Walsh Sees Improvement in Immigration Hold-Ups

Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways parent company, IAG, has expressed his confidence that the UK government has taken control of the problem of long and time-consuming immigration queues at Heathrow Airport.

In recent weeks it has not been uncommon for passengers arriving at the airport to experience waiting times of two hours at the UK Border Control desks. However, Walsh said that he now believes that the British government has taken steps to solve the problem.

Walsh said, ‘We have seen very significant improvement in the performance of immigration at Heathrow and that needs to continue. I’m pretty confident the government will get control of it. The prime minister has got personally involved and that gives us a lot more confidence than if [immigration minister] Damian Green had just been dealing with it. But the government should be ashamed that it tried to convince people that the problem was not as bad as it was.’

The IAG boss was also optimistic about the programme in place for dealing with increased traffic during the Olympic Games, which he described as, ‘pretty robust,’ but was more concerned about the post-game scenario, when staffing levels are once again reduced.

Walsh also spoke out against any suggestion that airlines should pay extra fees to help counter the delays at immigration, other than the possibility of premium customers paying for an additional service to speed them through the formalities.

He said, ‘I see no reason why airlines should have to bear any additional cost over what the Home Office already provides. The cost per person of going through immigration is GBP3.20. They should have sufficient resource within this existing cost if they target these resources on the known flows of traffic.’

Boca Juniors Football Team Opens Hotel in Argentina

Club Atletico Boca Juniors, an Argentinean football club in Buenos Aires, has announced the opening of a football-themed hotel in Buenos Aires.

Boca Juniors is Argentina’s most triumphant football team, successful both at home and internationally, having won 51 official titles at the national and international tournaments. Boca Juniors is the football team where Diego Maradona, Argentina’s most famous football icon, played, and the club has recently opened a luxury hotel in the city centre, in the district of San Telmo, for the cost of GBP9 million. The hotel, which has taken four years to construct, will provide accommodation for team members on nights before matches, with dedicated floors to the players.

The 85-room hotel is offering a decor comprising of Boca Juniors memorabilia, while hotel amenities include a guest lobby, a luxury spa and a fitness facility. The rooms are decorated with photographs of the team players, and room rates range between GBP90 and GBP370 per night.

The hotel also hosts a museum dedicated to the team, and offers documentaries on the team, on demand, to its guests. Fans of the team will be able to relive the nostalgia associated with the team as well as enjoy the excitement of staying with the football team players during home town matches.

The president of Boca Juniors, Daniel Angelici, said in an interview, ‘We predict success for this hotel, as much for its architecture as for its colours, which are our own and represent our passion and love.’

Heathrow Express Announces Booking Capabilities through Smart Phone Apps

Heathrow Express, a UK-based express train service from London Heathrow Airport  to London Paddington station, has announced new features for its smart phone applications.

The company is offering a new feature for the applications, which allows business travellers to purchase tickets for Heathrow Express trains using their smart phones.

Heathrow Express is a part of BAA Ltd, owner and operator of six British airports, including London Heathrow. The company has added new capabilities to its existing Blackberry and Android applications, for buyers to have electronic tickets bought and delivered to their smart phones, as well as receive updates on travel plans.

The upgraded app also allows business travellers to use a corporate trade account for making bookings for the train service, without having to go through their appointed travel agents.

Heathrow Express is implementing new initiatives at a cost of GBP16 million, which also includes new trains and uniforms for employees.

Michael Walker, the company head of commercial development, said, ‘We have a series of continued innovations planned throughout the year to ensure we keep upgrading the online functionality for our business and leisure customers.

These changes are the first in a long line of new developments due to launch throughout the year.’

UK Airlines Announce Passenger Traffic Increases in April 2012

International Airlines Group (IAG), the UK-based airline holding company that owns British Airways, has announced a growth in traffic in April 2012.

The company has reported that premium traffic increased by 4.8% in April 2012 compared to the same month in 2011. Premium traffic has outgrown the company’s traffic for economic fares, which increased by 2.6% in April 2012, from that in April 2011.

Total traffic for the company increased by 2.9% in April 2012, compared to April 2011, while capacity increased by 0.5% for the month compared to that for April 2011. Passenger load factor in April 2012 has increased by 1.9 point to 81.6% over the prior year period.

The company has reported that the results are not inclusive of its newly acquired Bmi airline from Dutch airline, Lufthansa. The airline acquisition was completed on April 20, 2012.

