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Qantas starts to reintroduce superjumbos by the weekend

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

After nearly three weeks of being grounded Qantas has announced that it will finally be putting its A380 fleet back into service. According to the airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, Qantas has managed to get to the heart of the engine issue and feels it is appropriate to start flying again from the end of the week.

The Australian flag-carrier said a flight will leave Sydney for London on Saturday, making a stopover in Singapore. The Qantas A380 troubles started when a flight en route to Sydney had to make an emergency landing in Singapore following a large explosion in one of it Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

The aircraft managed to land safely with none of the passengers being injured. Qantas immediately grounded all six of its superjumbos as experts from Airbus and Rolls-Royce tried to get to the root of the problem.

Rolls-Royce has since said that it can trace the issue back to failure in a single, specific engine component. Problems with the component caused an engine fire. Oil leaks were discovered in three other engines. Qantas said that, for the time being, it will not be flying on routes which often require full engine thrust.

The airline said it had not yet entered into negotiations with Rolls-Royce over compensation. Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, both of which fly Airbus A380s with the Trent 900, will also be looking for some sort of compensation. Qantas is due to have two more superjumbos delivered by Airbus before the year is out.

Smoke fills Qantas cockpit

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Qantas will be desperately looking to control the damage to its reputation as a fifth incident on board one of its aircraft is reported in twice as many days. Yesterday, a Boeing 747-400 flying from Sydney to Argentina was forced to make a u-turn after smoke began to fill the aircraft’s cockpit. The pilot managed to dump fuel before safely landing all 199 passengers at the airport.

The reason given for the smoke is a faulty component on the electrical system which caused smoke to come from the cockpit’s instrument panel. According to the airline, no smoke made it into the main cabin. Spokeswoman for Qantas, Olivia Wirth, said the pilot and crew had acted perfectly. She added that as it was a minor electrical issue, there was no reason to ground the aircraft.

Qantas has already had to ground its entire fleet of A380s following an engine explosion on 4 November. Although Rolls-Royce engineers are certain they have found the cause of the engine failure, Qantas has said it is not sure when all six of the aircraft will be back in operation.

Just two days after the superjumbo’s engine problems another Qantas jet out of Singapore had to return because of overheating in one of its engines.

A Qantas flight also recently returned to London after a faulty light indicated trouble with the hydraulics. A vibrating engine was the reason a Qantas Boeing 767 was forced to return to Perth airport last Friday having taken off for Melbourne.

Singapore continues to fly as Qantas grounds A380s

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Qantas’ fleet of six superjumbos could remain on the tarmac for at least another 72 hours as the airline and experts from Airbus and Rolls-Royce try to figure out what caused an engine on QF32 to explode last week. The malfunction resulted in an emergency landing in Singapore shortly after take off from the country’s main airport, Changi.

Alan Joyce, CEO of Australia’s largest airline, said oil leaks had been found in three Airbus 380 engines. Those engines have now been removed from the aircraft and are being examined to see if the problem is in any way related to last week’s incident.

Qantas has also issued a request to the people of the Indonesian island of Batam to keep a look out for a part of the engines turbine. Debris from the engine fell onto the roofs of houses on Batam following the explosion, some of which has already been collected and sent for analysis.

Engine manufacturer, Rolls-Royce said it could not comment on what the cause of the explosion might have been as investigations had not yet been concluded. The British company has sent safety guidelines to other airlines which fly A380s with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

Singapore Airlines has announced that it has completed all the necessary checks and will continue to fly its fleet of 11 A380s. The airline said it would continue regular maintenance checks and would comply with any instructions given by Rolls-Royce. The carrier added that passenger and staff safety would always remain its number one priority.

Thomas Cook angers European hotels by reducing bills

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Thomas Cook has upset a number of hotel groups across Europe because it has taken the unilateral decision to reduce payments on hotel invoices by five per cent for the months of August and September. The travel company blames a hard year for tourism in the UK for its decision to reduce hotel operator costs in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal.

European groups including hotel trade body Hotrec, and Cehat, the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourism, have said they will fight the move by lodging complaints with regulators and by seeking legal advice on the matter.

