‘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


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


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


Heathrow expansion ‘would allow 40 extra long-haul routes’

Heathrow expansion 'would allow 40 extra long-haul routes'

Image via Shutterstock

An extra 40 long-haul routes to fast-growing cities such as Calcutta and Mombasa could be created if Heathrow is allowed to expand, new research claims.

Heathrow, which is campaigning for a third runway, has commissioned a report from Frontier Economics showing that Britain is shutting itself off from potential trade opportunities, despite the government’s ambition to double UK exports by 2020.

Heathrow believes it can add 40 direct long-haul routes to cities in emerging markets, such as Lima in Peru, if it is allowed to expand.

Writing in the Telegraph on Sunday, the airport group’s chief executive Colin Matthews warned that airlines are currently forced to take business to rival hubs in Europe due to a lack of capacity at the London airport – costing the UK economy £14 biilion a year in lost trade.

Matthews said the choice currently facing policymakers, between a second runway at Gatwick and a third runway at Heathrow, is a “false” one as the two airports serve different markets.

He urged the Airports Commission to prioritise hub capacity over expansion at so-called “point-to-point” airports such as Gatwick, where the majority of passengers fly direct to their final destination.

There is still enough “slack in the system” at point-to-point airports in the southeast of England to meet demand for another 25 years, claimed Mr Matthews, who will step down later this year after more than six years at the helm of Heathrow.

Heathrow and Gatwick are currently the only options shortlisted by the commission, which has concluded that London only needs one net additional runway to meet aviation demand by 2030, although a second will likely be needed by 2050.

Heathrow, where airlines take advantage of transfer passengers to fill flights, and Gatwick are “not comparable”, Matthews argued.

“Point-to-point airports like London City, Stansted and Gatwick serve a vital and different market,” he says.

“They provide mostly short-haul and leisure flights. Without transfer traffic, few regular direct long-haul connections are viable, especially to emerging growing markets. The Airports Commission says there is spare point-to-point capacity until 2040.”

Heathrow does not oppose a second runway at Gatwick, and passengers should be “free to choose where to fly from without a lack of capacity getting in the way,” according to Matthews.

Gatwick, which argues that it serves the fastest-growing segment of the aviation market, low-cost carriers, has warned the commission it will not build a second runway if its rival is also allowed to expand.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Newmarket Holidays withdraws from Manston airport

Newmarket Holidays withdraws from Manston airport

Newmarket Holidays, which runs charter flights from closure-threatened Manston airport, is switching its Kent departures.

The operator, which offers flights to Verona and Naples in Italy, said it would move its Kent departures from Manston to Lydd airport from June.

The company said the change was being made “in order to avoid any further uncertainty”.

Manston airport announced in March it was in talks about closing amid claims it was losing £10,000 a day.

KLM, which ran two daily return flights from Manston to Amsterdam, withdrew from the airport last week.

Flybe announced it would be pulling out of Manston in November 2011, blaming the size of the airport’s catchment area.

Lydd airport recently received the go-ahead for a £25 million upgrade to its facilities, including plans for a runway extension and new terminal.

Newmarket Holidays regional charter manager Amanda George told the BBC: “We have enjoyed a very happy and successful relationship with Manston International over many years.

“However, we are excited to be beginning a new chapter at Lydd, which will mean Kent passengers can still begin and end their holidays at a local airport, which is what they enjoy doing.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


BA boss slams government for stopping airport growth

Next year, Dubai International Airport will have overtaken Heathrow as the world’s busiest international airport, according to the chief executive of British Airways and Iberia.

Willie Walsh, boss of International Airlines Group, has told the World Travel & Tourism Council summit in Abu Dhabi that the UK doesn’t “have politicians who are brave enough to grasp this”, reports The National.

The truth of it is the world moves on and the UK will get left behind.

He then urged governments across Europe to “get out of the way”, adding “governments need to understand they must reduce their impact on aviation.”

The change being seen now is just the start, he continued – Heathrow will now descend down the global league tables: “Instead of being the busiest airport hub, 10 years from now Heathrow will be outside the top five; 20 years from now it won’t be in the top 30.”

Speaking on London’s long-term airport congestion problem, Walsh labelled it as politicised, calling it a classic example of how a government can hamstring its own aviation industry.

We are not going to see another runway at Heathrow for the pretty simple reason there are 73 constituencies in the local area and the politicians that are there are fixated on being re-elected.

None of the political parties will come out to say they want to support Heathrow – it is therefore not going to happen for political reasons.

Dubai International overtook Paris’ Charles de Gaulle to take second place as the second-busiest international airport. In Abu Dhabi, Walsh added, there isn’t a government “putting hurdles in the way”.

Whatever way you look at it, said Walsh, Heathrow will carry on being a hub airport with two runways, with government still curbing activity:

50 years from now, I fully expect British Airways to be flying from a two-runway airport at Heathrow. It is tragic.

Sourced from cityam.com


Gatwick chaos should be ‘wake-up call’ for airports

 UK airports must improve their contingency planning to prevent the type of chaos seen at Gatwick on Christmas Eve

Gatwick airport control tower

This was one of the main findings of a report by the House of Commons’ transport committee into the disruption at the Sussex airport in December when the flooding of a North Terminal basement caused the failure of some electrical systems, leading to 72 flights being cancelled.

Transport committee chairman Louise Ellman said the incident, which affected more than 11,000 passengers, should act as a “wake-up call” for airports to improve their “operational resilience”.

“Many staff at Gatwick – working for the airport, the airlines, and other operators such as the baggage handlers – worked extremely hard to keep flights operating on Christmas Eve and to look after passengers, but the problems that unfolded were not new,” said Ellman.

“Airports must ensure that their contingency planning is good enough to ensure that future disruption will be met with well-drilled arrangements that are familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, and which put passenger interests first.

“Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water. If our largest airports cannot demonstrate they can look after passengers’ interests in this way then the CAA must act.”

Gatwick, which has already published its own 70-page report on the Christmas Eve chaos, said it fully accepted the committee’s recommendations.

“Following the events of Christmas Eve, Gatwick set aside a £30 million resilience fund and immediately began projects to strengthen flood defences,” said the airport in a statement.

“In partnership with its airlines, extensive work has already been undertaken to improve contingency plans and passenger welfare in times of disruption.”

The full recommendations of the transport committee are as follows:

Airports should develop (in consultation with airlines) much clearer operational protocols and guidance on the threshold conditions that will trigger the cancellation or postponement of flights.

Airports should negotiate robust agreements with airlines (which carry formal responsibility for passenger welfare) for reclaiming the costs of looking after passengers during periods of disruption.

CAA should bring forward proposals by autumn 2014 to improve routine provision of information to passengers about their rights at times of disruption.

CAA must come back to Parliament with evidence that progress is being made to improve the quality and efficacy of contingency plans for both Heathrow and Gatwick and to ensure these plans are properly tested and widely disseminated.

Government should push for amendments to a proposed new EU regulation on passenger compensation to include electronic means of alert and information dissemination.

Sourced from TTG Digital


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