Ryanair boss calls for new runways at London airports

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has called for new runways to be built at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to solve capacity problems in the southeast.

The no-frills airline’s chief executive said that plans for a new airport in the Thames estuary, nicknamed Boris Island after London mayor Boris Johnson, were “pie in the sky” and would never get funded.

O’Leary added: “This government does not have an aviation policy – all they have is Boris running around talking about an airport that will not be built for another 30 years.

“You cannot build an airport in the estuary because you would have to build a motorway and rail infrastructure to get you there.

“We have called for the government to build a third runway at Heathrow and second runways at Gatwick and Stansted. There’s room for all three runways – they should be built straightaway.

“The problem would then be solved within five years and at a fraction of the cost. Otherwise the UK will continue losing out to European airports such as Paris, Madrid, Schipol and Frankfurt.”

The Department for Transport is due to unveil a report on its aviation strategy in the next few weeks which is looking at all options for increasing capacity in the south-east apart from a third runway at Heathrow which has been ruled out by the coalition.

O’Leary made his comments as Ryanair announced 26 new routes from Luton and Stansted this summer.

Most of the new routes are to holiday destinations but there are also year-round services from Stansted to Barcelona Gir, Barcelona Reus, Berlin, Budapest and Warsaw. The Luton flights also include Barcelona Gir and Barcelona Reus.

“None of these routes are related to the Olympics,” said O’Leary. “We believe there is demand for them on a summer or year-round basis.”

For more information visit ryanair.com.

Report by Rob Gill

IAG faced £500m APD bill in 2011

British Airways’ parent company IAG has announced operating profits of £410 million for 2011, despite APD charges of £500 million, and fuel costs up 29.7 per cent.

The operating profit figure of €485m (£410m) is up from €225m (£190m) in 2010, with revenues up 10.4 per cent. Pre-tax profit was up from €84m (£70m) in 2010, to €503m (£426m) last year.

Reporting a “strong full year performance”, CEO Willie Walsh said that the North Atlantic market remains strong, but warned that “British aviation’s competiveness is undermined by the UK government’s determination to continually increase Air Passenger Duty with the latest rise due this April”.

IAG paid nearly £500 million in APD charges last year, and Walsh said that as a result the group has reduced “by around half” the number of new jobs being created this year, and has postponed plans to bring an extra Boeing 747 back into service.

Walsh said that the launch of low-cost subsidiary Iberia Express in March, alongside the restructuring of its network and hub, “will enable Iberia to become more customer focused and cost effective”.

He added that the recent deal to buy Bmi (subject to regulatory approval) would give BA the ability to grow at Heathrow “by launching new longhaul routes to growth economies and supporting our shorthaul network”.

In a statement IAG said that the outlook for 2012 “is subject to a number of uncertainties”, with demand in London remaining strong, but a potential increase in fuel costs of over €1 billion this year, at current oil prices and exchange rates.

The group also warned that traffic may be impacted by the London 2012 Games, with past experience in other host cities suggesting that demand could be dampened during the Games.

For more information visit iairgroup.com, ba.com, iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Tai O Heritage Hotel opens on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

A police station in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, built in 1902, has received a new lease on life as the nine-room Tai O Heritage Hotel.

Its site on the headland of a fishing village – renowned for producing pungent shrimp paste – was once deemed a strategic location to monitor the movements of local pirates and repulse them should they launch attacks.

Awarded a Grade II Historic Building rating by the city’s Antiquities Advisory Board in 2010, the two-storey colonial style building was revitalised and made functional again by the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation, a non-profit organisation set up by the Ng Teng Fong Family, which has also restored treasured landmarks such as The Fullerton Hotel, The Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier and Far East Square, all in Singapore.

Rooms a century ago that were designated as “report room”, “armoury”, “charge room” as well as two cells, canteen, kitchens, laundry room and sleeping quarters of the superintendent, commander and their men have been transformed into four airy suites and five cosy standard guestrooms (two for physically challenged visitors). Original features have been retained where possible, for example some fireplaces,  the turret, canons and a searchlight.

A striking contemporary touch is the glass roof constructed over a new section called the Tai O Lookout, which serves as the main dining area and provides panoramic ocean views throughout the day.

Those who wish to inspect this historic gem can do so from March 1 to 20, 2012 when free guided tours are offered daily. Booking starts after this period, starting from HK$1,380 (US$178), twin occupancy and excluding breakfast.

For more details, visit www.taioheritagehotel.com

Margie T Logarta

Korean Air to fly to Nairobi

Korean Air has announced it will launch thrice-weekly flights between Seoul and Nairobi from June 21 onwards.

The service, operated by an Airbus A330-200, will depart Seoul on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2215, arriving in Nairobi at 0530 the following day. The return leg will depart Nairobi every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, at 1030, arriving back in Seoul at 0450 the next morning.

