Royal Brunei Airlines unveils new livery

Royal Brunei Airlines has unveiled a new livery and logo which will be rolled out across its fleet, uniforms and website over the next year.

The new livery retains the yellow colour scheme currently in use, but has been simplified, with only the aircraft’s tailfin and fuselage logo now painted. The carrier has also dropped the ‘A’ from its ‘RBA’ abbreviation, with ‘RB’ now appearing on the tailfin.

The airline unveiled the new livery and logo on one of its Airbus A320 aircraft, and will rollout the new design across its fleet over the next year, with the rebranding scheduled to be completed in time for the delivery of Royal Brunei’s first Dreamliner in September 2013.

Speaking at the unveiling the carrier’s deputy chairman Dermot Mannion said:

“Over the next year, we will be redefining the Royal Brunei Airlines’ flying experience, starting with our classic styled new livery and logo. This redefinition is not merely an ad campaign, but rather a long term commitment to our passengers to create a family-like, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere with high class customer service.”

For more information visit bruneiair.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

The Dorchester revamps suites

The Dorchester hotel has completed refurbishment of 22 of its suites.

Courtesy of designer Alexandra Champalimaud, the luxury London hotel’s Dorchester and Park suites have been given a new look that celebrates “the eclecticism of the English spirit”, with a number of British companies commissioned to create the furnishings.

The 14 Dorchester suites now feature open fireplaces lit by crystal logs in the living rooms, rugs by the Rug Company, artwork including prints signed by HRH the Prince of Wales, hand-sprung mattresses made by Devon company Vi-Spring, and furniture by companies such as Forgeability, Dudgeon, Howe, and Restall, Brown and Clennell.

Furnishings in the eight Park suites are now lighter in colour to “allow the natural beauty” of their Hyde Park views “to radiate throughout”. Features include oak plank flooring, antique chairs, wall coverings by Soma Silk, Chesneys chimneypieces with flame sculptures, and artwork by Derek Rangecroft.

Technology in the new suites includes Bang and Olufsen Beo Vision flatscreen TVs, iPads, iPod docks, and remote-controlled lighting. Some suites also have TVs fitted in the bathroom mirrors.

The works follow other upgrades at the Dorchester, such as the renovation of its Ballroom suite last year, and the extension and renovation of its spa in 2009.

Last year also saw the opening of its sister property, 45 Park Lane – for a review, click here.

Visit thedorchester.com for more information.

Report by Michelle Mannion

No. 1 Traveller opens Birmingham lounge

Lounge provider No.1 Traveller has opened its sixth UK lounge and the first outside of London, with the unveiling of No.1 Birmingham.

The facility joins lounges at Heathrow T3, Gatwick’s North and South Terminals, and two facilities at Stansted airport.

The two-level Birmingham lounge is the largest at the airport, and is located after security, past World Duty Free and between WHSmith and Next.

Features include a double height ceiling with a mezzanine level, seating for over 100 guests, complimentary newspapers, magazines, wifi and food and beverage (with the option to upgrade to paid-for a la carte dishes, champagne and cocktails), and a meeting room.

Entry to the lounge costs £22.50 per person when booked in advance, or £27.50 when purchased at the door.

No.1 Traveller recently announced a new partnership with Taste Card, allowing members of the restaurant discount scheme two-for-one entry to its lounges (see online news October 18).

For more information visit no1traveller.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Raymond Blanc becomes Eurostar’s culinary director

Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc has been employed as culinary director at Eurostar, and has created new menus for the rail operator’s Business Premier customers.

Blanc’s “innovative, seasonal and sustainable” menus feature several family recipes including mackerel salad and chocolate delice with praline custard, with a focus on “locally sourced and sustainably produced ingredients of a local provenance”.

Eurostar says the dishes will combine “rustic, traditional dishes with a fresh, modern element of surprise”, bringing together “the best of Britain, France and Belgium”.

The rail operator has also become the first transport provider to join the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and will be rated on its onboard catering over the coming months.

The appointment of Raymond Blanc as culinary director comes ahead of the introduction of new and refurbished Eurostar train carriages from next year (see online news October 18), which will also offer wifi internet access (see online news May 17).

