Monday, February 28, 2005

Weak dollar not hurting European travel; travel agents protecting customers from impact

Although the US dollar is near a historic low versus the Euro, travel to Europe is not showing signs of a decline, according to travel agents. Large agencies have adopted a practice of buying Euros in large quantities when rates are comparatively favorable, and then using that pool of existing Euros to set fixed prices for tours so that American travelers are not caught out by currency fluctuations. Many people have wondered what purpose travel agencies serve in the internet age; here is one example of a possible function for them.

  • Travel agents say they're not alone, despite the dollar's weakness against foreign currencies such as the euro and British pound.
  • "I don't know that it's dented European travel," said Susan Keith, president of VIP Travel Service in Brighton, a local travel agency.
  • Travel agents recommend people headed to Europe lock in costs in advance by buying tour packages that include air fare, hotel, meals and sightseeing.
  • "When you put everything together yourself, and you try to predict what the pound or dollar is going to do, you have to be very careful because you can take a bath," said Lila Ford, owner of Gallery of Travel in Brighton.
  • While the dollar's reduced value means U.S. residents pay more on trips overseas, it benefits U.S. companies exporting goods to Europe and Europeans visiting the United States.
  • DeCory and Wolfanger plan to pay for whatever they can in advance of their two-week European honeymoon, which will include stops in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.
  • Large tour operators such as Brendan Worldwide Vacations in Chatsworth, Calif., buy euros in advance to protect travel agents and their clients against a falling dollar.
  • The euro is the common currency in 12 European countries.
  • "We were able to buy when the dollar to the euro was at a better exchange rate than what it is now," said Becky Powell, director of reservations and operations for Brendan Worldwide Vacations.
  • Traders and economists have predicted the dollar's value will continue to fall because of U.S. trade and budget deficits.
  • On Wednesday, the euro climbed about 2 U.S. cents after the federal government said its trade deficit hit an all-time high in November.
  • Keith had to eat the cost of a currency surcharge after it was added to the price of a European package she had already promised at the old rate.

Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050115/BUSINESS/501150335/1001

China Southern Airlines Takes Its First Ever Airbus A330-200 Delivery

Brand New Aircraft Offers All New Premium-Business, Flat Bed Seats

GUANGZHOU, China--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 28, 2005--China Southern Airlines (NYSE:ZNH - News; HKSE:1055) (SHA:600029) -- www.cs-air.com/en -- the largest airline in The People's Republic of China, today accepted its first of four brand new Airbus A330-200, becoming the first ever carrier in mainland China to operate such type of aircraft, and is part of the airline's fleet renewal program.
Mr. Liu Shao Yong, Chairman of China Southern Airlines, said, "Our newly introduced A330-200 will mainly be used on our medium and long haul routes, especially on our newly tapped International services. China Southern Airlines is dedicated to becoming the best chosen airline for customers. The introduction of this A330-200 aircraft will provide our passengers with a safe and comfortable flight experience. Additionally, this type of aircraft has operational generality, reducing airline's training and maintenance cost."
Mr. Noel Forgeard, President & CEO of Airbus Industry, added, "The A330-200 introduction marks that the cooperation between Airbus Industry and China Southern Airlines has entered into a new milestone. We are very delighted to set up a strategic cooperation relationship with China Southern Airlines. Recently, China Southern Airlines has made an order for five A380s, the largest passenger jet in the world, while today, China Southern accepts its first A330-200. We strongly believe that the A330-200s will give an important play in the development of China Southern Airlines."
The two-engine powered A330 passenger jet combines the lowest operating cost with the maximum flexibility, capable of satisfying operations on varied differently structured routes. Among them, the A330-200 was put into service in 1998. This type of aircraft, with three standardized configurations, can seat 253 passengers in total. It was initiated upon the A330-300, which is longer than the A330-200 in length. The A330-200 has a maximum flight range up to 6650 nautical miles (i.e. 12300 kilometers), enjoying a lot of flexibility on the medium and long-haul routes.
China Southern Airlines currently operates 231 medium and large-sized transport jets, servicing its 17 operation bases and more than 660 routes. In 2004, China Southern Air Holding Company completed a total traffic of 6,528 million tons/kilometers, including cargo and mail traffic of 692,300 tons, and carried more than 39 million passengers. The indexes of its flight hours, take-offs & landings and total passengers transported are ranked first in mainland China. China Southern has entered into the global Top Ten passenger transport airlines. China Southern Airlines is the largest carrier in The People's Republic of China in terms of fleet, operation bases, extensive domestic routes and flight frequencies.
China Southern Airlines' service quality continues to improve and the airline has been honored with the Five Star diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences; in 2004, China Southern Air Holding Company completed a total 748,000 transport flight hours and 4,282 general flight hours, ensuring aviation security for 126 consecutive months, the incident rate only marked as 0.004 per cent, much less than the CAAC defined 0.006 per cent.
The largest airline in The People's Republic of China for the past 13 years, China Southern Airlines -- www.cs-air.com/en -- connects more than 80 cities around the globe. Major business and vacation destinations served in China include: Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hong Kong, Kunming, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan, as well as international service, including: Amsterdam, Bangkok, Fukuoka, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Moscow, Osaka, Paris, Penang, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ryanair's $4bn investment promises 2,500 new jobs

