United partners with No.1 Traveller at Birmingham airport

United Airlines has partnered with No.1 Traveller at Birmingham airport, giving its premium passengers complimentary access to the group’s newest UK lounge.

United’s Business First passengers, as well as Star Alliance Gold members, now get access to the lounge when travelling from Birmingham airport, with facilities including hot and cold meals, a fully-tended bar, free wifi and seating for over 100 guests with runway views.

United currently offers six times-weekly flights from Birmingham to New York Newark airport.

No.1 Traveller opened its Birmingham lounge in October last here – for more details click here.

For more information visit united.com, no1traveller.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Priority Club launches Cars Anywhere redemptions

Intercontinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) Priority Club loyalty programme has launched a new platform for redeeming points on car rentals, called Cars Anywhere.

This joins Priority Club’s Hotels Anywhere and Flights Anywhere programmes that seek to offer members greater flexibility when booking travel through Priority Club.

With Cars Anywhere members can search, book and purchase car rentals with well-known rental companies at a wide range of airport destinations by visiting priorityclub.com/carsanywhere.

Priority Club Rewards members are able to redeem loyalty points for rentals through the Cars Anywhere programme using points or a combination of Points and Cash, with redemptions starting at 5,000 points.

A quick search for cars at London Heathrow in mid-February brought up 68 results from Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, Green Motion and Thrifty. These ranged from 25,000 points per day in the Mini category, namely a Hyundai i10 from Alamo, up to 189,000 in the Premium category, namely a Mercedes E Class with Avis.

Hotels Anywhere and Flights Anywhere allow members to book hotels around the world, including non-IHG properties, and reserve seats on more than 400 airline carriers using Priority Club points.

For more information visit priorityclub.com.

Report by Scott Carey

Etihad unveils new Paris lounge

Etihad Airways has opened a new US$8 million lounge at Paris CDG’s Terminal 2, with features including shower facilities and an a la carte dining menu.

The carrier says the new lounge will meet “the surging passenger numbers on Etihad Airways’ flights into and out of Paris, which have grown 55 per cent over the past 18 months”.

Features of the new lounge include showers, family entertainment areas, a la carte dining, relaxation spaces and business facilities.

The lounge also showcases original artworks including glass vases, bottles and fish sculptures by French glass blower Jean-Claude Novaro, three dimensional plexigraphies of butterflies and skylines by French artist Jean-Francois Larrieu, and original Arabic artworks by Iraqi calligrapher Hassan Massoudy.

Etihad recently established a codeshare agreement with Air France-KLM (see online news October 8, 2012), meaning that the new lounge will also be open to premium Air France-KLM passengers travelling on a codeshare ticket on Etihad’s Paris-Abu Dhabi route.

For more information visit etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Air Berlin offers double Topbonus miles

To celebrate Malaysia Airlines (MAS) joining the Oneworld alliance at midnight tonight (Kuala Lumpur time), fellow member Air Berlin is offering its frequent flyers double award miles on flights booked with MAS between February 1 and April 15. 

Flights must be taken between February 15 and April 15 and participants must pre-register for the promotion online at airberlin.com/malaysiaairlines.

Members of the Malaysia Airlines Enrich programme can also collect double miles when travelling on Air Berlin flights booked between the same period and boarded before April 15.

To coincide with MAS’s integration in to Oneworld the alliance has added new benefits for its top tier members (see online news January 31).

For more information visit airberlin.com/topbonus.

Report by Scott Carey

Oneworld adds new top tier benefits

Malaysia Airlines officially becomes a member of the Oneworld alliance at midnight tonight (Kuala Lumpur time), and the alliance has taken the opportunity to coincide celebrations with the addition of two new top tier benefits.

From February 1 Oneworld Emerald status members will be entitled to an extra checked luggage allowance when travelling on any Oneworld airline, above the standard limit for the cabin class they are travelling in.

