British Airways takes delivery of its first B787-9 Dreamliner

British Airways B787-9

British Airways has taken delivery of its first B787-9 Dreamliner.

The Boeing aircraft touched down at London Heathrow at 0850 this morning and, to mark the arrival, BA has released a time-lapse video of the B787-9 being built in Seattle.

It is the first of 22 B787-9s that the airline has on order and will join the eight B787-8s that have already been delivered. BA also has 12 B787-10s on order.

BA\\\\\\'s first B787-9 lands at London Heathrow

BA’s first B787-9 lands at London Heathrow


BA B787-9 first class

First class

There will be eight seats in first class, compared to the 14 fitted on other BA long-haul aircraft.

Each seat will include three new storage areas – a new ottoman next to the adjustable footstool; the personal suiter for jackets and coats is now accessible without having to leave the seat; and a new locker at eye-level for smaller items. A mirror has been fitted to the inside of the locker door.

The first BA B787-9 destination will be Delhi from October 25 (see news, July 13), followed by Abu Dhabi and Muscat from November 5 (see news, September 8), Kuala Lumpur from December and San Jose from May (see news, August 26).

The aircraft will be fitted with its next generation First cabin, making it the first European airline to install the top class on a Dreamliner. China Southern was the first worldwide to have first on the Dreamliner.

BA B787-9 first class seat

First class

BA B787-9 first class

First class

BA B787-9 first class seat

First class

BA’s current B787-8 is fitted with three cabins — Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller. Its B787-9, which is slightly larger and can fly longer sectors, will with the addition of First have a four-class configuration.

A new IFE handset, which BA said is “much like a smartphone”, will allow passengers to watch one item on the handset itself and another on the 23-inch screen.

Lastly, the smart “jog-dial” still controls the seat’s recline, but now also manages five further functions including the headrest and lighting control.

ba.com

Graham Smith

IHG to open dual-branded Munich development

Intercontinental Hotels Group has announced a dual-branded Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express property in Munich.

The hotels, Holiday Inn Munich City – East and Holiday Inn Express Munich City – East, will contain 118 and 189 guestrooms respectively.

The development is located within walking distance of Berg Am Laim S Bahn train station and is close to the city centre and Munich International airport.

Both hotels are scheduled to open in early 2018 and will operate under a franchise agreement with Primestar Hotel Group.

IHG said that with both properties occupying the same building, the dual-branded model allows for “operational efficiencies through shared team members and facilities”.

The Holiday Inn hotel will feature “state-of-the-art conference facilities with multi-functional meeting rooms”, an all-day dining restaurant and bar, a gym and a sauna. The Holiday Inn Express property will feature an Express Café and Bar.

Martin Bowen, IHG’s associate vice president of development in Germany, said: “Dual branded properties are relatively new in Germany and we are leading the field in this area.

“They’re attractive for hotel investors because of the significant cost savings and operating efficiencies, and they give guests a choice of two great hotels in the one location depending on their needs.”

Last year, IHG opened the world’s tallest Holiday Inn in New York (see news, November 2014).

ihg.com/holidayinn, ihg.com/holidayinnexpress

Graham Smith

Air China begins domestic Air Canada codeshares

Air China and Air Canada have extended their codeshare agreement to include three domestic routes in Canada.

The move, which started yesterday, coincides with the launch of Air China’s non-stop service between Beijing and Montreal, also part of the Star Alliance members’ joint venture (see news, May 28).

The three new codeshare services will see Air China add its CA code on Air Canada routes from Montreal to Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg, reports airlineroute.net.

Last year, the two airlines signed a memorandum of understanding to “stimulate traffic growth” between their respective countries (see news, November 11).

airchina.com, aircanada.com

Graham Smith

Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club moves to revenue-based system

Cathay Pacific has announced sweeping changes to its Marco Polo Club loyalty programme.

From April 15 next year, the scheme will become a points-based system, worked out through a combination of cabin, fare class and distance travelled.

In a statement, Cathay said this “will see members who fly in premium classes earn tier status faster. It will allow members to earn club points from a wider range of fares, including discounted fare types that are currently not applicable to club status.”

The airline added: “All popular member benefits, including unlimited lounge access for Silver members and above, as well as priority boarding and check-in, remain unchanged.”

At the same time, Cathay will introduce more flexible and family-friendly benefits, including:

  • Extra lounge passes for members and their invited guests
  • Bookable upgrades for Gold and Diamond members
  • Additional Gold companion card for Diamond members
  • “Membership holidays” enabling members to retain their status for one year, in recognition of those who may need to temporarily reduce their travel activity
  • Lower qualifying age for young members, down from 18 to 12

As part of the transition to the points programme, the Marco Polo Club will convert each member’s mileage or sectors into club points, based on which is the most favourable for individual members.

