Wednesday 18 December 2019

CONGO DEM REP: Congo Airways Orders Two Embraer E175 AIrcraft

Embraer and Congo Airways have signed a firm order for two E175 aircraft, with purchase rights for a further two.

The deal has a total value of US$194.4 million at current list prices, with all purchase rights exercised.

Desire Bantu, chief executive of Congo Airways, said: These new jets will replace our current turboprop offering and allow us to serve routes both within the Democratic Republic of Congo, and regionally to west, central, and southern Africa, from our hub in Kinshasa.

“We will now have the flexibility and the right sized aircraft to serve our market, which is growing so rapidly an additional order may be required, for which the E2 is a particularly compelling option.”

The aircraft will be configured in a dual class layout seating 76 passengers in total, with 12 in business class.

Deliveries will begin in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Raul Villaron, vice president sales, Africa and Middle East, Embraer Commercial Aviation, said: “It’s great to welcome another airline to the Embraer family of operators, especially in Africa where the demand for regional travel is growing strongly.

“We look forward to supporting Congo Airways as they continue to upgrade their offering to their customers.”

Embraer is the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft up to 150 seats with more than 100 customers across the world.

Congo Airways, the flag carrier of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is exploring the possibility of basing an aircraft in the neighboring country of Congo Brazzaville.

The airline recently grounded its fifth-freedom route from Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, via Douala in Cameroon to Cotonou in Benin, citing low passenger demand. But the two overseas markets could re-join the network as part of a five-point service originating in Brazzaville.

We want to open also Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire and Libreville in Gabon, but according to our study we must connect Libreville to Brazzaville,chief executive Desire Balazire Bantu said.

If the aircraft goes Brazzaville, Libreville, Douala, Cotonou and Abidjan it will make a nice job.

The round trip could be completed in one day with two sets of flight crews, he added.

Congo Airways launched Kinshasa-Douala-Cotonou flights in December 2018 with a 160-seat Airbus A320. Management had hoped to serve the route with a 69-seat De Havilland Canada Dash-8 Q400, but settled for the larger jet due to maintenance and scheduling commitments elsewhere in the network.

The original routing is unlikely to be restored even if a Q400 becomes available, Balazire said, as the first leg can only attract about 35 passengers each way.

Opening a base in Brazzaville would also allow Congo Airways to launch flights to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.

The airport asked us to go there, but there is no market for travel from Bangui to Kinshasa, he noted. But there is from Brazzaville to Bangui.

Congo Brazzaville has not had a flag carrier since 2016, when Equatorial Congo Airlines (ECAir) collapsed under a huge debt pile.

Two privately owned local airlines – Canadian Airways Congo and Trans Air Congo – maintain operations from the capital and Pointe-Noire.

Congo Airways launched in 2015 and currently deploys two A320s and two Q400s on flights between 14 airports in the DRC plus Johannesburg in South Africa.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

VIETNAM: Azerai Ke Ga Bay Opening April 2020

Azerai Ke Ga Bay, a luxurious and secluded oceanfront retreat in south-eastern Vietnam, is set to launch in early 2020.

It will become the third property in Azerai Resorts’ growing portfolio.

The hotel is scheduled to open April 1st, with first bookings available online early in the New Year.

The 55-room resort, which will succeed Princess D’Annam Resort & Spa on the same site following a six-month renovation, is located 180 kilometres east of Saigon on a sweeping five-kilometre white sand beach on the South China Sea.

Framed to the north by Hon Ba Island, with its historic 1899-built colonial French lighthouse, and to the south by soaring sand dunes, the property cultivates one of the most naturally splendid oceanfront settings in the country.

The guest rooms, suites and villas at Azerai Ke Ga Bay evoke a contemporary aesthetic defined by elegant and simple design, with 21 units boasting either plunge pools or more spacious private pools.

The resort’s three villas are generously proportioned at 360 square metres and complemented by private pools.

Azerai Ke Ga Bay marks the brand’s first beach resort, and follows Azerai La Residence, Hue, a historic city hotel overlooking the Perfume River in Vietnam’s former imperial capital, and Azerai Can Tho, a tropical retreat set on a peaceful islet in the Mekong Delta.

Friday 13 December 2019

Enjoy Middle Eastern Cuisine

Middle Eastern cuisine is the cuisine of the various countries and peoples of the Middle East. The cuisine of the region is diverse while having a degree of homogeneity.

It includes Arab, Iranian, Israeli, Jewish, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish, Cypriot, Greek and Turkish cuisines.

Middle Eastern cuisine has been claimed by many to be one of the most popular and fastest growing ethnic cuisines.

Popularly used ingredients include olives and olive oil, pitas, honey, sesame seeds, dates, sumac, chickpeas, mint, rice, and parsley.

Popular dishes include kebabs, dolma, falafel, baklava, yogurt, doner kebab, shawarma and mulukhiyah.

The Middle East includes the region formerly known as the Fertile Crescent which is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - Sumeria, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia, where wheat was first cultivated, followed by barley, pistachios, figs, pomegranates, dates and other regional staples.

Fermentation was also discovered here to leaven bread and make beer in Mesopotamia, and the earliest written recipes come from that region.

As a crossroads between Europe, Asia, the Caucasus and North Africa, this area has long been a hub of food and recipe exchange.

During the first Persian Empire, the foundation was laid for modern Middle Eastern food when rice, poultry and various fruits were incorporated into the local diets.

Figs, dates and nuts were brought by merchants to conquered lands, and spices were brought back from the Orient.

The area was also influenced by dumplings from Mongol invaders; turmeric, cumin, garlic and other spices from India; cloves, peppercorns and allspice from the Spice Islands; okra from Africa; and tomatoes from the New World.

Religion has also influenced the cuisine; neither Jews nor Muslims eat pork, making lamb the primary meat.

Since the Qur'an forbids alcohol consumption, wine and other drinks are made in countries such as Lebanon, where vineyards like Chateau Ksara, Chateau Kefraya and Chateau Masaya have gained international fame for their wines.

Prior to its Islamic regime, Iran was also noted for its wine making. Chateau Ksara is also very popular for its arak Ksarak, an alcoholic drink produced in the Levant.

Al-Maza is Lebanon's primary brewery, which was also, at one time, the Middle East's only beer-producing factory. Lebanon has always been well known in the region for its wines and arak, making it an exception when it comes to lack of alcohol in the region.

Grains constitute the basis of the Middle Eastern diet, both historically and today. Wheat and rice are the major and preferred sources of staple foods.

Barley is also widely used in the region and maize has become common in some areas as well. Bread is a universal staple—eaten in one form or another by all classes and groups at every meal.

Aside from bread, wheat is also used in the forms of bulghur and couscous. Burghul is cracked wheat, made by partially cooking the wheat grains in water, drying it in an oven or in the sun, then breaking it into pieces of different of size.

Typically, it is cooked in water, with flavorings, much like rice. Burghul is also used in making meat pies and as an ingredient in salads, notably in tabbouleh, with chopped parsley, tomato, lemon, and oil. Freekeh is another common grain, made from immature green wheat.

There are many types of rice produced and consumed in the region. Plain rice is served under grilled meats or with meat/vegetable stews. In more complex rice dishes, there are layers of meat, vegetables, sauces, nuts, or dried fruits.

Butter and clarified butter or smen are, traditionally, the preferred medium of cooking. Olive oil is prevalent in the Mediterranean coastal areas.

Christians use it during Lent, when meat and dairy products are excluded, and Jews use it in place of animal fats such as butter to avoid mixing meat and dairy products.

Most regions in the Middle East use spices. Typically, a stew will include a small amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, and coriander. Black pepper is common, and chili peppers are used occasionally, especially as a separate sauce or as a pickle.

Parsley and mint are commonly used both in cooking and in salads. Thyme and thyme blends or za'atar are common in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, and a mixture of dried thyme and sumac or crushed sour berries is a common breakfast item with oil and bread.

Sumac is also sprinkled over grilled meat. Garlic is common to many dishes and salads.

Lamb and mutton have always been the favored meats of the Middle East. Pork is prohibited in both Islam and Judaism, and as such is rarely eaten in the region.

Prominent among the meat preparations are grilled meats, or kebabs. There are a wide variety of these grills, with many regional specialties and styles.

The most common are the cubed cuts on skewers, known as shish kebab in most places. Chicken may also be grilled in the same fashion. Another common variety is kofta kebab, made from ground meat, sometimes mixed with onions and spices, shaped around the skewer like a long sausage and grilled.

Kebabs are typically a street or restaurant food, served with bread, salad, and pickles. It is not usually prepared in domestic kitchens.

