ANZ changes “Spaceseat” legroom

It’s unprecedented for an airline to amend a new seating product so soon after introduction. 

But this is what Air New Zealand (ANZ) has done with its latest Premium Economy Spaceseat which appeared on its important Auckland-Los Angeles-London route two months ago. 

ANZ has listened to passenger complaints about lack of legroom and has decided to remove an entire row from the Spaceseat cabin starting in late August.

Spaceseats can only be found on ANZ’s small fleet of B777-300ERs which, at present, operate the carrier’s flagship services NZ1 and NZ2. But in future ANZ aims to roll out the product to other long-haul planes in its fleet.

What went wrong? The innovative seating was praised by travel writers when it was launched in Auckland last year with Business Traveller in attendance (see online news December 14, 2010). With its different six-across 2-2-2 layout, Spaceseat provided the most spacious premium economy of any airline.

But sampling a few seats in a static environment is no substitute for trying out the product on a 14-hour transpacific flight surrounded by dozens of other passengers. And that is how the product’s shortcomings were exposed.

To gain the extra sideways space ANZ had to cut several inches of legroom. The Spaceseat product on the B777-300ERs now flying out of London provides 36 inches of legroom. This compares to the 36-40 inches available on ANZ’s older B747-400s which plied the route until the end of March. (See this Air New Zealand B747-400 flight review.)

In itself, 36 inches should not be an issue. The problem arises because, unlike the conventional seating found on the B747-400, the Spaceseats are angled – see the seatplans below. It meant that tall passengers (those over 5 feet 7 inches in height) were not sitting comfortably. In some cases they faced difficulties in getting in or out of the seat.

In a statement to Business Traveller, the airline says, “Air New Zealand’s innovative new B777-300ER interiors have been receiving excellent feedback since they were launched eight weeks ago on April 1.   As innovation requires constant improvement we have actively asked for feedback from customers on every flight.

“Some of the feedback has been around the amount of leg room for tall people in some of the premium economy Spaceseats. Therefore Air New Zealand will be removing one row of premium economy seating from the aircraft to provide passengers with up to six inches more legroom.

“The reconfiguration of this cabin from 50 to 44 seats will take place over several days in late August. It will mean that a B777-200 [with a nine across 3-3-3 layout in premium economy] will operate five return flights with NZ1 and NZ2 during this time.”

ANZ has now published new B777-300ER seating plans showing the current and revised layout. The latter should be effective on all B777-300ERs serving London from early September.

All well and good. But removing a single row will cost ANZ over 10 per cent of premium economy capacity. So will the carrier have to raise fares to compensate for the revenue shortfall? Only time will tell.

For more information visit airnewzealand.co.uk.

Report by Alex McWhirter

Germanwings launches extra legroom seats

Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Germanwings has installed new seating across its fleet, with the first ten rows of the aircraft now offering extra legroom available at a surcharge of €15.

Seats within the new Best Seat zone offer a seat pitch of 32 inches (compared to the normal 29 inches), and can be booked for a €15 surcharge (one-way) on top of the carrier’s Basic fare.

However the newly available Best fare itself only costs €15 extra – and includes one piece of checked luggage and an onboard snack and drink as well as the improved seating – so Germanwings is clearly encouraging passengers to opt in to the bundled product.

The new seating is now available across the carrier’s fleet of A319 aircraft. Images of the new seating have been posted on Germanwing’s facebook page here and hereBusiness Traveller will publish further images both on this article and on our sister website seatplans.com when available.

For more information visit germanwings.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

MAS plans A380 services to London and Amsterdam

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) hopes to operate its A380 superjumbos between Kuala Lumpur, London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol according to respected aviation website flightglobal.com.

The superjumbo could be arriving in Europe as early as next year when MAS expects to take delivery of five of the six A380s on order.   

Operating the A380 into these two leading airports makes sense for MAS. London is one of MAS’ most popular destinations while Amsterdam is also logical because MAS works more closely with Dutch carrier KLM than with any other airline.  

KLM and MAS share one another’s flight codes and this allows MAS passengers to make connections to and from KLM’s extensive network covering the UK, mainland Europe and Scandinavia.

