News Clips for Corporate Travel Management: January 2007

1 No Smoke without Fire?

Conflicting reports hit the e-wires this week first saying that Virgin Atlantic plans to team up with AirAsia and easyJet to form a Malaysia-based alliance that will fly long-distance routes for low fares.

However the report in Malaysia's Star newspaper which claimed that they are taking part in a global low-cost alliance with Malaysian carrier Air Asia was later strongly denied by both Virgin Atlantic and easyJet .

Malaysian newspapers have reported that AirAsia, easyJet and the Virgin Group were in talks to form a global no-frills alliance that would offer cheap flights within Asia as well between Europe and Australia via Kuala Lumpur.

Source: Air Travel News

2 GNER still going East

GNER announced that they have entered into an agreement with the Department for Transport for a management agreement to operate services on the InterCity East Coast Mainline effective from 10th December 2006.

This replaces the franchise agreement with a management agreement, which is expected to run for a period of up to 15 months to 31st March 2008. The franchise for InterCity East Coast will be re-tendered, and the Department for Transport has announced that it is inviting Expressions of Interest.

Under the terms of the management agreement, the key financial rewards and risks of the franchise agreement will pass to the Department for Transport, and GNER will earn an incentive fee based on revenue and cost performance. Sea Containers, GNER’s parent company, will continue to guarantee a performance bond, at a reduced amount.

It will also continue to deliver key passenger benefits, including station improvements, re-engined and refurbished HST trains and a half-hourly service between London and Leeds.

Last month GNER was voted Britain’s Best Rail Operator in the inaugural British Travel Awards and passenger satisfaction ratings are at an all-time high, at 90%.

Source: GNER website

3 Business Travel Show keeps growing

The Business Travel Show, now in its 13th year, will take place at London's Earls Court 2 from February 13-15, 2007.

The show aims to help visitors meet and network with suppliers, develop new relationships, make deals, save time and money, and learn about the hottest topics affecting the business travel industry.

Business Traveller magazine will also be presenting the Cellars in the Sky wine awards to winning airlines. Visitors will have the opportunity to try the winning wines at special tasting sessions and meet the Business Traveller team.

4 British Airways latest Baggage Changes

British Airways’ new baggage policy, which comes into effect on February 13, has been changed following an uproar from its premium passengers.

The airline was originally due to introduce a new policy last October but delayed its introduction following the chaos at airports worldwide in the wake of the August 10 terrorist scare. But when the new policy was first announced last June, the airline was attacked by frequent travellers upset at what this would mean for them.

 As a result, the airline has now quietly changed the number of bags which it intends to allow passengers travelling in First Class and Club World to check in from two, each weighing up to 23kg, to three.

BA’s existing hold luggage policy allows First passengers two bags weighing up to 50kg in total and Club World passengers two bags weighing up to 30kg in total.

The changes also mean that Club Europe passengers will be able to take two suitcases of up to 23kg, an increase of 6kg on the current total limit of 40kg.

Under the new policy, World Traveller Plus passengers will also have their baggage allowance doubled and will now be able to check in two suitcases of 23kg each.

Business travellers who like to take a single, large suitcase on trips will also be disappointed that the changes to the policy have not gone further.

New excess baggage charges come into force on February 13. Additional bags beyond these new limits are charged at a flat rate of £120 long-haul, £60 short-haul and £30 domestic, with a 20% discount if paid online in advance. Currently, excess baggage is charged per kilo, with the price dependent on the route.

Source: BusinessTravelWorld

5 Express goes up - Connect goes Down

Getting to Heathrow from Paddington has suddenly become cheaper.

Until now there hasn't been much of a price gap between the fares charged by Heathrow Connect (a semi-fast service operating every 30 mins to Terminals 1,2 and 3) and Heathrow Express (a non-stop service every 15 mins serving all the terminals).

Heathrow Connect has reduced its fares to £6.90 one-way and £12.90 return with a day return offered for £11.90.

At the same time, Heathrow Express has raised fares to £15.50 and £29 respectively although passengers can save £1 by booking online. Heathrow Express also has a £16 day return although certain time restrictions apply.

A spokesperson for both train services denied that Heathrow Connect was starting a price war.

Source: BusinessTravellerOnline

6 Management Solutions Forum dates confirmed for 2007

Have you registered yet for our Forums which will be held in London in the Hesperia-Victoria Hotel on Tuesday 24th April and Thursday 11th October 2007?

These excellent Networking forums where experts are prepared to share their knowledge and experience are continuing to attract interest from buyers and suppliers.

We are in the process of agreeing the agendas and hope to be announcing our sponsors in the near future.

7 German travel costs 6% more (maybe GB is not so bad after all!)

Travelling around Germany became more expensive on January 1. On that date the country's rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) rose from 16 to 19 percent. The increase is expected to raise £13 billion for the government.

For business people it will increase the cost of booking a domestic flight, taking a train, hiring a car or staying and dining in a hotel.

How will it affect you?

Trains and Planes: Unlike the UK (where no VAT is levied on travel tickets) airline and train tickets for use within Germany are currently liable for 16 per cent VAT whether or not they are bought in that country.

Travellers taking the train will pay the extra price from January 1. Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) says it will pass on the cost of the extra VAT along with a further increase to cover the rising costs of fuel. As a result train fares will cost 5.6 per cent more.

Domestic air fares will also rise. Lufthansa says it is passing on the extra 3 per cent VAT for all domestic tickets for flights on and from January 1. The increase covers purely domestic flights such as, say, Cologne-Berlin or Munich-Frankfurt, bought in or outside Germany.

There's better news for travellers booking international tickets. These aren't liable for VAT and neither is VAT levied on domestic flights if tagged onto an international service even when a stopover is made.