Meat and vegetable stews, served with rice, bulgur, or bread, are another form of meat preparation in the region. Kibbeh is a pie or dumpling made with meat and cereal.

The most common are made with ground meat mostly lamb and burghul, worked together like a dough, then stuffed with minced meat that has been fried with onion, aromatics, and, sometimes, pine nuts or almonds and raisins.

This can either be in the form of individual small dumplings shaped like a torpedo, or in slices like a cake, baked on an oven tray with the stuffing placed between two layers of the dough.

One variation is kibbeh naye, raw kibbeh, which is made by pounding raw meat and burghul together with seasoning and served with dips of lemon juice and chili sauce.

Vegetables and pulses are the predominant staple of the great majority of the people in the Middle East. They are boiled, stewed, grilled, stuffed, and cooked with meat and with rice.

Among the green leaf vegetables, many varieties of cabbage, spinach, and chard are widely used. Root and bulb vegetables, such as onions and garlic, as well as carrots, turnips, and beets are equally common.

Squash, tomato, eggplants, and okra are distinctive elements in the cookery of the region. Eggplant is often fried in slices and dressed in yogurt and garlic, or roasted over an open fire, then pulped and dressed with tahini or sesame paste, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin, a dish known as baba ghanoush.

Tomato is the most ubiquitous ingredient in Middle Eastern cookery. It is used fresh in a variety of salads, cooked in almost every stew and broth, and grilled with kebab.

Beans and pulses are crucial to the diet of the region, second only to cereals. Fava beans are eaten both green and dried.

Dried, they are boiled into one of the most popular Egyptian foods: ful medames, a domestic and street food, eaten for breakfast or any other meal, mashed and dressed in oil, lemon, and chili.

Similar dishes are found in all other parts of the region. The famous Falafel, now popular in Europe and America, was originally made from dried fava, crushed and formed into a rissole with herbs and spices, then fried.

It is also made from chickpeas or a mixture of the two. Green fava are cooked like other green beans, boiled and dressed in oil, or stewed with meat. The haricot beans and black-eyed beans are also common.

Lentils, split peas, and chickpeas are widely used in soups, with rice, in salads, or with meat. Hummus, made from chickpeas and sesame paste, originated in Syria and Lebanon.

Stuffed vegetables are a dish most associated with the Middle East in the popular mind. They are commonly called dolma, the Turkish word meaning stuffed, but also the Arabic mahshi.

Grape leaves, chard, and cabbage are stuffed with rice, ground meat, pine nuts, and spices, and then stewed in oil and tomato. Many vegetables are similarly stuffed and stewed or baked, such as squash, onion, tomato, eggplant, peppers, and even carrots.

Mezze is common throughout the Middle East. It consists of a number of small dishes that are picked at leisure: cheese, melon, nuts, various salads and dips, such as tabbouleh, hummus and mutabbal, pickles, and also more substantial items, such as grilled meat, kibbeh, and sausage.

Middle Easterners commonly consume milk, fresh or soured. Yogurt, a Turkish contribution, is commonly consumed plain, used in cooking, used in salad dressing, or diluted as a drink. White cheeses, like the Greek feta and halloumi, are the most common in the region.

Turkish coffee is the most well known beverage of the region. It is thicker than regular coffee and is made by boiling finely ground coffee in water and then letting the grounds settle. Instant coffee is also popular.

Aside from coffee, there is also an alcoholic drink called arak. It is most famous for its potency and milky-white color when water is added, producing the drink nicknamed "the milk of lions".

Water and ice are almost always added because of an alcohol content between 30% and 60%. Arak is colorless in its pure form and is aniseed-flavored. In the Middle East, arak is served in social settings and with mezze.

Some Christians in the Middle East, such as the Assyrians and Armenians produce their own home made beer and wine. A common drink among Muslims served during Ramadan is Qamar Al Deen, a thick and sweet apricot drink.

The apricots are boiled with sugar and water until they are thick and placed on wooden planks left in the sun until dry. A fruit leather is left, which is then melted with water and sugar and drunk.

Another popular drink is Jallab. It is made by diluting a mixture grape molasses, dates, and rose water and served with crushed ice. Some also serve it with raisins or pine nuts.

Ayran and Doogh is a beverage made from yogurt very popular in certain Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey and Iran.

In some Arab countries of the Middle East, especially in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, it is common for people to take their food from a communal plate in the center of the table.

Rather than employing forks or spoons, people traditionally dine without utensils; they scoop up food with their thumb and two fingers or pita bread.

In the Arab culture, the left hand is considered unclean. This however is changing now with utensils being widely used for dining. Even left-handed people eat only with the right hand.

A common exception is that the left hand may be used to hold a drinking glass when eating greasy food with the right.

It is proper etiquette to compliment the host on the food and their hospitality. Similarly, it is important to try every plate on the table. If a guest does not leave food on his plate, the host generally fills it immediately.

The Middle East places emphasis on enjoying meals with family and friends.

In Iran, the term daste shoma dard nakone which means - may your hand not hurt - in Persian is used to thank someone. Similarly, in Iranian Azerbaijan the term - eliz agırmasın - is used, with the same meaning.

Typically, dishes are served according to savoury or sweet, rather than in courses. Food is served in various platters and dishes at a dining table, served in plates, and eaten with cutlery, as is the European tradition.

In traditional Iranian restaurants, a large, low table lined with Persian rugs and with cushions around the sides is the setting for feasting; people sit cross-legged in a circle, and food is served in the centre, again eaten with cutlery in separate plates.

Afterwards, tea will be served in kamar baareek glasses or narrow waist glasses with sugar lumps, Persian sweets, and possibly a ghalyoun, enjoyed in the same communal fashion.

When entertaining dinner guests at home, it is seen as discourteous to one's guests to serve the sufficient amount of food for all guests, lest one appears miserly. For this reason, food is always prepared lavishly and in large quantities.

An important Persian concept that applies to food and also extends to other areas of daily life is the practice of taarof; this is an exercise of self-restraint, whereby if one is offered any food or drink, they will initially politely decline, regardless of how hungry or thirsty they might be.

Once the host has insisted and offered repeatedly, they will help themselves. No food and drink is to be accepted upon the first time of being offered it, lest one appears greedy.

Tea is usually served in little curved glasses that you hold not by the stem, but by the lip: you never add milk, but you can add water as you drink it to dilute the tea, which is sometimes still steeping when you get it.

Coffee is generally available. The coffee is drunk carefully there are grounds on the bottom; it is also thick and black, and each cup is individually brewed, often with the sugar already in it, and milk is usually not to be added.

Since it is offered all the time and everywhere, it is a gesture of hospitality and you must always take the coffee or tea, even if you only put it to your lips or just take a few sips. Your cup will always be refilled if it is less than half full.

Because you must never pour your own drink, you must always be alert throughout the meal as to whether your neighbor's cup or glass needs refilling.

If it is less than half full, it needs refilling; alternately, if yours is less than half full, your neighbor is obliged to refill it. If he or she does not, do not refill it yourself, for this will cause him or her to lose face.

Instead, diplomatically indicate your need by pouring a little more drink into your neighbor's glass, even if it doesn't really need it.

If you are the honored guest, you will be expected to make a toast, usually soon after the host does or at the end of the meal, just before everyone departs.

Dining is done with forks and spoons and knives, Western style. The knife is held in the right hand, and the fork in the left. Do not switch hands for knives and forks.

Smoking is ubiquitous in Turkey. People smoke between courses during dinner.

The host sits at the head of the table, with the honored guest seated next to the host. In addition, the honored guest sits on the side of the table farthest from the door.

At business meetings, the key people sit in the middle, flanked on either side in descending order by their aides, with the least important people sitting at the ends of the table farthest from the middle, and closest to the door; the arrangement is mirrored on the other side.

Men and women eating at someone's home might dine in separate areas and spend the entire evening separated or at separate times, with the men dining first.

The honored guest is served first, then the oldest man, then the rest of the men, then children, and finally women.

Do not begin to eat or drink until the oldest man at the table has been served and has begun. You may want to ask your host when it is appropriate to begin.

At the end of the meal, it is appropriate to thank the host or hostess for a wonderful meal.

In restaurants, you often order each dish as you want it, so that they are not ordered all at once at the beginning of the meal. In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table. If so, do not force conversation: act as if you are seated at a private table.

Waitstaff may be summoned by making eye contact; waving or calling their names is very impolite. Dining etiquette for business meals. Most business meals are lunches.

Business meals are generally not good times to discuss business or make business decisions; they are intended to build the more important personal relationship.

Take your cue from your Turkish associates: if they bring up business, then it's okay to discuss it, but wait to take your lead from their conversation.

Water, and other drinks, may not be served until after the meal is over, as some believe that drinking while eating is not healthy.

