AIRPORT CHAOS; SCHIPOL AND A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER…..

Flying high- or sometimes not....

Flying high- or sometimes not….

By their very nature, international airports are intended to be rapid transit centres. Passengers leave and arrive in a constant, ongoing flow. The entire set up is designed to facilitate this two directional flow as fluidly as possible.

In general, the system works. But what happens when something goes horribly wrong? What happens when that whole, free flowing machine snarls up and shudders to a halt?

I had the dubious honour of discovering that the other week, when my overnight flight from Atlanta made landfall in an Amsterdam so smothered in thick fog that it was even hard to make out the wingtip of our plane as it crept along the runway.

Along with many others, my flight back to Newcastle had been cancelled. Faces already strained by the reality of a long haul, overnight flight now dropped visibly as a conga line of cancellations rolled down the departure screens. A long, low collective groan seemed to rise out of nowhere.

Inevitably, a long, long line of refugees began to snake towards the transfers desk. And each minute, it grew longer. We were clearly in for an extended wait.

Six and a half hours later, I finally made it to the front of the checking line. By now, Schipol was suffused in brilliant sunshine, but numerous backlogs had built up. I was not able to get a flight to Newcastle that day.

Instead, I managed to bag the last seat on a flight to Durham Tees Valley. I asked specifically if my baggage- which the staff confirmed had arrived in Amsterdam- would definitely be transferred to the Teeside flight. I was assured that it would be.

Needless to say it wasn’t, but that’s getting ahead of the curve.

How did Schipol deal with those vast, snaking lines on that November day?

Within an hour, airport staff were distributing bottled water, sandwiches and other snacks right along the lines. These were pretty constant, and kept on coming. Needless to say, they were very welcome.

Obviously, there was nowhere to sit during this process and, inevitably, six hours’ constant standing shredded the nerves of many to snapping point. But really, what else could the airport staff do? Nothing as far as I could see.

I’m not sure if any of the quintet of girls behind those recheck desks got so much as a tea break over those frantic, messy hours. They were shouted at and yelled at by people for a situation that they had done nothing to create. They endured tears, tantrums, downright threats and outright pleading. I cannot even begin to imagine the stress levels that they must have been under.

The point is that they did not want to be in this awful situation any more than we did. Yet they seemed to remain constantly polite and attentive to each hassled client, as successive tales of woe unwound.

It took them maybe ten minutes in the end to sort out my problem once I got to the desk. I was offered a food and drink voucher (Ten Euros) without having to ask for it and yes, I was dealt with politely and fairly. But then, I wasn’t ranting and  screaming at anyone.

I finally got home some twelve hours late, minus my luggage. Despite the assurances at Amsterdam, I was half resigned to this being the case (or not the case, so to speak) in any event. As is customary, I left my home details at the airport for them to send the luggage on to me, fully expecting it to take at least a day or two,

Imagine my surprise, then, when my luggage was delivered to my front door within an hour of my finally getting home. A truly emotional reunion, and one totally unexpected. Kudos to KLM for turning it round so quickly.

Make no mistake, this was by no means a ‘fun’ experience. But no one can make weather and, for the most part, both Schipol and KLM did the best that they could in a situation that everyone must dread. They showed concern, compassion and care, as well as sporadic bouts of obvious confusion as news updates failed to filter quickly through from the bosses to the staff in the trenches.

That’s it, really.

HOLA SENOR MOSQUITO!! A FRIENDLY LETTER TO YOU AND YOUR KIND….

Dear Senor Mosquito (and friends)….

It has to be said that we have not enjoyed the greatest of relationships in the past, have we?

Now, I’m not assigning blame or picking fault here but, over the course of several visits to areas inhabited by you and your kin, a number of things have become gradually apparent to me.

It seems that you and your airborne kind regard my exposed white bits as the equivalent of an all you can eat buffet. Little else would explain the way that you seem to hurl yourselves at me like swarms of demented kamikaze bombers on any given day.

