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February 21, 2014 7:12 pm
Qatar Airways is to launch daily all-business-class flights between London Heathrow and its hub in Doha. The state-owned airline says the flights are a response to growing demand for business-class seats on the route, despite its already operating 35 flights each way per week.
The service, which will begin on May 15, will use an Airbus A319 with 40 seats arranged in a two-by-two configuration. Passengers can use Qatar’s new lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and a dedicated business-class terminal at Doha. The airline bills the service as the first all-business flight to operate from Heathrow (though it could be argued that Concorde took this honour in 1976).
The all-business-class concept has had a chequered past decade: launches included Silverjet, Maxjet and Eos, who used London’s Stansted and Luton airports, but rising fuel costs and the financial crisis forced all three to cease flying by 2008. In 2012, Hong Kong Airlines launched an all business-class service between Gatwick and Hong Kong but it lasted just six months before being axed because of lack of demand.
Only British Airways has succeeded in maintaining an all-business-class operation from the UK: its London City to New York JFK service, using a 32-seat Airbus 318, has operated since 2009.
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Visitors to this weekend’s White Turf horseracing festival at the Swiss resort of St Moritz will find what might be the ultimate pop-up bar: a submarine breaking through the icy surface of the St Moritzersee. Horse races have been held on the frozen lake since 1907 but this year sees the first appearance of the submarine bar. The 40m-long structure, designed by Swiss inventor Andreas Reinhard, was built by a team of 13 in a warehouse near Zurich, then assembled overnight on the lake earlier this month. The bar, sponsored by the resort’s venerable Kulm hotel, will serve champagne, sake and sushi.
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New “split scimitar” winglets designed to reduce drag and thus fuel costs are being fitted to United Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft following certification by the FAA earlier this month.
United, the first airline to use the winglets, hopes they will result in fuel savings of 2 per cent on the 737, and save $200m per year once fitted across its 737, 757 and 767 fleets.
The winglets are the result of a joint venture between Seattle-based Aviation Partners and Boeing, and may become a familiar sight on Boeings worldwide. Airlines to have ordered them include Southwest and Air Transat.
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The Nepalese government has announced it is cutting permit fees for climbing its mountains, including Mount Everest, despite concerns surrounding overcrowding and the environmental impact of growing numbers of climbers.
At present, individuals must pay $25,000 to climb Everest by the normal route in the peak March-May season, a fee that will fall to $11,000 from next year. However, the existing discounted rates for groups (in which parties of seven and more pay $10,000 per member) will be abolished in a move designed to reduce the temptation for climbers to form artificial groups of differing abilities. Climbers who choose not to follow the normal route will see fees cut from $15,000 to $10,000, while fees for climbs outside the March-May season will be slashed to as little as $2,500.
Permits for Nepal’s other peaks will also be cheaper: fees for mountains below 6,500m will fall from $400 to $250. Officials say they hope the changes will encourage responsible climbing in smaller groups.
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