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Aviation Archive

Aviation Archive: Summer 2006 – Coventry

It was a rather short-lived project, but Thomson’s reinvention into low-cost airline which saw the acquisition of 737-classics meant that different route portfolio was introduced. One of the key bases was at Coventry, with a small fleet of 737’s.

Routes included:
Malaga
Palma
Ibiza
Faro
Pisa
Paris Orly
Jersey
Valencia
Barcelona
Salzburg
Alicante
Amsterdam

Categories
Luxury Holidays

Aviation Archive: Summer 2006 – Teesside

The regional aviation scene fifteen years ago looked very different from the world we know today. It was still largely dominated by the larger charter carriers, offering inclusive tour packages on low-frequency services around Europe. Low-cost airlines were also expanding, but their networks were considerably smaller than they are today.

No more so than Teesside, an airport which nearly went out of business recently now finding a renaissance with an expanded portfolio of domestic services, and a few international, courtesy of TUI and Ryanair.

In 2006, bmibaby still had based aircraft at Teesside offering the following services on 737-300’s:

Malaga
Alicante
Palma
Paris
Newquay
Knock
Amsterdam
Jersey
Cork
London Gatwick

In addition, TUI (then Thomson) offered a number of charter services including Dalaman, Tenerife South, Bodrum, Bourgas, Palma, Monastir, Mahon, Corfu, Alicante, Ibiza and Paphos.

Eastern’s service to Aberdeen was supplemented by a 10 weekly service to Bristol, and bmi still had their up to 3 daily service to London Heathrow.

So, there is plenty of scope for more…!

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Aviation Archive

Aviation Archive: Summer 2006 – Cardiff

Cardiff was quite a different place in 2006 compared to 2021, with four based charter airlines – along with a base for low-cost airline bmibaby. They covered all the usual summer sun routes, and overlapped considerably, but there were also a few you might not have expected!

Excel Airways

Fuerteventura
Dalaman
Paphos
Malaga
Tenerife South
Corfu
Gran Canaria
Lanzarote
Palma
Sharm El Sheikh

First Choice Airways

Lanzarote
Tenerife South
Palma
Reus
Dalaman
Bodrum
Naples
Menorca
Alicante
Bourgas
Kefalonia
Larnaca (Scheduled Service)
Paphos (Scheduled Service)

ThomsonFly

Malaga
Bourgas
Paphos
Tenerife South
Gran Canaria
Palma
Gerona
Ibiza
Varna
Jersey (operated by Aer Arann)
Alicante
Monastir
Lanzarote
Zakynthos
Verona
Corfu
Heraklion
Dalaman

MyTravel Airways

Menorca
Dalaman
Tenerife South
Lanzarote
Heraklion
Fuerteventura
Larnaca
Rhodes
Gran Canaria
Alicante
Reus
Palma
Faro
Zakynthos

Bmibaby

Palma
Alicante
Malaga
Faro
Edinburgh
Belfast International
Glasgow
Amsterdam
Prague
Jersey

Additional Short Haul Services

KLM – Amsterdam
Ryanair – Dublin
Aer Arann – Lorient, Cork, Dublin, Galway
Onur Air – Dalaman
Spanair – Ibiza, Palma
Astraeus – Funchal
Futara – Ibiza
Air Southwest – Newquay/Manchester
Eastern – Newcastle

Cardiff Airport – Long Haul Services

Excel Airways – Orlando Sanford
Monarch Airways – Orlando Sanford
ThomsonFly – Orlando Sanford, Cancun, Puerto Plata
Zoom – Toronto, Vancouver

Categories
Luxury Holidays

We Have The Vaccines – So Now What?

“We were told that vaccines were the way out of this. We have the vaccines, we have the vaccines.”

Going back as far as last spring, a vaccine to reduce the effects of Covid-19 was hailed as the solution to getting our lives back on track. Even back in October when a new variant spread across the country, and brought several towns and cities to a standstill, vaccines were still the saving grace.

