In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Parking robot

    Parking robot

    Robot parking trial confirmed

    about 2 months ago

    Gatwick has confirmed that robot valet parking will be tested in a trial starting later this year. The airport’s management has signed a deal with Stanley Robotics. Passengers will leave their cars in an area near the South Terminal entrance. An electric robot vehicle will gently lift the wheels of the car and take it to a space in a secure car park. Artificial intelligence will enable it to optimise space by parking as tightly as possible. As the system is connected to flight information the robot will automatically return the vehicle to the area where the returning passenger checked it is. The traveller will then receive a text showing where to collect it.

  • Flybe.bae146.arp by arpingstone public domain

    Flybe by Arpingstone [Public domain]

    Flybe cancels dozens of flights

    about 2 months ago

    Flybe cancelled dozens of flights today, blaming a range of problems including “base restructuring” and a shortage of pilots. The cancellations, including five from Belfast City Airport and four from Birmingham, came shortly after the regional airline launched a new year round service between Heathrow and Newquay, on the north coast of Cornwall. It had switched the operation from Gatwick. Earlier this year the regional airline was taken over by Connect Airways, which was set up by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Air. Flybe said in a statement: it “sincerely apologises to all our customers and partners affected by the current flight cancellations. Whilst 95% of Flybe flights are operating as per normal, we do recognise the impact of today’s cancellations. We are doing our best to mitigate the impact of the current situation that has arisen due to a combination of factors including seasonality, pilots’ end of leave year, Easter holidays, base restructuring and the shortage of pilots across the industry that Flybe has highlighted over recent months. We have already identified several mitigation actions and will be issuing further updates throughout the day. All those affected have been emailed and advised they can re-book for travel on an alternative flight or apply for a full refund. Customers are advised to regularly check our website for more details”. This week Stobart Air launched another new route to Newquay – a summer service from Southend – with seats bookable through Flybe..

  • Liver bird statue

    Liver Bird statue

    Liverpool's Liver Building opens to public for first time

    about 2 months ago

    Liverpool’s iconic Royal Liver Building opens to the public for the first time tomorrow. Visitors will be able to access the tenth floor balcony. They will learn about the history of the city and the building, with its rooftop “Liver Bird” statues, through an audio visual presentation in the riverside clock room. And they will take in sweeping views from the 15th floor clock tower. Construction of the waterfront building began in 1908. One of the first in Europe to be built using reinforced concrete, it opened in 1911. Two years ago it was bought by a Luxembourg based investment group which set up a company with the aim of turning it into a visitor attraction. The tour, which is suitable for those aged seven and over will take around 70 minutes and is limited to groups of 14 people. Bookings must be made for specific time slots

  • Whitby abbey by humphrey bolton  geograph project via wikimedia commons

    Whitby Abbey by Humphrey Bolton, Geograph Project via Wikimedia Commons

    Whitby Abbey ruins re-open

    about 2 months ago

    The imposing Gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey on the north Yorkshire coast, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, were set to re-open today after a £1.6m revamp. The work has included a newly designed museum and permanent exhibition and the addition of a coffee shop. Though the first monastery was founded there in the 7th century, the existing ruins are those of the Benedictine abbey built in the 13th century, after the Norman conquest. The new exhibition charts the abbey’s history and its impact on writers and artists such as Tolkein, Turner and Lewis Carrol.

  • Manshausen cabins

    Manshausen cabin

    Sleep over the sea in Norway

    about 2 months ago

    Holidays in cantilevered cabins hanging over the sea in northern Norway have been launched by luxury adventure specialist Off The Map Travel. The cabins are on the shore of the 55 acres, privately owned Manshausen Island. There are seven, three of them jutting out over the water. The island, not far from the better known Lofoten archipelago, is home to Europe’s largest sea eagle colony. Attractions include watching the Northern Lights from an outdoor tub. Itineraries cam be personalised but the tour operator quotes four day, three night packages. From April until September these could include snorkelling, hiking, sailing, fishing and rock climbing. In autumn and winter sea kayaking would be on the agenda. Both packages include boat transfers to the island and B&B – but not flights – and they cost, respectively, from £1,495 and £1,699 based on two adults sharing.

