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Thursday September 25, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Refund Passport Expenses, Say MPs

Passport applicants who paid extra for a 'fast track' service to avoid their documents being held up in the backlog over the summer should be refunded, say MPs.

The Home Affairs Committee said some of those who used the Passport Office's premium service to avoid being unable to travel had been exploited.

The Passport Office took on extra staff, extended opening hours, increased overtime and redeployed workers from elsewhere. Applicants with imminent overseas trips were advised to use the Fast Track service, which costs more than £30 extra.

Although the Passport Office announced in July that it would waive the charge for those who had applied more than three weeks earlier and had confirmed departures within seven days, many others had already paid to upgrade. The Home Affairs Committee said the government should have offered free upgrades to those who suffered delays earlier in the summer and had had to pay extra themselves.

It suggested setting an earlier cut-off point, with those upgrading to the fast-track service as early as May 1 being refunded their extra costs.

Fly from Belfast to See Northern Lights

Local travellers have the chance to fly direct from Belfast to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis with specialist operator Omega Holidays.

Many people take the cruise option along the coast of northern Norway in a bid to see the spectacular illuminations, but there will be several flights from UK airports this winter including one from Belfast International on Tuesday, February 10.

Guest astronomers will guide travellers on their own voyages of exploration and discovery through the crystal clear winter sky, hoping to see nature's own spectacular light show. Main guest astronomer will be Pete Lawrence, a Northern Lights favourite, who appeared regularly in the first series of the BBC's long running Sky at Night programme. Normally there will be two guest astronomers on each Northern Lights flight.

The price of £199.95 includes a pre-flight illustrated presentation by expert astronomers, a flight in search of the Northern Lights of three to three and three quarter hours depending on location of departure airport, the services of the expert astronomers on board, light refreshments, all airport and security charges plus Government APD tax, and the services of an Omega Holidays' tour manager.

Biggest Ski Brochure and More Growth Forecast

Topflight has launched what it says is its biggest ever Ski Brochure on the Irish market - and predicts market growth of 10 per cent. The new look brochure, packed with 154 pages of destinations and great advice, will entice all skiers and would-be skiers to head off on a ski holiday this winter!

Topflight management says it is confident that this year will continue an upwards spiral, with more skiers heading back to the slopes, as the economy strengthens. Said Tony Collins, Chairman Topflight Travel Group: "We believe that the efforts our team have achieved to give Irish skiers good value, combined with a superb range of accommodations in key resorts in Europe and around the world - will see more and more people heading back to ski."

Popular favourites such as Andorra, Austria, France, Livigno and Norway are all in the new brochure, with the French chalet ski experience offering 50 chalets in the new brochure such as Val D'Isere, Meribel La Rosiere, Les Arcs, La Tania and La Plagne.

Topflight is also offering tailor-made holidays to The USA and Canada - from 749 Euro per person sharing. With direct flights from Dublin to Boston, and a two hour drive, you can experience the resorts of New Hampshire - Loon, Cannon, Waterville, Cranmore and Bretton Woods, as well as Killington in Vermont. Further afield how about a ski holiday next year in one of the great resorts of the Colorado Rockies. The introduction of Canada into the Topflight Ski Brochure this year is a tempting one - with a choice of Lake Louise, Banff, and the wonderful resort of Whistler/Blackcomb - consistently voted the World's best ski resort!

Topflight says its 2014/15 Winter Ski Brochure offers great savings for customers. Look out for the EarlyBird Symbol throughout the brochure and watch for beginner deals, family deals, and great group discounts!

Red Sea Holidays Offer Belfast Departures

Egypt specialists, Red Sea Holidays is continuing the company's expansion with increased regional airport departures now to include Belfast and Newcastle, plus two new hotels in Sharm el Sheikh - the 5-star Movenpick Sharm el Sheikh Resort and the 5-star Iberotel Il Mercato Hotel & Spa.

Red Sea Holidays will offer flights from Belfast to Sharm el Sheikh for the first time in May with Tuesday departures.

Red Sea Holidays says it is offering great discounts - such as £100 off summer 2015 bookings and £75 off winter sun when booked before September 30; fixed child prices of £439 for any date and duration (including school holidays) and no single room supplements at selected resorts.

Bratislava Best Value Destination for Stags

Europe has become a popular destination for stag dos, but which is the best value European city to enjoy some male bonding before the big day? According to travel a leading money specialist company Bratislava is the place to head to if you want to celebrate your last days of singledom and not incur the wrath of the future wife.

Money company No.1 Currency compared the cost of a basket of 'stag do essentials' across some of the top European stag party cities. The basket included: a return flight, one night's stay in a youth hostel, a pint of beer, a fry up, a Big Mac, entry to a nightclub, a ticket to a football match and a taxi ride.

The figures reveal that the Slovakian capital of Bratislava offers exceptional value at just £96 for stag do essentials, compared to the same basket of essentials costing a whopping £302 if you have your stag do on the infamous Spanish party island of Ibiza. However, just a short boat ride away in Magaluf, the same basket of goods will cost you more than £100 less. Magaluf is still the second most expensive destination on the list, with entry to the most popular club in the town, BCM, costing around £24 (£23.59).

Dublin is still a popular city for stags but it is also home to the most expensive pint, at £3.45 a pop. This is more than four times the price of a pint in Prague (£0.87), and three times more than Bratislava (£1.04) and Budapest (£1.01). Dublin is also the most expensive city for late night snacking, with a McDonald's Big Mac meal setting stags back £6 - or £2.39 more than in Prague. Berlin is the most expensive city for stag parties wanting to watch a football match, with tickets to see Hertha BSC costing £70.83, more than 11 times the cost of a major match in Prague (£6.05) and £45 more than the second most expensive, Blackpool.

Great Offer for Cash-Strapped Students

Leading ferry company Stena Line is celebrating the start of the new university term by helping cash strapped students to save even more money with their great value foot passenger offers to major cities in Scotland and England. The offers are open to everyone but will prove particularly useful for students as term time kicks off.

Students can avail of these fares to travel to cities such as Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh from just £29 by sail and rail or travel by foot to Liverpool for just £20 one way resulting in significant savings which can be put towards university life.

In a recent price comparison carried out by Stena, someone travelling from Belfast to Glasgow on Friday, September 26 using a major airline from Belfast International to Glasgow airport will pay £67.99 including a baggage charge of £13 to travel with a 20kg hold bag. This is compared to travelling with Stena Line on the same dates which will cost only £29 using the Sail and Rail offer which has no baggage or excess charges.

Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager for Irish Sea North explains why travelling with Stena Line this term is a good option economically. "Ferry travel is the most stress free way to start university and students can be reassured that they are not spending a fortune just to start their new term. The money saved can be spent on books, rent and socialising and once on board, students can kick back, relax and look forward to their new term," said Marc.

Winter Specials to Down Under and Asia

With an autumnal chill in the air these evenings, there's no better time to escape to the best winter sun destinations with Malaysia Airlines' November Specials, offering great savings available to destinations across Malaysia, South East Asia and Australasia from London Heathrow.

Travellers can book from today until October 22 to take advantage of these attractive fares, which is valid for economy class travel on select dates this November 2014.

Return economy sale fares from London Heathrow start at £489 to Kuala Lumpur; £529 to Langkawi, Penang, Senai, Alor Setar and Kuantan; £539 to Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Miri, Sandakan, Tawau, Bangkok, Phuket, Jakarta, Krabi, Hanoi, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh, Manila and Denpasar; £559 to Singapore, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; £689 to Darwin, Perth and Adelaide; £699 to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and £719 to Auckland, New Zealand.

Malaysia Airlines flies a twice-daily A380 service between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur International with connections across Malaysia, South East Asia and Australasia. Passengers from across the UK can connect via Malaysia Airlines oneworld partners.

Big Increase in Capacity by Balkan Holidays

Balkan Holidays are increasing their capacity from Belfast for Summer 2015 by four flights.

The extra departures are on May 25, June 1, June 8 and September 21. The full Balkan programme now runs from May 25 to September 28, 2015.

Pictured right is the Balkan Holidays aircraft which will be seen at Belfast International Airport next summer.

Double Guest Miles for Etihad Travellers

Etihad Guest, the award-winning loyalty programme for Etihad Airways, has recently launched its most generous offer ever, with double Etihad Guest Miles being offered across all cabins for tickets booked on Etihad Airways before October 6, for travel before December 15, 2014.

This special promotion also offers double tier miles for bookings made in First and Business Class - with all Etihad Guest members who fly during the promotional period being entered into a special draw where 10 winners will be awarded 100,000 Etihad Guest Miles each.

Barry Green, Managing Director, Etihad Guest LLC, said: "The Etihad Guest loyalty program is renowned for providing features and benefits that enhance value and appeal to its members. While this promotion is primarily designed to reward Etihad Guest members for their loyalty, even non-members can enrol into the program to take part in this special promotion.

"The double tier miles offer also provides a fantastic opportunity for our members to rise within the Etihad Guest program. For instance, one flight in Business Class from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles can earn enough tier miles to instantly become an Etihad Guest Gold member," he added.


Thursday September 18, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Thomas Cook Launches Premium Long Haul Service

Thomas Cook is launching a premium long haul service from May 2015 after the refurbishment of its A330 aircraft.

The revamped planes will serve its long haul programme from Manchester, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow and Belfast to destinations including New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando, Cuba and the Caribbean.

The travel firm will then launch brand new economy and premium offerings in May 2015.

Thomas Cook Airlines UK CEO, Christoph Debus, said: "As more and more customers book flight-only seats, it's also important that we compete with scheduled airlines on these routes, combining great value and great service to provide outstanding value for money for the savvy long haul traveller."

The new economy cabin will feature ergonomically designed lightweight seats, touch screen on-demand in-flight entertainment system (IFE) and a range of blockbuster movies. Customers will also receive a three-course meal designed by celebrity chef James Martin, snack, 23kg baggage allowance (20kg on non-US routes) and 6kg hand baggage allowance.

The new premium service, which will be available on the airline's four Manchester-based A330, will feature seats with more legroom, width, headrest and footrest.

Customers who have already booked existing Thomas Cook premium economy seats for departures before May 2015 will be seated in the new cabin once aircraft are refurbished. However, the new premium service will begin in May 2015.

Half-Term Ferry Offer to France

Stena Line has launched a magnifique half-term offer to France which promises to leave families dizzy with excitement. With travel and accommodation from only £69 per adult, per night, families can make some great savings as kids go free.

With this fantastique deal from Stena Line, families can discover the magic of Halloween at Disneyland Paris or enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Normandy with return travel and two nights onboard Stena Line from Rosslare - Cherbourg by car and two nights' accommodation from a wide choice of hotels.

Ian Baillie, Stena Line's Key Account & Product Sales Manager, UK & Ireland said: "Half-term provides the perfect chance for families to enjoy some quality time together, however sometimes it can be too expensive to getaway. Which is why we have put together these great-value hotel breaks to France starting from only £69 per adult, per night, with kids travelling and staying for free, which will no doubt appeal to all budgets.

"Families have hundreds of hotel breaks across France to choose from including Disneyland Paris Novotel Marne La Vallee Collegien from only £72 per adult, per night and Appart City Caen from only £69 per adult, per night. These prices all include return travel by car from Rosslare - Cherbourg, so you also have the added benefit of being able to stock up on great value wine and Champagne while you are travelling through France making some wonderful family memories," Ian added.

See the Northern Lights - or get Second Cruise Free!

Seeing the Northern Lights regularly tops the polls of Brits Bucket list travel experiences. However, it can be hard to know how to maximise your chances of seeing the lights.

Well, Hurtigruten are so confident that a voyage on one of their ships gives you the best opportunity to see them, that they have become the first operator to introduce a Northern lights promise, and if the lights are not visible from your ship, they will give you a second voyage - for free!

All you need to do is book an 11 night Classic Round Voyage before November 30, 2014, for departure between October 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

The cruise company's crews will be scouring the night skies for an appearance of the dancing light show. If they do appear, an announcement will be made to everyone on-board, and will be verified by the Captain (or nominated officer).

If the lights do not make an appearance, Hurtigruten will give you a choice of a seven day Classic Voyage North, or six day Classic Voyage South in an inside twin cabin (full board basis), departing between October 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. Flights are not included.

