PIA collecting passenger fee for IndiaThe Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to collect a passenger service fee (PSF) of Rs 200 ($5.44) on all return tickets for travel to India, a report said. Airlines operating to India from the UAE introduced the PSF after the decision of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to increase the fee.The AAI increased the fee to Rs 200 per sector of travel from an earlier fee of Rs 125 per sector of domestic travel, effective April 1. Air Mauritius to launch Dubai flights DUBAI: Air Mauritius plans to launch a weekly flight to Dubai from the Indian Ocean island starting October 31, the airline's senior commercial manager, Raj Deenanath, said. He said the airline was pressing ahead with the new route even though other carriers were reducing schedules due to the slump in passenger demand following the terrorist attacks in the US. Air-India slashes fares on Indian sectors DUBAI: Air-India has slashed its fares from Dubai to Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad following a similar cut announced by Emirates earlier. Emirates brought down its economy fares to Mumbai and Delhi from Dh1,460 ($397.5) for return ticket and Dh1,000 (one-way) to Dh1,150 and Dh650 (excluding taxes). The carrier also lowered its fares to Hyderabad, from Dh1,600 and Dh900, to Dh1,300 and Dh650, respectively. Air-India dropped its fares from Dh1,300 and Dh850 for Mumbai and Dh1350 and Dh850 for Delhi, to Dh1,100 and Dh650, justifying it as "a balancing act." It cut fares to Hyderabad to Dh1,300 and Dh650, down from Dh1,400 and Dh900. Action packages for Chelsea fans DUBAI: Soccer fans in UAE are being offered a chance to see some of the great English premier league stars in action by Emirates. The UAE airline, which is the official sponsor of Chelsea Football Club, is offering convenient packages with tickets for any home match at Chelsea beginning October 1. The packages start at Dh3,020 ($822) and feature a range of flights and accommodation. Emirates to increase flights to Paris DUBAI: UAE-based Emirates airline will offer two more flights a week to Paris from Dubai beginning October 28, the airline has said. The Paris flights, using an Airbus aircraft, will leave Dubai on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8am and reach Paris at 1245. Southbound flights will leave Paris on the same days at 2.30pm and arrive in Dubai 12.15am local time, the airline said. It also said it will launch a non-stop, four times a week service to Perth in Australia beginning next winter. Qatar Airways names new Euro manager DOHA: Qatar Airways has appointed Greg Epps as its regional manager for Europe and North America. In London, Epps will be supported by a strong sales and marketing team, which will continue to focus on the leisure and business operations in the UK and Ireland market, a report said. SAA rules out job cuts RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Airlines will not lay off any of its staff though it has been affected by the downturn after the attacks in the United States, said Ali bin Abdul Rahman Al Khalaf, the head of the Presidency of Civil Aviation. The airline had not been hit as hard as other airlines. Cyprus Airways posts higher profits NICOSIA: Cyprus Airways has said its earnings rose to 162 million Cyprus pounds ($249 million) last year compared to 147 million pounds the previous year. The airline also said passenger traffic increased by 4.3 per cent in the first half of this year over the same period last year. Chairman Haris Loizides told shareholders at the annual general meeting that the company was "ready to meet the challenge of liberalisation and increased competition". Kuwait airline offers 'faster visa service' MANAMA: Kuwait Airways has launched an 'electronic visa' system for passengers from Bahrain as part of its efforts to provide better and speedy service to its clients, a report said. The newly-designed electronic visa system ensures the processing of visa applications in less than 72 hours, the airline's country manager for Bahrain and Dhahran, Fahad Al Dhafiri, said. Qatar Airways orders new medical kits LONDON: Qatar Airways has ordered enhanced on-board medical kits from Aeromedic Innovations to complement the first aid kits that Aeromedic Innovations has supplied since 1998. The new kits are being delivered to the Airbus final assembly line at Toulouse, France for incorporation on the airline's new fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft, a statement said. The kits were ordered under Aeromedic Innovation's kit refurbishment and maintenance support programme. Gulf Air resumes Colombo flights MANAMA: Gulf Air has resumed services to Colombo, Sri Lanka, initially with four flights per week from the Gulf. Operations to Colombo were suspended on September 18, as a result of the prohibitive cost of insuring aircraft and passengers on the Sri Lanka route. Two of the outbound flights will originate from Bahrain, one from Abu Dhabi and one from Dubai. Emirates was the first regional carrier which resumed flights to Colombo. KLM slaps 'safety surcharge' AMSTERDAM: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has begun charging its passengers an extra fee of $5 per flight to help it cover for extra safety measures it was taking following the attacks in the United States, the carrier said. It said it