Marriott’s Autograph Collection arrives in Barcelona

Marriott International will open an Autograph Collection hotel in Barcelona early in the new year.

Hotel Cotton House Barcelona will be the brand’s fourth property in Spain when it opens on February 23.

Located in the city’s Ensanche district, it is housed in a 19th century building that was formerly the headquarters of the Association of Cotton Manufacturers.

King Balcony room

King Balcony room

Rooftop pool

Rooftop pool

The hotel has 83 bedrooms, including seven suites, a library, a restaurant and cocktail bar, a conservatory, a 300 sqm terrace and a rooftop swimming pool on the sixth floor.

John Licence, Autograph Collection’s brand leader in Europe, said: “Barcelona is a hugely popular destination for both leisure and business travellers, and we are really excited to debut such a unique hotel in the heart of Catalonia.

“The rich heritage of the building is complemented by the exquisite new design, and we have no doubt that travellers will have an incredible experience that Autograph Collection has become known for delivering.”

Marriott opened its first Autograph Collection hotel in Japan earlier this year (see news, September 18).

autographhotels.com

Graham Smith

Major airline product news stories from 2014

On the last day of 2014, let’s look at some of the major airline product news stories covered by us:

Major year for the “big three”

SriLankan Airlines joining oneworld

The past year has been an action-packed one for airline alliances, especially Oneworld, which has welcomed Sri Lankan Airlines (see story) as well as TAM Airlines and US Airways (see story). After some initial struggle, Air India finally met all the requirements to become a member of Star Alliance (see story) and it seems to have been working very well for the airline (see story). Garuda Indonesia, one of the notable turnaround stories in aviation history, joined Skyteam (see story). Etihad, which has resisted the idea of joining one of the “big three”, has formed its own pact (see story), although it has clarified that it isn’t an alliance per se. The Gulf carrier also continues to expand its reach through making equity partners, with the latest being Alitalia (see story).

You can’t have too many lounges

Silverkris Lounge of Singapore Airlines in Hong Kong International Airport refurbished in 2014

We eat, drink, work, sleep and even take showers in these places, so it has been exciting to see many airlines upping the ante with their airport lounges. Notable ones in the past year included Korean Air’s new facility and Qantas’ new first class lounge at LAX (see reports here and here), Qantas’ business lounge at the Hong Kong airport (see story), Etihad’s in Sydney (see story) and the new United Club Lounge in San Francisco (see story). Quite a number of existing lounges have also been refurbished, such as JAL’s Sakura Lounge and first class lounge at Haneda (see stories here and here), China Airlines’ facility at its hub airport of Taoyuan (see story) and Singapore Airlines’ Silverkris Lounge at Hong Kong airport (see our first look coverage here). As a pilot project for its brand refresh, Cathay Pacific has also recently unveiled a new look for its lounges at Haneda (see story).

The big bird theory

Etihad A380

Inevitably, much attention will be on the A350XWB next year, as Qatar Airways has officially received its first (see story here and our first look here), but in the past year, focuses were still on the A380 and B787. Despite lingering rumours that the A380 project may soon come to an end, which the aircraft manufacturer has dismissed (see story), you will for sure be seeing the “big bird” a lot in years to come, with many airlines having launched services with the aircraft. Dallas/Fort Worth is welcoming it from Qantas (story here) and Emirates (story here), and Singapore Airlines is sending it to Auckland (see story), Beijing (see story), as well as Delhi and Mumbai (see story), to which Lufthansa will also deploy the A380 (see story). British Airways has launched new A380 routes, including Miami (story here) and Singapore, with the help of Gwyneth Paltrow (see story). Thai Airways will soon fly the superjumbo to Tokyo two times a day (see story).

Asiana has received its first A380 (story here) and revealed the cabin design (take a look here), while Korean Air has got its ninth and tenth A380s (stories here and here). Emirates, the largest A380 customer, is flying it to Frankfurt (see story) and Perth (see story), which has only just got A380 ready (see our round-up here). There were some hiccups with Qatar Airways’ first A380 (see story) but it all worked out fine at the end (see story), and several destinations have been announced for it (see story). Another Gulf carrier, Etihad, celebrated its inaugural A380 flight, EY11, from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow on December 27 (see the announcement from earlier this year here). 

Dream back on track

Air New Zealand B787-9

The B787 Dreamliner didn’t have a very good year in 2013, with various incidents involving its batteries overheating. But things seemed to be back on track for the aircraft in 2014. Thai Airways has unveiled cabin designs for it (see stories here and here), and so has Xiamen Airlines (see it here). It has also been deployed by two other Chinese carriers Hainan Airlines and China Southern. It has been put on more and more routes by Etihad, JAL, and BA, as well as by Air India to Singapore and Bangkok (see stories here and here).