Irish-owned low cost airline Ryanair has announced placing an order for a 140 Boeing 737-800 series aircraft.The $4 billion investment involves a firm order for 70 new aircraft and will result in the eventual creation of more than 2,500 jobs, principally for pilots, cabin crew and engineering staff. Half of these jobs will be generated at the airline's existing 12 European bases, with the remainder at the 10 or more new bases that Ryanair plan to develop over the next seven years.Ryanair said that a firm order had been placed for 70 aircraft and that the company has an option on 70 further aircraft.While subject to shareholder approval at an EGM, this agreement would make Ryanair Europe's largest airline based on projected passenger traffic.Announcing this agreement in London this morning, Ryanair's Chairman, David Bonderman said: "The Boeing 737-800 series aircraft is the most efficient narrowbody shorthaul aircraft in the world. Since its introduction into the Ryanair fleet in March 1999 it has transformed our technical reliability, making Ryanair the number one on-time major airline in Europe."At the same time, the 737-800 has significantly reduced our unit operating costs and allowed us to reduce air fares each year for the last five years. With this new order and new pricing in place, Ryanair expects that unit operating costs (excluding fuel) will continue to fall each year for the next five years. This will enable Ryanair to offer even lower fares and underpin our growth strategy as we plan to double traffic from 34 million passengers in 2005/06 to over 70 million passengers in 2011/12."Ryanair's partnership with Boeing has been central to our successful growth as the lowest fare and lowest cost airline in Europe. Today's order for 140 additional aircraft (70 firm units) gives Ryanair access to lower aircraft costs, which in turn reduces operating costs and reinforces our determination to drive air fares in Europe even lower".This increased $4 billion aircraft order is the result of a Ryanair-Boeing agreement on improved pricing from 2005 onward. The company said that this investment will enable "planned double-digit growth during the latter years of this decade" to be maintained.The agreement reinforces the Ryanair-Boeing partnership as it delivers the lowest per seat aircraft cost in Europe.The transaction also includes agreement on winglet modifications to Ryanair's entire fleet (delivering a 2% reduction in fuel consumption) and improved support terms.As a result of the agreement announced today, Ryanair expects to be able to offer the lowest per seat operating cost in Europe.(SP/MB)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ryanair Orders 70 New Planes From Boeing

Ryanair Orders 70 New Planes Worth $4 Billion From Boeing, Takes Option to Buy 70 More

LONDON (AP) -- Ryanair Holdings PLC said Thursday it has ordered 70 planes valued at $4 billion from Boeing Co. and has taken the option to buy 70 more, signaling that the budget airline is continuing its rapid growth across Europe.
The deal is also a coup for U.S. manufacturer Boeing in its long-running rivalry with European consortium Airbus to dominate the aerospace market.
Ryanair said most of the 70 firm orders for the Boeing 737-800 series of aircraft will be delivered between 2008 and 2012, allowing the carrier to maintain its planned double-digit growth during the latter years of this decade. The list price for the planes is $4 billion; the company declined to say exactly how much it paid for the planes.
The agreement, which is subject to shareholder approval, brings the total Ryanair order book with Boeing to 225 firm orders and 193 options.
Ryanair said it will have taken delivery of about 100 new Boeings -- from an original order of 155 -- by the end of 2005.
Ryanair Chairman David Bonderman said the airline considered the Boeing 737-800s -- introduced into the Ryanair fleet in 1999 -- to be the most efficient narrow-body short-haul aircraft available.
"The 737-800 has significantly reduced our unit operating costs and allowed us to reduce our air fares each year for the last five years," Bonderman said.
Mike Marino, chief executive of Aviation Partners Boeing, a Seattle-based joint venture, said the significance of the order "is huge and it really pushes us over the top as far as critical mass goes," given Ryanair's position as the largest low-cost carrier in Europe.
Chicago-based Boeing has staked its future on industry deregulation and smaller, long-range planes like its planned two-aisle 787 Dreamliner -- scheduled to debut in 2008 -- that will allow passengers increasingly to fly direct, spurning stopovers at hub airports.
France-based Airbus sees a future based on demand for massive planes to transport a growing number of passengers. It unveiled the world's largest commercial jet, the double-decker A380 "superjumbo," in January.
Ryanair said the new order of Boeing jets, combined with a new pricing structure, would help the airline push unit operating costs -- excluding fuel -- lower for the next five years.
"This will enable Ryanair to offer even lower fares and underpin our growth strategy as we plan to double traffic from 34 million passengers in 2005-06 to more than 70 million passengers in 2011-12," Bonderman said.
Ryanair said the 70 new aircraft will also create more than 2,500 jobs at the airline, principally at its existing 12 European bases, with the remainder at the 10 or more new bases it plans to develop over the next seven years.
The carrier has been aggressive in opening new routes in recent months. It currently operates 220 routes across 19 countries.
Shares in Ryanair rose 3.4 percent to 6.35 pounds ($8.42) in afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange.

By Jane Wardell, AP Business Writer

American Airlines Enhances Self-Service With New Locations and Smart Features

Canadian Deployment and Large Party Check-In Continue to Improve Automated Passenger Registration

FORT WORTH, Texas, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Starting today, passengers will be able to expedite their check-in from Vancouver International Airport and the Calgary International Airport for returning passengers to the United States. Additionally, Self-Service Check-In will be available in the next few months at the Toronto Pearson International Airport and Montreal's Trudeau International Airport.
A new Self-Service feature will allow check-in for groups of ten or more passengers booked in a single reservation on American's Self-Service machines. With this new feature, families and large parties will be able to avoid long lines at ticket counters in airports across the United States during check-in.
"We know that customers want different check-in options, and Self-Service Check-In continues to be an evolving platform that allows us to create additional solutions for our passengers," said Maya Leibman, Managing Director of Airport Automation for American Airlines. "Customer feedback and evolving technology let us deliver the best solutions for our passengers' needs. As always, our agents are available to assist all passengers at our ticket counters."
Building on proven solutions and customer feedback, American Airlines has developed new enhancements for its airport Self-Service Check-In solutions. American Airlines has deployed its Self Service Check-In at more than 94 airports across the United States and Canada, Paris' Charles De Gaulle International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport.
Passengers using a Self-Service machine can check-in, print and reprint boarding passes and check luggage in as fast as 30 seconds. In mid-2004, American updated its automated interface with a Spanish language option and a robust reengineered backend infrastructure that significantly speeds up the transactions. Currently, more than 65% of American passengers utilize an automated check-in option, including the Self-Service Check-In, Curbside Check-In and Flight Check-In on AA.com.
About American Airlines
American Airlines is the world's largest airline. American, American Eagle and the AmericanConnection(R) regional airlines serve more than 250 cities in over 40 countries with more than 3,800 daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 1,000 aircraft. American's award- winning Web site, AA.com, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld Alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members serve more than 600 destinations in over 135 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation (NYSE: AMR - News).
AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com, AAdvantage and Net SAAvers & Special Offers are marks of American Airlines, Inc. AmericanAirlines(R) We know why you fly(SM)
Current AMR Corp. releases can be accessed on the Internet.
The address is http://www.aa.com
Source: American Airlines, Inc.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dubai to have strong presence at two international travel exhibitions

Participation in major trade exhibitions and overseas promotions are vital to Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM)'s campaign to strengthen emirate's foothold in the global tourism market.




DTCM pavilion at a previous exhibition.

