Saturday, September 15, 2012

Iberia wins award for Madrid Terminal 4 Agora project

Iberia, the Spanish national airline, has won “the best passenger assistance initiative” award at the Future Travel Experiences event in Vancouver.

This is in recognition for Iberia‘s Agora project at Madrid’s Terminal 4 – the main hub for the airline, and one of the most modern airport terminals in Europe.

The Agora project aims to improve flight punctuality and customer experience, making Terminal 4 one of the most efficient and user-friendly airport terminals. There’s a video about the project (in Spanish) here

Part of the improvements brought about by Iberia sees all pursers carry iPads loaded with passenger information to help the airline serve them better. Iberia’s Deputy Manager for Coordination and Hub, Dimitris Bountolos, said: “It was very exciting. We have begun to inspire others and this is a great responsibility.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Virgin Atlantic announces Manchester to London Heathrow route

Virgin Atlantic will fly its first domestic route from the summer 2013 timetable as it begins linking Manchester with London Heathrow multiple times per day.

The airline feels that since the sale of bmi British Midland to British Airways/IAG Group earlier this year, this key route has been overlooked and now has a lack of competition.

Virgin will therefore deploy Airbus A319 aircraft – the source of which is not known yet – on the route, to tap into the 650,000 yearly passengers who fly between the two cities. The route will begin on 31st March, 2013.
This will provide an important business link to the capital, but also more importantly a link from the north of England into Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network out of Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Steve Ridgway said: “Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic’s new short haul operation. We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers.

Spotting at Fukuoka Airport

Fukuoka is Japan’s fourth busiest airport, located on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan. The airport is busy with domestic flights from elsewhere in Japan, and due to its enclosed location in amongst the city, it is quite cramped.

Fukuoka Airport has three domestic terminals on one side of the single runway, and international terminal and cargo terminal on the opposite side.

Almost all airlines using Fukuoka are from elsewhere in the Far East, with many Japanese airlines also serving the airport. There are no direct flights from Europe.

Where to Spot

Domestic Terminal 1 Observation Deck
A free, outdoor observation deck accessed from floor 2F. Open 7am to 8pm. Good all-round views, but fences can hinder photography.
There is also an indoor observation area in Domestic Terminal 1, with good views and shelter from the weather.
Domestic Terminal 2 Observation Deck
This observation deck is accessed from floor 3F, and is open 7am to 9.30pm. It has better views over the runway towards the international terminal, and of the southern end of the runway. Photography is through glass, so not ideal.

International Terminal Observation Decks
There are two observation decks on top of the international terminal – one at either end. Free of charge and open from 7am to 8.30pm, with views across the international gates, runway, and across to the domestic terminals.

Spotting Hotels?
Sadly there are no hotels at Fukuoka that are good for spotting from. But there are plenty of nearby hotels to use nevertheless.

Fukuoka is just one of the 42 airports covered in my book, Airport Spotting Guides Europe. Get your copy today!

United Airlines 787s – more routes announced

United Airlines has announced more routes that its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners will fly on. Their first aircraft made a test flight looking resplendent in full United colours earlier this week. They should take delivery of this aircraft in September, with many more to follow.

The initial route, previously announced was between Denver and Tokyo Narita (5x weekly, starting 31 March 2013). However, United has announced that its Dreamliners will also be flying on the following routes:

- Houston to Amsterdam Schiphol. Temporary service, starting 4 December 2012.
- Houston to London Heathrow. Temporary service, starting 4 February 2013.
- Houston to Lagos, Nigeria. 5x weekly, starting 7 January 2013.
- Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Japan. Daily, starting 3 January 2013.
- Los Angeles to Shanghai, China. Daily, starting 30 March 2013.

If you want to be lucky enough to travel on these services, the 787 aircraft will display for sale for these routes on and other distribution channels beginning Aug. 25, while Denver to Narita service is available for sale now.

Philippine Airlines’ 54 Airbus order

Philippine Airlines has announced a huge order with Airbus for 54 aircraft as part of a major fleet modernization and renewal programme at the airline.

The order breaks down into:
34x A321
10x A321neo
10x A330-300

Deliveries will start in 2013, with older types being replaced, and the airline’s domestic and regional network being developed further.

