Jet2 adds Xmas shopping route

Get your Santa hats at the ready, because budget airline, Jet2, has announced a new Christmas shopping trip from Newcastle Airport to New York. Beginning at £359pp, the all-inclusive return trip departs on the 2 and 9 December 2010. Bosses anticipate ‘huge demand’ for the route, which is the first of its kind from the northeast.

Christmas is six months away, but most department stores will be selling plastic reindeer and tinsel underpants by the beginning of October. UK airlines have also been planning ahead, with Thomson announcing new routes at Glasgow for summer 2011, and a capacity boost at Robin Hood during the same period.

Jet2 is no different. The airline’s new flight to New York is marketed for Britons who traditionally spend their Christmas holidays abroad, or people who want to combine the stress of festive shopping with a wander around one of the world’s most famous cities. The airline’s package holiday arm, http://scripts.affiliatefuture.com/AFClick.asp?affiliateID=76639&merchantID=3291&programmeID=8841&mediaID=0&tracking=&url Jet2Holidays], is organising the trip.

Newcastle Airport boss, Dave Laws, called Jet2’s new route a ‘dream’ – ‘spending the festive season in the City that Never Sleeps is a dream for many people, but Jet2 is set to make this an affordable reality.’ Mr. Laws went on to commend the ‘continued expansion’ of the airline’s services at Newcastle.

Jet2 operated a similar route out of Leeds Bradford in 2008, which performed better than expected. The airline remains open to the idea of an expansion of its Newcastle-New York route if forward demand is sufficiently high.

In related news, Newcastle Airport is celebrating its 75th birthday with a year of events. The northeast hub will host a number of ‘rarely seen’ aircraft on 26 July, before sponsoring further activities at the famous Sunderland Airshow.

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Cabbies’ disgust at parking scheme

Drivers in the northeast have taken umbrage over new parking arrangements at Newcastle Airport, branding the scheme ‘disgusting.’

The airport removed its free drop-off zones on the 26th April in favour of a ‘pay as you stay’ car park, which has a mandatory charge of £1 for the first 20 minutes. The fee might sound small, but taxi drivers who spend all day driving backwards and forwards from the airport have been hit with hefty bills.

Poor advertising of the scheme has only confused matters, with many motorists unsure of how, or where, to pay. One cabbie described the scheme’s debut as ‘chaotic’ and ‘disgraceful,’ and called for the airport to provide more information notices, warning travellers of the recent changes.

Newcastle continues to operate a free car park, but travellers fear that it is not located close enough to the airport to be of any use to customers with special needs. Disabled people, for example, or those with cumbersome luggage, will be forced to use the airport’s new parking zone, however expensive it may be.

David Mathewson, a local man, was worried about the charges, ‘I’ve been in the drop-off zone 30 minutes. It’s going to cost me a fortune. It’s beyond me why they’ve brought in this new system.’ Other drivers were concerned that the removal of ticket machines prevents them from recouping parking fees from employers, as no receipts are produced.

Airport bosses have defended the scheme, citing increased demand as the impetus for the changes. Newcastle’s free parking area is now located near the long-stay car park, a 3 minute walk from the main terminal.

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Newcastle debuts ‘£3 Fast-Track’

Flustered passengers have been granted a reprieve from lengthy summer queues, after Newcastle Airport introduced a security fast-track service. The new scheme, which costs just £3 per visit, will allow pass holders to skip the traditional security avenues in favour of a streamlined ‘Fast Track’ lane.

Since the beginning of this year, airport security has endured seismic changes to protocol, the rapid installation of peculiar machines, and more column inches than a footballer’s wife, but for all their fancy computers, airports have done little to still the beating heart of the uninitiated traveller.

Airport bosses are always looking for ways to turn security proceedings into a minor inconvenience, a few minutes of boredom on either side of that holiday in sunny Spain.

Intrusive cameras may not have been the best way to win over the public, but airport security is slowly becoming sufficient to tackle all but the most sophisticated threats. The trick now is to make it faster, and more responsive to customers’ needs.

Traditionally, fast-track services were reserved for people who can afford to purchase a business-class ticket. Gatwick, for example, has an executive queue-jump scheme, as does Heathrow. Newcastle’s new £3 service is an important step forward for travellers, but it is by no means the first airport to extend fast-track services to the public.

Leeds Bradford and London Luton, for example, have operated a similar service for a number of months. The main exception is that Newcastle will allow children under-5 to use the fast-track service for free, providing that they are not checking-in alone. The fast-track service is located inside two kiosks close to the security search area.