This week, the department will showcase Dubai's tourism facilities at two leading international travel exhibitions – EMITT-2005 in Istanbul and Travel World-2005 in Mumbai, India. These exhibitions will offer DTCM an opportunity to network with the local travel trade and present a strong case for Dubai to be included in local travel agents' itinerary. This year, DTCM is participating in 31 exhibitions and conducting 12 road shows across the world to strengthen Dubai's image in the global tourism industry. EMITT-2005 (East Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Exhibition) is one the largest in that region, and attracted an average of 100,000 visitors last year. This year, the show will take place over a 20,000 square metre area, featuring more than 1000 exhibitors from over 50 countries. The show is being held between February 24 and 27. The department's co-participants at the show include Desert Link Tourism, Net Group of Companies, Desert Adventures Tourism, Alpha tours, Knight Tours, Sun & Sand Hotel Dubai, Sofitel City Center Hotel and Residence, Bin Majid Tours, Planet Travels Tours and Cargo, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Coral Deira Dubai, Oasis Adventure, Accor Hotels World Trade Centre and Gulliver's Travel Associates. The department is also participating with a 49-square-metre stand at the Travel World 2005 to be held from February 24 to 27. The exhibition is South Asia's largest Business-to-Business tourism forum and features over 200 domestic and international exhibitors. The DTCM co-participants at the show are Desert Link Tourism, Grand Hyatt Dubai, Lama Desert Tours & Cruises, Seaview Hotel, Gulliver's Travel Associates, Oasis Adventures, Accor Hotels World Trade Centre, Arabian Dream Tours and Hotel Inter-Continental Dubai. Due to its proximity and strong trade ties, India is an important source market for Dubai's tourism industry.

Airline offers refunds

THE mysterious gas leak at Melbourne airport is expected to cost Virgin Blue more than $2 million, after it offered cash refunds and free flights yesterday to furious passengers left stranded this week.Investigators hope to identify by the end of the week the chemical substance that put 47 people in hospital and threw the travel plans of nearly 20,000 Virgin Blue and Regional Express passengers into turmoil.
Thousands of passengers converged on Virgin's south terminal at Melbourne airport early yesterday in a bid to fly out of the city, following delays forced by the terminal's closure on Monday for eight hours when 57 people experienced dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. Virgin cancelled 82 flights on Monday and a further 20 yesterday as it struggled to cope with massive disruption to its network caused by the closure and its aftermath. Rex cancelled at least 16 services.
About 75 per cent of the airline's flights were back on schedule early last night. The other 25 per cent were running late but airline officials said everyone booked yesterday would get to their destination.
Virgin also announced it was offering a full cash refund or a flight credit coupon for all people who had switched to another airline, as well as a free flight for all passengers delayed for more than four hours.
Angry Virgin officials now want answers about the cause of the biggest daily disruption to services in the airline's history.
Air Services Australia, which co-ordinated the emergency response to the situation, originally suspected a food poisoning outbreak, but it later became clear that the outbreak was the result of an unidentified substance in the air.
Extensive testing by Metropolitan Fire Brigade investigators has failed to establish the nature or location of the substance. But airport spokesman Geoffrey Conaghan said he was confident it could be determined by the end of a two-day debriefing on the incident beginning tomorrow.
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks announced yesterday that Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin would conduct an inquiry into the incident, in which 47 people were taken to the nearby Northern Hospital for dehydration treatment and blood tests.
"We need to determine how the emergency response system operated," he said

Air France-KLM named airline of the year

WASHINGTON: European airline Air France-KLM, founded in May by Air France's merger with its Dutch rival KLM, has been named airline of 2005 by Air Transport World air industry magazine, for its "remarkable" transformation and "philosophy of aggressive global growth." Air France-KLM president Jean-Cyril Spinetta and vice president Leo Van Wijk accepted the award late Tuesday during a ceremony that also gave awards to regional low-cost air carriers Air Asia and Virgin Atlantic.



A combination of two pictures shows a KLM Boeing 747-400 and an Air-France plane

"The merger with KLM and the subsequent privatization of AF are worthy of special recognition," ATW Editorial Director J.A. Donoghue said at the ceremony. "Combining two of Europe's legendary flag carriers into the largest airline in the world should begin the much-needed rationalization of capacity while providing substantial benefits from the merger," he added. In a brief speech, Spinetta recalled what prompted the merger of the two companies: "we were at risk because we were middle weight champions in a heavy weight business." He also praised the United States as "a country that symbolizes optimism and dynamism," and stressed that as the largest economy in the world, "the US is a key market for us." Other air carriers to carry off awards from ATW included Air New Zealand for its remarkable resurgence after skirting with bankruptcy in 2001, and Luxembourg's airfreight carrier Cargolux and Mesa Air, which serves the North American region. - AFP

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Enhanced hotel links in dynamic packaging sector

It appears that travel agents and tour operators will soon enjoy new, dynamic packaging opportunities, following an agreement by Multicom and Pegasus Solutions to offer accommodation through FindandBook, the first ever leisure Global Distribution System (GDS).

FindandBook, launched last year, is a complete travel booking engine for all tour operators and travel retailers. The solution plugs into any web site or can be harnessed within actual, physical agencies and call centres, where sales staff use the technology as a reservations system, calling up FindandBook within their own web site.
The deal, which entails implementing the electronic distribution technology and service of Pegasus, a global provider of technology and services to hotels and travel distributors, allows users of Multicom's FindandBook to sell Pegasus' worldwide network of more than 60,000 hotels through the GDS. In return, the hotels will now reach Multicom's network of agents, operators and online brands.
Agents and operators will also apparently be able to access their own contracted rates with preferred properties, allowing them to build relationships with hotels offering the best fit for their target customers, and focus sales on hotels suited to producing the highest margins.
"Agents and operators selling in the dynamic packaging sector are often totally indiscriminate, and instead of creating targeted offers they generate lists of hundreds of hotels their customers can book with,” claims Rob Howell, Multicom Managing Director.
"Our implementation of Pegasus' technology will enable our clients to focus on hotels worldwide that suit their markets, and negotiate preferential rates in return for driving bookings. This has to be the way forward for the industry."
Peter Fitzgerald, Pegasus Solutions' Vice President of Sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, adds that Multicom is playing a key role in powering the leisure travel industry's Internet marketplace. “This agreement is another step forward for the travel sector, and will help agents and operators manage their dynamic packaging opportunities."

