AA launches mobile boarding at Heathrow

American Airlines has become one of the first airlines to offer mobile boarding passes for customers departing London Heathrow.

Heathrow joins 41 US cities where AA and its subsidiary American Eagle already offer the mobile boarding pass option. The airline says it also plans to launch the service across its international network.

As with mobile boarding passes offered by other airlines, AA passengers can opt to receive a 2-D barcode to their mobile phone, which can then be scanned at security and American Airlines gates. Those wishing to check in luggage can also scan the barcode at AA’s self-service machines at the airport.

Passengers should note that at present those wishing to use the mobile boarding pass option can only list one person in their reservation.

German carrier Lufthansa and subsidiary Bmi both offer similar mobile boarding pass options from London Heathrow.

For more information visit aa.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Special report: Emirates faces protectionism

Emirates recently stunned the aviation world with a further massive order for A380 superjumbos.

At the Berlin air show it signed an $11.5 billion contract for 32 additional A380s which will, when all are delivered, provide Emirates with a combined fleet of 90 superjumbos which is several times more than will be operated by its rivals.

But aviation experts are now questioning whether or not Emirates will actually be able to utilise this huge fleet of A380s.

The problem for Emirates is that it has become a victim of its own success. It has developed a quality and value for money brand which is as well known around the world as, say, the Easyjet brand is amongst cost-conscious travellers here in Europe.

Fearful of Emirates stealing more of their passengers, the world’s big national carriers and their governments are attempting to restrict the Dubai national airline’s growth.

Quoted on Dow Jones newswires in New York last week, Peter Hartman, CEO of Dutch airline KLM (part of the Air France and KLM grouping) said, “Emirates is likely to face more and more reluctance [by governments] to grant it traffic rights.”

This is already happening. According to reports in France’s “La Tribune”  the French government has rejected Emirates’ application for more landing slots in Paris. According to La Tribune, Emirates can expand in France but only provided it opens up a new destination: Lyon.

In the case of Germany, the government last year ordered Emirates to raise its fares in line with prices charged by EU carriers (see online news November 20, 2009). Emirates would dearly like to inaugurate services to two additional German cities: Stuttgart and Berlin. But permission has been refused unless Emirates were to drop flights to two of its four existing German destinations (Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich) and this is something which it has refused to do.

The Dubai-based airline has also been refused permission to add extra seats on routes to Canada and South Korea.

Emirates built itself up by emulating the business models of transfer carriers like KLM and SIA. These airlines specialise in carrying passengers through, as well as to, their respective hubs of Amsterdam and Singapore. 

Dubai’s strategic location enabled it to capitalise on the voluminous numbers of East-West travellers (those flying from Europe to Asia and Australia, for example). More recently it has begun tapping a new growth area of North-South traffic (passengers flying from Russia, Japan and China via Dubai to Africa and Latin America).

The kangaroo route linking Europe with Australasia is a prime example of how Emirates has come from nowhere in the past 20 or so years to dominate the market.

Way back in 1988, our own British Airways was market leader. In those days BA served seven cities in Australia and New Zealand. An advertisement in BA’s 1988 timetable proclaimed  “We’re on top Down Under. No one offers a better choice of destinations. Or a better way of getting there.”

Fast forward 22 years and BA, with its Down Under schedule now cut to as few as seven flights a week to a single city (Sydney) is a minnow. Today it is Emirates, with its 70 flights a week (mostly operated by large B777s and A380s) to six cities, who has assumed BA’s kangaroo route mantle.

Interviewed on arabianbusiness.com, Maurice Flanagan, Emirates’ founding CEO and current executive chairman said, “We always planned to grow, we were just never able to put our finger on how quickly. Now we’re short of capacity all the time.”

Flanagan claims that rivals should follow its lead and order more planes for efficiency savings.

“I can’t understand why other airlines have been so slow to pick up on the A380. The economies are fantastic. It has given us a huge advantage because the seat mile costs are much lower than on any other aircraft.”

