Rezidor SAS to launch lifestyle hotel

Rezidor SAS has announced a new partnership with Italian fashion house Missoni with a view to launching a new lifestyle hotel.

The worldwide license agreement means that Rezidor expects to open three Hotel Missonis in 2007 and have 30 completed or under development by 2010. The UK is expected to be the location for one of the first of the new hotels.

The new Hotel Missonis will reflect ‘a contemporary Italian life and style’. President and CEO of Rezidor SAS Kurt Ritter said: “It’s a very unique brand, with a great heritage, a very identifiable look, and real family values. I’m sure when we launch in 2007, Hotel Missoni is going to create quite and impact on the market.”

It’s not the first time that Rezidor has attempted such a move. Rezidor was previously linked with Italian label Cerutti only two years ago, and launched five hotels. At the time of going to press, there was no comment as to the future of that brand.

However Rezidor is confident the Missoni partnership will develop. Gordon McKinnon, senior vice president marketing, brand and corporate communication said: “This process will be very interesting because it is a long term relationship.”

Report by Felicity Cousins

The LCY hub

Belgian airline VLM is speeding tens of thousands of business people between airports in the Benelux countries and Manchester, Liverpool, Jersey, the Isle of Man and vice versa.

VLM’s commercial director Peter Kenworthy told Business Traveller, “We already serve a number of key cities from London City but now we are seeing an increasing number of passengers using our network to make connections via City.  On some flights we find that 20% of passengers are making connections either to another VLM flight or to a different carrier.”

The airline claims that passengers will transfer at LCY even in cases where there are direct flights because the timings can be more convenient.  Says Kenworthy, “We can get a business traveller from Brussels to Manchester via City earlier than the first non-stop flight.  With VLM you can depart Brussels at 07.15 and following a 50 minute transfer you would reach Manchester at 09.05.  The first non-stop flight doesn’t depart Brussels until 09.30 so you wouldn’t reach Manchester until 09.50.”

Schedules are geared for productive day trips on routes like Manchester-Rotterdam, Brussels-Isle of Man and Liverpool-Antwerp.

Benelux cities served by VLM are Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Luxembourg and Rotterdam.  The carrier operates over 40 flights a day from London City and carries over 550,000 passengers a year with a fleet of F50 turbo-props.

For more information go to

Report by Alex McWhirter

Emirates B777-300ERs to offer more premium class comfort

Emirates will begin offering UK premium ticket passengers more comfortable first and business class seating from mid-December.

Keith Longstaff, the Dubai carrier’s senior VP commercial operations in Europe revealed to Business Traveller that new B777-300ERs will be arriving on selected routes. “They will be taking over flights currently flown by smaller A330s which will mean we will be able to offer 60% more seats overall.”

Premium fare passengers benefit the most because first class passengers will get fully lie flat beds. And while Emirates still hasn’t gone down the lie-flat (or even lie-flat style) route with business class, the seat pitch on the B777ERs will be increased from 50 to 60 inches.

Adds Longstaff, “Glasgow-Dubai will be the first route to see the B777-300ERs from December 15.  London will follow in the first quarter of next year.  This plane will also take over one of our two daily flights from Manchester.”

Emirates departs for Dubai from five UK airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. The carrier claims that between 60% and 70% of UK passengers are making onward connections at Dubai for destinations in Asia, Africa and Australasia.

For more information go to

Report by Alex McWhirter

Krakow arrives on the aviation map

The popular business and tourist destination of Krakow receives a big boost in air service next year.

The Slovakian budget carrier Skyeurope will connect this Southern Polish city with eight new destinations including major cities in the UK and mainland Europe.

The new weekly schedules, which will be phased in from the start of the summer season on March 26, include Athens (two flights), Bologna (three flights), Brussels (three flights),  Naples (two flights), Stockholm (four flights) and Turin (three flights).

The two new UK destinations are Birmingham (two flights from April 12) and the Scottish capital of Edinburgh (three flights from April 13).

Skyeurope wants to cash in on the growing visitor and worker traffic both from and to Krakow. Services to Birmingham. Bologna and Turin are likely to be popular with the motor industry (there’s a joint Fiat/GM engine plant and Fiat vehicle factory near Krakow).

Tickets will be keenly priced. For example, in April Skyeurope is charging from £80 return from either Birmingham or Edinburgh.

Existing Skyeurope services operate from London Stansted, Manchester, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona (Summer season only), Milan (Bergamo), Paris (Orly) and Rome.

Other flights to Krakow from the UK are flown by British Airways and Central Wings from Gatwick, Ryanair from Stansted and Easyjet from Luton.

For more information go to

Report by Alex McWhirter

Oman opening for Shangri-La

Shangri-La will quietly open its first hotel in Muscat next month, cementing the city’s reputation as a business and leisure contender to Dubai.

