easyJet offers ‘Hands Free’ luggage option for passengers

easyJet, the UK-based European regional airline, has said that it has launched ‘Hands Free’, allowing passengers to check in their hand luggage at the Bag Drop desk for an extra fee.

At The Bag Drop Desk, luggage will be tagged as priority and taken care of through to the arrival airport. ‘Hands Free’ hand luggage will also be among the first to be delivered at the baggage belt at arrivals. The new ‘Hands Free’ service comes at a price of £4 per person, or £10 for a group bundle per flight.

Passengers choosing Hands Free will be given small plastic bags to carry their essential items onboard, and are free to take any items purchased at the airport on board. Passengers will also able to board first after those with Speedy Boarding.

Andrew Middleton, Ancillary Revenue Director at easyJet said: ‘We’ve seen a fantastic response from customers upgrading to the ‘Hands Free’ experience and we’re confident once you go ‘Hands Free’ you’ll never want to drag cabin baggage through the airport again.’

‘Alongside low fares and friendly customer service, our customers tell us that the airport experience is a hugely important part of their flying experience.’

The ‘Hands Free’ service has reportedly been a success since its launch in France this Spring, with over 9,000 passengers choosing the option in just four weeks. easyJet has now rolled it out across its entire network with the exception of London Gatwick, it said.

easyJet flies over 270 aircraft on more than 880 routes to over 140 airports across 31 countries. The UK-based low fares airline carries over 78 million passengers annually, of which more than 12 million are travelling on business.

Qantas plans to launch direct services to London, New York, announces fleet upgrade

Australian airline, Qantas, is planning to launch nonstop flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London, and also New York, by 2022, Nine News reported online.

‘It’s huge, it’s fantastic news. East coast services – Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – direct to London and New York is a huge step forward in connecting us to the world,’ Qantas chief of technical support Captain Alex Passerini reportedly told Today. ‘It’ll save four hours (on the trip) to London,’ he added.

According to the report, the Australian airline is looking for the manufacture of new planes capable of making the intercontinental journey from the east coast capitals without a stopover, with a plan to launch the new flights by 2022 latest. Qantas’ existing long-range aircraft, such as the Airbus A350, as well as the Boeing 777X, which is under-development, are not capable of covering the entire distance, it said.

Qantas expects the new nonstop flights to take 20 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to London, and 18 hours and seven minutes from Sydney to New York. A total stopover time of 3 hours and 45 minutes and 2 hours and 43 minutes would be saved by each flight, respectively, the report added

Qantas is also set to launch its new Perth to London route on March 24, 2018. New lounges at both ends of the Perth-London route will be completed during fiscal year 2018, the airline said.

The Australian airline has also announced plans for a major cabin upgrade for its fleet of 12 Airbus A380s to improve passenger comfort on long haul flights. This will include replacing Skybeds in Business Class with the latest version of the Business Suite; increasing the size of the Premium Economy cabin and installing the same all-new seats that will debut on the Dreamliner at the end of this year; and refurbishment of the Economy and First Class sections. Work will begin in the second quarter of calendar year 2019, it said.

In addition, both the Business and Qantas Club lounges at Melbourne Domestic will be progressively renovated from November this year, providing customers with more space, comfort and dining options before they fly.

British Airways offering return flights to European destinations for £35

British Airways has announced return flights to several European destinations for a price of £35, plus 9,000 Avios as part of its Reward Flight Saver scheme.

The airline is offering a return price of £35 plus 9,000 Avios to destinations including Nice, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, Dublin, Brussels, Munich and Geneva. In addition, it is offering a return of £35 plus 15,000 Avios to customers choosing to travel to Oslo, Rome, Berlin and Stockholm.

James Hillier, The Executive Club manager, said: ‘We know our Executive Club members love to have a range of ways to collect and spend Avios so we are delighted to be able to offer return flights from just £35 plus 9,000 Avios, including all taxes, fees and charges, to a host of popular European destinations like Paris, Nice and Amsterdam to name a few, so there is plenty of choice for everyone.’

Lisa Harris, Customer Director at Avios, added: ‘It’s easy to collect Avios, not only through British Airways flights, hotel bookings and car hire, but also on day-to-day shopping via the British Airways Avios eStore where you will discover over 800 plus retail partners including some or your high street favourites. With so many easy ways to collect, that next travel adventure really is within touching distance.’

The flights are available for booking, enabling holidaymakers to plan a post-summer getaway. Travellers can book through British Airways’ app or website via the Reward Flight Saver page. To book using Reward Flight Saver, Executive Club members must have collected at least one Avios in the past 12 months.

Reward Flight Saver is available year round, the airline said.

