Ryanair announces Stansted cuts

Ryanair has announced plans to cut its Stansted traffic by 9 per cent “over the coming year”, following what it referred to as “unjustified and inflation-busting increases” in fees at the airport.

The low-cost carrier said it had planned to increase its Stansted traffic by 5 per cent from April this year, but will now cut frequencies on 43 routes and reduce weekly operations by over 170 flights.

Ryanair said the decision by out-going owners Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd (formerly BAA) to increase fees by 6 per cent was “a parting slap to Stansted’s airlines and passengers”.

The airport operator today completed the sale of the airport to Manchester Airport Group (MAG) for £1.5 billion.

“Given that Ferrovial/BAA has now agreed to sell the airport to MAG, it is impossible to understand why the BAA monopoly is again raising Stansted’s prices from April 2013 when it clearly won’t be running the airport from that date,” said Ryanair’s spokesperson Robin Kiely. 

“Ryanair and other Stansted airlines now must ask was this surprise price increase part of a “sweetener” package to persuade MAG to pay £1.5bn for Stansted? Are passengers and airlines at Stansted again being hit in order to boost the sales proceeds for the Spanish giant, Ferrovial, from the sale of BAA Stansted?”

MAG was announced as the winning bidder for the sale of Stansted airport last month, and at the time said it had “a detailed integration plan in place to ensure a seamless transition of ownership and operations at Stansted which will maintain business as usual for passengers and customers” (see online news January 18).

For more information visit ryanair.com, stanstedairport.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Flybe increases Edinburgh and Glasgow services

Flybe has announced added frequencies and increased capacity on several UK domestic routes to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The regional carrier will add a new Saturday service to its flights from the Scottish cities to Manchester from April 6.

The new frequencies will depart Glasgow at 0640 and Edinburgh at 0650, with the return legs both leaving Manchester at 0840.

Flybe will also add an extra mid-morning weekday service from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to East Midlands airport from April 1, departing Glasgow at 1015 and Edinburgh at 1050, with the return legs leaving East Midlands for Glasgow at 1150, and for Edinburgh at 1225.

Finally the carrier will roster its larger Embraer 195 aircraft onto its Saturday service between Southampton and Edinburgh, replacing the current Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

Last month Flybe announced a major restructuring plans, as part of a “two year roadmap to return the business to profitability and further exploit European potential” (see online news January 24).

For more information visit flybe.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

IAG reports €997 million loss for 2012

International Airlines Group (IAG) has posted a pre-tax loss of €997 million for 2012, compared with a profit of €503 million for the previous year.

The figure includes restructuring and impairment charges associated with Spanish carrier Iberia of around €545 million.

British Airways made an operating profit of €347 million for the year to December 31, 2012, but this was countered by losses of €351 million at Iberia.

Overall the group posted an operational loss of €23 million before exceptional items, compared with a profit of €485 million in 2011. Fuel costs were up over 20 per cent over the period.

Announcing the results CEO Willie Walsh said:

“2012 has been a year of transformation for IAG – we bought Bmi and integrated it into British Airways and initiated our restructuring of Iberia. Our operating performance was solid and the €23 million loss before exceptional items was better than our guidance to the market.

“However there was a significant impact on the results from exceptional and non-operating items leading to a pre-tax loss of €997 million. These items include provision for restructuring and impairment costs in Iberia and non-cash pension accounting requirements.

“Revenue was up 10.9 per cent in the full year while our fuel bill rose by 20.4 per cent with non-fuel costs up 11.6 per cent.

“We achieved synergies of €313 million in 2012, exceeding our €225 million target set at the beginning of the year. This is another excellent performance, in particular through higher than expected revenue synergies. However, we must not be complacent – while this trend must continue it needs to be hand-in-hand with structural change.”

Referring to the operating profit and loss figures posted by BA and Iberia respectively, Walsh admitted to a “divergent financial performance” of IAG’s member airlines, and said Iberia “must stem its cash losses and adjust its cost base permanently if it is to compete with other airlines in all its strategic markets and lay the foundations for profitable growth in the future”.

