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.

British Airways takeover will lead to 1,200 job losses at BMI

The takeover of BMI buy the parent company of British Airways (IAG) will lead to a possible 1,200 job losses, the company announced today.

The takeover was approved by the European Commission in March 2012 after the Commission looked into the integration of the two airlines operations at Heathrow Airport.

Most of the job losses will be at BMI’s head office at Castle Donington in Derbyshire.  However, British Airways were keen to stress that up to 1,500 jobs have been saved by the takeover, including 1,100 cabin crew, pilots and engineers and up to 400 passenger service personnel at Heathrow’s Terminal 1.

Keith Williams, British Airways’ chief executive, said ‘BMI is heavily loss making and is not a viable business as it stands today. Our proposals would secure around 1,500 jobs that would otherwise have been lost. As we look to restructure the business and restore profitability, job losses are deeply regrettable but inevitable. We will work with the unions to explore as many options as possible and are already working with industry partners.’

He also said ‘This deal is good news for our customers and will offer new destinations, new routes and new schedules in due course. For customers with BMI bookings to or from Heathrow this summer, it is business as usual and customers can continue to book with confidence.’

BMI was previously owned by German carrier Lufthansa and had been losing over £150m per year before the takeover, carrying 3 million passengers per year and flying to 25 countries around Europe.

British MPs Warn of Airport Gridlock during London Olympics 2012

Members of Britain’s Parliament have warned of a possible gridlock of British Airports during the London Olympic Games, which commence in July this year.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons is warning of overcrowding at UK airports during the London Olympic Games. Two members of the committee, Therese Coffey and Gerry Sutcliffe, are said to have attended a BAA (operator of six British Airports) briefing where the company expressed its concerns over handling the departure of international athletes after the closing ceremony.

The members of parliament have claimed that while much has been done for accommodating ‘unusual sporting equipment, arranging special lanes for the Olympic family, and welcoming arrangements for competitors and Olympic ambassadors’, there still exists an issue of dealing with long queues at the airport immigration desks.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the agency responsible for passport control counters at UK airports, has, in recent times, reduced its task force by around 25 percent, and the MPs are concerned that this could result in a negative impact on Britain’s tourism industry, as visitors may be discouraged from visiting the UK due to long queues at the airport, leading to delayed flights and overcrowding at the terminals.

The members have also felt an acute absence of any kind of contingency plan to deal with airport overcrowding, and hence gridlock remains a heightened possibility.

A letter to culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, signed by committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said, ‘We are aware that our sister committees, on Transport, and Home Affairs, have a strong interest in these issues and, may raise them with the relevant departments before the start of the Games. However, we wished to draw our concerns to your attention, as Minister with overall responsibly for the success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

Emirates Airline Offers To Fly ‘Silent’ Airbus Fleet on Heathrow Night Flights

UAE-based airline company, Emirates Airline, has offered to operate nighttime flights to help increase the capacity of Heathrow Airport in the UK, by using the quieter Airbus A380s for overnight operations.

The airline’s Airbus A380 super-jumbo airplane fleet is capable of a steeper landing descent than other airplanes, which may lessen noise pollution close to the airport. However the airline is also proposing an increase in its operating hours out of the airport, by augmenting its daily flights to Dubai, UAE, to seven from Heathrow, instead of the current five.

Currently Heathrow Airport is only authorised to allow 15 flights per night for the summer season, which commences in April and runs until October, less than Gatwick Airport’s 50 flights per night and Stansted Airport’s 32 flights per night.

The UK government’s review of aviation policy will be commencing its preliminary consultations in the summer, and Emirates Airline is planning its aircraft schedules as part of its extended cooperation with the UK government. The noise regulations for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports were all set to expire in October 2012, but have recently been extended to expire in October 2014.

Earlier, UK aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, said in a statement, ‘As a first step to replace the current regime in 2014, we will launch a first-stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence of the effectiveness of the current regime including costs and benefits and airlines’ fleet replacement plans. This will be followed by a second consultation next year which will enable us to take account of adopted policy when developing our specific proposals.’

Virgin Atlantic Announces Plans to Acquire Vacant Heathrow Slots

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, intends to bid for the acquisition of 12 slot pairs at London Heathrow Airport in UK.

The airline is keen to acquire the slots to facilitate its plans to commence short-haul services between Scotland and Heathrow, in the UK. The airport slots will come available when British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), gives them up as part of its merger with BMI, British Midland International, an airline formerly owned by Lufthansa, a German airline company.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Julie Southern, reportedly said in a discussion with Travel Weekly, ‘We will bid for all the slots. We have always provided competition to BA. That is Richard’s (Sir Richard Branson’s) raison d’etre. We believe we can provide point-to-point services. It would be an extension of our network using different aircraft.’

