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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.


Thursday June 26, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Falcon Responds to Greek Holiday Boom for 2015

The Greek Islands are increasing in popularity among Northern Ireland holidaymakers, particularly families, as revealed at the launch of Falcon Holidays 2015 Summer Programme in Belfast today.

The numbers travelling to the Greek Islands on package holidays in the Province has steadily increased over the last number of years with Falcon's programme to Corfu proving welcome news as it took flight earlier this summer.

Speaking at the launch of Falcon Holiday's 2015 Summer Programme, Head of Ireland, TUI UK and Ireland, Carol Anne O'Neill said: "It's encouraging to note that the Greek market is becoming increasingly popular in Northern Ireland and since Corfu is a recent addition to our sun programme we expect this trend to grow even further. SplashWorld Resorts and Holidays Villages continue to be a firm favourite for holidaymakers in Northern Ireland, particularly families and we're delighted to offer a new SplashWorld Resort in Menora, available directly from Belfast International Airport."

Northern Ireland holidaymakers will be spoilt for choice in Summer 2015 as Falcon now offers 11 Holiday Villages in favourite locations such as Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, Costa del Sol, Lanzarote and Tenerife to name but a few. This year in fact marks the 10th anniversary of the exclusive Holiday Village concept which has everything a family could need or want in one holiday destination.

As a booking incentive Falcon says it has thousands of free child places on offer and you can save up to £300 when you book as a couple in selected properties across a range of destinations. A limited number of free room and board upgrades are available for holidays booked before January 31, 2015 and free group places are on offer throughout the summer.

Good News for Travellers to the US

There's good news for holidaymakers on the eve of the main summer holiday season. The pound sterling hit a near five-year high against the dollar recently making US holidays in the weeks ahead great value for money.

Sterling broke through the $1.70 exchange mark for the first time since August 2009 recently although it has since fallen back slightly. South Africa is another destination where UK travellers will get great value for their spending money.

The pound also managed some gains against the euro recently. It hit a 20-month high of 79.59p before easing back to around 79.85p against the European single currency, which has come under pressure as the European Central Bank loosens policy to tackle worryingly low inflation.

French Air Traffic Controllers Strike Ends

French air traffic controllers have ended their industrial action which has caused serious disruption of flights in the UK and Ireland over the last two days.

The strike was called off at midnight last night (Wednesday), and Ryanair, one of the hardest hit airlines which has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights over the past few days, saying it will operate a normal schedule today.

EasyJet said it was expecting "a fairly normal operating day" today. It added: "The level of disruption caused over the last two days is likely to have some knock on effect throughout today, so regrettably we could still see a number of delays while we fully recover, but we are working hard to minimise any impact to our customers."

Make Sure You're Covered for Strikes

Hundreds of Irish travellers were left stranded after their flights were grounded during two days of the French air traffic control strike which ended last night at midnight.

Insurance company travel insurance is now reminding travellers to be aware of what their travel insurance policy covers them for, should further strike action this summer affect their travel plans.

This French air traffic control strike is yet another stark reminder to travellers that strike action can occur at any time and without warning. This is why it is important to check what cover is provided under your travel policy in the event of a strike. Many travel insurance policies exclude cover for strike action and deem it the responsibility of the airlines to provide a refund to the customer for a cancelled flight or provide an option to travel on a different date.

Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director, says: "In light of this French air traffic control strike, it is important that customers are aware of what they are covered for in the event of strike action. It is unbelievable that 25 per cent of people are still travelling without travel insurance, especially as an annual European policy with is just 17.95 Euro. We are pleased to have the unique optional cover of 'Travel Disruption' available for unexpected costs incurred in making new arrangements due to strike action in addition to our strike cover."

Football Action on Irish Sea Ferries

Football fans won't have to miss out on the World Cup when they travel between now and Sunday, July 13 as Stena Line is showing the action onboard its Irish Sea ferries.

Passengers will also have the opportunity to enjoy some friendly competition with a World Cup fussball table in each of the bars and spot prizes. Other competitions include the 'Win in a Minute' competition with passengers winning an instant prize if they pick the time of the first goal in the live matches and a draw to win an official World Cup football shirt.

What's more, families still have the opportunity to set sail for less with Stena Line's great Kids Go Free offer which is available on all sailings from Belfast in June, July and August up until August 31 when booked at least seven days in advance and before June 30 2014.

For more information or to book contact Stena Line, go on to the company's website or visit your local travel agent.

Half Price Discounts on Older BA 747s

British Airways is to offer First Class seats on some of its older Boeing 747s at up to 50 per cent discounts from the winter, shortly before retiring the aircraft altogether.

The airline said that as the 'hardware' in the premium cabin in the older jumbos was no longer what First Class customers expected, the seats would be sold at business class (Club World) fares. In some cases, these are half the First Class tariffs. Flights affected are those from London to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Phoenix and Cape Town from October 26.

BA said the seats would be offered at a discount "for a short time" until the 747s are replaced with newer aircraft fitted with the airline's recently upgraded First Class.

In the Dark about Passport Details

According to new research from an online travel agency in the UK, half of Britons wouldn't be able to accurately say when their passport was due to expire; putting them at risk if they were to book any last minute trips abroad.

The agency conducted the poll following the recent reveal of the passport application backlog, which has allegedly affected as many as half a million holidaymakers. 1,822 adults from around the UK took part in the poll and answered questions relating to their holiday plans and passports. All respondents were in possession of a UK passport at the time of the survey. Respondents to the agency, were initially asked if they would be able to accurately state when their passport was due to expire to the nearest year, to which over half (53 per cent) said 'no, I'd have no idea'. Thirty seven per cent said that they had a 'rough idea', while only 10 per cent said they 'definitely' knew.

When asked if they had already booked a holiday abroad for 2014, that they were yet to attend, 57 per cent, of the people taking part said 'yes'. Of these people, 23 per cent had also indicated that they were unsure when their passport was due to expire.

Fiery Farewell Finale to Maritime Festival

The biggest pyrotechnics display in the North West this year will light up the River Foyle on Saturday, as a massive fire and water show marks the end of the LegenDerry Maritime Festival.

A huge fiery battle between two pirate ships will be accompanied by a specular aquatic fireworks finale on Queen's Quay to close the weeklong festivities which have had the eyes of the world watching.

The dramatic ceremony is the brain child of well-known local man Donal Neill, from Pains Fireworks, who was involved in the Clipper Race stopover event in the city in 2012: "The fireworks display back in 2012 was, then, one of the biggest that Derry had ever seen so to get the chance to top that will be an absolutely incredible experience. The fireworks will have a maritime theme and will burn on the water with haunting, ghostly music so it will be a remarkable sight.

"Tied in with that we will have a narrative piece from a pirate who will speak about "dead men telling no tales", followed by the theatrical stand-off between two eight-metre tall galleons. It's all about thinking outside the box to make this hugely memorable."

The farewell finale will begin at 10pm on Queen's Quay. Park and Stride facilities are available at Fort George. For more information, visit

Summer Charter Programme Takes Off

The summer programme of Olympic Holidays' new charter flights and holidays to Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus and Corfu have begun from Belfast International Airport.

Local travel trade representatives were on hand to welcome the arrival of the Aegean Airlines A320 aircraft at Belfast International Airport bound for Crete with lots of excited holidaymakers.