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Security nabs 20,000 cigarettes

Christmas brings out the worst in people. Whether it is overindulgence, impromptu spending sprees, or smuggling thousands of hooky cigarettes past Newcastle Airport security, somebody always winds up in trouble.

The latter might seem like a silly joke, something to tide you over the frosty New Year, but Newcastle is no stranger to yuletide crooks, having reclaimed millions of cigarettes over the past five years, and enough fake medication to stun a diplodocus.

On Christmas Day 2009, border staff arrested six people, who were trying to smuggle 20,000 cigarettes and 200kg of rolling tobacco through airport security. Estimates put the total unpaid duty at £33,000.

Her Majesty’s officials were not impressed – “A haul like this would have defrauded the Government and the taxpayer out of vital funds for services, as well as undermining genuine manufacturers and shops plying an honest trade.”

December’s incident recalls a similar event in 2005, when security staff found two million cigarettes inside 146 suitcases, all arriving from Tenerife.

Earlier in the week, around 80,000 Sildenafil tablets were also seized from crates bound for Newcastle Airport. The tablets replicate the effects of Viagra, but officials noted that smuggled medicines are often counterfeit or otherwise damaging to human health.

Such a large haul of Sildenafil could have netted the culprits around £300,000 on the black market. The pills have since been destroyed.

Airport bosses have pleaded with would-be criminals to rethink their cheating ways, and consider that drug and cigarette running is often a piggybank for larger criminal activities, such as terrorism and people trafficking.


Two accolades for Newcastle

Newcastle International airport has been celebrating recently, after receiving two industry awards in the space of just 24 hours. First, they were awarded the accolade of Best UK Airport by BATA (British Air Transport Association) at a ceremony in London, followed closely by being named as the most punctual airport in the UK, for both departing and arriving flights, by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).

Chief Executive at the airport, Dave Laws, was delighted to be recognised by fellow industry members, at a time when there seems to have been nothing but bad news for the aviation industry due to the recession.

Carriers such as BA, Flybe, and Thomas Cook were quick to add their praise for the airport, with Dave Laws being singled out for praise for having “consistently led with complete distinction”.

As far as punctuality is concerned, the league table for the three months from July to Sept 2009 shows that the airport’s performance was at the highest ever level for both charter and scheduled flights. When delays did occur they were shorter than the national average by eight minutes. Operations Director at Newcastle Airport, Will Dougherty, puts the success down to the airport, the airlines and passengers pulling together.

Despite these difficult times, the airport announced this week that several new services would be running as of next summer. These include flights to Burgas in Bulgaria and Izmir in Turkey. Emirates airline will soon also be rolling out a new service to Dubai which, it is hoped, as well as pleasing leisure travellers, will also open up new business opportunities for the region.


Newcastle claims punctuality crown

Eighty five percent of charter flights from Newcastle Airport arrive early or on time, according to figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The result is a good 17% higher than the national average.

Officials were overjoyed with the news, hailing it as a significant improvement over the previous year.

The CAA defines an on-time flight as "early to fifteen minutes late" – an odd definition, but one that few officials would argue with. The study recorded a minimum of 80% punctuality at all ten monitored airports.

Dave Laws, chief executive at Newcastle, was full of praise for his staff, "this is excellent news for the airport. It is testament to the considerable efforts of colleagues that we are continuing to outperform our competitors."

The CAA has rejected claims that airline punctuality is commensurate with the volume of passengers travelling through an airport, a figure that has dropped significantly over the past few months. Aircraft movements are at their lowest since September 2003.

Despite a hectic bank holiday weekend, with airports besieged by holidaymakers and blighted by ongoing industrial action, few delays were reported at major airports. The CAA’s survey gives credit to the officials and staff members that helped get tourists in the air.

Overall, UK airports increased timely flights to 82%, the highest level in fourteen years.

The CAA made special mention of Heathrow and London City airports, after the pair achieved the biggest improvement in aircraft punctuality, reducing delays and boosting on-time performance by an average of 15%.


Jet2 adds five routes; creates 100 jobs

Jet2, a budget airline hailing from Leeds, has been embraced as a hero, after offering to expand its operations at Newcastle Airport.

As the rest of the country struggles to offset the damage caused by Ryanair’s promiscuity, Jet2 has bucked a trend that has already cost Robin Hood its winter livelihood, erased hundreds of jobs at Manchester, and cost the Irish some 60,000 tourists.

Beginning in summer 2010, the airline will offer five additional routes – Dalaman, southwestern Turkey, the Canary Isles, Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, and two Mediterranean flights to Crete and Paphos, Cyprus. The airline has also adjusted the frequency of flights to Tenerife and Lanzarote.

