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Thursday January 29, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Scottish APD Cut Will Hit Other UK Regions

Former Leader of the Scottish Nationalists SNP Alex Salmond has reiterated his party's pledge to slash Air Passenger Duty. Speaking to the British Air Transport Association (BATA) last night, he said APD is a "millstone around the neck of this industry and of the Scottish economy. The Scottish government intends to reduce APD."

The coalition government in Westminster published proposals last week to devolve APD to Scotland in the next Parliament. And Salmond insisted last night: "The Scottish Government is determined to reduce APD initially by half and, in consultation with the aviation industry, see what the reaction is."

The APD move will be good news for passengers flying from Scotland and for Scottish airports, but it will hit the competitiveness of airports in the North of England, and will also impact on airports in Northern Ireland as airlines gravitate towards main Scottish airports Edinburgh and Glasgow to set up new routes and increase flight rotations. Northern Ireland of course is the only region of the UK with a land border with another EU jurisdiction which has no APD and is particularly hard hit by the tax.

"ABTA is calling for the UK Government to ensure that rates of APD are consistent and competitive across the UK. A cut in one part of the UK is unacceptable and the most competitive rate should be matched for the benefit of the whole of UK plc and all UK consumers," said ABTA CEO Mark Tanzer.


Thomas Cook add more Orlando flights from Belfast

Thomas Cook Airlines has announced that it is adding another three flights to Florida for Summer 2015 direct from Belfast International Airport.

This is in addition to the already announced flights to Florida, Las Vegas and Cuba. The services will operate on the Airbus A330 fleet and are on sale now.

Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, said, "This expansion of services to Florida will be a big hit with local holidaymakers who now have more choice direct from their local airport. We are delighted that Thomas Cook are continuing to expand in the Northern Ireland holiday market."

The additional Belfast flights to Orlando in Summer 15, more than doubling additional capacity, will now depart on Fridays for 14 nights on the latest A330 with 49 Premium and 265 economy seats on the following dates - June 26, July 3 and 4 September 2015.

This is in addition to the existing flights from Belfast to Orlando on June 30 and July 7.


Plan to Store Air Passenger Details

Air passengers flying in and out of Europe will have their personal information provided at check-in stored on police databases for up to five years if a new European Commission anti-terror plan goes ahead.

The plan would require 42 pieces of information on every passenger, including which travel agent they used, their bank card details, meal preferences and their addresses to be stored on a central European database.

Although civil liberties campaigners are trying to block the move, most European interior ministers including British home secretary Teresa May are backing the proposal, saying it will allow security services to track potential jihadists as they fly across the Continent. Airlines are already obliged to provide data on individual passengers to British security services to allow them to intercept terrorist suspects.

Another Carrier to Canada from Dublin

Dublin airport is to get a fifth Canadian route. French airline Europe Airpost is to operate a new direct scheduled summer service between Dublin and Halifax, Novia Scotia this summer.

The new route, which will operate from the beginning of July until mid September, will boost Canadian tourism to Ireland and also offer a new direct destination in North America for travellers from all over Ireland.

Europe Airpost, which is the French subsidiary of Dublin-based ASL Aviation Group, has an existing charter operation at Dublin Airport, but the new weekly Halifax service will be its first scheduled service from Dublin.


Updated Range of AA CityPacks

As many people start planning their breaks for the year, The AA is publishing its updated range of fabulous CityPacks to 17 of the world's top destinations.

This popular pocket guide series has successfully helped tourists explore top cities for the past 25 years. The new cover design is easily recognisable as the AA and calls on its long tradition of information travellers can trust.

CityPacks are invaluable for first-time visitors who want to get the best from their trip. Each guide recommends the 'Top 25' must-see sights. Readers can then delve deeper into the city with the 'More to See' sights, which are full of hidden gems that will become firm favourites. The 'Further Afield' section highlights those great places outside the city that shouldn't be missed.

The AA is known for its mapping and the CityPacks don't disappoint with a durable pull-out map that pinpoints all the sights. If there is an underground or metro system in the city, the stops are marked on the map so finding your way around is easy. There is also a handy transport map on the cover. The pull-out map is weather and tear-resistant, making it perfect for everyday use on holiday. The AA CityPacks are a must for all travellers whether it's New York, Florence or Singapore or any of the destinations in the CityPack series.


Finnair and oneworld Alliance Most Punctual

Finnair had the best on-time performance in 2014 among European major carriers with 90.58 per cent of flights arriving on time, according to FlightStats.

FlightStats, the airline industry data services company, also recognised the oneworld alliance, which consists of 15 leading airlines including Finnair from each global region and their affiliates, as the most reliably punctual airline alliance globally, with a collective on-time performance rate of 79.97 per cent.

The award is based on FlightStats' analysis of over 32 million flights operated by 250 airlines globally in the past year - which clearly showed that Finnair and oneworld members maintained a more punctual operation across the 12 months than their counterparts in the other global airline groups.

Call for New Runways at Heathrow and Gatwick

ABTA - The Travel Association is urging the Airports Commission to call for planning permission for an additional runway at both Gatwick and Heathrow in response to the Airports Commission's final consultation on the location of a new runway. ABTA also renewed calls on Government to act urgently upon the Commission's recommendations, expected after this year's General Election.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick have made compelling cases for a new runway, and both cases for expansion are logical: Heathrow is full and Gatwick is operating at full capacity at peak times. Additional capacity is essential at both airports to cope with growing passenger demand, and to ensure a seamless passenger experience.

Whilst the Commission will recommend only one net additional runway, they have also said that there will be demand for a second new runway to be operational in the South East by 2050. ABTA believes it is appropriate that both Gatwick and Heathrow are given the go-ahead for planning in the next Parliament, with market forces and passenger demand dictating which runway is built first.


Valentine's Day Specials in the Big Apple

NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation, is encouraging New Yorkers and visitors to share a special Valentine's Day experience in New York City next month.

Whether visitors are traveling as a family or hoping to meet their one true love, New York City's five boroughs offer a range of fun and romantic experiences this Valentine's Day.

"The city that never sleeps is an ideal weekend getaway for loved ones and friends on Valentine's Day," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. "With experiences ranging from extravagant hotel packages and decadent meals, to lighthearted movie tours and 5K races, New York City has something for everyone this Valentine's Day."

Valentine's Day events and activities taking place throughout the five boroughs of the Big Apple include a Romantic Movie Moments tour, a Cupids Chase 5K, Romeo and Juliet at the Lincoln Center, a Valentine's Day Cabaret and many more events in the city and its hotels.

For more information, visit Travel Insurance

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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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