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Mixed news for start-ups

Mixed news for start-ups

Travellers in south-east England get a new option from this week that could speed their journeys as well as saving cash. EUjet is due to start flying on Wednesday, 1 September, from Kent International Airport, otherwise known as Manston. Its location in Ramsgate means flight times are shorter than from other south-east airports; the journey time for the first flight of the day to Amsterdam is 50 minutes, 20 minutes less than easyJet from Gatwick or Luton. To Geneva - which begins on 13 December - the flying time from Manston is 85 minutes, offering a 20-minute saving over Luton departures.

Manston is well located for travellers who like to drive to the airport. It claims to be 50 minutes from the M25 at Dartford, and parking costs a modest £5 a day or £20 per week.Fares are currently very low. At the time of going to press, you could fly to Amsterdam next Wednesday and back on Thursday for £29 return. Manston to Copenhagen next weekend is on offer for £71 return; later in the autumn Madrid costs £40 return, and Bergamo (for Milan) £48.

The record of start-up airlines in the past year has been mixed. An airline called Now failed to get off the ground at Luton; Birmingam-based Duo went bust four months ago leaving tens of thousands of prospective passengers out of pocket; but Thomsonfly, with the resources of Europe's biggest holiday company behind it, is flourishing at Coventry. Nexus Airways, a Liverpool-based start-up, was planning to launch flights "to destinations throughout the world" this year, but has now postponed services until 2005.

* FlyBlu, which intended to operate from Birmingham to Florida this year, has put its plans on hold; the airline has been taking "registrations" for winter flights with no definite commitment to operate. The chief executive, Aden Murcutt, says a winter start-up would lose the airline £3m, and "the economics of this period look too bleak to operate". The reservations system has been closed "until we are fully ready for the off". The airline is also facing a legal challenge from the US low-cost carrier, jetBlue, and may be forced to change its name. But Mr Murcutt is confident that flights to Sanford (Orlando), Fort Lauderdale, and the Gulf Coast will start next year.

EUjet (0870 414 1414;

FlyBlu (

Nexus Airways (

Croatia calls time on drinkers

Holidaymakers in Croatia who take a glass of wine with lunch risk an on-the-spot fine of 1,500 kunas (£100) - the penalty for motorists with the slightest trace of alcohol in their blood.

The new law was introduced last weekend in response to the high death rate on the country's roads. In Croatia, more than twice as many people are killed by motorists than in Britain.

The fine applies to a blood-alcohol level of below 50mg per 100ml of blood. Beyond this - the prevailing limit in most European countries - the fine doubles and the motorist's licence may also be suspended. The blood alcohol limit in Britain is 80mg per 100ml.

The number of tourists visiting Croatia has risen sharply since the end of civil war in the former Yugoslavia. In the first seven months of 2004, nearly five million visitors travelled to the country, mostly to the Adriatic coast.