Eurostar also introduced quiet coaches earlier this year (see online news June 8).

Co-inciding with today’s launch the operator has revealed the results of a new survey in which over half (53 per cent) of business travellers said the economic climate has had no effect on their travel for business abroad.

The survey also highlighted that over a third (34 per cent) of business travellers rated the quality of the meals they were served when travelling for business as below average.

For more information visit eurostar.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

BA to move Singapore and Sydney flights to Heathrow T5

British Airways is to move its Heathrow-Singapore-Sydney services to T5 from the end of March, and will also roster its new B777-300ER aircraft onto the route from this date.

The carrier says the changes ”confirm British Airways’ commitment to Australia”, following the news that Qantas will end it joint business agreement with BA, and strike up a new partnership with Emirates (see online news September 6).

BA’s Sydney flights currently depart from Terminal 3 using B747-400 aircraft, but will move to Terminal 5 from March 31, from where the majority of the carrier’s flights already operate.

The airline’s new B777-300ER aircraft feature a four-class World Traveller, World Traveller Plus, Club World and First layout, with BA’s latest in-flight entertainment systems which provide 50 per cent more movies and double the range of TV and music options.

To read our report on the World Traveller and World Traveller Plus products available on BA’s new B777-300ER aircraft (published when the aircraft was launched in 2010), click here.

For more information visit ba.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Marriott group to double presence in Asia by 2016

Marriott International has announced plans to more than double its portfolio of hotels in Asia between now and 2016.

The group currently has 132 hotels in the region and has agreed deals to open another 143 properties in the next four years.

“We expect to grow dynamically but sustainably in Asia for many more years to come,” said Simon Cooper, Marriott International’s president and managing director in Asia. “While China and India are the driving forces for our business in Asia, we are also seeing growth with new signings and openings in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere in the region.”

Rendering of the Ritz-Carlton, Wuhan

In China, the group said it expects to open an average of one hotel per month for the next five years. It added that, having established itself in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, it is moving increasingly into opening properties in second-tier and emerging cities.

Before 2016, it expects to be operating in 16 new provinces across the country. These include more remote regions such as Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia, fast-developing inland areas like Sichuan and Hunan, as well as Anhui and Macau.

It will also continue to diversify its portfolio in the country, with the addition of new leisure-based properties, such as a resort in Dali City, the ancient capital of Nanzhao Kingdom in the 8th and 9th century, located in today’s Yunnan Province in Southwestern China.

Rendering of the JW Marriott in Shenyang

In India, the group expects to grow from 15 hotels to more than 50 in the next few years. It has 23 hotels under construction. Next year it plans to introduce a customised version of its Fairfield Inn & Suites brand in the county, under the name Fairfield by Marriott

Nicholas Olczak

Update: Airports reopen but New York air transport still affected by hurricane aftermath

JKF airport in New York and Newark airport in New Jersey are due to re-open with limited service at 0700 East Coast time on Wednesday, October 31, according to Port Authority of NY and NJ alerts. La Guardia airport will remain closed for longer. The AirTrain services to the airports are also not operating. 

Airlines are advising that airports in New York have sustained considerable damage and operations may remain subject to disruptions. They add that services will intitially be focused on getting people home and flights are currently very full.

Cathay Pacific (CX) has announced that it plans to resume its scheduled services to New York starting November 1 but disruptions are possible. Passengers bound for New York or leaving New York are advised to check with the airline regularly, or visit www.cathaypacific.com for updates.

Flight CX840 scheduled to depart at 1620 local time today (October 31) from Hong Kong to New York is cancelled. This is in addition to the previously announced cancellations of CX830 from Hong Kong and CX845, CX841 and CX831 from New York. 

CX has offered to waive all rebooking, rerouting, cancellation and refund charges for tickets issued worldwide on or before October 28 for travel on Cathay Pacific with confirmed bookings involving New York between October 29 and November 2, 2012. 

“Passengers should be aware that local transport within the city is very limited, and services at the airport in general may be inhibited by airport staff’s inability to get to work,” said a Cathay Pacific spokesperson.