It will be the first time any airline has operated the A380 into Amsterdam on a scheduled basis. (KLM itself has not ordered any A380s).

MAS says its A380 will accommodate 510 passengers. There will be eight seats in first (located on the main deck) and 54 in business class (upper deck).  There will also be a 26-seater premium economy cabin (a ‘first’ for MAS) on the upper deck. The large 420-seat economy class zones will be split between the main and upper decks.

For more information visit malaysiaairlines.com.

Report by Alex Mcwhirter

Thai to refit 12 B747 aircraft

Thai Airways has taken delivery of its first retrofitted B747 aircraft, featuring new economy seats equipped with on-demand inflight entertainment. The carrier will refit a further 11 jumbos by 2013.

The first refitted B747-400 will serve the Bangkok-Frankfurt route, with another five aircraft due to be retrofitted by during 2011-2012, and a further six during 2012-2013.

The carrier has already started to retrofit its A330 aircraft (see online news March 28). On the B747 aircraft the new economy seat will offer a seat pitch of 34 inches, with a width of 18 inches.

All passengers throughout the aircraft will also benefit from a new AVOD inflight entertainment system, with 100 movies, 150 TV choices, 500 music albums and 17 music channels.

For more information visit thaiairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

ANA to fly 787 validation services

Dreamliner launch customer ANA is to fly the 787 aircraft between several cities in Japan next month, in order to “simulate in-service operations” ahead of the aircraft’s launch later this year.

The carrier is due to fly Dreamliner test aircraft ZA002 between cities including Tokyo, (Haneda airport), Osaka (Itami and Kansai), Okyama and Hiroshima, in the week starting July 4.

It will be the first appearance of Boeing’s Dreamliner in Japan, and ANA said that the validation process will give “employees the opportunity to gain experience with the airplane will help ensure a smoother entry into service later this year”.

The airline will also practice maintenance and servicing of the aircraft during the validation period. Boeing says that it plans to deliver the first B787 Dreamliner to ANA in August or September this year.

Rival Japanese carrier JAL recently announced it will fly its Dreamliner aircraft between Tokyo and Boston from April next year (see online news May 27).

For more information visit ana.co.jp.

Report by Mark Caswell

Travelodge to rollout “Metro” model

Budget chain Travelodge is seeking to open smaller versions of its hotel concept throughout the UK, following a successful development in Edinburgh last year.

Travelodge plans to rollout the 20-40 room Metro concept “in locations where larger development sites are either not available or have unrealistic price expectations”, with desired locations including the City of London, wealthy London boroughs such as Fulham and Richmond, the UK’s coastline, and cities including Oxford, Cambridge and York.

The group says that it will consider properties including floors within office buildings, pubs, old cinemas and theatres, snooker halls and derelict buildings.

Listed buildings are also on the list, following Travelodge’s investment in a 43-room Metro-style prototype hotel in Edinburgh, located within a Georgian listed property close to Princes Street, which also houses two bars and a restaurant.

The group also converted 52 Innkeeper’s Lodges to the Travelodge brand last year, the majority of which are under 40 rooms, including the 18-room Southgate Travelodge.

Despite the “Metro” moniker, these new concept hotels will still be known as Travelodge properties, with rooms based on the brand’s 15sqm standard double.

The group plans to have 1,100 hotels and 100,000 rooms by 2025, up from the current 472 hotels and 32,000 rooms. Travelodge recently became the largest hotel brand in London, overtaking Hilton (see online news March 30).

For more information visit travelodge.co.uk.

Report by Mark Caswell

Langham London reopens summer terrace

The 380-room Langham London, located in Regent Street, has opened its terrace garden for the summer season, offering smokers a place to sample hand-picked cigars from Hunters and Frankau paired with rums from its Artesian bar, which is said to house the most extensive selection in the city.

Vintage tipples, such as Havana Club Maximo Extra Anejo, Mount Gay Tri-Centenary Anniversary Selection and Clement 1952, are also on the menu, and cigars include the likes of limited edition Cohiba Piramide, Por Larranaga ‘Regalias de Londres’ and Partagas Lusitanias 1999. 