  • Wow air by tjdarmstadt via wikimedia commons

    WOW air by tjdarmstadt [CC BY 2.0 (]

    Low cost WOW collapses

    about 2 months ago

    Low cost airline WOW, which has been operating flights to North America via its base in Reykjavik, has collapsed, leaving an unknown number of passengers stranded abroad and wrecking the holiday plans of many more. In a statement today on its website the airline said it had ceased operation and all flights had been cancelled. “Passengers are advised to check available flights with other airlines. Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances. Information on those airlines will be published when it becomes available. Any passengers who bought tickets as part of packages with UK based tour operators should be able to seek recompense under the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL system. Payments by credit and some charge cards may also be protected. And some travel insurance policies include scheduled airline failure insurance. WOW had been due to switch its daily Gatwick service to Stansted on Sunday (31 March). WOW has been in prolonged but unsuccessful talks with new investors. Most recently, a potential deal with Icelandair came to nothing after a second round of negotiations. .

  • Astir palace

    Athens hotel with glittering guest list re-opens

    about 2 months ago

    From Richard Nixon to Barrack Obama, Jimmy Carter to Mikhail Gorbachev its guest list reflects a swathe of post war history. Rudolf Nureyev took to the floor of its discotheque. On its beach Brigitte Bardot turned heads in a skimpy bikini. Nelson Mandela, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Melina Mercouri and Anthony Quinn all spent time there. Tomorrow (29 March) Athens’ Astir Palace Hotel, which first opened in 1958, enters a new phase when it opens as a member of the luxury Four Seasons chain following a major renovation. The property, which 25kms from the city on the Aegean coast and about the same distance from the airport, has three private beaches, three swimming pools, non motorised water sports, a tennis academy, a spa and a hydrotherapy facility. Eateries will include an Italian Trattoria and a Greek seafood restaurant.

  • China airlines %28credit roberto verzo  phillipines via wkimedia commons

    credit Roberto Verzo from Philippines [CC BY 2.0 (]

    London Airport Switch for China Flights

    about 2 months ago

    Flights by China Airlines to Chengdu will switch from Gatwick to Heathrow from the start of next week. It will operate its three times weekly service to and from Terminal 2. The airline’s subsidiary, Shenzhen Airlines already flies from the terminal to its base in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Air China’s first outbound flights will be on Tuesday 2 April. Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province. The airline started flying there from Gatwick last July.

  • On the algarve trail

    Algarve hike and bike trails extended

    about 2 months ago

    A huge extension of the Algarve’s Rota Vincentina walking and cycling trail network is to open in May. The current total of 450kms has been increased to 790kms. The Fisherman’s Trail, a coastal hiking route, has been extended from Cape St Vincent to Lagos, enabling walkers to see more of the southern coast and explore towns including Sagres and Luz. The Historical Way, a long distance path for cyclists and walkers, is also being extended, It winds through the countryside in 12 sections, taking in towns such as Aljezur and Boreira. And 16 new circular routes have also been added to the network, among them one through the area around Vila do Bispo.

  • Credit andre wadman via wikimedia commons

    Jet Airways suspends Manchester flights

    2 months ago

    India’s Jet Airways has suspended its Manchester-Mumbai service as it wrestles with financial difficulties that have seen ground aircraft and cancel thousands of flights. As the State Bank of India sought a resolution of the problems, the airline was reported to have described the suspension as temporary, until the end of April. The route was launched only in November. Jet Airways, which was India’s first private airline, operated five round trips a week. It has been trying to find seats on alternative airlines for affected passengers or offering full refunds. It continues to fly from Heahthrow to Mumbai and Delhi.

  • Sta istock 700127778

    Silvers top exercise league

    2 months ago

    Britain’s over 65s exercise more frequently than any other age group, according to a new survey. Research among UK consumers by the French sports and outdoor retailer Decathlon suggests 44% take part in sports eight times or more in a typical month. The top two activities are swimming (38%) and working out in a gym (29%), the latter being inspired, says the survey, by celebrities in their age group, such as Goldie Hawn. Just over one in five (21%) goes cycling. Hiking and/or –trekking was cited by 19%. One in ten took part in yoga and/or pilates, 9% played tennis, and 6% still went running. One the slightly less energetic side 6% went fishing and 3% horse riding. Somewhat mystifyingly, though a reminder that the store chain sells the appropriate gear, the list included camping (11%). He next most active age group, according to the research was those aged 55-64, of whom 40.7% said they exercised with similar frequency. Nicola Barnabo, fitness sports manager at Decathlon commented: “The research shows just how engaged this age group is with exercise and the sheer number of times they participate in exercise over a month speaks volumes about their desire to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle during retirement. This could be down to over 65s today being more aware of the health benefits of exercise or the fact that the younger generation are less active due to technology advances. It is also encouraging to see how many of this demographic are preferring to participate in sports or exercise outdoors. Not only does the sport offer a range of health benefits, but there have been studies done on the advantages of exercising outside from improving mood, reducing stress and restoring mental fatigue.”

