Tired, fussy-eating music lovers

A recent survey
suggests British business travellers worry more than their European
counterparts about eating bad food on work trips, but love taking some good
music with them on the road.

Commissioned by
travel management company Egencia (formerly Expedia Corporate Travel), the
survey shows that over half of British business travellers (54 per cent) take
an mp3 player with them on trips, compared with the European average of just 41
per cent.

Listening to
music comes at the expense of conversing with the locals though, with just one
in five of us being enthusiastic about speaking foreign languages, compared to
just under a third (33 per cent) of Europeans. We also top the list of fussy
eaters, with 17 per cent of us concerned about eating bad food on the road, as
opposed to 11 per cent of Europeans.

On the plus side it
seems we’re well equipped when it comes to directions, with nearly half of us
(45 per cent) taking a map with us, compared to under a third (30 per cent ) of
our European counterparts. But we also begrudge the long days that a business
trip brings, with over half (54 per cent) of British travellers disliking
having to wake up early or return home late, as opposed to 46 per cent of
Europeans.

For more
information visit egencia.com.

Report by Mark
Caswell

Air Berlin cuts three key UK routes

Air Berlin is to
drop flights from both Munich and Berlin to London Stansted, and from Hamburg
to Manchester by the end of this month.

A quick look at
the carrier’s website airberlin.com shows that the airline’s three daily direct
flights to Berlin-Tegel have been replaced with a routing via Dusseldorf from
November 1. The daily service between Manchester and Hamburg also ends on
October 31, while the Stansted to Munich route ends even sooner, with no direct
flights available after October 6.

A spokesperson
for the airline confirmed the move, saying:

“Air Berlin will withdraw its Stansted-Berlin service [along
with the Stansted-Munich and Manchester-Hamburg routes] for the winter flight
plan as of November 1. Like all airlines worldwide Air Berlin is constantly examining its
route network to guarantee maximum fleet utilization and yield. Competition on
this route was extremely high and the lack of profitability finally made us
take the decision to drop the route for the winter flight plan 2008/09. We
are nevertheless highly committed to the remaining UK flying programme and will minimise
any disruption to customers booked on flights after the termination of
services. It goes without saying that customers will receive a full refund.”

The move leaves Lufthansa
as the only carrier serving Hamburg from Manchester (Bmi codeshares on this
route). Ryanair will also now be the only carrier serving Berlin from Stansted,
although the low-cost carrier flies into East Berlin’s Schoenefeld, also served
by Easyjet from Luton and Gatwick. BA flies to Tegel from London Heathrow,
while Lufthansa serves Tegel twice daily from London City under its Eurowings
subsidiary.

London-based passengers flying
to Munich continue to have the choice of flights from Stansted with Easyjet,
along with Lufthansa from Heathrow and London City, and BA from Heathrow.

Air Berlin continues to fly direct from Manchester to Paderborn, and from Stansted to Düsseldorf, Hanover, Nuremberg, Paderborn and Munster/Osnabrück. The German carrier also
announced cuts to its long-haul network in June, with flights from Dusseldorf
to Beijing, Shanghai and Vancouver being dropped this month.

For more
information visit airberlin.com.

Report by Mark
Caswell

Avis makes drives entertaining

Avis car rental in Singapore is making motoring to Malaysia more enjoyable by introducing rentable portable DVD entertainment systems, promoted as “MovieAnywhere”.

“We’re always looking for enhancements to the driving experience,” said Joerg Kossich, Avis Singapore general manager, citing GPS as another indispensable tool.

Upon request at the Avis counter, MovieAnywhere can be rented at S$12 (US$8) for a maximum of S$120 (US$83.82 rental). Strapped on the backseat of the car, it features a large 8.5-inch high-res TFT screen with built-indigital TV tuner and in-built stereo speakers. Media formats support include DVDs, VCDs, SVCDs, JPEG, DivX, AVI, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMA and MP3. Overseas, this is available in the Scandinavia and the US,which Kossich describes as the largest car rental market in the world.

Another innovation from Avis is its Avis Cares for Kids, which provides parents with such travelling aids as baby seats, booster seats and “Baby on Board” signages.

