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Flybe roll out new routes from Birmingham and London City

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Page last updated: 20th Aug 2014 - 03:12 PM

A few days ago Flybe, the largest scheduled carrier to operate out of Birmingham Airport, announced a new route to Berlin Tegel Airport, which will fly five times a week from Oct 26th.

This route will undoubtedly appeal both to leisure travellers and business people. Berlin offers much in terms of culture and nightlife, and it is one of the best value German destinations for tourists, with good public transport links both within the city and further afield. It is also an important commercial centre for a large number of sectors.

In May, Flybe also launched new routes from Birmingham to Hamburg and Oslo which will also start operating in October.

Winter 2014/15 will see Flybe operate 26 routes from Birmingham with up to 350 flights a day, making the airport Flybe’s biggest base.

In April, it was announced that Flybe had signed a five-year deal to operate out of London City Airport with flights starting in October. The first routes will be to Inverness, Exeter, Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh, although the airline has plans to extend its scope to the ski resorts of Europe as well as to other destinations in France and Spain.

Flight timings on its first routes will be such that business people will be able to fly into the heart of London’s City, conduct their business and fly home again the same day.

At the moment Flybe operates flights to 16 countries on 171 routes. The company had previously been forced to reduce its operations because of financial pressure but its fortunes seem to be on the up, with £150 million raised earlier in 2014 to fund expansion.

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EasyJet taunts Thomas Cook

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Page last updated: 6th Jul 2011 - 02:29 PM

EasyJet Holidays, the package holiday arm of Luton-based carrier, easyJet, has made some bold claims in its latest advertising campaign. The print and internet advert alleges that travellers can accrue “huge savings” on their next holiday, by booking with easyJet instead of Thomson or Thomas Cook.

The advert features the words, “save up to £436 per person”, superimposed onto the image of a seashell. The strap line, “why shell out more?” adds an amusing, if unbearably clichéd, element to the piece.

EasyJet says that, for a seven-night stay in Egypt, Majorca, Lanzarote, Costa del Sol, and Cyprus, it can offer a discount of at least £94, when compared to its two rivals. The example holidays depart between August and October, and offer a variety of different accommodation. A second advertisement, minus the witty tagline, and featuring holidays in Madeira, Tenerife, Egypt, Malta, and the Algarve, has also been released by easyJet.

The holiday firm claims that it can offer flexible payment options, low deposits, and a choice of 100,000 hotels.

In response to finding its name in the tabloids, Thomson Holidays launched an advertising campaign of its own on June 24. The advert claims that 75% of its holidays are ‘exclusive’, and almost all of the rooms sold with its packages are in hotels rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. The campaign was featured in daily newspaper, Metro.

Jeremy Ellis, chief at the company behind Thomson, TUI, intimated that buying from easyJet would be a “compromise”. "We believe wholeheartedly that our holidays are the best you can get, both in experience and true value, and we don’t believe they are comparable with anyone else’s.”

Thomas Cook, alleged to be the most expensive company on the example routes to Madeira, Egypt, and seven others, has not responded to easyJet’s advertisement.

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Alarm, as passengers die in Birmingham

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Page last updated: 4th Mar 2011 - 04:45 PM

A critical lack of paramedic services at Birmingham Airport has resulted in the death of three passengers in four months, according to local newspaper, the Sunday Mercury.

The Bickenhill hub famously abandoned its contract with West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) on October 29 last year, as a round of cost-cutting exercises took place at the airport. The move, which is said to have saved Birmingham £200,000 per year, was described by a member of staff as “despicable”. Ordinary employees have been trained in basic first aid procedures to compensate for the lack of professionals at the site.

Unfortunately, as baggage handlers are unable to administer drugs to the sick and dying, people who require medical attention are being transported via ambulance to the nearby Solihull Hospital, a three-mile journey. Previously, injured passengers would have been tended to within minutes, as the WMAS were on 24-hour standby at the airport. The increased time between the onset of injury or sickness and treatment is having dire consequences for vulnerable travellers.

In February, a young man collapsed inside Birmingham’s Terminal 2. A second male, arriving on an inbound flight, was stricken with an undisclosed condition whilst passing through the airport. The third person, also a man, suffered a heart attack. Two of the three men were treated by airport staff, before being transported to hospital. All three later died. “There is a nasty, lingering feeling that perhaps one or two of those people may have lived if they had been attended to by paramedics rather than members of staff,” explained an anonymous airport worker.

Responding to the claims, a Birmingham Airport spokesman noted that all the deaths had occurred in hospital, and not on site, exonerating the hub from blame. He also said that emergency procedures in place at the hub were equal to, or better than, those used in places with a "far bigger footfall" than Birmingham Airport.

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Liver rescued from burning plane

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Page last updated: 30th Nov 2010 - 02:38 PM

Last weekend, Birmingham Airport was the scene of a dramatic rescue, after a Cessna light aeroplane crashed on the runway, trapping two people and their invaluable cargo – a human liver – inside. The organ was being ferried between Belfast and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, when the aircraft went down.

Whilst the reason for the accident is not yet known, ‘foggy conditions’ have been cited as a contributor, if not the outright cause of the crash. Bosses at Birmingham immediately suspended all flights from the airport, causing more than 80 delays, and halting traffic on local roads.

Emergency services in the Midlands reported that a 58-year-old man, the Cessna’s pilot, was seriously injured in the crash, whilst his passenger, a younger man, sustained flash burns and a spinal injury. Remarkably, the hardy liver was unharmed, even after the plane’s wreckage caught fire.

The liver, an extremely important organ for human beings, serves to detoxify the body, and create chemicals needed in other parts of the anatomy. The liver is also the only internal organ capable of regeneration, able to repair itself even if 75% of its mass has been removed.

An air ambulance pilot who located and severed the burning Cessna’s fuel supply was applauded by officials, as his actions prevented the plane from exploding, and aided rescue teams in freeing the wounded men. Local fire commander, Jim Sinnott, praised rescue services’ “rapid and aggressive fire-fighting tactics.”

Later, the liver was successfully transplanted into a patient at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Simon Bramhall, the surgeon who performed the operation, said that the organ worked “straight away,” despite its ordeal. Doctors note that the recipient faced almost certain death without a new liver.

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Cyprus Airways says goodbye to Brum

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Page last updated: 18th Nov 2010 - 12:47 PM

Birmingham Airport is to part ways with Cyprus Airways, more than 25 years after the Mediterranean airline first began flying from the Midlands hub. The departure, say airline bosses, is down to “falling demand” on routes to Larnaca and Paphos, the only destinations served by the carrier from Birmingham.

