Me by Melia hotel coming to Milan

Melia Hotels International will open its first Me brand property in Italy in May.

Me Milan Il Duca is located in the fashion capital’s Piazza della Repubblica shopping area, just north of Brera, in the site of the former l’Hotel Duca di Milano.

Its 134 guestrooms include 32 Chic Suites, a Personality Suite and a Suite Me, the latter two of which both have a 100 sqm private terrace overlooking the Piazza della Repubblica.

On the tenth floor, and accessible via an express lift, Radio Rooftop bar offers views of the Milan skyline and is open from midday until late.

The hotel contains the first Italian branch of contemporary restaurant STK; an alfresco restaurant, Il Giardino del Duva, providing an all-day dining menu until 1800; and a terrace that can seat 40.

There are also two flexible meeting rooms measuring a total of 100 sqm, complimentary wifi, and a fitness centre.

Ealier this year, Melia announced it will open a Me hotel in Barcelona in 2017 (see news, February 24).

Graham Smith

Virgin Atlantic opens LAX Clubhouse

Virgin Atlantic has opened a £2.5million Clubhouse lounge in Terminal 2 at Los Angeles International airport.

The carrier has opened the LAX facility as part of a £300 million investment in “customer experience” (see news, September 2014).

The 4,000 sqm lounge is Virgin’s 11th Clubhouse and faces the Hollywood Hills in the distance.

Virgin LAX Clubhouse

Created by Virgin’s in-house design team in partnership with Slade Architecture, it features a copper-lined bar and artwork by both California-based artists and British artists.

Virgin’s Clubhouses at New York JFK and Newark Liberty airport were also both designed by Slade Architecture.

The airline has partnered with LA’s Hinoki & Bird to provide a restaurant menu with three signature dishes – green papaya salad, chilli crab toast and miso donuts. 

Wifi is available throughout the lounge.

Entry into the Clubhouse is complimentary for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers or those with a Flying Gold Club card.


Reuben Arnold, Virgin Atlantic’s brand and customer engagement director, said: “Los Angeles was the natural choice for our next Clubhouse investment. It is such an important route for us – we have been flying there for 25 years this year.

“The investment in LAX will also include a refreshed check-in area as well as the introduction of a meet-and-greet chauffeur drop-off service.

“Furthermore, our brand new 787s will be on the route from May, and together with the increased connectivity as part of our joint venture with Delta, we’re able to offer our customers the best possible experience when flying between London and Los Angeles.”

Graham Smith

Heathrow Express installs safety platform ‘gap-fillers’

Heathrow Express has installed platform gap-fillers at its stations to reduce the risk of passenger accidents.

The rail company is the first in the UK to fit the devices along the edge of station platforms, reducing the size of the gap between the train and platform edge.

The gap-fillers also enhance access for disabled passengers and will be installed at all Heathrow Express train stations by the end of May.

Heathrow Express gap-filler

“Stepboard” accidents — when someone falls between the train and platform edge — are responsible for 48 per cent of the overall fatality risk to passengers, Heathrow Express said.

A year-long trial at Heathrow Terminal 5 station found there were no incidents wherever gap-fillers were in use.

Joanne Lewis, Heathrow Express’ head of safety, said: “Our top priority is ensuring Heathrow Express, and the rail industry as a whole, is as safe as possible for customers and employees.

“Stepboard accidents are a concern across the rail industry, and for good reason — they can be fatal. With demand for rail travel predicted to double over the next 30 years in the UK, devices like gap-fillers could be a big help.”

The platform gap-fillers are designed by Australian company Delkor Rail.

Graham Smith

Etihad to deploy second A380 to London

Etihad Airways has taken delivery of its second A380 in the airline’s new Facets of Abu Dhabi” livery, which will be deployed on the Abu Dhabi–London Heathrow route from May 1.

The superjumbo will operate as flights EY19/EY20. Currently, Etihad operates three daily flights to the UK capital – one of which is already serviced by the A380. The other two flights are served by the B777-300ER, but one of these will be replaced by the new A380 tomorrow, with the other to follow by August.






AUH 0835

LHR 1305



LHR 1505

AUH 0100+1


“Adding our second A380 on the Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow will give our guests more opportunities to experience Etihad Airways’ revolutionary new cabins, including The Residence by Etihad and First Apartments,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer.

