Travellers urged to apply for EHIC following survey findings

Travellers urged to apply for EHIC following survey findings 

One in three British holidaymakers could be turned away from hospitals in Europe because they don’t have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), a study claims.

The figure comes from research by travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance ahead of the main summer peak holiday period.

The company is calling on travellers to apply for an EHIC, which entitles them to reduced or free medical care in the European Economic Area, as well as taking out adequate travel insurance.

Chief sales officer Lee Taylor “Our survey shows that 1 in 3 UK travellers don’t take an EHIC with them to Europe.

“This puts them at huge risk, if they need medical care abroad. An EHIC is essential for anyone to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area countries

“We also urge holidaymakers to ensure they book the right level of travel insurance, declaring all medical conditions, as falling ill or needing emergency support abroad can be very costly.

“Travellers need to be aware of the risks they face, whether that’s delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage or something more serious such as an accident or illness.

“Only having adequate travel insurance cover provides financial support, as well as expert advice when you need it most.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Agents reassure long-haul clients as Malaysia Airlines offer refunds

Agents reassure long-haul clients as Malaysia Airlines offer refunds 

The trade responded to the Malaysia Airlines tragedy by offering clients reassurance and alternative flights.

The airline offered full refunds, including for tickets classed as non‑refundable, up to the end of this year, and waived fees for itinerary changes made by Thursday this week.

Agents and operators immediately contacted clients after Thursday’s disaster, when an Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight was apparently shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 passengers and crew.

Travel Designers managing director Nick Harding‑McKay said some clients had requested not to fly with Malaysia Airlines on new bookings. “This is such a shame,” he added.

Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said some members had clients who asked to cancel holidays.

Abta has taken calls from operators about the cost of changing airline or cancelling accommodation. It said: “Operators can pass on these extra costs to clients.”

But Travel 2 managing director Andy Freeth said: “We’ve had very few calls on this. I think consumers are aware it’s not the airline that has been targeted.”

Claire Hunt, operations director of Journeys A La Carte travel agency, had three future bookings for Malaysia Airlines, but clients chose not to switch airline. She added: “It took a morning to sort out, but this is what we’re good at.”

David Moon, head of business development at Advantage, was not aware of any members who had issued refunds.

Miles Morgan Travel owner Miles Morgan added: “In reality people know security will now be at its tightest.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Monarch linked to third refinancing in six years

Monarch linked to third refinancing in six years

The Monarch Group has refused to comment on a report that it is lining up a third multi-million pound cash injection from its billionaire Swiss owners in six years.

The latest talks with the Mantegazza family over what the Sunday Telegraph reported to be a £60 million refinancing are said to be linked to a £1.75 billion order for new aircraft.

The order, for 30 new Boeing 737 Max 8, was announced last week during the Farnborough Air Show.

Monarch Group, which owns Monarch Airlines, tour operator Cosmos, seat-only supplier Avro and bed bank Somewhere2stay, was last refinanced in 2011.

At that time its owners, led by Sergio Mantegazza, pumped £75 million into the business. This followed a £45 million recapitalisation just two years previously.

The Sunday Telegraph said the latest talks over equity come amid tough trading in the holiday industry amid fears of over-capacity, rising costs and declining yields.

It claimed sources have told it that during debt financing talks over the Boeing deal it became apparent that the firm needed further equity.

The Sunday Telegraph said a Monarch Group spokesman declined to comment.

Despite raising concerns about the state of trading the Sunday Telegraph said that Monarch Airlines is on the road to recovery.

It reported a £5.9 million pre-tax profit in the year to October 2013, after a £33 million loss in the prior year but was said to have been hit by a weak market and competition from low-cost rivals.

The Monarch Group is one the UK’s biggest travel firms behind the big two, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook.