The Airbus A330s will allow further long haul expansion, with Australia and the Middle East a particular focus. PAL chairman Lucio Tan said in a statement: ”The orders we are placing with Airbus will play a key role in revitalising PAL, while growing trade and tourism in the country,”

“With these aircraft, we will be able to offer more passengers the industry has to offer across out Asia-Pacific network. At the same time, we will benefit from the low operating costs associated with new generation aircraft and the reduced impact on the environment.”

United Airlines 787 domestic flights

Prior to going into service, United Airlines will flying its first Boeing 787 aircraft (the first one in North America) on a number of domestic routes for the rest of the year in order to increase crew familiarity of the type – and no doubt to get the flying public swooning over it!

This is in addition to the previously announced international routes.
Here’s a run down of where you can expect to see it domestically:

Houston – San Francisco – 5x weekly, 4th November – 2nd December
Houston – San Francisco – 1x Daily, 3rd December – 3rd January 2013
Houston – Los Angeles – 6x weekly, 4th November – 3rd December
Houston – Los Angeles – 1x Daily, 4th December – 31st March
Houston – Chicago O’Hare – 6x weekly, 4th November – 3rd December
Houston – Chicago O’Hare – 1x Daily, 4th January – 29th March
Houston – Newark – 1x Daily, 4th November – 3rd January (excluding 18th November)
Houston – Cleveland – 1 flight only, 10th November (0700 out – 1600 back)
Houston – Washington Dulles – 1 flight only, 17th November (0700 out – 1550 back)
Houston –  Denver – 1x Daily, 5th December – 2nd January
Houston –  Denver – 1x Daily, 31st March onwards

Welcome to South America – LAN’s 787 arrives

LAN Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, CC-BBA, becoming the first airline in the Americas to do so. It is also only the fourth airline in the world to take delivery of the type. The aircraft arrived at Santiago de Chile by performing a low pass, before landing and taxiing under a water cannon salute.

LAN will fly the 787 Dreamliner from its Santiago base to Buenos Aires and Lima initially. These routes start in October.

Then, as more aircraft are delivered, they will be seen on routes to Los Angeles, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

LAN Airlines’ CEO, Ignacio Cueto, stressed the importance of the delivery for the Company and celebrated the benefits this aircraft will have both for the regional aviation industry and the travel experience of passengers:

“LAN is proud to be the first airline in the Americas to receive the 787 Dreamliner,” said Ignacio Cueto, CEO LAN Airlines.   “This is not only a milestone for LAN, but also for all of our passengers that will experience an enhanced LAN in-flight experience thanks to the cutting edge technology and visionary elements of this new aircraft. The Dreamliner will make it possible for us to cover greater distances in a more environmentally conscious and highly efficient  aircraft which will help ensure our sustainable growth“.
The cabin configuration aboard LAN’s first 787-8 will be 217 seats in Economy and 30 seats in Premium Business.
Keep an eye on our 787 Routes page for more planned services.

Thai Airways A380 delivery in September

Thai Airways is to received its first Airbus A380 in September, with entry to service due in October. The aircraft recently appeared in full colours at the Hamburg Finkenwerder facility in Germany, where it had recently flown to for painting.

Thai will use their Airbus A380s on routes from Bangkok to European destinations such as Frankfurt and Paris CDG. Initially they will operate to Hong Kong and Singapore from 28 October, and from Januray also to Tokyo Narita.

THAI will become the ninth operator of the A380 when it takes delivery of first the aircraft in the third quarter this year. The airline has firm orders for six A380s.

Round the world charity trip in seven days

A good friend of mine, Andrew Solum, and British Airways‘ Head of UK & Ireland Sales, Richard Tams, are about to embark upon a fantastic journey in the hope of raising money for charity.

Their target is to raise £20,000 for the Comic Relief Flying Start charity, supported by British Airways and aimed at improving the lives of countless children every year.

Their challenge? Well, they’ve got to get around the world in seven days, starting in New York on 15th September, and using every Oneworld airline partner.

The journey will start with American Airlines from New York to Chicago then on to the Tokyo Narita international hub of Japan Airlines.