So far this year, the Gulf carrier has carried some 533,615 passengers to and from London Heathrow. The introduction of the A380 will significantly boost seating capacity on the route.

In comparison, the B777-300ER offers eight suites in first, 40 in business and 282 in economy. The A380 has nine suites in first, 70 seats in business and 415 in economy. This represents a comprehensive end-to-end capacity upgrade across all cabin classes.

In addition, the A380 also comes with The Residence by Etihad, which features a living room separate ensure shower room, double bedroom, and a dedicated Savoy-trained butler. Measuring 11sqm, the suite is located on the forward upper deck of the A380 and is available for either single or double occupancy.

For more information, visit

Clement Huang

Etihad to fly second A380 to Heathrow

Etihad Airways has taken delivery of its second A380 and will add the aircraft on to its London Heathrow route tomorrow.

The move means that two out of the Gulf carrier’s three daily services will be operated by the superjumbo, with the third by a B777-300ER.

It rostered its first A380 between Abu Dhabi and Heathrow at the end of last year (see news, December 19).

The new A380 will operate flights EY19/20 — EY19 departs Abu Dhabi at 0835 and arrives at LHR at 1305, while EY20 leaves Heathrow at 1505 and lands in Abu Dhabi at 0100 the next day.

Etihad next plans to fly the superjumbo to Sydney in June, followed by a third daily A380 service to London Heathrow in August, and a service to New York JFK in December (see news, March 4).

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad’s CCO, said: “By August of 2015, all three daily flights on this flagship route will be operated by the A380, offering our guests unparalleled luxury and superior in-flight technology.

“In June, the third A380 will be introduced on one of our two daily services from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, offering a seamless, one-stop connection via Abu Dhabi to and from London on this innovative aircraft type.”

Etihad’s A380 contains a Residence by Etihad three-room suite, with a living room, ensuite shower room, bedroom and dedicated butler, and nine First Apartments, each featuring a reclining lounge chair and an ottoman and opens up to become a separate 80.5-inch fully-flat bed. It also has 70 business class seats and 417 economy seats.

To read a review of business class on Etihad’s A380, click here.

Graham Smith

Virgin Atlantic opens new lounge at LAX

Virgin Atlantic has opened its newest Clubhouse lounge at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Terminal 2.

The new 4,000sqm space cost nearly US$4 million and shares striking similarities to the airline’s Clubhouses at JFK International and Newark Liberty, which were also designed by Slade Architecture. 


The iconic apothecary-inspired bar is featured in the Los Angels Clubhouse lounge, where guests can choose from a range of cocktails and healthy juice options. 

In addition, Virgin Atlantic has partnered with LA’s Hinoki & Bird to introduce a menu with the restaurant’s three signature dishes – green papaya salad, chilli crab toast and miso donuts. 

The lounge offers plenty of seating, and guests will appreciate the large panoramic windows that deliver expansive views of aircraft and even a glimpse of the iconic Hollywood sign beyond. Wifi is also available throughout the facility.

Virgin Atlantic’s new Clubhouse lounge is open to passengers travelling on Upper Class or those with a Flying Club Gold card.

For more information, visit 

Clement Huang

St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya opens its doors

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has officially opened the St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya.


The new hotel marks the entry of Starwood’s luxury brand in Russia. With a total of 34 St. Regis properties worldwide, it also means that the brand’s portfolio has now tripled its global presence over the past decade.

A further two hotels, The St. Regis Mumbai and The St. Regis Dubai, are set to open later this year.

Situated along Nikolskaya Street, which connects Lubyanka Square and Red Square, St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya is located close the Duma (Russia’s parliament) and major business hubs making it an attractive choice for business travellers. Other nearby attractions include the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre, as well as GUM and TSUM luxury department stores.

Royal Suite 

The 210-room hotel is housed within a building that dates back to the 1870s and was the residence of Count Orlov-Davydov. Each guestroom features an interior design that was inspired by the belle époque period as a tribute to the building’s heritage. As is common across all St. Regis properties, the signature St. Regis Butler Service is available to all guests, and provides anticipatory service and customisation for specific tastes and preferences.

