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Old March 22nd, 2006, 03:09 PM   #241
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 05:19 PM   #242
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BA to up staff retirement age to tackle pensions
By Michael Smith

LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - British Airways Plc, Europe's third-largest airline, will raise the retirement age of pilots and other staff and pay 500 million pounds ($874 million) to tackle its huge pension deficit.

The airline said on Thursday it hoped to clear its 1 billion pound deficit, as measured by actuaries three years ago, through a combination of higher retirement ages, a slower accrual rate and a cap on pension increases.

BA's plan for staff to work longer for a similar annual pension sent shares in the airline to near five-year highs but received a mixed reaction from unions, which had threatened to strike if they did not like the proposal.

"Overall, they are asking our members to work longer for less. We will try to improve these proposals and if they can't be improved we will ballot our members over this," Ed Blissett, national officer for the GMB union, told Reuters.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh, who has made pensions a top priority since starting the top job in October, said BA would make a 500 million pound one-off payment from cash reserves, conditional on staff backing the plan.

This was on top of 350 million pounds the company already planned to pay by the end of 2006. The proposed changes were also expected to contribute 450 million pounds to alleviating an expected increase in the deficit when it is reviewed by actuaries soon.

"The pension deficit was the key concern in the investment community; the proposals are a clear positive," UBS analysts said in a note to clients.

BA shares were trading 2.2 percent firmer at 368-3/4 pence at 1244 GMT after rising as high as 379, their highest level since June 2001, in early trade.

OLDER PILOTS

BA's New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS), which has 33,794 members, provides a pension based on the member's final salary before retirement and is already closed to new members.

The retirement age for most BA staff, including cabin crew, would rise by 10 years to 65. To soften the blow, the retirement age for cabin crew would rise only to 60 in the first five years.

The retirement age for its 2,500 pilots would rise from 55 to 60 due to limits on the age of airline captains in some countries.

The airline must now clear its proposal with unions.

"It was no secret that BA's pension funds were in deficit but we still don't really know if today's measures will be the right ones for our members and for the scheme," said Brendan Gold, national secretary at the biggest union representing BA staff, the T&G.

Hundreds of UK firms have shut final salary pension plans to new members and now companies are cutting benefits to existing staff or brokering deals to spread the risks of rising liabilities.

Pensions is the biggest challenge facing Walsh, who wants to avoid conflict with unions and a repeat of last summer's industrial unrest which grounded flights.

Actuaries put BA's pension deficit at 928 million pounds following the airline's last three-year review in 2003. This is expected to rise when a new three-year valuation is completed this year.

Under IFRS accounting rules, the deficit was 1.4 billion pounds after tax in its accounts for the year ended in March 2005.

Pension increases would be capped at 2.5 percent each year, and pensionable pay increases would be no more than inflation under the changes.

The proposal follows three months of talks with pension scheme members.

Defence contractor BAE Systems agreed a similar deal with unions in February under which it will inject 600 million pounds of assets into its pension fund.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 05:37 AM   #243
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BMI passenger numbers collapse in low-cost battle
Privately owned airline under pressure Chief executive insists new strategy is working
Andrew Clark
27 March 2006
The Guardian

BMI, Britain's second-largest full-service airline, is suffering a collapse in passenger numbers as it loses out in a dogfight with low-cost rivals, train operators and European flag carriers.

Leaked figures obtained by the Guardian show that the privately owned airline's flights from Heathrow carried 13% fewer people in February than they did a year ago. Its most intensive routes between London and Scotland suffered the most dramatic slump in popularity. Passenger numbers on its Glasgow flights dived by 24% to 37,352 and the number of travellers on its Edinburgh flights fell by 17% to 44,760.

The airline insists that it is unconcerned by its shrinking customer base, which it says is a result of a change in policy to concentrate on price rather than volume. But the figures are likely to raise questions about BMI's strategy, launched last May, which involved axing free food and business-class cabins on many of its flights.

The change was on the basis that it was "over-delivering" on customers' expectations. The airline introduced a complex pricing structure with three types of ticket depending on the level of service required by travellers.

