BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-07-2014

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BLOC1

I recently had the pleasure of staying in the newly opened BLOC Hotel at London Gatwick Airport.

The hotel occupies part of the South Terminal at the airport, and is accessible pre-departures, making it an excellent place to stay before or after your flight without having to worry about transport to or from a hotel away from the airport itself.

But for enthusiasts the BLOC Hotel offers an even greater draw, and that’s fantastic views of the action at Gatwick itself.

Gatwick Airport has been notoriously difficult to spot from since the viewing terraces closed down in 2002. But for those who remember these terraces, the BLOC Hotel actually offers a similar view from many of its rooms, albeit with a further elevated perspective, meaning even more can be seen.

I was offered room 748 at the hotel, which is one of the best for spotting. It occupies a corner of the top floor of the hotel, with panoramic views from the runway to the left, round to the North Terminal and the South Terminal’s satellite to the right.

BLOC Hotel

The view from the BLOC hotel is similar to that of the old viewing terraces at Gatwick.

No movements can be missed from this room, as everything using the runway is visible, as are most stands. Some South Terminal stands are not visible, however. The maintenance area is also not visible.

BLOC5

The old viewing terraces still exist, but will not be reopened.

BLOC’s concept is modern design, and the furniture and fittings in the room are really unique. In this particular room there was a large bed, TV, bathroom (with equally good views),  and a touch-screen control panel to handle the lights, blinds, temperature etc.

One feature that always goes down well with spotters is Wi-Fi, and at the BLOC hotel it’s free for all guests, regardless of which room you stay in. This is ideal for running Flightradar24 or similar flight tracking websites to tie up distant or night time movements. On my stay I also noticed some Heathrow departures flying overhead, which could be identified on the internet.

BLOC6

Be careful when booking at this hotel as some rooms have no windows. These are clearly labelled on the website, and naturally will not offer any views of movements. It is best to try and get a higher room facing the airport (west or south) to ensure you can see movements easily; the benefit of Gatwick only having one runway is that all aircraft will be in the same place at some point.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick

An example of the photographs possible from the BLOC Hotel at Gatwick

Photography through the windows was easy on my stay. The windows were clean, and with a 200mm lens I could photograph any aircraft within a reasonable distance. I found, however, that as the light started to fade the windows took on a slight tint which stopped the ability to take good photographs.

The room rates at the BLOC Hotel are pretty good, and in most cases less than £100 per night for all but the VIP rooms. The website handily lists the full standard rate, and the actual rate they are charging over a range of dates. So you can plan your trip well.

This is easily one of the best spotting hotels I’ve ever experienced. I had the benefit of probably the best room for views, but many others at the hotel offer a similar panorama of this notoriously difficult-to-spot-at airport where nothing will be missed. Add to that easy access, comfortable facilities, friendly staff, and good prices.

BLOC2

To find out more or book a room, visit the BLOC Hotel Gatwick website.

Monarch close to 737 MAX order

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 14-07-2014

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Monarch 737 MAX

Monarch Airlines is close to finalising a deal with Boeing to order 30 737 MAX 8 aircraft as part of its fleet upgrade.

Although it operates a couple of 757-200s, and in the past operated 737-300s, Monarch has been primarily an Airbus operator over recent years. It has a fleet of A320s and A321s, and recently retired its A300-600s. So this move is an interesting development for the UK holiday carrier.

The order is valued at $3.1 billion at current list prices.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in an exhaustive three year evaluation process, and a key part of The Monarch Group’s transformation and renewal,” said Iain Rawlinson, Executive Chairman, The Monarch Group. “Boeing truly understood our business and put together a complete package that fits extremely well with our ambitions for the Group.”

“We are delighted that Monarch intends to structure its future fleet around the 737 MAX,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. “We look forward to finalizing the order and can’t wait to see the Monarch livery on 737s once again. Today is a proud moment for everyone at Boeing, as we welcome back a prestigious U.K. operator. We are confident that the 737 MAX will play a significant role in Monarch’s continued success.”

Livingston closes down today

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Italy, Miscellaneous Spotting, Western Europe | Posted on 14-07-2014

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Livingston

Livingston, the Italian leisure and scheduled airline, will cease flying today after its Air Operators Certificate was revoked.

The airline said in a statement:

New Livingston resolved to apply for the above mentioned instrument, in order to overcome a temporary financial crisis ascribable to, inter alia, the bankruptcy of Aeradria S.p.A., significant delays in collecting certain credits and the recent revocation of the PSO route Alghero – Roma Fiumicino and vice versa (in connection with such measure, a claim against Regione Autonoma della Sardegna is still in progress). The above, in compliance with the so-called “par condicio creditorum”.

New Livingston has already provided to ENAC the documentation needed in order to immediately obtain the revocation of the suspension measure of its carries license starting from 00:01 of  July 14, 2014 or the issuance of a provisional carrier license, on the basis of article 9, paragraph 1, of the Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008 and paragraph 4.6 of the Circular ENAC EAL-16 of 27 February 2008.