Several airlines have also received the stretched version B787-9 (see round-up).

Other big news

Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

After some delay, Hamad International Airport in Doha finally opened (see story, and pictured above), and Qatar Airways is now calling it home (see story). Singapore Airlines officially confirmed that it will join the premium economy ranks (see story), while Lufthansa has been happily rolling out its “fourth class” (see story) and you can see our review of it here.

What are some of the other stories you remember from 2014? Feel free to share with us!

Reggie Ho

Etihad and Aerolíneas Argentinas agree codeshare

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has signed a codeshare agreement with Aerolíneas Argentinas.

As part of the agreement, Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ flight code Aerolíneas Argentinas’ operated flights across the Argentinian airline’s domestic network, as well as to key destinations in South America including Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay.

Etihad flies to only one destination in South America – Sao Paulo (launched June 2013) and so will connect onto Aerolíneas Argentinas flights at Sao Paulo International, travelling onward via Buenos Aires on Etihad Airways’ marketed flights to 20 destinations in South America including: Asuncion, Bariloche, Bahia Blanca, Comodoro Rivadavia, Cordoba, El Calafate, Iguazu, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Montevideo, Neuquen, Rio Gallegos, Rio Grande, Rosario, Salta, San Juan, Santiago de Chile, Trelew, Tucuman and Ushuaia.

Etihad Airways operates a three-class Airbus A340-500 aircraft between Abu Dhabi and Sao Paulo. The aircraft is configured to carry 240 passengers, with 12 seats in first class, 28 seats in business class and 200 seats in economy class, offering a total of 3,360 seats per week, return.

Flights under the codeshare agreement can be booked from mid-January 2015 via travel agents or through the airlines’ sales offices and contact centres.

etihad.com

aerolineas.com

Tom Otley

The biggest business travel stories of 2014

From new aircraft to long-awaited openings, Business Traveller looks back at this year’s milestones.

Airport expansion

Heathrow Terminal 2 opens

Doha’s Hamad International airport begins operations

New planes

Virgin receives Europe’s first B787-9

Qatar takes delivery of first A350 XWB

New seating

Air France unveils new fully-flat business seat

Lufthansa launches new premium economy seat

Ryanair moves to allocated seating

Etihad’s the Residence, and other new products

Air Canada reveals new long-haul cabin

BA unveils new short-haul cabin interior

New hotels

Marriott opens North America’s tallest hotel

Shangri-La the Shard

Park Hyatt New York

Peninsula Paris

Moxy Milan

Bloc Gatwick

Raffles Istanbul

Innovations

Starwood reveals SPG Keyless technology

Virgin Atlantic tests Google Glass at Heathrow

BA trials Happiness Blanket

Air Berlin launches seat upgrade auctions

United and Easyjet introduce passport scanning apps

Emirates provides free onboard wifi

Thistle and Hilton unveil room selection service

Jenny Southan 

Debris of QZ8501 found

After three days of search and rescue operations involving several countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, China and France, the National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) has confirmed that debris of missing flight QZ8501 have been found. The aircraft lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of December 28 (see story). Bodies of some of those onboard have reportedly been recovered.
 
Air Asia Indonesia plans to take family members of the victims to Surabaya, where they will be provided needed assistance. Hotlines have been set up for those who have friends or loved ones onboard the flight, or who think someone close to them may have been one of the victims. The numbers are:

Malaysia: +60 3 21795959
Indonesia: +62 2129270811
Singapore: +65 63077688
Korea: 007 98142069940

qz8501.airasia.com

US and Germany agree pre-clearance immigration

US Customs and Border Protection has agreed a reciprocal arrangement between its US Global Entry programme and Germany’s Easy Pass. Both schemes allow expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry programme is available at 42 US airports and 12 pre-clearance locations, has more than 1.8 million members enrolled and approximately 50,000 new applications are filed monthly. Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in the TSA (Transport Security Administration) expedited screening programme.

US Border control

Germany’s Easy Pass is an automated border control system available to registered third-country nationals when entering Germany. Easy Pass uses e-gates as a simple, quick and convenient alternative to traditional border controls.

