Gatwick offers £100 compensation for Christmas Eve delays

London Gatwick is offering £100 of high street vouchers as compensation to every passenger whose flight was cancelled on Christmas Eve in a “gesture of goodwill”.

Some 62 departures and 59 arrivals were cancelled on one of the busiest days of the year after heavy rain and strong winds caused all local waterways around the airport to flood.

As a result, significant damage to electrical substations and switch rooms caused the partial loss of power to LGW’s North Terminal.

Passengers whose flights were cancelled due to these “operational issues” should email customer.services@gatwickairport.com with evidence of their booking on a flight due to depart from or arrive at Gatwick on December 24 together with their postal address.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said: “We appreciate that lots of our passengers were travelling to be with their families over the festive period and we are sorry that flights were cancelled and passengers left disappointed, particularly at this time of the year.”

A report into the Christmas disruption at Gatwick is due to be published in February.

Meanwhile, passengers looking to travel between London and Gatwick by rail over the New Year period are being forced to either use bus replacement services or find alternative modes of transport (see news, December 30).

gatwickairport.com

Graham Smith

Double miles for Etihad Guest members booking with Hertz

Hertz is offering Etihad loyalty programme members double miles when booking a rental car before the end of January.

Etihad Guest members usually earn 500 miles per Hertz car rental year round, but can earn double miles during Hertz’s current global sale.

Members need to book by January 31 and travel between January 2 and June 30.

Each rental needs to be for a minimum of three days and must be made in a partcipating country.

And members who rent a car through Hertz can also enter a draw to win 10,000 Etihad Guest miles every week during January.

For more information and to make a booking, click here.

etihad.com, hertz.com

Graham Smith

Starwood to open Four Points hotel in Slovenia

Starwood Hotels and Resorts will open its first hotel in Slovenia in 2014.

Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons will be located a ten-minute drive from the centre of the capital Ljubljana and 15 minutes from the city airport.

Scheduled to open on June 30, the 114-room property will feature three junior suites, a restaurant and bar, and a fitness centre.

The hotel will also contain nearly 850 sqm of meeting and event space, including a large ballroom, two meeting rooms and three boardrooms.

Like all Four Points hotels, each room will also have the signature Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort bed and free bottled water, and complimentary wifi in all public areas.

Michael Wale, president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East, said: “With a steady increase in international arrivals over the last few years and its strategic location at the crossroads of main European cultural and trade routes, the time is right to enter Slovenia.

“Four Points will provide guests with a fresh, new hotel experience at an affordable price point in the country’s capital city.”

Starwood announced the signing of the hotel, which is owned by Kranjska Investicijska Druzba, yesterday.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Starwood will open a new Sheraton Hotel in Zurich on January 17 (see news, December 16).

starwood.com

Graham Smith

Emirates CEO Tim Clark knighted

Emirates president Tim Clark has been knighted in the New Year Honours list.

The British CEO joined the Gulf airline when it launched in 1985 and became its president in 2003.

He was recognised for “services to British prosperity and to the aviation industry”.

Before joining Emirates, Clark worked for four years at Gulf Air as a route planner.

Emirates is now one of the world’s biggest airlines and operates the largest fleet of A380s — it currently has 44 superjumbos and a further 96 on order (see news, December 23).

Yesterday, it was revealed that 5,337,544 passengers travelled through Dubai International airport — Emirates’ hub — in November, up 9.5 per cent on the same period last year (see news, December 30).

emirates.com

Graham Smith

Ryanair launches online registration service

Ryanair has launched its latest customer service initiative – the ability to register personal details on its website for future use.

Customers can store their details using the ‘My Ryanair‘ service, and access them when making bookings or checking in online at ryanair.com.

The carrier says that the service will help passengers “to make faster bookings and check-in quicker online”, adding that those registering will also be able to access new business and family services when they are launched next spring, along with a forthcoming Ryanair app.

The registration service is the latest in a raft of enhancements rolled out by the low-cost airline, in a bid to improve its customer service image among travellers.