So for now Emirates’ expansion is based around adding new countries to its network and increasing seat capacity (where it is allowed to do so) on existing routes. Rostering an A380 in place of a B777-300 will add over 100 extra seats.

In the case of Europe a new destinations in the form of Holland (Amsterdam) came online last May, and the Czech capital of Prague joins Emirates’ network in July with the Spanish capital of Madrid following in August.

Although Emirates has not added any additional UK cities for a couple of years it has boosted the number of seats into Heathrow by upgrading two existing services to its A380 operation. The A380 will also be used into Manchester from September with Birmingham (a city to which Emirates operated a special A380 flight last year) a future possibility.

Interesting times like ahead. For more information visit emirates.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

JAL announces Haneda international schedules

Fans of Japan Airlines (JAL) based in Europe, Asia and North America can more easily access Tokyo effective on October 31.

That is when JAL intends to inaugurate daily flights from Tokyo’s “close-in” airport to six new international destinations: Paris CDG, Taipei Songshan, Singapore, Bangkok, Honolulu and San Francisco.  
Flights on other routes into Haneda from Asian cities also see a frequency increase or an improvement in timings.

In the case of Hong Kong, to take one example, the current JAL service to Haneda is timed to depart at the unsocial hour of 0120 with the return flight arriving back at 0020. From the end of October JAL’s Haneda service will adopt a more palatable mid-afternoon timing departing Hong Kong at 1545 and arriving back at 1405.

“Haneda airport is conveniently located in the heart of Tokyo and will be open around the clock, greatly enhancing the convenience of travellers, says JAL’s president and CEO, Masaru Onishi, “it is easily accessible from downtown by train or car in 30 mins. With JAL’s extensive domestic operations at the hub, passengers can make smooth connections from our new international flights to many other destinations in Japan.”

At present almost all international travellers visiting Tokyo must arrive at Tokyo Narita airport which is 70 km outside of town (and a two hour bus ride or costly taxi fare away) as against Haneda which is just 20 km out. Note that in the case of Europe, JAL’s new service into Paris CDG will be the sole link between this continent and Tokyo Haneda.

Flight schedules for this key service are:

  • Haneda-Paris CDG JL41 departing 0130, arriving 0620
  • Paris CDG-Haneda JL42 departing 1100, arriving 0655

All flights are operated either by B777 or B767 aircraft.

For information on Tokyo Haneda see online news March 29. The July/August issue of Business Traveller also features a focus article on flight options to Tokyo.

For more information visit jal.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

Aegean joins Star Alliance

Aegean Airlines crew

Greek carrier Aegean Airlines has officially become the 28th member of the Star Alliance, and the second carrier to join in as many months, following Brazilian airline TAM’s inauguration in May (see online news May 13).

Aegean completed its integration into the alliance in just 12 months, and the carrier brings 26 domestic and 28 international routes to the Star network. Members of Aegean’s Miles and Bonus loyalty scheme can now also earn and redeem points with other Star carriers.

Aegean is currently waiting EC approval on plans to merge with fellow Greek carrier Olympic Air – for more details see online news February 23.

Other carriers which have recently joined Star include Continental last October, and Brussels Airlines in December. Air India is also due to join the fold later this year.

For more information visit staralliance.com, aegeanair.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Marrakech hotels round-up

Business Traveller takes a look at ten existing and forthcoming hotels in the vibrant Moroccan city of Marrakech.

1) Sofitel Marrakech Palais Imperial and 2) Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa

Originally one large hotel, this complex has recently been split into two separate properties to cater for a wider range of guests. The Palais Imperial has a more traditional Moroccan feel to it, while the Lounge and Spa is a modern offering, with an exhibition space featuring modern artwork and sculptures by local artists.

The complex is located to the south of the modern Gueliz district of the city, and to the west of the old town, with its souks, food stalls and city walls. Both hotels share the same public facilities, which include three swimming pools (two outdoor and one indoor), L’Orangerie restaurant and Lawrence Bar, both with outdoor terraces and views of the Atlas Mountains, and extensive poolside seating.

