Ryanair boosts route options

Ryanair is to launch two new routes from Cork, opening the option of visiting two Irish cities in one trip.

The carrier will launch flights from Cork to London Gatwick and Dublin on November 24.

The possible routings from the UK include Gatwick-Cork-Dublin-Gatwick, Stansted-Cork-Dublin-Stansted, or Liverpool-Cork-Dublin-Liverpool, as Ryanair already offers flights from Cork to Stansted and Liverpool. Customers could also vary their departure and arrival UK airport, for example, leaving from Gatwick and returning to Liverpool.

All this comes at no extra cost according to Ryanair spokesman, Peter Sherrard, who told Businesstraveller.com: “Our flights are booked on a one-way basis so there’s no extra charge unlike other airlines, where you’d pay a business class fare just because the booking was one-way.”

One drawback is that the multi-trip routing cannot be booked in one transaction online, as each leg has to be bought separately, so it’s wise to check the price on all legs before starting to make your booking.

Some of the routes are part of Ryanair’s four million seat sale, which lasts until October 6, so fares on Cork-Dublin are from five cents (E18 including tax) and on Cork-Gatwick are from one cent (E10 including tax).

Report by Ginny McGrath

Virgin Trains lounge upgrade

Virgin first class passengers can now make use of the refurbished first class lounge at Euston Station, following its £175,000 make over. The lounge is split into three areas, for work, quiet time (where mobile phones will not be allowed), or relaxation.

New features include flat-screen TVs, soft chairs, internet points and wifi access, along with a photocopier and fax in the working area. There is also a new reception and luggage area, and the shower and toilet facilities have been upgraded. In addition, the quiet room can be booked for private meetings.

The Euston first class lounge, which attracted over 180,000 passengers last year, now also features a licensed bar, open 11am-11pm Monday to Friday, 11am – 2pm Saturdays and 2pm – 11pm Sundays. Passengers travelling first class with Virgin Trains may use any of their lounges nationwide on the day of travel, where they can enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks.

Dennis Lovett, press officer for Virgin Trains, said: “We inherited our lounges from Intercity, and with the amount of use they get, they were in need of a revamp. This is the last of our lounges to be refurbished, following the recent refit of Manchester Piccadilly, meaning first class passengers can now enjoy enhanced facilities in all of the lounges.”

Report by Mark Caswell

NY carriers go head-to-head

Just a week after Maxjet unveiled its plans for a business-class only London-New York flight, a rival has announced it has started taking reservations.

Eos will launch daily flights between London Stansted and New York on November 1, in direct competition with Maxjet, which plans to launch on the same day. The carrier announced this week that it has started taking reservations, following receipt of certification from the Federal Aviation Authority (Eos is US-based).

The Eos flight will leave Stansted at 10.30am and arrive in New York at 1.29pm, which compares to Maxjet’s timings half an hour earlier. The return service departs New York at 7.05pm and arrives in Stansted at 7.30am, again half an hour later than the Maxjet flight.

Where the two carriers differ is on price. Eos plans to charge from £2,500 for a return ticket, rising to £3,500 after the introductory offer expires. This compares to the £1,278 return ticket price being charged by Maxjet.

The explanation is in the product – Eos has 48 suites per aircraft, which offer 21-square feet of space per passenger and come with a second seat that can be used by a travelling companion for dining together. The seat then reclines into a 78-inch flat bed. Maxjet offers102 roomy business class seats arranged six across (2-2-2) featuring 60 inches of legroom.

From January 3 2006, Eos hopes to add a second daily flight, leaving Stansted at 4.15pm and arriving in New York at 7.14pm, with the return service leaving New York at 9.15pm and arriving in Stansted at 9.40 am.
For more information visit www.eosairlines.com and www.maxjet.com.

– KLM will introduce its business-class only flight from Amsterdam to Houston on October 30.The flights will be operated by a Boeing 737-700 aircraft with 44 lie-flat seats in a 2-2 configuration with plug-in points for laptop computers. Flights will operate six times a week and will supplement the existing daily flights between the two cities, which continue to operate on a two-class basis.

Report by Ginny McGrath

Shangri-La opens in Delhi

Delhi’s five-star hotels will have to raise their game following the arrival of a Shangri-La property in the city.

