July 2018 Fare Finder

Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best value airfares for July!

Looking to save money on last minute flights? Try Kayak!

basel, switzerland:

Switzerland’s third most populated city lies on the northeastern borders with France and Germany.  The cities 175,000 residents live within close proximity of the River Rhine and the riverbanks are lined with Renaissance era buildings. For visitors looking for local attractions to keep them entertained, they need look no further than Basel Zoo, Switzerland’s largest and oldest. Many art museums based here are open to the public and feature a range of traditional and contemporary displays.

BA’s A319 fleet fly multiple times per day to Basel.

British Airways fly four times daily to Basel using their Airbus A319 fleet. Travellers flying with BA will be flying in the Euro Traveller cabin and the airlines lowest economy fare. However for  just £71 per person return, people can’t have any complaints for their cheap getaway to Switzerland. With multiple flights leaving per day, head over to Kayak to pick your prefered flight times.

TOULOUSE, FRANCE:

If ever a city deserved little introduction, it would be Toulouse. Home to Airbus and some of its final assembly lines, avgeeks will feel right at home here. Whether it’s taking a guided tour of the factories and hitting the gift shop afterwards (better leave space in your hand luggage for souvenirs!) or taking in a days spotting eagerly awaiting the latest A350 or brand new A330 NEO to be towed across the airfield, this is a must visit for anyone with even half an interest in aviation!

Aircraft waiting to be delivered at Toulouse (Photo Credit: Airbus).

As reliable as the sky being blue and England being knocked out of a World Cup on penalties (wait a minute…), you can always guarantee easyJet to have low-cost fares waiting to fly willing passengers across Europe. Flying from the Generation easyJet stronghold of London Luton, a return fare can be booked for as little as £67 return! As usual, head on over to the easyJet website to book your next trip!

Orlando, florida, usa:

THE ultimate place for families to visit. Universal studios, Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and Kennedy Space Centre, these are just a few of the fun filled action packed days out that await you across the Atlantic. With most theme parks offering 14 day tickets for the price of just 7 days, the hardest choice you will have to make will be, where to first?!

Thomas Cook Airlines will be whisking you away to the Sunshine State. Their Airbus A330 will be departing Glasgow as it takes you away on your 14 day vacation. Priced at £460 per person return, many reading this will be thinking that the price is a bit extortionate. Well… If you look at the end of July, flights alone will set you back in the region of £800 per person! Why not head over to Momondo to book, and see for yourself!

MALLORCA, SPAIN:

A stalwart whenever it comes to holiday destinations. Popular and much loved with the British; famed for it’s golden sandy beaches and lively nightlife, Mallorca never fails to leave families flying back home with smiles on their faces. If it’s partying the night away you want, then look no further than Magalluf. Want a relaxed family break? Head up north to Alcudia with its golden stretch of beach that never seems to end!

Primera’s A321 NEOs fly transatlantic from their Stansted base (Photo Credit: Primera).

Regular flyers from Birmingham may have heard the recent news that Primera Air have ceased their BHX long haul operations until 2019. Despite recent negative press, Primera have announced a last-minute summer sale to their remaining short-haul destinations. For £68 round trip, last-minute travellers can be getting away for a whole week before the main school holidays in August. Primera Air flights can be booked here.

 

in next months fare finder:

We’ll find last-minute deals for August!

Boeing Unveils Hypersonic Aircraft

Ever since Concorde landed for the final time in 2003, aviation lovers and passengers alike have long-awaited it’s replacement. Now, Boeing have revealed their concept to the world; a hypersonic aircraft capable of cruising at Mach 5.

Inital reports are suggesting that the as of yet unnamed jet will have a cruising altitude of 95,000 feet, some 30,000 feet higher than Concorde. Current estimates predict that the jet will be able to cross the Atlantic in approximately 2 hours, and flights from Eastern Asia to the West Coast of America could take 3 hours, as opposed to the 10 hours that it currently takes Delta’s Boeing 777s to fly.

First released image of the concept aircraft. (Credit: Boeing).

The plans have received some criticism from environmentalist groups that are concerned what effect this aircraft will have on the Earth’s atmosphere, especially when it comes to the amount of fuel that an aircraft like this would consume. However, the jet isn’t expected to be airborne for another 20 – 30 years, giving Boeing some time to work on a solution that would satisfy its critiques.

Estimated to be smaller in size than a Boeing 737-800, the aircraft will no doubt provide first class service to an elite clientele, much like it’s predecessor Concorde.