Contact sofitel.com

For a full review of the Sofitel Marrkech properties, click here.

3) Le Meridien N’Fis

Situated in the same area as the Sofitel properties, this 277-room hotel features a central Andalusian garden and a large outdoor pool, with a choice of sun loungers or double-bed cabanas. Rooms are simply decorated with white walls and tiled floors, and feature chairs and a table in front of the balcony windows.

There is a spa with hammam and sauna, and a traditional Moroccan cafe / bar under a canvas roof, where shishas can be hired at comfortable sofas, and where live Moroccan music is played most nights.

Contact starwoodhotels.com

For a full review of le Meridien N’Fis, click here.

4) La Mamounia

The iconic La Mamounia has welcomed famous guests including Hitchcock and Roosevelt during its illustrious history, and was a favourite of Winston Churchill. 

An extensive three-year restoration project under the direction of interior designer Jacques Garcia was unveiled last year, with an expanded offering of 136 rooms, 71 suites and three riads each with three bedrooms and private terraces / swimming pools. Features include four restaurants, five bars, a 27,000 square foot spa, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

The grounds of La Mamounia are simply stunning and are well worth a visit even if you are not staying at the hotel – immaculately kept and serenly peaceful, they are a world away from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Marrackech outside. 

Contact mamounia.com

5) Royal Mansour

This 53-riad hotel officially opened on July 1, and is located a few minutes’ walk to the west of the city’s souks within Cyber Parc Moulay Abdelslam. The new-build property is one of three members of the Leading Hotels of the World group in Marrakech, the other two being La Mamounia and Hotel et Ryads Naoura Barriere.

Each riad features a private courtyard, fountains, a plunge pool, roof terrace and “luxurious Moroccan furnishings”, while facilities at the hotel include two fine-dining restaurants, a 2,500sqm spa, two swimming pools and 24-hour butler service.

Contact royalmansour.com

6) Assoufid

Located about 15 minutes southwest of the city centre, Assoufid is the latest project by luxury hotel group The Rocco Forte Collection, and is due to open at the beginning of 2012.

The resort complex is set among 222 hectares of palm groves, and will include 80 residential villas (each set on at least one hectare of land), an all-suite hotel wtih six bars and restaurants, tennis courts, events space, a spa, and an 18-hole championsship golf course with two driving ranges and a golf academy.

Contact roccofortecollection.com, assoufid.com

7) Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma, Marrakech

Due to open later this year, this 161-room resort hotel is situated around 20 minutes north of the city centre in the Palmeraie area. Riad-style rooms range from 80 to 200sqm, and feature terraces with views of the Atlas Mountains, gardens and palm groves.

There are seven eating and dining options, including Rumi for traditional and contemporary Moroccan cuisine, The Billiard Bar with snooker table and veranda, and lounge club Fandango. Other facilities include a ballroom accommodating up to 500 guests, a 3,800sqm spa, and a 1,600sqm dark green marble swimming pool.

Contact mandarinoriental.com

Note: This hotel is now to be managed by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces – see online news June 1 for more information.

8) Park Plaza Marrakech

Also slated for a 2010 opening, the Park Plaza Marrakech is located in the Menara district of the city, and will feature 114 rooms and suites, with facilities including restaurants, a piano bar, fitness centre, swimming pool, a disco and a bowling alley.

There had also been plans for sister brand Art’otel to open a property in the city (see online news March 18, 2008), but these have now been dropped.

Contact parkplazahotels.net

9) Park Hyatt Marrakech

Situated around 15km to the southeast of the city centre, the Park Hyatt Marrakech will form part of the Al Maaden Resort, a residential, golf and hotel development, with a Kyle Phillips-designed 18-hole championship course.

