Thursday, 28 August 2008

Zoom Airlines - all flights are suspended

UK-Canadian owned Zoom Airlines, who describe themselves as the "Low Fare Leader Across the Atlantic", have suspended all flights from today, and are now applying to go into administration. The thousands of passengers who were due to fly with them have been told to rebook with other carriers, and to contact their credit or debit card companies to see about a refund.

Zoom blames its misfortunes on the price of jet fuel, which had increased their annual fuel bills by a whopping £27 million.

Zoom has been in business for seven years, and employs 260 staff in the UK, and 450 staff in Canada. Zoom flew from Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast, Paris and Rome. As well as flying to eight destinations in Canada, it flew to New York, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale and Bermuda.

BA and Virgin Atlantic are reported to be offering special fares to passengers who have been let down.

Zoom’s founders, Hugh and John Boyle, have apologised profusely to passengers, explaining that, although Zoom apparently had some financing in place, the creditors still stepped in to seize one of the planes, which then left no alternative but to go into administration.

There have been fears recently that rising fuel costs, along with a possible decrease in demand due to the credit crunch, could take its toll on the airline industry. However, some in the travel industry report that a summer of rain in the UK has kept demand for holidays and flights fairly high over the summer, especially as there are plenty of cheap holiday flights available online.

At times like these it is more important than ever to keep up on the latest news for cheap airfares and hotel deals. For promotional codes, special discounts and offers, sign up to

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Picture this: inflight meals

Inflight meals, love ‘em or hate ‘em, they certainly tend to break the monotony of a long flight, and I have to admit, having flown with a number of different airlines, I have never really had a bad one.

For a short hop, the meal might be just a continental breakfast, or a beverage and a sandwich, but the meals are a bit more elaborate and numerous where long-haul is involved, with lunches and dinners being simple three course meals, usually served with the option of wine.

When you are wondering which airline to travel with, food and catering may well be a factor, and there is actually a way to see what your meals will be like in advance, as there now seems to be a trend for people to photograph their meals, (prior to eating), and post the images up on the web. Try searching for “inflight meals” on Flickr, or alternatively, take a look at the specialist site who have a comprehensive list of photographs of airline meals, complete with rankings and comments that you can search by airline. You can see the lovely cheeses, croissants and yoghurts of Air France, the delightful sushi of JAL, and all the other airlines’ offerings.

Preparing and delivering meals, beverages and snacks to airlines is a big business, and some of the companies that undertake this are Servair, LSG Sky Chefs, and Gate Gourmet. Some airlines even hire celebrity chefs to plan menus for them, which also helps to promote the airline.

So, if you feel like taking a photo of your meal when you are above the clouds, I look forward to seeing it online.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Connecting the Heart of the Midlands with the Gateway to Asia

If you are a big fan of Turkey, and you live in the Midlands, (and by that I mean the Midlands of England), then here is a bit of good news: this year Turkish Airlines are launching the first direct scheduled service from Birmingham to Istanbul.

The flight will be operating from Birmingham Airport from December 15th, initially on a basis of five flights per week, and this will hopefully grow to daily services by the summer of 2009, carrying some 30,000 passengers a year.

Passengers will be able to travel onwards with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to a choice of 33 domestic Turkish destinations, such as Dalaman or Izmir, and 108 international destinations, such as Hong Kong or Johannesburg.

Turkish Airlines is one of Europe’s major flag carriers, and is also a member of the Star Alliance, along with airlines such as Lufthansa, bmi and Singapore Airlines.

Istanbul has some fabulous attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, Topkapi Palace, and a number of very old and artistically styled Turkish baths. Turkish Airlines even offer a free Istanbul tour for transfer passengers, so even if you will not be staying in this magnificent city, you will at least get a chance to see it.

It is great to think that if you live in and around Birmingham it is now just a relatively short hop to Istanbul, and the new flight will no doubt attract people looking for a city break, as well as providing a convenient connection between these two vital centres for business travellers.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Flying into the dragon's mouth - Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

I once heard somebody say that to land at Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong, is like flying into the mouth of a giant dragon. With mountains and skyscrapers so close to it, necessitating a very steep descent, this is exactly what it feels like.

Kai Tak Airport, until 1998, was Hong Kong International Airport, and I landed there twice, both times being amazing experiences. As you make the sharp descent, the plane weaves around tall buildings, and you can almost see into people’s apartments. The plane seems to strain as it eases its way around the buildings, heading for the airport’s only runway, which stretches out into the South China Sea. As the plane touches down, you get that mild rush of adrenalin that landing always gives, and then you look out of the window and see traditional Chinese junks in Hong Kong Harbor, giving you no doubt about where you are. But then as the plane finally grinds to a halt after landing, and wheels round to taxi, you hear a clear and unanimous gasp from the passengers, as they look out, and realise that they are at the very end of the runway, and that they are looking out to sea, a sea which seems very close.

Now the international flights that come into Hong Kong land at the new Hong Kong International Airport on the island Chek Lap Kok, which is no doubt easier for pilots and air traffic controllers, but will probably never quite match the excitement of landing at Kai Tak.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Stormy weather ahead? - Flights, fares and the economy

The chief executive of British Airways, Willie Walsh, expressed concern today that rising fuel costs, in combination with low consumer confidence, could be about to take its toll on the airline industry. The downturn in the economy has already put twenty-five airlines out of business this year, including the business carrier Silverjet, based out of Luton.

So just as we have all got used to cheaper airfares, are prices about to dramatically rise?

BA will be cutting some of its flights, no doubt raising questions about the need for a third runway at Heathrow. BA will also apparently be raising fares by about 4 per cent.

Earlier in the week Ryanair were being a little pessimistic, with Michael O’Leary saying that fares were probably going to rise by 5 per cent.

Back in June of this year, EasyJet said that its costs had risen by £4 per customer due to the increased cost of fuel.

So, is it really all doom and gloom?

Well looking at it in terms of profits, Ryanair have had a 20 percent rise in net profit, earlier in the summer BA celebrated record pre-tax profits of £883 million, and EasyJet are expected to make a full-year profit of £150 million.

The major airlines could well be in a good position to economically survive the sudden increase in fuel prices, due to their fuel hedging strategies of buying fuel in advance at a fixed price. BA has bought about two-thirds of its fuel at $86 a barrel until March 2009.

So let’s hope that the air industry will successfully ride out the current economic storm, and that consumers won’t be finding airfares to be out of reach.