Newcastle to resume Bulgaria flights

Thomas Cook
, the self-proclaimed ‘best-known name in travel’, is to expand its base at Newcastle International Airport from mid-2011, adding a fourth plane and reintroducing flights to the Bulgarian city of Bourgas.

A press release on the airport’s website reveals that Thomas Cook will now be able to offer 300,000 seats on 54 flights.

Speaking about the expansion, Thomas Cook CEO Ian Derbyshire thanked the “people of the northeast” for showing “great loyalty” to the airline. “This underlines our commitment to Newcastle Airport,” Ian explained.

The new plane will add 70,000 seats during the peak summer season, allowing Thomas Cook to put on more flights to eight ‘sun and sea’ destinations.

Routes to Larnaca and Paphos in Cyprus, the Canary Island of Tenerife, locations on the Spanish Balearic Islands, Ibiza, Mahón and Palma, and the cities of Izmir and Dalaman in western Turkey will all benefit from extra seats in 2011.

Bourgas (also Burgas) in eastern Bulgaria is perhaps the most surprising addition to Newcastle’s books, as an earlier route to the city from the northeast was unceremoniously cancelled sometime in 2010.

Newcastle’s chief, David Laws, referred to the expansion of Thomas Cook services at the airport as a “fantastic coup” and a “tremendous boost” for the local area.

Thomas Cook will be hoping that its new routes and Newcastle’s 75th birthday celebrations will help deflect attention from a recent travel guide faux pas, in which the holiday company described Glasgow as ‘deprived’ with high levels of violent crime and rampant substance abuse.

Bourgas is not yet available for booking on the Thomas Cook website, but tickets for all routes due to be expanded next year (Larnaca, for example) can be purchased online.

Easyjet reduces presence at Newcastle

Those living in the north east of England with a penchant for travel may be disappointed to hear that budget airline easyJet is reducing its service from Newcastle airport.

All is not lost, however, since rival airline is doing its best to increase its presence at the airport.

At present easyJet has five planes operating out of the north east’s largest airport but plans are afoot to reduce this to three in the coming months and to keep it at three for next summer.

The services to Murcia and Rome will be axed this winter, along with cuts to other routes. The communications manager for easyJet, Sarah McIntyre, said that the cuts were part of a review of operations throughout the UK and reflected customer demand. Although there will be no loss of jobs for cabin crew or first officers, around eight fewer pilots are expected to work out of Newcastle. They will be offered a transfer to another of the airline’s hubs, with the added possibility of part-time working., the budget carrier based at Leeds Bradford airport, is, on the other hand, increasing its operations out of Newcastle and will now be the airline to offer the biggest range of foreign destinations from the airport. New destinations for summer 2011 include Toulouse, Alicante and Faro, whilst old favourites Krakow and Prague are being reintroduced this winter. expects an increase in passenger numbers next year of 40% and for this reason will be adding a new 737 to its Newcastle fleet, bringing the total number of aircraft at the airport to five.

75th birthday celebrations for Newcastle Airport

Despite having to endure one of the toughest years in its 75 year history, suffering volcanic ash disruption as well as the effects of a recession, Newcastle Airport was still able to celebrate its 75th birthday in style.

Costing only £35,000 pounds to build, and opened on the 26th of July 1935, Newcastle Airport is currently one of the UK’s leading international hubs, recently adding a route to Dubai in the UAE.

The airport has seen its passenger volume increase massively in the last 20 years, especially after it was given its own metro station which links the airport to both Newcastle and Sunderland. This, combined with the invention of the package holiday, has seen the airport go from strength to strength in recent times.

Speaking at the celebration, Dave Laws, the airport’s chief executive, said: “This year is very special for Newcastle International as we reflect on our incredible history and take a positive look forward to an exciting future.” Some of the major airlines used the airport’s celebrations to demonstrate both their support for the airport and their promotions. One of these was BA, who offered a limited number of £1 flights between Newcastle and London, with each flight catering for 75 passengers. Some of the day’s more spectacular events included the owner of, Philip Meeson, landing a classic 1930s plane, the Dragon Rapide, as well as Emirates landing one of its new Boeing 777-300ERs, with all the spectacles enjoyed by visitors on a special viewing platform built for the day.

Jet 2 introduce five new routes from Newcastle

Jet 2
had good news recently for travellers in the North East of England as it announced five new routes from Newcastle airport as part of its schedule for next summer. The chief executive of the airport, Dave Laws, said that its partnership with the budget carrier “goes from strength to strength”.

The additional services will please both leisure travellers, who will have a good choice now of traditional summer sun destinations as well as city breaks, and also business travellers. Jet2 is now the carrier offering the highest number of international destinations from Newcastle International.

The new routes are to Krakow, Prague, Toulouse, Alicante and Faro. Travellers from the North East wishing to fly to Toulouse, Krakow and Prague previously had to travel much further afield in order to find flights. Flights to Prague start as early as this Nov, meaning that travellers wishing to see how picturesque the city looks in the snow or to do some Christmas shopping at its famous Christmas market will not have too long to wait.

Flights to all five new destinations are already on sale and prices to all destinations start at £29.99, inclusive of taxes, for a one-way ticket.

Reasonable package deals are also available from Jet2’s sister company, Jet2holidays, starting at £199 for a three-night city break or £249 for a seven-night sunshine break in Spain or Portugal.

Another bit of good news is that it is not only travellers who are set to benefit from Jet2’s new schedule: 30 new jobs will be created as a result, bringing Jet2’s Newcastle workforce to 150.

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.