British Airways amends loyalty scheme

British Airways (BA) has made a major change to its Executive Club frequent traveller programme, now allowing passengers on discount Economy Class tickets to earn points and help them ascend the blue, silver and gold ranks of its loyalty scheme.

The tweak in the rules means Silver and Gold Executive Club members will find it simpler to maintain their status and their benefits, including access to 150 lounges worldwide, including BA’s Galleries lounge complex at Terminal 5.

Passengers in Euro Traveller (short-haul Economy) will receive five tier points and those in World Traveller (long-haul Economy) will receive 15 tier points with every booking.

BA Executive Club has four million members worldwide. Customers join the scheme as Blue card members, ascending to Silver at 600 points and to Gold at 1,500 points.

Recently, the airline has been introducing enhancements to the loyalty scheme to make it easier and simpler for its customers to earn points. There is the new provision that allows Blue card members to move up to Silver and Silver card members can maintain their status by taking 50 flights with the airline. Furthermore, Gold card holders have been given the ability to book any route, cabin or date for double the cost of the standard redemption rate, provided they book 30 days or more in advance.

For more information, go to www.britishairways.com

Gigi Onag

The Upper House rolls out opening offer

To mark the official opening of The Upper House in Hongkong on October 2, Swire Hotels is offering guests an introductory “two nights-for-one” special with rates starting from HK$3,388 (US$437) for a 67.82sqm Island View Studio 70.

These are valid for stays during the hotel’s first 90 days between October 2 and December 31.

The Upper House spans the 38th to 48th floors of a tower block in the upscale Pacific Place complex. Tagged as “more home than hotel”, the property was designed by architect Andrew Fu, using natural materials, distinctive sculptures and original artworks to create an understated and residential feel.

In a city known for its small spaces, the hotel’s 117 spacious rooms, including 21 suites and two penthouses, are said to be the largest in the territory starting from 62.82sqm. The bathrooms measure more than 27.87sqm, featuring a walk-in rain showers, free-standing limestone clad baths, double vanities and separate dressing areas.

One of the highlights of The Upper House is the Café Gray Deluxe restaurant on Level 49, which can be accessed by a spectacular Sky Bridge over a 40m high atrium. It will serve modern European classics by celebrated chef Gray Kunz who just return from New York.

“This highly individualised small hotel with a dynamic restaurant will help showcase the recent revitalisation of Pacific Place and provide a welcome retreat for boh business and leisure guests,” said The Upper House general manager Dean Winter.

For more details visit www.upperhouse.com

Gigi Onag

Seair to strengthen links to Philippine tourism spots

Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), one of the Philippines’ most aggressive local aviation players, has put on hold plans to go regional until the economic crisis and H1N1 virus issues are resolved.

Instead, it has decided to step up efforts to promote tourism in an archipelago still largely unexplored by Filipinos themselves as well as the wider international travel market.

After launching a sector between Puerto Princesa, Palawan to Kota Kinabalu in November last year – part of the Clark-Caticlan (Boracay)-Puerto Princesa-KK service – Seair management then revealed its vision to fly eventually to Singapore, Macau, Incheon, Bangkok and Kaoshiung. But global developments put a damper on this.

However, Seair’s domestic game plan received a boost recently when the Caticlan Airport, the jump off point to the renowned resort island of Boracay, was reconfigured by the government, leaving the carrier its sole user. Cebu Pacific and PAL Express of Philippine Airlines now land in Kalibo, having to make arrangements for their passengers to take the two-and-a-half hour trip to Caticlan. Although the shuttle is free, the transfer process can be annoying for time-strapped holiday makers.

A business consortium has won the bid to build a new Caticlan passenger terminal, but that is expected to still take about two years to build.

With increased demand, Seair officials said they would not “unduly jack up air fares”. According to Seair president Avelino Zapanta daily flights between Manila and Caticlan were recently increased from 18 to 27, rising to 27 in October, the start of the peak season, and in December to 32 flights. “Then, we’ll see how it goes after that,” he said.

The Cebu-Caticlan service was also relaunched on August 7 to fill in the vacuum left by Cebu Pacific.

Besides Boracay, which has been attracting, not just leisure traffic but corporate meeting groups, Zapanta said other destinations ripe for promoting included the provinces of Batanes, Masbate and Marinduque, which all boast pristine natural attractions, a unique culture and an unspoiled way of life.

The airline is in the process of adding three Dornier type aircraft to its current fleet inventory.

For more details on the airline, visit www.flyseair.com

Margie T Logarta

Just landed

Businesstraveller.com compiles stories from the lighter side of business travel. This week: Bristol airport, Flybe, American Airlines, BAA Stansted and Galvin at Windows.

Adge Cuteler International?

A facebook campaign has been launched to rename Bristol airport after local hero Adge Cutler, the late singer of cult band The Wurzels. Citing Liverpool John Lennon and George Best Belfast City as examples of airports named after iconic local figures, the group had 580 followers when last we looked. Cutler fans should beware though, as a rival group – claiming the airport should be renamed after Bristol-based TV presenter Justin Lee Collins – has 141 members and counting.

