Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement: The man who didn’t bankrupt Aer Lingus, ignorant bloggers & the quickest way to Achill.

Ryanair passengers will be able to bring a handbag or other small second bag on board flights from today as part of the latest series of customer service announcements.

Irish Ferries - Epsilon - Dublin to HolyheadBig news of the week comes from the ferry sector. A Dublin direct to Cherbourg service from Irish Ferries will commence on January 18th, using their latest acquisition the Epsilon. Described as an economy service, it will depart at 3pm every Saturday from Dublin to Cherbourg, returning to Dublin on Sunday, arriving Monday. The freight division has already announced the route to their freight customers.  The sailing will take 19 hours as the ship is faster than the Oscar Wilde.

Amsterdam hosted the CAPA World Aviation Summit. A theme of the conference was dissatisfaction with conventional airlines and the rise of self-connecting with some speakers asked if it was time to unmerge some airlines.

christoph mueller h&s iata 001Speakers included Christoph Mueller of Aer Lingus, Willie Walsh of IAG, Michael Cawley of Ryanair, Christine Ourmieres of Cityjet, Temel Kotil of Turkish Airlines, Tim Clark of Emirates, Tony Fernandes of AirAsia, Alex Cruz of Vueling, Pieter Elbers of KLM, Tewolde Gebre Mariam Tesfay of Ethiopian Airlines, Michael Wisbrun of SkyTeam, Vitaly Saveliev of Aeroflot and Jos Nijhuis of Amsterdam Schiphol and Tony Davis of Irelandia. The Future of Air Transport conference was staged in a 19th-century room.

Christine Ourmieres of Cityjet was asked by moderator Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus of the Association of European Airlines “What would happen if Cityjet didn’t exist?” She answered “some markets would suffer.” Asked “why does your airline exist?” she answered “because there’s a market.” She said Cityjet had three business models, London City airport, wet-lease, and charter. But you have to be very flexible to succeed. “For me a dream would be to have one fleet, not two, one fleet, one base. You make money in peak morning & evening, so fleet productivity is lower than in hub feeding.”

cawley iata secreen 001Predictably, Michael Cawley of Ryanair gave some of the best value at the conference: “airlines are suckers for buying products which the customers don’t want. As an industry we don’t have a good record.” He mused that “every airport is AAA-related, no airline has stock rated above junk. This is the model in this industry. Airports haven’t learnt how to cut costs, they’ve overinvested. Too many people overstate the benefits they bring to airlines. In fact they’re impoverishing the airlines they supply.” On the changes in Ryanair he said “we’re in the business of presenting other people’s products to our customers. We have a very good & improving platform.” He said that “boarding pass reissue fee is a fine, to modify behaviour. We make far more money from that than we’re happy with. We have reduced passenger checking bags from about 75pc to 25pc.” As at the recent IATA conference in Dublin, he singled out EDreams as an example of an intermediary adding “illegal” handling charges to bookings.

On another favourite subject, regulation, he said: ‘if someone’s stuck on a plane in JFK for 14 hours, that’s not necessarily all the airline’s fault, but regulator says it is. You don’t fix anything w regulation. People game it. Only proxy for regulation is competition. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t like the Tea Party but let’s get them involved in airline matters. They fight big government.”

On the Ryanair business model Cawley said: “different customer segments have different elasticity. If you are an Irish public sector retiree you are less price-elastic than your children, who may be in their thirties and dealing with negative equity on their house.”

Christoph Mueller said European legacy carriers’ hubs are no longer working, the carriers can’t cut labour costs enough, they’re not facing big enough existential crisis for unions to agree. Legacy carriers can’t make their feed services profitable. They need to either reduce costs by 30pc or outsource. The two big LCCs don’t have IT capability for interlining or bag through checking. “How did Euro hub traffic develop? With short-haul to short-haul transfers. That traffic has gone to LCCs.”

Christoph Mueller said Aer Lingus was NOT a niche carrier. Aer Lingus has gone through went through different phases of reinvention including a going in to “me-too” mode against Ryanair. He said that keeping up with change was one of his biggest challenges facing all airlines: Speed of change example: imagine the new American wanted to install new seats. It’d take 4 yrs. That’s not fast.” Lingus competes with Ryanair on 85pc of his routes.. “We have only two routes from Dublin that don’t have competition, Amsterdam and Orlando, and Orlando doesn’t contribute to our success.” He said he would compare Aer Lingus to carriers like Hawaiian Air, Alaska Air and even Air New Zealand. “Differentiation is key. I’d encourage everyone to identify points of differentiation against competitors.

