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

2011 revealed to be safest year for air travel

With just two weeks left of 2011, figures have shown the year to be the safest for air travel since records began.

 

A study by the International Transport Association (IATA) has revealed the number of fatal air crashes fell from 23 in 2010 to 22 this year, as a result the number of deaths have dropped significantly.

 

Last year 786 passengers and airline crew members were killed in air accidents, however the figure dropped to 486 this year.

 

Gunther Matschnigg, senior vice president for the safety, operations and infrastructure at IATA said: “As of the end of November, global safety performance is at the best level recorded, and is 49 per cent better than the same time last year”.

 

Figures for the IATA date back to as far as 1945, when the collation of records began.

 

European flying has been exceptionally safe this year, as no fatal crashes have occurred on European soil so far this year.

 

North Asia is the only global region to have an unblemished year.

 

Accident rates have dropped in every region of the world, apart from the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States – Russia and the former Soviet republics), where records show 1.39 crashes per million take-offs have occurred.

 

However in 2010 the region reported a crash-free year.

 

In 2011, the global accident rate stands at 2.16 crashes per million take-offs.

 

According to statistics Africa remains the most dangerous continent in which to fly. This year, the accident rate for the country stands at 3.93 crashes per million take-offs, however this is an improvement when compared to last years figure of 8.26.

 

Until the 30th November, Africa had held an unblemished fatality record.

 

Mr Matschnigg added: “Overall, African performance is 52 per cent better, that is a great achievement”.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Public sector strikes could delay travellers by up to 12 hours

Passengers could face delays of up to 12 hours and flight cancellations next week when immigration officers go on strike following a row over public sector pensions.

 

Normand Boivin, Heathrow’s operating officer has said travellers may be held on aircrafts for their own safety.

 

He said: “Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers”.

 

“The delays at immigration are likely to be so long that passengers could not be safely accommodated within the terminals and would need to be held on arriving aircraft”.

 

He added: “This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations or departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft”.

 

Gatwick have warned that passengers may need to rebook their flights due to possible disruptions at border zones. 18,000 immigration officials are expected to go on strike next week.

 

Scott Stanley, chief operating officer said: “Gatwick continues to work closely with the UK Border Agency and its airlines to ensure robust contingency measures are put in place to ensure disruption to passengers and airport operations is kept to a minimum”.
He added: “We would advise passengers to check with their airline to find out what plans and arrangements have been put in place. We recognise that this will be a challenging time for all airport passengers, and we would warn passengers to be prepared for the potential for significant disruption at the border zones on November 30”.

 

On November 30th more than two million workers will take part in a 24-hour walkout. In an announcement earlier this week civil servants from across Whitehall would be called in to cover for immigration officials, a move which has been criticised by trade unions.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

 

Less than 23 per cent of all air passengers cite terrorism as a cause for concern

Terrorism is no longer the most worrying aspect of air travel according to a survey released by Travel Daily Media as part of its ‘2011 Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey’

While less than 25 per cent of travel professionals cited terrorism as their major fear, the majority 54.2 per cent cited technical safety followed by 42.4 per cent who said they were more concerned by turbulence or adverse weather conditions.

A further 33.9 per cent cited pilot/crew proficiency.

Polling just 23.7 per cent, terrorism was the fourth largest source of concern.

On the subject of current airport security measures, exactly half said they believed these to be ‘about right’.

More than a third however, still believe that airport security is ‘too stringent’ (28.3 per cent or ‘much too stringent’ (8.3 per cent). Only 13.3 per cent thought that security at airports is ‘too lax’.

Continuing the theme of airport security, it is interesting to note that 48.3 per cent of respondents were in favour of full-body scanners, while 46.7 per cent supported biometric data collection. Interestingly, 20.0 per cent believe that racial profiling of passengers should be adopted. The most preferred method of airport security however, is behavioural profiling, which was selected by 56.7 per cent of respondents.

Overall, the majority (88.4 per cent) of respondents said they feel ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ when travelling by air, and almost the same number (88.3 per cent) have never cancelled or postponed a flight due to safety concerns.

The respondents’ peace of mind was affected however, by the airline they were flying with. More than three quarters (76.3 per cent) said they would definitely reconsider using an airline if it had a poor safety record. A further 23.8 per cent said they may consider such an airline depending on price or flight times, while 5.1 per cent said they said no concerns of this nature.

Unsurprisingly, the major full-service carriers were selected among the most trusted airlines, with Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas and Emirates taking the top five positions.

Despite the fact that many of its airlines have recently come off the EU aviation blacklist, Indonesia clearly still has some way to go if it is to gain the trust of flyers. Indonesian carriers accounted for more than a fifth (21.3 per cent) of airlines respondents felt least safe flying with. Low-cost carriers were cited by 11.5 per cent of respondents.

Travel Daily Media Managing Director & Editor, Gary Marshall said it was heartening to know that, as the world marks the 10th anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11, that such pointless acts of terrorism are not affecting confidence in air travel.

“It is also interesting to note that most people now accept the increased safety measures at airports, and are embracing new ways of keeping our skies safe. While the aviation industry can always improve its safety record, the measures we are taking now will only serve to boost aviation security and consumer confidence, ” he said.

The Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey was an online poll conducted throughout the month of August 2011, and gathered the views of 244 travel trade personnel from across the world.

The largest share of responses came from Southeast Asia (34.4 per cent), followed by Europe (24.6 per cent), the Middle East (13.1 per cent) and Australia/NZ (9.8 per cent).

Most respondents were experienced flyers, travelling by air more than 10 times per year (36.7 per cent).