Turkish Airlines to launch in-flight mobile service

Passengers with Turkish Airlines will be able to use their mobile phones in-flight from early next year.

The carrier has joined a growing number of airlines to announce plans for an in-flight mobile service, with Emirates, Ryanair, Bmi and TAP Portugal among others considering the technology.

Turkish Airlines says it will partner with technology provider Aeromobile to deliver the service, with the first of the carrier’s A340 aircraft due to be fitted early next year. The first routes likely to see the service will be international flights within Europe and the Middle East, where Aeromobile has already received “the appropriate telecommunications regulatory approvals”.

Passengers will be able to make and receive calls, send text messages, and use GPRS services such as Blackberry and other “push email” applications. The airline says that it is introducing the service following “extensive passenger research”, and adds that cabin crew will have control of the system at all times, to ensure that the technology is used “in the most appropriate manner for the in-flight environment”.

When businesstraveller.com conducted a survey into traveller’s thoughts on in-flight mobile phones in June last year, over 75 per cent of readers said the technology should not be allowed.

Have your opinions changed? Click here to take part in our latest survey, or log in to leave your comments below.

For more information visit thy.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Zoom to fly from Gatwick to San Diego and Fort Lauderdale

No-frills carrier Zoom Airlines is to launch new services from Gatwick to San Diego and Fort Lauderdale from next year.

The Canadian airline will offer a twice-weekly service to both US cities, with flights to Fort Lauderdale starting in May 2008 and the San Diego service commencing the following month.

Flights to Fort Lauderdale will depart London Gatwick on Thursdays and Sundays – the weekday service departs at 1030, arriving into the US at 1600 (with a stop-off in Bermuda), while the Sunday direct flight departs at 1000, arriving into Fort Lauderdale at 1415. Flights to San Diego will depart London on Mondays and Fridays at 1130, arriving into the city’s Lindbergh Field airport at 1450.

The latter service represents the first non-stop flights from the UK to San Diego since 2003, when British Airways withdrew from the route. San Diego is the seventh-largest US city, and Zoom says that around 80,000 passengers currently fly each year from the city to the UK, via other US airports such as Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Fares to Fort Lauderdale start from £399, with tickets to San Diego from £449. To read Business Traveller’s review of the Zoom premium economy offering on the London-Bermuda route, click here.

For more information visit flyzoom.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Merry Christmas from businesstraveller.com

Businesstraveller.com would like to wish all its readers a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

In the few months since the relaunch of our website, we’ve covered everything from the first flight of the A380 superjumbo and BAA’s proposed Heathrow expansion plans, to the closing of the iconic Savoy hotel for refurbishment and the possible return of supersonic travel.

It’s been a busy year for business travel and 2008 promises to be every bit as exciting, with the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, and the Open Skies agreement coming into effect. 

We’ll be back next year to cover these and all the business travel stories as they break. Of course if you can’t wait until then there’s plenty of archive material available at businesstraveller.com, from city guides and hotel reviews to a comprehensive archive of magazine features.

We hope you enjoy the festive break,

The businesstraveller.com team

Novotel opens new Vienna hotel

Novotel Wien CityAccor has opened the 124-room Novotel Wien City in Austria’s capital Vienna.

The hotel is located just outside the city’s Innere Stadt (city centre), on Aspernbruckengasse to the north of the river Danube. The property has a 19th-century facade in typical Ringstrasse style, but with a modern glass building perched on top, providing floors four to seven of the hotel.

Rooms feature the next-generation Novotel concept (for more details see Business Traveller’s review of the Novotel Reading in the July/August 2007 edition) complete with wifi internet access.

The 5 Senses restaurant has been designed by Belgian interior designer Patrick Dumont, and features regional and international dishes, all of which can be ordered as appetisers, starters or main courses.

There are two boardrooms (accommodating up to 12 delegates) with views of central Vienna, and a fitness centre and Finnish sauna are also available. Double rooms at the hotel cost from £106. The Novotel Wien City is the second hotel under the brand to be loacted in the Vienna, with the Novotel Wien West situated in the western suburbs of the city.

Vienna also saw the opening of a new five-star boutique hotel last month, located on the city’s central Kartner Ring. The appropriately named Ring Hotel keeps the original 19th-century façade but with contemporary interiors, and features 68 rooms, views of the State Opera House, and a 200 sqm spa and fitness area.

For more information visit novotel.com, theringhotel.at.