Tony Davis of Irelandia said every new entrant competing against flag carrier also faces regulatory pressure encouraged by the flag-carrier. “An in-house LCC is often either network extension or a place to put the rubbish routes you don’t want to give to competitors. Jetstar is one example that has worked, but it was about fixing elements of the Qantas cost base.”  He said Irelandia’s Mexican partner is the main bus company. In a country of 2bn intercity bus trips a year, his fares are now the same as the bus.

Willie Walsh said the bit airlines can control is our cost base. “We tend to adjust it well in times of crisis, but do we keep discipline in good times? The industry CAN be profitable at high fuel prices. Important to reduce fixed costs and make them variable?” He said BA will target China going forward. “How did we pick Chengdu? We asked our corporates what destinations they’d like. Expect us to look at Indonesia & Vietnam too. We’ll use 787s to open new destinations & will use bmi slots for this expansion.”

On Ireland he said “it’s a nonsense that Ireland should have two competing airlines. Personally I very much supported Ryanair’s bid for Aer LIngus.” Willie Walsh said “I don’t mind admitting, I took on the role of Aer Lingus CEO because nobody else wanted it. I was lucky. One of the EI directors took me aside and said get this wrong and you will forever be The Guy Who Bankrupted Aer Lingus. I said, ‘but what if I get it right?’ I felt I could see what had to be done. if I had to pick one word to characterise successful airline CEOs, it would be “determination.”

Walsh joked that when Rod Eddington left BA, the media asked Michael O’Leary if he wanted the job. O’Leary answered: They’d never appoint a f***ing Irishman. “I have that press cutting framed on my wall, just to prove that Michael O’Leary isn’t always right!.”

There was also a classic Cawleyism: “I don’t think there’s any kind of bloggers other than ignorant bloggers.” And a great self-definition of Turkish by Temel Kotil “we’re European, but easternmost Europe; an Asian airline, but westernmost Asia; an African airline but northmost Africa.”

turksih awardTemel Kotil was up to accept an award. Turkish Airlines was named the CAPA Airline of the Year at the 11th annual CAPA Aviation Awards, Low Cost Airline of the Year was JetBlue, Regional Airline of the Year was Vueling, Executive of the Year was Bjørn Kjos of Norwegian, International Airport of the Year was Incheon Korea, the marketing awards for airport handling up to 15m India’s Hyderabad Airport, and for over 15m Dallas/Fort Worth, IT Innovation of the Year went to flynas Social Media Journey and Tim Clark, President of Emirates, was inducted into the CAPA Hall of Fame.

Speaking at the less well-attended Corporate Travel Innovation Summit, also in Amsterdam this week, Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey said that airlines should be able to enter agreements with airports to share profits on ancillary revenue. “Every airline has a revenue manager, but none have ever come to me and suggested they would do something to help boost both our revenue, like encouraging passengers to come earlier to the airport.”

Not from Amsterdam, but speaking at the CEO even in Dublin Christoph Mueller of Aer Lingus came up with one of his periodic one-liners: “in aviation, you have to sleep with one eye open.”ectaa group with minister1

The 74 delegates from 30 Travel Agent Associations who are members of the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Associations were hosted by the ITAA in Dublin for their two day bi-ennial meeting this week. Hungarian ECTAA president Boris Zgomba was intrigued by the chain of office worn by ITAA President Clare Dunne (listen here). ECTAA have been in Dublin before, their first meeting here was shortly after accession in 1973, but not for 17 years. Picture shows tourism minister Leo Varadkar, ECTAA president Boris Zgomba, ITAA President Clare Dunne, and general secretary of ECTAA Michel de Blost before the European Federation of Travel Agents’ Associations gala dinner in Cliff Town House.

Their agenda was familiar with lots of NDC and passenger rights issues. Aer Lingus revenue manager Neal O’Rourke (listen here) hosted them for dinner at Cliff Town House on Thursday where Minister Leo Varadkar’s speech covered the EU passenger rights legislation (listen here), Government tourism and aviation policy during which he could a cheer for removing the €3 travel tax (listen here), updated ECTAA on developments in the Irish economy (listen here), the importance of the tourism and aviation industries to Ireland (listen here) and took time to plug the Dublin Convention Centre (listen here) and say he was delighted that the delegates were all counted in the statistics as business visitors. “The Taoiseach is working on my Christmas bonus.” (listen here).

clare dunne speaksClare Dunne (pictured speaking with Boris Zgomba and general secretary of ECTAA Michel de Blost ) stressed the role of travel agents in delivering experiences to their client base (listen here) and the importance of speaking with one voice (listen here), how incoming and outgoing travel were intertwined (listen here), explained how a conversation with Ann Dolan had enabled the ITAA bring the meeting to Dublin (listen here), thanked the Minister for his presence and expressed support for the 2020 world cup bid (listen here), and outlined their activities for the day in Dublin (listen here). “our industry is one of the most dynamic of all,” she said (listen here).

