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Thursday May 8, 2014

This Week's Travel News

New Canadian Low Cost Option from June

Local travellers eyeing up a trip to Canada will have a new direct option from the middle of next month.

Last night four top executives of Canadian carrier Westjet were in Belfast to raise awareness of the new Westjet route which launches from Dublin on June 15 and runs daily until October 25. The airline also announced its intention to operate the service during the 2015 season, also until the end of October.

The new service will leave Dublin at 8.20 am daily and will operate non-stop flights to St John's Newfoundland and daily direct (same aircraft) flights onward to Toronto. Customs clearance will take place at St John's thus minimising delays in the entry procedure.

Westjet, which was founded in 1996, operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, all of them under seven years old. Today the airline operates to more than 85 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. The new Dublin service is the airline's first transatlantic route.

Westjet executives met leading representatives of the Northern Ireland Travel Trade in Belfast last night when they revealed that around 40 per cent of the airline's bookings comes through the Trade.

The current one-way fare from Dublin to St John's starts from 199 Canadian Dollars, around £107 sterling.

Get Involved in Giro d'Italia 2014!

The Giro d'Italia 'Big Start' is almost here and Discover Northern Ireland are inviting you to be part of it!

You can still 'Be Part of the Start' by uploading a #GiroSelfie photo to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, ensuring to use the hashtag '#GiroSelfie', or share on the Discover Northern Ireland Facebook wall.

If you are planning to join the many thousands of spectators at a point along the route then remember to check online at either the Giro hub or the Discover Northern Ireland website of where the riders will be visiting and the times you can see them.

The Giro d'Italia will of course start tomorrow, Friday May 9, at the Titanic Belfast and the Titanic Quarter at 9am.

Sign up for Lisa's Charity Spinathon

Pictured right is cycling enthusiast and P&O Ferries staff member Lisa Cameron with Ballymena Road Club cyclist Connor Young, as they gear up for P&O Ferries and Port of Larne charity spinathon.

Taking place this Saturday, May 10 in the Market Yard, Larne (10am-2pm), the event is open to the public and will raise vital funds for charities Melanoma and Oxfam. It also coincides with the second stage of the Giro d'Italia's Grande Partenza where the Market Yard will be transformed into a Little Italy. With one or two hour spin slots available and a registration fee of £10, participants will receive a sponsorship form and goody bag. To get involved, please contact Lisa Cameron P&O Ferries on 07894802829.

Bring Your Best Friend Free, Ferry Offer

Leading ferry company Stena Line are designating this 'Best Friends Forever (BFF) Month' and to ensure you make the most of it they are giving anyone who books a ferry trip with their car the chance to bring their BFF with them, for free, on any sailing, all year round!

The ferry company, whose fares start at just £69 single car + driver, has promised that anyone who books car travel by May 26 can take a 'friend for free' with them on travel until January 5, 2015 (conditions apply)!

"As part of BFF month we have launched a special 'friend for free' fare, which is sure to make you the most popular person in your house, maybe even the town," said Stena Line's Head of Travel, Orla Noonan. "BFF month is a time to appreciate those who stick by us through thick and thin, who always know the right things to say and who we're just comfortable being around - making them the perfect travel companion. For some of us, our best friend is our partner, sister or parent so take this opportunity to give them a special treat this month.

"Anyone who books travel by May 26 will get to take someone with them for free on any sailing to Britain or France - that means you can make savings of around £60 (varies by route) per adult on a return crossing and give your bestie a holiday so it's a win, win!"

New Thomas Cook Wedding Packages

Thomas Cook is to offer new wedding packages at seven of its exclusive SENTIDO resorts in Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes and Turkey.

They're featured in its new overseas Weddings brochure, which combines Thomas Cook and Thomas Cook Signature products into one portfolio.

Market research company Mintel is predicting that one in five couples will marry abroad by 2015 and Thomas Cook has also included wedding packages at family-friendly hotels.

Star Alliance Moving to Heathrow Terminal 2

Heathrow's Terminal 2, The Queen's Terminal will open on June 4 and will be the new home for 23 Star Alliance airlines. All Star Alliance member airlines will move in by the end of November 2014.

T2 is a purpose built, state of the art facility. Designed to meet the needs of the international frequent flyer, it will revolutionise passengers' travel experience. Light, bright, spacious and airy, with plenty of shops and comfortable bars, waiting time at T2 is relaxing and enjoyable.

The latest technology and world class service ensure a quick and hassle-free journey through the airport, from check in right through to boarding.

All the services the traveller needs are conveniently housed under one roof, from baggage claim to flight connections. There's no stress, no headache and no need for rushing around.

Whisky Galore in Scotland This Month

Whisky lovers - that's Scotch Whisky of course, without the 'e' - have a good reason for heading to Scotland in the next few weeks.

May has been unveiled as Whisky Month 2014, and to celebrate the month-long programme of events taking place, Drambuie has created a new whisky cocktail recipe called the MacKinnon Punch. It's described as a 'deliciously refined drink with all the hallmarks of a classic Drambuie cocktail with an added fizz'.

The new cocktail is claimed to be the perfect accompaniment to the diverse range of unmissable whisky events, festivals, tours and tastings spread across the country during the month-long, country-wide programme of celebrations.

Information about the various events can be had from VisitScotland which is inviting visitors to sample Scotland's national drink as well as explore both the traditional and contemporary blend of stories, circumstances, provenance and science behind the country's array of marvellous malts.

Cavan Walking Festival is Calling

From beginners to experienced ramblers and hikers there is a walk for you this May at the Cavan Walking Festival.

Guided walks are taking place over 10 days throughout the county, with more than 25 walks of varying distances and grades.

You can stay in Cavan during the festival at one of the great selection of accommodation ranging from contemporary hotels and lakeside chalets to homely B&Bs where a traditional Irish welcome is accompanied by a slice of sheer luxury.

This is the fourth year of the festival which has a packed programme of themed trails, rambles and hikes all led by trained local guides.

Choose from night, nature, forest and history rambles, archaeology, geology, family and fitness trails, teddy bear adventures, atmospheric dusk walks, along with hikes for the more experienced such as the Cuilcagh Mountain Climb. You can check out the walks and download the festival brochure on the Lakes and Walking website.

Ferrari Land to Open in 2016

The very popular family theme park PortAventura has established 'Ferrari Land', a new theme park dedicated to the global brand of Ferrari within the PortAventura destination resort near Barcelona, Spain.

The new branded site (expected to open during 2016) will be the sole Ferrari theme park in Europe and will envisage a total investment of more than 100 million Euro. Ferrari Land will be built on a total surface area of 75,000 square meters and benefit from several rides (including the highest and fastest vertical accelerator in Europe), a new premium hotel with 250 rooms and 5 star service, restaurants, shops and large simulation areas for car racing.


Thursday May 1, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Another Award for Top Local Travel Agency

The current Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year was honoured at the annual Travel Agent Achievement Awards in London last night.

Oasis Travel, with its headquarters in Lisburn, and branches in Belfast, Holywood and Bangor, won the Best Small Agency Award in the Northern Ireland Region at the Awards, organised by industry newspaper Travel Weekly. In the Northern Ireland Region, the Large Agency Award went to The Co-operative Travel.

Barrhead Travel, which has a branch in Belfast, won the Award for the Best Large Agency in the Scottish region, and also the award for the Best Large Agency nationally.

Belfast-Bulgaria Ski Programme to Go Ahead

There will after all be a ski programme from Belfast to Bulgaria next winter. Local tour operator Travel Solutions is introducing ski packages to Bulgaria for 2013/14 to fill the gap in the local market left by the withdrawal of Balkan Tours.

Travel Solutions will be operating a winter programme from December 28 to late March with direct flights from Belfast to Plovdiv with Flights will depart weekly and the programme will feature the resorts of Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko.

Peter McMinn, Managing Director of Belfast-based Travel Solutions: "Bulgaria has been a popular ski destination for tens of thousands of Northern Ireland skiers over many years and we understood their disappointment when the news broke that the destination was to be lost. I am pleased that the team at Travel Solutions was able to react quickly. With as our airline partner, and our team able to secure the best hotels in the ski resorts, we are confident that this new destination for Travel Solutions will be a great success."

A brochure will be available shortly, but information is now available through your local travel agent or by contacting Travel Solutions.

Weekly Flights to Madeira Cancelled

The planned programme of weekly flights from Dublin to Madeira this holiday season has been cancelled. Airline Windavia had been due to take over the weekly flights operated previously by SATA Airlines between Dublin and Funchal and due to start this month.

"As the contracted General Sales Agent for Windavia in Ireland, we greatly regret that Windavia are now unable to fulfill their intended flight operations from Dublin to Funchal this summer," said Paul Weir of APG Ireland.

"Windavia are refunding in full any tickets that have already been paid for. The airline is also in discussions with other parties who have expressed an interest in operating this route for at least some of the season."

Belfast tour operator Travel Solutions had planned a Madeira programme using the Dublin flights as well as Dublin based operators Concorde Travel, Sunway, Topflight, and Travel Department.

To Glasgow and Back for a Tenner!

Leading ferry company Stena Line has announced a fantastic tenner day trip offer from Belfast to Glasgow - a seriously budget-busting way for a great day out with all the family.

Available until June 25, this day trip offer, which operates on Wednesdays, includes return Superfast ferry travel from Belfast to Cairnryan and return coach transfers from Cairnryan to Glasgow.

Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications, Diane Poole OBE, said: "These days, £10 doesn't get you much but with Stena Line that hard earned tenner can take you all the way to Glasgow and back!

"From only £10 per person return, you can explore Glasgow's famous shopping districts, its cultural and arts scene or have a meal at one of the city's famous restaurants. The scene in Glasgow is so varied that you can have a lively time with a group of friends, take your parents for a relaxed treat, enjoy it with the kids or spend some quality time with the other half."

Day trips depart Belfast port at 07:30hrs, arriving in Cairnryan port at 09:45hrs where customers will then travel onto Glasgow by coach arriving into the city at midday. After a fun filled day of exploring all that Glasgow has to offer, they will then depart Glasgow at 16.45hrs for the 19.30 sailing from Cairnryan arriving back into Belfast at 21:45hrs.

