British Airways announces holiday offers for families this summer

British Airways is collaborating with some of UK’s biggest airports to offer holiday breaks to families with under-12s, it has announced.

Supported by Visit Britain, British Airways is working in partnership with Belfast City, Heathrow, Inverness, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle International airports to give families a pleasurable and affordable summer break, allowing kids under 12, to fly for free on domestic flights. Flights can be booked for travel from July 14, 2016, until November 1, 2016 at ba.com/kidsgofree.

With the partnerships, British Airways is offering free flights for kids when travelling with an adult. To help cut holiday costs even further, Heathrow Express and Novotel are also offering family discounts. Up to two kids can fly for free with each fare paying adult, and kids can also stay for free at Novotel hotels when adults book a stay.

Sara Dunham, British Airways’ head of marketing, retail and direct, said: ‘Saving every penny counts when it comes to family holidays so flying kids for free will make it cheaper to fly away for fun and see more of the UK on a British Airways flight.

‘We are delighted to be joining forces with other great travel brands to offer families free child flights and discounted holiday deals.’

The initiative is expected to boost UK tourism by encouraging families to fly more cheaply between London, the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland for their holidays.

Fun and exciting things for families to do at the destinations include the W5 at Odyssey, Titanic Belfast, The Giant’s Causeway, Streamvale Open Farm and Ulster Museum at the Botanic Gardens in Northern Ireland (Belfast City); The Royal Armouries Museum, National Media Museum; Leeds Art Gallery/Henry Moore Institute; Leeds Owl Trail and Stockeld Park at Yorkshire (Leeds Bradford); Kidzania, Natural History Museum, London Zoo, Coram’s Fields and Tower of London at London (Heathrow); Loch Ness and the Loch Ness monster, Landmark Park, Cawdor Castle, Inverness Botanic Gardens, Whin Park at Scotland (Inverness); and Beamish Museum, Durham Cathedral, Alnwick Castle, Angel of the North and

Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books in the North East of England (Newcastle).

The offer is valid on one-way and return tickets between Heathrow and Belfast International, Inverness, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle International airports. Return adult hand baggage only fares on the British Airways flights between Heathrow and the UK regional airports start from £97 for Belfast, £75 for Inverness, £86 for Leeds and £96 for Newcastle.

Heathrow set to become first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport

London Heathrow, the UK’s hub airport, has announced plans to become the world’s first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport as part of its efforts to inspire youngsters and families travelling through the airport.

The move by Heathrow to extend its passenger service to imaginary friends follows new research that invisible playmates are becoming increasingly popular among young passengers. The research found an estimated 2.1 million children, or 35 per cent, in Britain have imaginary friends presently, while 68 per cent of these youngsters will take their make-believe friends with them on family holidays. Besides, over half of children – 56 percent – wish that other people would acknowledge and speak to their invisible friends.

Normand Boivin, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow, commented: ‘We’re dedicated to continuously training our staff and investing in skills so that they can always provide the best passenger service. This is a commitment that has seen passengers recognise Heathrow as Western Europe’s best airport. However, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We always want to encourage our staff to go further, to be creative and think of the unexpected things that could surprise and delight passengers.

‘During the summer holidays, when millions of families fly away on their holidays, it’s the little things that can help make an airport journey more fun and relaxing for both parents and children. Whether that’s free restaurant meals for kids in Heathrow’s restaurants or simply acknowledging that a child has an imaginary friend who they believe is as real as you or me – at Heathrow we have an ambition to become the friendliest family airport and to give all our passengers the best airport service in the world.’

As part of the plan to delight youngsters with imaginary friends, Heathrow has launched a staff- video guided by Chris O’Dowd, Hollywood actor and imaginary friend expert. The six-minute video – featuring the stars of Bridesmaids, IT Crowd and imaginary friend comedy Moone Boy – instructs Heathrow staff on the best ways to interact with youngsters who bring their invisible friends to the airport. The video also focuses on the various family services run by Heathrow each summer, now including imaginary friends.