The data will also heighten speculation about BMI's future as an independent entity. BMI's chairman, Sir Michael Bishop, has a controlling stake of just over 50% but the airline's take-off and landing slots at Heathrow airport are viewed as attractive assets by many other carriers.

BMI's capacity at London's biggest airport has fallen by 7% over the past year as it introduced slightly smaller planes and replaced some short-haul flights with new long-distance routes to Riyadh and Mumbai. On many services, its passenger numbers have fallen well beyond this shrinkage: the number of people on its flights from London to Paris fell by 24%, passengers on its Manchester flights were down 22% and its Brussels route suffered an 8% fall. Airlines have been losing out on these routes to faster rail services by Eurostar and Virgin Trains. The statistics come hard on the heels of data from the Association of European Airlines, which reported that BMI's aircraft were only 53% full in January, among the lowest in Europe and comparing unfavourably with British Airways' loads of 72%, Virgin Atlantic's 71% and Air France's 77%.

BMI's chief executive, Nigel Turner, confirmed that passenger numbers were sharply down but insisted that the airline would produce encouraging results when it announces its annual profits next month. "We've taken a different strategy since I became chief executive," Mr Turner said. "We've specifically focused on getting smaller aircraft in. We've been concentrating on yield [price] and con centrating on business passengers. We've cut out a bunch of uneconomic fares. We were getting to be slightly busy fools."

He added that the drop was also partly explained by a renegotiation in fees for transfer passengers from BMI's Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa, SAS and United Airlines: "We talked to our interline partners and renegotiated for increased yields. Ipso facto, one or two of the lower ones drop out."

Under a deal struck with Lufthansa when it bought a minority stake in 1999, Sir Michael can force the German carrier to buy him out at a time of his pleasing for pounds 229m. Sir Michael also has the option of opening merger talks with Virgin Atlantic, which is interested in a deal.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 12:06 AM   #244
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BAA to shut Heathrow's Terminal 2
Terminal 2, the oldest terminal at Heathrow Airport, is to be closed down in a couple of years' time, airports operator BAA has announced.
The European short-haul terminal will shut when the airport's new Terminal 5 (T5) opens for business in March 2008.

When T5 is completed several airlines will be moving into different terminals at the UK's biggest airport.

This would have cut Terminal 2's annual passenger numbers from nine million to less than 1.5 million.

'Sadness and nostalgia'

In November last year, BAA announced that under its £1.5bn Heathrow East plan, Terminal 2 would be knocked down, as would the Queen's Building next door, to be replaced by a new terminal capable of handling 30 million people.


While this decision to close Terminal 2 is made with a mixture of sadness and nostalgia, it must be remembered that Terminal 2 is Heathrow's first and oldest terminal
BAA statement
BAA is still waiting for planning permission for the project, but the latest announcement means that Terminal 2, which opened in 1955, will close whatever the future for the Heathrow East project.

"A decision has been made today to close the facility after all of the airline relocations have taken place," the company said.

"While this decision to close Terminal 2 is made with a mixture of sadness and nostalgia, it must be remembered that Terminal 2 is Heathrow's first and oldest terminal."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/h...ss/4849758.stm

Published: 2006/03/27 14:46:58 GMT

© BBC MMVI
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Old March 28th, 2006, 04:38 PM   #245
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Virgin Atlantic Targets More Business Passengers
28 March 2006
Edited Press Release

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Virgin Atlantic Tuesday unveiled a new three-year growth plan aimed at capturing greater business market share, with products tailored towards premium passengers at the heart of the strategy.

The airline said it is targeting an increase of at least 10% in the number of business travellers over the next year.

A combination of new and extended business routes - such as London-Dubai and a sixth daily service between London and New York - as well as offering the award-winning Upper Class Suite on all routes, will enable Virgin Atlantic to offer the best business service in the air. The Upper Class Suite features the longest fully-flat bed in any business class.

On the ground, Virgin Atlantic is also extending its facilities for business passengers. The new London Heathrow Clubhouse features the ultimate pre-travel experience, including jacuzzi and spa treatments, pool table and roof garden. There will also be an increased focus on DIY check-in online or at the airport, making the Virgin experience as seamless as possible.