Beach-wear to be Banned in Palma city

Cover up or else! That's the message to tourists this summer from the city of Palma on the popular holiday island of Majorca.

The city council is threatening to fine tourists who walk the streets in beachwear this summer. The council is planning to introduce the fines, of up to £500, following complaints by restaurant and bar owners of semi-clad clients turning up to be served, at the end of May.

Alvaro Gijon, the Mayor of Palma, said that the aim of the new laws was to regulate good behaviour for tourists and residents with the aim of preserving 'harmony and civility'.

New Route to London City Airport

Flybe is introducing a new direct service from George Best Belfast City Airport to London City Airport form the autumn.

From Monday, October 27, 2014, Flybe will offer three times daily services between the two city centre airports. This brings the total number of direct destinations offered by Flybe from Northern Ireland to 14 making it the largest airline operating at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Flybe expects that the new route will appeal to both business and leisure passengers in Northern Ireland and those based in the City of London and Canary Wharf whose travel plans are time-critical and who will appreciate the reduced transfer times compared to flying from/to Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton. London City airport is conveniently located in the heart of the financial capital with connections offered every 10 minutes by Docklands Light Railway, meaning that passengers can be in Canary Wharf in 12 minutes - and, via the London Underground, in Westminster in just 24!

Flybe says it is also aiming to be Europe's most punctual airline. It recently launched a new world-first 60:60 guarantee that promises its customers if a flight arrives more than 60 minutes' late at its destination due to a delay within Flybe's control, they will qualify for a £60 voucher towards their next flight as long as they book within 60 days.

One in Five Have 'Something to Declare'

The UK is still a nation of smugglers, according to a new survey, carried out in the wake of the TV series about smuggling, Jamaica Inn.

According to the survey, carried out among 1300 adults, one in five UK holidaymakers have chosen to walk through the 'Nothing to Declare' aisle at Customs knowing full well they were carrying more than their duty free allowance, or were concealing illegal or controlled goods or substances.

Those most likely to try their luck in outwitting customs officials were aged 25 to 34 and male smugglers outnumber women smugglers by 2 to 1.

The goods most frequently smuggled by UK holidaymakers include cigarettes and alcohol but other frequently concealed goods include perfume, marijuana, other controlled drugs, food stuffs, weapons and even live animals.

Cigarettes are the goods most commonly smuggled (46 per cent) with alcohol in second place with 29 per cent in the survey compiled by GoCompare travel insurance.

All Roads Lead to Titanic This Month

There's a host of May Madness events at Titanic Belfast and Titanic Quarter in the next few weeks. From a Giro d'Italia special After Hours tomorrow May 2 right through to the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival at the end of the month, there's plenty for everyone in-between.

Get on your bike for the biggest cycling show ever to spin in the city - the Giro d'Italia - which actually starts at Titanic Belfast, with all the international media attention that will bring! Join the elite riders and enjoy the fan park from May 8-10, and view the amazing bikes and Formula One style team 'pits'.

Titanic Belfast will also highlight Northern Ireland's part in the UK-wide Culture 24 Night At The Museums on May 16 - a special evening opening of its interactive Titanic galleries, plus dining and entertainment. Then, less than 24 hours later, the amazing Brick City exhibition by independent LEGO artist Warren Elsmore launches (May 17) in Titanic Belfast's Andrews Gallery, showing off more than 70 of the planet's iconic buildings made from the worl's most famous bricks.

The Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival from May 24-26 will see a host of festivities take place at Titanic Belfast and Queen's Quay, while in addition to all this, Titanic Belfast will host Deepa Mann-Kler's new Art of Cycling exhibition, with an artist appearance and launch night on May 2 (7-9pm), running to May 15.

Airport Fund Aids Local Charity

Belfast International Airport PR Manager Deborah Harris is pictured right with Short Strand resident Jean O'Neill at the Age NI Day Centre situated in the East Belfast's state of the art Skainos Centre.

Age NI are one of the beneficiaries of the airport's charity fund which gives donations to local charities and projects. Deborah Harris said: "Age NI are an inspirational charity and Belfast International Airport is delighted to be able to support them in the work they do. It is important to us that we give back to our local charities which sees funding go to local projects helping local people."

Maeve Egerton, Age NI Trust and Corporate Relations Manager, said: "I'd like to thank Belfast International Airport for supporting the important work that Age NI does locally for many older people in NI including our day centres which provide great opportunities for fun and friendship - as well as a good natter over a cuppa! - especially for those who may experience loneliness and isolation in later life."


Thursday April 17, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Travel Life Begins at Forty, Says BA Research

A new survey by British Airways to mark the airline's 40th birthday has revealed that spontaneous travel increases with age.

The airline has undertaken research of 2,000 people aged 20 to 70-plus, to see if life does indeed begin at 40. And the old adage that we're living longer, travelling further and staying younger than ever before rings true according to the findings.

Although forty-somethings are the age most likely to take family holidays, they are also the most likely to book sporting breaks, seek glamorous destinations, and partake in 'dark tourism' (travel to macabre places). By contrast those in their thirties were the biggest beach goers, the 50 age bracket most likely to get off the beaten track, and those aged 70 or older were more likely to seek romantic holidays than any other age group!

When asked what the benefit of being a seasoned traveller is, those in their forties felt grateful that they could still see the world while active, while fifty-something's said it was having the money to travel in style.

Of all age groups however, it's the 40-year-old that is most likely to have the biggest group of friends to go away with, while those in their twenties and sixties found common ground in being commitment free. When it comes to life beginning at 40, looking back, most 50-70-year-olds would agree (53 per cent) it does, however looking ahead only 32 per cent of 20-40 year olds agreed.

British Airways celebrates its fortieth anniversary this April, following the merger of BOAC and BEA in 1974. To celebrate, the airline has created special 'Ruby Murray' curry dishes available on selected flights for the month, as well as recreating classic photos from 1974 to mark the occasion.

Know Your Rights When Travelling This Easter

The Consumer Council is encouraging all consumers to know their passenger rights if travelling by air or sea this Easter.

The majority of journeys are hassle free but we all know when things go wrong it can ruin a family holiday, business trip or even a school trip as one group of 44 pupils and their teacher from Lismore Comprehensive School recently found out.

The pupils were returning from a school excursion to Amsterdam when their flight was delayed by almost four hours. The school brought their complaint to the Consumer Council and have been able to achieve compensation totalling 11,250 Euro.

Speaking about the delay, Teacher Jane Houston said: "We were delayed on our return journey by almost four hours which was an unfortunate end to our trip. Having written to the airline, who did not respond I took my complaint straight to the Consumer Council. The Consumer Council achieved a resolution for me very quickly and I am very grateful for that. I would probably still be waiting on a response for my complaint otherwise. It's great to get 250 Euro for each of the 44 pupils."

Jenny Robinson, Senior Policy Officer at the Consumer Council said: "Easter kicks off the spring and summer holiday season, therefore it's important that passengers are aware of their rights. If flights and sailings are delayed or cancelled then passengers are entitled to support and assistance. We have a range of travel guides, including 'Plane Facts' and 'Plain Sailing', to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities. These handy guides can be packed into your luggage before heading off."

Good Weather Forecast for Bank Holiday Getaways

ABTA - The Travel Association estimates 1.6 million British holidaymakers are set to head overseas over the Easter Bank holiday weekend.

Spain is the UK's favourite foreign holiday destination over the weekend, with the Canary and Balearic Islands the most popular areas. Turkey and Tunisia have also sold well as people look to catch some spring sunshine.

Daytime temperatures this weekend are set to reach 23C in Mallorca, 34C in Tunisia, 26C in Turkey and 30C in Florida, the most popular long haul destination with its wealth of great beaches and amusement parks. Weather in the Canaries is expected to hit 25C, with mild breezes and ample sunshine forecast for the Prime Minister's family break in Lanzarote.

Foreign city breaks are popular at this time of the year with the weather being comfortable and the streets less crowded. Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome and New York are the top five choices.

Bookings for UK breaks are also healthy with many customers travelling to traditional sea side resorts, national parks and holiday camps.

Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said: "The Easter bank holiday is very late this year which means the weather in some of our favourite holiday destinations is looking particularly good with some very high temperatures. I am delighted to see that so many people are taking the opportunity to take a well-earned break."

Easter Eggstravaganza at Belfast International

Belfast International Airport is egg-ing passengers on this Easter with chocolate giveaways, live music in the bars and great offers in the shops.

And if the Easter activities are too much, Action Mental Health are hosting a pop up Relaxation stand offering neck and shoulder massages to passengers.

John Doran, Airport Managing Director said: "Easter is always a popular holiday time for local travellers and this weekend we are expecting over 60,000 passengers to use the airport. Many people are heading for sunnier climes - we serve 70 destinations - but equally the arrivals hall will be thronged with families coming home to spend the holiday period with their loved ones."

The picture right shows little Shea Graffin wishing the thousands of passengers travelling through Belfast International Airport this weekend a very Happy Easter.

Last Minute Easter Hotel and Ferry Deals

Leading ferry company Stena Line is offering customers some egg-cellent last minute ferry and hotel deals this Easter that includes great trips for families and couples to Britain. The perfect getaway is only a click, or a phone call away, but be quick as the deals are hopping away fast.

Diane Poole OBE, Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications said: "Holidaymakers can visit egg-citing cities like Liverpool and Glasgow which both featured in Lonely Planet's top 10 most exciting cities in Europe to visit at number three and nine, respectively. They are bursting with nightlife, wonderful places to eat, things to see and do for all ages plus enough fun activities and cultural experiences to satisfy the whole family.

"If you like your breaks action-packed then visit Alton Towers in Stoke-on-Trent or M and Ds Theme Park in Scotland which are assured crowd pleasers for kids and couples alike. So make sure you check out our fantastic range of fun days away, city breaks and family trips as travelling by ferry gives you the freedom and flexibility to make your holiday your own.

Diane continued: "The ships on the Belfast to Cairnryan and Liverpool routes have everything the modern traveller would need including a great choice of lounges for maximum passenger comfort, a delicious selection of onboard dining options, Barista Coffee area, Free WiFi, kids play area, suites and cabins to relax in or for a good night's sleep. And exclusive to the Belfast - Cairnryan route the Pure Nordic Spa which offers a range of tempting treatments from massages to foot rubs or simply relax in the Jacuzzi."