You buzz and strafe me ad infinitum as I try and kick back in my hammock on some far away, palm splayed paradise. But you- you put the ‘parasite’ firmly into paradise. And, I am afraid, it is no longer funny or acceptable.

My attempts to swat you away have usually proven to be about as much use as a pair of knickers to a hooker at the start of Fleet Week. I end up exhausted, enraged and, often as not, still get stung.

On occasions, I have even been known to spill my Margarita. And, while even the recording career of Lionel Richie is forgivable in certain quarters, depriving me of my liquid sustenance most certainly is not.

And, just like the credibility of Bill Cosby, my patience is at an end. I am going all Emperor Palpatine on your buzzy little backsides, pal.

This means war and, just to be clear, I am laying down the nuts and bolts of just how I propose to defeat your evil little schemes, once and for all time.

In future, I shall be wearing special headphones in combat zones where your lot are present. These will emit a constant array of One Direction tunes.

A special programme built into these headphones means that I will be spared their inane witterings- a sound only slightly less annoying than yours.

But you will not be so lucky. These songs will play on a frequency guaranteed to send your bony little hides into a tail spin. You will hit the sea like an entire squadron of downed Mitsubishi Zeros, and in very short order.

And-if you think that is all I have in my armoury, think again. Because boys, I am also calling in the Death Star of all mosquito repellents….

Recent trials have revealed that a picture of Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles can drop a swarm of mosquitos at thirty paces. Apparently, it’s all in the stare.

Ever since she married the Prince of Wales and became his awful wedded wife, thousands of pictures have been taken of the woman. No, I don’t know why, either. It’s nowhere near Halloween yet.

But the fact is that one of these photos has fallen into my possession.

I have now had it framed and, believe me, I will put it on a table beside me, facing outwards, everywhere I go. This is your last warning.

I assure you; the woman can make bread go mouldy just by staring at it. What she could do to you lot…..

So, if you still fancy your chances, bring it on.

Love,

Anthony

CNV00036

MARCO POLO RETURNS TO MONTREAL FOR 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

A very special welcome awaits CMV’s veteran Marco Polo when she arrives in Montreal next Thursday as the highlight of her 50th anniversary cruise.

The 22,000 ton, 1965 built vessel was a regular caller to the Canadian port during her days as the Alexander Pushkin, sailing for the Russian merchant marine. The ship sailed a frequent transatlantic service between Leningrad  (now Saint Petersburg once more) and Montreal from 1966 onwards.

However, this is the first time that the storied cruise liner has been back since her renaissance as the Marco Polo and, in honour of the occasion, the Canadian authorities are rolling out the red carpet for what promises to be a very special occasion.

The Marco Polo is expected to receive the full, ceremonial fire float and siren welcome when she makes her way up the Saint Lawrence into port on the morning of Thursday, August 13th. Once she has docked, the ship will then host a special, on board lunch for representatives from both Port of Montreal and Tourism Montreal, as well as some sixty local dignitaries and media people.

Following the lunch, a special film detailing the ship’s long and unique history will be screened on board.

For the 800 passengers already on board Marco Polo for the long since sold out sailing- around 500 of whom are members of CMV’s regular Compass Club repeat cruisers- the festivities will begin the night before, with a special Gala Dinner on board, prior to the spectacular fireboat serenade on arrival the next day.

So popular has this commemorative voyage proved that a second special, round trip sailing to Canada has been arranged for September. And the exercise will also be repeated during the 2016 season.

These nostalgic, round trip crossings offer almost the only opportunities anywhere to cross the Atlantic on a real, purpose built ocean liner. With a combination of long, lazy sea days and the sheer, stunning beauty of a voyage along the famous Saint Lawrence seaway, it is hardly surprising that they have sold so well.

And, in related news, CMV has also announced that their popular Astor will make a fourth, consecutive round trip liner voyage to and from in Australia in November 2016, after a trio of sell out sailings with the ship.