The Shangri-La Hotel, New Delhi opened on September 8 close to Connaught Place, the commercial hub of New Delhi and location of most of the city’s western brand hotels. It is a 40-minute drive from the airport.

The hotel has undergone a “soft opening”, so only a handful of the 323 bedrooms are currently available, but the Café Uno restaurant, with open kitchen and outdoor terrace dining, bar, lounge, Uno 2 Go patisserie and health club with gym, indoor and outdoor whirlpool and outdoor pool, are all open.

All rooms have high-speed internet access and wireless internet access, plus there’s a business centre, three meeting rooms and a ballroom that can be divided into four.

The grand opening will take place in early November, when the hotel’s pan-Asian restaurant serving Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine, will open. The Horizon Floor, an executive level with 78 bedrooms, separate concierge and lounge, will also open in November.

Rooms start at $365 including tax for a single superior room occupancy and $20 more for a double room. For more information go to www.shangri-la.com.

The opening of this outpost from the luxury Asian brand is sure to stir Delhi’s hotel scene, currently dominated by the Oberoi and Taj groups, althougha doubling of the frequency of flights between the UK and India over the past year means demand for hotel rooms in the Indian capital is expected to rise.

Report by Ginny McGrath

Hong Kong presence for luxury hotel brand

Four Seasons has unveiled its latest hotel in Asia.

The luxury property, which opened this month, is located in Hong Kong. It is part of the International Financial Centre, a contemporary mixed-use development of shops, offices and apartments located at Central Waterfront, 23 minutes via the Airport Express train from Chek Lap Kok Airport.  

The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is next to Four Seasons Place, the luxury offering from the brand that caters for long-stay guests.

The 399-room hotel has two restaurants: Caprice serves French cuisine and has been created by the team from the three-star Michelin restaurant in the Four Seasons George V in Paris; and Lung King Heen, which serves contemporary Cantonese food.

There is also a bar and lounge, plus a series of meeting rooms including two ballrooms that overlook Victoria Harbour and seven smaller rooms.

The spa has 18 treatment rooms, a vitality pool, crystal steam room, ice fountain and Finnish sauna. There is also an Executive Club floor where guests have harbour views and can access business and concierge service 24 hours a day.

Rates start from HK$3,200 (£230) for a Deluxe Peak View Room including breakfast for two, excluding tax and service. The hotel is the second of three Four Seasons properties opening in Asia. The Shanghai hotel is already operating and the Beijing property is under construction. For reservations contact 00 800 6488 6488 or visit www.fourseasons.com.

Report by Ginny McGrath

NY flights for Stansted

Yet another transatlantic all-business class airline has come forward. And this time it stands a better chance of getting off the ground.

US-based Maxjet has announced plans to fly from London Stansted to New York JFK from November 1.  The service will operate daily (except Saturday) with a wide-bodied B767 configured with 102 roomy business class seats arranged six across (2-2-2) featuring 60 inches of legroom.

The flight will depart Stansted at 10.00 arriving JFK at 13.00. On the return, passengers will leave JFK at 18.30 to arrive Stansted at 07.00.

In-flight service will be to normal long-haul business class standards and passengers will have use of deluxe lounges at both ends of the route.

Tickets will cost from £1,278 return (including taxes and charges), which is substantially less than the prices charged by the big airlines out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

A spokesperson for Maxjet said that the airline hopes to appeal to firms based in London’s Canary Wharf and the City. It will also prove convenient for travellers based in East Anglia and the Midlands from where there are convenient road links to Stansted. Maxjet also hopes to attract passengers flying into Stansted with the budget airlines, especially those coming from cities with no transatlantic service.

But, despite the keen prices, the carrier admits it will be “a challenge” filling 102 business class seats from Stansted. That’s because Heathrow and Gatwick are convenient for a great many people and because flight frequency from these two airports is so much greater, plus there’s competition from newcomer Eos (see below). 
You can book flights with Maxjet from September 26.  The airline can be contacted on 0800 0234300 or visit  www.maxjet.com

* Maxjet faces direct competition from Business class-only carrier Eos, which plans to launch flights from New York to Stansted on November 1. Fares start at £3,500 return, but there is an introductory fare of £2,500.

Report by Alex McWhirter

Step closer to in-flight mobiles

Shrill ring tones and loud chatter could be coming to an aircraft cabin near you from next year following initiatives by two European airlines to enable mobile phone use in-flight.

