Monday, December 22, 2014
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Thursday December 18, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Four Million to Head Off for Christmas

ABTA - The Travel Association estimates that four million UK passengers will be heading overseas this Christmas and New Year period December 19 to January 3, with the peak travel days predicted to be December 20, 21 and 28 on the weekends either side of Christmas.

Holidaymakers are either heading off for some much needed winter sun or to colder climes for snow, spa experiences and mountain activities. Winter sun lovers are heading to the Canary Islands, Tunisia, Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands and for those flying long haul Dubai, Mexico, Cuba and Egypt. Winter sports lovers are heading off to the continent with Switzerland, France, Austria and Italy the most popular destinations for those looking for a traditional festive experience in a snowy destination.

Popular for New Year's Eve breaks are the cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin and Dublin, and domestically Edinburgh and London lead the way.

Millions of people will be leaving the country through the major airports, including Heathrow where 1.7 million people are estimated to be leaving, Gatwick 800,000, Stansted 430,000, in addition around 380,000 will leave from Manchester and 160,000 from Birmingham and 50,000 from Leeds Bradford International. Thousands of passengers will also be leaving the UK through Glasgow and Edinburgh airports as well as large numbers through other regional airports throughout the country.

Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said: "The Christmas and New Year period is one of the busiest times of year for the travel industry with millions heading off to spend time with friends and family or taking advantage of bank holidays for a well-earned winter break. This year is no exception with holidaymakers looking for winter sun or a traditional Christmas experience. As always the roads and railways will be very busy so travellers should leave plenty of time to make their connections and check for engineering work before leaving home - as well as ensuring they take out an adequate insurance policy."

Meeters and Greeters at International Airport

Meanwhile, locally, Belfast International Airport is gearing up for the tens of thousands of passengers who will come through the terminal this Christmas.

The airport is expecting around 150,000 passengers, most of whom will be making their way home to spend Christmas with their families.

On three of the busiest days - Friday, Sunday and Monday - the airport will handle around 40,000 passengers arriving on over 300 flights.

This year, arriving passengers and meeters and greeters will see the airport festooned in an abundance of Christmas decorations with choirs and Irish dancers adding to the festive mood.

Belfast International airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: "We're going all out to make Christmas really memorable for the thousands who will use our facility.

"When they come off their flight and into Arrivals, we want each and every one of them to know the festive fun starts right there."


Call for Government to Compensate Air Travellers

Hundreds of Northern Ireland travellers were caught up in delays or cancellations due to last week's air traffic control failure over London.

Now over 50s operator Saga has called on the Government to compensate the many passengers who suffered in the chaos. Scores of flights were grounded on Friday after a technical glitch caused the NATS internal phone system to fail, leading to the closure of London airspace.

Disruption continued into the weekend and while London airports were worst affected - with as many as 10,000 passengers at Heathrow disrupted - flights to and from other UK and European airports were also hit.

However, airlines are claiming that as the delays were caused by a technical glitch beyond their control they will not be obliged to compensate passengers under EU regulations.

Saga Travel's Louis Myers said the Government, NATS majority shareholder, should compensate those affected, or at 'the very least' refund the Air Passenger Duty for those delayed by more than five hours. "We hope the Government review of the incident will include a call for compensation for the flying public," he said.

Iceland Bookings Best in easyJet Network

EasyJet, Belfast International's biggest user airline, is delighted with the advance bookings for its newest route, to Icelandic capital Reykjavik. In fact the route attracted the best bookings of any new destination in Europe announced by the airline recently.

Commenting on the route, which started last Friday, easyJet's Head of Ireland Ali Gayward said: "We are really excited to have launched Ireland's first direct connection from Belfast International Airport to Reykjavik. This new year round service will bring the number of easyJet flights to Iceland up to 26 a week and we will carry in excess of 200,000 passengers per year to and from Reykjavik across all of these flights. Over 30,000 of these are expected to originate from Belfast.

"It is a particularly exciting addition to our base at Belfast International due to the eclectic mix of activities and scenery on offer and we are confident that it will provide a popular addition to easyJet's network."

Easyjet are also looking at starting other new routes from Belfast - these are thought to include a German destination and Copenhagen.


Airline's Christmas Seat Sale Gets Underway

The Aer Lingus Christmas seat sale began yesterday with flights on offer from £25.99 one-way from Belfast City Airport.