Olympic Holidays are the market leader to Greece and is also operating holidays to Corfu and Rhodes from Belfast International Airport this summer. Olympic Holidays Commercial Director, Photis Lambrianides said: "All our holidays out of Belfast include a free baggage allowance of 15 kilos, with excellent in-flight services - meals and drinks - at reasonable extra cost."


Thursday June 19, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Risk-Taking Young Travellers Come Under Fire

Travelling abroad uninsured can cost thousands if a trip goes wrong. Yet according to new research issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and The Travel Association ABTA, over one in three (38 per cent) young British travellers don't think it is necessary to take out insurance when they travel overseas, often leaving their families to pick up the pieces.

The findings from research conducted by ABTA come as the FCO and ABTA urge young UK holidaymakers to be better prepared for their travels abroad and ensure they are properly covered.

Medical costs arising from uninsured accidents abroad can be significant, and it is often parents who are presented with an unexpected and large bill with no hope of reclaiming the money. The cost of bailing out a loved one can run into thousands - but despite this, almost half of 16-24 year olds claim the reason they don't take out insurance is because they are willing to take the risk.

One in five young people also think that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) acts as a full insurance policy when abroad. However, an EHIC only provides access to state medical care in the European Economic Area and does not cover other costs such as bringing the individual back to the UK.

Sixteen per cent of young people surveyed wrongly presumed that all of their treatment costs would be covered by the UK Government if they had an accident or fell ill while abroad.

In reality it is the holidaymaker or their family who will pick up the bill if they are not covered, and this can range from £500 to treat a sprained ankle in a popular holiday resort like Corfu, to £15-20,000 for a scheduled flight, stretcher and medical escort from Australia.

First Virgin Holiday Store Opens in Belfast

Virgin Holidays has opened its first store in Northern Ireland. The store, located in Debenhams in Castle Court in Belfast city centre, gives Northern Ireland travellers the chance to discuss with local consultants where they should choose to jet off to with Virgin Holidays.

A dedicated team of five holiday experts are on hand to offer customers help and advice on a wide range of flexible and bespoke holiday experiences from around the world, from Barbados to Boston, Buenos Aires to Bhutan... and more!

Peter Kelland, Head of Northern Sales at Virgin Holidays, said: "We already have hundreds of customers in Northern Ireland that currently book with Virgin Holidays via both our call centre and the web. By opening our first store in Northern Ireland we will continue to build our presence through offering that personal touch to help customers decide on which destination for their holidays whatever the occasion."

Special Offers to Haven and Tour de France

Stena Line has launched a sizzling summer offer giving NI holidaymakers the chance to save up to 15 per cent off self-catering holidays for two adults and up to four children when booked by June 30.

Travellers can save up to 15 per cent off 11-night holidays and 10 per cent off 4-night breaks with prices starting from just £445 including return ferry travel by car with Stena Line from Belfast to Liverpool or Dublin to Holyhead and stay at Haven Kiln Park in Tenby, South Wales; Quay West in New Quay, West Wales or Devon Cliffs in Exmouth, Devon.

Meanwhile, the Tour de France will be racing through the stunning Yorkshire landscape for the very first time this year and Stena Line is offering a special deal to enable cycling enthusiasts to experience the spectacle.

With prices starting from only £30 per person return, the ferry company is offering customers the chance to witness the start of the world's premier cycling event. Enthusiasts can sail from either Belfast to Liverpool or Cairnryan where they can then make their way to Leeds where the Tour de France Grand Depart will begin on July 5. The Grand Depart will start in Leeds with a sprint to Harrogate, then move on to York on July 6 and finish in Sheffield before moving on to Cambridge on July 7.

Three US Charters from Belfast Next Summer

Thomas Cook Airlines has announced three long haul flights from Belfast International Airport for Summer 2015 to Orlando and Las Vegas, which includes the airlines' first ever flight to Las Vegas from Belfast.

Building on the success of previous flights to Orlando, Thomas Cook Airlines says that it will operate two flights to this popular Florida destination on-board a newly refurbished Airbus A330 aircraft on June 30 and July 7 in 2015, allowing holidaymakers to take 14 nights holidays on the East Coast of the USA, visiting theme parks and studio tours.

And what Thomas Cook describe as a 'one-off', a brand new Thomas Cook Airlines flight to Las Vegas will take place on Sunday July 5, returning a week later, following demand from travellers form Belfast for a summer flight to the city.

Christoph Debus, CEO Thomas Cook Airlines said: "It's great news that we'll be able to celebrate American Independence weekend with our flight to Las Vegas - we've already seen many holidaymakers book to travel on the flight in the first few days on sale. As we expand our long haul programme, it's fantastic that we are able to work with Belfast International to increase our flights from the airport and look forward to a great summer in 2015."

Airport Names Causes Traveller Confusion

From Leonardo da Vinci to our own George Best Belfast City - hundreds of airports around the world have been named after famous leaders, explorers and entertainers of our time.

However, in a recent poll by British Airways, the majority of youngsters (aged 12 to 18) can only identify 40 per cent of the famous names. In fact, one in 10 thought that George Best was the former King of Great Britain!

Although former US presidents John F Kennedy and George Bush were the two most recognised names, with over 75 per cent awareness, teens struggled with other world leaders. Just 17 per cent correctly identified Kenya's first Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, and only half recognised French Statesman Charles de Gaulle.

In a barometer of fame, Harry Styles, who had 72 per cent awareness with youngsters, beat Mother Teresa (53 per cent), Louis Armstrong (57 per cent) and Frederic Chopin (52 per cent) when it came to awareness.

The poll also showed that one in 10 youngsters incorrectly believe that:

  • Ronald Regan was really Ronald McDonald
  • George Bush is a stand-up comedian
  • Leonardo da Vinci was the star of 'Titanic'
  • George Best was the former King of Great Britain

  • Early Booking Offer From Cruise Line

    Norwegian Cruise Line UK has launched an early booking offer in celebration of its new Freestyle Cruising 2015-16 brochure, available in travel agencies across the UK from this week.

    NCL is offering $300 per stateroom Free on-board spending money for bookings between June 16 and July 31, 2014.

    For any cruise of six nights or longer sailing between April 2015 and April 2016, the early booking offer can be applied, giving clients $300 per Stateroom Free on-board spending money when they choose a Mini Suite, Suite or Haven Suite or $200 per Stateroom Free on-board spending money when they choose a Studio, Inside, Oceanview or Balcony Stateroom.

    Guests can use this on-board spending money to treat themselves in a variety of ways including dinner and drinks in one of the international speciality restaurants, indulging in a soothing spa treatment or exploring one of the many ports of call with an exciting shore excursion.

    New Park and Fly Option Opens Today

    Passengers planning their summer break can now book a Park and Fly service from Belfast International Airport from £3 per day.

    The new value parking option opens today and can be booked online - the Park and Fly off-site car park is located at the former long-term holiday car park, opposite the main entrance to the airport.

    Deirdre Graffin, Airport Commercial Services Manager, said that the decision to introduce the new Park and Fly was in response to customer demand.

    Deirdre said: "This new offsite car park offers superb value for money with safe and secure car parking that is conveniently located and only a short shuttle bus ride from the airport terminal building.

