United States outbound travel in 2003 dropped for the third straight year; yet travel to overseas destinations showed a strong rebound during the later part the year according to figures only just issued by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, part of Washington's Department of Commerce. Mexico and Canada suffered the worst with the rest of the world up 5%. In 2003, 56.2m US residents traveled abroad for one night or longer. This was down 3% from 2002 and not that much less than the outbound record of 61m in 2000. Mexico was once again the lead destination with 17.6m travelers and Canada the number two at 14.2m. The top five overseas markets visited by US travelers in 2003 were the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Jamaica. Of these, the only markets to experience an increase over 2002 were the UK, which increased to 3.3m plus 1% and Jamaica to 1.5m. Other countries showed large percentage gains but the actual numbers were small. Other statistics issued by the travel and tourism office include top outbound cities, package tourism, decision times and spend. Dec 20, 2004

Airborne Internet problems. Now if there is one quandary that aircraft designers have not overcome is the use of the on board rest rooms (toilets to the English, or "lav" &endash; short for lavatory) as a place to quietly sit and read. With limited facilities on board overindulgence is just not fair. Smoking was banned (don't believe the stories about safety &endash; loo puffers were just taking up too much time) which eliminated some of the waiting period but now we have another problem. It seems that with the emergence of Connexion by Boeing and other airborne Internet systems passengers have been seen taking their laptops into that most private of rooms. New rules and regulations will now have to be organized and no doubt both Airbus and Boeing will come out with stickers (at $100 per sticker &endash; nothing is cheap on an aircraft &endash; and it has to be approved by the joint air worthiness board). "Surfing the Internet whilst in this area is banned! A [pounds sterling]500 fine will be levied and your domain name removed!" Japanese versions as well! Dec 13, 2004

Aer Lingus has announced an additional four new routes to Europe in its summer schedule for 2005. Since the end of 2001 the airline has more than trebled its network of routes, with the introduction of 42 new scheduled services. The new flights from Dublin to Seville, Naples, Marseilles and Hamburg will commence at the end of March 2005. Earlier this year the airline announced four new services from Cork to Munich, Rome, Nice and Faro due to commence at the end of April 2005. Readers may be interested to know that Willie Walsh, chief executive, who recently tendered his resignation together with two other senior members of the management, will be guest of honor at the London Aviation Club on 9 February. Expect a good turnout from the Irish. Dec 20, 2004

AeroMexico will add a fourth daily nonstop flight between Miami and Mexico City Jan. 10 2005 using an MD-80. Dec 16, 2004

AeroMexico will launch twice-weekly nonstop service between Puerto Vallarta and San Diego Jan. 13 2005. Dec 6, 2004

Afriqiyah Airways, the Tripoli-based Libyan airline just about to be privatized, celebrated its third birthday in a unique way by organizing a party in the Sheraton Park Lane London with a picture of Colonel Gaddafi staring down on the 200 guests. The event also celebrated the airline's upping of its recently introduced Gatwick &endash; Tripoli schedule to four times a week, the Libyan capital serving as a hub for various African destinations including Accra and Lagos. Both Paris and Geneva are on the Afriqiyah Airways schedule. The airline operates two class Airbus A320s on the London route and also the Airbus A300 for the longer routes to the south. Future plans include the Airbus A330. Dec 6, 2004

Air China, who operates a daily Boeing 747 service between Heathrow and Beijing, has gained regulatory approval to list its shares on the Hong Kong and London (LSE) Stock Exchanges, with trading scheduled to commence on 15 December. The company, China's largest international carrier, intends to raise an estimated $1bn in the dual listings. The number of overseas airlines on the LSE is very limited typically ANA joining in the early nineties and subsequently delisting. In another move the China Aviation Supplies Import & Export Group Corporation (CASGC) has announced its decision to acquire 23 Airbus A320 series aircraft, a mixture of A319 and A320, these said to be for the use of Air China. Dec 13, 2004

Air Finland will start a twice-weekly service from Helsinki to Rome Ciampino using 757-200s April 22 2005. Dec 21, 2004

Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines equity held by the French State is now down to 20% following a share sale as planned. This reduction in the government holding is in line with the arrangements agreed between the French and Dutch under the agreement to merge Air France and KLM. As agreed with the unions, present and former employees of Air France and its subsidiaries will be entitled to purchase Air France &endash; KLM shares at a discount under a rights issue in return for a wage cut. A statement from AF makes it clear that the French government plans to remain a major shareholder of the Air France &endash; KLM Group. Dec 13, 2004

