Visitors to UK Advised To Book Car Rentals Early Before 2012 Olympics Commences

With the 2012 Olympic Games less than 100 days away, the UK based car rental comparison website, Carrentals.co.uk, has advised overseas visitors to book their rentals in the UK well in advance.

The company has stated that its website has registered a considerable increase in car rental bookings at important UK destinations around the 2012 Olympics venues and dates.

The website statistics indicate that six times more US visitors have booked their rentals in the UK between July 20 and August 12, 2012, than for the same period last year. Around 40 percent of US visitor rentals are from the Gatwick or Heathrow airports in London, emphasising the importance placed on being in close proximity to the London Games from day one.

The figures also indicate a particular spike in bookings for July 20 to 21, 2012, which is thought to be due to the increasing numbers of visitors to UK for the Games’ opening ceremony, to be held in London, on July 27, 2012. Most car rentals during this period are for 10 to 12 days, which infers that visitors are also intending to include a UK-based vacation before the Games begin.

The company managing director, Gareth Robinson, said, ‘Our figures show a clear increase in car rental bookings around the time of the Olympics and this is likely to increase further as we get closer to the games. The UK really is the place to be this summer with many Americans making the 2012 Olympics their summer holiday.

Train journeys can be expensive and are likely to be very busy during the games – possibly not ideal for families and larger groups. The option of renting a car gives more flexibility, especially when travelling to different events either in London or around the UK. Those booking early can make significant savings while having a wider choice of vehicles and essential extras such as child seats and sat navs.’

European Commission Releases Statement on bmi Sale

The European Commission (EC), the executive body for the European Union, has released a statement defending its decision to approve the sale of British Midland International (bmi), an airline owned by Germany-based Lufthansa, to British International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways.

Earlier Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, had announced its intention to appeal against the sale of bmi, although the sales process will not be affected by this appeal. Virgin Atlantic has claimed that the EC has approved the sale too quickly, and the 14 airport slots that BA are giving up at Heathrow airport, as a proviso of the £172.5 million deal, were insufficient to ensure healthy competition in the UK aviation market.

In a statement, the EC has clarified its stand by saying, ‘We are confident that the commitments proposed by IAG address all competition issues identified and we stand by our decision to clear the transaction subject to these conditions.

In this case, a decision was reached in 35 working days, which is not particularly fast. For example, out of 319 adopted merger and acquisition decisions in 2011, 98 percent were adopted within this timeframe.

Moreover, as described in our best practices guidelines, the commission held in-depth pre-notification contacts with the parties as early as November 2011, well before the notification took place on February 10, 2012.’

Virgin Atlantic will be able to appeal to the General Court of the EU within two months of publication of a full report by the EC on the sale of bmi to IAG.

British Airways takeover will lead to 1,200 job losses at BMI

The takeover of BMI buy the parent company of British Airways (IAG) will lead to a possible 1,200 job losses, the company announced today.

The takeover was approved by the European Commission in March 2012 after the Commission looked into the integration of the two airlines operations at Heathrow Airport.

Most of the job losses will be at BMI’s head office at Castle Donington in Derbyshire.  However, British Airways were keen to stress that up to 1,500 jobs have been saved by the takeover, including 1,100 cabin crew, pilots and engineers and up to 400 passenger service personnel at Heathrow’s Terminal 1.

Keith Williams, British Airways’ chief executive, said ‘BMI is heavily loss making and is not a viable business as it stands today. Our proposals would secure around 1,500 jobs that would otherwise have been lost. As we look to restructure the business and restore profitability, job losses are deeply regrettable but inevitable. We will work with the unions to explore as many options as possible and are already working with industry partners.’

He also said ‘This deal is good news for our customers and will offer new destinations, new routes and new schedules in due course. For customers with BMI bookings to or from Heathrow this summer, it is business as usual and customers can continue to book with confidence.’

BMI was previously owned by German carrier Lufthansa and had been losing over £150m per year before the takeover, carrying 3 million passengers per year and flying to 25 countries around Europe.

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.’

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.

Olympic athletes given priority treatment over passengers at Heathrow

One of this years biggest events – the Olympic Games is set to be a national celebration of sporting excellence, however it seems that the games is set to cause delays at Heathrow airport frustrating UK travellers.


UK Border Agency policy documents, warn of long queues at Heathrow Airport due to the high number of visitors expected to enter the country ahead of and during the tournament in July and August. This volume of visitors may lead to non-Olympic passengers being held up, as priority treatment will be given to travellers connected to the game.

 

The documents warn that delays may be caused by the collection of biometric data on incoming passengers, including fingerprints.

 

A ‘key risks’ section in the document states:

 

The collection of biometric may result in passengers being unduly delayed passing through border control’.

 

Dedicated lanes and the time taken to collect the biometric of GFM (Games Family Members) may result in delays to non-Olympic passenger journeys’.

 

25,000 athletes, officials and coaches could be given priority treatment if a new fast-track scheme is introduced.

 

To cope with the huge numbers of passengers, airport immigration staff will be transferred from their normal duties to help.

 

Heathrow is set to handle 80 per cent of Olympic-related traffic, including athletes, kit, officials, sponsors and media.

 

The day after the closing ceremony August 13 is set to be the most difficult day for the airport, with around 218,000 bags set to pass through the airport.

 

A spokesman for Heathrow said the airport will be ready to cope with the extra crowds.

 

Around 15 per cent of bags will be outsize sporting equipment, such as canoes, vaulting poles or bikes, which cannot be processed through normal baggage systems”.

 

Options being considered to manage the extra demand include baggage drop facilities at the Olympic Village, shipping some baggage as freight and construction of a temporary ‘Olympic terminal’, which would be taken down after the Games”.

 

Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive added:

 

London 2012 will be Heathrow’s greatest challenge”.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

New measures to cut delays at Heathrow

 

Passengers using Heathrow and communities around the airport could benefit from reduced delays, less stacking and fewer unscheduled night flights at the UK’s busiest airport as part of a trial of new measures announced today by Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers.

The measures are set out in the final report by the Government’s South East Airports Taskforce which has been published today. They are focused on making Heathrow more resilient and better able to recover on days when the airport’s operations are disrupted by poor weather or other problems.

When such problems occur, these proposals would allow, exceptionally, both Heathrow’s runways to be used simultaneously for either arrivals or departures as a way to cut delays and cancellations and get punctuality back on track.

The Task-force also endorsed plans for a switch to a smarter, more effective and more passenger-friendly airport security regime for all UK airports – details of which have also been published today for consultation.

Set up to identify operational improvements at the UK’s three busiest airports – the South East Airports Taskforce included representatives from airlines, airport operators, regulators and other interests.

Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said:

“Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports play a vital role in supporting the UK economy. Improving the reliability of these airports, particularly Heathrow, was a priority for the Task-force.

“These measures have the potential to deliver greater reliability for passengers, while reducing the impact of unscheduled night flights on local communities. Trialling these changes will allow their benefits and impacts to be assessed and there will be extensive engagement and consultation with local communities before any decision is taken on whether to make the changes permanent.

“Coupled with today’s proposals to give UK airports more flexibility in the way they deliver airport security, passengers should begin to see real improvements. I am grateful to all Taskforce members for working so constructively together to help make our airports better.”

Under existing arrangements, Heathrow operates largely on a runway alternation system, whereby one runway is used for arrivals and the other for departures – with the roles reversed halfway through the day to provide respite from noise for residents living near the end of the runways. The Government has made clear its support for the continuation of runway alternation.