Superior room 

There are a total of five F&B outlets at the St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya. First on the list is the Orlov Lobby where guests can enjoy the signature St. Regis afternoon tea. There is also the Italian restaurant, Osteria A Tavola, as well as the Cognac room, Robusto. Finally, there two dining experiences by Michelin-starred chef Kamel Benmamar will also be opened in June. This includes a yet-to-be-named signature restaurant and The Farsh a specialty burger eatery. 

Rooftop bar 

In terms of facilities, guests can purchase treatments at Alexandria Beauty Lounge & Spa. The 1,600sqm space comes with nine treatement rooms, an indoor pool, sauna, hammam and fitness centre.

Indoor swimming pool 

For gatherings and functions, St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya offers a private rooftop bar with panoramic views of the Kremlin. In addition, the hotel also has a ballroom and four meeting rooms to cater for a flexible range of events.

For more information, visit

Clement Huang

Cathay Pacific readies itself for industrial action by crew members

Cathay Pacific (CX) is preparing itself for a potential difficult summer travel season, after the airline’s biggest cabin crew union threatened industrial action earlier this week.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendant Union has accused to airline of implementing unfair changes to contracts, in which newer staff are being offered salaries that are about 10 per cent lower than those who joined beforehand.

Cathay Pacific B777-300ER 

The union is requesting talks with Cathay Pacific for what it perceives as unfair treatment to the new recruits. In a statement, union chairwoman Dora Lai stated that there would be ample time for the carrier to respond and resolve the issue.

“We do not wish to cause too much inconvenience to the travelling public, so our target time for industrial action will be the summer,” said Lai. “We wish the public to understand we have to do something because we cannot allow the company to treat employees like that”.

Some 1,100 crew members have refused to sign the new contract so far, but many have stated that they are being pressured by the superiors to do.

“I’m under pressure to sign because I was told [by a supervisor], ‘If you don’t sign this contract, I’ll consider it as a resignation’,” said an anonymous crew member to the SCMP.

The past few months have already been difficult for Cathay Pacific, as it continues to face disputes by its pilots (see here), who are now five months into a work-to-rule protest where they refuse to fly on rostered days off or commit to overtime.

While the airline’s resources have been stretched, it should be noted that passengers have seen little disruptions to flights, which have been relatively unaffected by the ongoing protest.

For more information, visit

Clement Huang

Icelandair to fly four-times weekly to Birmingham

Icelandair has announced it will increase services between Reykjavik and Birmingham from two to four weekly flights.

Starting in February 2016, the new flights will operate each Tuesday and Saturday, in addition to the current Monday and Thursday services which launched earlier this year (see news, May 2014).

The four-times weekly schedule will operate from February 1 to March 28.

Birmingham airport CEO Paul Kehoe said: “Icelandair launched their Birmingham–Reykjavik service in February and it has gone from strength-to-strength in that short time.

“It’s great to see the airline respond to the passenger demand for this service by increasing the number of flights.”

Tom Newcombe

Take Google tour of Air France’s new medium-haul cabin

Air France has unveiled a Google Street View video of its new medium-haul cabin.

Passengers can take a tour of the interior of a two-class A319 aircraft fitted with the new design.

The carrier operated the first flight to feature the redesigned cabin last month (see news, March 20).

The redesigned seat, which is upholstered in leather, is being fitted in all cabin classes on the airline’s medium-haul fleet based at Paris CDG.

It is being installed on 24 A319 aircraft in the first half of this year, with 25 A320s to follow in the first half of 2016.

Air France has also launched a new “Economy Flex” medium-haul fare for business passengers (see news, November 27).

Air France medium-haul seats

New medium-haul seating

These tickets are transferable in the same booking class and refundable at no extra charge. Passengers will also be able to catch an earlier flight than scheduled, on the same day and at no cost.

They will be able to earn Flying Blue miles, have access to Air France’s fast-track Skypriority services and will be allocated seats at the front of the economy cabin.

And, Air France is upgrading its medium-haul business class offering to include a full breakfast in the morning — coffee, tea, fruit juice, bread and pastries — and a snack or cold meal at other times of the day.

Graham Smith