Garuda to grow

The European Union’s continued ban on Garuda Indonesia – as well as 50 other Indonesian airlines – from flying into its airspace hasn’t deterred the national flag carrier from network expansion.

With the arrival this year of 14 new Boeing B737NGs (New Generation), growth will be seen on some 18 routes, both domestic and international. A number are new services and others are re-opened sectors. International services include Denpasar (Bali)-Hongkong, Denpasar-Adelaide, Surabaya-Hongkong, Jakarta-Shanghai-Denpasar-Jakarta and Yogyakarta-Singapore.

Emirsya Satar, Garuda president and CEO, said they expected their fleet to grow by “threefold by 2013” with 50 B737NGs and 10 B777-300ERs. “Backed by these aircraft, we’ll be making a quantum leap.”

Garuda’s hopes of being taken off the blacklist were dashed last year, despite being certified in May by the International Air Transport Association “fit to fly”, when the EU decided to extend the status.

Claims of Garuda (as well as Mandala Airlines and Airfast) that it has improved safety standards do not seem to have convinced the authorities, who said they still had “to demonstrate they had completed the corrective actions”.

The ban was imposed, following a string of fatal accidents, notably when an Adam Air plane crashed into the sea off Sulawesi Island in 2007 due to pilot error and Garuda flight 200 attempted landing at extreme speed and overshot the runway in Central Java, killing 21.

For more details, www.garuda-indonesia.com.

Margie T Logarta

Anantara to launch serviced apartments

Thai brand Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas is set to open Anantara Baan Rajprasong Serviced Apartments in Bangkok in March.

Anantara will manage the 97 one and two-bedroom apartments on Rajadamri Road, close to the city’s main shopping and business areas.

The boutique-style contemporary apartments will have a fully-equipped kitchen, dining area and laundry facilities. Set in landscaped gardens, with views across Lumpini Park, the property will also have a deli-style restaurant, Club Lounge, meeting space and library, fitness centre, swimming pool, and spa.

Anantara Baan Rajprasong is close to the business and shopping districts of Silom and Sukhumvit, and a BTS sky-train station is within walking distance.

A member of the Global Hotel Alliance, as well as Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Small Leading Hotels, Anantara has resorts in locations around Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia. In December, the group launched Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa in Abu Dhabi and later this year will also open Anantara Qasr Al Sarab in the Liwa desert in Abu Dhabi.

For more information visit anantara.com, globalhotelalliance.com.

Report by Sara Turner

Sweet dreams

A New York hotel has teamed up with chocolatier Godiva to create a Valentine’s suite made almost entirely of chocolate.

Located within the trendy Bryant Park Hotel, the Godiva Decadence Suite will be given away as the grand prize in this year’s Godiva Valentine’s Day Promotion, and features chocolate walls and bookcases, a chocolate interpretation of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”, a chocolate fireplace, chocolate candelabras, a chocolate and amber crystal chandelier, and table and chairs covered in, you guessed it, chocolate.

The winner will be selected from customers who have bought special boxes of Godiva chocolates with a heart symbol on them, and will walk away with a weekend’s stay in the suite, as well as a private chocolate tasting session, a gourmet meal, and a year’s supply of Godiva chocolates.

The Bryant Park Hotel is situated at 40 West 40th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, and is housed within the 335-foot tall American Standard Building.

Emirates to offer daytime Singapore-Europe flights

From February 2, Emirates will retime one of its three daily Singapore to Dubai flights. It means that passengers departing Singapore and travelling on to the UK and mainland Europe can make better connections in Dubai and travel right through to their final destination during the daytime.

The revised timings apply to EK433 which is operated by a B777-300ER. This flight will depart Singapore at 0940 to reach Dubai at 1300. There are various onward connection possibilities to the following airports including:

London Heathrow (EK003 at 1430); London Gatwick (EK009 at 1445); Manchester (EK019 at 1435); Birmingham (EK037 at 1500); Frankfurt (EK047 at 1430); Paris CDG (EK075 at 1500); Milan Malpensa (EK091 at 1600); Zurich (EK085 at 1620).

Emirates says the B777 used for EK433 will have the new premium seating including the “suites” in first class and proper lie-flat seating in business class.

For more information visit emirates.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

Continental to leave Skyteam in October

Continental Airlines will leave Skyteam on October 24 and join rivals Star Alliance shortly after, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

The report on the newspaper’s website said the announcement was made by Continental’s CEO Larry Kellner during a conference call. The news will give some clarity to members of both of the frequent flyer alliances, as until now the airline had not given an exact date for the defection.

It means that Skyteam members will no longer be able to collect points when flying with Continental after this date, and equally it might persuade Star members to choose the airline when booking forward flights.

The move will also see Star once again having a carrier plying the all-important London-New York route. The global alliance had been without a member airline on the route since 2006 when United sold the rights to its London-New York route to Delta (another Skyteam member).

For more information visit continental.com, skyteam.com, staralliance.com, chron.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Bali debut for Holiday Inn Resort

A new generation Holiday Inn makes a debut in Bali in March. The Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali, a product of the chain’s recent major brand revamp, opens with 195 rooms and a US$99 promotional rate.

