Author Archive

Travelodge to expand near pubs

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Travelodge will be teaming up with a number of pub companies including Marston’s, Greene King, JD Wetherspoon and Mitchells & Butlers as part of its intended £100 million expansion plan. The idea is to open new hotels next to existing pubs, or to build hotels and pubs together at brand new sites.

The joint-venture will be mutually beneficial, as guests are expected to gravitate towards hotels which have a pub offering food and drink, and the pubs will benefit from guests choosing to visit them for a meal. The intention is to open 36 new sites and it is estimated that by 2015, some 550 new jobs will have been created by the scheme.

The joint development will help reduce costs and mean that both establishments have access to shared facilities, such as car parking spaces. According to managing director for development at Travelodge, Paul Harvey, many pub companies are now focusing on development and, in most cases, they are concentrating on locations which correspond with the hotel chain.

Pubs have been struggling in recent years as customers are lured by supermarket offers on alcohol and choose to spend more time at home. Many have decided to concentrate on offering meals as a way of tempting people through the door. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that around one billion meals a year are now being sold in the country’s establishments.

A number of companies have recently announced plans to open in leisure and retail parks where customers are more likely to want to sit down and enjoy a meal.

Woman dies in rush hour train fire

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

A woman travelling on a rush hour train has apparently caused her own death by starting a fire in one of the carriage’s toilets. The 43-year-old is believed to have started the blaze deliberately at around 17.05 on Monday. The train was travelling to London’s Euston station from Northampton when the incident occurred.

According to an eyewitness who watched the developments from her flat which overlooks Leighton Buzzard station, where the train was evacuated, there was thick smoke emanating from the carriage. The emergency services were called to the scene and no other casualties were reported.

A British Transport Police spokeswoman said that currently the authorities were not looking for anyone else in connection with the tragedy. She added that the dead woman had suffered burn injuries in the fire. The train remained at Leighton Buzzard for some time, but officials have confirmed that forensic teams will go on board after it has been moved to a railway siding.

The incident caused severe delays on the West Coast route and London Midland was forced to replace a number of its commuter services with buses. Virgin Trains, which runs services on the route, said that it had also experienced delays. For a time, all services were cancelled in and out of Euston.

The power lines over the track also had to be turned off as a precaution after the fire was reported. The train’s conductor was alerted to the situation by a passenger who saw smoke coming out of the carriage’s toilet.

Air France crash debris located

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

French officials say that a large piece of wreckage from the Air France flight which crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 has been found. According to France’s transport minister, Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet, some bodies have also been located and will soon be brought up to the surface for identification.

This is the fourth time investigators have searched the ocean for flight 447′s wreckage. The main aim of the latest expedition is to recover the black box flight recorders which, it is hoped, will contain vital clues as to what caused the crash. The plane came down as it was en route to Paris after taking off from Rio de Janeiro.

It is known that the plane encountered a storm and that the flight speed indicators were feeding erroneous information to the pilots. However, it is unlikely that these were the only factors involved in the Airbus ditching into the ocean. If the voice and data recorders are not located, the cause of the incident will remain speculation.

However, experts have expressed renewed hope after finding the latest piece of debris which will be brought to the surface within the next few weeks. Although those who died came from a number of different countries most were German, French or Brazilian.

The latest search mission is being funded by planemaker Airbus and Air France. Both were recently indicted on the charge of manslaughter by a French judge. Some of the families of the 228 victims claim that officials were too slow in their initial attempts to investigate the incident.

Expedia announces Mexico travel growth

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Online travel giant Expedia has recorded a significant growth in demand for holidays in Mexico over the last 12 months. The jump in demand has been recorded across Expedia travel sites and the Hotels.com brand around the world. However, much of the 25 per cent hike in demand for Mexico has come from the UK, the US and Canada.

Expedia’s Latin America VP of market management, Marco Taliatti, confirmed that Mexico was an extremely popular choice of destination with Expedia travellers. He added that the country was often in the top three in terms of positive feedback.