He confirmed that the group would press ahead with plans to cut Iberia’s capacity by 15 per cent and lose up to 3,800 jobs.

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

Report by Mark Caswell

Swiss-Belhotel International opens in Wuxi, China

In March, a Swiss-Belhotel will open in Wuxi Liyuan Economic Development Zone in Jiangsu, China.

This property will be “aimed at serving business travellers” with its strategic location in the economic zone, which houses many industrial design and development companies, as well as IT, electronics and precision machinery manufacturing industry leaders. It is also 6km from Wuxi city centre, 7km from the main railway station and 21 km from Wuxi Shuofang International Airport.

“This is an ideal time to be present in Wuxi, one of China’s leading centres for research and development,” said Swiss-Belhotel international chairman and president Gavin M Faull.

There are 202 rooms: 85 classic, 46 fashion, 31 studio, 17 suites, six grand suites and 17 rooms on the ladies-only floor. There are also two culinary offerings at the hotel, including Xiang Chinese Restaurant and Swiss-Café, which have nine private dining rooms, able to accommodate between four and 20 people as well as two well-equipped meeting rooms.

For more information, visit www.swiss-belhotel.com/en

Alex Andersson

Korean Air to fly to Colombo and Male

Korean Air will launch a Seoul-Colombo-Male flight on March 9.

The service will be thrice weekly – on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday – and will depart Incheon International Airport in Seoul at 2240 and arrive in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 0410 the next day. The flight then takes off again at 0540 to touch down in Male, the Maldives at 0640.

The return leg leaves the archipelago at 1530 to arrive in Sri Lanka again at 1730 before departing at 1850 to head back to Seoul for a 0610 touchdown the next day.

The route will be operated by a three-class A330-300, which seats 276 passengers in total: six in first, 18 in prestige, and the rest in economy class.

“For Seoul-Colombo, we expect the traffic to be half business and half leisure” says B I Yeom, general manager of corporate communication at Korean Air. “Many labourers from Sri Lanka come to Korea for work, whereas many Koreans are devout Buddhists and want to visit the sights of religious significance in the South Asian nation. For the Maldives, we anticipate mostly leisure traffic.”

This is one of many steps in Korean Air’s ambitious 2013 expansion plan. Nine additional aircraft will be added to its fleet this year: two A380s, one A330-200, two B777-300ERs, two B737-900ERs, one B747-8F and one B777F.

With these new aircraft, popular services will be increased and new ones launched. Frequencies to New York, for example, increased from seven to fourteen a week in January, while the Incheon-LA route is now flown 12, rather than seven, times a week. The carrier was also able to restart its Frankfurt route (see here) and will begin an Atlanta route in August (see here).

For more information, visit www.koreanair.com 

Alex Andersson

Park Hyatt Busan opens

Hyatt Hotels has launched a brand new Park Hyatt in Busan, which is the tenth Park Hyatt property in Asia and the second in South Korea.

The 269-room Park Hyatt Busan is located within the new region of the city next to Haeundae Beach, which also includes several other hotels, the world’s largest shopping mall – Shinsegae Centum City – and the Busan Exhibition and Convention Centre (BEXCO).

The curvaceous 33-story building, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, symbolises the wind-filled sails of a ship and the waves of the ocean – all of which are integral parts of Busan’s seaside culture. Interiors were put together by world-renowned Japanese design firm, Super Potato, in a way that accentuates nature with the use of hardwood, natural stones and plants.

Guestrooms, most of which consist of floor-to-ceiling windows for sweeping views of the ocean and Gwangan Bridge, are equipped with all standard amenities, including Blu-ray players, coffee machines and a media hub for guests to connect their own audio/video material.

The hotel consists of four food and beverage outlets and a spa and fitness centre facility that occupies three floors, and features an indoor swimming pool, gym and spa. Public spaces and restaurants are all equipped with free wifi internet access while in-room internet is charged.