With over 500,000 passengers expected to travel through Heathrow over the next four days, many parents are set to fly out of the airport with their children, Heathrow said. Friday, July 24, is expected to be the busiest day ever with 129,647 departing passengers flying out of the airport, it added.

 

Ryanair to refund children’s APD on UK flights from March

Ryanair, the Ireland-based low fares airline, has confirmed that it will refund the £13 UK travel tax for all children aged under-12 who check-in on flights departing the UK from May 1, 2015 earlier than required.

The announcement comes after the decision by UK Chancellor George Osborne to abolish children’s APD starting from May 1, 2015.

However, Ryanair went further to add that it will refund children’s APD on UK flights for the six weeks from March 27, 2015. The airline also urged the UK Government to abolish APD, enabling UK tourism to return to growth.

Refunding the UK APD for kids over the Easter Holiday period is expected to cost Ryanair up to GBP2m. The move – along with Ryanair’s ‘Family Extra’ service – will allow children to fly from the UK tax free for the holidays.

Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs, said: ‘Ryanair welcomes Chancellor Osborne’s decision to scrap APD for children under-12 on flights departing the UK from 1st May 2015. To ensure even greater savings for the millions of UK families flying Ryanair at Easter, Ryanair will refund APD for all children who check in on flights departing the UK from 27th March 2015 onwards. Families flying Ryanair already enjoy the lowest fares and fantastic discounts with our ‘Family Extra’ service and this will ensure even more UK families make even greater savings next Easter flying with Ryanair.

While we welcome this partial reduction in APD, we call on the UK Government to abolish APD, and allow UK tourism to return to growth and become competitive once more. Tourist traffic in Ireland has risen by almost 10% since APD was abolished in April, with the VAT received from the additional tourist spend far exceeding the loss of APD. The UK should follow suit and axe the tax for all.’

The refund is the latest in a series of customer experience improvements under Ryanair’s ‘Always Getting Better’ programme, which includes a new website, a new mobile app, and the new ‘Family Extra’ and ‘Business Plus’ services.

Separately, Ryanair said that it will open its fourth Portuguese base in the Azores from April 2015 with one based aircraft and three new routes to London Stansted, Lisbon and Porto.

 

Edinburgh unveils new soft-play area for young flyers

Little flyers and passengers travelling with young children through Edinburgh Airport can now benefit from a new soft-play area installed in the airport’s departure lounge, the airport has said.

Part of a plan to transform Edinburgh into Scotland’s most child-friendly airport, the new children’s play area is the third such area to be installed at the airport since January.

Sponsored by Thomson and located between Gates 10 and 11, the new play area offers young kids plenty of pre-flight fun, keeping them entertained and exercised during their stay at the airport. There are seating areas nearby for parents to enable them to fully supervise the children.

John Watson, Chief Commercial Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: ‘We want passengers of all ages to have the best time at Edinburgh Airport. Our free soft-play area allows children to run around and unwind in a safe environment before boarding their flight while their parents can relax and supervise.

‘We’re delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues at Thomson who are sponsoring the new soft-play zone and share our commitment to passenger experience. The investment in our play areas shows that we’re working hard to make sure our smallest passengers and their families have the best start to their trip.’

Jeremy Ellis, Marketing Manager for TUI UK and Ireland, said: ‘We’re delighted to partner with Edinburgh Airport and feel this is a great opportunity for Thomson to showcase our family offering, giving customers a more child-friendly travelling experience at the airport.’

Edinburgh’s Imogen Dyer, a four-year-old and her brother Lysander, nearly two, were the first children to use the new play zone, spotting it immediately as they entered the departure lounge.

Their father, Keith, said: ‘This is a fantastic idea and something which I think a lot of parents will be grateful for when they travel with young children. Both Imogen and Lysander were desperate to have a go in the soft-play area from the minute they saw it.’

The new children’s zone features slides, a mini-climbing wall, and a tunnel, and was created in collaboration with SPI Global Play – a European indoor play area manufacturer that also created the two play areas installed in January.