3 Cheap Airport View Hotels – 10% off code!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Heathrow, Japan, North America, Spotting Hotels, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 10-07-2014

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If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve probably visited so many airport hotels that they’ve become something of a blur to you — difficult to distinguish from one another. In most cases, their most notable amenity — proximity to the airport and your next flight — is the only reason you’ve selected them.

However, among the world’s thousands of airport hotels, some offer spectacular views of flights arriving and departing from the airport, a welcome change from watching the TV to pass your time. And among these hotels with striking airport views, a select few are affordably priced, making them all the more desirable.

Here are three such properties. All combine memorable airport views with reasonable room rates ($200 per night or less), which sets them apart from run-of-the-mill airport hotels the world over.

As an added incentive for readers of this website, you can get an additional 10 percent discount on any reservations — for these or other hotels — booked through HotelsCheap.org on or before July 31, 2014. More about this later.

Narita Tobu Hotel Airport

Many rooms at Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offer excellent views of arriving and departing flights at Tokyo's Narita International Airport.

Many rooms at Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offer excellent views of arriving and departing flights at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

In 2013, Narita International Airport, which serves Tokyo, ranked 13th among the world’s busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic, serving more than 30.5 million passengers. Located nearby, the 12-story Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offers excellent views of airport action from most guestrooms on its upper floors.

If watching the comings and goings at Narita is important to you, be sure to request a room with a good airport view when booking your reservations. If the view from your room is less than perfect, relax with a drink in the hotel’s top-floor cocktail lounge, where you can be sure to catch all the action.

With rates as low as $116 per night, the hotel is a real bargain. Each of its 484 units features a mini-refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, complimentary wired Internet connection, desk/work area, and an en-suite bathroom with combination shower/tub and complimentary toiletries.

Other hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, health club, sauna, conference/meeting rooms, airport shuttle (complimentary during limited hours), free parking, gift shop/newsstand, game room, and restaurant.

Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel

From your room in Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, you can watch flights come and go at the busiest airport in the United States.

From your room in Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, you can watch flights come and go at the busiest airport in the United States.

For a front-row seat to all the runway action at America’s busiest airport, book a room at Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, where room rates start at less than $100 a night. Many of the guestrooms and suites at the 11-story hotel directly overlook the runways at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which in 2012 handled nearly 46 million passengers.

The hotel’s 380 air-conditioned units have plenty of amenities, including cable/satellite TV with premium movie channels, room service, mini-refrigerators, Internet access (for surcharge), and en-suite bathrooms with shower/tub combinations, hair dryers, and designer toiletries.

Other hotel facilities and services include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a sauna, business center, health club, meeting rooms, a gift shop, porter/bellhop service, safe deposit boxes, and complimentary airport shuttle service.

ibis London Heathrow Airport

The sleekly contemporary front desk at the ibis London Heathrow Airport belies the hotel's cut-rate accommodations.

The sleekly contemporary front desk at the ibis London Heathrow Airport belies the hotel’s cut-rate accommodations.

Part of an international chain of economy hotels, ibis London Heathrow Airport sits near the heart of the action at London’s Heathrow Airport, which in 2013 was the world’s busiest airport according to Airports Council International. From the hotel’s rooms you can see plenty of airport action. What makes a stay at ibis even more attractive are its affordable rates, which start as low as $80.

Each of the air-conditioned guestrooms in the six-story hotel offers cable TV with premium channels, coffee/tea maker, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Some handicap-accessible rooms are available.

Other amenities at ibis include a 24-hour snack bar, business services, 24-hour front desk, parking, and shuttle service to all terminals (added fee). The on-site Foggs restaurant and bar serves breakfast and dinner daily.

To take advantage of HotelsCheap.org’s limited-time discount coupon for followers of Airport Spotting, visit the Loyalty Coupon gateway of HotelsCheap.org. Enter discount code AIRPORTSPOTTING10 in the appropriate field to get 10 percent off the site’s already very-affordable rates on any reservations booked on or before July 31, 2014.

Don Amerman is a travel expert based in Florida and Pennsylvania. He has traveled widely across the United States and overseas as well.

First Airbus A320neo completed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in France, Miscellaneous Spotting, Western Europe | Posted on 05-07-2014

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Airbus has rolled out the first of its new engine option (neo) A320 aircraft at its Toulouse manufacturing base.

The aircraft is MSN 6101, with the apt registration F-WNEO.

Ground tests will start soon on the aircraft, with a first flight scheduled for some time in September.

The A320neo “new engine option” incorporates many innovations, including latest generation engines and large Sharklet wing-tip devices, which together deliver 15 percent in fuel savings and a reduction of 3,600 tonnes of C02 per aircraft per year. It has a total of nearly 2,700 orders received from more than 50 customers since its launch in 2010.

Boeing 727 services return to Europe!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Azerbaijan, Eastern Europe, Spotting News, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 28-06-2014

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Photo (c) Babak T

Photo (c) Babak Taghvaee

A new Boeing 727 scheduled service is to begin in Europe, a number of years since the last was seen.