Ryanair urges customers to comply with cabin bag rules to avoid delays

Ryanair, the Ireland-based European airline, is urging customers to comply fully with its cabin bag rules to help avoid boarding delays during this peak summer season.

The reminder to customers comes as Ryanair is preparing for one of the busiest seasons, with 97 percent of booking already in place for this summer. Ryanair allows passengers to carry one 10kg cabin bag and one smaller bag onboard. The normal 10 kg cabin bag can have maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm in size, while the smaller bag may be a handbag, laptop bag, or an airport shopping bag.

Due to space limitations, only 90 normal cabin bags of 10 kgs can be carried in the overhead locker cabin. Any additional normal cabin bags can be carried free of charge in the aircraft hold. Carry-on bags must fit in the sizer at the boarding gate and any oversized cabin bags will be refused, or where available, placed in the aircraft hold for a fee of GBP50/EUR50, the airline said.

However, customers may add Priority Boarding to the booking for an additional EUR5.00, to guarantee that their bag gets on board. The airline said that customers travelling on short 2-4 day breaks, who wish to ensure that their cabin bag doesn’t go in the hold, are advised to add Priority Boarding.

Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: ‘Despite our repeated messaging, some customers are still attempting to bring larger than permitted bags onboard, which are causing delays at the boarding gate. As advised, customers are permitted to bring a normal cabin bag and a smaller bag onboard.

However, many customers are repeatedly exceeding our cabin baggage allowance and we will be left with no choice but to review our policy should this practice continue.

Many of our flights are full given it’s the peak summer period and we urge customers to ensure that they travel with less carry-on bags where possible. Our aircraft can only carry 90 larger carry-on bags and our gate agents are rigorously enforcing our carry-on policy to avoid flight delays and ensure an enjoyable travel experience for all customers. Customers who wish to carry larger baggage are advised to purchase a checked-in bag.’

Customers who are travelling on holidays for longer periods and who wish to carry larger than 10kg bags are advised to select checked-in bags and check their luggage into the hold, Ryanair added.

Gardens, zoos among favourites for visitors in England

Gardens and zoos registered the highest growth in visitors to attractions last year, according to a recent survey published by VisitEngland.

The Annual Attractions Survey found that historic houses and castles reported a seven percent increase in visitor numbers, and country parks a four percent increase. Outdoor attractions performed particularly well, with gardens and zoos showing growth of eight percent.

The survey was conducted by BDRC-Continental and gathered information from more than 1,500 English visitor attractions. Similar to VisitEngland’s Great Britain Tourism Survey results, coastal and rural attractions experienced strong growth of four percent and five percent respectively.

Tourism Minister John Glen said: ‘We have an amazing range of world-class attractions in England that draw in millions of visitors every year. Whether it is our unique historic buildings, internationally important museums or stunning gardens, there is a huge amount to see and do.

‘Ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from our tourism industry is a key government priority so it is fantastic to see such growth across the regions.’

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe added, ‘There are so many outstanding attractions offering year-round experiences throughout the country and it’s great to see Brits enjoyed 2016’s ‘Year of the English Garden’. Attractions are a much loved and valuable part of the tourism landscape, adding colour and variety to the visitor experience and encouraging people to get out and explore, driving the value of tourism across the regions.’

The British Museum was the most visited free attraction in England in 2016, for the ninth consecutive year, with nearly 6.5 million visitors. This was followed by the National Gallery which had more than 6.2 million visitors. Among the paid for locations, the Tower of London topped the list for the eight consecutive year, with 2.7 million visitors, and Chester Zoo registered its highest ever ranking – second place, with nearly 1.9 million visitors.

According to the latest VisitEngland figures, for the first four months of 2017, Brits took a record 11.4 million holiday trips in England.

Monarch announces last minute package deals to Europe’s best beaches

Monarch, an UK-based travel and holiday company, has announced package deals from major UK airports to a number of top Spanish beach destinations for holidaymakers and families looking for a summer holiday.

The announcement comes after a Twitter poll by Monarch revealed that Spanish beaches were rated as the best beaches in Europe. Nearly 35 percent of voters said that Spanish beaches were the finest in Europe – more attractive than the sandy shores of Portugal and Greece. The Twitter poll was conducted with 1,145 Monarch followers this month.

Monarch’s last minute package deals start from £495 per person for seven night holidays and £209 per person for two-night holidays, available for travel later this month and early September. The UK-based holiday company is offering:

A seven night holiday to Costa del Sol with rates starting from £545 per person with return flights and seven nights half board accommodation based on two adults sharing a twin or double room. The flight will depart Manchester on August 30 with stay arranged at the four star Almunecar Playa Spa Hotel.