When you are at a colleague's home for a formal meal, you will be invited to sit anywhere you like at the table; resist the impulse to sit down, and wait until your host gives you further instructions.

These will generally come after the host or oldest man is seated, and often you will be placed at his side. It is a great honor to be invited into a Turkish home. Once inside, you may need to remove your shoes, this is not the custom in restaurants, however.

If you move from room to room in a Turkish home, be sure to always allow the more senior members of your party to enter the room ahead of you.

It is customary to say Afiyet olsun which means - May what you eat bring well - being before or after eating, and to say Elinize saglik, it is a compliment to the hostess, meaning Bless your hand after the meal.

During the month of Ramadan, food consumption increases dramatically throughout Muslim communities. Breaking the fast becomes a banquet, with exchanges of invitations between kin and friends, and public banquets held by charities and associations.

Cafes and pastry shops are open at night, and a carnival atmosphere prevails in the streets. Many Muslims, following the reported example of Muhammad, break their fast with a date, followed by a variety of dishes.

Sweet pastries and puddings are always present on Ramadan nights everywhere. The end of Ramadan is marked by a festival, Id 'al-Fitr, a feast that breaks the fast, during which a great quantity and variety of sweets and pastries are consumed.

The other major Muslim feast is that of 'Id al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, which occurs during the pilgrimage month.

At this time an animal, usually a sheep or a goat, is slaughtered in every household that can afford it, and great banquets are prepared, with an obligation to give food to the poor.

In North America, Middle Eastern food first came became popular in the 1990s with the so-called Mediterranean diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits included reduced risks of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

SINGAPORE: Singapore-Newark Route Is The World’s Longest

At over 8,000 nautical miles, The Singapore-Newark route is currently the world’s longest with regularly scheduled service. It’s a very prestigious route flown by Singapore Airlines using its Airbus A350-900ULR aircraft designed specifically with the route in mind.

First opened with the Airbus A340-500 earlier in the century, the route relaunched in October 2018 with the ULR aircraft being able to perform the flight with better economics than its predecessor.

Before the relaunch, the only other option for New Yorkers looking to head to Singapore and vice versa was through intermediary cities such as Frankfurt, increasing the journey time by hours.

It allows enough time for a business traveler to make it to their hotel early in the morning and freshen up before getting to the office to start the typical workday at 9 A.M.

Though timed perfectly, the flight regularly clocks in at an eye-watering 16 to 18 hours of flight time in each direction.

SQ22 leaves Singapore a bit before 1 a.m. and gets into Newark at around 5:30 a.m. or earlier. The proper strategy for this flight is to stay awake the first half of the flight and sleep the second half.

Qantas recommended a similar strategy to test subjects on its research flight from New York to Sydney in October.

This way, one basically sleeps during the nighttime of the destination and wakes up prior to landing. While not a perfect cure for jet lag it is the equivalent of having an early morning start vs dealing with a 12-hour time difference.

That’s what I did for the most part and this is something Singapore Airlines doesn’t seem to understand.

The airline insists on timing meal services around Singapore time instead of Newark time. The main meals on the flight are served at a time when people should be sleeping.

There is an initial meal service after take-off, which is acceptable, but the timing of the second meal service is downright disrespectful since it is more geared towards people operating on the departure time instead of the arrival time zone.

This effectively negates the notion of getting some proper rest on a business class flight.

Singapore Airlines insists in pairing meal times to the origin and not the destination.

The cabin on Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350-900ULRs consist of only two cabins, premium economy and business. While the premium economy seats feature only recliner chairs, business class seats come fully-equipped with lie-flat seats.

There are a lot of complaints about this seat being cramped and having to sleep at an angle but for someone of average height, the seat is great and I actually prefer it to a lot of the reverse herringbone style type seats due to the width of the bed space in the upper body area.

Bulkhead seats in rows 11 and 19 are recommended for taller folk but those are hard to come by since Singapore Airlines reserves them as bassinet seats but will occasionally release them to high-value customers.

Many would say I missed out on the flight but I didn’t I accomplished exactly what I intended to do, maximize rest on the flight.

Often times we lose sight of what business class is about, it’s primarily a method of effectively get rest to be ready to go right upon reaching your destination.

Economy class is about being miserable and first class is about having fun. Business class is business.

The more you travel, the more you start to appreciate sleep. You can only be so excited sitting in a reverse herringbone seat for the umpteenth time, you don’t need to stay awake to revel at the fact I’m not in coach.

That’s what you do when sitting in Cathay Pacific first class because that’s first class. That’s supposed to be fun, even though you do aim to sleep well on those flights too.

SPAIN:American Travelers Enjoy Free Stopovers In Madrid All On Iberia

Iberia customers in the United States are now able to stopover for free in Madrid while traveling to or from any of the airline’s 108 European, African and Middle Eastern destinations through their hub in the city.

The “Stopover Hola Madrid” program allows American passengers to stay up to six nights in the Spanish capital and can help travelers plan their visit with discounts for hotels, airport transfers, restaurants, museums and other experiences.

Joining the trend of European airlines allowing complimentary stopovers at their hubs including Icelandair, Swiss International Airlines and TAP Air Portugal, Iberia customers can choose to make the stopover either on the outbound portion or return segments of their itineraries.

One major difference from other European airlines, however, is that Iberia’s program is only available for passengers with itineraries from the U.S.

Moreover, Iberia doesn’t just stop with its country’s capital. The airline is also offering 25 percent discounts on domestic Iberia, Iberia Express or Iberia Regional flights to allow travelers to explore more of Spain. Spain’s national carrier, Iberia serves 32 Spanish destinations.

The program, dubbed Madrid a la carte, will also give a free two-day public transport card to those who sign up.

Customers will also be given a special discount to hire a car from Avis and to stay in a hotel ran by the Meliá chain.

Iberia Plus cardholders will also receive more special benefits.

Special discounts will also be given to Hola Madrid customers on select experiences such as to visit top art museums such as the Prado and Reina Sofia, as well as discounts at the museums’ restaurants.

Viator-arranged sightseeing, dining and flamenco tours are also discounted on the program, as well as longer excursions operated by Alsa.

Saturday 7 December 2019

BULGARIA: Nikola Todorov Is New Executive Chef At Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko

Nicholas' childhood dream was to become a chef and he has not stopped pursuing his goal.

He graduated from the Professional School of Tourism in his home-town of Varna, majoring in Culinary Arts. He began his professional career as a chef in 2005 at the newly opened Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko.

Due to his tenacity and talent, the young chef rose through the ranks of Demi Chef de Partie, Chef de Partie, Chef de Cuisine, Junior Sous Chef and Sous Chef.

In the meantime, the culinary specialist has spent several months supporting four sister hotels as a part of a task force program; namely the former Kempinski Hotel Zografski Sofia, Kempinski Palace Portorož in Slovenia, Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea in Jordan and Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum in Turkey.

In 2009, during the National Culinary Cup competitions organised by the Bulgarian Association of Professional Chefs, Chef Todorov and his team won first place in the culinary team category.

In the same year he joined the Bulgarian national team for the International Culinary Competitions in Istanbul. In 2015, he had the opportunity to hone his skills in Russia.

There he worked at the famous Kempinski Grand Hotel Gelendzhik as Executive Sous Chef, overseeing four restaurants and banquet rooms with a capacity of up to 1000 people.

After two and a half years of this exciting experience, Chef Todorov returned to Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko as Executive Sous Chef and as a member of Chef Trevor Portelli's team.

Last summer, Chef Todorov successfully completed six weeks of intensive training with Chef Rémy Giraud at one of the most renowned restaurants in France, Les Hauts de Loire, awarded with 2-Michelin star for over 25 years.

In addition to his mother tongue, Chef Nikola Todorov speaks fluent English and Russian.

Nikola Todorov takes on his new role as Executive Chef of Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko from Chef Trevor Portelli, who has headed the hotel's culinary team for the past two years.

The Maltese culinary professional will continue his career at home at Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz Gozo.

SWITIZERLAND: Kempinski Appoints Melissa Salibi Chief Human Resources Officer

Kempinski Hotels has appointed Melissa Salibi to the role of chief human resources officer and member of the management board.

In her new role, she will drive the Kempinski human resources agenda worldwide by overseeing the entire spectrum of human resources affairs with the support of the corporate human resources and training team.

An experienced human resources professional, Salibi started her career in 1999.

Along the years, she gradually progressed into various human resources and training-related managerial roles, developing herself into a knowledgeable and strategic professional.

In 2015, Salibi joined Kempinski’s Dubai regional office as regional director of human resources Middle East & Africa, overseeing more than 20 operating properties and actively supporting pre-openings and leading special projects.