Hilton Worldwide Resorts Expanding with 14 New Resorts to Open In the Next Two Years

21st February 2005 – Award winning Hilton Worldwide Resorts today launched its 2005 portfolio, which includes 13 additional properties, bringing the current number of resorts to 59 in 24 countries.
The upscale resort network has also announced further expansion with 14 new resorts, (over 3,000 rooms), planned to open around the world in the next two years.
14 new openings planned for the next two years
Hilton Whistler Resort, Canada (HHC) Hilton Portorosa, Sicily (HI) Hilton Evian Resort & Spa, France (HI) Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, USA (HHC) Hilton Krabi Resort & Spa, Thailand (HI) Hilton Venice, Italy (HI) Hilton Amazon Eco-Lodge, Brazil (HI) Hilton Seychelles, Indian Ocean (HI) Hilton Margaret River Vineyard Resort & Spa, Australia (HI) Hilton Denaru, Fiji (HI) Hilton Sanya Resort & Spa, China (HI) Hilton Ain Sokhna, Egypt (HI) Hilton North Miami Beach Resort, Florida, USA (HHC) Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort, New Mexico, USA (HHC)
Ian Carter, Chief Executive, Hilton International comments, “The expansion of the resort portfolio reflects the increase in leisure business and demand for our resort product. We will continue to explore opportunities to develop Hilton Worldwide Resorts and to offer guests an unrivalled global collection of upscale holiday destinations.” The expanded 2005 portfolio and new resort openings will see Hilton Worldwide Resorts double from just 36 resorts at its launch in 2002 to 73 resorts by 2007.
New to the 2005 portfolio are eight Hilton Hotels Corporation resorts in the US, the Conrad Phuket Resort & Spa in Thailand and Hilton International resorts in Italy, Barbados, Egypt and the Philippines. Philippa Gould, Product Development Director, Hilton International, comments on the growth; “Hilton Worldwide Resorts has gone from strength to strength. The 2005 additional resorts, which are a mixture of existing Hilton properties and new openings, further enhance our far reaching global choice and provide even more wonderful spa, golf, romantic, family and diving holiday experiences for guests to sample.
“We are equally excited about the 14 new openings planned for the next two years. These include a line up of resorts in new, exotic places for Hilton such as Whistler, Evian, Portorosa, Venice, Seychelles, Fiji, Western Australia and a specialist Eco-Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest.”
Currently, 37 resorts are operated by Hilton International, 19 by Hilton Hotels Corporation and three by Conrad.

Dhaka for more regional co-op to promote tourism

KOLKATA, Feb 21: State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin on Monday said more cooperation and concerted efforts of BIMSTEC countries are needed for achieving the goals of tourism in the region, reports BSS. He said this while addressing a workshop of the tourism ministers and travel and tourism industry representatives of BIMSTEC countries here. The workshop, first of its kind, would beckon a great prospect for BIMSTEC member countries to bolster their ties and explore potentials of tourism, he said. “It is a great desire of us and an urgent need of current global phenomenon of tourism,” he added. Referring to the unique feature of BIMSTEC, he said the group has established a bridge between South and South East Asia to enable the member states to forge integration.He said the region has numerous places of tourist attractions and through proper coordination and targeted promotional campaign BIMSTEC states would be able to capture the attention of major tourist generating markets. Mir Nasir also observed that there was a tremendous potential of promoting Buddhist Circuit Tourism among the member countries of BIMSTEC, including Bangladesh. Buddhist Circuit Tourism covering potential tourist attractions for the member countries should be developed as well as possible, he said. “The Buddhist Circuit Tourism would bring momentum in eco-tourism along with spiritual tourism in the days to come,” he said. Indian Minister of State for Tourism Renuka Chowdhury, tourism ministers of Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and high commissioner of Sri Lanka to India and Tourism Minister of West Bengal Dinesh Dakua attended the workshop.

Monday, February 21, 2005

BAE calms fears over Airbus stake

AEROSPACE and defence group BAE Systems today denied it planned to sell its stake in European aircraft giant Airbus.Trade ministers had expressed concern about a potential sale, but BAE, based in the Farnborough, said it was not looking to dispose of its 20 per cent interest in the Toulouse-based group.A BAE spokesman said: "We never say never, but at the moment, our position is that a sale is not being considered."At a recent Cabinet sub-committee meeting on aerospace and industry issues, ministers were reported to have expressed "deep reservations" about any move by BAE to sell its stake in Airbus.Defence secretary Geoff Hoon and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt were said to be concerned that any divestment by BAE would simply be a move to cash in on the success of the pan-European jet maker, which employs about 10,000 people at sites in Broughton, near Chester, and Filton, in Bristol.Ministers believed such a move would put the short-term interests of BAE investors before the longer term interests of one of the UK's few successful industrial sectors.An Industry Department spokesman said: "Airbus is a good UK manufacturing story and we want to ensure it has a long- term future."Airbus which makes the A380 superjumbo, has overtaken US rival Boeing as the world leader in commercial jet manufacturing.

Airbus A380 released by Abacus

The Airbus A380 made its first public appearance in mid-January and is scheduled to make its first test flight this Spring. This exciting aircraft has received tremendous attention and for good reason. The A380-800 seats up to 550 passengers and transports them up to 8000 miles. Due to the enormous size and weight of the A380, the Airbus Consortium is working with major airports to modify their runways, taxiways and loading gates to handle its two story passenger compartment.