Marco Polo, still stylish at fifty, will receive a traditional fire float and siren welcome in Montreal next Thursday

Marco Polo, still stylish at fifty, will receive a traditional fire float and siren welcome in Montreal next Thursday

FLYING MALAYSIAN AIRLINES; WOULD YOU?

Soaring above the Alps

Soaring above the Alps

Today’s Daily Mirror has pondered the question of whether readers would fly on Malaysian Airlines.

Quite obviously, it’s a question that the paper is posing in light of the two terrible tragedies that the legacy Asian carrier has suffered since January this year. Both were heart breaking events for everybody concerned; passengers, crew and relatives of the victims, plus prospective travellers who have, in consequence, seemingly abandoned the airline in droves.

Indeed, all reports are that the airline is in deep financial trouble, with its finances in free fall. Massive, radical surgery seems necessary simply to give Malaysian Airlines even a fighting chance of staying aloft. Time alone will tell how successful- or otherwise- those efforts ultimately are.

But, to get back to the question posed by the Mirror, my simple answer is ‘yes’.

I would have no problem in flying Malaysian Airlines any time, anywhere.

Because the simple truth is that no international travel is ever one hundred per cent guaranteed safe. The world that we live in since the catastrophic events of 9/11 has altered the way that we travel forever. It has become a far more anxiety laden, hassle intensive experience than in the illusory, carefree days before those fanatical lunatics slammed into the Word Trade Centre.

Yet, for all the horror of those events, and the terrible events of this year, the fact remains that air travel as a whole is still the safest means of mass transportation across the globe. Indeed, it is the only one. There is no other game in town.

There is far more real chance of me being knocked down by a car outside my own front door than there is of me being a casualty of any plane accident, anywhere, ever. Fact.

And, on another level- a different plane, as it were- if you give up on doing what you want to do, give up traveling to see the things and the people that you really need to see- well, then, you die inside, anyway. Do that, and the bad guys win without expending any further effort. No thanks; I don’t think so.

So yes, if Malaysian Airlines was the carrier that best suited my flight plans, then for sure I would go. The airline has a stellar reputation for in flight hospitality and service that few, if any, of its western counterparts can quite match.

Yes, the recent disasters are disturbing and scary. Just like modern life in general as a whole. But that to me is no excuse to turn off the lights and pull up the drawbridge.

In the immortal words of the song; ‘Trains and boats and planes are passing by..’.

Don’t let life pass you by, though. Get out there.

 

 

THE JUMBO JET- 1500 NOT OUT

A British Airways Jumbo Jet on the tarmac at Singapore's Changi Airport.

A British Airways Jumbo Jet on the tarmac at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Today marks one of the most auspicious landmarks in the history of commercial aviation. Today, Boeing’s Seattle factory rolled out the 1,500th production model of the most successful airliner in travel history- the Boeing 747, usually known as the Jumbo Jet.

The first production model of the plane was  delivered as far back as 1968. With it’s four engines and distinctive, dolphin styled silhouette, the Jumbo Jet became the backbone of the world’s aviation network almost overnight. Not until 2008 was its size exceeded in commercial service by the rival Airbus A380- itself ironically nicknamed the ‘Super Jumbo’ in many quarters.

This most recent 747 has been delivered to the German national carrier, Lufthansa. But, despite the plane’s extraordinary longevity, it now seems obvious that this recent delivery might be one of the last of the type.

Simply put, the 747 is gradually succumbing to more advanced, cost effective rivals. In general, the days of large, four engine jets is coming to a close, with the exception of the A380 and it’s smaller fleet mate, the A34o. Twin engine rivals such as the A330 and, ironically, the Boeing 777 and even the new 787 Dreamliner, are now seen as being very much in the ascendant.

Whether or not you are a fan of mass market air travel, it has to be conceded that the 747 has had a truly amazing safety record. Only twenty two of the planes in all have come to grief, some of these on the ground.

