Qatar Airways ups capacity to Bengaluru

Qatar Airways is increasing capacity on its daily Doha to Bengaluru route.

From August 1, the Gulf carrier will replace the 254-seat B787-8 that currently operates the route with a 335-seat B777.

Outbound service QR572 departs Doha at 2000 and arrives in Bengaluru at 0245 the next day, while return service QR573 leaves Bengaluru at 0415 and lands in Doha at 0540.

CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “The strengthening of the Doha–Bengaluru route reflects increased passenger demand and reaffirms our continuous expansion strategy for the Indian market.

“There are a large numbers of expatriates from south India who are working in Doha, and with our increasing capacity we aim to offer our customers a superior travel experience and seamless connectivity into the State of Qatar.

“India is growing as an economic hub and shows enormous potential, and our growth strategy has always stressed the significance of the Indian market where we plan to seek even more capacity and increase frequency on existing routes.”

Qatar Airways flies to 12 cities in India.

Earlier this month, Al Baker responded to criticism from US carriers — Delta, American and United — that Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates have received $42 billion in “unfair” subsidies from their governments since 2004 by accusing Delta of flying “crap airplanes that are 35 years old” (see news, March 18).

qatarairways.com

Graham Smith

Accor bonus points for Mercure stays

Le Club Accorhotels members can earn 500 bonus points when staying at a participating Mercure property in the UK and Ireland.

The “Mercure Early Booker” promotion applies to stays between April 3 and September 6 that are booked at least 30 days in advance by June 22.

Members must make their booking on either accorhotels.com, a “participating brands website” or via an Accor call centre.

A loyalty card number or member number must be used when making the reservation and the card presented at check-in.

The offer is available to all Le Club Accorhotels members, regardless of their status.

Accor has more than 70 Mercure hotels in the UK and Ireland. A Mercure has just opened near London Heathrow airport (see news, March 30).

accorhotels.com

Graham Smith

Easyjet opens 26th base at Amsterdam Schiphol

Easyjet opened its 26th base at Amsterdam Schiphol airport today.

To celebrate the opening, the airline flew a special Dutch-themed aircraft, decorated with Holland’s signature tulips as livery, from London Luton to Schiphol.

The carrier currently flies between London and Schiphol 108 times weekly (216 flights in total).

Easyjet aircraft receives water cannon salute at Schiphol

Basing three aircraft at Schiphol, with a fourth to be added in October, will allow it to offer earlier departures for Dutch passengers.

Schiphol was Easyjet’s first destination outside the UK in 1996. It announced an Amsterdam to Milan Linate route, ideal for business passengers due to its close proximity to Milan city centre, earlier this week.

Easyjet will now start operating flights from Amsterdam to nine new destinations including Hamburg, Venice, Toulouse, Nice, Olbia and Dubrovnik. This brings the total number of Easyjet routes from the city to 29.

CEO Carolyn McCall said Amsterdam is a particular focus for the airline, calling the new base “a strategic move”.

She said: “A greater proportion of passengers on the Schiphol routes are flying on business – around one third as opposed to 20 per cent across Easyjet’s network.”

McCall added: “Easyjet is already the second largest airline at Amsterdam.”

In the last 12 months, Easyjet’s passenger capacity from Schiphol was 4.3 million with 3.8 million flown, while its capacity from the UK to Schiphol was 2.75 million with 2.4 million flown.

Easyjet Plus members and Flexi fare holders now have access to fast-track security at 34 airports (see news, March 13).

easyjet.com

Tom Otley

BA extends A380 service to San Francisco

British Airways will extend its new A380 service between London Heathrow and San Francisco into the winter season.

The national airline has this week launched a five-times weekly superjumbo operation to the northern California city (see news, September 2014).

From October 25, BA will fly the A380 to SFO four-times weekly, with the other three days operated by a B747-400. There will also be an additional second daily service operated by a B747-400, reports airlineroute.net.

Outbound A380 service BA287 will depart London Heathrow Terminal 5 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1500, arriving in San Francisco at 1750. Return A380 service BA286 will leave SFO at 2000 and land in London at 1415 the next day.

