BA to debut Japan flight

Flying BA from London Heathrow can now take you even further…

British Airways (BA) has expanded its list of global destinations from Heathrow to include the city of Tokyo in Japan. The route, which begins at Heathrow Airport on February 19 2011, travels to Haneda Airport in Ōta, a special municipality of Tokyo.

Tokyo viewing platform for the skyscrapers
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Kelkoo apologises to BAA

Shopping website Kelkoo has been forced to apologise to the British Airports Authority (BAA), after a survey sponsored by the retailer was found to contain inaccuracies.

The report, which appears to have been removed from Kelkoo’s website, was conducted an independent company, the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

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Heathrow ‘worst for tax-free discounts’

Travellers who have become accustomed to low prices at airport duty-free stores could be in for a shock when they next visit their local hub, after a survey by online retailer, Kelkoo, revealed that the average price of goods at European airports was just 6% lower than on the high street.

Kelkoo’s survey also found that the public’s perception of airport prices was wildly incorrect, with 59% (or almost 6 in 10) of interviewees expecting to find bargains of up to 20% at airport duty-frees.

Heathrow, arguably the busiest airport in the world, claimed the wooden spoon, offering the ‘worst tax-free discounts’ in Europe, with a rate of just 3.1%. To put that figure into perspective, a bottle of water that costs 75p on the high street would cost around 72p at the London airport – hardly a steal.

Berlin-Schönefeld Airport offers a discount of 4.6%, whilst Lyon St. Exupery and Charles de Gaulle in France knock 11.9% and 11.5% off their prices, respectively. The two French airports topped Kelkoo’s survey, with the best duty free prices in Europe. Gatwick Airport, on the other hand, offers a meagre 5% off a bag of jelly babies or a hairdryer.

Strangely, the value of goods fluctuates enormously between airports, especially with regard to luxury goods, such as handbags and perfume, and electronics. At Heathrow, for example, a designer Dolce and Gabanna handbag will set you back £1,020, whereas the same bag at Rome Airport costs £696, around a third less.

Kelkoo boss, Bruce Fair, noted that airport stores could no longer compete with online shops, which routinely offer discounts of around 12% – “higher overheads, decreased competition, and less choice mean that ‘tax free’ shops are not always the best place to find bargains.”

The survey highlights an ongoing trend of poor deals at UK airports; just a few weeks ago, the Post Office discovered that passengers were being fleeced out of their holiday money by airport bureaux de change, losing £16 for every £286 converted from sterling to Euros.


Heathrow hotel bans vuvuzelas

A hotel chain at Heathrow Airport has banned all vuvuzelas from the premises, after a resident manager was kept awake by the plastic horns. The firm, Premier Inn, plans to enforce the ban until the end of the World Cup, regardless of whether England is ejected before the tournament’s climax.

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Watchdog says parking charges "ridiculously high"

Consumer publication Which? has branded airport parking charges at Heathrow Airport as “ridiculously high”, following a survey carried out by Which Car?

multi-storey car park at Heathrow Airport

The survey looked into parking charges for seven days at a variety of on and off-site car parks at 15 major terminals in the UK and also looked at the parking which is often included when staying at an airport hotel and at the meet-and-greet services.

A huge variation in price was uncovered with Heathrow’s on-site parking coming out as the priciest option at £88.70. If Heathrow travellers are willing to put up with a little inconvenience and park off-site then it is possible to reduce this by £35, using Purple Parking. Compare your parking charges with us, and see what you can save.

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BA reports ‘good start’ to strike

British Airways
(BA) was forced to cancel 200 flights on Tuesday, as a strike by the airline’s cabin crew team entered its second day. Willie Walsh, boss at BA, claims that contingency plans are holding strong, and 60% of its long haul flights are flying as normal.

British Airways Logo

Walsh has begun rebranding BA’s planes with the words ‘keep the flag flying,’ in a bid to raise support for the airline, but there are signs that the Irishman’s perseverance could be about to pay dividends: Unite, and its associated cabin crew branch, BASSA, are being torn apart by infighting.

Speaking out about the BA strike to The Times newspaper, an as-yet unnamed member of BASSA’s management team said,

‘Walsh will win. How can he not? To be honest, he has already done it. He has already destroyed the union.’ The informant went on to state that BASSA’s ‘uncontrollable’ managers were jeopardising negotiations between Unite and BA.

BASSA is a part of Unite, but the branch operates from within BA, helping to ease disputes between the airline and its crew.

Walsh intimated that relations had soured between BASSA and Unite on 19 May, describing the former as the ‘tail that is wagging the dog.’ The union is apparently powerless to prevent BASSA overruling peace talks with BA.

Unite continues to press for negotiations, but Duncan Holley, secretary of BASSA, believes that talks would progress faster if Willie Walsh was encouraged to ‘step aside.’

The branch hopes that Keith Williams, BA’s financial officer, will prove to be less stubborn than Walsh is, and help stop the dispute becoming a farce.

The current strike at Heathrow Airport will last for two more days. Two more pickets are expected on the 30 May and 5 June.

Unite claims that 473 members of BA’s cabin crew team failed to turn up for work on Tuesday. BA managed to find enough workers to get 60,000 people in the air, however, roughly 70% of its usual May traffic.


UK ‘happy’ to use naked scanners

Most people would choose to avoid taking their clothes off in public, given the chance, so when the Labour government forced the installation of full-body or ‘naked’ scanners at UK airports, some travellers began to fear for their modesty.

Five months later, as the machines become commonplace at regional airports, holidaymakers have begun to accept the scanners as a necessity, with 90% of Brits declaring themselves content with current security measures. The use of biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, has also been well received.

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Heathrow first to get paperless boarding

Heathrow has become the first airport in the UK to start using Continental Airlines’ paperless boarding pass system.

The American airline has been using the system in the United States for some time, but until now it has not taken off in the UK.

Now customers flying from Heathrow to the US on Continental Airlines will be able to show their boarding pass on their mobile phones. It consists of a bar code, flight information and passenger information, and there is no way that it can be duplicated.

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Heathrow unveils ‘strip-search’ scanner

Gordon Brown is to force the installation of full-body scanners at London Heathrow Airport, despite claims that the machines would not have been able to detect the substance carried by the Christmas Day bomber, who had sewn explosives into his underpants.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who tried to blow up a transatlantic fight on December 25th 2009, is one of a number of aeroplane bombers who have precipitated an increase in security measures over the past few years.

The United States is now dangerously close to using passenger profiling to catch extremists, a screening process that is particularly harsh on people from Cuba, Iran, Syria and eleven other countries, so selected for their alleged sponsorship of Islamic ‘terror.’

Despite looking a whole lot like selective racism, US officials claim that profiling has become an unavoidable aspect of the modern world. A host of other countries, including Germany, France, Pakistan and Holland, have also upgraded security at major airports.

In the UK, the use of full-body scanners has been cleared by the government, and installation is expected to begin within the next three weeks. Costing £80,000 each, the machines will allow security teams to peek under passenger’s clothes without having to resort to the fabled strip-search.

Critics are terrified – not only are the machines incapable of catching certain kinds of explosive, but the images produced by full-body scanners contravene UK child pornography laws. They are called ‘naked scanners’ for a good reason.

The government is drafting a code of conduct for the scanners, which should stop inappropriate images being leaked out of UK airports, and into the vast gulf of the internet.

Related Links

Manchester Trials ‘Naked Scanner’

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Cardiff Trials Biometric Gates