Along Kuta beach and located on three hectares of tropical gardens, the hotel is a 10-minute drive from the airport and near the famous Kuta shopping district.

Rooms are classified as Ocean Rooms, Garden Rooms, Family Suites and kidSuites, all equipped with flat-screen televisions and internet connection. The Beach restaurant, Tea Tree Spa, a fitness centre and kids’ club are among the other facilities.

For guests, who have already checked out but are waiting for their flights, is the Departure Lounge, featuring showers, changing rooms, plasma TV and refreshment.

Other Holiday Inn Resorts are located in Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Cha Am, Goa, Sanya Bay and Yalong Bay in Hainan, Australia and Penang.

According to a spokeperson for the InterContinental Hotels Group to which Holiday Inn belongs: “The US$1 billion re-launch of the Holiday Inn brand family (comprising Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express and Express by Holiday Inn) will bring improved consistency and service levels, as well as a more contemporary brand image and identity, to over 3,200 hotels worldwide. The Bali resort is part of this effort.”

For more details, visit www.ihg.com

Peter Rajendran

Inclined to stay here?

The forthcoming
Hyatt at Capital Centre in Abu Dhabi looks set to become a record breaker for
being housed in the world’s most inclined building.

The 200-room hotel
will be located within Capital Gate, a 35-storey building which once completed
will lean 18 degrees from vertical – in comparison the leaning Tower of Pisa inclines “only” four degrees. Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec) is
believed to have applied to Guinness World Records to have Capital Gate recognised
as “the world’s most inclined building”.

Designed by architects
RMJM (responsible for the Beijing Olympic Green Convention Centre), the leaning
structure has been made possible using a building technique known as “diagrid
technology”, similar to the technique used in the construction of the Swiss Re
building (aka The Gherkin) in London. Adnec will no doubt hope that the
striking building will become an icon for Abu Dhabi, in the same way that the
Burj Al Arab (with its distinctive sail shape) has in Dubai.

Construction of
the building has reached level eight, with the project due for completion later
this year. The tower forms part of the Capital Gate Centre, a $2.2bn business
and residential “micro city”.

For more
information visit hyatt.com, adnec.ae.

Report by Mark
Caswell

Images: RMJM

India, the next stop for F1

Spectator sport in India will get a shot in the arm when the F1 blasts off there in 2011.

“F1 Supremo” Bernie Eccleston and his local partner Jaiprakash Associates, reported the BBC, are “fully committed” to the project.

The construction of a new Grand Prix track, outside of Delhi, has resumed. Work on was delayed by Ecclestone’s packed schedule of activities. Target date for completion is the end of 2010.

Force India, the country’s hope for glory, is comprised of veteran Giancarlo Fisichella and the promising Adrian Sutil of Germany. India entered the F1 stakes in 2007.

Singapore added another dimension to the races by introducing the first night event in September last year, which was, by all accounts, an unqualified success.

Despite cricket’s immense popularity with Indian crowds, Ecclestone was upbeat about F1 drawing the numbers.

BBC quoted him saying: “It’s a large, large country with a big population and it’s good for the sponsors, car manufacturers and everyone involved in Formula 1. I doubt in India anything will be a rival to cricket, but let’s see.”

For more details, visit www.formula1.com.

Peter Rajendran

Golfing with history

Play golf in Asia but with a difference. Sports tour operator Golfasian is offering a Thailand-Vietnam-Cambodia package that includes experiencing Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Participating golf courses include the Thai Country Club where Tiger Woods won the PGA in 1997, Montgomerie Links Vietnams, sports legend Colin Montgomerie’s only golf course in Asia and the Angkor Golf Resort designed by Nick Faldo.

Green fees and other incidentals, according to Golfasian managing director Mark Siegel, are much lower compared with courses of similar prestige elsewhere in the world.

And after the game, he said, participants have the option of exploring their historic surroundings which include attractions such as Ayutthaya in Thailand, Hoi An in Vietnam and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

For more information visit www.golfasian.com or email info@golfasian.com.

He Ruiming

Meet in the jungle

Imagine having an entire rainforest for your company teambuilding weekend?

Ulu Ulu Resort in Brunei’s vast Ulu Temburong National Park – the only development allowed in the 50,000ha attraction – can be rented out completely for corporate retreats and getaways.

There are 19 units villas, built in a 1920 tropical style. Room categories consist of Standard, Deluxe, Family, 3-Generation and Hilltop and feature ceiling fans and air-conditioning units, which are individually controlled.

Activities aimed at creating unforgettable bonding experiences include longboat rides, kayaking, rafting, trekking to the waterfall, birdwatching from the canopy walk, night jungle excursions and sharing moments in a rare pristine environment.

For more formal events, there is a 20-seat boardroom and a 60-seat theatre.

Meals are taken at the Two River Terrace, Valley Café or Club Lounge.

For more details, visit www.uluuluresort.com.

Margie T Logarta