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Airbus A380 makes 1st flight to America
By MATT MOORE, AP Business Writer Mon Mar 19, 4:45 AM ET
FRANKFURT, Germany - It may trail the historic impact of Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic, but the Spirit of St. Louis did not have a wingspan wider than a football field or space for more than 500 passengers.
For plane builder Airbus and German airline Lufthansa AG, the A380's first flight to North America, which took off on time at 9 a.m. (0800GMT) Monday, is a chance to show off the superjumbo to potential U.S. buyers and to the airports they hope will be flight bases for the double-decker jet.
"We're talking about an airplane that is representing aviation in the 21st century in terms of efficiency," said Jens Bischoff, Lufthansa's vice president for the Americas.
For Airbus, which has been beset by management and financial crises — including a two-year delay to the A380 that wiped more than euro5 billion (US$6.61 billion) off profit forecasts — the flight is a chance to prove that the plane will be ready when the first deliveries are made in October to Singapore airlines.
Lufthansa Chief Pilot Juergen Raps, who has flown the A380 before, said that despite the superjumbo's size, it was nimble and responsive.
"If I were to compare it to driving, you would think this would be like driving a truck or a bus," he said inside the plane's cockpit. "It's like driving a Ferrari."
The air show began early Monday at Frankfurt International Airport when the more than 239 foot-long plane took off as Lufthansa Flight 8940 for the eight-hour flight to New York's JFK Airport, scheduled to land at 12:30 p.m. (1630GMT). Some 550 people, including four pilots, four Airbus crew members, 23 Lufthansa cabin crew and 519 passengers, mostly Airbus and Lufthansa employees along with some reporters, were to be onboard.
The flight will operate just as if it were a commercial one with full dining and entertainment services.
As a test on Sunday, organizers boarded more than 500 people onto the aircraft using two jetways with an impressive time of less than 20 minutes. A second test was held shortly after to see if the Lufthansa workers could board it faster.
Airbus pilot Wolfgang Absmeier said the boarding process on Monday would take longer.
"People are going to be curious and looking around as they get on," he said, standing at the base of a staircase leading to the plane's second level.
After the inaugural run, Lufthansa and Airbus will operate a demonstration flight to Chicago O'Hare Airport on Tuesday, before returning to New York and then Frankfurt. The plane then heads to Hong Kong and back, before continuing its journey to Washington Dulles International Airport on March 25, with a final stop at Lufthansa's Munich hub on March 28 to complete the series of optimization flights.
Using the performance results from this circuit — flying the plane as it would be done so if it were in service — Lufthansa's goal is to match the A380's turnaround time from landing to takeoff with that of much smaller long-haul jets already in operation.
The A380, which burns about four liters (one gallon) of gas per passenger every 80 miles and can fly some 8,000 nautical miles, can seat as many as 550 passengers. Airbus has 166 orders from 15 airlines for the new plane, which has already made tests flights in Europe and to Asia.
"We are proud that ... we are now able to present the A380 to the American people," said Mario Heinen, the head of Airbus' A380 program. "Both JFK and LAX, as well as Chicago O'Hare International and Washington Dulles International Airport are key future destinations for the A380."
The Frankfurt-New York flight is one of two A380 flights to the United States. The other is an A380 operated by Australian airline Qantas that is flying to Los Angeles International Monday but devoid of passengers and crew, save for those in the cockpit.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus said that plane will perform tests at the California airport, including airfield maneuvers, docking at the terminal gate and ground and gate handling exercises. The Los Angeles airport, the fifth-busiest worldwide, is expected to be the first U.S. destination for the A380 when it enters commercial service.
"The airports seeing the A380 this week and next are among the key future destinations for the A380 and following these flights, these hubs will prove themselves ready, willing and able to welcome the A380 for service," said top Airbus salesman John Leahy.
Lufthansa, which has orders for 15 A380s and an option for five more, expects to use the planes on its international routes, mainly to Asia and North America. It expects the first one to be delivered in mid-2009, pushed back from 2008 by the manufacturing delays.
The problems at Airbus led Louis Gallois, co-chief executive of parent company European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., to call 2006 "the worst year for Airbus in its life." Airbus is seeking to recoup its losses by cutting 10,000 jobs and spinning off or closing six of its European manufacturing plants.
