Heathrow Offering Services of London 2012 Volunteers to Deal with Christmas Rush

With Christmas travelling in full swing at all UK airports, London 2012 volunteers have returned to London Heathrow airport to help the passengers tide over the rush hour of today, which is likely to see around 123,000 passengers departing from various airport terminals.

The London 2012 volunteers had earlier helped passengers at London Heathrow Airport during the London 2012 Olympic Games. The volunteering initiative reaped rich dividends during the period, when the airport recorded its customer rated best performances for July arrivals and August departures. 150 volunteers are currently back at the airport to help out with the rush of the holiday traffic.

Acknowledging the contribution of the volunteers, Normand Boivin, the airport chief operating officer, said, ‘Christmas is a special time for Heathrow, as our passengers travel to make connections with loved ones. I am particularly delighted to welcome back our London 2012 volunteers who were such a great success during the Games.’

The volunteers are currently working at airport terminals helping passengers and offering fun packs to children, and reminding them about restrictions over carrying certain items, like crackers.

This month also sees the airport’s Secret Santa campaign offering passengers daily surprise gifts including six Apple iPads, 12 Hamley’s teddy bears, 100 fragrances by Lady Gaga and an electric scooter by Lacoste; as well as chocolates, and craft sessions for children.

Nancy Baines, a 19-year-old volunteer at the airport, said, ‘Everyone is really grateful and appreciative of our help. So many passengers have said that they wish we were here all year round to help. I think it’s great to be at Heathrow as a volunteer – I am having a lot of festive fun and have learnt some really useful skills.’

Cathay Pacific Averts Threat of Strike

Cathay Pacific Airways, a Hong Kong based airline operator, has reported averting the industrial action by its flight attendants that was announced earlier.

The airline, on completion of talks – mediated by the Labour Department of the country, between the company and the Flight Attendants Union (FAU) – reported that the outstanding differences between the parties have now been resolved.

The airline general manager for cabin crew, Liza Ng, said, ‘The agreement we reached today addresses issues important to the company and the crew. It is incumbent upon the company to always ensure its long-term success when discussing short-term issues. We were able to accomplish that today.’

Some of the agreement points included a commitment to offer all destinations to Hong Kong based crew; and out port based crew can merely operate on routes between out port bases.

The airline chief executive officer, John Slosar, said, ‘This is the best possible outcome for our customers, who have always been at the forefront of this issue for us. They can now look forward to their holiday travel plans with confidence.

This is a good agreement for the company. It allows us to expand our business here at home, bringing even more services to the people of Hong Kong. Specifically, we maintain the flexibility we need to offer what our customers want us to provide.

Beyond that, we were able to look after the interests of the broader cabin crew community in terms of addressing lifestyle issues, which is important because we must keep the interests of all staff at heart. And we have demonstrated that we will listen to staff concerns and respond with appropriate solutions.’

The airline currently offers flights between Hong Kong and destinations in the UK including London Heathrow, Manchester, Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh, and New Castle.

Top Ten Most Popular New Year Destinations Includes London

London features among top ten locales that US travellers are flocking to for a Christmas vacation.

This Christmas, travellers are reportedly opting for traditional cities known for their Christmas revelries, rather than exotic locations, to celebrate the festival and ring in the New Year.

According to US based discount travel site, Hotwire.com, the top ten most popular destinations to ring in the New Year for US travellers are Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Las Vegas, Nevada; New York City, New York; Miami, Florida; San Francisco, California; London, England; San Diego, California; Los Angeles, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana. London is the sole non-US city featured in the list.

According to the UK-based newspaper, the Guardian, the favourite countries which are drawing Christmas travellers across the world are United Kingdom; United States; France; Italy; Spain; Germany; Turkey; Japan; China; India; Netherlands; Switzerland; Canada; Austria; and Hong Kong.

Japanese news magazine, Japan Today, has listed its top ten holiday destinations for this vacation as San Juan, in Puerto Rico; New York in US; Bondi Beach, Sydney; Santa Claus, Indiana, US; Nuremberg, in Germany; New Orleans, in US; Tokyo, in Japan; Amsterdam, in The Netherlands; Aspen in US; and Lapland, Finland.

Clem Bason, the president of the Hotwire Group, said, ‘Booking trends show that travellers are opting for warm weather backdrops for their New Year’s Eve celebrations alongside the bigger, more traditional celebration cities. Although travellers can never go wrong ringing in the New Year in iconic places like New York or Las Vegas, some of the best deals and great experiences can be found in cities like Orlando, Chicago and San Diego, where you can stay over the holiday for under $100 per night.’

Midland Metro Acquires Financing for Tram Improvements

Midland Metro, a tram system operated by National Express, a subsidiary of Travel West Midlands, has been granted a £130 million package for completing developmental milestones.

The company has entered into an agreement with Centro, a UK based organisation operating bus and rail transport, for a partnership to implement various improvements for its passengers.

