The Monarch Group has announced a return to profitability after implementing a successful turnaround plan.
Unaudited figures released this morning for the financial year ending 31 October 2013 showed all its divisions delivered profits in 2013, with its gross turnover seeing a 15.5% increase to GBP1.23 billion.
Monarch Airlines posted an 11.7% rise in turnover to GBP763.2m, while its tour operator arm saw turnover rise 15.4% to GBP336.4m.
Its numbers were helped along by its efficiency programme which has seen GBP52 million saved across the group, while its online traffic has increased 10% to 22 million unique visitors.
Its airline has seen a 10% increase in capacity to 8.1 million seats with a total of 10 million to be on sale by the end of 2016, with plans to order 60 narrow-bodied aircraft in the first quarter of next year at a list price of US$6 billion.
Its tour operations, which includes the Cosmos, Avro and somewhere2stay brands, have seen a 12% increase in passenger numbers to 911,000 with an 18% growth in package holidays booked. Earlier this week TUI had also shown a resurgence in the package holiday sales as customers look for value and security.
“I am delighted to announce the return to profitability of The Monarch Group in 2013. This was the outcome targeted by our 2011 refinancing, which was based on a clear plan that combined the achievement of business efficiencies and intra group synergies with growth strategies for each business area. All these elements have been delivered in tough markets,” said Iain Rawlinson, executive chairman of the Monarch Group.
“The actions we have taken in the last two years provide strong foundations from which to plan the next phase of growth and development. Our steady investment in this period – in strengthening the group and divisional management, raising awareness of our trusted travel brands, improving distribution, introducing business efficiencies, and answering the needs of customers – provides a strong platform from which to complete our modernisation agenda.”
New Christmas advertising
The group is now gearing up for a Christmas advertising campaign focused on customer service at Monarch Airlines. The group has already rolled out a ‘WorldHost’ training programme based on the Olympics’ customer service, with its advertisements to show examples of how employees have delivered.
Winter 2013/14 trading is said to be in line with expectations although summer 2014 is currently ‘cautious’ with ‘satisfactory’ sales so far.
“Whilst we are encouraged by the more positive recent economic news of late, in the short-term there remains overcapacity in the aviation industry and we believe many travel customers are cautious about the economic outlook. However, our Group structure, combining the three mutually supporting business areas of the scheduled airline, tour operations and aircraft engineering, each with its own independent growth strategy, provides us with resilience in this very competitive market environment,” added Rawlinson.
Sourced from Travel Daily
The loss of Heathrow’s hub status would put as many at 70,000 jobs at risk, a new report claims.
The study commissioned by Ealing, Hounslow and Slough councils surrounding the airport warned that the “nuclear option” of creating a new hub in the Thames Estuary and closing Heathrow by 2030 would have a “cataclysmic” impact on local employment.
More than 30,600 jobs in the three boroughs directly or indirectly depend on Heathrow, according to the report.
Tens of thousands more in the area are “catalysed” by its presence so that overall it accounts for more than a quarter of jobs in Hounslow and Slough, and a tenth in Ealing.
The study is published as Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission prepares to issue its recommendations for expanding capacity next week, the Daily Telegraph reported
The councils argued that effects on the local economy around Heathrow were not being properly taken into account.
An earlier study commissioned Transport for London had not considered employment by businesses attracted by the airport, they said.
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said: “Thousands of local families depend on Heathrow for their livelihoods and the airport plays a critical role in the local economy. Closing it should not be contemplated.”
Creating a new hub while retaining one runway at Heathrow would be better than closure for the local economy, but still cost 54,100 jobs, according to the study.
Leaving Heathrow untouched while building a new runway at Gatwick would cost 1,100 jobs by 2030, it found. A new runway at Stansted would hit around 3,500 jobs in the three boroughs.
Doing nothing across the South East and relying on existing capacity would mean the loss 11,600 jobs, as the UK would become less competitive.
Expanding Heathrow with a third or even fourth runway would meanwhile create 28,400 jobs in the area by 2030. However, Ealing and Hounslow oppose expansion on noise grounds while Slough has not yet stated a position.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
Tui Travel saw a 20% rise in underlying profits in an “outstanding” 12 months to September 30.
Europe’s largest tour operating group today reported an operating profit of £589 million and a pre-tax profit up by 21% to £473 million.