While Kossich admits the Wall Street fiasco is certain to impact the car rental business in the West, he chose to remain optimistic about Asia, especially about China and India where “the demand for chauffeur services and long-term leasing is booming”.

For more details, go to www.avis.com.sg

 Margie T Logarta

Bmi downgrades domestic flights

The
economic downturn has prompted Bmi to downgrade services on four domestic
routes. Smaller planes will be used and flights will be retimed.

It’s also
resulted in Bmi taking the unusual step of removing aircraft details from its
website so, at the time of booking, passengers no longer know which plane type
will be operating their flight. This move affects all Bmi flights network-wide.

The
affected routes are those linking London Heathrow with Aberdeen,
Durham (Teeside), Jersey and Leeds.
All four services will become less attractive to passengers starting with the introduction
of the winter timetable on October 26.

Not only is
Bmi cutting capacity by up to two-thirds but schedule changes make flight
timings less convenient. This could prevent passengers from making a day trip
and might mean that taking the train, rather than opting for Bmi, will get you
to your destination earlier in the day. 

It could
also mean tickets will become more expensive as the price of a flight is
directly related to available capacity.

On these
four routes Bmi currently operates a mixture of Airbus A319s (which the carrier
says accommodate between 130 and 144 passengers) and smaller Embraer 135 or
145s (seating between 35 and 49 seats). The Embraers tend to be rostered for
Bmi’s weekend services.

But from
October 26 the small Embraers will appear on most daily flights in place of the
A319s. Passengers will find that the Embraers have extremely slim cabins making
seating more cramped and space for cabin baggage more limited.

That might
not present much of a problem for day trippers, but could present problems for
premium class passengers making transfers to and from long-haul flights at
Heathrow as they often take along bulky cabin baggage. Bmi is a main feeder
carrier at Heathrow to and from its Star Alliance partners such as Air Canada, ANA,
SAA, SIA, United, Thai and so on.

A further
problem is that passengers will be kept in the dark about which plane will be
operating their flight. Passengers booking direct via Bmi’s revamped website
will find that, unlike the situation with other traditional carriers, aircraft
details are no longer displayed against flight numbers.

Only when
checking-in online will passengers discover the type of plane which will be
operating their flight. But for many travellers that might be too late.

Says a
spokesperson for Bmi, “These moves are in response to current market
conditions. By using smaller planes it means we can avoid having to reduce
flight frequency which would then inconvenience more people.

“[Not
displaying the aircraft type of the website] makes commercial sense for us as
we retain an element of flexibility over which aircraft are deployed on which
routes. For that reason we believe there is less chance of a misunderstanding
if the specified type of aircraft is removed from the booking process on the
website.”

The
schedule changes mainly affect Durham, Jersey
and Leeds. Passengers flying to/from Durham (Teeside) or Leeds
will find that Bmi has put back the first flight of the day. It means day
trippers will have less time at their destination while there may be fewer
connecting opportunities and/or longer transit times at Heathrow. 

Take the
case of London-Leeds flight BD411, the first flight of the day from Heathrow, which
currently departs at 0810 and arrives in Leeds
at 0925.  From October 26 this service
(still the first flight of the day) now departs at 0955 and will not reach Leeds until 1055 so a passenger may not reach downtown
until almost midday.

Flight
BD411 from Leeds to Heathrow currently departs at 0645 and reaches London at 0750 in good time for making connections or
providing an early arrival into Central London.
But this service will be retimed to depart Leeds
almost two hours later at 0840, arriving at Heathrow at 0940 which,
realistically, means you would not reach the city centre until 1100.

With best
journey times ranging between 130 and 145 mins the competing fast train
services to/from Kings Cross provide earlier arrivals in Leeds and Darlington
(gateway for Teeside).

New timings
between Jersey and Heathrow (where Bmi flies twice daily) mean that Islanders
can no longer use Bmi (the only carrier connecting Jersey
with Heathrow) for a day trip to the capital.

Currently
Bmi’s first flight of the day (BD563) departs Jersey
at 0845 and arrives in Heathrow at 0950. The return service BD564 departs
Heathrow at 1905 landing in Jersey at 2010.