The initiatives for better customer service include increased frequency and capacity with the addition of 20 new, larger trams, introduction of Smartcard technology, upgrading of existing tram stops, ways to deal with metal and cable theft, and offering more Park and Ride facilities to commuters.

Centro chairman, Cllr John McNicholas, said, ‘The Metro is the region’s most reliable and punctual form of public transport and already offers passengers an excellent service.

Yet this new agreement cements the commitment of our two organisations to bring passengers even more benefits and to work closely together as the system undergoes some exciting changes, not least the return of trams to the streets of Birmingham.’

The new fleet of larger trams will be introduced into service in 2014 and will increase the frequency of the service to 10 trams an hour during the day. The 20 new trams and upgrade of the stations will cost around £128 million.

Peter Coates, the managing director of National Express UK Bus, said, ‘This new agreement will see big customer experience improvements to an already industry leading service. It is also great news for the region with 1,300 extra jobs being created and a £50million a year boost to the economy.’

British Airways provides iPads to pilots for improved efficiency

UK based British Airways is offering iPads to its 3,600 pilots to improve its customer service.

The airline is investing around £5bn on new products, and equipping its ground and flying crew with iPads as part of the initiative to increase operational efficiency.

The iPads are intended to offer pilots access to real-time operational data, which can be shared with ground crew and which will allow pilots to plan efficient flights before departure.

The iPad connectivity will also allow the airline’s pilots to provide passengers with more accurate flight information, as well as offering them a more customised flight service by being aware of their preferences.

The airline director of flight operations, Captain Stephen Riley, said, ‘As pilots we want to deliver a safe and memorable experience for each and every British Airways customer, on every single flight.

The iPads will help us to achieve this goal by giving us the means to provide a more personalised service and share more timely flight information with our customers and colleagues.’

Meanwhile, the airline is gearing up to manage its busiest day of the season tomorrow, December 21, when around 111,000 travellers are expected to board flights for their Christmas journeys. The airline also expects Christmas day to be busy, with around 31,000 people scheduled to fly to the airline’s various destinations.

Between today and January 7, 2013, around 1.6 million people are expected to fly with the airline from its network of 175 global destinations, and the airline expects to serve its passengers around 60,000 mince pies on long-haul flights from Heathrow Airport, topped with one tonne of single cream.

Car rental companies step in to ease Christmas travel woes

For those travellers concerned with holiday travel problems in the UK during the Christmas period, reassurances are being offered by the UK’s car rental services, which are available to bridge the gap left by scheduled maintenance work on the rail service, and strike action called by ASLEF, the London Underground drivers’ union.

Car rental brokers, Holiday Autos, said, ‘We understand how expensive travel can be. Whether for work or leisure, transport is becoming one of the most expensive outgoings in many households so the government’s recent u-turn on an increase in fuel prices is a welcome one.

However, the Christmas and New Year holidays are the one time of year when friends and family should be able to get together and we are committed to finding drivers the best deals to make sure that doing that doesn’t break the bank.’

Previously, Heathrow Express, an express train service from London Heathrow Airport to London Paddington station, had stated on its website that, ‘Due to essential Crossrail improvement works, Heathrow Express will not be running any services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport on December 25 and 26.

Our inter terminal transfer service between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Terminals 1 & 3 will continue to run in line with the planned timetable. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.’

With regard to its strike action on Boxing Day, ASLEF commented, ‘The union is being blamed for taking industrial action on London’s tube network on Boxing Day. The real fault lies with a management that has failed both us and the public.’

The car rental companies have urged their customers to book early to avoid being disappointed.

Irish government unwilling to back Ryanair’s Aer Lingus bid

The government of Ireland has expressed its unwillingness to support a bid by Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, to acquire its rival Irish airline, Aer Lingus.

Ryanair, which owns a 29.8 percent stake in Aer Lingus, has previously offered EUR694 million for the remaining Aer Lingus stock. The Aer Lingus’ board subsequently rejected this on the basis of it being an insufficient offer. The airline is now willing to offer around 40 routes from major airports in Ireland to other airlines in return for the acquisition, as part of a comprehensive remedies package. The European Commission will take the final decision.

The Irish government, which owns a 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, has announced its decision to oppose the takeover bid by Ryanair.

A statement by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Ireland, said, ‘Earlier today, the Cabinet considered the sale of the State’s 25 percent shareholding in Aer Lingus.

The Government remains committed to the sale of the stake in Aer Lingus at the right time under the right conditions.

However, the Government is not prepared to support any offer that would significantly undermine connectivity or competitiveness for Ireland.

Based on what is now in the public domain, the Ryanair remedies package does not satisfy our concerns about connectivity, competitiveness or employment for Ireland.

Obviously, the European Commission will make its own decision in its own time, but we do not see any benefit to Ireland in what has been reported.’

Earlier Ryanair said, in its own statement, ‘This comprehensive remedies package includes a number of new airline bases in Dublin, new entrant competitors on over 40 routes to/from Dublin, Cork and Shannon, as well as specific competition solutions that guarantee increased price competition on routes to and from Ireland.