Then we get to Christmas, with the government wanting to try and make sure that people were able to see each other, which ultimately just wasn’t possible. Hope was at least given, with the lifeline that with vaccines ramping up, we could move Christmas to Easter.

Yes, the vaccination programme has gone well. Better than the whole of Europe, however as there has been with this government all along there is a ‘but’, instilling fear and division across the nation.

Now we have the vaccines, we’re told they might not be the right vaccines. With different variants appearing around the world, in South America, South Africa and here in the UK – the government have taken that hope away suggesting that a mutation could evade the current vaccine. Maybe we will need a booster, maybe that will come later in the year – but many people won’t be able to hold on for that long.

It should be a surprise, that is what happens to Coronavirus. Its why there is a different flu vaccine every year to ward off what the expected changes are from year to year. The government knew this, and is now stringing us along, fear gripping the nation that the next mutation will be deadly. There is no proof that is the case and even if the vaccine is less effective against it, it shouldn’t have the severe cases seen in the last year. Some have even suggested that symptoms could be as little as a runny nose.

So, while the government is running project fear – lockdown, borders effectively closed and the fear that its to remain for a while yet, we question why?

The aviation and travel industry has seen a 90% reduction in revenue year-on-year compared to last February, this is just not sustainable. People want to travel, they are happy to travel once they have had the vaccine – and it appears it is safe to do so. Once again, the government has shut down the industry with no support and no guidance to how it can all be restarted, to what is the worst effected industry through the pandemic.

Where do we go from here? I think most would say, somewhere for a holiday…!

Categories
Luxury Holidays

‘A Response from Grant Shapps’ – What Do We Think?

Last October I sent a letter to my local MP, Mike Penning, the contents of which I posted on here and we’re directed at how the travel industry can plan to restart. This is the response from Grant Shapps:

It remains vitally important that we manage the risk of COVID-19 and keep the number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK as low as possible. The Government recognises that COVID-19 has had an immediate and profound impact on businesses and consumers’ ability to fly within the UK and across the globe.

The Government has put in place an unprecedented package of cross-economy financial support, including liquidity schemes and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CRJS), which has now been extended to March 2021. If airlines, airport or other aviation organisations find themselves in trouble as a result of COVID-19 and have exhausted the measures already available to them, we have been clear that the Government is prepared to enter discussions with individual companies seeking bespoke support.

With regards to Air Passenger Duty (APD), the Chancellor has announced that there will be a consultation on aviation tax reform. As part of this consultation, the Government will consider the case for changing the APD treatment of domestic flights, such as re-introducing a return leg exemption, and for increasing the number of international distance bands. The Treasury is keen to engage widely as a part of this consultation and welcomes input from businesses, individuals, trade bodies and other interested parties.

In terms of a regionalise approach to travel corridors, the Government updated the travel corridors policy on 7 September 2020 to enable islands to be added to the travel corridor list separate to their mainland countries, where the available data supports it.

It is not considered safe to implement a fully regional system for travel corridors – there is too much movement between high risk and lower risk regions within single countries and regional health information is not sufficiently reliable. However, when a region has natural boundaries – like an island – the risks reduce. Decisions on travel corridors are reviewed weekly and data is kept under constant review to determine whether it is safe to add a country or territory to the travel corridor list. If a country or territory which is on the list becomes high risk, we would not hesitate to re-introduce self isolation requirements.

As of 14 December 2020, the self-isolation period for arrivals in the UK from non-travel corridor locations has been changed to 10 days from 14 days. This change came into effect across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland; it already applied in Wales. Also, the “test to release” scheme is one outcome of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce report recently presented to the Prime Minister, which set out the steps it is taking both domestically and on the international stage to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel. From 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the Government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate. With those opting in to the scheme having to book and pay for a COVID-19 test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, we are ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected. We acknowledge that the tests may cost more than many people will be willing to pay; we expect the cost of test to decrease in the future as testing technology advances and the market expands.