Probably the two most famous incidents were the infamous collision on the ground at Tenerife between a 747 belonging to Pan American, and another owned by the Dutch carrier, KLM, in March of 1977. The resulting, horrific fireball killed a total of 583 passengers and crew across the two flights.

More notorious still was the bomb induced destruction of another Pan American Jumbo, Flight 103, above the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21st, 1988. The circumstances behind that bombing- which resulted in some 270 fatalities on the flight-remain controversial to this day.

That accident went a long way towards finishing off Pan American, one of the most famous names in aviation history.

The 747 was the plane used to introduce the transatlantic services of the fledgling Virgin Atlantic and, despite the move towards the newer, more technically advanced jets being produced both by Airbus and Boeing itself, the 747 still remain a mainstay of airlines such as British Airways and KLM. The latter airline uses a number of these in a joint passenger/cargo role, mainly on routes to and from Amsterdam to the Far East.

Love it or loathe it, this extraordinary airplane has proven to be a true survivor. The aviation world will surely be a sadder place without it.

ETIHAD THROWS ALITALIA A LIFELINE

Did Etihad just throw Alitalia a lifeline?

Did Etihad just throw Alitalia a lifeline?

Alitalia, the problem plagued national air carrier of Italy, has just been thrown a massive lifeline by the Abu Dhabi based Middle Eastern mega carrier, Etihad Airways. 

The deal itself is still subject to final regulatory approval. If approved, it would give Etihad a whopping forty nine per cent stake in the Italian carrier.

Sources in the current Italian government announced last month that Etihad was looking to invest some 560 million euros in the problem plagued airline now, and a further sum of 600 million euros over the next few years.

If this is the case, it would represent the largest single investment from the Middle East carrier in any other airline, and is quite an act of faith in itself. It also presages a period of massive retrenchment and inevitable job losses at Alitalia. Total redundancies are expected to be around 2,250 people, paring down the Alitalia organisation to a new strength of 11,500 staff.

As the nineteenth largest air passenger carrier in the world, Alitalia is part of the One World Alliance.

FLIGHT REVIEW- EGYPTAIR HEATHROW TO LUXOR 17/3/2014

Fly Egyptair to Luxor. They know the way

Fly Egyptair to Luxor. They know the way

I was not much looking forward to this journey to begin with, but bit the bullet as the means to an end for getting to and from a brilliant cruise on the Nile. Why so?

Well, it’s a six hour flight, and Egyptair is a ‘dry’ airline. A couple of drinks takes some of the edge off such a long flight under normal circumstances.

Secondly, the airline uses the Boeing 737-800 on what is a moderately long haul route. For reasons that I honestly cannot adequately validate, I have never been a fan of the 737.

Having made those disclaimers, here’s the skinny on how things actually panned out.

Check in was easy, friendly and competently handled at Heathrow Terminal Three. Embarkation was brisk and efficient,via an air bridge, and staggered via groups of rows.

Once on board, the 737-800 featured two sets of economy seating, three abreast, separated by a central aisle just aft of the attractive looking business class seats. Overhead storage was more than adequate, even on what looked like a very busy flight.

The plane was clean, quite smart, with seats upholstered in sky blue, picked out in white detailing. I had managed to score an exit seat at the window, 20A, which gave me more than ample legroom (Though I’m 5’6″ in height). Push back was some ten minutes late, and we got a much appreciated welcome aboard from the flight deck, first in Egyptian, then in English.

Soaring above the Alps

Soaring above the Alps

Once airborne, in flight service began, courtesy of a very attentive and genuinely warm flight crew. Water, soft drinks, tea and coffee all around. Though the cold drinks were served in white plastic cups, these are no more or less worse than the see through plastic equivalents of other airlines. And at least Egyptair provide their economy passengers with proper drinks napkins, which is more than BA has done for quite some time.

Tables were provided in the side of the armrest, rather than the plastic, fold down ones on the seat backs in front preferred by so many carriers these days. No problems here, either.