Philip Price, Hurtigruten said: "It has been a truly spectacular couple of years for sightings of the Northern Lights in Northern Norway. If you take a Classic Round Voyage with us, you will spend seven days out of the 12 under the key "aurora oval" area. We cannot of course guarantee that you will see the lights during their voyage (only Mother Nature can do that), but we can do the next best thing which is to promise that if the lights prove elusive, we will give you another opportunity to see them next year."

Holidaying Solo More Popular than you think!

New research by an online travel agency in the UK has revealed that almost a quarter of Britons have been on holiday by themselves. The top reasons given for going on holiday abroad included 'looking for love' and 'to re-discover' themselves, while 1 in 5 solo holiday-makers confessed they simply 'had no one to go with'.

According to the findings of online travel agency a quarter of Britons (24 per cent) have been on holiday by themselves. The survey was conducted as part of ongoing research into the holiday preferences of Britons, in order to keep track of booking trends and patterns. 1,693 people took part in the poll and answered questions about their holidays, all of whom were aged 18 and over and from all around the UK. All participants had been on a holiday abroad in the last 12 months.

All respondents were initially asked 'Have you ever been on a holiday abroad by yourself?' to which 24 per cent of respondents indicated that they had. The remaining 76 per cent of respondents revealed that they had never been on holiday by themselves.

The relevant respondents were then asked to reveal which location they went to whilst travelling abroad alone. The top locations were revealed as follows:

  • 1. Spain - 25 per cent
  • 2. Australia - 23 per cent
  • 3. Thailand - 18 per cent
  • 4. Greece - 14 per cent
  • 5. France - 11 per cent
  • Participants who had previously indicated that they had never travelled alone were asked to disclose whether they would ever consider holidaying abroad alone in the future. A majority of 67 per cent of those respondents indicated that they would, whilst the remaining 33 per cent of respondents stated that they would never go alone.

    Hop Aboard Santa's Polar Express

    Christmas has just got even more magical following the launch of Santa's Polar Express at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa which promises to offer families an unforgettable festive experience from December 17-22.

    Enjoy light refreshments at the Percy French Station before hopping aboard the Polar Express which will take people on a magical journey through the stunning Slieve Donard grounds to a winter wonderland of festive treats including story-telling with Mrs Claus, movies and letter writing with the elves in their busy workshop before meeting the man himself.

    Sir William Hastings of Hastings Hotels said: "I am delighted to announce the launch of our first Polar Express experience which is coming to the Slieve Donard Resort in December. Never before has there been such a magical setting for families to enjoy such a special festive experience. The Polar Express will take families through the beautiful grounds of the Slieve Donard with the Mountains of Mourne providing a striking backdrop before having lots of festive fun in the Winter Wonderland and meeting Santa."

    Santa's Polar Express is taking place at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa from Wednesday December 17 - Monday December 22 from 4pm-9pm each day and is £16 per child and £12 per adult and includes a gift and photograph with Santa. Booking is essential.

    Crystal Guests can Experience Downton Abbey

    As excitement builds around the fifth season of hit drama Downton Abbey, Crystal Cruises is offering its guests the rare opportunity to live the luxurious life depicted in the show, complete with early 20th-century period costumes and cars plus exclusive access to filming locations, including Downton itself - the real-life Highclere Castle.

    The two-night "English Countryside & Highclere Castle" Extended Land Programme will be offered post-cruise with Crystal Symphony's 18-night, North Cape/Arctic cruise from Reykjavik to Dover.

    During the excursion, guests will visit Highclere Castle in Hampshire, arriving just like visitors on the show - in vintage 1920's chauffeur-driven automobiles. There, Crystal travellers will be the guests of honour at a private champagne reception and tour of the estate, including numerous rooms made famous on the series, such as the library and drawing room.

    Prior to visiting the Castle, guests will also visit Berkshire's Basildon Park, which is used as the Grantham family's London house; Swan Inn, where Lady Sybil and Branson elope; Byfleet Manor, known as the Dowager Countess' home, for lunch Downton-style, with period-costumed hosts; and Bampton, a village filled with locations that double as the Crawleys' home, the hospital and the church where Lady Edith was jilted at the altar. At night, tour participants will sleep in an authentic English manor house - the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire - boasting the most luxurious of modern amenities amid a centuries-old setting.

    Survey Shows Travellers Want Reclining Seats Banned

    New research by a flight comparison website in the UK has revealed the top five pet peeves of Britons when it comes to flying, with passengers reclining their seats coming voted in second place.

    According to the poll, 27 per cent of Britons admit to having had a confrontation over reclining seats during a flight, with three quarters also wanting to see a ban on reclining seats.

    Research by has uncovered the top five pet peeves that Britons have with flying, with being seated separately to fellow travellers and passengers reclining their seats topping the list.

    Initially all respondents were asked "What are you biggest pet peeves when flying?" They were provided with a list of possible responses and told to select all that applied, or write their own if needed. The top five in-flight pet peeves were revealed to be as follows:

  • 1. Being seated separately to those I'm travelling with - 73 per cent
  • 2. When people in front of me recline their seats into my personal space - 66 per cent
  • 3. Crying children - 64 per cent
  • 4. Not enough leg room - 48 per cent
  • 5. Poor customer service from the flight attendants - 29 per cent
  • Overall 75 per cent of respondents felt that reclining seats during flights should be banned. Furthermore, 12 per cent of the respondents said they planned to invest in much debated knee defenders before their next flight.

    Final Countdown to Culture Night Belfast Begins

    In just over 24 hrs, Belfast's Biggest ever Cultural Celebration is about to explode into colourful life across the city centre and beyond.

    Over 50,000 people are expected to flock to the heart of the city for Culture Night Belfast 2014 on Friday 19 September, as over 250 events, organisations and activities are set to attract locals and visitors of all ages for an evening of exploration and adventure

    Culture Night Belfast is in its sixth year with organisers promising that CNB14 will be the biggest, most diverse and extravagant yet. The packed programme of tasters, tours, talks, trails, demonstrations, activities, gigs, recitals, screenings, interventions, altercations and interactions - all absolutely free - will take place right across the city from 4pm-late on Friday night, with record numbers expecting to attend.

    A packed 2014 programme boasts the likes of fast rising local music star UNKNWN in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast Roller Derby with the Belfast Banshees and Norn Iron Maidens, live bespoke CNB broadcasting from Imprint Radio or an offer to hop on the blender bike with CNB project partners Root Soup where culture nighters will get the opportunity to blitz some of their famous, ethical and locally produced soup, as well as The Hidden Courtyard where the Belfast Circus School lead intrepid explorers into the largest hidden courtyard in Cathedral Quarter for a host of circus and music performances.

    Amidst the hundreds of suprises around ever corner, and in every space and place in the city centre, there's also the return of Hit The North, bringing stunning urban art into the heart of the Belfast, the annual CNB parade lead by the Beat Initiative and their Urban Ballet, who will conclude Culture Night proceedings with the percussive piledriver that is a reenactment of the drum-tastic classic Fleetwood Mac track "Tusk", featuring over 500 drummers, musicians and dancers in a show-stopping Grande Finale.

    A 'Little Star' Arrives at Belfast Zoo

    Belfast Zoo has welcomed a 'little star' to the family. On 23 August 2014, Chi the Francois' langur, gave birth to a small but healthy infant.

    The small monkey was rejected by his mother at birth, at which point zoo curator, Andrew Hope, intervened to care for the young infant.

    Zoo curator, Andrew Hope, said: "There are occasions where first time mothers just do not have the skill set or the instinct to care for their young. This is fairly common in many species. After monitoring the mother and baby it quickly became clear that we needed to become involved."

    Since then, Andrew has been instrumental in hand-rearing the langur, named Xiao Xing, taking him home to ensure 24 hour care and regular feeding every few hours.

    Visitors will not yet be able to see Xiao Xing as he will continue to be cared for by Andrew. Long term, Xiao Xing will begin to be introduced back to his family group as he develops. It is expected that he will one day rejoin the group in the zoo.


    Thursday September 11, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    September New January - BA Holidays Customers

    January always used to be seen as the most depressing month of the year, but in a new survey commissioned by British Airways Holidays, parents have officially named September the new January.

    Twenty-seven per cent of parents surveyed said that September felt like the start of the New Year, with many families strapped for cash to cover childcare, out of ideas for entertainment and fed up that the start of a new school year means a wait for the next family holiday. A quarter of people said they felt sad that September signified the start of autumn, and therefore the summer weather would start to fade. Fifteen per cent of parents overall even said that they felt they were returning to work without having a proper break themselves, with twenty-five per cent saying they felt fed up that the end of the school holiday period would mean waiting for another holiday.

    Forty-seven per cent of people surveyed in Northern Ireland agreed they didn't feel they'd had the holiday they needed, followed by 25 per cent of Londoners. Separately, over a quarter of parents in the East Midlands said they were worried or stressed because they had so much to sort out before the children returned to school.

    Finally, 22 per cent of all parents also said that the end of the summer holidays would prompt them to book their next holiday. To help beat the September blues, British Airways is offering discounts on flights and holidays to destinations across the network until September 23, 2014. For more info about the latest offers log on to the BA website.

    December Day Trip to Lapland from Belfast

    The kids may just have started back to school and the sun is splitting the skies in an Indian summer but already thoughts are turning to Christmas, snow and Santa Claus. Falcon Holidays have this week launched their day-trip to Lapland from Belfast International Airport on Friday, December 12.

    From the moment you touch down in Lapland, your time is filled with the things that every child's dreams are made of... from dashing through the snow on a husky-drawn sleigh, snowmobiling, buying Christmas souvenirs and most importantly meeting the man in the red suit himself. Visitors can look forward to an action packed day as Santa's Secret Grotto day trip includes a Magical Mystery Tour with visitors being greeted by elves and taken to Santa's Secret Grotto, where they will receive their very own Lappish passport and meet Old Man Reindeer and listen to magical story-telling.

    Once dressed and wrapped up in your thermal outfit, you follow the marked path through the snowy pine trees to experience short reindeer and husky sleigh rides, snowmobiling, sledging and mini-skidoo rides, before thawing out around the campfire with some warm berry juice. Visitors will be provided with lunch and will also go to Elf school to learn all the secrets of Santa's famous little helpers.

    Falcon's Head of Ireland Carol Anne O'Neill believes a Falcon day-trip to Lapland will provide families with memories they will treasure forever. "It's a family trip never to be forgotten."

    Falcon's Lapland trip costs £459 per adult and £409 per child including all taxes and charges. This price includes direct flights, transfers, guiding, thermal equipment for outdoor activities (excluding infants): overalls, boots, woollen socks, scarf, gloves, activities at Santa Park, a personal Arctic Circle Crossing Certificate and a Lappish passport. Lunch in Santa Park is included in the price.

    Terminal 2 Cuts Connecting Times for SAS and Star Alliance

    SAS moved yesterday to the brand new Star Alliance Terminal 2 at Heathrow. Known as Terminal 2, The Queen's Terminal, it will be used by all 23 Star Alliance airlines that operate at Heathrow as they move in over the next few months.

    To mark SAS being one of the original airlines at T2 in 1955 and to celebrate the airline's first day at the new terminal, passengers on the first SAS flight to depart the new terminal at 06:40 yesterday flew onboard a retro-painted Airbus A-319 aircraft to Copenhagen.

    Alan Sparling of Airline Sales & Marketing - GSA for SAS in Ireland commented: "SAS are very excited about moving into this light and spacious building which has been built to improve our customers travel experience. Say goodbye to long queues and enjoy faster check-in, faster security, more lounges, free wi-fi, better shops & restaurants and, most importantly, enjoy shorter connections from Dublin, Belfast, Cork & Shannon."

    Some features of the new terminal include: Departing and arriving passengers pass through the terminal on different levels; Speciality designed check-in desks for speed and efficiency; Fast-track option for premium passengers; 81 common use self-service kiosks; Eight out of 12 gates in the T2B satellite will allow self-boarding. Having all 23 Star Alliance members in the same terminal will also make travel through Heathrow much easier for transfer passengers and there will now be a standardised minimum connection time of just 60 minutes.

    Aer Lingus to Boost Services from City Airport

    Aer Lingus has revealed to Northern Ireland Travel News that it could soon increase its flights out of Belfast City Airport.

    The airline, which moved from Belfast International Airport two years ago, recently moved its Belfast-Heathrow service to the new Queen's Terminal (Terminal 2) at Heathrow, cutting connecting times to just an hour.