Ryanair expects that the commission will shortly market test this transformational remedies package, and remains confident that its offer for Aer Lingus will receive competition clearance following any fair assessment by the commission.’

British Airways Announces New Service to China

British Airways, the UK based airline, will be offering flights to Chengdu, in China, from London Heathrow airport.

The new three-times-weekly service commences from September 2013, and the airline will be the first carrier to offer a service between London Heathrow and Chengdu. Currently the airline’s services to china include flights to Beijing and Shanghai on the Chinese mainland, and to the island of Hong Kong.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive officer of IAG, the airline’s parent company, said, ‘I have visited China on many occasions and last year went to Chengdu to see for myself the progress that has been made at the airport. It is truly impressive and shows vision and ambition.

I am delighted to announce this new route which demonstrates the importance of mainland China to British Airways and our commitment to grow our presence here.

Economic growth in China is continuing to outstrip that of most other countries, and Chengdu is not only the capital of Sichuan Province in the South West of China but one of the country’s largest cities.

Since 1990, Chengdu’s economy has expanded rapidly, consistently delivering double-digit rates of growth. We are confident that the new route between Chengdu and London will prove popular with customers travelling between the two major economic hubs.

China is also a fascinating venue for leisure travellers, and the region is famed for its giant pandas, rich culture and excellent cuisine.’

To celebrate the new service, the airline is offering airfares to Chengdu for GBP508.00 on all bookings made by January 6, 2013. The service includes a four-cabin Boeing 777 aircraft with First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy) seating.

The flight number for the inbound service is BA88, and BA89 is the number for the London outbound flight.


Thistle Hotels Offers Complimentary Wi-Fi at London Hotels

Thistle Hotels, the UK based hotel brand, is offering complimentary Internet access to its guests.

Introduced recently across its properties, the hotel brand is offering the free and unlimited Wi-Fi service at its London hotels.

The brand has recently upgraded its partnership with BT Wi-Fi, and the new service comes from the partnership, claiming to offer seamless and fast connectivity for hotel guests. The service is complimentary for unlimited usage at the London properties, and for half an hour daily at its other properties in the UK.

David Grosfils, the operations director for Thistle Hotels said, ‘We recognise the increasing importance of ‘staying connected’ and are fully committed to providing the very best experience for all our guests, whether they are business or leisure travellers.

We are confident this free, unlimited service will offer a seamless transition from either the home or office environment, with the quality and security one can expect from such a trusted partner.’

The offer is available at properties, including Bloomsbury Park, A Thistle Associate Hotel, Thistle City Barbican, The Kingsley by Thistle, Thistle Kensington Gardens, London, and Thistle Euston.

Complimentary hotel Wi-Fi connectivity often decides the choice of hotels for travellers these days. A survey conducted earlier by Hotels.com, a US-based travel company and a part of Expedia group, indicated that many more travellers are opting for hotels with Wi-Fi connectivity.

The hotel booking website has indicated that around 38 percent of people surveyed had decided on hotels based on complimentary Wi-Fi availability as the most important hotel amenity, while 31 percent of travellers have expressed a wish to have all hotels Wi-Fi enabled, so that they can remain connected even while on vacation and business travel.


Cardiff Airport to Be Acquired By Welsh Goverment

TGI Ltd, the owner of Cardiff Airport, has announced that it is selling the facility to the Welsh government.

The Welsh government has already entered into an agreement to buy the airport from TGI. Confirming the announcement, the airport website has reported, ‘Over the last few months, Cardiff Airport has engaged in positive and constructive discussions with the Welsh Government on how best to position Airport for challenges ahead. In the course of those discussions it emerged that a sale of the airport was one possible option.

To explore that option further, a process has been put in place which will allow the Welsh Government to undertake comprehensive due diligence. Depending upon the outcome of that due diligence and other related activities it is our understanding that the Welsh Government may decide to proceed towards a purchase.’

The Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has also announced the agreement, saying, ‘Over the past 12 months, I have repeatedly emphasised the importance to Wales of a dynamic international gateway airport in Cardiff.

During the course of the year we have developed a very constructive and positive relationship with TBI. Together we have been discussing how best to develop the airport to position it for the challenges ahead.

I can today announce that the Welsh Government has agreed with TBI to progress towards the purchase of Cardiff Airport. Such an arrangement would enable us to develop a more coherent approach to our national infrastructure planning, and integrate the airport into our wider economic development strategy.’

The airport currently serves around 1.6 million passengers a year.

The Wales business minister, Edwina Hart, said, ‘The message from business leaders and tourism operators across Wales are clear; strong, international transport links are vital to our prosperity, and key to future economic growth.

Subject to satisfactory due diligence, our investment in Cardiff Airport has the potential to create many exciting possibilities for the Welsh economy – boosting opportunities for international trade, and helping to increase visitor numbers to Wales.’