BA brings in Gold Executive Club cancellation fee

British Airways Executive Club Gold members will from today have to pay change and cancellation fees.

The news means that top tier members of BA’s frequent flyer programme will be charged £35 per passenger for any ticket changes.

It is thought that this change in Gold tier benefits may have been implemented to limit multiple speculative bookings.

If so, then it may free up more seats for either redemption bookings or paid travellers.

The news arrived without any advance notice, save for a message on the final page of the award-booking process on each Gold member’s account.

It reads: “Please note that from March 31, 2014 our terms and conditions have changed: Change and cancellation fees now apply to Gold Members.”

Earlier this month, BA launched a business class leisure fare (see news, March 12).

ba.com

Graham Smith

Easyjet to ‘more than double’ passengers at Luton

Easyjet has signed a ten-year deal with London Luton which, the airline says, could see it more than double its number of passengers at the airport from four to nine million.

The carrier has 15 aircraft based at Luton with plans to increase its capacity by around 20 per cent over the next year.

The news comes just days after Easyjet and Gatwick Airport announced a seven-year growth and service improvement deal (see news, March 27).

The “substantial” Luton deal will enable the airline to double its size at that airport over the next decade and add a greater range of business destinations.

Easyjet CEO Carolyn McCall said: “Their financial investment and long-term commitment to developing London Luton were a key factor in agreeing to this new deal and will help us deliver our plans…

“London Luton can make a real and immediate contribution to the need for more airport capacity in the south-east.”

But, while the deal was last year approved by Luton Borough Council, the decision is currently being reviewed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

McCall said the speed of Easyjet’s plans is part reliant on this government approval. She said the airport aims to increase capacity from ten million to 18 million passengers a year.

By the time the proposed work is complete in 2026, the airport will have 20 passenger screening lanes, nine luggage reclaim belts and increased retail and seating areas are being proposed to meet the potential rise in passenger numbers.

London Luton managing director Glyn Jones said: “Easyjet is our largest airline partner, accounting for 45 per cent of all passengers using the airport. We see this as a real vote of confidence in London Luton airport and its future.”

The deal will also see the creation of 2,500 new jobs at the airport and surrounding region.

easyjet.com, london-luton.co.uk

Graham Smith

Emirates becomes Gatwick’s first A380 airline

Emirates yesterday became London Gatwick’s first A380 airline as it inaugurated its superjumbo service into the airport.

The airline will fly the A380 daily with flight EK9 departing Dubai at 1500 and arriving at Gatwick at 1930 and return service EK10 leaving Gatwick at 2115 and landing in Dubai at 0720 the next day.

Hubert Frach, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president commercial operations west, said: “Six years after launch the Emirates A380 is still a customer magnet.

“Airports the world over are eager to have the Emirates A380 on their roster and today’s launch to London Gatwick is representative of that demand.”

Emirates A380 lands at Gatwick

Touchdown: Emirates’ inaugural A380 service into Gatwick lands at the London airport yesterday

Besides adding extra capacity to the route — until yesterday, all three of Emirates’ Gatwick flights were operated by B777-300ERs — the 489-seater A380 provides both premium and economy passengers with a superior onboard product.

It also means that Gatwick passengers, like their Heathrow and Manchester counterparts, will be able to sample A380 service (via Dubai) to main global cities.

Flight EK10 arrives into Dubai at 0720 from where there are Emirates flights to Bangkok at 0940, Hong Kong at 1005 and Sydney, with Qantas A380 at 0920 and with Emirates A380 at 1005.

In order to become A380 compliant, Gatwick has invested £6.4 million in new facilities, including the widening of three runway rapid exit taxiways and modifications to taxiways between the runway and the stand.

Emirates receives its 46th and 47th A380s

Welcoming party: Emirates receives its 46th and 47th A380s in Dubai on Friday

Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer of London Gatwick, said: “The A380 is one of the modern marvels of aviation engineering and as such we have dedicated part of Gatwick’s £1 billion investment in transforming its infrastructure, creating a stand designed specifically with the world’s largest aircraft in mind.

