This week’s news in brief: Open Skies, Finnair, Travelport, easyJet, ETTSA, Mandarin Oriental hotels, Air Berlin and TUI.

OpenSkies merger with L’Avion complete

OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airlines, has completed its merger with the French all-business-class airline L’Avion, a BA spokesperson confirmed.

The combined airline will now operate under OpenSkies, while its headquarters have now relocated to Paris Orly, the spokesperson said.

OpenSkies’  Dale Moss will remain as managing director and Marc Rochet, L’Avion’s former ceo will be executive vice president.   

L‘Avion was acquired last July.


Finnair’s business travel falls sharply

Finnair reported an 8% drop in passenger traffic in March, with a particularly “dramatic” drop in business travel, compared with the same month last year.  

“The drop in business travel was really dramatic, both in business class and tourism,” Christer Haglund, Finnair’s senior vp  communications’ officer, said.

Finnair’s load factor also fell by 3.4%.

Mr Haglund said that in response to the decline in demand, Finnair reduced the average price per passenger kilometre by more than 13% in the first quarter of 2009, cut overall capacity by more than 6% and reduced flight frequencies.

So far capacity has been reduced by 12% on Asian routes and 3.2% on European routes.


Travelport partners with two hotel providers

Travelport, one of the largest global distribution system (GDS) providers announced its partnership with hotel content providers China’s DerbySoft and India’s Etours CRS last week.

The partnership means Travelport will increase its already 80,000-property-strong global reach, by adding DerbySoft’s network of 1,000 independent hotels in China and Etours’ 1,800 hotels across India.

Both companies’ hotels will now be available on Travelport’s Galileo and Worldspan GDS platforms.


easyJet demand drops in March

easyJet passengers declined by 6.3% in March to 3.4m, compared to last year’s 3.7m passengers in the same month.   

The load factor also declined to 84.7%, representing a drop of 2.8% compared to March 2008.

However, the rolling year ending in March 2009 showed an 11.5% increase to 44.2m passengers, compared to 39.7m passengers last year.

The load factor also increased to 84.9% from 83.6%, representing a 1.3% increase.


New European travel association launches

The European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA) launched this month with several leading European travel companies, including Amadeus, Travelport GDS and Sabre Holdings.

ETTSA aims to promote fair competition and consumer choice in the travel distribution chain by helping consumers better understand the industry.

ETTSA’s current activities focus on preventing online travel agencies from making price comparisons; implementing a Computerised Reservation Systems (CRS) code of conduct and preventing abusive fares and surcharge schemes.

Tomas Lopez Fernebrand, vice president and chief legal officer of the Amadeus Group, has been elected ETTSA chairman.


Finnair PLC renegotiates contract with KLM

Finnair Technical Services and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines signed a new contract for 2009 maintenance on the Boeing MD-11 passenger aircraft.

The contract between the two airlines was originally signed in 2006 and was amended last year to include reciprocal work commitments, including Finnair to purchase technical services from Air France-KLM group.


Mandarin Oriental Hotels Group upgrades distribution system

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has switched its distributers to SynXis’s RedX Distribution Management System.

SynXis, the hotel and internet marketing services distributer owned by Sabre Holdings, has provided Mandarin Oriental with a customised booking engine service since 2000.

The RedX upgrade will now allow Mandarin Oriental to connect with travel agents and online consumers who book through online travel sites via SynXis’ global distribution systems (GDS). 

SynXis said Asia Pacific is their fastest growing region with a 500% increase from 2007 to 2008 and has accommodated this growth by opening offices in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.


Freshfields advises Air Berlin on TUI Travel alliance

International law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised Air Berlin on its strategic alliance with TUI Travel international leisure travel group.

The agreement will allow TUI Travel to acquire an interest of 19.9% in Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, while allowing Air Berlin to hold 19.9 percent of TUIFly, TUI Travel’s German aviation business.

The deal begins in October 2009 when Air Berlin will undertake TUIFly’s city flight business schedule for Winter 2009-2010.

The wet lease agreement will provide Air Berlin with 17 planes, complete crew, maintenance and insurance.

TUIfly’s remaining 21 aircrafts will operate under the TUIfly brand for TUI Deutschland tourism flights.

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