    "Significant savings are available on this new car parking offer. The Park and Fly facility is in addition to our other car parks which are also competitively priced and secure."

    Kids Go Free Summer Ferry Offer

    With the school holidays just around the corner, P&O Ferries has announced an offer that will bring a smile to parents across Northern Ireland.

    From now throughout the summer, children aged 15 years and under can travel free when sailing from Larne to Cairnryan and Troon.

    Announcing the launch of 'Kids Go Free', Neal Mernock, Sector Director, Irish Sea at P&O Ferries said: "The great getaway is just weeks away and with family budgets often still feeling the squeeze we've put together this fantastic offer to ensure more and more people can enjoy a fun break with P&O Ferries this summer. As well as saving money, passengers can enjoy the P&O Ferries experience with its lack of baggage restrictions, easy check-in and, once on board, a Food Court and coffee shop to indulge all tastes, and a relaxing Club Lounge."

    P&O Ferries fares from Larne to Troon start from £99 return for a car plus driver and from Larne to Cairnryan from £79 for a car plus driver. Bookings must be made by Sunday, July 20 and passengers can travel from June 12 to August 31. Pictured right planning a great summer getaway with P&O Ferries are Cole Galbraith, aged four from Newtownabbey and Tianna McLeggan, aged four, from Ballygowan.

    Wexford Strawberry Festival This Weekend

    The 47th annual Strawberry Festival gets underway in Enniscorthy, County Wexford this weekend and organisers are expecting record crowds to enjoy the summer fruits, live music and lots of free events in the sunny southeast.

    Ryan Sheridan, Wallis Bird and Damian Dempsey will all take to the Main Stage in The Big Red Barn at the weekend and host of arts events, a Teddy Bears Picnic, a busking competition, a cowboy disco and lots more are all on offer throughout the festival. Not forgetting the famed fruit there will be the crowing of the Strawberry Queen. Paolo Tullio will join Wexford chef Phelim Byrne for 'A Taste of Wexford Strawberries' where chefs and home-cooks compete to impress the Strawberry Queen as she awards the winners their Bord Bia and Wexford Strawberry Growers Trophies. The annual All-Ireland Farmers Market also takes place featuring a host of artisan producers from all over Ireland.

    Commenting on the festival, Strawberry Festival event controller Patricia Bird said: "This festival is a legacy in the Irish festival calendar and the 2014 line up is stellar, all ages are well catered to and we are particularly pleased this year with the huge level of interest from international visitors with large numbers travelling to Wexford to enjoy the Strawberry festival."

    Festival events take place until June 29 for further Festival details log on to


    Thursday June 12, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    United Airlines to Suspend New York Service for Nine Weeks

    The Consumer Council has expressed it's disappointment that the popular United service from Belfast to New York/Newark will be suspended for nine weeks from January 6, 2015 through to March 11, 2015 inclusive.

    United say they have taken this decision "in response to a seasonal reduction in market demand on the route next winter", however the Consumer Council say their figures show that "between January 1 and March 31, 2013 there were over 14,000 passenger journeys on this route".

    The service will resume on March 12, 2015. United has said that the "action is consistent with the company's previously-announced capacity guidance" and they will "contact customers with bookings for affected flights to either offer them alternative travel plans or provide refunds"

    Aodhan O'Donnell at the Consumer Council said: "It is very disappointing that the only flight from Northern Ireland to New York is going to be disrupted between January 6 and March 11, 2015... this has the potential to affect many passengers. It is important that any passengers who have already booked for that period are refunded in full, and quickly."

    Many Passengers Unaware of Rights when Travelling

    Many travellers are unaware that they are entitled to assistance if they have a disability or reduced mobility when travelling by air or ferry.

    The Consumer Council discovered this fact when attending the Disability Exhibition NI recently to further promote the importance of knowing and asserting your passenger rights in advance of the busy summer travel period.

    Jenny Robinson, Senior Policy Officer at the Consumer Council explained: "All EU airlines and airports, and most ferry ports and ferries, must offer assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility at all stages of their journey, right from the point of booking your ticket.

    "Many of the people we spoke to at the event were not aware of their rights to assistance when travelling with reduced mobility. A person may have reduced mobility because of illness, an age related condition, a disability or a temporary injury, for example a broken leg. Assistance is provided to ensure that air and ferry travel is as convenient for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility as it is for passengers without.

    "We have a number of guides, 'Access to Air Travel' and 'Access to Ferry Travel' to help passengers know their rights."

    Any passenger who wants to know more about their passenger rights can contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or download a copy of their 'Access to Air Travel' or 'Access to Ferry Travel' from the Consumer Council website.

    Falcon Celebrates First Flight from Belfast to Corfu

    Northern Ireland sun seekers are spoilt for choice this summer with Falcon Holidays' offering two new destinations for holidaymakers, Corfu and Ibiza.

    Falcon Holidays are providing holidaymakers a more family orientated side to the Balearic Island of Ibiza or a Splashworld adventure in Corfu, one of the most picturesque Ionian Islands. Both new destinations have weekly flights from Belfast International Airport.

    Speaking of new destination routes, Carol Anne O'Neill, Interim Head of Ireland of Falcon Holidays said: "We are excited to get our two new holiday destinations for our summer 2014 programme off the ground. The variety of holiday packages are sure to make Ibiza and Corfu a popular choice for families, groups and couples alike in 2014."

    Pictured ahead of their Greek adventure on Falcon Holidays' inaugural flight to Corfu from Belfast are Neil McMenamin and Cindy Crawford from Fermanagh, with Naomi Sainty, Thomson Airways Base Manager alongside Cabin Manager, Natalie James.

    Aer Lingus Menu Gets a Summer Twist

    Aer Lingus has today added a summer twist to its on board menu BIA, giving customers a choice of fresh seasonal snack options on flights between Belfast City and London, and Europe. The new summer menu has been designed in collaboration with Irish chef and restaurateur, Clodagh McKenna.

    Aer Lingus Chief Revenue Officer Mike Rutter said: "Aer Lingus is committed to setting a new standard in affordable on-board dining. Through our partnership with Clodagh McKenna we are delivering the very best of innovative Irish food in our affordable, quality BIA summer range. Since the launch of Bia last November the feedback has been very positive from customers. They have told us that they have enjoyed sampling the food available on offer from our 'foodie island', where we have sourced quality, fresh Irish ingredients while offering good value for money. We look forward to welcoming customers on board to sample the delicious selection."

    Clodagh McKenna said: "I am so excited to launch the new summer menu, as it is full of light, tasty and fresh flavours that we all look for when traveling. From the fluffy Waterford Bla with free-range egg and fresh rocket and my Raspberry and Orange Muffin which is delightful with a coffee or tea anytime of the day, to my fresh tasting Tuna Salad with sweet corn on Granary and the healthy Turkey on granary bread with roasted peppers."

    The picture above right shows chef Clodagh McKenna and Aer Lingus' Mike Rutter. Meanwhile, Aer Lingus strikes planned for next week have been deferred after an intervention by the Labour Court in the Republic.

    Landmark Ruling Could Open Claims Floodgate

    Airlines may no longer be able to use technical faults as a blanket excuse to avoid compensating passengers for flight delays following a Court of Appeal judgement yesterday.

