UK leisure carrier Thomas Cook Airlines will help deliver passengers from south west England and the Midlands to the island of Malta next summer to embark on Mediterranean cruises. The deal with P&O Cruises will see the airline block off seats on weekly flights between Birmingham, Bristol and Malta over a seven month period next year and highlights the important role that air connectivity plays in supporting the needs of the passenger shipping industry.
Under the partnership P&O Cruises will offer its passengers the opportunity to join Malta itineraries through flights with Thomas Cook Airlines from both Bristol and Birmingham every Thursday from April 6, 2017 to October 19, 2017 and May 4, 2017 to October 19, 2017, respectively. These will be flown with the carrier’s new Airbus A321 fleet.
“Our fly-cruise programme is popular with guests wishing to enjoy the convenience of flying to a destination to board a ship but also wanting to discover a variety of new and interesting ports in one holiday,” said Alex White, vice president of sales, P&O Cruises.
“We have a range of new and exciting Mediterranean fly-cruise itineraries departing from Malta and visiting a number Western, Eastern and Central Mediterranean ports - Malta is our 2017 cruising hotspot,” he added.
Although many cruise itineraries originate in the UK, more and more customers have been taking advantage of low-fare airlines to travel overseas and maximise the time of their breaks by removing long transit times in and out of the Mediterranean and enabling more ports of call to be investigated or even further afield destinations to be explored.
The agreement between P&O Cruises and Thomas Cook Airlines is of benefit to both companies. It will guarantee sales on the carrier’s new Birmingham and Bristol routes to Malta and support their sustainability by reducing the pressure on holiday package and seat-only sales. It will also provide P&O Cruises with greater control over the customer journey.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the “unified global organisation” that unites the cruise industry, has revealed that global cruise travel is continuing to grow and evolve at a record pace. In its ‘2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook’ it said global ocean cruise passengers among its membership would rise between four to five percent this year to 24 million passengers.
The organisation forecasts the industry will continue to be dominated by the Caribbean region (33.7 percent share), but with the historic Mediterranean market remaining the second largest in scale with an 18.7 percent share of ship deployment. Demand for cruising has increased 68 percent in the last ten years, says the CLIA report, and the industry as a whole supports a total economic impact of $119.9 billion.
Just as airports across the world are fighting for new air links into China to take advantage of the country’s burgeoning outbound demand, it’s well established that China is also the next big market for the cruise industry. This year, it's estimated that over a million Chinese will take a cruise holiday, an incredible increase of 500 percent from 2012. If all goes according to plan, the government estimates that by 2020 it will have increased to 4.5 million, provided the infrastructure is made available to support the demand.