Cehat denounced Thomas Cook for attempting to set what could be a very dangerous precedent for the hotel industry in Spain. It added that it will be helping its members to recover the money owed by the British tour operator. Hotrec said Thomas Cook was abusing its position in the market by threatening hotels with accepting the cuts or losing future business.

However, Thomas Cook has so far said it will not budge on its decision and that it is only fair that hotels support its effort to spread the cost of a financially difficult year. The operator claims that the alternative is to start reducing the amount of hotel rooms it books with hotels as a way to keep costs down.

Thomas Cook said that in order to maintain capacity at popular resorts this summer, it has had to slash the price of its package holidays and that this should be reflected in its payments to hotels.

Strange complaints of holidaymakers revealed

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Travel firms have compiled lists of some of the oddest requests and complaints they receive from their customers. Local wildlife, it seems, is constantly baffling travellers. One holiday maker complained that his children had been quite startled by the fact that there were fish swimming in the sea and seemed irritated that no warning had been issued that this might be the case.

Another traveller expecting to see Australia’s wildlife roaming the streets of Sydney made a complaint about the lack of kangaroos. A gentleman complained to the Association of British Travel Agents claiming his honeymoon was ruined after he witnessed and elephant in an aroused state. He said he suffered inadequacy anxieties following the incident.

Another Brit, holidaying in Australia, told hotel staff that his soup was to thick and too strong. He had in fact been tucking into the gravy. A woman holidaying in Fiji with her children complained that there were too many other children about during the school holidays.

An Emirates Airlines passenger, who was trying to stay awake for the whole flight, complained the airline’s seats were too comfortable because he kept falling asleep. The world’s beaches tend to be a real problem, with some customers complaining they are too stony and others that they have far too much sand on them.

One woman was angry to find out that the $20 she spent on a Gucci handbag in a market in China had not got her the real thing. A hotel guest who spent the night with her fiancé in a double bed is blaming the hotel for her pregnancy because she had originally requested twin beds.

Europcar launches Daimler car2go in Hamburg

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

As of March next year, the inhabitants of the German city of Hamburg will have a new mobility solution in the form of Daimler’s car2go. The two-seater smart car will be launched by Europcar with an initial roll-out of 300 vehicles. The car2go has already been successfully launched in Ulm in Germany and Austin, Texas in the US. Its Hamburg debut is part of a planned international launch.

Initially the cars will be introduced to the centre of the city, but if the scheme is a success more vehicles will be added and the reach expanded. Anja Hajduk, Hamburg’s Senator for Urban Development and the Environment, said people who constantly find themselves stuck in traffic jams, live near busy roads or who always have trouble finding a parking space will recognise the value of reducing the number of vehicles on the roads.

She added that the car2go scheme was ideal for those who usually employed another form of transport but who occasionally needed the mobility of a car. She went on to say the environmental benefits were obvious, pointing out the scheme had arrived just when Hamburg was named the European Green Capital.

The new car2go vehicles will feature engines designed to be economic with fuel and a solar roof which will contribute to charging the vehicle’s battery, powering the control panel and making sure the vehicle is constantly temperature controlled.

The car will be available for €0.29 per minute or €14.90 per hour, whichever is cheaper. This covers fuel, mileage, insurance and parking fees. An initial registration fee of €29 is the only additional price to pay.

French court awards compensation to family of AF447 victim

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

A French justice commission has ruled that it does not need to wait for the conclusion of investigations into what caused Air France Flight 447 to ditch into the Atlantic to start making compensation awards. The commission said there was enough information already gathered for it to rule the crash down to criminal error.

On the night of 31 May 2009, AF447 on its way from Brazil to France disappeared from radar. Shortly before it did so the Airbus A330-200′s onboard computer sent a series of error messages. It is believed one of the causes of the crash, which killed all of the 228 people on board, was faulty air speed indicators.

The air speed probes, known as pitot, had been known to have caused problems on previous flights. Engineers had already told Airbus that there were issues with the aircraft’s navigational systems after the probes became clogged with ice. The court in Toulon therefore decided that correlation between previous air speed indicator failures and the likelihood they also failed just before the crash means a ruling of manslaughter could be recorded.