Avro is the eighth-largest Atol holder, behind On The Beach and BA Holidays, while Cosmos is the ninth just ahead of Olympic Holidays in the top 10.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Opinion: Feelgood factor is returning to sector

Opinion: Feelgood factor is returning to sector

Businesses are increasingly positive about the future and most expect to expand in 2014, reveals Chris Lee, head of travel at Barclays

As we enter the second half of 2014, it’s an opportune time to examine the state of the industry and consider some of the key areas of interest ahead.

Confidence continues to return – more than two-thirds of senior industry representatives expect people to travel more in 2014 than last year.

A survey of more than 200 senior industry representatives from tour operators, high street and online agencies, cruise lines and other travel businesses at the recent Barclays Travel Forum revealed that half were more positive about the future, compared with a third 12 months ago.

Growing confidence

Almost 75% of respondents expected their businesses to expand in 2014, with nearly three in 10 expecting to see growth of 10%-20%. More than 80% expected their business to grow 
in 2015, with more than one in 10 expecting an uplift of at least 20%.

This optimism is supported by the rise in consumer confidence. There appears to be a feelgood factor in London and the southeast, which some attribute to rising house prices, and sales remain strong. Tour operators report good growth in high-end trips with an average booking value of £4,000-£5,000 per person.

The positive outlook is welcome, given the low levels of discretionary spend the sector has witnessed in recent years.

Confidence is rising and, with broadly supportive economic conditions, it appears that growth is becoming more sustainable.

The continuing appreciation of sterling will obviously be a factor in helping Europe account for the biggest growth this year.

Warning signs

However, the strong position is 
not without warning signs.

Operators to lower-end destinations are concerned by overcapacity. Low-cost carriers are expanding holiday sales through their own tour operating divisions or links with partners. And some operators are concerned that TV shows highlighting a cheap-drinks culture in some destinations may deter families.

Changing subject, it will be interesting to see whether there is an exodus of travel companies to Majorca or Dubai to escape UK regulators. To date, this does not appear to be a major trend.

Some of our customers continue to predict that the likes of Google, TripAdvisor and will move into holiday sales, and it will be interesting to see whether this becomes a reality.

Good investments

Private equity, and merger and acquisition interest remain strong. Many travel businesses, including Gold Medal, JAC, On The Beach and Key Travel, have been sold over the past year or so. There has also been private equity interest in Lowcost Travel Group, Iglu and Audley Travel. There is every indication this interest will continue.

Several companies have also taken advantage of bank lending at low base rates to fund growth or acquisitions, and entrepreneurs are continuing to fund start-ups. Hopefully, they will be able to navigate the proposed changes to the Small Business Atol on which the CAA is now consulting.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

UK air passengers pay at least three times more tax, claims study

UK air passengers pay at least three times more tax, claims study

Passengers flying from UK airports are paying as much as five times more in Air Passenger Duty than from other countries in Europe that levy an equivalent tax.

The claim comes today (Thursday) in research from the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign which shows that only four other European countries levy a similar tax to APD.

And the UK charges more than any of them by between three and 30 times more, depending on the distance of the flight.

The study shows that people flying from a UK airport pay, on average, more than five times more in passenger departure taxes than in those European countries that levy an equivalent tax.

This comprises:

  • For short-haul flights to destinations primarily within Europe, UK passengers pay three times more in air departure taxes than other European countries that levy a tax.
  • For mid-haul flights to destinations such as Israel and Dubai, UK passengers pay almost seven times more in air departure taxes than other European countries that levy a tax, and for long-haul it is more than five times more.
  • UK passengers pay on average almost three and a half times more in air taxes than passengers in Germany.
  • The UK pays on average almost 30 times more than the lowest equivalent tax – that of France.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The government’s recent reduction in the tax for long-haul routes was a step in the right direction, but there is still a huge disparity in the levels of air tax UK passengers are paying compared with our European neighbours.

“It is time for the government to undertake a macro-economic review of the tax – this way they can assess for themselves exactly how damaging APD is for UK competitiveness and for British consumers.”

British Air Transport Association chief executive Simon Buck added: “Whichever way you look at it UK passengers are losing out thanks to the UK’s APD.

