News

New Year roundup

2 Jan 2008 by Mark Caswell

Maxjet goes bust

Maxjet customers had an unwelcome present on Christmas Eve, when it was announced that the all-business class airline had gone bust. The carrier’s website displayed the following message from president and CEO William D Stockbridge:

“It is with deep regret that I must inform you that Maxjet filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 24 December 2007. With today’s fuel prices and the resulting impact on credit climate for airlines, we are forced to take this drastic measure. Our top priority is to assist our customers, particularly those who have already begun their travel with us, in securing alternative flight accommodations.”

Maxjet says that it has contracted with rival Eos Airlines to fly passengers awaiting return flights on the London-New York route, and would contact those travelling from London to LA or Las Vegas regarding alternative arrangements. Customers choosing to purchase alternative flights themselves should seek a refund from their credit card provider or travel agency. For more information visit maxjet.com.

Air France buys VLM – Alitalia to follow?

Air France-KLM has announced it is buying Belgian carrier VLM for an undisclosed sum. VLM operates out of London City airport to destinations including Antwerp, Amsterdam and Brussels, and the airline will now co-operate with Air France subsidiary Cityjet, which also flies from LCY.

Johan Vanneste, managing director of VLM Airlines, says: “I’m very excited that VLM Airlines will be part of the Air France-KLM group. It will create value for our customers, as this transaction will ensure them access to the largest number of destinations from London City airport. The strengths of the Air France-KLM group will provide the necessary support to take the development of VLM Airlines to the next level.”

With both VLM and Cityjet under the Air France-KLM wing, the Franco-Dutch carrier will now offer a total of 17 direct routes within Europe from London City.

In other news, Air France-KLM is due to start talks this week with Alitalia regarding the sale of the Italian carrier. The Italian government, which currently owns a 49.9 per cent stake in Alitalia, has backed the Air France-KLM bid over a rival one by Italian carrier Air One. If the deal goes ahead, the Alitalia name could eventually be added to the Air France-KLM moniker, so businesstraveller.com welcomes suggestions for a brand new name for the airline – top marks go to anyone who can squeeze Air France, KLM, VLM, Cityjet and Alitalia into an acronym short enough to fit on the airline’s headed paper.

For more information visit airfrance.co.uk, flyvlm.com, alitalia.com.

Cabin baggage restrictions to be eased… but not at all airports

The government’s restrictions on cabin baggage at UK airports are due to be eased on Monday (January 7), but there are some notable exceptions. Gatwick, Luton and Leeds Bradford airports have yet to meet required standards put in place by the Department for Transport, meaning that as things stand the one-piece restrictions will remain at these airports.

The discrepancy is likely to lead to confusion among passengers, particularly as individual airlines have announced their own revised cabin baggage allowances at compliant airports. As an example Bmi (and other Star Alliance carriers) will permit economy passengers to take one piece of cabin baggage onboard, plus “one personal item, such as a small handbag, purse, small briefcase, laptop or baby-change bag” – premium economy and business class passengers will be allowed two pieces of cabin baggage plus the additional personal item.

For an up to date list of compliant airports, visit dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/airtravel/airportsecurity/cabinbaggage.

GB Airways routes now on sale at easyjet.com

Easyjet has started selling tickets for the summer schedule on routes previously plied by BA franchise GB Airways. Easyjet’s takeover of the Gatwick-based airline is due to be finalised this month, and BA is no longer selling GB flights past March 30, 2008.

Customers who have already booked to fly with GB Airways after this date can choose to fly with Easyjet on the same route or have their ticket refunded. A total of 32 former GB routes will be taken over by Easyjet, including flights to Egypt, Turkey and Corfu. For more information visit easyjet.com.

Rotana to open Beirut and Doha properties

Rotana Hotels has announced it will add two more hotels to its portfolio this year, the Raouché Rotana Suites in Beirut and the City Centre Rotana Hotel, Doha.

The Middle Eastern company plans to open the 170-suite Beirut property in April this year. The hotel will be located on Raouché Boulevard, close to the city’s airport, and will include a landscaped swimming pool, fitness centre, meeting rooms and an all-day dining restaurant. The Doha hotel meanwhile is slated for a mid-2008 opening, and will feature 400 rooms, five food and beverage options, a swimming pool and fitness centre, all located in the West Bay area of the city.

Rotana currently manages 25 properties throughout the Middle East, with plans for 35 more projects underway. For more information visit rotana.com.

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