Fraport Continues on Success Path
New Record Levels for 2006 - Revenues and Financial Results Increase Noticeably - Executive Board Recommends Dividend of EUR1.15 Per Share Preliminary Figures - Subject to Supervisory Board Approval
FRANKFURT, Germany, March 6/-- Fiscal 2006 was extremely successful for the Fraport Group, with revenues rising by 2.6 percent over the previous year to EUR2.14 billion. Profit for the year jumped 41.7 percent compared to the previous year to EUR228.9 million. Because of this gratifying profit increase Fraport's executive board is recommending a dividend payment of EUR1.15 per share for fiscal 2006, nearly 28 percent more than in the previous year.
At Frankfurt Airport (FRA) - the Group's home base - Fraport achieved a new record in passenger traffic for the 2006 business year. Welcoming more than 52.8 million passengers, FRA exceeded the already high 2005 level by 1.1 percent. Airfreight tonnage at Frankfurt climbed by as much as 8.4 percent, exceeding two million metric tons for the first time. Combined, the Fraport Group's airports recorded markedly stronger passenger growth than FRA: growing by 2.3 percent to a total of 73.8 million passengers. Cargo throughput for the Group's airports climbed by as much as 9.3 percent, reaching a total of 2.6 million metric tons of airfreight and airmail.
Despite these new records, Fraport AG's executive board chairman Dr. Wilhelm Bender emphasized that Fraport's growth in profits clearly exceeded traffic growth. "This proves the success of our determined strategy to bank on other profit sources - such as retailing, real estate utilization, and external business - in addition to the classical airport business of traffic and terminal management and ground-handling services," said Bender. "Further reasons for our good performance last year include ongoing cost discipline and corporate-wide efficiency improvements," Bender explained.
The Tirol's Winter Keeps Swinging
INNSBRUCK, Austria, Februaury23/ -- Despite a lack of snow in all European winter sports centers, the Tirol - number 1 winter sports region in the Alps - still provides good to very good conditions for skiing and boarding fans from Austria and abroad. The 5 Tyrolean glaciers feature white pistes and sunshine galore and the leading Tyrolean winter sports centers attract skiers with excellently groomed runs.
This winter clearly shows the value of the enormous investments made by Tyrolean
skiing areas in state-of-the-art snow-making installations. Even if some skiers can't believe it, thousands of winter sports fans are at present enjoying magnificent winter days, emphasizes Josef Margreiter, director of the Tirol Tourist Board. A current survey by the Tirol Tourist Board shows that the leading Tyrolean winter sports regions at present have the majority of their runs open. There might be some restrictions on runs down to the valley or exposed south-facing slopes. More than 60% of the total skiing area can be artificially snowed, a top European figure, enabling good skiing conditions even this January. In view of the exceptional weather at present the Tirol still stands out as a very high-quality winter sports destination.
Ski tours and off-piste runs are greatly restricted or closed on account of the considerable danger of avalanches in a few areas of the Tirol. This will not affect the majority of skiers, however. A current survey shows that some 90% of all winter sports fans in the Tirol prefer groomed pistes. The booking situation is very good in the big Tyrolean winter sports centers - particularly for the strong winter holiday months of February and March up to Easter. As in past years, there are still some vacancies for January, but information from the regions shows that there are only few cancellations due to the weather. www.tirol.at
Cell phone guns
JetBlue woes spur call for fliers' bill of rights
By Alexandra Marks | The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK - Call it JetBlue's Valentine's Day debacle. And it's now prompting the question: Is it time for a passenger bill of rights?
Caught by frigid, icy weather and bad airline planning, some JetBlue passengers ended up spending as many as 11 hours trapped on planes on a frozen tarmac in New York. The airline is still struggling to get its system back operating smoothly.
In December, a similar scene played out as thousands of American Airlines passengers had to endure tarmac sits as long as eight hours because of thunderstorms.
These two incidents have prompted outraged passengers and lawmakers like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California to call for legislation that would require airlines to allow passengers to deplane after three hours, among other things.
"No one should be held hostage on an aircraft when clearly they can find a way to get people off safely," Senator Boxer said in a statement posted on her website.
Groups like the Travel Insider are now circulating petitions online demanding a passengers bill of rights. And blogs, like strandedpassengers.blogspot.com, have been set up specifically for people to recount their tales of airline woe. The increase in delays, lost luggage, and packed planes is fueling the momentum.
"It may be time for [a passenger bill of rights]," says Richard Gritta, an aviation economist at the University of Portland in Oregon. "I've felt the increasing consolidation in the industry was beginning to affect consumer rights, and this JetBlue incident is just the big straw that broke the camel's back."
But many people within the travel industry are opposed to such a bill. And Professor Gritta himself has mixed feelings about it – primarily because he's not sure the federal government can legislate customer service. He's also concerned that a new set of federal requirements could hamper the airline industry's still precarious financial recovery.