The underlying UK operating profit rose by 27% to £251 million with an operating margin increase to 6.5%.
Sales of higher-margin unique holidays now represent 69% of mainstream holidays. Directly distributed holidays are 66% of mainstream holidays, with online sales at 35%.
“Our investment in the digital customer service proposition and our online platform is delivering clear benefits to our customers,” the company said.
Chief executive Peter Long said: “The year has been outstanding and highlights that our strategy of delivering unique holidays sold directly to our customers is the right one.
“We have once again reported record underlying profits across the business, significantly exceeding the top end of our growth roadmap target of 10%. This follows strong margins across the peak Summer period, particularly in the UK and accelerated business improvement delivery.”
He added: “Tui Travel is structurally well positioned with a robust business model that gives us a long term competitive advantage.
“The business continues to deliver sustainable growth through our unique holiday experiences, increasingly distributed online, whilst leveraging its scale as one organisation. This in turn, will drive further value for both our customers and shareholders.
“Building on this year’s outperformance where we have achieved a 13% underlying operating profit growth, I remain confident that we will deliver consistently on our five year annualised growth target of between 7% to 10% at constant currency.”
Tui reported record levels of customer satisfaction, up two percentage points to 79% across all key markets.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
A new generation of aircraft is set to revolutionise the aviation industry. Martin Ferguson reports
When Concorde was grounded a decade ago it was the end of a glamorous era in aviation history.
It was also the end of a valuable revenue stream for travel agents.
Luxury holiday packages sold to high-end customers brought in lucrative commissions for nearly 30 years. Many in the trade questioned whether the supersonic passenger jet would ever be replaced.
While the modern plane may never reach the same speeds, the launch of the Airbus A380 six years ago marked the dawn of a new age for air travel. Agents could once again draw on customer demand to fly on state-of-the-art aircraft to sell holidays.
With this year’s launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the Airbus A350 scheduled to be operational late next year, agents will have more scope for selling airline-based travel experiences than ever before.
Ken McLeod, a director at agency consortium Advantage Travel Centres, says: “The impact of the A380 and the Dreamliner on the trade has been significant. People are organising trips and holidays around the times and availability of the aircraft.
“This type of buying behaviour hasn’t been seen since Concorde. It’s a fantastic selling opportunity for travel agents.”
EVOLUTION IN THE SKIES
Andrew Solum is a director with travel and aviation consultancy TIA Global. He says the industry is going through a “dramatic change” and the B787 and A350 will revolutionise the way the world travels. “It used to be about bums on seats. It was about getting volume so you could offer lower costs per seat mile on large aircraft.
“Wide-body aircraft still have their use in select markets where there is a mix of corporate and leisure travel. But next-generation aircraft are more fuel-efficient, have greater range, and an optimum number of seats.”
Put simply, next-generation aircraft are much lighter, can fly higher, travel faster and are cheaper to operate, meaning better prices to long-haul destinations for customers.
“The B787 has the ability to fly from London to Perth or Honolulu non-stop,” Solum says. “This could open up two new markets [for an airline] just by a change of aircraft. Lower fuel usage is a godsend for airlines because the size and range mean they don’t need to cram in 800 seats to make it viable.”
Thomson Airways was the first UK carrier to operate the B787. It has four in its fleet with another four on order. Since the inaugural flight to Majorca in May, the airline has carried more than a quarter of a million passengers on Dreamliners.
Carl Gissing, director of customer service, says the aircraft is the perfect size and has the ideal range for the airline’s target market.
“The A380 and B777 are too big, but we still wanted to find an aircraft that was efficient and allowed us to bring customers cost-efficient holidays to new and different destinations.
“We also wanted to increase our range with an aircraft that would offer the best possible comfort,” says Gissing.
He calls the Dreamliner “operationally fantastic” and says: “It brings our costs down and allows us to put a good seat price together for our operators, which can then offer great value to customers.”
Gissing adds that Dreamliners will cut the airline’s carbon emissions by at least 20%. Earlier this month, Thomson launched a Gatwick-Phuket service, and Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico and Mauritius will join the network for the summer season.
This winter Thomson will fly its Dreamliners from Gatwick to Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives, Kenya and Goa. The 787 out of Glasgow and the East Midlands will fly to Mexico and Florida, while Manchester flights serve Barbados, Mexico, Florida and the Dominican Republic. Last month, budget carrier Norwegian announced it would use the B787 to serve Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and New York from Gatwick next summer.