Cyprus Airways, which is the flag-carrying airline of its namesake, Cyprus, currently resides at Larnaca International Airport. Andreas Agathou, Cyprus Airways’ boss in the UK, implied that the cancellation of the two routes was a ‘pre-emptive strike,’ as the flights are self-sustaining at present, but likely to become unprofitable in the future.

The news is “clearly disappointing,” said an airport spokeswoman. “We are mindful of the tough conditions facing the industry, and hope that Cyprus Airways will return once the economy recovers.”

Larnaca and Paphos, coastal resorts in the south of Cyprus, are currently served by one flight a week from Birmingham, although frequency is doubled in the summer months. The two destinations are extremely popular with UK travellers, and flights to Paphos (for example) are available from Doncaster, Edinburgh, and Newcastle airports, among others.

Local newspaper, the Birmingham Post, indicated that Cyprus Airways is a favourite carrier of Cypriot communities in the Midlands. Brits who own properties in the sunny island republic are also important customers for the airline.

Rival company, Thomson, will continue to offer flights to Cyprus from the Midlands, taking over from Cyprus Airways completely when the firm returns home for the final time in March 2011.

Andreas Agathou said that the airline’s departure from the Midlands was amicable, and Birmingham remains “close to our hearts.”

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British cities to sell their stake in UK airports

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Page last updated: 8th Oct 2010 - 02:23 PM

Speculation is increasing that UK councils are looking to sell their stakes in UK airports. Reports have suggested that Birmingham City Council is already in talks with a Middle Eastern investment group over plans to sell their share in Birmingham Airport.

With Birmingham Airport currently the sixth busiest airport in the United Kingdom, and worth a reported sum of £870 million, airports are an obvious target for some councils already under the strain of dealing with lost money following the collapse of Icelandic banks and now likely to see their funding decrease and expenditure increase during the current economic climate.

Although the council in the UK’s second city is the only one that is currently actively involved in talks with potential suitors, Birmingham City Council is certainly not alone in its desire to raise funds through the sale of capital. Liverpool City Council has recently released a statement which announces their intention to conduct an “ongoing review of assets”, suggesting that they may seek to raise funds through the sale of Liverpool Airport. Furthermore, it is thought that several other councils are assessing the relative pros and cons of selling council stakes in airports, something that could lead to UK airports being placed in the hands of foreign investment groups.

With pressure apparently building with each passing day on UK councils to trim their budgets and reduce the massive deficits they face, selling stakes in important public services such as airports seems an increasingly likely and perhaps necessary occurrence. However, although such a sale would allow councils to raise a significant amount of money, it could leave them without an important and relatively reliable source of future income.

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BMI axes Birmingham flights

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Page last updated: 1st Oct 2010 - 02:11 PM

British Midland International, better known as budget airline BMI, will axe an ‘unpopular’ flight between Aberdeen and Birmingham on October 29 2010.

The domestic route has “not performed as expected” according to a spokesperson for the airline, and all ticket holders will have their money refunded or be given passage on a different route.

The doomed flight has been in circulation since March 29 2009, initially operating on a thrice-daily basis. However, flagging passenger numbers forced BMI to reduce the number of flights between Aberdeen and the Midlands to 11 a week - two on every weekday and one flight on Sundays.

Planes on the Birmingham route will now be transferred onto BMI’s flight from Aberdeen to Manchester, helping the carrier “meet the demand for seats during the peak afternoon travel period”. The extra aircraft will boost the frequency of flights between the Dyce airport and Manchester to six rotations a week.

Travellers who had been hoping to travel after the end of October, when the Aberdeen-Birmingham route is terminated, have had some of their fears assuaged by budget airline Flybe. The carrier, which has a large base in the Midlands, has added four extra flights onto its regular service between the two cities.

Flybe’s ‘rescue’ is the second such gesture in just under a month, after the airline introduced three routes at Belfast City to fill a scheduling hole caused by a fleeing Ryanair.

Whilst the loss of BMI’s domestic route to Birmingham is unfortunate, recent comments by Aberdeen chief Derek Provan suggest that the Scottish hub will concentrate on finding new international routes in the short-term, rather than focusing purely on short-haul flights and providing transport for the oil and gas industry.

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Emissions falling at Birmingham

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Page last updated: 17th Sep 2010 - 03:38 PM

A year-long initiative to reduce aircraft noise and emissions at Birmingham Airport has produced a marked decline in both, according to officials.

The scheme, which encourages approaching aircraft to swap a power-hungry landing technique for an eco-friendly version, dubbed Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), has helped the airport to reduce CO2 emissions by 13,000 tonnes in the past year alone.

Officials note that 95% of planes coming into Birmingham now utilise CDA, and 99% of aircraft stay within their designated flight paths, helping to reduce noise over residential areas. In addition, the average plane landing at the West Midlands airport saves 100kg of fuel per approach, and 315kg of CO2.

Historically, aircraft noise has been something of a hot potato in Birmingham, especially as the airport receives military planes carrying injured soldiers to Solihull Hospital. However, officials claim that airport noise is also down, to the tune of 1-5 decibels per landing.

Combined, the improvements are part of the Sustainable Aviation initiative, which encourages airports and airlines to turn ‘green,’ and spare the environment from harmful fumes and light bulb-shattering noise. CDA is a key element of Sustainable Aviation, but Birmingham are also trying to reduce pollution from taxiing planes, and those being boarded.

Making grounded planes cleaner comes under another initiative altogether, the imaginatively named 'Aircraft on the Ground CO2 Reduction Programme'.

Paul Waite of NATS, or National Air Traffic Services, commended Birmingham on its efforts to reduce emissions: “Birmingham is one of the most successful airports using CDA”, Paul explained. He continued to state: “It is evident that NATS, Birmingham Airport, and local airlines are fully committed to tackling environmental issues”.

Birmingham has also unveiled a new Google Earth tool, which will allow residents (and, indeed, anybody who hopes to move to Birmingham) to see how airport operations affect their local area. The tool will display information on aircraft noise, sound insulation, air quality, and flight paths.

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Sun4U goes bust

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Page last updated: 19th Aug 2010 - 11:50 AM

Birmingham-based travel company, Sun4U, collapsed last week leaving around 1,200 holiday makers stranded abroad. The firm, which specialised in holidays to the Spanish mainland and to the island of Majorca, had been operating for six years and had an annual turnover of around £20 million.

It is believed that the volcanic ash crisis earlier this year plus the collapse last month of Goldtrail, which provided flights for Sun4U, heralded the demise of the company.

