bmi regional hikes capacity for summer 2015, adds 60,000 extra seats

British regional airline bmi regional has announced plans to increase capacity across its network by 16 percent in summer 2015 following increased demand for its UK and European services.

Key European cities like Frankfurt and Brussels will benefit from the multiple daily flights, convenient flight schedules and new weekend flights. The frequency increases on key routes come as the regional airline is preparing for a new phase of growth.

The move will provide an additional 10,000 seats per month starting March 29, 2015. Cities including Aberdeen, Bristol, Brussels, Frankfurt and Munich are expected to benefit from the enhanced connectivity created through the move to triple daily flights and additional weekend services.

Flights from Newcastle and East Midlands to Brussels will increase to thrice daily, Monday to Friday. Bristol to Frankfurt will operate three daily while Bristol to Aberdeen will also have three daily flights.

bmi regional has also announced an additional weekend service from Bristol to Frankfurt and Munich, with extra flights on Saturday mornings facilitating weekend trips as well as more connections via Lufthansa’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

bmi regional chief executive, Cathal O’Connell, said: ‘Increasing our frequency and providing new Saturday services will contribute to an exciting period of growth for the airline. Our investment in new scheduled capacity will increase the number of worldwide connections we offer with our partners Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines to provide additional flexibility and choice to our customers.’

While flights from Bristol to Frankfurt and Munich are codeshares with Lufthansa, those from Newcastle and East Midlands to Brussels operate as codeshares with Brussels Airlines. The codeshare agreement allows bmi regional customers to continue their journeys from their local airport to destinations across Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

bmi regional will continue to offer its USPs across all of its services, including free 20kg baggage allowance for all passengers; 30-minute check-in and allocated seating; complimentary in-flight catering and full drinks service, and a schedule to suit the needs of business travellers.

 

Cruise and Maritime Voyages to launch river cruises

Ocean cruise specialist Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) is planning to start river cruises in Europe due to rising interest by voyagers.

The planned river cruises on the Rhine and Danube will start in May 2014 using a chartered vessel. CMV will be issuing a 12-page standalone brochure to market the new venture, which will be available for sale through travel agents and will also be available online at www.cruiseandmaritime.com.

Chris Coates, Commercial Director, CMV, said ‘We are entering the European river cruise market next year chartering the stylish Vienna 1 river ship. This premium plus vessel has been operated by a number of luxury river cruise operators in 2013 offering a high level of comfort and decor with most cabins having French balconies.’

He added: ‘CMV are specialists in offering scenic ocean cruise holidays on board smaller sized classic ships providing a leisurely and friendly style of cruising with high levels of customer service. Our on board customer questionnaires indicate that over 80% of our passengers would consider taking a river cruise. We also know that our current cruise programme, that includes many European ports situated on rivers, is already popular. It is therefore a natural progression for CMV to add river cruises to our portfolio.’

The first departure – ‘Magical Rhine’ – will start on May 19 for seven nights from Nuremberg through to Amsterdam. On a ‘Grand European Discovery’ cruise departing May 26 for 14 nights the ship will sail from Amsterdam down to Budapest – cruising the Rhine and Danube.

On June 9, a reversed itinerary will operate between Budapest and Amsterdam. These 14 night itineraries are also available as seven night sectors to/from Nuremberg. Optional pre- and post- cruise city stays are also available in Amsterdam, Prague (from Nuremberg) and Budapest.

Prices start at £1,199 per person for seven nights including flights and transfers, full board cuisine, selected drinks with lunch and dinner, entertainment and a range of half-day excursions. Two week prices start from £1,999pp.

Global tourism registers five percent growth, helped by Europe

Global tourism has grown by five percent in the first eight months of the year, hitting a record 747 million international tourist arrivals, Travel Weekly has reported, citing the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Helped by strong results in Europe, Asia/Pacific and the Middle East, the 2013 figures were 38 million more than in the same period of 2012. Europe, registered a 5 percent growth, with an estimated 20 million more arrivals in the region.

Speaking at the opening of the European Tourism Forum in Vilnius, UNWTO secretary general, Taleb Rifai, said: ‘While global economic growth is in low gear, international tourism continues to produce above average results in most world regions, offering vital opportunities for employment and local economies.

‘This is particularly important for Europe, where unemployment is a major concern in many destinations and where the tourism sector has been a source of job growth in the last decade.

‘Furthermore, through its value chain, tourism creates businesses and jobs in many other sectors and produces significant export revenues which contribute favourably to the balance of payments in many countries.’

While the 100 million figure was exceeded for the first time in June, the peak summer months saw international arrivals exceed the 125 million mark in both July and August.

