Saturday, 23 June 2012

Virgin America Named Official Domestic Airline of SF Pride Parade's ... - MarketWatch (press release)

SAN FRANCISCO, June 22, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Virgin America, San Francisco's hometown airline, today announces its partnership with SF Pride, the nation's largest LGBT event, for the fifth year in a row. As the "Official Domestic Airline of SF Pride," Virgin America will once again partner with the local LGBT Pride Celebration Committee for the world-famous, one-of-a-kind SF Pride Parade and Celebration - complete with a contingent of hundreds of Virgin America teammates celebrating the long tradition of inclusiveness in San Francisco on the airline's "The World is Your Runway" themed float. In addition, Singer and San Francisco native Aubrey O'Day - formerly of Danity Kane and most recently, Celebrity Apprentice, will take to the 'runway' to help Virgin America teammates celebrate atop the airline's float in the annual parade. The float will also include a live DJ with music spun by local San Francisco DJ, Fifty Pound Note.

SF Pride Parade-goers will also be able to join in the fun by striking a pose in a Virgin America aircraft window cut-out for snapshots that will be featured on Virgin America's SF Pride photo album on Facebook. The airline is also inviting its followers around the country to tweet the airline a photo of their interpretation of Virgin America's "The World is Your Runway" theme using the hashtag #VXPride.

"We've worked with SF Pride ever since our launch and this event is always one of the most popular with our teammates," said Luanne Calvert, Vice President of Marketing at Virgin America. "As San Francisco's hometown airline, we couldn't be more proud to continue to be part of the incredible tradition and celebration that is SF Pride."

As the Official Domestic Airline of SF Pride, Virgin America has welcomed onboard those traveling to San Francisco from all over the country to take part in the festivities. Virgin America offers hip moodlit cabins and touch-screen personal entertainment systems (with 700 hours of entertainment content, on-demand food and beverage ordering, shopping and more). With WiFi on every flight, parade-goers can update their Facebook status or tweet about their journey on Virgin America - and even chat up fellow Pride-Paraders on their flight at 35,000 feet, via the airline's seat-to-seat chat system .

"SF Pride is the celebration of the best that is within us - the diversity and depth of the LGBT community," said Brendan Behan, Executive Director of the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee "We are excited to welcome back Virgin America as our official domestic airline sponsor. Virgin America's commitment to make flying good again goes hand in hand with their partnership with the world-class event that is San Francisco Pride."

This year marks the 42nd Anniversary of SF Pride, which will be held this weekend.

Since its launch in August 2007, Virgin America has created 2600 new jobs and grown to serve multiple destinations across North America. The airline has a fleet of 52 A320 Family Airbus aircraft - with 60 additional aircraft slated for delivery from 2013-2019. Virgin America flies to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C. (Dulles), Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Cabos, Cancun, Chicago, Puerto Vallarta, Palm Springs, Philadelphia, Portland and Washington Reagan National (as of August 14, 2012). Known for friendly service, beautifully designed cabins and inventive amenities, like touch-screen entertainment at every seat, Virgin America has swept the major reader-based travel awards since its launch, including "Best Domestic Airline" in Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards and Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards.

About Virgin America: Headquartered in California, Virgin America offers guests attractive fares and a host of innovative features aimed at reinventing air travel. Virgin America was named "Best Domestic Airline" in the Conde Nast Traveler 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 'Readers' Choice' Awards and "Best Domestic Airline" in Travel + Leisure's 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 'World's Best' Awards. The airline's base of operations is SFO's sleek and sustainable Terminal 2. The airline's new aircraft offer interactive in-flight entertainment systems and power outlets near every seat. Virgin America was the first airline to offer Gogo(TM) InFlight Internet on every flight and hosts the largest in-flight entertainment library in the U.S. skies, via the touch-screen Red(TM) platform. For more, visit:

SOURCE Virgin America

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved


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United Airlines expects its first Dreamliner this year -

CHICAGO — United Airlines reportedly expects to take delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane in September.

United, which will be the first North American airline to receive the long-awaited and highly anticipated plane, has long said it expects to take delivery in the second half of 2012. A spokeswoman on Friday repeated that statement.

However, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper blog on Friday cited internal communications at United specifying September as the anticipated delivery month. United and Boeing are both headquartered in Chicago.

The Dreamliner, the first of which was delivered last fall to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways, is a twin-aisle plane that offers the best fuel economy and range for a craft its size and offers passengers greater comfort while flying. The plane is also well known for incurring lengthy production delays. Boeing delivered its first 787 about three years late because of design and construction problems.

United, the most dominant airline at Chicago O’Hare and in the region, has said in the past that it would “likely” use a 787 on routes through Chicago, possibly as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. However, it hasn’t announced a flight schedule for the aircraft.

LOT Polish Airlines was the first airline to officially announce that it will offer a Chicago O’Hare flight aboard a 787. LOT will begin service in January 2013 between Chicago and Warsaw, Poland.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

View the original article here

Global Executive Appointments @ Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways has restructured its global sales division and made several new key appointments across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Jean-Marc Crescent has been appointed as Vice President, Global Account Sales, while Joost den Hartog will take up the post of Vice President of Europe based in Berlin, where Etihad Airways will locate its new regional and German offices.

Adam Phillips, who is currently General Manager of France, has also been promoted to Vice President - Asia Pacific North and the Indian subcontinent.

All three senior executives will report directly to Daniel Barranger, Etihad Airways' Vice President Global Sales.

In other staff developments, Robert Chad will move from General Manager Abu Dhabi to become General Manager France, reporting to Joost den Hartog, while Joseph Chamoun has been appointed as the new General Manager Abu Dhabi Sales, reporting to Hareb Al Muhairy, Vice President UAE, after four years as General Manager Lebanon.

The airline has also announced Judith Crompton, Head of Global Account Sales, will return to Australia after two successful years in the position. Ms Crompton has been overseeing the airline's multinational accounts worldwide from London whilst managing a team of 12 sales specialists across Etihad Airways' fast-growing network.

We are moving into an important phase of our growth as a truly global airline and these new appointments will be critically important to building on the tremendous success that has been achieved so far, said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer. Along with our continued investment in product, service and network development, we are confident that this highly experienced team will drive the implementation of our sales and distribution strategies to even greater heights in the coming years.

Hotel Prices in London Drop Slightly Ahead of Olympic Games

With just over a month to go until the world's top athletes descend upon London to compete for gold, the latest figures from show that travellers planning to visit London to watch the games, but who have yet to book accommodation, are better placed to find value for money, than they were two months ago. has reported that the average price of a London hotel room during the Olympics has risen by approximately 93% year-on-year to HK$2,525 per night. However, historical data from shows that the average price has actually decreased by about HK$138 a night, when May is compared to March this year.

Jessica Chuang, Senior Marketing Manager, Greater China, said, It's inevitable that prices rise in host cities during major sporting events. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, saw hotel prices in Cape Town rise 71% compared to the corresponding period in 2009 ... In London, hotel prices have come down as there are still good deals and availability during the Olympic period. That's not to say prices will continue to drop further so travellers are advised to book now if they see a good deal and not to wait for bargains at such a busy time of year.

The online hotel booking website found that rates on accommodation vary greatly depending on how close the hotel is to the Olympic action.

The most popular nights for hotel bookings are for the Opening Ceremony on 27 July, and the first day of the athletics on 3 August.

On the night of the Opening Ceremony, travellers can get a four-star hotel in Central London for around HK$1,813. In West London, travellers can stay in a three-star hotel for around HK$1,288 per night and there still seems to be plenty of budget accommodation available.

Interestingly, search figures from shows demand for hotel rooms reflects the top of the medal table from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Searches are up a whopping 300% in China and 206% in Russia, first and third on the 2008 podium of best-performing countries. Searches are up 92% in the US, which ranked second on the 2008 medal table. Searches among Hong Kong travellers are up by 54% too.

Multiple Maintenance Approvals for Hongkong Jet

Civil aviation authorities for Mainland China, Macau and Canada have accepted Hongkong Jet as an approved aircraft maintenance organization.

The company has also been awarded 145 maintenance approval by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands.

The recognition of aircraft maintenance standards from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (HKCAD), General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), Civil Aviation Authority of Macau (AACM) and Transport Canada, enables Hongkong Jet to extend its maintenance services to Mainland-China-registered aircraft, Macau-registered aircraft and Canada-registered aircraft.

