Travel news: Sun sets on Helios

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The Independent Travel

Seven months after the crash of Helios Airways' flight 522 north of Athens, the airline is to be rebranded. The Cypriot carrier, a subsidiary of Libra Holidays Group, will become "Ajet" from 29 March.

The Helios name will remain an "inactive subsidiary" while awaiting the results of the investigation into the crash last August, in which all 121 passengers and crew died.

The Boeing 737 was on a scheduled flight between Larnaca and Athens when the crew apparently became incapacitated; the plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed 25 miles north of the Greek capital. Akrivos Tsolaki, head of the Greek Accident Investigation Committee, says: "The initial report should be ready by early April." Law suits have been filed against both Boeing and Helios Airways on behalf of the families of the crash victims.

The rebranded airline will continue to fly a mix of charter and scheduled operations, mainly between the UK and Cyprus. Ajet will be headed by Bryan Field, former director of British Airways CitiExpress. A company spokesman says: "Mr Field was appointed to continue a planned rebrand of Helios Airways last August, two weeks prior to the tragic crash."

Field adds: "The rebranding is necessary because the company is undergoing significant changes, representing a different business model. Ajet will offer a low fare, mainly charter, service. It is undeniable that the crash affected business, more in Cyprus than in England, but our forward business looks positive."

The move echoes events after the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades in May 1996, in which all 110 on board a Miami-Atlanta flight were killed. The Valu-Jet brand was abolished, and the airline re-emerged as AirTran.
Heather Darlington

Another brand is abolished today. British Airways CitiExpress, which runs BA's regional operations, is being rebranded as a no-frills subsidiary: BA Connect. From tomorrow, these services will be one-class only. BA's Club cabin, and complimentary catering in all classes, will be retained only on BA services to or from Gatwick, Heathrow or London City. There are two exceptions: the Manchester-New York flight, on which full service will be retained; and the Inverness-Gatwick route, on which frills will be scrapped.

One month from today, BA is to abolish check-in desks for all passengers travelling within Britain. "From 25 April, everyone flying on our UK domestic routes will be required to check in for their flight either online via ba.com or using one of our self-service check-in kiosks at the airport," says the airline. Check-in desks are being converted to fast bag drops.
Simon Calder

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