This means passengers will benefit from either one additional item where the piece concept applies, or an extra 20kg where a weight policy is used.

In addition Emerald members will now be able to use fast track security lanes “when flying from select key airports worldwide on select Oneworld member airlines”.

For more information visit oneworld.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Iberia unveils new long-haul seats

Iberia has released images and a video of its new long-haul economy and business class seating, which will debut on its A330 aircraft next month.

The new “extra-wide” business class product features a fully flat bed measuring “nearly two metres”, with each seat having direct aisle access. There is a 15.5-inch TV screen, along with a 4.2-inch touchscreen remote control, which can be used to send text messages.

The new economy seats are described as having “a modern design” and are “wider and more comfortable than current ones”. Features include a nine-inch touchscreen TV, and “power and communication jacks for passengers’ electronic devices”.

The new seats will launch on the carrier’s new Airbus A330, the first of which is set to be received next month, with a total of eight due to be delivered by March 2014. The aircraft will be used on flights to New York, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Luanda.

Iberia will also start to refit its long-haul A340-600 fleet with the new seating from May this year.

In addition the carrier says it will “soon” add wifi internet access as well as SMS capabilities for its long-haul customers.

For more information visit iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Flybe announces Glasgow-Shannon route

Flybe is to launch a new service between Glasgow and Shannon airports.

The three times-weekly service will launch on May 1, operating on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The carrier said that “Shannon has long-standing cultural affinities with Glasgow and the business sector is also expected to welcome this important link from Scotland to the Irish city, home to a large cluster of North American investment and to the subsidiary offices of many global market leaders”.

Flights will depart Glasgow at 1050 on Wednesday and Friday (1455 on Sunday), arriving into Shannon at 1215 and 1620 respectively, with the return leg leaving Shannon at 1240 on Wednesday and Friday (1645 on Sunday), landing back into Scotland at 1405 and 1810 respectively.

Flybe will also relaunch its Southampton-Isle of Man route as a three times-weekly, year-round service from May 1.

Flights will depart the Isle of Man at 1155 on Tuesday and Thursday (1235 on Sundays), arriving into Southampton at 1310 and 1350 respectively, with the return leg leaving Southampton at 1335 on Tuesday and Thursday (1415 on Sunday), landing back into the British Crown Dependency at 1450 and 1530 respectively.

Commenting on the launch Dave Lees, Southampton airport’s managing director said:

“We’re delighted to see the return of this service. We know there is a demand for a regular service from local businesses, especially those in the financial services sector, but we are also expecting the route to be popular with those on the Isle of Man joining cruises in Southampton, and leisure passengers from the South.”

Flybe recently announced a restructuring plan aimed at saving £35 million annually, with proposals to cut around 300 staff (see online news January 24).

For more information visit flybe.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Air China launches Chengdu-Frankfurt, ups New York frequencies

Air China will begin non-stop flights between Chengdu and Frankfurt on May 19, and increase the frequencies as well as upgrade its aircraft on the Beijing-New York route on March 31.

The thrice weekly Chengdu-Frankfurt service, scheduled on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, will utilise an A330-200. The aircraft departs Chengdu at 0130 and lands in Frankfurt at 0610 on the same day. The return leg will take off from the German city at 1400 for a 0540 arrival time at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport the next day. 

“Recent years have seen a continuous uptick in the number of outbound travellers from Chengdu and other southwestern neighboring cities like Lhasa, Kunming and Xi’an who leave China via Chengdu. Currently, passengers who travel between Chengdu and other southwestern regions and Germany have to transfer in Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, and the whole journey takes at least 15 hours,” says an Air China representative. The new flight time is 10 hours.

On March 31, meanwhile, Air China will increase frequencies and upgrade the aircraft used on its New York-Beijing service. The route will be flown by a B777-300ER, and frequency will go from seven to 11 times a week. 

The additional flights will leave Beijing at 0900 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 1020 on the same day. The return leg will take off from the Big Apple at 0250 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, for a 1420 touch down in the Chinese capital the following day.