Meanwhile, Hongkong Jet's Cayman 145 maintenance approval is recognition of being a qualified maintenance organization approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands after thorough inspection of maintenance capabilities and safety management systems, allowing the organization to provide maintenance services to Cayman-registered aircraft.

?I am very pleased that we have achieved the recognition of various civil aviation authorities so soon after receiving our HKAR-145, said Chris Buchholz, CEO of Hongkong Jet. This further highlights that Hongkong Jet's world-class standards and five-star service have been internationally recognized. Being able to provide maintenance service for aircraft under various registrations in parallel with being able to operate aircraft registered in different countries, truly consolidate Hongkong Jet?s special advantage in the region. With the strong growth in business aviation in Mainland China and customers' increasing level of sophistication, more and more customers on the Mainland are requesting maintenance services of international standards and as they travel to Hong Kong and beyond. Our dedicated 24/7 AOG GO Team (Aircraft-On-Ground GO Team) is ready to provide maintenance services whenever and whenever it is needed

Qatar Airways to Launch Mozambique Flights

Qatar Airways will expand its African operations on 31 October 2012 with scheduled flights to Mozambique.

Thrice-weekly flights will operate from Doha to Mozambique?s capital city of Maputo via Johannesburg, becoming the 20th African destination served by the airline.

The Maputo service will be operated by the airline?s flagship long-haul Boeing 777 aircraft.

This truly is the year of an African adventure for Qatar Airways with the introduction of four new routes on this Continent of diverse landscapes, diverse peoples, diverse cultures and diverse natural attractions, said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker. Mozambique is a great example of a market that we believe has great potential linking up with key feeder markets in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.

The former Portuguese colony in southern Africa is Qatar Airways fourth new route across the diverse African continent to be launched during 2012.

Bordering the Indian Ocean, Mozambique has an economy based on natural resources, largely agriculture. Chemical manufacturing, aluminium and petroleum production are significant growth sectors, attracting investment from around the world. Maputo is a city steeped in colonial architecture reflecting its strong Portuguese heritage.

Tiger Airways Launches Promotion

Tiger Airways has launched a promotion that offers travellers up to 50% off its fares.

 Fares to 15 popular destinations across Asia, including Bangkok, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Phuket and Manila are now on sale until 25 June 2012.

It's a double celebration for us. We want to showcase the best of Asia to mark the annual Great Singapore Sale that is now a permanent feature on everyone's calendar. We have also been performing consistently well in our flight punctuality, and we want to celebrate this with all our customers, with this incredible offer,? said Tiger Airways Singapore's Managing Director, Stewart Adams.

The travel period for the promotional fares varies with the route. Terms and conditions apply.

World's Largest Holiday Inn Hotel Launches Promotion

The world's largest Holiday Inn hotel, the Holiday Inn Macau Cotai Central at the Sands Cotai Central integrated resort, has launched a very special promotion with accommodation for two in a King Superior Room starting from HK$488 for stays until 12 July 2012 inclusive.

The Holiday Inn Macau Cotai Central has 1,224 guestrooms and suites, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and offering all the latest facilities, amenities and services that travellers today demand.

 The ample Pool Deck and fully-equipped Health Club are among a host of services and facilities readily available to guests, with convenient access to Sands Cotai Central?s luxurious and relaxing spas.

Holiday Inn Macau Cotai Central provides fast, convenient and complimentary shuttle bus service to all major points of entry into Macau and is just a short trip to major attractions in the territory, including UNESCO heritage sites.

Wyndham Signs Four New Ramada Hotels in China

Wyndham has signed franchise agreements for four new hotels in China under the company's Ramada brand.

The properties will join Wyndham Hotel Group?s 46 Ramada hotels already in operation in the country.

The 293-room Ramada Plaza Chengdu West, set to include 24 suites, is located at Xingfu Town, Dujiangyan, Chengdu City, which is part of a large scale commerical complex and a major tourism attraction in China. Featuring a fitness center, gift shop, eight meeting rooms as well as three restaurants offering varied dining options, the property is owned by Dujiangyan Bailun Investment Co., Ltd. The hotel is due to open in 2013.

The 289-room Ramada Huizhou South, set to include 39 suites, is located near the world-class Dayawan Petrochemicals Industrial Park and is approximately an hour drive from the Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport and a two-hour drive from the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Due to open in 2013, the hotel, owned by Huizhou City Hongye Investment & Development Co., Ltd., will feature an outdoor pool, sauna, a gift shop, a ballroom and also six meeting rooms totaling 2,000 square meters of meeting space.

The 179-room Ramada Kunming North with 24 suites will be situated as part of a mega-sized real estate development area totaling 428 hectares, including a horse racing club, two 18-hole golf courses, a conference center, luxurious residences, shopping and entertainment facilities as well as a natural wetland park. Owned by Kunming Shining Star (International) Club Co., Ltd. the hotel will feature an indoor swimming pool, fitness center and gift shop as well as a grand ballroom, five meeting rooms and six boardrooms totalling to over 1,000 square meters of meeting space. The hotel, due to open by 2013, is approximately an hour drive from Kunming city center and an hour drive from the Kunming Wujiaba International Airport.

The 150-room Ramada Hotel Pingtan, set to include 42 suites, will be situated in Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone, which acts as a free port to attract investors from Taiwan and other countries. Located approximately 65km in distance from the Fuzhou Changle International Airport, the hotel will feature a fitness center, a gift shop and four meeting rooms totaling 500 square meters of meeting space. Owned by Fujian Pingtan Wandefu Property Development Co., Ltd., the hotel is due to open in 2013.

As China remains an important market for us, we continue to look for growth opportunities in new cities and provinces, said Frank Trampert, managing director for Wyndham Hotel Group in Asia Pacific. We are thrilled to announce the signing of these new properties with four different, esteemed and respected Mainland developers. We are confident that our collaborations will not only help cement the Ramada brand?s position in China but strengthen the greater Wyndham Hotel Group portfolio in the region.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

South African Airways starting non-stop flights to Beijing, China

South African Airways will start flying non-stop to Beijing, China, for the first time in the history of the airline, from January next year.

The inaugural flight is scheduled to leave Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday 31 January 2012, and is set to arrive in Beijing, China on Wednesday 1 February 2012.

These flights are now available for sale at great fares through SAA’s reservations department, the website and the travel agency community.

“SAA is most pleased to introduce non-stop flights to Beijing, China. This new route is in line with SAA’s strategy to expand its network to Asia, the fastest growing market in the world,” says SAA’s CEO Siza Mzimela.

China and South Africa established a comprehensive strategic partnership in August last year. The countries subsequently entered into bilateral agreements for cooperation on infrastructure construction, transportation, water resources utilisation, housing, health and education. The introduction of non-stop flights between the two destinations promises to facilitate business and leisure travel between the two countries.

“Introducing direct flights between China and South Africa will promote tourism and trade, not only to South Africa, but also to all the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries. South Africa and neighbouring destinations such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are already popular destinations for Chinese tourists.
“Similarly, for South Africans and other African countries, the flight will open up China as a new tourist destination and create a bridge between South America and China, connecting three very important BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries and promoting trade amongst these countries,” says Mzimela.

Beijing Capital International Airport (BJS) is the main international airport serving Beijing, China and one of the busiest airports in the world. It is located 32 kilometer northeast of Beijing’s city center, owned and operated by the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Limited, a state-controlled company. There are three terminals at the airport and SAA will operate in and out of terminal three, which is also the designated terminal for Star Alliance partners.

SAA will operate the route non-stop three times a week with its A340-600 long haul aircraft. 
Business Class on these aircraft offers theaward winning lie-flat seat which reclines to a complete bed and has various seating position settings. Each business class seat is equipped with a privacy screen, a personal reading lamp and leg-rest, footrest, telephone and entertainment handset. All seats are also fitted with a personal television. The seats in economy class on SAA’s long haul aircraft offer a very comfortable pitch of between 33 and 34 inches for increased flying comfort.

Flying time between Johannesburg and Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China takes almost 15 hours. Beijing is one of the most populous cities in the world and the country’s political, cultural and educational centre and the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies. 

Renaming of Mana Airport at Raipur in Chhattisgarh as "Swami Vivekanand Airport, Raipur

The Union Cabinet today approved the renaming of the Mana Airport at Raipur as "Swami Vivekanand Airport, Raipur". This will fulfill the long pending demand of people of Chhattisgarh as well as the State Government of Chhattisgarh.