The airline also intends to use the airport slots for new services to Cairo, Riyadh, Nice and Moscow.

Julie Southern has also expressed her dismay at the EU competition commissioner’s decision on IAG’s acquisition of BMI, saying, ‘IAG won the go ahead for its GBP172 million deal to buy BMI from Lufthansa at the end of March. We find it hard to believe the full ramifications can have been investigated in such a short period. The whole process has been pretty disappointing.
We want all 12 (airport slots). We will wait to see the full judgment. There are so many aspects: can we get hold of them? What are the strings? Are there constraints? We are puzzled as to why the slots are in two groups. It would be sub-optimal for anyone to operate (only some of the slots). We feel all 12 should stay together.’

Other companies could also bid for the slots as and when they come available, with Aer Lingus one likely contender.

Chaos predicted for bank holiday as baggage handlers plan strike

The Easter holidays have begun, and whilst drivers have to contend with uncertainty at the pumps, those flying from Stansted Airport face strike action.

The Essex airport is facing the prospect of strikes by baggage handlers on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday.

Industrial action is predicted for the bank holiday week after 150 union members, employed by Swissport, passed a vote in favour.

The GMB (Britain’s ‘general’ union) union has said that changes to shifts will result in wage cuts of up to £1,000.

GMB official Gary Pearce said: ‘GMB members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and for action short of a strike.

‘Up to now the company has been intent on imposing these changes without agreement and this is completely unacceptable, as this vote shows.

‘GMB has offered several alternative shift patterns and working arrangements but the company refuses to listen so far.’

He added: ‘Unless there is urgent talks and a settlement, this vote for action this will result in disruption over the Easter bank holiday weekend.’

A Swissport spokesman said last night: ‘At this time we can confirm the airport will be open as normal. Passengers should travel to the airport as normal and we expect no disruption to our services.’

On the roads, works have been stopped for the Easter holiday on some routes but many motorway restrictions will stay in place.

The suspensions will last from 6am on Thursday April 5 until midnight on Easter Monday April 9.

Watchdog investigate Ryanair over £10 charges for emergency exit seats

Budget Airline Ryanair are currently being investigated by safety watchdogs after passengers were made to pay an extra £10 charge so they could sit in seats by emergency exits.

The popular seats offer more legroom for travellers, however the seats located next to the emergency exits have been left empty on hundreds of flights after travellers refused to pay the added cost.

Ryanair passengers buying standard seats are told that they can sit anywhere on the plane apart from the first four rows and the emergency exit rows in the centre.

However passengers in standard seats are still expected to be able to follow directions on the emergency procedures.

The Irish Aviation Authority and UK regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), have launched an investigation into the airline. Suggesting that Ryanair should look at its policy as the issue is described as a ‘grey area’.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has also questioned safety issues on board.

One passenger on a Ryanair flight said that he was asked to make sure that he was aware of how to open a door that he was unable to see.

“I wasn’t allowed to sit in the emergency exit row so I sat in the window seat in the row in front. Before take-off, one of the cabin crew spoke to me, and another passenger who was in the aisle seat.

“Basically, she was saying that, since we were the closest to the emergency exit, we’d have to make sure we’d read and understood the instructions for opening the doors in the middle of the plane in an emergency”.

Adding: “She said emergency row seats could only be used by people who had paid extra. It just seemed ludicrous and mean-spirited.

Stephen McNamara, the head of communications at Ryanair said: “We do not believe this to be an issue, as all Ryanair passengers are provided with the same safety and evacuation information.

“We will continue to discuss the matter with the IAA”.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Edinburgh named as most family-friendly airport

A study has revealed that parents find Scottish airports the most family friendly, with Edinburgh being rated the best in the UK, followed closely by Glasgow.

As part of the study, Skyscanner asked parents to rate airport facilities for children allowing them to establish which airports best catered for families.

Airports were rated on children’s play areas and facilities, food options for children and the efficiency of the security process.

Edinburgh Airport – which caters for more than 9million passengers each year – was praised for its family friendly restaurants, which provide a wide choice of food.

Parents recommended the airport for its runway viewing areas and its accessibility, whereas Glasgow International was rated highly for the variety of children’s play areas.

Mary Porter, Skyscanner’s family expert said: “We conducted this study following a consumer survey last year which saw 59 per cent of people state that UK airports failed to cater for families”.

