Free wifi for all Marriott Rewards members

Marriott International will next year provide free wifi to all 47 million of its loyalty programme members.

From January 15, complimentary wireless internet access will be available to all Marriott Rewards members across more than 3,800 hotels.

Platinum and Gold Elite members will continue to receive free enhanced wifi, allowing them to download large files faster and stream media.

Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer, said: “Marriott Rewards members asked for free wifi, and we answered.

“Free wifi is a meaningful way to reward our most loyal customers and continue to attract next-gen travellers.”

Participating brands include The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott, Gaylord, AC Hotels by Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Towneplace Suites, Marriott Vacation Club, Edition and Moxy Hotels.

Free wifi will not be available at select hotels that do not participate in the Marriott Rewards programme. A full list of these properties can be viewed here. The offer is not applicable in meeting rooms.

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) began offering all of its loyalty members free wifi access from earlier this year (see news, March 2013).

marriott.com/rewards

Graham Smith

Lufthansa to start postponed Delhi A380 service next week

Lufthansa plans to launch its delayed A380 service to Delhi next week.

The German airline was scheduled to begin operating its superjumbo between Frankfurt and Delhi on October 26.

But this was unable to happen as a result of local authorities in India not issuing the relevant paperwork in time (see news, October 28).

Lufthansa will now start flying its A380 to Delhi on November 7, reports airlineroute.net. The superjumbo will replace the B747-8 currently rostered onto the daily route.

Outbound service LH760 departs Frankfurt at 1340 and arrives in Delhi at 0130 local time the following day. Return service LH761 takes-off from Delhi at 0330 and lands in Frankfurt at 0720 local time.

lufthansa.com

Graham Smith

American adds second daily Heathrow-LAX service

American Airlines will next year add a second daily service between London Heathrow and Los Angeles.

The US carrier will begin operating the new flight with a three-class B777-300ER, with 60 fully-flat seats in first and business class, on March 29. To view a seatplan, click here.

From that date, outbound services will depart LHR at 1215 and 1400 and arrive at LAX at 1540 and 1730 local time respectively. The return services will take-off from LAX at 1755 and 1935 and land in London at 1225 and 1415 local time the following day.

Alongside American’s daily direct flights between the two cities are two A380 services operated by its joint business partner British Airways.

Andrew Nocella, American’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said: “As the premier airline in Los Angeles, this additional frequency from London caters to our high-end customers in both cities.

“These customers demand a world-class travel experience including true first and business class cabins on modern aircraft serving the best network at LAX.”

American plans to operate the first non-stop flight between Dallas/Fort Worth and Beijing Capital International airport next summer (see news, September 29).

aa.com

Graham Smith

PPL unveils renovated Al Reem lounge in Abu Dhabi

Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited (PPL) has renovated the Al Reem lounge at Terminal 1 in Abu Dhabi International Airport.

PPL attributed the refurbishment project to the fact that Abu Dhabi International Airport has become one of the fastest growing airports in the world, with passenger traffic having more than tripled since 2006.

“Al Reem lounge at Abu Dhabi International Airport will focus on catering to business class passengers and in the coming months our capital city’s airport will also announce the opening of its all new first class Al Dhabi Lounge,” said Mohammed Al Bulooki, chief commercial officer of Abu Dhabi Airports.

The redesign of the lounge was led by designer Kinney Chan of KCA Associates, and features touches of the local culture in the 1,372 sqm facility. Spanning three floors, it offers state-of-the-art kitchens serving a range of Arabic, Asian and Continental cuisines.

Free wifi is offered throughout the lounge, while a shower room is also available for passengers to refresh themselves in between flights. A number of international TV channels will be screened throughout the day, while those who wish to spend their time quietly reading can enjoy a selection of international newspapers and magazines.

For more information, visit plaza-network.com

Clement Huang

Tigerair to add two new services to China

Tigerair will launch a new Singapore-Nanning route starting from tomorrow, while the Guilin service will commence on November 15.

All flights will be served by an A320 featuring a single-class configuration with 180 economy seats. The flight schedules are as follows:

Singapore-Nanning route

Flight

Depart

Time

Arrive

Time

Operation day

TR2916

Singapore

1005

Nanning

1315

Wed, Sat

TR2917

Nanning

1415

Singapore

1735

Singapore-Guilin route

Flight

Depart

Time

Arrive

Time

Operation day

TR2948

Singapore

0800

Guilin

1135

Sat

TR2949

Guilin

1235

Singapore

1630

“We are very pleased to be launching our first direct flights to Guilin and Nanning from November. With its scenic landscape, Guilin is a favourite destination for Singaporeans, who make up the seventh largest group of tourists to the city. We hope more Singaporeans will visit Guilin and Nanning in the future,” said Ho Yuen Sang, managing director and chief operating officer of the airline.

Nanning, meanwhile, provides visitors a snapshot of a modern green city in China. As a capital city of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning is the political, economic and cultural centre of the area with a well-connected and developed network linking leisure and business travellers to other parts in the country. In recent months, the city has hosted a series of international events, further strengthening its image and profile.

The airline also launched a new service to Xi’an (see here) in May.

For more information, visit tigerair.com

Valerian Ho       

The Garden Hotel, Guangzhou unveils new room designs

The Garden Hotel, Guangzhou has unveiled 300 newly refurbished Premier Rooms.

Featuring soothing colour palettes, rich furniture and fabrics, the new design pays homage to the hotel’s Lingnan heritage while offering all the latest mod cons.