    Aer Lingus' new Chief Revenue Officer Mike Rutter confirmed that there would be service enhancements on a number of fronts. The airline is looking at beginning services to Manchester/Birmingham; there could be an extra daily flight to Gatwick, a fourth daily rotation from Belfast City to Heathrow; while the airline is also looking at further direct services to Europe.

    Said Mike Rutter, Chief Revenue Officer, Aer Lingus: "We have been delighted with our performance at Belfast City Airport. We are looking at another rotation to Gatwick first of all, and Heathrow too could soon possibly benefit from an extra flight in the day. As regards new services, we are looking at introducing routes like Birmingham or Manchester, while new destinations in Europe are always under consideration."

    Cuba More Accessible with Air Canada

    The Air Canada rouge service from Dublin to Toronto which began in May this year also provides great access to Cuba.

    Air Canada rouge launched its year-round service from Dublin to Toronto with four weekly flights. But with easy connections through Toronto the airline provides non-stop Air Canada mainline flights to Havana, Varadeor, San Clara and Holquin in Cuba, an increasingly popular holiday destination from Ireland.

    The Dublin-Toronto service is operated by Boeing 767-300ER aircraft featuring a two cabin configuration with three customer comfort options - rouge, rouge Plus with preferred seating and additional legroom and Premium rouge offering both additional space and enhanced services.

    Air Canada rouge features complimentary non-alcholic beverages, a generous baggage allowance, and Next generation in-flight entertainment system.

    Return Economy flights from Dublin to Havana via Toronto start from 600 Euro including taxes.

    Flybe Codeshare Agreement with Finnair

    Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline and major operator at Belfast City Airport, has secured a codeshare agreement with Helsinki-based airline, Finnair, that - with effect from September 15 - will offer passengers seamless onward travel through Flybe's Manchester hub to Finnair destinations not only in Finland but also to those on its wider global network, that includes 15 Asian destinations!

    The news is also a win-win situation for all the 11 regional airports directly served by Flybe flights that, as well as Manchester, include Belfast City, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Newquay and Southampton. All will benefit from the additional passengers as Flybe's Finnish airline partner in turn extends its network throughout the United Kingdom.

    Paul Simmons, Flybe's Chief Commercial Officer says: "The agreement with Finnair is an exciting development for Flybe and we are delighted to be working with such an excellent and well-respected airline. The codeshare is a win-win for both airlines. For Flybe, it furthers our ambition of being a 'One Stop to the World' from the UK regions and enables us to outreach to a new and different market, whilst at the same time further facilitating the needs of our leisure and business passengers."

    Passengers will be able to earn and redeem Finnair Plus points on any of the Flybe-operated flights that carry Finnair's AY flight designator.

    Flybe Finland to Operate Dublin-Helsinki Service

    Meanwhile, Finnair is returning to Dublin Airport next year to launch a new direct service from Dublin to Helsinki from March. Finnair will operate the service six days per week with a 100-seater Embraer 190 aircraft.

    The airline, which is part of the oneworld alliance, withdrew its previous Dublin-Helsinki service in 2005. The new Dublin-Helsinki service will be operated on behalf of Finnair by Flybe Finland, with flights daily except Tuesdays. The service will operate from March 30 until late October.

    "We are delighted to welcome Finnair back to Dublin Airport," said Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison. "The new Helsinki service will provide greater choice and convenience for customers travelling between Ireland and Finland and will also offer enhanced connectivity between Dublin Airport and key destinations in Asia via Finnair's hub in Helsinki."

    Ferry Offer to Beat Post Summer Blues

    To help keep the post-summer blues at bay, Stena Line has launched what it calls "a red hot autumn offer" giving families the chance to get away in September and October for a four night mid-week break, including One Night Free (conditions apply), when booked by September 30.

    From only £229 for two adults and up to four children, who also travel and stay for Free, can set sail with Stena Line from Belfast to Cairnryan, Belfast to Liverpool or Dublin to Holyhead, and stay in one of 10 Haven Parks in Scotland, England or Wales. This includes Haven Craig Tara which is just one hour's drive from Cairnryan. What's more, this great value offer is available during the October half-term break, so book today to avoid disappointment.

    A Haven break is perfect for an enjoyable family break and offers a range of activities including splashzones, kids clubs and great family entertainment with nightly shows.

    For further information contact Stena Line direct, log on to the Stena website or see your local travel agent.

    Change of Name for Car Rental Company

    Car rental specialist Flexible Car Hire has rebranded this week to become Flexible Autos in recognition of its continued international expansion across Europe and the Middle East.

    The company, which supports the Travel Trade from its UK bases in Ware & Bury, has also announced changes in its senior management team. Sue Dixon, previously UK Sales Director, is promoted to Group Managing Director with Andy Dalton, formerly UK Managing Director moving into the position of Group Chief Executive Officer.

    Sue Dixon said: "Flexible Car Hire has been an established brand here in the UK since 2007 but as we have expanded we have recognised that the name does not easily translate in many of our European trading locations. That's why we took the decision to switch to the more easily recognisable name of Flexible Autos." She continued: "Our research suggested that the new name will be easier to remember and we believe that this change of name to a more recognisable worldwide brand will further cement our position as the UK's No 1 car rental supplier to the Travel Trade."

    Northern Ireland Travel News Voting Winners!

    Five Northern Ireland Travel News readers have been successful in winning some fantastic travel prizes after voting in various categories for this years NI Travel and Tourism Awards.

    The winners and their prizes are as follows:

  • Elaine Sterritt from Portadown was the lucky winner of a weekend break for two at the Slieve Donard Hotel and Spa
  • Julie Neill from Belfast won a fantastic prize of £200 off her next holiday
  • Alan Reid from Bangor won a weekend break for two at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
  • Dorothy Davison from Craigavon was the lucky winner of a weekend break at Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick
  • Barbara Shaw from Moira won a weekend break for two at the Malmaison Hotel, Belfast


    Thursday September 4, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Almost 5,000 Summer 2015 Flights Go On Sale

    EasyJet has today announced its summer schedule for 2015 with over 4,800 flights set to take place between March 29 and May 31 next year at Belfast International Airport.

    Over 780,000 seats are available for flights to and from Belfast International, enabling passengers booking early to secure the best fares for summer 2015. The airline has bases across 11 UK airports and currently has over 700 routes on sale to destinations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Russia - 25 of which depart from Belfast International.

    Following recent route announcements, Northern Ireland customers can look forward to taking advantage of easyJet's new Belfast to Reykjavik, Iceland, route from £52.99 which begins in December. Other summer routes now on sale from Belfast International include: Faro, Portugal from £28.99 one way; Malta from £37.99 one way; and London Stansted from £27.99 one way.

    Ali Gayward, UK Commercial Manager, said: "We're pleased to announce that our summer 2015 flights are now on sale allowing our customers to take advantage of thousands of low fares up until May 31, 2015. Following our announcement of our new Belfast to Iceland route earlier this year, customer demand has been high, and we also expect the usual summer favourites in France, Spain and Portugal to be high on the travel wish list."

    Day Out to Glasgow or Ayr for a Tenner!

    Summer may be coming to an end, but with the current spell of good weather leading ferry company Stena Line is offering day trips to bustling Glasgow and beautiful Ayr from from just £10 per person return - and incredibly this price even includes return coach transfers.

    The great-value offer is available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from September through to December and is a chance for people to explore two of Scotland's best-loved places. For only £10 per person return you get an exciting trip across the Irish Sea onboard an ultra modern ferry, indulge in some shopping and immerse yourself in the many cultural events that Glasgow and Ayr has to offer. You could even catch a sporting match or watch a concert or performance of a favourite band.

    Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager said: "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," said Marc.

    "The beautiful sea side town of Ayr is just right for those who would like to experience something different and spend some down time with friends or family. Ayr is home to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and keen golfers can try one of the challenging golf courses including Belleisle, Seafield and Dalmilling."

    Forth's 50th Celebrations This Weekend

    Northern Ireland's 'Scotland enthusiasts' are being called to make history and join the Forth Road Bridge's 50th birthday celebrations this weekend.

    The Forth Road Bridge, one of the Scotland's most recognisable landmarks which connects metropolitan Edinburgh and the kingdom of Fife, is a familiar sight for many holiday makers from Northern Ireland.

    The Forth Bridges Festival, which runs from September 4-13, has an array of events scheduled to celebrate the engineering marvel, which was built by Sir William Arrol, who is also known for building the RMS Titanic's gantry.

    The event, which is part of Homecoming Scotland 2014, expects over 100,000 visitors over the 10 day period, many of whom are from Northern Ireland. Visitors can enjoy many brilliant moments and exciting events, ranging from 'Scotland Welcomes the World to Lunch' (September 6) where foodies can enjoy a bespoke menu designed by celebrity chef Nick Nairn, 'A Birthday Boat Flotilla' (September 7), where pleasure boats, warships and yachts traverse the Firth of Forth, to a dramatic Light and Firework Show on September 13.

    Jump in Travel Disruption Policy Holders

    The risk of travel disruption due to volcanic ash emanating from Iceland is still quite high, and travel insurance provider is reporting a significant jump in policy holders taking out travel disruption cover.

    According to the company, recent reports from Bardarbunga in Iceland and also a volcano in Papua New Guinea has travellers and airlines on high alert (recently some Asian and Australian Airlines have in fact altered their flight paths because of the New Guinea alert).

    Ciaran Mulligan MD of said: "Anyone travelling over the coming months should take additional 'Travel Disruption Cover' now as there will be no cover in place if the ash cloud closes airspace in Europe.

    "We have seen a 25 per cent jump in the number of insurers including travel disruption cover to new policies or adding the cover to existing policies. Holidaymakers and business travellers want the extra protection in the event of their travel plans being interrupted due to these volcano eruptions."

    Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival Opens Today

    Today the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin officially opens the doors at the RDS and runs over the weekend. The craft beer and cider industry in Ireland has witnessed explosive growth over the past 12 months - reflecting this aptly, this festival has witnessed 300 per cent growth in both brewers and attendees since its conception in 2011 and attracted over 11,000 visitors last year.

    This year's line-up consists of over 40 breweries and cider makers - totalling an astounding number of over 200 Irish produced beverages. In comparison to last year's 25 producers, this year has seen an increase of over 60 per cent in the number of breweries attending, a reflection of the massive growth of this local Irish market sector.

    The festival also offers an array of local Irish artisan food and local musical talent as well as playing host to the launch of Ireland's newest guide to Irish craft beer and food. written by Kristen Jensen and Caroline Hennessey. Some of the city's favourite food producers will be cooking up a storm including Jane Russell Sausages, Cillian the Pie Man, Dave's Wood Fired Pizza and Oisin's Crepes in the City. The festival open its doors today at 5pm, showcasing festival brews and launching new products - an opportunity to experience the newest and freshest brews within the industry!

    New Retail Shop Opened by Lord Mayor

    Belfast Lord Mayor, Cllr Nichola Mallon, was guest of honour at the official opening yesterday of the newest branch of Oasis Travel.

    The new premises on Belfast's bustling Lisburn Road is the fifth Oasis Travel Agency and Cruise Centre, further enhancing a network which already includes Howard Street (Belfast), Lisburn, Bangor and Holywood. The move also coincides with the company's thirtieth anniversary.

    Delighted to be toasting business expansion as well as a landmark anniversary, Oasis Travel's Managing Director, Sandra Corkin says: "When the opportunity arose to give Oasis a high profile presence in this fantastic location in the heart of the fashionable BT9 area we were delighted. We already have a large number of loyal customers in the area and we are confident that the service, value and choice we bring, coupled with our strong reputation, will allow us to build on that strong platform."

    In the picture right, Belfast Lord Mayor, Cllr Nichola Mallon cuts the ribbon at Oasis new branch assisted by Sandra Corkin. You can view more pictures from the branch opening on our website.

    Only Six Months Between Average Travellers' Holidays

    New research by an online travel agency in the UK has revealed that the average Briton now waits only six months, on average, between holidays; 12 months less than they did previously.

    Higher stress levels and a higher availability of cheap travel deals were listed as the main reasons for the shorter wait between holidays.

    The survey was conducted as part of ongoing research into the holiday preferences of Britons, in order to keep track of booking trends and patterns. A total 1,482 people aged 18 and over from around the UK took part in the poll and everyone participating had been on a holiday abroad lasting at least seven nights in the last three months.