BEATING JET LAG
British Airways debuted its Dreamliner on the Heathrow-Toronto service in September and has since added another on its Heathrow-Newark route.
The airline plans to add 24 more to its fleet over the next four years. A BA spokesman says the investment is part of a drive to introduce cabins that make life for passengers more comfortable.
Lower cabin pressure, a mood lighting system and larger windows are supposed to significantly reduce jet lag.
“The B787 has the largest windows of any commercial airliner, offering customers views of the horizon from every seat. Instead of pull-down blinds, each one has its own dimmer switch,” says the spokesman.
BA is also one of a large number of airlines to have Airbus’s new A350 on order, with 18 scheduled to come into service between 2017 and 2023. Qatar Airways will be the first airline to operate the aircraft at the end of next year.
United Airlines, which flies out of Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heathrow and Manchester to US destinations, has 35 A350s on order.
Bob Schumacher, the airline’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, says it will replace older aircraft that are less efficient and less reliable. “The new aircraft will provide a better product for customers, and a better work environment for our co-workers. The cabin will offer an improved customer experience with more headroom, panoramic windows and more overhead storage.”
Security threats and high oil prices have made the last decade a huge challenge for airlines. But next-generation aircraft are creating new routes, markets and opportunities. Given the resurgence of global markets, the timing is good. Agents must be ready to capitalise on customer demand to try these new aircraft.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
In nine days’ time, one man hopes to end half a century of government inertia over how to expand London’s airport capacity
9:00PM GMT 07 Dec 2013
A large crowd gathered in front of the Avro Lancastrian, codenamed “Star Light”, to hear Britain’s then civil aviation minister, Lord Winster, say a few words before the plane took off for Buenos Aires.
But as they settled into the 13-seater British South American Airways aircraft, they could not have imagined that they would be taking off from what would turn out to be the last full-length runway to be built in the South East.
More than six decades after their aircraft lifted off the Tarmac for the first commercial flight from Heathrow Airport, the aviation industry has changed beyond all recognition.
Heathrow handled a record 70m people last year, compared with 63,000 in 1946, when passengers waited in floral-patterned armchairs in former military marquees on the side of the airfield.
London’s six airports – Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Stansted and Southend – collectively saw 135m passengers pass through their doors last year, while across the UK 221m passengers took commercial flights in 2012.
That demand will only gain altitude over the next 40 years, according to forecasts.
The Department for Transport, for instance, estimates UK airports will need to cope with 445m passengers by 2050.
But while the industry has taken great leaps forward in demand and technology, one crucial debate has remained stuck in the hangar since that day in 1946: where to build new runway capacity to cope with the extra demand.
The lack of progress hasn’t been achieved without a good deal of effort.
Since 1963, when a government committee shortlisted 18 possible sites for a major new airport in the South East, no fewer than 12 policy documents, commissions or White Papers have been produced to solve the thorny issue of where to build new runways in the London area.
These included the 1971 Roskill Commission, which recommended Cublington in Oxfordshire as the site for a new airport, and the 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper, which supported a third runway at Heathrow and a second at Stansted.
All of the plans got precisely nowhere.
Groups such as the Aviation Foundation, a coalition of airlines and airports, point out that while Britain has been crippled by indecision over the past 50 years, rival economies in Europe have forged ahead with expansion.
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has five main runways, while Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle each have four. Heathrow, Britain’s largest airport, has two.
“Airport policy in the UK has been a case study in political short-termism. Successive governments have failed to take action and as a result our hub airport is full, limiting the number of vital connections to growing economies around the world,” says Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors (IoD).
But in nine days’ time, one man hopes to take a major step towards ending 50 years of inertia.
City grandee Sir Howard Davies, the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, will publish the first report from the Airports Commission, a body set up by the Government last year to supposedly lay the tortuous runway debate to rest.
Although the commission will not report its final recommendations until after the general election in 2015, giving rise to accusations that the Coalition has kicked the problem into the long grass, Sir Howard has pledged to publish a shortlist of options in his interim report, expected on December 17.
This time, businesses and airlines are hoping the commission’s work will stick.
“I think a Prime Minister of the day who rejects the findings of that commission in 2015 would look very weak,” says Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for Britain’s airports.
