Something To Declare: fare fight at Manchester; London link cut; route of the original Orient Express
Saturday 14 August 2004
Bargain of the week: fare fight at Manchester
Manchester airport has had an exceptional year. Earlier this month, bosses at the busiest UK airport outside London announced that 21m passengers have passed through over the last year. And next year is looking even better, thanks to an increase in the number of flights.
When the winter schedules begin in November, increased competition on existing routes will force down fares. Maersk Air (020-7333 0066; www.maersk-air.com) is already selling seats on its new Manchester-Copenhagen (below) link for just £61 return - undercutting both British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) and SAS, who are certain to respond.
From Hallowe'en, British gamblers heading to Las Vegas will have a choice of flights, after BMI (0870 60 70 555; www.flybmi.com) announced it is to run three services a week from Manchester. The airline is selling seats at £399 return, which is likely to trigger a fares battle with Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; www.virgin-atlantic.com), which currently flies from Gatwick.
The range of exotic destinations from Manchester is expanding quickly. Twice a week, SyrianAir (020-7631 3511; www.syrian-airlines.com) departs from Manchester for Damascus, with connections to a wide range of Asian destinations. And from Monday, Air Baltic (00 371 720 7777; www.airbaltic.com) will start flying three times a week to the Latvian capital, Riga.
Warning of the week: London link cut
Four weeks from today, a winter of disruption begins for rail passengers. Work on a new Thameslink station beneath St Pancras, itself being rebuilt as London's new Eurostar terminal, will disrupt services for the next eight months.
Thameslink will continue to operate south from King's Cross to Brighton. But northbound services to St Albans, Luton and Bedford will run from the temporary terminus at St Pancras - a 15-minute walk from King's Cross Thameslink station.
Because Thameslink will temporarily occupy half the platforms at St Pancras, Midland Mainline has been forced to axe its service to Manchester, though additional trains will run to Nottingham.
For details call the "All Change" helpline run by Thameslink (0845 330 3661; www.thameslink.co.uk).
Destination of the week: route of the original Orient Express
From next spring you can relive the eastern section of the original Orient Express route, which once linked Paris with Istanbul. The Royal Hungarian Express, formerly owned by the Hungarian government, has been chartered by Great Rail Journeys (01904 521900, www.greatrail.com) to run between Budapest and Istanbul. A package departing on 27 April, including first-class rail travel from London to Budapest, costs £2,750, returning from Istanbul to London Heathrow by air.
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