  • Crystal serenity roger bray

    Crystal Serenity

    Chauffeured airport transfers for luxury cruise customers

    2 months ago

    Customers booking luxury ocean or river cruises with Barrhead Travel are being offered free chauffeur driven transfers to airports. The offer covers holidays with Crystal, Azamara Club, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea Cruises. It is also available to Barrhead’s subsidiaries, including Cruise Direct and The Cruise Specialists. One of Britain’s biggest travel agency chains, the Glasgow based group has shops in England and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland. It also organises President Jacqueline Dobson said the company’s luxury cruises were growing significantly. Bookings were 10% up compared with the same time last year.

  • Uluru

    Uluru (Ayers Rock)

    Opera in Australia’s Red Centre

    2 months ago

    Planning to be in Australia next November? A performance of operatic arias is scheduled to take place against the iconic backdrop of Uluru (Ayers Rock). The event is the result of collaboration between Opera Australia and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia. The programme will include arias from Carmen, Tosca, the Barber of Seville and The Pearl Fishers, on an evening (2 November) illuminated by the 50,000 glass spheres of Bruce Munro’s installation Field of Light. Visitors will also be able to take part in two celebration dinners, one of which will feature native bush tucker inspired cooking, served on a remote desert dune. Prices, including two nights accommodation with breakfast and an opera ticket, start at AUD750 (just over £400 at the current exchange rate).

  • Painted hall with conserved ceiling   credit nikhilesh haval

    Painted Hall by Nikhilesh Haval

    Britain’s 'Sistine Chapel' set to re-open

    2 months ago

    Dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’, the Painted Hall at the Old Naval College in London’s Greenwich is scheduled to re-open on 23 March after conservation project designed to restore the vivid colours of its decoration and reveal details obscured by dirt and decay. The hall, which is regarded as a masterpiece of English baroque art, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1705 as a ceremonial dining room for what was then the new Royal Hospital for Seamen. But its paintings by Sir John Thornhill were not finished until just over two decades later. They celebrate British naval power and mercantile prosperity and the recently installed Protestant monarchy. In the main section of the ceiling William III is shown trampling on a figure clearly intended to be the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV of France. The work will be lit by a new LED system. Carved oak benches, made when then hall served as an art gallery in the 19th century but removed 100 years ago, have been returned. The undercroft has also been restored, housing a shop, cafe and a gallery where visitors can learn about the paintings before viewing them. The whole renovation has cost £8.5m, including a £3.1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

  • Thomas cook sleeper seat

    Thomas Cook Airlines Sleeper Seat

    Airline launches novel 'sleeper seat'

    2 months ago

    A new way of sleeping through a long flight – a single mattress that stretches across three seats – has been introduced on long haul journeys by Thomas Cook Airlines. The novel ‘Sleeper Seat’ is available at the rear of the aircraft on flights to and from destinations including New York and San Francisco. It comes with a fitted sheet and a pillow and costs from £200 one way on top of the basic one way fare. It is restricted to passengers aged 12 and up. The airline says two or more passengers could take turns to use it.

  • Sorolla  the pink robe copyright museo sorolla madrid min

    Sorolla; The Pink Robe - copyright Museo Sorolla Madrid

    Spain’s master of light goes on show

    2 months ago

    The Spanish impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), described by Monet as a master of light but relatively little known in Britain, is the subject of an unmissable exhibition opening on Monday (March18) at London’s National Gallery. More than 60 works on show will include his characteristic beach scenes, painted in the open air on the coast of Valencia, that capture bathers in the glare of sunshine on the Mediterranean. With many works from private collections, this is claimed to be the most comprehensive exhibition of Sorolla’s work outside his home country. It runs until 7 July.