This summer, the A380 is plying the route on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

ba.com

Graham Smith

Flybe announces Liverpool-Amsterdam route

Flybe will operate a new route between Liverpool and Amsterdam from September, it has been announced.

The regional carrier will fly up to three daily services between the two cities, a route last served by KLM in 2011 and cancelled due to the “economic downturn” (see news, December 2011)

Flybe’s service, which begins on September 7, will add to its existing Liverpool John Lennon airport departures to the Isle of Man and Belfast City. The airline operates up to 120 weekly flights to/from Liverpool.

On weekdays, outbound flights BE1291, BE1293 and BE1295 depart Liverpool daily at 0715, 1155 and 1610 respectively and arrive at Amsterdam Schiphol at 0940, 1420 and 1835. Return flights BE1292, BE1294 and BE1296 leave Amsterdam at 1020, 1500 and 1935, and land in Liverpool at 1100, 1540 and 2015.

A twice daily service operates on weekends, with BE1295/1296 grounded on Saturdays and BE1291/1292 on Sundays.

Flybe CCO Paul Simmons said: “Flybe is delighted to play a part in making it possible for Liverpool customers to access the world through Amsterdam and, just as importantly, make it easier for the rest of the world to come to Liverpool.

“The airline already has a number of codeshare and interline arrangements with long-haul carriers that in the future has the potential to benefit passengers even further.”

Last week, Flybe announced it is cancelling its service between London City and Dublin on May 31 (see news, March 23).

flybe.com

Graham Smith

BA Executive Club accounts hacked

British Airways has confirmed that a small proportion of its Executive Club frequent flyer customers had their accounts hacked on March 29.

The airline has however reassured its customers that no names, addresses, bank details or personal information have been accessed. It has also taken steps to lock down accounts that have been compromised.

In a statement, a BA spokesperson said: “British Airways has become aware of some unauthorised activity in relation to a small number of frequent-flyer executive club accounts. This appears to have been the result of a third party using information obtained elsewhere on the internet, via an automated process, to try to gain access to some accounts”.

A thread on the popular aviation forum FlyerTalk has seen numerous cases of lost points reported. While the airline has not confirmed if the perpetrators were able to steal any of its customer’s Avios, BA has suggested that the loss of Avios is most likely due to an internal audit whereby the company temporarily froze accounts to investigate the incident.

Some affected members have received the following email from BA:

                                                              “

While the airline has identified most of the compromised accounts, members are still advised to change their account passwords as a security measure.

For more information, visit britishairways.com

Clement Huang

Etihad and South African Airways to codeshare

Etihad Airways has launched a new daily service between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi, thanks to an expanded codeshare agreement with partner, South African Airways (SAA).

The new service complements Etihad’s existing daily service between Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg and means Etihad’s customers now have an option of two daily flights between the Middle East and South Africa’s largest city.

Flight SA278 departs Johannesburg at 1015 daily and arrives in Abu Dhabi at 2025. The return service, flight SA279 will then take off from Abu Dhabi again at 2105 and arrive back in Johannesburg at 0615 the following day.

The codeshare service by SAA will be operated by a two-class A330-300, configured with 36 seats in business class, and 186 in economy class.

Reciprocally, SAA passengers now have access to 35 new codeshare destinations out of Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi, including connections to Europe, North and South East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Australia.

“We are delighted to welcome South African Airways to Abu Dhabi, and are confident that its new service will prove popular with the increasing numbers of business and leisure travellers that fly between South Africa and key markets around the world,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer.

“This partnership will enable us to change the size and shape of our global networks – so that together we can offer more than 1000 city pair connections every week via our respective hubs.

For more information, visit etihad.com and flysaa.com

Clement Huang

Hilton Worldwide expands Huangyin programme

Hilton Worldwide (Hilton) has expanded its Hilton Huanying program, which it hopes will provide Chinese travellers with a customised hospitality experience during their stay, and build the brand’s reputation in China.