For a more about South Korea’s second-largest metropolis, read our feature which appeared in the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific November 2010 issue. For more information, visit www.busan.park.hyatt.com

Alisha Haridasani

Radisson Blu plans Moscow Sheremetyevo property

The Rezidor Hotel Group is to add its second hotel at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, with the opening of a 379-room Radisson Blu property featuring a direct walkway link to the airport’s terminal building.

The Radisson Blu Sheremetyevo Airport Hotel, Moscow will join an existing Park Inn by Radisson property located close to the airport .

The hotel is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2014, and will feature four restaurants and bars including a rooftop bar with views over the airport, as well as a gym, sauna and over 40 meeting rooms including a 200 sqm multifunctional hall.

The new-build property will also be the only hotel with a direct walkway link to the airport’s international terminals.

The hotel is one of several properties set to open at or around the recently renovated Sheremetyevo airport, with Starwood scheduled to open the Sheraton Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Hotel in July.

For more information visit radissonblu.com, and to read Russian Revolution, Michelle Mannion’s look at doing business in Moscow, click here.

Report by Mark Caswell

Rosewood Hotels to return to London

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts is to re-enter the London hotel market for the first time in over a decade, when it rebrands the London Chancery Court Hotel as the Rosewood London later this year.

The hotel had previously been managed under Marriott’s Renaissance brand until 2011, and currently operates as an independent property, marketed under the Preferred Hotels and Resorts portfolio. Business Traveller last reviewed the hotel in 2007 – for more details click here.

Located on High Holborn, the Grade II listed property is owned by New World Hotel Hospitality, parent company of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and was formerly the headquarters of the Pearl Assurance Company.

It is currently undergoing a US$130 million renovation project, and is scheduled to rebrand as the Rosewood London in October this year.

The refurbished hotel will offer 262 rooms and 44 suites, retaining original features of the Edwardian Belle Epoque building including the carriageway entrance, marble columns and the Pavonazzo marble staircase.

Facilities will include a restaurant, bar and outdoor terrace designed by Martin Brudnizki, responsible for London restaurants including Scott’s and Le Caprice, as well as a spa and fitness suite, and 11 events spaces including a ballroom accommodating up to 435 guests.

The hotel will also feature the Manor House Suite, a private wing accessed via its own street entrance and offering six bedrooms and 587 sqm of living space.

Rosewood previously managed the Lanesborough hotel on London’s Hyde Park Corner until 2002, when it was rebranded under Starwood’s St Regis offering.

The group currently operates iconic properties including The Carlyle in New York and Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and is due to open hotels in Abu Dhabi and Beijing later this year.

For more information visit rosewoodhotels.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

World’s tallest hotel JW Marriott Marquis Dubai opens

Marriott International has just opened the world’s tallest hotel: JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. The title was formerly held by Rose Rayhaan by Rotana in the same city (see story here).

The 72-storey property has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and it is also the first JW Marriott Marquis opening outside of North America, as well as the 59th in the brand’s luxury portfolio.

At 355 metres, the new hotel is just 26 metres shorter than Empire State Building. Rose Rayhaan, on the other hand, has the same number of storeys but is 22 metres shorter.

Other than business travellers, this new Marriott property, owned by Emirates Group, also has its eye on the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) market, with facilities capable of handling an event or function of up to 1,000 people under one roof. There is more than 7,500 sqm of indoor and outdoor event space, including two ballrooms, as well as nine restaurants, and five bars and lounges.

Notable outlets include sky-high steakhouse Prime 68; the “experiential sushi restaurant” Izakaya; and cocktail bar Vault, located on the 71st and 72nd floors and offering panoramic views of the city famous for its over-the-top architecture. The hotel also features Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star.     

The 4,000 sqm Saray Spa and Health Club is inspired by the caravanserai silk route across Arabia, with treatments offered including the signature milk and honey treatment, an Arabic coffee awakener, and lemon mint body polish. On the seventh floor is the pool deck and a 30-metre swimming pool, as well as Aqua Poolside Bar and Grill that draws inspiration from Miami’s renowned South Beach.

The title of “the highest hotel in the world” remains with the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, which is located in the upper half of the 118-storey International Commerce Centre (see story).

Visit www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai

Reggie Ho