For details of the deals available in places like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool log on to the Stena website or call Stena Line in Belfast.

Airline Eases Restrictions on Electronic Gadgets

Passengers on easyJet are now able to use personal electronic devices such as laptops, tables and mobiles onboard throughout the whole flight, including during take-off and landing.

The gadgets must be placed in 'Flight Mode' and mobiles can't be used for making or receiving calls or texts.

EasyJet said the move follows recent recommendations from the European Aviation Safety Agency for restrictions on the use of gadgets onboard aircraft to be relaxed.

Peter Duffy, easyJet's Group Commercial Director, customer, product and marketing said: "We know that portable devices are an important part of our customers' journey with us so we are pleased they can now use their electronic devices onboard in 'Flight mode' for the duration of their flight with us - we think this will be a popular change."

Catch the Tulip Festival at Powerscourt

Attractions up and down the Province are opening for the first time this year over the Easter weekend, but one attraction, just a little bit further away at Powerscourt Estate, County Wicklow is definitely worth the extra time travelling.

Powerscourt Estate in spring is ablaze with colour. And you can watch over 10,000 tulips gently dancing in the breeze at the Annual Tulip Festival which runs until April 24. Displays of tulips are located throughout the gardens, from the Italian Gardens to the Herbaceous Border.

Don't miss the Japanese Garden which comes to life in spring. Inhale the fragrances from sweet magnolia flowers, perfumed azaleas and cherry and apple blossom trees, bearing cascades of pink and white flowers. The Camellias in the Memorial Garden are a welcome surprise for visitors while thousands of daffodils add some spring cheer after the long winter months. Afterwards, unwind in the Avoca Terrace Cafe with tea and a cake or two!

Airport Taxi Transfers - Cheapest and Most Expensive

Ranking by £ per km, Copenhagen, in Denmark, is the most expensive airport-city centre taxi transfer in Europe. Although the journey by road from Copenhagen airport to the city centre is only 8km, the average fare registering on the meter is £33.33, which equates to £4.17 per km. That means a round trip will set travellers back almost £70.

The next most expensive taxi journey by £ per km is Geneva, in Switzerland, to the centre of Geneva. Again the journey is relatively short, only 6km, but will set holidaymakers back an average of £22.11 or £3.68 per km. On price alone, the 46km taxi ride from Milan's Malpensa airport to the city centre is the priciest, costing an eye-watering £70.25

East European cities are not surprisingly some of the cheapest places to visit when it comes to the cost of taking a taxi from the airport. Sofia airport to the centre of Sofia, will set you back just £2.12 for the 10km journey, or £0.21 per km. While, Bucharest's Otopeni Airport to Bucharest central is just £4.67 or £0.27 per km for the 17km taxi ride. In terms of price per km, a taxi ride from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport to the centre of Istanbul is actually the best value, with the 25km trip costing an average of £4.65 or £0.19 per km.

The new research which shows the most expensive and cheapest airport transfer taxi fares in Europe is from travel money specialist company No.1 Currency.

Easter Treat for Cruise Line Clients

Norwegian Cruise Line UK has something egg-stra special with its latest promotion, 'Norwegians Love An Easter Treat'.

Customers booking a Balcony Stateroom or higher, on a wide variety of sailings of seven nights or longer and cruising between April and June 2014, will receive $100 on board spend per stateroom when booked between April 11 and 29, 2014.

Included in the promotion are cruises on board Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian's two newest and most innovative ships. Norwegian Getaway will be sailing nine-night Eastern Caribbean fly-cruises travelling: Fly UK / Miami (USA) - Phillipsburg (St. Maarten) - Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) - Nassau (Bahamas) - Miami (USA) / Fly UK whereas Norwegian Breakaway heads from her year-round homeport of New York City to Bermudas pink beaches on nine-night fly-cruise holidays.

Also on offer for customers looking for an early summer getaway are sailings on board Norwegian Epic when she returns to the Western Mediterranean out of Barcelona or the Adriatic and Greek Isles out of Venice on board Norwegian Jade, as well as Norwegian Sun's nine-night Glacier Bay from Vancouver fly-cruise, plus many more.

Taking a Break for Easter

The weekly Thursday E-shot for the Travelling Public is taking a break for Easter next week. The next Public E-shot will be today fortnight, May 1.


Thursday April 10, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Nineteen Routes Go on Sale for Winter 2014/15

Northern Ireland's largest passenger carrying airline easyJet has today put on sale its winter 2014 schedule from Belfast International Airport with 19 routes across the UK and Europe.

Over 8,500 flights are now on sale at the airline's website enabling passengers to secure the best fares early for travel between October 26, 2014 and February 28, 2015.

Key routes include popular winter sun flights to Malaga, Palma and Malta as well as city breaks to Geneva and Paris. The airline has also released fares for key business routes including Barcelona and London airports of Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

Ali Gayward, easyJet's Head of Northern Ireland, comments: "When developing our flying schedule we consider many factors including customer comments and holiday trends to ensure we're offering the right combination of flights at a great price. easyJet also secures access to primary airports which take people straight to the heart of a destination to save time and money on transfers.

"Key winter sun destinations from Belfast include Faro and Malta but we've also retained firm favourites such as Alicante and Malaga. Around 20 per cent of easyjet customers are business travellers so they'll be pleased to secure low cost flights to cities such as Manchester and Glasgow." Winter routes now on sale from Belfast include Malta, Barcelona, Geneva and Amsterdam with prices starting at £25.49 one way, based on two people booking at the same time.

New Lisburn Road Travel Agency for Oasis

One of the Province's leading travel agencies is opening a new branch on Belfast's Lisburn Road.

Oasis Travel, with its headquarters in Railway Street, Lisburn, is opening on the Lisburn Road, opposite Cranmore Park.

Oasis is the current Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year, and has won the title more times than any other agency - a total of eight times.

Oasis has also branches in Bangor, Holywood, and Howard Street in Belfast city centre.

Parents Put Kids First When it Comes to Holidays

A new survey has found that parents will sacrifice their own pleasures and relaxation time to please their kids on holiday, and instead of leaving their offspring in the kids club so they can lie in the pool and sip cocktails, most parents prefer to spend time with their children doing the activities chosen by them.

Instead of leaving their offspring in the kids' club, parents prefer to spend quality time with their children doing the activities chosen by them.

The survey also reveals that children rule the roost on holiday deciding what trips and activities to do (65 per cent), what meals to eat (50 per cent) and whether to go to the beach or stay by the pool (60 per cent).

Parents are quite happy to hand over the reins to their children, because their kids need a break just as much as they do. Over three quarters of parents (76 per cent) believe holidays are an important time for children, according to the study by holiday rentals company HomeAway.

And putting kids first on holiday doesn't have to mean keeping up with the Jones's either - only 15 per cent of those questioned feel pressured to take their children on expensive, action packed or exotic holidays.

Still Time to Catch the Curlers!

With the Easter holidays almost upon us, there's still time to book a short family break just a short ferry trip away, in Scotland.

Whether you're interested in cheering on teams at the World Curling Championships, staying on a farm to watch the lambs being born, or taking a steam train ride dressed in Easter bonnets, Scotland has lots to offer families over this Easter period.

With the Winter Olympics still fresh in the memory and Team GB's success in the curling, there's a chance to take in the World Curling Senior & Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Dumfries from April 23 to April 30.

One for the kids is the Easter Egg Special Steam Trains which operate from April 18 to 21 at Bo'ness, Lothian. Children wearing a traditional Easter bonnet on board the train will be in with the chance to win a prize, followed by an Easter egg hunt in the Scotland's largest railway museum.

The Wild Spring Festival: Easter Eggstravaganza takes place on April 20 in Dumfries & Galloway. The kids can join an Easter egg hunt around the nature reserve, while keeping their eyes peeled for frogs, fishtails, badgers, red deer bats and squirrels. The hunt is part of the Wild Spring Festival which is taking place throughout Dumfries & Galloway and features more than 100 wildlife events, many free and hosted by local wildlife experts.

Families can also experience Spring on the Farm at Neuk Farm Holiday Cottages at The Neuk, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire. The farm's location is ideal for exploring east Lothian and is also only five minutes from the beach.

Don't Get Caught Out by Baggage Limits

Almost one in four passengers has been caught out by airline cabin baggage restrictions and ended up paying additional fees to check in their luggage at the airport, according to a new survey.

A survey of 1,000 Britons found that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding cabin baggage because airlines are free to enforce their own weight and size restrictions.

Travel search site Skyscanner said that its research showed that easyJet passengers get the smallest guaranteed cabin bag allowance, although the low-cost airline imposes no weight restriction, while Thomas Cook limits passengers' carry-on bags to no more than 5kg. Iberia is the most generous airline, permitting passengers to board with bags as large as 56x45x25, closely followed by British Airways which allows hand luggage weighing up to 23kgs.

Virgin Holidays Heading for Belfast?

High profile tour operator Virgin Holidays is thought to be opening a Belfast office, possibly in Debenham's store in Castle Court, soon. Posts for a Sales Manager, Sales Consultant and Part-Time Sales Consultant in Belfast were all being advertised on the company's recruitment website up until a few days ago.

According to Virgin Holidays, part of the global Virgin brand headed by Richard Branson: "Join us as a Retail Sales Consultant, and you'll help our customers to once-in-a-lifetime experiences from luxury Caribbean beaches to African Safaris. Its not just our customers who can experience this, our team get the amazing opportunity to use seven standby flights to travel anywhere on the Virgin network. The targets you'll have to meet are ambitious. But for those that succeed, the rewards are impressive," boasts the online ad for the three posts.

When contacted about its expansion plans into Northern Ireland Virgin Holidays did not respond to email and telephone inquiries.

Istanbul Tops Poll for Destinations

Istanbul has taken the top spot in the latest TripAdvisor Choice awards for Destinations having climbed 11 places to take the number one spot.

Meanwhile Asian destinations have risen sharply in the rankings, with Beijing, Hanoi, and Shanghai all breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

Traditional city break destinations Paris, Barcelona and New York have all dropped down the rankings with Paris falling 6 places to number 7, Barcelona dropping 10 places to 15, and New York falling 10 places to 12.