    The ruling could open the floodgate to thousands of claims from passengers who have been refused compensation by airlines for delays caused by mechanical breakdowns. However, Jet2, the airline involved in the case, said it will now take the matter to the Supreme Court "to seek clarity and consistency".

    Under the EU flight compensation rules, airlines don't have to compensate passengers if a delay is caused by "exceptional circumstances" and airlines have argued that this includes technical faults. But Lord Justice Elias yesterday upheld a ruling of the Court of Appeal in Manchester which ordered Jet2 to compensate passenger Ronald Huzar for a flight that was delayed 27 hours due to a wiring defect in the fuel valve circuit.

    Big Savings in Flights to Down Under

    Spectacular beaches, unique wildlife and incredible alfresco dining; there really is nothing like Australia. And to celebrate all things Australian, Malaysia Airlines is offering attractive deals to favourite destinations Down Under. By booking before June 30, 2014 travellers can take advantage of savings of up to 30 per cent.

    "Malaysia Airlines has seen growing demand for travel to Australia and we've responded to that with routes to the country's top destinations" said Weng Chi Lee, Malaysia Airlines' UK & Ireland Country Manager. "From Perth to Sydney to Darwin, all our Australian destinations are easily accessible through our twice-daily A380 service from London to Kuala Lumpur, before a seamless transition onto any of the five Australian destinations."

    Return economy fares from London Heathrow start from just £699 to Darwin and Perth; £749 to Adelaide; and £779 to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. This offer is valid for economy class travel between August 14 and 31, 2014 and from November 1 to December 4, 2014. Fares are inclusive of all taxes, charges and fees.

    Father's Day Special at Crom This Sunday

    This Father's Day, Sunday, June 15 the National Trust's beautiful Crom Estate near Newtownbutler, will be offering an afternoon for dads and the whole family to enjoy.

    Visitors will be able to test their bow and arrow skills and have a go at Archery; explore Lough Erne on a Cot trip to discover some of the estates most beautiful historic landscapes; or for the more adventurous and water confident, the Share Centre will be running a boat building exercise. The winning team will be the first to complete the course on the water - if you want to participate come prepared to get wet with a towel and suitable clothing.

    Children can look forward to eco art craft activity, face painting and traditional games as they test their nerve at egg and spoon and sack races.

    If you are ready to go exploring but need some refreshment the Little Orchard Tea-room offers delicious home style cooking and baking, and is open for lunches and afternoon teas. Then browse the National Trust gift shop with a range of gifts to suit all tastes.

    Entertainment will run from 1-5pm and normal admission applies with free admission for National Trust members.

    SAS Launches Summer Seat Sale

    Scandinavian Airlines have have launched their latest seat sale which boasts fares to Europe from just 46 Euro per person one-way.

    Travellers can choose from a host of European destinations and travel from now right through to May 31, 2015.

    You can now also make your SAS travel experience even more enjoyable by upgrading to SAS Plus fromjust 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.

    The current sale ends on June 17, 2014, and travel must take place between July 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015. Travel must be completed by June 5, 2015.

    Visitors to Thailand Avoiding the Capital

    UK visitors to Thailand are increasing despite the political unrest, with tourists opting to avoid Bangkok and fly direct to resorts.

    On the opening day of a recent travel market in Bangkok the leaders of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revealed that visitors from the UK and Ireland are on the way up despite the politicial uncertainty in the country. UK inbound visitors between January and April are up 5.7 per cent and more than matched by an increase from the Republic of Ireland by 11.4 per cent.

    The brunt of any reduction in trade has been felt in the capital Bangkok rather than in the tourism hot spots of Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Koh Saumi whose figures are all up in 2014. This implies that direct flights to these destinations have been become more popular as visitors try to avoid Bangkok.

    Earlier this week the Military Government removed any curfews from three key resort destination. TAT has now requested that the curfews be removed from Krabi, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phangna, Khao Lak and Koh Chang on June, 11.


    Thursday June 5, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Airline Launches 'Mega' Summer Seat Sale

    Aer Lingus has today announced what it calls a '3 Million Mega Seat Sale' on travel with the airline from summer right through to autumn.

    Running up until Monday, June 16 for travel from July 1 until October 31, 2014, the Mega Seat Sale offers 20 per cent off every seat, every flight to London (Heathrow and Gatwick) and Europe (Faro, Malaga and Palma) from Belfast City Airport and almost 100 destinations to choose from departing from Dublin Airport, including places like Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Bologna, Ibiza and Palma.

    In addition there are great deals to the USA and Canada for travel from November through to the end of March, from Dublin.

    Aer Lingus Director of Communications Declan Kearney said: "We are offering customers outstanding value for travel this summer. What's unique about this particular sale is that customers can avail of fantastic deals on summer travel across our entire European and UK network as we have three million seats for sale in just a 13-day period."

    Cruise Line's Free Flights and Car Transfers

    Free flights and private car transfers are up for grabs in celebration of Royal Caribbean International's new 2015 worldwide cruise brochure launch for selected sailings booked betweenJune 5 and July 31, 2014.

    There's plenty for guests to smile and get happy about with a host of new developments from Royal Caribbean International. New itineraries from Southampton on the world's newest and most technologically advanced ship, three ships sailing direct from the UK and a fully revamped fleet sailing from Europe make 2015 the most exciting year to sail with RCI.

    The cruise line has a range of offers to celebrate the new brochure including:

  • On bookings made between June 5 and June 23, 2014 offers include - Free flights to Europe on selected 2015 European sailings
  • On bookings made between June 5 and July 31, 2014 offers include - Free private car transfers for those booking accommodation with a balcony or above on all Anthem of the Seas sailings from Southampton
  • Free car parking and coach transfers from UK regions on selected 2015 sailings on Explorer of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas from Southampton
  • Reduced flight savings on selected Caribbean sailings

  • Students Reveal Award-Winning Strategies

    Marketing, Communications and PR students at the University of Ulster have inspired travel specialists at the Dublin based Travelmood company, the sister company of American Holidays.

    The undergraduates were given a brief to present a marketing strategy to the holiday provider, which offers tailored packages to some of the world's most popular travel destinations. The assignment not only presented participants with an insight into the reality of their chosen career field but it attributed to their university grading.

    A brief compiled by Travelmood demanded that students focus on not only the company's strengths and objectives but take into consideration its challenges and the entire industry to conclude with a marketing plan that could translate successfully in the real business world.

    One unanimous winner walked away with a £1,000 prize from Travelmood - 22 year old Sabrina Jess from Comber (middle of picture right) who dissected the travel specialist's demands to present a successful marketing plan. Two runners-up, sisters Gail (right) and Gemma Whyte (left) from South Belfast also impressed the judges with their entrepreneurial spirit. They were presented with £100 worth of vouchers each.

    Group Travel to Turkey Made Simpler

    E-Visas for travel to Turkey are now available for groups of between 10 and 300 online via In a move that makes travelling to Turkey simpler and easier, a new visa procedure has been in place since April 11, 2014. The new Electronic Visa Application System enables visitors to obtain an e-Visa conveniently online.