It has now entered administration and, according to Andrew Burnham of the chartered accountants MacIntyre Hudson, many other small firms are liable to follow suit in the next couple of years due to cash shortages.

Most of Sun4U’s customers are in Spain and many of these will be covered by the ATOL protection. Those who used Sun4U for accommodation-only or flight-only deals will not be so lucky although their credit or debit card providers may be able to help.

Even those with ATOL protection, however, may find that they have to pay to stay in their hotels and then reclaim the amount paid from the CAA. This practice was widely reported following the collapse of Goldtrail, with hotels attempting to make sure that they did not suffer financial losses because of the failure of the company.

For full information on what to do if you are abroad at the moment or if you are booked to travel, as well as advice on how to make a claim for a refund, see the Directgov website.

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New poll shows Birmingham top and Luton bottom

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Page last updated: 13th Aug 2010 - 02:26 PM

It was good news for Birmingham airport recently after it came top in a poll carried out by airporttransfers.co.uk to see what British holidaymakers think of their airport experiences.

Almost 2,500 passengers were asked to rate various aspects of the experience, ranging from shopping opportunities to the friendliness of staff. Out of a possible 60 marks, Birmingham scored 54, with an impressive full marks for shopping experience, staff friendliness and check-in efficiency.

Cardiff took second place, bearing out the fact that travellers seem to prefer the smaller regional airports for their friendliness and efficiency. Being able to eat at an oyster bar or buy a Louis Vuitton handbag pales into insignificance if the holiday has got off to a bad start due to miserable staff, a lengthy queue at check-in or a stressful experience at security.

Luton airport, on the other hand, only managed 16 points, coming bottom of the league. And the other London airports did not fare much better: Stansted was second bottom with 20 points, Gatwick scored 26 and Heathrow 30.

It would seem that the staff at Luton could learn a thing or two from their Birmingham counterparts since they only managed a measly one point for staff friendliness. Waiting time at Luton’s security also scored badly, again managing just 1 point.

Heathrow scored top marks for shopping, but with many travellers saying they would be willing to travel more than a hundred miles in order to fly from a “decent” airport, Heathrow needs to pull its socks up.

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Exchange rate 'rip-off' exposed

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Page last updated: 23rd Jul 2010 - 02:51 PM

A growing trend in ‘last minute’ currency exchange at airports is costing UK travellers £28m a year, according to the Post Office. The average customer, changing £286 to Euros, stands to lose a good £16 more at an airport bureau de change, than they would on the high street.

Last month, the Post Office found that Birmingham Airport was offering an exchange rate of €1.02 to the pound, when the official rate was closer to €1.19. Liverpool was also overcharging customers, offering a rate of €1.06 to the pound.

Researchers note that up to 1.2m million people could have been left short-changed by the excessive rates.

Sarah Munro, boss of travel money at the Post Office, helped to put the average loss into perspective – ‘in Portugal, this year’s best value destination, £16 could buy a round of drinks and eight ice creams.’

The value of the Euro fell earlier this year, in the wake of Greece’s spiralling debt problems, and has yet to make a full recovery. Travellers should be enjoying good conversion rates. The pound is experiencing a ten-month high over the Euro, which ended two days ago worth 83.91p, up from a low of 81.06p in June 2010.

Entrepreneur and founder of MoneySupermarket.com, Martin Lewis, claims that bureaux de change at UK airports are ‘convenience services,’ which typically charge a rate that is 7-8% higher than their counterparts on Britain’s high streets.

Alongside the £11 Air Passenger Duty and the fuel surcharges imposed by airlines, the exchange rate ‘rip-off,’ to quote the Express newspaper, further devalues the budget holiday industry, by adding hidden charges on to a trip that may have otherwise been inexpensive.

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Emirates boosts Dubai capacity by 22%

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Page last updated: 16th Jul 2010 - 04:28 PM

From the beginning of September, Middle Eastern airline Emirates will add an extra Boeing 777-300ER onto flights between Birmingham Airport and Dubai, increasing capacity on the route by 22%. The boost coincides with Emirates’ tenth year at the Midlands hub, according to airport director Martyn Lloyd.

The Boeing 777 series includes some of the largest passenger aircraft in the world. The 300ER model is a relatively new design, introduced in 2004. Its addition to the Birmingham-Dubai route will allow the airline to sell an extra 78 seats on all evening flights.

Emirates maintains both a base and a branded departure lounge at Birmingham Airport, providing business-class customers with a variety of high-class perks, such as leather seats, gourmet dining and even a shower. The 300ER aircraft also has more bells and whistles than Santa’s sleigh, including a TV with 1,200 channels.

Martyn Lloyd described the airline as a ‘vital’ component of Birmingham’s success: "Emirates now offers nearly 900 seats to Dubai, and we’re delighted that such a commitment has been shown to the Midlands by the airline." Emirates’ new Boeing 300ER is the second of two on the Birmingham-Dubai route.

In similar news, the frequency of flights between Birmingham and Cork, Ireland, will also increase from the end of October. The route, which is operated by Aer Lingus, will run twice a day, six times a week. Both the Cork and Dubai routes are being marketed at executives and rich business types.

Tickets between the Midlands and Dubai are priced at between £700 and £900pp for a return trip, taxes included. The route departs Birmingham at 1415 and 2120 each day. Prices for the Cork route vary, but a return flight leaving on the 19 July costs £118.17.

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New VIP private jet service from Birmingham

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Page last updated: 3rd Jun 2010 - 02:18 PM

If you have ever been stuck in a queue at the airport hours ahead of departure time and eyeing, with dread, the screaming babies and wayward toddlers who are headed to the same destination as you, you may have dreamt of the day you win the lottery and can afford to fly in a private jet.

Well if your numbers come up soon and you live in the Midlands you might be interested to know that a brand new VIP private jet service is about to be launched, operating out of Birmingham airport.

Cello Aviation has spent the last year and a half preparing and the last four months fitting out the luxurious Avro Business Jet.

Last week, air charter brokers and guests, including football clubs and product launch organisers, were invited on board to see what it was all about and feedback seems to have been extremely positive.

The service is also expected to appeal to the luxury wedding market, high profile entertainers and other celebrities, blue chip companies and sports teams such as motor racing. So far interest has been shown not only by UK clients, but also by potential customers in Spain, France, Sweden and Switzerland. Tony Farmer, Cello’s marketing and sales manager, was pleased to announce that interest had exceeded all expectations.

For those of us lucky enough to be able to afford this way of flying, "VIP movement” throughout is promised so that means no annoying queues and long check-in times at the airport. Once on-board, the in-flight experience can be tailored in any way you wish and with enough notice any menu can be provided.

