Malaysia Airlines’ first A380 is delayed

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will have to wait a bit longer to take delivery of its first Airbus A380.

As reported earlier in news, the flag carrier was supposed to see the first of six superjumbos arriving around August of 2011. The new date has been moved to the first half of 2012, said a spokesperson for the carrier.

The delivery schedules of the other A380s are still being finalised. The futuristic fleet is being acquired by MAS with the help of one of its major shareholders as it aims to own aircraft instead of leasing them.

MAS’ launch A380 is expected to feature a Premium Economy product.

For more on the airline, visit www.malaysiaairlines.com

Margie T Logarta

EU liquids ban to end by 2013

The end is in sight for travellers wanting to carry liquids in their hand luggage, although it may take another two years before all EU airports are equipped with screening equipment.

As flagged on our forum yesterday, the European Union has set a deadline of April 29, 2013, by when all EU airports must have rolled out liquids screening equipment. After this date all liquids will be allowed in cabin baggage.

The new EU framework has also set a date of April 29, 2011, by when “duty-free liquids purchased at third country airports or on board third country airlines and carried in tamper evident bags will be allowed as cabin baggage and will be screened”. This is currently only the case for liquids coming from selected third countries such as the US, Canada, Singapore and Croatia.

A statement by the European Commission said that EU airports will be “closely monitored through unannounced Commission inspections” during the implementation of these new security measures.

For more information visit europa.eu.

Etihad to open Manchester lounge

Etihad is to become the second Middle Eastern carrier to open a lounge within Manchester airport’s Terminal 1, joining rivals Emirates.

The new 318sqm Etihad facility is due to open “late this year”, and will feature “five-star dining facilities with a selection of international cuisine”, a business centre, relaxation area, family room, prayer room, and “luxurious bathroom and shower facilities”.

Rival carrier Emirates unveiled its own lounge at Manchester’s T1 in October last year (see online news October 22, 2009), part of the terminal’s revamped facilities. For a report on developments at the airport see Northern Heights in the March 2010 edition of Business Traveller.

Etihad currently operates a daily service between Manchester and Abu Dhabi using Airbus A330-200s, although it is due to roster Boeing 777-300 aircraft on to the route from June (see online news February 18). This will increase capacity on the route by around 60 per cent, but note that the carrier is also set to move to a ten across layout in the economy cabin of these aircraft.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline also opened a lounge a Heathrow T4 last year – for a review of the facility click here.

For more information visit etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Armani Hotel Dubai debuts, eyes second property in Milan

After twice delaying its opening, the upscale Armani Hotel Dubai finally made its debut inside the  Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Occupying floors concourse to 8 and levels 38 & 39, the hotel features 160 luxurious guestrooms and suites, eight innovative restaurants, exclusive retail outlets and a serene spa.

The hotel offers sweeping views of the city complemented with a harmonious and stylish lifestyle environment. Every aspect of the hotel’s design and service offerings has been designed and planned by Giorgio Armani, from the bespoke furnishings to restaurant menus and in-room amenities.

The property is the first foray of the Italian fashion icon into the hospitaly industry. Taking nearly five years to conceptualise and build, Armani personally oversaw every aspect of the hotel’s design. The result is a property that feels bespoke, from the Eramosa stone floors, zebra wood paneling and fabric covered walls to the scents of the bath and spa accessories. The hotel truly brings to life Giorgio Armani’s dream.

“It has long been my dream to have a hotel in which I myself would like to stay and entertain family and friends, where the Armani aesthetic is combined with Italian-style warmth and hospitality.”

The Armani Hotel Dubai brings to life the Stay with Armani philosophy, promising a “home-away from-home” experience. The Armani approach goes beyond visual aesthetics, offering a new level of service under the Lifestyle Services department.

