mechanism to mislead customers.

Customers end up paying more for their flights, thinking they’ve bought Ryanair flights with Ryanair, and often their contact details aren’t passed on, meaning they can’t be contacted if their flight changes, and they also have trouble checking-in online. This is a particular problem for customers in the UK and Ireland.

Ryanair will continue to pursue screenscraper websites such as eDreams to prevent Europe’s consumers from being misled over price and booking conditions. We would again urge customers to book directly on the Ryanair.com website to guarantee the lowest fares and best customer service. In the meantime, we call on Google to enforce greater transparency of its advertising to prevent any more customers from being misled and overcharged.’

Ryanair has been engaged in several legal cases against screenscraper websites across Europe to prevent its customers from being subjected to additional, hidden charges and to ensure Ryanair has appropriate contact details to communicate with its customers. The Court of Hamburg recently ruled that eDreams has been using an unlawful subdomain and was misleading customers into thinking that it had an official partnership with Ryanair, the airline said.

UK’s air passenger charges amongst world’s highest

Travellers in the UK pay some of the world’s highest taxes on flying, according to a study by UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group.

The UK imposes Air Passenger Duty (APD) of £13 on short haul flights and £71 on long haul flights leaving from airports in England and Wales, but excluding flights from Northern Ireland. The study analysed taxes and compulsory government charges imposed per passenger on an economy class flight by 20 governments around the world. It also analysed additional charges imposed on a per passenger basis by airport operators.

According to the study, charges levied by the UK are currently the highest within the EU and well above the average for G7 countries, which is at £10 ($15) on short haul flights and £23 ($34) on long haul flights. The global average, based on countries where aviation taxes are imposed, is currently £15 ($23) on short haul flights and £35 ($53) on long haul flights. However, many countries such as Ireland, Slovakia and Belgium do not impose any taxes on individual air passengers currently.

According to researchers, the extra charges impact tourism, penalise SMEs trying to expand overseas, disadvantage remote regional cities, and also affect airlines’ abilities to offer less profitable routes. In addition, although taxes on flying are often billed as ‘green taxes’, in the UK, as elsewhere, the revenue raised is not utilised for environmental protection projects.

The report also noted that the UK government is presently adopting measures to reduce the high costs facing air passengers. In May this year, the APD for under-12s was abolished. As of April 1, charges on journeys over 4,000 miles were also reduced; however, levies on journeys between 2,000 and 4,000 miles have increased, it said.

Roy Maugham, Tax Partner of UHY Hacker Young, commented: ‘Airlines provide a crucial piece of infrastructure. They facilitate a great deal of economic activity that is essential for countries that want to benefit from globalisation. The higher taxes on flying in the UK hurt airlines, business users and consumers.’

‘The recent lowering of charges for under-12s and long haul travellers and the discussions in Northern Ireland indicate an awareness of the problem, but the reforms do not go far enough. Charges remain considerably higher than in many other EU countries.’

Commenting on the need for transparency in airport and airline charges, Maugham added: ‘In the UK and around the world, the issue of complex charges is an area where far greater progress needs to be made to ensure better transparency and competition. Businesses and consumers would greatly benefit if regulators and tax authorities kept aviation taxes low and ensured that charges were more transparent.’