The three-year growth plan, aimed at further boosting operating margins and building continuing profitability, also includes exciting changes for travellers using Premium Economy and Economy. Trials are already underway for new seating in both classes, with a continuing emphasis on space and comfort.

Virgin Atlantic also intends to expand its leisure operations, with new routes to Dubai and Montego Bay, Jamaica being launched during 2006. Working further with the travel trade, Virgin Holidays will be increasing its sales footprint, with more destinations on offer than ever before.

The next three years will also see major changes for Virgin Atlantic passengers at London Heathrow's Terminal 3. Plans are underway to significantly speed up the check-in and boarding process, continuing Virgin's pioneering approach to providing the best travel experience, whether on the ground or in the air. Working with BAA, Virgin Atlantic will unveil further details on its plans later this year.
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Old March 29th, 2006, 05:23 AM   #246
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BAA Sees UK Airport Passenger Growth 3.3%-3.5% Next FY
28 March 2006

LONDON (Dow Jones)--BAA PLC (BAA.LN) expects the number of passengers handled by its U.K. airports to rise by 3.3%-3.5% on the year in its next two financial years ending March 31, 2007 and March 31, 2008, Chief Financial Officer Margaret Ewing said Tuesday.

BAA earlier Tuesday said it expects its seven U.K. airports to handle just over 2% more passengers in the current year to March 31 than it did a year earlier.

Ewing said BAA is examining the possible use of real-estate investment trusts, or REITs, for its property assets although no decisions have been taken.

Under last week's budget policy statement from the U.K. government, it will be cheaper than expected for companies to switch to an REIT structure.

REITs are publicly-traded property investment vehicles and they deliver corporate tax benefits. Investors benefit as REITs also distribute the bulk of their income as dividends to shareholders.

BAA Chief Executive Mike Clasper said separately that the company is also looking at the potential of REITS for the non-core property assets it transferred into a joint venture with Morley Fund Management.

"We need to take a good long look at it. I wouldn't rule it out," Clasper said on a conference call with reporters.

Company Web site: http://www.baa.com
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Old April 2nd, 2006, 06:45 PM   #247
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BAA set to triple Stansted landing fees
BY EDWARD SIMPKINS
2 April 2006
The Sunday Telegraph

LANDING CHARGES at Stansted Airport are expected to triple under proposals put forward last week by BAA, the pounds 9bn owner of the UK's largest airports.

The move was seen by some as a defensive gesture by BAA as the group gears up to defend itself against a hostile bid expected within the next two weeks from Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group.

BAA, which also owns Gatwick and Heathrow airports among others, said it needed the extra income to pay for a pounds 4bn new runway proposed for the Essex airport on which work is due to start in about 2012.

However, the proposal to ramp up charges has caused outrage among the airlines using Stansted. Ryanair, the largest operator at the airport, this weekend said it would consider legal action if the plan was accepted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the airports regulator.

Jim Callaghan, Ryanair's head of regulatory affairs, said: "BAA's plans are massively, blatantly gold-plated. There is just no reason to build the type of facilities they are planning.''

He claimed the plans were based on flawed predictions of passenger growth that had never been verified by independent forecasts and he pointed out that BAA is incentivised to spend as much money as possible rather than invest efficiently.

"BAA gets a 7.75 per cent regulated return on money it can spend so it makes sense for them to pull the wool over the CAA's eyes and spend as much as possible because that is how they make their money,'' Callaghan said.

He added that BAA was already spending more than pounds 100m on preparatory work for expanding Stansted. "It will all be rolled up into their regulated asset base and we will have to pay for it,'' he said. "We are praying that someone comes in and takes BAA out or breaks them up; a commercial operator would never blow pounds 4bn on Stansted.''

Although BAA is a quoted company, its future plans are heavily influenced by government policy, notably a white paper on the future of aviation which spelled out the timetable for building new airport capacity in the South East, first at Stansted, then at Heathrow.

An executive familiar with BAA's thinking said: "In the context of the Ferrovial proposals, the CAA and the Government have gone out of their way to say they will pay very close attention to issues of delivering the infrastructure proposed in the white paper and the creditworthiness of whoever delivers it.''