Already, thirteen international carriers have placed firm orders for 135 of the new aircraft. The first A380 is slated to launch in 2006. Among the intial carriers are Lufthansa, China Southern Airlines, Thai Airways, Etihad Airways, Qantas, Singapore Air, Federal Express, UPS and others.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

American Leisure Reshapes Board, Breaks Ground on Resort

ORLANDO - American Leisure Holdings, an international travel services manager and travel destination development company, said it fortified its board of directors to help launch “aggressive” acquisitions of more travel distribution and management companies.
David Levine, former chairman and chief executive of ResortQuest International Inc., was named chairman-elect. Levine was with ResortQuest during an explosion of growth, market creation and branding in the vacation home sales and vacation home management industry, American Leisure said, adding that Levine would help fine-tune the AMLH business model and “guide the company through the rigors of public finance.”
Also named to the board is Thomas Cornish, president and chief executive of Seitlin Insurance Inc. of Miami, Fla. American Leisure pointed to Cornish’s finance, banking and corporate governance experience as leverage to help it access and evaluate public and private sources of debt and equity financing, and to prepare the company for its entry into those markets.
Also announced to the board is Carlos Fernandez, formerly an audit partner with KPMG in Madrid and Miami and, more recently, was managing director of the mergers and acquisitions group. Fernandez will help American Leisure structure strategic acquisitions and fulfill the responsibilities of public company financial reporting, the company said.
L. William Chiles, chairman of the board since July 2003, will remain on the board and lead its New Initiative committee. Chiles is also board chairman of Hickory Travel Systems Inc., a subsidiary of the company. Hickory is a consortium travel services provider whose members buy over $15 billion of travel sales.
Retiring from the AMLH Board is Gillian Wright, who has served since the company took form in a reverse merger three years ago. She gains the title of Director Emeritus of the Company.
The announcements were made with the groundbreaking of the American Leisure’s new luxury resort near Orlando. The resort is to be operated by the upscale hotel manager, Sonesta International Hotels Inc. of Boston. Known as Sonesta Orlando Resort at Tierra del Sol, it will have 972 vacation home resort units, 625 of which have been sold, totaling over $200 million.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Demand-Supply Imbalance: Boon for Budget Brands in India

A wise entry strategy into the Indian market that is so buoyant - Develop budget hotel with a mid-market orientation that satisfies the value for money principle
The Indian tourism industry has performed well over the last eighteen months. Foreign tourist arrivals in 2004 touched their highest-ever figure of 3 million, and the size of the domestic tourism is presently estimated at 230 million. The outlook for the economy is positive; the government's polices are perceived as investment friendly and, for the first time ever, domestic carriers can test foreign grounds. The hotel industry is on cloud nine, with hotels witnessing record occupancies and average rate growth. The macro economic outlook is expected to continue providing momentum for growth, and we expect demand for room nights across key commercial and leisure destinations across India to grow annually at an average of 16-20 percent over the next three to five years.

With 95,000 odd rooms in the country, the size of the hotel industry represents an abysmal figure for India's size and growth prospects. Based on the forecasted growth in demand we expect that another 75,000 to 80,000 rooms will need to be added, across the country, in the next five years, to be able to meet the increase in demand. Our preliminary research indicates that, at best, there are currently only 35,000-40,000 rooms under different stages of planning and construction that are expected to enter the market in the next five years.
The recent boom witnessed by the hotel industry and the expected demand-supply imbalance has renewed the interest of many real estate enthusiasts in hotel development projects and the preferred positioning for a majority of projects seems to be luxury. Why the luxury segment? Because of a higher average rate, a better bottom line figure and better returns. Luxury hotels also attract a lot of attention and easily fit into the perceived business profile of individual developers, many of whom do not want to be seen associated with budget or economy products!
Luxury seems to be the buzzword as the high-end segment provides an opportunity to register windfall profits in the long run. Does this reflect an apt understanding of trends?
If I have to advise a potential developer on a wise entry strategy into a market that is so buoyant, I would say, "Budget hotel with a mid-market orientation that offers value for money."
Why Budget? Well, let's see...
In the next five years, the Indian hotel industry is expected to witness an acute shortage of room supply. The demand-supply imbalance will transform the market into a supplier's market and this will, naturally, lead to a dramatic rise in rates in most cities. Companies will find rates prohibitive for the mid-level business traveler, forcing them to look for more cost-effective alternatives. IT majors in India like Infosys and Wipro are actively considering the development of guesthouses at their campuses in Bangalore. The mid-level traveler constitutes a key target market for most luxury hotels in commercial destinations and this segment also exhibits comparatively higher average length of stay patterns. Displacement of this business will be available for hotel with a mid market orientation that can satisfy the value for money principal. At some point in time macro economic factors and industry dynamics will present an optimum demand-supply balance and yields will be rationalized. Till such time, budget hotels will be able to operate at impressive occupancies, maximize yields through proactive rate management and build a loyal customer among niche markets like the non-negotiated commercial traveler, airline STPC and extended stay. Post rationalization, the rate adjustment factor will be comparatively lower for hotels with mid-market orientation and these hotels are expected to present a flatter, but more stable, growth trajectory over a long term period.
While there has been much talk about record number of foreign tourist arrivals, very little has actually been said or done about domestic tourism, which, according to our estimates, has registered 40 percent annual growth in the last three years and is currently estimated at 230 million travelers. The latest data released by the government of India shows that the country’s Per capita Income grew by an impressive 7.1 percent in 2003/04, while Gross Domestic Savings at current prices touched an all time high of 28 percent. Significantly, the present-day consumption boom in India has been influenced more by higher disposable income rather than lower savings.
This is good news, as income induced spending is likely to sustain itself for a longer period. Higher disposable incomes are also expected to enhance the concept of traveling for leisure. At existing hotel rates across key leisure destinations in India, travel to many far-east destinations is more economical than travel on domestic circuits. In such a scenario, a budget hotel offering comfortable accommodation and satisfactory food and beverage alternatives at affordable prices has much to gain from the domestic travel market. In my opinion, a hotel with mid market orientation and budget brand affiliation is better suited to cater to this all-important segment. Moreover, for any hotel, a greater dependency on domestic tourism also means more certainty and stability in terms of revenue: inbound tourism, undoubtedly, is strongly influenced by trends and developments, economic and otherwise, in the source countries as well as around the world in general. Dependency on foreign tourism can be a double-edged sword as travel decisions are based on global patterns and events that happen elsewhere can have serious impact on your performance. Post 9/11, post SARS outbreak, post Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and most likely post tsunami it is the domestic traveler that has been the saving grace of Indian hospitality industry and in my opinion a hotel with mid market orientation and budget brand affiliation is better suited to cater to this all important segment.
The non-availability of quality sites for hotel development has forced international brands keen to enter the Indian market to become more flexible in terms of their product specifications. Luxury brand operators and management companies seem willing to make adjustments in terms of certain preconditions and requirements, in order to be able to plant that all-important flag. Developers must, however, keep in mind that the overall development cost, and subsequent operational costs, associated with a mid-market product are far less than for a luxury product. When the demand-supply imbalance situation improves, which will improve once new hotels open, only those hotels that are planned and conceptualized to cater to the ideal business mix will be able to sustain themselves. While, based on recent performances and existing trends, there is a strong temptation to opt for luxury, budget developments, due to their inherent nature of operation, associated costs and flexibility, are better suited to withstand the next economic downturn as and when it takes place.
What India needs today is additional supply in room inventory that will ease the huge supply imbalance. The real requirement is for products that will offer value for money and which are customized to effectively cater to individual travel needs. The need of the hour is for developers to understand and access the true potential of certain key hotel markets, absorb the concept of budget accommodation, and incorporate a well thought-out development strategy.
Over the last 24 months, most cities have witnessed impressive growth in average rate, due to strong demand and not much addition in supply. However, the potential to increase rates without displacing clients has almost peaked. With new hotels opening in these cities we expect to see a much-needed phase of rate consolidation. Thus, if you do not already have a hotel that is up and running and achieving an average rate of US$250, the safest basket to put your investment in is budget. The demand-supply imbalance indeed presents an ideal opportunity and is a boon for budget brands looking at India.