Concorde famously flew JFK-LHR in a record 2 Hours, 52 Minutes and 59 Seconds. (Credit: British Airways).

The Chicago based aircraft manufacturer has a record of working towards hypersonic flight, with their experimental X-51 Waverider drone reaching Mach 5 whilst cruising at 70,000 feet back in 2013.

With the supersonic and now hypersonic aircraft market already facing fierce competition from companies such as Boom!, Virgin and even NASA; Boeing will surely be hoping that their concept takes off.

What do you think of the Hypersonic Jet? Is it a good idea? Let us know on social media by using #LondonSpotter!

Primera suspend Birmingham routes

Latvian carrier Primera Air have announced that they will be suspending long haul operations from Birmingham Airport until 2019.

Andri Mar Ingolfsson, Airline CEO, has blamed the cancellation of services on the delayed delivery of long range Airbus A321 NEO aircraft. Primera currently have 2 A321 NEO’s in their fleet, and are currently deployed on routes from London Stansted.

Since their launch, services from Birmingham to Newark have been flown on a Boeing 757 operated by American carrier National Airlines. Many of these flights have been criticised by passengers who have experienced long delays.

The temporary axing of these flights takes effect from June 21st, meaning Toronto services have been suspended before they have even taken off, much like the planned Birmingham to Boston route. All affected passengers are being offered refunds or a transfer onto services from Stansted.

Long range Airbus A321 NEO’s are severely delayed in production and delivery. (Photo: Primera Air)

Primera have stressed that short haul routes to destinations such as Palma de Mallorca and Malaga will not be affected, as these are flown on Boeing 737 aircraft. Long haul flights from Stansted will also remain unaffected.

Anyone who has booked flights with Primera Air should contact the airline’s customer service department by following this link to their website.

Have you been affected by the cancellations? Let us know your views on social media by using the hashtag #LondonSpotter

June 2018 Fare Finder

Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best value airfares for June!

If you’re looking to get away before the kids summer holidays, why not check out some of these cracking deals!

sorrento, italy:

Located to the south of Naples and lying in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento is a great base for any holiday whether you’re travelling as a couple or as a family. This resort still retains it’s traditional charm and many of the local hotels still remain family run. Excursions from Sorrento include tours of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, giving you the chance to explore the remarkably preserved town that was buried in 79 A.D.

Naples is the closest airport, an hours drive north of Sorrento. Many airlines fly into Naples International from the UK, but the cheapest flights we have found for June are departing London Gatwick with Norwegian. 7 days return will cost just £59 per person. Flights can be booked through SkyScanner.

almeria, spain:

This particular Spanish town might not be as popular as others, but that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t as charming. A city steeped in history, and home to the stunning Alcazaba, an ancient Muslim built fortress similar to the Alhambra in nearby Granada. If you move out of the city, you will find unspoilt beaches and coves that offer peace and tranquillity.

Almeria with the Alcazaba in the foreground

Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct into Almeria from a number of airports, with Birmingham being one of these. A one way economy ticket will cost £39 per person. With the successful launch of Economy Plus on short haul flights, why not treat yourself to an upgrade? Book through Thomas Cook Airlines here.

gibraltar:

Often described as Britain in the sun, Gibraltar sits on the southern tip of Spain but still manages to keep it’s unique British charm. The Iconic rock offers extraordinary 360° views, including Africa on a clear day, for anyone that ventures to the top. With the WW2 era tunnels that run deep into the rock open for public exhibition and dolphin cruises available from the marina; you will struggle to find so much to do in such a small space anywhere else in the world!

The Rock as seen from the Airport’s Terminal

Flights from the UK are now only provided by two airlines, one of which being easyJet. Bristol to Gibraltar one way will cost £58 per person. With 10kgs hand luggage allowed, there’s certainly no need to pay the sometimes extortionate checked baggage costs. Compare travel dates and book through Kayak.

thessaloniki, greece:

Did you know that Thessaloniki is Greece’s second most populated city? Often described as a cultural melting pot, this northern Greek city attracts history buffs from all over Europe. Once occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and the Ottomans, there is much to see and explore in this diverse city. When the sun goes down, seafront bars and restaurants become a hive of activity, selling both traditional and modern contemporary dishes.

