London Stansted gears up for busiest week of year so far amidst winter escapes

After a record-breaking January, London Stansted Airport braces for its busiest week of the year so far, as thousands of travellers prepare for the half-term holiday.

With the start of school holidays in the region, an estimated 360,000 passengers are set to depart over the next week from the airport, with families from the East of England seeking winter sun, skiing adventures, and cherished reunions.

Popular destinations for winter getaways include the Canary Islands, Southern Spain, Turkey, and Dubai, while skiing enthusiasts favour spots like Geneva, Chambery, Grenoble, Turin, Innsbruck, and Zurich.

Additionally, European city breaks to Edinburgh, Vienna, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Barcelona attract those opting for shorter trips. London Stansted advises passengers to arrive at the airport two to three hours before departure, follow hand luggage rules, and stay informed about potential travel disruptions.

Nick Millar, London Stansted’s Operations Director, said: ‘Our teams are looking forward to helping passengers get their trips off to the best possible start, but we do suggest a few simple steps that will ensure their journey is as seamless as possible.

‘We recommend that you check with your airline on when you need to arrive at the airport, which is normally two to three hours before departure, and to familiarise yourselves with hand luggage rules.

‘This includes the limits in place on liquids, gels and pastes, which must be placed in a clear plastic bag in containers under 100ml.

‘We also advise to plan your journey to the airport and check for travel disruption before setting off.’

London Stansted’s strong start to 2024, highlighted by its busiest January ever with 1.95 million passengers, paves the way for new routes launching in the coming months. Among these are Royal Jordanian’s service to Amman, British Airways flights to Nice, Florence, and Ibiza, as well as expansions from Ryanair, Jet2.com, and Sun Express.

British Airways resumes direct flights from London Gatwick to Jersey for Summer 2024

British Airways, the UK’s flag carrier, has announced the resumption of its direct flights from London Gatwick to Jersey, offering travellers convenient access to the sun-drenched shores of this quintessentially British holiday destination.

Renowned for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, Jersey has long been a favoured spot for short breaks and romantic getaways among British travellers. Now, British Airways is reconnecting travellers with this picturesque island, with flights scheduled to commence on May 23, 2024.

The airline will operate four weekly services from London Gatwick to Jersey throughout the summer 2024 schedule, providing flexibility for travellers to plan their island escape. These flights will initially operate on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, with additional services anticipated to commence in July.

The flights will be operated using British Airways’ Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, featuring both economic and Club Europe business class cabins. Return flights start from £72 and are available for booking online.

‘British Airways has announced the launch of various long-haul and short-haul routes from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Edinburgh for 2024,’ the airline said. ‘In addition, the national flag carrier is returning to London Stansted for the first time since the pandemic and it continues to increase the choice available to its customers globally.’

This reintroduction of flights to Jersey from London Gatwick complements British Airways’ existing routes from London Heathrow to the island.

In addition to the resumption of services to Jersey, British Airways is expanding its route network for summer 2024, including the introduction of new routes from Spain to UK airports.

Heathrow Airport urges UK government to reconsider VAT-free shopping

Heathrow Airport, a critical gateway for global travel, has issued a warning against the adverse impacts of the UK’s recent abolition of VAT-free shopping, thisismoney.co.uk has reported.

Describing the move as a ‘tourist tax’, Heathrow highlights the detrimental effects on inbound tourism and the broader economic landscape. Teaming up with influential bodies including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, Heathrow is leading a campaign to reinstate an internationally competitive tax-free shopping incentive.

‘While exports are thriving, Britain has shut the door on home-grown growth, turning away international shoppers through the tourist tax and tarnishing the UK’s reputation as a competitive country to spend and do business with,’ Heathrow said.

The decision to eliminate VAT-free shopping, enacted three years ago under former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has drawn widespread criticism from retailers, companies, and brands across the UK.

Heathrow urges reinstating this vital incentive, noting its pivotal role in driving economic growth and supporting job creation. Despite concerns raised by HM Treasury regarding the associated costs, independent studies indicate the potential for a significant boost to the economy, projecting an injection of over £10 billion annually and the creation of approximately 78,000 jobs.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the ‘tourist tax’, providing some optimism for a reversal.

Heathrow Airport has further commented that recent passenger statistics indicate a gradual recovery in travel volumes following the pandemic. Despite the progress, regulatory constraints pose challenges to the airport’s earnings potential, necessitating a balanced approach to recovery efforts, the report noted.

