British Airways will this week launch discounted “hand baggage only” fares, becoming the latest of the “flag-carrier” airlines to make its fare structure more flexible in a bid to compete with low-cost carriers. The initiative sees discounts of up to £15 per flight on five routes from Gatwick, and means that BA’s cheapest fare to Turin is now lower than that offered by easyJet. The airline plans to extend the system eventually to cover all short-haul flights from Gatwick. BA says fares for those who do check-in luggage will remain the same but critics argue it amounts to charging for baggage in the same way as the no-frills carriers. Meanwhile KLM has announced it will begin charging for checked in baggage on short-haul flights from April 22; Air France launched discounted no-luggage fares earlier this month. www.ba.com
Winter sports tour operators have been forced to stop offering “ski hosting” services following a French court ruling declaring them illegal. The practice, in which guests are shown around the pistes and mountain restaurants by a member of staff, has long been included in packages, particularly by British tour companies. However, on Monday a court in Albertville ruled against Le Ski, a small British operator whose employee had been stopped by police while hosting guests in Meribel, in what is being seen as a test case for the industry. The court said hosting broke the law that those leading tourists on ski slopes should be qualified instructors. However, the operators argue the hosts do not venture off-piste, nor on difficult runs, and that the action is designed to protect the interest of local ski schools. Le Ski said it plans to appeal, while a spokesperson for Crystal, the biggest UK operator, said it expects some clients to choose Austria or Italy, where hosting is still offered, rather than France.
Six Senses, the Bangkok-based luxury resort operator, has announced a major expansion, with five new properties due to open in five different countries by 2016. The company, founded in 1995 by Sonu Shivdasani, was acquired last year by Pegasus Capital, the US private equity fund manager, and has appointed Wolf Hengst, former president of hotel operations at Four Seasons, as executive chairman. The expansion will take the company into the Caribbean and South America for the first time, with resorts in St Lucia, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, alongside new properties in China and Bhutan. www.sixsenses.com
Village Ways, an award-winning community tourism operator, is offering the chance for tourists to experience Holi, the liveliest of Hindu festivals, in a remote village in the Himalayan foothills. Guests on the new nine-night trip walk between villages in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand, staying in local houses, and celebrating the festival on March 27. From £790, including most meals, guiding and porterage. www.villageways.com
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