would also raise prices for flights to the United States, the Middle East and Israel by five per cent from October 16. Air-India to fly to Ahmedabad DUBAI: Air India will begin operating direct flights from Dubai to the western city of Ahmedabad beginning next month. The once-weekly service will leave Dubai every Sunday, with inbound flights operating on Tuesdays, a report said. The airline will also increased capacity on its Dubai-Kochi and Delhi-Dubai routes. Dubai firm mulls ferry service DUBAI: Dubai's Al Thuraya Marine Services is planning to start passenger ferry services between Dubai, Mumbai and Kerala, a report said. The company, which operates a weekly ferry between Dubai and Iraq, has ordered two vessels for the service, a report said. Al Bustan Palace among top 20 CAIRO: The Al Bustan Palace Inter-Continental Hotel in Muscat, which reopens this month after four months of renovation, has been named by readers of the authoritative Conde Nast Travel magazine in the top 20 'best of the best" hotels in its annual Top 100 table. It is the latest in a long line of prestigious awards gained by the Al Bustan Palace, which earlier this year was named the "Middle East's Leading Hotel", based on a travel agents' internet poll conducted by the World Travel Awards. See Page 20 Upgrade planned for Diplomat MANAMA: The Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel in Bahrain will soon begin a BD2 million ($5.3 million) room and restaurant refurbishment project, which will transform and upgrade all of its 246 rooms and suites. The renovation will precede a major expansion set to begin next summer. Kuwait airport passenger traffic up KUWAIT: Kuwait's blistering summer heat boosted operations at the country's only international airport with more passengers leaving the state. Civil aviation authorities said in a statement the number of air passengers using Kuwait International Airport in the 2001 summer season rose to 1,398,970 compared with 1,339,131 in 2000. The number of summer flights slightly rose to 10,552 in 2001, compared with 10,526 last year. Sharjah institute to offer US training SHARJAH: Sharjah-based Merit International Hospitality Education Institute has linked up with the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association to offer hospitality courses for students in the UAE. The programme will include full-time courses, part-time courses for people already working in the industry and online courses for those wishing to gain additional knowledge on a variety of topics. Hertz expands in northern Lebanon DUBAI: Hertz Lebanon has extended its operations into the north of the country with the opening of a new branch in Tripoli. The new branch will cater to inbound business and leisure travellers as well as to the local population in Lebanon's second largest city and sea port, and surrounding areas, said Farid R. Kanazeh, owner and general manager of Lebanese Rental Company, the Hertz franchisee in Lebanon. Record 50,000 Saudis visit Iran RIYADH: A record number of 50,000 Saudis have visited Iran this summer since the signing of the bilateral agreement permitting free travel between the two countries. Industry sources said that although businessmen have been visiting Iran regularly, Saudi families have been going there for the first time this summer after the agreement was signed. 36 get summer training at Emirates DUBAI: Thirty six young UAE nationals have completed two months of work experience with the Emirates Group, organised by the group's national recruitment and development unit. Candidates for summer training with the Emirates Group came from schools, higher colleges of technology, the UAE and Zayed universities plus other colleges and universities in the country, an Emirates Group spokesman said. New credit card offers duty-free benefits ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Duty Free (ADDF) and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) have launched a co-branded credit card, billed as the world's first duty-free credit card. The card can be used at over six million retail outlets worldwide and also functions as a normal credit card. Fairmont named ATM hosted buyer hotel DUBAI: New luxury business hotel, The Fairmont Dubai, has been named as the official Hosted Buyer hotel for Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2002. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has recently been appointed to manage the 393-room hotel, due to open early next year. The ATM Hosted Buyer Programme next year will again focus on buyers from the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry and on buyers from Saudi Arabia, two markets which ranked highly on post-show exhibitor questionnaires. The deal was sealed last month by ATM marketing manager Lindsey Kavanagh and Paul Ryan, Fairmont's executive director, national sales, Europe. Sharjah tourism drive pays off SHARJAH: The summer tourism campaign launched by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) was a big success, attracting larger numbers of tourists from the UAE and neighbouring countries, a report said. The campaign, "Where Else but Sharjah", was launched in June to create awareness about Sharjah's cultural, heritage and traditional sites. Marriott Rewards lures more members DUBAI: Membership of the Marriott hotel group's loyalty programme, Marriott Rewards, in the region has