Friday, July 25, 2014
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Thursday July 24, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Virgin Atlantic Flies From Belfast Next Summer

Next summer Northern Ireland holidaymakers will be able to fly from Belfast to Orlando on Virgin Atlantic.

The airline says it is expanding its existing Orlando services to help meet high demand to one of its flagship leisure destinations and will be the only scheduled airline to fly this route.

Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said: "I am delighted we are able to offer customers in Northern Ireland the opportunity to travel on Virgin Atlantic to one of our most popular leisure destinations next summer. It's incredibly important to us to offer customers from all across the UK access to our long haul network during peak travel periods."

Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport added: "This is one of the most exciting announcements we have had at Belfast International Airport in recent years. We are delighted that an airline with the status and reputation of Virgin Atlantic has decided to expand its network by adding Northern Ireland departures. This will be the only Virgin branded operation from the island of Ireland to an incredibly popular holiday destination."

"The route will form part of Virgin Atlantic's Joint Venture with Delta Air Lines, with the US carrier offering the service for sale under the codeshare agreement. Customers will be able to use Delta's services out of Orlando International Airport to connect onwards in the US, for example from Orlando to Dallas, Texas.

A Boeing 747-400 aircraft will operate the seasonal service on Thursdays in June and July, commencing on June 25, 2015. The aircraft will be configured with 14 Upper Class seats, 66 Premium Economy seats and 375 seats in Economy.

Save on Parking by Booking Online

Consumer Council research has revealed that consumers can save up to 60 per cent by pre-booking on-site long stay airport car parking instead of paying at the gate.

A saving of up to £52 is currently possible for a pre-booked stay of 14 days, meaning that passengers can have more money to spend at the other end of their flight or to pay for that extra suitcase.

With the cost of airport car-parking a concern for passengers jetting off on holiday or for work, the Consumer Council has compared the on-site long stay parking tariffs of the three NI airports and found that pre-booking car parking came out on top as the best value for money.

Speaking about the results of the research, Jenny Robinson from the Consumer Council said: "The savings for booking car parking in advance can be significant. What is obvious is that consumers aren't getting the best price possible when they pay at the gate. For a ten day stay we found that £33 can be saved at George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA), a £36 saving at Belfast International Airport (BIA) and a £39 saving at City of Derry Airport (CODA) by pre-booking car parking.

"The most important thing is that passengers have a choice, they can shop around and don't have to pay a premium to park their car if they consider all their options before setting off. Booking car parking even a week in advance of your trip can see a substantial saving whilst public transport and taxis are also alternatives."

New Refuel Menu from Flybe Launched

Flybe has launched its brand new on-board 'Refuel' menu that features an enhanced choice of good value breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages with healthier options and produce from much-loved foodie brands, all of which reflect the energy and vibrancy of Flybe's ongoing brand.

The revitalised menu focuses on elevating the airline's customer experience by creating more quality choice, stand-out service and product delivery. 'Refuel' has been shaped by customer research conducted earlier this year that confirmed the airline's passengers' desire for healthier, higher quality products.

Creating a 'deli in the sky' feel, with a hand-picked selection of grazing-inspired options, key menu additions include a Tapas Special with basil and garlic olives, chorizo, breadsticks, savour crackers, hummus, Mediterranean vegetable pate and Pimms, and The Food Doctor's couscous and lentil wholesome pot. There's also a healthy range of products from Saviour Snacks.

Flybe's Director of Marketing Martin Smith commented: "The insight from our research was very clear - only the right choice of on-board food and beverages, coupled with good value pricing, will be enticing to passengers. So we've listened closely to what our customers said they would like and, as a result, have made some radical enhancements to the menu to meet, and hopefully exceed, the needs of those who choose to fly with us."

Etihad Flights Increased to 10 Weekly

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has increased its Abu Dhabi-Dublin service from 10 flights per week, to double daily.

The frequency boost of 40 per cent now provides 8,988 seats each week between the capital city of the UAE and Dublin.

The schedule for the double daily flights will ensure connectivity both ways with 800 weekly connections to 45 Etihad Airways destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and India including Bangkok, Beijing, Brisbane, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Perth, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

The announcement of the increase also marks the commencement of Etihad Airways services to the Western Australian city of Perth. The airline will offer six weekly flights from Dublin to Perth with seamless connections at its Abu Dhabi hub.