Based on the philosophy that travel is as much an emotional journey as a physical one, the Armani Hotel assigns each hotel guest a personal Lifestyle Manager who will serve as a personal contact and host from the moment they make a reservation to the time they check out and even beyond. From the moment guests begin their journey at the time of booking, the Lifestyle Manager steps in to understand their interests and desires, and ensures that all their needs are attended to in a

Before, throughout and even after a stay, hotel guests can ask their Lifestyle Managers for advice and help with everything from business and transportation arrangements, shopping, entertainment and meal recommendations to arranging for childcare.

Complementing the hotel and located on levels 9 to 16 of Burj Khalifa are the Armani Residences, featuring 144 luxurious private residences, which, like the hotel, has been personally designed by Giorgio Armani reflecting his smooth, understated style.

A collaboration between Giorgio Armani S.p.A. and Emaar Properties PJSC, the Armani Hotel Dubai is the first in a collection of hotels, resorts and residences to be unveiled in key international destinations. The second Armani Hotel will launch in Milan next year.

Other properties underway include the first Armani Resort, planned for Marrakech, and the first Armani Residences Villas in Marassi, Egypt. Further Armani hotels, resorts and residences will open in key markets such as New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and London.

For more information, visit www.armanihotels.com

Gigi Onag

Jumeirah to launch Venu lifestyle brand

Luxury hotel group Jumeirah says it will launch a new lifestyle brand of hotels under the name Venu later this year.

The Dubai-based groups says it is in “advanced stages of negotiation with developers interested in opening Venu branded hotels in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific”, and will launch the brand later in 2010 “when the company confirms the locations of its first set of hotels”.

There are currently few details on the five-star Venu brand, although Juemirah says that it will “be a collection of global destinations expressing the local soul for those who seek a sophisticated immersion in the destination”. Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of Jumeirah Group added that it will “fulfil a clear market need and one that is highly complementary to the Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts brand”.

The group also reported “high occupancy” in its Dubai hotels in the months February-April 2010, with a registered occupancy of 89 per cent in February and March, and 92.5 per cent in April, for its beachfront properties (including the include Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Madinat Jumeirah). 

Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai recorded occupancy of over 75 per cent for the February-March period, while Jumeirah Essex House  in New York recorded occupancy of 85 per cent in April. Jumeirah said that these figures reflected an “upturn in the business and corporate markets”.

For more information visit jumeirah.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Starwood launches SPG Amex credit card

Starwood Hotels has launched an American Express credit card for members of its SPG loyalty scheme. The card has an annual fee of £75, but users can earn 10,000 bonus SPG points when they spend £1,000 in the first three months.

Starwood has sent an email to SPG members detailing the new offering, as flagged on our forum earlier today. The American Express card offers one point for every full pound spent, with bonus benefits including 10,000 points when the user spends £1,000 on the card in the first three months, an upgrade to Gold Preferred Guest tier once £15,000 is spent on the card, and a complimentary weekend nighr at any SPG category 1-4 hotel after £25,000 has been spent.

The card’s per annum rate is 19.9 per cent variable, or 32 per cent APR variable including the £75 annual fee.

Rival hotel groups IHG, Hilton and Marriott all currently offer fee-free Visa credit cards for their Priority Club, HHonors and Marriott Rewards members.

For more information visit spg.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Lufthansa to launch A380 on Tokyo route

Lufthansa’s dedicated A380 site has posted details of the first routes to operate its brand new A380 superjumbo. Tokyo will commence on June 11, with Beijing on August 25, and Johannesburg on October 25.

There had been rumours that Lufthansa would launch scheduled A380 services on the Frankfurt-New York route, but it now appears that Tokyo’s Narita airport will have this privilege.

Lufthansa says it will ply the Frankfurt-Tokyo route three-times weekly with the A380 from June 11, on flight number LH710 departing on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 1335, arriving in Japan at 0730 the next day. The return leg LH711 will leave Tokyo at 0935 on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday, landing back in Frankfurt at 1415. Lufthansa plans to operate the A380 daily on this route from August 4.