At its other London airports BAA must use income from its extensive shopping and parking operations to subsidise landing charges. Any improvements or extensions to the facilities at each airport must be paid for by debt serviced from income from that airport, so excess profits at Heathrow could not be used to build a new terminal at Stansted, for example.

In December the CAA said it would not relax the ban on cross subsidy from one airport to another, leading BAA to call for the freedom to raise landing charges to pay for expansion. An executive at the CAA said on Friday that it would consider BAA's request.

One industry source said: "Ryanair and easyJet don't see the need at the moment to expand Stansted because all the peak time slots are booked so there is no competition for them.''
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Old April 5th, 2006, 04:53 PM   #248
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British Airways March traffic up, load factor slips

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) - British Airways , Europe's third-largest airline, said on Wednesday its March passenger traffic rose by 1.8 percent year on year.

BA said its load factor, which measures how efficiently it filled its planes, slipped 0.5 point to 75.2 percent.

"The increase in traffic comprised a 15 percent increase in premium traffic and a 0.4 percent decrease in non-premium traffic," the airline said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange. "The timing of Easter this year has benefited premium volumes."

"Market conditions remain broadly unchanged as significant promotional activity is required to maintain seat factors," it said.
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Old April 6th, 2006, 05:36 PM   #249
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Dubai and Hong Kong now second only to New York as London's favourite long haul

Demand is exploding to Dubai and Hong Kong! There will soon be twelve daily flights from London to Dubai and eleven to Hong Kong. Chicago currently has eleven daily flights but they are in smaller planes and enjoy lower loading factors. However this is still well below the more than 27 daily flights (190 per week) that depart London for New York.


London-Dubai (84):
Emirates fly an astonishing eight daily flights to London Heathrow and Gatwick. British Airways also offers a twice daily service, Royal Brunei offer the eleventh, and Virgin Atlantic will offer the twelth daily service by June 1st. Emirates have ordered 45 x A380s (nearly a third of the total ordered number of A380s by all airlines worldwide) and will use them first on their London route. This will only increase capacity and reduce prices even further.

- Emirates = 56
- British Airways = 14
- Virgin Atlantic = 7
- Royal Brunei = 7


London-Hong Kong (77):
Capacity will have virtually doubled to Hong Kong in the last 12 months by the time Air New Zealand's newly announced Hong Kong service commences from October 28th. British Airways recently went from two daily to three daily and Cathay Pacific upped its offer from three to four. Qantas recently upped its frequency to daily and Virgin Atlantic adds the ninth daily service. Air New Zealand will add a tenth daily service from late October and longhaul start-up Oasis Airlines will add services to Gatwick from late summer which will create eleven daily London-Hong Kong services on the days that they fly (daily?). Almost all of these services use the largest aircraft flying (Boeing 747-400s, 777s, or A340-600s).

- Cathay Pacific = 28
- British Airways = 21
- Virgin Atlantic = 7
- Qantas Airways = 7
- Air New Zealand = 7
- Oasis Airlines = 7 (?)






....and for comparison:






London-Chicago (77):
- American Airlines = 35
- United Airlines = 21
- British Airways = 21


London-New York (190):
- British Airways = 68
- Virgin Atlantic = 42
- American Airlines = 41
- Continental = 18
- United Airlines = 7
- Eos Airlines = 7
- MaxJet = 7


A skyscraper lover's charter!

Last edited by Monkey; April 7th, 2006 at 02:39 AM.
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Old April 6th, 2006, 08:59 PM   #250
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i don't think hkg-london will ever reach nyc-london traffic because there're far too many alternatives available for people flying between the two cities... either via any european (air france/lufthansa/swiss/klm) or middle east (emirates/gulf/etihad) or E/SE asian cities (singapore airlines/thai/china airlines).

