Hilton to open Munich Airport hotel

Hilton Worldwide will open a property within Munich Airport under its Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand, it has been announced.

The 389-room, five-storey building currently operates as Kempinski Munich Airport Hotel and will eventually be known as Hilton Munich Airport.

Hilton will manage the upmarket hotel from January 2015. It will then undergo extensive renovation and another 160 rooms will be added to the existing building in 2017.

Once the rebrand is complete, the hotel will offer meetings and conference spaces, food and beverage options, and a spa area featuring a 17-metre swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam bath, fitness area, seven treatment rooms and a pool bar.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, Hilton Worldwide’s senior vice president, development, Europe & Africa, said: “This agreement paves the way for a Hilton Worldwide hotel at each of Europe’s seven busiest passenger airports, testament to the wide reaching appeal of our brands.

“Munich is host to a number of international trade shows, including Bauma, BAU, ISPO and Expo Real, in addition to Oktoberfest, all of which attract large numbers of business and leisure travelers to the city and contribute to a diverse demand mix. We are looking forward to welcoming guests to the Hilton Munich Airport in 2015.”

Earlier this month, Hilton Worldwide  opened the first Hampton by Hilton hotel in central London (see news, February 6).

hilton.com

Graham Smith

Finnair adding three flights to Bangkok

Finnair is adding an extra three weekly services onto its Bangkok route next winter.

The carrier currently flies double-daily to the Thai capital. Between December 30 and March 27, 2015 it will operate 17 weekly services.

The additional flights will be operated by an A340 in a two-class business and economy configuration and are scheduled to depart on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings.

Outbound service AY091 departs Helsinki Airport at 2015 for arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1100 local time the next day.

Return flight AY092 leaves Bangkok on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 1245 for lands in Helsinki at 1855 local time.

Finnair’s current two daily Bangkok are flights AY089, which departs at 1640, and AY095, which takes-off at 1830.

It plans to double its revenue from traffic on its Europe to Asia route by 2020 (see news, July 2013).

The airline’s CEO Pekka Vauramo said: “As the European airline with most weekly frequencies to Bangkok and several other Asian destinations, we are on track to double our revenue from Asian traffic between 2010 and 2020.”

finnair.com

Graham Smith

Etihad to serve Scotland next year

Scotland will likely be served by all three major Gulf airlines next year.

A report in the The Scotsman today suggests that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad will launch a service to a major Scottish city in 2015.

The news was revealed by Etihad CEO James Hogan at a Scottish travel industry dinner in Glasgow last night.

He said: “We will come into our first city next year. We are certainly keen to come into Scotland and build our presence over the next five years, when we will fly to two Scottish cities.”

Dubai-based Emirates has been serving Glasgow for ten years and is toying with the idea of regularly using one its A380s on the route. It will fly an A380 test flight to the city on April 10 (see news, February 12).

And, Doha’s Qatar Airways is set to launch flights to Edinburgh this coming May.

At the present time it is not known which Scottish city or cities will be served by Etihad. Initially, because of their larger population bases and catchment areas, it would make sense to serve either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

In the longer term, Etihad might wish to consider Aberdeen, assuming that the runway would manage a non-stop flight to Abu Dhabi (unless of course the airline were to schedule an en route stop in, say, mainland Europe).

Any new long-haul service arouses much interest in Scotland because it lessens the dependence on having to change planes in London.

Overall, these services by three major Gulf carriers will provide Scottish travellers with better access to destinations in Asia, Africa, the Far East and Australasia without having to transit via London.

It will also enable overseas visitors from the above-named destinations to access Scotland more easily. Savvy travellers will arrange their European trips on an “open jaw” basis, whereby they might fly into Scotland and head home from another UK or European city to avoid back-tracking.

On the losing end will be those long-haul (non-Gulf) carriers flying out of London Heathrow plus Heathrow itself. Also losing out will be the domestic carriers feeding Scottish transit passengers into Heathrow.

etihad.com

Alex McWhirter

Korean Air to allow gate-to-gate use of Portable Electronic Devices

Korean Air will become the first Asian carrier to allow gate-to-gate use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) from March 1.

The carrier will implement the new service onboard all international and domestic operations following approval from the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Authority.

