Air France announces inaugural charity A380 flight

The first passenger flight of Air France’s A380 superjumbo will take place on November 20, with tickets available via auction and proceeds going to the Air France Foundation.

The carrier made the announcement on its US twitter page (twitter.com/AirFranceUS), at the same time as confirming that tickets are now on sale for the scheduled Paris-New York A380 service which commences on November 23.

Air France says it will auction 380 seats onboard the inaugural service, with tickets also including “exclusive offers in New York and Paris, including shopping, private sales, and a variety of galleries and museums”. Proceeds from the flight will go towards the Air France Foundation Street Children Programme.

Those interested in taking part in the auction can sign up for more information here, and to learn more about the Air France Foundation, click here.

Report by Mark Caswell

Other useful A380 links:

BA reduces transatlantic luggage allowance

In a week when the BA has said it will cut routes (see online news July 28), economise on catering (see online news July 29), and admitted a record first quarter loss, the airline says it will introduce a new baggage policy from this October. The news, still not officially announced, has been posted on the carrier’s website ba.com.

It means that for bookings made from October 7, economy class passengers flying on most transatlantic routes will see their free checked luggage allowance reduced from two pieces to one. This brings the transatlantic routes (where there been a two piece rule in force for many years) in line with other long-haul destinations.

At the same time BA will make some changes to its excess baggage rates.

What is confusing is that the new rule does not cover every route – see below. To satisfy market demand it seems BA will let the two-piece rule remain on routes where passengers are known to take a lot of checked luggage.

It’s believed that only Delta and Northwest currently have the one-piece rule on flights to and from the US. But given BA’s dominant position in the transatlantic market other rivals may follow suit.

For more informationvisit ba.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

BA baggage policy changes for bookings made from October 7, 2009

  • Customers travelling in World Traveller on flights to and from the Americas* (except Brazil) will have a free allowance of one bag weighing no more than 23kgs. This means that the World Traveller allowance will be the same for the majority of British Airways routes

  • World Traveller customers travelling to and from Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and on through-checked journeys between India and the USA, Canada and Bermuda will retain a two-bag free allowance of up to 23kgs per bag

  • Gold and Silver Executive Club cardholders will be entitled to two pieces of luggage on all routes when they travel in World Traveller, Euro Traveller and Domestic

  • There will be a reduction in charges for the first bag in excess of the free allowance on longhaul

  • The cost of extra bags on UK domestic routes will be brought in line with other shorthaul European services at £35 per bag

Heavy bag charge for bags between 23kgs and 32kgs will increase from £25 to £30. The special bag charge for items that exceed the maximum dimension will no longer apply.

* Americas routes affected: USA, Canada, Bermuda, Argentina, Mexico and the Caribbean

Aeroflot to replace “repulsive” uniforms

The Moscow Times has revealed that Aeroflot is to employ “eye-catching” attendants and replace its current uniforms, following a report by a sociologist which described the colour of the current attire as “repulsive”.

According to the Russian newspaper Aeroflot’s new CEO Vitaly Savelyev told reporters at a news conference that the airline would be employing “eye-catching girls” that do not exceed a size 48 (roughly equivalent to the UK size 12).

The report also states that Aeroflot has taken advice from a London sociologist, which has advised the carrier that the colour of its current uniforms (blue and orange) is “repulsive”, and “made passengers nervous”. The new uniforms will be scarlet, beige and navy blue.

According to the Moscow Times, Savelyev also commented on the new food menu being introduced on Aeroflot flights, saying that “women and children went wild for the ice cream with peanuts”.

For more information visit aeroflot.ru, moscowtimes.ru.

Report by Mark Caswell

Westin to open first resort in Thailand

Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok, Westin Hotels & Resorts’ first foray into Thailand, will share the market with Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa when it opens in March next year.

Nestled in a private cove in Siray Island, the property features 258 guestrooms, suites and villas with ocean views, plunge
pools and high-tech amenities such as flat-screen LCD TVs and
high-speed broadband access. Exclusivity is based on the fact that the resort can be reached only from the mainland by bridge, if not by boat. Other facilities in the resort include six dining outlets, three outdoor pools, the Westin Kids Club, a business centre, four meeting rooms and a spa.

Besides this arrival, there are five other Westin properties expected to open in the next 12 months.  These include Westin Shenzhen Nanshan, Westin Tianjin, Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, Westin Mumbai Garden City and Westin Pune Koregaon Park.

For further information, visit www.starwoodhotels.com

Sandy Goh

Airbus asks airlines to change speed sensor

In a service bulletin issued to airlines yesterday, Airbus has recommended the replacement of the Thales speed sensors (also known as “pitots”) on A330 and A340 jets with those made by US manufacturer Goodrich.

The advisory was made two months after the fatal Air France crash in June. Ongoing investigations seem to indicate that faulty Thales pitot tubes may have been a factor in the accident.

“On the basis of the limited available information from the accident and despite the fact the pitot tubes meet the certification objectives, we have decided to recommend to A330 and A340 operators with Thales pitot tubes to exchange them,” Airbus spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath said in news reports.

He added that the advice was given as a “precautionary measure”.

The move to install the new speed sensors is expected to affect about 200 long-haul aircraft, reported Reuters.

Goodrich sensors, which are made in North Carolina, are the standard on the A330/A340 wide-body jets. They are used on 800 of the 1,000 planes now in service. Some 340 planes from this family of aircraft are now flying across Asia-Pacific and most of them are also fitted with the Goodrich sensors.