even emirates is taking up a significant amount of passengers flying from london to hong kong via dubai. as for new york, it's hard to think of a potential stop (iceland? mmm...) or alternative airlines providing the services.
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Old April 6th, 2006, 11:16 PM   #251
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^ I agree. Traffic to Hong Kong and Dubai will never rival New York. However the fact that non-stop traffic from London to Hong Kong, despite all the potential alternative routings you mention, nonetheless eclipses traffic to much closer and also larger European cities, such as Moscow or Istanbul, is notable enough. The route is also far stronger than any other route between any other Western and E/SE Asian city pair. For instance the traffic from London to Hong Kong alone is greater than the traffic from the whole of France to the whole of China (including Hong Kong). I believe the London-Hong Kong route is also busier than traffic from the whole of the US to the whole of China too! That is significant!! It also amazes me that Hong Kong now eclipses Chicago. British Airways and American Airlines are Oneworld partners and London and Chicago are their respective hubs. The potential for transfers between these two mega hubs and mega airlines is therefore enormous (they are the 2nd and 3rd largest airports in the world and the two airlines are biggest carrier and biggest international and long-haul carrier respectively). A great deal of the traffic from Britain/Europe to small American cities will transfer in Chicago. Likewise a great deal of American traffic to Europe, Africa, Middle East, South Asia etc will transfer through London. Meanwhile Hong Kong traffic has now eclipsed Chicago despite Hong Kong only being a useful hub for Taiwan, Manila, and Kangaroo route traffic (and on the Kangaroo route Hong Kong currently ranks fourth behind Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Dubai....) so the strength of the London-Hong Kong route is all the more remarkable based, as it seems, primarily on traffic between the two cities themselves. I take it as a sign that Hong Kong is triumphing over rival contendors such as Tokyo, Shanghai, or Singapore as the primary international financial centre for the Asia-Pacific region.

Last edited by Monkey; April 7th, 2006 at 02:41 AM.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 04:30 PM   #252
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Yep it certainally is triumphing.

Code:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4888190.stm 

Ferrovial makes hostile BAA bid

Spanish construction group Ferrovial has launched a hostile £8.75bn all-cash bid for UK airports group BAA.

The offer is at the same price that BAA rejected from Ferrovial on 17 March, saying it undervalued the firm.

BAA owns seven airports across the country including London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The UK Takeover Panel had given Ferrovial until 24 April to make a formal bid for BAA or walk away from any deal for six months.

Ferrovial's offer represents 810p per share.

'Keen to talk'

The Spanish firm is making the hostile bid at the head of a consortium that also includes Canadian investment fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, and Singapore government fund GIC.

"Whilst this bid is being made unilaterally, we do not regard it as hostile," said Ferrovial chairman Rafael del Pino said in a statement.

"We remain keen to engage in a dialogue with the BAA board with a view to securing a recommendation for the consortium's offers."

BAA, the UK's largest airports operator, also owns Southampton, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 04:59 PM   #253
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British air traffic drops 1.3-percent in March

LONDON, April 11, 2006 (AFP) - British airports operator BAA, targeted by Spanish construction giant Grupo Ferrovial, said Tuesday that passenger numbers fell by 1.3 percent in March compared with the figure for the same period last year.

BAA, which rejected on Friday a formal 8.75-billion-pound (12.56 billion euros, 15.32 billion dollars) takeover bid from a consortium led by Grupo Ferrovial, said it handled 11.4 million passengers last month, hit by the comparatively late timing of Easter this year.

The group, which owns seven British airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted bordering London, said it handled 144.6 million passengers in the 12 months to March, a 2.0-percent rise on the previous year.

BAA said domestic traffic were affected last month by cancellations caused by heavy snow early in the month in Scotland and North East England.

It added that its North Atlantic traffic fell 2.8 percent in March, compared with the equivalent figure a year earlier.

Long-haul routes excluding traffic across the North Atlantic rose 4.6 percent and European scheduled traffic fell 0.4 percent.
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Old April 13th, 2006, 09:30 PM   #254
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Passengers face diversions, cancellations and a long wait Queues build up at closed airport during security alert
WILLIAM TINNING and MARTYN McLAUGHLIN
13 April 2006
The Herald

THE massive security operation at Prestwick yesterday caused widespread disruption to passengers on flights to and from it and other Scottish airports.

Planes were cancelled, diverted, and delayed as the Ayrshire terminal was cordoned off for more than two and a half hours. Glasgow airport also closed for 15 minutes while the authorities set up a 25-mile exclusion zone.

The problems came as many travellers prepared to head off for the Easter weekend break. An unprecedented 250,000 people will fly in and out of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen for the holiday.