Earlier, Easyjet, a UK-based airline, reported growth in passenger traffic by 8.6% in April 2012, to 5.1 million, compared to 4.7 million in April 2011. The airline load factors increased from 86.5% in April 2012, to 89.3% in April 2011.

Another UK-based airline, Ryanair, has reported a 6% increase in passenger traffic in April 2012, from 6.8 million in April 2011, to 7.2 million. Load factor in April 2012 has lowered by 1% to 81%, compared to last year.

 

Ryanair Announces New Route from London Stansted to Paphos in Cyprus

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, has announced the launch of a new route from London Stansted Airport in England, to Paphos International Airport, Cyprus.

 

The new route commenced from May 3, 2012, with fares commencing at GBP102.41 one way.

 

As part of the launch of the new route, Cyprus Tourist Office is offering passengers on the flight a taste of celebrated Cypriot wine.

 

Michelle Lowe, a spokesperson for Ryanair, said, ‘Ryanair is delighted to celebrate the start of its new route to Paphos in Cyprus from London Stansted. This new route will allow London Stansted passengers to beat the recession by choosing Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares and no fuel surcharges. This summer Ryanair will offer passengers a choice over 110 top destinations from London Stansted to popular holiday spots including Alicante, Carcassonne, Faro and Palma Mallorca.’

 

Earlier, the airport announced that it will maintain a base at Paphos, at an investment of GBP86.6 million at Paphos Airport, with two aircraft, which will be flying in 14 routes and around 80 weekly flights.

 

Mark Souter, the head of airline relations at London Stansted Airport, said, ‘Cyprus is an extremely popular destination and this new Ryanair service is great news for passengers wanting convenient flight connections to Paphos and surrounding region, as well as providing great access to London and the East of England for visitors from Cyprus.

 

We’re delighted to welcome this new scheduled connection to Cyprus onto our route network today and wish Ryanair every success with the service.’

Riu Hotels and Resorts Announces New Hotel Properties in Caribbean, Mexico and Morocco

RIU Hotels and Resorts, a Spain-based hotel chain, has reported opening of four new hotels in Mexico and Caribbean destinations.

The all-inclusive ClubHotel RIU Ocho Rios is located along the beach of Mammee Bay in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and offers 856 guestrooms. The newly refurbished hotel is offering private check-in, luxurious junior suites, as well as suites with hydro-massage tubs and Jacuzzis, and hotel amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi, concierge service for restaurant bookings; complimentary dining experiences; two swimming pools; and many leisure facilities.

The Hotel RIU Palace Bavaro is a new beachside hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, which opened in December 2011. The hotel is offering 610 guestrooms; 10 restaurants and bars; two swimming pools; a Mini-club; a fitness centre and a spa; along with meeting spaces.

The new RIU Palace Tikida Agadir, offering 444 rooms, opened on March 26, 2012, located next to ClubHotel RIU Tikida Dunas, RIU Tikida Beach, and Riu Grand Palace Tikida Golf properties in Agadir, Morrocco.

The RIU Palace Peninsula beach front property opened in May 2012, in Cancun, Mexico. The hotel boasts 562 rooms, located in a main building and 48 villas; dining venues including six restaurants and seven bars; and a stunning view of the Caribbean waters.

Luis Riu, the company chief executive officer, said, ‘We hope the new Riu Palace Peninsula will give a new push to this destination which recently turned 40 years old. For us, this is another example of the importance that Mexico has in our development plans and the high quality that we seek to offer in this country.’

HostelBookers Offers Accommodation for Queens Jubilee Weekend

HostelBookers, a UK-based company offering accommodation on a budget, is aiming to offer inexpensive accommodation in London for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend.

The Diamond Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II will include two bank holidays on June 4 and 5, 2012, and many people are intending to take a longer holiday during the period. Most hotels in the UK are already overbooked and hotel prices have peaked for the weekend. Hostel accommodation may not readily spring to mind with many would-be visitors, but it can provide a cost effective means of being at the heart of the festivities.

The company is offering accommodation at Palmers Lodge-Swiss Cottage, located in a restored Victorian Grade II listed building in London, for prices commencing at £24 per person per night. The hostel is offering complimentary Internet, Wi-Fi and daily breakfast. The accommodation also offers amenities including a bar and restaurant; a TV lounge; and a laundry room.

