British Airways announces Christmas holiday breaks to European destinations

British Airways has announced Christmas festive getaway programmes to European winter destinations and Christmas markets including Berlin, Innsbruck, Stockholm and Vienna from major UK airports, with fares starting from £129 per person.

Starting November 27 to December 26, 2017, British Airways Holidays (BAH) will offer a two-night holiday from Heathrow to Berlin, with stay arranged at the three-star Days Inn Berlin West, from £149 per person. The German capital has more than 60 Christmas markets across the city throughout November and December.

Starting November 15 to January 6, 2018, BAH will offer two-night holidays to Innsbruck from London Gatwick, with stay arranged at the four-star Alphotel Innsbruck, from £179 per person.

From December 1 to December 24, BAH offers three-night holiday breaks to Nuremberg from Gatwick, with its famous Christkindlesmarkt on the Hauptmarkt square in the old quarter, among other city and market experiences. The stay is arranged at the four-star NH Forsthaus Furth Nurnberg hotel, from £209 per person. Starting December 2, 2017 to January 6, 2018, BAH will offer two nights to Prague from London Heathrow, with stay arranged at the four-star Duo, from £129 per person. Christmas markets are held in the Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) and the Havelska market (Havelske trZiSte).

Further, from November 19 to December 23, 2017 BAH is offering UK holidaymakers from Heathrow a chance to enjoy Stockholm’s Christmas markets – some of the most traditional in Europe with the Skansen on the park island of Djurgarden. The two nights stay is at the three-star Scandic Prince Philip, from £159 per person. In addition, from November 18 to December 30, 2017, BAH is offering, from Heathrow, two-holidays to Vienna. The stay is arranged at the three-star Donauwalzer hotel, from £129 per person.

Tickets can be booked until October 31, and includes Euro Traveller return flights and accommodation with breakfast, the airline said.

British Airways to fly over 2.7 million customers during Christmas period

British Airways is expecting to fly its biggest ever operation – carrying nearly 2.7 million customers over the festive Christmas period this year – following the addition of 20 new aircraft into its fleet since last year.

On December 25, 817 pilots will be operating 267 flights across the airline’s network and 3,500 cabin crew will serve customers more than 37,000 turkey dinners, along with opening thousands of champagne bottles. The busiest day for the season will be Friday December 19, with some 129,000 people flying.

The top destinations for a Christmas break are Dubai, Barbados, New York, Australia and Barcelona, BA said.

In addition to the general in-flight entertainment system, the airline will be airing a selection of TV programmes and the holiday classic ‘Home Alone’. Christmas specials showing on board during the festivities include: Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory, Friends, Family Guy, Mrs Brown’s Boys, The Vicar of Dibley, One Foot in the Grave, Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas Home Cooking, and for children – ‘Gangsta Granny’.

BA is also showing Doctor Who Earth Conquest, a documentary filmed during the British TV show’s recent world tour, of which British Airways was an event sponsor. From Boxing Day, passengers will also be able to watch the Queen’s annual address.

Audio albums on board include ‘Advent Calendar’ by The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford, with traditional carols including The Twelve days of Christmas, Silent Night and In the Bleak Mid-Winter, as well as ‘Christmas the Collection’ and ‘4 Girls 4 Harps’ featuring O Holy Night, Deck the Halls and Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

British Airways is also set to launch its ‘thank-you’ campaign, featuring images sent in from customers from their travels around the world. The 70-second video will feature on the airline’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and G+ platforms. The video will also play on the airline’s in-flight entertainment system. In addition, travellers will be asked to recommend destinations for 2015 by uploading their images to Instagram.

 

London Gatwick apologises to passengers affected by travel chaos, offers £100 in good will

Gatwick Airport (GA) has said that it is extending its sincere apologies to all passengers who were affected by the disruption on Christmas Eve.

The extremely adverse weather in the UK, including heavy rain storms, caused flooding of all waterways around Gatwick Airport. The flood waters also caused significant damage to electrical substations and switch rooms, which resulted in power supply disruption to the North Terminal.

As a result, several flights were cancelled and others were subject to significant delays causing considerable inconvenience for passengers.

Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick chief executive, said: ‘We appreciate that lots of our passengers were travelling to be with their families over the festive period and we are sorry that flights were cancelled and passengers left disappointed, particularly at this time of the year.’

London Gatwick will now offer GBP100 of high street vouchers to each passenger whose flight was cancelled on Christmas Eve as a gesture of goodwill and in recognition of the exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Affected passengers may email customer.services@gatwickairport.com with evidence of their booking on a flight due to depart from or arrive at Gatwick Airport on December 24, 2013, and with their postal address. After verifying the details, a voucher for GBP100 will be posted to passengers within 28 days of the application for payment.

Following the incident, London Gatwick had worked with its airport partners to help support passengers, ensuring that 414 of the 535 scheduled flights departed and arrived safely. Ever since all efforts have been focused on restoring the North Terminal to its full operation and a full schedule of flights was operated on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and thereafter.

Gatwick, which has invested over £12m on improving the flood defences, has introduced several short term measures since Tuesday to reduce the risk of such incidents recurring.

In addition, a full review will be undertaken, led by David McMillan, the former director general of Eurocontrol and a non-executive director of Gatwick Airport. The report and recommendations are expected to be published in February 2014.

 

Heathrow predicts British Christmas to be enjoyed across the world

Heathrow Airport has said that the trappings of a traditional British Christmas will be enjoyed across the world this festive season.

Britain’s biggest transport interchange is expecting a record year for sales of popular UK products, including English tea, Scottish salmon and single malt whisky. During November and December, international visitors departing from Heathrow purchase more than 918 tonnes of British products to bring a touch of Great British style to their festivities.

According to Dana Jaber, a personal shopper at Heathrow, the type of items passengers are looking for have changed significantly in the last five years. While English tea sold at Heathrow is popular with Chinese passengers, Turkish and Japanese passengers are the key buyers of Scottish Malt Whisky, and Middle Eastern passengers are the biggest customers for sealed Scottish salmon. The most popular British brands include Mulberry and Jo Malone.

Dana Jaber said: ‘More than 5.8 million travellers will pass through Heathrow this Christmas, searching for a little piece of Britain to take home. Thanks to the Royal Wedding, the Olympics and more recently the birth of Prince George, the desirability of British brands has never been higher. Visitors are keen to take home a little piece of the UK for their own Christmas celebrations.

‘The Asian market – including mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore – like the romance and heritage of a traditional British Christmas, and tend to go for items that allow them to recreate British traditions at home,’ she added.

Heathrow’s Personal Shopping service is open to all passengers and no minimum spend is required. Home delivery is available to those travelling within the UK or the EU, and is free when passengers spend £300 or more at Heathrow and use a Heathrow Rewards card. For passengers without a Heathrow Rewards card the service is free, subject to a minimum purchase of £500.00.

Busy travellers can also choose and order from a wide range of products available at the airport by using the free online service, Heathrow Boutique, to reserve and collect items. The web address iswww.heathrow.com/boutique.

Christmas, a Time of Lost Gifts at Premier Inn

Even as the Christmas celebrations come to an end, at Premier Inn, a UK-based hotel brand from Whitbread PLC, gifts are still very much on the agenda as the group collates its annual list of left or lost gifts at its branded properties across the country.

Travel Inn has collated a list of forgotten Christmas gifts, left in rooms by its guests, which includes 18 Christmas jumpers, a pair of tickets to VIVA Forever, a set of diamond earrings, a set of Little Mix dolls, a Bradley Wiggins’ autobiography, a Furby, a One Direction fan t-shirt, and 17 copies of one of the best-selling books of 2012, Fifty Shades of Grey.

The company has also reported finding around 25 rolls of leftover wrapping paper, 137 blank Christmas cards and two homemade Christmas cakes.

Claire Haigh, the head of communications for Premier Inn, said, ‘We are surprised at the variety of gifts that our team members have discovered in the hotels this festive season. Christmas day may be over, but we will continue to spread the festive joy by going the extra mile to ensure that these presents are returned to their rightful owners.’

Premier Inn will be re-launching its Premier Inn Gifts Reunited Service at its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/premierinn, where guests may post a comment if they have lost a Christmas present, and it will be shipped back to them as soon as possible.