The largest international tourism earners saw receipts increase in double-digits, including Thailand at 27 percent, Hong Kong registering 25 percent, Turkey at 22 percent, Japan at 19 percent, the UK at 18 percent, Greece at 15 percent, India at 14 percent, Malaysia by 12 percent and the US by 11 percent.

Tourism spending was slower in the advanced economies, with Canada, the UK, France and the US registering less than 5 percent increase, Germany at zero percent increase, while Japan, Australia and Italy saw declines in expenditure.

The emerging economies are ahead in international tourism expenditure, with all BRIC countries except India, reporting double-digit growth, the report said.

 

EU MPs reject move to harmonise pilots’ working hours

EU MPs have rejected the move to harmonise pilots working hours across the EU, The Telegraph has reported.

The harmonisation move could have effectively increased the working hours for British pilots. The vote by the EU and Transport and Tourism Select Committee was hailed by pilots unions, including the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), which had warned that it could put passenger safety at risk. However, the vote was condemned by the aviation industry.

‘We are really surprised after two years of consultation it can be rejected,’ said a spokesman for the European Low Fares Airline Association, whose members include Ryanair and easyJet. ‘There were penalties for airlines, which we accepted because of the benefit of harmonising arrangements across Europe.’

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commissioner, said, ‘This vote puts at risk key measures to improve aviation safety. Safety is the first priority for the EU and the sole objective of this revision. Pilot fatigue is a very serious issue and that’s why there are already strong EU rules in place.”

The all-party Transport Select Committee at Westminster, which shared BALPA’s concerns, said that the proposed changes would have led to a lowering of standards in the UK.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of BALPA, welcomed the decision saying: ‘British pilots with 40 million hours of flying experience between them and by the public, 90 percent of whom are concerned that a pilot could be landing their aircraft having been awake for 22 hours.

‘The commission must now go back to the drawing board and work with pilots and scientists to develop rules on flying time and tiredness that are based on evidence and expert experience.’

The vote comes after a BALPA survey found that nearly half its members had fallen asleep in the cockpit, with one in three saying that they had woken up to find their co-pilot also asleep. BALPA has warned the proposed changes would lead to pilots being awake for 22 hours if standby hours are taken into account, which could risk passenger safety.

The EU had said the changes were essential to ensure airlines in all 27 member states operated on a level playing field. According to proposed rules, pilots could work a maximum of 110 hours in a two-week period, more than the 95-hour limit under British regulations. At nights the flight limit would be extended to 11 hours from the current 10-hour limit.

Though endorsed by ministers, euro-MPs have voted by 20 to 13 to reject the move. A final decision is expected at the full session of the European Parliament later this year. If approved, the new rules drawn up by the European Aviation Safety Agency would have come into force in 2015.

 

Travellers urged to confirm currency requirements, use cash-cards

One-tenth of holidaymakers are unsure of the legal currency at their destination and carry the wrong currency especially when travelling on holiday to European countries, according to a survey by the International Currency Exchange (ICE).

ICE plc, a UK-based foreign exchange and prepaid currency card provider, has conducted a survey of 2,000 people who went on holiday in August. The agency is now urging holidaymakers and travellers to double-check the legal currency in use at their destinations and not to assume that any European country will accept euros, according to traveldailynews.com. Travellers to Euro destinations are also urged to use a fee free and secure prepaid currency card, such as the ICE Travellers Cashcard, to avoid confusion.

Tom Johnson, head of ICE Online Business said: ‘It’s easy to assume that if it’s Europe it must be euro.

‘It’s even easier to assume it’s euro if it’s an EU country. But currently only 17 of 28 EU members have adopted the European currency, creating some currency confusion for travellers. ‘

For example, while Poland is part of the EU, the currency currently in use in the country remains the Zloty, not euros. Similarly, despite being in the EU, Denmark and Sweden both use their own form of the Krone, while Finland use euros. Croatia, the latest country to join the EU, is currently advising travellers to take both euro and Kuna.

Johnson said: ‘Wherever holidaymakers are heading, it’s important to do some research on the local currency. The Eurozone may seem familiar territory, but it still has some surprises up its sleeve and holidaymakers can get caught out. Order the right currency before leaving the UK, preferably online to obtain the most competitive rates and to avoid additional charges incurred through ATMs when using debit and credit cards abroad.

‘Travellers to Euro destinations can also consider a fee-free, prepaid currency card such as the ICE Travellers Cashcard, as a more secure and convenient way to pay for goods and services than carrying cash.’

The ICE Travellers Cashcard is a fee-free, PIN-protected Mastercard prepaid currency card that claims to offer travellers a secure and convenient method of payment overseas. Provided with a free back up card if the first is lost or stolen, the card has no ATM charges, no penalty fees, no fees for topping up and offers 1 percent cashback on all point of sale purchases.

