ABTA Urges Government to Develop Airport Strategy

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based travel agents association, is urging the British government to consider developing a sustainable strategy for airports.

The association is stressing that the government should not prioritise business traffic over leisure travel at the busiest airports in the country.

ABTA expects that undue emphasis on business travel is likely to hamper outbound travel from the UK, and outbound travel accounts for 1.6 percent of the UK’s DP, or around GBP22 billion.

The association is emphasising that it is important that air passengers travelling from the UK are be able to fly from airports of their choice.

The 2012 ABTA Consumer Survey has revealed that 62 percent of passengers are in favour of flying from their local airport, and around 50 percent of the respondents are not in favour of spending more than an hour travelling to their departure airport.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive officer, said, ‘The airport capacity debate has been going on for too long whilst our European neighbours have been continuing to invest in their infrastructure.

We urgently need swift and decisive action from the Government to put an end to the debate and move forward with plans to create the capacity we so desperately need. It is vital these plans take into account the needs of all types of aviation, whether it is cargo, business or leisure. We must at all costs avoid a situation where there is a hierarchy of importance for aviation.’

According to ABTA, recommendations that the government should take heed of include a comprehensive strategy for aviation, cross party support for aviation policy, and to maintain a balance between the economic benefits of meeting demand and the requirements of the industry, with the impact that aviation has on local communities and the environment.

Airports in UK Offer Varying Services to People with Access Needs

Airports in the UK may not be equally accessible to people with access needs, even as the country is hosting the 2012 Paralympic Games.

The flight search site, CheapFlightsFinder.com, has reported that as the 2012 Paralympics closes, visitors and participants will be facing different levels of service at different airports in the UK, in terms of accessibility.

Shahab Siddiqui, the founder of CheapFlightsFinder, said, ‘I always feel very excited when I arrive in a new city by plane, but I also feel anxious about how easy it will be to navigate the airport when I arrive. Some airports have highly trained staff and extensive wheelchair access, while others are still extremely primitive in their offering, which makes the experience very challenging.

There are a huge number of factors that disabled people need to consider when entering an airport, whether for a short haul jaunt or if they are undertaking multi-city flights. This includes travelling from the car park, using toilets in the airport, registering at the check-in desk and carrying your baggage. The provision can vary depending on the regulations of that country regarding the accessibility of public buildings and therefore the experience in one country can be very different from another. If you have a choice of airports, it is always worth researching thoroughly which is the most accessible, as it can greatly influence your entire holiday experience.’

An airport association, ACI Europe, holds its annual Best Airport Awards, which also includes criteria for the accessibility of airports for differently able passengers. In 2012, London City Airport has been judged the best airport in the one to five million-passenger category, and Edinburgh Airport has been awarded the best in the five to 10 million-passenger category.

British Travellers Find Large Airports Confusing

British air passengers find that long queues and expansive airports that are difficult to navigate around, take away the fun of flying, although many enjoy a spot of retail therapy at today’s new and modern airports.

A survey of 1,000 UK consumers has reported that two thirds of passengers, or around 62 percent, shop at the Duty Free retail outlets of airports, while around one in five travellers, or 21 percent of interviewees, have bought luxury goods or clothing at these outlets. Around 60 percent of those surveyed have bought essentials, such as books, newspapers or magazines, or food and drink for the flight, from airport retail outlets.

The research, conducted by a partnership between NCR Corporation and Opinion Research Corporation, has also revealed that around 2 percent of those surveyed have admitted that they have missed flights due to shopping or dining.

Ben Gale, NCR’s vice president for Western Europe, said, ‘Converting waiting time into productive time in the airport can benefit retailers and passengers alike by boosting spending, satisfaction and loyalty levels. The use of new mobile way finding solutions can play a key role in enabling passengers to find the stores and services they want in the airport and still make it to the gate on time.’

Mobile alerts, telling passengers that it is time for them to make their way to the terminal would be welcomed by around 62 percent of British families surveyed, and they would also welcome an interactive map to guide them inside complicated airports.

A number of travellers have also stated a preference for using ‘click-and-collect’ services at airports in the UK, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports.

Growing popularity of meet and greet parking

The inclination for travellers to avoid lengthy transfer times from airport car parks to terminals has lead to an increase in popularity for the ‘meet and greet’ services that are currently on offer from several of the airport parking operators.