According to Hyatt the 120-room hotel will offer “modern architectural design, rich residential interiors, creative restaurant concepts, and a lounge and elegant bar”, and will join the Hyatt Regency Casablanca as the second property by the group in Morocco.

Contact hyatt.com

10) W Marrakech

Also located within the Al Maaden development, the first African property by Starwood’s trendy W Hotels brand is due to open at the end of 2011.

W Marrakech Hotel and Residences will feature 150 rooms and 68 residences, as well as signature W facilities including the Living Room lobby area and Sweat fitness centre. There will be indoor and outdoor pools, and around 1,000sqm of meeting space.

Contact starwoodhotels.com

Getting there

Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies four-times weekly from London Luton, with Easyjet (easyjet.com) offering a daily service from the airport. Royal Air Maroc (royalairmaroc.com) flies daily from London Heathrow while its subsidiary Atlas Blue flies twice-daily from London Gatwick. Ryanair also flies twice-weekly from both Bristol and Edinburgh, while Easyjet flies three-times weekly from Manchester.

More Information

Frommer’s recently published its “Day by Day” guide to Marrakech, with excellent information on the best sights, restaurants and nightlife in the city, as well as a brief history and useful phrases. The book also suggests walking tours of the souks and other popular areas of the city, and has a pouch with a fold-out map showing the main streets. I used this guidebook during a recent visit and would highly recommended it, although other brands including Time Out, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, AA, Footprint, Eyewitness, Hg2 and Berlitz also publish guides to the city.

Mark Caswell

Any Marrakech hotels you’d like to add to this list, either existing or forthcoming? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

Emirates offers prepaid discount for excess luggage

Emirate is offering discounts to travellers who prepay their excess luggage fees through a new online tool.

The discount of 15 percent on standard airport charges is only available online and can be used between 24 hours and 90 minutes prior to the flight from most airports used by Emirates.

Passengers who have already purchased a ticket can log in to the “Manage a Booking” section on www.emirates.com within 24 hours of their departure to purchase additional baggage allowances.

For routes that charge by weight, customers may purchase in segments of five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 kilos. For routes that charge by the piece, customers may purchase one, two or three additional bags of up to 32 kilos each.

Russell Sheldon, senior vice-president, network passenger sales and development of Emirates, said: “Advance planning can make a journey more enjoyable and hassle-free. We encourage passengers to weigh their suitcases and check the website for details on costs of additional weight.”

Purchases are non-refundable and non-transferrable and apply only to adults and children, not to infants. Only one online purchase of additional baggage per passenger per continuous journey is permitted. A full list of qualifying airports can be found online.

www.emirates.com

Kenny Coyle

Four Points By Sheraton enters Thailand

Starwood will introduce its Four Points By Sheraton hotel brand in Thailand with the opening of a 268-room property on Sukhumvit Road in October. Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15 is five minutes’ walk from the Asok sky train station and is in close proximity to the business districts of Silom and Sathorn Roads.

“We will cater to both mid-scale business  and leisure travellers as well as to the requirements of meeting and event planners by offering a comfortable, fun and fuss-free hotel experience that at the same time provides great value,” said hotel general manager Janet McNab.

The new hotel will feature 249 guestrooms, including eight junior sites and 11 executive suites ranging from 32 to 74sqm. Bold designs with clean architectural lines and warm contemporary furnishings will be the prevailing aesthetic across the hotel.

Like every Four Points By Sheraton property, the new hotel will offer free high-speed internet access, complimentary bottled water and a great beer at the end of the day courtesy of its signature Best Brew programme.

The hotel will also feature a 400sqm event space ideal for business gatherings, creative meetings and private events.

Further enriching the guest experience will be a range of dining options such as an all-day dining at  Eatery, offering home-style favourites; Wrapped, a café-deli serving deli-fare and signature Feel Good Treats such as mango sticky rice and coconut cupcakes with lemongrass frosting. Those looking for a post-meal digestif may sip specialty cocktails while taking in gorgeous views of the area at the Rooftop Bar.

Booking at the hotel is open from mid-July 2010.