“This analysis shows that whether you fly long, medium or short-haul, so long as you are departing a UK airport you will be saddled with departure taxes that are at least three times those of our nearby European rivals.

“The government has made some welcome first steps to reforming APD, but we hope that they recognise that with such a huge disparity between us and the rest of Europe that more still needs to be done.”

Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives UK, said: “Our airline members have extended their willingness to work with the Treasury on achieving APD reform by proposing seven key asks that address the most challenging and unfair aspects of the tax.

“It is of huge concern to airlines that the UK is isolating itself following the Republic of Ireland’s decision to scrap it’s Air Travel Tax earlier this year, leaving only four other countries in Europe with a comparable tax, albeit at much lower rates.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: “These figures illustrate starkly the extent to which passengers from UK airports are paying a premium compared with people flying from other airports across Europe.

“It’s impossible not to conclude that APD makes the UK less competitive. This is adversely impacting our connectivity, making it harder for businesses to access overseas markets, and damaging our all-important tourism sector.”

For the purposes of assessing the different passenger departure taxes across Europe, the campaign created three different banding categories (short, mid and long-haul flights) to usefully compare the level of taxes levied by each country.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

FCO warns of ‘high threat’ of terrorism in Tunisia

FCO warns of 'high threat' of terrorism in Tunisia

A warning of a “high threat” from terrorism in Tunisia has been issued just ahead of the summer peak holiday period.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice to the north African country today (Wednesday).

“There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners,” the advisory said.

The British Embassy is in regular contact with the Tunisian authorities and the travel advice is being kept under constant review.

An explosion was reported on the beach next to the Riadh Palm Hotel in the resort of Sousse last October and there have been a series of outbreaks of violence since.

Sixteen people with explosives, planning attacks on industrial sites and tourist areas, were arrested near the southern border with Libya in May.

Parliamentary elections are due to take place on October 26 followed by presidential elections on November 23 after a new constitution was agreed in January.

The FCO said: “The possibility of further attacks, including in the coastal resorts and desert areas can’t be ruled out and the Ministry of the Interior has warned of an increase in threats during the month of Ramadan and in the run up to the elections.”

A total of 408,655 Britons visited Tunisia in 2013.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Virgin Atlantic to fly from UK regions

Virgin Atlantic to fly from UK regions

Virgin Atlantic is set to fly from Northern Ireland for the first time next summer and offer a Las Vegas link from Scotland.

The airline will operate seasonal flights between Belfast and Orlando in June and July 2015.

The service augments an existing Virgin service between Glasgow and Orlando, with the first Belfast-Orlando flight scheduled for June 25 next year.

Virgin is also expanding its existing Las Vegas services by operating flights to the Nevada city from Glasgow in autumn 2015.

There will be four flights from Glasgow on September 10, 17, 24 and October 1, 2015 using a Boeing 747 in a three-class configuration.

The new Scottish route will form part of Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture with Delta Air Lines, with the US carrier offering the service for sale under the codeshare agreement. Passengers will be able to use Delta’s services from Las Vegas to connect onwards in the US.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “I am delighted we are able to offer customers in Northern Ireland and Scotland the opportunity to travel on Virgin Atlantic to two of our most popular leisure destinations next summer.”

“It’s incredibly important to us to offer customers from all across the UK to our long haul network during peak travel periods - and now even more people can enjoy the Virgin Atlantic renowned customer experience as they travel on their holidays.”

Glasgow airport commercial director Francois Bourienne, said: “This is fantastic news for Scottish travellers as Las Vegas is considered the entertainment capital of the world and is an extremely popular destination.

“We are very proud to have a strong brand such as Virgin Atlantic operating from Glasgow Airport. Its Florida service has grown in popularity every year since launching in 2007 and we are confident Las Vegas will prove to be equally successful.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Thomas Cook adds capacity at Birmingham Airport

Thomas Cook Airlines is to offer an additional 47,000 seats and four new destinations from Birmingham Airport in summer 2015.