It has already decided that the brother and father of one of the stewardesses who lost her life on the flight should receive financial compensation. The money will be paid out from the fund set up for victims of terrorism and similar crimes, and each man will receive 10,000 euros.

As the black box recorders have never been retrieved, it is unlikely the precise causes of the AF447 crash will ever be known.

Renault EVs to join Avis’ European fleet

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Car hire giant Avis has announced it will increase the number of electric vehicles in its European fleet by the end of 2011. The firm recently signed an order for 500 new Renault electric cars. The Kangoo Express ZE and the Fluence ZE will be available to customers in seven EU countries including Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Uwe Hochgeschurtz, Renault’s corporate sales senior vice president, said: ”We are the only European carmaker who is developing a complete range of affordable electric vehicles with our own batteries, our own technologies and our own production system to guarantee a high level of quality and performance. By hiring an electric vehicle through Avis, the public will be able to experience new driving technology and learn about the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.”

Renault is also developing two other vehicles which will run exclusively on electric power. The Renault ZOE is a hatchback designed for use on a day-to-day basis and the Renault Twizy will be a two-seat car specifically designed for manoeuvrability in the city.

Pascal Bazin, Avis Europe chief executive officer, said: At Avis, we’re committed to providing customers with choice when it comes to mobility and our partnership with Renault is another way in which we are fulfilling this commitment by expanding our fleet to include electric vehicles.”

“The vehicles complement our existing mobility offer, providing an alternative to traditional car hire that will benefit both business and leisure customers who are concerned about their impact on the environment,” he added.

Bmi announces daily flights to Libya

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Lufthansa owned, UK based, Bmi has announced plans to challenge British Airways by flying daily services to the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The airline has already put tickets on sale and the first flight is scheduled for 1 December. British Airways began its daily service in 1999 and up until now has been the only UK based airline to operate such a service on the route.

Bmi will be hoping to tap into business supplied by those travelling to and from Libya to work in the country’s lucrative oil and gas industry. A spokesman for the airline said there was also an increase in demand from tourists wishing to enter the country as a starting point to exploring North Africa’s Sahara Desert.

Many view Bmi’s decision as an indication that relations between the UK and Libya are improving. The country was condemned around the world for its involvement in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The terrorist attack resulted in the deaths of 270 people.

Bmi’s Tripoli service will complement the services it flies to other African cities including Cairo, Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Freetown. The carrier is also used to serving other oil and gas-rich areas around the world including Riyadh and Jeddah in the Middle East, Aberdeen in Scotland and the Eastern European cities of Almaty and Moscow.

Other airlines flying to Libya from the UK are Libyan Airways, twice a week, from Heathrow and Air Afriqiyah which provides daily services from Gatwick.

Enterprise to add Nissan LEAF to its fleet

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Enterprise customers in a number of major US cities will soon be able to book the Nissan LEAF at their local dealership. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has ordered 500 of the electric vehicles and they will start entering the car hire company’s fleet in December. Initially, the vehicles will be rolled out in seven major markets where the infrastructure already exists for maintenance and charging.

In preparation for the introduction of the cars Enterprise has taken delivery of a test LEAF which it will take around selected outlets to educate staff and customers about the new technology. Lee Broughton, director of sustainability at Enterprise, said he felt there was still a great deal of mystery when it comes to electric vehicles.

Broughton added that by taking the Nissan LEAF out to the firm’s customers and employees he hoped some of that mystery would begin to evaporate. He went on to say that Enterprise was in a perfect position to show people the tremendous advantages to choosing an electric vehicle next time they rent.

On a single charge the Nissan LEAF can cover around 100 miles. This makes it an ideal commuter car. It is also the car of choice for those who wish to do their bit for the environment. The vehicle can be charged in several ways including through a customer’s home outlet, at a public outlet or at a special high-speed charging outlet.

Broughton said that with the introduction of the Nissan LEAF to the Enterprise fleet, the company was showing just how committed it was to allowing cleaner, more efficient technologies to prove themselves in the marketplace.