London Stansted offers last-minute Valentine’s Day getaways across Europe

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, London Stansted Airport invites lovers to embark on spontaneous romantic adventures across Europe.

Whether craving a city break steeped in history or a tranquil retreat by the sea, there’s a destination to fulfil every couple’s dreams. With fares starting from £34 one way, there is still time to book an unforgettable Valentine’s Day celebration.

From the charming streets of Barcelona to the majestic views of Budapest, Europe offers an array of romantic destinations waiting to be explored. Couples can immerse themselves in the vibrant culture of Barcelona, with one-way fares starting at £57, or indulge in the thermal baths and scenic riverfront of Budapest, with flights from Stansted beginning at £63.

For those seeking a more exotic escape, Istanbul beckons with its iconic landmarks and enchanting ambiance. Direct flights from Stansted to Istanbul start at £66, offering couples the chance to create timeless memories in this captivating city.

Alternatively, adventurous souls can venture to Madeira, where breathtaking sunsets and tropical landscapes await. Direct flights from Stansted to Madeira start at £100, promising a romantic getaway filled with adventure and relaxation.

From the historic streets of Rome to the picturesque canals of Venice, Europe boasts an array of romantic cities waiting to be explored. With fares starting at £52 and £86 respectively, Rome and Venice offer couples the chance to immerse themselves in the romance of these iconic destinations.

Jet2.com launches half-price ski carriage promotion

Jet2.com has introduced a new promotion for skiers and snowboarders, offering 50% off return ski carriage for a limited time.

With winter sports enthusiasts eager to experience the Swiss, Austrian, French, and Italian Alps, as well as Andorra and the Dolomites, this promotion presents an opportunity to hit the slopes for less. This promotion allows travellers to enjoy 22kg of ski carriage for half the regular price to all eight ski destinations on offer. Bookings must be made between now and February 19, 2024, with departures scheduled between February 5 and April 30, 2024.

Jet2.com offers a vast selection of ski flights this winter to popular destinations such as Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lyon, Barcelona (Andorra), and Turin. With flights departing from ten UK bases, including Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, and London Stansted, travellers have ample flexibility to plan weekend getaways or longer breaks on the slopes.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: ‘We are experiencing fantastic demand for our ski flights, with skiers and snowboarders looking to head to their favourite ski destinations and make the most of our fantastic programme this winter. With so many holidaymakers looking to hit the slopes, we have launched a fantastic ski carriage promotion, which means they can get to the snow for the very best value. Our huge ski programme and unmissable promotion means we expect demand to increase even further, as more people look to plan and book a winter break on the slopes.’

In addition to the half-price ski carriage offer, Jet2.com is providing customers with a 10% discount on all ski flights, with an additional 5% off for myJet2 account holders, and no minimum spend required.

Jet2 expands services to Santorini from Manchester Airport for Summer 2024

In response to strong demand for holidays to Greece in Summer 2024, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, the UK’s largest tour operator and third-largest airline, have announced an additional expansion at Manchester Airport.

Jet2 will offer new Sunday services to Santorini, complementing the existing Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday services. The new flights, running from July 21 to September 1, will provide holidaymakers and independent travel agents in the region with increased flexibility to visit this sought-after Greek island. The expansion reflects the companies’ commitment to meeting customer demand and offering diverse travel options, aligning with the growing interest in Greek destinations for the upcoming summer season.

The new Sunday services to Santorini, along with the existing flights, cater to various travel preferences, allowing newlyweds to embark on post-wedding getaways or families to enjoy extended stays on the picturesque island. Santorini, known for its breathtaking views, iconic sunsets, local vineyards, and historical sites, offers a diverse range of experiences for holidaymakers.

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are set to operate to a total of 14 Greek destinations from Manchester Airport in Summer 2024, including popular spots like Athens, Corfu, Crete, Kefalonia, Rhodes, Skiathos, and more.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: ‘Demand from customers and independent travel agents in the region is telling us that flights and holidays to Greece are very much in demand for Summer 24. As ever, we have responded quickly to that demand by adding extra services to Santorini from Manchester Airport, giving customers even more choice when it comes to visiting this bucket list destination.

‘With its romantic sunsets and stunning scenery, Santorini is a magical destination for newlyweds, couples and families who are looking to enjoy a memorable holiday in the Greek sunshine. The appeal of Santorini, combined with our Free Child Place holidays and fantastic sale, means we are confident that these new services will prove popular with local holidaymakers.’

