Thai Airways to increase Copenhagen links

Thai Airways is to launch new flights between the Danish capital and the island of Phuket, and will also increase flights between Bangkok and Copenhagen.

From November 11 the carrier will offer direct flights from Copenhagen to Phuket on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, departing at 2045 and arriving at 1320 the following day.

Travellers will need to travel via Bangkok on the return journey, with the carrier adding three weekly services between the Thai capital and Copenhagen, departing on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 1300, arriving at 1845. These flights are in addition to the existing daily services between the two cities.

The new and additional services will be operated by B747-400 aircraft. Thai Airways is in the process of retrofitting 12 of its B747 jumbos with new economy seats and on-demand inflight entertainment systems (see online news May 31).

For more information visit thaiairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Air China codeshares with bmi and launches French website

Air China has signed a codeshare with bmi and launched a French version of its online check-in service, both of which reflect the carrier’s growing global status.

The codeshare agreement between the two Star Alliance members will see Air China’s CA code on bmi operated flights from London to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast and Manchester.

Additionally, Air China’s new French version of its website enables passengers departing from Charles de Gaule Airport to check-in up to 28 hours before departure. The website is already available in three other European languages: English, Italian and German.

The driving force behind these moves is the vast ‘new’ middle class demographic in China that is starting to travel abroad. According to the World Travel Trends Report released at the ITB in Berlin this March, the number of Chinese travellers making outbound trips could reach 79 million by 2015 – the largest outbound travel market.

For more information, visit www.airchina.com

Alisha Haridasani

 

TransAsia Airways launches flights to Singapore

Taiwan-based TransAsia Airways will launch daily flights between Taipei and Singapore today, June 30, 2011.

The new route will be operated by an Airbus A320, which consists of a total of 150 seats. The flight will depart Taipei at 1920, arriving in Singapore at 2345, and the return leg will depart at 0720, arriving back in Taipei at 1140.

The carrier is the third Taiwanese airline to tap into this lucrative route. According to the Tourism Bureau in Taiwan, 15,639 passengers flew from Taiwan to Singapore during the first four months of this year, which represents a 6.89 percent increase in traffic on this route.

To kick-off the new route, TransAsia Airways is offering introductory rates for a return economy ticket starting from US$257.

TransAsia currently only serves regional routes but has sights set on long-haul routes, with plans to fly to Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East over the next five years. The carrier will take delivery of its first of eight wide-body aircraft, an A330-300, in 2012, which will inevitably facilitate the carrier’s growth.

For more information, visit www.tna.com.tw however readers should be aware that the website is in Chinese.

Alisha Haridasani

Le Richemond to join Dorchester Collection

Luxury Geneva hotel Le Richemond will become part of the Dorchester Collection on August 1.

Previously a member of the Rocco Forte Collection, the five-star 109-room property will transfer to the Dorchester group following a change of ownership at the hotel.

This will be the company’s first management-only property – it owns and operates the other hotels in its portfolio, which include the Dorchester in London, Le Meurice in Paris and the Beverly Hills hotels in Los Angeles.

Following the acquisition, Le Richemond will undergo a refurbishment of its public areas, including the restaurant and bar, and its suites. It’s only four years since the hotel was last renovated, when it was rebranded under the Rocco Forte Collection in 2007 – for an exclusive interview with Sir Rocco Forte published at the time of the rebranding, click here.

As previously reported, the company will open its second property in London, 45 Park Lane, opposite the Dorchester in September (see online news May 16).

In other news, the Dorchester is renovating the four rooms that make up its Ballroom suite. Led by interior architect studio Alex Kravetz Design, the works are expected to be completed by September.

In October 2011 the company will reopen the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles following renovations.

Visit dorchestercollection.com for more information.

Report by Michelle Mannion

SAS to introduce NFC at airports

SAS will launch NFC (Near Field Communication) technology in airports across Scandinavia this September, to be used exclusively by its Eurobonus Gold frequent flyers.

One of the first airlines to embrace the technology in this way, SAS’ NFC “Smart Pass” stickers will be issued to loyalty members across Scandinavia who can then use the tags (with NFC readers) at check-in desks and self-service machines, fast-track areas, security, lounges, for tax-free shopping and at boarding gates.

The touch technology – which uses short-range wireless signals and magnetic induction to send information – will speed up check-in and boarding significantly, according to SAS. NFC chips have already been installed in some debit cards to speed up payment and is increasingly being installed in smartphones.

“We can see that mobiles and NFC are the future,” said Lena Rökaas, vice president of product and customer service at SAS. “We are therefore proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to offer such a smart solution as the SAS Smart Pass to our most frequent travellers.”