Budget carriers like German Wings must also pay the extra VAT. But the increase won't be noticeable because tiered pricing and yield management systems allow them to disguise the extra tax.

Car rental: It looks as though the car rental firms are passing the extra 3 per cent directly to their customers. When Business Traveller checked the cost of renting a Mercedes C class from central Berlin in December, a one day rental with Hertz cost Euros 94.97 (including taxes and so on). When checked the rate for same vehicle rented for a day on January 9, Hertz quoted Euros 98.42.

Rival firm Sixt quoted Business Traveller a rate of Euros 68 a day to rent a VW Golf at Cologne airport in December. The same rental on January 9 was quoted at Euros 69.76.

Hotels: It's a confusing picture. Some hotels are openly adding the extra VAT to rates while others are including it as part of their annual rate review. Then again, some properties say they will leave rates unchanged in January (which is an off-peak time) but then load the extra tax onto their prices at busier times. The extra VAT will also apply to meals so hoteliers may increase their restaurant and bar prices.

Source: BusinessTravellerOnline

8 Bristol Airport chaos in the wet

Flights to and from Bristol airport have been cancelled throughout the weekend as more airlines join a boycott of the airport's runway.

EasyJet cancelled all 63 flights to and from Bristol Friday saying it couldn't trust the runway to stop its planes skidding in wet weather. More than 8,000 passengers were affected and disruption is set to continue into Saturday and Sunday.

Four planes have skidded in recent days on landing, according to an easyJet spokesman.

British Airways also joined the boycott. The airline had already cancelled five departures Friday when it announced it has also cancelled flights on Saturday and Sunday.

Customers booked to travel on cancelled services to and from Bristol can re-book on a BA flight from either Heathrow, Gatwick or Birmingham can obtain a refund. Another scheduled airline, XL, has also scrapped flights this weekend.

EasyJet is by far the busiest carrier at Bristol. Customers are entitled to a refund of the fare paid or a free transfer on to another easyJet flight within the next month.

Source: TheTimesOnline

9 Business Class airlines spread to France

On the 3rd January the All-business class transatlantic carrier L'Avion launched its inaugural flight between Newark Liberty International Airport and Orly South Airport outside of Paris.

Flying Boeing 737s fitted with 90 business-class seats, L'Avion is taking the London-bound models of Eos and MaxJet to the French market.

With roundtrip fares starting at $1,599, the carrier is launching with limited service, but in March will move toward its full schedule of two daily flights except on Saturdays. The carrier last month began taking reservations in France and today launched an introductory offer for U.S. customers.

The carrier in November took possession of its first aircraft and last month changed its name from Elysair to L'Avion.

L'Avion is the most recent entrant to the transatlantic all-business class fray, joining the likes of Eos, MaxJet and Silverjet, which will take to the skies later this month with its flagship Newark-Luton route.

Although L'Avion is touting its service as the first and only all-business class carrier between the New York area and Paris, Eos late last year said that with an infusion of cash it is expanding its fleet of Boeing 757s, listing Paris as a possible new market. Eos said new routes, which also could include Zurich, would be rolled out some time this year.

Source: BTNOnline; link for access to L’Avion website.

10 Virgin Trains celebrate their 10th Birthday

As Virgin Trains celebrated its 10th birthday, it announces that the number of passenger journeys made on its routes has risen by a staggering 61.5%, easily outstripping the national average of 40%.

There are two Virgin Trains franchises - Virgin West Coast and Virgin CrossCountry. In the last 12 months more than 42m passenger journeys have been made with Virgin Trains – 16m more than when the company began in 1997.

Virgin CrossCountry has seen massive growth of 75% since 1997, with passenger numbers up from 12m to 21m, while on Virgin West Coast passenger numbers are up 39% from 14m to 19.4m.

Virgin says that customers have been enticed back to rail following the introduction of two new train fleets, the Voyager and Pendolino fleets and a vastly improved timetable.

The Virgin West Coast timetable has been improved with the Manchester – London service revamped to run every 30 minutes. In the last three years the rail share of the London – Manchester air/rail market has risen dramatically from well under half to nearly two thirds to 61 per cent. Source: AirandbusinessTravelNews click on link for full story.

11 Edinburgh's links with the outside world will be boosted.

Budget airline Easyjet will serve three new business destinations from Scotland's capital city while Continental will double its flights on the New York route.

The first new Easyjet route, a daily service to Madrid, will start on February 25. It will be followed by a daily service to Munich on April 4 along with a daily service to Milan Malpensa starting on May 21. Return fares start at £56 for Madrid and Milan along with £64 for Munich.

At present, Edinburgh has no direct services at all to Milan and Munich.

In early May, US carrier Continental will begin twice daily flights to New York Newark. Flights feed into Continental's Newark hub with connection possibilities throughout the US hinterland.

Source: BusinessTravellerOnline

12 Continental expands entertainment

Continental Airlines has completed the installation of Audio/Video on Demand (AVOD) in the BusinessFirst cabins of its entire fleet of 41 Boeing 757 aircraft used primarily on transatlantic flights to/from its New York hub at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Continental also plans to install AVOD in both the BusinessFirst and economy cabins of its Boeing 777 fleet. The first 777 with the new system is scheduled to enter service in March 2007.

With airline passengers carrying on more portable electronic devices like laptop computers, personal DVD players and digital music players, the airline is also increasing the number of in-seat AC power ports on the Boeing 757.

Power ports are available in each of the 16 BusinessFirst seats on these aircraft and at economy class seats located forward of the overwing emergency exit. Each set of three seats has two receptacles providing electricity.

Source: AirlineTravelNews

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