Air France adds Caribbean services from Paris CDG

The carrier will start flights from Paris CDG to Guadeloupe and Martinique in November, adding to the French Caribbean destinations already served from Orly airport.

The carrier will operate both routes weekly from November 4, in a move which will give UK passengers the choice of connecting at CDG for flights to these destinations, as neither are served directly from London.

The new routes will be served by B777-300ER aircraft configured for 422 economy seats (Voyageur), with 36 in premium economy (Alizé), and 14 in business (Affaires)

It means Air France will offer a total of 28 flights per week to and from the French Caribbean this winter. The new schedules from CDG are listed below.

For more information visit airfrance.co.uk.

Report by Mark Caswell

Flight schedule from Friday November 4, 2011:

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Flight AF3516:

  • Departs 1155, Sundays, Paris-Charles de Gaulle
  • Arrives 1540, Sundays, Pointe-à-Pitre

Flight AF3511:

  • Departs 1805, Saturdays, Pointe-à-Pitre
  • Arrives 0650, Sundays, Paris-Charles de Gaulle

Fort-de-France, Martinique

Flight AF3570:

  • Departs 1615, Saturdays, Paris-Charles de Gaulle
  • Arrives 2005, Saturdays, Fort-de-France

Flight AF3567:

  • Departs 2220, Fridays, Fort-de-France
  • Arrives 1115, Saturdays, Paris-Charles de Gaulle

Accor adds three Mercure hotels in the UK

The French hotel group will rebrand three more UK hotels under its growing Mercure offering, the second such franchise agreement this year.

The move will see the Mercure brand added to two London hotels and a Nottingham property owned by the London Town Hotel Group.

The Mercure London Paddington Hotel will be rebranded next month, while Mercure London Kensington will be unveiled in June. A third property in Nottingham is currently closed for refurbishment and will become the Mercure Nottingham Lace Market in June. The three properties had previously been branded under Choice Hotel’s Quality and Comfort brands.

The agreement follows the announcement that ten Focus hotels are to be rebranded as Mercure properties, in locations including Blackburn, Chester, Swindon and Wigan (see online news January 13).

The new additions are part of Accor’s plans to add 300 hotels to its Uk network by 2015.

For more information visit accorhotels.com, lth-hotels.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Malaysia Airlines lets you see where your friends are sitting

Malaysia Airlines has launched a new Facebook app allowing users to see if a friend is travelling on their flight, and even locate which seat they are in.

Facebook users downloading the MHBuddy app will be able to book flights with the airline directly through Facebook, from any country in the world. The carrier is not the first to introduce such functionality, but Malaysia Airlines has gone several stages further by integrating the booking process within the user’s Facebook profile.

As the booking is made the user is reminded which of their friends live in the city they are flying to, and are also informed of any friends who are planning to visit the destination at the same time as them.

Users can then also check in using the Facebook app, and at this stage they are shown any seats which have been selected by friends who are on the same flight, allowing them to choose a nearby seat.

Technological genius or potential in-flight nightmare? You decide.

For more information visit malaysiaairlines.com, facebook.com/malaysiaairlines.

Report by Mark Caswell


Millennium and Copthorne launch double points offer

To celebrate the inclusion of French and German properties within the M&C Loyalty Club, members can earn double points for stays at hotels in the UK, France and Germany.

The group introduced its loyalty scheme to the UK last year (see online news June 11, 2010), and has now rolled out the M&C Loyalty Club to include properties in France and Germany.

The double points offer is valid for stays from March 1-31 inclusive, at all UK, French and German properties (with the exception of the Millennium Hotel Stuttgart which is not participating in the M&C Loyalty Club).

For more information visit mncloyalty.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Business Traveller Silent Auction nears final phase

Bidding in the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Silent Auction 2010 will come to a close in less than 12 hours at 2359 GMT today. So don’t waste time and go online to snare attractive hotel and airline packages.

All proceeds from the auction go towards supporting the Chi Heng Foundation – a charity aimed at improving the lives of AIDS-impacted children in China. Over the years, the organisation has provided children with educational scholarships, and with Business Traveller‘s help has constructed reading rooms in primary and secondary schools in Anhui and Henan provinces.

To view last-minute deals, visit www.businesstraveller.asia/auction

Qatar confirms Montreal route

As previously reported by Business Traveller (see online news February 2), Qatar Airways will launch three-times weekly flights between Doha and Montreal in June.

The carrier has confirmed it will serve the Canadian city from June 29, with flights on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays using B777-200LR aircraft.

Flight QR927 will depart Doha at 0830, arriving in Montreal at 1450, with the return leg leaving the Canadian city at 2315, arriving back in Doha at 1840 the following day.

The B777-200LR aircraft being used on the route will offer 42 fully-flat business class seats (configured 2-2-2) and 217 economy seats (configured 3-3-3). To view the seatplan for this aircraft, click here.

