Garuda Indonesia postpones Gatwick route

Garuda Indonesia has announced it is postponing the launch of its London Gatwick to Jakarta route until May 2014.

The new service was set to become a useful route for UK travellers heading to Australia via Jakarta.

It is scheduled to be a five-times weekly service, reports

Business Traveller has received an official statement from Garuda.

It reads: “Garuda is postponing the launch of its direct flight from London to Jakarta due to limited runway capacity at Soekarno-Hatta Airport. Indonesia’s national carrier will begin the first ever non-stop service in May 2014.

“The pavement classification number (PCN) of the runways and apron at Soekarno-Hatta Airport do not meet the required level of strength that is typically needed for the operation of a full capacity, heavy duty commercial airliner such as the Boeing 777-300ER.

“To operate at full capacity serving direct, non-stop flights between Jakarta and London, while carrying 314 passengers and a maximum take-off weight of 30 tons of cargo, the Boeing 777-300ER requires a PCN of 132 tons. Soekarno-Hatta’s runway has a PCN of 120 tons.”

The airline said that if it were to operate non-stop to London under present conditions it would mean having to carry 39 fewer passengers and less cargo. This would make the route uneconomic.

The news comes a day after we reported that British Airways will likely resume flights to Jakarta before the end of the year (see online news, July 30).

Indonesia’s air transport director, Djoko Murjatmodjo, told the Jakarta Post that six new foreign carriers, including BA, would shortly begin services to the country.

Alex McWhirter

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Etihad expands AUH ‘meet and greet’

Etihad Airways has expanded its “meet and greet” service for passengers arriving on flights at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The service, which can be booked up to 48 hours before travel, was launched in June with two packages (see online news, June 5).

It now incorporates four packages. They are the Arrivals Gold Service, the Arrivals Silver Service, the Transit Gold Service and the Departure Gold Service.

The Arrivals Gold Service costs $55 (£36) per person and includes a personal welcome on arrival at the airport with one staff member for every guest or couple travelling together, assistance throughout the arrival process, fast track through immigration, and complimentary porter service from the baggage belt to the curbside.

The Arrivals Silver Service includes a personal welcome on arrival with one staff member for every two to five guests, assistance throughout the arrival process and fast track through immigration. It costs $27 (£18) per person.

For $89 (£59) per person, the Transit Gold Service includes a personal welcome on arrival with one member of staff for every guest or couple travelling together, assistance throughout the arrival process, escort from arrival gate to the Etihad Airways Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 and then on to the departure gate. This service is available for guests with up to 5 hours transit in Abu Dhabi.

The Departure Gold Service costs $68 (£45) per person and includes a personal welcome on arrival with one member of staff for every guest or couple travelling together, and assistance throughout the departure process, including escort from the business class check-in desk in Terminal 1 to the Etihad Airways Premium Lounge.

Speaking last month, Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways chief commercial officer, said: “We are always looking at ways to make flying with Etihad Airways easier and more enjoyable.

“Being met by a friendly face and helped with luggage and guided through immigration and customs makes the process a breeze.”

Graham Smith

Emirates to launch second daily Amsterdam flight

Emirates is launching a second daily non-stop flight between Dubai and Amsterdam in December.

The Gulf airline is deploying a Boeing 777-200LR on the service, which will add capacity of more than 3,700 seats per week in both directions.

The current daily flight has been operated by an Airbus A380 since last August (see online news, August 2012). Beforehand, Emirates deployed a B777 on the route.

The second service, which begins on December 4, will feature 266 seats in a three-class configuration – eight seats in first, 42 in business and 216 in economy.

Flight EK149 will leave Dubai at 1610 and arrive at Amsterdam at 2040. Return flight EK150 will depart Amsterdam at 2210, landing in Dubai at 0740 the next day.

Hubert Frach, divisional senior vice president, commercial operations west, said: “Our decision to add another daily service to Amsterdam is a direct result of a surge in customer demand.

“The enhanced capacity and schedule will offer our customers more choice when travelling between Amsterdam and Dubai and onwards to a multitude of destinations in the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Far East and Australasia.”

Emirates first launched a Dubai to Amsterdam service in 2010.

Graham Smith

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The Berkeley poised to open new top suite

London hotel the Berkeley is putting the finishing touches to its new luxury suite, which is due to be launched in mid-August.