Others in the industry are more adamantly opposed. Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travel Coalition in Radnor, Pa., contends a passenger bill of rights could end up creating an entire slew of unintended consequences, such as more passenger inconvenience as well as higher prices.
For instance, one reason that airlines and pilots choose to sit on the tarmac is that if they go back to the gate, they lose their slot in the takeoff line. That could add even more hours of delay to a trip.
"Say a thunderstorm gridlocked O'Hare Airport for three hours and all planes were required to go back to the gate after three hours," says Mr. Mitchell. "It would be a catastrophe for a week [because of various FAA and crew regulations]. And so as well- intentioned as it may be, if you tie the hand of these airport managers and airlines, you're going to get more delays."
The airlines' efforts to regulate themselves have generally improved service, despite the current problems, Mitchell also says. He notes that according to the Department of Transportation, "between 2000 and 2006, there were 330 instances (out of 88 million flights) where airplanes were stuck on the tarmac for more than five hours."
But advocates of a bill of rights say it would prompt airlines to respond far better when bad weather or some other crisis hits.
This is not the first time that passenger frustration has fueled calls for legislative action. Back in 1999, after a Northwest flight was stranded on a snowy runway for more than eight hours, congressional leaders proposed a passenger bill of rights that had widespread support. Among other things, it would have required airlines to pay fines for particularly grievous treatment of passengers. But the airline industry countered that it was better to let the airlines regulate themselves: It argued it could do a better job of instituting its own voluntary customer-service standards. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, met with airline officials on June 23, 1999, and agreed to drop the proposal in favor of voluntary action.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics: "That same day, American, United and Continental Airlines combined to contribute $95,000 in soft money to the Republicans. The issue was never revived in the 106th Congress."
As of Monday morning, JetBlue had still canceled 23 percent of its flights. Over the weekend, JetBlue's president, David Neeleman, apologized to inconvenienced passengers and said he was "mortified" by the airline's meltdown. In its attempts to keep costs down, it did not have enough staff properly trained to deal with a weather crisis of last week's magnitude. Its own pilots and flight attendants were stranded in airports while some planes sat empty, unable to fly because they had no crews.
Mr. Neeleman pledged to train 100 existing employees within two weeks to prevent another series of rolling delays and cancellations.
"JetBlue is taking this aggressive, unprecedented action to end rolling delays and cancellations, and to operate a new schedule reliably," the airline said in a statement.
National Geographic Announces Affordable Global Cell Phone Coverage Solution
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 / -- National Geographic today announces the launch of the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, designed specifically for the needs of the traveling public, allowing for affordable calls from over 100 countries, with no contracts to sign and free incoming calls in most international markets.
GSM cell phone technology experts at Cellular Abroad, Playa del Rey, Calif.,
collaborated with National Geographic in a licensing partnership to provide this service that works seamlessly across international borders, picking up local cellular networks and providing consumers with the best coverage available. Unlike other services, the phone number stays the same, no matter where the consumer travels. As an added benefit, the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone features a dedicated toll-free number to reach Cellular Abroad's 24/7 customer support service.
"Staying in touch while overseas has proved difficult for travelers; the majority of overseas travelers have not been able to afford the security and convenience of a cell phone," said Sebastian Harrison, president, Cellular Abroad. "With expensive rates and little or no technical support, international cellular service has excluded the general public. Now, it is at their fingertips."
"National Geographic is excited to offer the Talk Abroad Travel Phone to all international travelers. Students, vacationers, business travelers and our own explorers and photographers can now stay connected with this affordable travel phone and SIM card, while they seek to understand and experience our world," said John Dumbacher, senior vice president of licensing for National Geographic. The National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel phone will be available March 2007 at www.Cellularabroad.com/travelphone .
About Cellular Abroad
Cellular Abroad has been operating since 2001 and has become the most popular choice among international travelers for cellular service. They have an outstanding record of customer service and they are committed to making international cellular service available to everyone. You can visit their website at http://www.cellularabroad.com
PhoCusWright@ITB 2007: The Travel Technology Convention
Getting to grips with Travel Search Engine Essentials
Berlin, 20 February 2007 – Wednesday 7 March, ITB 2007’s opening day, will as usual be packed with interesting and useful events for the world’s travel, tourism and related industries. But one of the main draws will no doubt be the PhoCusWright@ITB seminar, two hours of unparalleled information on Travel Search Engine Essentials, a subject of growing importance at this stage of technological developments.
By 2008, online reservations will account for more than 40% of all travel booked by Europeans, says Michaela Papenhoff, PhoCusWright’s Managing Director, Europe. So travel search optimisation is mission critical for destinations and other suppliers to ensure that their websites can be easily and quickly accessed by potential customers.
