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Flight and bookings for Africa, easyJet moves, Dreamliner in the UK, Cleartrip teams with Visa and more…our pick of the week’s news

Africa take off

As the Chinese say Africa is the last ‘golden land’.  Perhaps unsurprisingly then somebody has moved to tap the low-cost market. Flights in Africa are among the most expensive in world. But now the first low cost airline for Africa will take to the skies this week from Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania. New hubs are expected in Kenya next and then in Ghana and Angola. Backed by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou Fastjet, British management team promises to "give people used to 12 hour bus rides the option to fly". Fastjet, by offering base fares from £13, before taxes aims to make flying cheaper than taking a bus.  The firm’s British management team hails from other low-cost carriers British including easyJet, FlyBe and Ryanair so the low-cost experience is certainly. Let us see how they tackle Africa.

Bookable Africa

With low costs flights between some African countries now imminent, now you need to book that hotel. This week on we talk to another company that is taking Africa seriously., a curated market place or online travel agent, will launch early next year to simplify what is a very complicated distribution chain. The aim is to helping Africa’s small-to-medium sized specialty lodgings and tour operators become bookable online, thus securing more direct bookings, something many African firms now lose out on. By early next year the firm expects to launch with 500 bookable African properties, following which it will launch a marketing toolbox. From there the intention is rapid expansion to other emerging markets in Latin America and Asia.

Dream becomes reality

The long anticipated Dreamliner service from London to the capital city of Qatar, Doha will soon take off. On December 13, the new more comfortable and environmentally friendly aircraft will leave Heathrow on its first commercial flight for the Qatari city.

Dreamliner will make just one daily departure from London to the Qatari city while other flights to this destination will be on older aircraft. Although these aircrafts have already been in commercial service in Japan for more than a year the arrival in the UK has taken a little longer than expected. understands that a social media campaign will be run around the launch, so watch this space for details.

Easy seating

Listening to one’s customers is something travel firms are told to do all the time and it seems easyJet is doing this with its decision to extend its seat booking service to all routes. Till now this has only been available on a limited number of flights from selected airports.

The move means that passengers are able to choose a seat when they book - previously the airline operated a first-come, first-served policy. This is, of course, a move to drive ancillary revenues. Under the new system all passengers are assigned a seat number. But to choose your seat you must pay £3 and to reserve seats with extra legroom costs £12. easyJet’s decision to offer allocated seating was in response to customer demand.

….and Easy looks to business

easyJet has been looking at ways to increase its business travellers. Now it has signed an agreement with a business travel management firm in Belfast, in what is being described as one of the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. The company, Selective Travel Management will help the low-cost carrier make inroads into the business travel market. For easyJet this could mean up to 10,000 additional business passengers willing to step aboard in Belfast for other destinations across Europe. The deal covers easyJet's entire route network, including its new route from Belfast to Birmingham.

Payment perks

Middle Eastern travel portal, Cleartrip, has teamed up with Visa International to give the payment firm’s credit and debit cardholders the convenience of booking international flights and hotels online.  The agreement means that once the Visa cardholder uses the card on he or she is entitled to book from any of Cleartrip's network of hotels and airlines while getting up to 30% money back on their total travel cost. The move is driven by the rapid growth in long bookings, says Tarique Khatri, senior vice president at Cleartrip. In 2011, 39% of all online bookings in the Middle East were made through online travel agencies, and the gross booking value is set to nearly double from $3.1bn to $6bn by 2014m.

TravelStart in Turkey

More moves in Africa from South African online travel agency TravelStart, said to be the largest and fastest growing travel group on the continent.  Already in Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and most recently Turkey, not it has expanded into Turkey. Next year it is Egypt and in 2013 plans are afoot to add more African countries.

Travelstart was launched in South Africa in 2006 by online travel entrepreneur Stephan Ekbergh, who says “Launching in Turkey has been a huge initiative and will strengthen our position as a global travel brand!” There is already plenty of competition in Turkey. TravelStart will trade as Geziko in Turkey (Gezi meaning travel/trip/journey in the local lingo). 

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