Report by Mark Caswell

SAS introduces self-print boarding passes

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has introduced self-print boarding passes for UK customers.

The boarding passes can be printed during online check-in (up to 22 hours before departure) and include a barcode which allows passengers with hand luggage only to go straight to security on arrival at the airport. Those with checked luggage will still need to visit self-service kiosks at the airport, followed by the fast bag-drop facilities.

Self-print boarding passes are available to UK passengers flying from Heathrow, London City (except on the LCY-Copenhagen route), Aberdeen, Birmingham and Manchester airports.

In other news, the carrier is to reintroduce its Bristol-Stockholm route next summer. Starting on June 27, 2008, twice-weekly (Monday and Friday) flights will depart Bristol at 1905, arriving into Stockholm at 2255, with the return leg leaving the Swedish capital at 1625, arriving back into Bristol at 1815.

SAS will also begin flights from Bristol to Oslo in April next year.

For more information visit flysas.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Bmi launches East Midlands-Cologne route

Bmi Regional is to start a new service from East Midlands airport to Cologne Bonn in February next year.

The carrier, a subsidiary of Bmi, will offer a six-times weekly service between the two cities, following Easyjet’s withdrawal from the route.

Flight BD211 will depart East Midlands at 1015 Monday to Friday and 1100 on Sundays, arriving into Cologne at 1235 (1320 on Sundays). The return leg BD212 leaves Germany at 1305 (1350 on Sundays), arriving back into the UK at 1335 (1420 on Sundays).

The carrier says the route will also enable connections to other German cities such as Hamburg, through its partnership with fellow Star Alliance airline Lufthansa.

Bmi will use Embraer 135 (37-seat) and 145 (49-seat) aircraft on the route, with prices starting from £49 one way.

For more information visit flybmi.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Just landed

Businesstraveller.com compiles this week’s stories from the lighter side of business travel.

What’s in a name?

Virgin Atlantic has dubbed its new check-in facilities at Heathrow “Terminal 6”. In fact located in Terminal 3, the new facilities include an Upper Class wing, which aims to take passengers from limo to lounge within minutes (see online news October 19, 2007), as well as revamped economy and premium economy areas. Virgin even employed the reformed Spice Girls to open the new facility, but will it prove to be a “Wannabe” compared to BA’s T5?

Toilet technology

The Peninsula group is well known for its obsession with technology – it employs no less than 20 full-time staff to research and implement new technology in its hotels. And the toilets at the recently opened Peninsula Tokyo are no exception. Walking into the lavatory, guests are greeted with a “swoosh” as the toilet lid opens automatically. A button on the panel can also be pressed to also lift the (heated) seat, and that’s just the start of a bewildering array of options. You can choose from half or full flush, or just let the toilet flush itself and put the lid back down when you leave. There are three different water “spray” choices, all of which can be adjusted for direction and pressure, as well as a massage function, a “power deodoriser” and a hot-air dryer (not of the hand variety). Then there’s the last two buttons: “privacy please” and “emergency assistance”. Take your pick.

Mini Manhattan

Legoland California has built an eight-foot tall replica of New York’s Jumeirah Essex House – the largest ever free-standing hotel model to be made out of the building blocks. The to-scale replica weighs around 90kg, took more than 200 hours to build, and contains a total of 62,160 bricks and 1,885 Lego windows. The model will be placed in the real hotel’s redesigned lobby to celebrate its 75th anniversary, but Jumeirah says it has no intention of renting out rooms during peak demand.

Immaculate reception

Travelodge announced last week that it was offering a festive free night’s stay to couples with the names Mary and Joseph. The budget hotel chain is well known for its sales gimmicks, including in-room goldfish (see online news May 16, 2007) and “Manhattan views” from its London City airport property (see online news March 9, 2006). This promotion was particularly fitting though, as there was obviously no room at the (Premier) Inn.

Not lovin’ it

McDonald’s has introduced a time limit for customers at its drive-through restaurant at Gatwick airport. Concerned that customers and taxi drivers were using its free parking spaces to avoid paying to park elsewhere, the fast-food purveyor is threatening to hand out a penalty charge of £125 for those staying for more than 45 minutes. “Large fines with your Big Mac, sir?”