Other favourites also dropped down the list significantly, with Sydney falling 12 positions to 22 and San Francisco falling 18 to 25.

Turkish Airlines operates a daily service to Istanbul, the top city in the TripAdvisor Choice survey.

Disney to bring Magic to UK

Disney Cruise Line is returning to the UK next summer and it will also offer its first trips to the Norwegian Fjords.

Sailing from Dover, the newly-refurbished Disney Magic will offer two 12-night itineraries calling at Copenhagen, Warnemunde in Germany, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallin in Estonia.

The ship will also sail from Copenhagen, from where it will operate seven and nine-night cruises to the Norwegian fjords, and on an 11-night itinerary to Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The ship will then re-position to Barcelona in August 2015 for a series of Mediterranean fly-cruises.

Cruise Lines Are On the Ball

If you're thinking of taking a cruise during the coming summer, don't worry - you will still get your fix of the soccer World Cup in Brazil.

One by one, most of the leading cruise lines are announcing live screening of the FIFA World Cup matches when England will be the only home nation taking part.

Costa Cruises is the latest cruise line to have "designed a rich entertainment programme" which includes screening the matches on board its 14 ships.


Thursday April 3, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Stena's First Ferry Link to France Begins

Stena Line began operating its first ever direct service to the Continent on Tuesday.

The new Stena Line Rosslare€-“Cherbourg all-year round service, recently acquired from ferry operator Celtic Link, will provide three weekly sailings from both Rosslare and Cherbourg accommodating up to 1,000 passengers and 200 cars per sailing.

Orla Noonan, Stena Line's Head of Travel (Irish Sea) commented: "Extending our route network to include the Rosslare-Cherbourg service is a very significant milestone for Stena Line. With fares starting from an incredible 89 Euro single for a car and driver there is lots to do onboard to ensure an enjoyable travel experience including entertainment, the latest blockbuster movies, restaurant and cabins to relax and unwind in. What's more, pets can travel for free so the whole family can enjoy a holiday together with Stena Line."

Stena Line will operate the MV Stena Horizon (formerly the MV Celtic Horizon) providing three weekly sailings from Rosslare at 21.30 on Tuesday and Thursday with a Saturday sailing at 16.00. From Cherbourg the schedule is 21.00 on Wednesday and Friday with a Sunday sailing at 16.00 with a journey time of approx 17 hrs.

In the picture (above right), Ian Davies, Stena Line's Route Manager Irish Sea South is joined by Hayley Ryan as the leading ferry celebrates the new Rosslare-Cherbourg service.

Airline's Summer Schedule and New Purple 'Refresh'

Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, had two reasons to celebrate this week. It began operating its 2014 Summer Schedule last Sunday (March 30th) with 13 routes from George Best Belfast City Airport offering a choice of up to 486 flights a week to and from the Northern Ireland capital.

And the following day it announced a rebrand or what it calls a 'refresh', with new purple uniforms, and a new slogan 'The Fastest Way from A to Flybe'. The changes, Flybe says, brings to life its commitment to giving its passengers the quickest and most efficient travel experience possible, importantly backed by its flagship 60:60 Guarantee product that, in a world first, gives passengers a £60 credit towards their next flight booked within 60 days if, through the fault of the airline, their flight arrives more than 60 minutes' late.

Highlights of Flybe's 2014 Summer Schedule includes a Saturday service to Newquay from June 7 to August 30, onward European connections through Manchester and Southampton hubs and increased frequency to Aberdeen. Fares start from £29.99 one way including taxes and airport charges.

Paul Simmons, Flybe's Chief Commercial Officer, said: "Time saving, affordable, punctual travel to a wide choice of attractive destinations is what we will be delivering to our customers this summer. Many of our 13 routes from Belfast City are specifically scheduled to attract those looking for affordable, convenient day return and weekend travel."

Still Expanding After Ten Years of Growth

Leading leisure airline,, has been celebrating its 10th Anniversary of operating out of Northern Ireland.

Since its launch a decade ago, has gone from strength to strength, now giving local customers a choice of 14 popular city, sun and ski destinations and employing more than 70 people. It has flown over three million Northern Ireland holiday-makers to its popular locations since it set up its base in Belfast and this year alone it has added a new ski destination, Salzburg, plus reintroduced Malaga due to customer demand. In addition it has increased frequency to popular family sunshine hotspots Faro and Tenerife.

Ian Doubtfire Managing Director for says: "The past 10 years have been a great success for at Belfast International Airport. From starting off with one destination we are now gearing up for our busiest year yet with more than 200,000 seats available for summer 2014. We're also pleased with the popularity of our great value Jet2holidays package breaks and were thrilled to win the coveted 'Best Package Tour Operator' at the recent Northern Ireland Travel Awards.

"We are indebted to our loyal Northern Ireland customers for their continued support. The success of both companies is also testament to our excellent team of staff who work tirelessly to ensure that and Jet2holidays continue to provide fantastic destinations and a top class service."

John Doran of Belfast International Airport is seen with Debbie Abbott, Operations Manager at Belfast International.

P&O Ferries Express Service to Troon is back!

The P&O Ferries Express that sails between Larne and Troon returns to service this week - just in time for the forthcoming holiday season.

The Express is the fastest ship on the most direct route for those passengers who want to travel from Northern Ireland to central Scotland. Glasgow is just 45 minutes from the Port of Troon and Edinburgh is not much further, making day trips - whether for business or pleasure, easy and accessible.

Neal Mernock, Sector Director - Irish Sea, P&O Ferries, said: "I'm delighted to announce the return of the Fastcraft service between Larne and Troon. From today, the fastcraft provides passengers sailing from Northern Ireland an even greater choice on their Irish Sea crossings. It's a popular service for both leisure and business customers and we're looking forward to welcoming everyone on board today and throughout the season!"

With up to four sailings a day, prices start from £99 one way to Troon for a car and one person, passengers also have the option to upgrade to Club Lounge. Tickets booked in advance cost £12 per person while tickets purchased on board cost £14 per person.

In the picture above right, little Robbie Hayes from Bangor is helping Master of P&O Ferries Express Val Plant prepare the P&O Express, ahead of its first departure to Scotland.

New Escorted River Cruise Brochure

Titan have launched their 2014 2nd Edition Escorted River Cruise brochure. It showcases a collection of quality escorted river cruises from a range of cruise operators, from 3-star vessels up to 6-star experiences, sailing on all the major European rivers as well as Russia, China Egypt and Amazon.

Cruises start from as little as £1,025 per person on the ever popular Romantic Rhine and Moselle. This full-board basis cruise, aboard the beautiful MS Bellejour, includes a number of excursions and visits as well an exclusive Titan cocktail party and Titan's VIP Home Departure Service.

Titan says there are great offers to be had throughout this brochure with savings of up to £300 per person on one of our newest additions to the programme. An Amazon Adventure sails the Ecuadorian Tributaries and features a 3 night stay in Quito.

This once in a lifetime 13-day tour starts from only £2,895 per person and includes 10 excursions, visits and entrances, full board, 7-night Amazonian cruise aboard the stunning Manatee Amazon Explorer and Titan's VIP Home Departure Service. Titan has also released a range of 2015 departure dates and prices for both their Fully Escorted and Uniworld river cruise range within a matter of weeks.

Big Increase in Capacity and New Routes

Dublin Airport will have no fewer than 850,000 extra seats available this summer, a five per cent increase in capacity compared to last year.

A total of 15 new services, comprising 12 short-haul routes to continental Europe and new long-haul routes to San Francisco, Toronto and St John's, Newfoundland will begin in the coming weeks. Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison said that this summer is set to be the busiest since passenger numbers reached their peak in 2008. "There's an exciting range of new destinations to choose from this summer at Dublin Airport," Harrison said. "The significant increase in seat capacity and frequency provides our customers with greater flexibility, whether travelling for business or leisure purposes," he added.

North American destinations will see the biggest growth this summer with seat capacity up 17 per cent representing an additional 250,000 seats to the United States and Canada. A total of 268 flights will operate each week which is an average of 38 flights per day. "We very much welcomed the news from US Customs & Border Protection that it will pre-clear all US bound flights this year, facilitating a much smoother entry in to the States," he added.

There will also be a significant expansion in capacity to the Middle East during the summer season. Etihad is increasing its Dublin-Abu Dhabi service from 10 flights per week, to double daily from July, while Emirates is doubling capacity on its Dubai service from September, when it also goes double daily. This summer 59 airlines will fly to over 180 destinations from Dublin Airport.

Foreign Office Assessing Situation in Sharm

Britain has sent a security services team to assess the situation in Sharm el Sheikh before thousands of families fly to the Red Sea resort from the UK Mainland for Easter.

The visit came as the Egyptian ambassador to London appealed to the government to resist pressure to amend its travel advice for the Red Sea resort.

At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against travel to Sinai peninsula with the exception of the area within the Sharm "perimeter barrier". However, its advice is believed to be still under review following the bombing of a tourist bus in Taba, near the Israel border in mid-February.

Falcon Holidays operates a weekly summer holiday flight to Sharm from Belfast International Airport, but has cancelled its current Dublin flight programme from April 17 because of the current advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Republic.


Thursday March 27, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Change in Travel Visas to Turkey Imminent

ABTA - The Travel Association is reminding prospective visitors to Turkey that from April 11 the Turkish authorities will start to phase out issuing visas on arrival.

"UK visitors arriving in Turkey on or after April 11, should get an e-visa online before travel. For a transition period, visas on arrival will be available but consumers should be recommended to obtain an e-visa, this will also remove the need to queue for a visa on arrival," says ABTA.

Cruise ship passengers with 'British Citizen' passports entering the country for a day trip, remaining in the port of embarkation and returning to the ship the same day will continue to be able to enter Turkey without a visa or an e-visa.

For more information visit the Republic of Turkey's Electronic Visa Application System.

Meanwhile The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all travel to Crimea and all but essential travel to the eastern regions of Ukraine due to increased tensions in the region.

The FCO has been urging British nationals in Crimea to leave for some time now. The UK is one of just many countries which does not recognise the status of the new region as part of the Russian Federation and no consular support will be available there.