Earlier this year, she was promoted to senior director of human resources, Middle East & Africa.

A creative leader with a passion for people, Salibi is relentlessly focused on building high performing teams, while delivering an enhanced people experience.

An experienced Human Resources professional, Melissa Salibi started her career in 1999. Along the years, she gradually progressed into various Human Resources and Training-related managerial roles, developing herself into a knowledgeable and strategic Human Resources professional.

Her performance and entrepreneurial spirit paved the way for her appointment, in 2013, to a regional role as Director of Human Resources - Middle East, Africa and India during the merger between Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel, which then became FRHI Hotels & Resorts, overseeing 18 properties and developing the Human Resources function in her region.

In 2015 Melissa joined Kempinski's Dubai Regional Office as Regional Director of Human Resources Middle East & Africa, overseeing more than 20 operating properties and actively supporting pre-openings and leading special projects.

Earlier this year Melissa was promoted to Senior Director of Human Resources, Middle East & Africa.

Melissa holds a Bachelor's Degree in Health & Social Services, specializing in Psychological Counseling, from the University of South Africa and a Master of Science in Organisational and Business Psychology from the University of Liverpool, England.

A South-African national, she speaks fluent English in addition to her mother tongue, Afrikaans.

A creative leader with a passion for people, Melissa is relentlessly focused on building high performing teams, while delivering an enhanced people experience.

USA: United Airlines Buys 50 Aircrafts From Airbus

United Airlines has made a firm order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft as it begins to phase out older models and launches an expansion of transatlantic routes from its key United States hubs in Newark/New York and Washington DC.

United plans to take delivery of the first A321XLR in 2024 and expects to begin international service with the aircraft in 2025.

The new Airbus A321XLR aircraft is an ideal one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network, said Andrew Nocella, United executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

In addition to strengthening our ability to fly more efficiently, the A321XLR opens potential new destinations to further develop our route network and provide customers with more options to travel the globe.

The A321XLR is the next evolutionary step in the A320neo/A321neo family of aircraft, meeting market requirements for increased range and payload in a single-aisle aircraft, and creating more value for the airlines by enabling economically viable service on longer routes than any comparable aircraft model.

We are delighted to be re-United with our friends in Chicago and thank them for their trust.

The selection of the A321XLR by the leadership of United Airlines is a ringing endorsement of the range, payload, and fuel efficiency that Airbus incorporated into this state-of-the-art aircraft, said Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer.

The exceptional versatility and performance of the A321XLR enable new operational efficiencies that flow to the airline’s bottom line.

The A321XLR will be operated by the same crew, powered by the same engines and have the same cabin as the A321neo, with more than 90 per cent commonality.

Combining the A321neo’s two rear centre fuel tanks into one adds fuel capacity and reduces structural weight.

Other significant changes include structural reinforcements and modified landing gears for the increased MTOW, increased braking capability, higher tire speed, and additional flap and slat configurations.

MALDIVES: Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa Opens

The all-new, all-inclusive Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa has opened its doors in the Indian Ocean.

The latest addition to the Emerald Collection is located on Ra Atoll in the northern Maldives archipelago, comprising a 20-hectare private island with a wrap-around reef within walking distance of the beach.

Boasting 120 villas, divided into 60 beach villas and 60 overwater villas, each has been designed by architect Edward David Poole who brings a Singaporean and Italian influence to create modern, sleek interiors, unique to the Maldives.

With sustainability front of mind, long-lasting Langhi Langhi leaves are used to build canopies and solar panels can be found on every villa, powering the island’s hot water.

Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa offers an array of culinary options at four concept restaurants covering cuisine from every continent, including Amazonico, the Maldives first and only South American restaurant.

The resort also comprises an Emerald spa offering a range of Balinese and Thai treatments, two large tennis courts, two paddle courts, an air-conditioned gym and sports centre and a dedicated Dolphin kids club.

With its own diving centre, guests can explore the greatest wonders of the Indian Ocean guided by the support of PADI qualified instructors.

Situated on the beach front, the water sports centre provides kayaks, windsurfs, sailing boats and jet skis to guests looking to explore the resort’s otherworldly lagoon.

Friday 6 December 2019

SOUTH AFRICA: South African Airways To Be Rescued With £200 Million To Avoid Imminent Collapse

South African Airways is to be placed into a business recuse following a sharp deterioration in its financial position.

The flag-carrier has battled mounting losses for a number of years, and will now seek an equity partner as the South African government looks to limit its liability.

The carrier last made a profit in 2011.

Officials said they planned to bring in a business rescue practitioner to take charge of the carrier and operate the airline with the assistance of management.

The government will also inject R4 billion (£200 million) into the carrier to avoid imminent collapse.

The state-owned carrier said strike action last month had severely impacted its financial position.

Full service resumed on December 1st, with the airline agreeing to a six per cent pay rise for cabin crew.

South African Airways said South African Airways is today in a position to announce that the board of directors of SAA has adopted a resolution to place the company into business rescue at the earliest opportunity.

As previously announced, the South African Airways board of directors and the executive committee have been in consultations with the shareholder, the department of public enterprises, in an effort to find a solution to our company’s well-documented financial challenges.

South African Airways understands that this decision presents many challenges and uncertainties for its staff.

The company will engage in targeted communication and support for all employee groups at this difficult time.

South African Airways will endeavour to operate a new provisional timetable and will publish details shortly.

The company greatly appreciates the continued support of both its customers and partners in the travel industry around the world.

It is important to point out that services operated by South African Airways’ subsidiary airline, Mango, will continue as usual and as scheduled.

The airline is the first South African state group to enter business rescue since the ruling African National Congress took power in 1994.

However, it is increasingly seen as expendable, with the government keen to divert resources to other areas of the economy.

Thursday 28 November 2019

TURKEY: Hagia Sophia Will It Become A Mosque Again?

Hagia Sophia or Holy Wisdom is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum Ayasofya Muzesi in Istanbul, Turkey.

Built in AD 360 at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the world's largest building and an engineering marvel of its time.

It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have changed the history of architecture.

The Hagia Sophia construction consists of mostly masonry. The structure is composed of brick and mortar joints that are 1.5 times the width of the bricks.

The mortar joints are composed of a combination of sand and minute ceramic pieces displaced very evenly throughout the mortar joints. This combination of sand and ceramic pieces could be considered to be the equivalent of modern concrete at the time.

From the date of its construction's completion in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Fourth Crusaders to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire.

The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the prior one having been destroyed by rioters in the Nika riots.

It was designed by the Greek geometers Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, its patronal feast taking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ.

Although sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia as though it were named after Sophia the Martyr, sophia being the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom, or Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God.

The church contained a large collection of relics and featured, among other things, a 15-metre (49 ft) silver iconostasis.

The focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the building witnessed the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius officially communicated by Humbert of Silva Candida, the papal envoy of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act that is commonly considered the start of the East–West Schism.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror, who ordered this main church of Eastern Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque.

Although some parts of the city of Constantinople had fallen into disrepair, the cathedral had been maintained with funds set aside for this purpose, and the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers who conceived its conversion.

The bells, altar, iconostasis, and other relics were destroyed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints, and angels were also destroyed or plastered over.

Islamic features such as the mihrab a niche in the wall indicating the direction toward Mecca, for prayer, minbar or pulpit, and four minarets were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years.

It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Hagia Sophia was, as of 2014, the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually.

According to data released by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Hagia Sophia was Turkey's most visited tourist attraction in 2015.

From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque, aka the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul.

The Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sophia served as inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques, including the Blue Mosque, the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rustem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Pasha Complex.

In 1935, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, transformed the building into a museum. The carpets were removed and marble floor decorations such as the Omphalion appeared for the first time in centuries, while the white plaster covering many of the mosaics was removed.

Nevertheless, the condition of the structure deteriorated, and the World Monuments Fund placed Hagia Sophia on 1996 World Monuments Watch, and again in 1998. The building's copper roof had cracked, causing water to leak down over the fragile frescoes and mosaics.

Moisture entered from below as well. Rising ground water had raised the level of humidity within the monument, creating an unstable environment for stone and paint. The WMF secured a series of grants from 1997 to 2002 for the restoration of the dome.

The first stage of work involved the structural stabilization and repair of the cracked roof, which was undertaken with the participation of the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

The second phase, the preservation of the dome's interior, afforded the opportunity to employ and train young Turkish conservators in the care of mosaics.

By 2006, the WMF project was complete, though many other areas of Hagia Sophia continue to require significant stability improvement, restoration and conservation.Hagia Sophia is currently the second most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually.

Although use of the complex as a place of worship - mosque or church was strictly prohibited, in 2006 the Turkish government allowed the allocation of a small room in the museum complex to be used as a prayer room for Christian and Muslim museum staff.

