Occupy Hong Kong stepping up protests

Less than a week after police cleared Nathan Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong, of barricades and tents built by Occupy protesters (see story), the situation in Central on Hong Kong Island across the harbour has worsened.

In the evening of November 30, student groups leading the movement announced plans to beseige the government headquarters building in Central. That triggered more protests in the surrounding areas. Lung Wo Road, which has become an important traffic link between the western and eastern parts of Hong Kong Island’s urban area in recent months as Harcourt Road continues to be blocked, has been taken by protesters. Despite the use of pepper spray and batons, police were not able to stop the advances made by the Occupy crowd, characterised by a sea of umbrellas.

Road traffic will likely be severely affected tomorrow (Monday) and for days that follow on Hong Kong Island. 

Although Nathan Road has reopened fully for traffic, sporadic protests have been occurring throughout Mongkok, and scuffles between police and protestors have been reported.

Visitors to the city are advised to make use of the Mass Transit Railway system whenever possible, and navigate through underground passages that connect train stations to major buildings in order to avoid protests.

It is worth noting that despite recent unrest, Hong Kong remains a safe place to visit and protests are confined to certain areas.  

Reggie Ho

Singapore Airlines A380: What you need to know

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380

Singapore Airlines was the launch customer of the Airbus A380 and currently has 19 of the superjumbos in its fleet with five more on order.

The airline remains the second largest A380 customer after Emirates, which has made 140 orders, 51 of which have been delivered.

SIA took delivery of the first A380 in October 2007, and began operations that same month with a Singapore to Sydney service.

SIA A380

SIA A380

It currently flies the superjumbo to 13 destinations — London Heathrow, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Tokyo, Melbourne, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai and New Delhi, as well as to Syndey.

In August, SIA announced it will start flying the A380 to Auckland on a winter seasonal basis, from October 27 (see news, August 11).

SIA’s A380s can seat either 471 passengers or 409, depending on the configuration.

When seating 471, the aircraft’s lower deck has 12 first class suites — designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste — in a 1-2-1 layout and 311 economy seats in 3-4-3. The upper deck has 60 business class seats in 1-2-1 and 88 in economy in 2-4-2.

SIA A380 first class suite

First class suite

SIA A380 business class seat

Business class seat

The airline’s newer 409-seat configuration is the same, apart from the upper deck is all business class, seating 86.

SIA last year unveiled its new cabin products, including first, business and economy class seats (see news, July 2013). The design was initially introduced to the carrier’s B777-300ER aircraft but will also be retrofitted onto its A380 fleet.

Read reviews of Singapore Airlines A380 flights in business class herehere and here.


Graham Smith

Configuration 1:

SIA A380

Configuration 2:

SIA A380

Taj Dubai to open in March

Taj Dubai Tata suite

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is set to launch its second Dubai property in March.

The Indian group will open Taj Dubai in the emirate’s Downtown district, close to the Burj Khalifa. It already operates the Taj Palace hotel in Deira.

The 296-room property will have seven food and drink outlets, including Indian and Peruvian restaurants, as well as a spa and a members-only business club called Chambers.

Taj Dubai bedroom

Taj Dubai lobby

The group is due to open a property under its Vivanta by Taj brand in Dwarka, south-west Delhi, in January. Located 20 minutes’ drive from Delhi Indira Gandhi International airport, it will have 250 guestrooms as well as dining, spa and meeting facilities.

A 283-room property is scheduled to open at Mumbai International airport’s Terminal 1C in April.

Taj now provides free wifi to in-house guests across all of its 125 hotels.


Michelle Harbi

British Airways ups Tel Aviv services

British Airways will operate 20 weekly flights from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv in summer 2015.

The national carrier flew 14 weekly services between the two cities this summer.

The airline will fly to the Israel destination three times daily on every day except for Fridays, when it will operate a twice-daily service, reports airlineroute.net.

Flight BA165 will depart LHR daily at 0850 and and land in Tel Aviv at 1535 local time, with return flight BA164 taking-off from Tel Aviv at 1715 and arriving back in London at 2025.

Flight BA163 will leave Heathrow daily at 2230 and arrive in Tel Aviv at 0530 the next day, before returning as BA162 at 0735, landing in London at 1100.

