American and BA “exploring” co-location at JFK

JFK Airport

American Airlines has made a raft of announcements concerning its presence in New York, including the possibility of co-locating operations with BA at JFK’s Terminal 8.

The US carrier says it is currently “evaluating a proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to develop an expansion of the new state-of-the-art $1.3 billion international Terminal 8 to allow the airlines to co-locate their operations”.

The move would enable BA passengers to connect more easily onto AA’s network out of JFK, and the announcement is significant as it comes ahead of the decision on anti-trust immunity between BA, AA and Iberia, which are seeking to form a transatlantic joint venture similar to the Air France-KLM / Delta agreement. BA is currently located in Terminal 7 at JFK.

Among the other announcements made by AA today (March 31) include an agreement with Jet Blue to interline services in non-overlapping markets at New York and Boston, allowing Jet Blue customers to connect onto 12 international AA destinations from the two airports, and AA passengers to connect onto 18 domestic routes served by Jet Blue.

AA says it will also add 13 new routes at New York’s LaGuardia and JFK airports this year, served by a mixture of AA mainline operations and its regional affiliate American Eagle. The carrier is due to launch a daily service between JFK and Manchester in May (see online news September 17, 2009).

Finally AA says it plans improvements to facilities at LaGuardia airport, including the refurbishment of its Admirals Club executive lounges, and the renovation of the interiors of Concourse D, followed by similar works at Concourse C, at a total cost of US$30 million.

For more information visit aa.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Oberoi Mumbai to reopen in April

The Oberoi hotel in Mumbai will officially reopen on April 24 after extensive restoration that had to be carried out following the terrorist attacks which rocked the city in November 2008.

The luxury hotel on Marine Drive in South Mumbai has been transformed to offer new facilities and the latest technology for business travellers.  

A statement from the company said all guest rooms and suites have been renovated, and include spacious marble bathrooms.

It also announced new restaurants in the hotel, including Ziya, an Indian eatery under the direction of the Michelin starred chef Vineet Bhatia.

There are also upgraded meetings and conferencing facilities. For more information visit oberoihotels.com.

Report by Martin Ferguson

Park Inn debuts in Dresden

Rezidor’s Park Inn brand has opened a converted property in Dresden, just week’s ahead of Lufthansa’s launch of flights from London to the German city.

The 132-room Park Inn Dresden was formerly a Tulip Inn property, and was fully renovated in 2007, featuring a restaurant, lobby bar and meeting room. The hotel is located in Dresden Neustadt close to the River Elbe, around 15 minutes walk from the city’s historic centre.

Park Inn Dresden joins two Radisson Blu properties in the city – the centrally located Radisson Blu Gewandhaus Hotel, Dresden, and the Radisson Blu Park Hotel, Dresden Radebeul, located around 7km from the city centre.

Lufthansa recently announced a new route from London Heathrow to Dresden, operated by Bmi aircraft. The daily service is due to commence on April 19 (see online news March 19).

For more information visit parkinn.com, radissonblu.com, lufthansa.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

EU bans Philippine and Sudanese carriers from entering air space

Officials of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union (EU), have added carriers from the Philippines and Sudan to its EU “blacklist”, effectively blocking services into member states by these airlines.

It has also placed restrictions on Iran Air, but has eased those on North Korean operator Air Koryo.

The EU said it was aware that Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific were working to maintain high operating standards but preferred to “follow the principle of precaution” with regard to Philippine aviation conditions.

PAL does not serve Europe, having pulled out of the region in 1998, citing unprofitable routes.

The Philippines is also not in good standing with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which downgraded its aviation safety standards from category 1 to category 2 in 2008. PAL chief operating officer, Jaime Bautista, told Business Traveller earlier (see news) that his government was working to improve the rating and was optimistic the situation would improve later this year.

Without that revision, PAL cannot hope to expand in its biggest market, the US, where thousands of Filipino expatriates reside.

