IHG launches Double Up promotion

Intercontinental Hotels Group is offering airline loyalty programme members the chance to earn double miles for each qualifying stay at one of its properties.

The Double Up promotion runs until April 30 and is available at more than 4,700 IHG hotels worldwide.

Double miles will be awarded up to a maximum of 10,000 bonus miles. Only one room per member per stay will be awarded the applicable bonus miles.

IHG has teamed up with 38 airlines’ frequent flyer programmes for the promotion, including British Airways Executive Club, United’s Mileage Plus, American’s AAdvantage, Lufthansa’s Miles & More and Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. To view a full list, click here.

Members must select Mileage Plus as their IHG Rewards Club Miles Partner in their online profile to qualify — no retroactive miles will be awarded for stays prior to registration.

ihg.com

Graham Smith

 

HK Express to launch new service to Da Nang

Low-cost carrier (LCC) HK Express will introduce a new service to Da Nang from April 1.

A major port city in Vietnam, Da Nang is situated along the coast of the South China Sea, and is the commercial and educational centre of Central Vietnam. Home to just over a million people, the city boasts one of the highest GDP per capita in the country, with its economy benefiting from the strong agriculture, machinery and textiles industries.

HK Express will begin flying from Hong Kong to Da Nang three-times per week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reservations for the new route are now open.

Flights will be operated by the A320-200, which has 174 seats in an all-economy configuration. The average seat pitch is 30 inches, and seats are positioned in a 3-3 layout.

As is fairly common with LCCs, time slots for the services vary, depending on the operational day. Listed below are the flight times:

Hong Kong (HKG)–Da Nang (DAD)

Flight UO1558

Monday: HKG 0725–0810 DAD

Wednesday: HKG 0740–0835 DAD

Friday: HKG 1635–1720 DAD     

Da Nang (DAD)–Hong Kong (HKG)

Flight UO1559

Monday: DAD 0900–1150 HKG

Wednesday: DAD 0940–1230 HKG

Friday: DAD 1810–2100 HKG

 

For more information, visit hkexpress.com

Clement Huang

Easyjet backs Heathrow expansion

Easyjet has thrown its support behind London Heathrow’s plan for a third runway.

The budget carrier made its position known in a submission to the Airports Commission, which is looking into how to expand the UK’s airport capacity.

It comes as a blow to Gatwick, which has been campaigning for a second runway and is Easyjet’s biggest base.

In Easyjet’s submission, CEO Carolyn McCall said: “Heathrow is in the best interests of passengers as it has the greatest demand. It is clear that long-haul airlines want to expand at Heathrow and if they can’t, they will do so not at Gatwick but at other airports such as Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.”

Easyjet is in favour of expansion at Heathrow as it will allow short-haul airlines to operate out of Europe’s busiest airport.

Gatwick has responded by accusing Easyjet of taking a “position based on its own narrow commercial interests”.

A statement said: “The government, however, will have to make a decision for the country balancing what is best for both the economy and the environment. That can only mean Gatwick.

“Gatwick can deliver its second runway without the massive environmental damage which has stopped Heathrow expansion time and time again. That means Britain can finally get on with it. The economy can grow without a new population the size of Coventry severely affected by noise. And fares can stay low for everyone.”

Last week, West Sussex County Council became the second local authority to withdraw its support for a second runway at Gatwick (see news, January 20).

It was also announced last week that Easyjet will move its entire operation at Gatwick into the North Terminal next year (see news, January 23).

gatwickairport.com

Graham Smith

SAS to debut new long-haul cabin next month

The first SAS aircraft to feature its new-look interior will enter service next month.

The carrier is upgrading cabins on-board seven long-haul A330 and A340 aircraft — the design features a new on-demand in-flight entertainment system with high-definition screens and wifi access in all classes.

SAS said that an A330 aircraft called Erik Viking is the final phase of refurbishment. It is set to take to the skies in mid-February.

 

SAS business seats

SAS Business seats

SAS business cabin

SAS Business cabin

SAS Business fully-flat seat

SAS Business fully-flat seat

Eivind Roald, executive vice president commercial at SAS, said: “We are delighted to be about to unveil the new cabin to our customers. It will give SAS a big boost and our customers a totally new travel experience.”

SAS Business will contain massage seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each seat will have direct access to an aisle, an individual power outlet and USB port, and can be folded fully-flat with a minimum length of 77 ins. The IFE screens will be 15 inches. The bedding comes from Hästens, the oldest bed manufacturer in Sweden.

SAS Plus (premium economy) will be in a 2-3-2 configuration with a seat pitch of 37/38 inches. The IFE screen will be 12 ins and each seat will have an individual power outlet and USB port.

SAS Go (economy) will be in a 2-4-2 configuration with a seat pitch of 31/32 inches. The IFE screen will be nine inches and there will be one power outlet per pair of seats and individual USB ports.

SAS Plus seat

Premium economy: SAS Plus seat

SAS Go seats

Economy: SAS Go seats

SAS Go cabin

SAS Go economy cabin

The airline said that work fitting the new cabin onto all seven aircraft is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

It also has four new A330-300s on order, which are due to be delivered this year and next, and eight A350-900s to be delivered from 2018 onwards with an option on an additional six.