These include a 24-hour grace period for minor corrections to bookings, the introduction of quiet flights before 0800 and after 2100, an additional small carry-on bag allowance (measuring no more than 35 x 30 x 20cm), and a reduction in its boarding pass reissue fee from £70 to £15 for those checking in online.

In February Ryanair will also move to fully allocated seating policy, and the carrier says it will also reduce its standard airport bags fees “bringing them in line with competitor airlines”.

ryanair.com

Mark Caswell

Dubai International records 9.5% traffic increase

Dubai International continued to record strong growth figures last month, with 5,337,544 passengers using the airport in November, up 9.5 per cent on the same period last year.

The figure means the Middle Eastern hub has recorded 12 consecutive months of traffic exceeding five million passengers, and is now set to surpass its 2013 traffic forecast of 65.4 million passengers.

Dubai International currently stands second in the list of the world’s busiest airports by international traffic, having overtaken Paris Charles de Gaulle earlier this year, and is predicted to take the number 1 spot from Heathrow by 2015.

By contrast Heathrow’s total passenger traffic during November was 5,411,400, up by just 0.6 per cent on the previous year.

dubaiairport.com

Mark Caswell

Star Alliance revamps business rewards programme

Star Alliance has revamped its loyalty programme aimed at small and medium sized companies.

Formerly known as Star Alliance Company Plus in the UK and Ireland, the scheme – which allows businesses to pool points earned by employees and exchange them for benefits including cashback, award flights, upgrades, airport parking and limo transfers – has been renamed Partner Plus Benefit in line with the programme’s global brand name.

As part of the revamp, members can now also earn points on all revenue booking classes, “including the lowest ones”.

Christian Schindler, Lufthansa’s general manager UK and Ireland, said: “As part of the largest company bonus programme worldwide, which has proven itself globally for many years, our clients will continue to enjoy increased benefits and for the first time the opportunity to earn points on all revenue booking classes.

“PartnerPlusBenefit members can earn and burn points on all ten airlines in the programme in one easy to manage account. No other similar programme in this country includes so many carriers working together in that way.”

Ten Star Alliance carriers currently participate in the scheme: Air Canada, ANA, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, TAP Portugal and United, as well as Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings.

The programme transfer officially takes place on January 7, 2014, but a new website has already been set up at flyppb.co.uk.

Mark Caswell

Vanilla Air takes off

Vanilla Air started its first domestic and international services on December 20, flying from Tokyo Narita Airport to Okinawa Naha Airport and Taipei Taoyuan Airport. The routes are the airline’s first services after being re-branded from Air Asia Japan (see story here). The carrier is also scheduled to reach Sapporo in January and Seoul in March.

The international routes will be served by a 166-seat A320 and a 180-seat A320. The flight schedules are as follows:

Tokyo (Narita) – Taipei (Taoyuan)

Flight number

Depart

Time

Arrive

Time

Remarks

JW103

Narita

1400

Taoyuan

1705

From Dec 20

JW104

Taoyuan

1750

Narita

2200

JW105

Narita

2220

Taoyuan

0125

From Jan 29

JW106

Taoyuan

0300

Narita

0710

From Jan 30

*JW105 flight schedule from March 1: Depart Narita at 2100 and arrive Taipei at 0005

Tokyo (Narita) – Seoul (Incheon)

Flight number

Depart

Time

Arrive

Time

Remarks

JW201

Narita

0705

Incheon

0950

From Mar 1

JW202

Incheon

1035

Narita

1250

JW205

Narita

1320

Incheon

1555

JW206

Incheon

1645

Narita

1900

JW203

Narita

0845

Incheon

1130

From Mar 15

JW204

Incheon

1215

Narita

1430

JW207

Narita

1515

Incheon

1800

JW208

Incheon

1855

Narita

2110

 