Ryanair, which operated the plane at the centre of yesterday's bomb alert, cancelled four flights - Prestwick to Bournemouth; Bournemouth to Prestwick; Prestwick to Dusseldorf Weaze; and Dusseldorf to Prestwick. Four other planes bound forAyrshire were diverted during the scare.

A Ryanair spokeswoman said: "Passengers affected by the cancellations will be offered a refund or transfer to the next available flight." She would not say if the airline was prepared to depart from its normal policy by making any special arrangements or laying on extra flights.

Earlier, a company spokesman said: "Ryanair apologises sincerely for any inconvenience caused to passengers, however the safety of our passengers and aircraft will always be our number one priority."

Prestwick eventually reopened at about 5pm. But passengers were forced to wait in massive queues as airport staff tried to get business back to normal.

Henry Scott from Edinburgh, flying to Donegal but delayed for three hours, said: "It's frustrating, but you can't afford to take chances if there's a risk of a suspect package. It's a bit scary, but most people seem to be waiting for the flight nonetheless."

Mark Rodwell, chief executive of Prestwick Airport, said passengers were under the control of police investigating the threat.

He said: "I think the airport has responded very well. We have very detailed plans to respond to incidents. I am very happy with the response."

A spokesman for BAA Scotland, which owns Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, said the first diversion had involved a Transavia passenger flight from Amsterdam to Prestwick, which went to Glasgow. The second involved a cargo plane from Charleston in the US, bound for Prestwick, which also went to Glasgow.

Two passenger flights diverted to Edinburgh were operated by Ryanair, and were due to go to Prestwick from Paris and Bergamo, near Milan.

The BAA Scotland spokesman said all passengers on diverted flights completed their journeys to Ayrshire by coach. He added: "At about 2.10pm, air traffic control imposed a 25mile temporary exclusion zone round Prestwick airport. This resulted in aircraft departing from Glasgow being delayed for 15 minutes. There was no impact on incoming flights at Glasgow."

John Scott, the Tory MSP whose Ayr constituency covers Prestwick, said: "This obviously had the potential to be a major incident. I am extremely glad it appears to have been nothing more than a hoax, but I am disappointed about the inconvenience passengers have suffered."

Brian Donohoe, MP for Central Ayrshire, questioned why the plane had been instructed to divert to Prestwick, rather than continue its flight to Dublin, but added: "The commander of police later told me that it was because it was over British airspace and I was satisfied with that explanation."

Meanwhile, Edinburgh airport is forecast to be the busiest in Scotland this weekend, with an estimated 113,600 passengers. Glasgow is expected to handle 102,100 passengers, while 35,600 are expected to pass through Aberdeen.

A number of new services have been introduced, including flights to Gdansk and Katowice from Edinburgh, to Cardiff from Glasgow, and Amsterdam and Stornoway from Aberdeen. Flyglobespan has also introduced a new daily service from Glasgow to the Dutch capital.

Stephen Baxter, managing director of airport operator BAA Scotland, said: "All three airports are expected to be much busier than usual this Easter. With a greater variety of destinations on offer this year, we expect our international routes to be particularly busy as holidaymakers fly out for the Easter break."
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Old April 15th, 2006, 06:32 PM   #255
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England-to-Ireland flight diverted after hoax bomb threat
15 April 2006

LONDON (AP) - A plane flying between England and Ireland was diverted to a Scottish airport after a note bearing a hoax bomb threat was discovered onboard, police said Saturday.

The Aer Arann flight from London's Luton airport to Galway landed at Prestwick airport near Glasgow at about 11 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Friday, escorted by two Royal Air Force fighter jets.

The 53 passengers and crew were evacuated and the plane was searched by a bomb-disposal team. Strathclyde Police said no bomb had been found.

The plane was due to resume its flight later Saturday.

On Wednesday, a Ryanair Boeing 737 traveling from Paris to Dublin made an emergency landing at Prestwick after a note was passed to crew claiming there was a bomb aboard. No bomb was found, and the plane continued its journey after a search.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 06:55 PM   #256
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British Airways jet makes emergency landing in Kazakhstan after false fire alarm
16 April 2006

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) - A British Airways passenger jet has made a safe emergency landing at an airport in the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan because of a false fire alarm, officials said Sunday.

