Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement: Ash-tags, supersize surfing, the Russians (might) be coming & more awards

Photograph of the week is the view from the Burj Khalifa created from 70 separate 80 megapixel images taken from the top of the 2,722 ft tower, the tallest building in the world. Dubai based photographer Gerald Donovan compiled the montage to celebrate the second Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Photography Award which will take place in Dubai in March.

In a windswept week ideal for some supersized surfing, Video of the week was American surfer Garrett McNamara riding a 100ft wave off the coast of Nazaré in Portugal. The Irish Times published a spectacular photograph by Sean Curtin of a surfer at Brandon Bay off the coast of Kerry. Hotels.com reported that windsurfing searches for Brandon Bay were up 133pc by the weekend.

Holiday World Dublin 2013 attendance was up 16pc over the three days. Final day figures were up 20pc, following increases of 12pc on Friday and 11pc on Saturday. Bookings were also reportedly a success, with a couple of biggies on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. The Eoghan Corry Travel Advice clinics had their best ever year with advice and a surprising number of new revelations from the stage that continued all weekend.

Some of those who came in for the show on Friday enjoyed it so much that they were reluctant to go home. When the Friday evening flight to Manchester was unable to land, and returned to Dublin. The captain was probably a Holiday World fan and had a sense of humour, because on landing he announced: “You can switch to a flight to Gatwick or Heathrow now if you like, but you’ll be responsible for your onward journey.”

awards montageIt being a whole three days since an awards ceremony, it was off to the National gallery of Ireland on Monday night to hear the results of the CIE International Awards, Cliffs of Moher won the visitor experience, Ronan McNamara in Derry won best walking tour, Brendan Ferris’s Sheep Dog Trial in Caitins on the Ring of Kerry won the best tour feature, Killeen House in Kerry the dinner feature and the Merry Ploughboy in Rockbrook the Dinner Entertainment award. Harveys Point in Donegal won best hotel accommodation and other accommodatoin winners were: Benners Tralee (3 star), Kilronan Castle Ballyfarnon (4 star), Dromoland Castle (5 star), Kathy Brosnan, Applecroft House Kilarney (B&B), Conrad Hilton Dublin (Hotel Service ) and Cabra Castle Kingscourt (hotel dinner) as 62 winners nationwide won awards based on the feedback of CIE Tours 22,000 customers.

Aer Lingus American sale continues with fares starting from €259 each way, Topflight announced a mid season ski sale from Feb 4-6 prices from €269pps and savings of up to 40pc on ski holidays. Emirates announced an Irish promotion to 128 destinations: Dubai €521 (Business €1,982), €725 to Phuket, €568 to Beijing, €1,042 to Perth. Royal Caribbean continued their USD$1,000 free onboard credit promotion and Celebrity cruises their complimentary drinks on cruises booked before Feb 28. Royal Caribbean and United extended agent incentive to Feb 28 offering flghtx2 to New York to board RCCL Caribbean cruise.

Iberia’s ground and cabin crews plan a five day strike in late February. And just when Boeing needed them most, Boeing engineers called a strike ballot. Fears grew that the B787 will not be returning to service as quickly as hoped when Japanese and US air safety inspectors could find no fault with the battery.

Boeing made their strongest bid yet to counter the damage caused by the Dreamliner debacle. CEO Jim McNerney said the company plans to speed up production of the Dreamliner. McNerney said the company was suffering no financial impact from the grounding of Dreamliner, and indeed company shares were up 1.2pc. Japanese airline ANA were not so upbeat. They hinted at a lawsuit, saying the Dreamliner grounding has cost the airline $15m, with 459 flights cancelled in January. ANA admitted it had replaced 10 Dreamliner batteries PRIOR to the Boston fire. JAL also said it changed batteries “on a few occasions,” The Economist commented that Boeing saved just 18kg per aircraft when it gambled on the powerful lithium battery, knowing full well its risks, “about the same as a single piece of baggage.” Reuters published a handy guide to the battery breakdown for any lithium-ion groupies out there.

Shannon got a new 3w service to Glasgow  from Flybe to start on May 1st. Having already courted Pakistan International Airways’ westbound flights to stop over en route from Lahore to JFK, Shannon revealed another stopover plan, this time by Russia’s Transaero, but only if the Russian airline is granted  fifth freedom rights on Moscow-Miami. Ryanair’s Knock to Stansted schedule is set to increase from 7 to 9 weekly with the addition of Fri and Sun flights from Apr 26. Knock announced a four-month consultation process on their €75m development plan.