Since it was set up last November, the commission has published five discussion papers designed to address the most contentious aspects of the debate – from how future demand forecasts are drawn up, to connectivity with foreign economies and jet noise suffered by communities.
The commission received 58 proposals on how to solve Britain’s looming aviation capacity crunch – a figure Sir Howard has next month promised to slim down to “just a handful”. Some of the proposals will be easier to rule out than others.
Among the suggestions received was a £12.6bn magnetic levitation train alongside the M25, which could link the five biggest London airports in just 24 minutes. Poor odds are also likely to be offered on plans for a new four-runway airport near Abingdon in Oxfordshire – close to the Prime Minister’s constituency in Witney – making the cut. Another scheme included a “drive-through airport”.
Flights of fancy aside, the bigger players have spent more than £1m on developing their proposals, indicating the high stakes at play.
Heathrow has submitted three possible locations for a third runway, varying in cost between £14bn and £18bn.
The airport has so far refused to back one single option, but has highlighted that two of its proposals, one to the south west of its current site and the other to the north west, would cause less disruption to local communities than a third, cheaper site, to the north, over the village of Sipson in Hillingdon.
The south-west option would involve building a 3,500-metre runway over the village of Stanwell Moor in Surrey at a cost of £18bn and would increase Heathrow’s capacity to 130m, up from 80m at present. It would require the demolition of 850 properties but could not be delivered until 2029, three years later than a proposed site to the north west, over Longford and Harmondsworth in Middlesex, involving the loss of 950 homes and two listed buildings.
The airport insists most of the funding for a third runway would come from the private sector, although it has raised the prospect of a £4bn to £6bn public subsidy to build and improve surface transport links.
Heathrow’s main rival, Gatwick, insists it could increase capacity in the South East for a fraction of the cost of expanding Heathrow.
Gatwick argues it could build a second runway for between £5bn and £9bn on land that has been safeguarded for that purpose since 2003. It has suggested three possible layouts for a second runway, but believes the airport’s capacity would be able to grow to between 60m and 90m, compared with the 34.2m passengers handled last year.
Britain’s connections to fast-growing economies abroad could also be improved by building a second runway at Stansted at a later date, Gatwick says. Heathrow would remain open under the plans submitted by Gatwick, but would not be allowed to expand – an approach it has described as creating a “constellation” of two-runway airports.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owner of Stansted, has hedged its bets by pointing out to the commission that the Essex airport could double the number of flights it handles without any significant new investment in infrastructure.
Should the commission decide that the UK would best be served by a bigger hub airport, Stansted could be expanded to four runways with capacity for 140m to 160m passengers a year, MAG says. However, observers in the debate suggest MAG is lukewarm on the idea of a mega-hub at Stansted.
“At Stansted, to be blunt, we have plenty of spare capacity. The airport is barely half full,” Tim Hawkins, MAG’s corporate affairs director, said last month.
When the commission kicked off its investigation late last year, aviation analysts believed the debate would develop into a bitter dogfight between Heathrow and London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, who has proposed three possible locations for a new hub airport.
The mayor argues that only a hub will deliver the connections that the UK will need to remain competitive in future – an argument that is also promoted by Heathrow, but bitterly contested by Gatwick.
Johnson believes a new four-runway airport on the Isle of Grain in north Kent – in the inner Thames Estuary – would strike the best balance between improving the UK’s connectivity and reducing the effect of aviation on local communities. He has also proposed – seemingly as a fall-back position – transforming Stansted “out of all recognition”.
A hub airport on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary off the Kent coast – a scheme dubbed “Boris Island” when the Mayor first backed it – also remains on the table. If allowed, Johnson would shut Heathrow and turn it into a new London borough, accommodating 80,000 homes and more than 40,000 jobs, the Mayor’s office claims.
However, even the Mayor’s own advisers fear the tide may have turned against any of the Thames Estuary options, which have been fiercely attacked by critics for the costs associated with the scheme. Transport for London said a new hub airport, which would not see the first planes take to the air until 2029, would require £4bn to £5bn a year of net government spending in the nine years between 2019 and 2028.
Daniel Moylan, the Mayor’s aviation aide, recently conceded that the option “most at risk” of being cut from Sir Howard’s shortlist is a new airport in the Thames Estuary. He believes that Stansted could be left on the table to appease those who believe London needs a larger hub airport, but that it should not be located at Heathrow.
