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Continental flies UK agents on fam

Gary Noakes in New York.

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES is beginning a pro- gramme of agent fam trips following the intro- duction of new flatbed business-class seats on all its flights from Heathrow to New York Newark and Houston. Bob Schumacher, the

airline’s UK and Ireland senior director, said: “We have just completed the first such trip and we will do others with our larger agency partners, both leisure and TMC.” Groups of between six and 10 agents will

not offer a guaran- teed flatbed until May next year, when fleet refurbishment is completed. “We have to be

UK agents are being invited to try Continental Airlines’ new BusinessFirst seats on routes to New York and Houston

experience the new cabin, which has a restricted advance purchase New York fare of £1,463 return for travel during July. “We have a commitment in several of our

agency agreements to take fam trips during the year, while others are done ad hoc,” said Schumacher.

The new BusinessFirst cabin has been fitted to all widebody Boeing 777s and narrowbody 757s that serve Houston and New York from London. Regional services, which are all 757 flights, will

BA boss to speak at Travel Market

BRITISH AIRWAYS chief executive Willie Walsh headlines the speakers at next week’s Business Travel Market in London. In his keynote address, Walsh will discuss the

post-recession landscape for business travel buy- ers and suppliers on the second day of the two day event at ExCeL, which starts on Wednesday June 16. He will speak at 2pm in the Platinum Suite and answer questions from the audience. Other topics to be discussed include European

rail travel and the emerging markets of Brazil, China and India. The event is expected to attract 3,500 busi-

ness travel buyers, and starts with a reception at the new Grange St Paul’s Hotel on Tuesday evening.

careful about what we promise and de- liver until then and that is why we have not yet actively pro- moted the new seat,” said a Conti- nental spokesman. “But now we have a better guarantee of being able to have the seat across the

Atlantic, we will be inviting the trade to fly the product over the summer.” Continental’s 777s have 50 BusinessFirst seats

which extend into a 6ft 6in bed. The smaller 757 has only 16 seats and the bed is two inches shorter. Continental offers BusinessFirst passengers a concierge service at Heathrow’s Terminal 4, whereby passengers can be escorted to and from the lounge and looked after until the flight departs.

■More air news, p20

Air India mulls a return to NY

AIR INDIA is considering the resumption of its Heathrow-New York route, which it axed in 2008 after 50 years. The airline is reviewing a return to the JFK

service ahead of joining the Star Alliance, which is due to happen in the first quarter of 2011. The carrier dropped Heathrow-JFK in late 2008, switching to Toronto following the Open Skies treaty which in March that year permitted more airlines to operate between Heathrow and the US. The Air India flight to JFK was a favourite with budget business and economy travellers, but the carrier now has new Boeing 777 aircraft and believes it has a better product to offer.

“New York has always been in our hearts,” said Sheilendra Tomar, Air India’s UK and Ireland marketing manager. “Once we are in the alliance there will be several options. When you only have one flight a day and are putting it against increased frequencies from the likes of BA, you need alliance partners to give you feed.” Air India is one of only two non-UK or US

carriers to have the right to fly across the Atlantic from Heathrow, due to historic air agreements. The other is Kuwait Airways, which still serves JFK.

Continental’s new business cabins have the same number of seats as before, thanks to a design that cleverly incorporates a narrow footrest in the seatback, writes Gary Noakes. For this reason, agents must be aware that the new seat may not suit taller customers as the footspace is very narrow, but for the seven or so hours to New York, most will be happy. Continental has chosen a subdued navy and

grey colour scheme for its cabin, giving it a classy feel. On Continental’s Boeing 757s, where seating is only four across divided into two pairs, the ambience is the closest to a private jet that most of us will ever get. Neat touches in BusinessFirst include duvet- style blankets and an iPod dock, plus a USB port and universal power port. Film fans have a choice of 250 movies on the

777, but note that, disappointingly, there is a selection of only 40 on the 757, because the smaller aircraft cannot hold as much in-flight entertainment equipment.

business travel news A narrow success on seats

Air India boss said New York has “always been in our hearts” 11.06.2010


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