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TOURISM MATTERS: Towards hassle-free travelling

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Towards hassle-free travelling

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Just weeks after writing in this column about the need to explore further smart partnerships, British Airways (BA) officials have announced that they are working with two rail companies, Heathrow Express and First Great Western, to offer seamless connections for travellers living in the West of England and Wales on a single fly/rail ticket.

While the Heathrow arrangement will not directly benefit Barbados, the concept offers enormous potential with Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Frankly I am surprised that BA has pipped Virgin Atlantic to the post on this initiative, especially as Virgin Trains are significant rail operators in their own right.  

A recent media release on the issue stated: “The combined booking takes away the stress and fear of missing a flight, if a train is delayed or a connection missed, by giving customers the peace of mind they’ll be on the next available flight – and even get overnight accommodation if the next service isn’t on the same day.”

It has become increasingly more important, if we are going to regain market share that we assess the whole holiday product components, rather than just focus on the ultimate destination itself. Both from a consumer cost basis, but also to ensure it the most overall pleasurable hassle free experience.

The Smith Commission recommendation takes Scotland a step closer to determining whether their airports will either eliminate the Air Passenger Duty (APD) altogether, or dramatically reduce it. There can be little doubt that the overwhelming conclusion amongst the business community is that elimination would substantially boost the Scottish economy and give Glasgow, Prestwick and Edinburgh airports a distinct cost advantage over airlines flying from those in England.

In doing this Scotland would follow the lead of most European countries which have already abolished APD leaving UK passengers paying the highest departure tax in the world.

My guess is that if Westminster lifts any final impediments, that low cost carriers like Norwegian Air, who are already generating more competition and opening up cheaper flights across the Atlantic, will be tempted to move, at least in part, to Scotland.

If this happens then clearly legacy airlines, especially those operating long haul routes that do not offer services from Scotland will be at a distinct financial disadvantage.

Then, let’s look at the geography and consider just two Northern English cities. Newcastle is closer to Edinburgh and Carlisle closer to Glasgow than either city is to Manchester airport. A shorter road or train journey plus the probability of less traffic congestion and the likelihood of cheaper airport parking.

Which option are most people going to consider? Our next big challenge is to persuade one of the existing carriers to operate a scheduled service from Prestwick or Glasgow, but if this is not feasible, there are charter alternative options.

Clearly Willie Walsh, the chief executive officer of BA’s parent company, foresees this as a clear and possible danger, having been quoted as stating “Scotland’s plan to scrap air passenger taxes would create a domino effect of people avoiding English airports to seek cheaper flights north of the border”.