Yemenia gets second Boeing 737Yemen Airways (Yemenia) has taken delivery of the second of three new Boeing 737-800 airplanes as part of a fleet renewal and market expansion programme. The programme began with the delivery of the carrier's new 737-800 last May through a long-term lease agreement with International Lease Finance Corporation. Yemenia is using these aircraft to expand services to markets throughout the Middle East and Gulf states region, Europe and Asia. The third plane will be delivered in September. Thai set to begin Bahrain flights MANAMA: Thai Airways International (TAI) will begin flying to Bahrain on November 18. The Thai flagship carrier will introduce three weekly flights between Bangkok and Bahrain, becoming the 25th passenger airline to serve Bahrain International Airport. TAI general manager (Dubai) Bhanduthep Sirivallop said the airline will use the 260-seat Airbus A300-600 on the new route. Four new airlines may join Dnata DUBAI: Dnata Agencies, already the world's largest general sales agent, may bring on board four new airlines by the end of the year. With yields remaining high in the Middle East, more airlines are aiming to enter the Dubai market, Rashid Al Noori, senior general manager, Dnata Agencies said. Dnata Agencies presently represents 34 airlines, of which nine are offline. Seven days in Nepal for $612 DUBAI: Royal Nepal Airlines is offering a seven-day package for Dh2,249 ($612), from Dubai in order to boost the number of people using the airline. The airline, which resumed direct flights from the emirate to Kathmandu last month, said the package includes six nights accommodation in a four-star hotel, economy ticket, airport transfers, meals and tours. It is available until October 31. SAA to build maintenance facility JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines has signed an agreement with a national company to construct a building for maintenance of aircraft and ground equipment at Prince Muhammad Airport in Madinah. The project will be completed within a year. The building will be located south of the passenger lounge and will cover an area of 8,000 sq m, Muhammad Saud Hashimi, vice-president for infrastructure affairs, said. ExecuJet plans pilgrimage services DUBAI: ExecuJet ME is planning to launch chartered services for pilgrimages, especially for Umrah and Haj, for the region's business and corporate executives, said a top official. Part of ExecuJet Business Group, the company is also going to start on a $10 million project for a state-of-the-art office, check-in, maintenance and parts centre later this year, which will accommodate four large Bombardier business jets at any given time. Air France privatisation takes off PARIS: France has announced the launch of the privatisation process for its flag carrier, Air France, which it says will enable the airline to face the increasingly tough international competition. The privatization process will provide Air France with additional strengths to play a major role in industry consolidation, as the European pillar of the SkyTeam alliance, a statement issued by the airline said. Oman Air offers new taste on its flights MUSCAT: Oman has upgraded its menus on its flights as part of its efforts to enhance customer satisfaction in line with the airline's ongoing network expansion programme. The airline has added three new destinations to its network this year with flights to east Africa, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. The new menus incorporate regional dishes while retaining an Arabic presence. Airline discount for disabled, elderly MANAMA: Qatar Airways and EgyptAir have offered special discounts to disabled passengers and elderly people travelling out of Bahrain. While disabled passengers will get a 50 per cent discount, elderly people will be given a 5 per cent discount, said Bahrain's Assistant Under-Secretary for Social Affairs Shaikha Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa. Gulf Air already offers a similar discount to these categories. Mahan Air in $536m fleet expansion plan DUBAI: Private Iranian carrier, Mahan Air, has invested Dh1.9 billion ($536 million) to acquire six Airbuses, including three new aircraft. The aircraft are expected to join its fleet shortly. The airline operates 32 weekly flights out of Dubai, Ali Reza Moghimi, regional manager of Mahan Air for UAE and the subcontinent, said. College launches new programme MANAMA: The Gulf College of Hospitality and Tourism is launching a one-year top-up programme for students with higher national diplomas (HND). This will allow them to earn bachelor degrees in several specialisations. Students with two-year HNDs previously had to travel to the UK to enter the programme which is now available in Bahrain through the college. Passengers up at Bahrain airport MANAMA: A total of 1,011,673 people travelled in and out of Bahrain in July 2002, compared with 975,819 in July last year, official figures show. While those using the airport and the ports last month numbered 174,119, compared with 164,317 in July last year, the number of people crossing King Fahad Causeway in both directions was 837,554 compared to 811,502. New women's spa opens in Kuwait KUWAIT: Spa Time, a new 400 sq m ladies-only wellness centre to be managed and operated by Dubai-headquartered Spa Resources Middle East (SRME) has opened in Kuwait's Al Moleheb Centre. Owned by Kuwait-based businessman