    When asked to estimate how long they thought the gap would be between their last holiday abroad and their next one, the majority of respondents (41 per cent) said that 'six months' would have passed by the time they next went away. Twenty two per cent of respondents said that this gap would be more like '12 months', whilst a further 26 per cent of respondents indicated that it would be '18 months'. All respondents were then asked to disclose how long the gap had been between their last holiday abroad and the one before that. The majority, 58 per cent, of respondents indicated that they had gone 18 months between holidays beforehand, whilst only 18 per cent of respondents went six months between holidays before their last one.

    The survey was conducted by online travel agency

    End of Summer Sail to Asia/Australasia

    Malaysia Airlines' end of summer sale has great savings available to destinations across Malaysia, South East Asia and Australasia.

    Book by September 22, 2014 to take advantage of the end of summer sale, which is valid for economy and business class travel on select dates until December 4, 2014; January 11-March 26, 2015; and April 7-May 31, 2015.

    Return economy sale fares from Dublin, Cork or Shannon via London Heathrow start at 570 Euro to Jakarta, 580 Euro to Phuket and Bangkok; 590 Euro to Ko Samui, Krabi and Manila; 600 Euro to Yangon, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; 605 Euro to Kuala Lumpur; 620 Euro to Penang and Langkawi; 625 Euro to Kota Kinabalu; 750 Euro to Perth; 775 Euro to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney; 780 Euro to Darwin; and 805 Euro to Auckland. There are also big savings on Business Class fares.

    Economy class passengers enjoy 30kg free checked baggage allowance, with business class passengers receiving 40kg.


    Thursday August 28, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    New Over Fifties Show Added to Holiday World

    One of the biggest and best attended public exhibitions in Northern Ireland has just got bigger! The Belfast Telegraph Holiday World show, the annual celebration of travel, tourism and all things related is set to expand with the addition of a whole new concept - the Belfast Telegraph 50+Show.

    The two events will run as companion attractions over the weekend of January 16-18, 2015 at The King's Hall Pavilion in Belfast, not only opening a window on the world of vacationing, but also tapping into the huge and growing 50+ market. For the public, there will be more variety, choice and entertainment than ever before and, for exhibitors, there will be an important new conduit to target an important, yet often hard to reach, sector of the Northern Ireland marketplace.

    Show Director Maureen Ledwith explains the thinking behind the new departure. She says: "In our 22 years of organising Holiday World shows in Belfast we have seen the steady rise in importance of the 50+ age group. They have been holidaying more than ever before, often enjoying several leisure breaks as well as a main holiday in the course of a year.

    "Many choose this period of their lives to splash out on spectacular travel such as cruises or long haul 'trips of a lifetime'. They are also at the front of the queue when it comes to buying holiday homes, caravans and motorhomes, for they see these as vacation investments which they will be able to enjoy for many years with their children, grandchildren and wider family circle."

    Launching the initiative to would-be exhibitors, Maureen added: "In Northern Ireland 50+ make up 32.7 per cent of the population so they are statistically important, but as a group they are also more likely than other age groups to have substantial assets, cash and the time - and maturity - to really enjoy life."

    Airline's Summer Seat Sale Launched!

    Aer Lingus has announced its end of summer seat sale, with prices cut by up to 20 per cent on flights departing from George Best Belfast City Airport.

    Travellers can escape the back to school blues with a last minute sun holiday, with flights to Malaga, Faro and Palma on sale today from just £39.99 one way for travel between September 1, and October 25, 2014.

    Savvy shoppers can also bag a bargain with flights to London Gatwick from just £25.99 or to London Heathrow from £38.99 and enjoy the comfort and convenience of Aer Lingus' new home at Terminal 2, Heathrow airport. Flights are valid for travel between October 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

    "We're very pleased with how our routes from George Best Belfast City Airport have performed this summer, with travellers across Northern Ireland taking advantage of our low fares and quality service," said Declan Kearney, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus. "We hope that our 'pack up and go' end of summer seat sale will encourage people to do just that; treat themselves to some late summer sun, or a city break to London during the winter months.

    Fares quoted are one way and must be booked by September 15.

    Second Belfast Route Announced by Wizz Air

    Low-cost carrier Wizz Air is starting a second route from Belfast International Airport, to Katowice in Poland. This follows the announcement a fortnight ago of a service to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

    Wizz Air operated two routes to Poland from Belfast International Airport a few years ago before withdrawing from the marketplace here. Wizz Air now operates more than 300 routes across 36 countries and provides millions of travellers with low fares on its routes throughout Europe.

    The new services to Katowice and Vilnius begin in Spring next year. The central European low cost airline has announced a number of new routes across its network this week and is increasing its fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft in Poland to 18.

    Turkish Airlines Supports Belfast Mela

    A record crowd of 25,000 enjoyed the 2014 Belfast Mela Festvial in Botanic Gardens, Belfast last weekend.

    Turkish Airlines was delighted to be a major sponsor and part of the Belfast Mela which is Northern Ireland's largest multi-cultural festival incorporating music, dance, food and other aspects of different cultures.

    "The award-winning Festival provides opportunities for communities to get together and build bridges between their cultures and it was a great opportunity for Turkish Airlines to be present and promote their flights to 257 destinations in 105 countries via Istanbul," said Onur Gull of Turkish Airlines.

    Turkish Airlines operates a daily service from Dublin to Istanbul and is currently exploring setting up a service from Belfast to the airline's Istanbul hub. Onur Gul is pictured above right with Ugur Tok of the Northern Ireland Turkish-Irish Association.

    Avoid the Queues - Check in via Your Mobile Device

    United Airlines has become the first US airline to offer customers the ability to scan their passports to check in for international flights via their iOS and Android mobile devices.

    United is offering customers the opportunity to use passport scanning functionality on the airline's mobile app as the carrier completes testing.

    Customers may access the passport scanning feature when checking in for international flights in the 24 hours before departure. After initiating the app's check-in feature, customers will have the option of verifying their existing stored passport data or scanning their passport.

    The app uses the mobile device's camera feature to capture travellers' passports, similar to a mobile banking deposit. Jumio Inc., a credentials management company, will then verify the passport for additional security. Once the verification process is complete, customers will receive a boarding pass. Customers requiring additional travel documentation, such as visas, must continue to check in at the airport.

    United will collect feedback during the testing phase of passport scanning functionality with the goal of further improving the product and launching additional customer-friendly features utilising this technology.

    Everything You Need to Know About Cruising

    Whether you're familiar with cruising or contemplating taking to the high seas for the first time, the 2014 edition of the Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships by Douglas Ward tells you "everything you will ever need to know - and even a few things the cruise lines might prefer you not to know."

    With more than 650 pages of colour pictures, hard facts and forthright opinions it gives cruisers and would be cruisers all the information they need to pick the right cruise. A raft of charts, diagrams, graphs and statistics will satisfy the die-hard cruise enthusiast.

    This weighty tome, now in its 29th year of publication, is written and meticulously researched every year by renowned expert Douglas Ward, who shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry to inform travellers of the ever-changing, recession-busting world of cruising. All his reviews are completely independent; and includes candid reviews of new fewer than 285 ships. He also gives moneysaving tips, how to find the best facilities, food and service an analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the top cruise lines.

    Berlitz: Cruising & Cruise Ships Guide retails at £17.99 and is also available as an eBook for any reading device that supports electorinc publication, such as Apple, Nook and Kobo.

    Free One-Night Stopover in Kuala Lumpur

    Malaysia Airlines has teamed up with Tourism Malaysia and three five-star hotel partners in Kuala Lumpur to offer a free one-night stopover in Kuala Lumpur.

    The offer is valid for two adult passengers travelling together from the UK and Ireland to destinations across Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Australia and New Zealand, on bookings made between August 22 and September 30 for departures between September 15 2014 and June 30, 2015.

    First and Business Class passengers are entitled to one free night at the five-star Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, whilst all passengers can choose from the Berjaya Times Square Hotel or Sama-Sama International Airport Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The complimentary nights for all three properties are on Room Only basis.

    Each hotel offers visitors the chance to soak up the cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur, with the option to stopover on either the outbound or return journey.

    Aircraft Without Windows in the Future?

    Windowless aircraft could be on the way as airlines look at innovations to save money on fuel.

    A government technology centre has been looking at plastic display screens projecting the sky outside which could line the cabin of an aircraft, taking the place of windows. The new technology would reduce aircraft weight and cut fuel costs without worrying nervous passengers.

    Tom Taylor, who is part of the management team at CPI in County Durham, was quoted in the Financial Times: "Getting weight out of a plane is a key goal for the industry. You could see the first of these coming to market in three to four years."


    Thursday August 21, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Money Saving Offers on Irish Sea Crossings!

    As families plan a late summer break on the UK Mainland - or make plans to help the kids settle into university life across the water - the two ferry companies on the Irish Sea have come up with great moneysaving offers.

    To coincide with the start of the new university year, Stena Line has launched a great-value sale which allows up to five people to travel to Scotland by car and stay for up to three days for only £189 return.

    The money-saving offer, which is available on Stena Line's Belfast-Cairnryan route for travel between September 1-October 31 when booked by September 30, is perfect for people who want to enjoy a short break in Scotland or for parents helping the kids come to terms with university life.

    Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager said: "Value for money is still very high on the agenda for most families right now so we believe the opportunity to book a three day return trip from only £189 return represents a great opportunity to take a well earned break. Whether you want to enjoy the delights of Scotland or England with your very own car-cation or help your children adjust to university life this is the perfect time to make a booking."

    With P&O Ferries, passengers can book up to a three-day return for a car and up to five passengers sailing from Larne to Cairnryan at a set price of £179 or to Troon for £199. The offer available on all sailings from September 1 until October 31, 2014, and can be booked from Wednesday, August 13 to September 30, 2014.

    Neal Mernock, Sector Director - Irish Sea, P&O Ferries said: "Whether students are setting out to Uni for the first time or simply returning for a new term, P&O Ferries has put together a fantastic money saving deal that will make it easier. Simply pay one price for the car and all passengers go free, which means Mum and Dad can see their sons and daughters safely off to Uni with plenty of space for friends or family to jump in the car too."

    For more info, contact the ferry companies direct or see your local travel agent.

    Hold a Booking for a Fiver BA Initiative

    British Airways is now allowing customers to hold a fare for up to 72 hours for £5 for short-haul flights and £10 for long-haul flights.

    The new scheme is only available through BA's own website and is designed to give travellers the time to make sure they're happy with their flight choices before paying. If within 72 hours customers want to pay for their flights, the hold deposit is refunded and the ticket can be bought. If they decide not to go ahead with the booking, they lose the deposit.

    "There's nothing more frustrating than seeing a great flight price but not being able to book it straight away, either because you may need to get the time off work or check it's ok with family or friends - then coming back and finding there are no seats left or the price has changed," said Drew Crawley, BA's Chief Commercial Officer. "Now customers can see the price, hold their seats and be sure that's all they'll pay, up to three days later."

    Only one person's name is needed to hold the flights and the names of everyone travelling can be added within 72 hours of the booking being held.

    One Hour Connecting Time Through Queen's Terminal

    Aer Lingus passengers connecting through Heathrow now have a connection time of just one hour following the airline's move to the new Terminal 2, The Queen's Terminal.

    Travellers can't fail to be impressed by the bright, airy layout and range of eating and shopping options at the new terminal and the reduction in walking times to security and the main boarding gates. They will also be impressed by the new 1 million Euro Gold Circle lounge (pictured right) which is 50 per cent bigger than the old facility and offers new and enhanced features including shower facilities, meeting rooms and a quiet area, either to work in or just relax.

    Aer Lingus Chief Revenue Officer Mike Rutter said: "The new terminal will ensure the best possible experience when travelling with us in and out of Heathrow. We are the third largest airline operator at Heathrow and it is our number one destination airport. The move is great news for our Heathrow customers who will enjoy increased transfer opportunities, quicker transfer times, shorter walking distances and improved retail and restaurant opportunities."

    Aer Lingus operates three rotations daily from George Best Belfast City Airport to Heathrow Terminal 2.

    Travel Disruption Cover Warning after Volcano Alert, part of Ireland's largest travel insurance supplier Blue Insurances, is warning all holidaymakers and business travellers to take out 'Travel Disruption Cover' with their travel insurance policy, to ensure they are covered for volcanic ash travel disruptions.

    This follows an announcement by Iceland's Met Office that it has raised the risk level to the aviation industry for an eruption at its Bardarbunga volcano to orange, which is the fourth level on a five-grade scale. Today the Icelandic authorities announced that 300 people in the immediate area have been evacuated.

