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In terms of consumer confidence the UK is the most fragile of the 25 markets in which TUI operates, the travel giant’s chief executive Peter Long has told MPs.
Holidays play a major part in the nation’s happiness, said Long, but problems undermining the travel market include rising fuel prices, increased taxation and a fall in the pound’s value against foreign currencies.
TUI has repeatedly called for the Government to replace air passenger duty with a per plane tax. That would reward charter airlines that operate modern, fuel-efficient aircraft with high load factors, said Mr Long.
Government proposals to increase taxes on short flights and reduce them on long ones will lead to longer flights and more pollution, says easyJet.
A report commissioned by the budget airline says the proposed changes will:
The government proposes to increase Air Passenger Duty (APD) from £12 to £16 per person on flights up to 2,000 miles, but reduce the rates and number of tax bands on long haul flights. Some environmentalists, as well as easyJet, favour a fixed tax on flights rather than passengers, so that the fuller the plane, the lower the tax per passenger.
“This independent report shows that the Government’s proposals on APD would be bad for the environment and the economy,” said easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall. “APD has already risen by 14 per cent since 2007 on short haul flights. This report provides convincing evidence that the Government should not impose further increases in APD on short haul flights and should rethink its policy on aviation taxation.”
Virgin Atlantic also weighed in to the debate, saying: “We share concerns about the impact of further increases on APD on family holidays, British business, and tourism alike. In Britain we already have the highest flight tax in Europe, with a family of four travelling to Florida paying £240 in APD alone.”
However, Virgin predictably supported shifting taxes from long flights onto short ones: “Currently passengers within the EU account for 78 per cent of all flights, but just 41 per cent of APD revenues, and we hope that the Government will look to address this in its current review.”
Compensation for passengers bumped off over-booked flights in the USA is to be increased. New laws due this August will also make airlines reimburse passengers for lost luggage and aim to shorten delays before takeoff.
“Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly,” said US transport secretary Ray LaHood, adding that passengers deserve more respect. When the new rules take effect, passengers who are refused entry to a flight despite having a valid reservation will be entitled to between $650 and $1,330, up from the previous $600 maximum.
Airlines will have to include taxes and fees in their prices and clearly display any potential extra charges on their websites. They will also be fined heavily if they keep passengers on an international flight sitting on the tarmac for more than four hours.
Meanwhile, back in the UK transport minister Theresa Villiers said that by 2013 scheduled airlines could be forced to offer the same ATOL financial protection against the airline going bust that charter airline passengers currently enjoy.
The Government is already reforming the ATOL scheme, with the first upgrade due next year when it will be extended to cover travel agents who put together their own packages. But protection against scheduled airlines going out of business would be far more radical, requiring new legislation.
“We are looking at wider reform for ATOLs to see if there is a possibility of bringing scheduled airlines into the scheme,” said Mrs Villiers, adding that any new legislation would have to wait until 2012/13.
April saw record traffic growth for many UK airports, thanks to two bank holiday weekends and the bounce-back from the previous April’s figures, which had been heavily dented by the volcanic ash problem.
Gatwick did best of the London airports, reporting growth of 34.2 per cent, with an additional 702,500 passengers compared with April 2010. Heathrow was up by 31.5 per cent and Stansted by 26.2 per cent.
In the North, Manchester saw passenger numbers grow by 32.5 per cent, while in Scotland, Edinburgh was up by a whopping 43.9 per cent and Aberdeen by 33.2 per cent.
The fastest growth came in scheduled international traffic, with charter and domestic flights lagging behind.
The number of second homes overseas has finally overtaken the number in the UK. That’s the news we would almost certainly be reporting by now if the government had not stopped collecting the figures in 2008.
The official figures relate, oddly enough, to second homes owned by households living in England only – not the whole of the UK. And a recent departmental reorganisation means the figures only go up to 2007/8. But the full table from the turn of the millennium onwards makes fascinating reading:
So by 2008, the number of households owning a second home had gone up by 43.6 per cent, from 404,000 to 580,000. But of those extra 176,000 holiday homes, all but 35,000 were overseas.