Air Namibia is in final talks to add two former Sabena A340-300s to its fleet. Currently it has one ex-Swiss MD-11 in operation on its four weekly Windhoek-Frankfurt services. "With the A340-300s we are also looking to open London again," CEO and Technical Adviser Riedel Gernot said. The airline's aging fleet of three 737-200s will be flying until 2006 when their leases expire Dec 10, 2004

Polish startup Air Polonia halted operations Sunday, grounding its three 737s. The airline was headed by former LOT Polish Airlines CEO Jan Litwinski. According to wire service reports, Air Polonia said it reached agreement with Sky Europe of Slovakia to transport its passengers, while separately, Wizz Air, which operates from bases in Poland and Hungary, offered to transport stranded Air Polonia passengers. In a statement, Wizz Air said it was offering free tickets for all passengers holding valid reservations with Air Polonia, with only taxes and charges to be paid. The Associated Press reported that Air Polonia suspended operations after an investor canceled plans to inject $10 million into the airline. Dec 7, 2004

Air Polonia canceled all its flights indefinitely on Sunday December 5 2004 stranding passengers. Both SkyEurope and Wizz Air have rushed in with help offering free flights for stranded passengers subject to space availability when booking and the payment of taxes and airport fees. Air Polonia flew from Stansted to Bydgoszcz, Gdansk, Katowice, Poznan, Szczecin, and Warsaw. It is a Boeing 737 operator and was founded in 2001. Dec 6, 2004

AirBaltic will launch two weekly 737-500 flights to Istanbul from Riga March 1 2005, rising to three during the summer season. Dec 7, 2004

AirBaltic will launch flights between Riga and St. Petersburg using F50s. The four-times-weekly service will be operated in code share with Pulkovo Airlines. Dec 2, 2004

Airsea Lines has inaugurated their Corfu seaplane services. Using 19- seat DHC Twin Otter, float planes the airline is linking Corfu Gouvia marina (ten minutes drive north of Corfu airport) to Paxos, Kefalonia, Ioannina and Patras, plus Brindisi in Italy. A second hub at Athens Flisvos marina is due to open for the Christmas holiday season with a third center at Patros expected to open with the April 2005 summer airline program. We would like to compliment Airsea Lines for the TV media coverage clipping on its website. However it is all Greek to us! Dec 6, 2004

AirTran Airways initiated new daily nonstop service from Sarasota/Bradenton to Atlanta and Baltimore. Dec 21, 2004

Kuwait-based Al-Jazeera Airways placed an order with Airbus for four A320s with options for four more. Each will be outfitted with 165 seats in a single-class layout and deliveries are expected to begin in Oct. Engine choice has yet to be made. Al-Jazeera Airways expects to begin operations in Feb. with flights to key business and leisure destinations throughout the Middle East using two leased A320s. Initial destinations include Dubai, Bahrain, Amman, Damascus, Beirut and Egypt, with further expansion planned to include cities on the Indian subcontinent. The new entrant is the latest of a number of carriers who have placed orders for the A320. Recently, Air Deccan ordered 30 and last week AirAsia ordered 40 with 40 options and India's Kingfisher placed an order for 10 with 20 options. Dec 23, 2004

Al-Jazeera Airways, Kuwait's first private airline, has been approved by the Gulf state's government and will launch in February initially operating a pair of leased Airbus A320s. Al-Jazeera plans budget style regional flights to Bahrain and Dubai and Middle Eastern routes to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt at its onset. Its primary expansion plan for the next five years is to fly to more Gulf and Middle Eastern states. Last year, the government of oil-rich Kuwait moved to open up its airline sector for competition by approving the establishment of private passenger and no frills carriers, as well as air freight companies. A public offering of shares was 12 times over subscribed. Al-Jazeera is the Arabic word for "the island", but it is also used to mean the Arabian peninsula, which includes Kuwait. http://www.kuwait- Dec 20, 2004

Alaska Airlines will begin a daily nonstop roundtrip between Anchorage and Phoenix from June 5. It launches daily service between Vancouver and San Diego Feb. 13 and will add...

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