Since the jet is quiet and has a low carbon footprint it is capable of landing at short field regional airports in even the most environmentally sensitive areas.

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Brum celebrates Antalya route

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Page last updated: 23rd Apr 2010 - 02:16 PM

The summer holiday season is incredibly important to UK airlines, and indeed, to any business with a stake in the travel or entertainment industries. New destinations appear in travel agents' windows, vendors of beach toys spring up along the coast, and the heavy frosts stop for just a few months.

Of course, the British Airways strike and the eruption of the Eyjafjoll volcano put world airlines on the defensive, and many aviation bosses have started the summer season with a six-figure hole in their pockets. That might not be such a bad thing for travellers, however, as airlines are now desperate to fill planes with paying customers.

Birmingham Airport announced a new flight to Antalya, Turkey, just two days before Eyjafjoll blew its top in Iceland. The route, which will be operated by budget carrier, Pegasus Airways, will depart every Sunday afternoon from the 2nd May. Birmingham boss, Paul Kehoe, said the route was ideal for Brits looking to swap unpredictable weather for ‘assured sun.’

Antalya is one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts. The city enjoys panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, and sits in the shadow of the Tahtali Mountain, much loved by local climbers. Turkey’s position outside the Euro zone ensures that travellers get better value for money than they would at Spanish or French resorts, for example.

Pegasus Airways will fly from the Midlands to Turkey until the 17th October 2010. The airline claims that Antalya is set to become very popular with British travellers over the summer, and plans to fly direct to the city’s airport, which is located 8 miles to the northeast of the resort.

Related Links

Brum Goes to France

Iraq for Christmas

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Airport to airport, at 250mph

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Page last updated: 19th Mar 2010 - 04:04 PM

High-speed rail is a staple of European and Asian transport networks, and has been for decades. But Britain has never managed to deliver the service beyond St. Pancras International and the Channel Tunnel railway.

Excuses abound, but transport gurus frequently point to the elevated cost of upgrading Britain’s rails to handle high-velocity trains – it could cost billions and still run at a loss.

On the 11th March, Lord Adonis, the current transport secretary, announced plans to revolutionise railways with a new stretch of track through the Chilterns linking London to the West Midlands.

The project, which will eat around £16bn of the government’s yearly budget, will introduce 250mph trains to Britain’s rail network, and dramatically reduce travel times between Heathrow and Birmingham Airport.

Whether the plan goes ahead or not is dependant on overall public opinion, but construction is not expected to begin until 2017. The train will run from Euston in London, to Curzon Street in Birmingham. Stations for Heathrow and Birmingham airports will also be incorporated into the line.

However, critics believe that the project is doomed to failure. Financial obstacles aside, the Chiltern Hills in south-east England could be irreparably damaged by construction crews, creating a ‘blight corridor’ through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Opponents are also concerned that the new railway is a clandestine attempt to improve access to airports, rather than a true upgrade of Britain’s ancient railway system.

The high-speed line may also be extended to serve Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool in the distant future. Lord Adonis claims that 10,000 jobs will be created by the project.

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Body scanners at Birmingham by end of February

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Page last updated: 19th Feb 2010 - 03:28 PM

Birmingham Airport is next in line to receive the new ‘naked’ scanners that have been causing such a fuss in the media recently. Reports state that the airport will see the new scanners arrive by the end of the month, and this is already causing controversy.

The scanners are electromagnetic and can see beneath a person’s clothes to show if they are carrying any weapons or bombs. It sounds like a sensible solution, and it has been in the news a lot lately following the failed Detroit bomb attempt on Christmas Day. Calls for extra security measures following the event saw the scanners become the most obvious choice to stop such an atrocity occurring in the future.

The controversy has been increased even more by the fact that the government has now decided that under 18s should also be scanned, whereas before this was not allowed due to child protection issues.

Heathrow and Manchester airports already have the scanners in use, and Birmingham is now next in line to follow suit. Airport security services have said that there is nothing to worry about because the image is deleted straight away. However, many passengers understandably do not like the idea of having a naked image of themselves produced, and many have said that it is not the right way to go about security.

What’s more, passengers who are selected for the scans will be obliged to undergo them – if they refuse, they will not be able to board their flights. Over the next few months the scanners will arrive at other airports across the country, until eventually they are in place at all airports. There are also suggestions that the scans could become a compulsory part of the security procedure in the future for all passengers.

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Terminal merger plan at Birmingham

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Page last updated: 29th Jan 2010 - 03:42 PM

Birmingham Airport is planning to merge its two terminals, following a reduction in passenger numbers over the past year. The move is set to improve the customer experience and attract more people to the airport.

Passenger numbers fell by 5.5% in 2009 compared to 2008. Although last year was particularly tough for the airline industry, this was a blow to the airport and it is hoping this new move will be able to help turn things around. £13 million is to be invested in the new facility which will improve efficiency for passengers.

The work on the terminals will have many benefits for customers. It will result in a much bigger security search area, as well as a larger arrivals area for meeting and greeting. There will also be improved shopping facilities and better catering services for travellers.

This new project comes at the same time that another project is nearing completion. The authorities are in the middle of a £1.5 million project to merge the four control rooms, which should be up and running by March.

The CEO of Birmingham Airport, Paul Kehoe, said that the goal for 2010 was to “improve the passenger experience” and create a smoother journey through improving the overall efficiency of the airport. He also confirmed that £200 million would be spent over the coming decade on improving the facilities of the airport to help it double the number of passengers it can process by 2018.

Having said that, he confirmed that 2010 was likely to be another difficult year for the airline industry.

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Brum goes to France

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Page last updated: 7th Jan 2010 - 02:15 PM

Flybe has modified its Birmingham Airport roster to include four new routes to France, due to take off from summer 2010.

Despite a pessimistic forecast for the winter season, Flybe continues to go from strength to strength. The carrier now operates close to 4,000 different routes.

Flybe has also added brand new flights at six other UK airports, including Gatwick and Manchester. A further 35 connections at 11 airports have been reinstated, many of which are short haul routes to the Channel Islands, France, and Scotland.

Mike Rutter, chief officer at Flybe, applauded his airline's new summer schedule – “In an environment in which other airlines are withdrawing services, we’re delighted to be offering brand new routes.”

Flights from Birmingham to Avignon, Limoges and Rennes will operate three times a week from 28th March 2010. Four weekly flights to Bordeaux, a city famed for its fine wines, will also begin next year. Birmingham’s new routes are available for booking immediately, and cost in the region of £22.99 for a one-way trip.