For example, a Gold member who has accumulated 48,000 Club miles as of April 15 would have accumulated 80 per cent of the 60,000 miles required for Gold renewal.

Under the new system, the same ratio will apply in the sense that his/her mileage will be converted to 480 points – that is, 80 per cent of the 600 points required for renewal.

The changes will not impact accrual and awards redemption under the Asia Miles rewards programme, Cathay said.

Full details of the changes, including a club points calculator, can be found at cathaypacific.com/clubchanges. Members can also phone +852 2683 6788 or +800 2683 6788, or email clubchanges@cathaypacific.com.

The following details are from Cathay Pacific’s press release:


1. New points-based earning grid

The current system of status accrual, which focuses on mileage and sectors flown, will be replaced by a points-based system using a combination of cabin, fare class and distance travelled. The Cathay Pacific and Dragonair accumulation grid is as shown below.

New points based earning grid


2. Comparison of current and new tier benefits

The club will retain all popular member benefits, including unlimited lounge access for Silver members and above, as well as priority boarding and check-in. Members will also enjoy more flexibility than before with a new range of benefits and family-friendly rewards, as shown below.

Key benefits

Key benefits

Key benefits

3. Comparison of current and new tier qualification

The more balanced approach will see members who fly in premium cabin classes earn tier status faster. At the same time it will allow members to earn club points from a wide range of fares, including discounted fare types (S, N, Q) that are currently not applicable to club status.

Comparison of current and new tier qualification

cathaypacific.com

Tom Otley

Qatar Airways announces Sydney flight schedule

Qatar Airways has announced the flight schedule for its new Sydney service.

From March 1, the carrier will roster a B777-300ER aircraft on the daily direct route between Doha and the Australian city.

Outbound service QR908 will depart Doha at 2010 and arrive in Sydney at 1805 the next day, while return leg QR909 will leave Sydney at 2220 and land in Doha at 0505 the next morning.

Qayat AIrways B777-300ERs at the old Doha International Airport

Qatar Airways B777-300ERs lined up at the old Doha International airport

The airline said the evening departures will provide convenient travel times and enhance connectivity to attractive business and leisure destinations.

The Sydney service became possible after the Qatari and Australian governments came to an agreement last month (see news, September 24).

It is the third Australian destination in the Qatar Airways network, joining daily services to Melbourne and Perth.

Kerrie Mather, Sydney Airport’s managing director and CEO, said: “The new daily service will significantly boost inbound tourism to New South Wales, as well as create an estimated 3,000 jobs, including 2,500 in NSW, and contribute over $240 million to the Australian economy.”

qatarairways.com

Tom Otley

Last day to redeem East Coast Rewards and where to buy tickets now

Ask many current British rail travellers to name a rail loyalty programme and chances are that the first response will be ‘East Coast Rewards’. Ironically, the high level of awareness may be due in no small part to the success of the Save East Coast Rewards online campaign, sparked by the news that the scheme would not be continued by new operator Virgin Trains East Coast (see Business Traveller, September 2015 here.)

The campaign attracted 1,250 signatures to its online petition, but ultimately could not fundamentally alter Virgin’s decision, which itself met the Department for Transport’s franchise specification minimum. And today, Wednesday 30 September, is the final day that members of the former East Coast Rewards scheme can redeem their points, or see them disappear forever.

While the scheme ran, members earned 1 point for every pound spent on Standard Class tickets, and 1.5 points for each pound spent on First Class tickets. 255 points bought members a free Standard Class ticket, and 460 points bought a First Class ticket, for use on East Coast’s network stretching from London King’s Cross to Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. Redeeming for four tickets at a time brought the average cost down to 230 points for a Standard ticket and 391 points for a First ticket.

Despite the Save East Coast Rewards campaign, Virgin’s communications have focussed on Nectar, their replacement for East Coast Rewards. They highlight the ability to not only earn, but also to redeem Nectar points on rail travel through the Virgin Trains East Coast website, as well as the alternative of collecting Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. Coincidentally, Virgin Atlantic ceased operation of its ‘Little Red’ domestic air service to East Coast destinations Edinburgh and Aberdeen on 26th September 2015.

Virgin East Coast Rewards message

A further message on their website seemed to acknowledge the ‘treasure trove’ value of East Coast Rewards points. Indeed, some might suggest that the words ‘at which point they will evaporate and be entirely worthless’ would have been better appended to the final sentence, rather than the penultimate one. 

Virgin East Coast Rewards message

So, what of the new way, and the earning and redeeming opportunities that it brings?