By Siddharth Thaker HVS International

Airline compensation

According to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, Britons spend 2m hours annually waiting for delayed flights. While a boon for airport retailers of lager, money belts and plug adaptors, this is far from ideal. The European Union has come to the rescue with a new compensation scheme that makes airlines liable for passengers who are bumped off, or whose flights are delayed or cancelled.

So far so good. But the rules may be more dangerous than first appears. The compensation levels - EU250-600 for a cancelled flight - are a multiple of the price of most economy tickets. Secondly the regulation is extremely badly drafted. It exempts airlines from liability if cancellations are due to "exceptional circumstances" such as strikes or air traffic control problems. Yet, alarmingly, this qualification does not seem to apply to delays. And the guidance accompanying the regulation says even "the most difficult of weather conditions" will not be considered exceptional.

The EU has not attempted to cost its new rule. While the low-cost airlines seem relaxed, one major European carrier estimates its costs will rise by EU35m. This implies a sector-wide bill of about EU200m annually, a figure backed up by preliminary UK government estimates. Given that Europe's conventional airlines only made a EU700m profit in 2004 according to the Association of European Airlines, that is significant. It also excludes probable future administrative costs from dealing with the several million passengers eligible under the scheme.
As a piece of poorly executed red tape, this regulation is hard to beat. The EU is being challenged by some airlines in the European Court of Justice. Unless they win, the scheme's true cost may yet come back to haunt passengers and investors.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Low-Fare Carrier Hits New Heights In Brazil

It offers cheaper flights than rivals. It serves peanuts and soft drinks and boasts 25-minute turnarounds. It flies an all-Boeing fleet of new 737s.
If this sounds like a familiar low-cost air carrier in the U.S., it's meant to. Four-year-old Brazilian carrier Gol Intelligent Airlines patterned its business after Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV - News).
It's been a successful strategy. Gol has been profitable since 2002 and now commands about 25% of Brazil's airline market. It's the third largest domestic carrier after Tam and the long-struggling Varig, which also flies overseas.
Since it went public in June at $17 a share, Gol's stock has risen more than 85%.
"They are doing everything right," said Robert Booth, chairman of AvGroup, a Miami, Fla.-based aviation consulting firm that specializes in Latin America.
'Everyone Can Fly'
Gol -- which in Portuguese means "goal" -- flies to 37 cities in Brazil, a country that is nearly as big as the continental U.S. Most of its 170 million citizens couldn't afford a plane ticket until Gol came along with cheap advanced fares.
Many of Gol's late night red-eye flights cost about the same as a bus ticket. The company's advertising slogan: "Gol. Here everyone can fly."
Cut-rate fares between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. are part of the airline's strategy to lure more passengers. It's working. The flights operate at 92% of capacity or more, and about 15% of passengers have never flown on a plane before.
"They're getting people who've never flown before off the buses and automobile," Booth said.
Gol's top management knows all about Brazil's bus business. Founder and chairman Constantino de Oliveira owns one of Brazil's biggest bus companies, Aurea Group.
He had long wanted to start a low fare and low cost airline in Brazil. In 2000 -- a year before Gol's launch -- he seized the moment by grabbing pilots and other furloughed employees from major carrier Vasp, which was downsizing.
The regulatory climate also had eased by then.
De Oliveira and his son -- Constantino Jr., Gol's chief executive -- visited operations at Southwest and JetBlue (NasdaqNM:JBLU - News) in the U.S. and easyJet in Europe. Southwest had the biggest impact, says Richard Lark, Gol's chief financial officer.
The "Gol Effect" -- like the "Southwest Effect" -- has caused air passenger growth to explode in markets it's entered.
"The first five air markets we started operations in 2001 have grown twice the national average," Lark said. "Our growth depends more on adding aircraft than GDP growth."
Gol's leased fleet of 29 Boeing 737s will get a boost next year. In early February, the company announced that it increased to 63 the number of 737-800s it plans to buy outright from Boeing. Gol previously planned to buy 43 planes.
The first deliveries are set to start next year.
Managing Costs
Long flying days, coupled with fast turnarounds, help leverage fixed costs over more revenue-producing miles. The airplanes themselves represent about 50% of Gol's costs, Lark says.
Unlike the U.S. air market, where labor costs account for as much as 40% of overall costs, airline labor costs in Brazil make up less than 10% of the total.
"In Brazil, if you can manage your aircraft well you have a good chance of keeping costs low," Lark said.
Almost 70% of Gol's revenue comes from business travelers. Since business travelers are not as price-sensitive as leisure customers, Gol can pass through 70% of its fuel-cost increases through fare hikes, Lark says.
Brazil's business travelers also generate higher profits for Gol since they're willing to pay for convenience and last-minute travel.
"Our prices are 20% to 25% less than competitors on average," Lark said. "But in many of the most competitive markets where there is high demand by business travelers, our value proposition is more or less the same."
Gol's earnings in last year's third quarter rose 52% from the prior year to 41 cents a share. Revenue gained 31% to $181 million.
Analysts polled by First Call estimate full-year 2004 earnings of $1.45 a share. They expect earnings this year will grow 26% to $1.82.
Gol plans to expand service to major cities across South America over the next three years.
It began service to Argentina in December and expects to start service to Bolivia by June. The firm has no plans to fly beyond South America.
"There are 500 million people living in all of Latin America," Booth said. "Less than 10% of the population uses air service, so the potential is enormous."