In flight entertainment came in the form of two films, played on drop down, overhead screens. Headphones were provided free of charge at the start of the service. The first film was some nonsense with Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Vinnie Jones. The second, a whimsical little affair called Escape From Planet Earth, was actually quite funny.

Meal service offered a pleasant surprise; a choice of two hot main courses, either chicken or beef. The beef, basted in paprika sauce, was surprisingly succulent and tender. I followed it with a zesty lemon and coconut tart, and a bread roll that was absolutely delicious. This service was delivered with another round of non alcoholic drinks.

Tables were cleared quickly and efficiently, just in time to settle down for the second feature. Toilets on this flight were spotlessly clean, fully stocked, and complete with two bottles of hand cleansing soap.

It was especially delightful looking out of the window, as we swept across the snow shrouded Alps at dusk. I was more than comfortable in my seat for the whole flight though, to be fair, I did not try the seat recline.

By the time we came in to land at Luxor, I was feeling far more relaxed and good humoured than I had expected. Landing cards had been distributed early in the flight, giving us ample time to fill them in; a pretty simple procedure.

Sky and snow....

Sky and snow….

Landing was smooth and painless, as was disembarkation. Strangely, there are no air bridges at Luxor for the national airline, which did surprise me.

Still, debarkation was a breeze, onto a pair of coaches awaiting us at the bottom of the steps. And the sensation of stepping out into the warm, welcoming night air of Luxor was such a tonic in itself. Despite our slight delay on take off, we arrived on the stand at Luxor a few minutes early.

That formerly ghastly airport has changed out of all recognition, and massively for the better. A visa (£12) was obtained, baggage collected and customs cleared, all within twenty minutes. With Discover Egypt reps awaiting us in the arrivals hall, transfers were seamless.

Conclusion? I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality, warmth and efficiency offered on this six hour, Egyptair flight. This was an impression reinforced one week later, when I flew back on the same route.

Recommended? Absolutely. Well done, Egyptair. It was a pleasure to fly with you.

MAKING A DRAMA OUT OF A CRISIS- MANAGING BAD NEWS

Royal Caribbean engineered a master class in damage limitation

Royal Caribbean engineered a master class in damage limitation

We’ve seen it time and time again in the travel trade; an incident regarding an airline or a cruise line begins to register on the public consciousness; the company concerned goes into damage limitation mode, trying to ride the coat tails of a story that is already spreading like an atomic mushroom cloud, thanks to the internet. That is the stage where it can either be brought back onto an even keel, or go spectacularly wrong. In the last year, we’ve seen classic examples of both.

The focus of most brands is damage limitation, and that’s fair enough as far as it goes. It’s how you go about it that can determine just how strongly- or otherwise- a company rebounds from something that, all too often, cannot be helped.

A case in point is the current, tragic Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that came down last week, with over 220 people aboard. Here, the owners really are caught between a rock and a hard place; they have no concrete news to share (or at least none that has been declared fit for public consumption); the result is a nebulous void that has been filled to overflowing with every kind of poisonous quackery imaginable.

The sheer, ghastly impact of all of this on the relatives of those on board is unthinkable. And yet, time and time again, those same relatives are seen to reiterate the same, general theme; anger at Malaysian Airlines, and the constantly repeated mantra that they are not being told the truth.

And nothing is more damaging to any travel brand in a crisis; the perception- right or wrong- that they are not being up front. In the absence of news, perception assumes a life of its own. Rumours feed it. And so, too, does silence from the owners. To use an unfortunate pun, it’s a perfect storm.

Don't want this to be the perception of your brand? Get pro-active....

Don’t want this to be the perception of your brand? Get pro-active….

For example, look at the ongoing, shabby farce that continues to surround the stalled QE2 regeneration project at Dubai. When they have actually deigned to communicate with the wider travel community, the owners have told one half truth after another, as well as making a whole raft of vague, woolly promises that have never materialised. Departure dates have come and gone with the regularity of planes at Dubai International.