A PAL statement, released just after news of the EU ban, said that despite the Category 2 rating, “it must be noted that the US FAA continues to allow PAL to operate up to 33 regular weekly flights from the Philippines to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Las Vegas and Guam. PAL safely flies thousands of passengers, including US citizens, across the Pacific Ocean on a regular and reliable basis in compliance with stringent US safety regulations.”

Josen Perez de Tagle, PAL assistant vice-president, government affairs, admitted PAL was surprised by the ruling. However, EU officials, he said, told PAL that it could be exempted from the ban if it passed the audit. An EU team of inspectors is due in the Philippines around May. “They said not to worry and that we would get our day in court,” he said.

Perez de Tagle said PAL was eager for the EU visit, so aside from Philippine aviation regulators, “it can also inspect and audit local carriers”. He added: “All of us at the airline have worked so hard to achieve the goal of being a world-class carrier of uncompromising professionalism and efficiency.”

Air Philippines, a low-cost subsidiary of PAL, said through its president David Lim that, while the EU ban had no direct effect on local airlines, it gives the impression that Philippine carriers are unsafe. “We wish to assure the riding public that our planes are well-maintained and adhere to a strict maintenance policy that puts a premium on passenger comfort and safety.”

In 2007, a similar ban by the EU was placed on all 51 Indonesian carriers, including flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia, after a string of fatal incidents. This was partially lifted in July last year, with Garuda and three other airlines, Mandala Airlines, Airfast Indonesia and Premiair emerging from the prohibition. Garuda has returned from that hiatus, a reinvigorated product and will soon launch a Jakarta-Amsterdam service in June.

The ER airline blacklist, introduced in 2006, is reviewed every three months. The list includes around 280 airlines, mainly from Africa.

For more details about the airlines, visit www.philippineairlines.com and www.garuda-indonesia

Margie T Logarta

Middle East airlines target Tokyo

Three major Gulf carriers have targeted the lucrative Japanese market with Etihad and Emirates starting services to Tokyo this week and Qatar due to follow on April 26.

Etihad and Emirates launched their services simultaneously from Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively at the weekend. The Etihad service will operate five times a week. The airline has also operated an Abu Dhabi-Nagoya service five times weekly since early last year.

Abu Dhabi Tourism deputy general manager Ahmed Hussain told the media that: “Japan and Abu Dhabi have long partnerships within the oil industry and certainly Japanese brands are among the most recognised and sought after in our ultra-modern shopping malls.”

According to industry figures, trade between Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) grew by 300 percent between 2002 and 2008, from US$14 billion to more than US$57 billion before the financial crash. There are estimated to be 350 Japanese companies operating and more than 3,500 Japanese expatriates working permanently in the UAE. Japan has been historically very reliant on Gulf oil, while the Gulf states encouraged Japanese investment especially in the field of technology. Japanese construction companies have also been heavily involved in huge projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Etihad also has code-share agreements with All Nippon Airlines to Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka. Emirates will operate five weekly flights to the Japanese capital, adding to its daily service to Osaka that was launched in 2002. The airline pulled its Nagoya route two years ago.

Richard Vaughan, divisional senior vice-president, commercial operations worldwide, Emirates, said: “We have a great deal of experience in serving Japan and we are confident of robust demand for our Tokyo services. There is already a solid demand from Tokyo. Almost 75,000 passengers from the Kanto area travelled to Dubai between 2008 and 2009 using our Osaka flight. We are happy to be able to offer a non-stop route for these passengers through our Narita service.”

Until now, none of the three major Gulf carriers had landing rights in Tokyo, being restricted to secondary cities such as Osaka and Nagoya.
The opening up of capacity at Narita was mentioned by Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker, who said: “Tokyo is Japan’s commercial and financial centre and has been on Qatar Airways’ wish list of destinations for a number of years. It is only now that we are able to serve Tokyo due to new traffic rights and slot availability at the city’s main Narita International Airport.”

The downfall of Japan Airlines (JAL) has offered a number of foreign carriers the opportunity to build niche routes and the Gulf states seek to be a hub to Europe and even Latin America. JAL announced it would cut international and domestic routes, including eight flights on routes from Tokyo to New York-Sao Paulo.