Nairobi is the second destination in Africa served by Korean Air, after Cairo, although it is the carrier’s first direct flight into Africa. The flight to Nairobi will not only facilitate growing trade links between Korea and Africa, but also provide a boost in tourism for the “Safari Capital of the World.” According to the African Development Bank, trade between South Korea and Africa has risen from US$6.4 billion in 2000 to almost US$13.9 billion in 2009, while Korean exports to Africa comprise 3.3 percent of the country’s total exports.

For more information, visit www.koreanair.com

Alisha Haridasani

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Silent Auction 2011 soon to close

Bidders have one last chance to grab attractive prizes, as the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Silent Auction 2011 will come to a close at 2359 GMT today.

The auction has almost 300 unique hotel and airline packages. All proceeds raised from this annual charity event will be channelled through to the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation, supporting its work in brightening the futures of AIDS-impacted children in China. 

All bidding takes place in US Dollars and prizes are valid from May 1, 2012, to April 30, 2013. Winners will be notified by email at the end of each auction phase.

For more information on this exciting opportunity, click here

Five airlines partnering with celebrity chefs

Inflight meals do impact the overall flight experience, at times significantly. In fact, according to research by ORC International, 52 percent of passengers flying on full-service airlines consider inflight dining to be an important part of the overall flight experience. These five carriers have taken the initiative to provide the best inflight menus possible by working with chefs.

Delta Airlines:

Chef: Michelle Bernstein

Class: First and Business

Host of The Melting Pot, celebrity chef Michelle Bernstien helps Delta create Western main courses for the meals served in these two classes on international flights, which are designed to match perfectly the wine selection chosen by master sommelier Andrea Robinson.

Sample menu: In BusinessElite class on flights longer than three and a half hours 

Entreés: mini corn cake with salmon, asparagus and pickled onion; Main course: Pan-seared chicken breast with balsamic brown butter and roast pumpkin, topped with arugula fennel salad; Dessert: Chocolate tart



Hong Kong Airlines:

Chef: Jason Atherton and Chow Chung

Classes: The two chefs’ meals will appear on the all-business class flight

Hong Kong Airlines’ all-business class flight between London Gatwick and Hong Kong, which is scheduled to begin operations on March 8, will feature an inflight menu created by British Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton (see story here) and Hong Kong celebrity chef Chow Chung. The menu will bring together elements of Chinese and European cuisines. 

Sample menu: The carrier has not released details of menus yet. 



Japan Airlines:

Chef: Seiji Yamamoto

Class: First

Michelin-starred chef, Seiji Yamamoto, designs the menu available in first class on most of Japan Airlines’ international flights, putting together high-level Japanese and continental fare.

Sample menu: In first class on Narita-London flight

Entreés: Seasonal tarte of snow crab accented with its roe cream; Main course: Wagyu beef fillet steak flavoured with truffles and served with Perigueux sauce; Dessert: Japanese sweet.



Chef: Neil Perry

Classes: First and Business

For 15 years, Qantas has teamed up with Australian celebrity chef, Neil Perry, to continually evolve the inflight dining experience. The inflight menus are created on a quarterly basis, allowing passengers to experience Perry’s newest Australian concoctions.

Sample menu: In business class on Sydney-Bangkok flight:

Entreés: Cream of pumpkin soup with croutons; Main course: Pan fried salmon with caramelised witlof, crushed peas and preserved lemon dressing; Dessert: Milk chocolate and chestnut torte with blueberries and double cream.

These dishes are served alongside a salad, a selection of cheese and some smaller light meals, such as toasted sourdough baguette with roasted pork, apple, red cabbage and seeded mustard.



Singapore Airlines:

Chef: The International Culinary Panel – a panel of 12 international chefs including: Alfred Portale, Georges Blanc, Matthew Moran, Sam Leong, Sanjeev Kapoor, Suzanne Goin, Yoshihiro Murata and Zhu Jun. 

Classes: First and Business

Singapore Airlines brings together 12 chefs to provide a variety of special dishes from different cuisines from around the world for premium passengers. The choices available differ depending on the flight route. Passengers also have the ability to select their main course dish 24 hours before departure by clicking on ‘Book the Cook’ on the carrier’s website.

Sample menu: In first class on the Hong Kong-Singapore flight created by Georges Blanc

Entreés: Country style dark potted meat on brioche bread with fresh herbs, pine nuts and fig tomato chutney; Main course: Slow cooked lamb shoulder with sage, spiced eggplant puree and ovendried tomatoes; Dessert: Medley of dried fruits in bitter chocolate millefuelle, tropical fruit and passionfruit. 


Alisha Haridasani

Business Traveller March edition now live

Subscribers to the print version of Business Traveller can access the edition online a whole month before everyone else.

All of our special reports and destination features are uploaded to businesstraveller.com each month, and the March 2012 edition has just gone live.

Subscribe to Business Traveller today, and as an added bonus you’ll receive a Contura suit carrier and 20 per cent off subscription rates. For more information click here.