Created by Andre Fu – the Hong Kong-based designer behind the Fullerton Bay hotel in Singapore and the Upper House in Hong Kong – the 280 sqm suite will be among the largest in the capital and offer views of Hyde Park and Knightsbridge.

The two-bedroom space will occupy an area of the fourth floor that formerly housed five guestrooms and one suite. It will also have a living space, a dining room for up to ten people, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a free-standing tub, walk-in shower and twin sinks and toilets.

Rooftop pool at the Berkeley

The hotel’s stunning rooftop pool

Fu told Business Traveller that the suite, which is yet to be named, would be “fresh, sensuous, lush and comfortable”.

He said: “[The Berkeley] sees a niche market demand for a luxurious suite that is a slight antithesis to what the current London market is offering.

“I believe the London market has two spectrums of suite experience. One is the super-opulent, traditional suite which is very grand and slightly ornate, but is never about the person who lives in it, it’s always about the experience of being in something very grand.

“Or else there is something that is very modern, uber high-tech and generally quite cold. What I focus on a lot is how a guest should feel inside a space and how they should be indulged within the context of this vast 280 sqm suite.”

The suite will feature a colour palette of tan, mocca and mineral grey, bespoke furniture and lighting from Asia, and two artworks apiece from Christian Cadelli, Cynthia Sah and Barnaby Gorton. Guests will be able to control the lights, curtains and air conditioning with an iPad.

Fu added: “We’ve used three main materials – bamboo, which for me is something quite Asian but at the same time very renewable and perpetuates that feeling of warmth; a Turkish grey marble which we have treated with a flame finish…that makes it slightly rustic; and antique brushed brass, which for me is something very English. So we’re juxtaposing those three elements together.”

Fu is also designing the top floor of the upcoming Shangri-La hotel in London’s Shard. Located on level 52 of the building, one half will comprise a pool and “fitness lounge”, and the other half a bar called Gong. He said the pool, which overlooks Big Ben, “will become an integral part of the bar at night”.

The bar would have “a slight sense of theatre”, Fu said. “It’s about intimate spaces – we’ve made the space into small salons, or boudoirs. We are reinterpreting some of the traditional Chinese design motifs, juxtaposing classic elements against something quite modern – we’ve got a big wall of Chinese cabinets using galvanised bronze, for example.”

The hotel is now expected to open in the final quarter of this year, having been delayed.

The new Berkeley suite follows this month’s launch of the property’s newly designed Bamford Haybarn spa.

Split across the seventh and rooftop levels, the facility features a fresh, airy design, five treatment rooms, men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas, manicure and pedicure stations, a gym and an attractive rooftop pool with a garden and sunbeds.

Treatments include the Bamford body signature treatment, deep tissue massage, de-stress massage and full-body exfoliation, for which specially made organic products are used.

In the past year the Berkeley has also refurbished 40 of its guestrooms.

Michelle Mannion

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SIA downsizes London route

In June last year an excited Singapore Airlines announced that, after a 14-year wait, it had secured slots for a fourth daily service from London Heathrow (see online news, June 2012).

Ever since SIA first flew to the UK in the early 1970s, London has always been its number one European destination and its flights are always popular.

So the intention, in future, would be that the carrier’s fourth daily flight – operated by a B777-300ER – would, like the other three services, be upgraded to the A380.

But one year on and flight displays on show that, from October 27, SIA will actually be providing fewer London route seats.

It is surprising because the Northern European winter is when many people escape for the warmth of SE Asia and Australasia.

SIA’s history in the UK is one of continual growth. To the best of my knowledge, it’s never had to downsize.

Last winter, SIA operated the route with three A380 flights and one B777-300ER service. This coming winter sees the route “downgraded” to twice daily flights by A380 and a twice daily service by B777-300ERs.

Why the cutbacks? Well, it must be partly to do with the European economic situation and partly because of the intense competition that non-stop Asian carriers face from their Gulf rivals.

A good proportion of SIA passengers departing London are not destined for Singapore alone. Instead, they are continuing to destinations in SE Asia and Australasia. And these are all areas being targeted by the big three – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Not only do the Gulf carriers offer keen fares, but they operate out of many more airports in Europe than does SIA.

Jakarta is also a prime destination for SIA’s UK passengers. But Emirates is flying there three times a day and Qatar will soon be doubling flights to twice daily, and that’s before the expected direct flights from London start (see online news, July 30).