Zoher Al Yacob, Spa Time has been designed and created by SRME, the Gulf's only spa development consultancy. $2.6bn tourism projects set up in Saudi Arabia JEDDAH: Saudi businessmen have carried out new tourism projects worth SR10 billion ($2.6 billion), taking their total outlay in the sector to over SR30 billion. The fresh capital injection came in the wake of government incentives to promote domestic tourism. The new investments were made in recreational centres, hotels and furnished villas. Forum wants closer ties with airlines DUBAI: The newly-formed Dubai Travel Agents Forum (DTAF) has urged airlines to work together with them in a bid to increase yield and revenue from the travel and tourism business. Over 20 travel agents from Dubai have formed the association to "join hands with our airline partners, and work for mutual benefit," a travel manager said. US Airways seeks bankruptcy protection WASHINGTON; US Airways, one of the largest American airlines, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The company has said it plans to continue operations while it attempts to return to profitability. It suffered badly as a result of the economic recession and the downturn in the aviation industry following the September 11 terror attacks and over the last financial year, it is reported to have lost more than $2.1 billion. Dubai firm offers Big Bus experience DUBAI: Tourists in Dubai can now see the city's sights from an open top double-decker bus, courtesy The Big Bus Company. It has been operating sightgseeing tours for the past four months, the first time it has ventured outside London, director Asif Mahmood said. The eight buses, that drop off and pick up tourists at eight points around Dubai, are running about 40 per cent capacity but the company predicts a surge to between 75 and 80 per cent capacity during the peak season from November to April. UAE course adopts water saving techniques RAS AL KHAIMAH: A golf course development coming up in Ras Al Khaimah says it will apply new water saving techniques which will save costs and minimise environmental damage. Hydroturf International, the project management company heading the development, says it is working with soil expert, Professor Ronny Duncan, from the University of Georgia's department of crop and soil sciences in the US, to provide a tailor-made solution for the project. MMI Travel extends 'apartment holidays' DUBAI: UAE-based MMI Travel says it is extending the range and duration of its popular "apartment holidays" due to the concept's popularity among UAE and Arab families. It said it was now making the holiday packages which were launched in early June for the summer period, available to travellers throughout the year. The packages offer one, two and three-bedroom apartments and studios in a range of prices, and for durations varying from a day to a month in London, Brussels, Paris, Switzerland, Malaysia and the Gold Coast in Australia. Dawadmi airport work progresses JEDDAH: A new airport at Dawadmi, about 250km west of the Saudi capital Riyadh, will be ready by March 2003. A third of work on the SR141 million ($37.5 million) project has been completed, said Dr Abdul Rahman Al Khalaf, chief of the Presidency of Civil Aviation. The Dawadmi airport will bring the number of Saudi airports to 27 including three international airports in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. SAA passenger traffic rises 11.6pc JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) transported 183,526 passengers from its Middle East and Gulf stations during the first half of this year, an increase of 11.62 per cent over the same period last year. It also carried 4,138,619 kg of cargo during the same period last year. The airline said operated Umrah flights from Iran to Madinah for the first time, carrying 116,000 Iranians to the holy city. Gulf Air denies making new offer MANAMA: Gulf Air has denied a report stating that it has made a new offer of compensation to the families of those who died in the August 23, 2000 crash. The airline said it has not, to date, made any offer apart from the original offer following the accident. The original offer was found to be unacceptable by some of the families who subsequently commenced legal proceedings in France. Emirates to start Osaka flights DUBAI: UAE's Emirates Airline will start flying between Dubai and Osaka in Japan from October, making travel between the two countries swifter and simpler. Emirates and Japan Airlines will also introduce code-share services and frequent flyer loyalty schemes on major Japanese air routes. Emirates Holidays is set to launch new inclusive breaks in Japan while inbound operator Arabian Adventures will woo Japanese visitors to Dubai. Conrad Hotels plans to enter GCC DUBAI: Conrad Hotels, the luxury portfolio of the Hilton family, has revealed plans to enter the GCC market as part of its expansion across the Middle East region. Conrad president Clem Barter said the group was currently exploring opportunities in the Gulf region to open or re-brand a hotel that matches Conrad's deluxe niche offering. Asir draws more summer visitors ABHA: Resorts in Saudi Arabia's Asir region drew 15 per cent more visitors this summer, compared with the same period last year, a report said. It also quoted Prince Bandar bin Khaled Al Faisal, deputy chairman of the Tourism Promotion Committee, as saying the region draws nearly two