The route is to be flown by Azerbaijan Airlines, and will link Baku with Geneva, flying twice weekly (Friday and Sunday) using a specially configured aircraft with executive interior. It will seat 65 passengers in a First and Business Class layout.

The route will begin on 11th July, and it is expected that the aircraft used on the service will be 4K-8888, a 727-251 originally operated by Northwest Airlines, and now in a striking livery with immaculate interior.

Flights will be operated with the schedule as follows:

Baku – Geneva, departure 7:55am arrival 9:55am
Geneva – Baku, departure 11:15am arrival 6:55pm

But it will come at a cost. Premium fares will be charged to the mainly business clientèle using the service. Let’s hope it lasts a long time!

 

 

Virgin Atlantic reaches 30. Announces first 787 route

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 24-06-2014

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The first Virgin Atlantic service to New York (c) Steve Fitzgerald

The first Virgin Atlantic service to New York (c) Steve Fitzgerald

Richard Branson’s revolutionary airline, Virgin Atlantic, which was first conceived after he chartered an aircraft in the Caribbean to rescue the travel plans of himself and fellow passengers following a flight cancellation, is now 30 years old.

Richard was caught up in the idea of setting up a new airline arm to his Virgin empire, and soon took delivery of a Boeing 747 to start low fare flights from London Gatwick to New York on 22 June 1984. Passengers would experience staff hired for their fresh outlook on service, and flights with better entertainment and food options.

Virgin Atlantic launch press conference

It would grow to become a major player in long haul travel, both from Gatwick and Heathrow airports. It also opened Virgin Atlantic Little Red, a low-cost domestic airline, in 2013.

Fleet Upgrades

Virgin Atlantic VAA 787-9 Artwork K64012-01

Virgin operates a fleet of Airbus A340 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft, but it has been looking to upgrade with more fuel efficient aircraft.

The airline has been considering what to do about its Airbus A380 order since it deferred delivery, and will make a decision soon.

However, Virgin is due to take delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 aircraft later this year and, to coincide with its 30th anniversary, has announced that the first route of the type will be from London Heathrow to Boston Logan, starting on 28th October.

It is likely the aircraft will be used on crew familiarisation sectors before then, possibly on the Little Red network. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear.

Greenland Express starts flying

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Denmark, North America, Western Europe | Posted on 16-06-2014

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Greenland Express

Greenland Express is a new airline hoping to revitalise air travel and tourism in the northern Danish outpost with low fares and a number of destinations.

The airline will launch services on 17 June using a Fokker 100 aircraft, flown by ACMI operator Denim Air. The aircraft is registered PH-MJP.

The airline is actually based in Aalborg, Denmark. It will offer flights on the following routes:

Aalborg – Kangerlussuaq
Aalborg – Keflavik
Aalborg – Narsarsuaq
Aalborg – Copenhagen
Keflavik – Narsarsuaq
Keflavik – Aalborg
Keflavik – Kangerlussuaq
Keflavik – Copenhagen
Copenhagen – Narsarsuaq
Copenhagen – Kangerlussuaq
Copenhagen – Aalborg
Copenhagen – Keflavik
Narsarssuaq – Aalborg*
Narsarssuaq – Keflavik*
Narsarssuaq – Copenhagen*

* Routing from Narsarssuaq is via Kangerlussuaq.

The airline says of its service: “We are looking forward to offering a new alternative for air transport between Denmark and Greenland with safety and personal service in focus, and at quite competitive prices.”

Heathrow Terminal 2 Opens

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Heathrow, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 04-06-2014

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The first flight arrives at Heathrow's new Terminal 2

The first flight arrives at Heathrow’s new Terminal 2

London Heathrow Airport‘s Terminal 2 has opened to passengers this morning.

The first flight, arriving from Chicago O’Hare at 6am, was operated by United Airlines, who will be the only airline to use the terminal initially. Shortly, however, other Star Alliance carriers will also transfer their operations from other Heathrow terminals, along with Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic Little Red.

The £2.5 billion terminal replaces the original Terminal 2 and Queens Building, which was the first of the central terminals at Heathrow. The new one is much more spacious and has a greater capacity for passengers and aircraft. It features a huge sculpture.

It also has 28 gates, eight A380 piers, 33 shops and 17 restaurants.

What Terminal 2 is like for enthusiasts is not known yet, but we’d love to hear from you if you’re passing through or visiting in the coming days. Are there any views before security? Do the departure lounges have large windows?

You can find out more about spotting at Heathrow here.

AeroLap Paraguay planning Madrid service

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, South America, Spain, Western Europe | Posted on 02-06-2014

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AeroLap Paraguay 767-300 (c) AeroLap

Startup airline AeroLap Paraguay are planning to start a new service from Asuncion to Madrid Barajas according to latest reports.

The airline is investing $180 million in starting operations using a Boeing 767-300, N254MY.

It is hoped that scheduled service to Madrid will begin in December.