    A group application for e-Visas can be created for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 300 people. Individuals included in the group must originate from the same country, their travel documents must be the same type (eg normal, official, diplomatic) and their arrival date must be the same. (Please note that the validity period of e-Visas will begin as of the date selected as arrival date. e-Visa holders can enter Turkey on any date within the validity period. In other words, all individuals in the group are not required to enter Turkey on the same day.) In addition, all pre-requisites (if any) for e-Visa application must be met by all in the group.

    During the e-Visa application online process, a link is provided for group applications on the right of the page where personal information is entered, under the heading 'Information Note'. The e-Visa application process for groups must be completed within 48 hours of the application process being started. More information can be found in the FAQs section of

    United Begins Operating from Heathrow Terminal 2

    United Airlines, operator of the Belfast-New York service, today became the first airline to operate a flight at London Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 2: The Queen's Terminal. United flight 958, a Boeing 767 from Chicago, arrived at gate 38B at 5:49 am local time.

    United flight 958 was the first of United's 17 scheduled flight arrivals at Terminal 2 today. The airline also is scheduled to operate 17 departures from the terminal today, bringing all of its operations at Heathrow - previously split between Terminals 1 and 4 - "under one roof" for the first time.

    "We're extremely proud to be the first airline to operate from the new Terminal 2 and to consolidate our Heathrow operations in the airport's most advanced terminal," said United's Bob Schumacher. "Heathrow is one of the most important airports in United's global network, and Terminal 2 represents a huge improvement in the service and facilities we are able to provide to all our customers, whether they're departing, arriving or connecting."

    Make Sure You Get Volcanic Ash Cover

    Following the news of the eruption a volcano in Indonesia, travellers are being reminded that volcanic ash is still a very real threat which can happen without any prior warning.

    The eruption occurred on May 30, 2014 and volcanic ash reached an altitude of 50,000 ft and extended 3000 km southeast to western Queensland, Australia. Flights were cancelled from Darwin, Australia. 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 disruption and other events including bad weather and strikes. offers 'Travel Disruption Cover' for a small additional premium which covers consumers in the event of any further travel disruptions including volcanic ash, bad weather, riots and pandemics.'Travel Disruption Cover' also offers extended cover under delayed departure, missed departure and accommodation sections, should your flight be cancelled or delayed.

    Curfew Lifted at Three Thai Tourist Resorts

    The night-time curfew has been lifted on three of Thailand's main tourist resorts.The nationwide curfew, which was imposed after the army seized power two weeks ago, no longer applies in Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui.

    But across the rest of the country, including the capital Bangkok, locals and tourists must still return to their accommodation between midnight and 0400.

    Meanwhile a major travel market is taking place in Bangkok and a spokeswoman for the Tourist Authority of Thailand said there had been no significant cancellations because of the coup. "it's very much business as usual," she said.

    Still Time for Travel Agents to Register

    There is still time for Travel Agents to register for The Big Travel Trade Event at the Hilton, Templepatrick, next Tuesday and Wednesday.

    More than 80 companies will be represented over the two days of The Big Travel Trade Event, organised by Northern Ireland Travel News, which on the second day is being run in tandem with the Northern Ireland Travel Golf Classic.

    Hotels, luxury resorts, tourist boards and airlines will all be out in force, with no fewer than 12 cruise companies alone, represented. Making their first appearance in Northern Ireland will be organisations like Oman Ministry of Tourism, Getabed, Cape Grace Resorts in South Africa, Tennessee Tourism and Maxx Royal Hotels in Turkey.

    There will a staggering array of prizes to be won by travel agents including flights and accommodation. Getabed, one of the new exhibitors, are just one of the companies that have donated prizes for travel agents, three nights at one of the company's top selling Barcelona four star hotels.

    You can register for the Big Travel Trade Event on our website or contact Paula Breen.


    Thursday May 29, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Ninth Birthday of Belfast-New York Service

    United Airlines today celebrated the ninth anniversary of its service between Belfast International Airport and its New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport. The airline has now carried over 830,000 people on the route since its inauguration in 2005.

    Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O'Muilleoir, who is a frequent customer on the United Belfast service said: "I want to congratulate United on the success of this route which provides a direct link between Belfast and New York. Indeed today I am proud to be travelling on the service with a business delegation."

    Bob Schumacher, United Airlines Managing Director Sales, United Kingdom & Ireland said: "We are pleased with the success of our Belfast-New York/Newark service and thank our customers for their support over the past nine years.

    "As the only trans-Atlantic carrier serving Belfast United offers customers a convenient way of flying direct to New York, with onward connections to over 300 destinations across the Americas. Northern Ireland and the US enjoy strong social ties as well as business links, and United is glad to have helped support and develop these relationships with its nonstop service."

    Pictured above right celebrating nine years of the Belfast-Newark, New York service are Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O'Muilleoir and United Airlines' Barry Jackson.

    Vote and You Could Win a Prize!

    Northern Ireland Travel News readers are able to help decide the winners of several of the awards at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards gala on Friday, October 17.

    The 2014 Awards, launched in Belfast recently, include a new award, for the Northern Ireland Travel Consultant of the Year. Members of the public get the chance to vote for the person they regard as a worthy candidate, whether from an independent travel agency, a multiple or a home worker. As an incentive to vote, there will be a random draw of the senders of the votes cast and the lucky reader will receive £200 off their next holiday.

    Travel News readers will also have the chance to vote for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year and for the Province's Top Multiple shop. This time there will be weekend break prizes on offer - again to encourage readers to fill in the voting slip in the new (June) issue of Northern Ireland Travel News. Members of the public will also be able to vote for the Best Tourist Information Centre and for the Best NI Visitor Attraction.

    Details of all the Awards, categories and voting coupons appear in the current issue (June) of Northern Ireland Travel News, out now.

    For details of all the categories, and how to vote, get the current issue of Northern Ireland Travel News or download the app from iTunes and GooglePlay. You can also read the paper online. For more details of the Awards voting click the voting banners on the right.

    Beware of Online Holiday Scams, Says CAA

    Travellers are being warned about an upsurge in holiday scams when booking online. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is urging would-be online bookers "to check, and double check" that bookings are ATOL protected.

    The warning was issued following a steady stream of duped holidaymakers contacting the CAA and many more getting in touch with Trading Standards and police in different regions of the UK. The CAA said that the phoney scam travel sites look UK-based "but are typically operated from abroad."

    CAA Consumer Protection Group Director Richard Jackson said: "We are aware of a number of bogus websites advertising unusually cheap deals, operated from abroad and falsely claiming to have ATOL protection. It is important customers look beyond the price and check and double check the travel company has protection. Once you have confirmed this and paid, make sure you get an ATOL Certificate."

    Meanwhile ABTA is warning travellers to follow the travel advice by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when considering a number of destinations worldwide because of the threat of terrorism or political upheaval. Travellers should follow to the letter advice issued by the FCO - failure to do so could render your travel insurance invalid.

    Cut-Price Hotel Breaks with Ferry Company

    Stena Line has joined forces with thousands of hotels across Britain to offer holidaymakers the chance to book ferry travel plus a hotel break at a great-value price.

    With two night breaks starting from as little as £59 per adult per night and with free kids places available, Stena Line holidays are making waves with people searching for the perfect break.