Since 2013 from the minarets of the museum the muezzin sings the call to prayer twice per day, in the afternoon.

In 2007, Greek American politician Chris Spirou launched an international organization - Free Agia Sophia Council championing the cause of restoring the building to its original function as a Christian church.

Since the early 2010s, several campaigns and government high officials, notably Turkey's deputy prime minister Bulent Arınç in November 2013, have been demanding that Hagia Sophia be converted into a mosque again.

In 2015, in retaliation for the acknowledgment by Pope Francis of the Armenian Genocide, the Mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hızlı, stated that he believes the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will be accelerated.

On 13 May 2017 a large group of people, organized by the Anatolia Youth Association (AGD), gathered in front of Hagia Sophia and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the reconversion of the museum into a mosque.

On 21 June 2017 Presidency of Religious Affairs or Diyanet organized a special program, which included the recitation of the Quran and prayers in Hagia Sofia, to mark the Laylat al-Qadr, the program was broadcast live by state-run television TRT.

On 31 March 2018 Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recited the first verse of the Quran in the Hagia Sophia, dedicating the prayer to the souls of all who left us this work as inheritance, especially Istanbul's conqueror.

Strengthening the political movement to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque once again, which would reverse Atatürk's measure of turning the Hagia Sophia into a secular museum.

In March 2019 Erdogan said that he will change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, adding that it was a very big mistake to turn it into a museum.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, this change would require approval from UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

On 1 July 2016 Muslim prayers were held again in the Hagia Sophia for the first time in 85 years.

Many religious structures have been modeled on the Hagia Sophia's core structure of a large central dome resting on pendentives and buttressed by two semi-domes. A notable Venetian example is the High Altar of Santa Maria della Salute.

Several mosques commissioned by the Ottoman dynasty closely mimic the geometry of the Hagia Sophia, including the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Bayezid II Mosque. In many cases, Ottoman architects preferred to surround the central dome with four semi-domes rather than two.

This is true in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the New Mosque - Istanbul, and the Fatih Mosque. Like the original plan of the Hagia Sophia, many of these mosques are also entered through a colonnaded courtyard. However, the courtyard of the Hagia Sophia no longer exists.

Many Neo-Byzantine churches are modeled on the Hagia Sophia. The Kronstadt Naval Cathedral and Poti Cathedral closely replicate the internal geometry of the Hagia Sophia. The interior of the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral is a nearly 1-to-1 copy of the Hagia Sophia.

The marble revetment also closely mimics the source work. Like Ottoman mosques, many churches based on the Hagia Sophia include four semi-domes rather than two, such as the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade.

Several churches combine the layout of the Hagia Sophia with a Latin cross plan. For instance, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (St. Louis), where the transept is formed by two semi-domes surrounding the main dome.

This church also closely emulates the column capitals and mosaic styles of the Hagia Sophia. Other similar examples include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Saint Clement Catholic Church, Chicago, and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Catedral Metropolitana Ortodoxa in Sao Paulo and the Eglise du Saint-Esprit (Paris) closely follow the interior layout of the Hagia Sophia.

Both include four semi-domes, but the two lateral semi-domes are very shallow. In terms of size, the Eglise du Saint-Esprit is about two thirds the scale of the Hagia Sophia.

Synagogues based on the Hagia Sophia include the Congregation Emanu-El (San Francisco), Great Synagogue of Florence, and Hurva Synagogue.

CANADA: Air Tanzania’s Plane Impounded In Canada For An Old Debt

An aeroplane being delivered to Tanzania's national airline has been impounded in Canada over a Namibian-born farmer's $33-million compensation claim, Tanzania's foreign minister said.

The DHC Dash 8-400 aircraft, a turboprop also known as the Bombardier Q400 which seats up to 90 people, is the second to be seized in connection with case.

In August, an Airbus 220-300 aircraft was seized in South Africa's Johannesburg airport, after it landed on a flight from Tanzania, but was released in September.

The same person who went to court in South Africa, and caused the impounding of Airbus in August, went to a Canadian court, Tanzania's Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi.

The plane, built by Canada's De Havilland company, was due for delivery as part of a fleet expansion of the government-run Air Tanzania.

We won in a case with this man in South Africa, Kabudi added, speaking at a government function broadcast on state-media in Tanzania's capital Dodoma.

I wonder why this person has emerged in Canada - but our lawyers are getting ready.

Kabudi appeared so angry over this matter.

He did not give details of how or where the plane was seized.

I summoned the Canadian ambassador to Tanzania and clearly told him that Tanzania is not happy and we are actually angry, Kabudi said.

Canadian High Commission did not answer any calls about the same matter.

In 2017, in a separate case, another Q400 turbo-prop plane was impounded by a Canadian construction firm over a $38 million lawsuit.

That plane was released later reportedly after a financial settlement.

Canada should also know that it is not the only manufacturer of planes in the world, Kabudi commented.

This seizure related to a case dating back to the 1980s, when Tanzania's government nationalised a massive, privately-owned bean and seed farm, seizing everything including equipment, 250 cars and 12 small planes.

The owner, who is now 86, was awarded $33 million, almost 30 million euros in compensation in the 1990s but the government only paid $20 million.

The outstanding balance of $16 million has accrued interest over the decades and now stands at $33 million, according to his lawyer.

The farmer has been fighting for years to get the outstanding amount.

Monday 25 November 2019

BRAZIL: Alitalia And Azul Ink Codeshare

Azul and Alitalia have signed a codeshare agreement which will significantly increase route options for both airlines’ customers. The agreement will be particularly important for Alitalia, which continues to struggle financially.

The codeshare deal will provide both airlines access to each other’s route network, which will particularly important for Alitalia. The Italian flag carrier hasn’t been profitable for a while now, and efforts to get it back on its feet have hit a number of hurdles.

Codeshare deals are signed between airlines all the time. Most of the time they’re signed by airlines located in neighboring regions.

A codeshare agreement allows one airline to sell seats on another airline’s routes as if they were their own. Gaining access to routes outside of their normal operating area is the main objective.

In the case of Azul and Alitalia, the new codeshare deal will allow them to offer a number of new routes on the other side of the Atlantic.

Alitalia will immediately gain access to the huge number of domestic destinations served by Azul.

According to Abhi Shah, Azul’s vice president of revenue, Alitalia customers will be able to connect to Azul’s more than 100 domestic destinations, more than half of which are exclusively served by Azul.

This could be a lucrative prospect for Alitalia, as it will allow it to connect Brazil’s large Italian/Italian heritage population with Italy itself.

On the other hand, Azul will be able to increase its trans-Atlantic presence, a key objective the airline has publicly stated it is aiming towards.

Azul also announced plans for a joint venture with TAP Air Portugal earlier this month. As the largest operator of scheduled trans-Atlantic flights between Europe and South America, TAP Air Portugal will be a key strategic partner for Azul.

Although the codeshare agreement with Azul will offer Alitalia customers many new South American destinations, Alitalia itself isn’t doing so well.

This year it seems there have been reports of new parties showing interest in an Alitalia acquisition every other week. But none of the rumors have amounted to much so far.

From easyJet and China Eastern in March to Lufthansa and even the owner of Rome’s S.S. Lazio, Alitalia has struggled to find investors to keep it afloat.

It seems Delta Air Lines has come the closest to signing an investment deal with Alitalia, but recent news of a larger bid from Lufthansa may have scared the American airline away.

Regardless of who invests in Alitalia, the airline still needs to sort out a new business plan for its relaunch.

While it seems the news of a codeshare agreement with Azul will be seen as a positive, there are a number of other much bigger issues to sort out before Alitalia can become a success again.

Saturday 23 November 2019

SERBIA: Serbia Becoming Tourist Heaven For Chinese

As of now Serbia attracts millions of tourists every year, despite being beset by political and economic difficulties due to its turbulent past during the 1990s.

The latest figures show that from January to August nearly 2.5 million tourists visited Serbia, a 6% rise from the same period last year. They include a large number of Chinese, Turkish and German tourists.

Lijana Stankovic, public relations manager of the National Tourism Organization of Serbia, said Turkey and Serbia share many cultural similarities.

What the Turks think about Serbia, they have shown by devising a slogan, 'Discover the Closeness,' because of their first impression when they come to Serbia. They also find nightlife in Belgrade very attractive.

Stankovic added that the Chinese who do not require a visa to visit Serbia are drawn by the unspoiled nature and cultural and historical sites.

Serbia's government signed an agreement with Fliggy, an online travel platform owned by Alibaba, for promotion of the country as a tourist destination.

Also, the tourism office has partnered with Turkey's national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) for promotions.

