After Hotels, Now Flights To Go Adults Only, Say British Passengers

In a survey carried out by Jetcost.co.uk recently, around 53 percent of British passengers have cited adults-only flights as their first choice in air travel.

The poll, which canvassed the opinions of around 1,666 adults in the UK, has cited loud children as one of the biggest causes of stress in a flight, ahead of poor quality food and lack of legroom. Around 20 percent of those surveyed also cited reclining seats as causes of discomfort when used by neighbouring passengers, and more than half registered their dislike of airlines that do not provide allocated seating.

The issue of child-free flights, though controversial, seems to have struck a chord with the aviation industry. This week Malaysia Airlines has updated its policy for child passengers, banning them from upper deck of its Airbus A380 fleet.

The policy, which came into force recently, means that families travelling with children below the age of 12 years will be limited to a certain segment of the airplane on these flights. The airline is justifying its decision by saying that an overwhelming number of its passengers have complained about the noise created by children during flights.

Tengku Azmil, the airline chief executive officer, commented that many passengers had complained on Twitter that they had paid a premium to fly first class but had been unable to sleep due to crying infants.

The airline does however have a policy that allows for families with children to board first, as they take longer to organise themselves and take their seats inside an aircraft.

British MPs Warn of Airport Gridlock during London Olympics 2012

Members of Britain’s Parliament have warned of a possible gridlock of British Airports during the London Olympic Games, which commence in July this year.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons is warning of overcrowding at UK airports during the London Olympic Games. Two members of the committee, Therese Coffey and Gerry Sutcliffe, are said to have attended a BAA (operator of six British Airports) briefing where the company expressed its concerns over handling the departure of international athletes after the closing ceremony.

The members of parliament have claimed that while much has been done for accommodating ‘unusual sporting equipment, arranging special lanes for the Olympic family, and welcoming arrangements for competitors and Olympic ambassadors’, there still exists an issue of dealing with long queues at the airport immigration desks.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the agency responsible for passport control counters at UK airports, has, in recent times, reduced its task force by around 25 percent, and the MPs are concerned that this could result in a negative impact on Britain’s tourism industry, as visitors may be discouraged from visiting the UK due to long queues at the airport, leading to delayed flights and overcrowding at the terminals.

The members have also felt an acute absence of any kind of contingency plan to deal with airport overcrowding, and hence gridlock remains a heightened possibility.

A letter to culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, signed by committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said, ‘We are aware that our sister committees, on Transport, and Home Affairs, have a strong interest in these issues and, may raise them with the relevant departments before the start of the Games. However, we wished to draw our concerns to your attention, as Minister with overall responsibly for the success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

Flybe Performing to Management Expectations

Flybe, a UK-based airline company, has announced that its results have remained on par with company expectations, ahead of the release of its financial results for fiscal 2011, which will be released in June 2012.

In a trading update the company announced that a number of its initiatives have been implemented recently to increase revenue earnings per seat, reduce costs, and match its seating capacities with the current demands. One such initiative was completed on March 8 this year when the company entered into a contract flying agreement with Brussels Airlines, offering two Bombardier Q400 aircraft on lease.

Flybe UK, the company’s main airline arm, is maintaining a leading position in UK regional and domestic markets, according to the company.

Flybe Finland, a company joint venture with Finnair, a Finland-based airline, has been expanded in fiscal 2012 to include new routes into Sweden and Denmark.

The maintenance and repair division of the company has been augmenting its revenue generation by accepting increased responsibilities for third party aircraft maintenance from Europe’s regional airlines. The company has also reported the commissioning of a new flight simulator in the 2012 fiscal year, its second flight simulator to be added to the company’s Training Academy.

In a statement the company said, ‘Although market conditions remain challenging, we have a robust and flexible business model combined with clear and achievable growth plans. We remain confident about Flybe’s long term future.’

The company stock is currently trading up at £0.715, following the recent trade update.

Emirates Airline Offers To Fly ‘Silent’ Airbus Fleet on Heathrow Night Flights

UAE-based airline company, Emirates Airline, has offered to operate nighttime flights to help increase the capacity of Heathrow Airport in the UK, by using the quieter Airbus A380s for overnight operations.

The airline’s Airbus A380 super-jumbo airplane fleet is capable of a steeper landing descent than other airplanes, which may lessen noise pollution close to the airport. However the airline is also proposing an increase in its operating hours out of the airport, by augmenting its daily flights to Dubai, UAE, to seven from Heathrow, instead of the current five.

Currently Heathrow Airport is only authorised to allow 15 flights per night for the summer season, which commences in April and runs until October, less than Gatwick Airport’s 50 flights per night and Stansted Airport’s 32 flights per night.

The UK government’s review of aviation policy will be commencing its preliminary consultations in the summer, and Emirates Airline is planning its aircraft schedules as part of its extended cooperation with the UK government. The noise regulations for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports were all set to expire in October 2012, but have recently been extended to expire in October 2014.