According to Japanese travel industry experts, the Gulf carriers will now aggressively target the ultra-long haul market from Latin America, principally Brazil, where there are 1.5 million Brazilians of Japanese descent. There are 350,000 Brazilians in Japan.

Currently, travel between Japan and Brazil has largely been through the US but long transit, security checks and connections there mean that the Gulf carriers may be able to compete on door-to-door timing.

For more details, visit www.etihad.com, www.emirates.com, www.qatarairways.com

Kenny Coyle

Encore of Wynn Resorts debuts in Macau

Encore, an all-suite hotel brand of Wynn Resorts, makes its Macau debut on April 22, 2010.

The hotel is now accepting reservations for stays from that date.

Adjacent to sister resort, the 600-room Wynn Macau, the new property will feature 414 luxury suites and villas, two restaurants and a bar, three retail outlets offering over 278sqm of upscale retail space and its signature The Spa at Encore which will boast private therapy rooms.

The arrival of Encore reflects Wynn Resorts’ continuing expansion in the gaming enclave. Wynn Macau and Encore, side by side, mirrors their bigger counterparts Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, which are also next to each other.

Encore’s US version is larger though with 2,034 all-suite rooms, 12 F&B outlets, a night club, a spa and salon, and about 5,574sqm of meeting space. It also has a casino that covers a total area of 6,689sqm.

Travellers who want to try out this latest addition to the Wynn premises can call 853 8986 9966 in Macau and these toll free numbers – 800 966 963 in Hongkong, 108 00853 0062 in northern China and 108 00153 0062 in southern China.

The Wynn Group, established by entrepreneur/gaming magnate Steve Wynn, was one of the first foreign joint ventures to enter the territory’s gaming industry when it was opened to more investors in 2006.

For more, visit www.wynnmacau.com

Gigi Onag

City hotels offering exclusive jogging paths

Some city hotels go through unique lengths to keep their guests from straying too far from the premises. An example are the seven listed below who’ve set up their own, would you believe, exclusive jogging tracks – including one in the fitness centre.

BANGKOK

Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Where is it? On the hotel’s fifth floor, it’s part of Club i.sawan and is near the tennis court.

Length of the path? Measures 110m in total. The route is excellent for a beginner or someone looking for a nice short run to warm up before continuing on to a more rigorous exercise routine.

Special features: Bangkok’s magnificent skyline accompanies the guest on this exercise.

Operating hours: 6am to 6pm, while Club i.sawan fitness is 24 hours for in-house guests and 6am to 11pm for club members.

Website: www.bangkok.grand.hyatt.com

HONGKONG

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Where is it? It’s one of the features of the hotel’s Plateau complex on the 11th floor and is behind the Pool House and grill areas.

Length of the path? Measures 400km

Special features: Runs through the gardens that also contain a children’s playground and pond, providing a tranquil setting for one’s workout.

Operating hours: 7am to 11pm

Website: www.hongkong.grand.hyatt.com

JAKARTA

The Sultan Hotel

Where is it? It cuts through the sprawling lawns of one of Jakarta’s largest hotels (1,104 rooms).

Length of path? Measures 500km

Special features: Big trees and the hotel’s sizeable sporting facilities such as 12 tennis courts, a basketball court, four squash courts, a swimming pool and children’s playground are located along the way of this jogging path.

Operating hours: None apply.

Website: www.sultanjakarta.com 

MANILA

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila

Where is it? Three jogging trails have been incorporated in the sprawling, landscaped grounds of this unique seafront property.

Length of the path? The first is 2.4km and takes 40 minutes to finish; the second is 2.6km and take 42 minutes to finish; and the third is 1km and takes about 30 minutes to finish.

Special features: The setting is one of shady palm trees and a lagoon-shaped swimming pool against the backdrop of the famous Manila Bay.

Operating hours: None apply.

Website: www.sofitel.com

MUMBAI

Renaissance Mumbai Hotel and Convention Centre

Where is it? Located within a self-contained complex that also features the Marriott Executive Apartments.

