Thomas Cook to launch new US route from Manchester

Thomas Cook Airlines, one of the world’s leading leisure travel groups, has announced direct flights from Manchester to San Francisco, as part of expanding its long-haul offering and its US network.

The San Francisco route joins flights to Los Angeles and Boston launched in 2016, and New York and Miami in 2015. In addition to the new route, the airline has increased frequencies to Los Angeles from two to three flights per week, while Boston services has been increased from two to four flights per week. Thomas Cook’s agreements with partner carriers also enable customers to connect to around 90 North American and Caribbean cities.

The new direct flights to San Francisco from Manchester Airport will start on May 14, 2017 with departures from Manchester on Thursdays and Sunday. Economy seats are available from £489.98 return for economy and £689.98 Premium class.

Thomas Cook’s chief airlines officer, Christoph Debus, said: ‘It’s never been so easy for our customers to reach top US destinations. With seven direct US routes from Manchester, five of which we have launched in the last 3 years, we’re making good progress with our strategy to grow our long-haul network.’

‘It’s also great news for the North of England as not only can passengers reach the stunning scenery of Northern California direct, they are also connected with the booming business hub of Silicon Valley.’

Ken O’Toole, CEO of Manchester Airport, said: ‘We are pleased that Thomas Cook Airlines continues to grow from Manchester Airport and look forward to working closely with them in future as they expand further.

‘The addition of a new San Francisco service and increased frequency on the existing Los Angeles and Boston routes means there will be more than 2.2m seats on sale between Manchester and the States in the coming year.

‘That represents growth of more than 25% over two years, with more seats added at Manchester than at any of the other top 25 airports in Europe, cementing our position as the global gateway for the North.’

The expansion in US services comes as passenger numbers to the US on Thomas Cook’s UK airline have more than trebled in the last two years. Almost one million Thomas Cook customers will have travelled to the US from across Europe during the winter and summer seasons this year – an increase of 40 per cent year-on-year, the airline said.

Thomas Cook Airlines will also launch London Gatwick-Cape Town flights in December 2016, while its sister airline, Condor, has expanded its direct flight to the US from Germany in the last two years to include Austin, Portland, New Orleans and San Diego, it added.

Sun Air announces new route from Bremen to London City Airport and Manchester

Sun Air, the Danish airline and a franchise partner of British Airways, has announced the launch of two new routes from Bremen to both London City and Manchester, starting October 31, 2016.

The Bremen – London City route will have 10 weekly return flights, while Bremen – Manchester will have 11 weekly return flights. Both routes will be operated by a 32-seater Dornier 328 aircraft with full in-flight service that includes a meal and Dornier wines, ice cream dessert and daily newspapers. Tickets are on sale starting today – September 2, 2016 – on

Sun Air’s Commercial Director, Kristian Tvergaard, states, ‘We have over the years developed a great deal of experience with servicing the regional business sectors where focus is on point to point routes, optimised flight schedules tailored to the regional needs with morning departures and evening returns and a high level of in-flight service. We are very pleased with the close cooperation we have had with Bremen Airport in bringing this valuable market opportunity to life and already the new route has had attention and support from both German and British business people.’

Jurgen Bula, CEO Bremen Airport, said: ‘We are very happy about the two new routes from Bremen to London City and Manchester, which are served from the end of October of the British Airways franchise partner Sun-Air of Scandinavia. The brand ‘British Airways’ completes our portfolio of major flag carriers optimally.’

Matthew Hall, Chief Commercial Officer at London City Airport, said: ‘Bremen is an important business and manufacturing hub with a rich history and the new services operated by British Airways franchise partner SUN-AIR are a natural addition to London City Airport, making it the fifth German city to join our route network.’

‘With London City Airport’s rapid connections to central London and key business districts such as Canary Wharf, the new Bremen route offers speed and convenience for business travellers, so they can spend less time travelling to and from the airport and more time at the office or with loved ones.’

Sun Air already operates routes from Billund to London City and Manchester. Following the announcement of the new routes, the airline has opened a new base in Bremen.

Hainan Airlines launches Beijing to Manchester direct air service

China-based Hainan Airlines has formally launched a direct air route between Beijing and Manchester, strengthening the airline’s intercontinental route network in Europe and offering more choices to international travellers.

The new Beijing-Manchester-Beijing air route with operate every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The introduction of the air route follows the extension of the visa term for Chinese nationals visiting the UK from six months to two years – a relaxation in visa regulations that was announced earlier this year.

The UK government is also planning to launch a ten-year multiple entry visa programme, offering increased accessibility to the UK for Chinese visitors. The opening of the air route between Beijing and Manchester is expected to attract more investors from China to invest in northern England. It will also make it more convenient for business executives and travellers travelling between China and Britain as well as between China and Europe generally.

Further, the addition of new air route also supports the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, a programme launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping, to rebuild a modern equivalent of the ancient silk route that connected China to Europe in ancient times, as well as the Northern Powerhouse programme, the UK government’s programme to improve economic growth in the north of England. The direct route established an air traffic bridge between the two cities as well as a new Silk Road in the air.

In 2016, Hainan Airlines opened several international routes, including Changsha-Los Angeles, Beijing-Tel Aviv and Beijing-Manchester. The new Beijing-Calgary route is scheduled to be launched later this month. The company has also created a new international brand image with its ‘Oriental Beauty’ concept in a move to provide an enhanced level of services. Hainan Airlines has been named as a SKYTRAX five-star airline for five consecutive years.

Flybe announces new routes – Manchester to Lyon, Southampton to Munich

Flybe, the UK-based budget airline, has re-announced a new year-round service between Manchester and Lyon, with daily flights starting on August 1, 2016.

With a flight time of 1hr and 45 minutes, the new service offers customers from Manchester direct links for the first time to the city of Lyon- a World Heritage Site and renowned cultural centre. One of Europe’s leading centres for the banking, chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries, Lyon is also a key business destination. It also serves as a transit station for onward travel to Switzerland or Italy with Geneva under two hours’ drive away and Turin less than four hours.

Separately, Flybe also confirmed plans for new, year- round daily flights between Southampton and Munich, with a flight time of 2hr and 20m. The service will be effective for travel from June 29 to October 29, 2016.

Tickets for the new services – both Manchester to Lyon, as well as Southampton to Munich – are available for booking at with one way fares starting from £29.99 including taxes and charges.

Flybe’s Chief Revenue Officer, Vincent Hodder, commented: ‘We are delighted to be expanding our choice of flights from our Manchester hub. Lyon is an appealing option for both business and leisure travellers with frequent daily flights that give customers the flexibility they need when arranging their travel plans.’

Stephen Turner, Commercial Director for Manchester Airport, added: ‘We’re delighted that Flybe is announcing a daily link to Lyon, becoming the only airline to do so from Manchester. A fantastic city in its own right, it also provides a gateway to the French Alps and we’re sure the route will prove hugely popular with the 22 million people in our catchment area.’

On the new Southampton-Munch route, Hodder said: ‘Flybe is committed to providing unrivalled connectivity and affordable, time-saving travel from Southampton. Our new daily service to Munich is conveniently scheduled for time-saving business travel, combining the ability to arrive in time for a working evening dinner followed by a full working day.’

Dave Lees, Southampton Airport’s Managing Director, added: ‘We have a lot of demand for German routes from this region and the new Flybe service provides more choice for travellers going to Munich. This new service is in addition to other new Flybe routes announced for 2016 to Biarritz, Toulon, Lyon and Paris Charles de Gaulle.’

Flybe was recently named ‘Best Short-Haul Airline’ at the 2016 Business Travel Awards and is one of only two UK-based carriers to feature in the top 20 global airlines’ 2016 punctuality league table by OAG, it said.


Vueling Airlines announce new routes from Manchester, Edinburgh

Spanish low-fares airline Vueling Airlines has announced plans to offer direct services to Alicante and Rome from June next year, the Manchester Evening News has reported.

Part of International Airlines Group (IAG), Vueling will launch the two new routes from Manchester Airport for summer 2016. The Spanish low cost airline will operate three flights a week to Alicante and two flights a week to Rome in addition to its existing service to Barcelona, which started in June this year.

Flights to Alicante will operate on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, while flights to Rome will be on Friday and Monday. The routes will be operated by an Airbus A320, with capacity for 180 passengers.

Ken O’Toole, managing director for Manchester Airport, said: ‘We’re delighted that Vueling Airlines has chosen to expand its route network from Manchester Airport. Alicante and Rome are popular destinations with our 22.9 million passengers and these additional services reinforce our status as the UK’s Global Gateway for the North of England.’

Separately, Edinburgh Airport said that Vueling is planning a major route expansion at the Airport, which will see three-times-a-week direct flights from Scotland’s capital to Rome Fiumicino, Paris Orly and to Alicante, Edin.

The new Rome Fiumicino and Parlis Orly routes from Edinburgh will both commence from March 29, 2016, while the new Alicante flights will commence from June 16, 2016.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: ‘It is tremendous that we have two new routes to Rome and Paris and we have increased our service to Alicante – this offers our passengers even greater choice and is further confirmation of Edinburgh Airport’s position as a key driver for Scotland’s economy.

‘This commitment from Vueling – a strong European airline – shows that we’ve listened to our passengers and recognise the need for greater choice and European connectivity; this expansion in service is good news for business and leisure travellers, for Edinburgh and for Scotland as a whole.’


Austrian Airlines to launch flight service to Manchester

Austrian Airlines, Austria’s leading airline, has recently said that it will add a new destination to its route network this year.

Accordingly, starting September 10, 2015, the airline will operate a new service to Manchester. In addition to the existing 28 weekly flights to London, the additional frequencies to Manchester by up to seven times per week will strengthen connections in both directions as well as within the Austrian Airlines network.

Manchester is one of the most frequently visited British cities. The new flight service will enable local flight traffic to connect Vienna with the city. In addition, Austrian Airlines also offers transfer connections to the federal provinces of Austria as well as to Central and Eastern Europe.

With Manchester and London, Austria’s national carrier offers direct flight service to British destinations up to five times daily.

Austrian Airlines is a part of the Lufthansa Group, and operates a global route network of approximately 130 destinations in 58 countries, being particularly focussed on Central and Eastern Europe with 40 destinations.

The airline said earlier in the year that it is increasingly focused on tourist destinations in 2015. It has added new destinations, such as Menorca starting in June 2015, with plans to add Miami and Mauritius as of October 2015. Starting March this year, Austrian also started operating flights to Odessa, another destination in its focus market of Eastern Europe.

For Manchester, the airline will operate a Fokker aircraft. The airline has also announced plans to renew its fleet with the purchase of 17 Embraer 195, with the first commercial flight set to take place in January 2016.


Manchester Airport station set to close for three weeks in January

The railway station at Manchester Airport will close for three weeks in the New Year as work to complete the new fourth platform is carried out, the Lancashire Evening Post has reported.

In order to accommodate the new platform work – which also includes finishing platform improvements with new CCTV and information screens – only two platforms will be in use between Sunday 11th and Saturday 17th January. The station will then be closed to all trains until Monday 9th February.

In January, travellers will face disruption and may have to find alternative ways to reach the airport as Network Rail begins to install the new track and signalling. The authorities will be providing information on replacement buses shortly, the report said.

Wayne Poole, director of passenger services for Manchester Airport, said: ‘We’ll be working with the variety of partners that are involved in the fourth platform works to minimise disruption during the station closures.

We continue to work with transport providers to look at ways to further enhance access to the airport.’

Ian Joslin, area director for Network Rail, said: ‘While there is never a good time to close the railway we have worked closely with the airport, Metrolink and train operators to complete this work at a time which will impact the fewest numbers of passengers and I apologise for any short-term inconvenience while we deliver these long-term benefits.’

Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink director, Peter Cushing, said: ‘With the opening of the new airport line in November, the new heavy rail fourth platform will represent an excellent example of heavy and light rail integration at one of the best road and rail connected airports in the country.

‘We are grateful to both Metrolink and rail passengers for their patience while this, ultimately, beneficial work is carried out.’

The platform upgrade, which is part of the £1bn+ investment in the railway, will allow extra services to call at the airport and provide passengers with better access from across the north of England.

Cathay Pacific to begin direct flights to Manchester from Hong Kong

Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is to begin direct flights from its home city to Manchester, UK from December this year, the airline has announced on its website.

Starting on December 8, Cathay Pacific will operate the service four times per week, and tickets are now on sale.

The airline noted that Manchester is the third busiest airport in the UK after Heathrow and Gatwick based on passenger throughput figures, and has ‘high potential for further growth.’ It also described the city of Manchester as ‘a regional transport and business hub that is renowned for its architecture, culture, industrial heritage and sports clubs.’

Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be used to operate the Manchester service, and will include the awarding-winning Business Class, Premium Economy Class and new Economy Class seats. The airline also says that passengers will have the benefit of a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system in all classes.

Flights will depart from Hong Kong to Manchester every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with Manchester departures on the same days.

Cathay Pacific chief executive, Ivan Chu, said: ‘We have a deep commitment to the UK market and currently operate five flights a day to London Heathrow. Business ties between the UK and Hong Kong are very strong and we have been seeing an ever-increasing demand for air travel to and from the Asia Pacific region for both business and leisure traffic.

‘By providing yet more flights to the UK, and the only non-stop direct service between Hong Kong and Manchester, Cathay Pacific will offer passengers even more choice and flexibility and, at the same time, continue to boost Hong Kong’s standing as an international aviation hub.’


Tobago partners with Condor for new Manchester – Tobago route

At World Travel Market, the Tobago House Assembly has announced plans for a new regional flight, operated by Thomas Cook’s German sister company, Condor, from Manchester to the Caribbean island of Tobago, according to a report by Travel Weekly.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the UK trade show, Tracey Davidson-Celestine, secretary for transport and tourism for the Tobago House Assembly, said: ‘The UK market is a very important one for us. Within the next fiscal year, we will be spending more than $4 million in the UK market, with a view to ensuring that our destination is well known because it’s a very important market for us.

‘I am pleased to announce that we will be starting new airlift with Condor out of Manchester, flying directly to Tobago, starting in winter 2014.’

The new Thomas Cook service will be open for bookings from next month with the first flights starting in winter 2014. With the new service, the number of direct services from the UK to Tobago will increase to four per week (five in winter). Direct flights are already in place from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Monarch, in addition to services through Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain.

Ms. Davidson-Celestine added: ‘It was really the diverse nature of the island that caused us to focus on niche strategies. We do not have the large hotels to focus on mass tourism, so we have to find a way to sell what we have, and to increase demand for the destination.

‘We will be targeting several tour operators to get them to come to Tobago and experience for themselves what Tobago has to offer.’

Airport staff decides for strike action in pay dispute

The check-in staff and baggage handlers at the UK’s four busiest airports have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay, Travel Weekly has reported.

Staff and workers at the ground handling company, Swissport, based at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted, have voted in favour of strike action. A poll by Unite union members has seen 94 percent voting in favour of strike action, based on a turnout of 50.5 percent.

Following the vote, the company has called for an urgent meeting with the Unite union, which is taking place today.

Unite national officer, Oliver Richardson, said: ‘In the light of this overwhelming mandate for action, Swissport has requested talks which we are happy to attend so we can try to resolve this matter.

‘The dispute centres on the company’s decision to freeze workers pay for eighteen months, from April 2012 through to October 2013, followed by a below-inflation increase of just 2.5 percent.

‘Our members are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living,’ he said, adding that the union believes Swissport is failing to recognise the contribution that its staff members are making to the success of the company.

‘We hope that over the coming days we will be able to thrash out a deal with the company but this will depend on whether the company is prepared to move on from its current position on pay,’ said Richardson.

Swissport International Limited provides ground services for around 118 million passengers and handles 3.5 million tons of cargo a year on behalf of some 650 client-companies in the aviation sector. With a workforce of around 40,000 personnel, Swissport is active at 181 stations in 37 countries across five continents.

In the UK, Swissport’s clients include Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Thomson at Stansted; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates at Manchester; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin and British Airways at Gatwick and Virgin at Heathrow.