The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa will get underway near the Oman capital at the start of December, although this is a “soft opening”, which will see the hotel operating under capacity until early January, when it will officially open.

Located 40 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes out of town, the resort hotel is set in 124 acres of landscaped gardens in a private bay. The resort complex incorporates three hotels, a heritage village championing local arts and culture, and a river linking its two outdoor swimming pools. There is also a 1,000 seat amphitheatre, a business centre, free shuttle bus to shopping and business districts, and 11 meeting rooms plus a ballroom.

The hotel will also have extensive leisure facilities including an outlet of the Shangri-La spa brand, Chi Spa (like the one in Bangkok, pictured), with 12 treatment rooms, a dive school, water sports centre, gym, tennis courts, private beaches, and 19 different food and drink outlets, offering a range of formal and informal dining options.

The three hotels are geared towards different guests, with a family hotel, five star option and deluxe five star, where all guests have their own butler and the hotel has a private gym, beach and infinity swimming pool. All rooms have sea views and private terrace or balcony, plus broadband internet access, electronic safes and satellite television. Rates start at £126 at the family hotel, Al Waha, £168 at the five star property, Al Bandar, and £238 at the top hotel, Al Husn.

Other Shangri-La hotels in the pipeline include properties in Chiang Mai and Suzhou, set to open next year and an extension to the Shangri-La in Beijing, the group’s first London hotel will not open until 2009. For more information go to

Report by Ginny McGrath

Manchester to get direct Abu Dhabi flight

Etihad Airways is set to launch flights from Manchester to its UAE-hub next year.

The daily flights will launch in March 2006, with Eithad hoping to carry point-to-point traffic as well as taking passengers from Manchester onto Asia, including destinations such as Bangkok, Colombo, and New Delhi.

The northern city is the third UK departure airport for Eithad, which also operates flights from Heathrow and Gatwick to Abu Dhabi.

The airline will operate the route using Airbus A330 aircraft, configured in three classes, Diamond, Pearl and Coral, which equate to business class, premium economy and economy.

The only existing flights between Manchester and Abu Dhabi are operated via other destinations by Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways. Eithad has not yet released fares for the route.

The carrier currently operates to 19 destinations but hopes to expand this to 70 by 2010. Etihad has ordered five Boeing 777ER aircraft, which it will receive in January 2006, plus 12 Airbus 330s and 12 A340s, to arrive early next year, in addition to four of the Airbus “super jumbo” A380 aircraft, which are currently being used in test flights, and will be delivered in January 2008. For more information go to

Report by Ginny McGrath

Paris hotel changes hands

The InterContinental Paris, one of the city’s largest luxury properties, has reopened as a Westin hotel.

The hotel, which is located in Place Vendome and overlooks the Jardin des Tuileries, is well placed for the shops, attractions and businesses of central Paris, and is just afew steps from the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.

The Westin Paris underwent a soft opening this month, but following a E12 million refurbishment, it will open officially in the first quarter of 2006, equipped with the hallmarks of the Westin brand. This includes Westin’s Heavenly Beds, Heavenly Baths, and WestinWorkout Rooms, which come with exercise equipment.

In the meantime rates have been slashed to E249 for bookings up to February 28.

The 438-bedroom property has 78 suites, with rooms overlooking either the Jardin des Tuileries, Place Vendome or the hotel grounds. Rooms have high-speed wireless internet access and there is internet access through the television for guests who don’t bring a laptop.

The hotel has 12 meeting rooms and a ballroom of 400 square metres. The gourmet 234 Rivoli restaurant extends in the summer to encompassLa Terrasse Fleurie, and there is a cocktail bar, Tuileries Bar, which is open for snacks from 10am.

The InterContinental group has maintained a foothold in Paris with the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris, a nineteenth century hotel that overlooks Opéra Square.

For more information go to   

Report by Ginny McGrath

Bliss Spa opens in Chicago

Bliss, the spa company famed for its oxygen facials and brownie buffets has opened a sixth outlet

Bliss, the spa company famed for its oxygen facials and brownie buffets has opened a sixth outlet.
The opening of Bliss Chicago in the city’s W Lakeshore hotel last month follows the opening of the fifth sybaritic outlet in the W San Francisco this summer.

The spa, located on the eighth floor of the Chicago hotel, is 9,000 square feet and includes 16 treatment rooms, a beauty products boutique, four movie-while-you-manicure stations, and separate men’s and women’s lounges. The background music is rhythm and blues.
Guests staying at the W hotel get samples of Bliss products in their bathroom, includingBliss Spa’s foaming face wash, lemon and sage shower gel, moisturising body butter and supershine shampoo in a neat amenity bag.
The Bliss brand gained notoriety in the late 1990s as its spas became celebrity haunts and for its signature offerings, which include the Triple Oxygen Treatment facial (135 for 85 minutes), and brownie and wine buffet – both of which will be on offer at the Chicago spa.
Bliss operates four other spas – one in London and three in New York. More Bliss spas are in the pipeline, with openings planned for Dallas and Los Angeles next year. These spas will be located in W hotels, the fashionable boutique brand owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which bought Bliss in 2004 from luxury retailers LVMH.