Free Half-Board Pontins Upgrade

Local holidaymakers have until next Monday, March 31, to get a free half-board upgrade when they book a Pontins self-catering holiday to Britain with Stena Line.

Set sail with Stena Line from Belfast - Cairnryan/Liverpool or Dublin - Holyhead and enjoy a 3, 4 or 7-night break in a one or two-bedroom apartment at Pontins Southport or Prestatyn and enjoy a full breakfast and three course evening meal each day for FREE. Families can look forward to a range of fun activities, family entertainment and shows every evening. Seven-night holidays, including ferry and accommodation, start from only 399 Sterling for a family of two adults and up to three children.

The half-board upgrade is valid on departures between April 28 - May 22, June 2 - July 17 and September 2 - October 16. (Terms and conditions apply).

Seat Sale to Three Scandinavian Capitals

It's rarely been as inexpensive to travel to the three Nordic capitals, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

Scandinavian Airlines, which operates direct services from Dublin to the three cities, has announced what it calls a "massive seat sale" which runs until April 8.

Book before this date and you could travel from Dublin to Stockholm from just 45 Euro per person one-way, from 48 Euro per person one-way to Copenhagen and from 53 Euro per person one-way to Oslo.

Says the airline: "There are no hidden taxes or charges. You can also be assured that you will find a day and time to travel that suit you, as SAS provide up to 26 weekly flights from Dublin to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo."

The seat sale lasts until April 8 and the travel period lasts from April 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015.

Disney Magic Returns to the UK

Disney Cruise Line is returning to the UK next summer and it will also offer its first trips to the Norwegian Fjords.

Sailing from Dover, the newly-refurbished Disney Magic will offer two 12-night itineraries calling at Copenhagen, Warnemunde in Germany, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallin in Estonia.

The ship will also sail from Copenhagen, from where it will operate seven and nine-night cruises to the Norwegian fjords, and on an 11-night itinerary to Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The ship will then re-position to Barcelona in August 2015 for a series of Mediterranean fly-cruises.

Euro Exit Could Hit Cost of Holidays

The Chief Executive of Europe's second largest travel company, the Thomas Cook Group, says she fears that a UK exit from the European Union could affect the price of holidays.

Harriet Green said: "There are two political uncertainties that are most unsettling for business. The first is the Scottish referendum and the second is the European referendum. Both create massive uncertainty."

She suggested that a British exit from the EU could see the cost of holidays soar for British consumers and cited practical issues such as passport control and currencies.

Meanwhile Thomas Cook says its summer programme is 50 per cent sold with overall bookings two per cent higher than this time last year. Bookings at so-called 'concept hotels' are up 49 per cent.

City Breaks 'Most Preferred' Type of Holiday

City breaks are more popular than ever, according to an extensive survey by a leading Travel search site, with more than half of those interviewed saying city breaks were their preferred type of holiday.

Shorter in length than the average beach holiday, the three to five-day city break classically is taken mid-week, or over a long weekend. City breaks encourage travellers to explore new parts of the world within a shorter space of time - often without the need for a full week's leave from work.

From the survey by Travel search site momondo, it found a massive 56 per cent of British people went on one or more city break in 2013. And of these asked, a considerable 30 per cent of those questioned, had been on one city break abroad during 2013. Furthermore, 15 per cent had taken two city breaks in 2013, and interestingly 10 per cent of those surveyed, had been on three or more city breaks in 2013.

New York leads the way as a city break destination in the research, with 57 per cent of those surveyed listing it as a favourite. Rome came in second, with 49 per cent of those surveyed listing it as a favourite, and Paris a close third with 45 per cent opting for it. Joint fourth were Barcelona and Venice and in fifth place came Amsterdam.

UK Cruisers Pass the One Million Mark

The UK cruise market continues to boom. The latest cruise market figures from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) show that UK port embarkations passed the one million mark for the first time last year (2013).

Last year was another record year as the number of British and overseas passengers joining their cruise at a UK port grew 10 per cent to 1,062,000 in 2013, while the number of passengers on day visits to one of the UK's 51 cruise ports jumped by 20 per cent to 866,000. The number of British passengers taking an ocean cruise also continued to increase with an additional 25,000 (1.5 per cent) in 2013.

It means the UK remains as Europe's top market, accounting for 27 per cent of cruise passengers and, globally, is second only to North America.

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland Director, said: "The cruise industry's continued confidence in the UK market is clearly demonstrated by the increasing number of ships that will sail from British ports in the coming years, and we believe this marks a key point in the continuing growth of the UK cruise market."

Meanwhile, CLIA UK & Ireland has also reported a significant rise in the number of UK passengers taking a holiday on Europe's waterways, with 2013 seeing a jump of 22 per cent to almost 110,000 passengers. Twenty-seven ships were introduced in 2012/13 and more are on the way.

Still Time for Comedy King Colin

There's still time to catch the Glasgow International Comedy Festival which runs until April 5 and includes our very own celebrated circuit and TV comedian, Colin Murphy.

Comedy fans attending the Glasgow International Comedy Festival will be able able to see Colin live on Friday, April 4 at The Stand Comedy Club as part of a packed programme of 416 shows at 46 venues across the city. The renowned annual event in Glasgow's cultural calendar promises something for everyone with top comedy talent from around the globe, including Sarah Millican, Miranda Hart and Ruby Wax.

Colin commented: "I'm delighted to be appearing at Europe's biggest comedy festival in Glasgow especially during Homecoming Scotland 2014. Many of the comedy greats hail from Scotland and I'm looking forward to performing with one or two of them.

"My own gig is on at one of the best venues in the festival, The Stand Comedy Club on April 4. I'm really looking forward to it and to catching more of the festival... with 416 shows across 46 venues in Glasgow, you're guaranteed a great time!"

Leading Cruise Line a World Cup Winner

Celebrity Cruises has announced it will broadcast the summer's most highly anticipated sporting event, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil onboard its ships sailing to Alaska, Bermuda and Europe.

Guests onboard can enjoy all 64 matches between more than 30 competing national teams taking place on June 12 to July 13, 2014.

Guests can also get in the football spirit by joining viewing parties, football video game tournaments and more, as well as choosing to watch the beautiful game from the comfort of their own stateroom or in onboard bars with fellow holidaymakers and football fans.

Celebrity Cruises guests can also enjoy the award-winning cuisine and speciality restaurants and those inspired to get sporty can hit the onboard gym or enjoy some rejuvenating downtime in one of 10 new Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea facilities.


Thursday March 20, 2014

This Week's Travel News

APD: Chancellor Takes 'Step in the Right Direction'

ABTA - The Travel Association has welcomed yesterday's Budget announcement on Air Passenger Duty reform which means that it will be cheaper to fly to many long-haul destinations from the UK.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: "ABTA strongly welcomes the Chancellor's announced cut to Air Passenger Duty and changes to the banding system as a first step in the reform of this damaging tax. Moving all long-haul flights into band B of APD at current levels will save passengers over £200m annually, and should boost travel and tourism as well as promote greater UK connectivity.

"ABTA has been at the forefront of campaigning to reform and reduce APD, and today's announcement is a clear recognition from the Government of the negative impact this tax is having.

"Whilst today's Budget is very much a step in the right direction, ABTA will continue to call for a reduction in overall rates of APD which, at their current band A and B levels, will continue to inhibit the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to growth and employment. ABTA will also review any potential anomalies created by the new banding system, and work with Government to mitigate their impact."

This will take effect from April 2015. For example, at current levels a family of four will save £112 on flights from the UK to Sydney, Australia and £64 on flights to Cancun, Mexico. Band C (40001-6000 miles) and Band D (over 6000 miles) has been abolished.

Boost for Travellers and NI Businesses

Yesterday's Budget announcement on changes to APD has been warmly welcomed across the board, with many stating that it will provide a much needed boost the travel industry.

A spokesperson from A Fair Tax on Flying, responded to yesterday's reform of Air Passenger Duty in the Budget - which will go down to two bands from April 2015. He said: "A Fair Tax on Flying welcomes the Government's reforms to Air Passenger Duty (APD) in this Budget which will see a saving to passengers and businesses travelling long-haul of over £200m annually. It is a recognition that for far too long, travellers have been suffering as a result of the excessive levels of APD."

"The new banding system will help exporters including outbound tourism, it will encourage inbound tourism from long-haul destinations such as India and China and it will remove some of the distortions associated with the current system hurting holidaymakers - such as the premium passengers pay to travel to the Caribbean."

"The Chancellor's decision is therefore a positive first step. Hopefully the reforms announced today will have such a positive impact that they will encourage the Government to undertake further reforms of APD in future."

Commenting on yesterday's Budget, Mark Nodder, President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), said: "Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes the Chancellor's focus on exports and investment in today's Budget.

"We have campaigned strongly about the negative message Air Passenger Duty is sending to investors and exporters and it is positive to see today's announcement of some reforms. However, we would like this to have gone much further, particularly given the impact of APD on Northern Ireland businesses."

Local Operator Axes its Summer Holiday Programme

Local tour operator Balkan Tours has pledged to continue its winter programme of ski holidays to Bulgaria and Romania but has discontinued its summer sun holiday programme.

Ann Street, Belfast-based Balkan Tours have been operating in Northern Ireland for decades now with winter and summer flights to Bulgaria and Romania from both Belfast and Dublin. The company was founded by Radka Lynn, a Bulgarian came to Northern Ireland Ireland more than 30 years ago and ever since has been one of the Province's few local tour operators.

Balkan Tours holds an Air Travel Organiser's Licence (ATOL) - and customers already booked a summer sun holiday with Balkan Tours are entitled to have their holiday honoured, or given a full refund.

Venice Ban on Large Cruise Ships Lifted

Cruisers on large cruise ships will get the chance to visit Venice after all. A limit on the number of large cruise ships that can visit the iconic Italian city has been lifted just months after it was imposed by the Italian government.

Since January the government has reduced by 20 per cent the number of cruise ships over 40,000 tons visiting Venice due to fears they were damaging the World Heritage-listed city. It was also planning to ban all ships over 96,000 tons from Venice altogether from November.