All guestrooms are equipped with the latest technology, such as screen sharing between mobile devices and the TV, and an eco-friendly air purifier. Double glazed windows provide extra sound insulation and heating/cooling efficiency. Nespresso coffee makers and smart TVs are also readily available, while the quality of in-room wifi connectivity has also been improved. 

Meanwhile, the design of the rooms has been heavily influenced by classic Lingnan heritage. For example, traditional Guangzhou porcelain decorations are a key feature of the rooms, with illustrated plates featuring exquisite paintings of scenery, flowers, birds, animals, insects and fish, as well figures from famous Chinese fables.

Many traditional elements and symbols have been incorporated into the theme of the rooms, such as the birdcage – a symbol for the wealthy. Traditionally made of bamboo, wood or metal wire like materials, Garden Hotel has incorporated this idea into the unusual bedside lights.

The new room designs also feature one of China’s oldest art forms – ink wash painting. The basic technique uses water and ink for a black and white finish. However, more modern representations also makes use of colour inks to create either realistic or abstract illustrations. By including this feature, Garden Hotel is looking to provide a distinct combination of traditional Chinese art and modern artistic elements.

For more information, visit thegardenhotel.com.cn

Clement Huang

Room Mate launches Bemate.com apartment rental

Spanish chain Room Mate Hotels has launched an online apartment rental concept called Bemate.com.

The new brand aims to provide private apartments with hotel services, such as a 24-hour concierge and a convenient location to leave luggage and pick up and deposit room keys.

Bemate.com also offers amenities that can be booked á la carte, from airport transfers to cleaners and cooks.

Bemate.com logo

Since its creation in September, Bemate has acquired 2,500 apartments in ten cities including New York, Madrid, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Mexico City.

It is currently increasing its portfolio to include Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lisbon and Seville.

The project is also opening up to allow other hoteliers to become Bemate.com ambassadors and will expand to cities including Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lisbon and Seville. It aims to have up to 80,000 apartments in 150 cities by the end of next year.

And, there are plans to start up a loyalty programme by the end of November. The scheme will offer benefits in partnering and ambassador hotels.

Kike Sarasola, Room Mate’s founder and president, said: “Our focus is on what the new traveller demands… Our guests will feel safe and comforted by the hotel service they will receive including 24-hour concierge, delivery and collection of keys, luggage storage and tourist information, whilst enjoying independence in an apartment-style accommodation.”

Room Mate recently unveiled its Wi Mate initiative, by which travellers borrow a portable router that provides them with free wifi anywhere in the city.

bemate.com

Miriam Jones

Marriott to open second Scotland Courtyard

Marriott International will open a second Courtyard hotel in Scotland in early 2016.

The 240-room Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh Hotel will join the Courtyard by Marriott Aberdeen Airport, which opened last year. To read a review of that property, click here.

The Edinburgh hotel will be located on Baxter’s Place in the centre of the city and will occupy a listed building that has stood empty for years.

The building is comprised of three adjoining Georgian townhouses, one of which was home to civil engineer Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson.

The property will feature an all-day bistro restaurant, fitness centre and a 4.5 sqm multi-function meeting room. Free wifi will be available throughout the hotel.

Amy McPherson, Marriott’s president and managing director in Europe, said: “We are excited to announce the launch of Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh and continue to expand the presence of the brand in Scotland.”

Marriott currently has four hotels in and around Edinburgh — Residence Inn Edinburgh in the city centre, Autograph Collection’s The Glasshouse, Edinburgh Marriott Hotel near the airport, and Dalmahoy Marriott Hotel & Country Club located seven miles to the west of the city.

courtyard.com

Graham Smith

BA to fly twice daily to Bilbao

British Airways will launch a new double-daily service to Spain’s Basque region next year.

The carrier will operate A319 and A320 aircraft between London Heathrow T1 and Bilbao from March 29.

Both aircraft will be laid-out in a two-class configuration with seats in Club Europe (business) and Euro Traveller (economy).

Spanish carrier and fellow IAG airline Vueling currently flies four-times weekly from Bilbao to Heathrow, but will move this service to Gatwick.

Stephen Humphreys, BA’s head of UK&I sales and marketing, said: “Bilbao is a brilliant business city with a fantastic cultural heritage offering a superb gateway to northern Spain for our customers.

“We’re extremely happy to be flying to Bilbao and offering our customers another route to Spain, which now becomes our twelfth destination to this culturally diverse country.”

BA and Vueling currently codeshare on more than 180 routes, which are mainly centered on the Spanish airline’s low-cost Italy operation (see news, August 12).

ba.com

Graham Smith

Qatar cancels second Heathrow A380 service

Qatar Airways has cancelled its planned second daily A380 service to London Heathrow and is adding a second daily superjumbo to Paris.

The Gulf carrier was scheduled to add a second A380 onto its LHR route on December 1 (see news, September 23), but this aircraft will now fly to Bangkok from that date.

The Thailand superjumbo service was due to begin on January 5 (see news, October 22), so is being moved forward by five weeks.

Flights QR001 from Doha to London and the return QR002 will continue to be operated by an A340-600, reports airlineroute.net.

However, Paris Charles De Gaulle will receive a second A380 service from Doha from January 5.

It will be added to flight QR041, which departs Doha at 0140 and arrives in Paris at 0655 local time, and return flight QR042, which takes-off from CDG at 0850 and lands at Doha at 1715 local time.

Qatar Airways will first fly the A380 to Paris as flights QR039/QR040 from November 5, four days later than the planned November 1 start date.

To read a review of business class on-board Qatar Airways’ A380 inaugural passenger flight, click here.

qatarairways.com

Graham Smith