Earlier, UK aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, said in a statement, ‘As a first step to replace the current regime in 2014, we will launch a first-stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence of the effectiveness of the current regime including costs and benefits and airlines’ fleet replacement plans. This will be followed by a second consultation next year which will enable us to take account of adopted policy when developing our specific proposals.’

Virgin Atlantic Announces Plans to Acquire Vacant Heathrow Slots

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, intends to bid for the acquisition of 12 slot pairs at London Heathrow Airport in UK.

The airline is keen to acquire the slots to facilitate its plans to commence short-haul services between Scotland and Heathrow, in the UK. The airport slots will come available when British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), gives them up as part of its merger with BMI, British Midland International, an airline formerly owned by Lufthansa, a German airline company.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Julie Southern, reportedly said in a discussion with Travel Weekly, ‘We will bid for all the slots. We have always provided competition to BA. That is Richard’s (Sir Richard Branson’s) raison d’etre. We believe we can provide point-to-point services. It would be an extension of our network using different aircraft.’

The airline also intends to use the airport slots for new services to Cairo, Riyadh, Nice and Moscow.

Julie Southern has also expressed her dismay at the EU competition commissioner’s decision on IAG’s acquisition of BMI, saying, ‘IAG won the go ahead for its GBP172 million deal to buy BMI from Lufthansa at the end of March. We find it hard to believe the full ramifications can have been investigated in such a short period. The whole process has been pretty disappointing.
We want all 12 (airport slots). We will wait to see the full judgment. There are so many aspects: can we get hold of them? What are the strings? Are there constraints? We are puzzled as to why the slots are in two groups. It would be sub-optimal for anyone to operate (only some of the slots). We feel all 12 should stay together.’

Other companies could also bid for the slots as and when they come available, with Aer Lingus one likely contender.

British Airways Parent Company Expresses Interest in Acquiring Portugal’s TAP Airline

The parent company of British Airways, the UK-based airline company, has expressed an interest in investing in TAP Airline, Portugal’s national air carrier.

International Airlines Group (IAG) is keen to acquire TAP Airline stock if the Portuguese government decides to sell the airline company, which has reported an operating profit for 2011 of EUR485 million. IAG also owns Spain-based Iberia Airline, and has currently entered into an agreement to acquire British Midland International from Lufthansa, a German airline company. The company is trying to strengthen its presence in the European airline market, and TAP Airline would appear to meet all of the required criteria.

The company is also searching for an airline to partner in China, as part of its Oneworld alliance, a global airline partnership.

The IAG chief executive, Willie Walsh, said, in the annual report to the company’s shareholders, ‘The only other airline we have expressed interest in is TAP Portugal, which may soon be privatised. TAP has an extensive network into Brazil and Africa, two strategically important markets for IAG. If privatisation goes ahead we would want to look more closely, but there’s no guarantee we would bid. Continuing to develop the Oneworld alliance also remains key. One weakness we need to address is the fact that, unlike our two rival alliances, we lack a domestic partner in Mainland China, which we think is a necessity. Consolidation is not just about takeovers and mergers. It’s also about forming the right partnerships for the new realities we face as an industry.’

IAG is also thought to be considering taking stakes in American Airlines and Japan Airlines (JAL). Both companies have had brushes with bankruptcy in recent times. American is still in chapter 11 bankruptcy and JAL came out of bankruptcy last year and could file for an Initial Public Offering.

The Magic is Never Far Away in Orlando

Orlando is one of the major cities in Florida and in recent years has become a leading centre for bio-medical research and the now ubiquitous digital media. Its great selling points for tourists though are that it is sunny and warm throughout the year and has a wealth of state-of-the-art entertainments for all the family to enjoy. Cheap flights to Orlando are the ideal way to see this fabulous city and explore the surrounding area.

Orlando started its rise to prominence in 1856 when it became a county seat and in 1885 was incorporated as a city. It has never looked back, growing exponentially down the decades by absorbing surrounding towns and villages until now it dominates Orange County and is a magnet for visitors from the States and abroad.

For those who like good old-fashioned family fun Orlando can hardly be beaten, and its four Disney World Theme Parks rake in the tourists in their thousands. The Magic Kingdom is ideal for the smaller kids, whilst Disney’s Hollywood Studios have many interesting displays relating to cinematic history that everyone will enjoy. The Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) centre which opened in 1982 consists of the Future World and World Showcase parks and is packed with technology-based attractions such as Spaceship Earth, providing fun and learning at the same time. And be sure not to miss the Harry Potter Theme Park with its spectacular Forbidden Journey ride in an imposing replica of Hogwarts Castle.