million holidaymakers every year during the two-month-long Abha Tourism Festival which ended recently. New complex for road travellers DOHA: Qatar is building a new complex near its border with Saudi Arabia to cater to the needs of travellers. The Abu Samra complex is expected to open in about two months and will offer facilities such as immigration services, customs checkpoints, mosques, restaurants, shops, waiting areas, and rest rooms among others. November launch for Oman hotel MUSCAT: A new five-star hotel is to open at Oman's Al Ghubra area by November. The Chedi Muscat is being built at a cost of RO10.5 million ($27 million) by the newly floated Hotels Management Company International (HMCI). The hotel will have 160 rooms and 40 suites and cater to both tourists and business travellers. Diamond-backed offer from Sofitel Dubai DUBAI: Sofitel City Centre Hotel in Dubai and Damas Jewellers are offering guests an opportunity to win a diamond ring every week between September 13 and October 31. Guests checking into the hotel or residence receive a packet from Damas containing a number of vouchers for discounts at Damas Jewellers in Deira City Centre as well as a ballot for a chance to win one of 8 beautiful diamond rings. Le Jeddah Meridien gets a face-lift JEDDAH: Le Jeddah Meridien in Saudi Arabia has completed renovation work on the building. The façade of the five-star property on Al Madina Road was coated with a special colored pebble stones designed material to withstand excessive heat, humidity, rain and prevents cracking. The entire swimming pool area was redesigned; the old terracotta tiles were replaced with a combination of special granite and terracotta. The adjacent health club received a SR80,000 ($21,330) cash infusion to add additional 80 sq m of work and aerobic area and new health club equipment. New Japanese outlet for Ramada Doha Doha: The Ramada Hotel in Doha is to formally open a new Japanese restaurant this month. The Sakura, will have a teppan grill and a sushi bar. There will be two rooms with traditional tatami-style seating, where diners sit on mats on the floor. The Ramada also plans to open a new Chinese restaurant featuring Schezuan cuisine by mid-2003. This outlet, named Chop Chop, will be able to seat about 40 guests. Hotel makes it easy for left-handers ANKARA: The Sheraton Ankara Hotel & Towers has launched five specially designed rooms for left-handed guests on World Left Handers Day last month. The hotel says it has incorporated several new features in these rooms to assist left handers including the opening direction of the doors and windows i.e. main entrance, minibar, in-room safe, placement of the electrical outlets and make up mirror and hairdryer. Oberoi opens new resort in India MUMBAI: India's Oberoi Group of hotels has opened its newest resort in the western Rajasthan state. Udaivilas resort is located on Lake Pichola and is conceived in the royal tradition of the grand palaces of Mewar, the group said. It offers deluxe rooms and suites - with their own private pools - two restaurants and other facilities including a spa, managed by Banyan Tree. Reservation hotlines draw huge response CAIRO: Six Continents Hotels has said more than 16,000 callers used its new Middle East reservations hub in July. The hotel group said the response from travel agents and the public had surpassed expectations. The hub, called the Middle East Central Reservations Office (MECRO) is based on the fifth floor of the Crowne Plaza Holiday Centre in Dubai. Doha hotel to stage Oktoberfest DOHA: Sheraton Doha Hotel & Resort will hold the popular Bavarian Oktoberfest this month. The world renowned annual German festival will be staged in a large tent at the hotel's "La Veranda" gardens for three days from September 29 to October 1, the hotel said. A traditional Bavarian band, authentic decoration and chefs preparing the finest Bavarian specialties will be flown in from Germany especially for the occasion by Qatar Airways, partner in the event. Marriott and BA to host Global Pursuits London: Marriott International and British Airways are hosting the Global Pursuits travel show in London for the sixth consecutive year this month. The travel trade exhibition, being staged at the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel, showcases Marriott and British Airways products and services to international trade buyers. This year's event will be the largest yet, with exhibitors from more than 310 hotels representing four of Marriott's lodging brands and 37 countries. Beau-Rivage named best Swiss hotel LAUSANNE, Switzerland: The Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, a popular getaway destination for Middle East travellers, has been named the number one hotel in Switzerland for the third year in succession. The luxury hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva came out on top in the annual initiative by the leading Swiss economic magazine, 'Bilanz', to identify the top 50 hotels in Switzerland. It is the first hotel to win the award three years in a row. Spa Resources wins Kempinski deal KUWAIT: Kuwait's Kempinski Julai'a Resort has awarded its spa design and consultancy contract to Dubai-headquartered Spa Resources Middle East (SRME). The 600-square-metre spa will include 11 treatment rooms, a gymnasium, sauna and a bath. The Kempinski spa is the firm's second project in Kuwait and the ninth in the Middle East.