US citizens, US nationals and US lawful permanent residents may apply for Global Entry, along with citizens of certain other countries with which CBP has trusted traveller arrangements. These include Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea and now Germany. (Full list here, although note the UK is not included.) Canadian citizens and residents enrolled in Nexus (a Canada-US border clearance scheme) may also use Global Entry. German citizens must first register with the German Federal Police at an Easy Pass enrolment centre in their home country. After, the German Federal Police will notify CBP that the applicant is eligible to apply for Global Entry using the Global Online Enrolment System (GOES).

There is a non-refundable fee of US$100 for a five-year Global Entry membership, with applications made online. If the request is approved, the applicant will schedule an interview with a CBP officer to determine the applicant’s eligibility. German citizen Global Entry members will have to re-register for Global Entry with the German Federal Police after their second year of membership.

www.cbp.gov

Tom Otley

Travelodge completes first phase of £57m refurb programme

Over 80 per cent of Travelodge properties now feature the budget brand’s new look.

The hotel has completed the first phase of its £57 million modernisation programme — now all 36,813 rooms feature its king-size “Travelodge Dreamer Bed”, which is made by Sleepeezee and comes with four pillows.

The public areas within four-fifths of Travelodge hotels have been refurbished with the remaining 20 per cent due to be completed in 2015.

Jon Hendry Pickup, Travelodge’s chief operating officer, said: “Our £57 million modernisation programme is having a really positive impact on our customers as we build a new Travelodge.

“We’ve experienced a significant boost in sales, and we are outperforming the market. Our corporate business has trebled and continues to grow at pace. We are seeing more Government departments, FTSE 100 and Blue Chip companies as well as SMEs switching to Travelodge every week.

“Customers tell us that they much prefer our new rooms, and that sentiment is reflected in our TripAdvisor scores and in the number of them who say they would recommend us to their friends and family.”

In April, Travelodge began offering free wifi for 30 minutes or £3 for 24 hours.

And in July, the brand announced that it is opening ten hotels in Scotland at a cost of £75 million (see news, July 21).

The locations will include the fifth Travelodge property in Aberdeen and hotels in Oban, St Andrews, Peterhead, East Kilbride, Falkirk, Hamilton, Wishaw, Motherwell and North Ayrshire.

travelodge.co.uk

Graham Smith

Delta restructures cabin offerings

Delta Air Lines has announced that it will restructure its line-up of cabin offerings starting March 1, 2015.

Business Elite will become Delta One, and it is offered on long-haul international routes as well as direct flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco. Passengers will enjoy all the usual premium benefits including priority boarding, access to Delta Sky Club and the Tumi amenity kit with Malin+Goetz products, as well as the fully flat bed with Westin Heavenly bedding. The meal service features chef-curated menus and sommelier-picked wines.

First Class will remain on short-haul international and US domestic routes. Benefits include pre-flight drinks, and even a meal if the flight is longer than 900 miles. Services between Japan and Guam, Saipan and Palau, however, will only offer Business Class as the premium option starting from January 5, with amenities varying depending on the aircraft.

Delta Air Lines new First Class on B737.jpg

The new First Class

A Delta Comfort+ class will be introduced to all two-cabin aircraft. This is an upgraded version of the current Economy Comfort product, with the seat offering up to four inches of extra legroom compared to economy (so the seat pitch is at least 34 inches). Service-wise, what you get in this category is essentially a business class experience. On domestic routes, you get priority boarding, complimentary drinks (including alcoholic ones) and premium snacks (for routes over 900 miles), and so on. On international routes, you will have a proper meal service and sleep amenities that include a pillow and blanket. On transcontinental flights, passengers get the sleep amenities as well as Luvo snack wrap and frozen yogurt.

Delta Air Lines 737 Comfort+.jpg

Delta Comfort+ on the B737

The economy offerings will be classified as Main Cabin and Basic Economy. The former is a flexible ticket that entitles the holder pre-flight seat selection and flight changes, while the latter is a restricted ticket only available for certain domestic routes.

In-flight wifi is available on all domestic flights and select international flights. Delta Studio is available to all passengers on Delta Comfort+ and up, with the experience in Delta One topped with noise-reduction headsets.

Sky Miles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members will continue to enjoy complimentary upgrade to First Class and will have access to Delta Comfort+ seats when making bookings. Gold and Silver Medallion members will continue to enjoy complimentary upgrade eligibility to First Class and complimentary access to Delta Comfort+ seats starting 72 hours and 24 hours prior to departure, respectively.

Delta One, First Class and Delta Comfort+ will see newly designed seat covers through mid-2015.

delta.com

 

Reggie Ho

Qatar Airways to add second A380 Heathrow service

Qatar Airways is to add a second A380 Heathrow service on July 16.