While these figures show that in 2008 slightly more people still owned second homes in the UK than abroad, given the strong trend it seems likely that, three years on, overseas home ownership has powered ahead.
These figures for home ownership abroad are lower than many you see quoted – anything from half a million to a million is a popular estimate – but they would need to be increased by perhaps 15 per cent to include owners based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And, of course, they are for second homes so do not include those who have moved semi-permanently to a home abroad.
According to research carried out for the Post Office, France is the number one destination for owning a property abroad (41 per cent) followed by Spain (38 per cent) and Portugal (5 per cent). British buyers in France are most likely to have gone for a farmhouse or a cottage, compared with buyers in Spain who prefer flats and villas.
Ryanair and easyJet, the big two no-frills airlines, have become increasingly dominant in the UK low-cost flights market, with many smaller players either cutting back or squeezed out entirely. That has led to fears that reduced competition could eventually lead to much higher fares.
So it’s good to hear that Bmibaby, now owned by Lufthansa, has announced seven new holiday destinations as part of its summer 2012 schedule. The additional routes are from Birmingham to Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome (Fiumicino), and from East Midlands to Corfu, Gibraltar, Murcia and Naples.
Bmibaby is increasingly focusing on the Midlands, with the new routes bringing the airline’s tally of destinations served to 31 from East Midlands and 14 from Birmingham. The new flights will start in April 2012.
A similar strategy of regional specialisation has seen healthy growth from Jet2, which concentraties on the North of England. Exeter-based Flybe, on the other hand, has carved out a different niche by using its fleet of smaller planes to serve routes between regional airports with insufficient traffic to fill the larger jets used by the big two.
Many long-haul destinations offer mainly hotel-based holidays, which can mean they fail to attract families who prefer the freedom and flexibility of villa-based holidays (the huge growth in Florida villa holidays shows just how many such families there are). But things could be starting to change. For instance, in September the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius saw the launch of a new luxury villa resort, Villas Valriche, at Domaine de Bel Ombre on the island’s less developed, southwest coast.
Mauritius has long been known for its luxury hotels and is especially popular with honeymooners, but the villa concept is relatively new. However, mindful of the well-heeled nature of its target clientele, the resort offers five star hotel services for villa renters who don’t want to self-cater. The location is away from the tourist hotspots, with the Valriche Nature Reserve and over a kilometre of white sand beaches on its doorstep.
The resort’s three and four bedroom villas are equipped with high-tech gadgets (iPod docking systems, Nintendo Wii game consoles and plasma screen TVs) as well as free internet access and international satellite channels. They’ve been designed with families in mind, featuring large landscaped gardens, infinity pools with child safety features, spacious patios with verandas, BBQs and even a sheltered heated outdoor shower.
In addition to in-villa services including a 24 hour concierge, private chef, butler and babysitting, guests can enjoy full access to the facilities and restaurants at neighbouring five star Heritage Le Telfair and Heritage Awali Golf and Spa Resorts. Latest addition to the resort is the Bel Ombre Beach Club, which includes a large swimming pool, chill-out area for teens, beach sports, parties and two restaurants.
Does this approach represent the best of both worlds, and the way forward for exotic destinations? While most villa renters in mainstream destinations probably won’t wish to pay for luxury cosseting, the approach probably makes sense in an expensive-to-reach location that only the affluent can afford.
The airport ban on drinks and cosmetics in containers over 100ml is to remain until April 2013, though rules on duty free purchases by transit passengers will be eased in April 2011.
Liquids purchased in departure areas of EU airports are already allowed onto flights, as are duty free purchases made in a few countries, including the US or Canada.
The 100ml limit was introduced in August 2006 after terrorists smuggled liquid explosives onto a flight in soft drink bottles, though the resulting device failed to explode. Heathrow airport alone has been confiscating 2,000 tonnes of liquids every year, to the intense irritation of passengers.
The delay until 2013 is to allow time for more effective hand luggage scanning devices to be developed and installed in all EU airports.
Irish low cost airline Ryanair plans to increase the number of passengers it flies to the Canary islands from just 300,000 in 2009 to 4.5 million.