Britons face high costs when driving in Europe

Failing to take out excess waiver insurance (EWI) can cost holidaymakers that hire cars in Europe up to £1,186.

EWI reduces the excess payable for accidents or theft to zero. However, a report by UK Post Office Travel Money Car Rental found that nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, of holidaymakers who hired a car to drive overseas, paid only the basic rental charge and failed to take out EWI.

The Post Office analysed the excess charges in 19 European holiday destinations and found that they were lowest in Turkey at £400 and Bulgaria at £404. However, the cost could rise to more than double this amount. The excess charges levied in Italy were £842, while in Norway holiday motorists could face costs of £893, and in Portugal £961.

In Switzerland, those that venture out without EWI could pay £1,064 or more if their car is damaged or stolen, and £1,186 in Ireland.

According to the research, nearly 80 percent of holiday motorists also failed to take out insurance cover for tyre, undercarriage and window damage, thus facing hundreds of pounds in excess charges. However, the Post Office also found that paying for the extra cover when hiring a car from airports at holiday destinations could also add hundreds of pounds to rental costs. For example, the cost of including EWI and tyre, undercarriage and window damage insurance adds £152 to a week’s basic car rental package of £124 in Spain’s Costa del Sol, while the charge for an additional driver adds another £41.

The Costa del Sol was just one of six destinations where rental costs doubled when extras were added. The others were the Costa Blanca, Tenerife, Majorca, Larnaca and Dublin. Car hire extras costs are reportedly cheapest in Marmaris, Turkey, at around £35 for EWI and £19 for an additional driver, but were almost four times costlier at Pisa Airport in Italy (£205).

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: ‘Car hire costs can go through the roof when extras are added so it is understandable that many motorists go for the cheapest rate offered when booking online. It can also be very difficult to find out the cost of Excess Waiver Insurance before travel and it is only when collecting the car that what seemed a cheap deal becomes a very expensive one.

‘However, the consequence of not paying for the extra insurance could be a much higher bill if you have an accident or if another driver hits your car and leaves without giving his details. There is an easy solution to this because you can buy an insurance policy before leaving home for a fraction of the cost of EWI. The lowest cost we found was around GBP14 for a week’s insurance compared with an average of almost £102 for EWI in Europe,’ he said, adding: ‘In many cases drivers must pay for car hire extras when they collect their rental car, so it makes sense to carry enough foreign currency to cover this – rather than incur charges for paying on plastic.’

Europe’s floods cause travel cancellations

Extensive flooding across large areas of Central Europe is causing travel chaos and the cancellation of holiday bookings.

Following days of heavy rain, many of the rivers in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary are dangerously high or have already broken their banks. River cruise companies have been the hardest hit, with US-based Viking River Cruises already having cancelled its June 9 sailings from Budapest to Nuremberg, and Passau to Budapest. Further cancellations and alterations to schedules are expected between June 5 and June 16.

In a statement, Viking commented, ‘In many instances, due to having the largest fleet in river cruising combined with our in-house nautical and operations team in Switzerland, we are able to continue operating our itineraries through careful planning and switching of sister ships. In every decision we make, the safety of our guests and crew remains our top priority.’

A number of other river cruise operators are also announcing cancellations, including Avalon Waterways, with three departures cancelled between now and June 14.

Flooding in Slovakia, particularly in its capital city, Bratislava, has prompted the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to issue a warning for travellers to the country, saying, ‘Some people may also experience disruption to travel plans as a result. Please check with your local operator for the latest information.’

The Czech Republic has also announced a nationwide state of emergency, with 3,000 people having to leave their homes, seven people having died, and the floodwaters yet to peak. Southern Germany has been badly impacted by the flooding, with the army called in to help. According to the BBC, water levels in the Bavarian town, Passau, are impassable and higher than at any time since the 16th century.

 

British wine tourists’ favourite vineyards revealed

A recent study has highlighted the wineries most popular with British wine tourists.

The study was undertaken by Kayak.co.uk, a travel metasearch engine that compares airline, hotel, car rental, cruise, and other vacation deals from other travel sites, including other fare aggregators. The company based its findings on an analysis of searches on its website, and the survey results have been released at a time of burgeoning interest in wine tourism, and as World Wine Week draws to a close (last day Tuesday May 14).

Europe monopolises the vineyard popularity poll for British wine enthusiasts, not surprising considering its proximity to the UK and the quality of the wines produced on the continent. It accounted for eight of the top ten vineyards, with California in the US claiming the other two top spots.

The top winery was Cims de Porrera – Catalonia, Spain. Kayak said each vineyard in this region sits on steep, rocky summits around 500 metres above the village of Porrera. The black slate soils, varying microclimates and old vines ensure the production of exceptional quality wine. The suggested local wine was Solanes Barrica (2006).