Refitting of the speed sensors is not a complicated job, which takes about two hours, and can be done during an overnight stop.

Gigi Onag

Two direct air routes across the Taiwan Strait added

With improving relations between Taiwan and China, two new routes for direct flights were opened this week across the Taiwan Strait.

The first direct air link between the two countries was launched last December 15.

The move increases the number of air lanes between the two countries to three, which would allow for more direct flights in the future.

The new northern route, named B591, shortens travel time by about 24 minutes, while the new southern route, R200, shaves about five minutes off the flight time.

First to use the new air lanes were Air China flight 185, flying the northern B591 route from Beijing to Taipei, and China Southern Airlines flight 3097, using the southern R200 route from Guangzhou to Taipei.

The two new direct routes were launched to comply with a supplementary accord on cross-strait air links that was signed on April 26 this year in Nanjing.

The agreement stipulated for the introduction of more scheduled flights across the Taiwan Strait as soon as possible. Specifically, China is to add six cities to the 21 now open to regular scheduled flights, while Taiwan will increase its cross-strait service airports to eight.

Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines has announced that it will expand its China-Taiwan network to 13 Chinese cities including Changsha, Dalian, Guiyang, Guilin, Haerbin, Haikou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xiamen and Zhengzhou. The airline now operates 27 weekly flights across the Taiwan Strait.

For more details, visit www.airchina.com.cn/en/ and www.csair.com/en/

Joshua Tan

Bloomsbury unveils refurbished meeting facilities

Bloomsbury-function-room

The Bloomsbury Hotel, London has unveiled its newly refurbished and extended conference and meeting facilities, after a multi-million pound makeover. The project also saw the lobby and bedrooms get a revamp and the launch of the new Landseer restaurant.

The flagship conference rooms – George V and Queen Mary Hall – now feature crystal chandeliers, rich carpets and a new colour scheme, while retaining the original detail of the cornices and mouldings. The Library and Chapel have also been restored and are now available to hire as smaller meeting venues for up to 26 people.

The London hotel has also added four new meeting rooms for up to 18 people, with built-in data projectors and screens. Work is soon to start on the final conference room to be revamped, and is expected to be completed later this year.

The 153 newly decorated bedrooms have also had a revamp, with the new colour scheme mixing dark-mushroom greys with splashes of colour. Rooms come with free broadband internet access and flatscreen televisions, while executive rooms and above have Nespresso coffee machines.

The neo-Georgian building was designed by British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens as the headquarters for the YWCA, hence the name of the Landseer Restaurant, which opened in November last year serving British cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Guests can now also eat al fresco on the terrace, which opened this month.

The relaunch of the hotel, previously known as Jurys Great Russell Street, is part of the Doyle Collection’s overall repositioning in the luxury market. The Jurys Doyle Hotel Group became the Doyle Collection in December last year (see online news December 3), and went on to join the Global Hotel Alliance in January.

Other members of the Doyle Collection in London include The Marylebone Hotel (click here for a review) and The Kensington Hotel, which have also recently been refurbished.

Visit doylecollection.com

Report by Sara Turner

 

Oneworld to move to T1 at Barcelona

BA and the other Oneworld carriers serving Barcelona’s El Prat airport are to move to the newly-opened Terminal 1 in September.

The new terminal was inaugurated on June 16, and already houses Star Alliance carriers serving the airport. The five Oneworld airlines currently flying to Barcelona – BA, Iberia, American Airlines, Finnair and Royal Jordanian – will all move operations on September 9. Low-cost carrier Vueling, which recently merged with Clickair (see online news June 23), and in which Iberia holds a 45 per cent stake, will also move to T1 on the same date.

The new terminal, managed by state-owned Aena, features 101 boarding gates and 43 air bridges, and will be capable of handling 30 million passengers a year. Oneworld says that lounge arrangements for premium passengers will be announced nearer to the move date.

For more information visit oneworld.com, aena.es.

Report by Mark Caswell

Etihad to move to T4 in September

Etihad Airways has confirmed it will move from Heathrow’s T3 to T4 at the end of September, with facilities including a new lounge and a dedicated check-in area for premium passengers.

The first flight to depart from T4 will be EY012 on September 30, leaving at 0910 and arriving into Abu Dhabi at 1915, with the 1440 and 2120 departures from London also moving on the same day.

Business Traveller reported on the opening of the new Etihad lounge at T4 last month – for more details see online news June 4. To read our feature on 50 of the top airport loungesd worldwide, click here.

For more information visit etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Cebu Pacific increases flights between Manila and KL

Cebu Pacific (CEB) plans to ramp up flights between Manila and Kuala Lumpur.

Starting September 16, CEB’s Manila-Kuala Lumpur service will go daily instead of four-times-weekly.

The airline started flying to Kuala Lumpur in 2006 and to Kota Kinabalu in 2008.

To mark the new move, the airline is offering one-way promotion fares from Manila of PHP499 (US$10.35) and PHP1,999 (US$41.45) to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur respectively. These are “Go Lite” fares that do not include check-in baggage. Passengers with check-in baggage are required to pay an extra PHP200 (US$4.15).

Tickets must be booked by July 31 and are valid for travel between September 1 and November 30.

For more details or to purchase, visit www.cebupacificair.com

Joshua Tan