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Thursday October 16, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Airline Bouncing Back With New Route

Flybe is committed to the Northern Ireland market and is bouncing back after its financial overhaul which included redundancies in the past year.

That was the message from Paul Simmons, Chief Commercial Officer for the major Belfast City Airport operator who was guest speaker at the annual Hospitality Exchange lunch in Belfast yesterday.

Simmons, who was recruited from easyJet where he was the man responsible for speedy boarding and significant improvement in the low-cost carrier's fortunes, has also overseen a reversal in Flybe's operations since he joined, including a policy which focusses on load factor - the airline aims to have more people flying in future but at lower fares.

A big date for Flybe will be October 27 when the airline launches its new route to London City Airport with three flights a day, morning, lunchtime and evening.

"We will be pitching fare levels to attract leisure as well as business travellers," said Paul Simmons. "London City Airport is in London city, not miles away, and there is a Docklands Light Railway service from the airport every few minutes."

Westminster is just 25 minutes away by Tube (Jubilee Line) from London City Airport while the Light Railway from London City connects to Tower Gateway and Bank in 20 minutes.

London City Airport is also convenient to the 02 Centre for concerts, Canary Wharf and the financial district, and the huge Westfield shopping centre at Stratford.

Cut APD to Help Save UK's Airports

The government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are being urged to do more to help airports, especially the smaller ones, by cutting Air Passenger Duty (APD).

The call came yesterday from the Airport Operators Association as the final commercial fights operated from Blackpool airport before it closed.

AOA Chief Executive, Darren Caplan, said: "Blackpool now joins Manston and Plymouth in the list of commercial airports which have had to close. Smaller airports are crucial for local businesses, inbound and outbound tourism, and in enabling people to visit friends and family across the UK and around the world. In some parts of the country, they are an essential lifeline.

"Smaller airports in particular have to cope with increasing fixed costs, required to enable them to fulfil their regulatory obligations. They also have to cope with an APD level which is the highest in the world and which goes up every year.

"Families are often having to pay between a quarter and half their fare in APD, which not only affects passenger numbers but also affects route development and the frequency which airlines choose to operate."

Successful Belfast Fear of Flying Course

Eighty local people are celebrating overcoming their phobia of flying after attending easyJet's Fearless Flyer course in Belfast recently.

The group took part in the two-day course, run by phobia expert Lawrence Leyton and senior easyJet pilot Chris Foster, who together explained how an aircraft works, dispelled common flying myths and taught participants a unique set of 'mind tools' to manage their fear. Then they put the skills they'd learnt to the test and travelled onboard a special easyJet flight, which included a full commentary in the air from Captain Foster.

The recent Belfast course now brings the total number of successful Fearless Flyer participants nationwide to more than 1,500 since launching almost two years ago. Of these, 10 per cent are from the Belfast courses.

Ali Gayward, easyJet's Head of Northern Ireland, said: "Our Fearless Flyer courses have been a flyaway success with more than 95 per cent of our participants overcoming their fear of flying. We're really pleased that we've helped to change the lives of so many people already, and we look forward to welcoming our new Belfast fearless flyers onboard our flights soon from Belfast International Airport, where we fly more than 3.3million passengers every year."

New Dublin Dreamliner Service to Los Angeles

Dublin Airport will have a new direct service to Los Angeles next summer. Ethiopian Airlines is to launch a new route from Addis Ababa to Los Angeles with a stopover in Dublin.

The airport will gain two new year-round direct routes as a result of this decision, as Ethiopian will be selling both the Dublin-LA segment and the Dublin-Addis Ababa segment separately.

Ethiopian will fly three return flights per week from Addis Ababa to Los Angeles via Dublin using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The aircraft will have a two-hour stopover in Dublin. Ireland has granted Ethiopian what are termed fifth freedom rights, which enable the airline to sell tickets on all sectors of the new Addis Ababa to Los Angeles route. The Dublin-Addis flight will connect with Ethiopian's extensive African network.

DAA Chief Executive Kevin Toland said the new routes would enhance Dublin Airport's position as a growing hub for transatlantic flights. "We are delighted to welcome Ethiopian Airlines to Ireland. This new service will reconnect Dublin with Los Angeles and also brings unrivalled connectivity into Africa, as Ethiopian has the largest number of African destinations of any airline."

Ethiopian has connections from its Addis Ababa hub to African destinations such as Johannesburg, Khartoum, Lagos, Nairobi, and Zanzibar and the new Dublin flight will be timed to offer the best range of possible onward connections in Africa.The new route will commence on June 15 and will operate three days per week.

