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January 17, 2014 6:39 pm
Three British Airways pilots are planning to set up their own airline to link London with one of the UK’s remotest overseas territories. Captains Richard Brown, Andrew Radford and Carl Haslem intend to lease a Boeing 757 to fly the 11-hour route from Gatwick to St Helena, an island of around 4,500 residents in the South Atlantic. Services are due to start in 2016, on the completion of the £200m UK government-funded airport currently being built on the island. The new airline, Atlantic Star, would also fly from there to Cape Town and Ascension Island.
Currently the island’s only regular link with the outside world is the RMS St Helena, a mail ship which arrives from Cape Town every three weeks. Fewer than 1,000 tourists visit per year but authorities hope the airport will help lift that figure to around 30,000 within five years. As well as history and remoteness (the island lies about 2,000km west of Angola) attractions include a landscape ripe for mountain biking, hiking, fishing and diving. There are also plans for two new hotel developments, including the conversion of a hilltop fort into a 20-room Mantis Collection heritage property and a new grass-roofed eco-village to be managed by the Oberoi group. atlanticstarairlines.com
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Air New Zealand has announced that it is licensing its innovative Skycouch seat to Taiwan’s China Airlines, and has reported “strong interest” from other carriers. The Skycouch, launched in 2011, is a row of three economy seats in which the armrests fold away and the footrests flip upwards, to create a flat, bedlike area. It has proved popular with passengers on longhaul routes to Los Angeles and London, and Air New Zealand says it is now working on licensing agreements with other carriers on non-competing routes. airnewzealand.com
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The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is preparing to host what must rank as one of the world’s most unusual and picturesque marathons. The route of the event, due to take place on February 23, follows the Mo Chhu river along the rural Punakha valley, passing monasteries, rice paddies and temples. Runners will cross a 100-metre-long suspension bridge before reaching the finish at Punakha Dzong, the ancient monastic and administrative complex that was once the seat of Bhutan’s government. With a start line at an altitude of just over 2,000m, acclimatisation will be crucial. Como hotels is offering a nine-day package for participants, split between its two Bhutanese properties, Uma Paro and Uma Punakha, including acclimatisation walks and runs, special marathon menus and massages, from $9,968 for two. bhutaninternationalmarathon.com; comohotels.com
Note: This item was corrected on February 11. The original piece wrongly stated that the event was the first international marathon to take place in Bhutan (a claim based on misleading information provided by Como hotels and the event organisers). In fact a marathon was run in 2002, although on a different course.
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