Taking flight

Regional carrier Flybe had a bit-part in ITV’s soap Emmerdale this week, as two of the show’s characters Val and Eric Pollard boarded a Flybe flight from Leeds Bradford to London Gatwick. Apparently the plot involved Val trying to trick Eric into thinking she had emigrated to Australia, although we’re not sure Flybe’s Q400 aircraft have quite enough range for a flight Down Under.

A corking idea

American Airlines has begun a programme to recycle the used wine and champagne corks at all of its US executive lounges. The carrier says that more than 13 billion natural corks are produced for the wine industry every year, and claims that the 70th anniversary celebrations of its Admirals Club lounges means there will be more popped corks than ever in its lounges this year.

Getting shirty

On the subject of recycling, a security officer at BAA’s Stansted airport is doing her bit by collecting hundreds of shirts formerly worn by her colleagues, to be transformed into patchwork quilts for injured British servicemen and women. The cosy quilts are being made by the Lutterworth Ladies sewing group, in support for the Help for Heroes charity, and are given out at Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey.

Food for thought

Hot on the heels of the Mayfair Park and Tower Race (see online news June 18), Chris Galvin and Fred Sirieix of Hilton’s Galvin at Windows restaurant in London are taking part in the Medoc Marathon in south western France next month, a race which combines 26 miles of running with the tasting of fine wines and food along the way. The pair are running (at least until the first food stop) in support of Galvin’s Chance – for information on how to donate, visit justgiving.com/Fredsirieix-ChrisGalvin-Marathon

By Mark Caswell

Latest hotel developments

OFFERINGS

• Twenty percent discounts off luxury villas in Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives are offered through The Leading Hotels of the World until December 31, 2009. Participating properties are Anantara Phuket Resort and Spa and Banyan Tree in Phuket, The Nam Hai in Hoi An and Taj Exotica Resort and Spa in The Maldives. Besides special rates, guests will enjoy a welcome party on arrival.

www.lhw.com

Nikko Kuala Lumpur has two deals during the periods of August 20 to October 15, 2009 and December 15, 2009 to February 28, 2010.

The first package is priced from US$118 per room per night in a Deluxe Room, single occupancy and includes welcome drink, buffet breakfast for two, daily fruit platter, free newspaper, access to gym, pressing of two garments upon arrival, shuttle service to KLCC and KL Plaza, 20 percent off laundry/pressing, off the total food bill at the Chinese and Japanese restaurants and off spa treatments. An added US$30 gets an upgrade to a Club Floor.

The second rate is priced from US$147 per room per night in an Executive Nikko Club Room with access to the lounge, personalised check in and check out, buffet breakfast at the lounge where free snacks, cocktails are offered, laundry/pressing of up to six pieces per room daily, broadband internet access at the lounge, free internet access in the room, a one-hour use of the meeting room at the business centre, 1500 check out, 20 percent off business centre services and IDD calls and 25 percent off dry cleaning and laundry charges.

www.hotelnikko.com.my

OPENINGS

Shangri-La Hotel Ningbo, the chain’s 28th property in China, opened recently with 563 guestrooms. A major trading and shipping hub, the port city is a two-hour drive from Shanghai via the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. Guestrooms feature broadband internet access, integrated audio-visual system allowing guests to interface personal electronic devices. Facilities include a health club with a 25m lap pool and two tennis courts, 13 private dining rooms at the hotel’s signature Shang Palace, 5,000sqm of meeting space, including a column-free ballroom and a spa with nine private treatment rooms.

An opening rate of US$119 per night in a Deluxe Room, single or double occupancy, is available with daily breakfast.

slnb@shangri-la.com

Margie T Logarta

New Tried and Tested reviews added

Businesstraveller.com is constantly adding flight and hotel checks to its website, all of which can be viewed at businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested. In the last couple of weeks the following reviews have been published:

Hotels:

Flights:

To read these and hundreds of other hotel and flight reviews worldwide, visit businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested.

W Boston to open in October

Starwood Hotels and Resorts is to open a new property under its W brand in Boston this autumn. The W Boston is due to open in the city’s theatre district, close to Boston Common, on October 22.

It is the fourth hotel from the luxury boutique brand to open in the US this year, following properties in Washington DC, Fort Lauderdale and Hoboken in New Jersey.

The hotel’s design theme is “nature” and it aims to offer an urban escape for guests. Design company Bentel and Bentel has used an all-glass façade to “make a connection between the inside of the hotel to what’s going on outside”. Paul Bentel, partner at the firm, said: “Lighting was a key consideration for our design, particularly in the Living Room lobby bar, which can be enjoyed in different ways depending on the time of day.”

All of the 235 rooms and suites feature W’s signature bed, with 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and feather-top mattresses, as well as iPod docking stations, cordless phones and wireless internet access. The rooms use a colour scheme of greys, blues, violets and browns, while the canvas-panelled walls between the living and bathroom spaces are opaque when the bathroom lights are off, and translucent when they’re on. All rooms come with views of the city or the Charles river.