However, a regional court in Veneto has suspended the law, ruling that the risks posed by the cruise ships have not been proven. The suspension will last until June, when the issue will be re-examined.

Venice is working on plans to open a new shipping route into the city which will avoid cruise liners from sailing along its ancient canals, but these have not yet been approved.

Airport Supports East Belfast Play Area

An east Belfast community group has benefitted from a significant upgrade of their outside premises to encourage children in the area to enjoy the great outdoors.

The Newtownards Road Women's Group has installed a 'safety surface' playground at their Tamar Street premises thanks to financial support from the George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund. The surface at Carew II Family Centre has been put in place to encourage young children away from television screens and computer games and to experience healthy, outdoor play.

The George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund provides significant financial support to local charities, schools and community groups. To date, it has donated over £120,000 to local projects and groups since it was developed in 2009.

Stephen Patton, Senior Human Resources Executive at Belfast City Airport, said that the Fund's primary aim is to support projects which typify community spirit. "Children nowadays are so used to playing indoors on computer games and are not experiencing what the outdoors has to offer - nature, fitness and general wellbeing. The new rubber safety surface will give children using the facility the confidence to run and play outdoors without worrying about falling on hard pathways or concrete," he said.

Leading Cruise Line a World Cup Winner

Celebrity Cruises has announced it will broadcast the summer's most highly anticipated sporting event, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil onboard its ships sailing to Alaska, Bermuda and Europe. Guests onboard can enjoy all 64 matches between more than 30 competing national teams taking place on June 12 toJuly 13, 2014.

Guests can also get in the football spirit by joining viewing parties, football video game tournaments and more, as well as choosing to watch the beautiful game from the comfort of their own stateroom or in onboard bars with fellow holidaymakers and football fans.

Celebrity Cruises guests can also enjoy the award-winning cuisine and speciality restaurants and those inspired to get sporty can hit the onboard gym or enjoy some rejuvenating downtime in one of 10 new Canyon Ranch SpaClub® at Sea facilities.

Around the World in 53 Days!

It's billed as the ultimate rail journey - a new 53-day trip on some of the world's most iconic trains, taking in some of the most astounding views on earth.

Travelling from London across the USA, China, Russia and back through Europe before returning to the UK's capital, the Great Rail Journeys new Around The World In 53 Days Tour is an explorer's dream.

With highlights including New York, Chicago, the Grand Canyon, the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall of China, the Gobi Desert, Mongolia and Venice, the epic escorted trip is launching next year.

The price for the holiday - on which guests travel in luxury throughout, including on board some of the world's most famous railways - will set you back £21,995.

Alex Roberts, Great Rail Journeys spokesman, said: "Our ultimate 53-day round-the-world tour is perfect for the traveller seeking the ultimate experience - the kind of person who really wants to experience circumnavigating the world going from one side of the world to another in fantastic luxury and enjoying some of the world's best rail travel along the way."

New Songwriters Festival Comes to Portstewart

Portstewart Songwriters Festival is an exciting new music event due to hit the North Coast tomorrow week, Friday, March 28 to Sunday, March 30 with lots of opportunities for those who enjoy music.

Featuring live music in bars and coffee shops along Portstewart Promenade throughout the weekend, with over 20 FREE events, the line-up for the first ever Portstewart Songwriters Festival is looking unmissable!

Bronagh Gallagher, SOAK and Paul Casey are set to headline the Festival with a 'Saturday Night Showcase' event at Portstewart Town Hall, which will be hosted by Ralph McLean; while Gareth Dunlop, Anthony Toner and Amanda St John will perform an intimate 'In the Round' Session on the Sunday evening.

The event will also incorporate a variety of song writing workshops, run by recognized singer-song writers and industry professionals, as well as illustrated talks by BBC Radio Ulster's Ralph McLean and Stuart Bailie.

Tickets for the Showcase events, workshops and talks are available from Coleraine Visitor Centre, telephone 028 7034 4723 and Flowerfield Arts Centre telephone 028 7083 1400. All gigs in the bars and coffee shops are Free!

Pictured above right is Lauramay Reid from Dry Humour, who will be performing at the first Portstewart Songwriters' Festival.

Travel News is Available for Download Now!

Northern Ireland Travel News, Northern Ireland's ONLY travel specific newspaper is now online - and best of all it's 100 per cent FREE! The perfect read for the savvy traveller and industry professional, every issue is jam-packed with fantastic competitions and amazing travel offers.

You can now get Northern Ireland's favourite travel newspaper straight to your computer, iPhone or Android. Download now to read fascinating features from every destination around the globe, written by our dedicated, award-winning team. They go where you want to, and let you in on travel's best kept secrets - from far-flung destinations to cruise, ski and holidays at home - we have it all.

Catch up with the Northern Ireland Travel Trade - all the pictures, events and news from the Trade industry in one place and the latest travel-specific news - all presented in a completely free, fully optimised digital package, delivered straight to your digital device - you won't miss a travel beat with us!

The Northern Ireland Travel News digital edition is exactly the same award-winning content as the print edition, enhanced and specifically built for reading online and on mobile and tablet devices. Each edition is completely free to download and you can browse and download every edition of Northern Ireland Travel News previously published through the app.

Ciaran Mulligan of, app sponsor, said: "We are delighted to be the first sponsor of the Northern Ireland Travel News App. is Northern Ireland's award winning travel insurance provider with annual travel insurance policies from £19.99. At we are always in search of new, innovative and fresh ways to bring our comprehensive and low cost travel insurance prices to the people of Northern Ireland and this partnership with Northern Ireland's leading travel content provider is a perfect fit."

The January edition, February edition and our most current edition March are all available for you to view online now. You can also view the newspaper online through the Northern Ireland Travel News website where you can also find weekly travel news updates and in-depth features from destinations around the globe. Our band new events calendar is also now live on the website with all the latest Trade events.

You can take Northern Ireland Travel News everywhere with you by downloading the NITN app on iTunes straight into your newstand and for Android from the Google Play Store. The app is absolutely free to download and each edition is completely free. You also have the option to sign up within the app to receive a notification when a new issue is available - making keeping up to date with the latest Travel News easier than ever.


Breaking News!


Travel News is Now Available Online


Travel News is Available for Download Now!

Northern Ireland Travel News, Northern Ireland's ONLY travel specific newspaper is now online - and best of all it's 100 per cent FREE!

The perfect read for the savvy traveller and industry professional, every issue is jam-packed with fantastic competitions and amazing travel offers.

You can now get Northern Ireland's favourite travel newspaper straight to your computer, iPhone or Android. Download now to read fascinating features from every destination around the globe, written by our dedicated, award-winning team. They go where you want to, and let you in on travel's best kept secrets - from far-flung destinations to cruise, ski and holidays at home - we have it all.

Catch up with the Northern Ireland Travel Trade - all the pictures, events and news from the Trade industry in one place and the latest travel-specific news - all presented in a completely free, fully optimised digital package, delivered straight to your digital device - you won't miss a travel beat with us!

The Northern Ireland Travel News digital edition is exactly the same award-winning content as the print edition, enhanced and specifically built for reading online and on mobile and tablet devices. Each edition is completely free to download and you can browse and download every edition of Northern Ireland Travel News previously published through the app.

Founders of Northern Ireland Travel News, Brian Ogle and Jonathan Adair, said: "This is an exciting new departure for Northern Ireland Travel News. The paper has come a long way since its launch 25 years ago and with this online facility our many news stories and features are available to a whole raft of potential new readers worldwide. Over a quarter of a century the newspaper has been the essential source for travel information, and through our new media this information is accessible anytime and anywhere."

Ciaran Mulligan of, app sponsor, said: "We are delighted to be the first sponsor of the Northern Ireland Travel News App. is Northern Ireland's award winning travel insurance provider with annual travel insurance policies from £19.99. At we are always in search of new, innovative and fresh ways to bring our comprehensive and low cost travel insurance prices to the people of Northern Ireland and this partnership with Northern Ireland's leading travel content provider is a perfect fit."

The January edition, February edition and our most current edition March are all available for you to view online now. You can also view the newspaper online through the Northern Ireland Travel News website where you can also find weekly travel news updates and in-depth features from destinations around the globe.

You can take Northern Ireland Travel News everywhere with you by downloading the NITN app on iTunes straight into your newstand and for Android from the Google Play Store. The app is absolutely free to download and each edition is completely free. You also have the option to sign up within the app to receive a notification when a new issue is available - making keeping up to date with the latest Travel News easier than ever.


Thursday February 13, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Free Year-Round Offer For Ferry Fortnight

National Ferry Fortnight runs from this Saturday, March 15 to March 29 - and to celebrate leading ferry company Stena Line has announced that under 16s travel for free by car on all routes and all sailings, All Year!

Stena Line says it has the best routes and sailing times on the Irish Sea and is urging travellers to get online and book now to get the sailing of your choice!

The ferry giant's promise to its customers is that every child under 16, on every booking made by 11pm on March 31 (for travel up to January 5, 2015), travels for free by car giving holidaymakers the chance to make huge savings.

And great savings means more money to spend on having fun with all the family! Whether you are planning an exciting day out at a theme park when the kids are off school, an Easter getaway to see loved ones or a weekend jam packed with activities - Stena Line's Kids Go Free promise makes life a little bit easier!

Stena Line has some great competitions planned for National Ferry Fortnight so make sure you log onto their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, for details.

Take Ultimate 'Street' Tour with Corrie Star

Local tour operator, Travel Solutions have launched the ultimate 'must book' short break for fans of TV soap Coronation street.

From May to September, the award winning company are operating three-day coach tours based around the very popular and long running TV programme.

During the weekend, fans will be able to stroll along the famous cobbled street, have a picture taken behind the bar at The Rovers Return and be guided around many of the familiar sets. In addition, a guided coach tour of places around Manchester that have been linked to the show will be included. An additional bonus for Travel Solutions guests will be to meet Charlie Lawson and hear some of his 'behind the scenes' stories from his days as a cast member.

Commenting on the tour, a company spokesperson emphasised the high level of demand for this tour: "The Coronation Street set will only be available to tour for a short period and interest already has far exceeded expectation. We are really pleased that our very own Charlie Lawson - better known to viewers of the programme as Jim McDonald - has agreed to welcome fans from the Province. This will be weekend to remember for Corrie fans!"