Liverpool and Manchester Airports were ranked third and fourth in the survey complied of parents, and Gatwick followed in fifth place.

However the UK’s busiest airport Gatwick – which caters for more than 69 million passengers each year – only came in at 10th place.

The airport was criticised for the lack of children’s play areas, small seatings areas and overcrowding.

Birmingham Airport was ranked 7th place after 45 per cent of families travelling through the hub claimed the process was ‘too long.’

She added: “It is encouraging that several airports across the UK are now well prepared for family travellers and no airport scored less than six marks out of a possible 10”.

It is no wonder that young children who have already experienced long queues and little entertainment at the airport are then prone to having meltdowns by the time they board the aircraft.

“By catering better for them at the airport, the on board experience could be far less stressful for families and in turn more enjoyable for all passengers”.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Spainair facing legal action after leaving thousands of passengers stranded

The Spanish government has launched legal action against airline Spainair after it stopped operations on Friday, cancelling 220s flights, which left 22,000 passengers stranded.

The airline according to the government, has violated Spain’s aviation regulations, and legal proceedings could lead to Spainair facing fines of up to €9m (£7.5m) for two ‘serious infringements’.

Development Minister Ana Pastor has confirmed the action after the airline – owned by a consortium based in the northeastern region of Catalonia – stopped its operations due to a lack of funding.

Officials revealed that the decision to close was made after the regional government – which holds a controlling stake in the company – announced it was unable to fund the airline.

The Catalan government named the ‘current economic climate’ and ‘European legislation concerning competition’ as the major factors which influenced its decision.

Last week Qatar Airways pulled out of talks to buy a stake in the airline, which according to the Catalan regional government destroyed Spainair’s only rescue plan.

The company has been searching for new investors since November and reports revealed that Qatar Airways was interested. The company employed around 2,000 staff and used the services of around 1,200 ground staff.

For some years the airline had struggled to compete with low-cost carriers operating in the country.

In 2010 the airline reported an operating loss of around €115m (£96m) and only survived due to finance provided by the Catalan government and private investors.

In Brussels, the European Low Fares Airline Association has announced that any of its members – including Ryanair and Easyjet – that fly overlapping routes with Spainair, would offer stranded passengers special discounted fares, which are subject to seat availability.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

The Winged Hotel

Isn’t it annoying when you have to trudge through first class, bypassing those smug passengers adjusting the settings on their fold out squashy beds, lazily flicking through the channels on their personal flat screen TV’s and leisurely reading through the menu to decide exactly which exotic tropically inspired dish they would like during their flight. Whilst sipping on an elegant flute of champagne. Then you reach your own designated seat at the rear of the aircraft; home of howling babies, restricted leg room and a simple choice of fish or chicken.

However, thanks to the one of a kind hostel in Stockholm, everyone can enjoy the first class experience at a fraction of the price. A disused 747 jumbo jet has been converted into the world’s first hotel, which remains stationary on an abandoned runway. Gone are the days where a donut pillow is a necessity to get any kind of shut eye on-board an aircraft, as the hostel titled ‘Jumbo Stay’ promises the best night sleep you will ever get on a plane, as turbulence is no longer an issue.

The transformed aircraft is home to several en-suite rooms, a 24 hour café, Wi-Fi access, numerous flat screen televisions with more expansion to come. The owner and creator of this ingenious idea is Oscar Dios, who intends to take full advantage of all available space. The cock-pit is a double bedroom and the wings are scheduled to be converted into a relaxation deck with a glass shelter for guests to stroll along and unwind. The twin engines too, are to be adapted into capsule double bedrooms, aptly to be titled ‘the engine rooms’.

In terms of décor, ‘Jumbo Stay’ does not leave much to the imagination. Exit signs, passenger notices, hygiene rules and safety posters still adorn the walls of the aircraft to emphasise the hostel’s unique theme. The cock-pit is the most popular room to reserve as the pilots original controls (deactivated obviously) remain; a dream come true for any fan of ‘Thunderbirds’.

Proud inventor Oscar Dios was quoted: ‘I saw this plane and I instantly knew it would be perfect for a hotel. It had been in service for Pan Am, Singapore Airlines and many others. I knew I could give it a new lease of life’.
Two nights at the Jumbo Stay hostel cost £189 per person, a reasonable price for such a very distinctive experience. As this new idea is only just taking off, it looks the mile high club may be gaining quite a few extra members now thanks to Jumbo Stay…

Article by Emma Boyle