“I think the option that is most at risk, being frank, is a new airport in the Estuary,” Moylan said at an event organised by Insight Public Affairs. “If something is going to be ruled out, I think Davies is likely to rule that out rather than anything else.”
Others believe this month’s shortlist could be less refined. Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Gatwick airport, fears the commission could simply choose to drop the left-field options, such as a drive-through airport, and ask for more work to be done on possible expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and an airport in the Thames Estuary.
He is urging the commission to narrow down the options to just two runners – Gatwick and Heathrow – to reduce uncertainty for local communities who will face up to two years of “blight” before the preferred option is named in 2015.
“I think people need to know where they stand,” Wingate said. “At the earliest opportunity, Sir Howard should narrow that shortlist – the sooner you can actually see the real options the better.”
Another uncertainty preying on the minds of airport bosses and campaign groups is whether the commission will shortlist a location or a specific option.
In May, the commission published a list of “sift criteria” – factors against which proposals would be judged. These included the economy, environment, cost and people, although the commission did not clarify how it would prioritise the various criteria.
Several groups, including Heathrow and Transport for London, hedged their bets by submitting more than one option, which met the various criteria in different ways. For example, while Heathrow’s north-west option is cheaper, at £17bn, it would involve the demolition of 950 local homes, as opposed to 850 under the south-west scheme.
Aside from the official proposals submitted by the airports themselves, other parties have suggested how to transform certain sites. Heathrow Hub, a project backed by the City banker Ian Hannam, believes it is possible to extend the airport’s two existing runways and split them into four independent air strips.
Should the commission merely shortlist locations, some stakeholders are concerned there could be another lengthy process to whittle down the various proposals for each site.
But lawyers suggest it could be difficult for the commission to choose one specific option at each location due to the difference in detail between the various submissions.
“Are they going to shortlist options or are they going to list locations?” one source asked. “Originally we were expecting options, but it’s difficult to compare apples with pears. How do you compare options which vary in detail?”
Questions also arise over who would be forced to pay for a detailed business case and sustainability assessment to be carried out for an option that had not been proposed by the site’s owner – a task that would cost several millions of pounds.
Some organisations have privately expressed concerns that the consultation has effectively turned into a tendering process.
“That’s a very different thing. If you are going to ask people to tender for something, you have got to tell them what the something is that you want. How many passengers is it meant to cater for? What is the funding envelope?” said another official.
The commission has already seen off one legal challenge, from Stop Stansted Expansion, which raised concerns over the influence that could have been exerted by a former commissioner, Geoff Muirhead, over the shortlist. Mr Muirhead stepped down from the commission in September, after it emerged that he was still being paid £150,000 a year by Stansted’s owner, MAG, when he was appointed to help Sir Howard.
Further legal challenges are inevitable, according to some, although lawyers suggest that the way the commission has structured its work has been specifically designed to fend off a judicial review following the Department for Transport’s recent court battles over the HS2 project.
While the department could potentially face another challenge in court, businesses point out that the biggest battle will be played out in the corridors of Westminster.
With the commission’s final report not due until after the next election, there are no guarantees the next government will agree to fund the recommendations.
Businesses have already started lobbying the political parties to ensure that Sir Howard’s final decision will not join the graveyard of failed aviation policy papers and investigations that have piled up over the past 50 years.
More than 100 of Britain’s leading companies, including Aberdeen Asset Management, Land Securities, Lloyds Banking Group and WPP, last month launched a campaign, Let Britain Fly, urging the political parties to make specific manifesto commitments following the Airports Commission’s first report.
“We would like all of the political parties to commit to acting on the findings of the commission now, whatever those findings may be,” the AOA’s Caplan said.
It may be 60 years since the last full-length runway was built in the south-east of England, but it looks like being a few years yet before Britain decides whether it wants to build another one.
Sourced from The Telegraph
Thailand has been thrown into a period of political uncertainty after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra agreed to dissolve parliament and call an election after sustained protests in Bangkok.
The move followed the resignation of all opposition MPs from parliament on Sunday and a planned march on Government House today.
No date was given for the polls but Yingluck said they would be held “as soon as possible.”
“The government does not want any loss of life,” she said.