According to the hospitality group, the program is now available in more than 110 properties worldwide. Participating hotels include Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and DoubleTree by Hilton properties in some 30 countries and 65 cities.

“Since being introduced in 2011 at 51 properties in 13 countries, Huanying (derived from the Chinese word for “welcome”) has empowered more than a million Chinese travellers to explore new destinations with the comforts of home,” said Rob Palleschi, global head, full service brands, Hilton Worldwide.

“We are very proud of this programme, and the benefits are clear. Chinese travellers who stay at Huanying properties express a greater overall satisfaction in their hospitality experience”.

Chinese outbound travel is expected to grow at an unprecedented pace, with Hilton’s research suggesting that the 100 million visitors today will double to 200 million by 2020.

The group has invested heavily in establishing its brand in the mainland – particularly in secondary cities where brand awareness is limited. Just last year, Hilton opened its first property in Foshan (see here), a prefecture-level city that boasts strategic value due to its attractive location in the Pearl River Delta. For a detailed look into the city, check out the March 2015 issue of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific for “A Pearl in the River Delta” (see here).   

The complete list of offerings from the Huangying package include:

Arrival experience

  • Huanying Greeting: a welcome note in Simplified Chinese
  • Mandarin interpretation service (many properties offer Mandarin speaking team member(s) as well)

Guestroom amenities

  • Tea kettles
  • Jasmine tea
  • Slippers
  • Dedicated Mandarin-speaking television channel

Breakfast experience

  • Two varieties of congee with condiments, fried rice or fried noodles, a dim sum selection, fried dough fritters (crullers), hard boiled eggs, Chinese tea, fresh fruit and soy milk
  • Chinese culinary utensils including chopsticks, Chinese spoons and a soy sauce dish

For more information, visit hilton.com

Clement Huang

Finnair begins Helsinki-Dublin service

Finnair launched its inaugural service between Helsinki and Dublin today.

The national airline is operating the new six-times weekly route — every day except on Tuesdays — with a 100-seat Embraer 190 aircraft in a two-class (business and economy) configuration.

The carrier claims the schedule has been set-up to offer Irish passengers a convenient connection to Asia.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, outbound service AY929 departs Helsinki Vantaa Terminal 2 at 0800 and arrives at Dublin International Terminal 1 at 0910, with return service AY930 leaving Dublin at 0950 and landing in Helsinki at 1450.

On Thursdays and Saturdays, outbound flight AY929 departs Helsinki at 1615 and arrives in Dublin at 1725, with return service AY930 leaving Dublin at 1805 and landing in Helsinki at 2305.

Fredrik Charpentier, Finnair’s sales director in the UK and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be linking with Dublin and looking forward to welcoming passengers on board our direct services while also offering the fastest and most convenient connections through to Asia via our award winning hub in Finland.”

Last week, Finnair announced it will add on-board wifi to the majority of its aircraft in the next three years (see news, March 26).

finnair.com

Graham Smith

Accor opens Mercure hotel at Heathrow

Accor has opened a Mercure hotel near London Heathrow airport.

The 184-guestroom Mercure London Heathrow Hotel is located in the former Comfort Hotel Heathrow building off Shepiston Lane in Hayes.

The fully refurbished property is less than two miles from the airport and is close to the M4 and M25 motorways.

Mercure London Heathrow Hotel room

Each room comes with air-conditioning and laptop-sized safes. Facilities include free wifi, meeting rooms, a restaurant and bar, a Costa coffee shop and a gym.

A chargeable shuttle service operates between the hotel and the airport between 0400 and 2300.

Accor UK & Ireland senior vice-president Jonathan Sheard said: “We are delighted at being able to welcome Mercure London Heathrow Hotel to the network of Mercure hotels in the UK… The hotel’s new look reflects our commitment to providing excellent facilities in each hotel across the country.”

The hotel is opening under a franchise agreement with Crimson Hotels.

Mercure currently has more than 700 hotels in 52 countries.

Last month, Accor outlined plans to open seven Ibis hotels in the UK, including one at London Heathrow airport (see news, February 4).

mercure.com

Graham Smith