The brand is offering room nights priced at £29 for the winter season, for popular locations that include Exeter, Bournemouth, Liverpool, York and others in the UK. For an extra payment of £22.99 per person, the hotel group is also offering a three-course meal, a drink of choice, and a Premier breakfast the next day.

The group, with around 600 hotels across the UK and Ireland, has Recently won the Best Leisure Hotel Chain award at the British Travel Awards 2012.

Car rental companies step in to ease Christmas travel woes

For those travellers concerned with holiday travel problems in the UK during the Christmas period, reassurances are being offered by the UK’s car rental services, which are available to bridge the gap left by scheduled maintenance work on the rail service, and strike action called by ASLEF, the London Underground drivers’ union.

Car rental brokers, Holiday Autos, said, ‘We understand how expensive travel can be. Whether for work or leisure, transport is becoming one of the most expensive outgoings in many households so the government’s recent u-turn on an increase in fuel prices is a welcome one.

However, the Christmas and New Year holidays are the one time of year when friends and family should be able to get together and we are committed to finding drivers the best deals to make sure that doing that doesn’t break the bank.’

Previously, Heathrow Express, an express train service from London Heathrow Airport to London Paddington station, had stated on its website that, ‘Due to essential Crossrail improvement works, Heathrow Express will not be running any services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport on December 25 and 26.

Our inter terminal transfer service between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Terminals 1 & 3 will continue to run in line with the planned timetable. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.’

With regard to its strike action on Boxing Day, ASLEF commented, ‘The union is being blamed for taking industrial action on London’s tube network on Boxing Day. The real fault lies with a management that has failed both us and the public.’

The car rental companies have urged their customers to book early to avoid being disappointed.

Heathrow Passengers May Face Travel Woes on Boxing Day

Passengers travelling to London Heathrow Airport by rail may face disruptions on December 26, 2012.

Transport for London (TfL), the UK-based government agency responsible for the transport system in Greater London, has reported that ASLEF, the union of tube drivers, has announced strike action on that day, coinciding with a planned maintenance work announced by Network Rail on the Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect network connecting to the airport.

A Heathrow Express statement on its website said, ‘Due to essential Crossrail improvement works, Heathrow Express will not be running any services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport on December 25 and 26.

Our inter terminal transfer service between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Terminals 1 & 3 will continue to run in line with the planned timetable. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.’

Transport of London said, ‘In general, train services will finish earlier than usual on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and start later in the day on the Thursday 27 December and Tuesday 1 January. There are no trains running on Christmas Day (some buses will run for Airport services), and only a limited service running around the London and Glasgow areas on Boxing Day.

No trains run in Scotland on New Year’s Day, while some Operators run additional early morning trains from London on New Year’s Day morning following the celebrations in central London.’

The agency has also issued its online annual Festive Travel Guide for London residents and visitors travelling in the city during the Christmas holiday period, offering detailed information on Tube, buses, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Tramlink, London Overground, Emirates Air Line, Riverboat services, Barclays Cycle Hire and the Congestion Charge.

What to see and do in Pisa this Christmas

Pisa is a popular tourist haunt at any time of year, with even the least clued-up traveller sure to have heard of attractions like the Leaning Tower. But it’s even more impressive at Christmas, when decorations adorn the streets and various special events are held.

Located in the central Italian region of Tuscany, Pisa is undoubtedly one of our favourite Italian cities to visit in the run-up to the festive period. Milan may have its shopping and Venice its canals, but it’s hard to beat Pisa’s traditional Christmas markets, beautiful illuminations and cheerful seasonal atmosphere. If you’re planning a visit to Pisa this Christmas, our top tips will fill you in on the best sights to see and events to attend in the city…

Check out the Christmas lights

For the best possible view of festive Pisa, head to Corso Italia and Borgo Stretto, where the colourful lights of the Christmas decorations are sure to fill you with seasonal spirit.

Borgo Stretto is widely considered to be the most elegant street in the city. If you want to combine seeing the decorations with the chance to pick up an elegant and memorable present for a loved one, you’ll be in the right place, as it’s lined with high-end shops and boutiques. A small square on Borgo Stretto also hosts a Christmas market, where you can browse a wide array of decorations and more.

All shopped out? Recharge your batteries with a well-earned drink in one of the street’s many picturesque bars, or head to Salza, which is arguably the city’s best loved pastry shop.

