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46 Airlines Probe Customer Service Issues

Kavita Sharma Jassim More than 70 delegates, representing 46 airlines across the globe, analysed issues in the area of customer service and discussed means of improving it at a major aviation conference in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Gulf Air took the leading role at the 53rd four-day annual conference of the Worldwide Airline Customer Relations Association (WACRA).

The summit was held under the chair of Gulf Air senior manager customer care and service quality control Kavita Sharma Jassim, who is the chairperson of WACRA.

Iceland president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson inaugurated the conference under the theme ‘Fire and Ice: Energising the Customer Experience’ hosted by Icelandair.

‘There could have been no better place or time than Iceland to hold this conference as the global aviation industry cannot forget the recent infamous Icelandic volcano ash cloud incidents that have had a significant impact on several airlines’ operations as well as their customer care responses,’ said Jassim.

‘Aviation is one of the most volatile industries in the world, plagued by a number of uncertainties, rising fuel prices, natural disasters, geo-political developments and many others.”

‘And passengers are the first ones to be affected in such situations but as a service industry, we have to ensure they are least affected by providing the best service possible,’ Jassim added.

‘As the chairperson of WACRA and a representative of Gulf Air, it was a great opportunity for me to project Bahrain and its national carrier at the forum, sharing our six decades of experience in the business,’ said Jassim.

Adding a distinctly local flavour, the conference presented Iceland’s premier volcanologist Dr Haraldur Sigur_sson, who shared his expertise about volcanoes and their effect on the aviation industry.

WACRA has been spearheading and driving customer service and relations among global airlines through continuous interaction and exchange of ideas for more than 60 years, providing value to companies, partnering with each other to share best practices and discuss industry trends and offering customers the best in service recovery.

It also co-operates with the Air Transport Association and the International Air Transport Association.

The next WACRA conference will be hosted by Malaysian Airlines in Kuala Lumpur in 2012. – TradeArabia News Service…

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Overshooting a Runway Wrongly Perceived as Pilot Problem: Expert

MONTREAL – Despite new technologies and data available on runway accidents – the leading cause of aviation deaths – runway excursions have remained stable since at least 1995, James Burin said Wednesday.

The director of technical programs for Alexandria, Va.-based Flight Safety Foundation told the 2nd annual International Winter Operations conference hosted by the Air Canada Pilots Association that of the 1,508 aviation accidents between 1995 and 2009, 442, or nearly a third, were runway excursions. Only 10 were runway incursions.

An excursion is overshooting a runway, either on takeoff or landing, while an incursion is usually an unauthorized object – generally another aircraft – on a runway.

Formed in 1947, the not-for-profit foundation conducts studies on various aspects of aviation safety.

Burin, who led a study on runway excursions, said they are wrongly perceived by most as a pilot problem.

They’re not, he told the conference entitled Safety Is No Secret.

“They involve aircrews, airline management, air traffic control and regulators – they all play a role,” said the former U.S. Navy pilot who was a wing commander during the first Gulf War.

The reasons for the great disparity between incursions and excursions, Burin said, is the relative ease of preventing aircraft from bumping into each other – at low speeds.

Excursions usually involve high speeds, weather issues and human judgment.

One of the major obstacles hampering efforts to lower the incidence of these crashes, said Burin, is there is no single accepted standard measuring the conditions of runways.

The other “mystery,” said Burin, is the reluctance of pilots and air traffic to do more go-rounds in dodgy situations – to scrap a landing approach, go around the runway and try again.

“Why they don’t is really the question,” Burin said. “But it’s partly psychology, partly procedure – what’s considered safe.”

Most of the time, they are proven right, he noted – they land safely. And the 442 excursions resulted in 812 fatalities, statistically not excessive over 15 years.

Montreal’s International Civil Aviation Organization has isolated runway incidents as a major problem and has advocated one universal system to describe runway conditions.

Nancy Graham, director of ICAO’s air navigation bureau, told The Gazette in May that the rate of accidents is stable, but “that’s why we have a problem. As our traffic grows, we can expect these runway related accidents to grow as well, unless we act now.”

Runway accidents are “the No. 1 killer in commercial aviation today,” she said.

Technologies are available that would curb their frequency, Burin said, including one that can read aircraft wheels when braking, translate that info into runway conditions and relay it to the world in real time.

He could not say why it hasn’t been adopted.

Another was developed by Airbus and tells pilots if they should do a go-round to land safely.

