Rail punctuality figures shame train operators

Cross Country and Virgin Trains top the list for the UK’s most unpunctual train operating companies (TOCs).

Figures released by Network Rail reveal that just 46.2 per cent of Cross Country trains arrived on schedule, defined as arriving within one minute of its scheduled time. The equivalent figure for Virgin Trains was only a fraction higher at 48.4 per cent.

Other poor performers include Southern at 55.7 per cent, East Coast at 59.5 per cent and First Scotrail at 59.2 per cent.

The statistics cover a 365 day period leading up to June 22 of this year. They include delays caused by external factors such as weather, trespass, vandalism, cable theft and so on.

Top performers included Chiltern at 87 per cent, East Midlands Trains at 75 per cent, First Great Western at 69 per cent and Southwest at 68 per cent.

Note that Heathrow Express, Eurostar and ‘open access’ operators Grand Central and Hull Trains are not included in the Network Rail punctuality figures.

networkrail.co.uk

Alex McWhirter

Ascott to open its first India residence

Serviced apartment operator Ascott is to open its first India residence by 2016.

The 160-unit Ascott Ireo City Gurgaon is located in the centre of Ireo City and will be immediately next to the forthcoming Ireo City Central retail zone and entertainment hub.

The building will contain a choice of spacious studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and facilities including a swimming pool, gym and restaurant.

Lee Chee Koon, Ascott CEO, said: “Ascott Ireo City Gurgaon has added yet another city to our global footprint of over 70 cities across more than 20 countries.

“We remain confident in India’s long-term economic fundamentals and continue to see potential for serviced residences in the emerging country. With the addition of Ascott Ireo City Gurgaon, we now have nine properties with more than 1,900 apartment units in India.

“When Ascott Ireo City Gurgaon opens in 2016, expatriates and travellers to India will be able to choose from all three of our award-winning brands of serviced residences – Ascott, Citadines and Somerset.”

In May, Ascott signed a management contract for its first residence in Saudi Arabia, located near Riyadh’s financial district (see online news, May 22). 

the-ascott.com

Graham Smith

Hilton Worldwide opens its 4,000th hotel

Hilton Worldwide has announced the opening of its 4,000th hotel, the Hilton Shijiazhuang in the Hebei province of China.

The company, which now has 35 hotels in China, has opened more than 100 properties globally since the beginning of 2013, with a further 110 hotels expected to open throughout the remainder of the year.

The Hilton Shijiazhuang will have a 24-hour gym, a 25-metre indoor swimming pool and a spa.

Christopher J Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, said: “2013 has been an exceptional year so far for our company, and achieving our 4,000th hotel milestone confirms our commitment to be the world’s preeminent hospitality company.

“Our brands continue to see unprecedented growth in all regions of the world and to innovate to provide our guests with exceptional experiences.”

Hilton Worldwide has added more than 1,100 hotels to its portfolio since 2007, a room count increase of 33 per cent – making it the fastest-growing global hotel company.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Hilton’s Hampton by Hilton brand is planning to double its portfolio of hotels in Britain to 23 by 2015 (see online news, June 5).

hilton.com

Graham Smith

Malaysia Airlines to resume daily Dubai route

Malaysia Airlines will resume its daily Kuala Lumpur to Dubai service from August 5.

The service will depart Kuala Lumpur at 2330 and arrive in Dubai at 0220 the next day. The return leg will leave Dubai at 0410 for a 1525 landing.

The airline cut its five-a-week A330 services to Dubai as a part of a rationalisation programme in early 2012 (see online news, December 2011). However, due to significant demand, the airline has decided to reopen the route on a daily basis.

The route will now be served by a B777-200 aircraft configured with 282 seats across two classes – 247 in economy and 35 in business.

Dubai-based Emirates – a competitive airline on this route – meanwhile, launched a thrice-weekly service to Kuala Lumpur last year and added a fourth daily service on March 31.

Emirates operates the route with a A380, offering 489 seats; a A330-200 with 237 seats and a B777-300ER providing 364 seats.

For Oneworld passengers, Malaysia Airlines’ resumed service affords a new link between the Gulf and south-east Asia, while passengers flying from Europe to Asia can break their trip in the United Arab Emirates and stay loyal to Oneworld.

Malaysia Airlines will have a press conference regarding the flight launch on July 2, so stay tuned for additional information.

malaysiaairlines.com

Valerian Ho and Graham Smith

MAS re-introduces Dubai flights

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has announced that it will resume daily Dubai–Kuala Lumpur services starting August 5.

The route will be served by a B777-200 aircraft configured with 282 seats across two classes – 247 in economy and 35 in business. The service will depart Kuala Lumpur at 2330 and arrive in Dubai at 0220 the next day. The return leg will leave at 0410 for a 1525 touch down in the Malaysian city.