This month’s packed issue includes:

  • Developments in airport security
  • A look at the growing trend of art exhibitions in hotels
  • Frequent traveller: Street walking
  • A round-up of ten of the world’s best metro systems
  • Beijing four years on from the Olympic Games
  • A look at cutting the cost of flights
  • Four hours in Warsaw
  • Flight options from London to Hong Kong
  • A destination report on Canada’s financial centre Toronto
  • Meeting options in Belgium
  • The full results of this year’s Cellars in the Sky Awards
  • The latest surveillance gadgets for the office and home

Plus we review Virgin America’s economy offering and Asiana’s business class product, and continue our series presenting travel stats in illuminating ways, which this month looks at global hotel expansion.

If you are already a subscriber to Business Traveller, simply log in here (using the email address attached to your subscription), then click on the archive button on the navigation bar for full access.

If you are unsure of your log in details, or have any problems accessing the archive as a print subscriber, click here to send us an email.

IHG launches Even Hotels brand

Intercontinental Hotels Group has launched Even Hotels in the United States, a new offering which the group claims is “the first mainstream hotel brand focused on wellness”.

According to IHG the new brand “uniquely provides solutions for all aspects of travellers’ wellness needs in the areas of exercise, food, work and rest”.

The brand will focus around four key areas – Exercise, Eat, Work and Rest. Rooms will be designed to allow guests to workout using “multi-functional room amenities”, including coat racks that double as pull up bars, and properties will offer “best in class” gyms.

Restaurants and cafes will focus on “fresh, fit and energising meals”, and free flavoured water and mini smoothies will be available to guests. Rooms will feature wifi, multimedia ports and “ample desk space”, as well as hypoallergenic linens, “powerful showerheads”, LED dimmers and antibacterial wipes.

The group says it will invest US$150 million in the brand over the next three years, and will own and manage “the first several Even Hotels in key markets where the brand’s guests travel and live, then look to strong existing owner relationships to accelerate growth through IHG’s franchise model”.

The first location for the brand is set to be unveiled in the second quarter of this year, with the first opening in early 2013, and IHG says it expects to sign contracts for 100 Even hotels within the next five years.

IHG says the new brand was the result of “extensive customer research that tells us that guests are frustrated from staying in hotels that do not meet their entire lifestyle and wellness needs”.

The launch of Even Hotels in the US comes ahead of the expected unveiling of a brand designed especially for the Chinese traveller (see online news October 14, 2011).

For more information visit evenhotels.com, ihg.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Doubletree opens 850-room Shanghai property

The former Sofitel JJ Oriental Hotel in Shanghai’s Pudong district has been rebranded under Hilton’s Doubletree offering.

The 850-room hotel has reopened as the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai-Pudong, under a franchise agreement with Interstate China Hotels and Resorts Company Limited.

The property is set to undergo a “multi-million dollar comprehensive renovation”, to be completed next year.

The hotel is housed over two towers, with facilities including 1,500sqm of meeting space, a fitness centre, spa with male and female sauna and steam rooms, outdoor tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool.

The renovation project will add a new 800-sqm ballroom to the hotel, and all food and beverage, retail and meeting spaces will be “redesigned and revitalized”.

For more information visit doubletree.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Hilton opens two Dalian properties

Hilton Worldwide announced the opening of the 210-room Conrad Dalian. Each of the deluxe guest rooms will feature at least 46 sqm of living space and be furnished with a wide range of amenities, including a spa bathroom with separate deep-soaking tub, luxury toiletries and a 19-inch bath-side television.

Rooms will also include a 55’’ HD LED television with an interactive system offering satellite channels, high-definition movies and flight information.

On the F&B front there will be two restaurants and a bar and lounge, plus a swimming pool, fitness centre, hair salon, two ballrooms and four multi-functional meeting rooms.

John T A Vanderslice, global head of luxury and lifestyle brands for Hilton Worldwide, said, “Over the last 25 years, Conrad Hotels & Resorts has established itself as a leading luxury brand for discerning travellers who seek style that is sophisticated, global and thoughtful. With our first urban hotel in mainland China, we are now gearing up to deliver the brand’s distinctive style of service for business and leisure travellers from around the world who visit Dalian.”

The hotel is adjacent to the new 370-room Hilton Dalian, which also opened today. The hotel features five flexible and interconnected meeting rooms, the largest pillar-free ballroom in Dalian (1,688 sqm), and a 24-hour business centre, which will be available to all guests at both the Hilton and Conrad Dalian properties. There will also be five restaurant and bar venues, a heated indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, and an all-suite Chinese sauna-styled spa.

In other news from the group it was announced today that Interstate China Hotels & Resorts Company Limited has signed an agreement to manage the 850-room DoubleTree by Hilton Shanghai-Pudong, the first DoubleTree franchised property in China.

The hotel will immediately begin a multi-million dollar (US$) renovation to be completed in 2013. The rebranded property was formerly the Sofitel JJ Oriental Hotel. As part of the refurbishment a new 800 sqm ballroom will be constructed, while all food & beverage outlets, meeting and banquet space, and retail offerings will also be redesigned.


Vicki Williams