In Brief


New planes for Royal Jordanian
AMMAN: Royal Jordanian airlines said it will buy up to 10 new planes from European consortium Airbus to renew its fleet after talks fell through with US rival Boeing.

The acquisition on an operating lease basis of nine or 10 new A320 and A321 short- and medium-range passenger planes is part of the airline’s strategic plan for 2004-2008, the company said in a statement. The new planes will replace Jordanian’s old A310 and A320 aircraft, also built by Airbus. Royal Jordanian said it had been negotiating the purchase of planes from US manufacturer Boeing but that discussions failed to reach an agreement. Royal Jordanian’s fleet currently includes 14 Airbus linking 45 destinations around the world.

OTG seeks to buy 49pc in Sudan Airways
ABU DHABI: The Bin Omeir Travel Group (OTG), based in Abu Dhabi, is seeking 49 per cent equity in Sudan state-owned airline (Sudan Airways). Talks on a joint venture between the two entities to provide first class passenger and cargo services at the airport were concluded in Abu Dhabi recently. A meeting between the representatives of the newly privatised airline and Bin Omeir Travel Agency was held in Abu Dhabi to discuss the details of the venture and the suitable mechanism of executing it. The initial talks following the Sudanese government’s decision to privatise the airline were fruitful, therefore both parties felt it will be positive to continue negotiations and reach an agreement.

SriLankan Airlines offers more ‘miles’
DUBAI: SriLankan Airlines, with its partner Emirates, has upgraded the technology behind their award-winning frequent-flyer programme to enable members to easily exchange ‘miles’ for free flights. The new online reward booking facility is accessed through a real-time booking engine on the Skywards website, and enables fast and efficient ticketing through the normal Travel Planner section of the site. Skywards, jointly operated by SriLankan and Emirates, recently won the Best Redemption Award at the Freddies – a consumer travel award programme operated since 1988 – and was also nominated in the top three for Programme of the Year.

British Airways to continue Bahrain flights
BAHRAIN services will escape a British Airways (BA) decision to axe 1,000 flights out of London Heathrow over the next three months, to ease congestion. The decision will not affect BA’s Bahrain operations, said Dougie Douglas, commercial manager for Bahrain, Central Asia and Levant. “We will continue flying from London Heathrow to Bahrain and back daily,” he said. “The changes made across the network are to ease pressure and affect only a very minute percentage of our operations. We have no plans to cancel any of our flights to Bahrain throughout winter.”

Emirates plans Seychelles service
DUBAI: Emirates has announced that it will fly to the islands of the Seychelles from January 2, next year. The airline will initially launch three non-stop flights a week to this destination. The new service will further boost connections between the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, and Dubai. Operating out of the Dubai International Airport, outbound flight EK705 will depart every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2.10am and arrive in the Seychelles the same morning at 6.45am. Return flight EK 706 will operate on the same days, taking off from the Seychelles at 8am and arriving in Dubai at 12.30pm. The A330-200 aircraft which Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Group said: “We are delighted to offer yet another exciting destination to our customers. The new Emirates service will offer excellent connections for travellers from the Middle East, Europe and the Indian subcontinent to the Seychelles.”

Qatar Airways for Seychelles
DOHA: Qatar Airways will also launch flights to the Seychelles from December 1. The announcement comes as Qatar Airways gears up for an exciting few months with the launch of new routes, including Johannesburg and Osaka. The airline will launch four flights a week during one of the busiest periods for holidays to the idyllic islands. “Qatar Airways is keen on establishing a route network that is as diverse in its selection of destinations as possible, to give our customers greater freedom of choice when selecting holiday getaways,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “There are few places on earth that can still be described as paradise, but the Seychelles certainly fall into that category, making it one of the most sought-after destinations for travellers seeking complete serenity and tranquility. Qatar Airways understands the needs of its passengers.”

Emirates First Class for Mauritius
DUBAI: Emirates is introducing the First Class service on the airline’s four-weekly flights from Dubai to Mauritius. The three-class Boeing 777-200 will replace the two-class A330-200 aircraft used on the Dubai-Mauritius route since the start of services two years ago. Emirates First Class delivers a truly luxurious travel experience. From the tasteful touches of the airline’s plush airport lounges to the swift and highly-personalised check-in and boarding, the 18 First Class passengers are pampered throughout their journeys. Emirates operates under a code share agreement with Air Mauritius that entitles Air Mauritius to sell a block of seats on all four flights that Emirates operates on the immensely popular Dubai-Mauritius route.

Etihad launches Mumbai flights
ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways’ first stop on the Indian subcontinent is Mumbai, which was launched September 26. The direct Abu Dhabi-Mumbai flights will be operated seven times per week with wide body A330 aircraft. Kevin Steele, head of world sales for Etihad, said the flights will be configured in Etihad’s unique three zone onboard configuration. The direct flights will be welcomed by many travellers who wish more options as to how they wish to travel.  Etihad Airways will operate the route using wide bodied Airbus 330-200 aircraft.

New Skyteam alliance members announced
NEW YORK: SkyTeam has announced that Continental Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Northwest Airlines are now full members of one of the world’s fastest growing airline alliances. The SkyTeam Governing Board also revealed that passengers will be able to accrue and redeem frequent-flyer miles interchangeably on any of the nine member airlines. With the addition of three new members, SkyTeam now serves 341 million passengers with 14,320 daily departures to 658 global destinations in more than 130 countries.

GF to increase Frankfurt flights
MANAMA: Gulf Air has announced plans to increase the frequency of its operations to Frankfurt Am Mein from December 15. The airline said it would add four services from Abu Dhabi International Airport to the German city. The extra Frankfurt flights, which will be operated on Airbus A330s, will offer customers more options to another European hub.

Fifth A320 for SriLankan
DUBAI: SriLankan Airlines has acquired its fifth Airbus A320 aircraft, bringing its fleet to 17. The rapid expansion of fleet is to provide capacity for the increasing number of destinations serviced by the airline. SriLankan currently flies to 42 destinations in 23 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The airline plans to add another five aircraft by year-end: one A340, two A320s and two Turbo Otter air taxis.

GF launches special promotion
MANAMA: In celebration of the first anniversary of its new-look loyalty programme, two lucky members of Gulf Air’s frequent-flyer programme will win prizes of one million miles during September and October. The prize equates to six free return flights from London to Sydney or 20 return flights from the Middle East to Europe. To be eligible to win, a frequent-flyer member has only to fly Gulf Air or Gulf Traveller in September or October to be entered into the first or second draws respectively.

QA adds flight to Tehran
DOHA: Qatar Airways has added one more flight to Tehran, taking the number of weekly flights to the Iranian capital to five. The new service flies every Saturday. The Tehran flights are operated with an Airbus A320 in a two-class configuration of economy and first class. Tehran was the 50th destination on the Qatar Airways network.

GF in talks to acquire planes
MANAMA: Gulf Air is in talks with aircraft makers Boeing and rival Airbus over the possible purchase or lease of up to 15 aircraft in the next six years. “We are in talks with Boeing and Airbus to look at either leasing or buying the aircraft to start to bring the planes on line at the start of 2006 if the business plan permits,” finance vice-president Ahmad Al Hammadi told reporters. Hammadi said the airline would decide by the end of this year whether it would take on the aircraft, which would increase its fleet to 50 planes by 2010.