Foreign tourists prefer spending their holiday in the big cities, while domestic tourists make a beeline for spa resorts.

The first choice of domestic tourists are spas, mostly Vrnjacka and Sokobanja – followed by the mountains of Zlatibor and Kopaonik.

Foreigners flock to the capital Belgrade or the cities of Novi Sad, Zlatibor, Vrnjacka Banja and Kopaonik, famous for its scenic views and hot springs.

The Iron Gate, Danube Gorde and Lepenski Vir, the first urban settlement in Europe dating back to 9,000 B.C. are not-be-missed destinations, she added.

We suggest walking the ancient paths of Roman Emperors on the UNESCO site of Gamzigrad Felix Romuliana, along with Vinimacium and Mediana.

Visit our UNESCO-listed monasteries of Studenica and Sopocani, and you will learn about the true values of life.

Make sure not to miss the impressive view from Belgrade fortress, the eternal guardian of our capital overlooking the confluence of rivers and nations for centuries," she concluded.

Serbia's second-largest city of Novi Sad is gearing up to become the European Youth Capital in 2020 and Capital of Culture in 2021.

It is home to the world-famous music festival EXIT which will celebrate its 20 years in 2020.

Friday 22 November 2019

BRAZIL: Azul Brazilian Airlines Renews Fleet

Azul Brazilian Airlines continued its fleet renewal last week when it received its first Airbus A321neo, the first of an order of 13. The aircraft, with a capacity for 214 passengers in a single-class configuration, is Azul’s largest narrow body and second A320neo family aircraft.

More than just being the delivery of a new airplane, though, the arrival of Azul’s first A321neo represents a landmark of a process the airline has been undertaking since 2016: the development of its ambitious fleet plan.

From its first flight in 2008, the airline relied solely on the Embraer 190 and 195 to position itself in the Brazilian market until 2011 when the ATR 72 came into play.

Benefitting from the then-empty Campinas/Viracopos Airport as a hub, Azul quickly grew as Brazil’s third-largest carrier in terms of traffic.

Little by little, however, the Embraer fleet started showing its shortcomings. Although having a smaller capacity than the Airbus and Boeing aircraft that its competitors operated, the aircraft lacked efficiency.

This was even more evident on larger flights. Brazil is vast, and Azul found it very difficult to operate longer flights with the Embraer in an efficient way.

That’s why in November 2014, with Brazil on the edge of an abyss that would show the biggest recession in the country since 1929, Azul made a big gamble, ordering 63 Airbus A320neos. The first one arrived in October 2016, starting operations that following December.

The A320neo quickly proved to be much more efficient than the E195. Even though the overall cost per trip of the Airbus is around five percent more than the cost of the Embraer, the cost per seat of the European aircraft is 29 percent lower since the A320 has 56 seats more than the E195, 174 against 118, the cost per seat of the European aircraft is 29 percent lower.

This allows Azul to increase its margins in markets that, during recent years, were matured by the Embraers, at the same time reducing the relative cost.

Abhi Shah, Azul’s Chief Revenue Officer, stated on a conference call, We could not have started Azul with large narrow bodies 10 years ago.

But now we have built a network that has enough feed and enough traffic that can fill Neos and so we are going to get the double benefit of improved fuel burn of the A320neo and more economies of scale.

This can be seen by the current routes served by Azul’s A320neos. The aircraft mostly connects high-density routes from Azul’s strongest markets to major Brazilian cities, as well as connects the carrier’s hubs — Viracopos, Confins and Recife — plus focus cities — Belem, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Goiania and Porto Alegre — to each other.

Apart from these, a big chunk of the routes connects the airline’s hubs — Viracopos/Campinas and Belo Horizonte/Confins — to cities in the north and northeastern regions of Brazil.

Before the Airbus, the airline could not connect these cities with as much efficiency as its competitors. The better unit cost brought by the performance of the A320neo on longer jaunts allow the airline to push further its capacity within these sectors.

The hub-and-spoke system is an important aspect of Azul’s network, so once these routes are connected with a stronger revenue and lower unit costs, all the other flights benefit from that in a kind of a chain reaction.

On the investors call for the third quarter of 2018, Abhi Shah stated that the A320 is driving great connectivity throughout our network and that is helping the smaller routes, the E-Jet routes, the ATR routes.

Another important aspect of Azul’s new fleet seat cost efficiency is that it makes the airline able to be in a good position when competing directly against LATAM and GOL, with the best example of in Guarulhos.

Before the introduction of the A320neo, Azul had a very small presence at Brazil’s largest airport. From August 2016 to August 2019, the revenue passenger kilometers (RPK ) grew from 131.1 million to 426.7 million, an increase of 225.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the domestic RPKs of Azul’s network increased 61.7 percent from 3Q 2016 to 4Q 2019. This means Azul grew four times more in Guarulhos than it has grown in the whole domestic market during the same period.

Azul’s CEO, John Rodgerson, previously stated that it is important to note that we have put some A320s in the Guarulhos airport because we have the most fuel-efficient aircraft in Latin America today, and with the lowest unit cost and lowest trip cost and its range.

So obviously in a more competitive market you are going to put your best-performing asset.

Monday 18 November 2019

RUSSIA: Neşet Koçkar Buys Intourist From Thomas Cook Group

Turkish investor has acquired Intourist, one of Russia's largest tour operators, from collapsed travel group Thomas Cook Group, the Russian company said Friday.

Neşet Koçkar, the second-largest shareholder in the Thomas Cook Group, announced Friday the signing of an agreement to acquire Intourist from the Thomas Cook Group, Intourist said in a statement, not revealing how much the deal was worth.

Koçkar, who also owns Turkish tour operator Anex, was quoted as saying: Once we have recapitalized and restructured Intourist, we intend to share Intourist with the Russian people through an IPO to celebrate its glorious comeback.

Intourist is Russia's oldest tour operator, created by the Soviet authorities in 1929 to organize highly controlled visits to the USSR for foreign visitors.

It was privatized in the early 1990s. Late last year Thomas Cook bought Intourist from billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's Sistema holding firm.

Thomas Cook collapsed in September this year, triggering Britain's biggest peacetime repatriation of stranded holidaymakers.

Friday's deal will see Koçkar acquire Thomas Cook's inbound, outbound and domestic tour operator businesses, as well as retail stores, technology and other assets, Intourist said.

Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, Intourist added.

Intourist is a very solid brand in the history of both Russian and international tourism and we simply cannot let it vanish, Koçkar said.

Intourist is a very valuable asset, said Viktor Topolkarayev, the company's director.

The company sustained its regular commercial activities despite the difficulties of Thomas Cook in the U.K., he added

Intourist is a Russian tour operator, headquartered in Moscow.

Intourist was the official state travel agency of the Soviet Union, founded in 1929.

Intourist was responsible for managing the great majority of foreigners' access to, and travel within, the Soviet Union.

In 1933 Aron Sheinman started work for Intourist in London and filled the post of Director from 1937 to 1939. When he was dismissed he refused to return to Moscow, and gained British citizenship later that year.

The enterprise was privatised in 1992.

In 2011 VAO Intourist established a joint venture with Thomas Cook Group plc with shares owned by the Thomas Cook Group of 50.1%. The incoming business within the joint venture was fully transferred to the Intourist LLC which intends to continue to expand the tour operating services and host tourists.

CHINA: Human Face Fish Sighted In A Lake

A creepy-looking fish was recently spotted by tourists swimming in a lake in southwestern China. It wasn’t its size or shape or colour that scared the pants off onlookers, but rather its human-like features.

With large, sunken eyes, defined nostrils, full lips and enough contouring that would make any makeup artist proud, the fish, which has since been identified as a carp was caught on video lurking below the water.

At one point in the video, it surfaced to munch on something near the shoreline before submerging below the water again, seemingly smacking its lips.

Sunday 17 November 2019

TURKEY: Pamukkale The Home Of Travertine Hosts 2.3M Visitors

Pamukkale, a region that enjoys global fame for its travertines, ancient ruins and healing waters, saw an increase in the number of visitors, with 2.3 million in a 10-month period of the year, adding another record to the ones it has broken this year.

A total of 2.1 million visitors came to the region last year in the same period, according to Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism data.

Pamukkale in central Denizli province, was the fourth-most visited site in Turkey last year, this year it hosted 284,498 visitors in October, up 43% compared to the same month last year.

Denizli Tourist Hoteliers and Operators Association President Gazi Murat Şen said on Wednesday that Pamukkale has had the best year in terms of number of visitors.

We aim to attract 3 million visitors by the end of the year, Şen said, adding that they will achieve this goal due to the intersession holiday of schools, he said they also want to host 5 million people in the medium term.

Underlining that 2019 has been a golden year for Pamukkale, Şen said: we aim to promote our country in the best way by staying above Turkey's average.