“One benefit of this first-time PhoCusWright event,” says Papenhoff, “is that it is being held twice – first from 13.00-15.00 and then again from 15.30-17.40 – so that busy ITB delegates can organise their time most effectively.” Delegates will not only leave this session with a better knowledge of the essentials of how general purpose search engines like Google and Yahoo! work, but also will be armed with the proven tactics for leveraging their visitor referral power.”
JetBlue forced to cancel over 100 flights
By Marcus Franklin l AP
NEW YORK - February 20, 2007 Low cost fares, quirky blue potato chips and even a mea culpa from JetBlue Airways' founder may not be enough to ease passenger anxiety as the airline braced for another day of disrupted flights Monday.
The company said it would be canceling almost a quarter of its flights but hopes to be fully operational on Tuesday, almost a week after a Valentine's Day snowstorm created a meltdown for the airline.
David G. Neeleman, the company's founder and chief executive, told The New York Times in Monday's edition that he was "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown in the airline's operations. He promised that in the future the company would pay penalties to customers should they be stranded on a plane for too long.
Neeleman blamed the crisis on poor communications and a failed reservation system. He said the ice storm had left many of the airline's 11,000 pilots and flight attendants a great distance from where they could operate the planes. He also said JetBlue lacked trained staff to coordinate the flight crews. The reservation system had also been overwhelmed.
The airline had scheduled 600 flights for Presidents Day, more than the 550 to 575 flights on a typical Monday. Of those, 139 flights have been canceled, JetBlue announced late Saturday night.
JetBlue Airways Corp. spokesman Sebastian White said headway was being made on Sunday, but that the cancellations on Monday were needed to make sure all flight crews had gotten the legally mandated amount of rest before taking to the skies again.
"Canceling one more day's operations will really help reset our airline," White said.
All flights on JetBlue were canceled in and out of 11 airports: Richmond, Va.; Pittsburgh; Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin and Houston in Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; Portland, Me.; and Bermuda.
White said the airline had tried to warn passengers through phone and e-mail of flight cancellations over the past couple of days, and was in the process of doing so for Monday's flights. JetBlue has been trying to reduce the backlog of passengers through a number of methods including flying charter flights, adding flights in certain sectors, rebooking passengers who had some travel flexibility to later dates, and booking seats on other airlines, White said.
The cancellations followed hundreds of other canceled and delayed flights since Wednesday, when a snow and ice storm grounded jets at John F. Kennedy International Airport through the weekend.
Passengers scrambled to deal with the disruption of their plans.
"Oh my God, horrendous," Maria Arbelo, a teacher from New Haven, Conn., said of her experience. "It's been a terrible ordeal, I tell you. We've been from line to line."
Arbelo and two companions had been ticketed for a JetBlue flight to Houston on Saturday morning to begin a Caribbean cruise. That flight was canceled, as were all flights to Houston on Sunday. The airline put the three women up in a hotel for the night, and placed them on a Sunday evening flight to Cancun. From there, they would have to find a driver to take them on a four-hour trip to meet their ship.
Arbelo said JetBlue staffers had been nice, but seemed confused about what to tell passengers. "I laugh about it because there's nothing we can do," the teacher said, resigned to losing two days of her vacation.
Baggage handlers also struggled with the mountain of luggage returned to the terminals because of the cancelations. Some passengers complained that they couldn't leave the airport, even after their flights were canceled, because no one could find their bags.
White said the airline had teams out in New York City and Long Island on Sunday delivering luggage to customers.
JetBlue's service hot lines became overwhelmed by people trying to rebook flights.
Affected customers may receive refunds or rebook their flights, the airline said.
The airline said it initially tried to get its system back to normal by selectively canceling flights Thursday and Friday, but long delays continued as a result of constraints that included a one-runway operation at JFK on Thursday, and flight crews burning through the number of hours they are legally allowed to work before taking a rest.
Prior to the current crises, JetBlue was overwhelmingly popular, offering affordable fares, in-flight snacks of blue potato chips and DIRECTV.
Airline cancels all London flights as strike threat bites
LONDON -- British Airways (BA) has cancelled all passenger flights out of London Heathrow from 0001 GMT on Tuesday, January 30, until 2359 GMT on Wednesday, January 31, due to a planned strike by the cabin crew branch of the Transport & General Workers Union. All domestic and European flights to and from London Gatwick have also be cancelled.