Cruise control

Costa Cruises boasts that its forthcoming Costa Pacifica and Costa Luminosa cruise ships will both be powered by six monster diesel engines, each weighing around 170,000kg. Together, the engines will be capable of producing 140 megawatts, enough for the daily electricity needs of a city with a population of 100,000 people (or in the case of the cruise ships, 6,000 guests). Makes flying look like the guilt-free option…

Mixing it up

Marriott’s Renaissance Hotels and Resorts brand is launching “cocktail culture”, a nightly service aimed at getting customers to interact at the hotel bar. Guests roll cocktail “building blocks”, including “flavour profile”, “method of preparation”, “spirits” and “barware”, to create a unique cocktail. The winning combination is named after the guest who suggested it. Caswell Cosmopolitan, anyone?

By Mark Caswell

Marriott opens latest Beijing hotel

Marriott International has opened its fifth property in China’s capital, the JW Marriott Hotel, Beijing.

The 588-room hotel is located within China Central Place, a 230,000 sqm complex comprising office space, designer shops such as Gucci and Ferragamo, residential towers and a sports centre. It will also house the forthcoming Ritz Carlton Beijing (Marriott’s luxury brand).

The JW Marriott Beijing has 549 guest rooms and 39 suites, with either south-facing garden views or north-facing vistas of the complex and Chaoyang Park. Décor in the rooms includes ivory leather sofas, contemporary Chinese artwork, hand-embroidered quilts and glass-panelled bathrooms. Each room also has a 42-inch LCD TV, and a DVD player with USB socket.

Leisure and meetings facilities include a 1,294 sqm Grand Ballroom, a steakhouse, two restaurants serving French and Asian cuisine, and the Quan Spa, offering ten treatment rooms and therapies designed to “harness the natural healing powers of water”.

The hotel’s exterior has been designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects (responsible for the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and the Four Seasons Philadelphia), while the interior has been created by Hirsch Bedner Associates (whose other projects have included the St Regis Grand Hotel in Rome and the Taj Palace Dubai).

The JW Marriott Beijing is the fifth Marriott-branded property in the city, after the Beijing Marriott Hotel West, the Renaissance Beijing Hotel, the Courtyard Beijing and the Palm Springs Beijing (Marriott Executive Apartments).

Introductory rates at the JW Marriott Beijing start from RMB1,667 (£112) for stays until February 29, 2008.

For more information visit marriott.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

ANZ to launch “concierge in the sky”

Passengers with Air New Zealand will be able to consult in-flight concierges on long-haul flights from next year.

The carrier says it will employ up to 90 concierge staff, with the service debuting in April 2008 on flights between Auckland, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver and Hong Kong.

The in-flight concierges will be trained to handle queries including onward booking, management of the carrier’s loyalty scheme Airpoints, flight disruptions and recommendations for activities in destination cities.

Scott Carr, Air New Zealand’s general manager for UK and Europe, says: “International airline concierges will be a combination of travel advisers, disrupt managers, loyalty experts and destination experts, focused on supporting every customer travelling with us.”

He added that one of the reasons for the new role was the increasing difficulty of spending time with individual customers due to full cabins.

Carr says: “This brand-new concierge role will ensure that everyone travelling with Air New Zealand – no matter how full the aircraft – receives the personal attention they deserve and the advice they need.”

The concierge service is expected to be launched on London routes from May or June 2008, with London-based concierge staff being interviewed for the posts early in the new year.

For more information visit airnewzealand.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

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Emirates relaunches website

Emirates Airlines has unveiled a redesigned emirates.com website, with new features including a more flexible booking engine and trailers for in-flight movies.

The carrier simultaneously activated sites for 76 countries in 10 different languages, with one of the biggest changes being to the online booking process.

Instead of being limited to one price and date for any given search, the site now presents passengers with availability for seven days either side of their requested travel date, making it easier to compare costs.

Other new features include a virtual tour of Emirates’ in-flight entertainment (IFE) offering – passengers can now watch trailers of selected films and, more importantly, find out what programmes will be available on their specific flight.

There is also a preview of the airline’s forthcoming A380 superjumbo, with an image gallery, fact sheet, and specifications of the new aircraft.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, Emirates’ executive vice-president of commercial operations worldwide, says: “Over the next five years, I anticipate that the number of new and existing customers booking flights through our website will increase dramatically.

“In recreating the emirates.com site, we have handed much more control to our customers and allowed them to feel the Emirates experience from their homes, offices and hotels, long before they board one of our modern aircraft.”

For more information visit emirates.com.

Report by Mark Caswell