In February the airline will open new bases in Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria (pictured above), with two aircraft based at each airport during the summer season. Thirty-five new routes will be added, bring the total to 112, and frequencies on existing routes (including Fuerteventura) will be increased.
The move marks the apparent victory of Ryanair in a battle of wills with the Canary Islands regional government; the tough-nosed airline previously withdrew some flights (notably to Fuerteventura) when it was dissatisfied with the landing charges and marketing support on offer.
It seems the tourism-dependent islands have now accepted that they need Ryanair more than the airline needs them. Airport charges in the islands have been reduced and a Regional Marketing Fund to support continued air traffic growth, will operate from 2013-2015.
Ryanair says the expansion reflects an investment of £400 million, though whether all of this comes from the airline isn’t clear. It also claims the move will sustain over 4,500 local jobs including 350 Ryanair pilots, cabin crew and engineers. Again, the exact nature of the claim is opaque as sustain isn’t the same as create.
The new routes “will be phased in from February 2011 to deliver more low fares and high spending visitors to Fuerteventura and our new bases in Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife,” said Ryanair’s Michael Cawley. He paid tribute to the “visionary initiatives of the Canary Islands Government who, in recent years, have identified low fare access as being critical, and have worked with Ryanair to reduce airport costs in order to return tourism to its previous 2007 record levels.”
Most of the new routes are to destinations in mainland Europe, but three are from Britain. Birmingham gets a new flight to Fuerteventura; Leeds Bradford connects with Lanzarote and Doncaster to Tenerife. New Irish routes are Shannon–Fuerteventura, Cork to Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and Knock to Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife.
Astonishingly, nine out of every ten Brits holidaying in Spain this year will have got there on a no-frills airline like easyjet or Ryanair. The percentage for most other European destinations isn’t far behind. And with the budget airlines’ charge for checking in a suitcase ever rising, an increasing number of holidaymakers are taking just what will fit into a cabin bag with maximum dimensions of 55x40x20cm. Ryanair also imposes a 10kg weight limit whereas easyJet allows any weight ‘within reason’.
Ryanair has been especially tough on slightly oversize bags, sometimes creating lengthy departure gate queues as passengers with a cabin bag bulging beyond the max argue with staff then desperately extract enough to slim the bag.
If no-one has yet coined the phrase cabin bag anxiety, it’s time they did. But what the extortionate bag check-in charges do mean is that it’s worth investing in a cabin bag that makes the most of what you’re allowed. Luggage specialist Antler has come up a bag specifically designed for that purpose. It claims the Duolite is the lightest, most durable case it has ever produced. Combining a hybrid ABS and nylon material with a frameless construction, the Duolite is super lightweight, with the cabin case weighing in at just 2.1kg. With dimensions of 55x35x20, it meets most airlines’ cabin bag size limits (but always check before flying).
A weight of 2.1kg probably doesn’t mean much to most people, but we’ve been trying one out and the first thing everyone says is, “Isn’t it light?” The second is that it nevertheless feels well made and strong in a high-tech sort of way, and the third is that it wheels along very easily. So although it has a recommended retail price of £89 (the lowest discounted price we saw online was £84), that could be a worthwhile investment. Our only reservation is that its width of 35cm is actually 5cm, or a couple of inches, less than most airlines allow, so you aren’t quite maximising the allowance. Having said that, the structure of the case intrudes very little into the internal space, which can also be expanded slightly by undoing a zip-fastened gusset extension to give a depth of 23cm if the airline isn’t being too strict. The bag has one zipped external pocket, and comes complete with a TSA padlock (which can be opened by security staff without having to break into the case).
For those trips where a cabin bag just isn’t enough, Antler does two matching suitcases of similar construction. The medium case (67x44x30/33cm) weighs 2.5kg, with a rrp of £105 and the large (74x49x33/36cm) weighs 2.9kg with a rrp of £109. With excess baggage charges of up to £40 per kilo, the two kilos or so saved compared with a typical case could almost pay for these cases, which all come with a 10-year warranty. Further details and stockists at www.antler.co.uk