The Raipur Airport belongs to Airports Authority of India (AAI) and is suitable for operation of A-320 type of aircraft (VFR/IFR operations). Presently M/s Air India, Jet Airways/ Jetlite and Kingfisher are operating and approx. 85 domestic flights per week to/from Raipur Airport are operating.

Swami Vivekanand, one of the most renowned spiritual leaders, spent major part of his life in Raipur. Hence it will be apt to rename Mana Airport at Raipur in Chhattisgarh as "Swami Vivekanand Airport, Raipur`" paying homage to the spiritual leader.

Lowcost Cebu Pacific Airlines launces long haul flights

Budget airline Cebu Pacific will introduce direct long-haul flights from Manila to countries where many Filipinos live and work, starting the third quarter of 2013, president and CEO Lance Gokongwei said in a briefing Tuesday.

More than 11 million Filipinos live and work in the Middle East, Australia Europe and US. Eleven-hour flights are considered long haul.

“After sixteen years in the airline industry, we are going long-haul,” said Gokongwei. “We're confident we will succeed in serving millions of Filipinos living and working overseas.”

Cebu Pacific will lease eight new Airbus 330-300, Gokongwei said. It carries up to 400 passengers, allowing the airline to sell the cheapest seats in the business at a 35 percent discount, Gokongwei added.

“This aircraft is very well-suited to the kind of network we want to build and the routes we want to launch,” he said.

Since the airplanes are on lease, Gokongwei noted the airline's biggest cost is in developing and marketing routes.

“These will be direct flights offered at a lower cost. The aircraft works best from point to point, and flying direct is more convenient and cheaper,” he said.

Cebu Pacific has no long-haul routes yet.

“Any flight within 11 hours to areas where there many Filipinos, we will go to these destinations,” Gokongwei said, notably the US, Europe and Middle East.

More than half of Filipinos deployed in these regions take multiple stops and connecting flights because no home carrier can fly them there non-stop, according to the young tycoon.

He cited Saudi Arabia, saying only 165,000 passengers flew direct non-stop from Manila in 2010 even though 293,000 Filipinos work in the Kingdom.

“With our long haul operations, we will provide more affordable, direct flight options to Filipinos overseas,” he said.

New Office of protector of Emigrants opens in Jaipur

The Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Mr. Vayalar Ravi inaugurated the protector of Emigrants office (POE) in Jaipur today. Shri Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister, Rajasthan was also present on the occasion. Addressing the Media persons, Mr. Vayalar Ravi said that this is the 9th office of the protector of Emigrants in the county. He said that a large number of people from Rajasthan go abroad for jobs, particularly in the Middle East. Statistics reveal that during the last three years more than one lakh fifty thousand workers of Rajasthan sought emigration clearance for going abroad.

He said that the new POE office is housed in the Common Facility Centre (CFC) of RIICO at the Sitapura Industrial Area in Jaipur. The State Government has taken the initiative and provided premises for the office. Mr Ravi said that POE offices set up under the Emigration Act of 1983; provide assistance to emigrants going abroad for work. These offices grant emigration clearance to different categories of workers going to 17 designated countries. In this work, the POE offices also get assistance from the Indian Missions abroad. The opening of the new office at Jaipur will ensure that prospective emigrants from Rajasthan will not have to travel to Delhi for seeking emigration clearance. Now on, registered recruiting Agents of Rajasthan shall be filing their online applications for Emigration Clearance on at POE office of Jaipur.

Shri Rajendra Pareek, the State Ministers of Industry & NRI, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Energy and Information and Public Relation, Mr. Mahesh Joshi, MP, Mr. Parvez Diwan, Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and Mr. S. Ahmad, Chief Secretary Rajasthan Government were also present on this occasion.

Earlier, Mr. Ravi and the Chief Minister Mr. Ashok Gehlot inaugurated the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas Exibition at Bilra Auditorium. Around 110 stalls of the State Governments, Public Sector Institutions, NGOs and Private Sector have been established

LAX: American Airlines changes Terminal 4 to self-service check-in

American Airlines has changed its Terminal 4 lobby at LAX from old-fashioned ticket counters to self-service kiosks, which, it says, is designed to streamline check-in and bag drop.

AA agents are out in front rather than behind the counter. These agents can show passengers who aren’t familiar with kiosks how to use them. The 36 machines in T4 West Lobby can check in both international and domestic passengers.

Instead of taking bags over to Transportation Security Administration screening, passengers check them in at the self-service machines.

American now has two resolution centers on each side of the west lobby to assist customers with any issues regarding checking-in.

The old bag drop machines, along with Ticketing/Group Check-in and Qantas check-in have been relocated to other parts of the lobby to make it more convenient for travelers to head from the kiosk to departures.

American claims to be the first airline to dedicate an entire lobby to self-service kiosks.

Source: Los Angeles times

Emirates Dublin Route upgrades Aircraft to handle high demand

After three weeks of the airline launching the first direct route from Dublin to Dubai, Emirates said the route has already become one of the airline's most successful route launches.

The new passenger service has load factors exceeding 90% for many flights leading the airline to deploy a larger aircraft on the route from July.

The daily Dubai-Dublin service is currently operated with a 237-seat Airbus A330-200, arranged in a three class configuration.

Emirates' senior vice president Salem Obaidalla said normally, this would provide enough capacity for the first two to three years of a new route operation. However he said Dublin "is exceeding our expectations much faster than was predicted and we need more seats to satisfy demand.".

From July onwards, the replacement Boeing 777-300ER will be deployed providing a total of 360 seats, an increase in capacity of 52%.

The Boeing offers 310 seats in economy class, 42 in business and eight first-class private suites.

Mr Obaidalla said: "A bigger aircraft means more good news for the Irish economy. We can bring extra visitors to the country and carry additional cargo. The A330-200 can carry up to 15 tonnes of cargo in the belly hold - this figure rises to 25 tonnes with the introduction of the 777."

United Airlines Announces New Routes from its Hubs

United Continental Holdings, Inc., today announced plans to launch year-round and seasonal service on several new routes to begin in the summer of 2012. 

"We continue to capitalize on the combined resources of United and Continental to create a network that gives our customers more flights to the places they want to go," said James Starnes, United's director of domestic planning. "The flexibility of our fleet allows us to put the right aircraft in the right markets to serve new communities and to add additional flights to communities we already serve." 

Daily Service between Washington/Dulles and Honolulu 

United will begin daily year-round service between Washington/Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Honolulu (HNL) on June 7, 2012, the only nonstop service between the two points. The flights will operate using Boeing 767-400 aircraft. 

United, the largest carrier between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii, connects the Aloha State with eight mainland cities, as well as Tokyo, Guam and Majuro, offering nonstop service in 23 city pairs. 

From its Dulles hub, United also offers more domestic and international service from the nation's capital than any other airline. 

New Summer Seasonal Flights from Denver, Houston and San Francisco
The airline will also add seasonal service to several popular summer travel destinations. 

Alaska: New daily service between Denver (DEN) and Fairbanks, Alaska (FAI), will operate from June 7, 2012 through Aug. 27, 2012, using Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Fairbanks offers access to Denali National Park, one of Alaska's most visited destinations. The flights complement United's existing Alaska service to Anchorage from hubs in Denver, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco, as well as Seattle. 

South Dakota: United Express will offer daily seasonal service between Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Rapid City, S.D. (RAP), gateway to the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park, from June 7, 2012, to Aug. 27, 2012. ExpressJet will operate the flights using Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft. United currently serves Rapid City from its Denver and Chicago hubs. 

Wyoming: The airline will also add summer-season flights between its Houston and San Francisco (SFO) hubs and Jackson Hole, Wyo. (JAC), which attracts millions of summer visitors to nearby Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. The Houston flights will operate twice-weekly from June 8, 2012, through Aug. 27, 2012, using Boeing 757 aircraft. The San Francisco flights will operate daily from July 1, 2012, through Aug. 27, 2012, as United Express, with Bombardier CR7 aircraft flown by SkyWest Airlines. These flights are in addition to United's existing service to Jackson Hole from hubs in Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. 

With these new route additions, United will remain within the previously announced capacity guidance.
Since the October 2010 merger of United and Continental, the larger combined fleet has given the company flexibility to better meet market demand. United has added new routes from its hubs to international destinations such as Lagos, Nigeria; Guadalajara, Mexico; Montreal, Canada; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Shanghai, China, and Stuttgart, Germany, along with new intra-Asia routes between the Tokyo hub and Hong Kong and between the Guam hub and Okinawa, Japan. 