In fact, our goal is to exceed the number of visitors at Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Museum. We continue our efforts for everyone to see the fascinating view of the travertines.

Şen noted that tourists from Far Eastern countries as well as Russia, Germany and South America, led to intensified visitor traffic, adding that a significant number of foreign visitors participated in long-term Turkey tours which had increased the income per tourist.

Pamukkale is a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C.

Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns, the result of an earthquake.

Pamukkale, meaning cotton castle in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli in southwestern Turkey. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing water.

It is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year.

The ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white castle which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away.

Known as Pamukkale or Cotton Castle or ancient Hierapolis or Holy City, this area has been drawing the weary to its thermal springs since the time of Classical antiquity.

The Turkish name refers to the surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcium-rich springs. Dripping slowly down the vast mountainside, mineral-rich waters foam and collect in terraces, spilling over cascades of stalactites into milky pools below.

Legend has it that the formations are solidified cotton which is the area's principal crop that giants left out to dry.

Tourism is and has been a major industry in the area for thousands of years, due to the attraction of the thermal pools.

As recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing considerable damage.

An approach road was built from the valley over the terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes. When the area was declared a World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools.

Overshadowed by natural wonder, Pamukkale's well-preserved Roman ruins and museum have been remarkably underestimated and unadvertised; tourist brochures over the past 20 years have mainly featured photos of people bathing in the calcium pools.

Aside from a small footpath running up the mountain face, the terraces are all currently off-limits, having suffered erosion and water pollution at the feet of tourists.

Pamukkale's terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs.

In this area, there are 17 hot water springs in which the temperature ranges from 35 °C (95 °F) to 100 °C (212 °F).

The water that emerges from the spring is transported 320 metres (1,050 ft) to the head of the travertine terraces and deposits calcium carbonate on a section 60 to 70 metres (200 to 230 ft) long covering an expanse of 24 metres (79 ft) to 30 metres (98 ft).

When the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide de-gasses from it, and calcium carbonate is deposited. Calcium carbonate is deposited by the water as a soft gel which eventually crystallizes into travertine.

In this museum, alongside historical artifacts from Hierapolis, there are also artifacts from Laodiceia, Colossae, Tripolis, Attuda and other towns of the Lycos (Çuruksu) valley.

In addition to these, the museum has a large section devoted to artifacts found at Beycesultan Huyuk that includes some of the most beautiful examples of Bronze Age craft.

Artifacts from the Caria, Pisidia and Lydia regions are also on display in this museum. The museum's exhibition space consists of three closed areas of the Hierapolis Bath and the open areas in the eastern side which are known to have been used as the library and gymnasium.

The artifacts in open exhibition space are mostly marble and stone. Hierapolis is broken down into ruins.

Pamukkale is a tourist attraction. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site together with Hierapolis. Hierapolis-Pamukkale was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.

The underground volcanic activity which causes the hot springs also forced carbon dioxide into a cave, which was called the Plutonium, which here means place of the god Pluto. This cave was used for religious purposes by priests of Cybele, who found ways to appear immune to the suffocating gas.

Tadpoles can be found in the pools.

The hotels built in the 1960s were demolished as they were draining the thermal waters into their swimming pools and caused damage to the terraces.

The water supply to the hotels is restricted in an effort to preserve the overall site and to allow deposits to regenerate.

Access to the terraces is not allowed and visitors are asked to follow the pathway

These locations are also well known for their travertine formations:

- Egerszalók in Hungary

- Badab-e Surt in Iran

- Mammoth Hot Springs in the USA

- Pink and White Terraces in New Zealand

- Hierve el Agua in Mexico

- The White Whale in Italy - Bagni San Filippo (Siena)

- Baishuitai in China

- Garmchashma in Tajikistan

- Tatev in Armenia

- Terme di Saturnia in Italy

- Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area, A similar UNESCO world heritage travertine cascade in China.

- Dolok Tinggi Raja in Simalungun Sumatra Indonesia

TURKEY: Antalya Hosts 14 Million Visitors For The First Time

As one of the leading tourist destinations in the world, the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya has hosted more than 14 million visitors for the first time in its history.

According to data from the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, the number of tourists arriving at Antalya and Gazipaşa airports as of Oct. 15 reached 14.05 million.

It had hosted some 12 million tourists in approximately the same period of last year.

The city had welcomed some 13.6 million tourists throughout 2018, and with some two-and-a-half months left it is moving toward a goal of 16 million tourists.

Russia took the lead in the number of tourists visiting Antalya among 193 countries.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15, the number of tourists from Russia increased by 15% compared to last year, reaching 5.2 million.

Germany came second with an increase of 16% with 2.3 million tourists, followed by Ukraine with 776,000 visitors, the U.K. with 656,000, Poland with 516,000, and the Netherlands with 397,000 tourists.

Professional Hotel Managers Association (POYD) President Ulkay Atmaca said that they had a good September and October compared to previous years. Pointing to the 20% growth achieved in the first half of October, Atmaca stressed the importance of this figure.

He pointed out that the season was also longer this year compared to the previous years. From May to September, it was considered the high season. Mobility started in April this year, and it still continues in October, which shows that the season is prolonged. It is good for the tourism sector, Atmaca said.

We have broken a record in October. We had set the 16 million target for the end of the year, and Antalya will probably reach this target and set a new record. We set a new record every month. So 2019 has been the year of records for us, he added.

Having hosted 2.3 million German tourists last year, Antalya welcomed over 2.5 million visitors from Germany between January and October.

On a monthly basis in October last year, 368,941 German tourists visited Antalya, while in the same month this year, the city attracted 423,206 visitors from the said country.

The growth in the German market, which is essential for Turkish tourism, has pleased the tourism sector.

Antalya, which hosts millions of tourists every year as one of the leading tourism centers of the world, stands out with its luxurious hotels, sea, sand and sun, as well as its historical and cultural texture.

According to data from the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism regarding Antalya Airport, 14.1 million foreign tourists came to the city between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2019.

Russians took the lead in the number of tourists coming on a daily and monthly basis, followed by Germans.

Professional Hoteliers' Association (POYD) Chairman Ulkay Atmaca said that the hoteliers in the province are proud of the increase in the German market, recalling that they brought over 2.5 million German guests to Antalya in the first 10 months of this year.

Stressing that this figure will reach 3 million by the end of the year due to the collective effort of the sector and all its stakeholders, Atmaca said they expect to close the season with more than 3 million German visitors.

2016 taught us a lot, one of which was market diversity and publicity. We conducted studies in this direction, he continued, underlining that Turkey set records and experienced significant increases in all markets.

Erkan Yagcı, chairman of the Mediterranean Tourism Hoteliers and Operators Association (AKTOB), stated that 2015 was the best year for the German market with 3.2 million German visitors, pointing to a rapid recovery in the German market after 2016.

The increase in this market has pleased the sector. We think that these figures will continue to increase. We want to reach the 2015 figures in 2020 and beyond, he noted.

TURKEY: Istanbul Sabiha Gokçen Airport Receives Malaysia Airlines

Istanbul's Sabiha Gokçen Airport, located on the city's Asian side, welcomed its first long-haul flight on Saturday.

The Malaysia Airlines flight landed at the airport at noon. The Airbus A330 aircraft was welcomed with a water salute to mark the occasion.

The flight crew was greeted with bouquets and the passengers received some Turkish delight. It was followed by a cocktail where a custom made cake was cut.

The number of Turkey-Malaysia flights has increased in recent years. The weekly flights from Sabiha Gokçen Airport will be on Saturdays until Jan. 11, 2020.

With the Malaysia Airlines flight, the airport's number of international destinations reached 128. Some 49 foreign airlines currently operate flights to Istanbul's second airport.

Istanbul Sabiha Gokçen International Airport is one of two international airports serving Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey.

Located 32 km southeast of the city center, Sabiha Gokçen Airport is in the Asian part of the bi-continental Istanbul and serves as the hub for some airlines, including Pegasus Airlines as well as a secondary base for Turkish Airlines and Borajet.

The facility is named after Sabiha Gokçen, adoptive daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the first female fighter pilot in the world.

Although Istanbul Airport, located 63 km away on the European side of Istanbul, is larger, Sabiha Gokçen is still one of the largest airports in the country.

The airport was built because Ataturk International Airport located on the European side was not large enough to meet the booming passenger demands both domestic and international. The airport opened on 8th January 2001.

In June 2007, Turkish conglomerate Limak Holding, India's GMR Group and Malaysia Airport Holding Berhad (MAHB) consortium gained the contract for upgrading and maintaining the airport.