The Taskforce’s recommendations blend immediate action, including the implimentation of the test to release scheme, with longer term measures that will help to reassure passengers, make travel easier, boost the travel sector and most importantly – keep everyone safe. The recommendations are based on advise from a consortium of expert representatives from the aviation, maritime, international rail, tourism and hospitality industries to boost international travel for all modes, whilst safeguarding public health in the UK. The Government will continue to work with international partners and representatives across the transport industries to further build on the recommendations in the report, including exploring pre-departure testing for pilots with partner countries on a bilateral basis.

We have heard the sector’s requests for additional support and this has been outlined. It is therefor right that our work on medium term recovery needs to build on that immediate work and we now expect to publish a medium-term recovery plan following a successful restart.

Categories
Luxury Holidays

I have contacted my MP, and you should too – Save Future Travel Coalition #SaveTravel #SaveFutureTravel


Today I have sent this letter to my local MP, delivering the truth on what travel businesses are faced with currently, and the problems it will bring further down the line if the government doesn’t give the industry tailored support.

RE: ‘Save Future Travel’ Coalition Campaign

Stop, let’s think. When was the last time you went on holiday? How did you get there? Was it arranged by a professional and financially protected company? Did you use local companies and services to enhance the experience? Have you ever considered how many people were employed in the UK to make this possible? 


I’m writing today in response to the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan. We would love your assistance in not just helping to save our business, but many thousands of other travel businesses from insolvency across the UK and prevent further job losses. So far, the travel industry has been overlooked by both government and the media, despite going through extreme financial pressure without revenue or income since March.

Travel has been a passion since I was young. Although I achieved really good grades at A Level to go to a top university, I decided at the time to take an alternative path. In 2004, I took an apprenticeship in travel, a route that was seen as unattractive, compared to more academic options. However, with hard work, it has been possible not only to do the job well but be recognised within the industry for it. We live for the industry and love nothing more than to genuinely help people.

I work for a small company in Berkhamsted and have done for the last 16 years. Again, despite being small, we punch above our weight and have won multiple industry awards, including the Agent Achievement Awards and the Travel Weekly Globes and the industry press. 

Travel is a strategically important sector for the UK economy, supporting more than £60bn in GVA and sustaining around 1 million jobs in the UK alone. In addition, the travel industry underpins the UK’s world-leading aviation industry, keeping the UK connected internationally and domestically, with those traveling for leisure and business vital to the viability of many air routes. Travel is not only a viable a sector, but also invaluable to the economic recovery of the country – and it is critical that the Government does all it can to help businesses and protect jobs.

What travel businesses need more than anything right now is for people to feel confident enough to travel again, and policy decisions taken by the Government to manage the pandemic have served to dampen consumer confidence and weaken the market. Recent surveys have shown that consumer confidence to travel has been affected more by the government’s quarantine policy and fear of isolation, than the actual virus. Despite a minority having an appetite to travel, people are wary of the financial impact of taking two weeks off work would have.  Addressing these issues must now be a priority for Ministers to avoid long-term damage.

It is also important that the Chancellor considers tailored support for travel. The recently announced Job Support Scheme, extending support beyond the end of October is welcome in principle but will do little for travel in its current form. Under the proposed scheme, firms will be required to subsidise those hours not worked by their employees – with employers proportionally required to pay more the less work they receive. While income for travel businesses remains low or in some cases non-existent, this is simply not possible. This is in addition to the way Brexit negotiations have been carried out by the government, which had already affected consumer confidence.      

In particular, as a travel agency business, we receive the majority of our income through commission that is paid on departure. Not only have we lost income through not making new bookings through summer months, but we also had to refund bookings already made, losing income the whole way through the year. Even if we are able to operate more fully now, we would need financial support to help us through to the next major travel period in Easter 2021.