The merger also enabled the company to add a number of new domestic routes by using a mix of mainline and regional aircraft from both carriers more efficiently. 

In addition, previously announced new service between New York/Newark and Buenos Aires, and between Washington/Dulles and Manchester, U.K. and Washington/Dulles and Dublin, Ireland, will begin this spring. 

About United Continental Holdings, Inc.United Continental Holdings, Inc. is the holding company for both United Airlines and Continental Airlines. Together with United Express, Continental Express and Continental Connection, these airlines operate an average of 5,656 flights a day to 376 airports on six continents from their hubs in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark Liberty, San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. United and Continental are members of Star Alliance, which offers more than 21,000 daily flights to 1,290 airports in 189 countries. United and Continental's more than 80,000 employees reside in every U.S. state and in many countries around the world. For more information about United Continental Holdings, Inc., go to For more information about the airlines, see and or follow United on Twitter and Facebook. 

SOURCE United Continental Holdings, Inc.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Airline alliances and the Rule of Three

In the business world, three is an iconic number. The USA has three major automobile makers. In fast food you have McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's. There are even three leading peanut butter brands (Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy). In an open market, three major competitors often emerge. And so it is in the travel industry. For many years, three large U.S. network airlines dominated the skies. And in turn those mega-carriers — American, Delta and United — created three global alliances — oneworld, SkyTeam and the Star Alliance respectively. It is also no accident that the three largest European airlines — British Airways, Air France/KLM and Lufthansa — have each joined a different alliance.
Since 1997, when United Airlines, Lufthansa and a few other airlines formed the Star Alliance, the race commenced to enroll the most airlines and offer the most destinations and routes worldwide. Today more than 40 of the world's largest airlines are alliance members (see chart below). The three alliances carry approximately 60% of airline traffic globally.
Airline alliances have greatly changed the way we travel. In this first of a two-part series I will address the airline alliances from a consumer perspective. In a subsequent column I will go behind the scenes at an airline alliance to see how it works and what the alliances are doing to make international travel a more seamless experience.
The alliances began as a way for airlines to expand their international networks. For many years protectionist rules in most countries restricted the number of foreign airlines or flights from operating to, within or beyond a country to a third country destination. For example, U.S. airlines cannot ferry passengers between cities in Canada and cannot fly passengers from a Canadian airport to Europe. These rules were written to protect national airlines and their employees.
Although some protectionist rules have eased over the years, international growth is still limited. In most cases, U.S. airlines still cannot fly between foreign countries and therefore cannot compete with foreign airlines that can fly passengers from U.S. gateways to that foreign airline's home country and then on to hundreds of additional destinations.
The airlines soon realized they could overcome this handicap with the help of alliance partners, according to Mark Haneke of InterVISTAS, a travel industry consulting firm. Haneke worked on alliances at Lufthansa, American Airlines and other major airlines when the alliances were formed.
Airline alliances allow U.S. airlines to route transoceanic traffic to a partner airline's hub and beyond using that partner airline for the connecting segment. So now you can travel from almost anywhere in the U.S. to almost anywhere in Europe without forfeiting miles in your preferred program, for example, by flying American Airlines to London connecting to British Airways, United Airlines to Frankfurt connecting to Lufthansa, or Northwest to Amsterdam connecting to KLM .
Staying in a single network has been a boon for frequent fliers. "The alliances allow business travelers to move throughout the world with greater ease," Haneke says. When it works correctly, "code sharing" (see related article) allows alliance partners to seamlessly share the passenger. In most cases, alliances also allow passengers to accrue and consolidate frequent flier miles and redeem awards on their alliance partners. For example United Airlines had no award seats available for an upcoming trip to Asia but offered me seats on Star Alliance partners ANA, Asiana, Singapore or THAI airlines.
Alliances also offer corporations a single contract for global access. But the alliances also create issues. When two competing airlines become partners in the same alliance, it often means a reduction in service and diminished competition on shared routes.
Even with 40+ allied airlines there are still major geographic gaps. Coverage in North America and Europe is good, but the alliances have very limited operations in India and South America. South African Airways is a member of the Star Alliance and Kenya Airways will be joining SkyTeam later this year, but no other African airlines are alliance members.
In China, where air travel is growing rapidly, the four largest Chinese airlines are in the process of joining the alliances. China Eastern Airlines will most likely go to oneworld, China Southern Airlines to SkyTeam, and Air China and Shanghai Airlines to the Star Alliance.
Not all airlines see alliance membership as a necessity, but competitive pressures are a strong motivation. "ANA was a domestic carrier originally and wanted to compete with Japan Airlines," says Eva Traunmueller from ANA's alliances department. "The best strategy was to join a global alliance," she says. Now that ANA is a Star Alliance member, their cross-country rival and long time holdout Japan Airlines is joining oneworld.
Royal Jordanian Airlines will be the first carrier in the Middle East to join an alliance when it enters oneworld this year. "We're a small airline in a small country," says Samer Majali, president and chief executive officer. "By linking with oneworld partners we're extending our network without incurring the costs of doing so," Majali told me. Perhaps Royal Jordanian will trigger a competitive response causing other carriers in the region to join an alliance.
Low cost carriers (LCCs) have generally resisted the alliance lure. Haneke believes that alliance membership could complicate their business model. Ireland's Aer Lingus and Brazil's Varig are actually leaving their alliances this year. With discounter Ryanair in Ireland, Aer Lingus is restructuring to pursue a low fare, point-to-point strategy that is not compatible with the connecting passenger alliance model.
Airline mergers could also wreak havoc on the alliances. America West Airlines gained access to the Star Alliance when they acquired US Airways, but some recently contemplated airline combinations, such as Continental-United, Delta-United or Delta-US Airways, would cross alliance boundaries and could have a major impact on the composition of those alliances if any of those pairings come to fruition.
The recently announced open skies deal between the U.S. and the European Union could also affect the alliances. Open skies could obliterate any remaining protectionist rules making alliances superfluous. But don't expect major changes, at least in the short term. With so much invested already, any changes will be very slow and even without flight restrictions, it's far less expensive to sell tickets on someone else's airplane than to operate your own.
Alliance Name oneworld SkyTeam Star
Number of members (projected by end of 2007) 11 13 23
Number of flights/day 9,190 14,615 16,000
Number of destinations served 692 728 855
Number of countries served 142 149 155
Annual passengers (millions) 320 373 413
Members American Airlines
British Airways
Cathy Pacific
China Eastern Airlines*
Japan Airlines*
Royal Jordanian*
Air Europa*
Air France/KLM
China Southern Airlines*
Continental Airlines
Copa Airlines*
Czech Airlines
Delta Airlines
Kenya Airlines*
Korean Air
Northwest Airlines
Air Canada
Air China*
Air New Zealand
Blue 1
Croatia Airlines
Lot Polish Airlines
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Shanghai Airlines*
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways
TAP Portugal
Turkish Airlines*
United Airlines
US Airways
*airlines expected to join that alliance
Source:USA Today

Bangalore-Mysore track doubling work to be complted by 2013

Speaking to media here, he said the project had registered significant progress and the stretch between Bangalore and Mandya would have double track by the end of the 2012. However, doubling of the tracks on the stretch between Mandya and Mysore would be completed by 2013.

"We are focusing on completing the major bridge works and once they are ready the railway tracks would also be laid," he added.

The Minister was here to participate in the 69th birthday celebrations of Sri Balagangadharnath Swamiji of Adi Chunchunagiri Math.

He said the State Government should expedite the land acquisition process and hand it over to the railways at the earliest for the speedy completion of the important project.

The railways require nearly 30 acres of land and the revenue department had been sounded off to take up the issue on a priority basis. Alongside the track doubling work, the railways has also taken up electrification of the entire stretch between the two cities and the work is expected to be completed concurrently.

The project has been taken up at an estimated cost of Rs 530 crore on a cost sharing basis with the State Government contributing one-third of the amount and the Railways pitching in with the remaining one-third of the cost.

Referring to delay of the project to compelte by this year end he said the railways hit a road block in Mandya district where land acquisition process is slow while the 18th century armory belonging to the era of Tipu Sultan lays along the track alignment and hence warrants shifting. (UNI)

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Air India's new offer for web-based customers

Under the 'Get Lucky Offer', valid till March 31, every 100th ticket will win a return complimentary ticket on the domestic network of Air India, an Air India release here said.