Urgent Action Needed on Airport Capacity

Urgent action on airport capacity, and further review and reduction of air passenger duty are areas that the next Government - however it may be made up - must act on.

That's the reaction of Travel Trade association ABTA to the Labour Party's announcement recently to boost tourism in the UK. Labour's Harriet Harman had announced an eight point plan which included creating a robust and efficient visa system, simplifying rail and coach transport fare structures to enable visitors to understand it better, and end the current dither and delay on air transport.

Said an ABTA statement: "From an ABTA member perspective, urgent action on airport capacity, the successful completion of consumer protection reforms, and further review and reduction of air passenger duty are areas that the next Government - however it may be made up - must act on. Travel and tourism creates jobs and wealth in every constituency across the country, and this announcement highlights the importance that Labour has put on the industry as an economic generator, and a vote winner. We will watch with interest to see the priority given to tourism by the other major parties on the road to 2015."

Glasgow Family Option for Spooky Season

With the Hallowe'en mid-term school break only a couple of weeks away, what better way to celebrate the spooky season by doing something different this year and take a short break away to Glasgow?

Glasgow is packed with unrivalled, unique world class events and attractions, the best choice of budget and luxury hotels, restaurants and pubs - and a retail choice that's second only to London in the whole of the UK and Ireland. There are plenty of quick-and-easy ways to travel there too - by foot, bus, boat and by plane.

You can even get there and back for £10 return thanks to leading ferry company, Stena Line, which has just extended its acclaimed midweek day-return offer right up to Christmas and right through the mid-term holiday break. Just £10 gets you over to Glasgow for the day any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday right through October and on to December.

Elaine Dickie of 'People Make Glasgow' said the choice for families was endless this Hallowe'en: "Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, is a fun, exciting and welcoming place to visit at any time of the year - but Hallowe'en is a really special time, particularly for those with young families. Why not make a real break from the norm this year and try it out."

Above right are Northern Ireland's very own 'little explorers' Kitty Heavern (5) and Leo Cullen (4) who are counting down the days to half-term.

Ferry Travel in the Lap of Luxury

Meanhwile, Stena has really pushed the boat out in terms of luxurious travel as it has announced that Belfast based beauty specialists, Taylormade Treatments has taken over the operation of the Nordic Spa onboard the Belfast to Cairnryan route.

Since coming on board, local woman and owner of Taylormade Treatments Cathy Taylor and her team have extended the range of treatments on offer to include facials, manicures, pedicures, gel polish, head back and neck massage as well as Swedish massage.

The cost of looking and feeling great won't break the bank as a relaxing jacuzzi, steamy sauna and soothing massage can be enjoyed from only £10 per treatment per person and those who are booked into the Stena Plus lounge can enjoy access from as little as £5 per person.

Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager explains why customers should try out the new extended range of treatments now available onboard: "We are thrilled to join forces with Taylormade Treatments. Visitors to the spa can enjoy a real sense of affordable luxury which allows them to get their holiday off to the best possible start by indulging in some rest and relaxation. The atmosphere in the spa is one of total relaxation and the dedicated team of therapists will ensure customers leave the spa looking and feeling better than ever before," added Marc. In the picture above right model Rebekah Shirley indulges in some pampering in the Nordic Spa.

Discover Northern Ireland's Geo-Heritage

Have you ever wondered why Carrickfergus Castle was built where it was, fancied learning more about careers in Earth Science, or what the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is all about? Then why not come along to any of the events organised by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) as part of Earth Science Week which runs this week right up until Sunday.

Earth Science Week aims to raise awareness of geological heritage sites that exist throughout the UK and to promote Earth science education. Tomorrow is the Fantastic Females Earth Science Careers Day, at W5. The final event of the week is a guided tour of Carrickfergus Castle on Sunday, October 19, exploring the geological heritage of the castle.

In addition to events organized by the GSNI, there are a huge number of other activities that are taking place across Northern Ireland ranging from guided walks in the Mournes, to bus tours in the Sperrins, and to tours of the city walls in Londonderry. Many schools are also organising their own events so geo-heritage themed quizzes, excursions and demonstrations are all taking place, making for an exceptionally busy week of Earth science activities!

For a full range of events on the island of Ireland please see the website. Travel Insurance

Buy great value Travel Insurance online at Travel Insurance offer single & multi trip European & worldwide cover.

John Trew


Following seven eventful years as front-line Editor of the Belfast News Letter, John Trew wisely opted for the quieter pleasures of travel journalism.  Now, after 23 years and 270,000 miles, he is living proof that travel not only broadens the mind but the buttocks.

View John's articles

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