The launch follows a successful trial period carried out earlier this year among selected Eurobonus members.

Visit flysas.com.

Report by Liat Clark

Continental’s OnePass scheme to merge into Mileage Plus

The frequent flyer programmes of United and Continental will merge at the end of this year under United’s Mileage Plus scheme.

The move is part of the integration of the two airlines following their merger last year, and will see Continental’s OnePass scheme ceasing to exist on December 31, 2011.

Members of the OnePass scheme will see their account automatically moved over to the Mileage Plus programme, with miles converted at a rate of 1:1, and qualifying activity for elite status “recognised fully”. From the start of 2012 members holding OnePass credit cards will earn miles within the Mileage Plus scheme.

Members holding both Mileage Plus and OnePass accounts can choose to link them now and combine miles immediately.

United Continental Holdings said that in the coming months it will announce complete details of the Mileage Plus programme – including elite levels, qualifications and benefits, lifetime benefits, and other programme developments that will take effect in 2012.

For more information visit unitedcontinentalholdings.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

KLM operates first scheduled biokerosene flight

Dutch carrier KLM has made history by powering scheduled flight KL1233 from Amsterdam to Paris on biokerosene produced from used cooking oil.

The flight, which took off at 1230 from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, was operated by a B737-800 aircraft, with 171 passengers on board.

The flight is a precursor to a schedule which will see over 200 biokerosene flights being operated by KLM between Amsterdam and Paris this September.

Managing director of KLM Camiel Eurlings said that the intiative showed the carrier “leads the world in showing that innovation and sustainability are inextricably linked”.

KLM says it is “open to using different raw materials for the end product, as long as they meet a range of sustainability criteria, including substantial reductions in CO2 emissions and minimum negative impact on biodiversity and food supply”.

For more information visit klm.com, and for a look at what airlines are doing to reduce their impact on the environment, read The race to go green in the February 2011 edition of Business Traveller.

Report by Mark Caswell

Radisson Edwardian offers late check outs with Facebook and Foursquare

Radisson Edwardian is running a promotion allowing guests to extend their check out by two hours when they “check-in” to the hotel via Foursquare or Facebook Places

The promotion, which is running until July 31 across the group’s hotels in London and Manchester, requires the guest to virtually check in using Radisson Edwardian’s Facebook Places and Foursquare pages, and then show their smartphone at the front desk to benefit from the late check out.

The group has recently been embracing new smartphone technology, with a its restaurant menus now featuring QR codes to allow diners to access additional online content (see online news April 14).

For more information visit radissonedwardian.com, or the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/RadissonEdwardianHotels.

Report by Mark Caswell

Hilton expands BT Openzone offering

Hilton Worldwide has expanded its BT Openzone agreement to cover hotels across the UK and Ireland, replacing some services previously provided by iBahn.

The group said that “the new technology will provide a tenfold increase in bandwidth and an even more consistent, high-quality online experience for guests at nearly 100 Hilton Worldwide properties beginning in Autumn 2011”.

The agreement means internet access at Hilton properties in the UK and Ireland will be free of charge to BT Total Broadband customers, as well as those with BT Openzone accounts, and customers from iPass, AT&T and other BT Openzone roaming partners.

Last year Hilton also introduced free internet access for all Gold and Diamond HHonors members (see online news August 3, 2010).

For more information visit hilton.com, btopenzone.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

OFT calls for airlines to drop debit card fees

The Office of Fair Trading is calling for debit card surcharges to be banned, following a 90-day investigation focusing on the passenger transport sector.

The OFT says that paying by debit card is the “online equivalent of cash”, and should therefore not attract fees, a common practice with flight purchases through budget airlines websites including Easyjet and Ryanair.

The findings of the investigation also highlight “considerable evidence” of ‘drip pricing’, where payment charges are added to the total price of a purchase only after consumers have filled in a number of web pages during their purchase. The OFT said that this practice was “particularly prevalent in the airline sector”, with an estimated £300 million spent on payment surcharges in the UK during 2009.

The OFT said that traders should be allowed to continue imposing charges for other more costly (to process) payment methods such as credit cards, but only if they meet minimum transparency requirements.

The organisation says it has “put passenger travel companies on notice to change misleading debit and credit card surcharging practices or face enforcement action under consumer protection laws”, and is asking the government to change the law to prohibit surcharging for all debit cards.

Leisure carrier Monarch Airlines recently dropped debit card fees from its online flight purchases, and said it is “currently in negotitaions with credit card companies to reduce fees further” – for more information see online news June 3.

To read the full OFT report, click here.

Report by Mark Caswell