The following day they will fly with Japan Airlines from Tokyo to the Hong Kong home of Cathay Pacific and on September 17 undertake a three-flight schedule from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur with Cathay Pacific, Kuala Lumpur to Singapore with Malaysia Airlines, which is on track to join oneworld at the turn of the year. They will then travel on from Singapore to London Heathrow with Qantas arriving early on September 18.
British Airways will carry them on to Amman, base of Royal Jordanian.
On September 19 they will fly from Amman to Frankfurt with Royal Jordanian, then with airberlin to Germany’s capital city.
On September 20, they will take to the air again with airberlin to Frankfurt, then off with LAN to Madrid. From its base at the Spanish capital, Iberia will then carry them to the Moscow hub of S7, landing early on September 21, before a swift transfer to S7 for a flight to St. Petersburg.

The following day (September 22) they will begin the last leg of their journey heading with Finnair from St Petersburg to its own Helsinki home then on to Heathrow to connect on to their final flight, a British Airways jet from London to New York arriving at 8.55pm local time.

In total they will cover just over 30,000 miles, flying along the way on every oneworld member airline and via 11 of the alliance’s major hubs.

Tams said: “I’ve done a lot of flying in my time at British Airways, but never so many destinations in such a short period. We’ll be going through 16 airports, flying on ten different aircraft types and visiting 11 countries on 12 airlines. We won’t even have time to stop and enjoy the views!

Mr Solum, a management consultant and oneworld Emerald top tier frequent flyer, said “it will be tough going on standby staff tickets with no guarantee where we’ll be seated, but at the end of the day, every penny we raise will make a difference to a child – and that is really our driving force for this challenge.”

Tams added “We’re enormously grateful to our oneworld partners for supporting our challenge – it’s a great reflection of the reach the alliance has. I’d also like to thank our hotel partners in this, the Global Hotel Alliance, Starwood and Marriott.”

“The travel trade have also already been really supportive and we’ve already hit £8,000+ of our target but we really want to reach at least £20,000 so we’re asking everyone to dig deep and help us out. Anyone can pledge money at:”

The money raised will all go directly to Flying Start, the global charity partnership between British Airways and Comic Relief UK. It will help to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children living in the UK and in some of the poorest countries across the world. The aim of the charity is to help create lasting change by giving children and their families the chance to start supporting themselves.

The intrepid travellers will be blogging their adventures and experiences, so stay tuned for further details!

Philippine Airlines wants to build its own Manila Airport

Recent news from the Philippines suggests that national carrier Philippine Airlines, which recently announced a mega order for 54 Airbus aircraft, wants to build its own airport. Given the recent news from Ryanair, who want to buy London Stansted Airport, this seems to be a growing trend.

Philippine Airlines would construct a new airport with parallel runways and a terminal dedicated to the airline, and its PAL Express subsidiary. Presumably this would serve Manila, as the airline has already decided against a hub at Clark Airport due to its distance from the city.

The airline would then move operations out of the crowded Ninoy Aquino International Airport which currently serves Manila.

Whether they’d allow other airlines to operate into their airport has not been announced, but airline president Ramon Ang said they intend to seek government approval for the airport soon.

Will Ryanair buy Stansted Airport?

That’s what recent news stories seems to suggest. Ryanair – who yesterday claimed they’d buy a dog if it was the right price – are looking to take a 25% stake in London Stansted Airport now that BAA has been forced to sell it.

Believing that owning a significant stake in arguably its most significant airport would allow it to grow traffic at the airport, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary recently commented “There is enormous opportunity for cutting the cost base at Stansted. You could take the airport [from 30 million] to 60 million passengers a year and account for nearly all the growth in the southeast.”

“We’d change the whole structure of the airport to lower costs, increase the number of flights and increase traffic.”

Ryanair would invest no more than 24.99% into the airport, as part of a consortium buying the facility from BAA.

Bye bye (bmi)baby

Today is the final day of operations for bmibaby.

It was launched in 2002 by parent, bmi British Midland International, as a way to compete with the large number of low cost airlines springing up across Europe, and in particular easyJet and Ryanair. The low cost carrier, which operated flights using Boeing 737-300 and -500 aircraft, flew to a number of leisure and city destinations across Europe from its UK bases.