“At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election,” Yingluck said. “So the Thai people will decide.”
Anti-government protesters, who have been calling for her government to be replaced with an unelected “People’s Council”, say the rallies will continue, the BBC reported.
Political demonstrations have taken place in parts of the Thai capital and elsewhere in the country since the start of last month.
“Some of these were violent and resulted in casualties. Further protests may take place with little warning,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
Tui Travel chief executive Peter Long will use Google’s head office in London to unveil full-year results as he emphasises his firm’s “technological innovations” and the benefits of its own roadmap for growth.
Greg Johnson, an analyst at Shore Capital, told The Herald in Scotland: “Given the location of the presentation at Google’s HQ, we would expect management to use the results presentation to demonstrate the progress being made in this area.
“Apart from reducing distribution costs we see online development as an opportunity for both yield management and customer acquisition.”
Johnson said Cook’s resurgence had “raised the bar” on profit margins.
“If Thomas Cook delivers on both ‘wave one’ and ‘wave two’ profit-improvement targets, assuming limited slippage in trading it would imply around 8 per cent operating margins – El Dorado to a tour operator historically,” he said.
“Tui Travel’s margins were 3.4% in 2012 and we forecast increasing towards 5% by the end of the five-year roadmap.”
Wyn Ellis, an analyst at Numis Securities, told the newspaper: “Thomas Cook, as it has recovered from its financial crisis, has been the stellar performer in the tour operator segment.
“Tui Travel, in the meantime, has continued to make encouraging strategic progress and we believe that its superior business model leaves it well placed for further strong progress.”
Ellis is forecasting an 18% rise in underlying profits to £580 million, while other analysts are expecting underlying pre-tax profits to climb by 16% to £452 million.
Thomas Cook last month highlighted the effect of travel restrictions amid the political unrest in Egypt – a popular winter destination – which it said cost it around £10 million in profit.
The unrest could hit Tui’s current-quarter trading, according to Numis.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
The National Air Traffic Service (Nats) issued an apology to those affected by the outage which affected up to 30,000 passengers as more than 200 flights were cancelled.
Ryanair led the criticism of Nats as Abta warned that passengers caught up in the chaos would not be entitled to compensation.
A spokeswoman told the BBC: “In a situation like this it’s not actually deemed to be the airlines’ fault.”
The worst affected airport was Heathrow which suffered from knock-on effects yesterday with 18 flights cancelled.
Others such as Stansted and Gatwick said services had returned to normal by yesterday
Airports affected on Saturday included Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford, Doncaster Robin Hood, Belfast International, Dublin and Newcastle.
Ryanair said 300 of its flights had been delayed on Saturday, with 12 cancelled.
It criticised Nats, saying: “While we acknowledge problems can occur, where is the contingency?”
Delays at Stansted averaged two to four hours on Saturday, a spokeswoman said.
The fault occurred when the Nats computer system was making the switchover from the quieter night-time mode to the busier daytime setup.
It was unable to handle the normal volume of flights for a Saturday and said it dealt with 20% fewer than it would have expected.
Nats said: “The reduction in capacity has had a disproportionate effect on southern England because it is extremely complex and busy airspace and we sincerely regret inconvenience to our airline customers and their passengers.
“To be clear, this is a very complex and sophisticated system with more than a million lines of software. This is not simply internal telephones, it is the system that controllers use to speak to other ATC agencies both in the UK and Europe and is the biggest system of its kind in Europe.
“This has been a major challenge for our engineering team and for the manufacturer, who has worked closely with us to ensure this complex problem was resolved as quickly as possible while maintaining a safe service.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly
Cardiff is among UK airports reporting delays on departing flights due to air traffic control problemsPosted: December 7, 2013
National Air Traffic Services said the issue stemmed from it control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire – and the problem is unlikely to be fixed until 2pm at the earliest.
A “technical problem” at the air traffic control centre is causing delays at airports across the UK.
A spokesman for Cardiff Airport said all flights this morning had been affected.
Incoming flights from Glasgow and Malaga have now landed while those from Dublin and Amsterdam are expected later today.
Those leaving Cardiff Airport are also experiencing delays, though there are reports that some flights are now boarding.
A spokesman for Cardiff Airport said: “Both (departures and arrivals) have been delayed because of the knock-on effect of the late arrivals of the service.