Thessaloniki Promenade

Recently re branded TUI will fly you from Newcastle to Thessaloniki for a 7 night stay. A return ticket will cost just £89 per person. With such an interesting and alternative destination compared to most, you would be foolish not to be tempted. Flights can be booked through the TUI website.

in next months fare finder:

We look forward to bringing you the best flight deals for July!

 

Thomas Cook Economy Plus A321 Review

Towards the end of 2017, Thomas Cook Airlines announced that they would be launching an Economy Plus service on their short and medium haul services. Traditionally, Premium Economy services are only found on short-haul routes when operated by wide-bodied aircraft; intrigued to see how this would fare on a much smaller Airbus A321, I hopped on board with Thomas Cook from Palma to Birmingham.

When booking my flight, I could have travelled in the main economy cabin for as little as £10.99! The Economy Plus ticket cost £65.99, which I feel was great value for everything that was Included. Any passenger travelling on this fare can check one piece of luggage weighing up to 25kgs, one piece of hand luggage up to 10kgs, a whole host of other extras, including a tasty James Martin Inflight meal and complimentary drinks are packaged together into this exceptional money-saving fare.

The Plus fare includes a wide range of extras for one low price! Credit: Thomas Cook Airlines
MT1249 PALMA DE MALLORCA – BIRMINGHAM:

Having checked in online for my flight, I was able to head straight to security when arriving at the terminal. Access to the Priority Security Lane was included in my ticket and allowed me to quickly head through into the departures hall. After a spot of duty free shopping and a quick bite to eat, I made my way down to the gate and waited for my flight to begin boarding.

When arriving at the gate, myself and my fellow passengers arrived to find that It was still occupied by an easyJet flight to Gatwick. They were awaiting the final passengers to come forward for boarding, but with no sign of them rushing to the gate, it was clear that a delay may be in store. 15 minutes after boarding should of commenced, the screen changed over to a Thomas Cook logo with Birmingham labelled across it.

The gate agent apologised for the delay, and invited priority passengers and families to come forward for boarding. After making my way on board the bus, a short ride took us to a remote stand where our Airbus A321 was waiting. G-TCDE would be flying me back to Brum and after a quick photo, I made my way up the stairs to board. Before reaching my seat, I was greeted by the familiar face of one of my former Monarch colleagues.  Following a brief catch up, I settled into my bulkhead seat, 1A. Before my flight I had used Thomas Cook’s Airshoppen service which allows you to pre order your duty free to be delivered on the flight. This was bought to me at my seat before the doors had even closed.

Boarding G-TCDE

After another short slot delay, we eventually pushed back and departed from Runway 06R. A bumpy climb through the clouds over the Mediterranean kept us seated for slightly longer than usual but eventually the seat belt signs were switched off and Inflight services begun. It was at this point that I encountered my only issue in an otherwise great flight experience. As the meal service began, I found myself not served. As the bar service came through, I ordered myself a Pepsi Max and found myself being asked to pay. I asked the crew member serving me if drinks were complimentary to economy plus passengers, she replied that they were, but that I was a normal economy passenger!

After taking away my boarding pass and booking confirmation email to show the cabin manager. I received a swift apology, my drink and my meal. All Inflight meals served on board Thomas Cook Airlines are designed in co-operation with celebrity chef James Martin. Today’s offering was a Chicken Tikka Masala and coconut rice, accompanied by a Treacle Sponge Pudding with crackers and cheese. The food served was delicious! It’s clear to see why Thomas Cook take pride in working with James Martin and want to push their Inflight Meals as much as possible. For anyone travelling with them in the future, I highly recommend pre purchasing a meal as they are very tasty and great value for money. For anyone that doesn’t, Thomas Cook don’t offer any sandwiches on their bar services so you will be going hungry for the duration of the flight!

The Tikka Masala was a lot tastier than it looked!

After my meal was cleared away, I caught up on some sleep before my arrival back home. Economy Plus doesn’t have a separate cabin on board the Airbus A321, but passengers will find themselves seated in rows 1-4. The seats on board aren’t big and bulky, unlike those that can be found on other airlines flying the A321. I personally found the ones on board very comfortable, lightweight and quite spacious. Being 6” 0’  tall, legroom is normally something I have to struggle with, but not on this flight thanks to my bulkhead seat. With seat selection being complimentary, I made sure that I had the best seat available to me. The overall cabin appearance is well presented, however seeing the drop down IFE screens on an aircraft that is just 4 years old did surprise me.

Old school IFE screens on a 4 year old aircraft!