  • Boeing 737 8 max n8704q rotated wikipedia commons

    Boeing 737-8 Max by Wikipedia Commons

    Crash jets grounded worldwide

    2 months ago

    Citing new evidence from the wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines crash jet, the US Federal Aviation Administration has now grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8s worldwide. It said information from the scene of the disaster and satellite tracking of the aircraft’s flight path indicated similarities with the October crash of an Indonesian Lion Air Max 8. President Trump announced the move last night. Boeing issued a statement saying it still had full confidence in the safety of the aircraft but that it had “determined – out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft”- The EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had already suspended all flights by the MAX 8. Its decision came asthe UK Civil Aviation Authority took similar action. TUI Airways has been operating five of the jets in the UK, with a sixth due to enter service this week. It said customers due to fly on the Max 8 during the grounding would travel on holiday as planned on other aircraft. In early December, TUI became the first British airline to take delivery of what is a new version of the workhorse jet. Following the Ethiopian Airways disaster,in which 157 people – among them at least nine Britons – died, a number of other national authorities and individual airlines had also grounded flights by the aircraft. They have included the Canadian, Chinese and Indian authorities. Speculation as to the cause has centred on the aircraft’s automatic MCAS (Manouevring Characteristics Augmentation System), software designed to prevent the MAX 8 stalling. It was installed on the aircraft because airflow changes resulting from a repositioning of its engines caused the nose to tilt up further than it should.

  • Lebanon pic courtesy explore

    Temple of Bacchus - Baalbek, Lebanon - image courtesy Explore

    Lebanon back on holiday map

    2 months ago

    Tour operators are beginning to offer packages in Lebanon after years in which civil strife kept it off limits to holiday travellers. While potential visitors are still strongly advised to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice, two adventure specialists have both launched holidays there. Hampshire based Explore has introduced and eight day tour taking in Beirut, Tyre and the cedar forest in the Qadisha Valley and including a wine tasting and a night in a monastery.

    Keswick based KE Adventure Travel is taking bookings for one week trips including hiking on the Lebanon Mountain Trail, which links 470kms of ancient tracks and footpaths. The holiday v the 13th century Crusader sea castle at Sidon and the city of Byblos. Both operators include the Bekaa Valley and the ruins of the Phoenician city of Baalbek.

  • Easa logo min

    Europe grounds crash jets

    2 months ago

    The EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended all flights by the Boeing’ 737 MAX 8 after two recent crashes. In a statement the agency said It was continuously analysing data on Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines disaster but it was too early to draw and conclusions as to the cause. The US continued to allow the aircraft to fly. Its Federal Aviation Administration was pressing on with changes to the aircraft’s computer software stemming from the earlier crash involving and Indonesian Lion Air jet. The EU move t came after the UK Civil Aviation Authority took similar action. TUI Airways has been operating five of the jets in the UK, with a sixth due to enter service this week. It said customers due to fly on the Max 8 during the grounding would travel on holiday as planned on other aircraft. In early December, TUI became the first British airline to take delivery of what is a new version of the workhorse jet. The CAA said yesterday it had been closely monitoring the situation “However, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace. The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s safety directive will be in place until further notice. We remain in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.” Following the Ethiopian Airways disaster on Sunday in which 157 people – among them at least nine Britons – died, a number of other national authorities and individual airlines have grounded flights by the aircraft. They have included the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the Indian Ministry of Aviation. Speculation as to the cause has centred on the aircraft’s automatic MCAS (Manouevring Characteristics Augmentation System), software designed to prevent the MAX 8 stalling. It was installed on the aircraft because airflow changes resulting from a repositioning of its engines caused the nose to tilt up further than it should.

  • 1poster for the scottish musical review 1896 charles rennie mackintosh copyright csg cic glasgow musaumes %28002%29 min

    Poster for the Scottish Musical Review 1896 - copyright CSG GIC Glasgow Musaumes

    Glasgow Style comes to Liverpool

    2 months ago

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Art Nouveau architectural and design movement that became known as the Glasgow Style are the focus of a major new exhibition opening this week at Liverpool’s Walker Gallery. On view will be over 250 objects, ranging from stained glass and furniture to metalwork and architectural drawings. They will include a section from the Chinese Room at the Ingram Street Tearooms, designed by Mackintosh, on show for the first time outside Scotland. The Glasgow Style was created around the end of the 19th century at the city’s School of Art by ‘The Four’ – Mackintosh and James Herbert McNair and Frances and Margaret Macdonald, the sisters who became their respective wives. The exhibition runs from 15 March until 26 August.