SAS this week introduced a “restaurant experience in the air” in business class on long-haul flights (see news, January 27).

flysas.com

Graham Smith

Skyteam opens Exclusive Lounge in Sydney

Skyteam has opened an Exclusive Lounge at Sydney airport.

The lounge, which is the airline alliance’s third worldwide, has seating space for 140 people.

It is available to Elite Plus, First and Business Class passengers flying on any of the seven Skyteam airlines serving the airport and will be managed by Plaza Premium on behalf of the alliance.

Skyteam Sydney lounge

Facilities include wifi access, an electrical socket by each seat, a business area with printer, a Champagne and wine bar, a wellness centre including showers and four full-body massage chairs, and a dedicated television room.

Take a 360-degree tour of the lounge here.

Skyteam will open a further three Executive Lounges this year, in Dubai, Beijing and Hong Kong. It currently has lounges in Istanbul and at London Heathrow T4.

Michael Wisbrun, Skyteam’s managing director, said: “It is our duty to add value to our members’ businesses and, with seven Skyteam carriers present in Australia, we look to provide enhanced benefits through our customer initiatives such as this new lounge.

“It is a great way to kick off our 15th anniversary year, with a new lounge delivering benefits for customers and synergies for members.

“We look forward to expanding our service of Exclusive Lounges to Dubai, Beijing and Hong Kong by the end of the year.”

Skyteam last month completed the roll-out of its Sky Priority service across more than 1,000 airports (see news, December 19).

The facility provides eligible customers with dedicated check-in desks, priority boarding and baggage collection, and priority at transfer and ticket desks. It is available to Elite Plus, first and business class passengers.

skyteam.com

Graham Smith

ANA orders three B787-10s

ANA has placed an order with Boeing for three 787-10 Dreamliners.

The Japanese carrier, which was the launch customer of the B787 (see news, September 2011), has also ordered five next-generation B737-800s.

The deal is worth a total $1.4 billion and is set to make ANA the first Asian airline to operate the entire 787 family.

Ray Conner, Boeing’s president and CEO, said: “We are proud to play an integral role in ANA’s long-term success as they look to feature the complete family of 787 Dreamliners in their future fleet.”

The 787-10 will fly up to 7,000 nautical miles (12,964 km) — covering more than 90 per cent of the world’s twin-aisle routes — with seating for between 300 and 330 passengers, depending on an airline’s configuration choices.

Final assembly and flight test are set to begin in 2017, with first delivery targeted for 2018.

Boeing said the 787-10 will be 25 to 30 per cent more efficient than same-sized aircraft of today.

Next month, ANA is introducing a new in-flight entertainment system that will have 351 channels, including 51 movie channels, and programmes in 13 languages (see news, January 16).

ana.co.jp

Graham Smith

United backs points for spend trend

United’s managing director of international sales in the UK and Ireland has backed the airline industry’s move towards awarding frequent flyer miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown.

Bob Schumacher said the changes being made at Mileage Plus in March will result in a more logical, and fairer, loyalty programme.

He told Business Traveller: “The distance you fly should have no bearing on how much we want to reward your loyalty. Clearly, in any other programme — Tesco Rewards, for instance — it’s all done on expense.

“So, in a way, it’s remarkable it’s gone on in that old-fashioned way for as long as it has done.”

From March 1, Mileage Plus members will earn award miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown (see news, June 2014). Delta is following a similar path and British Airways this week announced that it is too (see news, January 28).

Schumacher added: “It’s a case of trying to put fairness back into the mix there — if you pay more, you get more rewards from us and you get better access to redemption as well. We’re not the first ones to have gone down this path. We believe it’s the fairest way to reward our customers’ loyalty.”

United was the first airline to move into Heathrow Terminal 2 when it opened last summer (see news, June 4). It had sole operation of the terminal for two weeks; the staggered opening saw the other carrier move over to T2 gradually, with all in place by the end of October.

Schumacher hailed the terminal’s successful opening and said he fully expects this year’s summer peak, the terminal’s first at full capacity, to pass without incident.

He said: “It was a stroke of genius to do this [T2 opening] in an orderly fashion, particularly when the timing just had it that the move was going to happen over a summer peak… There was an orderly procession over to T2.

“Christmas and New Year loads are a challenge, for any airport to function over that period, [but] T2 functioned seamlessly, it was perfect. We’re delighted it did so well and, of course, the next big challenge will be when schools break up at the beginning of July. We have every confidence that just as it sailed through the Christmas period, we can do exactly the same then.

“We’ve got a well-designed facility that works.”

Any premium travellers hoping for United to roll-out its tarmac transportation service to Heathrow may be in for a disappointment.

The chauffeur service, operated using Mercedes-Benz GL-Class vehicles, is offered to some Global Services members and United Global First passengers who connect at select US airports to a domestic or international flight (see news, May 2014).