The company is also offering apartments in Kensington West, with Queen’s Jubilee weekend prices commencing at £52.50 per person, per night.

Accommodation at Surprise Backpackers includes clean dormitories with complimentary Wi-Fi, lockers and daily breakfast and is available for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend, for prices commencing at £36 per person, per night.

Hyde Park apartments, located close to Paddington, features trendy decor, contemporary kitchens and Wi-Fi access. Room rates here commence from GBP63 per person, per night.

In addition, Travel Joy Hostels, located close to Chelsea Bridge, is offering rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi and continental breakfast, for prices that commence from £32 per person, per night.

Advantage 2012 Conference Highlights Changes in Corporate Travel Policy

Social media may be driving corporate travel product suppliers to change their ways of marketing and connecting with their customers, and companies to control their travel expenses.

At the recent 2012 Advantage Conference that took place in Malta, a senior travel buyer has highlighted that companies’ travel policies are currently undergoing several transformations, and will change even faster in the next two years, influenced by the Internet, mobile applications and other social media.

 

Carel Aucamp, the global sourcing manager for procurement network organisation, Agrega, said, ‘There will be one billion smart phones in use by 2015, and the apps industry will be worth $55 billion by then. Controlling the use of apps by our travellers in 135 countries is impossible. But you still need duty of care.’

Companies’ new travel policies are set to offer incentives to travellers for compliance, by offering discounts, like the insurance industry; as well as by offering loyalty points and a level up, like the airline industry; to nudge them in the right direction. Social media will allow the companies to assess the travel preferences of the employees, and to formulate policies accordingly.

Aucamp said, ‘Awarding travellers points, in competition with each other, for using preferred suppliers and booking within policy, creates a different conversation around the water cooler. You can regularly publish the top 10 travellers, and small rewards – maybe they get five minutes with the CEO. You’re asking travellers to be intelligent, and they’re choosing to take responsibility and do the right thing.’

Wet April Boosts Overseas Holiday Bookings

Virgin Holidays, the UK-based holiday company, has reported a rise in holiday bookings following the persistent rain that drenched the UK for much of April.

April has officially entered the record books as the wettest in the UK in 100 years, causing British citizens to fear for what the coming summer might bring and book overseas holidays in the hope of guaranteeing better weather. The company has reported a 55 percent increase in April vacation bookings in 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.

April 29, 2012 was the wettest day of the month, and that was the day when the company recorded its maximum enquiry level for overseas vacations, mostly for destinations in the Caribbean and in Florida, US.

Happy with the surge in holiday bookings, the company is planning to launch a new ‘Downpour Discount’ for people booking holidays on the wettest days of the months ahead.

Amanda Wills, the managing director of Virgin Holidays, said, ‘This ongoing poor weather is no joke for those affected by flooding so we’re looking at various rainy day discounts initiatives to give them something to look forward to. It’s a simple equation – the more it rains here, the more money you could save on a holiday to get away from it. The increase in demand across all of our channels tells us that consumers are desperate to find some sun. There are some fantastic bargains to be had and the surging value of the pound means that their hard-earned cash goes further once they get there.

After the wettest April in a century, and numerous predictions for an overcrowded, washout summer, it’s hard to blame them for turning their back on the staycation.’

British Airways Increases Flights from London City Airport to Glasgow

British Airways has announced an expanded service to Scotland from London City Airport.

The frequency of London City Airport to Glasgow daily flights will be increased from five to six from May 28, 2012. The price for the one-way flight commences at GBP53 per person.

The service has been brought forward from its earlier schedule of commencing from September 24, 2012, to now commence from May 28, 2012.

The airline had previously announced another new service to the Scottish city of Aberdeen, which commences on September 24, 2012, from London City Airport, and is to be operated by BA Cityflyer, a subsidiary of the company.

The airline is also offering flights to Quimper And Angers, in France, from May 25, 2012. The airline had earlier also announced the launch of new flights to Venice In Northern Italy, from September, 2012.

In addition, the airline also intends to operate additional flights from London City to the destinations of Menorca, Majorca and Ibiza, in Spain, within the next few months. British Airways currently flies to 17 destinations from London City Airport, and intends to increase this to 22 destinations in the UK, Europe and the US by end of May, 2012.

Earlier, Luke Hayhoe, BA CityFlyer commercial manager, said, ‘Our direct flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London City are extremely popular with Scottish customers who want to want fly straight to the heart of the City, for both business or leisure.’