Price for the weekend break starts from £249.00 per person and can be booked through your local travel agent.

Stay Connected on Move at City Airport

Passengers using George Best Belfast City Airport will now be able to avail of free, unlimited Wi-Fi.

Sponsored by Ulster Bank, this latest investment, which is available throughout the terminal, will allow those in the departures and arrivals areas to stay connected 'on the move'.

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, said: "We understand that, in this day in age, people expect an internet connection wherever they go, and the 2.5 million passengers we transport through the terminal each year are no different.

"Whether they are travelling for business or leisure, an unlimited internet connection at the airport will no doubt make their journey more productive and enjoyable and I am therefore delighted the airport will now provide a totally unlimited internet connection at absolutely no cost to the passenger.

"In the last four years alone we have invested over £15 million in our facilities to enhance the passenger experience at the airport and make the journey as easy as possible. Partnering with Ulster Bank to offer free Wi-Fi will assist with this, but it was also our way of thanking our passengers for their custom throughout the last 30 years."

Passengers who want to use the Wi-Fi connection at the airport, which has been powered by Virgin Media, can do so by simply signing in from their device in any area of the airport. To access this connection passengers should select the 'Free WiFi City Airport' network. Pictured above right are Ian Jordan, Ulster Bank, with Brian Ambrose of George Best Belfast City Airport.

Improving Sleep Quality on Long Haul Flights

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has today launched what it calls an exciting new programme to improve sleep quality on its long-haul flights.

Since July 2012, Etihad Airways has been working closely with a panel of sleep experts from the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology (ACPN) in Abu Dhabi to research ways to enhance sleep in-flight, and has now received expert guidance on sleep hygiene and on-board wellbeing, and has developed comprehensive guidelines for sleep in-flight, created for the airline's guests as a result of clinical studies carried out on patients experiencing effects related to long-haul flying.

The airline's sleep initiative includes the introduction of luxury all-natural bedding in Diamond First Class, and is aiming to enhance the sleep experience by focusing on the senses of touch, sight, sound, aroma and taste. Home comforts such as a sleep-time beverage service including hot chocolate and herbal teas are to be offered in all three classes. In Diamond First Class, sleep-inducing chamomile tea and a range of malt drinks will be added to the airline's already extensive drinks selection as part of the sleep experience.

To minimise the effects of ambient cabin sounds, Etihad provides noise cancellation headphones in all three classes. Furthermore, to counteract harsh light, all cabins feature advanced mood-lighting systems.

Etihad operates a daily service from Dublin to Abu Dhabi and onward to destinations all over the world. For more information about Etihad Airways' Sleep Programme visit the website.

Airline Aims to Double its Business Travellers

Ryanair flights will soon be bookable through travel agents after the leading low cost airline signed an agreement with Travelport to distribute its flights through agents.

Through the deal with the technology provider to the Trade, Ryanair fares, as well as their ancillary products and services, will be introduced to Travelport travel agencies in a phased approach from March 19.

Ryanair says the deal will enable it to double its business traffic in two years. The multi-year deal is the first of its kind signed by Europe's No 1 discount carrier in a decade and aids Chief Executive Michael O'Leary's push to boost customer appeal. Ryanair will also roll out a new website, mobile boarding passes and a smart-phone app over the coming three months to help streamline the booking and travel process.

Refinements adopted so far include the introduction of allocated seating, a relaxation of the carry-on allowance, reduced baggage charges and a dimmed cabin and fewer announcements during early morning and late evening flights.

Most Cruisers Say 'No' to the Internet

New research conducted by an online cruising travel agency has revealed that two thirds of cruise passengers would ideally prefer not to have any internet connection or WIFI access on board their ships in order to avoid any contact with the outside world.

One independent travel agency has decided to carry out a study which documents how holidaymakers feel about gaining internet access whilst on-board cruise ships. Currently, Wi-Fi is more widely available and easily accessible during holiday escapes than ever before.

The research, conducted by cruise website bonvoyage, polled a total of 1,102 UK adults who had taken a cruise that lasted between seven and 21 nights within the past 18 months. The age of people questioned for the purposes of the study ranged from 24 to 78 years old.

When initially asked how often they had managed to keep in touch with family members and friends whilst on-board, the majority of participants (59 per cent) confessed that they had only sent around 'two or three texts' during their last trip. Furthermore, 19 per cent claimed they had made at least one phone call a week to loved ones back home, while 11 per cent admitted to not having any contact with the outside world for the duration of their voyage.

When asked to explain the main reasons why they would prefer not be connected to the internet at all times during their journeys, the top answer, and the answer given by 64 per cent, was as follows: "I want to stay relaxed and cut out any stress/anxieties from the outside world."

Rathlin Seabird Centre Being Refurbished

The Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island will be closed for major refurbishment works during the 2014 summer season.

However, the island, accessible by ferry from Ballycastle, will still be a major draw not only for bird watchers, but for all nature lovers and those who want to get away from it all for a few days.

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: "There will be no access to the West Lighthouse while work is ongoing. The work will improve the facilities at the Seabird Centre, making the Rathlin experience better than ever. Re-opening is scheduled for April 2015."

There is still plenty to see and do on Rathlin Island this summer though - check out the RSBP website to find out what's happening.

Revised Dublin Flights Despite Court Injunction

A court injunction to prevent a strike by Irish airport workers tomorrow has came too late to prevent some airlines implementing a revised flight schedule. Travellers using Dublin airport tomorrow morning therefore could face disruption.

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Ryanair sought the injunction to prevent the industrial action by Irish union Siptu - the strike was due to take place between 5am and 9am at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. DAA lawyers claimed 10,000 passengers were due to fly in and out of Dublin airport alone during the four-hour strike period.

It would have affected thousands of passengers arriving for St Patrick's weekend, as well as those flying to Paris for Ireland's rugby match with France. Passengers returning from the Cheltenham horse racing festival would also have been hit.

However, Aer Lingus said that it was "too little, too late" and that "the damage had already been done" as it had to reschedule the flights of thousands of passengers. Ryanair said it will still operate a revised flight schedule "to prevent further inconvenience to our customers".


Thursday March 6, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Leading Tour Operator Launches Online Check-in

Leading tour operator Falcon Holidays, in conjunction with Thomson Airways, have launched new on-line check-in for holiday flights.

"We are committed to making their customer’s time at the airport even easier, which is why they’ve just launched a new online check-in for Thomson Airways' flights," said a Falcon Spokesperson.

"Holidaymakers can check in and print their boarding passes at home. They can avoid long queues at the airport by simply dropping off their bags at the Thomson Airways Bag drop, and then they can head through to security."

The new Online Check-in for Thomson Airways flights is available seven days before departure. However, if customers have purchased the Select Your Seat, Extra Space or Premium Seat options, they will get to check-in online 14 days before departure."

ABTA Launches Campaign Against Holiday Scams

ABTA is partnering with three anti-fraud bodies to highlight the dangers of common scams that cost holidaymakers millions of pounds a year. The campaign points out the dangers of holiday booking fraud by raising awareness of common scams and providing advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.

The campaign, which is part of ABTA’s broader ‘look for the logo’ initiative, was launched earlier this week and includes the release of new research showing the scale of the problem and exposing common tactics and targets used by fraudsters who steal millions of pounds of holidaymakers’ money each year.

ABTA wants to encourage consumers to take important steps to avoid being defrauded, including looking for ABTA membership when they book, thoroughly researching the travel companies before booking and using secure payment methods online.

Victoria Bacon, Head of Communications ABTA said: “Fraudsters are swindling unsuspecting holidaymakers out of millions of pounds every year which is extremely distressing for the victims as well as damaging for the reputation of the travel industry. If we can raise awareness of the common scams, and provide advice on how to avoid being defrauded, then consumers will have more confidence when booking their holiday.” Updated advice for consumers is live on its partner websites, including

Trusted Brands Better Than Low Prices

Consumers are often more concerned about low prices than trusted brands when it comes to booking holidays, which is why many people become victims of scams. That's the view of the boss of an online travel agency commenting on the news that fraudsters are stealing as much as £7m a year from UK holidaymakers.

Chris Clarkson, Managing Director of online travel agency said: “There are so many bogus travel companies out there and with more and more people turning to the internet to book their holidays it is more important than ever that they do a little research before committing to a booking or handing any cash over.

“Holidaymakers should be especially vigilant if they are booking a private villa or holiday apartment, because that route offers less protection to the consumer. You could turn up and find that the villa you’ve booked for two weeks doesn’t even exist, or that it doesn’t even belong to the person you spoke to, so wasn’t theirs to let out.

"Always check that any travel agency you deal with is an ABTA member and ATOL protected for added peace of mind. Unfortunately, consumers are often more concerned about low prices than trusted brands when it comes to booking holidays, which is why many people become victims of scams.”

Seat Sale to Three Scandinavian Capitals

Scandinavian Airlines, which operates daily flights from Dublin to the three Scandinavian capitals, has announced details of its latest seat sale.

If booked before March 11, fares to the three capital cities in Scandinavia are available from 61 Euro per person one way.

Scandinavian Airlines says there are no hidden taxes or charges with the fares, and there is a choice of 26 flights weekly from Dublin to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

The sale ends on March 11 and travel dates must be between April 22 and September 30, 2014.

London Reveals its Top Ten Visitor Attractions

Last year was a record breaking tourism year for London with 12 per cent more visitors in 2013. Most visited attraction was the British Museum which had an increase of 20 per cent in visitor numbers with 6,701,036 visitors in 2013 according to statistics released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

The second placed London visitor attraction was the National Gallery which saw a 14 per cent increase in visitors while in third place was the Natural History Museum. Other attractions in the top ten were the Tate Modern, Science Museum, V &A, Tower of London, Somerset House Trust, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Bernard Donoghue, Director - The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said: “London’s attractions had a fantastic year last year: new must-see exhibitions, great weather, superb new facilities like Tiger Territory at London Zoo, all contributed to record tourism figures – tipped to be nearly 16 million visitors in one year - for London. Overseas visitors especially love their time at London’s attractions and tell us that our museums, galleries and heritage are the number one reason to visit our city.”