Over the past year, Expedia has grown its hotel partnerships in Mexico by 30 per cent. More than 120 of those properties made it on to the travel firm’s exclusive Insiders’ Select list. For hotels joining the Expedia online marketplace there is access to an audience of around 50 million travellers who access Expedia and Hotels.com every month. This number is expected to increase as more travellers become familiar with the advantages of booking their holidays over the net.

Expedia’s Mexico and Central America director of market management, Pablo Castro, said that by partnering with Expedia, hotels had access to a completely new audience of customers. He added that by sharing its wealth of information on booking behaviour and trends gathered from across the globe, Expedia could help its partner hotels to better develop their marketing strategies and boost occupancy rates.

Expedia aims to grow its team of 40 revenue managers in Mexico this year.

Scotland plans changes to drink driving laws

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Westminster has said it will not be lowering the level of alcohol motorists are permitted to have in their blood even though a government commissioned study has made the recommendation to do so. Sir Peter North, who headed the report, has advised that the current level of 80mg per 100ml of blood be reduced to 50mg. The Scottish government has expressed its disappointment with the decision and says that once the Scotland Bill is passed it will be moving quickly to have the recommendations made into legislation.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said the current limit produced confusion and sent motorists the wrong message. He added that it was unfortunate that Westminster was not paying more attention to the report and that the Scottish government had been asking London for some time to give it the power to change the law.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond explained that he would not be lowering the amount of alcohol permitted in a driver’s blood stream because he wanted to concentrate on greater enforcement of procedures already in place to combat those who ignore the law. He added that the government would be streamlining procedures to better tackle the problem.

Motoring organisations have described the move as a missed opportunity and have said they too are disappointed. However, the AA said it was good that the government had made road-side alcohol tests admissible as evidence in the courts.

The government has also announced plans to better deal with the issue of drivers who have taken illegal drugs.

Emirates to announce strong financial results

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Dubai-based Emirates will announce its year-end results in April and is expected to declare record earnings for the second-half of the financial year. For the period between April and September, the airline said passenger traffic had grown 19.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2009. Earnings in the first-half totalled $925 million and analysts see no reason why year-end results should not hit at least $2 billion.

Although the carrier’s president, Tim Clark, said business travel had been damaged to and from the regions which have recently experienced social and political upheaval, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation predicted that overall such events were unlikely to seriously dent the demand for international air travel.

Peter Harbison, the centre’s executive director went on to say that the second half of the year had been stronger than the first and that Emirates should at least double its results.

Although he did not go into any details, the airline’s Australasian and Far East commercial operations senior VP, Richard Jewsbury, confirmed that the first-half of the year had yielded good results and that the second-half was likely to be even stronger.

The Royal Bank of Scotland recently issued a research note in which it predicted that Emirates would concentrate on growing traffic to Africa, China, India and the Middle East. By the end of the decade the airline will have a fleet of around 250 aircraft and will add approximately 46 new destinations to its roster in territories across Asia and the US.

Avis continues to open offices across the UK

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Car rental giant Avis has announced that it intends to open more than 100 new branches across the UK by the end of 2011. The car hire firm also said that it had increased the number of locations supplying vehicles to leisure customers by 50 per cent. In the last two months the company has opened 37 new branches.

Customers now have access to Avis vehicles through business solutions provider Regus. The companies have entered into a partnership at 21 new locations and car hire can be booked at a Regus office.

Further partnership deals have been struck with hotels so that guests will have no difficulty in obtaining a quality vehicle with which to explore the local area.

Avis branches can now be found in cities and towns like Windsor, Huddersfield and Cheltenham. Vehicles can also be picked up from Avis rental outlets at 38 airports. Currently the company has 170 offices throughout the UK and Avis car hire is available on four continents.