Savvy bargain hunters can pick up a flight to their favourite summer sun destinations from Belfast to Malaga, Faro and Palma for 2015 starting from £35.99. Flights to London Heathrow and London Gatwick are also available from just £25.99. And Aer Lingus has also introduced a new family discount scheme, called Family First.

Family First is aimed at giving even greater value to families offering half price on checked baggage and advance seat selection for children aged 2 to 11 years, travelling on short haul flights. Aer Lingus is the family friendly airline, taking great care of all the little crew on board.

Aer Lingus Chief Revenue Office, Mike Rutter said: "Irish Families have chosen to entrust their precious holidays to Aer Lingus for nearly 80 years. This year they know they can continue to trust their holiday plans to Aer Lingus as we reinforce our offer to Irish Families, with super value prices to the Sun and our new Family discount scheme.

"Aer Lingus is proud to be the preferred option by 8 out of 10 customers in the Irish Market and we hope today's announcement will cement that preference."

Take the Stress Out of Festive Travel

The run up to the festive season can be a stressful time, but leading ferry company, Stena Line believes that taking the ferry this Christmas instead of flying will take the strain out of travelling.

Travelling with Stena means passengers won't have to worry about squeezing Christmas presents for their loved ones into their suitcases or removing shoes or coats when they pass through security, excess baggage charges or long queues at check-in.

Instead passengers can relax and enjoy shorter check-in times, plenty of leg-room, great food, lots to do onboard and shopping at their leisure with great savings of up to 50 per cent on last minute Christmas gifts and treats.

Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager said: "Customers can avail of great value fares this Christmas like Rail and Sail from only £29 per single journey which is an affordable, convenient and comfortable way to visit friends and family. They can also take advantage of the current low petrol prices by travelling with their car from only £69 single for a car and driver.

"At Stena Line, we are on hand to take some of the stress of travelling away by providing a hugely enjoyable experience ensuring passengers have a much needed rest as they sail across the Irish Sea, arriving refreshed for the onward journey and ready to start their festive break on the right note," Marc continued.


December Specials from Ferry Operator

Meanwhile, with Christmas just around the corner, P&O Ferries is also celebrating by giving passengers, travelling between Northern Ireland and Scotland an extra special gift this December.

The UK's largest ferry operator is offering a new lead in fare from just £69 each way for a car and driver on sailings until the end of December between Larne Cairnryan.

Commenting on the Christmas offer, Neal Mernock, Sector Director, Irish Sea at P&O Ferries said: "We are delighted to give customers this reduced lead in fare on our sailings this December.

"At P&O Ferries, we operate the shortest, fastest and most frequent crossings between Larne and Cairnryan, so this offer is a great opportunity for us to provide passengers with the chance to soak up the festive atmosphere in Scotland and perhaps do some last minute Christmas shopping or see friends and family!

Oasis Travel Staff on a Christmas Mission

Santa's Little Helpers at Oasis Travel are on a crusade to make Christmas extra special for some of Northern Ireland's disadvantaged children. They're getting behind the annual Cool FM Cash for Kids Mission Christmas, collecting toys and children's gifts at Donation Points at their branches in Lisburn, Belfast's Howard Street and Lisburn Road, Bangor and Holywood up until the end tomorrow December 19.

Last year, nearly 5000 local children woke up to presents on Christmas morning thanks to the Mission Christmas appeal and applications for help are already flooding into Cool FM. Finding enough toys to make every Christmas dream come true may sound like a tough challenge but, with 700 Donation Points right across Northern Ireland, the project organisers are confident that they'll meet their goal.

Launching Oasis Travel's support for the campaign, Managing Director Sandra Corkin said: "Most of us have families of our own so we really understand how hard it is for parents who may not be able to give Santa a helping hand. We're delighted to give them some extra support and we know that our customers and local community will be generous in their response to this great annual appeal.

"We're asking everyone to bring us unwrapped gifts and toys suitable for boys and girls of all ages... and, as a mother of a teenager myself, may I put in a special word to encourage people to remember older children too when they choose their present? All donations will be welcome and, if you can't think what to buy, remember you can also donate cash online with Cool FM."

Oasis Travel staff in Howard Street, Belfast, are pictured right, surrounded by toys donated by the generous public to their travel agency's Mission Christmas Donation Point.

Public e-shot Takes a Christmas Break

This is the last Northern Ireland Travel News Public e-shot before Christmas and New Year holidays. The next Public e-shot will be on Thursday, January 8.

The staff at Northern Ireland Travel News wishes everyone in the Northern Ireland Travel Trade a Happy Christmas and a Successful New Year. 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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