Our descent into Birmingham began soon after the crew passed through the cabin collecting donations for their partner charity. After arriving onto stand, the worlds best ground handling agency (If you’ve ever flown into Birmingham, you will know that this is me being sarcastic!), Swissport, managed to encounter a problem operating the air bridge. Rather than wait for it to be fixed, disembarkation began at the rear of the aircraft. After a while, the air bridge was reattached to the aircraft, and I was free to make my way home.

summary:

As mentioned before in the article, my experience with Thomas Cook was exceptional. All of the crew on board took genuine pride in being able to deliver a nice experience on board my flight and being able to catch up with an old friend was an unexpected privilege. To find a fare that includes everything you can possible need when flying on a budget carrier for a very low price is quite frankly brilliant. Should I ever be flying out to a leisure destination again and be faced with a choice of flying with the likes of TUI, Jet2 and Thomas Cook, I certainly know who I will be choosing!

 

Want More Airbus A320 Family Reviews? Check Them Out Below!

 

Air Nostrum: Island Hopping

Air Nostrum are a regular sight when flying into or out of the Balearic Islands. Their mixed fleet of Turbo Prop and Jet engine aircraft fly in the colours of Iberia Regional and connect both passengers and cargo to destinations that aren’t always on the beaten track. On my recent trip to Spain, I flew with Air Nostrum between Ibiza and Palma, to experience what life is like on these sometimes essential services.

Always wanting to get the best possible deal, I used Momondo to find the cheapest flight price!

Despite lying only a 40 minute flight away, the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca are a 2 hours away from each other by ferry. With locals having to travel between the two Islands often to see family, for work or to collect essential supplies for everyday life; the air services that are provided are vital to some Island residents.

The ‘retro’ style information boards in Ibiza
ib8111 ibiza – palma de mallorca:

When booking my flight I was supposed to be flying on the Bombardier CRJ1000. Just a few days before my departure however, I received an email from Iberia notifying me of a change to my itinerary. My flight would now be on a ATR 72-500, Operated by Canaryfly for Air Nostrum on behalf of Iberia!

The day of the flight came and I arrived at Ibiza Airport one hour before my departure. With the peak holiday season not yet underway across Europe, I was expecting the airport to be quiet but getting air side in 5 minutes was a surprise to me. With some sections of security closed for refurbishment, I can imagine that there are some delays when the airport is operating at full capacity.

Large sections of Security and the Departures Hall are sectioned off.

With some gift shops and food outlets, I had soon explored all of the departures lounge and was glad to hear that Iberia Flight 8111 was now ready for boarding at Gate 5. The gate agents invited families, passengers requiring special assistance and priority passengers to board first. Then came the turn of any passengers sat in rows 20 – 10, the finally my self and my fellow passengers sat in rows 10 – 1.

As I approached the desk, my mobile boarding pass was scanned and my cabin baggage was tagged to go into the hold as it was too large to be placed into the overhead locker. That’s when the problem started…

The doors to the tarmac are controlled by magnetised locks and a key card access panel. As passengers were boarding the doors were naturally open but they returned to the closed position as the last group of passengers arrived. With her card not working on the panel, the gate agent rang a colleague and explained the situation to them. After a five minute wait, an engineer arrived and after a few seconds pressing buttons on the panel, I got the impression that he had come to the conclusion that the door was broken. After another phone call and wait, the door on the adjoining gate was opened so that we could make our way to the aircraft.

Boarding EC-KRY from the rear steps

As I boarded the 10 year old ATR, I took to seat 3A that I had pre-booked for free when checking in on the Iberia App. Immediately after sitting down, I began the struggle of getting comfortable is this rather cramped seat with very little legroom. The interior for this whole aircraft was dated and certainly showed it’s age. Luckily for me, this flight has an average flying time of just 25 minutes. I wouldn’t have to be uncomfortable for very long.

As we pushed back from the stand just a few minutes behind schedule, the Captain made his introduction in both Spanish and English, and the following safety demonstration was again broadcast in both languages. The short taxi to Runway 24 came to an end, the crew secured the cabin and we began our hop over to Majorca.

These seats have an advertised legroom of 30″. It feels a lot smaller!