“We are pleased to welcome a scheduled A380 service with Emirates, an airline that Gatwick has a long history with.”

Emirates received its 46th and 47th A380 aircraft in Dubai on Friday.

emirates.com

Graham Smith

BA introduces breakfast card to maximise sleep

British Airways has introduced breakfast cards to help Club World passengers maximise their sleep on overnight flights from New York to London.

Each card, which is similar to those guests receive at a hotel, is handed out at boarding and allows business passengers to select what they would like for breakfast before they go to sleep.

A BA spokesman told Business Traveller: “For example, whether they’d rather have tea or coffee and how they like it, which juice they’d prefer, if any, and which breakfast option they’d like to go for.”

The card, which is collected by cabin crew shortly after take-off, also allows passengers to tell crew whether they want waking for the full breakfast service, or whether they’d prefer a new “Breakfast Bag” containing orange juice, a muffin and bircher muesli.

The move is one of several sleep-aid measures that BA brought in yesterday on its red-eye New York to London route.

It is also now giving business passengers a bottle of water when they sit down, rather than later in the flight, and delivering meals by hand to those that want them, instead of with trolleys.

Last week, it emerged that BA has postponed its second daily A380 service between London Heathrow and Los Angeles (see news, March 26).

ba.com

Graham Smith

United launches service to Taipei

United Airlines has expanded its trans-Pacific network by connecting its San Francisco hub with Taipei and launching a second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo.

The US carrier will operate both services with Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

The San Francisco to Taipei service will seat 269 in a four-class configuration, with eight in United Global First, 40 in United Business First, 113 in United Economy Plus, and 108 United Economy seats.

Flight UA871 departs San Francisco International Airport daily at 1350 and arrives in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 1830 the following day.

Return leg UA872 leaves Taipei at 1110 and arrives back in San Francisco at 0730 the same day.

The additional daily service to Tokyo will offer 267 seats in a three-class configuration ­– 50 in United Business First, 72 in United Economy Plus, and 217 in United Economy.

Flight UA1 departs Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport at 0900 daily and arrives at Tokyo Narita at 1235 the following day.

Return service UA2 leaves Tokyo at 1545 and touches down in Houston at 1340 the same day.

Jim Compton, United’s vice-chairman and chief revenue officer, said: “The new Taipei and Tokyo services strengthen our commitment to the Pacific, where United is already the leading US carrier, and to the San Francisco and Houston hubs.

United last year announced plans to introduce a thrice-weekly B787 service between San Francisco and Chengdu on June 9, pending approval from the Chinese government (see Business Traveller Asia-Pacific news, October 22).

If successfully implemented, the non-stop service will be the first by an American airline between the US and a second-tier Chinese city, as currently American carriers’ presence in the world’s second largest economy is limited to Beijing and Shanghai.

United also plans to offer Boeing 787 services between Los Angeles and Melbourne six times weekly from October 26.

united.com

Clement Huang

IHG to open Hotel Indigo in London Barbican

Intercontinental Hotels Group has announced that it will open a further two hotels in London.

Hotel Indigo London – Barbican will start welcoming guests in 2016, while Holiday Inn – Watford Junction is due to open this summer.

The Hotel Indigo property at Barbican will be a new-build with 101 guestooms and is ideally situated, in the City of London, for business travellers.

Hotel Indigo London Barbican

New-build: Hotel Indigo London Barbican

The Watford hotel will contain 92 guestrooms and will feature the Holiday Inn Open Lobby concept.

As a result of these future openings, IHG has in the last nine months signed all six of its current European brands in the Greater London area.

The four other signings are the InterContinental London – The O2 (see news, July 22); Crowne Plaza London – Albert Embankment (see news, September 25); Staybridge Suites London – Vauxhall (see news, November 6) and Holiday Inn Express London – Ealing (see news, September 27).

Robert Shepherd, Chief Development Officer, Europe said that the new Indigo appealed to an age group from 35-54.