The open-air venue is open from 4pm to 11pm Monday-Saturday until the end of August, and visitors will also be able to order sharing platters of sushi or Arabic-style mezze, along with usual beverages like Pimm’s and Laurent Perrier champagne. There is also the option of hiring the terrace for private functions of up to 50 people.

In other news, the hotel is offering guests and visitors free digital audio tours of nearby Marylebone and Fitzrovia. The guides come pre-loaded on MP3 players and are accompanied by a map and information booklet.

Visit london.langhamhotels.co.uk.

Report by Jenny Southan

London’s Royal Garden Hotel completes refurb

The Royal Garden Hotel in London’s Kensington district has become the latest property in the capital to undergo refurbishment ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.

The hotel says it has spent a total of £45 million of the project, with the final stage being the renovation of 154 rooms and suites on the first to fourth floors of the property.

The new-look rooms are decorated “in neutral calming shades and set off by rich fabrics”, with features including iPod docking stations, flatscreen TV and a media hub. All 394 rooms within the property have now been refurbished, along with the meeting and events spaces, two restaurants, three bars, and the hotel’s public areas.

The hotel is one of a raft of properties opening or being refurbished in London ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Marriott’s Renaissance brand officially opened The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London on May 5, while The Dorchester Collection is set to open its second London property45 Park Lane in August.

Corinthia has opened its first London property on Whitehall Place, and St Ermin’s has also made its London debut close to St James’ Park Station.

W Hotels opened its first London property in Leicester Square in February, while the Four Seasons London at Park Lane reopened in January after a two-year refurbishment. The Savoy unveiled its £220 million revamp late last year.

Kempinski’s The Stafford unveils its revamp this month, and the boutique Eccleston Square hotel will follow open in Pimlico this year. Bulgari Hotels will also open its first London property in Knightsbridge towards the end of the year.

The Hyatt Regency London – the Churchill is undergoing a “multimillion-pound” refurbishment of all guestrooms, while Guoman’s Charing Cross has completed its project to add a new Executive Wing, and the London Marriott Grosvenor Square has completed the final part of a £3.5 million renovation project.

For more information visit royalgardenhotel.co.uk.

Report by Mark Caswell

Accor to add 21 properties in Indonesia by 2014

Accor has unveiled aggressive expansion plans in Indonesia, with 21 new hotels across its brands scheduled to open by 2014 in light of the archipelago’s robust economy.

The group will kick-off the string of openings with a 316-room Pullman property in the capital, the Pullman Jakarta Central Park, later this year.

In 2012, Accor will open five properties: the Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada, an MGallery on Kuta Beach, an ibis in Bandung and two all seasons in Bali. The group will pick up pace in 2013 with 12 new openings across the country, including the budget ibis and Formule 1 brands in Jakarta and another two all seasons in Bali. Finally, three hotels will open in 2014.

These properties, in addition to 13 announced earlier this year and the 40 already operating, will bring the total number of properties in the country to 74.

Michael Issenberg, Accor’s Asia-Pacific chairman and chief operating officer, said: “The Indonesian economy continues to grow and benefiting from this growth is increased business travel and tourism volumes.”

For more information, visit www.accor.com

Swire Hotels participates in Cathay’s carbon offsetting programme

Swire Hotels has announced a joint initiative with Cathay Pacific Airways’ carbon offsetting programme, FLY greener, for members of The Marco Polo Club.

Swire Hotels will purchase carbon offsets from FLY greener and from June 1 onwards, Marco Polo members travelling on Cathay Pacific or Dragonair and staying at a Swire hotel can pay an additional charge to offset the emissions from their inbound journey.

The initiative will first be implemented at the Opposite House in Beijing and the Upper House in Hong Kong.

Prices depend on the distance of the journey and the class of travel, starting from around HK$10 (US$1.2) for a short haul journey in economy class. Passengers flying in business or first class will need to pay more since the premium cabins take up more weight and space and, therefore, contribute more to the aircraft’s emissions.

Money from this initiative is used to fund environmentally friendly programmes on the ground that reduce or avoid carbon dioxide release in the atmosphere as a way of cancelling out the emissions. Currently, FLY greener has partnered up with two hydropower projects and a wind farm in China.

To calculate the carbon emissions of your journey, click here and for more information visit www.swirehotels.com

Alisha Haridasani