The ‘meet and greet’ service, which involves a member of the parking company’s staff meeting the traveller directly outside their departure terminal and taking responsibility for parking their car, and a reversal of the service for the travellers return journey, has taken a 9.6 percent greater slice of the airport parking market in the last 12 months, according to data supplied by Looking4parking.com, an airport parking price comparison site.

The company compared figures taken between May and July this year with the same period last year, when analysing the three biggest parking industry segments: on-site parking at airports, off-airport park and ride, and meet and greet. Meet and greet grew from 49.17 percent to 58.72 percent year-on-year, gaining from park and ride, which was down 5.2 percent, from 36.08 percent to 30.92 percent, and on site parking that was down by 4.4 percent, from 14.75 percent to 10.37 percent.

Martin Mansell, managing director of meet and greet parking company, StressFreeAirportParking.com, said, ‘We are experiencing rapid, year-on-year growth, in the last 12 months alone we have increased direct and travel agent sales by 54 percent in total, and that upward curve shows no signs of faltering. ‘We believe the trend is being fuelled by word-of-mouth and the nub of that referral conversation is price. The cost of meet and greet parking has fallen significantly in the last five years and now, in many cases, it is no more expensive than standard airport car parking.’

Airport Phobia Keeps Brits at Home

Britain’s reputation for breeding adventurous, globetrotting holidaymakers might be unwarranted according to the findings of a recent survey.

The survey, which was carried out by Jungle Formula, a company that manufactures insect repellent, indicated that that a large percentage of Brits either do not travel abroad at all, or do so reluctantly. Of the two thousand people that were questioned for the survey, 20 percent had never been on a foreign holiday, and 50 percent of those that had taken holidays abroad regretted not having stayed in the UK.

The tedium of being processed through airports was cited as the biggest deterrent to taking a foreign holiday, with 62 percent of respondents admitting to being airport-phobic. This, coupled with the lengthy travel times involved with foreign holidays, a factor that discouraged 76 percent of those questioned, meant that just getting to the destination was considered a major hurdle by the majority.

The famous British reticence to communicate in anything other than English was another deterrent to visiting foreign lands, with 31 percent uncomfortable with attempting to converse in a foreign language. And communication can be a particular problem when a traveller suffers illness or injury, as had been the case with 50 percent of those that had travelled abroad.

Other more minor irritations that were mentioned when taking foreign holidays included the packing that is involved, the need for vaccinations, and a reluctance to take children to unfamiliar territories.

So although Great Britain might be famous for its intrepid travellers from history, it seems that the spirit of Raleigh, Cook and Livingstone is burning less than bright in today’s timid tourists.

UK Holiday Rush Gets Underway

The influx of visitors to the UK for the London Olympic games is about to be matched by a mass exodus of Brits departing the country for their annual holiday.

Now that the school holidays are underway it is estimated that as many as two million British holidaymakers could be leaving the UK this weekend and heading for the sunshine resorts in Europe and beyond. Heathrow Airport alone expects to speed the departure of 482,000 British travellers over the next two days. 50,000 more will exit on Eurostar trains through the channel tunnel. Provincial airports are also likely to experience their busiest weekend of the year.

For those holidaying at home, the Automobile Association (AA) has issued a warning for potentially busy roads from mid afternoon today, with routes to the seaside resorts of the southwest likely to be busiest, along with roads around cross-channel ports and major airports.

The traffic to UK resorts is likely to be bolstered by the promise from the Met office of better weather in the next few days, after the country has endured several weeks of rainy conditions.

A survey of more than 20,000 AA members by AA/Populus indicated that around 25 percent of respondents will not drive as far for this year’s holiday as they did last year. Least likely to exceed last year’s mileage are Scots, Londoners and people from the northwest of England. The survey also revealed that Londoners are the most likely to take a foreign holiday, while the Welsh are the most likely to forego this year’s holiday completely.

Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 Awarded Best Medium Group Hotel Employer

Recruitment company, Caterer.com, has awarded Best Medium Group Hotel Employer to Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 hotel in London, UK, a brand from Hilton Hotels and Resorts, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group.

The hotel was awarded at the Best Employers in Hospitality Awards 2012 England & Wales, hosted by Lancaster London, recently.

Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 was recognised for its employment culture of values, promises, internal team spirit, and employee engagement policies. The hotel achieved inclusion on the award list based on employee feedback and an engagement survey designed by Learnpurple, a talent management company.

Alexandra Mosquito, the hotel manager at Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, said, ‘To have won such an important award within our first year of opening is fantastic news and underlines our commitment to ensuring that we have the best environment for both our team and our guests. We are hugely proud of our team here and look forward to continuing our successes to date.’

