This week's News in Brief
AEA reports 5.4m fewer passengers
Association of European Airlines (AEA) members carried 366m passengers last year, 5.4m fewer than in 2007.
The AEA blamed the decrease in part to airline restructuring in some domestic markets, and pointed out that passenger-kilometre traffic had risen 1.2%.
December's figures showed passenger traffic down 3.5% on 2007 across every region except Europe and the Middle East.
Cargo traffic slumped 21.4%, the steepest on record according to the AEA.
"We have seen figures as weak as these on only three occasions in the last 25 years", said AEA secretary general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.
"in 1986, when Chernobyl and the US bombing of Libya caused major disruptions in travel patterns, in 1991 when the first Gulf War had a similar effect, and in 2001-2002 following the 9/11 attacks.
"This time the upheavals are economic, and likely to be more powerful and longer-lasting than the external shocks of the past."
Egencia reports 24% rise in revenue
Online business travel agency Egencia reported a 24% rise in revenue for 2008.
The agency, part of the Expedia group, celebrated its sixth anniversary in 2008.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia's ceo, said: "Egencia on a relative basis performed better than the leisure businesses, although based on business travel demand in 2009, you will see with Egencia that same-store sales are going to be down, but new sales - our ability to go out and get new clients - are stronger than they ever have been."
Starwood announces first French W property
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has unveiled plans to open the W Paris-Opéra in 2011, the brand's debut in France.
The 90-room property, located in Paris' Opéra area, will be owned by Meridia Capital, a Barcelona-based real estate fund.
W Paris-Opéra will be the brand's eighth European property, following the opening of W Istanbul in 2008, and the upcoming W Hotels in Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Athens, Manchester, Milan and London.
Qatar reduces fuel surcharges
Qatar Airways has reduced its fuel surcharges by up to 20%, effective on bookings made on or after February 16.
Fuel surcharges to Doha have reduced from £96 to £78 return. The surcharge on India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal flights are reduced from £106 to £86 return.
Orbitz signs up Accor portfolio
Orbitz Worldwide has signed a multi-year distribution agreement with the Accor Group.
The online travel company will now be able to distribute hotel bookings to Accor's 1,100-strong portfolio which includes Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel and Mercure.
Air France-KLM to merge UK ground operations
Air France and KLM have announced their first synergy since coming under a shared ownership.
KLM Ground Services Ltd (KGS) and Air France Services Ltd (AFSL) will merge on 1 April 2009 to become Cobalt Ground Solutions Ltd, a joint UK subsidiary.
The new ground handling operator will be the largest at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 4 and London City Airport, with an annual turnover of £36m and a work force of 782.
Cobalt's managing director Corneel Koster said all staff would be retained with expansion at London City anticipated ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
Mr Koster revealed the significance behind Cobalt's distinctive name, a blending of both airlines' colours.
"Whilst we are grateful and proud of our roots and the strong backing of the Air France-KLM Group, we feel it is important that Cobalt will be a neutral company able to deal with all airlines on its own terms and without any brand conflicts," he said.