Airbus has offered the system to anyone willing to use it.

Denis Gordon, director of standards and procedures for AéroMag, a Ville St. Laurent firm that handles aircraft de-icing at airports in Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Cleveland, among others, said that removing ice from a plane’s wings and fuselage was done with warm water until a 1989 accident in Dryden, Ont., that killed 28 people aboard a Fokker jet.

“Three years later, there was a nearly identical accident, except that this time, they waited too long between de-icing and takeoff.”

That gave birth to de-icing practices that are now standard at most of the world’s airports, Gordon said.…

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Opening of New Hotels in Baku & Azerbaijan Will Cut Room Rates

Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan has made a monitoring to current room rates in Baku hotels and published the results disclosing the main reasons of high room rates. The major reason according to Ministry’s experts is lack of competition in hotel business and deficit of hotels in growing Baku. From the early years of independence Azerbaijan could not boast of many hotels, the supply of quality hotel premises was scarce and most of them never were up to high international standards. That was explaining the the rocket high prices in Hyatt Regency Hotel and Grand Europe Europe hotel in those years. And that was the major factor why those and other hotels were able to keep the rates high, perfectly realising that visitors to Baku had no other options. Obviously, with number of hotels in Baku growing every year situation looks much better now, rates tend to take a reverse direction and hotels start competing for the customer.

Azerbaijan encourages investments into the tourist sector and now we can see the noticeable difference. If there were less than 100 hotels and guest houses in Azerbaijan in early 90-s today there are 499 of them. And this of course leads to growing competition, said an official from the Ministry.

“There was only Hyatt Regency before, and all those tourists had no chance but to stay there. Today Baku is hosting largest international hotel chaind. A new Kempinski hotel has been opened recently, new Four Seasons hotel is expected to open later this year – the first Four Seasons hotel in post-Soviet space. Then “Mariott” hotel would be opened soon, and former Moscow hotel would be replaced with Flame Towers Hotel. As a result tourists would have a wider option to choose from. New hotels would consequently ;eade to higher standards of service and would be forced to lower rates to attract customers. By inviting more hotels we will create such a competitve environment that would result in lower rates and higher standards of service.

Even today prices in 5* hotels in Baku are close to those in similar hotels in other countries.

Ministry’s official also reiterated the importance of competition among restaurants. As with hotels Azerbaijan had just several restaurants before meeting international standards, but now there are many of them specialising on Italian, Brasilian, Chinese, Japanese and other cuisines.…

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Cruising for Solo Travellers: Tips and Advice

Jane Archer offers some useful advice for those travelling alone on cruise ships.There has never been a better time for people who like to cruise alone. A bold statement maybe, and one with which those who hanker for the tiny single cabins on the old QE2 will doubtless disagree – but it’s true.

Two years ago if you wanted a single cabin you had a choice between Saga Cruises and Fred Olsen, the one for the over-50s, the other loved by the over-60s, and a handful of other cruise lines that attracted those of a similar age.

Today, those in their 20s can travel alone – and have a ball – on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, a lively family-friendly cruise ship. and the first new vessel for years with a substantial number of single cabins.

And, as noted by Which? Travel in a report this week, more cruise lines are offering either low single supplements, or none at all, in recognition of the fact that more people are choosing to live and take their holidays alone.

These can hurt – up to 100% more than the twin share per person price so you are paying for yourself and another non-existent, person. But keep an eye out for several cruise lines that have no single supplement offers now and then. Saga, Hurtigruten, Voyages to Antiquity and MSC Cruises are ones to watch.

Accommodation

Single cabins vary from being pokey inside rooms to reasonably spacious balcony staterooms. It pays to shop around. Fred Olsen has everything from inside to balcony cabins, Swan Hellenic has just nine inside single cabins, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 128 studio cabins are all inside and just 100 square feet – but you do get the singles lounge for socialising.

Holland America Line, Fred Olsen and Avalon Waterways have single share schemes, where they pair solo passengers with another same sex lone traveller. If they can’t find anyone, you get a double cabin to yourself without paying a supplement.

Dining and socialising

Some cruise lines have fixed dining, where you eat at the same time on a pre-allocated table each night. Others have open dining, allowing you to eat when and with whom you want. Single-friendly lines – Fred Olsen, Swan Hellenic, P&O; Cruises – have cocktail parties and coffee mornings so solo travellers can meet others.