The airline cut its five-a-week A330 services to Dubai as a part of a rationalisation programme in early 2012 (see story here). Due to significant demand to this important transit point however, the airline has planned to re-open the route on a daily basis. Dubai-based Emirates – a competitive airline on this route – meanwhile, launched a thrice-weekly service between these two destinations last year (see news here), and added a fourth daily service on March 31 this year. Emirates operates the route with a A380, offering 489 seats; a A330-200 with 237 seats and a B777-300ER providing 364 seats.

Malaysia Airlines will have a press conference regarding the flight launch on July 2, so stay tuned for additional information.

Visit www.malaysiaairlines.com

Valerian Ho

BA launches London City to Dusseldorf route

From September 1 BA will offer a three-times daily service operated by 50-seater Saab 2000 aircraft, leased from Eastern Airways in full British Airways livery.

Flights will depart from London City at 0735, 1425 and 1855, with the return flights from Dusseldorf departing at 0635, 1315 and 1800.

Luke Hayhoe, British Airways general manager commercial at London City said: “We have launched a number of new leisure routes from London City in the past couple of years. Now we are very excited to be going to a great business city like Dusseldorf which offers significant trade links with the city of London.”

All inclusive one way fares from London City to Dusseldorf are available from £79 and include free hold luggage up to 23kgs, seat selection 24 hours before departure and complimentary food and drink.

ba.com

Scott Carey

Qatar confirms London and Paris as A380 launch routes

London Heathrow and Paris Charles De Gaulle will be the launch routes for Qatar Airways’ A380 superjumbo, a spokesperson for the airline has confirmed to Business Traveller.

Qatar has previously hinted that it will operate the superjumbo “on popular routes, especially in slot-constrained airports”.

Qatar Airways has 13 A380’s on order, with the first scheduled to enter service early next year. No official launch dates or schedules have been released yet.

Al Baker confirmed to Business Traveller last year (see online news, December 2012) that the upper deck of the A380 will be fitted with eight seats in first class – the only aircraft in the next three years that Qatar will fit with first class – and 52 business class seats, along with a lounge area and a small economy section.

The entire main deck will be economy class, meaning there will be a very desirable economy section in the nose section, where the aircraft is quietest, making a total of 517 seats on the aircraft.

A picture of the aircraft in partial livery was released earlier this month (see online news, June 12).

To see how the other A380 operating airlines compare, click here.

qatarairways.com

Scott Carey

BA’s 787 arrives at Heathrow

British Airways’ first B787 Dreamliner aircraft arrived at Heathrow this lunchtime, and BA has announced Toronto (September 1) and Newark (October 1) as launch routes for the first 787 services.

The Dreamliner is configured in three classes – economy (World Traveller), premium economy (World Traveller Plus) and business (Club World)

To see a seatplan click here.

Details:

  • The British Airways Dreamliner will have a total of 214 passengers
  • In Club World (business) there will be 35 seats in the new Club World triple configuration of 2:3:2
  • In World Traveller Plus (premium economy) there will be 25 seats in a layout of 2:3:2
  • In World Traveller (economy) there will be  154 seats with a 3:3:3 configuration
The airline is planning to serve Toronto with the 787 from September 1 and Newark, New York from October 1, subject to regulatory approval.

Flights are now on sale and with a fare of £787 return in World Traveller Plus (premium economy) to both cities.

Customers can also upgrade to Club World for an additional £787 return (total of £1,574 return per person).

Willie Walsh, CEO of BA parent company IAG said that, “The 787 will become a mainstay of the British Airways fleet over the next few years. This is the first of 24 that will arrive by 2017, and we have announced plans to convert further options for the aircraft into firm orders for delivery from 2017, including for the new larger 787-10 version.”

British Airways has ordered 24 787s, which will arrive over the next four years. The airline has also ordered 12 A380s and six additional 777-300ERs. Over the next 12 months, it will take delivery of a new aircraft at the rate of one a fortnight.

And here is a video of the interior of the BA B787:

Notes on the fares: 

(Promotional) From June 27 until midnight on July 16, British Airways is offering flights to Toronto and Newark on the 787 from £787 return for a World Traveller Plus (premium economy) seat.

The airline is also offering flights to Toronto and Newark in Club World (business class) on the 787 from £1,574 return on sale from June 27, 2013 until midnight on July 3, 2013.

World Traveller (economy) seats to Toronto will start from £517 return and to Newark from £444 return.

Travel dates are between October 21, 2013 and December 13, 2013, and December 25, 2013 and March 27, 2014 and are on sale from June 27 until midnight on July 16.

Lead-in fares for the 787 to Toronto on September 1 are

  • £619 World Traveller (limited availability),
  • £1,028 World Traveller Plus
  • £2,857 Club World

Lead-in fares for the 787 to Newark on October 1 are

  • £444 World Traveller (limited availability)
  • £787 World Traveller Plus
  • £2,505 Club World

To see information on the B787: How the airlines compare, click here

ba.com

Tom Otley