“We are currently looking at an estimated 1hour 40 minutes delay.”
A spokeswoman for Bristol Airport described the situation as “improving all the time”.
“It is very minimal disruption for us here at Bristol, with some flights being impacted approximately 20 minutes,” she said.
“It is improving all the time.”
Flights have been delayed and cancelled at airports across the UK and Ireland because of a technical problem at an air traffic control centre.
The problem is unlikely to be fixed until 2pm at the earliest.
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said: “Nats air traffic control has advised that, due to air traffic control telephone equipment failure at Swanwick, they are currently experiencing some difficulty switching from night-time to daytime operations.
“Technicians are working to try to resolve the issue but have advised that this is unlikely to be before 2pm today.
“Delays and flight cancellations at some UK airports are being experienced as a result.
“Customers due to travel today should liaise with their airline to establish if there are any changes to their flight arrangements.
“Furthermore, customers should be prepared for potential delays and are advised to carry essential items such as medication in their hand luggage.”
Thousands of people have been affected at major airports including Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick.
Nats said the issue arose at its control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire, in the early hours of the morning when a computing glitch meant the night-time operation failed to properly switch over to the daytime system.
Heathrow had cancelled 60 flights by 9.45am, with that figure split roughly equally between departures and arrivals.
A Heathrow Airport spokeswoman said: “Due to a technical issue with air traffic control, flights from many UK airports, including Heathrow, are subject to delay and cancellation.
“If you are flying today you should check the status of your flight with your airline. We are sorry that passengers have experienced disruption to their journeys.”
A Nats spokesman said: “Due to a technical problem at Swanwick we are currently experiencing some difficulty switching from night-time to daytime operation. At night, when it’s quiet, we can combine sectors of airspace. When it gets busy in the daytime, we split the sectors out again. The voice communications system is configured to enable this to happen.
“We experienced a technical problem in the early hours of this morning, which means that it hasn’t been possible to reconfigure the voice communications system to split out the sectors for the busier daytime traffic in some areas of the UK enroute airspace.
“Engineers are working to rectify the problem as soon as possible, but this is resulting in some delays. Safety has not been compromised at any time, and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience being caused to passengers.”
A Stansted spokesman said all of the Essex airport’s departing flights were subject to delays of between 30 minutes and two hours, while Gatwick said 20% of its departures had been delayed, with passengers warned they could wait for “a couple of hours”.
The Stansted spokesman said: “There are restrictions on the airspace and the flow of aircraft. Our first departures go at 6am, so that’s when the problems started.”
A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said: “There are some issues with the air traffic control system.
“The result of it is that, at the moment, 20% of our flights are being delayed, by anything up to a couple of hours, but we’re getting people moving and getting them away.”
London City Airport said about 50% of its flights had been disrupted, while Luton said inbound flights were unaffected but outbound flights had been hit.
Scotland’s two biggest airports reported delays. A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said the Nats technical fault had led to delays on southbound flights and he asked passengers to contact their airline if they are due to travel today.
Glasgow Airport tweeted: “A technical issue with air traffic control is resulting in some flight delays. Pls check with your airline for specific flight info.”
Bournemouth Airport in Dorset and Newcastle Airport were also affected.
Independent aviation analyst Chris Yates said: “It’s going to be a day of frustrations and the knock-on effects are going to last for the whole day because of the backlog of planes. It will be a tough day for everybody.”
Mr Yates said Swanwick controls all aircraft over the South of England, meaning thousands of passengers would be affected.
“There are contingency plans in place whenever this happens,” he said. “Many of the long-haul flights, coming from China, India, the US and so on, passengers sitting on those planes may find themselves diverted to continental airports.
“But it’s going to be a long wait for them. When the system kicks back in and starts working, there will be a backlog of flights.
“For those waiting to fly out, it’s going to be a case of sitting around the airport terminal until things get back to normal.”
Passanger Daisy McAndrew said she had been caught in the “unholy mess” at Gatwick as she tried to fly to Barcelona for work.
“As ever, staff have been fantastic but they know nothing other than the fact it is going to be a very, very long delay – very frustrating,” Ms McAndrew told Sky News.
“And also, it’s embarrassing, isn’t it? When you look around a lot of people on my plane are not British, they are flying British Airways, they are probably trying to get back to Spain and they will inevitably be thinking this is something that could have possibly been prevented.