The airline’s fleet was sourced from bmi, who were replacing their older 737s with new Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Now, since the sale of bmi to IAG Group, and its incorporation into British Airways, along with the sale of bmi Regional to a group of Scottish investors, there’s no longer any hope for bmibaby which could not find a buyer.

I flew with bmibaby a number of times when they had a base at Durham Tees Valley Airport, and will miss their friendly colour scheme.

Phuket Airport expansion begins

Phuket Airport in Thailand is bursting at the seams. Its owners, Airports of Thailand, has therefore begun an expansion process to help it cope.

The process will be split into three phases, and will be completed by April 2015 if all goes to plan.

The first phase is the construction of a new International Terminal. This will be able to handle six million passengers per year, and take the airport’s capacity up to 12.5 million passengers per year (it is currently at 6.5 million, but expected to handle 9.3 million this year). The new terminal is due for completion in late 2013.
Other phases will see modification of the old terminal building, the addition of ten new aircraft parking stands, a taxiway extension, and new car park.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lindsay Lohan: Negative press is BS

Lindsay Lohan has appeared to stay true to her word that she's serious about turning her public image and career around, landing movie roles and working hard enough to collapse from exhaustion.
But that doesn't mean the 26-year-old actress has escaped troubling headlines .

In her view, "all of this negative press is BS," Lohan tweeted August 22. "Whenever I'm doing great, people fabricate lies. It's such a shame. I'm just sayin."

There was news of a car accident, and lately it's been a Hollywood burglary that Lohan's name has been associated with. The incident happened on August 18, and while she and her assistant were considered suspects in the case, prosecutors have concluded there's not enough evidence to press charges.
It seems the gentleman robbed, a man by the name of Sam Magid, who had a "longstanding relationship" with Lohan, opted against prosecuting after learning that the actress was a suspect in the case.

According to her rep, Lohan's "glad this matter has been cleared up so she can focus on her upcoming projects," presumably "The Canyons," and perhaps promotion for her portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime's "Liz and Dick."

She tweeted on August 25, "Cleaning MY jewels :) ...... I love feeling like Elizabeth."

Obama: No offense taken at Eastwood speech

(CNN) – President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday he took no offense at Clint Eastwood's prime-time address at the Republican National Convention, in which the legendary actor and director posed questions to an empty chair, which he said represented the Democratic incumbent.
"One thing about being president or running for president - if you're easily offended, you should probably choose another profession," Obama told USA Today.

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Eastwood's speech came the same night Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa, Florida. The sprawling, off-the-cuff address drew criticism from some, who said Eastwood's unorthodox remarks overshadowed Romney. The Republican nominee's advisers wrote off the criticism, saying the crowd found Eastwood's remarks funny.
"He's a great messenger. The guy is an American treasure," Romney senior strategist Stuart Stevens said.
Obama agreed with that sentiment in the USA Today interview, calling Eastwood "a great actor, and an even better director."

"I think the last few movies that he's made have been terrific," the president added.
That appreciation, however, doesn't mean Democrats will try to mimic Eastwood's performance at their own confab, slated to begin in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday.
"I think we'll be playing this pretty straight," Obama said.

Heidi Klum: I've moved on, and so has Seal

Their split has gotten messy in the media, but Heidi Klum is setting the record straight.
Anyone hoping for the chance of reconciliation between Klum and her ex Seal should prepare to have those hopes dashed. Klum tells CNN in a statement:

“I cherish all of the great memories Seal and I created together over the years. Our separation was based on issues between the two of us. Seal has moved on and so have I."

That's not an admission that she's seeing someone new - there's been gossip that a romance might have sparked between Klum and her bodyguard - but it is clear that Klum is putting her seven-year marriage to Seal behind her.
"My priority," she said in the statement, "has and continues to be protecting and providing for our children.”

Bradley Cooper on working with Jennifer Lawrence, getting sober

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the hardest working actresses in the business, so it's no surprise that she's managed to squeeze in not one but two films with leading man Bradley Cooper.
We caught up with Cooper, the star of this weekend's "The Words," at the film's premiere on Tuesday, and the 37-year-old actor couldn't stop complimenting the 22-year-old "Hunger Games" star.