The airline says it remains committed to pursuing a negotiated settlement of the dispute over work practices, sickness absence and complaints about management style, before Tuesday, but wants customers to have early warning of its flying schedule to allow time for alternative travel arrangements to be made.
"We are deeply sorry that our customers are the innocent victims of this unnecessary and unjustified strike by the T&G,” said British Airways' chief executive, Willie Walsh. "More than 15,000 customers a day have contacted us since the union announced a series of 72-hour strikes, extremely concerned about their winter holidays and business trips. Announcing our contingency plans means we can end uncertainty for customers caught up in the first round of strikes and help them make other plans.
"If we postponed the cancellation of flights until the eve of a strike, customers would have virtually no time to make alternative arrangements.
"We remain absolutely determined to search for a negotiated settlement and our door remains open to the T&G, day or night. We regret that the T&G has not supported our initiative to seek the assistance of the Acas conciliation service.
"It is not too late for the T&G to call off this dispute and we will do all we can to reinstate some of the cancelled flights."
The airline will allow any customer due to travel on a British Airways flight cancelled by the strike to claim a full refund, rebook their flight for a later date or be rebooked by British Airways with another airline.
Customers are urged to check the airline's website (www.ba.com ) regularly and use the 'Manage My Booking' link to obtain information about their individual reservation.
Customers who were due to travel on any cancelled services should not come to the airport.
British Airways' flight program is complex, involving the combination of rosters for 15,000 cabin crew, 3,000 pilots and 234 aircraft operating up to 750 services in and out of Heathrow and Gatwick every day.
More than 8,000 crew have to be in the right place at the right time, either on aircraft, at airports or in crew hotels in more than 140 cities in 75 countries, every day.
Because of crew or aircraft being out of position, there will be further cancellations on either side of the official strike dates. Customers are advised to check ba.com to see if their flight is still operating before departing for the airport. If their flight has been cancelled they are advised not to go to the airport but contact British Airways or their travel agent.
Many long-haul aircraft will depart from Heathrow during Tuesday and Wednesday. They will not have customers onboard because of the lack of cabin crew due to the strike. The aircraft will fly to destinations overseas to collect a crew down route, enabling a significant number of long-haul inbound flights to Heathrow to operate normally to bring customers home.
It is planned that up to six of the nine daily long-haul departures from Gatwick will also operate normally.
Franfkurt Terminal 1 to Expand Westward: Hamburg Architects Planning New Pier A0
FRANKFURT, Germany, January 26 -- Frankfurt Airport (FSE:FRA) is planning to build a new passenger pier that will extend Terminal 1 farther westward by 2012. The pier - with the working title "A0" - will expand the terminal areas used by Lufthansa and is required independently of FRA's Airport Expansion Program to accomodate the new Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8 aircraft ordered by Lufthansa.
Following a Europe-wide competitive tender, Hamburg-based architects and planners Gerkan, Marg & Partner (gmp) were selected as prime planners for Frankfurt Airport's A-West area. Fraport AG, the airport's owner and manager, will invest about half a billion euros for building construction alone. In the final construction phase, the approximately 790-meter-long pier will comprise about 160,000 square meters and will have capacity for up to six million passengers per year. Some 25 architectural firms participated in bidding for this Fraport project. Construction of Pier A0 is scheduled to start in third quarter 2008; but first, several buildings at the Lufthansa base will have to be demolished, as well as the parking garage west of Terminal . Already last year, the top management of Fraport and Lufhansa had reached agreement on the main outlines of this project at Terminal 1, which opened in 1972. "Together, we are opening a new chapter in Terminal 1 utilization," said Fraport executive board chairman Dr. Wilhem Bender. "This will strengthen FRA's competitive position." As early as summer 2011, the new pier will offer LH passengers more convenience on four levels. Shorter distances to the flight gates, direct boarding facilities and clearer layout will ensure optimum passenger flow and minimum connecting times. Shopping facilities, grouped together as central "marketplaces," will offer plenty of opportunty for travelers to enjoy their stay at the airport. Lufthansa's premium guests and status customers will also be able to relax at one of six lounges before departure. "Pier A0 will open up a new dimension in travel for our customers at Frankfurt, also on the ground," said Karl Ulrich Garnadt, member of the executive management of Lufthansa Passage Airlines. Furthermore, he said, "with top notch products throughout the entire service chain, we are enhancing and strengthening our future competitiveness here at FRA." The new Pier A0 will accommodate up to seven long-haul jets (including four Airbus A380s) or eleven short-haul aircraft. About 800 Lufthansa employees, among others, will be working in the new passenger complex - that is equivalent to the average staff level of at least four medium-sized companies in Germany.