“It doesn’t show our air traffic control system or our travel system in a good light.”
Passengers are advised to check with their airline for the latest situation.
Virgin Atlantic wrote on Twitter: “Due to issues with UK air traffic control this morning, we are experiencing some delays.”
On its website, Ryanair apologised for any inconvenience, writing: “Ryanair has been advised of an equipment failure within UK air traffic control which will cause significant flight delays and possible cancellations.”
EasyJet advised passengers to check in for flights as normal “as the situation can improve”, but suggested they refer to the airline’s flight tracker page for updates.
A message on its website read: “Although this is beyond easyJet’s control, we apologise for any inconvenience that you may experience today.”
The £623 million state-of-the-art air traffic control centre at Swanwick in Hampshire has had its share of computer glitches since air traffic control company Nats moved in.
Previously based at West Drayton in west London, Nats took over the fantastic facility in January 2002.
But in the first few months of its opening, Swanwick experienced a number of computer failures.
These prompted MPs to question Nats staffing levels, although Nats’ bosses maintained that the system was safe.
After the early teething problems, Swanwick settled down and has been largely glitch-free in recent years.
There were problems in September 2008 when a computer fault led to flight delays.
And earlier this year – in July – flights in southern England were delayed due to another problem at Swanwick.
Hampshire had been identified as a possible new centre as early as 1990 and the building at Swanwick was handed over to Nats in November 1994.
But in a preview of what was to happen when the centre finally opened, there were pre-opening problems with software.
With Nats’ staff going through 170 hours each on the new systems, the centre was finally able to start functioning at the beginning of 2002.
The training programme has taken two man-years to prepare and involved more than 21,000 individual assignments in what was one of the longest training programme in the history of air traffic control.
Nats said that, while it could not specify when the issue would be fixed, it was “working as hard as possible to solve the problem”.
The spokesman said the problem was linked to voice communications, which includes, but is not confined to, the telephone system.
Sourced from walesonline
Some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor this weekend, accusing the Treasury of ignoring evidence that Air Passenger Duty is harming the economy
By Nathalie Thomas
The Government has been accused of “turning a blind eye” to the damage caused to inward investment and job creation in the UK by a controversial tax on air travel.
Some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor this weekend, accusing the Treasury of ignoring evidence that Air Passenger Duty (APD) is harming the economy.
The UK has one of the highest aviation tax regimes in the world. In a recent study by the World Economic Forum, the UK was ranked 138th out of 139 countries according to the competitiveness of its air ticket taxes and airport charges – ahead only of Chad in Africa.
APD, which applies to all passengers flying from a UK airport, will be raised again in April 2014.
Rates have soared since 1994, when APD was introduced. Then, passengers paid £5 per person for short-haul destinations and £10 to travel further afield, but now as much as £188 can be added to a long-haul ticket.
“Year-on-year APD rises are making the UK economy increasingly uncompetitive,” the chief executives, including British Airways head Keith Williams and Heathrow Airport boss, Colin Matthews, write.
“As UK businesses, we are bitterly disappointed with the Government’s decision to keep increasing a tax which acts as a barrier for business in attracting inward investment and creating new jobs.”
The business chiefs, who range from directors of large companies such as Emirates and Lufthansa, to small firms, point to research published by PwC earlier this year which claimed that scrapping APD would deliver a 0.45pc boost to gross domestic product within 12 months and create 60,000 jobs by 2020.
The study, which used economic modelling used by government departments and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, estimated the UK would be £16bn better off by 2015 were APD to be abolished.
The research was dismissed by the Treasury but the 250 chief executives, who also include Craig Kreeger, head of Virgin Atlantic, are pressing for the Government to carry out and publish its own study into how APD affects the economy. A similar call was made earlier this year by the Commons Treasury Select Committee.
“In the current economic climate it will be the private sector that drives growth, but taxes like APD are hindering us from competing internationally and slowing us down in the global race,” write the chief executives, who are members of the campaign group A Fair Tax on Flying.
An HM Treasury spokesman said: “The Government has frozen APD in real terms since 2010, and in the last year, APD has not changed at all for the majority of flights. Passenger numbers are going up, and airlines do not have to pass on the cost of APD to passengers.
“However, it is important that the aviation sector plays a part in helping to bring down the deficit.”
Sourced from The Telegraph