Winners will be informed through the online Booking Confirmation page while booking an Air India Flight as well as individually by e-mail. A list of the winners would be posted on Air India website daily by 1200 hrs on the following day. The weekend winners will be notified on Monday.

Passengers can look up the list by clicking on List of winners of the 100th free ticket contest on the homepage of Air India website-, the release said.

The e-mail authority for the complimentary ticket would be valid for a period of one month after the completion of at least one coupon of the originally booked international journey, the ticket on which the lucky winner is declared.

If the originally booked travel was domestic, the entire journey must be completed, it said, adding the complimentary ticket can be obtained from any Air India booking office on production of e-mail, ID proof and all boarding cards of his previous journey, based on which the ticket was granted.

The Basic Fare and Airline Fuel Charge will be absorbed by Air India and all applicable taxes will be borne by the passenger on the complimentary ticket valid for six months from the date of issue and can be availed for any direct flight on the airline's domestic (within India) network.

Hopping or connecting flights, however, would not be permitted.

The award ticket will be non-transferable and non re-routable, it said. (UNI)

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Airport Metro goes hi-tech with wi-fi connectivity

"Commuters now can surf internet, check emails sitting at the Airport Metro Express station itself. All the six stations on the line will be wi-fi enabled," said a spokesperson of Reliance Infrastructure.

According to the official, the wi-fi connectivity will be more useful for frequent air travellers.

"Many commuters check in their luggage anytime between six hours to a minimum of two and a half hours before their flight departure, so they can pass time on surfing internet," the official said.

Reliance Infrastructure has tied up with You Broadband, which will provide internet connectivity free of cost, as an inaugural offer.

Built at a cost of Rs.5,700 crore, the 23-km AMEL has six stations: New Delhi Railway Station, Shivaji Stadium, Dhaula Kuan, Delhi Aero City, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Dwarka Sector 21. (IANS)

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STR Reports on Growth in Regional Centres Across China

According to STR Global, the Chinese hotel market's performance has remained positive year-to-November, with RevPAR growing 2.8% compared with the previous year.

 Tracking more than 315,000 daily rooms across China and reporting on 22 cities, STR Global analysed the performance of the burgeoning secondary cities-cities with less than 10 million inhabitants.

Most of the reviewed cities reported higher RevPAR growth YTD than the national average. China's secondary cities, not including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, are of more strategic importance to hotel developers and operators as governmental policies are encouraging the development of export trade centres in technology and manufacturing in those provinces.

Limited new supply and strong demand growth boosted RevPAR in the cities of Xiamen (+30.8%), in southeast China, and in Chengdu (+20.3%), located in southwest China, both of which are considered important financial and economic centres. Wuhan, located in the central province of Hubei and known for its car and steel manufacturers, experienced a shortfall in occupancy (-4.1%), whilst ADR grew 18.2% contributing to RevPAR growth (+13.4%). Destinations with a more balanced mix of visitors such as Hangzhou, a UNESCO world heritage city, saw occupancy decline 8.0% YTD compared to the previous year. The decline was the result of additional room supply (+5.6%) and increased ADR (+10.4%). Located only 45 minutes by train from Shanghai, Suzhou, also named the "Venice of the East" for its historical canals and temples, saw occupancy decrease by 4.0% whilst ADR and room supply grew by 2.0% and 5.5%, respectively.

Hotel supply growth from city to city is supported by an expanding real estate market and a growing regional economy. The pipeline until 2014 indicates that supply growth will increase across all the secondary cities with Sanya (+50.1%) and Xiamen (+25.9%) leading the market growth. Suzhou (+11.3%), Xian (+12.0%) and Hangzhou (+9.0%), despite experiencing lower growth, will remain buoyant with new hotel openings, as international brands venture farther away from larger hubs.

"Hotel development by international and regional hotel chains over recent years has focused more and more on secondary cities across China," said Elizabeth Randall, managing director for STR Global. "This development reflects the growing importance of these markets as economic centres and demand generators for inbound and outbound visitors. In 10 out of 15 cities, demand grew at higher rates than supply; however, the right balance between supply and demand will be crucial to the future success of hotels in these markets."

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STR: 3,377 New Hotel Rooms Opened in Canada in 2011

According to data from the STR/McGraw Hill Construction Dodge Pipeline Report, 34 new properties comprising 3,377 rooms opened in Canada in 2011, representing a 1% increase in new supply over last year.

Among the Chain Scale segments, the Upper Midscale segment reported the most new rooms, opening 14 properties with 1,328, followed by the Upscale segment with six properties and 884 rooms.

The Economy segment reported the largest increase (135.8%) in new rooms, compared to 2010, with 6 properties opening with 408 rooms.

In 2012, there are 46 properties expected to open in Canada with 6,206 rooms.

The Upper Midscale segment is expected to open the most rooms with 19 projects and 2,051 rooms, followed by the Unaffiliated segment (12 properties with 1,767 rooms) and the Upscale segment (8 properties with 1,369 rooms).

In December 2011, the Canadian hotel development pipeline comprised 187 projects totalling 20,957 rooms. This represents a 4% decrease in the number of rooms in the total active pipeline compared to December 2010.

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Strong Growth for India's Hotel Industry

According to date compiled by STR Global, India's hotel industry showed overall year-to-date (YTD) November 2011 growth in performance data and supply pipeline.

YTD hotel performance results showed that all major regions, with the exception of Kerala and Maharashtra, reported continuous RevPAR growth.

Looking at the hotel pipeline, India's hotel inventory is expected to increase by more than 61,000 rooms in the next three years with over 30,000 rooms currently under construction based on STR Global's pipeline database.

Regional India

The central region of Madhya Pradesh reported the largest RevPAR growth (+19%), led by a 12.7% increase in occupancy YTD. The neighbouring regions of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan saw RevPAR increase by 10.8% and 3.3%, respectively, driven by increased average daily rate in Uttar Pradesh of 2.8% to INR5,527.43, whilst occupancy rates in Rajasthan increased by 6.8% to 40.8% during the same period.

In Kerala and Maharashtra, occupancy and ADR growth declined moderately YTD when compared to the same period last year. Demand in Kerala, following strong growth between 2009 and 2010 (16.3%), remained flat at 0.7% between 2010 and 2011. In Maharashtra, demand growth jumped by 10.6% YTD compared to a negative trend between 2009 and 2010.

Main Indian Cities

RevPAR grew across most Indian cities, with the exception of Chennai (-1.1%) and Delhi (-10.6%). Chennai's demand and supply increased almost in equal measures (6.0% and 5.4%, respectively) making it more difficult to hold average room rates. Delhi reported the highest supply growth (+13.0%) of the cities for the period. Likewise, Jaipur and Bangalore experienced stronger new supply growth compared to demand and saw their occupancy decrease YTD.

Leading the best performing markets in terms of RevPAR growth, Goa reported an 8.0% RevPAR increase, led by year-on-year demand growth of 4.1%. Second was Mumbai with the highest ADR of all Indian cities sampled at INR8,450.84. This financial capital also saw demand growth reaching 9.1%.

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Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok Opens New MICE Space - Altitude

Altitude is the new rooftop function space at The Westin Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok.

Altitude includes an indoor function space, a break-out room called The Library and The Terrace. The new function space is located on the 25th floor and takes advantage of dramatic views of downtown Bangkok.

Altitude provides the personalized service and amenities to make any event stand out from the crowd. With no access to the public, Altitude also benefits from total privacy and security.

At Altitude, the expansive 400-square-metre indoor room is bathed in natural daylight and is ideal for meetings, events, conferences and cocktail receptions for 80 to 300 guests. Guests can also enjoy delectable dining and refreshments from a buffet island and live cooking stations with a talented culinary team serving gourmet a la minute cuisine.

The 56-square-metre Library makes the ideal break-out room or meeting space for up to 30 guests. It includes comfortable lounge seating, a large LCD TV, and a refreshment centre stocked with your favourite beverages and snacks.


The Westin Grande Sukhumvit has also given its swimming pool area a refreshing makeover.

Sun loungers arranged on teak decking around the pool offer the opportunity to soak up the sun while savouring tasty cuisine and refreshing drinks from the pool bar. 