But from
October 26, BD563 (still the first Bmi flight of the day) will not depart Jersey until 1255 which would give a Heathrow arrival of
1400. BD564, the last flight of the day, which currently leaves Heathrow at
1905 (with a Jersey arrival at 2010) has been brought forward to 1625 (landing
in Jersey at 1725).

For more
information visit flybmi.com.

Report by
Alex McWhirter

Etihad launches miles giveaway

Etihad Airways is
giving away one million miles each month until December to lucky members who
book flights online.

The Million Miles
Clickaway is open to new and existing members who books flights at
etihadairways.com before December 31, 2008. Each month between now and the end
of the year one member will win 600,000 Etihad Guest miles, with four others
winning 100,000 miles each.

To give you an
idea of how far this many miles will get you, 100,000 is enough for two return
trips to Abu Dhabi in Coral (economy class), with 20,000 miles left over, while
600,000 will get members six return trips from London to Sydney (via Abu Dhabi)
in Coral class, or two returns in Diamond (first class). For more information
visit etihadguest.com.

In other news
Etihad has extended its complimentary chauffeur service (for business and first
class customers) to include passengers travelling to and from Geneva airport. The
service is valid for travel within a 60km radius of the airport, and joins Abu Dhabi, Heathrow, Manchester,
Dublin, Bangkok, New York, Munich, Frankfurt, Paris, Sydney and Toronto
airports in offering the service.

For more
information visit etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark
Caswell

Business as usual at F1 Night Race

Whoever said the first Formula One night race in Singapore would have business travellers avoiding the city like the plague must be biting his tongue by now.

Among the “gear heads”, “motor heads”, “F1 junkies”, who turned out in full force to cheer their idols, were bankers, captains of industry, consultants and other movers and shakers attracted to this high-octane spectator sport. A reported 50,000 wheelies flew in from as far as Europe and the US to join in the revelry.

“Even if this was held over a weekend, which is not usually when our core business comes to stay,” said Peter Mainguy, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, one of the trackside hotels, “we still had a lot of corporate entertaining taking place in the hotel.”

Mainguy, who’s experienced a number of F1s in his 17 years with the upscale chain, added: “One way or the other, many of our guests have a passion for the F1.”

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended the final race last Sunday, told reporters the event provided not only “a valuable buzz, publicity for us around the world, which will benefit us in many ways” but also an excellent reason to catch up with business partners. He cited a lunch hosted by the Economic Development Board with “some of their corporate clients who are investing in Singapore big time…it was a chance to meet them and renew our relationship with them.”

Added Prime Minister Lee: “You’d be surprised how many of them have a special interest in F1.” 

Ivan Lee, general manager of the Pan Pacific Hotel, another hotel fortunate enough to be located trackside, said occupancy during the four nights of F1 had exceeded 90 percent.

As expected, no one watched the races from the comfort of their bedrooms. Said Ritz-Carlton general manager Mainguy: “They all wanted to be in the midst of the throng, hearing it…smelling it.”

Known for its legendary organisational skills, the tiny island-state did not disappoint, impressing F1 old-hands, participants, visitors and the hospitality industry alike, leading F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to put the Lion City event on par with Monaco.

Said Mainguy: “Even the one thing that can never be organised – the weather – was perfect.”

For more details, go to www.stb.gov.sg

Margie T Logarta

ANZ increases premium economy

Air New Zealand
is to double the number of premium economy seats onboard its 777-200ER
aircraft.

The airline replaced
its 747-400 aircraft with the 777-200ERs on its London-LA-Auckland route from
yesterday (September 29), and has eight of the aircraft in its fleet. They are currently
configured for 26 Business Premier seats, 18 in Pacific Premium Economy and 269
in economy, but by June next year ANZ says this will change to 36 in premium
economy and 242 in economy.

This is the third
time the carrier has upped its premium economy cabins, with two previous
increases on its 747-400 aircraft, bringing the total number of premium economy
seats on board the jumbo to 39.

Features of ANZ’s
premium economy cabin include a 41-inch seat pitch, nine-inch recline, and
“business class style food and beverages and amenities”.

For more
information visit airnewzealand.co.uk.

Report by Mark
Caswell

Shenzhen’s Futian CBD draws five-star players

Futian, Shenzhen’s emerging Central Business District, has been the magnet for a brace of new five-star properties.