For more information, visit www.fourpoints.com/bangkoksukhumvit15

Natasha Hong

Business Traveller July/August edition now live

Subscribers to the print version of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific can access the online edition a whole month before everyone else. We upload all of our destination features and special reports to businesstraveller.asia each month, and the July/August edition has now gone live.

Subscribe to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific before September 30, 2010, and you will receive a free one-year membership to the TraVision MileageManager, an online tool that consolidates your frequent flier milage information from multiple programmes into one statement and delivered to your email box (see news).

To subscribe, go to http://www.panaceapublishing.com/newsagent/subscribe/6

This month’s issue includes

• A look at how the recent crises have made tech firms aware of the need to make online services available on the phone

• An update on how Hongkong is shaping up to be the art auction hub for mainland Chinese buyers

• A frank and colourful portrait of Sao Paulo by a former resident

• A conversation with former Miss Universe and businesswoman Margie Moran

• Reviews of four London hotels

• A four-hour tour of Berlin

• An update of Haneda’s plans to re-enter the spotlight with new airline services

• An escape to Koh Lanta in Thailand’s southwest coast that combines fun and relaxation

• Reasons to retire in multicultural Malaysia

• A wild and wooly experience in the pampas of South America

• The lowdown on Garuda Indonesia’s Executive class

If you are already a subscriber to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, simply log in here (using the email address attached to your subscription), then click on the current issue for full access. If you are unsure of your log in details, or have any problems accessing the current issue as a print subscriber, click here to send us an email.

Hong Kong hotels with top-floor venues

Hotel meeting and function spaces used to occupy the lower levels, and even basements, of buildings. This is no longer the case for a number of deluxe properties, which have switched these revenue-generating spaces from the bottom to their prime top floors. Here are some Hongkong hotels that have followed the trend and impressed their clientele.

CROWNE PLAZA HONG KONG CAUSEWAY BAY

Location: 8 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay

Name of event venue: Club @28
 Club @28 is on the 28th floor of Crowne Plaza. It features a view of the Happy Valley Racecourse on one side and the pool on the other.

With 161sqm to work with, designer Steve Leung used a row of modern classic chandeliers and a carefully crafted circular bar as accents to an extremely innovative space. Note the pathway in the main lounge that channels a fashion catwalk – perfect for that product launch.

Capacity: Approximately 80 to 100 guests for evening cocktails

Ongoing offers: None at the moment.

 Website: www.cphongkong.com

EAST HONG KONG

Location: 29 Taikoo Shing Road, Island East, Quarry Bay

Name of event venue: Sugar

Sugar is a combination bar, deck and lounge on the hotel’s 32nd floor that comes with an expansive al fresco terrace facing stunning harbour views. It offers signature and classic cocktails, tapas and nightly DJ-spun music.

Capacity: About 190 standing and 90 sitting

Ongoing offers: Sugar is available for private bookings during the day for exclusive lunches, teambuilding, launch events and socials.

Website: www.sugar-hongkong.com

HARBOUR GRAND HONG KONG

Location: 23 Oil Street, North Point

Name of event venue: The Viewing Deck

The Viewing Deck on the 42nd floor commands a panoramic view of the Hongkong Island skyline and Victoria Harbour. This venue is especially designed for guests to relax and network in a stylish enviroment. A large LED screen is available if needed by the client.

Capacity: Able to take up to 100 persons for cocktails and fit 10 tables comfortably for a banquet.

Ongoing offers: HK$50,000 (US$6,425) from 9am to 5pm and HK$100,000 (US$12,850) from 6pm to 12am

Website: www.harbourgrand.com/hongkong

HOTEL LKF

Location: 33 Wyndham Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central

Name of event venue: Azure
Azure has three event venues, which are located on the 29th, 30th and 31st floor. There are two private rooms on the 29th floor – Bloom Salon and Azure Salon. The 39sqm Bloom Salon has a city view, but not the 29sqm Azure Salon. They are both equipped with an LCD TV, a DVD player, a projector and a wide screen.