Following the new ruling, passengers can use lightweight, electrically powered equipment including smartphones on airplane mode, tablets, electronic books and MP3 players during all phases of flight. This applies to all flights departing from Korea and returning to Korea, but not interconnecting flights.

Heavier devices such as full-sized laptops, however, will still need to be kept under seats or stowed in the overhead compartments during taxi, takeoff and landing.

For more information, visit www.koreanair.com

Clement Huang

China Airlines to introduce authentic Taiwan flavours in economy class

China Airlines has partnered with four of Taiwan’s most renowned chefs to design a new menu for economy class passengers, which will be available from April 1.

 

The four chefs are from the northern, central, southern and eastern parts of Taiwan, and each have created dishes famous to the four respective regions. The chef from the north is Chen Chao-feng, head chef of Ching Ching Restaurant, whose dishes include Tilapia with Soybean Paste, in which the fish is marinated in sweet wine and seasoned with white soybean paste; and Braised Chicken with Scallions and Rice, using scallions from the famed Sanxing township of Yilan and tender chicken leg meat from chickens native to Luye in Taitung.

 

Central Taiwan is represented by chef Liu Heng-hung of Jingdu Restaurant from Puli in Nantou. His dishes are Fried Rice Noodles with White Ginger Lily, which incorporates Nantou’s white ginger lily, and Prickly Ash Fried Rice, which combines the flowering plant with black bean, fresh chili, bamboo shoots and egg.

Southern Taiwan’s dishes were created by Wu Chien-hao, chef and general manager of Tainan’s Asha Restaurant. His two dishes are Ground Pork with Rice Noodles, in which noodles are drizzled with fragrant shallots in a ground pork sauce; and Red Yeast Pork with Rice, where the meat is marinated in red yeast and then deep-fried to create a dish similar in flavour to Tainan’s pork small intestines.

The chef from eastern Taiwan is Chiu Ching-tse of Link Restaurant in Yilan, whose contributions to the inflight menu include Sliced Pork with Pickled Vegetables and Rice, a dish incorporating Hakka influences; and Black Bean Pork Belly with Rice, which uses aromatic fermented black soybeans.

For more information, visit www.china-airlines.com

Valerian Ho

 

Regus to open mobile working hub at Gatwick

Regus is opening a drop-in business lounge and meeting room centre close to London Gatwick’s South Terminal arrivals area.

The new Regus Express’ facilities will include meeting rooms, desks and showers.

The workspace provider will also soon unveil its first “Business Workbox” at the airport.

To be located airside next to the departure gates, it is designed for business travellers “on the move”, who need to make last-minute phone calls or send emails.

Phil Kemp, global managing director of Regus Third Place, said: “Regus Express is leading a revolution in the way we work. Notions of “the office” are changing rapidly and we increasingly need places to connect to work, wherever we are.

“As a company, we are striving to make modern business easier, extending our network of locations at leading transport and retail hubs across the globe.”

Guy Stephenson, LGW’s chief commercial officer, added: “With Gatwick serving 129 destinations by rail, more than any other UK airport, and over 200 destinations across 90 countries by air, one in five of our passengers is now travelling for business.”

regus.co.uk

Graham Smith

Batik Air to boost domestic capacity and introduce first international flight

Batik Air, the full-service unit of Indonesia’s Lion Air Group, will increase its fleet size from six to 16 aircraft to service 12 new domestic destinations and its first international flight to Singapore by the end of 2014.

According to the airline’s CEO, captain Achmad Luthfie, Singapore was chosen as the first international destination thanks to its highly strategic location and role as a popular transit hub. Due to the limitations of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, many travellers seek connections from Singapore’s Changi Airport, making the route highly profitable.

Domestically, Batik Air currently flies to 10 destinations but plans to more than double this to 22. The new domestic points that the carrier will service this year will be Banjarmasin, Batam, Gorontalo, Kendari, Medan, Padang, Palembang, Palu, Timika, Tarakan and Solo. The airline will additionally resume its Jakarta-Bali Denpasar operations in 2014.

Batik Air currently operates six Boeing 737-900ER aircraft that it configures with 12 business and 168 economy class seats. The airline will take delivery of its first Airbus A320 this July and receive five more by the end of the year, which will feature 12 business and 144 economy class seats.

In addition, Batik Air will add four 737-800s to its fleet later this year, which will be configured with 12 business and 150 economy class seats.

