News Clips for Corporate Travel Management: February 2006

1 Champagne Anyone?

On Tuesday 28 March 2006 Air Turquoise will commence daily flights from Luton to Rheims, in the heart of the French Champagne region.

Operating an ATR 42 turboprop, flight time is just 1 hour 20 minutes. Rheims Champagne Airport is conveniently situated three miles north of the city, 90 minutes east of Paris by road and one hour from Disneyland.

Launched in June 2005, Air Turquoise has already carried over 20,000 passengers on its network from Rheims, which currently includes daily flights to Nice, Bordeaux and Marseilles with Toulouse added from 4 April.

Source: Airline Business TravelNews; Air Turquoise visit http://www.airturquoise.com

2 Another success story

Harry Weeks Travel and Leisure Group has won the prestigious Business Travel Show "Innovation Award" for its online rail booking tool. The Gold envelope was prised open by Business Travel Show event director David Chapple at London's Olympia last Wednesday evening to reveal that the company's system, which began life as the brainchild of three hard-working travel agents, had blown away the judges to such an extent it received three times as many votes as the second place runner up.

The system is a customisable corporate online tool, which books and prints UK rail tickets, gathers management information and supports individual travel policies. It has been in development since 2003 when it was invented as a solution to Harry Weeks' evolving needs and the company has since pumped more than £1 million into the product.

After final accreditation from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) last year, the system hit the market in the early summer of 2005 and was instantly applauded by clients and peers.

Chairman of the judging panel, Mike Toynbee, commented "we felt Harry Weeks Travel had come up with a genuinely innovative product that had involved a good deal of blood, sweat and tears during the two years it took to develop, involving considerable investment and risk on the part of the company. Aimed at corporates and the trade, it was both needed and wanted and the initial take-up has been very encouraging. It is a small company with a big idea and deserves to succeed."

The Business Travel Show organiser Centaur Exhibitions created the innovation award in 2005 to recognise innovation, ingenuity and true leadership in the business travel industry. The other seven finalists for the Business Travel Show innovation award were AirPlus, British Airways, Budget Rent-a-Car, Eos Airlines, Eurostar, Marston Hotels and Reed & Mackay. AirPlus' lodged card was voted as runner up.

For more information on the Travelpackonline product contact Jonathan Reeve Commercial Director, Harry Weeks Travel and Leisure Group 016 8988 7008 or email: jon.reeve@harryweeks.co.uk

3  American imposes Heathrow fuel surcharge

Following last month's lead item in NewsClips a fuel shortfall at Heathrow has been blamed by American Airlines as the reason for a £3 surcharge on transatlantic flights from the airport.
The carrier has introduced the fee of £3 each way on flights from the London hub to and from the US "to help offset the significant expenses associated with flying in extra fuel from the US to Heathrow".
American said it had been necessary to take action due to a shortfall in local jet fuel supply caused by the oil depot fire at Buncefield near Hemel Hempstead in December.
The airline, which runs up to 16 flights a day from Heathrow to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, added that the shortfall was expected to continue for some time.

Source: TravelMole.com

4 Third Sponsor heralds lowest price

GetThere agreed to be the third supplier along with Outtask and AirPlus to support Management Solutions Spring Corporate Travel & Expense Forum on the 8th March.

This has enabled MS-UK to reduce costs for qualifying buyers down to £119 plus vat for the day.

This unique event is now in it's seventh year of operation and has moved to the larger premises of the Hesperia-Victoria Hotel.

The line up of speakers who have agreed to take part now includes Dan Brewin, the European Vice-President of Eos Airlines, the new luxury business class carrier operating daily between London Stansted and NewYork JFK airports.

5  Virgin's New York from 5 to 6 on July 1

Virgin Atlantic Airways will be introducing an additional daily JFK service, increasing its flights between Heathrow and New York from five to six a day.

The new daily service will be the airline's second daylight flight from New York and will operate from 1 July 2006.

Virgin Atlantic launched flights between London and New York - Newark in June 1984 and services to JFK in August 1989.

 Since then Virgin has flown over 12 million passengers between London and New York.

 The new daylight JFK service will depart Heathrow at 18:00 and arrive into JFK at 21:00.

 The return flight will leave JFK at 07:30 and arrive back into Heathrow at 19:10 the same day.

This service will operate using an Airbus 340-600 aircraft and will be configured with 45 Upper Class seats, 28 Premium Economy seats and 223 in Economy.

Source: AirlineTravelNews

6 Paris Shangri-La

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has announced plans to open their first European hotel in Paris. The 180 million Euro development, due for completion in 2008, will convert a 110 year old mansion once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte's family.

Centrally located and offering views of The Seine and Eiffel Tower, the seven storey hotel will comprise 140 deluxe rooms and suites (ranging from 40 to 160 square metres) putting it in the same league as other top Parisian hotels such as the Plaza and Le Bristol.

The hotel will have two restaurants, several meeting facilities, an indoor swimming pool, health club, and business lounge, with the renovation retaining the building's original grand staircase, chandeliers, fireplaces and marble flooring.

The announcement is further evidence of Shangri-La's global aspirations. The luxury Asian chain also plans to open a London hotel within the proposed London Bridge Tower development, although this is likely to be some years away, as planning permission for the development has yet to be granted.

Source: BusinessTraveller.com

7  BA Connect start selling

Tickets to fly with BA Connect (British Airways new regional budget airline) were placed on sale on Wednesday (February 1). What is immediately clear is that while some prices have dropped, others have remained largely unchanged.