A seven night package deal to Costa Almeria from £385 per person with return flights and seven nights bed and breakfast accommodation based on two adults sharing a double room. Flights will depart Manchester on August 29, with stay at the four star Cabo de Gata Hotel.

A seven night holiday to Lanzarote from £535 per person with return flights and seven nights half board accommodation based on two adults sharing a twin room. The flight will depart London Gatwick on September 25 with stay at the four star VIK Hotel San Antonio.

A seven night holiday at Tenerife from £529 per person with return flights and seven nights half board accommodation based on two adults sharing a twin room. The flight will depart Manchester on September 6, with stay arranged at the four-star Tigotan Hotel.

A six night holiday to Majorca from £655 per person with return flights and six nights half board accommodation based on two adults and two children sharing a suite. The flight will depart London Gatwick on August 23 with accomodation arranged at four-star Puerto Azul Suite Hotel.

A two night holiday to Valencia from £209 per person with return flights and two-nights bed and breakfast accommodation based on two adults sharing a twin or double room. Flights will depart Birmingham on August 24 with stay arranged at the four star SH Florazar Hotel.

In addition, Monarch is offering thousands of seats at £30, to a selection of sun and city break destinations. £30 flights include a number of Spanish destinations in Majorca and Alicante, the airline added.

SWISS launches Bombardier C series service to and from London City

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), the national airline of Switzerland, has become the world’s first airline to offer commercial flights with the Bombardier C Series aircraft to and from London City Airport.

The sophisticated short- and medium-haul Bombardier CS100 will operate SWISS’s scheduled services to and from London City. Accordingly, the first commercial SWISS Bombardier CS100 flight to London City Airport arrived from Zurich at 17:47 (local time London) on August 8. SWISS will also use its Bombardier C Series aircraft on its Geneva-London City route starting next summer.

Commenting on the new service, Richard Hill, Chief Commercial Officer, London City Airport, said: ‘The inaugural commercial flight of the Bombardier C Series by Swiss International Air Lines is a landmark moment for London City Airport, and it is a pleasure to welcome the first passengers and crew from Zurich, following five years of preparation.’

‘This next-generation aircraft is one of the quietest in operation, with greater fuel efficiency and longer range, setting a new standard for SWISS operations and London City,’ he added.

With its short runway and its steep landing approach, pilots are required to undergo additional training for such operations at London City Airport. In addition, the aircraft itself is to be certificated to perform the steep landing approach at London City. The aircraft’s manufacturer, Bombardier of Montreal, Canada, obtained this in April of this year.

‘We have prepared our pilots down to the finest detail to perform our new scheduled Bombardier C Series flights to London City,’ said Peter Koch, SWISS’s C Series Fleet Chief. ‘And we’re delighted that we can now offer all the many attractions of the C Series, in inflight comfort and more, on this important route.’

SWISS is shifting to its C Series aircraft mainly to replace its Avro RJs, which were used to commence scheduled services to and from London City 25 years ago. The last commercial SWISS Avro RJ100 flight will be from Zurich to London City and back on Monday, August 14, the airline said.

Loganair to launch Durham Tees Valley service from Norwich, onward to Aberdeen

Scottish regional airline Loganair has announced plans to launch new services from Norwich Airport to Durham Tees Valley Airport for the first time in two decades.

In addition, passengers from Norwich will also be able to make the onward connection from DTVA to Aberdeen. The two routes will commence on October 15.

Loganair will introduce non-stop flights between East Anglia and the North East of England on six-days per week, while also providing up to three weekday direct services between the Granite City and DTVA with one flight on Sunday. With the new service residents of Norfolk will be able to travel from Norwich to Aberdeen on a one-stop-same-plane service via DTVA in around two hours and 20 minutes, five days per week.

Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair’s Managing Director said: ‘Reinstating an air service between Durham Tees Valley Airport and Norwich after a gap of 20 years is another important milestone in Loganair’s 55-year history and we’re delighted to mark the occasion.’

‘The increased connectivity by Loganair will bring tremendous benefits for those involved in the offshore energy industries in East Anglia, Tees Valley and Aberdeen regions, which are home to many different companies and individuals working in both the traditional oil and gas market as well as the burgeoning renewable energy industry.’

‘Our competitive fares and business-friendly schedule is a much more attractive offering than the current five-and-a-half-hour drive between Norwich and Durham – something businesses will be keen to hear about.’

Richard Pace, Chief Executive of Norwich Airport, said: ‘Loganair’s new service to Durham Tees Valley Airport puts the North East within easy reach and we’re delighted that the service will start in October. It’s further evidence of Norwich Airport’s growing connectivity, offering even more choice for people to travel from their local airport.’