Not particularly looking forward to fighting the passenger next to me for the middle arm rest, I moved into row 2 as soon as the seat belt signs were switched off. With both seats being free, I was able to stretch out and settle into the flight. Understandably, no Inflight services are carried out on this flight, although items from the bar are available upon request. Interested in exploring my Inflight entertainment options, I pulled out a fairly worn copy of ‘Ronda‘, the Inflight magazine, after a quick flick through and coming to the conclusion that there were no Hollywood blockbusters to be watched, my headphones went on and I sat looking out the window.

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The approach into Palma was turbulent but soon we were taxiing off of the runway and towards our gate. Coming into this flight I hadn’t expected much, I certainly knew It wouldn’t be comparable to my recent Business Class flight with Qatar. However, as I sat and looked around this dated cabin, I knew that this flight Isn’t operated to make large amounts of money. It is operated almost as a public obligation so that residents of the Balearic Islands can carry on with their day to day lives.

 

Want More Like This?  Check out our Iberia Express review, are they worse than Ryanair?!

May 2018 Fare Finder: Bank Holiday Deals

Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best Bank Holiday Monday day trips out there!

For this months Fare Finder, I used Kayak to locate these fantastic value flights. Check them out and grab a bargain for yourself!



Dublin, ireland:

If you were to ask a large group of people what their favourite day trip destination was, I can guarantee the most popular answer would be Dublin! Known world over for being the home of St. James’s Gate since 1759, the Guinness brewery offers an interesting insight and unique perspective on how one of the worlds most popular drinks came to be. Other must see sights include Dublin Castle, The National Museum of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Aer Lingus will fly you to Dublin for cheaper than Ryanair, how often can you say that?!

Normally cheap flights to the Irish capital are offered by Ryanair, well known for their no thrills service. However, this deal gives you the opportunity to fly from Birmingham with Ireland’s only 4* airline! Aer Lingus are offering return flights from as little as £85pp return; their excellent flight timings also mean you get a full day in Dublin!

What are you waiting for? Book your flights here!

 

Alicante, spain:

In March’s Fare Finder, we featured Benidorm. Alicante is often seen as the gateway to this Costa Blanca resort, but if you take a closer look, you will find an adventure, that you didn’t even know was there. Overshadowed by the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Barrio de la Santa Cruz is home to some traditional Tapas bars and narrow picturesque streets that are sure to make an excellent Instagram photo!

Picturesque certainly springs to mind when thinking of Alicante!

Many readers might be surprised to learn that British Airways are offering return flights to Alicante for £90pp. This London Gatwick departure leaves at 6.30am, and offers travelers nearly 14 hours in the city. The BA website can be found by following this link.

 

Manchester, uk:

Not feeling adventurous enough to jet away across Europe? Why not keep getaway closer to home, and spend your Bank Holiday in Manchester? The 180,900 m² Intu Trafford Centre, is the third largest shopping centre in the UK, with bargains to be found in almost every shop, try not to spend too much! Football fans can take tours of the National Museum of Football and cross city rivals Man City and Man United’s grounds. Avgeeks on the other hand might not want to leave the airport and choose to spend all day at the Manchester Airport Viewing Park!

Singapore Airlines’ A350-900 (9V-SMF) as seen from the Runway Viewing Area

Flybe’s Embraer Regional Jet will get you up to Manchester quicker than road or rail, and given the time of the month, probably cheaper than them too. A return ticket will only cost £70pp, but with seats on the Jungle jet limited, don’t leave it too soon to book.

For Flybe’s website, click here.

 

munich, germany:

Munich is a city that has previously featured on Fare Finder. For it to feature twice, surely means that it is a must visit, right? First time visitors to the city will be impressed with the ease at which you can get lost wondering around the streets, discovering the delights of the Bavarian capital. Again, for the Avgeeks who want to make a spotting trip out of it, the Visitors Park just outside the airport’s perimeter is the ideal base. Offering superb 360° views, a well stocked shop and cafe, it really is a must visit for any spotter.

A collection of historic aircraft can be found at the Visitors Park

Ryanair are offering cheap return flights from their Irish headquarters of Dublin. Priced at £81pp return, it really is a steal for a great value day trip. I would recommend using Kayak (the website I used to find all these deals), as you will be able to ensure you get the best price.

 

in next months fare finder:

We look at finding you the best flight deals for June!

International Ground Handling Conference – What You Missed

Now in it’s 31st year, the IATA International Ground Handling Conference sees delegates from all aspects of the aviation industry come together with the view of changing the way we travel for the better. Whether its offering improved training programmes for ground staff or showcasing the latest in technology, you can be sure to find it here.