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Thailand (TAT) Responds to Bangkok Alert

Mr. Sansern Ngairungsi, Deputy Governor - Asia and South Pacific Market of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) last week responded to a question about the Bangkok Terrorism Alert that hit global news media on Friday, 13 January 2012.

Mr. Ngaorungsi was speaking in Q&A session following a press conference at the ATF 2012 in Manado, Indonesia.

More video from the press conference which covered 2011 visitor arrival numbers, targets for 2012 as well as many other interesting topics related to tourism in Thailand will be featured later this week.

ASIA Travel also has a large number of exclusive video interviews which took place at the ATF 2012 in Manado, Indonesia. These will be featured in our travel news this week and next.

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Wyndham to Launch Howard Johnson Brand in India

Executive team members at Wyndham Hotel Group are traveling throughout India this month to explore development opportunities in the country.

The company plans to expand its presence in India in 2012 and beyond with a non-exclusive development agreement to launch the iconic Howard Johnson brand in India with 3,000 rooms across 35 new properties by 2017.

This agreement with Unique Mercantile India Private Limited, a large firm in India with investments in real estate development in Gujarat and Hyderabad, India, also includes the development of a new 120-room Ramada resort in Udaipur that will feature a spa, swimming pool, games room, a poolside bar and international cuisine. The hotel?s first 72 rooms are due to open in April 2012 with 48 additional rooms completed by December 2014.

These properties will add to Wyndham Hotel Group's 14 hotels already in operation and the 15 properties that are currently under development in the country.

Given the rise in tourism, India is full of growth opportunities, said Eric Danziger, Wyndham Hotel Group president and chief executive officer. We are happy to start the New Year with such exciting expansion plans and look forward to many more opportunities. We remain committed to developing hotels with distinctive services and offerings while strengthening our global presence in sought after destinations.

The agreement with Unique Mercantile India Private Limited increases Wyndham Hotel Group's portfolio in the Asia Pacific region, which currently consists of 466 properties and over 65,453 rooms under the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Ramada, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8, Microtel Inns & Suites and Dream brands.

The planned expansion in India follows the recent opening of the 154-room Wyndham Grand Agra under the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts flag. The hotel, owned by Shekhar Resorts Limited, is lavishly designed and offers a true feel for the area?s vibrant architecture. Spread over 18 acres of landscaped gardens, Wyndham Grand Agra is a mere five minutes from one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal.

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Rains disrupt train service on Howrah-Kharagpur section

The snapping of OHE between Haur and Baliachak stations in Kharagpur division forced SER to cancel/suspend/short-terminate and control many mails and express trains betweeen 0735 hrs and 1315 hrs.

Besides these, seven long distance trains--the 12821 Howrah-Bhubaneswar-Puri Dhauli Express, 12021 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express, 22861 Shalimar-Bankura Rajyarani Express, 12871 Howrah-Titlagarh Ispat Express, 12703 Howrah-Secunderabad Falaknuma Express, 12885 Howrah-Santaldih Aranyak Express and 12262 Howah-Mumbai CSTM Duronto Express were delayed by an average of three hours.

The down trains of 12809 Mumbai-Howrah Mail, 18029 LTT-Shalimar Express, 12859 Mumbai?Howrah Gitanjali Express, 12074 Bhubaneswar-Howrah Jan Shatabdi Express, 12129 Pune?Howrah Azad Hind Express were also delayed by about ninety minutes.

The SER also short-terminated the 12021 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express, which left Howrah this morning, at Tatanagar and will run back as 12022 from Tatanagar to Howrah.

As a result, services of 12021/12022 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express will remain cancelled between Tatanagar-Barbil-Tatanagar.

Besides, 3 passenger trains have been short terminated at different stations--Mecheda, Uluberia and Panskura and some local trains were cancelled.

Train services resumed at 1315 hours after the OHE was repaired. (UNI)

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MoU with ASEAN will boost joint tourism, feels India

Sahai signed the MoU on strengthening tourism cooperation at the third meeting of ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers at Manado, Indonesia, Thursday. The meeting was jointly chaired by Sahai and Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesian tourism and creative economy minister.

According to an official statement, Sahai expressed happiness over the progress made by ASEAN-India cooperation in Buddhist pilgrimage tourism including the production of material and documentary films. He said India was looking forward to more joint-tourism promotion activities.

Sahai said since the number of tourist arrivals between ASEAN and India had shown a steady growth, establishment of an ASEAN promotional chapter in Mumbai would act as a tourism marketing and promotion agency of the ASEAN National Tourism Organisation.

Sahai also welcomed the forthcoming ASEAN-India car rally to be held this year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced during the ASEAN Summit at Bali last year that an MoU on strengthening tourism cooperation between India and ASEAN would be signed preferably at the ASEAN-India tourism ministers' meet in early 2012.

Besides cooperation in facilitating travel and tourist visits, the MoU speaks of enhancing human resource development in the tourism sector and exploring new possibilities for development and promotion of tourism. (IANS)

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Night trains on key Jharkhand section resume after 19 months

The Purusottam Express, the Tata-Kharagpur passenger and other trains services were resumed Thursday night. The Purusottam Express left at 12.10 a.m. and the Tata-Kharagpur train left at 12.40 a.m. from the Tatanagar station.

Night trains were halted on the Tata-Kharagpur and Rourkela-Chakradhapur sections after the Gyneshwari train accident in May 2010.

Night train services on the Rourkela-Chakradhapur section were resumed on December 20, 2011.

The resumption of night train services has brought relief for the passengers.

"We had to face difficulties. The passengers had to wait the whole night at Tatanagar station. Now we are feeling relieved," said Santosh Kumar, a passenger.

The night train services were to resume from December 13 last year, but this was put on hold due to security reasons.

Political parties like BJP and others on many occasions had disrupted train services to demand the resumption of night services. (IANS)

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Delhi Metro through foreign eyes: global system lacking global etiquettes

Like 1.5 million other people in Delhi, I ride on the Metro every day. To get to work, I spend almost 45 minutes on the rail, including switching train lines, before reaching my destination.

The first couple of times I rode the Metro, I thought two things: people are staring at me and why do women not use the Metro. It took me days to realize there were 'women only' compartments at the front of each train. Since starting to use these reserved compartments, I enjoy watching men enter and look around to see only women. They quickly make their way down the train to the general compartments looking as though they mistakenly walked into the wrong washroom.

I am not sure why I didn't originally migrate towards the pink signs when I began riding the Metro. Perhaps it is because I have never seen 'women only' compartments or sections in my home country of Canada. Most times when I walk through security or ride the bus, I do so in a co-ed environment.

Although I never had a problem at the back with the men, I feel safer with other women around, especially when the train is so full there is not enough room to move. I have seen people trying to jump into trains that were full, while Metro security try to pull them out so the door can close.

Not to say the women that ride the Metro are not a little aggressive when they rush for seats. When two girls go for an open seat, neither backs down which usually results in them both semi-sitting on each other in one spot.

Even though the women's compartments are usually busy, less women ride the Metro. One day, the line for men to go through security was so long it extended outside the station and on to the stairs. There was no line for the women's security check. I was able to walk straight in.

There is no Metro in Winnipeg, my home in central Canada. The city of about 680,000 people has been trying for years to build a rapid-transit system, but does not have the funds. In order to raise the money (and pay for the transit system), the cost of riding the city bus is 2.45 CAD (Rs.125) for a regular fare anywhere in the city. Even with inflation, this is much more expensive than the Metro here, which only costs me 16 Rs for my ride across the city.

I am jealous of the Metro system in Delhi and wish we had a progressive alternative to the bus and taxi systems in Winnipeg. I have ridden on other Metro systems in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada's largest cities, and feel that the Delhi Metro can compete on a global scale.

The Metro also offers a fixed rate for everyone, including foreigners. When taking taxis and auto-rickshaws in Delhi, foreigners usually get quoted a much higher price than locals. It can get frustrating when you get overcharged for transportation just because you are not from here. The Delhi Metro does not discriminate in this matter. No matter their religion, sex or race, everyone pays the same price.

Tanya Tonning, who is from Norway, is starting her tour of Asia from Delhi and has been using the Metro to get to markets for shopping. She says it was an easy system to understand and was better than walking the streets of Delhi.

"It was very clean. I didn't expect it to be that clean when you look around outside," Tonning said.

She stays at a backpacking hostel in Saket where most clients are foreigners wanting to see the sights of Delhi. The hostel encourages its visitors to use the Metro to get around the city and provides them with a map of how to reach the nearest station.