As my local MP, I am asking you to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport to urge them to consider the Save Future Travel Coalition’s plan to support travel businesses and protect jobs:

– A fully regionalised quarantine policy (German & European model)
– Introduction of testing as an additional mitigation measure
– Recovery grants for SME businesses, and those previously left out of support
– Review of the Job Support Scheme
– APD relief for summer 2021 to boost demand

If this industry is allowed to implode, of which the government seems to be advocating, I just want to outline the consequences that would bring. 

Firstly, there would be mass redundancies, of which is already happening. There have been an estimated 12,000 jobs lost, with many more coming at the end of the month when the Job Retention Scheme ends, which has been estimated as high as 100,000 by the end of the year and potentially 550,000 if this sector is left to collapse.  

With an increase in the number of travel businesses failing, there will be a widespread defaulting of CBILs/BBL loans, of which are guaranteed by the government where companies have failed, the ATOL scheme would likely collapse under the strain of failures within the industry, and therefore consumer protection on travel will be removed. This in itself will lead to pressure on banks, with people trying to reclaim money from these failures.

We would see failures across all the associated sectors – we’ll see airlines failing, airports closing, ferry lines shut, restaurants disappearing, tour guides out of work, and many other jobs being lost who rely on tourism both outbound and inbound. This includes suitcase makers, swimwear manufacturers, kennels and catteries, chauffeurs and so many more industries and services which rely on travel. There will be more fraud, anarchy, and poverty leading to mounting mental health issues and associated medical problems.  

It will also leave a lack of choice and diversity, of which this industry proudly displays. It’s vibrant nature, offering a wide selection of products and services where only the ones with the deepest pockets would be able to survive. For a country which has until recently the world’s business international airport, a world-beating aviation and travel industry and ambitions after Brexit to be better and bolder as a ‘Global Britain’, this would be both be a travesty and economically destructive.

As you know, the travel industry is highly regulated. If, as what has been suggested that the industry is ‘unviable’, the infrastructure and financing to restart simply won’t be there. It isn’t possible to shut down and restart when the pandemic passes and will lead to a future of unregulated ‘wild west’ companies with a disregard for consumer protection.

Following months of policy decisions that have shaken confidence, and depressed demand, the Government needs to work with the industry to take the steps needed to put travel on a firmer footing for the winter season and into next year.

I would be grateful if you could help to raise these concerns through your parliamentary activities and to help us to highlight the viability and value of our industry, and I would be very happy to talk further about the challenges which face our industry. 

Categories
Luxury Holidays

The Government is failing the travel industry, and they don’t care

The travel industry has always been one filled with fun, optimism and freedom. During a world pandemic no matter where you are achieving any or all of those three ambitions can be somewhat trying and the foundations on what we know crumble under that pressure.

At the end of the day there is only one thing we care deeply for, and that’s our clients. The last thing we would want to do is expose them to the virus, and safety is the upmost importance. Hotels, airlines, airports and any element of the travel story has gone to great lengths to make sure the experience is as safe as it possibly can be.

We’re also a business. We therefore need an income. With few or previously few travelling that meant we were doing double the amount of work, essentially for nothing. Bookings we made months ago were cancelled (with no protection of commission to agents in the main), and the volume of new bookings dried up. Few industries had to make the number of refunds that the travel industry did, and of course buckled under the pressure.

Comments therefore by prominent political figures including Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, or Boris Johnson in England suggesting you shouldn’t take a foreign holiday on one hand, but doesn’t give further assistance to the businesses providing those holidays on the other. Is the travel industry supposed to live on fresh air?

In Australia, with borders closed they have extended their furlough scheme for sectors hit hardest by a border closure which includes the travel industry to next year. With Covid-19 now taking hold in Victoria, that support is much needed.

Yes, we have the ‘lifeline’ of air corridors, predominantly in Europe, but that too isn’t really a lifeline. As we discovered with Spain, it can be withdrawn within hours and gives no real guarantee to someone who wants to travel that they won’t have to quarantine on their return to the UK. Where is going to be next, France?