This year the 2018 conference was being hosted in Doha, Qatar from 22-25 April at the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel. Hosts and Principal Sponsors, Qatar Airways and Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) welcomed over 700 delegates from all over the world to join them. This year was the first time ever that the event had been held in the Middle East, so the hosts were eager to make a lasting impression.

As one of the part of the media team invited by Qatar Airways, I flew out on one of their Boeing 787 aircraft which you can read all about here.

Although the IGHC has now ended, we’re putting this article together to give you the opportunity to experience what it is like for members of the media to experience one of this years most prestigious aviation events!



The venue:

The morning started with a minibus ride through Doha’s Financial District. Signage welcoming delegates to Doha for the 2018 IGHC were dwarfed by the modern and impressive looking buildings that stood along the streets that guided us to the Sheraton Interchange.

The Sheraton is regarded as a local landmark in the city of Doha. This distinct pyramid shaped building has stood on the West Bay overlooking the Arabian Gulf since it opened in 1979. As the countries economy began to boom and the city of Doha rose up from the desert, the hotel underwent a refurbishment to maintain it’s appealing Arabic charm and to offer guests modern facilities and a luxury 5* experience.

A welcome to delegates from all over the world

With such an iconic landmark being perfect to showcase to the world how far Qatar has come over the years, it is no wonder that the Sheraton was chosen as the host venue.

The Opening Ceremony:

The foyer of the main conference hall was lined with stands from all of the major players in the ground handling industry. Representatives would all be hoping that they can make progress towards securing major contracts with potential business clients. Throughout the week there would be seminars hosted giving reps the stage to present how their new and innovative methods would improve ground handling.

The Al Dafna Hall played host to the opening ceremony

Before any of this could occur, the opening ceremony had to take place. The Al Dafna Hall was made up immaculately of white tables and chairs. Taking our seats we eagerly awaited the VIPs who would be sat on the front row to arrive. With the room standing for the Qatari National Anthem, that was our signal that the 31st IATA International Ground Handling Conference had begun.

Joseph Suidan, Head of Ground Operations for IATA took to the stand to welcome everyone to Doha and to express his ambition for everyone to come together to change the industry for the better. Joseph took this opportunity to pay thanks to Qatar Airways and Qatar Aviation Services for hosting everyone who was in attendance.

After Joseph’s brief welcome to the room, a video detailing the history of Qatar Airways right up to it’s 20th Anniversary was shown. After a round of applause it was time for the man who made it all possible for Qatar to take the stand, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker.

Mr Al Baker is the Group Chief Executive Officer for Qatar Airways, and it is no secret that he has been instrumental in leading the airline to the point where it is now. Stepping up to the podium, he paid homage to his nation for being able to persevere and continue to stride forward despite the current blockade against his country.

His Excellency Mr Al Baker addresses the room

With Qatar Airways being the operator of Hamad International Airport, it was only right that Mr Al Baker should praise it by addressing it as “one of the most technologically advanced and sleek international hubs anywhere in the world”. In charge of ground staffing and operations at Hamad Is Qatar Aviation Services. IGHC 2018 was the first time that QAS had been showcased to the world at a major aviation event since they were established in 2000. It was fair to say the there was high hopes that they would leave a good impression on the right people.

As Mr Al Baker continued with his speech, I couldn’t help but get the impression that the event so far had been a showcase of Qatar Airways demonstrating their superiority. It was clear that a strong statement protesting the ‘illegal blockade’ of Qatar from the rest of the Middle East was being made. It was a clear demonstration that both the airline and the country can adapt and overcome any obstacles thrown at them. They truly are “A Nation Defiant”.

As His Excellency finished on stage, Nick Careen the Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security at IATA traded places. Despite openly admitting it wasn’t quite his forte, he was going to provide the delegates with an economic update on the industry.

He began by immediately highlighting that “rising costs are the biggest challenge to aviation” and that “salaries are the biggest cost”. Whilst oil costs play a major factor in determining whether an airline makes a profit or a loss, Mr Careen did provide some good news by stating that “oil prices are expected to ease bar any geopolitical issues”.

Mr Nick Careen providing an economic update

IATA predicts the demand for air travel to double over the next 20 years. With 4.1 billion passengers being flown on 41.8 million flights in 2017 alone, it is clear to see that any headway that can be made with improving the passenger journey and streamlining ground handling tasks will certainly be welcome over the next few years.

