Air France warns on pilots’ strike

Air France warns on pilots' strikeAir France is warning passengers planning to fly next week to postpone their travel due to a threatened strike by pilots.

The walkout is proposed by several pilot unions to start on Monday and run for seven days until September 22.

“It is too early to have an exact idea of the outcome of these talks and the consequences of this strike action on our flight schedule,” the airline said.

The French carrier is to adapt its flying schedule and said it was maintaining constant dialogue with unions in an effort to prevent the industrial action from taking place.

But it added: “If you are travelling on a flight operated by Air France, we propose you to anticipate or postpone your departure to avoid the period from 15 to 22 September 2014 if you have the opportunity.”

The chief executive of parent Air France-KLM is threatening to halt the development airline group’s budget carrier Transavia in France and expand elsewhere in Europe if no agreement is reached with the French pilots union ahead of the planned strike.

Alexandre de Juniac told the Financial Times the group will “stop all new projects” at Transavia France – a low-cost carrier unit where employees are paid less than at Air France’s mainline business – if the pilots do not back down.

French pilot unions want members at Transavia France – established in 2007 – to have the same working conditions as those at Air France’s mainline business.

Analysts say a week-long strike could cost the lossmaking group as much as €40 million a day.

“We say no, there is Transavia and Air France, but they are two separate worlds,” says de Juniac said after finalising the group’s new five-year strategy, which focuses on more than doubling the Transavia fleet across Europe.

The group will invest €1 billion in Transavia, growing the fleet from 47 aircraft currently to 100 in 2017 and 115 by 2019.

Expansion will include three new bases outside France and the Holland, with two likely in Portugal and one in Germany, as Transavia focuses on flying holidaymakers to their destinations.

The chief executive wants to increase Transavia France’s fleet from 14 to 35 aircraft, but that is conditional on an agreement with the unions.

“If we cannot find an agreement on Transavia France, we will stay as we are with 14 planes, we will stop all new projects with Transavia France, and we will develop Transavia Europe,” he told the FT.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


UK ski market dipped last winter

UK ski market dipped last winterThe number of ski holidaymakers last winter dipped by 3.6% mainly as a result of a late Easter, according to the Crystal Ski Industry 2014.

The annual report showed a fall in the number of skiers and snowboarders from just under 900,000 in 2012/2013 to 867,700 in 2013/2014.

The late Easter- Easter Sunday was on April 20 – meant many resorts could not operate when the UK market had its main school holidays.

The biggest fall was in the independent travel sector – a drop of 5.8% to 253,400 skiers, down from 269,000 – as some low-cost carriers reduced capacity to ski destinations at the end of the season.

But the tour operator sector was also hit, with total volumes down by 2.8% to 500,500 skiers year on year, and fewer trips taken during the milder temperatures of Janaury and March as well as the late Easter period.

Crystal Ski managing director Tamsin Todd said: “Whenever there is a late Easter it makes it tough for the ski market. We knew it was going to be hard going into it because of that.”

France topped the table as the most popular ski destination for last winter, despite a drop of 1.3% on the previous year, taking a 33.5% share of holidaymakers last season. Switzerland enjoyed an increase of 1% taking its share to 6.5%.

However, Todd remains “cautiously optimistic” about winter 2014/2015, in part due to an increase interest in snow sports thanks to the Sochi Winter Olympics, a recovering economy and an early Easter in 2015.

She added that families were showing early interest in booking their ski holiday for this winter to ensure they got the resort and dates they wanted as a result of problems with taking breaks out of term time. “Families want to secure their holiday in the peak period in the place they want to go to,” she said.

The operator also revealed that all its 700 ski reps overseas will have iPads with custom-built software this winter, allowing them to offer a pre-departure video call with customers to answer any questions or ensure their needs are met in advance.

Todd said the company had learnt from sister company Thomson Holidays, which has introduced iPads to its overseas staff, but had built separate software specifically for the ski market.  “We have focused the technology around ski scenarios so we can reassure customers or for example make sure the right size of ski boots are waiting for customers so they don’t have to queue up,” she added.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Britain in talks on introducing US pre-clearance at airports

The UK and US are reportedly discussing the possibility of allowing pre-clearance checks at British airports for passengers taking transatlantic flights.