It will be the fourth North American destination for Qatar Airways, joining New York, Washington and Houston, and will make the airline the first Gulf carrier to serve Montreal.

Qatar says that the scheduling of the new flights will allow convenient connections in Doha to cities including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Beirut, Tehran, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, Delhi, Mumbai and Karachi.

The carrier recently announced it would be doubling frequencies on its Doha-Manchester route (see online news February 22), and over the next few months will be launching routes to Stuttgart (March 6), Aleppo (April 6), Shiraz (June 5) and Venice (June 15).

For more information visit qatarairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

For Business Traveller’s four-hour guide to Montreal, click here, and for information on staging meetings and events in the city, click here.

Air Baltic cuts London-Vilnius route

Latvian carrier Air Baltic is dropping flights from Vilnius to Dublin, London, Rome and Paris, blaming overcapacity caused by the Vilnius airport discount scheme.

The airline will cease the four routes from the Lithuanian capital from March 27, stating that “new market entrants in Lithuania have created identical products, resulting in overlapping of routes, and overcapacity”.

In a statement Air Baltic continued that “both Ryanair and Wizzair have announced new routes in Vilnius that overlap with those served by airBaltic. The world is big enough, and we [would] rather walk away from the crowd, to avoid the other two airlines flying wing-to-wing with each other”.

The carrier said that the Vilnius airport discount scheme “appears to have backfired, resulting in overcapacity on just a handful of routes rather than broadening the choice of routes, as intended by the scheme”.

Air Baltic also serves London Gatwick daily from the Latvian capital Riga, where the airline is based.

For more information visit airbaltic.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

The Ascott adds two properties to China roster

The Ascott Limited has added to its already sizeable China portfolio with an Ascott in Shenzhen and a Somerset in Shenyang.

The 199-unit Ascott Maillen Shenzhen is located in Shekou, a commercial district near Sea World, the New Times Square and Finance Centre. Housed in the multipurpose Maillen Club complex, the property offers units ranging from single studio apartments to penthouses, all with home entertainment systems and fully equipped kitchens. Other facilities include an indoor swimming pool, gym, meeting room, business centre, tennis court and spa.

This is the serviced residence leader’s second property in Shenzhen, after Somerset Garden City in the Nanshan area. A third, Somerset Grandview Shenzhen is scheduled scheduled for 2013 near the Futian central business district.

The 270-unit Somerset Heping Shenyang marks Ascott’s entry into this burgeoning industrial city. It is located in the financial district, within the city’s CBD close to landmarks such as the Shenyang Imperial Palace and Shenyang Metro Station. Available are one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments set up with the same facilities found in all Ascott units.

For more information, visit www.the-ascott.com

Alisha Haridasani

Qatar Airways ventures into Canada

Qatar Airways will begin direct thrice weekly flights to Montreal from June 29 onwards – the carrier’s first venture into Canada.

The service is facilitated by an aviation agreement between Canada and Qatar signed last year, granting Qatar the rights to fly into the country three times a week. Therefore, the carrier would be using its full quota of allowable services with this new route.

The service, operated by a dual-class Boeing B777-200, will run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The flight will depart Doha at 0830 and arrive in Montreal Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport at 1450. The return leg will depart Montreal at 2315 and arrive back in Doha at 1840 the following day.

The link will not only provide Canadian passengers with seamless connections onwards to Asia but also ties the two countries in closer economic partnerships; according to the Export Development Canada agency, there are more than 1,500 Canadian companies doing business in the Gulf, with Qatar being the largest trading partner.

The aviation agreement was signed in sharp contrast to the five-year-long heated dispute between Canada and the UAE over flying rights. The situation peaked last year when Air Canada expressed fears that allowing the kingdom’s flagship carriers – Emirates and Etihad – additional flying rights would stump competition on transatlantic routes (see story here). In response, the UAE removed the visa on arrival facility for Canadian passport holders. Currently, both Emirates and Etihad Airways have rights to fly to Canada three times a week.

For more information, visit www.qatarairways.com

Alisha Haridasani

Shangri-La’s Golden Circle members can now redeem points

Shangri-la’s Golden Circle programme, which did away last October with the practice of invitation only membership, now enables customers to redeem rewards from March 1, 2011 onwards.

Launched in October last year, the new programme introduced a points system for the first time, enabling members to accumulate GC points when staying at any Shangri-La property, or when patronising the hotel’s F&B outlets and spa facilities (see story here). They can now start to redeem points earned over the past six months.

Guests can use their points to redeem free nights, room upgrades, treatments at CHI, The Spa and dining privileges. Room upgrades start from 800 GC points and free nights start from 1,000 GC points. GC points can also be converted to airline miles for partner carriers.

For more information or to redeem points, visit www.goldencircle.shangri-la.com

Alisha Haridasani