Foreigners beware that some etiquette existing in other countries does not exist on the Delhi Metro. There is almost no waiting for people to deboard the train before rushing in, sometimes resulting in getting a shoulder push. Even when seats are reserved for women in the general compartments, I usually see just men sitting there. People hold on to their seats and rarely offer them to people who may need it more. When someone asks someone for a seat, they simply squish over and give them a portion of the seat. Then when someone on the bench gets off, you can spread back out.

On my first day ever on the Metro, two people on different trains gave up their seats for me. Maybe they saw in my face it was my first time and I was a little nervous, because the luxury of getting offered a seat has never happened again.

(Alyssa McDonald is a Canadian journalist interning with IANS. She can be contacted at (IANS)

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Tourists resorts in HP record fresh snowfall, services hit

The state administration claimed that it had rescued 40 snowbound people after introducing emergency chopper flights from Bhuntar to two helipads of Lahaul Spiti this afternoon.

Meanwhile, rain or snow spell was likely to continue and Met department has forecast fresh western disturbance was likely to advance by January 14.

World-famous tourist resort Manali experienced 15 cm fresh snowfall, Shimla 8.4 cm and Kalpa in Kinnuar 5.6 cm respectively. Nearby tourist resorts of Kufri, Narkanda, Chail and Mashobar also received 10 to 15 cm of fresh snowfall.

Rain also lashed parts of the state as Gohar in Mandi registered 8 mm rain, Seobagh in Kullu 6 mm, Bhuntar and Karsog of Mandi had 4 mm each and Jogindernagar 2 mm, respectively.

According to Secretary, General Administration Ajay Bhandari as many as 40 people were rescued in snowbound Lahaul Spiti district today as three sorties were conducted from Bhuntar to Stingeri and Bhuntar to Udaipur this afternoon.

Intense cold and snowy weather took a toll as three lives were lost in the state during the last 24 hours and two people were reportedly buried under a house that collapsed after heavy snow while one person died of cold in Chamba district, ADM Chamba Sunil Kumar confirmed. With this, the toll went up to six while dozen of others either got snow injuries or were frostbitten.

Vehicular traffic remained disrupted in this capital town as hundreds of small vehicles were trapped under the snow carpet and transport buses were not plying in snowbound areas.

The night temperature showed slight improvement as Keylong in Lahaul Spiti was minus 10.4 degrees Celsius which was minus 15 degrees yesterday, Kalpa in Kinnuar minus 5.6 degrees against minus nine degrees yesterday, Manali minus 2 degrees from minus 6.6 degrees yesterday, Shimla minus 1.8 degrees and Solan minus 1.4 degrees, respectively.

Una was low at two degrees, Palampur 2.5 degrees, Dharmshala 2.7 degrees, Sundernagar 3.6 degrees and Bhuntar 3.5 degrees, Mandi four degrees and Nahan 6.4 degrees, respectively.

The Met office has forecast fresh Western Disturbance (WD) as an upper air system would affect the western Himalayan region and adjoining plains from January 14 onwards. However, it has predicted dry weather in plains and high reaches and rain or snow in parts of middle hills in the next 24 hours. (UNI)

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Train to real India: On road to entrepreneurship

Jagriti, an NGO, brought together an odd assortment of 'yatris' (travellers with a mission) in a train that criss-crossed the country, exposing them to institutions that have developed unique solutions to India's challenges, in an effort to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship among them.

Odd because they included both rural and urban, rich and not-so-rich, Indians and foreigners, culturally refined and the street styled, chapati eating and rasam loving, men and women - bound by the common ability to be affected by the socio-economic condition of the country and a dream of bringing in change.

In the fourth year of the Jagriti Yatra, the train passed through Tamil Nadu's Madurai, Andhra Pradesh's Visakhapatnam, Rajasthan's Tilonia, among other places, before culminating in Mumbai.

"The idea is to promote entrepreneurship-led development. Every person who takes part in the yatra goes back a different person," Jagriti co-founder Swapnil Dixit told IANS.

The programme focusses on 20-25 age group of "middle India". "It's the segment between the rich and poor -- where your per day income is Rs.40-120. We want to convert these job seekers into job creators," Dixit said.

An Indian Railways train was booked for the Dec 24-Jan 8 journey with specially equipped bathrooms and private caterers.

Around 15,000 people registered, of whom 450 were selected on the basis of a questionnaire. There were 35 foreign nationals from countries as diverse as Israel, Britain, South Africa and Argentina. "We include foreigners as they give an outsider's perspective to things," Dixit said.

But as theatre director Lewis Hallam famously put it, 'a journey is not undertaken without money', the yatra cost Rs.34,000 per person. And for those who couldn't afford it, it was just Rs.4,000 as the sponsors took care of the rest.

At a stopover for the yatris in Delhi, there was electrifying energy in the packed Kamani auditorium. The hall resonated with words like "amazing", "awe-inspiring", "incredible", "challenging" as participants sat down to review the journey.

"When you put 450 smart, bright people in a crazy train, amazing things happen. You have real high-level conversations about philosophy, education, history and everything," said Shay Eyal, owner of a start-up firm in Israel, shouting to make himself heard in the noise.

Then there was Abdul Kaleem from Uttar Pradesh's Deoria who participated as he wanted "to work for a sustainable model of education" in his district.

The participants got to witness the development taking place in the far corners of the country through innovative development initiatives, and interacted with those at the forefront of change.

The gender ratio inside the train was 60 males to 40 females.

According to Quinton Fivelman, currently working in Britain, "the train is like a pressure cooker with many cultures coming together. When you live in a small place, there's certain intimacy you develop."

"Some people from south India hadn't even got their winter clothes because they had never been to cooler climates, so there was a lot of sharing," Fivelman told IANS.

The participants met Infosys' N.R. Narayan Murthy; S. Aravind, who founded one of the most productive eye care facilities in Madurai; R. Elango, credited with transforming Kuthambakkam Village in Chennai, among other role models.

But how much of this initiative leads to tangible results? "Around 120 of our ex-participants have become entrepreneurs," said Dixit.

Britain's Richard Russell had been working in an Odisha NGO for a year. Ask him about his train experience and he takes a moment's pause to put his thoughts in order.

"I've been able to learn about enterprise models and ways of approaching development problems. We went to a village transformed by solar power, another one redeveloped by social enterprise," Russell told IANS.

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at (IANS)

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Pedal your way to discovering the real India

Pradeep Sharma and his two friends are engineers working for multi-national companies (MNCs) in Bangalore. But their quest for adventure and green concerns has driven them to launch cycle tours and encourage people to take to pedalling for fun.

Pradeep hails from Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, while his friends Pankaj Mangal and Gaurav Mehendiratta respectively are from Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Delhi. The three are aged 28 and studied together in an engineering college in Ahmedabad.

They use films, music, songs, poetry, painting, photography, creative writing, books and rides to popularise bicycle tours and have also started a store in Bangalore - Art of Bicycle Trips.

The novel idea came to them during a cycle trip in July 2010. The trio went on a 120-km bicycle trip from Bangalore to a Cauvery fishing camp.

"After riding for around 60 km we sat under a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and started discussing our trip. We thought that for some bicycle is a utility and for others a revelation of human potential, but for us it was more of a new experience," Sharma recalled.

"Through that experience, the idea of a bicycle movement and Art of Bicycle Trips emerged," Sharma told IANS from Bangalore.

"India's beauty actually lies in its rural areas. And bicycle is the best medium to get connected with its nature and people, directly. So we offer a simple and unique way to experience the real India. Bicycling opens up a whole new world of adventure, freedom and mysticism on every spin," Sharma said.

The firm designs unique bicycle trips from day-long tours of within a city to safaris to other states including Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

One day-long safari has been named after the 1970s Bollywood hit "Sholay" and is called Sholay Adventure. Under it, riders can tour the region where the blockbuster was shot.

"We have 15 bicycles specially designed for different tours. So far 70 to 80 groups (comprising 5-6 people) have taken our service, mostly foreigners. Among them only 10-15 groups were Indian but we hope the number will increase in future," Mehendiratta told IANS.

The ambitious trio plans to open branches in Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh. While Mangal looks after the strategy and planning, Sharma manages the finance and operations and Mehendiratta looks after overseas marketing. Sharma and Mehendiratta hold B.Tech degrees, while Mangal has also done his MBA.