If Bmi and TAP Portugal go ahead with plans announced this week, mobile phones and GPRS-enabled devices such as the Blackberry, could be used by passengers travelling with both carriers from the end of next year. Both are partnering with technology provider OnAir, which is working with Airbus and Siemens to develop the technology.

The in-flight service, which is yet to receive regulatory approval, will begin initially as a test phase, available only on certain routes.

Bmi chief executive Nigel Turner stressed that this is not just to pilot the technology but also to evaluate the “social issues” surrounding mobile phone use in-flight. But he added: “Our research tells us that our premium passengers have two key concerns. These are getting quickly through the airport and the ability to carry on working during their journey.”

The debate over the use of mobile phones on aircraft is raging in the US where authorities are considering removing a 14-year ban. While business travellers are broadly in support of use of mobile phones in-flight, the organisation representing flight attendants says its members are concerned that use of phones in-flight could spark “air rage” incidents and also pose a security threat.

Report by Ginny McGrath

Geneva route hots up

Scottish low-cost airline, Flyglobespan is launching flights on a key business route out of Stansted.

The airline will launch flights from the Essex airport to Geneva on December 22 following the acquisition of two Boeing 737-600s from SAS.

Flyglobespan faces direct competition with three other airlines operating between London and Geneva: Swissair, British Airways and Easyjet.

It will also launch a London Stansted-Tenerife service from November 1. Existing Flyglobespan services include flights from London Stansted to Glasgow and Edinburgh, which launched on June 1, and carried 20,000 passengers in the first three months, according to the airline. 

Managing director and chairman, Tom Dalrymple has also announced his intention to launch further routes from London. “We want to mirror what we have achieved in Scotland in the important London market and we are actively looking at extending our network of flights and services available from Stansted,” he said.

Report by Ginny McGrath

Buenos Aires opening for Hyatt

Park Hyatt is converting a 1930s Argentinian palace into a striking hotel in the heart of the country’s capital.

Called Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, the 165-room hotel is set to open early next year, and is expected to wow both the business and leisure markets.

The hotel is located in the Recoleta district, which is home to other upmarket hotels such as Four Seasons and Kempinski properties, as well as a popular shopping district.

The restored palace, a remnant of the district’s aristocratic past, is surrounded by landscaped gardens designed by Carlos Thais, who also designed the botanical gardens of Buenos Aires. There are 23 rooms and suites in the main palace, while the remaining 142 are in a separate Posada-style building, linked by an underground walkway, and constructed to complement the architectural style of the palace.

The top suite, The Duhau Suite is on the top floor of the palace and has a private terrace overlooking the gardens.

The hotel’s lavish interior, with its bespoke furniture, will also feature an extensive art collection by local and international artists. The hotel will have wireless internet access in public areas and high-speed wired access in all guest rooms.

The restaurant serves international cuisine and is supplemented by a wine bar and cheese room, while the main bar has a 300-year old Normandy oak bar, a wood-burning fireplace, and its own terrace, or there’s a more genteel affair next door serving breakfast, afternoon tea and snacks.

Guests will also have access to a gym, indoor swimming pool and five treatment rooms, and there is underground parking for 150 cars. There is a business centre with four computers offering wired and wireless internet access, plus five meeting rooms, two boardrooms, and an event space large enough to hold 300 guests, or the gardens can be hired for receptions.

The Buenos Aires property is one of 28 Hyatt hotels and resorts currently under development, which includes ten hotels in China. For more information go to www.hyatt.com

Report by Ginny McGrath

Fairmont eyes Europe

The luxury hotel group Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has announced more details of its expansion plans.

The group, which currently has 44 hotels around the world, announced at the weekend that it is actively seeking properties in Milan, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin, and aims ultimately to have 10 hotels across Europe.

The announcement was made by John Johnston, executive vice-president for Europe, Africa, Middle East of Fairmont Hotels at the group’s Monte Carlo property. The hotel is a new acquisition for Fairmont and this week celebrated its 30th birthday following a rebrand in March this year. The group also took over ownership of London’s iconic The Savoy in January 2005. 

The focus on Europe will put Fairmont in direct competition with the Jumeriah group, which is actively expanding, and Shangri-la, which is expected in the near future to announce the site for its first US property.

Report by Tom Otley