Routes to Bergerac, Brest, La Rochelle and Toulouse have also been resumed, following a brief cancellation over the summer. Flybe is currently rescuing Flyglobespan customers from Switzerland, Spain and France – for a price, of course. A £59.99 rescue fare has been offered to customers wanting to fly back to Scotland for Christmas.

The airline’s Gatwick to Jersey service has also been modified to help ease festive pressure, and a further six flights have been added over the Christmas weekend. For a full list of Flybe's new routes, please see the airline's official website.

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Iraq for Christmas

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Page last updated: 18th Dec 2009 - 03:56 PM

Iraqis and Kurds living in the Midlands have been handed a nifty Christmas present by Birmingham Airport – a route home. The new flight departs every Tuesday morning, and travels to the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan, Iraq.

Kurdistan is a mountainous plateau that crosses the border of four different countries – Turkey, where the majority of the Kurds live, Iraq and Syria, and Iran. There are around thirty million Kurds in the world.

Aer Olympic, a Swedish airline, will be in charge of the trip. The carrier joins fellow Scandinavian, Viking Airlines, as the most important Western airline in Erbil, a truly ancient metropolis.

Birmingham boss, Paul Kehoe, noted “encouraging loads” on the first few flights – “The route will offer a direct link to Kurdistan for the first time. We wish the service every success.” Aer Olympic were equally optimistic.

Iraq is still considered a dangerous country by UK and US governments, due to recent military action, but Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are safer by degrees.

Erbil is full of archaeological remains, boasting one of the most impressive citadels in Eurasia, whilst Sulaymaniyah has become an important symbol of Iraqi freedom. Azadi Park, a green oasis within urban Sulaymaniyah, was once an execution site favoured by toppled dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Aer Olympic’s Birmingham – Iraq flight makes a short stop in Stockholm before jetting off to the Middle East. The two cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are visited on alternate weeks.

Unfortunately, the route is difficult to book, and does not feature on Birmingham’s official website. The official Aer Olympic website is the only reliable resource for flights to Kurdistan, and should be your first port of call.

Please consult the Foreign Office website before departing for Iraq.

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New flights from Birmingham Airport

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Page last updated: 4th Dec 2009 - 03:15 PM

Birmingham Airport has just announced the launch of new flights to Palma de Mallorca in Spain. The flights have been launched by MSC Cruises in order to connect customers easily with the start of the cruises that it operates, and it is hoping that this will help to increase passenger numbers.

The flights will only run between May and October 2010 during the height of the cruise season. Cruising continues to grow in popularity in the UK, and MSC Cruises decided to organise the flights to make the process of joining a cruise easier for its customers.

The flights will cost £249 for a return, which includes all transfers to and from the port. They will be run by Monarch Airlines and will depart each Saturday for the six-month period mentioned above.

Customers will fly direct to Palma de Mallorca, where they will then join up with their cruise and go on a seven-day journey that will take them to Toulon, Genoa, Portofino, Ajaccio, Salerno and Tunis before finishing up back in Mallorca.

The company currently runs a special deal whereby any children under the age of 18 who are sharing a cabin with two adults get to go free. They only have to pay for their flights, transfers and port taxes.

The managing director of MSC Cruises in the UK and Ireland, Giulio Libutti, said that the company had seen a growth of 50% between 2008 and 2009 and expects this growth to continue each year. It has expanded its service offering to “open up MSC fly/cruise holidays to a wider UK audience”.

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Birmingham rues funding shortfall

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Page last updated: 20th Nov 2009 - 04:23 PM

Birmingham Airport cannot afford to expand and resurface its runway, according to resident executive Paul Kehoe.

Despite the continued support of local councillors, the airport has been unable to raise the £120m required for the expansion. The Solihull site is struggling to offset the effects of the recent recession.

Whilst bank loans are available, officials fear abominable interest rates, which could throw the airport’s long-term future into jeopardy. Mr. Kehoe does not believe that the £400m extension is worth the risk.

November has not been kind to airports in the Midlands. Yesterday, East Midlands Airport conflicted with local infrastructure, finding the A453 insufficient to support continued growth at the site.

A £25m rehash of the A45, a road that travels east of Birmingham, is also under review, as government funding begins to look unlikely. The European Council could be persuaded to step up to the plate.

With money so scarce, Paul Kehoe fears that Birmingham’s runway expansion is not necessary, stating “we haven’t got the money" and that "airlines are going south rather than north.”

Visitors to the Birmingham Post website have added their two cents to the runway saga, with many believing that larger planes and new routes would be a cost-effective way of improving airport connections.

A high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Birmingham could help both airports solve their troubles, easing congestion at the former and filling Birmingham’s planes with passengers, thereby justifying all the money spent on the International Pier.

If all goes to plan, the runway expansion should be completed by 2012, but any delay in funding could set the planning process back seven years. Experts predict that 16,000 jobs will be created by the project.

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Midlands hungry for more

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Page last updated: 23rd Oct 2009 - 04:07 PM

Birmingham International can handle up to nine million more passengers a year, according to chief executive, Paul Kehoe, effectively doubling the airport’s passenger traffic. Officials believe that the Midlands site could help ease congestion at the UK’s busiest airport, London Heathrow.

Mr. Kehoe was responding to claims that the British Aviation Authority (BAA) would abandon plans for a third runway under a Conservative government – a claim that has since been proved untrue, or at least, inaccurate.

David Cameron vowed to suspend plans for a third runway at Heathrow, ending years of angry campaigning, but leaving the capital in a fix; with the airport operating at 99% capacity, the BAA is desperate to create additional space for aeroplanes.

Officials claim that Birmingham would be able to handle a significant passenger boost, without having to resort to a costly runway expansion.

Despite their differences, both Labour and Tory parties want high-speed rail links to serve UK airports, reducing the demand for environmentally unsound short-haul flights, and cutting travel time between Birmingham and London to just forty minutes.

Birmingham City Council is a vocal advocate of the super-fast rail network, claiming a lengthy relationship with modern railways, stretching back to the launch of the very first intercity train in 1837.

Mr. Kehoe was keen to start the ‘high-speed renaissance’ in the Midlands: “Birmingham is uniquely positioned to not only claw back people from our own region, who make the long journey to Heathrow, but to attract passengers from the overheated south-east.”

Birmingham aims to attract a further eighteen million passengers by 2030, boosting revenue, and developing links with airports in China, India, and the Far East.

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Ryanair blamed for job cuts

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Page last updated: 1st Oct 2009 - 01:05 PM

Beleaguered handling firm, Servisair, could be forced to slash sixty permanent jobs at Birmingham Airport, after cutbacks in Ryanair’s winter programme brought the firm’s business model tumbling down.