Singapore Airlines has advised that flights SQ21 from Newark to Singapore on October 30 and October 31, along with SQ22 from Singapore to Newark on October 31 will be cancelled. Flights SQ26 from Frankfurt to JFK on October 31 and November 1 will also be cancelled (SQ26 SIN-FRA on October 31 will operate as scheduled and depart at 2355). Flight SQ25 from JFK to Frankfurt on October 30, October 31, and November 1 will be cancelled. 

SIA said it will waive administrative fees and penalties for refund, rebooking or re-routing, for customers holding confirmed tickets issued on or before 28 October for travel between Singapore and Newark, and between Frankfurt and JFK from 28 Oct to 1 Nov 2012. This also applies to KrisFlyer redemption tickets.

New York’s bus services are expected to start running on some routes from today. Mayor Bloomberg has said that there is “no timeline” for when the Subway will re-open (to check the status of New York Transit click here).


Nicholas Olczak

Five emerging Asean cities

Across the Asean region, there are a number of cities whose economies are beginning to boom. These are either national capitals which have recently opened up after long laying under oppressive regimes or states of conflict, or they are other locations whose favourable characteristics have just caught the eye of international companies. In both cases, the cities have been drawing in increasing amounts of foreign investment and seen airlines launching new connections to link them to the rest of the region. Here we take a look at some of the Asean region’s rising stars.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

Overview: Cambodia’s capital is located in the centre of the more developed south of the country. It is about 120km northwest of the Vietnamese border. On the banks the Mekong River, it has Cambodia’s largest port that allows water-based trade with other ASEAN nations and through Vietnam into the South China Sea.

What’s happening? Cambodia’s economy has seen double-digit growth in recent years. Large numbers of international firms have chosen to locate their manufacturing in the country, especially garment manufacturing. Phnom Penh is at the centre of this boom, with companies such as H&M and Benetton present there. In 2006, the city established a 365ha Special Economic Zone aimed at drawing foreign investment by offering a favourable business and trade environment.  

Challenges: After three decades of conflict and civil war, Cambodia’s infrastructure has been left very weak. At the end of last year, the IMF estimated that the country needed US$13 billion in infrastructure works by 2020 if it was going to continue attracting foreign investment. Ground transportation (both road and rail) from Phnom Penh remains undeveloped. The city’s airport is small and close to capacity, with large tourist flows. A project is underway to expand it, due to be completed in 2014, but in September this year the Prime Minister Hun Sen also suggested a second airport would be needed. 

Who is flying there? Qatar Airways announced on October 26 that it would begin daily flights to Phnom Penh from February 20 next year (see here). Air France restarted thrice-weekly flights after a 35-year interval in March last year (see here). From October 28 this year, Hong Kong airline Dragonair increased its services to the Cambodian capital from seven to 10 weekly. 

The city is also served by Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, AirAsia, SilkAir, Tiger, Jetstar Asia, China Southern, Shanghai Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines.


Yangon, Myanmar 

Overview: A city of 4 million people, Yangon is located in the south of Myanmar (discounting the narrow peninsula which extends further south). It is at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers, which flow 30km further south into the Andaman Sea. It has land trade routes with Thailand, which lies to its east.

What’s happening? Myanmar began making moves towards democracy last year after a decade under military rule, leading to the lifting of many economic sanctions this April and renewed investor interest in the country. International firms are looking to get access to the country’s rich natural resources, which include natural gas, tungsten and gems. Manufacturers are eyeing the country, especially its capital, as offering a good production base. According to CNBC, Labour costs in Yangon are a fifth of those in Bangkok and a third those in Shanghai.

Challenges: The country is still an extremely young democracy and has not proven its stability will last. Currently it has an incoherent exchange rate regime, poor infrastructure, has weak investment laws, a crippled banking system, decades of mismanagement and a shortage of skilled labour.

Who is flying there? Myanmar International Airlines plans to start flights to Yangon before the end of the year (see here). Dragonair announced in October that it would start four-times-weekly flights between Hong Kong and Yangon from January 9, 2013.