The result? A complete and utter disconnect from the mainstream, to such an extent that nobody now believes a word that comes out of the owners’ mouths. The Dubai ownership of QE2 has squandered a huge amount of goodwill- and potential support- in their alleged efforts to revitalise the ship, and invest in her future. And, while the ‘gentlemen’ concerned are certainly awash with money, losing that kind of goodwill is not something that any savvy operator can afford. Once gone, it cannot be bought back.

Does it have to be like that? Nope. Consider the recent incident at Azamara Club Cruises, where the line’s Azamara Journey had a propeller blade problem that resulted in the premature end of one cruise, and an unscheduled dry docking for repairs. It could have gone horribly pear shaped.

Instead, all passengers on board were immediately told what had happened, as well as those scheduled to embark for the follow on cruise. Azamara CEO, Larry Pimentel, flew to meet the ship on arrival, and personally spoke to all those affected guests. The company provided compensation that satisfied all injured parties and- much more to the point- Pimentel did one crucially important thing.

He communicated. 

Pimentel got pro-active, via social media such as Twitter, and sent frequent, on time updates across the internet. Not only that but, as repairs progressed, he sent out photographs of the work in progress.

Head in the clouds?

Head in the clouds?

In so doing, he took the sting out of the story, and turned it right around. While seemingly obvious- and absolutely the right thing to do- this was an absolute master class in how to get it right, and the company deserves huge kudos for it’s initiative. It bought Azamara a priceless return in credibility and trustworthiness; one which will certainly work to the line’s advantage in the long term.

In a similar vein, when Royal Caribbean had a fire last year on Grandeur Of The Seas, the line adopted exactly the same tactic; tweeting updates on social media and Facebook, and dispatching CEO Adam Goldstein to meet the ship and her passengers in Nassau. All passengers were well compensated and, where necessary, put up in hotels and flown home, all at company expense.

And, crucially, all of this information was out in the public domain in real time; as it happened. Royal Caribbean ran with the narrative, pre-empting a tidal wave of potential, adverse press headlines and on line speculation.

Again, this was an object lesson in how to get it right. If only they could bottle and sell some of that savvy to the status conscious paladins of Dubai.

When heading toward the edge of a cliff, best not to floor the speed pedal...

When heading toward the edge of a cliff, best not to floor the speed pedal…

The bottom line? Get pro-active. When potentially brand damaging stories begin to break, don’t just pull down the shutters, and hope that it will all just blow by. It won’t. You can’t grab the reins when you’re sitting in a bunker.

Because, when all is said and done, nothing amplifies the most scurrilous and unfounded rumour quite like official silence from the top. It creates a perception- right or wrong- that you are either aloof, disengaged, in denial or, worst of all, downright callous and/or incompetent.

That’s brand suicide.

FLYING THE ATLANTIC; A FEW THINGS WORTH KNOWING

Flying can't always be a joy ride.....

Flying can’t always be a joy ride…..

For those who need to fly across the Atlantic on either business, pleasure or, indeed, both, 2014 is not going to be a cheap date on the face of it. George Osborne’s blinkered refusal to reduce the stratospheric level of Air Passenger Duty (APD), edged gradually upwards by his predecessors in office, is hurting the transatlantic trade massively. Fares have simply never been higher.

However, to coin an unfortunate phrase, there are developments in the wind, both actual and potential, that could make life just a little easier for the transatlantic traveller. Here’s just a few of them.

Obviously inspired by the example of the late Baron Von Richtofen, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is considering extending the reach of his own, personal flying circus all the way across the Atlantic by 2019. O’Leary is proposing flight tickets for around £10, sans taxes and baggage charges, natch.

There is no word yet on whether Ryanair proposes to charge for on board oxygen, or if the passengers will be required to have a whip round to pay for the privilege of a pilot. Renowned as the worst inflight experience since Toothless Matilda first mounted a broomstick, Ryanair is certainly an acquired taste. As, of course, is cannibalism.