The budget airline has axed hundreds of flights over the last few months, jeopardising countless jobs, and throwing UK airports into disarray.

Workers' union, Unite, has implored Servisair to consider other options, but with more than a fortnight of industrial action hanging over the firm, Servisair has empty pockets and little patience for conciliation.

“They are asking for volunteers first.” Unite official, John Partridge, explained; “They have looked at the programme for the winter and it is over 100 flights less than last year. People are not going to be happy.”

Baggage handlers, check-in staff, and seasonal workers will suffer the biggest job losses, Servisair has admitted.

Servisair has struggled to beat the recession, losing a major employer in Brussels Airlines, and facing vehement wage disputes from its workers.

Earlier in the month, Servisair employees organised a siege of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, demanding delivery of a pay increase.

When the handling firm refused to acquiesce to the pleas of general workers' union, GMB, officials attempted to involve emergency personnel in the strike – a stroke that would have forced the airport to close.

Since then, Servisair has flirted with insolvency, trying its best to avert disaster, and to secure employee positions.

The loss of Ryanair services can only worsen the firm’s plight – Servisair provided a large proportion of the airline’s apron services – refuelling, baggage transport, and customer care.

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Residents angry at 'house-shaking' planes

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Page last updated: 25th Sep 2009 - 12:50 PM

The war in Afghanistan has had some unexpected casualties – residents of Solihull, Birmingham, a suburb close to the city’s airport.

A recent council meeting revealed that “house-shaking” military planes are keeping householders awake at night, dampening efforts to reduce aircraft noise, and ruining customer relations.

The ancient planes, many of which are made by aviation giants, Boeing and Lockheed, are employed to transport injured troops to the university hospital – a route that has grown ever busy since the advent of Operation Panther’s Claw.

Officials claim to have ‘no control’ over the conduct of military aircraft, even if sound levels breach established guidelines.

Aircraft noise dropped to an all-time low this year, with just twenty-five thousand people forced to shout over low-flying aircraft, down from ninety thousand in 1993.

The figures emerged as the airport’s Noise Action Plan entered consultation phase in the towns of Hampton-in-Arden and Balsall Common, among others.

Officials have cited better sound insulation and quieter planes for the reduction in noise pollution.

Kirstin Kane, an officer at the airport, commended Birmingham’s efforts to limit the environmental impact of resident aircraft.

Mrs. Kane emphasised the need for action on an individual basis, liaising with airlines and captains as they enter the airport.

Birmingham’s commitment to noise reduction has come at a price, however – all carriers who want to fly at night have abandoned Solihull for East Midlands Airport.

Passenger numbers have dropped 6% over the past year, bringing the facility in line with Robin Hood, Glasgow, and Heathrow airports, all of which have struggled beneath the recession’s boot since late last year.

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Birmingham Airport chief executive wants high-speed rail link

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Page last updated: 14th Sep 2009 - 02:21 PM

Paul Kehoe, the chief executive of Birmingham International Airport, has become more vocal in his attempt to bring the new high-speed rail link to the airport, fearing that it may be given to the city centre instead.

He claimed that Birmingham train station is “tired” and that it hasn’t improved much since the 70s. Instead he wants the 200mph service from London to stop at the airport, and said that if it does not then jobs will be lost and investment will go down in the region.

Network Rail currently doesn’t have any plans for a high-speed rail link to the airport, suggesting that it is more likely to go to the city centre. This has led Kehoe to criticise the high-speed link as being more for the benefit of Scotland and the north of England rather than Birmingham.

He also said the link would be the “single most important thing to influence the West Midlands economy” since Birmingham first became connected to the rail network in 1837.

Head of corporate affairs, John Morris, has also written to stakeholders to explain his vision for two high-speed stops in Birmingham. He wants to influence the government inquiry, High Speed Two, and has asked them to write to chairman Sir David Rowlands.

Initial efforts could be working. Now Rowlands has told the Birmingham Post that he thinks the link should go through the airport, suggesting it is more likely the city will just get a spur from the high speed line.

The inquiry will last a year before the decision is taken.

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Airport unveils 'International Pier'

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Page last updated: 3rd Sep 2009 - 02:56 PM

Birmingham Airport is set to unveil an impressive new terminal building - the "International Pier", the first investment of its kind in over two decades.

Constructed under the auspices of Buro Happold, an engineering firm, the expansion will help boost passenger numbers by eleven million a year, a two-fold increase over the current terminal, which saw nine million people pass through its doors in 2008.

Airport director, Will Heynes, revealed that the Pier was built to accommodate further expansion, becoming a magnet for large department stores, and providing officials with an opportunity to experiment with additional security modules.

“This investment provides the airport with the facilities to meet growing demand for international services to global destinations.” Mr. Heynes explained.

At a cost of £45m, the International Pier is a modest expansion, falling some £105m short of the renovation planned at Bristol, for example.

Officials are keen to introduce the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Birmingham, a factor that further influenced the design of the Pier. Six new aircraft stands, each capable of holding next-generation aircraft, are key aspects of the expansion.

Buro Happold, a British company, has also built terminals at Gatwick and Heathrow, favouring minimal, functionalist designs over bells and whistles.

The new terminal was born out of blueprints used at Gatwick’s Pier 6, ensuring that Birmingham is capable of handling millions of passengers, their luggage, and future expansions with greater ease.

At 230m long, the International Pier is an unassuming, but prominent feature of the Birmingham Airport landscape. The official opening ceremony will take place on September 9th 2009.

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New route from the US into Birmingham

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Page last updated: 22nd May 2009 - 03:55 PM

The huge American airline US Airways hasn't been shy of ambition throughout their seventy-year history. They currently fly to over 225 cities around the world and this month have just added another few more destinations to their list. Currently US Airways fly non-stop to London, Manchester and Glasgow. This year they will also be introducing a direct route from the US to Birmingham.

Flights will arrive in Birmingham from Philadelphia International Airport. Services will run five times a week to begin with, but if the route proves a success, there will surely be more to come in the future. The aircraft taking on the challenge is a Boeing 757 ETOPS plane, where there is room for 165 passengers in the main cabin.

There are two main flight options, going each way across the Atlantic. The first leaves Philadelphia on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing at just after six o’clock in the evening and arriving at Birmingham at six in the morning. It’s a little longer going back to the States from the Midlands (travellers have to take into account the fact that Philadelphia is five hours behind the UK). This service runs on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. On all of these days this flight departs from Birmingham UK at just before nine o’clock in the morning and arrives into Philly just before midday.