Premier Inn expands presence with grand opening in Cork City Centre

Whitbread PLC, one of the UK’s prominent hotel business and owner of Premier Inn, has announced the inauguration of its first Premier Inn outside of Dublin in Cork City, Ireland.

This 187-bedroom hotel signifies Whitbread’s dedication to broadening its network of Premier Inn establishments across Ireland. With the Cork addition, Premier Inn now boasts six hotels and over 1,000 bedrooms in Ireland, responding to rising demand for budget-friendly accommodation in the country.

Matt Gent, Development Manager for Whitbread in Ireland, said: ‘Premier Inn Cork is an important milestone for Whitbread in Ireland. The hotel gives us a presence outside of Dublin for the first time and sets us up for further growth in towns and cities across Ireland as we work to deliver a network of Premier Inns across the country.

‘Looking at the new Cork City Centre Premier Inn and it’s hard not to be impressed by the quality of the development we have created with our partners Greenleaf, Warren Private and Elliott Group, and I have absolutely no doubt that the hotel will be a huge hit with our customers given the strength of Cork’s business economy and the amazing offer for leisure travellers in the city.

Premier Inn Cork City Centre is located at Morrison’s Quay, overlooking the River Lee, on a site with historical significance as the former location of Moore’s Hotel. The redevelopment has taken account sensitivity to the heritage location.

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment at the Irish Government, said: ‘I’m delighted to welcome the Premier Inn to Cork with this multi-million euro investment and initial 40-strong workforce. Cork is the fastest growing city in Ireland and people from home and abroad are eager to visit so with that in mind, I wish the Premier Inn team every success with the opening.’

Responding to the undersupply of budget hotel rooms in Ireland, Whitbread aims to further expand its presence in towns and cities across the country. Rooms at the Cork City Centre Premier Inn can be booked from €53 on a Standard Rate and €66 for a Flex Rate, with the best rates available on www.premierinn.com.

Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern strengthen travel links with codeshare

Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern have announced a strategic partnership through a new codeshare agreement, reinforcing vital business and leisure ties to East Asia and expanding access to various destinations within China.

In the initial phase of this collaboration, passengers booking through Virgin Atlantic can seamlessly connect from the airline’s Heathrow to Shanghai services to multiple destinations in China, such as Chengdu, Changsha, Qingdao, Shenzhen, and Xi’an. Tickets for these flights are now available.

In reciprocation, China Eastern customers, pending government approval, will soon be able to connect via Heathrow to Caribbean and African destinations, including Jamaica, Nassau, Lagos, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. Both airlines are members of the SkyTeam alliance, with Virgin Atlantic having joined last year. The two carriers have been co-located at Shanghai Pudong Terminal One since November, providing benefits such as SkyPriority services for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Silver members and China Eastern Miles members, encompassing priority check-in, boarding, and additional baggage allowances.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, ‘China and East Asia is an incredibly important region for Virgin Atlantic and we were delighted to welcome back our Heathrow to Shanghai service last year, providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.

‘Our new codeshare with China Eastern, a fellow SkyTeam partner, will serve continued demand for travel to the region and strengthens our commitment to China and East Asia. We know these agreements bring plenty of benefits to our customers, from increased network scope to China and beyond, to reciprocal loyalty rewards for our Flying Club members.’

The expanded codeshare not only facilitates a smoother travel experience but also offers Virgin Flying Club members accelerated rewards, with opportunities to earn both Virgin Points and Tier Points on every codeshare flight with China Eastern. The option to redeem Virgin Points is anticipated to be available shortly.

Virgin Atlantic resumed its Shanghai services on May 1, 2023, post the global pandemic, recognizing China’s significance as one of the UK’s most crucial trading partners. Shanghai, being the country’s largest city and a renowned commercial and financial hub, plays a pivotal role in fostering international connectivity and economic relationships.

easyJet and easyJet Holidays highlights most sought out destinations in holiday sale

easyJet and easyJet holidays has announced a highly successful Big Orange Sale as the bookings reached record levels, with two planes being filled every minute and the busiest-ever sales day recorded for package holidays on Sunshine Saturday.

Since the inception of the sale in December, destinations such as Amsterdam, Paris, Alicante, and Malaga emerged as the most sought-after. Notably, Greek island Skiathos, Calabria in Italy, and Rovaniemi in Lapland experienced remarkable surges in popularity compared to the previous year. Central European locales like Zadar in Croatia and Tivat in Montenegro also witnessed increased interest for 2024, while spontaneous January bookings for winter sun getaways, particularly to Tenerife, took the lead.