Really, the government should be showing their workings in the margin. Show us daily the numbers you are working to for these ‘safe corridor’ and then set a threshold for cases/per hundred thousand. Then you have a transparent system that both the industry and travelling public know, so they can asses their own risk. The current system is more like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded at the moment – how are we supposed to advise without knowing the information?

They also should be regional, so while some parts of a country might have a high Covid-19 rate, if under control, it shouldn’t mean that other parts should be shut out. This was only highlighted at the weekend, when the Canary Islands has only 200 active cases, which equates to one case per one hundred thousand, which is much lower than the UK average. The vague excuse that it could be transported from the mainland in volume appears to be unfounded.

Then it comes to quarantine on arrival, something which isn’t sustainable. When its not being militantly enforced, who is really going to abide by it completely? If the government believe people will, they are completely deluded. There has to be a simple alternative, whether its testing at the airport, testing before leaving the destination (which yes, will require, heaven forbid, cooperation between countries), or even double testing to make sure. You could also include parameters, allowing some freedom, but minimising integration with others – like encouraging working from home on the return etc.

This isn’t reckless, or irresponsible. Its trying to find a way of making travel possible for those who want to, but making it safe for everyone. The travel industry can’t pause for an indefinate amount of time with no additional support, people can’t live on nothing and the longer this pandemic lasts, the worse it is going to get.

It is on the governments shoulders, a government who clearly doesn’t understand how the industry operates and seemingly doesn’t want to either. From the inside, we know what needs to be done – both to make it safe and for businesses to operate. The indecision, dithering and lying has to stop, we need answers and solutions to the questions…

Categories
Luxury Holidays

Being ignored is worse than being misunderstood

When something happens or goes so badly wrong, its hard to deal with on your own. Even if its just talking to someone who doesn’t know anything about you, just talking helps.

The travel industry is currently in its worse ever crisis, and yes we have been through a few. We’re a resilient bunch, and while there was the Gulf War crisis in the 90’s, or 9/11 in the early 2000’s, the Economic crisis later on in that decade or a volcanic eruption grounding flights for days, we still work with the passion and enthusiasm to provide travel and holidays as we always do.

A global pandemic is the latest in a long line of different challenges we have had to face, and due to its very nature probably the most challenging. Starting in China six months ago, it has taken hold around the world, restricting our movements and thwarting travel abroad. That’s six months of us rearranging holidays, possibly more than once and refunding where that is not possible where an unimaginable amount of hard work had already gone into making those plans.

As lockdowns around the world started, it became clear there was going to be an issue around refunds. Although travel agents (and tour operators in most cases) had acted correctly, paying suppliers and adhering to the rules, money in the other direction wasn’t forthcoming. The Package Travel Regulations were never designed for such an event, and it quickly became clear that there would be a crunch.

With the lack of government intervention, it was ABTA who came up with the idea of a financially protected credit note as a mechanism to help free the blockage mass refunding had created. The government have still to fully endorse the option. Still, refunds are slowly appearing now and being received faster.

It was a surprise that our country was only one of a few not to close our borders during the height of the crisis. During this period flights still operated (although at a heavily reduced rate), including a number of government organised repatriation flights from all over the world. This could have contributed to us being one of the hardest hit nations both in Europe and worldwide.

As the cases slowly drop in the UK and nearly or totally eradicated in many parts of Europe, the government in its wisdom induces a new quarantine period for new arrivals into the UK. Even the scientists say that it would have been better to implement this earlier, and goes against the majority of our European neighbours. It makes no sense when the rationale is to reduce cases coming into the UK, and we have the highest rate in Europe.

We are heading into the peak time for leisure travel in Europe, with countries such as Portugal and Greece leading the way in trying to attract tourists of which Britains are extremely important to them.

