London Luton Airport expansion will allow an extra 45,000 flights

London Luton Airport’s expansion plans are finally approved, meaning an extra 45,000 flights will be made each year.   

According to lutontoday.co.uk, the airport’s capacity will be increased to 18 million passengers a year, up from the 12 million it serves now. Last year, around 9.7 million passengers passed through London Luton’s doors, making it the UK’s fifth largest airport.

A number of changes will be made as part of the expansion, but the biggest aspect will be the modernisation of the airport terminal. As many as 20 security passenger and 15 immigration screening lanes will be added, as well as a new two-storey pier. Nine new passenger reclaim belts will be constructed – one domestic and eight international. Plus the number of shops, restaurants and seating areas will increase. To cope with the extra passengers, a new multi-storey car park will be built too.

Glyn Jones, managing director of the airport, says the expansion will provide significant opportunities for the local economy.

“We see this as a real vote of confidence in the airport and its future, underlining the determination of our new owners, Ardian and Aena, to develop and radically improve London Luton and deliver a better airport experience for our passengers in the years to come,” he explains.

The plans were originally backed by Luton Council in December last year, but it has taken so long to get the go ahead because communities secretary Eric Pickles wanted to review the proposals himself, reports bbc.co.uk.

Heathrow fights to prove it needs to expand the most

Heathrow claims that its the only airport that can connect long-haul growth markets to every part of the UK.

According to buyingbusinesstravel.com, its hub status allows it to connect to such destinations and Heathrow states that an expansion is vital for economic growth. The airport is planning to submit a new report, which outlines how new rail and air links will be beneficial to both passengers and businesses across the UK, to the Airports Commission.

At the moment, the Airports Commission is considering two different expansion options for Heathrow. Gatwick Airport is also being considered for an expansion, as it is campaigning for a second runway.

Heathrow will state that it offers the shortest journey times to Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield, among other cities. Moreover, HS2 and Crossrail will also be heavily mentioned in the report, reports ft.com.

Colin Matthews, chief executive at Heathrow, says the airport is currently the best connected transport hub in the UK.

“It is in a better location for most UK passengers and companies than other options for airport expansion,” he explains.

“If we want growth for the future we need connections to the world’s fast growing markets and that means a hub airport like Heathrow. We also need to bring the benefits of additional trade, tourism and economic growth to the whole country, not just to London and the South-East.”

Non-stop business class-only flights between London and New York planned

Business class-only transatlantic flights could soon become a reality thanks to the work of pioneering start-up Odyssey Airlines, businesstraveller.com reports.

Odyssey first made headlines with its business-only proposals back in 2011, but has spent the intervening years in relative silence. Now the would-be airline has made a big return with the announcement that crowdfunding could help it turn the idea into a reality. 

It is hoping that investor’s money will help it reach the target of £1 million needed to get the project off the ground. This will be in addition to the £5 million which has already been invested by private backers, including Jon Moulton. In return for their cash, investors using the crowdfunding model will be given shares in the business. 

So far, crowdcube.com shows that more than a quarter of its total has already been funded.

Osyssey’s proposals involve flying business class-only between London City Airport and business destinations across the world, including New York. The group has said it plans to get the service operational by 2016. In terms of its transatlantic flight, Odyssey could well steal a march on the existing British Airways business class-only service as it could run non-stop, whereas BA stops at Shannon Airport in Ireland for refuelling.

Journeys will be undertaken on new Bombardier CSeries aircraft, which boast the “longest fully flat beds in the commercial market.”

Boris Johnson calls cancelled London Underground strikes "a victory for common sense"

The planned three-day long strike, which would have caused major disruption to London Underground services, will not go ahead and Mayor of London Boris Johnson calls the decision a “victory for common sense”.

According to metro.co.uk, Transport for London’s (TfL) modernisation programme will still take place, meaning ticket offices will be removed. However, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union reached an agreement with TfL during last-minute talks on Bank Holiday Monday (May 5).   

Acting RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, states that the TfL has agreed to protect earnings and remove pre-conditions.

“As a result of that progress, secured directly through our members campaign of industrial action and the union’s drive to get the facts across to the people of London, we are able to suspend the action due to commence this evening and further talks around the fundamental issues of cuts to jobs, services and safety will now take place,” he explains.

Ticket offices are only used in three per cent of journeys and removing them from stations will mean TfL will save £50 million a year. This money will be used to help keep train fares down, as well as deliver a more reliable service. Although some staff members will lose their jobs, TfL plans to introduce more employees to station platforms, near ticket machines and at ticket gates, reports independent.co.uk.

London named Europe's tech capital

London has been identified as the ‘silicon capital’ of Europe after attracting unprecedented levels of investment from overseas tech firms in recent years, ibtimes.co.uk reports.

Throughout 2012, some 88 overseas tech firms set up a base in London – which was a record figure at the time. Newly released figures have now shown that 2013 went one better and saw 90 firms move to the capital. Of these, around half were from the USA, whilst much of the remainder was made up of EU firms, along with a scattering from China.

Among the more high profile of these were French digital marketers Solocal and business network LinkedIn.

The figures come from London mayor Boris Johnson’s inward investment agency. In response to the results, a number of analysts have said this solidifies London as Europe’s tech capital, as figures continue to rise along with both business optimism and the economy as a whole.

The potential benefits of this new status could be huge and wide-reaching for the capital, as it entices yet more businesses and decision-makers to London – first for meetings or events and then again with much of their business in tow.

Commenting on the results, chief executive of London & Partners, Gordon Innes, told standard.co.uk: “London has experienced a stellar year, in which the city has attracted excellent companies from around the world to invest, develop and grow here.