    Ash from the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days, affecting more than 10 million people. offers 'Travel Disruption Cover' for a small additional premium which covers consumers in the event of travel disruptions including volcanic ash, bad weather, riots and pandemics.

    A spokesman said: "Anyone travelling over the coming months should take additional 'Travel Disruption Cover' now as there will be no cover in place if this cover is taken out after the volcano erupts. 'Travel Disruption' is available to add to all policies including existing policies, but cover will only be effective seven days after it is added so it is important to upgrade/book your policy as soon as possible."

    'Travel Disruption Cover' also offers extended cover under delayed departure, missed departure and accommodation sections, should your flight be cancelled or delayed.

    Direct Debit Payment Option for Holidays Floated

    A new study has revealed that many prospective holidaymakers think that paying for their holiday by Direct Debit would not only make the cost of a holiday more manageable but would consider paying this way if it was an option in future.

    The survey, by Bacs Payments Schemes, showed that more than half of British travellers not holidaying this year say they can't afford to book a trip but found that these consumers would be more likely to spend if they were offered flexible payment options.

    Bacs' Graham Callaghan said: "It's clear from this that holidaymakers want flexibility over the way they pay for their break and, just as millions of us pay our bills by Direct Debit, we also want this option when it comes to booking a break."

    Most Cruisers Happy to Have a Flutter

    With the majority of cruising companies now featuring some form of casino, slot or fruit machines on board their vessels, a new piece of research conducted by a leading independent cruise agency in the UK has revealed that as much as £193,600 is won by passengers during the average cruise holiday.

    The study polled a total of 2,759 UK adults aged 22 and over in order to collect a valid array of results. Each participant had taken a cruise within the past five years, on a ship that had a casino or gambling facilities.

    Respondents were firstly questioned on whether they had partaken in any gambling whilst on their last cruising holiday, with the majority (79 per cent) admitting to doing so at least once. When then asked to reveal how much money they had gambled during the holiday, the average amount was revealed as £146 per person.

    Participants were then asked to reveal the main reasons as to why they chose to gamble on board during their cruise, with the top answers emerging as follows: 43 per cent on casino/slot machines and 38 per cent saying it was a fun social event and a good way to meet other passengers.

    Taking into account that the average cruise ship holds around 2,200 individuals on an average holiday, the findings suggest that as much as £321,200 is gambled per voyage, with £193,600 won by cruise passengers, says the company which conducted the survey,

    Perfect for Girls Who Want to Have Fun

    Cyndi Lauper said it best, "girls just want to have fun". And while they certainly do like a good dose of revelry, we all know the modern woman expects more. From open-air Cabrio explorations to sexy city nights, cool countryside elegance to spa serenity, the timeless tradition of female bonding takes all shapes. Now Design Hotels claims to have got the ladies covered.

    The group is inviting ladies to take a tour of three European destinations - in their favourite pair of pumps or their comfiest flats. At The Pure in Frankfurt, harmonious public spaces and a laid-back atmosphere provide the perfect ambiance for a weekend getaway. On the shores of Lake Tegernsee, just south of Munich, Bavarian sensibilities and a relaxing social hub combine at Hotel Bachmair Weissach.

    Meanwhile, on the island of Mallorca, the exuberant OD Port Portals in the luxurious yacht harbour Puerto Portals puts retro glam at the forefont, offering an easy, breezy getaway for the gals. The recently opened property offers the chance to experience Balearic bliss first-hand among the rich and famous.

    The Pure and its 50 rooms in Frankfurt provide a welcoming, intimate and sleek urban escape - from the fashion-forward design of marble-meets-leather, to the Club Package offer of sparkling wine and VIP club entrance, the hotel is a perfect girly gateway for all the city has to offer. Meanwhile, majestic Alpine beauty, a warm atmosphere, and expansive estate grounds unite at the 146-room Hotel Bachmair Weissach. With a brand new 'Just for Girls' promotion, female guests can relax in style. The package includes two nights in a Grand or Junior suite (with a connecting double room), breakfast, a three course meal, spa treatment, and a champagne cocktail. Prices start at 295 Euro per person.

    Cold Weather Prompts Search for the Sun

    The recent drop in temperatures has resulted in a last minute rush for overseas holidays, according to Thomson and First Choice.

    The brands, both part of TUI, say online searches have jumped as UK temperatures plummet to well below average for the first time since June and the forecast in many parts of the country is more of the same.

    Thomson is reporting a 78 per cent rise in searches on its website in the last week compared with the same period last year.

    Travel Trade Big Build Needs You!

    A group of local Travel Trade representatives are gearing up to travel to Beius in Romania for the 'BIG BUILD' in support of Habitat for Humanity (Northern Ireland), where they will build a house in just five days - yes five days!

    Working directly with the community, together they really will build a home in five days... from the foundations up! In order to do this they need to raise the funds to facilitate this trip and are doing so as a group. "We really need the help and support of those within the Travel Trade and our extended circle of family and friends to achieve our goal," said a spokesman. "Every little bit helps and we hope that you will be able to assist and donate to our cause and we would like to thank you in advance for any support you can provide," he added.

    You can make a donation through the Travel Trade Big Build Just Giving Page. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure, your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.


    Thursday August 14, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Enjoy That Gap Year - But Stay Safe!

    With hundreds of thousands of UK students having just opened their A-Level results, including those in Northern Ireland, many young people will be looking forward to starting their university lives in the autumn - but thousands of others will be looking forward to the adventure of a Gap Year.

    ABTA is today revealing the most popular destinations and activities for gappers as well as advising young people about how to have a rewarding experience and more importantly how to stay safe, especially following a couple of high profile tragic incidents in the last 12 months involving young travellers in Zanzibar and Malaysia. ABTA members specialising in Gap Year travel have reported increases in bookings over the last 12 months with Australasia, South East Asia, the USA and South America being the most popular destination choices.

    The top Gap Year destinations reported by leading ABTA Members specialising in Gap Years are: 1, Australia; 2, Thailand; 3, USA; 4, New Zealand; 5, Peru; 6, Bolivia; 7, Argentina; 8, Vietnam; 9, South Africa; 10, Brazil.

    Victoria Bacon, Head of Communications, ABTA said: "Taking a Gap Year can be one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences in a young person's life and young people up and down the country will be heading off in the next 12 months, often spending thousands of pounds of savings on their travel plans. Doing plenty of research and talking to reputable Gap Year travel companies can help you decide what to do and where to go - it is very important that whatever your Gap Year involves you plan it properly, to help ensure a safe and rewarding experience."

    For more information visit

    Glasgow Mecca for Pipers This Weekend

    Thousands of Northern Ireland pipe band enthusiasts will be heading to Glasgow in the next few days as World Pipe Band Champions, the Province's Field Marshal Montgomery, are preparing for another show-stealing success at the world's biggest ever week of piping and traditional music, Piping Live!, which is currently taking place in Glasgow and runs until Sunday, August 17.

    The most successful pipe band of all time is competing in The World Pipe Band Championships, which will take place over two days in Glasgow for the first time ever this weekend. The famous pipe band will perform in a bid to retain its 'World Champion' title for the fourth year in a row.

    More than 50,000 spectators, many from Northern Ireland, are expected to travel to Glasgow to watch Field Marshal Montgomery at the Championships as well as a host of other events during the week-long programme of exciting performances at Piping Live! Glasgow's International Piping Festival's 10th birthday. Field Marshal Montgomery will join 31 other Pipe bands from Northern Ireland.

    Glasgow is set to become the heart of the piping world, with over 200 bands and 8,000 musicians from 11 countries performing at a range of events taking place around the clock. Daily highlights include Pipe Idol and Pipe Band Parades, where international bands show off their repertoire throughout the streets of Glasgow.

    New Packages to Theatre of Dreams

    Thousands of Manchester United fans in Northern Ireland are set to travel to Manchester over the next nine months to see how United perform under new manager Louis van Gaal.

    As the air of anticipation grows amongst Man Utd supporters across the globe, the Province's leading independent specialist tour operator Travel Solutions is offering the club's huge local fan base an easy, hassle free opportunity to join in the excitement at Old Trafford.

    To mark the onset of the new van Gaal era, Travel Solutions, official agent for Manchester United in Northern Ireland, has launched a new range of match ticket and travel options by coach, ferry or air to the Theatre of Dreams including overnight ferry and coach packages from £179 and weekend trips with overnight accommodation from £279. And if you already have your match ticket purchased, fans can hop on the Old Trafford Express and travel by coach and ferry to Old Trafford and back for a bargain £89.

    Travel Solutions Managing Director and lifelong Manchester United fan Peter McMinn says: "From the days when our own George Best donned the famous red short at Old Trafford, Manchester United has always had a huge following in Northern Ireland and a special relationship with local fans so, as the club's official agent in Northern Ireland, we are delighted to be able to offer supporters a variety of hassle-free options to give them the chance to go and cheer on the team live during this exciting period."

    Pop Up Ethnic Bazaar at Mela Festival

    It's fashion retailing, but not as we know it! This year's Belfast Mela Festival at Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 24 will feature a pop up Ethnic Bazaar packed with specially selected Asian fashions, fabulous fabrics, and artefacts, all flown in direct from India courtesy of festival sponsors, Turkish Airlines.

    The unique, one-day-only shoppers' paradise will bring an extra dash of colour and fun to a global get-together filled with music, dance, food, cuisine and crafts. Visitors will be able to browse and buy exotic materials, embroideries, sumptuous silks, clothing and gifts as their own special memories of Belfast Mela 2014.

    Pictured preparing to be captivated by colour at Northern Ireland's largest festival of world cultures are Nizam Bulut, Corporate Account Executive for Turkish Airlines, a sponsor of Belfast Mela and Daliya Khadir from ArtsEkta's South Asian Dance Academy showing off some of the colourful outfits and gifts that will be on display in the Ethnic Bazaar.

    Around 30,000 Mela fans are expected to flock to Botanic Gardens, Belfast in Sunday 24 August to enjoy a packed programme running from 12 noon-6pm. On the day tickets are £5 for Adults, £4 for Concessions or £15 for Families, but canny festival goers can steal a march on the queues and secure discounts by booking online.

    Tell All About Your Health, Travellers Advised

    New research shows that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of UK holidaymakers who have enjoyed a trip overseas in the past two years had a serious or long term medical condition such as diabetes or a heart condition at the time.

    Of these travellers, 15 per cent admitted they had not told their travel insurer about their condition and 11 per cent said they only disclosed part of their medical history.

    The research shows that 11per cent of people admitted to jetting off without taking out any travel insurance. The survey disclosed that the average medical claim while abroad is £1,088, and for this reason, Sainsbury's Travel Insurance, who conducted the research, is reminding holidaymakers of the importance of having a good quality travel insurance policy in place before they travel.

    Crucially, travellers with a pre-existing medical condition or illness should tell their insurer before they go. Customers disclosing this information are usually told straight away if their condition can be covered under their policy. In the event of a medical emergency, those who have not disclosed a pre-existing medical condition could find their policy may not cover them for their claims relating to that illness.

    Sainsbury's Travel Insurance statistics reveal that Spain was the country where more British holidaymakers had to seek medical help than any other, followed by Greece and the USA. The average cost of medical treatment in Spain was £1,194, Greece just £462 and the USA £2,851.

    Artist's Family Workshops at Titanic

    Are you a fan of famous Edwardian novels and stories? Do you still enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes, Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind In The Willows, or Peter Pan? Do you love classic illustrated children's books?

    Then bring your family and children to a very special series of workshops with artist and illustrator Jonathan Barry, at the Andrews Gallery, Titanic Belfast on Saturday, August 23, 2014, and enjoy a day of art, literature, and storytelling.

    Jonathan Barry currently has a major exhibition of his paintings on show at Titanic Belfast until August 31. The purpose of these workshops is to give children and young people a chance to see Jonathan's exhibition first hand, and to meet personally with the artist.

    He will be reading extracts from some of the books he has illustrated, including The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter, and Dracula, and will be sharing his fascination and love for these stories. The Titanic is a subject the artist is passionate about, and during these talks Jonathan will discuss his series of Titanic paintings. The workshops will conclude with a visit by Jonathan and the children to the original Drawing Offices of Harland & Wolff, to see Thomas Andrew's Office.

    Workshop one starts at 10am and is suitable for 13 to 18-year-olds. Workshop two  begins at 2pm and is suitable for under 11's (plus parents).  Workshops are free attend but booking is essential please email or call 02890 730490 and quote NI Travel News.