ANA launched flights there on October 15 this year, becoming the first airline to link Japan and Myanmar (see here). Korean Air begun flying non-stop to Yangon on September 15 (see here) and Malaysia Airlines started servicing KL and Yangon on September 2. Meanwhile, Vietnam Airlines started flying between the city and Hanoi in March of 2010. China Airlines has repeatedly increased its flights to Yangon (see here).  

Other airlines flying to Yangon include Thai AirAsia, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Yangon Airways, Air India, China Southern, Air China, China Eastern, Silk Air, Eva Air, and Air Mandalay.
 

Vientiane, Laos 

Overview: The Laotian capital, population 910,000, is located in the northwest of the country on the border with Thailand. It is also located on the bank of the Mekong river.

What’s happening? In recent years, the city has seen rapidly increasing foreign investment. Foreign businesses, drawn by its cheaper costs than other Asian nations, have chosen to establish manufacturing bases there, producing everything from garments to pharmaceuticals. According to LaoVoices.com, between 2010 and the city’s Khoksa-ath Industrial Zone gained 11 factories and now has a total of 31 with an investment value of about 300 billion kip (US$37.5 million). The city has also established other industrial parks and special economic zones such as the Vita Park, which are set up to attract investment.

Challenges: According to the Asian Development Bank, urban infrastructure remains relatively undeveloped, with congested roads and other issues. Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport has recently undergone an upgrade, expanding its parking apron so that up to 25 large and medium-sized aircraft can be accommodated.  

Who is flying there? Bangkok Airways has announced it will start flights to Vientiane from December 1 this year.

Lao Airlines, which is based in Vientiane, is expanding its network. It plans to launch flights to Guangzhou from November 29 and to Seoul and Busan in December (see here). It began flying to Singapore in November 24 last year (see here).

AirAsia began operating flights from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane in 2007. Other airlines serving the city include Thai, Vietnam Airlines, Jin Air and China Eastern.


Clark, The Philippines

Overview: Clark is located close to Angeles City which is about 40 miles northwest of the Philippine capital of Manila. It is positioned inland, at the base of the expansive northern regions of the country.

What’s happening? In the mid 1990s, the former military airbase in Clark was reopened as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), since renamed to Clark International Airport, and the surrounding areas were designated as a Special Economic Zone offering favourable policies to attract overseas businesses. Over 700 international firms have located in the area including UPS, Sumidenso, Rolls-Royce, Yokohama, and Cyber City Teleservices.  

Challenges: While the road between Clark and Manila is good, the two places would benefit from a rail link. DMIA is a relatively small airport and will need expanding if the region wishes to grow significantly. 

Who is flying there? The Philippines low-cost carrier Zest Air began flying between Clark and Seoul on October 27 this year (see here). Jin Air began flying to Clark in October of 2010.

At the end of 2008, Cebu Pacific began using Clark as a hub for flights to Hong Kong and Singapore (see here), and now also flies between there and Macau and Bangkok.

Tiger Airways and AirAsia also link Clark to Singapore, Malaysia and other destinations around the region. Philippines domestic carrier South East Asian Airlines (SeaAir) likewise flies out of Clark.


Da Nang, Vietnam

Overview: Da Nang, one of Vietnam’s largest cities with a population of 807,000 in 2009, is located in the centre of the country on the coast. It is about 850km south of Hanoi, and almost an equal distance north of Ho Chi Mihn City. Da Nang is the commercial hub for central Vietnam and has one of the country’s largest ports.

What’s happening? Da Nang is the centre for the government-designated Central Economic Zone. According to the Vietnamese government’s online portal for Da Nang, it has attracted 228 FDI projects in total, with a combined value of US$3.58 billion. The Netherlands, one of the largest European investors in Vietnam, has firms including Solar Energy Company Ltd, and the Da Nang branches of Metro Cash and Carry and KFC Vietnam. The Da Nang Hi-Tech Park is drawing numerous international tech companies, such as Japan’s Tokyo Keiki Inc.

Challenges: The city has been limited for a long time by insufficient domestic connections and the general difficulty of flying around Vietnam, although this has improved somewhat it still needs to do so further if Da Nang is going to continue developing. 

