Winter flights: A world of new possibilities

As the clocks go back, the global map of airline route networks shifts, too. By Simon Calder

In northern Europe, the last weekend of October marks the final nail in the coffin of summer. Tomorrow is not just when the clocks go back and you get used to the sun setting in mid-afternoon: it is also the "seasonal boundary" when airlines' summer schedules give way to winter.

Yet there are enough new opportunities to provide the traveller with dozens of fresh possibilities this winter. The word "destination" is deliberately left out of that sentence: the new season is more about wider choices of services than finding new locations on the sky map.

An honourable exception is Vietnam. Some years ago, British Airways planned services to Ho Chi Minh City, the republic's main commercial centre – still known on baggage tags as SGN from its old name, Saigon. As BA shrank, the idea was dropped. But from early December, Vietnam Airlines will serve both Ho Chi Minh City and the capital, Hanoi, from Gatwick.

To Latin America, KLM is making the running from its hub in Amsterdam – which can be accessed from more than a dozen UK airports. The Dutch airline (now part of Air France) is re-starting links to both Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, which should help to drive down fares to the two most alluring cities on South America's Atlantic Coast.

Travel to Ecuador is thankfully accelerated, too. Until now, flights from Amsterdam to Quito (the capital) and Guayaquil (for connections to the Galápagos) have involved a refuelling stop at Bonaire, one of the Dutch Caribbean islands. Removing this pause saves a couple of hours from the overall journey time – and improves the chances of a decent sleep on this very long haul.

KLM is also going into Havana. The three weekly departures from Amsterdam will provide welcome extra capacity to the Cuban capital and competition for Virgin Atlantic and BA/Iberia, though two of the new flights are combined with Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

One more Latin enhancement: Qantas will soon start a non-stop link between Santiago in Chile and Sydney. Flights across the South Pacific are rare, and the extra capacity will relieve the existing links from Santiago via Easter Island to Tahiti, and from Buenos Aires via Auckland to Sydney.

Germany's flag carrier, Lufthansa, is breaking new ground with a route that you might have imagined already existed: connecting its main hub, Frankfurt, with Gatwick. Since BA dropped the route some years ago, Continental Europe's financial centre has been disconnected from the UK's second airport. Business travellers based south of London will be glad for a point-to-point link, but what will appeal more to leisure travellers is the ability to plug into Lufthansa's global network.

No change of season is complete without British Airways shuffling its portfolio between airports and terminals at its London hubs. Madrid and Barcelona flights migrate from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Terminal 5, with services to Bucharest, Budapest, Larnaca, Prague and Warsaw going in the opposite direction. And it's more than a Mauritius rumour that BA flights to the lovely Indian Ocean island are being sent anticlockwise around the M25 to Gatwick from tomorrow. Mauritius fits comfortably into BA's premium long-haul leisure offering from the Sussex airport.

Gatwick continues to vie with Manchester for the title of UK airport with most connections (both have more than 200 each, way ahead of Heathrow). LGW cedes the SAS flight to BGO to MAN: in other words the Scandinavian airline, SAS, is switching its Bergen link from Gatwick to Manchester.

But the British airport with the highest number of links to Europe remains Stansted. The Essex hub gets a fourth Swedish destination when Ryanair starts serving Malmo (which it has described as "Copenhagen"). Gothenburg and two flavours of Stockholm – Skavsta and Vasteras – are already on the departure boards.

Expansion from other UK airports is sparse, mostly comprising the odd ski flight. Yesterday, the Spanish low-cost airline, Vueling, announced a new link from Cardiff to Barcelona, starting in March. And looking globally, two moves look more significant than any others. Next month, BMI is likely to become the first UK airline to go into liberated Libya, with daily flights from Heathrow to Tripoli expected to start on 21 November. From a travel perspective, the opening up of the second-largest nation bordering the Mediterranean (after Algeria) is akin to the solar system acquiring a new planet. Libya's shoreline is as long as Cyprus's and Tunisia's combined. The nation comprises two ancient territories: Tripolitania, centred on the capital; and Cyrenaica, around the "rebel capital", Benghazi. BA once flew to both Tripoli and Benghazi, and may return again soon.

Even more important for the airlines, the traveller and the planet is what happens on Tuesday at Tokyo's Haneda airport. Aviation eyes will be on All Nippon Airways's 7am departure to the small city of Okayama. This short domestic hop will be the maiden scheduled flight of the much-delayed Boeing 787 "Dreamliner", which is promised to be the first truly 21st-century airliner – delivering enhanced passenger comfort and greater fuel economy. Don't expect the new plane on a radar screen nor runway near you for a while; deliveriesto BA, Thomson and Virgin Atlantic are way down in the queue.

Most unusual new destination? Once again, the prize goes to Air France, whose "Dedicate" route network from Paris (using small A319 aircraft, and aimed squarely at business travellers) expands to embrace Bata in Equatorial Guinea and Port-Gentil in Gabon. Don't all rush.

Off the map Going, going...

As airlines seek to stem their losses, lots of destinations are falling off the map. Ryanair is grounding 80 of its aircraft between now and the end of March, rather than fly them around Europe at a loss. South-west Scotland loses its connection with Stansted with the ending of the link from Prestwick, while Girona – serving the Costa Brava – vanishes from the departure screens of Britain. Adria is exiting from Heathrow, with no more flights to Ljubljana, pictured; Flybe is dropping routes from Belfast City to Doncaster and Liverpool; and Galway in the west of Ireland is losing all its UK connections until next Easter.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'