Thomas Cook Airlines jet

The carrier is currently replacing part of its Midlands-based fleet, switching from three Boeing 757s to three Airbus A321s plus one A320.

For summer 2015, there will be a 20% increase in flight seats available with Thomas Cook Airlines.  These include three new destinations for Birmingham Airport to Mytilene (Lesbos, Greece), Kalamata (Greece) and Djerba (Tunisia) on top of the new-for-Thomas Cook destination of Paphos.

The airline will also now be able to offer daily flights to Dalaman, as well as increased frequencies to Zante, Mahon, Bodrum, Antalya, Izmir, Bourgas and Fuerteventura.

Rob Thompson, Thomas Cook Airline’s director of planning, said: “With increasing demand from holidaymakers for regional departures, it’s great news for travellers from the Midlands as we add more flexibility and choice with flights and holidays from Birmingham Airport.”

William Pearson, aviation development director at Birmingham Airport, said: “Thomas Cook’s decision to base an additional aircraft at Birmingham and introduce these exciting new routes means passengers looking to book a holiday for summer 15 now have even greater choice.”

Thomas Cook Airlines has added six new Airbus A321s to its UK fleet and this is set to continue in 2015 with three further deliveries from Airbus as part of the 25 aircraft being delivered by 2016.

Sourced from TTG Digital

Monarch Group confirms $3.1bn Boeing order

Monarch Group confirms $3.1bn Boeing order

Monarch Group today confirmed plans for 30 new Boeing short-haul aircraft worth $3.1 billion plus options on a further 15.

The company said it was in the process of finalising terms and working towards signing a purchase agreement with the US manufacturer for the purchase of 30 next-generation Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, with options on 15 more.

The group’s Monarch Airlines arm currently operates a fleet of mainly Airbus aircraft.

Group executive chairman Iain Rawlinson said: “Today’s announcement is an important milestone in an exhaustive three-year evaluation process, and a key part of The Monarch Group’s transformation and renewal.

“Boeing truly understood our business and put together a complete package that fits extremely well with our ambitions for the group.

“With this announcement, we begin another chapter in our long and fruitful relationship with Boeing – something which now stretches over 40 years.”

Monarch Airlines managing director Andrew Swaffield added: “I joined Monarch Airlines because I saw that it has a unique brand, and exceptional people. We see an opportunity to bring back warmth and a personal touch to a very commoditised European aviation market. Our size enables us to deliver on this promise.

“With this fleet replacement we are choosing the correct number of aircraft and the correct size of aircraft to help us create a year-round efficient European operation which maximises profitability.

“Our process has been rigorous and fair and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to lead it to a successful conclusion.

“Having reviewed all of the options in the marketplace, we concluded that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is the aircraft that best fits our future route network strategy, enabling us to tightly control our unit costs whilst offering a superior service to our customers.”

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner said: “We are delighted that Monarch intends to structure its future fleet around the 737 MAX. We look forward to finalising the order and can’t wait to see the Monarch livery on 737s once again.

“Today is a proud moment for everyone at the Boeing company, as we welcome back a prestigious UK operator, and we are confident that the 737 MAX will play a significant role in Monarch’s continued success.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Monarch to agree a deal for 30 new aircraft?

Monarch Airlines is this morning expected to seal a deal for around 30 jets to replace its short-haul fleet.

Monarch aircraft

The airline is poised to announce an agreement worth a rumoured $3 billion at list price, with industry sources pointing to a deal for Boeing 737s.

A Monarch spokeswoman confirmed on Friday that the carrier’s management team would be at the Farnborough Airshow today and that a time for an announcement had been set. However, she added: “What we are announcing is still being decided.”

The spending spree is a major vote of confidence in the airline by its owners, Amerald Investments, controlled by Switzerland’s Mantegazza family, who were forced to inject £75m in 2011 as a rescue package.

The Monarch Group previously said that it was set to return to profit in 2013. Its airline is carving a niche as a ‘midway’ brand between the budget and charter carriers.

Sourced from TTG Digital


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