In mid-2008, ground was broken to upgrade the international terminal to handle 25 million passengers annually. The new terminal was inaugurated on 31 October 2009.

SAW's international terminal capacity originally was 3 million passengers per year and the domestic terminal capacity was 0.5 million passengers per year.

In 2010, Sabiha Gokçen airport handled 11,129,472 passengers, a 71% increase compared to 2009. The airport was planning in 2011 to host 25 million passengers by 2023, but had already handled more than 31 million passengers by 2017.

In September 2010, the airport was voted the World's Best Airport at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress in London and received the award.

The other awards received by the airport in 2010 were: Turkey's Most Successful Tourism Investment 2010, the highly commended award from Routes Europe, and the Airport Traffic Growth Award by Airline News & Network Analysis web site

With 28,285,578 passengers and 206,180 aircraft movements in 2015, Sabiha Gokçen International Airport is the third busiest single-runway airport in the world, after Mumbai and London Gatwick.

However, both Mumbai and Gatwick actually have two runways and are only considered single-runway because they can only operate the second runway if the main one is out of use. This makes Sabiha Gokçen the world's busiest true single-runway airport.

A second runway is currently being built and is expected to be operational in June 2019. The second runway will increase the hourly capacity from 40 to 80 movements. After the second runway is built, Lindbergh Field in San Diego will be the busiest true single runway airport in the world.

On 23 December 2015 at approximately 2:00 AM, explosions were reported to have occurred in a parked Pegasus Airlines aircraft, killing one cleaner and wounding another inside the plane.

Five nearby planes were reported to be damaged as well. The operations were reported to continue normally soon after, however with heightened security measured in place.

Three days later, it was reported that PKK-affiliated terrorist group Kurdistan Freedom Falcons had organized the attack.

TURKEY: China Southern Airlines, China's Largest Airline To Fly More Chinese Tourists To Istanbul

China Southern Airlines, the country's largest airline, is introducing the world's largest passenger aircraft - the Airbus 380 - on its Istanbul route, due to an increased interest in Turkey.

The use of such aircraft and Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines' (THY) new destinations in China, including the central northwestern city of Xi'an, will help Chinese companies bring more tourists to Turkey.

Turkey has seen high interest from Chinese tourists in recent years, boosted by improving cultural and economic ties between the two countries.

According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry data, some 292,000 Chinese citizens came to Turkey in the first eight months of this year, an increase of 12.66% compared to the same period last year.

If this upward trend continues, the number of Chinese tourists is expected to hit 500,000 by the end of the year.

As Chinese airlines launched flights to Turkey one after another to get their share, Chinese companies with existing lines to Turkey have also scheduled additional flights from new destinations.

Last May, China Southern Airlines launched flights from Wuhan, the largest city in Central China with a population of around 11 million, in addition to its Beijing line.

Regarded as China's largest airline in terms of fleet, the company schedules flights from Beijing's Capital airport. And the airline is now planning to carry more passengers to Turkey by expanding the type of aircraft due to intense demand from its citizens.

With necessary permits, the company will resume its flight from Daxing, the second airport of Beijing, to Istanbul Airport with the Airbus 380, which can carry up to 853 passengers in a single-class economy configuration or 555 passengers if in a three-class configuration.

China marked Turkey Tourism Year in 2018 and hosted dozens of events around the country. Around 400,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey last year.

This number is expected to approach 500,000 this year and surpass 750,000 by 2020. The number of Chinese tourists in the country is expected to rise to 1 million in two years.

Chinese citizens mostly visit Cappadocia, one of the prominent destinations frequented by Chinese tourists in Turkey, Pamukkale, Ephesus and Istanbul.

Meanwhile, Airbus 380s could not use now-closed Atatürk Airport except for special operations due to the lack of suitable runways and taxiways.

However, with runways, taxiways and passenger bridges fit for wide-body aircraft, Istanbul Airport can easily accommodate the A380.

Airbus previously announced that it would halt the production of A380 passenger aircraft and that the final delivery would take place in 2021.

The A380 has a body length of 73 meters, a height of 24 meters, and a wingspan of 80 meters. The aircraft can fly at a top speed of 1,185 kilometers per hour, with a range of 14,800 kilometers.

China Southern Airlines Company Limited is an airline headquartered in Baiyun District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China.

Established on 1 July 1988 following the restructuring of the CAAC Airlines that acquired and merged a number of domestic airlines, the airline became one of China's "Big Three" airlines alongside Air China and China Eastern Airlines, the world's seventh-largest airline measured by passengers carried and Asia's largest airline in fleet size, revenue, and passengers carried.

With its main hubs at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport, the airline operates more than 2,000 flights to more than 200 destinations daily and was a member of SkyTeam until 1 January 2019.

The airline started a frequent flyer program partnership with American Airlines in March 2019. The logo of the airline consists of a kapok flower which is also the city flower of Guangzhou on a blue tail fin.

The parent company of China Southern Airlines Company Limited is China Southern Air Holding Company, a state-owned enterprise that was supervised by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

China Southern is headquartered in the China Southern Air Building at 68 Qixin Road in Baiyun District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China.

It was previously at 278 Jichang Airport Road in Baiyun District.

China Southern had plans to open a new headquarters facility on a 988-acre (400 ha) site on the outskirts of Guangzhou, about 4 miles (6.4 km) from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Woods Bagot won a competition for the architect firm which would design the facility.

The proposed site consists of two parcels of land on opposite sides of a highway leading to Baiyun Airport; both sites are shaped like wings. The site will have a bridge and light rail system that operates above the highway to connect the two parcels, which will each have distinct functions.

For instance, the east parcel will house internal functions such as the data center facilities, staff dormitories, and the training center. The airline wants it to be aesthetically pleasing from the air since it sits below a runway approach.

The site will have a lot of outdoor space, which Woods Bagot designed along with Hargreaves Associates and Sherwood Design Engineers.

Jean Weng, a Woods Bagot Beijing-based principal, said most Chinese cities are very dense and very urban, but China Southern wants to create a human-scale campus, that's close to nature. The new headquarters was opened in August 2016.

China Southern Airlines serves 193 destinations in 35 different countries worldwide.

It maintains a strong presence in the domestic market with its main hubs at Beijing Capital International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport with secondary hubs at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, and Urumqi Diwopu International Airport, along with other focus cities in Changchun, Changsha, Dalian, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Zhengzhou.

The airline plans to continue to develop Chongqing and Urumqi as hubs as well to exploit the domestic market potential.

China Southern offers 485 flights a day from its Guangzhou hub and 221 from its Beijing hub. The airline provides services to 65 international destinations.

Most of the international flights link Guangzhou with world cities. There are also plenty of international flights operated through Beijing, Shanghai, Urumqi notably to Central Asia and Dalian to Japan, South Korea, and Russia.

China Southern Airlines has developed an extensive network to Southeast Asia and also has become the Chinese airline with the largest presence in Australia.

China Southern is also considering expanding into the South American markets, as well as further expansion into the African market.

Guangzhou Baiyun aircraft collision: On 2 October 1990, a hijacked Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737 crashed into a China Southern Airlines Boeing 757, killing 128 people from both aircraft.

China Southern Airlines Flight 3943: On 24 November 1992, China Southern Airlines Flight 3943, a Boeing 737-300, crashed into a hill near Guilin, Guangxi, due to an engine thrust malfunction. All 141 people on board were killed.

China Southern Flight 3456: On 8 May 1997, China Southern Flight 3456, a Boeing 737-300, crashed on approach to Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport killing 35 people and injuring 9.

On 13 November 2017, China Southern Flight 6406, a Boeing 737-800, with 151 passengers, was en route at 7800 meters (FL256) about 90 nm southwest of Changsha (China) when the crew received a cargo smoke indication and decided to divert to Changsha Huanghua International Airport.

The aircraft landed safely on runway 36 about 20 minutes later. The crew initiated an emergency evacuation via slides; one passenger was injured - sprained ankle during the evacuation. Emergency services found no trace of fire, heat or smoke.

On 5 January 2018, during a blizzard that hit the northeastern United States, a China Southern Boeing 777-300ER's wingtip struck the tail end of a Kuwait Airways Boeing 777 while taxiing at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, causing damage to both aircraft. Nobody was injured.

In 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ordered China Southern Airlines to pay $11,600 in fines for violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) during the airline's transport of monkeys to laboratories in the United States.

The USDA found the airline had transported more than 1,000 monkeys into the United States without federal permission to do so and had transported the animals in insecure crates.

Previously, the airline had been ordered to pay $14,438 for AWA violations during one transport that left more than a dozen monkeys dead after they went without food and water for an extended period of time.

Following these most recent violations, China Southern announced that it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories. PETA had protested against the airline for these shipments.