Earn your Christmas dinner by running the Pisa Marathon

Christmas has become a time of excess, with people doing their best to eat their body weight in turkey, pigs in blankets and mince pies. So what better way to prepare for this year’s seasonal overindulgence than running a marathon?

The 2012 Pisa Marathon will take place on December 16th and boasts a spectacular route that sets off from one of the most beautiful squares in the world.

It combines plenty of flat stretches and long straights, so if you’re an experienced runner, there’s every chance of beating your personal best, while relative newcomers should find the race isn’t too demanding.

If you’re not feeling up to tackling the full 26-mile course, there are also half marathon and family run events that may prove a little more appealing.

Enough exercise, bring on the chocolate

Okay, so running a marathon isn’t for everyone. If you’d prefer to spend your Christmas in Pisa exercising your sweet tooth, head to the factory of luxury chocolatier Amedei.

Situated in Pontedera, about half an hour’s drive from the city centre (you should easily be able to find car hire in Pisa), the Amedei factory offers tours all year round, giving visitors an insight into the world of chocolate.

The factory opens its doors to the public from Monday to Friday, with tours lasting for around an hour and a half. Tickets are priced at €50 (£40) per person.

See the Scuola Normale of Pisa in concert

Founded back in 1810, the Scuola Normale is an elite school that gives regular musical performances in and around the city.

Culture vultures eager to enjoy some classical favourites this Christmas can head to the Teatro Verdi, where the Scuola Normale will give their tribute to Rameau, Mozart and Beethoven on December 11th and play music from Von Weber and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy on December 18th.

Coach Travel an Alternative to UK Christmas Train Disruption

National Express, a UK based road transport company, is laying on a number of extra coaches to cope with an expected Christmas rush.

The train operator is offering around 10,000 extra seats on December 23 and 24, 2012, for those travellers that might be inconvenienced by delays caused by maintenance work on the West Coast Main Line rail service.

For the two days before Christmas, rail passengers could suffer disruption due to their being no direct train services between London and Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow. Passengers who have already booked confirmed tickets on these train routes might opt for a cancellation, or opt to travel by National Express coaches with guaranteed reservations for the said dates.

The maintenance work will impact on services from Euston to Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow, with no traffic on these routes. Services will resume on December 27, 2012, while two of the four lines will remain closed.

Robin Gisby, the Network Rail network operations managing director, said, ‘Services on the West Coast on December 23 and 24 will be severely affected.

We understand and regret the impact this will have on passengers and freight services, but believe it is necessary to achieve the long-term benefits.’

Chris Gibb, the chief operating officer of Virgin Trains, said, ‘We are working hard with industry colleagues to ensure customers have as much advance information as possible, irrespective of who will actually be running long distance services on the West Coast Main Line by this time.’

Christmas Market Trips Increase in 2012

Many more British travellers are booking special Christmas Market packages offered by travel agents, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based travel agency association.

There has been a 20 percent increase in bookings for overseas Christmas markets, compared to the same time last year, ABTA has reported.

Christmas markets are traditionally featured in Northern Europe and begin in mid to late November, with many continuing to remain open all through December and into the New Year. In recent years, many cities in the UK have started hosting these markets, which have become popular with UK holidaymakers wanting to experience an authentic and traditional Christmas.

Victoria Bacon, the head of communications at ABTA, said, ‘Christmas shopping can often be a chore but Christmas markets take you back to a time when everything about this time of year was magical. The growth in popularity of the markets also supports the wider trend we are seeing of holidaymakers seeking out more authentic and local experiences.

The markets, both here and overseas, are a wonderful opportunity for people to enjoy an early winter break, with many travel companies offering packages by air, rail, coach or even on a river cruise.’

Dresden, in Germany, hosts Germany’s oldest Christmas market, with stores selling the country’s traditional Christmas cake, Stollen. Prague, in the Czech Republic, has Christmas markets near the old town square. In Vienna, Austria, Christmas markets claim to offer the best coffee and cakes in Europe, at the Wurstelprater fairground.

Heidelburg, in Germany, is hosting a Christmas market in the centre of the medieval town, as does Birmingham in the UK, and Paris, France.