The carrier originally planned a second service from December 2014 (see news, October 30), but this was postponed, with Paris getting a second daily A380 service.

Qatar continues to receive A380s, however, with another being delivered along with its first A350 (see news, December 23).

Qatar Airways A350XWB and A380

The A350XWB and A380-800 in Toulouse last week

From July 16, flights QR1 and QR2 will be A380s joining QR3 and QR4.

The flight schedule is as follows:

QR1       DOH       LHR        1230     1755    

QR2       LHR        DOH       2130     0615+1              

From October 25, the flight times are slightly adjusted as follows:

QR1       DOH       LHR        1250     1730

QR2       LHR        DOH       2030     0615+1

(All times local)

qatarairways.com

Tom Otley

JW Marriott opens in Bao’an, Shenzhen

China remains a hotly contested battleground for the hotel industry, as JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has unveiled another property in the country, the 356-room JW Marriott Hotel Shenzhen Bao’an. An event held on December 26 allowed the media and select guests to inspect the new hotel, although bookings will not be accepted until next month.

The opening follows those of JW Marriott Hotel Chongqing (see story) and JW Marriott Hotel Zhengzhou (see story) earlier this year.

Offering views of Qianhai Bay and the Pearl River Delta, the new hotel is the combined effort of architecture firm John Portman & Associates and interior design company HBA (Hirsch Bedner Associate). It is located in the 14.92 sq km Qianhai development zone, a project that aims to facilitate closer Guangdong-Hong Kong trade ties with focuses on finance, modern logistics, information services and technology. Bao’an is also home to the city’s international airport. 

JW Marriott Hotel Shenzhen Bao\\\\\\'an lobby

The lobby

Developed by the OTC Group, which also owns quite a number of other hotels in Shenzhen and around China, the new JW Marriott is only partially open but all the facilities are expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of next year. The interiors are inspired by local culture and art, with the mythical fenghuang (Chinese phoenix) represented by the hotel’s fluid curves and the guestrooms’ pale blue palette. When entering the lobby, guests will have their attention caught by the artwork “Paradise of Materials” depicting Shenzhen’s landscape, by Chinese artist Zhan Wang.

Each of the guestrooms and suites is designed in a sleek, modern style and offers ample natural light. Room amenities include high-speed internet access, multi-media panel, mini-bar, capsule coffee maker and organic herbal tea, as well as a 42-inch HDTV offering satellite TV channels. The bathroom offers either the city or bay view, and it is stocked with Aromatherapy Associates bath products.

JW Marriott Hotel Shenzhen Bao\\\\\\'an room

One of the guestrooms

There are three food and beverage outlets. On the top floor is Bayview Restaurant, which serves a selection of Chinese and Western dishes with a panoramic view of Qianhai Bay. The glass ceiling allows diners to do some the moon- and star-gazing while enjoying their meals. The menu is put together by executive chef Lim Chuan Seng, who has previously worked at the Burj Al Arab Dubai and China World Summit Wing in Beijing, in addition to being the winner of CCTV2’s Greatest Chef Cooking Show in 2013.

All-day dining outlet Shenzhen Kitchen offers specialties from China, India, Japan and Europe from live open kitchens, and there is also an outdoor terrace. The Lounge, meanwhile, serves afternoon tea, drinks and local snacks with live piano music.

For functions and events, there are 10 flexible venues with a total of 2,600sqm, including the 1,758sqm Grand Ballroom that is the largest of its kind in the city. Notable features include the LED ceiling, RCF line-array speakers, a private elevator and spiral staircase, plus a specially designed lift capable of transporting cars – a must in a country with a packed motor show calendar. The Grand Ballroom’s 500sqm foyer features floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace with bay views.

Otherwise, seven other fully equipped spaces ranging from 75sqm to 315sqm are suitable for all kinds of events.

JW Marriott Hotel Shenzhen Bao\\\\\\'an spa

One of the nine spa treatment rooms

The 4,000sqm Waterfall Spa & Wellness centre has nine private spa suites, each with its own private steam rain-shower, Jacuzzi and dressing room. The 300sqm gymnasium is fitted with equipment by fitness brand Precor, including Preva programme that lets you keep track of your workout with on-console software or the Preva Mobile app. There are also a hot yoga studio, a 40-metre heated indoor infinity pool, and a landscaped outdoor pool and terrace.

marriott.com/hotels/travel/szxba-jw-marriott-hotel-shenzhen-baoan

 

Reggie Ho