Tips for solo cruisers

A ship with lots of single cabins means there’ll be plenty of other solo travellers.
Fixed dining is very formal; open dining is an easier way to meet people as you sit at different tables each evening.
Use cruise blogs for research. If you like formal cruising, Norwegian Epic would be a nightmare; likewise Fred Olsen would be a disaster for young, free and single thirty-somethings.
Book early. Single cabins on all ships sell like hot cakes.
Reviews and advice on 100 cruise ships and 35 cruise lines

Top five cruise lines and ships for solo travellers
NCL’s Norwegian Epic has 128 inside studio cabins for lone travellers, no single supplement and the studio ‘hang-out’ where people cruising alone can meet. Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, launching in 2013 and 2014 respectively, will have 59 Studio cabins each.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has 188 single cabins across its four ships, which carry a small premium on the per person price for the equivalent twin-share. Singles parties and gentlemen hosts make this a favourite with older single travellers.

P&O; Cruises’ Azura has 18 single cabins – six inside and 12 with an ocean view – at a small premium on the per person twin-share price. Coffee mornings help single travellers meet others. However, P&O; is putting a miserly two single cabins on Oriana in a refit this autumn.

Voyages to Antiquity has 16 single cabins on Aegean Odyssey, charged at a 15 per cent supplement, but this is waived on selected cruises. Singles parties are organised if there are enough people travelling alone.

Saga Cruises has 206 single cabins across three ships and an average 40 per cent supplement that’s waived on many cruises. Taster cruises have lunches and excursions for solo travellers. Saga Sapphire, entering service in March 2012, will have 58 cabins for solo travellers.…

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Montenegro Tourism up 5.3%, Albania Passes 3 Million Visitors

Montenegro has a Stunning Coast, More impressive statistics emerge from the Balkans, where Montenegro reports a strong August performance in the wake of Albania welcoming 3 million visitors.

Countries in the Balkan region continue to post impressive tourism statistics, with Montenegro the latest to report an increase, according to a report on business web-portal Balkans.com on September 30, 2011.

Montenegrin Tourism up 5.3% in August, 7.2% Overall in 2011
According to the report, the tiny former Yugoslav republic with a population of 620,000 recorded 455,185 arrivals in August, an increase of 5.3% on the corresponding period the previous year. Overnight stays were up 12.2% at 3,556,078 nights. The statistics reflect an improved trend throughout the year, which has seen a 7.3% increase in arrivals in the first eight months of 2011 (1,102,639 in all). A small decrease in domestic tourists (2.4%) was outweighed by a strong foreign increase (11.1%).

The report gives an interesting breakdown into the origins of the tourists, with the two largest visitors from Serbia (27.9%) and Russia (20.3%). Bosnia and Herzegovina was next (7.6%), followed by neighbouring Kosovo (3.4%).

Montenegro Most Popular with Serbians and Russians
Until recently joined to Serbia as a unified country, Serbia and Montenegro, the popularity of Montenegro’s coast to Serbs can be explained by traditional ties, common language, ease or access and a common Orthodox religion, while the strong Russian interest reflects the massive financial investment made in Montenegro in recent years before the global crisis, as well as a picturesque Orthodox resort country on the Adriatic with no visa complications for Russian visitors.

Crossing the Border from Montenegro to Albania Albania Tourism More Popular Than Montenegro, Says Google Search Croatian Tourism Enjoys a Bumper June: Up 20% on Previous Year While Montenegro’s tourism is best known for its stunning coastal walled towns and resorts, such as Budva, Kotor and Sveti Stefan, it also has an emerging adventure tourism offer inland in the mountains. It is perhaps therefore somewhat surprising that tourist overnight stays were so overwhelmingly coastal (98.8%), as opposed to 0.7% in the mountain areas, and just 0.2% in the capital, Podgorica.

Albania Passes 3,000,000 Arrivals in 2011
The encouraging statistics were released soon after its southern neighbour, Albania – a rising star of Balkan tourism, with its 350km of virtually untouched sandy coastline – posted even more impressive numbers in the year it had been tipped as Lonely Planet’s Top Destination. In a press conference on September 1, Minister of Tourism Aldo Bumci announced that more than 3,000,000 tourists had visited the country in the first eight months of 2011.

In a press conference, the minister elaborated on this figure, stating that 2,120,000 had been foreign visitors, while some 870,000 were Albanians living abroad. In addition to the Lonely Planet factor, Bumci attributed the 16% annual increase on improved infrastructure and quality of service.…

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