Weekly Travel Roundup December 23rd

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Travel News 22 Dec 2016

For week ending December 23rd

During the past week our attention was mainly caught by airline strikes that threatened to affect Christmas travellers and bring travel chaos over the festive season. The industrial action voted by Swissport workers has now been cancelled, but BA and Virgin Atlantic still face the prospect of a strike and possible disruptions. Beyond these alarming travel warnings, there is plenty of travel updates to catch up on in Ireland: Aer Lingus Regional is having its busiest ever Christmas with 110,000 passengers using the routes and Dublin Airport is set for record Christmas with 1 million passengers over the festive season. Furthermore, Ireland has been named Europe's “best destination" at the Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards for the third year running. All this and much more in our weekly roundup.

Multiple strikes over Christmas period

Three threatened strikes had been called by BA cabin crews, Virgin Atlantic pilots and Swissport airport staff at 18 UK airports earlier this week. Christmas travellers were set to be inconvenienced by a series of serious strikes involving baggage handling staff, flight attendants, pilots and airport rail services. The situation has changed over the past 24 hours as the strike by Swissport workers has been called off after successful talks over pay. The industrial action would have involved 1,500 members of the Unite union at 18 UK airports causing serious disruptions all over the country. However, British Airways still faces the prospect of a strike by certain cabin crew on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but plans to run a full schedule on both days to and from London Heathrow. The action could involve up to 4,500 staff.
Virgin Atlantic pilots (PPU), who have voted to take industrial action short of a strike in a row over union recognition, will work “strictly to contract” from 23 December. A PPU spokeswoman said: “the action will see a removal of ‘pilot goodwill,’ with pilots who are members of the PPU working strictly to their contract.” The new union warned that the action―which stops short of a strike―could continue indefinitely, and could result in some flights not being fully staffed.

Ireland wins ‘best destination’ award as visits smash 10 million barrie

Ireland has been named Europe's “best destination" at the Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards for the third year running. The award, announced at a ceremony at New York's Conrad Hotel, caps a record-breaking year for overseas tourism to the island. "Travellers nowadays have tremendous choice, which makes it more important than ever to ensure the island of Ireland stands out from other destinations," said Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland’s CEO.

Aer Lingus Regional will carry a record 110,000 passengers this Christmas

Aer Lingus Regional is having its busiest ever Christmas with 110,000 passengers using the routes in December. The service operated by Stobart Air saw a 19% jump in passenger numbers this month compared with the same period last year. December 30 looks set to be the busiest day with the airline’s highest volume of traffic on that date.

Dublin Airport set for record Christmas with 1 million passengers over the festive season

A record 1 million passengers are set to pass through the doors of Dublin Airport over the festive season making it the busiest Christmas on record. Between Friday, December 23 and Friday, January 6, 978,000 people are expected to arrive and depart from the two terminals - making it the busiest Christmas on record.

BA's first ski route takes off from Stansted

British Airways is starting a ski route from Stansted tomorrow (Saturday) with flights to the French Alps. The service to Chambery will run twice a week and complement flights from London City airport which rise from three times a week to a daily service over the Christmas and new year period.

Flybe gains access to Heathrow for the first time

Flybe is to gain access to Heathrow for the first time with two routes to Scotland. The regional carrier is to serve Edinburgh and Aberdeen from March 2017, with fares starting at £39.99 one-way. Flybe will operate slots which became available as a result of commitments required by the European Commission following the acquisition of BMI by British Airways owner International Airlines Group.

Hilton adds Doubletree brand at Edinburgh airport

Following a £2.5 million investment programme, Hilton Worldwide has rebranded its Hilton Edinburgh Airport property under the group’s Doubletree. The Doubletree by Hilton Edinburgh Airport features 150 newly refurbished rooms, Space Restaurant, Living Well leisure club, and 22 meeting rooms. The hotel is located on Eastfield Road, five minutes from the terminal building, with a 24-hour complimentary shuttle service.

Radisson Red opens first Georgia property

The Rezidor Hotel Group has announced it will open its first Radisson Red property in Georgia in mid-2019. The hotel will be located in the capital Tblisi and will feature around 100 rooms, a restaurant, an outdoor terrace and rooftop bar.

Jet2 boosts Stansted capacity with new routes and aircraft

Four new routes, extra capacity and an additional aircraft are being added from Jet2.com’s new base at Stansted for summer 2017. The new destinations (Antalya, Corfu, Dalaman and Split) take the low-cost carrier’s network up to more than 25 points with 96 weekly flights.

Singapore Airlines to increase frequencies to Europe and Australia

Singapore Airlines has announced plans to increase services to Australia, Europe, Southeast Asia and West Asia during next year’s Northern Summer schedules to meet growing travel demand. The carrier will add three weekly flights to Melbourne, Four weekly services to Brisbane, two additional flights per week to Sydney. Meanwhile flights to Rome will be doubled to four times-weekly from July, while Moscow will gain an extra weekly service when it is combined with the carrier’s new one-stop services to Stockholm.

Lufthansa and Etihad Airways agree codeshare

Lufthansa and Etihad Airways have announced plans to codeshare on selected flights from the new year. The agreement will see the German carrier place its code on Etihad’s twice daily flights from Abu Dhabi to both Frankfurt and Munich. Lufthansa dropped its own flights between Frankfurt and Abu Dhabi in 2015, so the new deal will enable the carrier to return to the emirate without incurring the expense of operating its own aircraft. In turn Etihad will codeshare on Lufthansa’s services from Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro and Bogota, giving the carrier access to two new South American destinations.

Ascott expands into Ireland

The Ascott Limited has expanded its European portfolio with the acquisition of its first property in Ireland. The Singapore-based serviced residence group has acquired the 136-unit Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin’s city centre for €55.1 million, increasing the company’s regional portfolio to over 5,400 units. It’s not yet clear where the property will sit among Ascott’s existing brand portfolio, but Mr Alfred Ong, Ascott’s managing director for Europe, said that “there are already plans to rebrand the property at a later date.”

Etihad launches codeshare with Tanzanian carrier

Etihad Airways signed a new codeshare agreement with Tanzanian carrier Precision Air. The deal sees Etihad place its code on Precision Air flights between Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Mtwara, Nairobi, Zanzibar and Pemba, and between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. In turn Precision Air will place its code on Etihad’s services between Dar es Salaam and Abu Dhabi.

Emirates to fly A380 to Morocco

Emirates is to launch the first commercial A380 service to North Africa next year, when it rosters its superjumbo on the daily Dubai-Casablanca route. The A380 will replace the current B777-300ER and  opere the service from March 2017. The move will see Emirates offer a total of 1,834 extra seats on the route each week.

Eurowings to serve Edinburgh and Stansted in 2017

Eurowings will open a new Munich base in the summer of 2017 and will be adding 32 destinations, of which two of these will be Edinburgh and London Stansted. Lufthansa’s budget subsidiary will base four A320s at Munich to serve a mixture of both business and leisure destinations. These include leisure destinations in Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain along with key business cities.

Heathrow expansion expected to ease through parliament

Heathrow expansion is likely to ease through a parliamentary vote, according to a poll of MPs. Research carried out by the airport found that 74% of MPs now back the project to build a third runway, up by seven percentage points since the summer. The proportion of Conservatives in favour has risen from 71% to 80% over the same period. Heathrow said this meant that there would be “an overwhelming parliamentary endorsement” for the project.