The regular fare for the Tokyo-Taipei route starts at ¥12,500 (US$119) for an “Inclusive” ticket and ¥10,000 (US$95) for a “Simple” ticket, while the Tokyo-Seoul route ranges from ¥10,500 (US$142) for an Inclusive and ¥8,000 (US$76) for a Simple. Fuel surcharges are included. The difference between the two types of air ticket – Inclusive and Simple – are as follows:

 

Inclusive

Simple

Checked baggage

Free (up to 20kg)

Seat assignment

All seats are free

Pay extra to select seats

Flight / schedule change

Fee: ¥500 (US$4.75)

Fee: ¥2,000 (US$1.90)

Cancellation (Refund)

Fee: ¥3,000 (US$28.47)

Not permitted

Other features

Seats with extra legroom are available

 

 

For in-flight meals, passengers can select “Bounty of the Sea Paella Style Rice”, “Chunky Vegetables”, “Tender Beef in Demigrass Sauce”, “Arabic Bread Pocket Sandwich” and “Meatlover’s Mince Cutlet Sandwich”, costing from ¥500 (US$4.75) to ¥700 (US$6.64). There are also sweet offerings for passengers, including “Milk-dama Balloon Pudding”, “Family Fun Pancake” and “Creamy Custard Bun Vanilla Air Special”, with prices ranging from ¥200 (US$1.90) to ¥500 (US$4.75).

Creamy Custard Bun Vanilla Air Special

For more information, visit www.vanilla-air.com/en

Valerian Ho

New China high-speed rail link in service

China has opened another new high-speed rail link.

It used to take 13 hours to reach Xiamen, an important seaport in the eastern province of Fujian, from the country’s southern boomtown of Shenzhen by train, but the new 513km route, opened on Saturday, has cut the travel time to four hours, according to the Xinhua News Agency. Both cities are important special economic zones of China – for more on them, click here for Xiamen and here for Shenzhen.

The line runs from Xiamen at 0735 until 1928, with one-way second class fare ranging from RMB140 (US$23.1) to RMB150 (US$24.7) and first class ranging from RMB168 (US$27.7) to RMB181 (US$29.9). The first train leaves Shenzhen at 0700 and the last one departs for Xiamen at 1920. At press time, the cheapest round-trip air ticket between the two cities Business Traveller Asia-Pacific could find online was CNY870 (US$143.5), excluding taxes and surcharges. And although the flight journey is only a little more than an hour, the time needed travelling to and waiting at the airport – not to mention China’s notorious air traffic delays because of the restricted airspace – means taking the high-speed train on this route might be more efficient than flying.

Moreover, there are about six flights a day between Shenzhen and Xiamen, but nearly 30 scheduled train departures. The new line is connected to the larger high-speed rail network and has enabled travellers to cut travel time between Shenzhen and Shanghai by six hours, to 12 hours.

Wendy Tang

Gatwick suffers festive rail disruption

Passengers looking to travel between London and Gatwick airport by rail over the New Year period, are being forced to either use bus replacement services or find alternative modes of transport.

A combination of planned engineering works, and a landslip caused by recent adverse weather conditions, means that there are currently no rail services serving the airport until at least January 2.

Southern – which also runs the Gatwick Express franchise – had already announced a revised service over the Christmas and New Year period, as a result of works including the creation of a new platform at Gatwick airport. This meant passengers having to travel to East Grinstead and pick up a bus replacement service.

The situation has been exacerbated by a landslip at Ockley near Dorking, resulting in rail services between Horsham and Dorking also being subject to bus replacements, with passengers travelling between the South Coast and Gatwick airport / London being advised to travel via Three Bridges.

At present Network Rail has not given an indication on how long it will take to repair the landslip, saying only that it is “assessing the damage”. Southern’s website says that “This will not be a quick repair and we are working with Network Rail to determine what service we can provide in the meantime”.

Gatwick’s website warns that “Replacement bus services and diversions could add up to two hours to journey times, so we’re advising passengers to plan their route carefully, check before they travel and allow extra time to get to the airport”.

southernrailway.com, networkrail.co.uk, gatwickexpress.com, gatwickairport.com