In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Big Ben tower to be renamed after Queen Elizabeth II
Britain’s famous parliament clock tower is to be renamed Elizabeth Tower in honour of the queen’s diamond jubilee, officials announced on Tuesday.
The change comes after dozens of lawmakers signed up to a campaign to change the name of the tower — officially named the Clock Tower but commonly known as Big Ben – in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne.
Big Ben is technically the name of the huge bell at the top of the 96-metre tower, one of London’s best-loved landmarks.
“The House of Commons Commission welcomed the proposal to rename the Clock Tower Elizabeth Tower in recognition of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and will arrange for this decision to be implemented in an appropriate manner in due course,” a spokesman said.
Lawmakers have accepted that the iconic tower, which sounds out the hours over central London with distinctive “bongs”, will continue to be known colloquially as Big Ben.
The change mirrors an honour bestowed on queen Victoria — the only other British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee back in 1897 – who gives her name to the other tower at the west end of parliament.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the name change was “a fitting tribute to the queen and the service she has given to our country in this Jubilee year”.
In January, lawmakers met to discuss how to manage a 0.26 degree tilt to the tower, which looms over the 19-century Gothic revival parliament.
The tilt to the north-west has increased very slightly since 2003, although an expert study found it was unlikely to be a problem for 10,000 years.
Switch to cleaner aircraft is clipping the wings of BAA’s earnings
BAA’s earnings before tax and interest will be £1.3bn this year, 1.2 per cent lower than it previously forecast, as carriers switch to cleaner aircraft quicker than expected.
This is because the airports operator’s income from landing fees is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, which forces it to charge less to airlines flying lighter or greener aircraft. But BAA will recover the cash in 2014, as the regulator sets out a fixed amount it can earn from both passengers and aircraft.
This year BAA reckons Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport, pictured above, will again break records to handle more passengers than ever before.
In 1998, it flew 60 million people a year, but in just the first five months of 2012 more than 27 million people have passed through the London airport’s arrivals and departures halls. Now BAA expects to hit 70.9 million passengers for the full year.
Although the airport is operating at full capacity in terms of flights, passenger numbers are growing as airlines fly bigger aircraft.
European cruise industry buoyant despite recession and Costa Concordia
Older generation who sustain Europe’s cruise industry are holidaying in greater numbers with British passengers leading the way.
The eurozone crisis may have left millions of young people jobless but the older generation who sustain Europe’s cruise industry are holidaying in greater numbers – with British passengers leading the way.
Figures released by the European Cruise Council show 6.2 million people took a cruise last year, a 9% increase from 2010. The number of customers from the UK grew by 10% to 1.7 million.
Booking volumes dipped earlier this year after the Costa Concordia disaster in January, when 32 people died after the cruise ship struck rocks on the Italian coast. However, the industry says bookings have recovered.
The Costa line itself, having slashed prices to attract customers back, has seen a 25% increase in bookings compared with this time a year ago, its owner, Carnival Corporation, announced last week.
The ECC has released research claiming that cruising has generated record spending of £12.1bn annually in Europe on other businesses and employers who service the industry, such as shipbuilders, food producers, and providers of port facilities.
Its figures show the industry contributed £2.28bn to UK economic activity in 2011, where it claims to have provided employment for 63,834 people, 14,486 working directly for cruise lines.
Its research shows Southampton, the second busiest European port (after Venice) for cruises, used by 1.5 million passengers, gained economic benefits of more than £300m from the industry.
David Dingle, a member of the ECC executive and chief executive of Carnival UK, said: “Despite these challenging times the cruise industry is making an increasingly significant contribution to the British economy and that of mainland Europe by creating jobs and acting as a catalyst for tourism.
Five most significant changes in air travel since 9/11
It’s been 34 years since the airline industry was deregulated, but in many ways the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a much more significant watershed for passengers. For a variety of reasons, flying has been completely remade over the last ten years, and we’ve all felt the effects.
I’ve been immersed in the industry for 27 years, first as an airline employee, then as a journalist and passenger advocate. But in researching my latest book (Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descentand How to Reclaim Our Skies), I was struck by just how much has changed in a relatively short time.
Here are what I believe to be the five most significant changes for airline passengers in recent years.
•Fees. The airlines call it “ancillary revenue.” You may be among the millions who call it “nickel-and-diming.” But there’s little doubt the influx of dozens of fees for everything from checking a bag to selecting a seat has transformed flying. They also represent effective (some would say hidden) airfare increases. In survey after survey, add-on fees are the top passenger gripe, asConsumer Reports found last year. And it certainly isn’t coincidental that Southwest (first two bags free) and JetBlue (first bag free) outrank all other domestic carriers in such surveys.
•Shrinking industry. According to the industry trade association Airlines for America, there have been 14 major mergers and acquisitions among domestic carriers since 2001. I’ve written at length about how I perceive such consolidation is harmful to consumers, communities and airline employees. But the loss of such major brands as TWA, America West, Northwest, Continental and now possibly American — which has suitors for a potential merger after recently declaring bankruptcy — has completely reshaped the U.S. airline business, leaving the country with just four “legacy” carriers: United, Delta, US Airways and—for now—American.