Azure on the 30th floor looks out to Central’s skyline and the rest of the city. The 193sqm venue is equipped with a built-in projector and screen, four wireless microphones, and an outside terrace for smokers.

Capacity: The 29th, 30th and 31st floors can accommodate up to 100, 160 and 160 guests respectively

Ongoing offers: Rates for the 29th, 30th and 30 floors are HK$40,000 (US$5,140), HK$60,000 (US$7,710) and HK$30,000 (US$3,855) respectively.

Website: www.azure.hk

HOTEL PANORAMA

Name of event venue: Sky Garden

The Sky Garden, located on the 40th floor of Hotel Panorama, boasts a 270-degree unobstructed view of the Victoria Harbour. The hardware provided includes a wireless microphone, DVD player, LCD projector and screen and PA system. Smokers will be satisfied to find that the open-air terrace is for their use .

Capacity: Able to accommodate from up to 80 guests for cocktails.

Ongoing offers: HK$50,000 (US$6,435)

Website: www.hotelpanorama.com.hk

 

ARRIVING BY YEAR-END OR EARLY 2011

 THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG

Location: West Kowloon

Name of event venue: Nearing completion, this second hotel in the fast-rising West Kowloon precinct – W Hotel opened first – promises to be a destination in itself. The name of the venue has still to be confirmed.

Overlooking the Hongkong side of Victoria Habour, the venue occupies the 118 floor of the hotel – its topmost level. The bar measures 908sqm and will have indoor and outdoor spaces for entertaining. A LED wall is available in the private dining room.

Capacity: The seating capacity for the indoor area, including the two private dining rooms, is for 158, and for 30 in the outdoor area.

Website: www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKongKowloon/Default.htm

Sarah Spaeth

Asia’s high flyers to benefit from online mileage manager

Frequent flyers in Asia-Pacific now have a new online tool to track and organise their mileage programmes.

TraVision MileageManager provides mileage junkies, such as those portrayed by George Clooney in Up in the Air, with a single portal to organise their accumulated points.

There are an estimated 277 million frequent flyers who belong to an average of six or more airline loyalty programmes.

While similar products have already been available in the US market for some time, TraVision’s tool is the first available for travellers in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

“TraVision MileageManager is a comprehensive resource that inter alia enables one-stop tracking of frequent flyer programme activities, including balances, expiry and other critical information across multiple award programmes,” said Valeriane Toon, TraVision’s senior vice-president-Asia. 

The product, which was launched in March, covers 65 airline programmes, four loyalty programmes, 17 hotel loyalty programmes, two car rental companies and four credit cards. Service offerings are constantly being developed further.

The consolidated report allows business travellers to review their account summary, expiration summary, recent activities and elite-status summary, while also receiving automatic email alerts when air miles are coming up for their expiry date. Account summaries are based on individual reports across multiple reward programmes, which are then consolidated onto one easily manageable sheet every five to seven days.

Members have the option of logging in to check or have an email alert set up according to the frequency they desire. The company also sends out to them the TraVision MilesLink newsletter.
 
“Our complimentary value-added services include MileageConverter, SeatExpert and FlightTracker,” Toon said. “We are in the process of negotiating three more added value services that will be available to our customers this year. In a nutshell, we are seeking to create a ‘one-stop’ portal offering value added services to frequent travellers.”

The solution saves remembering several passwords and the single sign-in portal saves precious time. Other services, such as the MileageConverter, help quicker redemption of award points or miles.

“The consolidated information saves time [ and the] hassle of managing multiple programmes and the lost mileage would cost much more than our yearly membership fee, which is a fraction of the savings offered,” Toon said.

TraVision membership costs US$22.95 for a year. The company also markets the product through travel management companies and travel agents, while banks may be interested in it for customer retention and loyalty programmes.

For more details, visit www.travisionplus.com

Andrea Zavadszky