The B777-300ER is the largest long-range twin-engine jetliner, and has a more environmentally friendly engine. “I’m sure our guests will appreciate the features of the energy-efficient Boeing 777-300ER,” says Yuelong Zhou, Air China’s general manager in New York. It also has a wider cabin, allowing plenty of room for the carrier’s “Forbidden Pavillion” (first class) product that features eight luxury suites and the Capital Pavillion (business class) with 41 fully flat beds. To take a virtual tour of these premier classes, click here and here. They also feature ambient lighting that alters to complement the different phases of a flight. There are 259 seats in economy.

“Business or leisure travelers bound for Beijing or onward to domestic Chinese cities and other destinations in Asia such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Thailand and many others, stand to benefit the most from Air China’s increased capacity and convenient connecting flights,” Zhou added.

This news follows further announcements that Air China is to begin flights to Geneva (see story here) in May, and four weekly non-stop services between Houston and Beijing on July 11.

For more information, visit www.airchina.com

Alex Andersson


Etihad’s Brisbane via Singapore service goes daily

Etihad Airways will initiate its new schedule of regular daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane via Singapore on Friday, February 1.

The route has been served by the airline since 2007, but previously flew four times a week. The additional flights will add an extra 1,048 seats a week. 

The carrier will continue to use a two-class A330-200 aircraft, but tomorrow’s inaugural flight will sport a livery painted in Manchester City Football Club colours in celebration of the launch.

Flights will now depart Abu Dhabi at 1025, for a 2210 arrival in Singapore. The next leg then leaves the Lion City at 2340 to touch down in its final destination of Brisbane at 0940 the following day.

The return flight, meanwhile, takes off from Australia at 1155, arrives in Singapore at 1810 before leaving again at 1945 and touching down in the United Arab Emirates’ capital at 2330.

For more information, visit www.etihad.com

Alex Andersson

Four Seasons Beijing caters to 72-hour visa users

Four Seasons Beijing, the city’s newest corporate address (see previous news), is using the new 72-hour visa free stay for transit visitors to Beijing to offer a special stay and experience package. The benefits include two nights’ in a deluxe category room, a round-trip airport transfer and a city explore programme, and is priced from RMB7,400 (US$1,176).

The visa policy (see news) came into effect on January 1 as part of China’s ongoing efforts to boost its hospitality and aviation industries. In Beijing, which has seen a rapid influx of hotels due to the 2008 Summer Olympics, competition for the visitor dollar continues to be intense. The 313-room Four Seasons is the latest deluxe player to have come on the scene, with the Mandarin Oriental – whose opening was delayed by a disastrous Chinese New Year fire – being scheduled to debut in 2014.

Despite a higher profile in North America and smaller presence in Asia, the new hotel, according to general manager Sanjiv Hulugalle, sees Chinese guests making up “about 70 per cent of our market mix”, with the rest coming from the US and around Asia. He added that they were enjoying patronage from regional hubs such as Shanghai, Chongqing and the like. Business for their events and F&B outlets is “90 per cent domestic” said Hulugalle – a Four Seasons veteran of 18 years.

He attributed Chinese corporate clients’ familiarity with the brand to “their frequent travels and knowing who provided high service standards”, adding that “the Beijing market is a very mature one”.

Going beyond offering the basics – such as congee for breakfast and Mandarin-speaking frontliners – to this demanding clientele, Four Seasons Beijing make sure room mattresses are firm, “which is what they like”, Hulugalle observed, and that the flat-screen TVs and technology are also state of the art. “Those details are really important to them.”

What should really appeal to high flyers is the presidential suite, dubbed the Imperial Suite, that takes up the entire 27th floor, and features its own balcony, as well as the helipad (Four Seasons Beijing is one of two hotels in the city to have one) for those exclusive arrivals and departures.

For more about the hotel, visit www.fourseasons.com

Margie T Logarta