Radisson Blu opens East Midlands airport property

The Rezidor Hotel Group has opened its latest UK propery, a 218-room Radisson Blu hotel located close to East Midlands airport.

The Radisson Blu Hotel East Midlands Airport is situated on Herald Way within the Pegasus Business Park, a few minutes’ shuttle ride from the airport terminal and close to the existing Premier Inn East Midlands Airport.

Facilities at the hotel include eight executive suites, free wifi internet access, a restaurant, a “feature wine room” available for tastings, and health facilities including an indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms.

The hotel is keen to promote its green credentials, with the property scoring an Energy Performance Certification rating of 2, making it the most efficient of Rezidor’s portfolio of European hotels.

Among the eco-initiatives include “an innovative four pipe heating and cooling system, rainwater harvesting, motion sensitive lighting, and a 62,500 litre underground storage surface water tank (SUDS)”.

For more information visit radissonblu.co.uk/hotel-eastmidlandsairport.

Report by Mark Caswell

Labour drops support for third runway at Heathrow

All three of the UK’s major political parties are now officially opposed to a third runway at Heathrow airport, with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary announcing the party is dropping its support for the expansion.

Labour’s 2010 manifesto, published when Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister, stated that “We support a third runway at Heathrow, subject to strict conditions on environmental impact and flight numbers, but we will not allow additional runways to proceed at any other airport in the next Parliament”.

But according to media reports, the party’s Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle will today officially drop support for expansion, stating that “the local environmental impact means this is off the agenda”.

The Conservative-Lib Dems coalition officially scrapped plans for a third runway at Heathrow when they came into power last year, committing themselves instead to a new high-speed rail network connecting London and Heathrow with cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

According to a report by the BBC today, Maria Eagle will propose an alternative route to the £32bn national high-speed rail link favoured by the coalition. The reports syas that the alternative “would still run from London Euston to Birmingham but would follow the M40 and Chiltern line in parts”.

Report by Mark Caswell

Aloft Hotels debuts in London

Starwood’s Aloft Hotels brand has opened its first UK property, a 252-room hotel situated next to London’s Excel exhibition centre.

Aloft London Excel is located by Prince Regent station on the Docklands Light Railway (Excel is also linked to Custom House station on the same line).

Facilities include “loft-like guest rooms”, Fede restaurant, a bar, “grab-and-go food pantry”, five meeting rooms, fitness centre and “industrial design elements throughout”. Business Traveller will report in more detail on the property following a visit next week.

It’s the brand’s second hotel in Europe, joining Aloft Brussels which opened last September, and it also marks the second Starwood brand to be launched in the UK this year, following the unveiling of W London – for a full review of this property click here.

Visit alofthotels.comstarwoodhotels.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

UPDATE: Qantas resumes services

Qantas has resumed operations on a “limited schedule” this afternoon.

According to a statement released by the carrier, Fair Work Australia, an independent workplace relations tribunal, granted an application to “terminate all industrial action by the Australian Licensed [Aircraft] Engineers Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian and International Pilots [Association].” This means there will be 21 days of negotiations between the unions and the carrier and “no industrial action can take place during this period.”

“Operations will resume progressively from this afternoon. Our focus is bringing our schedule back to normal as soon as possible. Safety will remain our first priority at all times,” said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, in response to the tribunal’s decision.

Currently, the flight status updates on Qantas’ website indicates that evening flights departing for popular destinations in Asia, such as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore, are on schedule. Passengers on flights that will resume services today are advised to travel to the airport as per normal check-in time. The carrier is offering full refunds and flexible re-booking options for all passengers affected by the industrial action. 

The situation reached its worst point on Saturday (see story here) when Qantas decided to ground its entire fleet of aircraft due to the “extreme demands” proposed by the unions, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

According to the carrier’s previous statement, to date the industrial actions have cost Qantas A$15 million (US$16 million).

For more information and timely flight updates, visit www.qantas.com.au

Alisha Haridasani

UPDATE: More airlines suspend flights to Bangkok

Fears of inundation have diminished in Central Bangkok as the city’s flood defenses held up over the weekend, when coastal tides reached their peak. Although some dykes overflowed, many commercial strongholds in the Thai capital have remained dry. Floodwaters from north of the capital city also began to recede on October 29.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has expressed optimism that Central Bangkok will most likely be spared by the floods.

