American Airlines to resume flights to Tokyo Haneda

American Airlines (AA) has announced it will resume flights between New York and Tokyo Haneda on June 1. The service started in February last year but had to be suspended soon after because of the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Japan Airlines (JAL), which is tied into a joint venture agreement with AA (see story here), will be codesharing on this route serviced daily by a Boeing B777-200ER.

The flight will depart New York JFK airport at 1855, touching down in Tokyo at 1015 the following day, while the return leg will take off at 0650 to arrive back in the Big Apple at 0640. This is in addition to a daily JAL-operated flight between Tokyo Narita and New York JFK codeshared by AA, thus offering passengers of the two airlines a choice of two daily options between the two metropolises.

Before AA officially stopped flying to Haneda “when demand for travel to Japan subsided following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami,” it was the first US continental carrier to serve the newly revamped city airport of Tokyo. For more on Haneda and other city airports in the region, click here for a feature from the March 2011 issue of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.

For more information, visit www.aa.com

Alisha Haridasani

Aegean to launch Gatwick-Athens route

Aegean Airlines is to launch flights between Gatwick and Athens on October 28, complimenting its existing service from Heathrow to the Greek capital.

The carrier has not officially announced the new route, but flights have loaded into Aegean’s online reservation systems at aegeanair.com as can be seen from the screen grab below.

Business Traveller has requested full details of the new service from Aegean, and will publish more information here when available.

Easyjet flies between Gatwick and Athens, while BA and Aegean both offer services from Heathrow.

For more information visit aegeanair.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Pentahotels Kowloon, Hong Kong, to open mid-2013

Pentahotels logo

Pentahotel Kowloon, Hong Kong, is poised to open its doors mid-2013, making it the first Pentahotel-branded property in Hong Kong.

The 720-room, 32-storey hotel will be located near Diamond Hill, reflecting a trend of new properties tapping into East Kowloon neighbourhoods in anticipation of a Hong Kong government-funded plan to turn that region into a core business district that will eventually consist of cruise terminals, a mulit-purpose stadium complex, waterfront promenade, and an MTR station.

As with its sister properties in Shanghai and Beijing, which opened earlier this year (see story here), the Hong Kong property will carry the same young, trendy vibe targeting “independent-minded travellers” and “digital nomads,” states the hotel’s press release. Central to any Pentahotel is the pentalounge, and the same goes for the Hong Kong property, which will feature a lounge that encompasses the entire first floor, offering guests a communal area to relax. It will consist of complimentary wifi internet access and a Wii, board games and a billiards table.

The Pentahotel Kowloon will also have an outdoor swimming pool and a gym.

For more information, visit www.pentahotels.com

Alisha Haridasani

Ibis launches free wifi at Thailand hotels

Free wifi is increasingly becoming a standard feature of hotels around the world, big or small, city properties or resorts. That trend is reflected in Accor’s latest move this month to begin offering the service in all of its eight Ibis properties in Thailand, across Phuket, Samui, Bangkok, Pattaya and Hua Hin.

The newest among them, Hotel Ibis Hua Hin, opened on January 16 with 200 rooms in Khao Takiab, near the main beach (see story here). 

Erwann Mahe, executive general manager of ibis Hotels Thailand, said, “As internet has become an important part of everyday life, we hope that our free wifi internet connection service will make every journey even more convenient and memorable for all our guests whether they are on a leisure of business trip.”

Guests who do not have their computers or gadgets on them can also stroll over to the web corners of these properties to access the internet at no cost.

Despite the trend, it is not easy for hotel groups to offer free wifi at all their properties since the level of infrastructure and choice of carriers vary from one destination to another. Some chains, however, have managed to do it – see a round up of them here.

Visit www.ibishotel.com.

Reggie Ho

KLM codeshares with Flybe from Inverness and Southampton

KLM has announced new codeshare agreements with regional carrier Flybe, on routes from Southampton and Inverness to Amsterdam.