As expected the European Court of Justice found in favour of Denise McDonagh in her compensation case against Ryanair, forcing the airline to pay meals and accommodation for passengers stranded during the ash cloud. As equally expected, Ryanair protested loudly about the result, claiming that the ruling now makes airlines the “insurer of last resort.” Michael O’Leary on previous occasions has called EU261 a “chancer’s charter,” and while the airline said it had paid €27m to ash customers it also said it had no outstanding claims. But as Eoghan Corry of Travel Extra (and yes, author of this blog) pointed out on RTE’s News at One, the airline was quick to slap on a €2 ash tax for each booking, which, at 89.6m passengers in 2012, generated Ryanair an Eyjafjallajökull windfall close to €130m, compared with the €1,130 that Denise McDonagh was claiming for her unexpected extra week in the Algarve. Ryanair countered that a ‘large proportion’ of 2011 flights had been booked before the introduction of their €2 levy. England’s Guardian reported that passengers are resorting to claims companies and the courts because airlines are so obstinate about paying out compensation for EU261 flight entitelments. The European Consumer Centre, which has used the ash cloud to bolster its own status, was jubilant. The case proved another boost for the profile of Denise McDonagh’s solicitor John Hennessy who is building up a record of winning these high profile cases. In a case that might prove more significant for Ryanair in the long term, Germany’s DFS charged Ryanair €500,000 for under-declared aircraft weight in Frankfurt. And on the theme of taxes which boost airline profits, a report by Dutch consultancy CE Delft say airlines could have already made up to €1.36bn in windfall profits from EU carbon emissions law.

Ryanair’s results showed just how much their take per passenger is creeping up, 8pc to €56 in the quarter. Ancillary revenue was up 24pc to an average of €13 per passenger, their profits were up 21pc to €18.1m, and their ex fuel passenger cost is€now €27. The airline predicted full year profits of €540m (ahead of €490m-€520m guidance) up 7pc despite an 19pc increase in oil costs. Fuel is hedged for 2014 at 75pc at $97 per barrel, and their hedge on fuel exposures is $1.32. Howard Millar, who did the briefings for Dublin based media, told the Irish Independent the airline had no plans to increase reserved seating. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Miller said that all the EU issues had been addressed (Ryanair item is 30 seconds into broadcast). He said that Ireland now accounted for just 8pc of Ryanair’s business and that 25pc of Ryanair’s revenues are in British sterling. He also suggested to John Mulligan of the Irish Independent that an appeal was likely if Ryanair’s bid to take over Aer Lingus is blocked. Ryanair’s own research indicated that 22pc of their passengers in Spain were travelling on business. See the full results and listen to the audio webcast.

CSO figures for 2012 showed outbound trips were up (very) marginally over the year by 0.5pc, and by 3.8pc in Q4. Inbound was also up marginally by 0.2pc and by 5pc in Q4. Over 1m North American visitors came to Ireland in 2012, the first time this has happened since 2007.

Fitur 2013 opened in Madrid themed on ‘know-how & export’ (consulting, strategic planning, tech development, e-commerce). The fair brought together 8.979 exhibitors from 167 countries and regions, 200.000 visitors. At the fair. UNWTO announced at the fair that Asia, Pacific & Americas were the most ‘open’ regions for travellers in terms of Visas. UNWTO figures show strong growth in tourism in some usrprisng destinations, up 8pc in central & eastern Europe tourism in 2012, up 10pc in the USA, up 6pc in England and up 5pc in Germany. The fair saw the birth of a tasty new association founded for wine-Based tourism accommodation providers .

London Independent prize winenrsElsewhere

  • The London Independent announced the winners of its travel photo competition. The newspaper also published a top ten of unusual hotels, including one in a disused silvermines (Tipperary take note), in trees, ice a prison, and pods, But not pods we know them.
  • Travel Counsellors’s Irish agents reported seven of their 30 best ever sales days in January, monthly sales were up 15pc on last year to €3m. Internationally, the Counsellors had their best ever sales day on Jan 11.
  • Derrynane House announced that a €1.2m refurbishment to begin in April which means the Daniel O’Connell homestead will be closed for six months
  • Children will be allowed to travel free on Luas on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
  • On what was an excellent week for rfresh snow across Europe and Colorado, we got a peek inside a ski chalet in Oberlech, Austria that costs €38,500 a night
  • The widower of 30-stone woman who died after being denied boarding on 3 airlines in Budapest in October, said he was planning to sue,
  • Pity poor Graham Hughes. He visited 201 countries without taking a single flight only to discover he did not make Guinness Book of Records because of one missing passport stamp.
  • A survey by website TravelSupermarket suggests that 60-69 year olds are the biggest spenders in the holiday business, spending an average of €928 on travel and accommodation.
  • ABTA says 65pc of English holidaymakers are travelling without insurance and the Northern Ireland Travel News reported that uninsured holidaymaker figure in the six counties was even higher.
  • Aer Lingus offered its trans-Atlantic passengers a ‘more upmarket meal’ including wine for €17.50.
  • Delta announced plans at Holiday World for an outdoor lounge terraces at New York JFK’s new Terminal 4 and at Atlanta this summer: The Sky Deck at Delta Sky Club
  • Etihad’s Brisbane via Singapore service went daily and they plan their results tomorrow (Monday).
  • Aviation analyst Ralph Anker published an interesting guide to how Air France low cost operation Hop could mean trouble for Cityjet.
  • On the week that Malaysian Airlines joined Oneworld, Oneworld announced new benefits for elite members including additional checked luggage allowance and fast track security access.
  • Aer Lingus-United’s codeshare has been extended to UA’s Dublin-Washington and Shannon-Chicago flights.
  • The 6,350 working holiday visa places in Canada for Irish citizens released on Wednesday were all snapped up within a few hours.
  • Sad news: Travel Writer John Coughlan (1943-2013) passed away on Saturday (See death notice on RIP.ie). He will be missed. Shay Healy in his obituary in the Sunday Independent said it was John who came up for the idea for the Sunday World. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis,
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