 

BA’s ‘Dreamflight’ takes 192 children on their dream holiday

British Airways (BA) ‘Dreamflight’ set off from Heathrow on Sunday taking 192 children on their 10-day dream holiday to Florida.

Co-founded by retired British Airways cabin crew member, Patricia Pearce MBE, Dreamflight is a UK charity focused on changing young lives by taking seriously ill and disabled children from all over the UK on a life-changing holiday to Disney World and Florida. Operating every year since 1987, ‘Dreamflight’ has been supported by British Airways since the beginning, helping over 5,000 children in total.

The especially liveried ‘Dreamflight’ aircraft, a British Airways Boeing 747, is chartered once a year, and children spend 10 fun-filled days away from family in Florida, discovering freedom, self-confidence, and a new outlook on life. During their holiday, they will visit Disney and Universal parks and also swim with Dolphins at Sea Worlds’ discovery cove.

Long-term patron of the charity, Sir Cliff Richard, was present to see the children off, along with gardening TV celebrity, Charlie Dimmock, who will be accompanying two children on the trip.

Sir Cliff said: ‘Dreamflight is a charity very close to my heart and I’m so pleased I can be part of this day to see the joy, and happiness this trip to Florida brings the children.’

British Airways captain, Andrew Bean, said: ‘I feel honoured to be flying the Dreamflight group of children to Florida. The children are such an inspiration to us all and it’s wonderful to be part of this special trip.’

Dreamflight children have made remarkable achievements in life. According to the website, in 2008, eight of the Paralympians who competed in Beijing, including the charity’s patron, Liz Johnson, had been Dreamflight children. Liz won Gold in the 100m Breaststroke at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, and now provides great support for Dreamflight. She also serves as an inspiration for the children with her success story of becoming a world-class athlete.

 

British children seasoned travellers by 16

A survey has revealed that British children travel so extensively with their parents that many can be considered seasoned travellers by the age of 16.

The survey, which was carried out by France-based holiday resort operator, ClubMed, has revealed that by the age of 16 the average child has travelled 13,500 miles on trips to at least five different countries, and will have had the opportunity of sampling 35 different foreign dishes. According to the report, it is now commonplace for an individual to have visited 11 countries before being old enough to vote.

The figures are in stark contrast to those of just one generation ago, when children were only likely to visit four countries and travel an average of 2,471 miles. But the globetrotting exploits of the nation’s younger generation are not particularly good news for UK-based resorts, with modern children more likely to have visited Spain or France than Devon or Cornwall.

But while their close proximity means that neighbouring European countries are popular destinations for families with children, distance is by no means a limiting factor for a growing proportion of junior travellers, with the USA taking third place on the list of the most visited destinations, and visits to far flung and exotic destinations like Bali and Australia rapidly becoming less exceptional.

Club Med’s managing director in the UK, Laurent De Chorivit, was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘As well-known brands set up resorts in destinations further afield, exotic holidays are becoming more accessible to families. If the accommodation is familiar and reliable, and the food can be trusted, parents are more likely to take their children to less conventional hotspots.’

 

Economic Slowdown Forcing Parents to Consider School Term Holidays

The downturn in the economy is forcing many UK parents to consider the option of taking their children on holiday during the school term, and thereby take advantage of lower holiday rates.

A survey conducted by Mintel, a market research company, has suggested that around half of those British parents polled are seriously considering taking their children out of school for a term time break in order to enjoy a cheaper holiday, even though the government has registered its disapproval of parents that do so.

The slowdown in the UK economy is forcing six out of ten families to cut back on family holidays as the rising cost of living cuts into household budgets.

Tom Rees, the senior travel and tourism analyst at Mintel, said, ‘The balance of opinion clearly indicates that the majority of parents are prepared to take children out of school. This suggests opportunities for companies to directly market non-peak family holidays, pushing the fact that going in term time will be cheaper. This is especially the case as cost concerns are clearly strong in the current economic climate.

Any company doing so, risks the wrath of the government, which (the government) is clearly determined to reduce instances of children being taken out of school for holidays.’