It would mean US Homeland Security staff conducting additional interrogations before a passenger is allowed to fly.

Similar procedures have been in place in Ireland for five years.

The initiative is being spearheaded by US homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, theTelegraph reported.

He wants other countries to follow the example of Ireland, Canada and the Caribbean where passengers are “pre-cleared” before boarding an aircraft.

Officially, pre-clearance agreements are designed to ease congestion at US airports but critics argue it is a way of stopping unwanted people getting on a flight in the first place.

It effectively moves US immigration and passport control to the country of departure so passengers effectively arrive in America like domestic passengers.

A leaked German document claimed US authorities have approached five European countries over the possibility in July but only the UK has suggested it would be willing.

The document, seen by the Guardian, was a German government response to a parliamentary question and said that “Britain sees the advantages in allowing this procedure”.

It is understood the US has not made any formal request yet.

“Heathrow is an airport they have been looking at,” an industry source said.

Speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations earlier this week Johnson said adding other countries to the list was a policy goal.

“I regard it as a homeland security imperative to build more. To use a football metaphor, I’d much rather defend our end-zone from the 50-yard line than from our one-yard line.

“I want to take every opportunity we have to expand homeland security beyond our borders.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Pre-clearance, which is already in operation in Ireland, is a means of speeding the entry of passengers through US airports.

“Pre-clearance checks are entirely separate from aviation security screening. The government has not received any request from a UK airport to introduce such measures.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Ryanair takes delivery of first new Boeing aircraft

Ryanair will have 21 more aircraft operating next summer to expand its route network and increase frequencies on existing services.

The message came from CEO Micheal O’Leary as Europe’s largest low cost carrier took delivery of the first of 180 new Boeing 737-800s worth $16 billion.

Ryanair will take delivery of a further 20 further aircraft by July 2015.

The delivery came just days after the carrier to purchase up to 200 new generation Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, including 100 options, worth ore than $22 billion.

O’Leary said: “We are delighted to take delivery of the first of our 180 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. These new Boeing aircraft enable Ryanair to keep the fleet average age below five years, while providing our customers with unmatched punctuality, reliability and an improved customer experience.

“We will have 21 more aircraft for summer 2015 which will allow Ryanair to offer more new routes and increased frequencies to more customers than ever before.

“Ryanair operates the largest fleet of Boeing airplanes in Europe and we are proud and honoured to become the lead operator of Boeing’s ‘gamechanger’ 737 MAX 200 aircraft which will expand our fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024 and create another 3,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers in Europe, while allowing us to grow traffic from 82 million last year to over 150 million by 2024.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Investigators publish report into Virgin jumbo turbulence incident

Investigators publish report into Virgin jumbo turbulence incidentNine passengers and a cabin crew member were injured when a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 hit “severe turbulence”, according to an official accident report.

The Gatwick-bound aircraft with 400 passengers ran into turbulence after the pilots’ study of weather radar returns had led them to alter course to avoid bad weather on their intended route.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch report published today said: “The aircraft started to encounter turbulence and the flight crew switched the cabin seat belt signs on.

“The commander recalled seeing a flash outside, which he thought may have been lightning associated with a thunderstorm cell beneath the aircraft. Suddenly, the turbulence increased markedly and became severe for a while.”

The injured crew member and two of the injured passengers had to be treated in hospital after the aircraft landed safely at Gatwick.

One of the passengers suffered a knee injury and the cabin crew member, who was in the crew rest area at the time, had head and neck injuries.

Most passengers were already seated with their seatbelts fastened and all those who suffered injury were in the rear, right side of the aircraft.

At one point the turbulence was so severe that a member of the cabin crew had difficulty securing herself in her harness.

The incident happened in the early hours of November 14 last year when the aircraft, flying from Montego Bay in Jamaica, was around 300 miles south of St John’s in Newfoundland.