Other facilities include a fitness centre and spa, and a range of meeting spaces totalling about 500 sqm. French three-star Michelin chef Jean-Gorges Vongerichten is to run the hotel’s restaurant, Market.

The launch comes almost a year after Mandarin Oriental opened a new hotel in the city’s Back Bay district – for a review, click here.

Other W Hotels due to open in the US over the coming months include W New York and W Hollywood, both scheduled for December.

Visit whotels.com

Report by Bethany Whymark

MAS launches business class sale

Asian carrier Malaysia Airlines is offering reduced fares in business class to Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, for flights taken before December 31.

Fares start from the UK to Bali start from £2,345, to Perth and Sydney from £2,655 and to Auckland from £2,635, while fares to Kuala Lumpur start from £2,355. As a comparison, a full-price business class fare from London to Kuala Lumpur starts from £3,355.

Malaysia Airlines’ business class product offers angled lie-flat beds and personal in-flight entertainment systems. Bookings must be made before October 31 and all flights are via the airline’s hub in Kuala Lumpur. To see a seatplan of the aircraft used on the LHR-KUL route, click here.

Air Asia X also flies to Perth, Melbourne and Bali via Kuala Lumpur, from London Stansted. The carrier recently ran a sale for its XL seats with prices from £700 return, although the product doesn’t offer a flatbed seat or amenities such as in-flight food included in the price.

Visit malaysiaairlines.com, airasiax.com

Report by Sara Turner

Technology round-up

Businesstraveller.com brings you the latest travel gadgets and accessories to ease your life on the road. This week: the latest Bluetooth headset, protective casing for your iPod, and a video MP3 player with integrated speakers.

Nokia Bluetooth Stereo Handset BH-905

Nokia has launched its latest Bluetooth headset, teaming up with Wolfson Microelectronics to incorporate ‘active noise cancellation’ – eight microphones pick up and eliminate background noise in order to give the listener crystal-clear sound. The headset has answer, end and redial buttons, and also sports two microphones to make sure you’re heard even in noisy environments. It can be connected to any device via Bluetooth technology or through a wired connection to all Nokia devices with 3.5mm and 2.5mm Nokia AV.

Price around €285
Contact nokia.com

Kensington SlimBlade TrackBall

Kensington claims to have made the computing experience significantly smoother and easier with its new cursor and scrolling control. A long way from Kensington’s first trackball the “Turbo Mouse”, released in 1986, the SlimBlade TrackBall’s various interface functions support navigation, media control adjustments, document and photo browsing. Compatible with Macs and PCs, requires a USB connection.

Price $129.99
Contact kensington.com

Tech21 iBand

The Tech21 iBand spells the end to chunky protective casing for your iPod – a thin band surrounds the vulnerable edges, leaving the keypad uncovered. The iBand is made from a high tech material called D30, also used by the military to protect soldiers from bomb blasts, which contains “intelligent molecules” that lock together to absorb and distribute impact energy. Jason Roberts, founder and CEO of Tech21appeared on Dragons’ Den recently, and won backing from judges Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis, so this is one company to watch. Available from The Carphone Warehouse.


Price from £19.99
Contact tech21.uk.com, carphonewarehouse.com

Sony Walkman S540 Series

The Sony Walkman has come a long way since the days of the portable tape player, and this latest incarnation is the first Sony video MP3 player that includes integrated stereo speakers. The device measures just 10.2mm in thickness, and features a 2.4-inch LCD screen, an extra-long battery life of up to 42 hours, and an FM tuner with the ability to record radio broadcasts. Customers will also receive a voucher entitling them to five FREE non-DRM music videos from the catalogue of over 10,000 video titles offered by online music store 7digital. Available from September


Price TBC
Contact sony.co.uk

Coming soon…

Nokia Money

Nokia’s latest innovation is a mobile financial service, enabling you to manage your money from your mobile. It will allow you to send money to another person using their mobile number, pay for goods and services, pay your bills, or top up your prepaid SIM, all available 24 hours a day by SMS or a normal phone call. Nokia is operating the Nokia Money service in cooperation with Obopay, a leader in developing mobile payment solutions. It will be demonstrated for the first time on September 2 at Nokia World in Stuttgart, Germany, with plans for a gradual roll out in selected markets in 2010.

Contact nokia.com

Bethany Whymark

Boeing announces new Dreamliner schedule

Boeing says that its long awaited Dreamliner 787 aircraft will finally take to the skies “by the end of 2009”, with the first delivery expected in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The Dreamliner had been due to take its first flight earlier this year, but this was delayed following the need to reinforce an area wihin the side-of-body section of the aircraft (see online news June 23).

Boeing says that the 787 team has completed initial testing on the side-of-body reinforcements, and is finalizing design details of the new fittings, with installation expected to begin within the next few weeks.

ANA is the launch customer for the Dreamliner, and the first aircraft sporting the airline’s 787 livery was unveiled in June this year (see online news June 16). Boeing says that it “projects achieving a production rate of ten airplanes per month in 2013”.

For more information visit boeing.com.

Report by Mark Caswell