More studied, and with genuinely good in flight hospitality, fellow Irish product,  Aer Lingus offers a much more convenient alternative to America. Flying from several UK regional airports to hubs in Dublin and Shannon allows passengers to complete customs and immigration in Ireland, before boarding their transatlantic flight.

Thus, you arrive in America as the equivalent of a domestic passenger, neatly sidestepping the lethargic, lumbering hell of those serpentine lines on arrival. And, even better, it allows passengers give the disjointed hell that is Heathrow a neat swerve.  Seems to me to be something of a win win situation, and one I will be checking out for myself later this year.

Combining budget flights with brisk, Scandinavian efficiency, Norwegian Air begins summer flights in July from London Gatwick to New York, Fort Lauderdale, and Los Angeles. With fares from just £150 one way- inclusive of taxes- the hugely successful, hitherto largely short haul airline is throwing down a real gauntlet to the established legacy carriers.

In fact, the airline has been offering transatlantic flights from Sweden for some time now. And, while the airline will be a predominantly budget operation, it is safe to say that it will be more inclusive than anything Baron O’Leary might be contemplating putting on offer.

As always, stay tuned.

NEWCASTLE AIRPORT’S NEW 2014 ROUTES (Updated)

Newcastle is an increasingly important centre for Easyjet

Newcastle is an increasingly important centre for Easyjet

According to it’s own website, Newcastle International Airport is offering a range of new flights in 2014 to a series of hopefully enticing destinations. The airport- by far the premier transport hub of the North East of England- still seems to be holding its own.

First off the ground, as it were, is Easyjet. As of March 30th, the airline will operate to London Gatwick, two flights per day, six days per week. Lead in fares for the new service will start at £27.49, and are on sale as of now.

These neatly replace the recently cancelled Flybe routes between the airport and London. For businessmen and women, the prices are easily competitive with conventional rail travel and, of course, it’s a lot quicker. Trains from Gatwick Airport run into central London in just over thirty minutes.

For the winter sun seeker trade, Easyjet is now also flying direct from Newcastle to Tenerife, with prices for the flights beginning at £79 return.

Rival airline, Jet2, is also inaugurating flight only options to Madeira from £75 one way,inclusive of taxes,  and package holidays to the balmy Portuguese island from around £429. In addition, the airline will also fly to the nearby island of Fuerteventura from £79 per person, one way.

Interestingly, both Jet2 and Easyjet now offer reserved seating, and rivals Ryanair will soon fall into line as well. The continued buoyant success of Newcastle is in stark contrast to the marked, seemingly irrevocable decline of it’s regional sibling, Durham Tees Valley, which has seen an appalling drop in passenger numbers over the last decade.

Newcastle is the gateway towards such world class cities as medieval Durham, with its UNESCO World Heritage cathedral and castle, as well as Newcastle itself, and such vital centres as Team Valley industrial estate.  Sights such as the Angel Of The North combine with the lure of famous, fabled Lindisfarne and the beaches of Northumbria to make the North East one of the most powerfully scenic and emotive highlights of any visit to the United Kingdom.

See the wonders of Niagara Falls from Newcastle International

See the wonders of Niagara Falls from Newcastle International

For far ranging travellers, Newcastle International offers several British Airways daily flights to London Heathrow, all of them connecting with that airline’s world wide network via Terminal Five. It also offers connections on Air France via Paris, and partner airline, KLM, via the highly rated Dutch airport at Amsterdam Schipol.

If you’re using the airport, you’ll find a number of tourist and business class hotels on site at the airport. There’s a Premier Inn, and a pretty good Doubletree Hilton, that are literally both just steps from the airport terminal. The airport can also be accessed by direct metro services from both central Newcastle, and Sunderland.

UPDATE: Irish flag carrier, Aer Lingus, has just announced that it will add four flights a week from Newcastle International to the Southern Irish city of Cork.