For more information, visit www.batikair.com

Clement Huang

Hilton worldwide to open first Doubletree hotel in Agra

Hilton Worldwide has signed a management agreement with Archer Hospitality Private Limited to open a new property in India, Doubletree by Hilton Agra. Scheduled to open in August, the hotel is 2 km away from India’s most iconic attraction, the Taj Mahal.

“India is a key strategic growth market for Hilton Worldwide. We are delighted with the opportunity to partner with Archer Hospitality Private Limited for our foray into Agra, the leading tourist destination in the country renowned for its many magnificent Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri,” said Martin Rinck, president, Asia Pacific, Hilton Worldwide.

Doubletree by Hilton Agra will feature 104 guestrooms, and also offer four dining outlets, an outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Taj Mahal, 24-hour fitness centre, plus a spa and salon. Event space options include a 436 sqm ballroom, four meeting rooms and a 24-hour business centre.

For more information, visit www.doubletree.hilton.com

Clement Huang

Swiss fights back against Easyjet

Swiss’ decision to focus on its Geneva operations in an attempt to reclaim the market share from Easyjet is proving successful, according to the airline.

And the carrier claims that its 7.8 per cent passenger growth in the year to January 2014 can be attributed to this strategy.

In September 2013, the airline launched its Geneva Economy Light fare, a cheaper, hand baggage only option on flights to and from Geneva, and the Geneva Economy Flexi fare, for those wanting to travel with checked luggage or to have the option of cancelling their travel (see news, July 2013).

Felix Rodel, Swiss’ country manager for the UK and Ireland, told Business Traveller: “Six months in, our Geneva operation works and is showing results. This is very positive, because it was a bit of a risk to take.

“It gives us the confidence that this is the right track to take for Geneva, and maybe for a wider European network in the future.”

Lorenzo Stoll, the airline’s head of western Switzerland, added: “Rolling the fares out across our European network is an option we are considering, but then it would become ‘Swiss Light’ and ‘Swiss Flex’. And there’s no firm plan or date for this yet.”

Swiss has been facing stiff competition for the Geneva market share from Easyjet for some time, particularly for ski tourism, due to the low-cost carrier’s strong connections across the UK and its competitive fares.

However, Swiss decided not to charge a fee for an item of checked-in winter sports equipment in its Geneva Flexi fare – which Easyjet imposes a £60 fee for – and this may have levelled the playing field a little.

Stoll said: “A lot of that growth comes from ski passengers. By adjusting our destination portfolio, we have been able to grab more of that market share than the previous year.”

Swiss introduced a thrice-weekly seasonal service from London Gatwick to Geneva in December. The route will end for the year on March 30, returning later this year for the winter season.

Rodel said: “We may add other destinations within the UK for the 2014 to 2015 winter season, though Gatwick will still be our main focus. One destination that comes to my mind is Manchester.”

In other news, Swiss will be revamping its website in the near future.

Rodel said: “We’re overhauling our swiss.com web page at the end of March to give a more appealing look and feel, and a booking experience that is easier to understand.”

swiss.com

Rose Dykins

Delta favours business travellers in SkyMiles revamp

Delta Air Lines is revamping its frequent flyer programme to reward passengers who buy the most expensive tickets.

The airline’s SkyMiles programme will from January 1 next year shift away from the current model in which members earn airmiles based on distrance travelled.

Instead, it is moving to a system where passengers will be awarded miles based on the price of their ticket.

This will benefit the business traveller, who is more likely to leave booking a ticket to the last minute and will often travel in a class other than economy, and therefore pays a premium.

Members will earn between five and 11 miles per US dollar spent, depending on their SkyMiles status — general members will earn five; Silver Medallion members, seven; Gold Medallion members, eight; Platinum Medallion members, nine; and Diamond Medallion members, 11.

Jeff Robertson, Delta’s vice president of SkyMiles, said: “The introduction of a new model for earning miles will increase rewards for those who spend more as well as differentiate the SkyMiles frequent flyer programme for our premium travellers.”

Other changes to SkyMiles will include a “new mileage redemption structure that will improve award seat availability at the lowest mileage requirement levels, offer one-way awards at half the price of round-trip, and provide additional Miles + Cash Award options”.

Last week, it was announced that Delta will launch a direct Chicago to London Heathrow service in October (see news, February 17).

delta.com

Graham Smith