Icelandair launch new route between Birmingham and Reykjavik

If you think you caught a glimpse of the beautiful Northern Lights on the 5th February at Birmingham Airport…you are almost right.

Icelandair have launched a new route and as of the 5th, you can fly on Mondays and Thursdays between Birmingham and Reykjavik, and they have repainted a Boeing 757 in honour of this. Representing the Aurora, the plane is certainly very striking.

As well as giving people a chance to see the real Northern Lights, enjoy a relaxing visit to Iceland’s famous hot springs, or to do numerous Summer activities that Iceland offers such as trekking, this route also opens up a new path to North America. Reykjavik serves as a great hub to get to the US and Canada, and so this direct route from Birmingham may open up many new destinations!


Flybe roll out new routes from Birmingham and London City

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.


EasyJet taunts Thomas Cook

EasyJet
have 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.


Alarm, as passengers die in Birmingham

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.


Liver rescued from burning plane

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.


Cyprus Airways says goodbye to Brum

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.”


British cities to sell their stake in UK airports

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.


BMI axes Birmingham flights

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.


Emissions falling at Birmingham

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.


Sun4U goes bust

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.