The Boeing 747 had been en route to London from Sydney, with a Bangkok stop, when a fire warning light went on in the cockpit Saturday. The crew requested an emergency landing at the airport of Uralsk, a city in northern Kazakhstan near the border with Russia, the Kazakhstan Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

There were 354 passengers and 18 crew members on board.

After landing, the crew found that the alarm was false, but the plane was unable to take off from Uralsk because of its heavy weight, and B.A. had to send three smaller aircraft to ferry the passengers to London.

Because the airport lacked stairs tall enough to reach the plane, passengers debarked by stepping onto the top of a tall airport vehicle and then on to a stairway, Britain's Press Association news agency reported, quoting a BA spokeswoman.

The jet also was carrying a cargo of bees, but despite reports they had caused the emergency by setting off the fire sensors, the spokeswoman said the bees were found still in their original packing, the Press Association said.

All passengers have safely arrived in London.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 03:01 AM   #257
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BAA rejects takeover approach from Goldman
By David Cullen and Michael Smith

LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - UK airports operator BAA Plc, fending off a takeover bid from Spain's Ferrovial, has rejected a 9.4-billion-pound ($16.5 billion) approach from a group involving Goldman Sachs, saying it was too low.

The hostile bid earlier this month by a consortium led by Spanish construction company Ferrovial is for 8.75 billion pounds, or 810 pence a share in cash.

"BAA confirms that it did receive a preliminary highly conditional and confidential approach on March 30 from a consortium including Goldman Sachs ... to make a cash offer at a price of 870p per share," BAA said in a statement on Sunday.

BAA said the proposal by the U.S. investment bank -- which included an option to take shares in the bid vehicle -- was rejected by the board because "it clearly fails to reflect the true value of the company".

BAA said that since March 30 it had received no further approaches from the group.

The airports operator also said it issued the statement on Sunday without the consortium's agreement and that there could be no certainty an offer would be made.

BAA shares closed at 836p on Thursday, valuing the business at more than 9 billion pounds.

BAA, which runs London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, rejected the offer from Ferrovial's bidding consortium on April 7. That bid was pitched at the same level as a non-binding proposal turned down by BAA in March.

TALKING WITH SHAREHOLDERS

Although BAA has rejected Ferrovial's offer, analysts say the firm is likely to raise its bid after further talks with shareholders over the next few months.

Ferrovial, which could not be reached for comment on Sunday, is bidding with Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and Singapore's GIC Special Investments. It is being advised by Australia's Macquarie Bank, to whom it will sell stakes in Sydney and Bristol airports if the bid goes through.

Britain's aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, recently said that bidders for BAA should plan for major upgrades to airport facilities when arranging their financing.

European airports have been drawing investors attracted by a highly visible, long-term outlook which predicts traffic in Europe will double by 2020 to 2 billion passengers.

BAA fought off Germany's Hochtief in December to buy control of Hungary's Budapest airport from the state for $2.2 billion.

BAA is the latest in a string of British firms to attract a foreign bidder amid a global boom in takeover activity.

Such is the appetite that hostile deals are becoming more common, with data firm Dealogic identifying 41 hostile and unsolicited bids worth a total of $238 billion globally in the first quarter of 2006, the second-highest quarter on record.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 02:52 AM   #258
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British Airways Raises Fuel Surcharge
18 April 2006

LONDON (AP) - British Airways PLC on Tuesday raised its trans-Atlantic fuel surcharge for tickets sold in the U.S. by $10 each way to $65 as it struggles with higher jet-fuel prices and competition from lower cost carriers.

The longhaul fuel surcharge on tickets sold in Britain will increase to 35 pounds ($62) per one-way flight, up from 30 pounds ($53). The new charge will apply on all tickets issued from April 21.

Martin George, BA's commercial director, said the company now expects its fuel bill to increase by 600 million pounds ($1.1 billion) to 2.2 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) this financial year. It had previously forecast a smaller increase of 400 million pounds ($710 million).