    There is a massive selection of over 2,000 hotels available on the ferry company's website, as Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications, Stena Line explained: "This offer gives holidaymakers a staggering amount of hotels to choose from. Our customers can be families, couples and friends who all have very different needs and budgets when it comes to booking a break.

    "We have gone to great lengths to ensure all tastes and pockets are catered for, offering everything from hotels on the southern coast of England with access to endless beaches, properties with stunning scenery in bonny Scotland and family friendly fun at Alton Towers Resort, with its new Cbeebies Land, and Legoland Windsor Resort, so we expect interest to be huge."

    Permanently Reduced Fares to Europe!

    Scandinavian Airlines have just announced "permanently reduced fares" on their Dublin to Europe routes. Now, travellers can visit great destinations such as Milan, Palma, Hamburg and Warsaw with SAS for even more pocket-friendly prices.

    Although many believe that the cheapest way to get to Europe is by flying direct, SAS says it offers through flights (via Copenhagen) to many European destinations that often undercut prices on direct services.

    SAS are offering Dublin to Milan from 91 Euro pp, Dublin to Palma from 111 Euro pp, Dublin to Hamburg from from 90 Euro pp, and Dublin to Warsaw from 131 Euro pp. Prices include taxes and charges, 1 x 23kg bag and tea/coffee & newspapers onboard.

    SAS offers daily direct services to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo from Dublin.

    Travellers to Thailand Reassured by Irish Operator

    Topflight Worldwide say that their current programmes to Thailand will continue to operate to all areas of the country and are re-assuring their clients, including those who are either currently in Thailand, or booked to travel to Thailand in the near future.

    Topflight reports that while they have received calls, not only have no cancellations been requested by their clients, bookings continue to come in for Thailand on a daily basis.

    Meanwhile the curfew in Thailand has been reduced to just four hours a night, from midnight to 4.00am. This curfew is being strictly adhered to in Thailand's capital Bangkok, with beach destinations taking a more relaxed approach. Both the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway will operate as normal during the day, but will stop services at 9pm for the duration of the curfew.

    All airports are open and airport transfer services are operating as normal. The army has been quoted as saying it will provide security to foreigners, including holidaymakers who need to move around, even during curfew hours. Topflight, a wholly Irish owned company, has a dedicated Thailand brochure, and are specialists in holidays to Thailand.

    A Must for Ulster Scots: Bannockburn Live

    Two burly warriors, who starred in Hollywood blockbusters including Gladiator and Thor, took commuters by surprise in Belfast city centre today to 'encourage' Northern Ireland visitors to do battle at Bannockburn Live, a large-scale re-enactment of the legendary clash taking place on Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29 at Stirling.

    The event is the largest of its nature in Scotland. It captures every essence of Scottish culture and has something to delight the whole family whether you are a foodie, music fan or history lover. It is home not only to the 'Encampment' but to a 'Music Arena', where the stage will come alive with over 300 performers. There is also a 'Storyville' tent where Scotland's culture and history will be told by a range of artists, from writers to stand-up comedians and renowned singer songwriters, and a 'Land of Food and Drink' tent for foodies.

    A 'Clan and Family Village' will see a gathering of 40 clans who have travelled from across the globe, making it the perfect place for Ulster Scots and local ancestry enthusiasts to find out if they were related to anyone that fought at the battle.

    Bannockburn Live will run from 10am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29. Tickets are £20 for adults, £12-50p for children with Family tickets at £55.

    Overpriced Insurance Excess Charges Under Fire

    Ireland's leading providers of excess cover for foreign car rentals, is urging travellers to be aware of the overpriced additional insurance excess charges charged by car hire companies at their desks abroad.

    The company claims that each year, thousands of holiday-goers are being ripped off by car hire companies when they reach their holiday destination.

    The company gives as an example, a traveller renting an Opel Corsa car with a leading UK rental company for 14 days in Malaga. They will be charged £260 at the car hire desk to cover the excess of their car rental. will cover this excess charge for £27.86 - a massive 89 per cent saving to the traveller of £232.14!

    Travellers can cover the excess online with before they travel on holiday at a much cheaper cost than what they would be charged when they arrive to the car hire desk, claims the company. Cover can be purchased from as little as £1.99 per day for European rentals. also offer year round car hire excess cover from just £39.99 on European rentals.


    Thursday May 22, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Mary Peters Opens New City Airport Lounge

    All passengers travelling from George Best Belfast City Airport have the opportunity to enjoy the comfort and luxury of the new 'Aspire Lounge', opened today by Dame Mary Peters.

    The lounge, which is operated by Swissport, formerly known as Servisair, further enhances the facilities at Belfast City Airport, which transports over 2.5 million passengers each year.

    Business and leisure customers alike can now take advantage of the quiet, relaxing environment, whilst enjoying a selection of newspapers, magazines, beverages and snacks on offer, before travelling to one of the domestic or summer European locations served by the airport.

    Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, Brian Ambrose, said: "With a record number of passengers travelling through the airport in 2013, and 2014 set to be just as busy, it is important that we maintain the high standard of service our customers our used to, and will therefore continue to heavily invest in facilities at the airport to further enhance the passenger experience now and into the future. The Aspire Lounge is our newest facility for passengers to enjoy before boarding their flight."

    Entry to the Aspire Lounge in Belfast City Airport costs adult passengers £18.99, with reduced rates for children. The lounge will also welcome members of the Priority Pass and, Airport Angel membership schemes, Aerlingus Gold Circle card holders, CityWing Business Select Passengers, Flybe premium customers and LinksAir 'W Class' members.

    Help Decide Travel and Tourism Award Winners

    Northern Ireland Travel News readers will have a chance to help decide the winners of several of the awards at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards gala on Friday, October 17.

    The 2014 Awards, which were launched in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter this week, include a new award, for the Northern Ireland Travel Consultant of the Year.

    Members of the public get the chance to vote for the person they regard as a worthy candidate, whether from an independent travel agency, a multiple or a home worker. As an incentive to vote, there will be a random draw of the senders of the votes cast and the lucky reader will receive £200 off their next holiday.

    Travel News readers will also have the chance to vote for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year and for the Province's Top Multiple shop. This time there will be weekend break prizes on offer - again to encourage readers to fill in the voting slip in the June issue of Northern Ireland Travel News. Members of the public will also be able to vote for the Best Tourist Information Centre and for the Best NI Visitor Attraction.

    Details of all the Awards, categories and voting coupons will appear in the next issue (June) of Northern Ireland Travel News, out next week.

    Kate is UK Coffee Specialist Champion

    Catering provider SSP has named Kate Crozier from Belfast International Airport as UK Barista Champion.

    Kate, who works at the airport's Caffe Ritazza, beat competition from more than 100 of the country's top baristas to win the prize.

    SSP's leading baristas from 700 cafes, restaurants and bars operated by SSP across the UK including Caffe Ritazza, Starbucks and Upper Crust, were selected to take part in the contest. Some 45 made it to the semi-finals and, after months of competition, eight competed in a closely contested final at the Dickens Inn, London.

    Kate said: "Last year I finished third in both the SSP UK Barista Championship, and the Caffe Ritazza World Championship, and I was determined to go all the way this time. I hope that our customers will also benefit from my win, and my awards for best espresso and best cappuccino, which are drinks I make for visitors to the airport every day."