The new services will be operated by a 34-seat Saab 340B aircraft. Flights from Norwich will depart at 16:00 hours from Sunday to Friday, arriving in DTVA at 17:00. Flights will depart from DTVA to Aberdeen at 17:10 hours Sunday to Friday and 20:20 hours, Thursday and Friday for the one-hour sector to Scotland’s NE. Return flights from Aberdeen will leave at 13:00 hours on Sunday to Friday arriving in DTVA one hour later, for the southbound connection to Norwich. Lead-in fares from Norwich to DTVA commence at £49.99 and £89.99 between Norwich and Aberdeen, Norwich said in a release.

In addition, both of the new DTVA routes will benefit from a codeshare with Loganair’s sister company bmi Regional. Passengers travelling north via Aberdeen can access onward links to Orkney, Shetland, the Danish seaport of Esbjerg and Norway’s capital, Oslo.

London adds another heritage attraction, opens Postal Museum for visitors

London has added another heritage attraction to its collection with the recent opening of the Royal Mail’s Postal Museum.

‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome our first visitors to The Postal Museum. We’re anticipating an extremely busy first month, with lots of fun activities planned for families. Then, on Monday 4 September, Mail Rail trains will depart for the first time – a truly historic moment for London,’ said museum director Adrian Steel in a statement.

Postal Museum, located near the central London sorting depot, is opening to the public after an 18 month refurbishment project. The museum informs and educates guests on the history of the postal services in Britain through interactive displays.

A main attraction in the Postal Museum is the underground train ride – Mail Rail. The underground train ride is a kilometre long and takes guests on a journey through abandoned rail tunnels. These mail tunnels have not been used for over 100 years now and the revival is expected to offer guests a unique and close experience with history.

While the Postal Museum is open for guests, the Mail Rail ride will only start in September. It will see visitors board a miniature train that will run through stalactite-filled chambers of subterranean London, formerly hidden from public view.

Postal Museum is designed interactively, and presents a glimpse of the human side of Britain’s postal system – from the greatcoats and pistols carried by 18th century posties to the development of Britain’s iconic stamps used on envelopes. Another attraction is a game where visitors can take the role of a mail coach guard to understand the working of the mail system.

In addition, visitors will be able to decipher Morse code at a writing bureau from the 1930s. Once written, the messages disappear through a system of pneumatic tubes and are received by any stranger on the other side of the museum.

With its unique design and extensive coverage of the history of Britain’s postal service, the museum aims to be an interesting historical attraction for tourists and visitors, both local and foreign.

Celebrity Cruises launches inaugural charter flights from Cardiff

Luxury cruise line Celebrity Cruises has commenced its first ever charter flight from Cardiff Airport.

The new charter flight is part of Celebrity Cruises’ Jet Set Sail programme – operating charters offering holidaymakers larger seat pitches in-flight, increased luggage allowance and a joining service from airport check-in to the on-board ship accommodation.

Launched on July 31, the first of the two Jet Set Sail charter flights was operated by Titan on behalf of Celebrity Cruises. The flight will land in Barcelona, where guests will board the luxury ship Celebrity Constellation and board a 10 night cruise around the Mediterranean and Adriatic visiting popular destinations including Valencia, Florence, Rome, Montenegro and Split.

The second Jet Set Sail will depart on August 28, 2017, and will travel to Venice, where the passengers will join Celebrity Constellation and begin a 10 night cruise around the Greek islands, visiting tourist locations including Santorini, Athens and Mykonos.

Deb Barber, CEO of Cardiff Airport, said: ‘Exciting developments like this is evidence of the halo effect that comes with our recent passenger growth and increase in choice for customers. The cruise market has traditionally been very strong in Wales and it’s great to see new, very esteemed cruise operators reacting to demand and offering more choice for fly-cruise seekers from Cardiff.’

Jo Rzymowska, vice president and managing director, Celebrity Cruises, UK, Ireland and Asia added, ‘Our new exclusive Jet Set Sail charter from Cardiff Airport adds yet more choice and opportunity for our guests. The expansion of our nationwide programme into Cardiff is in response to strong demand and great support from Cardiff Airport. Cruise travellers can start their Celebrity Cruises holiday in complete comfort and luxury before they even depart the UK – exactly how every holiday should begin.’

Celebrity Cruises is introducing the new Jet Set Sail charter following increased demand from the Welsh cruise community for fly-cruise options out of Cardiff Airport, the airport said, adding that companies like TUI and P&O already offer cruise flights in summer and winter.