The airline announced the new surcharge as oil prices hit a new intraday high of $70.88 a barrel Tuesday amid international tension over Iran's nuclear program and worries about supply disruptions in Nigeria. Light sweet crude for May delivery settled in New York on Monday at a record $70.40 a barrel.

The unrelenting climb of oil prices has badly hurt the bottom lines of airlines worldwide.

BA competitor Virgin Atlantic Airways, a unit of Virgin Group Ltd., last month raised its surcharge on one-way tickets to 35 pounds ($62) per one-way flight from 30 pounds ($53).

In contrast, budget airlines such as Ryanair Holdings PLC have imposed no extra fuel charges on passengers, a decision they claim has helped keep prices low and win customers from the full-service airlines.

British Airways shares closed nearly 1.3 percent higher at 341.25 pence ($6.01) on the London Stock Exchange.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 05:02 PM   #259
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British Airways takes on low-cost operators by slashing European fares by up to 50 percent
By JANE WARDELL
20 April 2006

LONDON (AP) - British Airways PLC issued a direct challenge to European low-cost carriers Thursday, slashing several short-haul fares by as much as 50 percent as it tries to win back passengers.

BA, which has struggled to maintain its market share against price undercutting by budget airlines such as Ryanair Holdings PLC and easyJet PLC, said it would offer greatly reduced one-way tickets to 65 destinations.

The airline said the price cuts were part of an overhaul of the airline's fare structure, rather than a one-off promotion.

"This is not a short-term gimmick, but a long-term commitment to our millions of customers to offer low fares every day of the year," commercial director Martin George said.

The ticket sale came just days after BA announced a further increase in the fuel surcharge on its long-haul flights because of soaring crude oil prices.

Shares in BA fell 0.5 percent to 338.75 pence (US$6.04; €5.03) on the London Stock Exchange.

BA said it would continue to provide full service to customers booking inexpensive tickets.

Unlike the low-cost airlines, BA will not charge extra for food and drink onboard or for checked-in luggage. Ryanair introduced charges last month for passengers wanting to check in bags.

The new BA fares include all taxes and fuel surcharges, but there is a charge for passengers who do not book online.

Airfares across Europe have been driven down in recent years following the birth of the "no frills" airlines.

BA's best price on a one-way flight from London to Naples, Italy, is now 39 pounds (US$70; €58) -- a big drop from the 286 pounds the airline charged in 1996. Similarly, a flight from London to Bordeaux, France, has fallen to 29 pounds (US$52; €43) from 206 pounds.

The airline said there would be no job cuts as a result of the lower ticket prices launched Thursday.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh has outlined plans to cut costs at the airline by 450 million pounds (US$800 million; €670 million), including the loss of 600 management jobs and a further round of cuts in call centers and travel shops.

The airline has twice raised its fuel surcharge on long-haul flights since September by a total of 10 pounds (US$18; €15) as oil prices surge. Oil futures in New York hit a record high of US$72.49 Thursday.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 06:53 PM   #260
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BAA Rejects Ferrovial Offer for 3rd Time
21 April 2006

LONDON (AP) - Airports operator BAA PLC formally rejected an 8.75 billion pound ($15.6 billion) offer from a consortium led by Spain's Grupo Ferrovial SA for the third time Friday, claiming it undervalued the company.

BAA's statement was a response to Ferrovial's offer document posted Thursday, in which the Spanish company said it planned to bid for the operator of London's Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick Airports with 3.65 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) in equity and 6.58 billion pounds ($11.7 billion) in debt.

BAA, which operates a total of seven airports around Britain, instructed its shareholders to dismiss the offer, "made at a price which bears no relation to the true value of the company."

The airports operator revealed last week that it has also received and turned down a takeover bid from the investment bank Goldman Sachs worth about 9.4 billion pounds ($16.5 billion).

The company said the Goldman Sachs offer, received March 30, also failed to "reflect the true value of the company."

Shares in BAA closed 0.06 percent lower at 863 pence ($15.37) on the London Stock Exchange.

BAA last week reported that traffic at its airports was down 1.3 percent in March, a downbeat ending to a financial year that logged a 2 percent increase.

The company blamed the slump at Heathrow on a softening British economy, the impact of the London terrorist bombings in July, a labor dispute involving catering staff last summer and higher oil prices.
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