As Nick Careen stepped down from the stage, another round of applause went around. Delegates made their way into the foyer and members of the media made their way down the corridor to take part in the press conference.

The Press Conference:

Gathered into a room much smaller than the Al Dafna Hall, members of the local and international media took their positions in preparation for the arrival of the 4 person press panel. Together they consisted of:

  • Mr Nick Careen, Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, IATA
  • His Excellency Mr Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways
  • Eng. Badr Mohammed A Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer, Hamad International Airport
  • Mr Murat Nursel, Senior Vice President, Qatar Aviation Services
Awaiting the 4 person panel to arrive

As the introductions were made, the floor was opened up for the media to get answers to their questions.

Q: Is it expected that Qatar Airways will post a large loss because of the current political situation?

A: Yes it will be a large loss, announced hopefully by June. Though we (Qatar Airways) are expecting a loss, we will keep expanding our network – Mr Al Baker.

Q: Do you have a response to the allegations of illegal working conditions at Hamad International Airport?

A: The inspection wasn’t co-ordinated with the airport. We did not have time to prepare and these accusations are false. We don’t have any labour camps – Mr Al Meer.

These accusations could have been planted by our (political) adversaries to portray a negative picture – Mr Al Baker.

Mr Al Baker responding to accusations of illegal conditions at Hamad International Airport

Q:  Are Qatar Aviation Services looking to expand to other airports?

A:  It has not been confirmed but has has been identified as a potential expansion. QAS will introduce their own systems to airports. Yes there will be other handlers/companies that pose a challenge. We will ensure that our high standards are met. We do not want to go global, only to airports (Milan Malpensa and London Heathrow were mentioned) where we feel our standards are not met – Mr Al Baker

Q: Have you got any more details on the third stage expansion at Hamad International Airport?

A: I would not like to make any comments. We do not divulge any information except via official communications. I can confirm however it will be expanded before Qatar 2022 (World Cup) – Mr Al Baker.

With that the press conference was bought to a close and so was the opening morning. As delegates and officials broke for lunch, everyone in the building was certainly hoping that they could establish effective working relationships with new clients to together Improve ground handling services around the world.

Hosted for the first time ever in the Middle East
ANALYSIS:

With Qatar Airways being one of the joint hosts and principal partners, It was only natural to expect a strong show from them. I couldn’t help but get the feeling though that a lot of it was a show of strength from the nation of Qatar to send a message of defiance to their neighbouring countries. The products and services on show certainly have the potential to improve the passenger journey if they were deployed correctly, only time will tell if this will be the case.

 

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Qatar Airways 787 Business Class Review




For our regular readers out there, you will know that we have tried and tested our fair share of Qatar Airways’ products. Our view of the airline is simple, we love it! In February, Raj was invited on board the delivery flight of the Airbus A350-1000 from Toulouse to Doha. It’s fair to say I was very jealous of this, so when I was given the opportunity to fly out to Doha and cover the opening day of the IATA International Ground Handling Conference, I jumped at the chance!

Qatar Airways fly daily from Birmingham to Doha using Boeing 787-8 aircraft and directly compete with Emirates for the crown of best long-haul carrier from BHX. Flying to over 80 countries and serving more than 150 destinations, Qatar certainly do their best to be the number one choice when flying long haul. Having flown on both British Airways & Air Canada 787 Dreamliner’s in recent months, I had high hopes that this Qatari jet would live up to the standard of those fantastic flights.

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Qatar Airways fly daily between Birmingham and Doha on Boeing 787-8 Aircraft.

Living only 10 minutes from Birmingham Airport meant I could afford to leave the house a little later than normal when catching a flight. After a short taxi ride, in which I happened to see my aircraft (A7-BCX) abandon it’s approach and go around, I arrived at the terminal. When walking into the building, I made my way to the Qatar Airways check in desks, where to my surprise I found them completely empty. After a brief chat with the girls at the desk, I was given my boarding pass and made my way through fast track security and into departures.

Qr34 birmingham – doha:

Whilst making my way up to Gate 45, I was met by the Airport Manger for Qatar. He invited me to pre board the aircraft, explore the cabin and grab some photos. The cabin is set in a 1-2-1 configuration and my assigned seat, 2E, was in the middle of this cabin. Not wanting to miss the views on our way down to Doha, I had a chat with Ida (the Cabin Manager in charge of today’s fabulous crew) and found myself now sat in window seat 2K.  Boarding was relatively quick as today’s flight was only half full and soon after boarding was completed the crew armed the doors and cross checked them in preparation for our departure.