France Rejects Hike in Tourist Tax

France has thrown out plans to hike its tourist tax by 500 per cent.

Parliament had supported the proposal which would see a tax of £6.40 a night (8 Euros), rather than the current £1.20 (1.50 Euros). In Paris this figure would rise to £8 per bed night (10 Euros) to pay for transport infrastructure projects.

But the National Assembly rejected the increase with a large majority of 92 votes against 10.

Laurent Fabius, the foreign secretary, had said the measure was "dangerous and totally contrary to the promotion of tourism, a priority for jobs".

Strong Pound Sees Resort Prices Come Down

The strong pound is making most European destinations cheaper this summer but the Costa del Sol and Sunny Beach in Bulgaria come out cheapest for family meals and drinks.

According to the Post Office Travel Money Family Holiday Report, Sunny Beach has seen an 18.1 per cent year-on-year fall in prices.

Sorrento, despite still being the most expensive resort to eat out in, has seen meal costs plunge 39 per cent year on year.

In the Croatian resort of Porec, meal prices have fallen by over 46 per cent, however, local prices in Marmaris, Turkey, have risen by more than 7 per cent.

Resort spending is also on the up with holidaymakers saying they have spent 16.5 per cent more than previous holidays.

Research revealed that Croatia is 50 per cent cheaper than last year, while Corfu and Samos are 8 per cent cheaper.

Further afield the Caribbean island of Dominican Republic is 23 per cent cheaper than the previous year, while holidays to Barbados and St Lucia are also both down on average 20 per cent.

Spain remains the number one destination for the UK holiday market, says ABTA, as operators and agents prepare for the school holidays while Florida remains the number one long haul choice for families while Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris and New York are top of the list for short breaks.

'Swim Safe' Campaign by ABTA

ABTA has launched a campaign urging holidaymakers to "swim safe" this summer. The campaign will reveal research from YouGov about holiday swimming habits and provide tips on how to be water aware this summer.

ABTA has developed advice on its website and will be distributing tips across its social media channels throughout the summer. The Association is also urging its travel agent members to help get the message across to their clients.

The campaign is running in association with the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) whose recent drowning prevention week highlighted the need for water safety campaigning. It is also supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

"Swimming is an important part of so many people's holidays, and as we head into peak summer season, we will be reminding holidaymakers to follow some straightforward tips to ensure they 'swim safe'," said Victoria Bacon, ABTA's Head of Communications.

Turkish Airlines Scoops Top Awards Again

Turkish Airlines, which operates a daily service to Istanbul from Dublin and is looking at starting a service from Belfast, has been chosen Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Southern Europe and awarded Best Business Class Onboard Catering and Best Business Class Lounge Dining in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards.

Skytrax had become the world leader in ranking aviation services. With no outside sponsorship, advertising or influence, it is the most respected global airline passenger study in the industry.

This year's awards were based on the results of over 18 million passenger surveys, with more than 105 nationalities participating, covering 245 airlines. Turkish Airlines scored a resounding success at the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards, with air travellers voting the airline as the Best Airline in Europe, the fourth year running.

By adding 'Flying Chef' service for Business Class passengers on its all long-haul and some of short-haul international flights, Turkish Airlines has been also named as the winner in the category, Best Business Class Catering. And was also awarded in the category, Best Business Class Lounge Dining for its seamless catering service that has been offered in its newest addition to the guest comfort; its expanded and refurbished lounge at Ataturk Airport, Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul.

The results of the 2014 World Airline Awards were announced recently at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

Increased Security on Flights to the US

The recent security crackdown means that all passengers flying into or out of the UK must ensure all electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are sufficiently charged to be turned on.

Any devices that can't be turned on might be confiscated, the Department for Transport has warned.

Passengers flying from the UK to the United States had already been advised of the new rule, which is in line with new security measures introduced in the US in response to a terror threat. The DfT has now extended the ruling to other flights to and from the UK. In a statement it said: "In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft.

"Passengers flying into or out of the UK are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel."

The Department said that "for obvious reasons" it would not elaborate on the routes affected.


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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