The year that was

23 Dec 2008 by Mark Caswell
looks back at some of this year’s business travel stories


  • BA unveils its
    subsidiary airline OpenSkies, the first UK carrier to fly non-stop from
    mainland Europe to the US.
  • Hand-baggage
    are relaxed at most UK airports although there is confusion as
    some facilities keep the one-bag rule in place for several more months.
  • Airmiles revamps
    its loyalty scheme, creating new redemption values which include taxes and
  • Thistle Hotels
    announces it is to spend £100 milion revamping 25 of its UK properties.


  • Ryanair’s
    reservations website shuts down for three days for “essential upgrades”.
  • Varig drops
    flights between Brazil and Europe, just months after they had been reinstated.
  • Virgin and BA
    launch a website for the refunding of illegal fuel surcharges to passengers.


  • The first authorised in-flight mobile phone
    calls are made on an Emirates flight from Dubai
    to Casablanca.
  • Problems with baggage-handling systems
    cause chaos at the opening of Heathrow’s T5, leading to BA delaying the
    transfer of long-haul flights to the terminal.
  • The Open Skies agreement between the US
    and Europe comes into effect, leading to a
    raft of new transatlantic services from London Heathrow.


  • Safety checks
    cause United Airlines’ 52-strong fleet of Boeing 777s to be grounded.
  • Turkish Airlines
    joins Star Alliance, in the same year as the carrier celebrates its 75th
  • Hilton debuts it Doubletree brand in the UK, with the
    conversion of the Cambridge Garden House hotel.


  • Air France
    announces a new long-haul premium economy class, code named C38.
  • Easyhotel announces it will open its first
    budget hotel in Dubai
    in 2009.
  • Swiss unveils its next-generation business
    class seating, due to appear on its long-haul fleet from 2009.
  • British carrier Silverjet goes bust, the
    third all-business class airline to fail in six months.


  • US carrier Delta announces it is dropping its London Gatwick-New York JFK service in the
    same month that the airport celebrates its 50th birthday.
  • FlyDubai says it will commence low-cost
    flights from Al Maktoum International airport in 2009.
  • Continental announces it is to defect from
    Skyteam to Star Alliance, as it forges a closer relationship with founder Star
    member United Airlines.


  • BA buys French all-business class carrier
    L’Avion, intending to integrate the airline into its OpenSkies subsidiary.
  • Kingfisher Airlines unveils its new long-haul
    economy and business class products, ahead of the launch of flights from London to Bangalore.
  • Egyptair becomes the 21st Star Alliance member.
  • The price of oil reaches a record high of nearly US$150 per barrel.


  • Emirates launches A380 flights from Dubai
    to New York,
    with features including showers for first class passengers and fully-flat beds
    in business class.
  • Sofitel opens its new property at
    Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the only hotel attached to the terminal building.
  • Low-cost Canadian carrier Zoom goes bust,
    citing “acutely difficult trading conditions within the aviation industry”.
  • Lufthansa announces it is to buy Brussels


  • United Airlines abandons plans to trial paid-for
    in-flight meals across the Atlantic.
  • Starwood announces its first W hotels in
    the UK with properties
    planned for London and Manchester.
  • Eurostar services are severely disrupted by
    a fire in one of the tunnels under the English Channel.
  • Qantas takes delivery of its first A380
    aircraft, featuring a four-class product and a lounge for business class


  • Brazilian carrier TAM announces it is to
    join Star Alliance.
  • Jumeirah announces it will open a
    “five-star super-deluxe” hotel and serviced apartment property in Glasgow.


  • BA announces a 91 per cent drop in
    before-tax profits, and plans to cut several short and long-haul services,
    including Gatwick-Zurich and Heathrow-Kolkata.
  • Oneworld member-elect Mexicana launches a
    twice-weekly service from Mexico City
    to London Gatwick, commencing in January.
  • Capsule hotel group Yotel signs an
    agreement to open two properties in Abu
  • Low-cost long-haul carrier Air Asia X
    announces the launch of flights from London Stansted to Kuala Lumpur.


  • Virgin says it is in talks with
    Lufthansa over the future of Bmi.
  • Oil prices fall to US$45 per barrel, around one-third of their peak
    earlier in the year.

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