The carrier will then launch three-times weekly A380 services to Beijing from August 25, with flight LH720 departing Frankfurt on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1720, arriving in Beijing at 0830 the next day. The return leg LH721 will leave China on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1030, landing back in Germany at 1430. Lufthansa plans to operate the A380 daily on this route from the end of October.

Finally Lufthansa will launch regular scheduled A380 services to Johannesburg on October 25, with three-times weekly flights departing Frankfurt on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday as LH572 at 2235, arriving in South Africa at 0850 the next day. The return leg LH573 will leave Johannesburg on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 1855, arriving back in Frankfurt at 0520 the next day.

The timings of all three of these Lufthansa A380 routes will offer good connections to and from the UK and mainland Europe. Flights for all three services are now on sale.

Lufthansa takes delivery of its first A380 on May 19, and is due to fly the German football team and lucky fans to Johannesburg on June 6 on a one-off flight using the superjumbo, in time for the start of the FIFA World Cup.

For more information visit a380.lufthansa.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

IHG offers bonus points for use of its iPhone application

IHG is offering users 1,000 Priority Club Rewards bonus points for all bookings and stays for the rest of April through June 15, 2010 made using the new iPhone app.

This latest tool contains features Priority Club Rewards members expect when booking and managing reservations. The initial version contains Find and Book Hotel; GPS functionality of the iPhone to find nearby IHG hotels as well as the ability to view photos and amenities for each hotel, get custom directions using the iPhone’s GPS, Click-to-call front desk for each hotel and use Priority Club Rewards account information to facilitate bookings.

Michael Menis, vice president, global interactive marketing, IHG, observed: “It’s important to have a holistic view of a customer’s needs when creating a mobile strategy and supporting applications.

“Customers want access to information whenever and wherever they want and mobile provides that capability. With this in mind we developed our iPhone app to complement our mobile strategy which includes our optimized mobile websites. These websites allow customers to reach us through various mobile devices giving them greater accessibility.”

IHG’s Priority Club Rewards iPhone app is now available in English at the iPhone app store.  BlackBerry® and AndroidTM app will follow in the coming months.

For more information www.ichotelsgroup.com

Margie T Logarta

China Airlines increases capacity on mainland routes

Taiwan’s China Airlines and its subsidiary Mandarin Airlines are to increase capacity on several cross-straits routes between the island and mainland China.

The airline will now use an Airbus A330-300 on all flights from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport to Xian, Shenyang, Changsha and Zhengzhou on the mainland.

Previously, the carrier used a B737-800 with eight Dynasty (Business) Class Seats and 150 Economy Class seats, while the Airbus offers 36Dynasty Supreme Class and 277 Economy Class. The A330s also offer better seat pitches and inflight entertainment options.

All four routes have a twice-weekly frequency.
www.china-airlines.com

Kenny Coyle

Eurostar launches Standard Premier class

The international rail operator is replacing its current Leisure Select class with a Standard Premier offering designed to appeal to “price-sensitive business travellers”.
 
The new “mid-class” will broadly offer the same benefits as the Leisure Select, such as premium seating, complimentary magazines and a light meal, but will have “more semi-flexible price points than Leisure Select”, and crucially will appeal to business travellers whose travel policies precluded them from travelling in a class containing the name “Leisure”.
 
Eurostar says that the change “comes as a result of extensive customer feedback and market research and sees Eurostar’s class offerings move towards a more intuitive structure with Standard Premier perfectly complementing the existing Business Premier and Standard classes”.
 
Benefits such as lounge access and ten-minute express check-in will still be reserved for Business Premier ticket holders, or those with sufficient status within the Eurostar Frequent Traveller programme.
 
Tickets for the new class will go on sale in May, for travel from the start of September. Standard Premier tickets will start from £189, compared to lead-in fares for Leisure Select of £179. Standard Premier flexible fares will be refundable with a deduction of 15 per cent of the full value of the ticket, or of the outstanding ticket value if one of the legs has already been travelled.
 
For more information visit eurostar.com.
 
Report by Mark Caswell