This week”s ”On Tour” is a quick look of the Business Travel Show written to try and give a perspective to the show for the visitor before arriving, whether trade buyer, professional traveller or a supplier to the industry. We do not have the space to mention every exhibitor. Even with its limited scope allow for a day to make your way around the show. There's a cafe /bar on the ground floor, Pizza Express and Virgin usually has some fine examples (of in-flight catering) on offer. ABTN would be interested to hear from readers on this style of preview.
The Business Travel Show runs at London Olympia from Tuesday to Thursday this week, opening at 0930 and closing for the first two days at 1745 and 1630 on the final afternoon. Let”s be kind and say that Olympia survived the Second World War and today is a classic, slightly updated, Victorian cast iron exhibition centre.
If you are coming in from Heathrow catch the Piccadilly Line to Barons Court and take Gliddon Road going north until you reach Hammersmith Road where you turn right for Olympia. It”s a half mile walk. Underground users can also connect direct to the exhibition shuttle at Earls Court where there are reasonably frequent departures to Kensington Olympia . It might surprise some people but you can go direct from Gatwick to Kensington Olympia by Southern Trains taking only 35 minutes. This is backed up by Silverlink from Clapham Junction, running through to Watford. Virgin Trains offer a free First Class upgrade on services into Euston, but you must pre-book.
Press visitors should note that the International Media Centre is in the same position as last year, in the gallery adjoining the walkway through to the parallel Travel Technology Show. If your interest is in the Seminar and Masterclass programme the full schedule runs through all three days and is on the show website. Each session lasts at least one hour, the cost £30 per session with a discount for multiple bookings. ”Outsourcing” is amongst the various topics as is ”getting to grips with ground transportation”.
Entering Olympia”s National Hall, the layout for 2005 is much the same as last year with the Gallery main access via stairs to the left centrally located. Straight ahead and to your right is the Star Alliance stand, one of the largest at the show. bmi is the host airline from a grouping that now includes some 16 carriers. With the exception of British Airways, in its traditional spot to the left of the main thoroughfare, and Cyprus Airways, tucked away under the stairs to the gallery, the vast majority of the airlines are to the right of the ground floor, with the emerging Middle East carriers keen to show their awareness of the business travel market, new seats and new innovations on display. Travellers need to ask ”when can the product be guaranteed”.
By late February Malaysia will have reconfigured all 15 of its Boeing 777-200s and 17 747-400 with flat beds as part of a £90m upgrade of its premium classes.
Qatar is also taking the ”flat bed” route but will not be raising its profile until it can guarantee all the London departures. Still under wraps as we went to press Gulf Air is likely to spring a surprise at the show, whilst enterprising newcomer Etihad has waded in with a very large stand and a preview of its new offering. Royal Brunei Airlines has now through flights to Australia twice weekly and is also offering 6” 3” long flat beds. This is also the first time that all nine airline partners of the Skyteam Alliance have exhibited together at the show, erstwhile rivals Air France and Continental entwined together on one stand.
ABTN”s sponsor OAG has for 2005 moved to the ground floor, on a site to the left of the hall involving Accor Hotels and BTI. The full range of products are on live display and you can try the mobile Flightfinder on an Ipaq pocket PC. Your friends can subscribe for free to ABTN on a screen.
The so-called ”major low cost airlines” don”t like to spend their mammoth advertising budgets at the show (although easyJet is represented at the seminars) but FlyBe has always been a supporter, tucked in around the USA Pavilion, Japan Air Lines and P & O Travel. Scot Airways is represented as is Air Berlin. Up on the gallery you will find regulars VLM, Air China, Luxair and SN Brussels as well as London Air Charter representing the pure executive style of travel.