The agreements start on May 30, and will enable travellers using those UK airports to purchase through tickets connecting onto KLM’s global network at Amsterdam Schiphol.

Flybe offers three daily flights from Southampton to Amsterdam Schiphol, and daily services from Inverness to the Dutch hub.

Some readers may recall that KLM has previously offered codeshare services on these routes, with formerly family-owned carrier Suckling Airways (now a subsidiary of Loganair and for a period known as Scot Airways).

For more information visit klm.co.uk, flybe.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Air Asia Japan to launch on August 1

Air Asia Japan, a joint venture between Air Asia and All Nippon Airways (ANA) (see story here), will officially take off on August 1 with flights between Tokyo Narita and Fukuoka, Okinawa and Sapporo.

The carrier will operate one flight per day to Okinawa, two per day to Fukuoka and three to Sapporo. All flights will follow a certain schedule between August 1 and October 27, before switching to a different one from October 28 onwards.

The flight schedules are as follows:

 

August 1 – October 27

October 28 onwards

Tokyo-Sapporo

Departure

Arrival

Departure

Arrival

JW8521

0745

0920

0645

0830

JW8523

1145

1320

1100

1245

JW8527

1635

1810

1655

1840

Sapporo-Tokyo

 

 

 

 

JW8520

0945

1120

0855

1035

JW8522

1345

1520

1310

1450

JW8528

1835

2010

1905

2045

 

Tokyo-Fukuoka

Departure

Arrival

Departure

Arrival

JW8541

0700

0900

0705

0915

JW8543

1140

1340

1150

1400

Fukuoka-Tokyo

 

 

 

 

JW8542

0925

1115

0940

1125

JW8544

1405

1555

1445

1630

 

Tokyo-Okinawa

Departure

Arrival

Departure

Arrival

JW8665

1550

1850

1600

1920

Okinawa-Tokyo

 

 

 

 

JW8666

1920

2155

1945

2210

 

ANA’s own low-cost subsidiary, Peach Aviation, also serves these cities but from its hub in Osaka Kansai. 

Eventually, AirAsia Japan will expand to international destinations such as Seoul and Busan, said an ANA spokesperson. 

To mark its inauguration, the budget airline is offering 10,000 seats for JPY5 (US$0.06) for booking from May 31 until June 3, valid for travels between August 28 and November 28.

The Japanese low-cost carrier market is heating up rapidly: after Peach and Air Asia Japan, Jetstar Japan – a collaboration between Japan Airlines (JAL) and Jetstar – is ready to launch on July 3 (see story here).

For more information, visit www.airasia.com

Alisha Haridasani

United reveals Dreamliner seat plan

With reservations now open for United’s forthcoming B787 service between Denver and Tokyo, the carrier has published a seat plan for the aircraft, which features Business First, Economy Plus and economy seating.

United announced it will launch Dreamliner services between Denver and Tokyo at the end of March 2013 (see online news May 23), and tickets can now be purchased for these flights.

The carrier has yet to upload its Dreamliner seat plan in to the main fleet section of its website, but the layout is visible when going through the booking process, as can be seen below.

The aircraft features six rows of Business First seating in a 2-2-2 layout, with all seats facing forwards. Seats A and B are angled towards the left of the cabin, and seats D, E, K and L are all angled towards the right. 

Behind Business First there are 63 Economy Plus seats (rows 16-22, and also row 27) in a 3-3-3 layout and featuring “up to five inches of extra legroom” compared to economy. The 120 economy seats, again configured 3-3-3, are located in rows 23-25, and 28-38.

Business Traveller‘s sister website seatplans.com is in the process of updating the United Airlines B787 Dreamliner page with the new seat plan and further details.

For more information visit united.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Garuda Indonesia partners with Accor Hotels

Accor Hotels has launched a partnership with Garuda Indonesia that offers passengers and frequent flyers special discounts and additional miles during stays at Accor’s properties. 