For more information go to

Report by Ginny McGrath

World Exclusive: Review of new Stansted budget business class flight

Maxjet, the second all-business class flights to begin operating out of Stansted, launched this week. Business Traveller’s review of the first (with Eos) appears in the November issue of Business Traveller magazine. But for the review of Maxjet’s service, see below(also to be published in the December/ January issue).

First impressions: This November 2, 1000 departure was the inaugural flight of Maxjet from London Stansted to JFK. Check-in for Maxjet is from Zone K at London Stansted, to the far left of the departures lounge, and with no queue we were quickly checked in and sent through fast-track security. From there a short shuttle ride took us to our departure gate 16, and the Maxjet lounge.

The lounge: Maxjet has taken over the old SAS lounge, which has been empty for some years. It is a fabulous space with floor to ceiling glass looking out onto the runway on three sides. There’s a good choice of food and drink, newspapers and magazines, and though there weren’t any computer terminals installed for this flight, we were assured that they have been ordered.

Boarding: Maxjet leaves Stansted daily at 1000 (except Saturday) and we boarded at 0920. We suffered a slight delay, not taking off until 1020. The time was passed with a celebratory washdown by the fire brigade (customary for inaugurals).
The seat: This Boeing 767-200ER aircraft has 102 business class seats arranged six across (2-2-2) with 152cm legroom, 48cm width and reclining to 160 degrees. The seats are in a smart new blue leather trim and the carpets are new in navy blue. The body of the seat is an old design, however, and as such does not have seat power (my laptop power ran out by 1530). There were a few teething problems on this particular flight, not least that the seatbelts were too short to be fitted properly (the buckle ended up on our hips) but I was told that this would be looked into immediately.

The flight: The service was excellent from a crew of eight – although since this was the inaugural and only half full, we had plenty of attention. Minor glitches, such as the amenity kit not arriving in time, were solved by innovation on the part of crew – the flight attendant gave me an eye mask she had “borrowed” from another airline – and their friendliness made up for any uncertainties. Entertainment came in the form of a personal digEplayer handed out by the crew. There were 10 films of recent releases and 10 television programmes. Ten categories of music were also available.

A lunch service (called “dinner” on the menu) arrived within two hours and was a good selection of tasty food. Main course options were beef tenderloin, chilli spiced prawns or roasted pork loin. Strangely though, there were no vegetarian options, and it seemed these would have had to be pre-ordered. Wines included a choice of old and new world wines, a Duval-Leroy champagne and two after-dinner choices (a Piedemonte Moscatel and a ruby port). A snack bar was available throughout the flight and more sandwiches and snacks before landing at JFK.

As a new airline, Maxjet was obliged by the FAA not to stray too far from land on the route, so we enjoyed stunning views of the snow-covered mountains of Greenland. It was also clear for our approach to JFK and we flew over Manhattan, a nice end to the trip.

Verdict: With two business class only products launching from Stansted to JFK within weeks of one another, comparisons will inevitably be made between Eos and Maxjet. Having flown both in the last eight days (see November’s issue of Business Traveller for the review of Eos), it is clear that these are two very different products aimed at different markets. Maxjet is pitching itself at the price of a fully flexible economy class ticket as offered by its competitors (British Airways, Virgin and so on) and so it will appeal to travellers not normally entitled to fly in the premium cabin. From speaking to passengers on the flight, it is clear they are impressed with a business class product at this price. Given the ease of using Stansted, there may well be a ready market for Maxjet.

Price: £854 return including taxes, a reduction – seemingly for the foreseeable future – from the initial announced price of £1278 return.; 0800 023 4300.

Report by Business Traveller editor-in-chief, Tom Otley

Eastern promise

British Airways has almost doubled the number of flights it offers between Heathrow and India.

The carrier has taken its weekly India services from 19 to 35, and is predicting further growth for the next four years.

The new schedule, which came into affect on October 30, includes an increase in flights to Mumbai from one to two per day, a new service to Bangalore operating five time weekly, and increased flights to Chennai, up from two to six per week.

BA will continue to operate to Kolkata tree times weekly and to Delhi daily, but there are plans to boost Delhi to double daily from summer 2006.

The move by BA follows liberalisation of aviation regulations operating between the two countries has enabled the carrier to boost frequency, but has also allowed new entrants, including Virgin Atlantic, Bmi and Jet Airways, to launch flights between the UK and India.

Return fares for the India services start at the following prices, including taxes:

Heathrow-Bangalore £455

Heathrow-Chennai £399

Heathrow-Delhi £455

Heathrow-Kolkata £505

Heathrow-Mumbai £399

For more information go to

Report by Ginny McGrath