    Venice Gives Thumbs Down to Large Cruise Ships

    The Italian government has confirmed that large cruise ships are to be barred from Venice's historic centre.

    The huge liners dubbed the 'skyscrapers of the sea' can currently can pass within 1,000ft of the iconic St. Mark's Square, granting a stunning view to those aboard but dwarfing Venice's Byzantine architecture.

    Now Italian ministers have reached the unanimous decision to stop liners of over 96,000 tonnes from sailing in Saint Mark's basin and the Giudecca Canal (the waterway which separates the main core of Venice from the separate island of Giudecca, immediately to the south).

    The news will be music to the ears of Venetians, environmentalists and the celebrities who have all voiced concern about tourist vessels sailing close to the fragile city.

    Chance to Blow In To the Windy City

    Scandinavian Airlines have just announced details of their latest seat sale which begins next Monday (August 18) and includes fares from Dublin to Chicago.

    Those booking with SAS before August 26, can take advantage of fares from just 677 Euro per person return. This price includes all taxes and charges and a 23kg baggage allowance, at no extra cost.

    Chicago has something to suit everyone - towering skyscrapers, golden beaches, fantastic shopping and colourful nightlife. The Windy City also offers almost 6,000 dining options meaning there is something for every taste palate.

    You can now also make your SAS travel experience even more enjoyable by upgrading to SAS Plus from as little as 41 Euro. With SAS plus you will receive a 2 x 23 kg checked baggage allowance, Business check-in, lounge and Fast Track security access, priority boarding and baggage retrieval. You will also be treated to seating at the front of the aircraft and complimentary food and drinks on-board.

    This special booking offer runs from August 18 to 26 for travel between November 2, 2014 and April 30, 2015.

    Afternoon Tea in Aid of Habitat for Humanity

    Local ladies enjoyed a day of Prosecco and Afternoon Tea last Friday in the delightful surroundings of Brownlow House in Lurgan in aid of the Travel Trade Big Build in support of Habitat for Humanity.

    Guests were welcomed to the afternoon's festivities with Prosecco reception and the calming music of a harpist and violinist.

    A raffle also offered everyone the opportunity to win some fantastic prizes including: a Boots Hamper, Perfume Set and Voucher for Lunch at Lurgan Castle. A total of £1,620 was raised for the Big Build in Romania next month.

    A group of travel trade representatives from across the Province are gearing up to travel to Beius in Romania for the "BIG BUILD" in support of Habitat for Humanity (Northern Ireland), where they will build a house in just five days - yes five days!

    Habitat for Humanity is a global housing organisation that brings together people of all races and nationalities to build homes, communities and hope. Habitat has a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live and since 1976 has served more than 800,000 families worldwide by building and renovating homes; by advocating for fair housing policies and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.

    Working directly with the community, together they really will build a home in five days... from the foundations up!

    You can donate to this worthy cause via the JustGiving Page, and you can also see our fun video of the day on our YouTube Channel.


    Thursday August 7, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Another New European Route from Belfast

    Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, has announced a new twice weekly service from Belfast to Vilnius which will commence on April 22, 2015. The new service will initially operate on Wednesdays and Sundays.

    The route to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a welcome return to Northern Ireland for the airline. Wizz operated two routes to Poland from Belfast International Airport a few years ago, before withdrawing from the marketplace here. By adding Belfast once again to its growing route network, Wizz Air now operates over 300 routes across 36 countries and provides millions of passengers with air travel throughout Europe, low fares and what it says is a friendly, consumer oriented service. Seats on the new Belfast-Vilnius route are already on sale from just £39.99 and can be booked on the airline's website.

    Wizz Air's Daniel de Carvalho said: "Wizz Air is delighted to announce its new Belfast route to the people of Northern Ireland, who will now have now access to our low fares. Our first destination from Belfast is Vilnius, the second biggest city of the Baltic states with a rich cultural heritage. With fares starting from just £39.99, we hope that this route will be as popular as the other over 300 routes in Wizz Air's network."

    Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport, said: "The addition of Vilnius to our growing portfolio of routes is a welcome development and brings Wizz back into the Northern Ireland marketplace. Vilnius opens up a completely new market for Northern Ireland and comes on the back of recent route announcements to Reykjavik, Prague and Zante."

    Belfast's Unique Global Get-Together Launched

    Northern Ireland's largest annual celebration of cultural diversity was officially launched in a wave of excitement, exotic aromas, dance, art and music on board SS Nomadic in Belfast's Titanic Quarter yesterday. Sponsors, performers, friends and supporters gathered for a colourful curtain raiser which gave an early glimpse of what will be happening when Mela fever descends on Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 24.

    For the eighth year in succession, Belfast Mela will transform the city park into a unique global get-together, filled with music, dance, food, fashion, cuisine and crafts. The dazzling day of diversity is expected to attract more than 25,000 people to celebrate the great big beautiful world together, making this a highpoint of Northern Ireland's social and cultural calendar as well as a significant tourist attraction.

    Unveiling the 2014 programme, Nisha Tandon, Director of ArtsEkta, the organisation behind Belfast Mela, said: "The resulting eclectic mix will see Botanic Gardens bursting into life with an amazing mix of sights, smells, sounds and sensations, revealing a wonderfully vibrant wealth and variety of culture in its many forms."

    The event will run in Botanic Gardens, Belfast from 12 noon to 6pm on Sunday, August 24, 2014. On the day tickets are £5 for Adults, £4 for Concessions or £15 for Families. Canny festival-goers can steal a march on the queues and secure discounts by booking online at .

    Pictured above right at the launch are Mukesh Sharma, Board Member of ArtsEkta, Nizam Bulut (centre), Corporate Account Manager for sponsors Turkish Airlines, event host Julian Simmons from UTV with Leona (6), far left, and Cody (9) Kernaghan from East Belfast.

    Family Fun Special to Scottish Theme Park

    With still lots of time left to enjoy family fun this summer, leading ferry company Stena Line has a thrilling day trip travel offer to M&D's Theme Park near Glasgow that will appeal to adventurers and lovers of fun, from only £28 per person.

    M&D's has Scotland's biggest collection of roller coasters and water rides as well as miniature golf, indoor bowling and Amazonia, Scotland's only indoor tropical rainforest packed with exotic animals and birds.

    From only £28 per person, families travelling from Belfast to Cairnryan can treat themselves to an action packed day trip which includes an unlimited ride wristband and a great range of rides to suit all ages including the Big Wheel, Disco Boats, Tsunami and White Water. Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications, Diane Poole OBE, says that a day trip to M&D's will offer families a day out to remember this summer.

    "Thrill seekers will love M&D's as it has something for everyone to enjoy from youngsters to big kids alike. Families can choose from daily travel options during August and on Saturdays and Sundays until October 19. The fun starts as soon as you step onboard the Stena Line ferry with free movies, kids play areas, a Nordic Spa and free Wi-Fi providing a relaxed, stress-free way to cross the Irish Sea."

    For more information or to make a booking contact Stena Line, log on to the Stena website or see your local travel agent.

    South Africa Top Long Haul Value for Money

    South Africa is the leading long-haul destination for value for money, compared to other popular destinations, including Brazil, Mexico, Florida, Malaysia and Antigua, research has revealed. Analysis shows that UK travellers' holiday spend goes 40 per cent further in South Africa compared to say for example Brazil, setting for the recent World Cup, thanks to the incredible value the rand currently offers to the British pound.

    A holiday for two adults to Cape Town was estimated at a massive 80 per cent less than the equivalent stay in Rio, Brazil, at £1,043 per person. The average cost of a four-star hotel in Cape Town is £120 per night for one adult couple sharing, compared to Rio, where the average cost for a similar offering is £334 - a whopping difference of 179 per cent, says the analysis by foreign exchange company Currencies Direct.

    "The South African rand is currently trading at a very low rate in comparison to the pound and clients booking to travel to South Africa are benefitting from outstanding value for money," confirms Product Manager at independent UK tour operator Premier Holidays, John Parker. "The resulting cost of many holidays to South Africa has fallen by to 10 to 15 per cent compared to 12 months ago. As a result, we have seen both an increase in the number of bookings travelling to South Africa in 2014 and an increase in the length of average stay. And once clients arrive in South Africa they are always amazed at just how little they are having to pay locally for their food, drink and shopping."

    Local Tour Operator Boom in Sales

    The Province's leading independent specialist tour operator has announced a significant 21 per cent increase in travel agents sales from January to June of this year.

    Belfast-based operator Travel Solutions reveals that travel agent sales of its wide range of air and coach packages have increased a fifth year on year with Jersey being one of the most popular destinations.

    These positive figures come after the company's recent announcement of the expansion of its business with the launch of a new Balkan Ski division meaning they are the only tour operator in Northern Ireland or the Republic to offer winter ski holidays to Bulgaria. Since launching in May, the ski programme has already sold up to 60 per cent of its capacity.

    Said Travel Solutions Managing Director Peter McMinn: "We are delighted to announce a 21 per cent increase in travel agent sales which is great news for the local travel industry as a whole and shows that travel agents offer a unique service that can be difficult to find anywhere else.

    "With the recent launch of our ski division, we can offer customers even more choice and variety with holidays available to resorts such as Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko. Our latest figures show that people are returning to their local travel agent or booking their holidays with a tried and trusted tour operator whose knowledge and expertise can take the stress out of booking a holiday and assure customers that they will get exactly the kind of holiday they want."

    Bring Friends and Family for Free Promo

    Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the launch of its 'Bring your Friends and Family for Free' promotion in the UK. The campaign began yesterday and will continue for 20 days until Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

    Those booking during this time will benefit from a free cruise for extra third to eight guests, children or adults, sharing a suite or stateroom with two full paying passengers. The offer is available on selected cruises departing from September 2014 through to April 2015 on four of Norwegian's most popular ships including the three newest members of the fleet: Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.

    The offer is applicable for selected cruises on the following ships and sail date ranges: Norwegian Breakaway, September 7, 2014 to April 19 2015; Norwegian Epic September 28, 2014 to April 19, 2015; Norwegian Getaway, August 30, 2014 to April 18, 2015; Norwegian Jade, November 1, 2014 to April 8, 2015. Some exclusion dates apply and the offer is subject to availability.

    Holiday Budget Benefits from Rise in Confidence

    A new report out today finds that a rise in consumer confidence means people are now less likely to cut back on their holiday budget compared to 12 months ago.

    More than half (53 per cent) of consumers in the UK said last year they intended to cut back on holiday expenditure in the coming months, compared to four in 10 (38 per cent) in 2014.

    Households spend on average £1,750 a year on holiday, excluding flights, according to the poll of 2,086 people for consumer watchdog Which?

    It disclosed the top five problems experienced with a holiday in the UK or abroad in the last two years were: Delays or cancellations with flights; Long waits to reclaim baggage; Accommodation being different to what was described; Delays or cancellations with other forms of transport; and Lack of information regarding delays, cancellations or other problems by staff.

    Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has today announced a 6.2 per cent increase in passengers during July compared to the same month last year.

    Pop Star Helps Launch New Perth Service

    International superstar Ronan Keating joined a line-up of VIPs at the official launch of Etihad Airways new daily services between Perth and Abu Dhabi this week.

    The gala event, before 300 guests including dignitaries from the two countries, was hosted by the airline's Chief Commercial Officer, Peter Baumgartner who thanked guests for the support they had given the UAE flag carrier for the successful launch of its new Perth services.

    Etihad Airways commenced daily, non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Perth in mid-July with an Airbus A330-200 offering 22 seats in business class and 240 in the economy cabin. Etihad operates a highly successful daily service from Dublin to Abu Dhabi.

    Save Money With New Riviera Pass!

    Heading to Nice and the Cote d'Azur in the south of France can save money with the great new French Riviera Pass!

    With this one card, holidaymakers will be able to go from an open top bus tour of Nice to any number of the city's fantastic museums such as The Terra Amata Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The pass also allows access to a great selection of popular tourist attractions in around the area including; the Jardin Exotique in Monaco and the Renoir Museum in Cagnes.

    The passes are available in 24 hour, 48 hour and 72 hour durations with prices starting at just 26 Euro for the 24 hour pass. There is also the option to adding free travel in the Nice Cote d'Azur Metropolis area for the duration of your pass for an extra 4 Euro a day.

    The Riveria Pass really is great value for money as many of the attractions it includes normally charge for access. For example, an open top bus tour of Nice normally costs 22 Euro while the Mobilboard Nice Segway costs 17 Euro - with a French Riviera Pass, these are both free.