“The flight crew had left the intended track to avoid significant weather which they had detected on weather radar. However, at the time of the incident, there was no significant weather indicated on radar,” the AAIB report said.

*In another incident reported by the AAIB, a cabin crew member was thrown off her feet and was seriously injured when a Flybe Dash 8 suddenly hit severe turbulence on a flight from Birmingham to Belfast City airport.

The crew member was given medical assistance by a doctor who happened to be on board and was transferred to hospital after the aircraft landed in Belfast.

One of the 71 passengers on board suffered a minor injury in the incident over the Isle of Man on the morning of February 7 this year.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


UK visitors ‘underwhelmed’ by London airports

UK visitors 'underwhelmed' by London airportsLondon’s airports face criticism in a poll result today showing that inbound travellers are “underwhelmed” by the service they receive.

A study of almost 14,000 arriving passengers over the past two years found them to be broadly satisfied but underwhelmed with airport services in the capital.

The passengers were asked to rate aspects of the airports they arrived at using a 10-point rating scale, with 1 being “very poor” and 10 being “very good”.

Average satisfaction scores commonly fell below 8 out of 10 – a score which generally indicates that the experience has matched or exceeded the expectation of the visitor.

London City airport was the only one to achieve scores above 8, while its rivals were often rated well below this threshold.

The lowest scores came in response to the perception of welcome at each airport, with Stansted identified as having the most ground to make up, being rated at 6.64 out of 10 – the lowest score for any airport evaluated in the research.

The London Visitor Opinion Survey also revealed that London’s airports are regularly failing in satisfying visitors’ expectations at immigration and customs controls, although London City was rated fairly positively at 8.12.

London City also received the highest average score for transport connections into the city, while Luton was considered the most inaccessible of the airports evaluated.

On a positive note, visitors’ overall satisfaction levels increased continuously albeit slowly over the period, with slight improvements being recorded in perceptions of welcome and transport connections.

LJ Research managing director Sean Morgan said: “London is keen to attract leisure and business tourism from around the world and is in fact very successful doing so.

“However, a destination’s airports are hugely important for setting the tone of the overall visitor experience. The latest scores indicate that London visitors are underwhelmed by the city’s airports and that more efforts should be put into improving customer service for visitors.

“Notably, visitors from Asia and Africa were most likely to state that the welcome they received was very poor. These are visitors from emerging markets that London and the UK as a whole are keen to attract more of.

“The research has highlighted a need for London airports to implement steps to improve customer service and the perception of ‘welcome’ which is an especially important consideration at this time as London considers its airport expansion options.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Governments told to wake up to value of travel and tourism

Governments told to wake up to value of travel and tourism

Governments need to wake up and take action over the economic contribution of global travel and tourism.

The call came from World Travel & Tourism Council chief executive and president David Scowsill who warned that the lack of recognition continues to hinder the sector’s growth.

Bad decisions will continue to be made on visas, taxation and infrastructure development, unless government departments start recognising the importance of the sector and co-ordinate on policies, he said.

“The financial contribution of our sector to the wellbeing of the global economy is both formidable and unarguable.

“The growth of our industry outstrips the growth of global GDP year after year. Yet governments continue to ignore this,” he told delegates at the WTTC’s regional Americas Summit in Lima.

“The region embraces the world’s largest travel and tourism economy, namely the USA. It gives us the most tourism dependent market of the Caribbean. It contains some of the world’s most exciting growth opportunities here in Latin America.”

He added: “Whether partnership is between government and business; investors and beneficiaries; industry and environment; or technology and service providers; I firmly believe that partnership is key to everything we need to achieve.”

According to the WTTC travel and tourism in the Americas:

  • contributes US$2.1 trillion to GDP, supporting over 40 million jobs.
  • accounts for 6.8 per cent of exports  and 4.9% of investment and is worth $238 billion
  • is forecast to grow by 3.7% per year over the next decade, creating 11 million new jobs.
  • directly employs three times more people than manufacturing, three times more people than the communications sector and higher education and 30% more than financial services.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

 


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