This is now a critical time, travel business are ready to restart and let people enjoy the holidays they have looked forward to. Its possible, authorities are doing everything they can to make sure its safe, just as long as people know that travel is not going to be quite the same for a while. We’re ready for the ‘new normal’.

Despite the calls from both the travel and aviation industry, the government isn’t listening, singing with its fingers in its ears while the screams grow louder, whist completely not understanding what challenges travel businesses face when refunding sales you had made, whist not being able to trade probably for new ones. Cafes are not refunding coffees they sold 6 months ago, and they can find creative ways of selling you one now, including a takeaway.

So you could say that the government doesn’t understand, they probably don’t. However, what it worse at the moment is feeling ignored. After all, at least if you’re misunderstood there is a conversation.



Categories
Luxury Holidays

Who would want to be a travel agent?

Who would want to be a travel agent? Who wouldn’t want to be some might say, all the glamour and carefree lifestyle ‘swanning off’ around the world. Yeah, really?

It is in times like this we consult with our therapist, when the impossible bears upon our shoulders. Not really easy or practical to do that at the moment, so were ‘flying solo’, so to speak. Its us against the world, or at least it feels like it.

More often or not, much of our work is driven by personal connections built upon years of trust and sometimes friendship. Each and every one means something special. We know the small details that make a holiday elevate to something that is truly memorable.

Though now, as we find ourselves in quite extraordinary times we are the ones stuck between a rock and a hard place. Tour operators who might not have that special touch, and sees that person as just no more than a number, no matter what their circumstance.

There are quite legitimate reasons why someone may prefer a refund over a ‘recommended’ Refund Credit Note. You might not able to defer a holiday. I’m sure there are many with terminal illnesses who were looking forward to that one last holiday, which should be so important and special, who are no longer able to do that. The elderly who are unsure of their ability to travel in the future, or the impending financial hardship which is likely to sweep across the world.

Each of those individuals have their own story, their own motivation, their own future. Not everyone is the same, so therefore can’t be dealt with in the same way.

Its not my fault, I haven’t created this. I just work with the cards I’m dealt.

In times like this you find out who your friends really are, and those who just hide away in the corner, burying their heads in the sand. You can’t ignore everyone who won’t conform, after all they are only human too.

Categories
Airlines

EasyJet’s online system is so frustrating for Flight Club or Plus members…

In 2019 I have travelled more with easyJet than I ever before, and that was really a choice – convenience of flying from my local airport than travelling to the other side of London (at least most of the time).

In all honesty, easyJet are fine. They get you to where you are going mostly on time, the service is fine and most of all its just convenient. However, travelling with them a lot and you notice the pitfalls – and for me that is around their ‘digital offering’.. i.e the website and the app.

I have now become a ‘Flight Club’ member, the airlines invite only frequent flyer club which gives additional benefits such as free name changes and unlimited flight changes. This is great, but I can’t do any of that through the app or website – I have a ‘membership number’ and a phone line which I have to call to make these changes.

Really? This is 2019 and soon be 2020. I would really want my profile I book from to know that I am a Flight Club member, and I can make these changes through the app instead of hanging on a phone line with the antiquated payment.

More so this applied to the paid-for ‘ easyJet Plus’ which gives free seat reservation, speedy boarding and a seat on an earlier flight if available. You can’t just change your flight through the app, you have to go to the ticket desk at the airport and show your card to change it.

This was acceptable a few years ago, but you just expect everything to be available digitally now and it really isn’t difficult to implement as you can already change flights and names on the website – you just need to apply a ‘profile’ in order for it to be free.

If you go even further, they should know my habits when travelling alone on business or with a family – i.e. when I travel in business I like to sit in seat 2C. Really, they should be able to know that and automatically allocate that seat if its available or suggest an alternative.

It might be good for easyJet to claim a win on IT with the auto bag drop (which works fine), or behind the scenes to optimise operations – but its time to pull the front end up to modern standards and embrace digital native…