Commercial boss at Avis UK, Anthony Ainsworth, said: “50% growth of Avis’ town and city branches in just two months is a significant achievement for us and puts us another step closer to reaching our ultimate goal of having an Avis branch within a few miles of every household in the UK. Next year will see the number of Avis branches increase with a further 100+ locations, demonstrating our commitment to giving customers the choice to find a car hire solution that best suits their needs.”

IAG prepares for drop in demand in the Middle East

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The newly formed International Airlines Group has announced a €90 million net profit for the final quarter of last year ending 31 December. The figure is an improvement on a deficit of €130 million recorded for the same period a year earlier. The reversal of fortune is mainly due to better yields and revenue on a limited growth in capacity.

IAG’s chief executive, former BA boss Willie Walsh, said the airline was following the events in the Middle East and watching for the impact on the price of oil. He added that the group was prepared to begin reducing capacity in the region if the price of oil began affecting demand.

Both Iberia and BA recently passed on around 50 per cent of the increasing price of oil to customers as a fuel surcharge. However, the airlines claim that so far they have not seen any significant drop in demand from passengers on long-haul services. Walsh went on to say that if Middle Eastern traffic was to fall away it would only affect some six per cent of IAG’s business.

The group said it continued to see strong performance in its long-haul services across the board, especially in the premium sector. Short-haul business in Europe is however still struggling against extremely strong competition, especially from the budget carriers.

Before completing the merger with Iberia, BA was able to turn a loss of £245 million in 2009 into £170 million net profit in 2010. This was despite continuing problems with cabin crew, air traffic control strikes and disruption caused by severe winter weather in December.

Guilty plea by Network Rail over Potters Bar

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Rail operator Network Rail has confirmed that it will be entering a guilty plea to health and safety charges which resulted in the Potters Bar rail crash in May 2002. An inquest into the incident last year resulted in the Office of Rail Regulation bringing charges against the firm over the condition of the tracks which caused a points failure and resulted in a train derailment and the death of seven people.

A spokesman for Network Rail said it had made the decision to plead guilty because it was committed to taking on the liabilities and responsibilities of Railtrack, the operator it took over in October 2002. He added that since the incident, improvements had been made, and that travelling by rail was now safer than it has ever been.

He went on to say that all health and safety recommendations made by the industry’s formal inquiry had been carried out. Watford Magistrates’ Court said it was unable to pass sentence on Network Rail because of the seriousness of the charges. The company is due to be handed its punishment next month.

Legal representative of a number of the victim’s families, Louise Christian, said that many of the families were still extremely upset that the process was taking such a long time. She added that there was also a worry that not enough had been done to address concerns over health and safety for the future.

The Office of Rail Regulation is now considering pursuing Jarvis, the company responsible for the upkeep of the rails near Potters Bar at the time.

Global airline industry growth led by Asia

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The future growth of the world’s airline industry will focus on the Asia-Pacific, according to International Air Travel Association boss, Giovanni Bisignani. Speaking in Singapore recently, he explained that the number of passengers taking to the skies was going to rise from the 2.5 billion recorded in 2009 to 3.3 billion by 2014. Around one billion of these travellers will come from the Asia-Pacific.

In a statement, the association said that the largest number of passengers were likely to come from Hong Kong, China and Japan by 2014, with the most number of new customers originating in China.

Discussing the future of the airline business, Bisignani said that everything continued to focus on Asia. Growth remains slow in regions including Europe and North America. The US was the largest airline market in the world until 2009 when the Asia-Pacific took over.

Although Europe and the US are regarded as mature markets, Bisignani explained that growth also remained sluggish because of a lack of confidence from consumers as they face austerity measures imposed by their governments, relatively high rates of unemployment and consumer debt.

In terms of market value, Asia now has a number of the largest airlines in the world including China Southern, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Air China. Bisignani said that it would be nations such as India and China who would be changing the future face of the global airline industry.

IATA predicts that globally the industry will announce profits of some $9.1 billion for this year. Over half of this amount will be generated in Asia.