    For more information on the French Rivera Pass visit


    Thursday July 31, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    European Health Card Vital for Travellers

    A new survey has revealed that one in three UK holidaymakers don't travel with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles them to reduced or free medical care in the European Economic Area (EEA).

    Travelling without an EHIC could see UK holidaymakers stuck with hefty medical costs, if they fall ill or have an accident.

    The EHIC is available to all UK residents and allows travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals within the EEA. The EHIC allows travellers to get treatment on the same basis (for example, free or at a reduced cost) as people who live in that country. Holidaymakers need both their EHIC and travel insurance, as EHIC does not cover all medical costs, dental treatment or the cost of repatriation.

    Lee Taylor of insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance UK says: "It is really important to travel with an EHIC and adequate travel insurance cover, yet our survey shows that one in three UK travellers don't take an EHIC with them to Europe. This puts them at huge risk, if they need medical care abroad. An EHIC card is essential for anyone to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area countries.

    "We also urge holidaymakers to ensure they book the right level of travel insurance, declaring all medical conditions, as falling ill or needing emergency support abroad can be very costly. Travellers need to be aware of the risks they face, whether that's delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage or something more serious such as an accident or illness."

    Four New Routes and Big Expansion Plans

    Sister brands and Jet2holidays have announced major expansion plans for Belfast International Airport, with a number of new routes, an additional aircraft, more seats for summer 2015 and more than 80 new jobs.

    Four new destinations will be served direct from Belfast, two great city break spots, Prague and Rome and the sizzling sunshine hotspots Gran Canaria and Zante.

    The introduction of these routes, along with the addition of a third dedicated aircraft, will see operate its biggest ever flying programme from Belfast International Airport next year with over 250,000 seats available for local passengers, more than 70 services a week operating to 16 in demand sun and city destinations and increased frequency of flights to the popular destination of Malaga.

    Jet2holidays is also celebrating an increase in customer numbers, with bookings up a massive 50 per cent year on year. As a result of this continued expansion by both businesses, 86 new jobs will be created at the airport. Roles available will include flight and cabin crew, engineers and ground operations staff.

    Steve Heapy, CEO of and Jet2holidays said: "In our tenth year of flying from Belfast International Airport we are thrilled to be announcing major growth plans for summer 2015. Since our first flight took off we've not only increased capacity but we have also grown our destinations from two to 16. With our fantastic range of destinations, coupled with great flight times and award winning customer service, we are confident we have the right mix to cement our position as one of the leading leisure operators at Belfast International Airport."

    Fear of Flying Course Landing in October

    If you have a Fear of Flying, you're not alone - approximately one in six of us has some kind of anxiety about flying. There are courses to help you overcome your fear, and Belfast International Airport is working with easyJet to bring their highly successful Fearless Flyer programme to Belfast International Airport.

    The next course will take place on: Friday, October 10, 2014 with the experience flight on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

    The course is in two parts, a Ground Course which lasts around three hours which will take you through all the technical aspects of flying and worries you may have about turbulence or all those strange noises you hear on an aircraft. It will also teach you a series of techniques to help you manage and then conquer your fear.

    The next day, you'll go on an Experience flight from Belfast International Airport - a one hour flight accompanied by all the Fearless Flyer team - which will allow you to put all you've learnt into practice.

    The cost is £189 including the Experience Flight and you can bring a companion with you on the Experience Flight for just £69.

    Rail and Sail Offer on Right Track

    Leading ferry company, Stena Line is on the right track with its latest rail and sail offer from Belfast which gives people the chance to sail from Belfast-Cairnryan or Belfast-Liverpool from as little as £29 (conditions apply) per adult single then travel to destinations all over Great Britain by train.

    "Our Rail and Sail fare is simplicity itself", said Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line. "Customers book their train tickets and ferry tickets in one go making it a very efficient process. The fares are also phenomenal value meaning it can be a really cost effective way to get city-to-city with the whole family."

    On arrival in Liverpool or Cairnryan you will travel by rail link coach to the station where you can then catch a train to many destinations across Great Britain including London, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.

    Passengers travelling on the Belfast-Cairnryan route can also experience the Pure Nordic Spa where they can relax in the sauna or enjoy an invigorating massage, ensuring they arrive at their destination revived and rejuvenated.

    For a full list of Rail and Sail fares log onto the Stena website, contact the company directly or visit your local travel agent.

    Landmark Deal with Student Travel Specialists

    Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, has announced a landmark deal with STA Travel confirming its status as the 'Preferred Partner for Student and Youth Travel' which will see a range of affordable seat fares offered for sale across Flybe's extensive 180+ route network to STA Travel's customer base.

    STA Travel is the world's largest student and youth travel company, operating in over 63 countries including Northern Ireland, and has more than 230 retail stores globally in addition to its web booking engine that offers 24/7 global travel help. It has a high profile through a number of promotional tools including the wide use of social media channels, a database of more than 2.4 million and knowledgeable in-store travel experts who provide peer-to-peer advice to customers.

    This, with a product range that matches the price and performance expectations of its customers and weekly 'hot deals' displayed across all 50 of STA Travel's UK stores, means that Flybe will be afforded the benefit of high prominence within this relatively untapped and hugely active travel sector.

    WWI Exhibition in Dublin Cathedral

    For those visiting Dublin on a short break, or just passing through the city, the historic Saint Patrick's Cathedral has launched a specially commissioned monument and exhibition to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

    The 'Lives Remembered' exhibition is themed around remembrance of those affected by conflict, not only in World War One but in any context. At the centre of the new exhibition is a new monument called the 'Tree of Remembrance', on which members of the public are invited to tie their own messages of remembrance.

    The 'Lives Remembered' exhibition will build on Saint Patrick's historic reputation as an important centre of remembrance, and will be open for the next four years.

    Already, there are nearly 200 plaques and monuments throughout the Cathedral, commemorating individuals and families. A short video on the 'Tree of Remembrance' can be viewed online. For further details on the exhibition and wider activities at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, visit the website.

    Tourist Attraction Guide for the Less Mobile

    Silver Travel Advisor, the travel review and advice site for the over 50s, has produced the latest in its series of mini guides, an eight page review of some of Britain's top tourist attractions for older and less mobile visitors.

    Included in the guide are 25 accessible Great British days out, ranging from gardens to railways, country houses to museums, with full details of their suitability for older visitors and their carers. The guide features attractions across Britain and is Silver Travel Advisor's pick of the most suitable venues for older, less mobile or visually impaired visitors. It is available free of charge by post or via download.

    Silver Travel Advisor's MD Debbie Marshall said: "Each site featured in the guide has been visited first hand by our researchers, who understand the needs of the older visitor who may have limited mobility or accessibility requirements. Our writers researched ramps, lifts, disabled toilets, wheelchair and scooter hire, parking, facilities for the visually impaired, rest seats, hearing loops and cafe facilities to come up with an informed and useful guide that will be invaluable for older people."

    Silver Travel Advisor's Accessible Attractions Guide is available by post free of charge by contacting This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with a postal address. An electronic guide can also be downloaded from their website.

    Stunning Shopping Bargains in the States

    With the current pound/dollar exchange rate at a three year high, shopping in the US means bagging a bargain, especially in Kissimmee where outlet malls and speciality shops offer even more for British travellers to enjoy.

    For instance you can save up to 65 per cent at Orlando Premium Outlets, on premium brands including Michael Kors, Victoria's Secret, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. With nearly 200 stores, there's a wide mix of clothing, homeware, accessories and gifts from hundreds of designers.

    And for factory-direct quality merchandise hit Lake Buena Vista Factory stores for bargains of up to 75 per cent off full retail price. Located just outside of Walt Disney World, the outlet village is nicely spread out and features more than 50 favourite stores. Guests will find stores such as the Disney Store outlet, Gap Outlet, Converse and there's even a Samsonite Factory Store for visitors to haul home their new goods. They even offer free shuttle service to and from selected hotels in Kissimmee.

    For some classic American high street favourites, the Loop features a mix of department stores and smaller boutiques providing a variety of choices ranging from  electronic goods, books, music, crafts and of course clothing.

    With an abundance of department stores including JC Penney, Kohls, Ross and Bealls, it brings together the ultimate American. For more information on Kissimmee shopping visit


    No More Visas for Mongolia, Reveals Local Consul

    For those of you with a more adventurous streak when it comes to overseas travel, it should be noted that visas will no longer be required to one of Asia's most interesting and far-flung destinations - Mongolia.

    In fact, according to Mongolia's Bangor-based Honorary Consul in the Province, Richard Holmes (who many NI Travel News readers will remember penned a feature on the country in the paper a couple of years ago) visas will no longer be required by UK or Irish passport holders intending to travel to Mongolia for tourism and business purposes for stays of up to 30 days.

    "Given that all visitors previously had to obtain a visa in advance, the present change will no doubt provide a tourism boost to Mongolia, a fascinating country which offers tremendous opportunities for both eco-tourism combined with the unique heritage and culture of the Mongolian people," says Richard.

    Mongolia is becoming increasingly more accessible through a growing number of international flight connections including those via Istanbul, Frankfurt, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing. Mongolia is also a popular stopover on the epic Trans Siberian train journey from Moscow to Beijing.

    For more details you can contact Richard Holmes, Honorary Consul of Mongolia on: 0779 0654247 or email.


    Thursday July 24, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Virgin Atlantic Flies From Belfast Next Summer

    Next summer Northern Ireland holidaymakers will be able to fly from Belfast to Orlando on Virgin Atlantic.

    The airline says it is expanding its existing Orlando services to help meet high demand to one of its flagship leisure destinations and will be the only scheduled airline to fly this route.

    Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said: "I am delighted we are able to offer customers in Northern Ireland the opportunity to travel on Virgin Atlantic to one of our most popular leisure destinations next summer. It's incredibly important to us to offer customers from all across the UK access to our long haul network during peak travel periods."

    Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport added: "This is one of the most exciting announcements we have had at Belfast International Airport in recent years. We are delighted that an airline with the status and reputation of Virgin Atlantic has decided to expand its network by adding Northern Ireland departures. This will be the only Virgin branded operation from the island of Ireland to an incredibly popular holiday destination."

    "The route will form part of Virgin Atlantic's Joint Venture with Delta Air Lines, with the US carrier offering the service for sale under the codeshare agreement. Customers will be able to use Delta's services out of Orlando International Airport to connect onwards in the US, for example from Orlando to Dallas, Texas.

    A Boeing 747-400 aircraft will operate the seasonal service on Thursdays in June and July, commencing on June 25, 2015. The aircraft will be configured with 14 Upper Class seats, 66 Premium Economy seats and 375 seats in Economy.

    Save on Parking by Booking Online

    Consumer Council research has revealed that consumers can save up to 60 per cent by pre-booking on-site long stay airport car parking instead of paying at the gate.

    A saving of up to £52 is currently possible for a pre-booked stay of 14 days, meaning that passengers can have more money to spend at the other end of their flight or to pay for that extra suitcase.

    With the cost of airport car-parking a concern for passengers jetting off on holiday or for work, the Consumer Council has compared the on-site long stay parking tariffs of the three NI airports and found that pre-booking car parking came out on top as the best value for money.

    Speaking about the results of the research, Jenny Robinson from the Consumer Council said: "The savings for booking car parking in advance can be significant. What is obvious is that consumers aren't getting the best price possible when they pay at the gate. For a ten day stay we found that £33 can be saved at George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA), a £36 saving at Belfast International Airport (BIA) and a £39 saving at City of Derry Airport (CODA) by pre-booking car parking.

    "The most important thing is that passengers have a choice, they can shop around and don't have to pay a premium to park their car if they consider all their options before setting off. Booking car parking even a week in advance of your trip can see a substantial saving whilst public transport and taxis are also alternatives."

    New Refuel Menu from Flybe Launched

    Flybe has launched its brand new on-board 'Refuel' menu that features an enhanced choice of good value breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages with healthier options and produce from much-loved foodie brands, all of which reflect the energy and vibrancy of Flybe's ongoing brand.

    The revitalised menu focuses on elevating the airline's customer experience by creating more quality choice, stand-out service and product delivery. 'Refuel' has been shaped by customer research conducted earlier this year that confirmed the airline's passengers' desire for healthier, higher quality products.

    Creating a 'deli in the sky' feel, with a hand-picked selection of grazing-inspired options, key menu additions include a Tapas Special with basil and garlic olives, chorizo, breadsticks, savour crackers, hummus, Mediterranean vegetable pate and Pimms, and The Food Doctor's couscous and lentil wholesome pot. There's also a healthy range of products from Saviour Snacks.