"In foreign countries there are many organisations promoting bicycle tours. And some foreign tour operators offer such tours in India too, but no Indian organisation is involved in such activities," said Sharma.

"We would like to spread out across the country and make it a true movement," he said.

The packages range from three-hour tours to day-long tours and three-day corporate safaris. The rate is 20 dollars for a three-hour tour, and can go up to USD 2,000 - depending on the tour. Food and lodging are in the package.

Art of Bicycle Trips run a website They also have a page on a social networking site.

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at (IANS)

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Tourism can boost Kashmir's economic development: Omar

Addressing a meeting of the tourism officials here, Abdullah noted that the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage crossed 10 million mark in a calendar year Wednesday, and asked the tourism and other departments to divert the pilgrims to other places of tourist interest across the state.

According to officials, the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage alone annually generates Rs.2,000 crore for the state while the tourists visiting the valley contribute Rs.1,000 crore. This year, nearly two million tourists, including Amarnath pilgrims, visited Kashmir region.

"It's important that we focus our attention on tourism in a big way and offer a very hospitable environment to the visitors," Abdullah said.

"There is also need to divert pilgrim tourists visiting Mata Vaishno Devi in large numbers to other parts to help generating economic activities holistically," he said, adding that the steps initiated in this direction require a further boost.

Abdullah said the government has focused attention on creating befitting infrastructure at tourist places in consonance with ecology and environment requirements to maintain the balance between the two. (IANS)

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Andaman all set to host Island Tourism Festival 2012

A and N Governor Lt. Gen (Retd.) Bhopinder Singh will inaugurate the festival.

This year the added feature of ITF will be that, coinciding with the Island Tourism Festival, a five-day CARNIC fest from January 7th to 11th is also being organised. It will also be inaugurated by the Lt. Governor, Mr Satish Mathur, Secretary of Andaman?s Information Publicity and Tourism Department told reporters today.

Mr Mathur said Island Tourism Festival was also being taken to all the three districts.

During ITF, cultural programmes have been arranged in Diglipur, Long Island in North and Middle Andaman, Neil Island, Havelock Island, Wandoor, Wimberleygunj, Bathubasti in South Andaman, Amphitheatre at Anarkali Basti and Netaji Stadium in Port Blair Municipal Area and Car Nicobar in Nicobar District.

Another feature of this year?s Island Tourism Festival is the participation of mainland state tourism corporations. States like Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka and Meghalaya are participating, the secretary added.

Mr Mathur added that like every year, the ITF Exhibition will have stalls with exhibits of different departments.

A special event ?Euphoria? Rock Band, a nationally reputed band of Dr Palash Sen, will perform at Netaji Stadium on January 12 and entry to this show will be tree for all Islanders, Mathur said.

Artists from Sikkim, Meghalaya, Arunachal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odhisha, West Bengal will perform. Apart from this, 'Song and Drama Division of Kolkata' will also send their artists.

To promote local talents, as many as 40 local Orchestra, Cultural Associations are also being invited to perform their skills in various parts of these Islands. There will be Hasya Kavi Sammelan during ITF and also fireworks for the inaugural and closing functions, the Secretary added. (UNI)

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Srinagar-Jammu highway opened to one-way traffic

Border Roads Organisation's chief engineer Brigadier T.P.S. Rawat, who is supervising the road opening operations, said: "Traffic will move on the road from Jammu to Srinagar. No vehicles will be allowed to travel in the opposite direction."

He said all the stranded vehicles on the highway were allowed to move towards Srinagar Monday morning. "Stranded vehicles carrying passengers and essential supplies to the valley have been allowed to move on priority basis on the highway," Rawat told IANS.

"I have been personally supervising the road clearance operations from Patnitop to Banihal tunnel. Our boys had a tough time cutting through the 15-foot-high avalanche that struck the road yesterday (Sunday) at Panthal," he said.

"Tonnes of snow was removed from the road by snow clearing machines despite the bone-chilling cold and strong winds in the Banihal sector of the road," he said.

The Srinagar-Jammu national highway is the lifeline of Kashmir Valley, as all essential supplies are moved along it, and continued blockade of this crucial road often results in unscrupulous traders resorting to profiteering and black-marketing. (IANS)

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Emirates launches A-380 flights to Malaysia

The first A-380 flight from Dubai arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Sunday.

"We have been eagerly awaiting the start of our Airbus A-380 service to Malaysia, a country that we have been operating flights to since 1996," said Richard Jewsbury, Emirates' senior vice president, commercial operations.

"The start of 2012 will be a busy time for Emirates, in addition to launching our A-380 aircraft on one of our three daily non-stop flights between Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

"We are also expanding our network to include Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro from Jan 3 and Dublin from Jan 9, opening up more opportunities for Malaysian travellers and businesses," he added. (IANS)

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'Discover Bihar' roadshow launched

Exhibiting the culture and heritage of Bihar, the two day-long roadshow will have performance from the Sangeet Sangam Seva Group of Bihar on folk songs in local languages like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magadhi and others.

People do not know about Bihar's wildlife and its camping sites, and adventure sports. We want people to know that our state also has all these things,? said Navin Kumar, deputy general manager, Department of Tourism.

In 2011, Bihar attracted about 1,32,33,304 tourists out of which only 5,27,773 were foreign ones.

To further increase the number of tourists, the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. unveiled the various plans it has undertaken to accomplish its objective of popularising the state's tourism, which includes developing basic infrastructure,? Kumar said at the launch.

It is the beginning and we hope that Bihar will do some good tourism. This event will be a window into Bihar tourism,? said Navin Kumar. (IANS)

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Foreign Tourist Arrivals grow 5.2pc

There has been a growth of 5.2pc in December, 2011 over December, 2010 as compared to a growth of 10.4 pc registered in December 2010 over December, 2009.

The growth rate of 5.2pc in December 2011 is higher than 4.7pc growth rate observed in November, 2011.

FTAs in India during 2011 were 6.29 million with a growth of 8.9pc as compared to the FTAs of 5.78 million with a growth of 11.8pc during the year 2010 over 2009.

The growth rate of 8.9 pc in 2011 for India is better than UNWTO?s projected growth rate of 4pc to 5pc for the world in 2011 and 7pc to 9pc for Asia and the Pacific.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) during the month of December 2011 were Rs. 8870 crore as compared to Rs. 7039 crore in December 2010 and Rs 7042 crore in December 2009.

The growth rate in FEE in Rs terms in December 2011 over December 2010 was 26.pc as compared to no growth in December 2010 over December 2009.

FEE from tourism in rupee terms during 2011 were Rs.77591 crore with a growth of 19.6pc , as compared to the FEE of Rs. 64889 crore with a growth of 18.1pc during the year 2010 over 2009.

FEE in USUSD terms during the month of December 2011 were USUSD 1688 million as compared to FEE of USUSD 1558 million during the month of December 2010 and USUSD 1510 million in December 2009.

The growth rate in FEE in USUSD terms in December 2011 over December 2010 was 8.3pc as compared to the growth of 3.2 pc in Decemmber 2010 over December 2009.

FEE from tourism in terms of USUSD during 2011 were USUSD 16564 million with a growth of 16.7pc , as compared to USUSD 14193 million with a growth of 24.6 pc during the year 2010 over 2009. (IBNS)

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Railway announces Pongal Specials

Chennai Central-Nagercoil Special and Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special (via Erode, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudunagar, Tirunelveli): T No 06021 Chennai Central-Nagercoil Special will leave Chennai Central at 2230 hrs on January 13 and arrive Nagercoil at 1400 hrs, the next day.

T No 06022 Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Nagercoil at 1240 hrs on January 17 and arrive Chennai Central at 0330 hrs, the next day.

Chennai Central-Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Specials (via Erode, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudunagar, Tirunelveli): T No 06023 Chennai Central-Nagercoil Superfast Special will leave Chennai Central at 2000 hrs on January 14 and arrive Nagercoil at 1100 hrs, the next day.

T No 06024 Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Nagercoil at 1940 hrs on January 16 and arrive Chennai Central at 1040 hrs, the next day.

T No 06626 Coimbatore-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Coimbatore at 2345 hrs on January 17 and arrive Chennai Central at 0745 hrs, the next day.

T No 06625 Chennai Central-Coimbatore Superfast Special will leave Chennai Central at 2230 hrs on January 18 and arrive Coimbatore at 0650 hrs, the next day.

Advance reservation for the above trains will commence on January 7, a Railwasy release here said. (UNI)

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