Nectar is the UK’s largest loyalty scheme by membership, driven by its association with partners such as Sainsbury’s and BP. Members of the scheme will be familiar that each Nectar point is worth 0.5p, meaning that whilst £255 of spend under East Coast Rewards would have generated one free Standard Class ticket – albeit subject to redemption availability. £255 of spend with Virgin Trains East Coast generates 510 Nectar points worth £2.55, at the advertised rate of 2 points per whole pound spent.

Alternatively, £255 of Virgin spend will earn 510 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. Assessing the value of airline miles is more complex but, as a guide, 35,000 miles would be required for an Economy return from London to New York, plus taxes, fees and charges of between £332.45 and £398.94. With Virgin Atlantic’s cheapest fare (without miles) currently being £361 return, 35,000 miles offers a potential saving of £28.55, and therefore £255 of Virgin Trains East Coast spend could generate Flying Club miles worth £0.42.

On this basis, Nectar points would appear to be the more usable and valuable opportunity.

A Virgin Atlantic Upper (Business) Class ticket from London to Barbados requires 100,000 Flying Club miles, plus taxes, fees and charges of between £517.72 and £621.26. The cheapest fare without using miles is currently £1399 return, making £255 of East Coast spend worth £4.49.

In this scenario, the better value switches to Flying Club miles earning, albeit without the unlimited availability that Nectar offers when used to ‘pay’ for rewards such as shopping at Sainsbury’s.

Whilst East Coast Rewards was running, those in the know also knew that the East Coast website was almost without exception the best channel for buying rail tickets for travel with any British  train operator. Quite apart from earning Rewards, the site charged no booking fees, no card payment fees and, originally, no postage fees. There was also a useful 10% off East Coast Advance tickets, and the site allowed airline-style seat selection on its services.

Postal charges did eventually creep in, and the East Coast Advance discount quietly dropped to 2%.

Virgin Trains East Coast has maintained the status quo, ensuring that the www.virgintrainseastcoast.com website remains a more cost-effective purchase platform than other third party or non train-operator websites.

However, that’s not quite the full story. Three other train operators – First TransPennine Express, the newly-styled GWR and Virgin Trains (West Coast) also offer Nectar points for purchases made via their websites. Most pertinently, whilst Virgin Trains East Coast only award Nectar points for travel on its own services, all of the others – including Virgin Trains on the West Coast – award points on all tickets irrespective of operator. When the East Coast operator sells an open ticket for a route that it serves in competition with others, Nectar Points will be awarded only if no specific service is selected on the website. Select a competitor service, even when the ticket is also valid on Virgin’s East Coast trains, and no points are due.

Once considered by many to be the most ‘rewarding’ rail ticket website in the UK, the East Coast operator website has therefore now slipped to a position behind even its West Coast marketing partner.

The East Coast website still offers a 2% discount on its own Advance fares, and the facility to select seats on East Coast services, but for travellers wishing to receive their tickets by post, First TransPennine Express and GWR both send tickets by Royal Mail First Class service for free.

A Standard Advance Virgin Trains East Coast ticket from London King’s Cross to York, bought on the East Coast website, could cost as little as £14.30, and be posted for a total of £15.30, earning 28 Nectar Points with a basic value of £0.14. The same ticket booked on the First TransPennine Express website would cost £14.60, earn the same 28 Nectar points but postage would be free.

A Standard Advance First TransPennine Express ticket from Manchester Piccadilly to York, bought on the operator’s website, can be purchased on selected dates for £7.10 posted for free and earning 14 Nectar points worth a nominal £0.07. The same ticket on the East Coast website is also £7.10, but postage is £1 extra and no Nectar points are accrued.

Members of the Quidco cashback website can also earn a further 1% cashback when booking with First TransPennine Express.

Ticketing and fare variations across train operating company websites are myriad, however.

For passengers intending to travel on Virgin Trains on the West Coast, or on Cross Country Trains services, only those operators’ own websites offer airline-style seat selection. Meanwhile, all self-print and mobile tickets are restricted to being issued for single-operator itineraries, and then only on the relevant operator’s website.

Passengers travelling on South West Trains, East Midlands Trains and even some Virgin Trains West Coast services may be able to secure cheaper fares using current franchise-holder Stagecoach’s ‘Megatrain’ website, in preference to the service operator’s own site.

Amongst many other quirks in online ticket availability, ScotRail’s Club 50 discount scheme is only offered at scotrail.co.uk; Arriva Trains Wales is the sole operator website offering North Sea and Irish Sea ‘Sail Rail’ tickets, and Southern Railway ‘DaySave’ tickets are only available online at Southern’s website.