ECTAA President Boris Zgomba spoke of the EU’s need to balance regulation with competition (listen here), said Europe must remain the number one destination for tourists (listen here), talked about the importance of tourism (listen here), paid tribute to the hosts (listen here) and said that travel agents had a strong future: “this is our future.” (listen here)

David mccaig john devereux_9306The association also hosted David McCaig of Canadian travel agents association ACTA pictured with John Devereux president of ITOF. The vice presidents of ECTAA are Eva Blasco (Spain)
 Jan Van Steen (Belgium)
 Tomas Olsson(Sweden)
 and Susan Parsons (England). See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook,

Kilkenny award group_9133

Mulranney (best small town, listen to announcement here) and Kilkenny (best large town, listen to announcement here) were declared the winning tourism towns of Ireland at a function hosted by Failte Ireland in the Gibson hotel with Kilkenny declared overall winner (listen to announcement here). Picture shows Brian Tyrrell, Martin Brett, Nora Darcy, David Fitzgerald and Amanda Horan from Kilkenny receiving the overall award from Minister Michael Ring.

MC Kieran Mullooley relayed a joke told by Minister Michael Ring about the man who wanted to know the quickest way to Achill (listen here).

michael ring speakingDuring the official ceremonial Minister Ring paid tribute the volunteer spirit that sustained Irish tourism (listen here), said the industry now employed 192,000 people (listen here), and lauded (unsurprisingly) the Gathering saying it proved Ireland still has community spirit (listen here). For an example of Minister Ring at his rousing best,(listen here to him talking up Irish tourism: “we have a great product.”

Chair of the adjudicating panel Ann O’Leary described why Kilkenny had been chosen (listen here) and Nora Darcy from Kilkenny talked through the progress of the city in its tourism quest (listen here), saying “there are no tricks, just hard work. (listen here). Maureen Mulloy from best small town Mulraney described her own town’s astonishing tourism portfolio (listen here).

Master of ceremonies Kieran Mullooley read out citations for the finalists Kilkenny (listen here), Mulraney (listen here, with a reprise), Letterkenny (listen here, with a reprise tribute to Tropical World), Murisk (listen here), Tralee (listen here) and Westport (listen here). There was a touch of stand-up comedy when Mullooley also delivered funny asides on the planting of daffodils by tidy towns committee (listen here) and the cast of characters that you find on an average tidy towns committee (listen here). He said tidy town committees “get it” about tourism (listen here). See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook,

lee and wings

Wings Abroad won best supplier and Lee Osborne the best supplier representative at the awards following the Worldchoice conference in Ashbourne. The big question at the conference is whether Worldchoice will hold the even on an annual basis in future, rather than every two years. Chairman Michael Doorley said he was hoping to do something different with the conference in future to bring the event to a new level. There was a prolonged and somewhat emotional round of applause for Garry Zancarano, who is leaving Worldchoice after eight yeas. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook,

Aer Lingus Regional will announce another revived route from Shannon airport next Wednesday. Shannon is hoping to announce another trans-Atlantic service for start-up in 2014. Aer Lingus Regional will increase frequency on Dublin-Jersey to six weekly in summer 2014, plus Cork-Jersey twice weekly.

nitb press trip copy

Pictured on a Northern Ireland Tourist Board press trip to Derry for the Lumiere, the final major event of the Derry City of Culture programme  and Turner Prize. Clare McCoy of NITB; Naomi Waite, NITB Director of Marketing and Events; Ed Finn of Sunshine Radio; Pat Keenan of HOLIDAYezine; Shane Wearen of Radio, Aoife O’Connor of the Irish Daily Star and Kirstin Smith, NITB. Not in photo: Ger Leddin of Near 90.3fm.howards hastings group