Beginning with Marco Polo Shenzhen, which opened in late 2006, deluxe accommodation inventory was enhanced by the arrival of Sheraton in 2007, and soon the Futian Shangri-La in October, followed by Ritz-Carlton in November.

Important buildings in this area include the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center, Shenzhen Civic Center, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, China Construction Bank and the ICC Tower.

Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the result of economic liberalisation set forth by China’s reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, has come a long way in 1980, from the fishing village it used to be to one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Since inception, more than US$30 billion worth of investment in building factories and forming joint  ventures has materialised.

Adjacent to Hongkong and east of Shenzhen, Luohu was the first to develop into an urban hub. Progress and congestion, now towards the west, has led to other centres such as Futian, where the municipal government is located and Nanshan, which boasts a critical mass of high-tech industries and servicing the market, a couple of branded hotels, Crowne Plaza, Kempinski and in mid-2009, The Westin, adjacent to – what else, a shopping complex, the Holiday Plaza mall.

The InterContinental is along Shenzhen Bay with Shekou Seaworld, one of Shenzhen’s many theme parks nearby.

All these openings mean about over 1,500 deluxe rooms for business traveller to choose from, leading to an initial softening in the market, said Eggert Muus, Kempinski general manager. He added: “Then business will pick up at more people and companies move in. The local government is determined to make things dynamic.”

The Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen, within walking distance of the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Centre, is part of a mixed-use project (office and high-end retail) and will feature 273 guestrooms, including nine suites with large balconies, a landscaped roof garden containing an outdoor pool and health club and spa and ballroom divisible by three.

Futian Shangri-La is also near the Convention Centre and will show off trend-setting F&B concepts such as the Italian Angelini Restaurant and Bar, Fook Lam Moon and all-day dining Café Zen, styled by cult Japanese designer Super Potato.

Margie T Logarta

Yotel opens Schiphol property

Capsule hotel
group Yotel has opened its first property outside of the UK, the Yotel
Amsterdam Schiphol.

The 57-cabin
hotel is located airside at the airport, in the transit area on the second floor of Lounge 2, close to Pier
D. There are 41 standard rooms (with single beds) and 15 premium rooms
(featuring a double bed which converts into a sofa).

All cabins feature
wired and wifi internet access, flatscreen TVs, and ensuite bathrooms with
monsoon rain showers, complimentary towels and body wash products. Prices start
from €35 for a four-hour stay in a standard cabin.

The Amsterdam property is Yotel’s third hotel,
the others being landside at Gatwick airport’s South Terminal and Heathrow’s
T4. Regular traveller’s through Schiphol will be aware that this is the second
airside hotel at the airport, with the two-star Mercure Schiphol Terminal
already located by piers F and G. Budget luxury brand Citizen M has also
recently opened its first property at Schiphol, a 230-room hotel attached to
Arrivals Zone 4 by a covered walkway.

For more information
visit yotel.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Airport transport update

Gatwick Express
introduces Euro ticket machines

Customers
travelling on the Gatwick Express can now buy their tickets using Euros at
its self-service ticket machines.

The operator has
upgraded eight of its ticket machines at Gatwick airport to accept Euros, along
with two at London Victoria Station.

Gareth
Jones, head of customer services at Gatwick Express says, “We’re an
internationally renowned service and carry travellers from all over Europe. We’re always looking at ways of making travel
easier and now customers will be able to save time and buy tickets from our
machines using Euros.”

For more
information visit gatwickexpress.com.

Dot2Dot
cuts fares

Airport
transfer firm Dot2Dot is cutting its fares by 20 per cent until Christmas.
Travellers booking tickets during October (for travel until December 24) can
get a one-way ticket between Heathrow and central London for £16, down from the usual £20.

The
price brings the Dot2Dot service under the price point for the Heathrow
Express, which charges £16.50 for a one-way trip in standard class. Dot2Dot
says that passengers booking in advance will not have to wait longer than 20
minutes at the airport for its service, while Heathrow Express runs every 15
minutes, taking 15 minutes for the journey between Paddington and Terminals
1,2,3 (21 minutes to T5).

For more
information visit dot2.com, heathrowexpress.com.

Report
by Mark Caswell