The allure of all-inclusive breaks captivated over 70 percent of holidaymakers, with preferences leaning towards 4 or 5-star accommodations. Majorca emerged as the top choice for beach packages, while Amsterdam took the lead for city breaks.

Ski enthusiasts found their haven in Geneva, Lyon, and Innsbruck, with easyJet’s focus on expanding ski routes evident through a 20% increase in the ski flying program this year, courtesy of three additional aircraft in Switzerland.

The popularity of Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands soared as the most-booked peak summer destination since the sale’s commencement. Copenhagen experienced a surge in popularity, offering quick access to the Swedish city of Malmo, the host of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

For package holidays, easyJet’s tour operator arm witnessed heightened bookings for May, June, and July, with Spain dominating over a quarter of all summer 2024 beach sales. Families constituted over a third of beach bookings, and over 60 of beach bookers opted for the all-inclusive board basis.

easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren commented: ‘With flights and holidays bookings taking off during this traditionally busy booking period as well as strong booking momentum for summer 2024, we continue to see that the value and importance of holidays for our customers. The popularity of easyJet holidays also continues to grow, with 48% more customers in our first quarter of the year and an expected increase of more than 35% this financial year, all of which is a which is testament to the strength of demand for our brand and network and we remain focused on delivering for our customers.’

The success of the Big Orange Sale aligns with recent research indicating a growing eagerness among Brits to travel abroad in 2024, with a considerable majority prioritising holiday spend in their yearly budgets.

Jet2.com adds Verona to Winter 24/25 Ski Programme

Leisure airline Jet2.com has announced the addition of Verona to its Winter 24/25 ski destinations in response to demand from skiers and snowboarders.

The airline is offering new ski services to Verona from December 21, 2024, to April 5, 2025, with weekly Saturday services operating from Manchester Airport. Verona provides proximity to popular ski destinations like Val di Fassa in the Trentino region, Madonna di Campiglio in the Brenta Dolomites of Northern Italy, and Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, known for its stunning scenery and world-class ski runs.

Jet2.com now offers ski flights to eight destinations for Winter 24/25, including Verona, Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lyon, and Turin. The company’s enhanced ski programme comprises 37 ski routes and 70 weekly flights during peak periods.

In addition to Verona, the Winter 24/25 ski programme includes:

* Chambery: Ski flights on sale from five UK bases, offering access to renowned ski resorts in France, such as the Three Valleys, Alpe d’Huez, Chamonix, La Plagne, and Val d’Isere.

* Geneva: A comprehensive programme with 32 weekly flights departing from nine UK bases, connecting ski enthusiasts to top resorts like Tignes, Flaine, Verbier, Zermatt, and the Three Valleys.

* Salzburg: Ski flights available from eight UK bases, providing access to over 300 resorts in the Austrian Alps, including Kaprun, Mayrhofen, and Obertauern.

* Grenoble: A gateway to the French Alps, with over 175 ski resorts nearby, including Morzine, Chamonix, Chamrousse, Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, and Avoriaz.

* Turin: Speedy transfers to established skiing resorts, such as Pila, Vars, Le Corbier, and Val d’Isere, with services from Birmingham and Manchester.

* Innsbruck: Access to the Tyrolean capital from multiple UK bases, connecting skiers to resorts like Igls, Alpbach, and St Anton am Arlberg.

* Lyon: Weekly flights from Manchester Airport offering direct access to major French ski resorts, including Tignes, Les Arcs, and Alpe d’Huez, as well as smaller resorts for a more secluded experience.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: ‘We are experiencing strong demand from skiers and snowboarders clamouring to book the best of the action for Winter 24/25 and our ski flights are selling very well. As a result, we are delighted to be expanding our ski programme even further and giving snow sports fans more choice, with the addition of Verona for Winter 24/25. Verona provides fantastic access to the best ski resorts in the Italian Alps, whether you are a beginner or an expert, with several resorts in easy reach. With perfectly timed flights, we are giving skiers access to the best ski resorts across Europe, and we know our new ski services to Verona, along with those already on sale, will be a huge hit with snow sports enthusiasts next winter.’

The Winter 24/25 ski programme from Jet2.com is available for booking from ten UK bases.