Who is flying there? AirAsia began direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Da Nang in December last year (see here). Korean Air began twice weekly flights from Seoul to Da Nang in January.

In September Lao Airlines announced that from November 4 it will start a three-times-weekly flight from Vientiane to the city (see here).

Other airlines flying to Da Nang include Jin Air and Vietnam Airlines.

Nicholas Olczak 

BA to drop Gatwick-Manchester route

British Airways is to drop its Gatwick-Manchester service from March next year.

The carrier flies up to three-times daily to Manchester from the south London airport, but says it will withdraw from the route from March 31, 2013.

The cuts will not affect BA’s flights to Manchester from Heathrow, which will be retained with up to 11 return services per day. British Airways is currently the only carrier flying between London and Manchester, since Bmi’s mainline services were integrated into BA’s operations at Heathrow.

In a statement the carrier said:

“British Airways retains a strong presence in Manchester where it currently employs over 400 staff at the airport, at the airline’s call centre and BA CityFlyer head office in Didsbury.

“In addition to the Heathrow flights, there are two flights a day to Billund and two to Gothenberg that fly in British Airways colours from Manchester, operated by franchise partner SunAir.”

For more information visit ba.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

What do you think of BA’s decision to cut its flights between Gatwick and Manchester? Take part in the discussion here.

The big picture: BA’s superjumbos enter final assembly

Business Traveller attended an event to watch parts from BA’s forthcoming A380 travelling in convoy to the Airbus final assembly line in Toulouse.

British Airways’ first A380 superjumbo completed assembly this month, ahead of a planned delivery in July next year.

BA has yet to confirm the seating products to be installed or potential routes for the A380 but said an announcement will be made in the spring of next year. However, BA Chairman Sir Martin Broughton recently told Business Traveller: “It’s not confirmed but my guess is it would be Hong Kong, although Madrid will probably be the test flight” (see online news October 10).

BA will receive its first A380 flight simulator in January, from which point increased pilot training can take place. BA’s first fully trained A380 pilot, Captain James Basnett, will perform the role of “entry to service manager,” overseeing the implementation of the A380 programme at BA, including pilot and cabin crew training.

Basnett says BA has opted for the “brake to vacate” modification, allowing the superjumbo to automatically brake and exit the runway as quickly as possible after landing, significantly reducing runway occupancy, a major issue at Heathrow specifically.

The parts for BA’s second A380 arrived in Toulouse for final assembly on Saturday October 13. The wings arrived by sea from Broughton (no relation), North Wales and the three fuselage sections and horizontal tailplane (which has the same wingspan as an A320) from Hamburg, via the French town of Saint-Nazaire. BA hopes to take delivery of three A380s by the end of next year.

The logistics of bringing parts for such a large aircraft in to Toulouse for final assembly is a complex and expensive procedure. The above parts are delivered by specially designed ships in to the port of Pauillac, near Bordeaux, and are then rolled on to smaller barges to be taken down the Garonne river, to the small French town of Langon.

Here the parts are assembled in to a convoy of six vehicles and transported by road for 240km to the final assembly plant in Blagnac, Toulouse. The convoy occurs two to three times every month and must take place at night. The vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 25km/h and are escorted by police and private security, amounting to around 60 people making up the entire convoy.

Business Traveller attended the convoy of British Airways’ second set of parts through the old French town of Levignac on October 12.

The convoy still attracts local plane spotters, families and the generally curious to this day, five years on from the first convoy. On this occasion, coming up to midnight on a chilly October night, there were hundreds of people lining the street as the convoy approached.

The streets are closed off and kept clear of cars for the convoy to pass, sometimes within inches of the surrounding buildings, with residents being asked to move their vehicles by 9pm on the evening of the convoy.

John Ashley, originally from Manchester and now working for Airbus on the A350 programme, told Business Traveller that he had never come out to see the convoy in the three years that he had lived nearby, but was glad to finally see it. “I’m impressed by the turnout,” said Ashley, “to watch it pass through this little town is phenomenal, certainly not something you see every day.”

For more information visit ba.comairbus.com.

Report by Scott Carey