increased by 22 per cent over the previous year, Samir Daqqaq, vice president of Marriott Worldwide Sales, USA, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said. He said members in the Middle East also redeemed 32 per cent more rewards in 2000 over the previous year and gave 10 per cent more room nights, generating 10 per cent more revenue. Car rental firms told to insist on card payment RAS AL KHAIMAH: Car rental firms in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah have been ordered to ask for credit card payments from clients and not to take passports or any other identity cards from them as a guarantee, a report said. A senior government official said people seeking to rent cars should deposit cash if they did not want to use their credit cards. People should not give their passports or any other identity document to car rental firms as this was against the law, he said. Hotel contest winner gets a dream holiday CAIRO: The selection of Six Continents Hotels as the new name for the world's most global hotel company has brought a dream holiday for a self-confessed travel fanatic working at one of its Middle East properties. Nina Weir, regional training manager for Oman, was one of two winners of a company-wide competition in which employees were asked for their input into the renaming of the former Bass Hotels & Resorts. Bahrain motel gets $276,167 facelift MANAMA: The Tropicana Motel, which has been upgraded to a two-star hotel, has completed a BD100,000 ($276,167) facelift in time for its 10th anniversary celebration. General manager Abdul Rahim Abdul Aziz said the expansion was aimed at adding new facilities to make the hotel an ideal holiday spot, especially for families from other GCC states. Two entertainment halls and one coffee shop have been added, and new furniture provided to all the 22 villas. Saudi 'has 50pc of GCC hotel rooms' JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia accounts for 50 per cent of all hotel rooms in the GCC, Sheraton Jeddah hotel public relations manager Ayman Darandary has said quoting Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and UAE planning ministry figures. He said the Kingdom had 41,028 rooms from the GCC aggregate of 81,789 rooms, with the UAE accounting for 28,343 rooms. New Marriott resort to open in Phuket PHUKET, Thailand: JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa, Phuket's newest resort, will open in mid-December this year. The resort is located in 11 hectares of lush tropical gardens with swimming pools, freshwater ponds and natural preserved coastal wetlands overlooking the Andaman Sea on Mai Khao Beach. It comprises 265 rooms, including 13 luxurious suites. Extensive spa treatment facilities will be operated by Mandara Spa. Riyadh Inter-Continental gets a facelift CAIRO: Hotel Inter-Continental Riyadh has undergone a major renovation programme which has seen the addition of a new fitness and sports facility, together with the creation of some of the finest conference facilities in the Saudi capital. The newly-opened Palms Golf and Country Club features a superbly-equipped health club while a new-look conference centre has boosted the hotel's appeal as a meetings and incentive venue. Hilton launches meetings promotion DUBAI: Corporations looking to host meetings and conferences in the next few months will be able to take advantage of specially tailored meetings packages at many of the 11 Hilton International properties in the Gulf, following the launch of a new meetings promotion. The promotion, which runs until December 31, offers delegate rates as low as $37 per day and also gives all attendees the opportunity to enter a draw and win a month's salary of a maximum of $7,000. New hotel to open in Doha DOHA: A new three-star hotel will open in Doha's Al Sadd area next month. The 127-room hotel, owned by Shaikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani and Sons Holding Company, will be run by the HiWay Group. HiWay Group general manager Vinod Koshy said the hotel which will cater for business people, will have four theme restaurants, including a 24-hour coffee shop, executive lobby, business centre, conference hall, rent-a-car, and gift and jewellery shops. Choice on expansion trail in Middle East CAIRO: US hotel group Choice Hotels International has chalked out a major expansion programme in the Middle East. The group will open its newest Middle East property, the Quality Nile Maadi Hotel, a moored floating hotel on the river Nile, in Egypt in December. Choice already operates two properties in Egypt and further properties are under development in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. New musician at La Traviata DUBAI: Musician Louis LeGrand has taken over as the new entertainer at the Jebel Ali Hotel & Golf Resort's La Traviata Restaurant. LeGrand has delighted audiences at venues all across Europe and the Orient, including Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Qatar and Dubai. Le Grand who plays accordion, has recorded his own LP and won win many awards. Le Meridien, Nikko Hotels expand alliance DUBAI: Luxury hotel group, Le Meridien, has announced the expansion of a global alliance with Nikko Hotels International to encompass 169 properties in 63 countries and territories. The move adds 22 Nikko properties to the partnership - all 21 hotels throughout Japan and one in China.