Previously, the UK government has said that it was considering implementing a tougher system of fines for parents who regularly take their children on vacation during term-time. If the new rules are implemented, parents may face penalties of up to £120, which is double the current fine of £50 to £60.

Travelling Brits Abhor Unruly Children

A survey has shown that British citizens consider that the possibility of being in the vicinity of unruly children is their biggest apprehension when travelling.

The survey by TripAdvisor, which is claimed to be one of the world’s largest travel sites, said that having to tolerate misbehaving children was one of the most negative flying experiences for Britons.

The survey, which questioned 2,000 UK citizens, set out to discover what concerned them the most while taking a flight. According to the survey, 22 percent, or about a quarter of respondents claimed that having a child kicking at the back of their seat was their biggest concern. Another 22 percent said that they were concerned and frustrated when parents failed to prevent their children from spoiling someone else’s travelling experience. However, the top concern, according to 29 percent of travelling Britons, is inconsiderate seat recliners imposing on their personal space.

The survey revealed that UK travellers have been made so angry by previous experiences of flying next to unruly children, that about 37 percent of them said they would pay higher fares for a child-free flight. While 34 percent of traveller said that kids should not be allowed inside first-class or business-class cabins, 36 percent felt that they should be given a chance.

A spokesperson for TripAdvisor said, ‘Even on a short-haul holiday the flight makes up a significant part of the travel experience, and a stressful flight can really have a negative impact. Any disturbance when flying is a frustration but it seems that unruly children are among the biggest frustrations for some passengers. Whether we can expect to see any airlines offering child-free flights in the future remains to be seen, but it’s clearly a topic that fiercely divides opinion.’

Parents Planning Holidays with Children during School Term to Face Higher Penalties

Parents who choose to take children out of school for holidays during term-time may face steep penalties according to a report submitted by UK government advisor, Charles Taylor.

The government, however, is considering a reversal of an earlier proposal that would have placed an outright ban on parents taking children on holiday during term time. The ban is being replaced by steeper fines, which may deter already poorly off middle-class parents from considering such vacations.

The government is planning to implement a tougher system of fines for parents who regularly take their children on vacations during term-time, in order to take advantage of off-peak holiday costs. Parents may face penalties of up to GBP120, double the current fine of £50 to £60. The money will be subtracted from child benefits should the parents refuse to make the payment. The penalties come with a 28-day payment clause.

The UK Government’s truancy adviser, Charlie Taylor, said in an interview, ‘Some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine. It means the penalty has no effect, and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover. Recouping the fines through child benefit, along with other changes to the overall system, will strengthen and simplify the system. It would give head teachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part.’

Taylor will be submitting his report, commissioned by Education Secretary, Michael Gove, as part of his recommendations to tackle regular absences by school children.

After Hotels, Now Flights To Go Adults Only, Say British Passengers

In a survey carried out by Jetcost.co.uk recently, around 53 percent of British passengers have cited adults-only flights as their first choice in air travel.

The poll, which canvassed the opinions of around 1,666 adults in the UK, has cited loud children as one of the biggest causes of stress in a flight, ahead of poor quality food and lack of legroom. Around 20 percent of those surveyed also cited reclining seats as causes of discomfort when used by neighbouring passengers, and more than half registered their dislike of airlines that do not provide allocated seating.

The issue of child-free flights, though controversial, seems to have struck a chord with the aviation industry. This week Malaysia Airlines has updated its policy for child passengers, banning them from upper deck of its Airbus A380 fleet.

The policy, which came into force recently, means that families travelling with children below the age of 12 years will be limited to a certain segment of the airplane on these flights. The airline is justifying its decision by saying that an overwhelming number of its passengers have complained about the noise created by children during flights.

Tengku Azmil, the airline chief executive officer, commented that many passengers had complained on Twitter that they had paid a premium to fly first class but had been unable to sleep due to crying infants.

The airline does however have a policy that allows for families with children to board first, as they take longer to organise themselves and take their seats inside an aircraft.