Garuda Frequent Flyer members can now earn 500 miles for every stay at any Accor property in destinations that Garuda Indonesia flies to, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Additionally, the carrier will run several promotions whereby passengers, upon presenting their boarding passes, will receive a 10 per cent discount for stays at Accor properties across Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Those that are members of Accor’s Le Club Advantage Plus loyalty programme will receive an extra 5 per cent off room rates. Boarding passes presented must not be older than seven days for these benefits.

For more information, visit www.accorhotels.com/garuda

Alisha Haridasani

Five quirky hotel swimming pools

Intense competition forces hotels to differentiate themselves in novel ways. Hence, more and more hotels are looking to the swimming pool and turning it into an architectural centrepiece that adds something interesting and quirky to the hotel’s facilities.

Harbour Grand Kowloon, Hong Kong

The recently rebranded hotel, previously the Harbour Plaza, in Hung Hom, is conveniently located close to Hung Hom station which connects the city to China.

Though the rest of the hotel has no out-of-the-ordinary features, the rooftop pool might get exhibitionists excited. Walled with glass on three sides, quite like a fish aquarium, the pool allows guests lazing around on the sundecks to look in at swimmers floating by and vice versa.

www.harbourgrand.com/kowloon

 

Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao

This hotel is one of the first international branded properties in the Kangqiao district – the city’s new up-and-coming industrial zone.

While the rest of the hotel offers standard amenities, including wifi internet access, the swimming pool is perhaps its greatest draw. Located on the 24th floor, the deep end of the cantilevered swimming pool has a glass bottom and protrudes out of the building, offering brave swimmers a bird’s eye view of the city. 

www.holidayinn.com

 

Quincy Singapore

This hip boutique hotel, which opened in 2009, spoils its guests with perks such as a free minibar in guest rooms and free drinks in the evening.

The pool is another one of its many attractions – the glass-enclosed cantilevered facility is built into the 12th floor of the hotel in a way that makes it a part of the cool checkerboard façade. On top of that, the pool is illuminated with LED lighting to match the views of the city at night perfectly.

www.quincy.com.sg

  

Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg 

The Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg is an integral part of the Volkswagen theme park – Autostadt – and thus is designed to reflect the spirit of the car company with state-of-the-art technology and unique architecture, including the entire hotel’s structure, which is built in an open circle shape.

Another unique architectural feature, which is as cool as any Volkswagen car, is its outdoor heated swimming pool that floats in the middle of the harbour and is connected to the hotel by a walkway.

www.ritzcarlton.com

 

St Regis Lhasa

Located opposite the world-renowned Potala Palace, this hotel is one of the few international brands entering the “roof of the world.” The hotel consists of several outstanding features, such as local art pieces, a yoga studio, a meditation garden and the serene architecture of the property that echoes the look and feel of a temple.

Its indoor heated swimming pool, however, is literally the hotel’s star that steals the spotlight. Thanks to 24-k gold plated tiles, secured in place by crystals, the pool shimmers and shines against the backdrop of the hotel’s lake.

www.starwoodhotels.com

Alisha Haridasani

Video: Air India Dreamliner interiors

Indian website Bangalore Aviation has produced a You Tube video showing the interiors of Air India’s forthcoming B787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The video shows the carrier’s business class cabin configured in a 2-2-2 layout, with 18 seats upholstered with cream headrests,and grey or red seat backs.

The two economy cabins are configured 3-3-3 and upholstered in either orange or red. It’s worth noting the narrow-looking aisles in these cabins.

According to the video all seats have touchscreen IFE systems, USB ports with iPhone / iPod compatibility, and in-seat power.

Air India looks set to take delivery of the aircraft by the end of this month (see online news May 29), before initially putting it into service on domestic routes before rostering the Dreamliner onto long-haul services.

For more information visit airindia.in.