SIA is renowned for good housekeeping. It does not like flying with empty seats so it is understandable that it would wish to downsize.

The Singapore flag-carrier remains one of the world’s best and most successful airlines, but it proves, I believe, that outstanding onboard service is no longer enough in today’s price-conscious market.

According to Sydney-based consultancy CAPA, the carrier faces a bleak outlook in the short-to-medium term owing to competitive pressures within Asia and further afield.

Alex McWhirter

HK, S Korea offer reciprocal self-passport check

The Hong Kong Immigration Department and South Korea Immigration Service signed a memorandum yesterday allowing residents from both countries to use electronic immigration border gates in Hong Kong and South Korea starting from the end of this year.

To use the service in South Korea, Hong Kong residents should be over 17 years old, hold a valid HKSAR passport and not hold a criminal record in South Korea. Residents need to register their personal information and fingerprints before using the service – something that also applies to South Koreans wanting to use the service.

Automated immigration check gates are located at a number of entry points to the two countries, including Incheon Airport in Seoul and Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong. It only takes 16 seconds to pass through.

Eric Chan Kwok Ki, director of Hong Kong Immigration said at the signing ceremony that 1,000 Hong Kong people go to South Korea per day, and 3,000 South Koreans come to Hong Kong. He also said that the two have long-established financial, economic, social and cultural interactions, and he believes the service will encourage bi-lateral tourism, trade and business links.

More information will be available soon at

Valerian Ho

Five off-the-beaten-track destinations

Chiao Lan Reservoir

WHERE? Surat Thani, Thailand

WHY VISIT IT? Nestled near Khao Sok National Park, the reservoir was constructed in 1982 to help generate hydro-electricity to the city and other nearby towns. Upon completion, over 150 islands formed. The 739 sq km Khao Sok National Park, established in 1980, has pristine moist evergreen forests that abound with wildlife and fascinating plants. Activities include visiting caves on a bamboo raft, hiking or swimming in the crystal clear waters. The best time to visit is December to April.

HOW TO GET THERE? The nearest airport is Phuket International Airport. From there it takes about three hours to drive to the dam. Renting a car independently costs about 1,000 baht (US$32) a day, but if you organise the trip with a tour group the van transportation is included.

ACCOMODATION A recommended accommodation option is the very basic bamboo bungalows that float on the lake, which can only be reached by longtail boat. What they lack in creature comforts they more than make up for in charm and spectacular surroundings. Three meals are provided a day, and the electricity is turned off at 10pm. Local tour operators such as Monkey Fun Travels (, organise trips to the dam that cost approximately 2,500 baht (US$80) per person.

Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory

WHERE? Almaty Province, Kazakhstan

WHY VISIT IT? Located 11,000 ft (3,353 metres) above sea level, the observatory is a remnant of a Soviet Union outpost. Astronomers are available to provide lectures, and there is even accommodation onsite.

HOW TO GET THERE? The observatory is roughly a 30-minute drive from the city. Be sure to hire an experienced driver who is familiar with the route as the trail is potentially dangerous. The International Bio Exploration Society ( also offers guided tours of the vicinity. The observatory itself also offers transportation for groups of 10 people and above at US$5 per person. 

ACCOMODATION A hotel is located within the observatory premises. Accommodation amenities are very basic but it costs only US$15 per night. Three meals per day can be included at an additional US$10 charge.

Lugu Lake

WHERE? Yunnan Province, China

WHY VISIT IT? The lake’s shores are home to the Mosou people. They are a small ethnic minority group with unique ideas about sex, marriage and how society should function. Experience an interesting and highly matriarchal society and learn about the “walking marriage” tradition that is present even today.  

HOW TO GET THERE? The lake itself is so remote that even today it takes 20 hours on public bus, or nine hours in a jeep from Lijiang.

ACCOMODATION Lige Village is a small town on the north side of the lake that has several hotels and inns. Padma Hotel for instance offers rooms along with complimentary breakfast and wireless internet. Prices are from RMB220 (US$35).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Kam Chung Ngam

WHERE? Jin Island, Hong Kong

WHY VISIT IT? The island itself offers a trail for hiking enthusiasts. However, the main attraction here is a sea cave that is nicknamed “Goldfish Wagging Tail”. Shaped like a fish, tourists are able to capture a perfect view of it upon looking down from the top of the hill.