Although Orlando is itself landlocked it makes up for this with an impressive copy of an exotic Caribbean island, no less. This is Discovery Cove, closely allied with the famous SeaWorld Orlando theme park. You can actually go snorkelling here and swim amongst the fabulous fish and (harmless) stingrays. You can also float through an aviary and swim underneath a waterfall. The cove has its own white sandy beach, and as only 1000 visitors are allowed into the Cove each day there’s plenty of space to relax and enjoy yourselves.

Once you’ve had as much as you can take of Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter and magic rides you can head for Downtown Disney, which is a vast entertainment and shopping complex in Disney World. This is all themed as well, as you’d expect, but the food is great in venues like the Rainforest Cafe, and if you’re into Lego there’ll be no getting you out because the Lego Imagination store is truly awesome. The nearby DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park is also a hit with kids and adults alike. Or head for the famous La Nouba Cirque de Soleil show for an evening of state-of-the-art acrobatics and incredible juggling by trapeze artists in weird and wonderful costumes.

The CityWalk theme restaurants adjoining the two main parks here are a great hit with the kids, keeping them eating and entertained at the same time in the company of famous Disney characters who dance, sing and pose for photos to the great delight of their fans.

Head for Orlando for a holiday packed with the nearest thing to magic you’re ever likely to find.

 

David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.  

 

Spainair facing legal action after leaving thousands of passengers stranded

The Spanish government has launched legal action against airline Spainair after it stopped operations on Friday, cancelling 220s flights, which left 22,000 passengers stranded.

The airline according to the government, has violated Spain’s aviation regulations, and legal proceedings could lead to Spainair facing fines of up to €9m (£7.5m) for two ‘serious infringements’.

Development Minister Ana Pastor has confirmed the action after the airline – owned by a consortium based in the northeastern region of Catalonia – stopped its operations due to a lack of funding.

Officials revealed that the decision to close was made after the regional government – which holds a controlling stake in the company – announced it was unable to fund the airline.

The Catalan government named the ‘current economic climate’ and ‘European legislation concerning competition’ as the major factors which influenced its decision.

Last week Qatar Airways pulled out of talks to buy a stake in the airline, which according to the Catalan regional government destroyed Spainair’s only rescue plan.

The company has been searching for new investors since November and reports revealed that Qatar Airways was interested. The company employed around 2,000 staff and used the services of around 1,200 ground staff.

For some years the airline had struggled to compete with low-cost carriers operating in the country.

In 2010 the airline reported an operating loss of around €115m (£96m) and only survived due to finance provided by the Catalan government and private investors.

In Brussels, the European Low Fares Airline Association has announced that any of its members – including Ryanair and Easyjet – that fly overlapping routes with Spainair, would offer stranded passengers special discounted fares, which are subject to seat availability.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Unlucky Friday 13 flights drop by a third

Research has found that travellers become a little superstitious of flying on Friday 13, despite it being one of the safest modes of transport. Instead of tempting fate travellers avoid the 13 and look for other dates to travel on.

One comparison website has noticed a 27 per cent drop in bookings on the unlucky day, something that happens every time the dreaded day rolls around according to the site.

Friday 13 fell in May last year, and there was a 24 per cent drop in bookings compared to seven days prior where there was keen interest. However the site jetcost.co.uk said this year the figure climbed to 27 per cent.

Jerome Cohen-Scali, co-founder of the website, said: “Fear of Friday the 13 is of course pretty well known, but it was really surprising to see such a drastic drop in flight bookings for flights taking off this Friday”.

“We rarely see such a large drop below the weekly average, but it suggests that people are letting their superstition get the better of them’ trying to avoid flying on the day altogether”.

While some people stay at home giving into their superstition, bargains will be available for those looking for last-minute getaways due to the drop in interest in flights for Friday 13.

‘Seatmate’ selection could be available on your next flight

Dutch airline KLM is working on a tool that will give passengers the chance to choose their seatmate by linking travellers Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to their check information.

 

‘Meet and Seat’ will allow travellers checking in to choose their neighbour through online networking sites.

 

This idea allows passengers to pick people with similar interests to sit next to them.

 

Passengers will also be able to use these networking sites to choose their neighbour based on looks and even job description.

 

The matchmaking service, which is currently still in development is set to launch early next year, and further details are being kept under wrap.

 

An opt-out option will be available for passengers who prefer to ignore their neighbour and enjoy entertainment through their headphones; this will mean that they don’t have to share their personal information with others.

 

However for those who do choose to join in, their neighbour may not be what they expected, making their flight a long one. For instance their neighbour may turn out to be less attractive than first thought or they insist on talking business for the entire journey.

 

KLM airlines is not the first to spark controversy and harness social media for its passengers.

 

Malaysian Airlines are planning to release a Facebook service, allowing passengers to see whether any of their friends are booked on the same flight or plan to visit the same destination at the same time.

 

Making headlines in 2006 were AirTroductions, which offered an online dating service for frequent flyers, allowing them the chance to meet other travellers. However the company have since closed down.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh