‘A leopard never changes its spots’: Agents angry at new Ryanair check-in rules

Changes to Ryanair’s online check-in rules are forcing agents to make customers buy allocated seats for packages of more than seven days.

Ryanair last week told passengers that online check-in was only available between seven days and two hours before departure for those not taking its regular or premium seat reservation option, costing €5 or €10. Those opting to pay extra can check in from 30 days before.

Previously, Ryanair allowed non-reserved seat boarding passes to be printed 15 days before departure, which catches a normal fortnight family holiday.

However, the change means agents packaging a week’s holiday with Ryanair flights cannot now issue the return boarding card before clients leave the UK.

One agency, Thorne Travel, which is close to Prestwick airport, has told clients: “To ensure you get the best customer service for all flights booked with a six day or longer duration, we will require you to 
pre-book your seats.”

Agency owner Shona Thorne said hotels had been happy to print boarding cards for existing bookings, but that this would create problems in the future.

“Hotels are not going to be happy,” she said. “We’ve done this before for customers going for three weeks and most hotels have been quite comfortable doing that, but we have a group of 30 going soon – do they want to do that? No.”

Thorne said the agency would be greatly affected, being 10 minutes from Prestwick. “To change the rules on existing bookings is wrong,” she said.

Ryanair charges £40 to print boarding cards at the airport, meaning a family of four caught unawares faces a £160 bill at the end of their holiday.

The airline’s changes come only weeks after it launched a charm offensive, promising to be less obstructive. A Ryanair spokeswoman said check-in times had been extended for those who purchased allocated seats.

“Customers who don’t wish to pay for a premium or regular allocated seat can check-in online between seven days to two hours prior to each flight, and will be allocated a seat free of charge,” she added.

Helder Lemos, who runs Gallivant Travel Agency near Stansted, said Ryanair had “reverted back to type”, adding: “What comes to mind immediately is the saying ‘the leopard never changes its spots’.

It found a subterfuge to force ancillary revenues and annoy the customers.”

Sourced from TTG Digital


End to Mediterranean dream for 90,000 Britons who left Spain last year

British expatriates are deserting Spain in droves, according to new figures from Spain’s national statistics institute

The ongoing effects of the eurozone crisis, a huge property slump and a rapidly shrinking job market have contributed to the exodus, reducing Spain's total population for the second year running

The ongoing effects of the eurozone crisis, a huge property slump and a rapidly shrinking job market have contributed to the exodus, reducing Spain’s total population for the second year running Photo: Alamy (file photo: The City of Girona in Catalunya, Spain)

Nearly 90,000 Britons abandoned their Mediterranean dreams in Spainlast year, according to new figures.

The ongoing effects of the eurozone crisis, a huge property slump and a rapidly shrinking job market have contributed to the exodus, reducing Spain’s total population for the second year running.

Town hall registers across the country recorded a steep drop in Britons, falling 23 per cent from 385,179 on Jan 1 last year to 297,229 at the end of December.

Other European expatriates are also taking their leave – the registered German population fell by 23.6 per cent to 138,917 and the French population by 12.7 per cent to just over 100,000. The only nationality to increase their presence in Spain were the Chinese.

Jackie Miles, 48, is among British expatriates who has abandoned Spain in the last year when she moved with her husband and two children to Dubai.

“We had been in Spain for 13 years and loved it, but like many other British people we had to find work and it just wasn’t possible any longer in our part of Andalusia,” she said.

The couple had moved out to Mojacar in southern Spain 13 years ago where Mr Kirby ran an estate agency and his wife owned a gym. “As the crisis continued, the estate agency business dried up and the gym, which did very well for many years, became harder to run at a profit.”

Maura Hillen, the chairman of AUAN, a pressure group based in Almeria province that campaigns for the rights of British home owners caught up in a property scandal, said: “Many people no longer wish to stay in Spain because of the never-ending fight to legalise their properties.

“There is a wider trend of Britons leaving. People who retired out here in their 50s and 60s have seen their circumstances change. Advancing age, losing a partner, and the rise in the cost of living make life here less attractive.”

Although town hall records show those officially registered, the British embassy in Madrid estimates as many as 800,000 Britons reside for at least part of the year in Spain.

New research has found those who migrate to southern Europe are often less happy than those they leave behind.

Dr David Bartram, from Leicester University, examined the survey responses of 329 people who had moved from northern European countries to either Spain, Portugal, Greece or Cyprus.

He found that, when asked how happy they were on a scale of 1 to 10, the migrants scored an average of 7.3 compared with an average of 7.5 for 56,000 people in northern Europe who were also surveyed.The decline in foreigners choosing to reside in Spain has led to an overall population decline in the nation for the second year running.

While the total population of native Spaniards crept up by 141,361 people, the departure of immigrants saw the total resident in Spain slide from 47,129,783 to 46,725,164.

Analysts suggested the increase in Spanish citizens could not be accounted for by birth rate alone but was probably boosted by the naturalisation of those immigrants who had resided in Spain for a certain amount of time.

According to official statistics Britons remain the second largest EU expatriate community in Spain after Romanians.

Sourced from The Telegraph


Stelios cuts share in easyJet

Stelios cuts share in easyJet

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family have cut their shareholding in the budget airline.

The stake held by easyGroup Holdings has been trimmed by 1.27%, down from 36.95% to 35.68%.

If the shares were sold at last Wednesday’s closing price of £16.53, the family would collectively have made more than £81 million from the sale, the Telegraph reported.

EasyJet confirmed that the current family shareholding now stands at 141,608,049 ordinary shares out of the total issued share capital at March 31 of 396,819,107 ordinary shares.

The shares are held by the Haji-Ioannou family – Sir Stelios and his siblings Polys and Clelia.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Flybe confirms expansion to London City airport

Flybe confirms expansion to London City airport

A network of domestic routes from London City airport was today confirmed by Flybe, together with a service to Dublin.

The regional airline is to serve the business centres of Edinburgh, Belfast, Inverness, Exeter and the irish capital from the Docklands airport as part of a five-year deal, in a move which was the subject of industry speculation last month.

Services are scheduled to start on October 27 with tickets going on sale immediately.

Off-peak leisure flights to selected ski, French regional and northern Spanish destinations are also planned. More information about these routes will be announced in the coming weeks.

The expansion follows the airline securing £150 million in additional funding last month as part of a financial turnaround plan under new chief executive Saad Hammad.

Flybe is to deploy five aircraft for the London City services, flying from three of its regional bases, with the airline expecting to carry up to 500,000 passengers a year on the network.

The schedule will include four times daily flights to Edinburgh and Dublin, three times a day flights to Belfast and Exeter and twice daily flights to Inverness.

The carrier says it expects the new routes to improve connectivity from the UK regions and to appeal to City and Canary Wharf-based business travellers, with Edinburgh and Dublin likely to be in particular demand.

Flybe claims the London City services will be “significantly faster” overall than travelling via Heathrow or Gatwick, or by road or rail.

The London City deal follows Flybe launching eight new routes from Birmingham and four routes from Southend with franchise partner Stobart Air.

Hammad described the move as “a significant landmark in the rebirth of Flybe”.

It follows the airline’s withdrawal from Gatwick and the sale of take-off and landing slots to easyJet .

Hammad said: “We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London’s most convenient airport following a rigorous profitability analysis utilising our strict route assessment model.

“Dedicating five growth aircraft initially to these new routes is a major statement of intent and we look forward to building a successful and growing presence there over the coming years.

“Flybe is today already connecting over seven million passengers a year across the UK and Europe. With a major London connection, we reaffirm our place as the UK’s regional airline.”

The airport’s chief executive Declan Collier added: “London City airport is poised for significant growth in the next ten years – growth that will see it achieve 120,000 flight movements per annum, with an associated six million passengers by 2023.

“Today’s announcement is an extremely important step on that journey – Flybe will bring an immediate uplift of up to half a million new passengers to the airport.

“In addition, Flybe’s selection of routes serves to cement further LCY’s status as the business traveller’s airport of choice, underpinned by our ‘location, convenience and speed’ customer propositions.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


British Airways backs plan to convert waste into jet fuel

British Airways backs plan to convert waste into jet fuel

British Airways aims to convert landfill waste into jet fuel in a pioneering carbon-saving initiative.

The carrier is supporting the creation of the world’s first facility in Essex to produce sustainable aviation fuel in conjunction with specialist firm Solena Fuels.

About 575,000 tonnes of waste normally destined for landfill or incineration will be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels.

BA has made a long-term commitment to purchase all 50,000 tonnes a year of the jet fuel produced as part of the ‘GreenSky’ project.

One thousand construction workers will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs at the Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Corringham.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA parent company International Airlines Group, said: “We are always striving to reduce our impact on climate change and this first-of-its-kind project marks a significant step for the aviation industry.

“The construction of the GreenSky London fuel facility at Thames Enterprise Park will lay the foundations for British Airways to reduce its 
carbon emissions significantly.

“The sustainable jet fuel produced each year will be enough to power our flights from London City Airport twice over with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road.”

Solena Fuels president and chief executive Robert Do said: “We are excited to help British Airways achieve its sustainability goals by providing an innovative solution to produce drop-in jet fuel.

“We anticipate starting construction of the site in approximately 12 months after all the requisite permits and agreements have been obtained.

“We are looking forward to successfully building GreenSky London and partnering with British Airways on additional facilities in the UK.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Thomson Airways’ Browne to take on expanded role in Tui Travel shake-up

Thomson Airways' Browne to take on expanded role in Tui Travel shake-up

Thomson Airways managing director Chris Browne is taking an expanded role as part of a new leadership team across Tui Travel’s five airlines.

She is to become chief operating officer of aviation across the mainstream sector, responsible for common standards across all operational areas.

Browne will have four pan-European operational roles reporting directly to her – engineering & maintenance (Jason Mahoney), flight operations & safety (John Murphy), ground operations & services (Hans van de Velde) and supplier management & procurement (Geert Somers).

Murphy will also become managing director of Thomson Airways.

The changes following a 100-day review of the five carriers to create one ‘virtual’ airline from June 1.

The aim is to provide a platform for further growth of the group’s tour operators, increase the profitability of its airlines and contribute to delivery of a “seamless integrated customer experience”.

As announced in December, Henrik Homann was appointed managing director of aviation across the mainstream sector.

In other changes:

  • Alex Huber will continue his role as managing director of TUIfly Nordic and will also take up the role of strategy & planning director for aviation across the mainstream sector. He will be responsible for ensuring best use of the current infrastructure and planning from a group perspective.
  • Gunther Hofman will continue his role as managing director of Jetairfly and take on the role of operational and process effectiveness director, responsible for ensuring that the five airlines operate together as efficiently as possible, working with regulatory bodies wherever necessary.
  • Tom Chandler will continue in his role as director of aircraft acquisition and finance. His responsibility remains ensuring the lowest acquisition and ownership cost of aircraft, fleet flexibility and efficient fleet deployment.
  • Christophe Todt will head a transition office before becoming the aviation finance director and Isabelle Drolle will become director of aviation IT while continuing in her role as CIO for TUIfly.

Homann said: “This is a very exciting new chapter in Tui Travel’s growth plans. This new way of doing business will increase collaboration and best-practice sharing while delivering operational efficiencies across the whole mainstream sector.

“I believe the collective expertise we have in this team ensures we will deliver these ambitious plans across our airlines. Leveraging our scale and expertise ensures we are greater together than apart.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Thomas Cook responds to Cuba hotel illness claims

Thomas Cook responds to Cuba hotel illness claims

Thomas Cook has confirmed 29 cases of “mild illness” reported by guests staying at the Hotel Playa Pesquero in Cuba in the first two weeks of April.

“This represents just 1.5% of the overall hotel population of 1,800,” the operator said.

“The 29 cases were a mixture of Thomas Cook customers and other tour operators; the Thomas Cook customers were offered every assistance by our dedicated resort team.

“All were treated on site, with two receiving attention at the hotel clinic for dehydration.”

The operator disputed allegations made by holiday illness compensation specialists Your Holiday Claims that 80% of holidaymakers had fallen ill due to an outbreak of salmonella at the hotel.

Cook said the cause of the outbreak is under investigation.

Your Holiday Claims alleged that many British holidaymakers had been taken to hospital during their stay. Many were believed to be on saline drips for severe dehydration after being violently ill, the law firm said.

Cook responded by saying: “We are aware that a statement was recently issued by a no-win, no-fee lawyer.

“This repeated as yet unsubstantiated allegations and we consider this to be deeply irresponsible.

“We ask any customers who may have concerns relating to their holiday to contact us directly and as quickly as possible so that we can deal with them personally in an open, honest and fair manner.

“We are confident that those customers due to travel to the resort in the future will experience the excellent levels of quality and standards they would expect from a Thomas Cook property. Accordingly, normal booking conditions apply.”

Cook added that it was working closely with management at the Hotel Playa Pesquero to ensure that internationally recognised Prevention of Spread of Infection (POSI) procedures are in place.

“We will continue to follow the rigorous processes to establish the cause of the illness reported to our staff as this investigation continues,” the company said.

Cook said that its legal team has yet to receive any correspondence from customers or their legal representatives regarding alleged illness at the hotel.

Anne Thomson, head of travel law at Your Holiday Claims, said: “We are already instructed by a number of clients who suffered similar gastric illnesses during their holidays at this hotel in 2013.

“Holidaymakers who have returned from their stay at the hotel who have been diagnosed with salmonella food poisoning or any other type of gastric illness should report this to their tour operator and contact us for help to make a successful compensation claim straight away.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


London City defends itself against calls for closure

London City defends itself against calls for closure

London City airport plans to push ahead with development plans in the face of calls for it to be shut.

The airport was accused last week of creating little value and it would be better off closed to make more efficient use of valuable land, according to a report from the New Economics Foundation think-tank.

But London City, which carried 3.3 million passengers last year and ranks as Britain’s 15th largest airport, slammed the report and pointed to expansion plans that are being driven through by shareholders, the Financial Times reported.

The Docklands airport says that these developments will double the number of passengers to 6 million by the end of the decade.

The airport – owned by US infrastructure fund Global Infrastructure Partners, which also owns Gatwick and Edinburgh airports – markets itself as providing a fast route to the capital’s business, financial and political centres. At present, these are the end destination for half its passengers.

Two-thirds of its travellers are on business, a higher proportion than at Heathrow, it adds.

The terminal has been granted permission to increase the number of flight movements from 70,000 to 120,000 a year – but it is waiting for planning permission to extend the terminal as well as construct a new taxiway, aircraft stands and arrivals building.

That would let it fly more flights and cater to wider-winged, next-generation jets such as the Bombardier C Series and Embraer E2, which could carry about 135-145 passengers, as opposed to those that fly fewer than 100 at present.

The addition of larger aircraft could open up other destinations, such as the Gulf, the Middle East, Russia, north Africa and the East Coast of the US. At present, British Airways business-class only flights to the US must stop in Ireland to refuel.

The planning decision is expected in July. Until then, London City is relying on creating a better customer service for existing passengers and has become the first terminal to test the ‘Internet of Things’ – whereby machines and objects are connected together via the internet.

Airport chief executive Declan Collier told the FT: “When you look at London’s aspirations to maintain and grow its position among global cities, connectivity is vital and we believe we play an absolutely vital part of that.”

Alan Haughton, of opposition group Stop City Airport Masterplan, said it had urged Newham Council to oppose the planning application.

The group argues that more flights would hinder the development of surrounding land, including a Chinese business park plan, because the law stipulates a “crash zone” must be left undeveloped around the site.

It claims that construction has already been affected, such as the Pinnacle tower in the City being forced to lower its height after a request from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


NI tourism minister hopes for resumption of Canada flights

NI tourism minister hopes for resumption of Canada flights

Northern Ireland tourism minister Arlene Foster hopes flights between Belfast and Canada may resume in the near future.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, she said more direct flights into Northern Ireland were needed.

Direct flights from Belfast to Toronto stopped in 2008 when Canadian airline Zoom went bankrupt.

Foster said her department had been working on building up an events strategy.

“We’ve really been concentrating on bringing large scale events to Northern Ireland,” she said.

“I’m delighted that the Irish Open is coming back to Northern Ireland next year, with Royal County Down in 2015 and the Lough Erne Golf Resort in 2017, so we have been spending a lot of time building up our events strategy over this last period of time, but of course we need direct flights in.

“It’s why I spend a lot of time when I go out on trade missions also talking to the tourism sector and indeed I will again be pushing the number one priority in that respect and that is Canada.

“We believe very strongly there should be a Canadian link again – there hasn’t been for some time and it’s one that I am very strongly of the view that we’ll be able to see over the line in the next period of time.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Accountancy firm reports 45% rise in travel firm closures

Holidaymakers are building their own breaks on the internet, leading to a 45% rise in closures of travel agents and tour operators in the past year, according to accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy.

The company claims the economic downturn has prompted people to take shorter DIY holidays in the UK or mainland Europe rather than long-haul packages.

The trend caused 77 travel agencies and tour operators to go bust in the year to March 31, up from 53 in the previous 12 months.

Despite a pick-up in the UK economy, Wilkins Kennedy partner Anthony Cork said the recession accelerated the decline as consumers learnt to book holidays without the help of a travel agent.

“Travel agents on the high street were once the first and only port of call for booking holidays, but the tide has turned and we are now seeing online booking services and price comparison sites taking over,” Cork said.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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