Newcastle believes the move will create one hundred direct jobs, with a further three hundred expected in the coming months. Airport bosses hailed the recent news as a “significant boost” to flagging customer numbers.

Jet2 chief, Philip Meeson, was pleased to have fostered a meaningful relationship with the airport, “we see the North East as having real growth potential for our leisure business. The new jobs will hopefully show our renewed commitment to this great region.”

A further five flights are being offered at sale prices – Cork in Ireland, Corfu and Rhodes in Greece, the ancient city of Split, Croatia, and Pisa, Italy. Each flight is due to commence in summer 2010.

Unfortunately, with industrial action almost guaranteed over the bank holiday weekend, airport officials may have a hard time getting passengers onto any planes at all.

The new journeys (as well as several sale items) are available on the Jet2 website. Flights from Manchester, Edinburgh, and Jet2’s hometown, Leeds, are also available.


Newcastle airport slowing down its expansion plans

Newcastle Airport has had its wings clipped quite considerably this month. It has faced a sad and shocking blow, but one very much in keeping with the sadness a recession brings. Plans were drawn up and ogled over by everyone at the airport and in the surrounding area for a brand new 360-metre runway to be constructed at the site to the north west of the city. These plans are now finding their way into a nearby drawer though and are officially being considered merely, “useful documents”.

Hope for the expansion of the airport couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the number of annual passengers fell by over 600,000 in 2008 to a figure of just 5 million. This might seem like an acceptable number, but with the rising costs of everything from electricity to heating, the airport was struggling to generate more revenue. Newcastle Airport simply can’t afford to expand now and it told MPs in government this month that plans have been temporarily put on hold.

The aviation industry has been suffering a great deal in recent years. If it’s not the recession biting at its heels, such as in this case, then the environmental groups are a constant thorn in their side. Even though BA have announced they will keep their flights from Heathrow to Newcastle, there is now strong Westminster support for a new high-speed rail link between the capital and the north east, which might make life even more stressful for Newcastle airport.


Cross party support for Newcastle’s expansion plans

Calls for the expansion of Newcastle airport have been given significant cross party support from Labour, Tory, and Independent councillors in the South Tyneside region. The airport currently handles 5.6 million passengers a year but, with predictions that by 2030 the region will be attracting more than a million visitors a year, pleas are currently being made for it to expand.

John Anglin, the Labour councillor, has said that the region needs a first class airport to boost national and international trade which will in turn safeguard jobs for the entire region. He added that it need not be at the expense of the environment and that cleaner fuel and energy options need to be found.

The Conservative councillor, David Potts, said that any expansion must take into account the views of the local population and added that he hoped that a Newcastle to New York route would be introduced as part of the expansion, something which had been mooted previously by American Airlines.

Independent councillor, Ahmed Khan, was equally enthusiastic about the trade benefits that an expansion could bring, citing Manchester airport as proof that a regional airport can become a global hub.

Chairman of the pro-aviation group, Flying Matters, added his support to the expansion plans, saying that once the world comes out of the current recession, only those countries with first class airports and connections would be in a position to benefit from the predicted growth in trade and visitor numbers. He added that without such expansions it will be jobs rather than goods which are being exported from the North East.


Newcastle Airport to have new visitor centre

Newcastle Airport has recently bought Samson Aviation Services Ltd for £450,000 as part of the plans for re-developing the area south of the airport. Proposals for the re-vamp include a visitors’ centre with viewing area, a business park, and expansion of the Aviation Academy run by Newcastle College.

Samson Aviation has been operating for 15 years from its 50 acre site and has built up an extremely high reputation in the aviation services sector. Newcastle Airport wants to “build on that success”, according to Dave Laws, the chief executive of the airport, with the intention of transforming Newcastle into “one of the country’s foremost bases for private aircraft owners”. Currently the private terminal is used not only by businessmen but also by the likes of footballer, Michael Owen, and pop stars performing at the city’s Metro Radio Arena.

Newcastle Airport will celebrate its 75th anniversary in two years’ time and it is hoped that the original terminal building, previously owned by Samson, will be restored to its former 1930’s glory. It will be turned into a visitors’ centre with outdoor viewing facilities, something which the airport has been without since 2003.

As with all proposals for the redevelopment of airports, not everyone in the area is happy with the plans. Local residents are concerned that the additional traffic, noise and pollution will have a negative impact on the community and that wildlife will be disturbed. Supporters of the £20 million project are keen, however, to point out that the development is vital for the continuing success of the airport and that some much needed extra parking will be created, along with 1600 jobs for the local community.