Over the weekend, throngs of Bangkokians and tourists jammed the Suvarnabhumi Airport for flights leaving the city. To cope with the surging number of passengers, Thai Airways is increasing its capacity. The airline has released a statement announcing the use of larger aircraft to destinations in the southern part of Thailand whenever needed. Boeing 747 might be used on the Bangkok-Phuket, Bangkok-Hat Yai and Bangkok-Krabi routes if there is demand.

While seats are being filled up on flights out of Bangkok, demand for flights into the city are seeing a drop, prompting more airlines to cancel services. Last week, Cathay Pacific announced flight cancellations. Singapore Airlines has also followed suit by suspending its Singapore-Bangkok (SQ 974) and Bangkok-Singapore (SQ 977) flights from November 1 to 3.  Customers affected by the cancellations will be re-accommodated to other flights. Meanwhile, Malaysian Airlines and low-cost carrier Air Asia are still operating their Bangkok services as usual. 

According to the government’s public relations department website, major tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phuket have not been affected by the floods. While Bangkok has been spared from the worst so far, the flood risk is not entirely over yet for the country.

Communities near northern Bangkok are facing increasing risk as massive runoff from the north is pushing its way downwards towards the gulf. Large areas of provinces north of Bangkok are likely to remain swamped for several weeks, according to the government. As of now, seven out of the 50 districts in Bangkok are heavily flooded, with most of them situated along the northern and western edge of the city.

The floods have left approximately two million people affected, and close to 400 dead.

For more information and updates on the floods, visit thailand.prd.go.th. For more information about flight schedules to and from Bangkok, visit your carrier’s website or www.suvarnabhumiairport.com.

Tiffany Sandrasageran 


Orchard Hotel Singapore reopens refreshed Claymore Wing

Orchard Hotel in Singapore has reopened its renovated Claymore Wing, which saw the refurbishment of all its 331 guestrooms and the executive lounge. 

The décor of the rooms has been enhanced to feel more modern by introducing a grey-and-white colour scheme contrasted with bright furnishing and contemporary art pieces.

Refreshed rooms are wired with new technology, including an iPod docking station, a media connectivity panel and universal sockets. The hotel has also introduced an IT butler, who will be available for all guests to address technology needs. For example, if a guest’s laptop cannot be connected to the internet, instead of attempting to solve the issue remotely over the phone, the butler will come around to fix it.

The executive club lounge on the 17th floor has also been spruced up to reflect the more contemporary feel throughout the rest of the hotel and three meeting spaces have been added to the facility. Two of these three rooms can be merged and configured as one large room, and audio-visual equipment can also be set up here to meet various requirements.

Additionally, guests in executive club rooms and suites will have access to a concierge team.

The Claymore Wing is the second and final wing to be refurbished at the Orchard Hotel. The other wing – Orchard Wing – completed renovation back in 2006.

For more information, visit www.millenniumhotels.com.sg

Alisha Haridasani

Qantas grounds entire fleet due to labour dispute

Qantas announced it will ground its entire fleet of 108 aircraft, effective immediately, as a result of industrial action taken by the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Union (ALAEA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA).

Consequently, there will be no domestic or international departures, although subsidiaries Jetstar, QantasLink and Jetconnect flights and Qantas’ codeshare flights will continue. Cancelled flights include those to and from popular destinations in Asia, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Mumbai.

In a statement released today, Qantas announced it “will lock out all employees who will be covered by the industrial agreements currently being negotiated” with the unions.

This move will continue until ALAEA, TWU and AIPA “drop the extreme demands that have made it impossible for agreements to be reached,” Qantas explained. The timing of this move is unfortunate as it could carry on through the peak Christmas period.

The labour dispute is focused on Qantas’ plans to shift some operations to Asia, as reported earlier, with the setting up of Jetstar Japan (see story here) and a new premium carrier specifically tailored for the Asian market (see story here). Captain Richard Woodward, vice president of AIPA, said: “Alan Joyce and his team have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to convince the public that shifting the airline to Southeast Asia is necessary and that Qantas workers are somehow trying to destroy the company.

“Sixty-one per cent of Australians disagree with the proposition that ‘Moving some operations to Asia is necessary to ensure a strong future for Qantas’ versus just 21 per cent who agree with it.”

Grounding its entire fleet will have an estimated impact of A$20 million (US$21million) per day.

So far, the industrial action, which has been going on for almost a month, has cost the carrier A$15million (US$16 million) per week and led to the cancellation of more than 600 flights.

Passengers, whose flights have been cancelled by the grounding of fleet, will receive a full refund and “full rebooking flexibility will be available to customers who wish to defer their travels.”

For more information, visit www.qantas.com.au

Alisha Haridasani