Cooper and Lawrence have already teased us with what looks like a very funny performance in November's comedic drama "Silver Linings Playbook," in which Lawrence plays the troubled friend to Cooper's Pat Solitano, a former teacher who moves back home to live with his parents while dealing with bipolar disorder.
They then switch gears in 2013's "Serena," a Depression-era film that focuses on Cooper's timber magnate George Pemberton and what will become of his empire after it's discovered that his wife, Lawrence's titular Serena, can't have kids.

Of his twice-over co-star, “she is incredible," Cooper told us. "I’ve been so lucky to do two movies with her back-to-back. ... She’s the best. I feel like I got in on the ground floor. I’ll be lucky if I work with her again.”
At the rate Lawrence and Cooper are racking up leading roles, the two just might pull that off.
Meanwhile, Cooper's starring with Zoe Saldana in "The Words," in which he plays a novelist who lifts material from another writer's work. What's made a tremendous difference in his life, he tells the Hollywood Reporter, is getting sober.

"I don't drink or do drugs at all anymore," Cooper said, adding that he gave that up years ago when he was 29 after a scary experience at a party in which he purposefully smashed his head into a concrete floor - twice.
"I was so concerned what you thought of me, how I was coming across, how I would survive the day," Cooper told THR. "I always felt like an outsider. I just lived in my head. I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, 'wow, I'm actually going to ruin my life.'"
Thankfully, Cooper answered the wake-up call, and will appear in at least six films over the next year, including the two co-starring Lawrence, as well as "The Hangover Part III" and "The Place Beyond the Pines" with Ryan Gosling.

Cooper's "The Words" opens Friday.

How Katie Holmes keeps perspective

The scrutiny has been intense for Katie Holmes this summer, and the media attention's only going to increase as she prepares for her first presentation at New York Fashion Week with her clothing line, Holmes & Yang.
And while it would probably be understandable if she were frustrated by the severe invasion of privacy fame brings, Holmes tells Women's Wear Daily that really, it's not that bad.

"I have a lot of feelings about the press," said the 33-year-old actress/designer, who's been closely watched since her split from ex-husband Tom Cruise in June.
"There are a lot of people with much bigger problems and who are less fortunate," she continued. "I try to keep it all in perspective."

We're sure her new deal as the face of Bobbi Brown cosmetics - the first ever celebrity to rep the line - helps at least a little  bit.

Holmes and Brown were introduced by a mutual friend and soon bonded over their down-to-earth sensibilities and similar approaches to life and beauty.
"We weren't looking for a celebrity, just a cool, amazing woman who would fit with our brand," Brown told WWD of her new collaboration with Holmes. Of course, there's also the fact that "she's just ridiculously beautiful."

Holmes' Bobbi Brown campaign is scheduled to launch in Spring 2013, and in the meantime the actress is trying to test out as many different avenues as possible without "being afraid to fail," she said.
"Who cares? At least you tried," she continued. "It's usually the people who  haven't tried who are the naysayers."

Britney Spears isn't trying to look like Kim K.

Kim Kardashian has gone from "the girl in that sex tape" to reality TV queen and style icon, but there's one pop star who isn't attempting to emulate her.
Britney Spears tells Elle magazine in its October issue that her personal style is focused more on comfort than Kardashian-esque sultriness.

"I love my jeans and my sweats - I'm really just a tomboy at heart," Spears says. "So it's really hard for me to be like Kim Kardashian and be makeup-and-hair ready every time I go out of the house. I'm not a believer in that, you know?"
But, she adds, "when you do wear those sweats, you're like, Oh, God, I should step it up notch."
Not for the paparazzi, though. Spears says she's gotten to the point where she doesn't even pay attention to the throngs who attempt to catch her every moment.
"I guess I've been under the microscope so long that I don't even pay attention to the nonsense anymore. I gave up getting upset about things people make up about me a long time ago," she says.
Good thing, too, as imaginations will surely run wild with the story of how Spears made the move on her now-fiance, Jason Trawick.
Trawick tried to describe how it happened to Elle, saying, "It was kind of one of those things where she moved, like, turned around, so we were face-to-face," but Spears stopped him before he could share the details.
"OK, that's enough information, sweetie," Spears interrupted. "It was sweet,  just say that."

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