    Ferry Company Backs NI Team for Medals

    The Irish Sea's leading ferry company is backing Northern Ireland's elite athletes to bring home medals at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

    As the official ferry partner for Team Northern Ireland, Stena Line will transport athletes onboard their Superfast ships between Belfast and Cairnryan over the coming months as they train and compete in the various arenas and stadiums in Glasgow.

    The Northern Ireland team includes athletes from sporting disciplines such as boxing, lawn bowls and judo who have all won a place at Glasgow 2014 this summer.

    Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager - Irish Sea North, Neil Palmer, said: "Excitement is building for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and we're delighted to support the team of athletes from Northern Ireland by providing them with essential support. We are proud to play our role in getting the Team Northern Ireland to Glasgow, via our Belfast to Cairnryan route, safely, on time and refreshed and we're hoping for lots of medals during the competition, whatever the colour.

    "Taking part in the Games will surely be the fulfillment of a life-long dream for these athletes and we wish them the best of luck, particularly the Northern Ireland first ever female boxers as this will be the first time they compete in the history of the Commonwealth Games." Pictured above right are boxer Alanna Audley-Murphy and Neil Palmer of Stena Line.

    Enjoy Sights and Sounds of Rathlin

    The Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival begins tomorrow, May 23 and runs until Sunday week, June 1, 2014 with much to see, eat and hear! With a perfect mix of entertainment, sailing and artisan food on offer there is something for everyone.

    Caroline Carey, Tourism Development Officer, Moyle District Council said: "Throughout the festival we have a host of activities for all ages and interests. We believe Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival 2014 has the perfect mix of activity and entertainment for everyone. Add to that, the breathtaking backdrop of the Causeway Coast and Glens and really, where else would you want to be.

    "With the festival starting tomorrow the whole family can begin with planning their dressing up outfits. The children's Fancy Dress Parade is at 6.30pm leaving from the majestic Tall Ship in Ballycastle Harbour to parade through the town to the Diamond. Later in the evening the adults can show off their best Elizabeth Swann and Captain Jack Sparrow at the Pirate themed Fancy Dress Disco at Halo, Ballycastle."

    For further information about the festival log on to the website or contact Ballycastle Visitor Information Centre 028 2076 2024.

    Festival Marks 70 Years Since Normandy Landings

    The D-Day Festival Normandy 2014 is perfect to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Allied Landings with major events taking place on the actual beaches. The event is free and open to all, locals and visitors.

    On 6th June 1944, Normandy became the scene of the most gigantic military operation in history. Each year since 2007, D-Day Festival Normandy has been offering a selection of key festive events for the anniversary of the Allied Landings of 6th June 1944.

    Five tourist offices make up the "D-Day Normandy Bessin-Cotentin" destination and present their area at its best: Baie du Cotentin, Isigny-Grandcamp Intercom, Omaha Beach, Bayeux Intercom and Arromanches.

    For the 8th edition of the Festival, 20 events have been selected to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and regained freedom: air show, parachuting, parades, concerts, sound and light show, reconstructions, giant picnics and more... Once again the Festival promises to be a beautiful and moving celebration!

    You can view more details here.

    Most Popular Cities for Stags and Hens

    New research by an online travel agency has revealed that half of hen and stag parties attended by British men and women are now spent abroad; with the most popular overseas stag destinations revealed as Prague, Amsterdam and Krakow. The most popular hen destination destination abroad is the Albufeira in Portugal.

    According to new research by an online travel agency in the UK, more hen and stag dos are now being spent abroad; with the main reason for heading overseas for pre-marital celebrations stated as "to have a more memorable experience".

    The poll, conducted by, was part of ongoing research into the holiday experiences of Britons. 2,196 people aged 18 and over from around the UK took part in the study, all of whom had been on a hen or stag do in the last six months. The five most popular stag destinations were Prague, Amsterdam, Krakow, Barcelona and Benidorm while the top five for women were Albufeira, Benidorm, Marbella, Ibiza and Barcelona.

    FCO Advice to Travellers To Thailand

    Travellers to Thailand are being warned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to take extra care and avoid all protest sites, political gatherings and marches following the imposition of martial law across the whole of the country.

    The FCO says there is an increased military presence in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces. "The situation is evolving and you should monitor local news and social media for developments. Allow extra time for journeys, including to the Bangkok airports."

    Martial law provides an enabling framework for the Royal Thai Army to take action it deems necessary to enforce law and order, and instructions can change rapidly, says the FCO. Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Protest action has caused significant disruption to roads in affected areas, with knock-on effects across the city. "The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected." For more info go to the Foreign and Commonwealth website.

    The FCO has also issued new warnings in recent days about threats to tourists in Nigeria, Kenya and Ukraine over terrorism threats or political upheavals.


    Thursday May 15, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Airport Party Launches Tour Operator's Summer Season

    Cupid was working overtime at Belfast International Airport as one couple left on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight to Cyprus to get married, and another jetted to the Mediterranean island on their honeymoon at the start of the summer holiday season.

    The Thomas Cook Airlines Belfast-Larnaca flight marked the start of a hectic summer season for the airline which will see it fly to five sun destinations each week.

    It's estimated that 80,000 holiday-makers from Northern Ireland will fly with the airline between now and the end of October.

    Belfast International Airport Business Development Director, Uel Hoey, said: "Thomas Cook Airlines have given Northern Ireland passengers great destination choice and a competitively priced product. We're delighted that the airline is increasing its activity this season."

    The two couples flying out to Cyprus were Emma and Philip Johnston from East Belfast, and Ivona Nygyte and Gary Moore from Kilkeel. The picture shows Ivona and Gary from Kilkeel, pictured with Thomas Cook Airlines' Arlene Holmes and Jason Whiteside.

    Most Cruisers Want to Try River Cruise

    With more than 30 new ships launching this year, 2014 is proving to be one of the biggest years to date for the river cruise market.

    Cruise lines continue to expand their fleets, and interest in river cruising is strong, according to recent surveys from Cruise Critic, the world's largest cruise website.

    Over 60 per cent of those polled report that they would love to try a river cruise, and a majority say that they're most enticed by the chance to try a new experience and explore the inland itineraries offered.

    "With more itineraries and more cabins available, river cruise lines are working hard to appeal to a broad audience," explains Adam Coulter, UK Editor of Cruise Critic. "Passengers are spoilt for choice in terms of the itineraries on offer, the variety of excursions, and the quality of the ships."

    Forty seven per cent of those surveyed said that they tried river cruising because they wanted to try something new; 39 per cent were attracted by inland itineraries and 10 per cent liked the prospect of smaller ships and fewer passengers. Sixty one per cent said they would love to try a river cruise and only 11 per cent said they would never set foot on one.

    Learn to Swim at Summer Swim Academies

    This coming Saturday, May 17 will be the third annual National Learn to Swim Day that was established to raise awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim.

    And local tour operator Falcon Holidays says the ideal opportunity for children to combine their family holiday with learning, improving their technique and gaining confidence in the water is through the Falcon Swim Academy available at its Holiday Villages.

