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Carry On: News for business travellers

Watch museum reopens | Weirdest museums | Qantas directors quit | New airline in Colombia | Cairns services increase

Nevil Gibson
Fri, 01 Jun 2012

Swiss watch museum reopens
The Joux Valley Museum of Watchmaking has reopened after an eight months’ rebuild. Skills tables, Ludotemps and 3D films are among the new attractions on two floors of exhibition space. The building’s association with watchmaking began in 1917, when Zénith built two factories. Ten years later Jacques David LeCoultre bought the property and named it L’Essor, the French word for rapid development or expansion. This brought all the region’s farm-based artisan-watchmakers under one roof. L’Essor was acquired in 1979 by the commune of Le Chenit and in 1996 it was opened as the canton of Vaud’s first museum of watchmaking, a skill the Joux Valley first developed 250 years ago.

Lawnmower museum
The Merseyside-side British Lawnmower Museum in Southport near Liverpool has won a place in TripAdvisor’s 10 weirdest museums in the world.  Among the 250 exhibits are the world’s fastest lawnmowers, lawnmowers of the rich and famous (including one owned by Prince Charles), and some of the most expensive. Also on show are examples from manufacturers not normally associated with the garden industry, including Rolls-Royce, Royal Enfield, Vincent, Dennis, Hawker Sidley, Perkins Diesel, British Leyland and Fraser Nash. The first lawnmower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding.

Qantas directors bail out
Air Pacific says its operations won't be affected after minority shareholder Qantas, which owns 46%, withdrew its four directors. The Fiji government, as majority shareholder with 51% of the shares, denied any intention of controlling the national airline. The directors, Qantas International chief executive Simon Hickey, QantasLink boss Narendra Kumar, company legal counsel Brett Johnson and Charles Harvey, stepped down immediately.The Air Pacific board comprises four members from the majority shareholder, four members from Qantas and one who is a nominee of both. Over the past two years, Qantas and the Fiji government have had differences over the price of Qantas shares on sale to the government, the process of the sale of shares and lately the Civil Aviation (Ownership and Control of National Airlines) Decree. Qantas cited the decree as the reason for its action and believed it was designed to reduce its role in the Air Pacific board with the requirement that at least two-thirds of the directors must be Fijian citizens.

Colombia gets seventh airline
The number of international travellers flying to Colombia has more than doubled since a decade ago, when a drug trafficking-fueled guerrilla conflict kept most foreigners away. Colombia flies 15 million passengers a year in the domestic market, and its airlines' load factor has averaged 77% last year. Colombia's top airline is Avianca, which controls 55% of flights within the country. It was joined last week by VivaColombia, whose first flight was from Medellin to Bogota with deals as low as $US29 each way. VivaColombia is Colombia's seventh commercial passenger airline and the first to use Medellin's main airport as its hub. The carrier begins with three Airbus A320s will fly five domestic routes. A rival low-cost carrier, Easyfly, began in 2007 and saw a 46% jump in passengers last year compared with 2010.

Jetstar boosts Cairns services
Jetstar is ramping up its services in and out of Cairns, where Auckland International Airport has a large shareholding. A total net increase of more than 200,000 additional seats is planned during the next financial year. Jetstar Australia & New Zealand CEO David Hall said the increase would encourage more people to visit one of Australia’s top tourist destinations. “We know that low fares encourage new travel demand by putting places like Cairns within reach for more people, particularly families," Mr Hall said. This latest boost from Jetstar follows an increase of four extra services between Cairns and Melbourne that started on April 1, and will come into effect after the Jetstar Japan domestic network takes off on July 3. Mr Hall said the launch of Jetstar’s low fares domestic network in Japan – which in April offered promotional fares of less than one cent – would potentially increase traffic on existing Osaka-Cairns and Tokyo-Cairns services.

Fares fall in Japan’s open skies
Domestic airfares have tumbled in Japan as new low-cost carriers enter the market on key routes. AirAsia Japan sold 10,000 one-way tickets for just five yen on routes it is planning from Narita to Sapporo and from Fukuoka to Naha in August. Other fares are up 50% cheaper than offered by major airlines. Rival Jetstar Japan immediately slashed its own ticket prices to undercut AirAsia's on three routes it is planning to fly in July – Narita-Sapporo, Narita-Fukuoka and Narita-Naha. A third airline, Peach Aviation, was launched in February offering services from Kansai to Fukuoka and Sapporo.

Nevil Gibson
Fri, 01 Jun 2012
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Carry On: News for business travellers