He told Business Traveller: “The sort of business travellers and leisure travellers who really appreciate staying somewhere that is very different. They like feeling part of a local neighbourhood and having the sensation of having visited that neighbourhood.”

Shepherd added that The Barbican “is one of London’s grooviest areas, one which is very much a part of the art scene in London with a pop-up food market and will talk to those authentic experiences”.

Earlier this month, IHG announced it will open a fifth Hotel Indigo property in New York City in 2016 (see news, March 21).

ihg.com

Graham Smith

JAL introduces new amenity kits

Japan Airlines (JAL) has introduced a new set of amenity kits to the first class cabin on select international routes such as Tokyo Haneda to London and Paris; and Tokyo Narita to Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Jakarta.

The Japanese carrier is collaborating for the first time with Spanish luxury brand Loewe, which was founded 1846 and has today become one of the most recognised names in leather goods, ready-to-wear, accessories and perfume.

Loewe has designed two pouches for the airline’s outbound and inbound flights. For outbound services, canvas in beige colour will be used for spring and summer, while brown will be the colour for autumn and winter. On the inbound flights, corduroy will be the material of choice, with camel being the colour for spring and summer, and moss green for autumn and winter.

A dental set, mouthwash, earplugs, eye mask, towel, lip cream, brush, moisture mask and pocket tissue are included in each pouch.

For a round-up of new in-flight amenity kits from United Airlines, Etihad Airways, Jet Airways and Jetstar Asia, click here.

For more information, visit www.jal.co.jp

Valerian Ho

United expands trans-Pacific network

United Airlines has expanded its trans-Pacific network by connecting its hub in San Francisco with Taipei, Taiwan. The American carrier has also launched a second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo.

“The new Taipei and Tokyo services strengthen our commitment to the Pacific, where United is already the leading US carrier, and to the San Francisco and Houston hubs,” said Jim Compton, United’s vice-chairman and chief revenue officer.

Both services are operated with the Boeing 777-200. The San Francisco–Taipei flight will offer 269 seats in a four-class configuration, with eight in United Global First, 40 in United Business First, 113 in United Economy Plus, 108 United Economy seats.

Flight UA871 departs San Francisco International Airport daily at 1350 before arriving in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 1830 the following day. The return leg, UA872, leaves Taipei at 1110 and arrives back in San Francisco at 0730 the same day.

Meanwhile, the additional daily service to Tokyo will offer 267 seats in a three-class configuration ­– 50 in United Business First, 72 in United Economy Plus, and 217 in United Economy.

The new daily service sees flight UA1 departing Bush Intercontinental (Houston) at 0900 daily before arriving in Tokyo Narita at 1235 the following day. Meanwhile, the return flight UA2 leaves Tokyo at 1545 and touches back down in Houston at 1340 the same day. 

Earlier, the carrier also announced its plans to introduce a three-times-weekly Boeing 787 service between San Francisco and Chengdu, China on June 9, pending approval from the Chinese government (see here).

If successfully implemented, the non-stop service will be the first by a US airline between the US and a second-tier Chinese city, as currently American carriers’ presence in the world’s second largest economy is limited to Beijing and Shanghai. The carrier also plans to offer Boeing 787 services between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia six times weekly starting October 26.

For more information, visit www.united.com

Clement Huang

Delta drops Chicago to London Heathrow service

Delta has quietly dropped its new flight from Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow.

The service, which was revealed last month (see news, February 17), was to see a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft on the year-round route.

Outbound flight DL040 was scheduled to have taken off from Chicago O’Hare at 1730 and landing at LHR at 0735 the following day, with return service DL039 due to depart Heathrow at 0930 and arrive in Chicago at 1245 local time.

A Delta spokesperson said: “Having done further research on the route the decision has been made to evaluate the Delta – Virgin transatlantic offering as we build our partnership and optimise the transatlantic schedule.

“Virgin continues to service the route from Heathrow during the summer season.”

Delta today launched its new service from London Heathrow to Seattle (see news, July 2013).

delta.com

Tom Otley