Flight BA167 will operate daily, except for Fridays, taking-off from LHR at 1635 and landing in Tel Aviv at 2340. Return service BA166 will leave Tel Aviv at 1000 and arrive in London at 1330.

Earlier this month, BA will launch two daily A380 services to Miami next October (see news, November 11).


Graham Smith

The Langham, Sydney to reopen next week

Langham Hospitality Group will reopen its Syndey hotel next week folllowing a AU$30 million (£16 million) refurbishment.

The Langham, Sydney closed in July so that the renovation project could take place. It will reopen on December 2.

In a statement, the group said: “Each light switch, fitting, fixture, chandelier, every piece of marble is being replaced with a more superior product.”

Langham, Sydney

Features include a new day spa, five new event spaces, hand-curated art by Sotheby’s, Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, and fine-dining restaurant Kent Street Kitchen.

Sonia Lefevre, the hotel’s general manager, said: “The Langham, Sydney hasn’t just undergone a refurbishment. This is a grand transformation. No expense has been spared in creating this elegant harbourside retreat for our guests.”

To read a review of the property before the refurbishment, click here.


Graham Smith

BA brings in digital Executive Club cards

BAEC app smartphone account screenBritish Airways will next month introduce digital Executive Club membership cards for smartphones.

The digital cards will be available through the BA app on iOS and Android mobile devices and members will also be able to download them once logged into their Executive Club account on ba.com.

Features will include a progress chart to show current membership status and how far until the next tier level, and the option to book flights using Avios points and a new system to upgrade your flight paying cash, where available.

Traditional plastic card will still be available for use and Bronze, Silver and Gold members will continue to receive welcome packs and plastic cards in the post. Plastic Blue cards are, however, being discontinued.

James Hillier, BA’s global Executive Club manager, said: “We’re pleased to be able to offer customers more options with our app, like access to our Executive Club card digitally.

“We know our customers enjoy innovative and intuitive technology that helps them on their journey.”

BAEC app smartphone

BA this week announced that Executive Club members who wish to qualify for Gold Guest List membership will soon no longer be able to do so by reaching 3,000 tier points in two consecutive years (see news, November 27).


Graham Smith

China Southern to fly A380 to Sydney

China Southern will deploy an A380 on one of its two daily services between Guangzhou and Sydney from next month.

The superjumbo will cover Australia’s peak summer season, from December 5 until February 28.

It will replace the A330 currently serving flights CZ325 and CZ326. Flight times will remain unchanged, with Qantas continuing to be a codeshare partner with codes QF327 and QF328 respectively.

China Southern’s A380 comes in a three-class configuration, with eight seats in first class, 70 in business and 428 in economy.

It’s worth noting that China Southern had previously deployed the A380 on the Guangzhou to Sydney route, but was forced to replace it with the much smaller A330 back in February due to poor passenger loads.

The carrier already offers more flights from China to Australia than any other airline, but the addition of the superjumbo will boost capacity by about 50 per cent.

China Southern has been working hard to boost travel between its home country and Australia. Just last week, the airline announced that it would work with Tourism Australia to invest a further AU$4.2 million (£2.3 million) in advertising Down Under as a destination.


Clement Huang

First Kempinski hotel in Myanmar

Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw officially opened its doors in time for the ASEAN Summit earlier this month.

The first Kempinski property in Myanmar features 141 rooms and suites, including the largest guestroom in the country – the 1,393 sqm Grand Royal Suite.

This luxurious space, complete with meeting and leisure facilities plus state of the art security, served as the stately home of President Obama during the summit.

President Obama was the first guest to experience the Grand Royal Suite

Guests staying at the hotel can whet their appetites with the pan-Asian and international cuisine at Rangoon Kitchen brasserie, cocktails at the Diplomat Bar and Pool Bar, or at the two executive clubs.

Recreation facilities include a fully equipped fitness club, plus eight treatment suites in Kempinski The Spa, which is scheduled to open in Q3 2015. 

Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw also offers two meeting spaces, including the Kispandi Ballroom that can accommodate up to 400 people in a theatre configuration, and Thaniwin Meeting Room – with space for 118 guests.

For more information, visit kempinski.com

Clement Huang