Second on the list was Tedo River Vineyards – Douro Valley, Portugal. The Duoro Valley lies in northwestern Portugal and is combed with golden vine-filled terraces and the tranquil River Douro that winds its way from the Atlantic. The wild vineyards in this region have been awarded Unesco World Heritage status and offer a selection of tours and tasting courses. The suggested local wine is a bottle of 20-year-old Tawny Port.

The top Californian vineyard, which entered the list at number five, was Kunde Estate Vineyards in Sonoma County. Kayak said that this family run, 1,850 acre estate in the heart of the Sonoma Valley produces a selection of sustainably farmed wines from elegant, balanced reds to delicate, vibrant whites. With a variety of vineyard tours and a dedicated tasting room, this winery is the perfect destination for all wine enthusiasts. The Suggested local wine is Kunde Sauvignon Blanc (2011).

The full list was:-

Porrera Vineyards – Catalonia, Spain

Tedo River Vineyards – Douro Valley, Portugal

Taylor’s – Oporto/Gaia, Portugal

Weingut Juliuspital – Wurzburg, Germany

Kunde Estate Vineyards – Sonoma County, California, US

Robert Mondavi – Napa, California, US

Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti – Tuscany, Italy

Castello Banfi – Tuscany Italy

Baden Wurttemburg Vineyards – Wurttemberg, Germany

Lavaux Vineyards – Lavaux Switzerland

UK drivers face continental fuel price hike

UK drivers planning to take their cars to Europe during the holiday season, or to tour the continent in a rental car, will notice a considerable increase in the price of fuel compared to what they would have been charged last summer.

The warning for increased expense comes from the Post Office’s seventh annual report on Motoring on the Continent. According to the report, while pump prices for unleaded fuel in the UK have not been subject to an increase in the last 12 months, France has seen an increase of £0.07 per litre, and Spain’s increase is £0.09 per litre.

The price increase to UK drivers has come about mainly because of the pound’s devaluation against the euro over the last year, rather than any major direct increase in the price of continental fuel. In fact, the cost of unleaded fuel has actually fallen in the majority of the 18 countries that the Post Office surveyed, while diesel is cheaper in all bar four countries. However, the poorer exchange rate means that for every 1,000 miles of continental motoring on unleaded fuel, tourists will have to pay £19.00 more year-on-year, or £11.00 more if the travel is carried out in a diesel car.

18 countries were surveyed, and drivers will notice an increase of up to £0.12 per litre in 13 of them. Andorra and Luxembourg are the cheapest countries for UK travellers to buy fuel for the second year running.

A spokesman for Post Office Travel Money, Andrew Brown, commented, ‘The disparity between what motorists pay for diesel and for unleaded petrol in Europe is in marked contrast to the UK, where diesel has long been more expensive. This was just one of the anomalies we picked up in this year’s survey, another being a difference of up to 48p a litre in fuel costs across the eurozone.

‘It may not make sense for holidaymakers to plan big detours just a save a few pounds, but the higher price of motoring on the Continent this year means they should plan their routes carefully before setting out so they keep costs down.

‘One of the ways in which holiday motorists can keep fuel costs to a minimum is to detour off the motorways to fill up at a supermarket. Just like in the UK, these can be the cheapest places to buy fuel, whereas motorists are likely to find the highest prices on the main roads.’

Cheaper European smartphone usage from July

Travellers to Europe after July 1 can look forward to the lowest ever data roaming charges when carrying their smartphone.

Legislation passed by the European Parliament means that the cheaper phone usage prices from July are set to become cheaper still during 2014.

From July 1, the most that a mobile operator can charge a customer to access mobile data in Europe is £0.56 per megabyte, a substantial reduction on charges that are currently being imposed. From 2014, overseas smartphone users will also have the right to use a different provider to the one that they use at home, in a move that is intended to encourage greater competition.

The legislation has come about in the wake of large numbers of travellers returning home to extortionate mobile phone bills, often generated at the ignorance of the user by features that are constantly updated by the home provider when the phone is left switched on, even if it is not used directly. Such usage will now be capped at £40.00, after which the user will have to be informed and agree to further charges. Call charges are also being capped at £0.23 per minute plus VAT.

The changes that are being imposed will result in overseas mobile usage charges showing an 85 percent reduction compared with those imposed in 2007.

However, caution will still be recommended when using smartphones in Europe, as the amount of data that specific applications use is unpredictable and can vary greatly dependant on location and individual systems. This means that despite the hefty price reductions, undisciplined usage could still lead to a nasty surprise when the traveller returns and opens their phone bill.