    According to tour operator, thousands of young children over the years have learned to swim while on their annual family sun holiday. Charlotte Brenner, Marketing Manager, Falcon Holidays, says: "Falcon's Swim Academy provides our young holidaymakers with the ideal opportunity to make the most out of their time in the swimming pool while on holiday. Children spend so many hours in the swimming pool each day so combined with swimming lessons they are getting to put what they learnt into practice immediately."

    Falcon offers these expert-run Swim Academies at its Holiday Villages where all instructors are qualified lifeguards and ASA or equivalent, and qualified swimming teachers. From Swim a Song for babies and pre-schoolers to Rookie Lifeguard training where 9-15 year olds can learn all the serious stuff, like lifesaving skills, there are lessons for all. Falcon's summer programme features nine Holiday Village where Swim Academy's are available to book in advance.

    Special Bikers' Day Trip Fares to Scotland

    Leading ferry company, Stena Line has created a great-value bikers day-trip fare to Scotland starting at just £25 for a bike plus rider (conditions apply).

    Motorcycle fans can bring their bikes to Cairnryan and enjoy the freedom of having their own transport to enjoy a visit to friends, family or go on a biking tour of the stunning countryside with other motorbike enthusiasts. Whatever the occasion, this great value day trip gives plenty of time to pack in an eventful day away and at a great price.

    Neil Palmer, Route Marketing Manager, Stena Line said: "Scotland has lots of motorcycle destinations such as the Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife, Scotland's National Motorsport Centre for Driving Experience and some of their exciting upcoming events include the British Drifting Championship on June 8th or the Scottish Championship Bike Race on June 21-22."

    Bikers can depart from Belfast at 07.30hrs or 11.30hrs and spend the day touring Scotland taking in the fantastic countryside on some of the best biking roads in Europe before returning on either the 19.30hrs or 23.30hrs sailing.

    Plan Your Summer with Help from Met Office

    With festival season approaching and a summer of sporting and social events on the horizon, the Met Office has released improvements to its mobile website and app, to ensure the weather doesn't get the better of your chosen event.

    Hourly forecasts are now available for the first two days of the Met Office's five-day forecasting period - and forecasts available every three-hours for days three to five. This new service means you won't be caught out with a sudden rainstorm at Glastonbury or an expected heat wave during Glyndebourne.

    For festival goers heading abroad - perhaps to Soundwave in Croatia or to the Montreal Jazz Festival, five-day weather forecasts for international locations are now available on the Met Office mobile and desktop sites.

    All users now have the option to receive severe weather warning push notifications every time the Met Office issues a weather warning in their chosen area. This will alert users to warnings more quickly and conveniently, allowing them to be acted upon.

    The Met Office is the UK's National Weather Service, providing 24x7 world-renowned scientific excellence in weather, climate and environmental forecasts and severe weather warnings for the protection of life and property. For more info visit the website.

    Ballycastle and Rathlin's Got Talent

    Forget, Britain's Got Talent, Ballycastle's Got Talent and at the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival 2014 sponsored by The Northern Ireland Tourist Board they are looking for talented groups and individuals of all ages to enter the Street Entertainer Competition.

    Taking place on Saturday week, May 24, 2014 at the Ballycastle Seafront and Marina area, the competition is open to all ages with cash prizes collectively worth £600 available in three sections. Whether you are a singer, a dancer or part of a flame throwing, stilt walking, interpretative dance troupe you are welcome to enter.

    Competition entry is completely free and Caroline Carey of Moyle District Council said: "We are proud of the vibrant local arts scene with its long tradition in music, dance and drama. The Street Entertainer Competition is a perfect opportunity for the whole community to get involved. We want to encourage entertainers young and old from this area and further afield to just come and have a go in the competition."

    Application forms are available to download from the website, requested via email or call Development Office, Moyle District Council on 028 2076 2225. Closing date for entries is Tuesday, May 20 at 4.00pm.

    Rand Best 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 by Currencies Direct shows that UK travellers' holiday spend goes 40 per cent further in South Africa compared to Brazil,venue for the 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. Rio was found to be the most expensive long-haul destination, with a like-for-like average spend of £5,081 per person.

    The respective costs are based on a two-week holiday for two adults sharing four-star accommodation, with a daily hot beverage from a local cafe, a simple lunch and a three-course dinner including a bottle of house wine, plus entry to one popular tourist activity.

    Cycling Weekends on the Wild Atlantic Way

    The Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana has just announced its latest summer promotion - Cycling Weekends. These dedicated weekend packages offer a unique and tailor-made cycling experience to suit both the amateur and professional cyclist in the beautiful Inishowen peninsula.

    The Inishowen Gateway Hotel is nestled on the coast of the Inishowen peninsula, North East Donegal, an area of outstanding natural beauty with uninterrupted views of the picturesque Lough Swilly. The hotel's location is perfect for cycling enthusiasts with a mix of different terrains on its doorstep - miles of quiet meandering country roads to more challenging climbs and steep descents.

    Ronan McLaughlin, former professional cyclist and the hotel's resident cycling specialist, has designed this unique programme and can be on hand to discuss the rides and give advice to participants. Safe bike storage and post training care are also provided and a warm Donegal welcome is guaranteed, says the hotel. This promotion is available for individuals or groups and is the perfect option for a training camp with specific training plans, challenging roads and healthy menu options. For more info contact the hotel direct.


    Thursday May 8, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    New Canadian Low Cost Option from June

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Get Involved in Giro d'Italia 2014!

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

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

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

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

    Sign up for Lisa's Charity Spinathon

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

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

    Bring Your Best Friend Free, Ferry Offer

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

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

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

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

    New Thomas Cook Wedding Packages

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

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

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

    Star Alliance Moving to Heathrow Terminal 2

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

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

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

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

    Whisky Galore in Scotland This Month

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

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

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

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

    Cavan Walking Festival is Calling

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

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

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

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

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

    Ferrari Land to Open in 2016

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

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


    Thursday May 1, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Another Award for Top Local Travel Agency

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

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

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

    Belfast-Bulgaria Ski Programme to Go Ahead

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

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

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

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

    Weekly Flights to Madeira Cancelled

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

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

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

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

    To Glasgow and Back for a Tenner!

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

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

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

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

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

    Beach-wear to be Banned in Palma city

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

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

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

    New Route to London City Airport

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

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

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

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

    One in Five Have 'Something to Declare'

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

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

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

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

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

    All Roads Lead to Titanic This Month

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

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

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

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

    Airport Fund Aids Local Charity

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

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

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


    Thursday April 17, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Travel Life Begins at Forty, Says BA Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Know Your Rights When Travelling This Easter

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

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

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

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

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

    Good Weather Forecast for Bank Holiday Getaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Easter Eggstravaganza at Belfast International

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

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

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

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

    Last Minute Easter Hotel and Ferry Deals

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

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

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

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

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

    Airline Eases Restrictions on Electronic Gadgets

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

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

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

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

    Catch the Tulip Festival at Powerscourt

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

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

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

    Airport Taxi Transfers - Cheapest and Most Expensive

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

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

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

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

    Easter Treat for Cruise Line Clients

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

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

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

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

    Taking a Break for Easter

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


    Page 88 of 89

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      BRIAN McCALDEN takes a short break in the famed McGrory’s Hotel in Culdaff, County Donegal… BACK in the mid-1960s, heavily industrialised Belfast was busy, smoky, polluted and noisy, with green...
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