Business travellers can look forward to more opportunities to earn and redeem air miles following confirmation that Lufthansa is to take over Swiss International Air Lines. The two carriers plan to dovetail their frequent-flyer programmes, although no detailed timetable for the move has been announced. Meanwhile, KLM and Air France, which have already merged, are to combine their frequent-flyer programmes in June.

Existing members of the airlines' schemes will retain their miles.

Travel bookers express net jitters

Airlines may be optimistic that the emerging breed of internet booking services will cut their distribution costs but many travel buyers have yet to be convinced by the newcomers, according to a survey.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives found that 46 per cent of its US-based members had considered using such a service and 50 per cent felt they were "not yet sufficiently developed to handle business travel".

At least one big carrier, United Airlines, has offered to share savings with key travel agents who are quick to use the technology as an alternative to traditional global distribution systems (GDSs), such as Sabre and Amadeus. It calculates that they will reduce the cost of a booking to between $1 and $3, compared with the $10 to $13 charged by the GDS operators.

This week AOL took another stride towards providing one of those alternatives when it began testing a website based on search technology from Kayak.com. For most ACTE members, however, cost is unlikely to be the only consideration. Of those corporate buyers who are involved in the choice of which GDS to use, 22 per cent said they were influenced more by what the technology could do than by price, and 42 per cent said that their decisions were based equally on both factors.

Continental cleared for China flights

Continental Airlines is the latest US carrier to receive approval from the Department of Transportation in Washington for the launch of flights to China. On June 15 it will start operating daily non-stop services from its Newark hub, an alternative gateway to New York. Flights by 283-seat, extended-range Boeing 777-299 aircraft will take about 13 hours. They will leave at noon, arriving in the Chinese capital at 1.50pm the next day. They will leave again at 3.59pm, arriving at 5.15pm.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa passengers flying to Guangzhou will save more than five hours from Sunday when the airline launches daily non-stop flights there from Frankfurt. Previously, the airline served the southern Chinese city from Munich via Shanghai. The new flights will continue from Guangzhou to Manila.

Berlin is given a taste of Wall Street

A new four-star hotel, which mirrors design features of the New York Stock Exchange building, is being built in Berlin.

The Wallstreet Park Plaza, which is under construction close to the Reichstag, will incorporate a 66-seat cinema available for film showings, product launches and other events. Due to open in spring next year, it will have 167 rooms with flat-screen televisions and wireless internet access.

BA axes Manchester link to Amsterdam

British Airways is to axe its service between Manchester and Amsterdam with the switch to summer schedules this weekend. However, it is adding new routes, including five round trips a week to Shanghai, subject to Chinese government approval.

Washington-Joburg service begins

A new air link between Johannesburg and Washington is due to take off in July. South African Airways will operate four round trips a week, routed via Accra in Ghana, departing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Also in July, Air Namibia is to launch non-stop services from Windhoek to London's Gatwick airport. Overnight flights will depart from the Namibian capital on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. Southbound flights will leave on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings.

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