As a result of these routes, the airline is hoping to drum up more trade, and is looking forward to carrying passengers further afield than just internal flights at home. Later this year another two routes are being launched, one being to the Norwegian capital Oslo and the other being to Tel Aviv.

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Birmingham may suffer over Heathrow expansion

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Page last updated: 10th Feb 2009 - 01:10 PM

After the furore surrounding the controversial decision to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow, it is not only the environmentalists who are complaining. It has just come to light that the proposed plans to increase the length of the runway at Birmingham airport may also suffer as a result of the decision.

The concerns have arisen as a result of the government’s targets in relation to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. If the third runway at Heathrow does finally go ahead, as is now widely expected, then this might mean that the government will have to prevent schemes at other airports from going ahead which could see it miss its strict targets.

Birmingham wants to increase the length of its runway by 400 metres, and this will mean that it can increase its capacity enormously from 9.6 million to 27 million flights a year by 2030.

Not only will Birmingham airport have to scrap its plans for the increased length of the runway, but many other smaller regional airports could be forced to reduce their flights to prevent the government from missing its targets.

The environmental group Campaign For Better Transport has released research suggesting that Heathrow alone could be responsible for two thirds of the British aviation quota by the middle of the century, which would clearly affect the ability of the other airports to increase their own flights.

However, the government has dismissed the findings, claiming that it has a clear plan to bring increased aviation with reduced carbon emissions by 2050, and that Birmingham and other UK airports are not going to suffer.

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Birmingham announces stable passenger numbers

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Page last updated: 3rd Dec 2008 - 04:48 PM

It comes as no surprise to learn that the number of passengers travelling through the major airports across the United Kingdom has fallen drastically over the past few months. After all, many of us can barely afford to keep up with the ever-increasing energy, food, and water bills and a trip abroad has thus been the last thing on many of our minds. Many families have been busy planning a Christmas break to the homes of relatives scattered across the country in preference to a winter break in the sun.

This has obviously come as bad news for the travel industry and some British airports have been very badly hit. Manchester Airport, for example, saw a drop of almost ten per cent during the month of October, and Gatwick has suffered even more, since it recently announced a drop of over ten per cent.

However, Birmingham International Airport has managed to escape this worrying trend. Passenger numbers dropped by just 0.7 per cent compared to the equivalent month last year. The business development director of the airport, Peter Vella, was very happy with the news. Furthermore, he believes that whilst the numbers for October showed a slight drop, the numbers for November were set to see a return to positive figures.

Birmingham’s continued popularity has been attributed to the airport’s reliance upon budget airlines, as well as the determination of locals to carry on travelling by air. Over the past year, Birmingham has focused upon increasing the number of routes provided by budget airlines. Ryanair, for example, now has thirty-six routes departing from Birmingham.

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Birmingham announces plans to expand security system

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Page last updated: 12th Nov 2008 - 04:03 PM

The international airport at Birmingham has announced plans to expand and upgrade its security system. Hundreds of new security cameras will be installed around the airport site, to improve the level of surveillance offered by the seven hundred existing cameras.

These cameras will be state-of-the-art models and will revolve around an internet-based system. This system will allow officials at the airport to view recorded footage in proper digital quality for one month after the initial pictures have been taken.

The airport’s current cameras are based on an analogue system, which does not allow videos to be saved easily. The new models will therefore make it far easier to track individuals on archive. Furthermore, the airport has revealed that “the system will have a range of sophisticated analytic features available” for use at any time.

The announcement from the officials at Birmingham International Airport has come after a recent embarrassing breach of security. Numerous passengers were allowed to progress through immigration despite not showing passports. Approximately twenty people arrived at Birmingham from Amsterdam in the middle of October and managed to pass through the arrivals zone at the airport without being checked once. The passengers were directed through UK immigration by mistake and their passports therefore stayed firmly in their pockets.

A spokesman for the airport revealed that an investigation was being carried out but was also keen to play down the importance of the incident: “an error might have been made in applying UK immigration policy but […] this would not have compromised other security regimes”.

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Drugs body scanner introduced at Birmingham

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Page last updated: 3rd Oct 2008 - 12:28 PM

With the rise of drug mules being used to smuggle drugs into the UK, a new body scanner at Birmingham Airport is going to make their lives that bit more difficult and Britain’s streets a lot safer.

The new X-ray device “strips” anyone suspected of carrying drugs in their stomach and reveals whether or not they are a “swallower”. Prior to the introduction of the high-tech gadget, customs officers had to take suspects to a hospital for an X-ray but now a scan can be done there and then and trained officers can see instantly whether there are drugs concealed in the stomach.

Birmingham airport recently had a case of a man who had swallowed 60 packages of drugs but the airport’s record is 125! The thumb size pellets made from a waxy substance contained around a kilo of cocaine with a street value of about £40,000.

The financial rewards for the drug mules may be high but so is the risk. If one of the pellets breaks in the stomach, the cocaine leaks into the body and kills the carrier in a matter of seconds.

In the last two weeks UK Customs officers have seized 18 kilos of drugs worth almost a million pounds and Steve Roper, a detection manager for the UK Border Agency, hopes that the new developments will send a “robust message" to both drugs barons and mules.

Similar scanners have been used in America for some time and, despite concerns from civil liberty groups over privacy, travellers seem resigned to the possible indignity on the grounds that it saves time and makes them feel safer.

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Birmingham Airport to get new flights to India

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Page last updated: 3rd Oct 2008 - 12:26 PM

The increasingly popular Birmingham International Airport is to up its game this autumn. As of October this year, it will see flights leaving for the northern Indian city of Amritsar. It’s a joint venture between the new operator Bilga Air from India and the UK airline Monarch, who were recently named ‘Leisure Operator of the Year’ and currently have great success flying from Gatwick, Luton, Manchester and Birmingham.

The flights will be a breakthrough for the West Midlands airport and will hopefully serve both tourists and people travelling on business. It’s predicted that flights will run to India twice a week to begin with, most likely on Sundays and Mondays, but this will be reviewed depending on the demand.

The flights will boast two classes, economy and premium economy, and will be fitted with TV screens, plenty of legroom and a few leather seats in certain areas. The large Asian community in the Midlands gives executives at Bilga Air plenty of optimism about the demand and potential for the service. From Amritsar there is a host of popular destinations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the rest of Asia available. But Amritsar, with its famous Golden Temple, could well become a new popular tourist attraction for Brits wanting something new.

Birmingham Airport seems to be flying high at the moment. This year also saw regular flights begin to and from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines up to five times a week. At this rate, it might soon be up there competing with the likes of Gatwick and Manchester.