Hastings Hotels hosted travel media in Dublin where chairman Howard Hastings updated the media on developments such as the £3m refurbishment for the Ballygally Castle hotel, due to reopen next year. Picture shows Howard Hastings, Helen Caters GM of the Culloden Hotel, Aileen Martin sales manager, Stephen Meldron GM of the Slieve Donard Hotel and Julie Maguire marketing manager of Hastings Group. Howard Hastings talked beds, the beds in the hotels are apparently among the features showing up on visitor comments (listen here), as well as customer service (listen here), outlined the Titanic and Nomadic (listen here), the opening of Crumlin Road jail, (listen here), the new cruise terminal plans (listen here), the Giro d’Italia and Causeway Coast (listen here), the impact of the flag protests (listen here), developments at the Slieve Donard (listen here), the legacy of the city of culture for Derry (listen here) and the arrival in Down and Antrim of increased numbers of “thronies”, fans of Game of Thrones (listen here), Julie Maguire welcomed guests (listen here), talked about the Ballygally Castle refurb (listen here), Slieve Donard’s recent award (listen here), the Balygally refurb (listen here)  and developments at the Culloden (listen here). Howard Hastings paid tribute to Peter McCann of the Merrion (listen here). A week earlier Redmond O’Donoghue joked that Peter McCann was the only man in Ireland who would be sorry to see the back of the troika (listen here).

robbie emma2 copyThe Travel trade turned out in large numbers to celebrate the wedding of Robbie Smart of Travelport and Emma Taaffe of Freedom Travel in Laois on Friday. The romance started under the tutelage of John Grehan at the Flexible Trips launch in 2010 in Krystle, where love stories begin.

It was another big week for Ryanair as their reinvention continued with moves on the main Brussels and Rome airports. This week saw the start of Ryanair flights to Lisbon, and the airline announced plans to resume flights at Prague, Ryanair are to start flights at a new Rome Fiumicino base before Christmas.

lead-the-new-ryanair-imageTheir new Brussels service looked like a direct attack on the Vueling (recently been taken over by IAG) and SN Brussels routes and they made a big move on Italy with new bases ins Catania, Lamezia and Palermo (they even spelt Zaventem as Zaventum in the press release). Normally new Ryanair routes face no direct competition, as one or both airports involved are usually secondary airports, whereas nine of the 10 routes from Brussels are directly competed. Ryanair appeared briefly on the slots list for Amsterdam airport and were removed afterwards.

Brussels Airport seemed surprised and said in a statement: “Brussels Airport Company and Ryanair have never been in contact concerning this decision and the low-cost airline didn’t carry out any negotiations with the airport”, Ralph Anker pondered: “fans of conspiracy theories might be wondering if Vueling’s Alex Crux and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary had been having secret meetings about the best way to hasten the demise of Alitalia.” Ryanair will require an additional 22-23 aircraft for next summer.

It was a week of fliers. This is the media term for a story, beloved of news editors on a soft news day, for a story that doesn’t add up but it is not very deniable and nobody gets hurt, so it is worth trying. Sergei Isvolsky confirmed Ryanair has reapplied for the Irish rights to fly Dublin to Moscow and St Petersburg, the old Skynet routes. The story of Ryanair applying for Moscow and St Petersburg slots is not new. They have been doing so since 2009. The faded photostat of an Irish government document was also circulated before. This year the story got more coverage, including Irish Times, Irish Independent, Daily Mail and several Russian publications. There is another key difference. This time Ryanair are anxious to get to Moscow (since Easyjet started flying to Domodedovo in March) and St Petersburg but do not have all the necessary permissions. Michael O’Leary previously said that Russia is too bureaucratic for Ryanair but all seems to have changed.mary denton group

Sunway hosted the Dublin trade at a lunch in Il Primo off Harcourt Street. Philip Airey explained it was a good year of Sunway until the fine summer, and they are glad, like many sun operators, to see the back of unlucky 2013. Roll on next summer. If you see someone smiling through the rain next July, it is likely to be a tour operator. Picture shows Juan Cullen of Supersun Travel, Mary Denton of Sunway, John Spollen of Cassidy Travel and Marc Lynch of Abbey Travel. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook,

King Johns Reopening LK 15 copyKing John’s Castle in Limerick reported visitor numbers had doubled following a €6m revamp. As its official reopening took place on Friday. Picture whose Marie Slattery, Shannon Heritage, Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland, John Ruddle, Shannon Heritage and Aidan Pender, Tourism Ireland. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook,

anne cadwallader eoghan corry

  • Albanian carrier Belle Air ceased operations
  • Kharkiv Airlines from the Ukraine are to have a tech stop in Shannon for their flights from Kiev to Punta Cana.

my golfMy Golf Society  won the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality sector award at the 2013 Eircom Spiders awards. The judges cited: This website provides a useful service which offers valuable content and easy interactive online booking facilities. The site has exceptionally informative videos and saves an incredible amount of time for the organiser. City Hook, Celtic Link, Shannon Airport, Discover Ireland App,  Castle Leslie, Temple Bar Hotel, and Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience were the  nominees in the category. Picture shows Andy Kenny and Garrett Donnery, directors of Target Golf Management, collecting the award.

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