    Flybe's Director of Marketing Martin Smith commented: "The insight from our research was very clear - only the right choice of on-board food and beverages, coupled with good value pricing, will be enticing to passengers. So we've listened closely to what our customers said they would like and, as a result, have made some radical enhancements to the menu to meet, and hopefully exceed, the needs of those who choose to fly with us."

    Etihad Flights Increased to 10 Weekly

    Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has increased its Abu Dhabi-Dublin service from 10 flights per week, to double daily.

    The frequency boost of 40 per cent now provides 8,988 seats each week between the capital city of the UAE and Dublin.

    The schedule for the double daily flights will ensure connectivity both ways with 800 weekly connections to 45 Etihad Airways destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and India including Bangkok, Beijing, Brisbane, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Perth, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

    The announcement of the increase also marks the commencement of Etihad Airways services to the Western Australian city of Perth. The airline will offer six weekly flights from Dublin to Perth with seamless connections at its Abu Dhabi hub.

    France Rejects Hike in Tourist Tax

    France has thrown out plans to hike its tourist tax by 500 per cent.

    Parliament had supported the proposal which would see a tax of £6.40 a night (8 Euros), rather than the current £1.20 (1.50 Euros). In Paris this figure would rise to £8 per bed night (10 Euros) to pay for transport infrastructure projects.

    But the National Assembly rejected the increase with a large majority of 92 votes against 10.

    Laurent Fabius, the foreign secretary, had said the measure was "dangerous and totally contrary to the promotion of tourism, a priority for jobs".

    Strong Pound Sees Resort Prices Come Down

    The strong pound is making most European destinations cheaper this summer but the Costa del Sol and Sunny Beach in Bulgaria come out cheapest for family meals and drinks.

    According to the Post Office Travel Money Family Holiday Report, Sunny Beach has seen an 18.1 per cent year-on-year fall in prices.

    Sorrento, despite still being the most expensive resort to eat out in, has seen meal costs plunge 39 per cent year on year.

    In the Croatian resort of Porec, meal prices have fallen by over 46 per cent, however, local prices in Marmaris, Turkey, have risen by more than 7 per cent.

    Resort spending is also on the up with holidaymakers saying they have spent 16.5 per cent more than previous holidays.

    Research revealed that Croatia is 50 per cent cheaper than last year, while Corfu and Samos are 8 per cent cheaper.

    Further afield the Caribbean island of Dominican Republic is 23 per cent cheaper than the previous year, while holidays to Barbados and St Lucia are also both down on average 20 per cent.

    Spain remains the number one destination for the UK holiday market, says ABTA, as operators and agents prepare for the school holidays while Florida remains the number one long haul choice for families while Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris and New York are top of the list for short breaks.

    'Swim Safe' Campaign by ABTA

    ABTA has launched a campaign urging holidaymakers to "swim safe" this summer. The campaign will reveal research from YouGov about holiday swimming habits and provide tips on how to be water aware this summer.

    ABTA has developed advice on its website and will be distributing tips across its social media channels throughout the summer. The Association is also urging its travel agent members to help get the message across to their clients.

    The campaign is running in association with the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) whose recent drowning prevention week highlighted the need for water safety campaigning. It is also supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

    "Swimming is an important part of so many people's holidays, and as we head into peak summer season, we will be reminding holidaymakers to follow some straightforward tips to ensure they 'swim safe'," said Victoria Bacon, ABTA's Head of Communications.

    Turkish Airlines Scoops Top Awards Again

    Turkish Airlines, which operates a daily service to Istanbul from Dublin and is looking at starting a service from Belfast, has been chosen Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Southern Europe and awarded Best Business Class Onboard Catering and Best Business Class Lounge Dining in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards.

    Skytrax had become the world leader in ranking aviation services. With no outside sponsorship, advertising or influence, it is the most respected global airline passenger study in the industry.

    This year's awards were based on the results of over 18 million passenger surveys, with more than 105 nationalities participating, covering 245 airlines. Turkish Airlines scored a resounding success at the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards, with air travellers voting the airline as the Best Airline in Europe, the fourth year running.

    By adding 'Flying Chef' service for Business Class passengers on its all long-haul and some of short-haul international flights, Turkish Airlines has been also named as the winner in the category, Best Business Class Catering. And was also awarded in the category, Best Business Class Lounge Dining for its seamless catering service that has been offered in its newest addition to the guest comfort; its expanded and refurbished lounge at Ataturk Airport, Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul.

    The results of the 2014 World Airline Awards were announced recently at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

    Increased Security on Flights to the US

    The recent security crackdown means that all passengers flying into or out of the UK must ensure all electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are sufficiently charged to be turned on.

    Any devices that can't be turned on might be confiscated, the Department for Transport has warned.

    Passengers flying from the UK to the United States had already been advised of the new rule, which is in line with new security measures introduced in the US in response to a terror threat. The DfT has now extended the ruling to other flights to and from the UK. In a statement it said: "In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft.

    "Passengers flying into or out of the UK are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel."

    The Department said that "for obvious reasons" it would not elaborate on the routes affected.


    Thursday July 3, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Belfast-Istanbul Service Planned for 2016

    Belfast will have a much sought-after and long overdue global airline operating direct flights to the Continent and onwards to around 300 world destinations in two years time.

    It's expected that rapidly expanding global carrier Turkish Airlines will begin operating a three or four rotations a week service from Belfast International Airport to the airline's hub airport, Istanbul Ataturk the year after next - 2016.

    The prospect of the world's fastest growing airline, which currently operates 12 flights a week from Dublin to Istanbul, took a giant step closer recently with the opening of an office at Belfast International Airport for the first Honorary Turkish Consul to be appointed in Northern Ireland, former Ulster Unionist Party Chairman David Campbell.

    It's understood that Turkish Airlines are keen to operate the route - it's just a question of completing final negotiations with government and deciding on the number of rotations and a start-up date.

    Turkish Airlines has one of the newest fleets in the world, with aircraft averaging just over four years old. And in the next couple of years the airline's current fleet will almost double to 450 aircraft. The airline's Dublin service has been highly successful, increasing from 4-5 flights a week a few years ago to its current 12 a week.

    Overseas Holidays Boosted by Stronger Sterling

    Sterling this week reached a six-year high against the dollar after expectations that the Bank of England will become the first major central bank to raise interest rates.

    The pound has risen by about 11 per cent against the dollar and 7 per cent against the euro in the past year, the strongest performance of any of the major developed country currencies.

    And sterling increased another 0.3 per cent against the dollar on Tuesday to trade at $1.7146, the highest since late 2008, and 0.4 per cent against the European single currency to 1.2539 Euro.

    The strength of sterling makes holidays in the US and the Euro-zone less expensive. It is also strong against many other world currencies, particularly the South African rand.

    Get Your Passport First, Then Book...!

    Local travellers are being warned that they will face the same delays as the rest of the UK when it comes to getting their passports on time.

    A common perception is that because there is a Passport Office in Belfast local travellers are not affected to the same degree by the current nationwide backlog.

    But travellers are being warned of the possibility of delays in receiving their new passports because of the national log jam.

    A spokesperson for the Passport Office said that it "is normal to see an increase in demand at this time of year as people renew their passports ahead of their summer holidays", but confirmed that the demand "has been far greater this year".

    A UK Passport Office spokesperson said that there are 346,350 more applications in the system than at this time last year! And the Passport Office is giving applicants the advice: Get your Passport First, then Book Your Holiday.

    Sound of Music on the High Seas

    Leading ferry company Stena Line has launched an exciting programme of evening entertainment cruises from only £29 per person including a meal this summer and autumn.

    Music lovers will be treated to a series of star-studded tribute acts which span the decades and feature icons like pop diva, Lady Gaga to Swedish foursome, Abba.

    Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line, said: "Our entertainment cruises are bigger and better than ever and we're delighted to have such a wonderful variety of performers for customers to choose from. This is a great way to enjoy a night out that's a bit different with a group of friends, work colleagues or you could even treat your parents or siblings."

    'Dancing Queens' can relive the 70's and 80's and enjoy the Abba Tribute on June 21 and 22 whilst fans of the 'King' can rock and roll along to the Elvis Tribute show on July 25. For those who would like to be transported back to the nostalgia of the swinging sixties, and beyond, make sure you get your 'Ticket to Ride' for the Beatles Tribute. Other entertainment nights feature tribute acts to Michael Buble, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Tom Jones, Meatloaf and Pavarotti. "Make sure you book early to so you don't miss your favourite act," Diane added.

    Cost of Roaming in EU Cut by Half

    From July 1 travellers in the EU will see a big cut in the cost of roaming, with data charges dropping 55 per cent or more compared to last summer.

    After enforcing a series of reductions in voice and data roaming charges across the European Union over the last four years, European Vice President Neelie Kroes is ready to take the ultimate step of abolishing roaming charges entirely by late 2015.

    She says she hopes to win the support of national telecommunications ministers for that by the end of this year.

    "In 2014 we can finally say that the telcom sector is getting the message about roaming," Kroes said, adding that many companies are bringing in prices and plans below the price ceiling set by the Commission.

    Avoid Being Caught Out at Car Hire Return

    A surprising 52 per cent of people have never thought of purchasing a car hire excess policy, or have never heard that such policies exist, according to recent research by

    Thirteen per cent of those surveyed on car hire received charges to their credit card due to damages such as small scratches, windscreen cracks and lost keys.

    Purchasing a car hire excess policy before reaching the car hire excess desk can save holidaymakers up to 2,000 Euro, and yet many choose to ignore this saving. have put together a list of five top tips for holidaymakers to ensure that they don't get ripped off by their chosen car hire company. The company advises: Bring your own car seats; Check the fuel policy before you arrive; Check for damage before you leave; Hand the keys back to the desk; and Check for Hidden closts before you choose your company. offer holidaymakers cover from as little as 2.99 Euro per day for European rentals and from just 49.99 Euro per year.

    Aer Lingus Moves to T2 Next Wednesday

    Aer Lingus will move its operations to Terminal 2, to be known as 'The Queen's Terminal', from next Wednesday, July 9. All Aer Lingus flights to and from London Heathrow, including the one from Belfast City, will operate from Terminal 2 from that date.

    One of the main benefits for customers will be a 50 per cent reduction in gate to kerb time. Transferring to other flights will be seamless and same terminal connections will be possible with a number of Aer Lingus partner airlines. Arriving into T2 will be quick and easy with direct access to all of the transport links, including Heathrow Express meaning Paddington Station can be reached in only 15 minutes.

    Aer Lingus Business Class and Gold Circle customers will have use of Gold Circle check-in and fast track security facilities. The Gold Circle Lounge, which will accommodate 130 customers, will be 50 per cent larger than the current lounge at Heathrow and has been designed to the highest levels of comfort and style.

    Around the World in 115 Days!

    Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises opened the books today on its World Cruise 2016, an extraordinary 115-day sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Venice, departing January 5, 2016.

    This far-reaching cultural exploration will be hosted aboard the elegant, all-suite Silver Whisper, enabling travellers to journey in unsurpassed luxury across six continents as they visit 51 destinations in 31 countries, enjoying 13 multi-day port calls along the way, plus many late-night departures.

    Named 'Venetian World Odyssey 2016', the epic voyage will follow a westward path from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to South America and the Pacific. Guests will explore the island paradises of the South Seas, including Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, and Bora Bora before sailing to the most desirable destinations of New Zealand, Australia, and Asia, including vibrant Hong Kong and Singapore, the enticing resorts of Bali and Phuket, and mysterious Myanmar. The odyssey will continue to exotic India, Arabia, and timeless Mediterranean hideaways before concluding with two nights in magnificent Venice.

    Before you rush to your local travel agent, the air-inclusive fares for the World Cruise 2016 start at a cool £37,950 per person, based on double occupancy.

    Increased Security on Flights to the US

    Security is being stepped up in the UK at airports with transatlantic services to the US after new intelligence information from the US Depart of Homeland Security.

    A spokesman for the UK Department for Transport said that a decision had been taken to "step up some of our aviation security measures". However, it said that the "majority of passengers should not experience significant disruption."

    With a daily New York service, Belfast International Airport is one of the affected airports, and travellers to the USA - and even those checking in around the same time as the US flight - are advised to leave plenty of time for possible increased security measures.


    Page 83 of 85

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