The immaculate Business Class cabin set in the 1-2-1 configuration.

Seats in the Business class cabin can convert into a fully lie flat bed if required. Adjustable armrests and lumbar support ensure that all can be comfortable when flying with Qatar. A 17” television equipped with the Oryx One IFE System is located above a folding table which can be extended fully when dining or working. Storage compartments are seemingly everywhere but are designed perfectly to blend in with their surroundings and a universal plug and USB socket offer the tech savvy travellers the option to stay charged and connected during their flight. This cabin definitely oozes class but perhaps falls just a bit behind the brand new and innovative QSuite. See the pictures in the slideshow below to check out the awesome cabin.

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Unfortunately due to the go around on the inbound sector to Birmingham we had a delay to our scheduled departure time of 16:00, and found ourselves pushing back at 16:45, 45 minutes late. Fortunately due to the close proximity of the terminal building to the runway, we were soon lined up on Runway 33 ready to start our 6 hour 40 minute journey to Doha. Climbing up to 41,000 feet, our routing took us north out of Birmingham and then out east over the North Sea and across Central Europe.

The crew had come around prior to departure and taken our orders from the Business Class Menu. Qatar operate a “Dine on Demand” system onboard with a wide selection of appetising dishes which were made available and would be served fresh accompanied with a selection of warm breads and olive oils. Choosing to eat not long after take off, the crew came around to set my table and  offer me a drink before my Arabic Mezze appetiser arrived. This was soon followed by the Paneer Tikka Masala and Gourmet Ice Cream. Most people would have you believe that plane food is disgusting, today this definitely was not the case. Look at the pictures below to see the incredible display.

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My attention soon turned away from food and onto the Inflight Entertainment. A noise cancelling headset is provided free of charge for all passengers and is only compatible with the Oryx One system. Oryx offers the latest Hollywood, Bollywood and International films as well as a selection of classics. TV shows are offered although the selection wasn’t as wide as the films and various different music albums covering a variety of genres could be selected.  The picture and sound quality on the Business Class screen was second to none.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and it sure did on this occasion. Our approach into Hamad International Airport was signalled by light chop that even Delta Airlines would be proud of! Flying into Doha guarantees a scenic approach whatever time of the day it is. The bright lights of The Pearl, the city skyline and the Iconic Sheraton Hotel guided us all the way onto Runway 16R.

Business Class Cabin Inflight
TO SUMMARISE:

From the moment I stepped on board to the moment the doors opened in Doha, I was made to feel welcome and recognized by the fabulous crew who genuinely care and take pride in their job. An intimate cabin of just 22 seats allows passengers to relax and unwind in comfort and style. Qatar Airways have got this product perfected, and it is one I certainly cannot wait to fly again!

Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Qatar Airways as part of the IATA Conference trip. All of the views that are expressed in this review are my own and have been in no way influenced by the airline.

 

ENJOY THIS?  Why not check out our Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business Class Review!

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Southwest 737 Suffers Catastrophic Engine Failure

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 jet made an emergency landing in Philadelphia today after suffering a catastrophic in flight engine failure.

Southwest Flight 1380, from New York to Dallas was cruising at 32,000 feet when the incident occurred. Shrapnel from the explosion collided with the aircraft’s fuselage causing a window to be broken and a nearby passenger to be partially sucked out of the aircraft. Fellow passengers saw the situation unfolding and managed to pull the woman back into the aircraft.

Damage sustained to the Boeing 737-700 (N772SW). (Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia)

With most passengers on board saying prayers and writing messages for loved ones, the crew ensured all 149 people attached their oxygen masks whilst the pilots executed an emergency descent into Philadelphia.

Upon landing in Philadelphia, a fuel leak caused by the damage ignited a small fire which was quickly extinguished by airport fire fighting services.

Kristopher Johnson, a passenger on board the flight told CNN that “Shrapnel hit the window causing a serious injury. No other details about that. Several medical personnel on the flight tended to the injured passenger”.

The broken window on that one passenger was almost ejected from. (Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia)

Whilst the exact nature of injuries suffered on board have not been made clear yet, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed that one person was killed during the incident.

Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) investigators have been dispatched to Pennsylvania to investigate the cause of the incident.

The remains of the CFM-56 Engine (Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia)

Our thoughts go out to all involved.

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