UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

First recession, now ash – staycation anyone?

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With summer 2010 set to be marked by repeated airspace shutdowns and airline strikes, suddenly that trip to Cornwall in a caravan looks like a winning alternative to spending hours trapped in an airport terminal.

caravan.jpgThe “staycation” was big news last year, as recession-hit Brits took to the seaside towns and beauty spots of the UK in order to keep holiday costs down and avoid getting punished by rough exchange rates.

The trend boosted sales of caravans and bikes and led to high demand for camping holidays, despite the unpredictable weather. 

This year it seems like the snappily-named Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland and the ongoing battle between British Airways and the union over staff conditions could conspire to ensure the staycation remains a key trend for 2010.

Ryanair has become the champion airline of Europe

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Ryanair is the best airline in Europe.

Yup, that’s right. The most hated and ridiculed carrier on the entire continent is the best. The uber-loathed, toilet-charging, seat-removing Michael O’Leary leads an airline that carries more passengers, makes more money and is worth more than any other airline in Europe.

The business side of the argument is easy. After a week of trading updates from Europe’s main airlines, Ryanair emerged by far the strongest. The Irish no-frills carrier put out a profit warning, but compared to rivals it was like the Queen complaining of a shortage of horses.

BA attempts to talk its way out of trouble

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British Airways has become a real chatterbox of late.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh is attempting to stage a recovery from a year of record losses and a business-class focus that has proven rather ill-suited to a recession. He has been scaring staff and shareholders rigid with his ‘fight for survival’ rhetoric, but how does he plan to wage this battle?

By talking.

He talks to pilots, he talks to engineers, he talks to ground staff and cabin crew. He talks to trade unions, he talks to shareholders – and apparently he talks to his allies over at Spanish rival Iberia. Today’s annual general meeting was dominated by news of these talks – they are making progress, apparently — all of them are making progress.

Branson enjoying rivals’ discomfort… and the spotlight

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Richard Branson was made for days like this.

He’s not just flying to New York to host his airline Virgin Atlantic‘s 25th birthday party. It’s champagne at breakfast, girls on stilts, and a stroll out onto the wing of a plane carrying supermodel Kate Moss.

‘Och, it’s just a pretty girl,” scoffs one observer. The rest of the Heathrow Terminal 3 throng look distinctly more impressed.

BA horror show should quell talk of “green shoots”

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Willie Walsh likes to tell it as it is.

Recent weeks have seen smatterings of good economic news. Sectors that took the full weight of the recession last year said they were staggering to their feet now spring is here.

Retail: John Lewis had its best week of the year so far from 2nd-9th May.

Leisure: Pubs group Greene King said things have ‘generally improved’ since the start of the year.

Smashing up BAA – an improvement for passengers?

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baa.jpgWhen the government established the British Airports Authority in 1965, its aim was to make airports more flexible and profitable. Profitable they may have been but flexibility is not something that Britain’s larger airports are renowned for.

The list of complaints about BAA is a long one, both from airlines and passengers. Airlines says the charges levied are excessive. Travellers say airport terminals are overcrowded, delays are all too frequent and increased bureaucracy has prevailed since the tightening of baggage restrictions in August 2006.

Terminal 5 passengers speak out

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passenger3.JPGPassengers delayed at British Airways’ new Terminal 5 at Heathrow tell Reuters reporter Golnar Motevalli how their travel arrangements were disrupted.

The airline cancelled 140 flights on Thursday and Friday after problems with the baggage handling system at the state-of-the-art terminal.

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