However, when asked about the chances of a similar service operating at LHR are slim, Schumacher said: “I doubt it, just negotiating around this very tight geography that is Heathrow, I can’t see that.

“Whether there’s a regulation that stops this, I just don’t know, [but] I think what we’ve achieved in Terminal 2 is a product that almost makes that redundant. The facilities to transfer and the transfer times are as efficient as almost any offer.”

united.com

Graham Smith

Scoot CEO reveals fate of B777; details Krisflyer partnership

Scoot chief executive Campbell Wilson has provided details about the fate of his airline’s soon-to-be retired fleet of B777-200 aircraft, ahead of the highly anticipated delivery of its first B787-9 later this weekend.

Speaking exclusively to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific in Seattle, Wilson confirmed that one of Scoot’s existing B777-200 aircraft will be transferred to the company’s joint venture airline, NokScoot. However, the other five remaining widebody aircraft will be sold instead. According to Wilson, this is due to restrictions imposed by Thailand authorities, which prohibit aircrafts exceeding more than 14 years of age to be transferred to Thai-based carriers.

It should be noted that all six Scoot B777-200s were originally acquired from parent carrier, Singapore Airlines. It has always been Scoot’s plan to eventually retire the ageing aircrafts, in favour of newer models that offer superior fuel-efficiency, and would benefit its low-cost business model.  

In fact, one of Scoot’s B777-200s (9V-OTF) has not even been configured with the carrier’s seating configuration, but instead still features the old generation seats by Singapore Airlines. Wilson stated that given the inevitable introduction of new planes to his fleet, it would not have been worth spending millions of dollars on the refurbishment of the B777-200.

In other news, Wilson also spoke to us about the loyalty partnership between Scoot and Krisflyer. As previously reported by Business Traveller Asia-Pacific (see here), members of the Singapore Airlines’ frequent flyer programme will soon be able to use their miles to earn and redeem points for flights on Scoot and Tigerair.

Redemption is fairly straightforward, with Krisflyer points being used to redeem cash vouchers that can be used to purchase fares with Scoot. While the accrual details have not been confirmed yet, Wilson did reveal that it will most likely be a revenue-based system, in which the number of miles earned would depend on the cost of the fare.

Should this ultimately come to pass, it will represent another example of the growing industry trend that has seen carriers such as United (see here) and Delta introduce revenue-based accrual systems for their FFPs. One world Cathay Pacific is also believed to be considering the same for its Marco Polo Club programme (see here).

Scoot will take delivery of its first B787-9 Dreamliner this Saturday. Business Traveller Asia-Pacific is in Seattle as a guest of Scoot to witness the delivery. Stay tuned for more news.

For more information, visit flyscoot.com

Clement Huang

Qantas tries out 3D-inflight entertainment

Qantas has teamed up with Samsung Electronics Australia for a trial of a new virtual reality AV entertainment system.

Special headsets will be available to customers using the International First Lounge Sydney and Melbourne starting from mid-February. The Samsung virtual reality technology will also be installed in A380 first-class cabins on routes between Australia and Los Angeles starting from mid-March.

 

The device will showcase destinations, new products from the airline and the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies.

Tourism NT (Northern Territories) will be the first tourism body to work with Qantas on content creation for the trial system and 3D scenes of Kakadu National Park will be shown. The airline is also working with production company Jaunt to produce destination footage.

The trial will run for three months and the airline will gather feedback from users to assess whether the 3D system can be expanded to other long-haul flights.

For more information, visit qantas.com.au

Valerian Ho 

Finnair serves up exclusive business menus

Finnair has introduced a series of exclusive menus for business class passengers flying long-haul from Helsinki.

The first “Signature Menu” has been designed by Matti Jamsen, executive chef at GW Sundmans in the Finnish capital city. Jamsen’s menu will be served until April.

Finnair Signature Menu chefs Kari Aihinen, Ari Ruoho and Matti Jamsen

Signature Menu chefs (from left to right): Kari Aihinen, Ari Ruoho and Matti Jamsen

A statement said: “Matti’s innovative menu features classic seasonal dishes with a distinctive edge. It is a combination of the best seasonal ingredients and experimentation with bold flavours that provide the foundations for Finnair’s Signature Menus.

“Try salt-sugar cured salmon, roasted Jerusalem artichoke soup or glazed pork cheek with parmesan potato gnocchi.”

The Signature Menu programme is scheduled to run until spring 2016, with menus rotating at approximately three-month intervals.

Future chefs will include Kari Aihinen, Savoy’s executive chef de cuisine, and Ari Ruoho, head chef at Nokka.

Matti Jamsen\\\\'s menu

Food from Matti Jamsen’s menu

Maarit Keranen, Finnair’s head of service concept, said: “Our continued partnership with top Finnish chefs highlights our commitment to offering world-class service to our customers.

“We aim to offer an exceptional culinary experience on board using the best produce of the season combined with the unique style of the chefs.”

Finnair will launch a thrice-weekly service to Chicago this summer (see news, November 18).

finnair.com

Graham Smith