Pet Passports if Scots Vote for Independence

The many pet owners from Northern Ireland who take their dogs on holiday with them to Scotland either for their main summer holiday or a short break will almost certainly have to get their pooch a pet passport if Scotland votes for independence in the autumn.

If Scotland goes independent it would mean pet owners travelling to Scotland from the Province would have to provide relevant documentation for their pets.

A Pet Passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal. The pet passport itself comes in multiple forms, sometimes a pink A4 sheet, sometimes a small blue booklet.

It contains the microchip or tattoo number of the animal, the certification that it has had a rabies vaccination, and needs to be signed by an officially approved veterinary surgeon (you can contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to check that your vet is approved). The passport is not to be confused with a much smaller folder (sometimes purple coloured), routinely issued by vets, which records the complete vaccination history of the pet.

If Scotland votes for independence restrictions could also be imposed on moving pets between Scotland and England.

Three New Levels of Insurance Cover

From this month leading insurer Blue Insurances will be introducing a new and improved policy with three new levels of cover.

The new policy will offer a competitive Essential cover, an enhanced Premier cover and an all-inclusive Premier Plus cover that will include Wintersports and No Claims Excess. The Premier Plus cover will be ideal for clients who would have previously purchased a Premier policy including either of these additional covers or clients who had the previous Premier Plus policy. The cover will see a slight increase in rates while it includes a higher limit on Medical Expenses of €10 Million and an increased cancellation limit of €5,000.

The new Essential cover will have lower limits than the Premier Policy and will be at a more competitive rate for the more price conscious customer.

Stricter Enforcement of Carry-on Bag Rules

United Airlines is adopting a stricter policy with oversized carry-on bags. Although its rules haven't changed, United, which operates the daily Belfast to Newark, New York service, is enforcing its policy more strictly.

It has installed new equipment for checking bag sizes at many airports and also e-mailed frequent flyers with a reminder of its carry-on policy. Those who turn up with bags that are larger than permitted are, in some cases, being charged to check them in.

The airline's passengers are allowed to take one bag aboard measuring no more than 22x14x9 inches, along with an additional small item such as a laptop bag or small handbag. United's long-standing policy has been to allow oversized bags to be checked-in for free, but now anyone stopped at security with bulky luggage will be sent back to the ticket counter to check in each bag for $25.

United said it hopes to speed up the boarding process and ultimately, the time an aircraft spends on the tarmac.


Thursday February 27, 2014

This Week's Travel News

New Route and New Airline for Belfast City

Just days after revealing an eight per cent year on year increase in passengers for the month of January, George Best City Airport has announced details of a new route and a new airline.

A service between Belfast City Airport and Robin Hood Doncaster-Sheffield Airport will be operated by UK regional airline, LinksAir, and will begin on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, said: "The re-establishment of the air link between Belfast and Sheffield is great news for Northern Ireland. It not only strengthens our own access to the north of England and the greater east Midlands, but also makes it easier for people to get to Northern Ireland for business or a holiday."

Ellie McGimpsey, Business Development Manager at Belfast City Airport, said: "This popular route has been missed in recent years by both leisure and business passengers alike. At Belfast City Airport, we regularly invest in our own facilities to enhance the customer experience and will continue to work closely with our partner airlines to develop our already strong route network and ensure connectivity to key UK and European destinations."

LinksAir Commercial Manager Roger Hage, said: "Belfast is an exciting, vibrant city and connectivity to Northern Ireland is increasingly important for Sheffield, which is the UK's fifth biggest city. The schedule offers passengers a choice of convenient flight times to travel between the two destinations, whether it be for business or leisure."

Flights start at just £64 one way and includes all taxes and charges, a hold bag of up to 15kg, fast-track security access at Belfast City Airport, seat selection as well as a complimentary refreshment and newspaper on board.

Pictured at the launch of the new route, above right, are Sinead Murray, Tourism Ireland; Anne McMullan, Visit Belfast; and Ellie McGimpsey, Belfast City Airport.

Belfast Travellers Give Thumbs-up to New Airbus

Since its arrival at Belfast International Airport in December last year, the new Thomas Cook airlines Airbus A321 (G-TCDC) has continued to take holidaymakers to destinations across Europe and has become one of the best performing aircraft in the Thomas Cook fleet.

Named 'Sunny Heart', the aircraft is much loved by customers - with 75 per cent rating the new Recaro-designed seat comfort as good or excellent, and 85 per cent giving a similar view on the overall cabin experience.

Rob Thompson, Thomas Cook Airline's Director of Planning, said: "Our new aircraft has been well received by our customers and it's great to see that it's continuing to take them on holiday with an exceptional on time performance. We're looking forward to a great summer season at Belfast as more and more holidaymakers experience our new fleet."

As well as great feedback from customers on the quality of the cabin, the aircraft has operated with very few delays, and its industry-standard on time performance since its first flight has remained over 90 per cent.

Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport said: "The new Thomas Cook A321 has cut a real dash on the airfield and we are delighted with the overwhelmingly positive feedback that we have received. Thomas Cook offers a great range of destinations from Belfast and, as we will soon be coming in to the summer season, even greater numbers of Northern Ireland passengers will be able to experience this fantastic new aircraft."

British Airways Chief Launches New Belfast Lounge

British Airways has unveiled its new £300,000 lounge at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways' parent company, International Airlines Group, officially opened the 285sq metre development, telling VIP guests including Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster that the new lounge "demonstrated British Airways' commitment to its customers from Northern Ireland."

The refurbishment, which forms part of the airline's £5 billion investment programme to make travelling more comfortable in the air and on the ground, will ensure that local customers will receive a top class and unparalleled travelling experience even before they have taken off.

Mr Walsh said: "The Belfast City to London Heathrow route remains a vital artery for the flow of business and commerce and is essential to sustain and grow the local economy.

"We recently announced that all our Belfast flights will be moving to our flagship Heathrow home, Terminal 5, at the end of October. Customers connecting to British Airways' extensive worldwide network from Heathrow will now benefit from being able to connect to more long-haul destinations without having to transfer between terminals - cutting minimum connection times by 30 minutes."

Airline Hopes Share Issue Will Raise £150m

Flybe, still a major operator at Belfast City Airport despite cutting back on its operations recently, will expand its UK routes and bases within one to two years if it gets the go-ahead to raise £150 million.

The money will come from a new share issue of over 140 million shares at an offer price of 110p per share. Flybe will shortly publish a prospectus and will hold a general meeting to approve the move. If approved, the share issue will commence on March 12.

Flybe said the share issue will also be used to improve customer service, product range, brand impact and expand its white-label flying operations. Flybe Chief Executive Saad Hammad described the plans as "exciting".

Recently the airline has been restructuring and reconfiguring the group, closing a number of bases and implementing a programme of redundancies and route changes.

Exotic Honeymoon Options from Around the World

Travelmood has launched its new Honeymoons brochure with a range of options for newlyweds around the globe, including stays in some of the world's most stunning locations.

Packed with offers, hints and tips to lead brides and grooms to the right destination - anywhere from Dubai to South Africa, the Caribbean and new this year, Vietnam - the company says it will also advise on the best dining options available, offer upgrade room options and provide all the knowledge holidaymakers could need to explore their honeymoon destination with the one they love.

For those who want to offload the cost, a 'honeymoon fund' facility is now available. There's also a gift for those who book their honeymoons with Travelmood. For more info log onto the Travelmood website or pick up a brochure from the American Holidays office in Lombard Street, Belfast.

Pictured above right is newly engaged local model Katie Larmour who is thinking of her own exotic honeymoon which will follow her wedding to golfer Harry Diamond in the near future.

Take a Virtual Tour to Israel

The Israel Ministry of Tourism has launched an interactive video offering potential visitors no fewer than 72 touring itineraries to Israel.

Viewers can choose a virtual tour tailored to individual tastes, according to Israel's Tourism Minister Dr Uzi Landau. He said: "This video represents a significant step in the overall programme to reach wide and diverse audiences around the world. Israel has everything the tourist could ask for, and our task is to illustrate this in the best way possible."

The video invites viewers to choose from three characters who will lead them through places in Israel that best suit their personalities. These include a tour guide who specialises in religion, history and culture; a young woman whose interest is lifestyle and a young man interested in adventure.

Each character takes the viewer on a tour of Israel where they can select preferred destinations to visit. The video offers 33 viewing options and 72 different touring itineraries. At the end of the video, the viewer can share their preferred itinerary via facebook or Twitter.

Watchdog Fines Low Cost Airlines over Insurance

Anyone who has tried to navigate the booking websites of some low cost airlines and avoid paying unnecessary and unwanted extras will support a ruling by Italy's antitrust watchdog, AGCM which has fined Ryanair and easyJet more than one million euros for misleading customers over travel insurance.

AGCM said the low cost airlines had not given customers enough information to make informed choices when buying travel insurance, and said that the websites did not clearly explain what risks were covered, excess charges were disproportionately high and the fee attached to requesting a refund was greater than the cost of the insurance itself.

It also said Ryanair made the option to refuse insurance difficult to find - with the box to tick being on a countries drop-down menu between the Netherlands and Norway.

Ryanair has been fined 850,000 Euro, while easyJet was fined the lesser sum of 200,000 Euro because it had already amended its website. Ryanair said it was going to appeal against the decision but added that it would be amending its website.

Big Year for Golfing Visitors to Scotland

With the 2014 Ryder Cup, the world's biggest golf event, taking place in Scotland, the home of golf, later this year, there has never been a better time for Northern Ireland golfing enthusiasts to tee off and experience the country where the game began.

More than 250,000 spectators, including many from Northern Ireland, are expected to travel to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September. Those eager to experience the competition can watch the stars prepare by purchasing Practice Day tickets which are available from the Ryder Cup Europe website on a first come, first served basis for September 23, 24 and 25.

NI golf fans can also take the opportunity to experience another magnificent tournament set in Scotland's picturesque north east at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen from 10 to 13 July 10 to 13. Tickets are still available on the European Tour Website.

In the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, there is also the opportunity to play at some of Scotland's famed championship courses and experience Scotland's greens and fairways. For those who want to tee-off during Homecoming Scotland 2014, there are more than 550 courses the length and breadth of the country to choose from.


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