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New boss for Birmingham

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Page last updated: 23rd Jul 2008 - 05:13 PM

In a surprise move last week, Birmingham Airport announced that Paul Kehoe would take over as Chief Executive. Mr Kehoe is currently boss at Bristol Airport but has also had previous MD experience at Luton and Belfast airports in the 20 years in which he has worked in the aviation business.

He has also worked in air traffic control with the RAF and is known within the industry, according to an anonymous source, as someone with “a track record of cost control and of driving expansion projects forward”. This could well be one of the reasons behind Mr Kehoe's success in landing the £200,000 pa job, which was hotly contested by a number of suitable candidates.

When the post was advertised earlier this year, it was made clear that not only would the right candidate have to be a “compelling and charismatic leader” but would also be expected to increase passenger numbers from 9 million to 18 million in the next decade, as well as “deliver business transformation”.

Mr Kehoe’s first project will be to manage the extension to the main runway which will enable planes to fly non-stop to destinations such as the West coast of America, China and India. A new terminal for international flights is also planned in the airport’s ambitious expansion scheme.

Hot favourite for the job landed by Mr Kehoe was Joe Kelly, who had been acting as MD after the untimely death of previous boss, Richard Head, in a car accident last year. No announcement has been made as to Mr Kelly’s future at the airport but a tribute was paid to his leadership by a spokesman from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

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Ryanair to operate from Birmingham

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Page last updated: 26th Jun 2008 - 02:16 PM

Earlier this year budget carrier, Ryanair, announced that Birmingham airport was to become its 25th European base and last week the airline confirmed that nine new routes would be operated from the airport, starting in October. This is in addition to the routes which have been operating from Birmingham since April this year.

The routes announced last week are to Alicante, Derry, Fuerteventura, Katowice, Kaunas, Krakow, Palma, Malaga and Murcia. There are also rumours that a tenth route to Prague will be introduced, running five times a week and starting in late October.

The airline sees great potential at Birmingham and hopes that passenger numbers will hit 5 million a year in five years’ time. Business Development Director at Birmingham, Peter Vella, sees Ryanair’s involvement as a great move for passengers in the area, giving them “greater choice and flexibility”, whether they are business or leisure travellers. In addition 5,000 jobs will be created as a result.

Not everyone, however, is delighted by the news, with environmental campaigners warning of the potential for a huge increase in carbon dioxide emissions, just at a time when we should all be doing our best to reduce emissions. Chris Williams of the Birmingham branch of Friends of the Earth is reported as saying that the cost of a Ryanair flight is far too cheap and does not reflect the cost to the environment or to people’s health.

To celebrate its announcement the airline has been offering bargain fares of only £5 each way to thirty five thousand customers. This fare includes taxes and charges, the items which often used to add up to making Ryanair’s fares seem less of a bargain.

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Birmingham airport has recently announced that the proposed new runway will not only have great economic benefits for the area but will not result in an increase in health risk for the local community. However, the more cynical of local residents have queried the reason behind the commissioning of a further report on the health issues.

A £50,000 piece of research, running to 171 pages, carried out by Liverpool University had previously concluded that children, the elderly and anyone with respiratory or circulatory problems would be adversely affected. A further £10,000 was then spent on obtaining a peer group review of the report which, happily for those in favour of the runway expansion, concludes that no meaningful health effects are likely to be caused and that the net impact on health will be a positive one because of improved employment opportunities.

Joe Kelly, MD at Birmingham airport, said that the original study had not taken account of a £10 million plan both to provide soundproofing and to set up a study to monitor health issues.

Chris Crean of Friends of the Earth criticised Mr Kelly for creating a positive spin, whilst a campaigner from Save Elmdon Action Group was quick to point out that sound proofing amounts to nothing if you want to sit in your garden in the summer or even open a window.

Local MP, Loraly Burt, is, on balance, in favour of the runway extension which will generate £824 million in the next 22 years for the region, with the introduction of direct flights to China, India, the west coast of America and South America.

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Birmingham drugs hit the news

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Page last updated: 12th Jun 2008 - 02:18 PM

On the same day that an Austrian man was jailed for smuggling £12,000 worth of cannabis into Birmingham airport, a record drugs haul worth £130,000 was also discovered at the airport.

Earlier this year, Klaus Grunseis was stopped by customs officials at Birmingham airport and, after they x-rayed his luggage, almost six kilos of cannabis was discovered concealed in the lining of two suitcases. Grunseis had travelled from Thailand via Delhi and Zurich and was jailed for eighteen months last week after pleading guilty to the offence.

The six kilo haul, however, pales into comparative insignificance when viewed in the light of the record amount of cannabis (for Birmingham at any rate) discovered in three suitcases being carried by a 41 year old woman and her teenage daughter. The 47 kilos of cannabis resin was discovered by the new UK Border Agency when the women were stopped after disembarking from a flight from Montego Bay in Jamaica. They will appear before Solihull Magistrates in mid July.

Last year Birmingham Airport hit the headlines when HM Revenue and Customs officials and police thwarted an attempt to smuggle heroin with a street value of £1.5 million into the country, hidden in a consignment of air-conditioning units.

The UK Border Agency involved in Birmingham’s latest drugs haul was formed in April this year and has, as one of its targets, the challenge of seizing at least 550 kilos of heroin and 2400 kilos of cocaine by next April, in order to keep up last year’s good work on class A drugs.

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Birmingham's extension plans face opposition

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Page last updated: 14th May 2008 - 01:11 PM

An application to extend Birmingham airport’s runway is due to be submitted later this month for approval by Solihull Borough planning department. The length of the proposed extension is 405 metres plus a starter extension of 150 metres, bringing the length of the extended runway to just over 3000 metres. The extension is planned for the south east end of the main runway, which will involve alterations to the A45 Coventry Road, including the construction of a tunnel.

Currently the restricted length of the runway makes the airport unsuitable for certain destinations and routes and it is felt by the airport authorities that the new runway will bring great economic advantage to the region.

A consultation process was carried out in Nov 2007 to obtain feedback from local residents and businesses and this formed part of the initial application.

21 Romany families at the Haven Caravan Park in Bickenhill face severe noise problems or even losing their homes if the plans go through. Many of the residents have lived there for decades and there is understandable cause for concern in the Romany community. Laurence Boswell, the manager, is angry that for all the years the site has been open he has never received grants from the council or money from the airport and now wants financial help, should the site have to close. A spokesman for the airport has said that Solihull Council will have to relocate the families but Solihull Councillor, Jim Ryan, feels that it should not be up to the taxpayer to foot the bill which could run into millions of ponds but the airport.

The full planning application can be viewed here.

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