Length of path? It’s 91.44m in length and 1m in width. The track runs along from the Marriott Service Apartments to Gauiri Point.

Special features: Fabulous setting with the serene Powai Lake and a 6.07ha of greenery.

Operating hours: None apply.

Website: www.renaissancemumbai.com

SEOUL

The Shilla Seoul

Where is it? At the back of the hotel

Length of the path? Guests can choose can choose a gentle 1.8km jog or a more serious 3km run. The jogging course winds its way through the hotel’s Sculpture Garden. Also, the hotel has mapped out a pleasant jogging through the forested section of the mountain – from the main gate of The Shilla Seoul through Janchundan Park and the backgate of Dongkuk University to the stairs heading for Mount Namsan.

Special features: The jogging path is built within The Shilla’s 4.5ha Sculpture Garden. Runners can marvel at some of the 70 life-size art pieces in the well kept landscaped garden.

Operating hours: None apply.

Website: www.shilla.net

JW Marriott Seoul

Where is it? Inside the hotel’s Marquis Thermal Spa and Fitness Club

Length of the path? Overlooking the pool atrium, the jogging track has a length of 85.34m.

Special features: A unique selling point of the club is that it “brings the outdoors, indoors”. Solar bulbs located throughout the fitness centre add natural warmth and daylight to any workout. To give guests the extra boost, fresh air is pumped in the club. The club spans three floors covering a total area of 495,870sqm. The indoor jogging track is not the only thing unique in the club, it also has a natural thermal spring.

Operating hours: None apply

Website: www.jw-marriott.co.kr

Margie T Logarta and Gigi Onag

Celebrity chefs join Le Meridien and Mandarin properties

Michelin-starred Gary Rhodes is to launch Rhodes Twenty10 at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort in Dubai, while French celebrity chef Thierry Marx is to open a restaurant at the forthcoming Mandarin Oriental Paris.

Rhodes Twenty10 will be the British chef’s second venture in Dubai, joining Rhodes Mezzanine at Grosvenor House Dubai. The restaurant will offer “a variety of grill dishes, from lobster to steak”, with complimentary dressings, sauces and salsas, and a signature burger “made with fillet steak and topped with melting foie gras”.

Meanwhile Thierry Marx is joining Mandarin Oriental after ten years as two michelin-starred chef at Châteaux Cordeillan Bages, a Relais & Châteaux property in Gironde. Marx has previously been voted Chef of the Year by the Gault Millau, and is currently appearing on French television series Top Chef.

Mandarin Oriental Paris is due to open in 2011, and as well as heading up the hotel’s signature restaurant, Marx will oversee the property’s other eateries as Culinary Director.

For more information visit starwoodhotels.com, mandarinoriental.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

TAM to join Star Alliance on May 13

TAM Brazilian Airlines has confirmed May 13 as the date it will become the 27th member of the Star Alliance.

The carrier has been working behind the scenes since late 2008 to ready itself for intergration into the alliance, and recently switched to Heathrow T1 to join fellow Star members (see online news March 18). TAM also introduced its first class product onto the London-Sao Paulo route earlier this year.

From May 13 members of the carrier’s Fidelidade loyalty scheme (which TAM says number some 6.6 million) will be able to earn and burn miles with other Star members.

For more information visit tam.com.br, staralliance.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

ANA provides FFP members a chance to double their miles

ANA customers, holding an ANA Mileage Card, can earn double the points they normally receive through the new Double SMile Campaign that runs from April 1 to May 31, 2010.

But to qualify, they have to register for the promotion at http://www.ana.co.jp/eng/amc/news/cpn_doublemile1002

The bonus awards apply to all of the Japanese carrier’s international and domestic routes.

Members of the premium tiers, Diamond, Platinum and Bronze, stand to gain even more in a simultaneous promotion running from April 1 to September 30, where they will receive double mileage on top of the double miles they already received earlier.

Again to qualify, they have to register at www.ana.co.jp/eng/amc/news/cpn_intbmile/

For more details, visit www.ana.co.jp

Margie T Logarta