From March 26, BA Connect will take over routes operated by the current BA Citiexpress and will sell two types of tickets: Connect Standard and Connect.Plus. Food and drink will no longer be served free of charge although BA Connect says it will continue to provide hot breakfasts (on a paid for basis) unlike almost every other budget airline.

BA says that Plus fares allow lounge access and full flexibility. By contrast the cheaper Standard fares are more restrictive but it is possible to make changes at £30 a time

BA Connect has a handful of routes from London City. It also flies from Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh to destinations in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Norway, Belgium and Switzerland.

Source: BusinessTraveller.com

8  Fly Virgin Rail?

If you fly to Manchester during February and March you could earn a free first class return train ticket worth up to £317.

The promotion from Virgin Trains covers all passengers buying any one-way or return ticket to fly between any London airport (for example Heathrow, Gatwick, City or Stansted) and Manchester. It's designed to showcase the train firm's Pendolino tilting trains.

Passengers need to post their used boarding passes to qualify for the 10,000 free tickets which are being made available on a first come, first served basis.

The free return first class ticket covers any one-way or return air ticket with any airline flying the route. It covers both budget carriers like Jet2 from Gatwick or Air Berlin from Stansted in addition to conventional airlines like BA and Bmi from Heathrow, BA from Gatwick, Eastern from Stansted or VLM from City.

Source: BusinessTraveller.com

9 Changing baggage at Ryanair

Ryanair is set to further revolutionise low-cost flying within Europe from March 16.

This is when the Irish airline will copy rival budget carrier Flybe and start charging network-wide for checked baggage. But unlike Flybe, passengers taking Ryanair are also being offered the time-saving convenience of online check-in.

It means that passengers carrying up to 10 kgs of hand luggage (Ryanair states that 25% of its passengers fall into this category) can check-in using ryanair.com and bypass the queues at the check-in counters. At the same time these travellers will also be entitled to priority boarding which, in theory, means they'll get to choose the better seats on the plane.

Source: BusinessTraveller.com

10 A kick in the teeth for Gatwick rail users!

Gatwick Express, the dedicated rail service from London Victoria, is to be replaced by a slower stopping train to reduce overcrowding on services to commuter towns near the airport.

The Government believes that the express is taking up too much capacity on the Brighton main line, which carries 32,000 commuters a day.

Airlines using Gatwick are furious that their passengers will have to fight their way with heavy luggage on to already crowded trains stopping only briefly at the airport.

At present, empty trains sit for several minutes at Gatwick station, allowing passengers plenty of time to board.

The express service runs every 15 minutes and takes only 30 minutes to reach Victoria. Journeys on the new service, which is expected to be introduced in June next year, are likely to take up to 55 minutes.

Bob Schumacher, UK director of Continental Airlines, said: "The proposal to do away with a dedicated, non-stop rail service is outrageous. If implemented, it would make Gatwick less attractive as a London gateway and would adversely affect local businesses, commuters and international visitors alike."

Continental and Delta airlines fear that they could lose lucrative business passengers to Heathrow, which has a dedicated express service from Paddington that takes only 15minutes.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions published a study yesterday showing that the busiest Gatwick Express trains in the morning carry only 220 passengers and had more than 150 empty seats. (I must have been unlucky and travelled on the only full to capacity trains every time I used the service last year - Editor)!

A spokesman for the department said: "We want to make sure we get the best use of the line and that means making additional stops and not necessarily starting at Gatwick."

Last month, Gatwick Express was rated Britain's top train company by the government-funded National Passenger Survey, with 93 per cent of passengers saying they were satisfied.

Just where do our national travel planners keep their brains? What do you think about this idea? All suggestions or comments please to MS-UK, PO Box 1887, London N2 0NZ or to our email address:  colin@ms-uk.com

This article distilled from articles in The Times Online and TravelWeeekly.co.uk

11 Twenty per-cent out of policy

One out of five business trips are made outside of travel policy with employees of larger firms flouting the rules more than most, according to new figures.

The Institute of Travel Management said non-compliance affects almost 30% of corporates spending more than £20 million on travel, twice the figure of companies with a budget of less than £1 million.

ITM executive director Paul Tilstone said: "Between 15% and 30% of travellers are simply doing their own thing. The key drivers behind this are Internet access and choice, increased traveller awareness of alternative booking methods and the appeal of airline and hotel loyalty scheme."

An unwillingness to pay TMC transaction fees are also behind the non-compliance along with TMC staff accepting non-policy bookings. Many businesses are also accessing the data without the need of a TMC.

The study showed that educating staff and better communication are regarded by companies as the key ways of enforcing the policy rather than penalising the booker or traveller.

Buyers are currently spending 10% of their working week trying to enforce policy - a figure that is set to rise in 206.

The survey also revealed that 60% of buyers believe technology will help improve compliance while 40% said employees will continue to flout the policy no matter what - (sounds like an advert for our seminar Editor).

Source: TravelMole.com

12  Birmingham to Doha direct

Birmingham is to be linked non-stop to Doha from 26 March with Qatar Airways offering a four times per week service. Doha, capital of the Gulf area state of Qatar, is a major hub for much of the Middle East and for many destinations on the Indian subcontinent.

Announcing the new route the airline's chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker said, "All our operations covering Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester are performing extremely well. Birmingham is a natural progression for us, the UK a major market."

He also confirmed that the Manchester flights would go from four to five from 11 February and daily at the beginning of the summer season 26 March. Airbus A330 aircraft, in a two-class configuration as used for Manchester, will also service Birmingham.

Source: Air & Business Travel News www.abtn.co.uk; www.qatarairways.com

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