US government forces a European airline to stop flying to Cuba

12 07 2007

Two days ago Mario Hidalgo, CEO of the Spanish airline “Hola Airlines , announced that Hola Airlines (Baleares Link Express SL) has been obliged by the US government to stop its operations in Cuba .

Hola AirlinesThe US Government threatened Hola Airlines via Boeing to end the service of maintenance of the Boeing aircraft belonging to the carrier. As its fleet is entirely composed of Boeing aircrafts, Hola Airlines has been forced to give up its operation in the Carribean Island overnight.

The US government applies the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that prevent non north-American countries from trading with Cuba by penalizing foreign companies.

The Helms-Burton Act was condemned by the Council of Europe, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and other U.S. allies that enjoy normal trade relations with Cuba.

Mario Hidalgo made it clear that this decision goes totally against the company’s will: “This decision is unfair, specially for Cuban people” and added he was “against US politics towards Cuba.”

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Introduction to Flight Reviews: 7 hours stuck in a Delta Airline airplane

30 06 2007

Delta Airlines 6499We are now quite familiar with customer-written hotel reviews; we also know about the trendy use of video reviews of hotels but what about reviews of flights?!

Yesterday I stumbled upon an incredible amateur video that made it to the top #20 of the most watched video of Youtube. The statistics speak for themselves:

Views: 76,062
Comments: 468
Favorited: 175

Robert McKee took a Delta flight (n°6499) and got stuck on tarmac during 7 hours straight.

Fortunately, he had a video recording device (a lot of batteries) and enough know-how to edit and post this video to the Consumerist Blog.

The same way, I thought of blogging my last trip to Barcelona (with a connection in Rome); it was an Alitalia flight planned at 7pm from Nice. The flight was delayed, re-scheduled at 11:45pm, then delayed again to finally be cancelled around 1h20am. My flight finally got scheduled 24 hours later. It got cancelled twice! After the first cancellation, a voice quickly came out of the airport speakers saying:

Airplane on tarmac

“We will try to repair the airplane with the help of Air France’ staff; Alitalia technicians will be sending instructions by phone from Rome to the technicians located at Nice airport, so they can repair the airplane.”

Priceless! I twittered it but unfortunately I did not have any good audio or video recording devices to record this.

We all have our own stories of bad luck while traveling, but thanks to the Web 2.0 user generated content, customers are now capable of getting a worldwide audience to denounce bad (or excellent) comercial practices. Airlines too, should care about what they say to their customers and how they treat them as information is spreading fast, otherwise it will be published on hundreds of blogs (including the famous blog of Robert Scoble) …

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RyanAir nightmare at a poor promotional event in Barcelona!

18 09 2006

The ireland based company Ryan Air decided to organize a promotional event giving away free round flight tickets (17€ with taxes ) to people waving banners displaying messages against the spanish airline Iberia on the famous place called Plaza Cataluña in the city center of Barcelona.

‘With this initiative we wanted people to see for themselves that flying with Ryanair is much better than flying with Iberia,’ said Ryanair’s executive for marketing and sales in Spain.

Manifestantes reunidos por Ryanair en Barcelona300 people were present, but unfortunately when RyanAir staff ran out of flight claim forms to distribute, the promotional event turned out to be a nightmare for RyanAir. Indeed people started protesting against the staff, complaining that they complied with all the requisites and thus that they were honestly eligible for their tickets. Local police rescued RyanAir staff in a local police station and people started changing the name Iberia on their anti-Iberia banners for RyanAir!

Throughout the day, RyanAir hurried-up to offer their apologies and announced that they will distribute 1,000 more tickets.

RyanAir organised this event without any previous notice to the local institutions, and will finally have to respond for false advertising as many of the unlucky persons present at the event went to the police station to file an official complaint against RyanAir.

Iberia replied and stated that ‘it showed how little confidence this company must have in their own service if they have to attract customers in this way.’



Update: RyanAir Spain did not say if it was linked or not to this event but they just announced the replacement of their marketing and sales director for Maribel Rodriguez, who is the former marketing director of GB Airways for Spain and Portugal.

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Clickair, the spanish low-cost airline will spread its wings in oct. 2006

23 08 2006

There have been speculations about the name of the new spanish low cost of Clickair logoIberia; formerly called Catair, the final name of the low-cost will be Clickair. Why choosing such a brand name? Basically because it will use the internet as a primary sales tool.

The budget airline has its headquarters in Madrid, but will operate from its Barcelona hub (Prat airport).

Clickair website

Ownership? Iberia owns parts of Catair Lineas Aereas (Clickair); it equally shares ownership (20% for each of the 5 owners) with the spanish Tour Operator Iberostar, Cobra, Quercus Equity (Grupo ACS – a spanish construction company), and Nefinsa group (Nefinsas being the owner of Air Nostrum).

Flying destinations? Clickair has confirmed it will start to fly to 12 destinations – 8 international cities: Amsterdam, Dublin, Geneva, Zurich, Prague, Lisbon, Oporto, Moscow, and 4 spanish cities: Bilbao, Malaga, Seville and Valencia. For the moment it will not fly to Madrid.

Fleet? The airline will start its activity with a fleet of 3 Airbus A320-200, then it will add an aircraft each month; the fleet size is expected to be around 30 aircrafts in 2008 and Clickair expects to reach up to 70 destination by 2008.

What’s new?The good news is that unlike many other low-cost carriers, Clickair will only fly to the main airports of the cities it serves (hence no extra transportation costs for the budget travelers..

Belonging to Iberia, Clickair will be run as a separate company however Clickair’s passengers will benefit from the Iberia Plus loyalty program. Clickair will also share flight codes with Iberia, meaning that Clickair fares won’t only be sold on internet but also through the GDSs, following a different approach from the traditional low-cost strategy.
Rumors say that passengers will be offered theather and theme park tickets on board.

What’s next? For the moment we are still waiting for the launch of the website; bad move for a company which is already created, announced and ready to go. Anyway I logically expect Iberostar to provide much of the hotel product of the coming website.

Any direct competitors? Barcelona-based Vueling and Air Madrid are direct local competitors, but also Ryan Air since Clickair has decided to open a route between Barcelona and Dublin. I guess Ryan Air should take Clickair seriously since Ryan Air lands its flights far from Barcelona center (In Girona, 103km from Barcelona city center) when Clickair lands at Barcelona’s main airport. EasyJet, which has announced the opening of new routes in Spain is a seen as a tough competitor too.

According to Europa Press, the booking system that will be used on the website is Open Skies developped by Navitaire (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Accenture). This technology is also used by RyanAir, German Wings and VirginExpress just to name a few..

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