This week’s news in brief: Swiss banks, the Conservatives, ITM, Ryanair, ANZ, Icelandair, AF KLM, IATA and El Al

Swiss banks ban business travel

Switzerland’s banks are imposing bans on executive travel amid fears of detention by tax investigators, it was reported last week.

Following the detention of a senior UBS banker by US tax officials last year, fears have grown that many countries are cracking down on bank secrecy.

The head of one Geneva-based private bank told the Financial Times he could expect to be detained by US officials while on business.

“Today if you are a banker from Switzerland going to the US you have to fear you will be taken in for questioning. I am thinking twice about going to America,” he told the newspaper.

Although the bans have focused on the US, total travel restrictions to neighbouring EU countries have been imposed.

Not all private banks in Switzerland, a country known for being a tax haven, have imposed travel bans.


Tories vow to reform Britain’s railways

The Conservative party has pledged to reform Network Rail should they win next year’s general election.

The promise came after shadow transport secretary Theresa Villier and transport minister Lord Adonis criticised National Rail’s lack of accountability and failure to put customer needs first.

The Conservatives promised to slash the 100-member body to 10 or 20 members in order to hold them accountable.

Lord Adonis also criticised the partial closures to main London to Scotland lines the past two weekends.


ITM gets new identity

The Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has changed its name to the Institute of Travel and Meetings following a vote at its annual conference in Liverpool.

Paul Tilstone, ITM’s chief executive, said ITM’s members have a broader focus on meetings.

Mr Tilstone said the change would not draw attention away from the importance of travel.

Mr Tilstone further said that in the past ITM tended to focus on the travel and not the reasons for the trip.

He hoped the change would help initiate looking for cost-effective and environmentally sound alternatives in travel.


French airports to close during summer

Ryanair will cancel flights this summer due to planned French airport upgrades to landing systems.

The Paris Beauvais Airport will close for a week from June 3-10.

Pau Airport in southern France will also close for two weeks between July 27 to August 8.

The routes affected by this closure include those to Bristol, London Stanstead and Brussels Charleroi.

Ryanair will offer alternative flights or full refunds to affected customers.

Ryanair’s Daniel de Carvalho said the upgrades will improve landings during adverse weather conditions.


ANZ launches text service

The free ‘Boarding Buddy’ SMS service launched in early March will send Air New Zealand customers the latest flight information for their specific flights straight to their mobile phone.

The service, by Mantic Point mobile travel service provider, is only available for flights departing from London Heathrow and for customers who sign-up through Air New Zealand’s website.

In the future they plan to offer the service to all flights, whether booked through the website or not.

Information provided includes flight information, opening check-in times and location, delay notifications and a gate call, as well as two retail discount vouchers for London Heathrow Terminal 1.


Icelandair adds new flights to Seattle

Icelandair will add four London Heathrow Airport departures a week to Seattle begining on July 22.

They will run Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with departures at 1300 and arriving at 1645 local time in Seattle.

Return flights depart Seattle Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1530 and arrive in London the next day at 1145.

The service will give customers the option for a stop in Reykjavik at no extra cost.

Icelandair will also work with Alaska Airlines to give passengers the opportunity for connections to western US and Canada, including Anchorage, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Calgary, and Vancouver.

A Boeing 757 aircraft will be used allowing for 183 passengers for first class, business and economy travel.


Air France KLM finalise Alitalia deal

Air France KLM finalised the €323m deal for a 25% stake in Alitalia following approval by competition authorities.

The deal will allow AF KLM to have three nominees on the board of 19 and two places on the executive committee, as well as access to the Italian market following Alitalia’s Air One acquisition.


IATA supports Dutch tax eradication

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the Dutch government’s decision to scrap its air passenger tax, urging the UK and Irish governments to follow suit.

The Dutch tax added a cost ranging from €11.25 to €45 for every passenger departing from Dutch airports.

“The tax was a €312m competitive disadvantage for the Dutch economy,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and ceo. “Abolishing the departure tax was the right decision for the Dutch Economy.”

Mr Bisignani said abandoning the tax would boost the Dutch economy and stimulate competition.

Ryanair and easyJet also welcomed the decision, ABTN reported last week.

Mr Bisignani urged the Irish and UK governments to repeal their air travel taxes.

“It is time for the UK to realise that its Air Passenger Duty is penalising one of its most powerful economic catalysts at the same time that they are spending billions to bail out other failed industries,” Mr Bisignani said.


El Al to increase flights to Tel Aviv

El Al will increase London-to-Tel Aviv flights by an additional six flights a week begining on May 3, pending goverment approval.

Flights will no longer fly from London Stansted, but instead depart from London Luton Airport.

Flights will arrive and depart from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport Sunday through Friday.

El Al also offers Tel Aviv flights from London Heathrow Airport twice a day.

The B767 aircrafts used for the additional frequency will allow a capacity of 24 business class seats and 167 economy seats available per flight.

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