Biggest Bedroom In Sky Comes to Baltimore/Washington International Airport

BALTIMORE, Feb. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The biggest bedroom in the sky officially has come to Baltimore/Washington International Airport as British Airways has launched its Club World business class product on its BWI/London route, making the British carrier the only airline flying the route offering a revolutionary new seat which converts to a fully flat 180 degree, six foot- long bed.
And to make the Club World flat beds instantly attractive in the Baltimore/Washington marketplace, British Airways is offering a $999 one-way Club World introductory fare ($1,998 roundtrip), knocking 76 percent off the normal $8,250 roundtrip fare. The sale price will be available through Sunday midnight EST, March 20.
At the same time, BWI will also receive a new class of travel for economy passengers called "World Traveller Plus," tailored to the needs of long-haul customers who want added comfort at an affordable premium price between business class and economy. World Traveller Plus features a comfortable 38- inch pitch seat in a separate cabin aboard all longhaul B777, B747 and B767 aircraft.
"British Airways is delighted to offer Baltimore/Washington these unique new products. The flat beds have proven to be extremely popular with our business class customers and we are confident our customers will enjoy the comfort and privacy of Club World," said Derrick Surratt, Director of Sales Southeast USA for British Airways. "The aircraft configuration permits us to provide more capacity and to match market demand for all cabins. If the success of the flat beds in other markets is any indication, this is a win-win situation for Baltimore."
World Traveller Plus seats to London also will be on sale priced at $199 one-way ($398 roundtrip) -- a savings of 79 percent off the regular $1950 return fare. All airfares will be subject to government fees and taxes and a $2.50 September 11th security charge. Both the Club World and World Traveller Plus offers are exclusive to BWI departures and must include a minimum stay of one Saturday night; maximum stay is 12 months.
British Airways serves Baltimore/Washington International Airport daily with the most modern aircraft of the skies, the Boeing 767 with 24 Club World, 24 World Traveller Plus and 141 World traveller (economy class), or the B777 configured to 14 First Class, 40 Club World, 40 World Traveller Plus and 122 World Traveller (economy class) seats.
The daily eastbound flight, BA228, departs each evening at 8:50 p.m. and arrives at London's Heathrow Airport at 9:10 a.m., the following morning. The return westbound service, BA229, departs Heathrow everyday at 11:50 a.m. and arrives at BWI at 3:30 p.m., the same afternoon.
British Airways was the first carrier to offer a seat that converts to a fully flat bed for business class travellers. Club World has won the endorsement of customers generating loyalty and driving improved customer satisfaction. The flat bed has won a host of accolades from both the design and travel industry, including the prestigious Grand Prix at the International Design Effectiveness Awards and the Marketing Society's Award for Innovation.
British Airways is one of the world's largest airlines carrying more international passengers between countries around the world. Further information on fares, flight schedules and British Airways Holiday packages is available from local travel agents.

China Southern Offering Latest Flight Information via Mobile Phone

Latest Flight Information in Guangzhou at Your Fingertips

GUANGZHOU, China--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 15, 2005--China Southern Airlines (NYSE:ZNH - News; HKSE:1055) (SHA:600029) -- www.cs-air.com/en -- the largest airline in The People's Republic of China, is making the latest daily flight information schedule for flights at the Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou available via mobile phones.
To provide members with the latest updated flight information, China Southern Airlines' Sky Pearl Club frequent flyer program is pleased to launch its all-new Mobile Phone Message Service.
Sky Pearl Club members can enjoy this amazing new service by calling 958-866 in China and punching in either "MZ," "M" or "MINGZHU" on their China Mobile and/or China Unicom mobile phone.
This new service is available at no charge to Club members through June 30.
The largest airline in The People's Republic of China for the past 13 years, China Southern Airlines -- www.cs-air.com/en -- connects more than 80 cities around the globe. Major business and vacation destinations served in China include: Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hong Kong, Kunming, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan and as well as international service, including: Amsterdam, Bangkok, Fukuoka, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Moscow, Osaka, Paris, Penang, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Heavenly Mountain Resort Extends Ski Season

Citing an abundance of snow, Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, CA, announced it will extend its winter season from April 17 to May 1. Heavenly COO Blaise Carrig said that the resort received more than 13 feet of snow in January alone-nearly five feet more than the 10-year average for the month. After receiving four additional inches this week, resort officials decided to extend the season two weeks. "Our snow is deep enough...[that] we feel we can make a call like this," said Carrig. Current settled snow depths range from 8 to 10 feet, and 100 percent of the resort's 4,800 acres are open. (FF)

America West Gets Antitrust Immunity for Royal Jordanian

America West has been given antitrust immunity from the DOT for its alliance with Royal Jordanian. This gives the two the ability to coordinate schedules jointly serve existing markets and discuss new markets for expansion without risk of violating antitrust laws. The two airlines can now offer joint fares and discuss pricing and to offer one program for frequent flyer miles. Royal Jordanian becomes the first non-European airline to be granted this immunity. The two currently have a codesharing relationship from New York, Chicago and Detroit to Amman, Jordan. (JM)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

On-Time Flight, Baggage Handling Performance Eroded In 2004

FEBRUARY 04, 2005 -- The domestic airline industry, struggling to reverse a financial crisis, yesterday received more negative news when the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a report showing deteriorating customer service metrics. DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report for full-year 2004 included worse on-time performance data, a higher ratio of mishandled baggage, a growing number of customer complaints and more involuntary denied boardings.AirTran, JetBlue and Hawaiian airlines posted comparably strong results. Among major carriers, Southwest Airlines generally performed best across the four categories. US Airways placed last among majors for both customer complaints and baggage handling.Perhaps the most closely watched air consumer metric, on-time performance, dropped across the industry in 2004 nearly four points to 78.1 percent. Among carriers for which comparable numbers are available from 2003, only regional operator Atlantic Southeast Airlines posted a year-over-year improvement. Despite lower full-year scores, Hawaiian placed first with a 93.9 percent on-time score, followed by regional operator SkyWest and JetBlue. Among major carriers, Southwest again was most punctual, again followed by United. Independence Air and American regional affiliate American Eagle had the worst on-time performance among the 19 carriers included in the report. Among majors, America West and Delta finished last, sliding significantly down the ranks from 2003.Drilling down to specific airports, a number of larger facilities had on-time arrival rates below 70 percent, including Chicago O'Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark, New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco and Seattle. Busier airports that finished with on-time arrival rates above 77 percent included Dallas Fort Worth, Denver and both Houston airports.Meanwhile, Southwest, Alaska and Continental airlines were tops among major carriers in baggage handling, though none showed improved numbers from last year. American, Delta and US Airways also had higher mishandled baggage ratios from 2003 and finished 2004 at the bottom of list among majors. Overall industry baggage handling performance declined in 2004 to nearly five reports per 1,000 passengers, with 600,000 more reports filed than in 2003.Among major carriers, US Airways drew the highest customer complaint ratio in the industry, while Southwest had the lowest. Most other airlines had only marginal changes to complaint ratios from 2003, but the industry as a whole garnered more complaints, in absolute terms and as a ratio to passenger enplanements, than last year.As for involuntary denied boardings, JetBlue again had the fewest in the industry for the year, but its unblemished record of zero denied boardings in 2003 gave way to a total of 17 in 2004. The industry overall reported nearly 45,000 involuntarily denied boardings--up almost 3,000 from 2003--with Alaska, Delta and Continental among those with the highest ratios.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Phuket Fantasea Cultural Theme Park Re-Opens