The hotel has 350 spacious guest rooms, two restaurants, a 24-hour Fitness Centre, a Business Centre and 1,474 square meters of flexible conference space, complimentary WiFi, and ample parking facilities, all located within one mile of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.

The hotel amenities also include a Spa with hydrotherapy pool, sauna and eight treatment rooms, a range of entertaining and relaxation spaces onsite including the only Musetti coffee bar outside Italy, The Gallery restaurant and bar, an evening cocktail bar and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, a pan-Asian signature restaurant by celebrity chef, Cyrus Todiwala OBE.

Sleeping is Favourite Airport Pastime for British Travellers

British travellers prefer to sleep at airport lounges and waiting areas rather than indulge in any other activities, according to a recent survey conducted by UK-based holiday company, HolidayExtras.com.

Around 53 percent of British travellers owned up to taking a nap at airports while waiting to board their flights, rather than involving themselves in more obvious activities, like dining or shopping.

Asking what travellers require at airports, the survey suggested that there is a demand for additional sleeping areas in airport lounges to allow passengers to have a nap while waiting for their flights.

However, given a choice, lady travellers have other preferences. Around 20 percent of them, or one in five, would relish the opportunity of improving their style quotients by indulging in grooming and other personal services, leading the survey to deduce that there is a growing demand for more spas and beauty parlours at airports for female passengers.

Anthony Clarke Cowell, the company associate merchandising director, said, ‘It looks like holidaymakers are going to be spending quite a lot of time delayed at the airport this summer, so I can definitely empathise with those who want to catch some ZZzs.

Of course, there’s always the option for travellers to book an airport lounge if they want somewhere to relax after clearing security.’

Around 33 percent of male respondents asked for a gaming area in airports, to spend time in while awaiting flights. The respondents indicated that an area that provided gadgets and game consoles would be a much preferred alternative to bar and casino options.

Portugal Airports Return To Normalcy As ATC Calls Off Strike

A five day strike by air traffic controllers in Portugal has been called off today. The strike, announced earlier, was scheduled to take place from June 29 to July 3, 2012, causing a number of airlines to reschedule or cancel their flights to Portugal.

TAP Airline, the national carrier of Portugal, has said in a statement, ‘The ATC strike, which was called for 29 and 30 June and 1, 2 and 3 July, and would cause major air traffic restriction in Portugal, has been called off.

In order to mitigate as much as possible the effects of this strike, TAP was already rescheduling its operation changing flight departures and also being forced to cancel several flights. Following the calling off of the strike, TAP will make every effort to reinstate its regular operation as much as possible.’

The UK-based airline, Easyjet, has reported that, ‘All easyJet flights to/from Portugal will now operate as originally scheduled. Passengers who have received information from easyJet informing them that their flight had been cancelled due to the industrial action or that their flight would arrive/depart via Santiago or Seville are advised to disregard this information and all flights will now operate as originally planned.’

Meanwhile Ryanair also commented on the event, saying: ‘Ryanair has been informed by Portuguese authorities that the planned air traffic control strike has been cancelled. All Ryanair flights to/from Portugal will operate as scheduled.’

London Gatwick Airport Reports Increase in Passenger Footfalls in 2012 Financial Year

London Gatwick Airport has registered increased passenger footfall and increased revenues, for the year ended March 31, 2012.

The airport has registered a turnover increase of 8.6 percent, to £517.4 million for the financial year ending in March 2012, with passenger traffic increasing by 6.9 percent, to 33.8 million over the year, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Stewart Wingate, the chief executive officer of Gatwick Airport, said, ‘This has been a successful year for Gatwick. Despite the difficult economic conditions, we have delivered a strong financial performance on the back of growing our passenger traffic by an underlying 3.0 percent. Our turnover has increased by 8.6 percent to £517.4 million, and EBITDA improved by 16.9 percent to £221.5 million.

Underpinning our performance is a transformation of the passenger experience and improvement in operational efficiency for our airlines and the airport. We have been competing with Heathrow, Stansted and Luton and other European airports, and this has seen us achieve passenger growth every single month over the course of the year. We have been winning new connections to high growth economies including South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.

Passengers and airlines are benefiting from new facilities and we are currently investing around £20 million per month. We expect to invest around a further £435 million over the next two years as we complete our six-year, £1.2 billion programme.’

The airport has reported a pre-tax loss of £48.6 million for the 2012 financial year, 22 percent less than last year’s loss of £62.5 million.