HOW TO GET THERE? There are no public ferry services to the islands. Interested parties can take boat tours by hiring ferries at Sai Kung Pier. Another good alternative is to employ the services of one of the Hakka ladies operating sampans along the Sai Kung promenade. Expect to be asked for a fee of about HK$150 (US$19).

ACCOMODATION Considering the relatively small size of Hong Kong, we would recommend staying in one of the nearby cities. Sha Tin is only 6.4 kms from Sai Kung, and hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott and Hyatt Regency are located there.

Photo courtesy of Chensong at The Hong Kong Less Traveled

Las Casas Fiipinas de Acuzar

WHERE? Bataan Peninsula, The Philippines

WHY VISIT IT? Described as a “Genesis Heritage Resort”, the resort is a living museum of Philippine customs and traditions. Featuring historical noble class mansions that have been rebuilt from different parts of the country, these landmarks stand against a backdrop of mountains, rice fields and a running river that flows to the sea.

HOW TO GET THERE? The resort is situated 151 kms north of Manila, and is therefore a two-to-three hour drive through North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

ACCOMODATION The resort offers two different forms of accommodation – Paseo De Escolta and its Heritage Houses. Room rates at the Paseo De Escolta start at PHP 3,825 (US$88) for a studio deluxe room (two persons), while a night at one of the Heritage Houses will set you back PHP 15,750 (US$363) at the two bedroom Casa Baliug (eight persons).

Clement Huang

BA poised to resume Jakarta flights?

British Airways will likely resume flights to Jakarta before the end of the year, it has emerged.

Indonesia’s air transport director, Djoko Murjatmodjo, recently told the Jakarta Post that six new foreign carriers would shortly begin services to the country. And our very own BA is one of the carriers in question.

BA last served Jakarta before the economic downturn a few years ago, and whether or not it would reopen the route has long been speculated about on our forum.

Although BA has yet to comment, there are developments which make an official announcement very likely.

For starters, the airline recently retimed its London to Singapore terminator flights BA11 and BA12 to allow a longer layover in the City State. The eight hours the aircraft remains on the ground would be adequate to fit in a return “tag” flight to Jakarta.

This is similar routing to what Lufthansa used to offer when it last served Jakarta via Singapore.

But perhaps more significant is the fact that Indonesian airline Garuda, which was to have inaugurated flights from London Gatwick to Jakarta and Sydney on November 2 (see online news, April 18) has suddenly amended its UK website.

Garuda’s schedules to Jakarta and beyond were clearly displayed when Business Traveller collated the above story last April. But they were removed a couple of days ago. Perhaps Garuda is mulling its options in light of BA’s possible return?

Now that Lufthansa quit Jakarta there are only two European carriers who fly there, namely KLM and Turkish Airlines.

If BA were to return, then one would expect it to have traffic rights (as Lufthansa did) to carry passengers between Singapore and Jakarta.

But BA will face strong competition not just from Garuda’s non-stop service, if and when it starts, but from SIA and from the Gulf carriers who are all adding more services.

Emirates alone operates three daily B777-300ER flights into Jakarta while SIA flies nine times a day from Singapore with connections from its five daily UK flights. 

Business Traveller will bring you more news when available.

Alex McWhirter

Doubletree to open third Barcelona hotel

Hilton Worldwide will open its third Doubletree hotel in Barcelona, it was announced today.

The 116-room property is currently the Alexandra Barcelona Hotel on Carrer de Mallorca.

Under a franchise agreement with A Hotels SA, it will convert to Alexandra Barcelona – A Doubletree By Hilton early next year.

The hotel, which will become the fourth Doubletree By Hilton property in Spain, also features three meeting rooms, a restaurant and a gym.

Once under the Doubletree brand, it will also have a 24-hour connectivity zone and other

John Greenleaf, global head of DoubleTree by Hilton, said: “DoubleTree By Hilton’s growth in Spain continues at a rapid pace and I am thrilled we’ll have a presence in such a vibrant, world class destination as Barcelona.

“We very much look forward to providing visitors a warm welcome to what will be an exceptional property in our growing collection.”

Doubletree By Hilton now has more than 350 hotels worldwide. Earlier this month, the brand launched in Poland with the opening of a hotel in Lodz (see online news, July 19).

Graham Smith

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