One of Thailand's most renowned Cultural Theme Parks, Phuket Fantasea, reopened Tuesday after having closed following the devastating Tsunami that hit Phuket and other areas within South Asia.


Phuket Fanatsea, is located in the Kamala Bay area of Phuket and prior to the December 26 disaster welcomed on average between 2 - 3,000 guests per day. Immediately after the Tsunami these numbers fell to just 10 to 20 per day, and the theme park was forced to close. No staff were laid off during the closure, and only the 400 or so performers out of 1,000 staff went on paid leave, these performers have now returned to work. Having lost an estimated 70,000,000 Baht due to the Tsunami the popular tourist attraction reopened Tuesday following positive demand and forward bookings from tour operators around the region.
The Phuket Tsunami opens daily from 17:30 with a high tech daily cultural show from 21:30 to 22:15.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What Would Make Your Perfect Airline?

This year’s Business Travel Show has been host to a plethora of innovative new products and the latest in corporate travel products, gearing up for a year which is expected to see the return of business travel. Airlines are showing off their newest flatbed seats and many are announcing the introduction of on-board internet access.
Etihad are exhibiting at the Business Travel Show for the first time since launching their new routes into the UK and they are providing attendees with something a little bit different. Exhibitors are invited to step inside a big brother simulated diary room to record a diary entry: “what would make your perfect airline?”
The idea was thought up by Etihad’s own Helen Cahill, who told ITN that so far, the majority of attendees at the Business Travel Show have been asking for more leg room, or specifying the type of food which they want, however Etihad plan to take their innovation to the World Travel Market, where they anticipate a more candid response.
Launching their two for the price of one business class promotion, Internet Travel News caught up with Peter Dunkin, General Manager UK & Ireland, to find out what Etihad are expecting from the Business Travel Show:

“Business Travel is very important to us because as an airline we appeal very strongly to the business traveller. We are the newest and the fastest growing airline in the world offering a full service and we have 3 distinct zones.”
“For many of the public, Etihad is still quite new, so we are still in the process of launching the airline and making the public aware of what we think is an exciting new product for them”.
Business Travel is on the upswing and according to Peter we can expect to see a prominent growth in the Middle East. He commented: “We are hugely optimistic about the growth in travel and that the business travel market is picking up, particularly in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi – the capital city where we are based is growing in interest as a commercial destination and it is going to start to grow as a tourism destination, so essentially we are very excited about the outlook for the growth in travel, particularly within the Middle East”.
Etihad currently compete in a number of different markets including Asia, the Far East and Europe and have built strong relationships with airlines in the Middle East with a view to develop interest in the region and increase leisure and business travel.
With reference to regional expansion, Peter commented: “ We are focusing on just about every corner of the world, and are hoping to expand more in Asia and in Europe”.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Avian influenza – situation in Viet Nam

WHO has received reports that laboratory tests undertaken in Vietnam have confirmed two further cases of human infection with H5N1. WHO is seeking confirmation from the Ministry of Health.
The first newly detected case is a 10-year-old girl from the southern province of Long An. She developed symptoms on 13 January, was hospitalized on 20 January, and is presently in critical condition.
The second case is a 13-year-old girl from Dong Thap Province, also in the south. She developed symptoms on 20 January and was hospitalized on 22 January. She is also critically ill.
The child from Dong Thap Province is the daughter of a confirmed case announced previously. The 35-year-old mother developed symptoms on 14 January and died on 21 January.
WHO understands that Vietnamese authorities are launching investigations into this newly detected family cluster. The investigation will explore possible sources of exposure and look for signs of illness in family members, other close contacts, and the general community.
In view of the six-day interval between dates of symptom onset in the mother and her child, limited human-to-human transmission, as seen during similar events in the past, cannot be ruled out at this stage. All such clusters of cases, closely related in place and time, require urgent investigation to determine whether the epidemiological behaviour of the virus might be changing in ways that could favour the onset of a pandemic.
If confirmed by the Ministry of Health, these latest two cases will bring the total in Viet Nam reported since mid-December to twelve. To date, nine of these cases have been fatal.
WHO is again emphasizing the need for family members caring for H5N1 patients to follow recommended protective measures.
Since human cases of H5N1 were first reported in January 2004, no cases have been reported in health care workers or in professionals undertaking culling activities. Their continued adherence to recommended protective measures is equally important.

Acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome in East Timor

31 January 2005
As of 26 January, WHO has received reports of 67 hospitalized cases and 8 deaths of acute haemorrhagic syndrome, with clinical features compatible with dengue haemorrhagic fever in Dili, Liquica and Maliana.
The Ministry of Health has organized vector control activities to prevent breeding of mosquitoes, distributed mosquito nets in high-risk areas and issued health education messages through the mass media and to community groups to raise awareness of dengue infection. Active surveillance in the affected areas is being carried out.
WHO has developed and distributed guidance on clinical treatment and management of the disease. WHO is also supporting two senior staff from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Case Management of Dengue/Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, Thailand, Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, Bangkok, to strengthen the clinical care system for dengue case management, initiate training of health care personnel for clinical case management and provide guidance in dengue fever management in patients. WHO is deploying further experts in clinical management to support the Ministry of Health and to strengthen field assessments.