“London has many outstanding attributes that are recognised worldwide, including a deep pool of talent, superb access to markets and financial backing, and a well-earned reputation for innovation and creativity.”

Business travellers making the most of meeting trips

An increasing number of business travellers are extending their meeting and conference trips to enjoy longer stays in their destinations, new research shows.

As part of the survey, communications firm Davies Turner and the North West Convention Bureau questioned 120 business travellers from across the country, with almost three-quarters (73 per cent) saying they’re open to the idea of sticking around in a location once their meeting or event is finished.

The results also show that eating out is the most popular leisure activity among respondents, with live music, sports events, retail trips and museum visits completing the top five.

The Convention Bureau’s Steve Christian, who is also a marketing officer at Sefton Council, was quoted by conference-news.co.uk as saying: “It is interesting to see the results of this research, which we felt were very positive and certainly showed an interest in staying on in destinations.”

In terms of the factors encouraging travellers to stay, discounts were cited by 72 per cent of those asked, while 52 per cent are influenced by added value – only 14 per cent, however, said they would be ready to sign up to a loyalty scheme in order to earn this value, citmagazine.com reports

The lengths of the trips vary, although 61 per cent of the respondents said they like to extend their visits by one or two days,

Tourists spent £11.2 billion in the capital last year

Some £11.2 billion was paid out by tourists in London last year, more than £1 billion more than what was spent in 2012.  

According to dailymail.co.uk, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 16.5 million people flocked to the capital in 2013 – the highest amount of tourists ever seen. The majority of the visitors were from America, but many French and German tourists came to the city too.

However when it comes to spending money, people from Middle Eastern countries were the most generous, as they spent almost £900 million in total last year.  

These new figures mean London is the most popular city in the world, beating previous record-holder Paris. The British Museum proved to be the most visited attraction last year, as it saw more than 6.7 million visitors come through its doors, reports indepdent.co.uk.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, says the mix of culture, music and art is what draws tourists to the capital.

“With major international sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France and spectacular exhibitions at the Tate and the British Museum this year, it is clear that this wonderful city will not rest on its laurels,” he states.

It is believed by tourism bosses that visitors numbers in 2013 were boosted by the legacy left by the Olympics in 2012.

London becomes the world's number one tourist destination

London’s growing popularity has landed it the title of the world’s most visited city by foreign tourists, a recent survey has revealed.

The research, conducted by The Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that the capital welcomed a total of 16.8 million visitors, more than a one million rise from its previous record set in 2006, telegraph.co.uk reports. This rise saw the city overtake Paris as the tourist destination with the most visitors.

Tourism has been a leading industry in the growth of the UK’s economy, with visitors to the city spending an estimated £11.26 billion on shopping, restaurants, hotels and other attractions.

American tourists led the way with more than 1.88 of them having travelled to the capital, with the French following closely behind with 1.88 million visitors.

Kit Malthouse, chairman of London & Partners, the city’s official promotional organisation, told dailymail.co.uk that London is building on its current reputation as it offers world-renowned attractions and exhibitions which people are willing to travel lost distances to see. 

Ms Malthouse said: “The wealth and breadth of the city’s cultural offering is incredible. From exhibitions showcasing the greatest artists and the world’s most famous fictional detective, to spectacular river festivals – the city offers something for everyone, young and old.”

Olympics could make sensational return to London

The 2016 Olympics could be uprooted and moved to London, according to secretive talks being held by the organising committee, the IOC.  

Numerous reports and investigations have come to the conclusion that preparations in Brazil are reaching worrying levels. One visit even prompted IOC vice president, John Coates, to claim the preparations were ‘the worst’ he had ever seen, telegraph.co.uk reports.     

With just two years to go before the event gets underway, only ten per cent of the required work has actually been completed. At the same point in their respective schedules, Athens had managed to finish 40 per cent, whilst London achieved closer to 60 per cent.

All this has prompted the IOC to seriously consider a ‘Plan B’, just in case the Games in Brazil simply don’t have enough resources in place to go ahead. The frontrunner for this is to simply move the Games back to London, as it still has many of the venues in place and unchanged from 2012. Not only that, the resounding success of London means that few would argue with the Games making a short notice return to the capital.

It could also provide a huge, unprecedented boost for British companies, as the Olympics brings with it huge business benefits, alongside the sporting events.

A source told standard.co.uk of the situation: “The IOC is thinking: ‘What is our Plan B?’

“Obviously, the answer would be to come back to London. It’s very unlikely but it would be the logical thing to do.”

Stansted will support London’s future growth, manager says

London’s Stansted Airport has a vital role to play in boosting the capital’s economic activity and supporting future growth, its managing director has claimed.

Andrew Harrison’s comments come after it was revealed that the flight hub last month enjoyed its busiest April since the recession started in 2008. According to independent.ie, over 1.72 million people passed through its terminals throughout the month, marking a 10.7 per cent rise from the same period in 2013.

The latest figures also show that 18.16 million people used the airport in the space of 12 months, representing an increase of 3.4 per cent from the previous year. This is the first time the rolling annual total has exceeded 18 million since December 2011, ipswichstar.com reports.

Mr Harrison said of the success: “To see Stansted experience its busiest April for six years and to once again break through the 18m passengers a year barrier is a key milestone in our growth plans for the airport.

“We enjoyed a very busy Easter and start to the summer season as our airline partners launched even more new services across Europe and encouraged more passengers to make Stansted their airport of choice.

Thomas Cook also announced this week that it will soon introduce a range of new transatlantic routes from Stansted. From July next year, passengers will able to fly to Las Vegas, Orlando and Cancun.