The demise of East Coast Rewards has not in itself increased the complexity of the fragmented British rail ticketing landscape, but the once stand-out value proposition of the East Coast operator’s website thanks to the Rewards membership scheme has sadly been lost.

From a passenger perspective, ever more research now seems essential to keep rail travel costs down whilst maximising what small incremental benefits do remain. To all intents and purposes, ticket purchasing has indeed become more difficult, despite calls from all quarters to simplify the national system.    

Xiamen Air to fly to Sydney

Xiamen Air will fly from Fuzhou to Sydney starting from November 29, while a Xiamen-Sydney route will commence on December 5.

Both routes will be operated by a 237-seat Dreamliner consisting of four first class in a 1-2-1 configuration, 18 fully-flat business seats in a 2-2-2 setup, and 216 economy in 3-3-3.

Thrice-weekly MF807 will depart Fuzhou Changle International Airport on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday Airport at 2210 and arrive in Sydney at 1030 the following day. The return flight MF808 will leave on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1200 and touch down in China at 1820.

From Xiamen, MF801 will leave Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday at 2230, and land in Sydney at 1030+1. The return flight, MF802, will take off on Thursday and Sunday at 1200, touching down in China at 1800.

Economy passengers are allowed to check-in two bags at 23kg each, while business and first class passengers can check-in two and three bags, respectively, at 32 kg.

The carrier started flying to Amsterdam with a Dreamliner in July this year (Click here).

For more information, visit xiamenair.com

Valerian Ho

           

Artyzen to enter Asia with two new brands

Artyzen Hospitality Group has announced it will introduce two new brands to the Asian market – Citizen M and Artyzen Habitat.

Citizen M, first launched in 2008 in Amsterdam, will make its Asian debut in Shanghai in 2017, followed by Taipei.

Brand hallmarks of Citizen M, which currently has properties in London, Paris and New York, include connectivity features and technology driven in-room amenities such as a centralised touch screen to control lighting, temperature, window shades and alarms.

Also slated for a 2017 opening is the global launch of new brand Artyzen Habitat.

Inspired in part by the rise of Airbnb, Artyzen Habitat Hongqiao Shanghai aims to deliver a “home-like environment”, with the living area forming the nucleus of the room, rather than the bed forming the focal point.

Both new properties will be located in the upcoming Shanghai MixC integrated project.

Robbert van der Maas, president of the Artyzen Hospitality Groups, says: “Shanghai is one of the most important cities in Asia and establishing our brand presence here first is a key to our Asian regional growth plans.

“We look forward to further expanding our presence in Asia, with cosmopolitan cities such as Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong high on the agenda.”

For more information, visit artyzen.com

Tamsin Cocks

Five upcoming routes worth noting

CATHAY PACIFIC

ROUTE Hong Kong–Madrid

LAUNCH June 2, 2016

INFO Cathay Pacific’s new four-times weekly service will represent the only direct link between Hong Kong and Spain, providing greater convenience for both business and leisure customers travelling between the two destinations. 

Likewise, the new route will make it easier for passengers from Southern Europe to access key destinations in mainland China and Asia.

Read full story here or visit cathaypacific.com

 

UNITED AIRLINES

ROUTE San Francisco–Xian

LAUNCH May 2016

INFO United Airlines made headlines last year when it became the first US carrier to launch flights to Chengdu. This move appears to have been a precursor for the airline to expand its presence in the second-tier Chinese markets, as the carrier has now targeted Xian as its next destination. This will put United even further ahead of the other US carriers, in terms of the number of mainland destinations in its network.

Read full story here or visit united.com

 

EMIRATES

ROUTE Dubai–Panama City

LAUNCH February 2016

INFO Clocking in at 17 hours and 35 minutes (when flying westbound), Emirates new service to Panama City will become the world’s longest non-stop flight in the world when it launches next year, thereby stealing the crown from current title holder Qantas for its 16 hour 55 minute service to Dallas.

Read the full story here or visit emirates.com

 

JAPAN AIRLINES

ROUTE Tokyo Narita–Dallas

LAUNCH November 30, 2015

INFO Aviation aficionados will remember that Japan Airlines (JAL) first launched a three-weekly Tokyo–Dallas service back in March 1999. Due to popular demand, this soon expanded into a daily operation. However, following the September 11, 2001 attacks the carrier announced a temporary suspension of the route that was never resumed – until now.

Read full story here or visit jal.com

 

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES

ROUTE Cebu–Los Angeles

LAUNCH March 16, 2016

INFO Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) new route is a testament to PAL’s upgraded safety standards, as until April last year the carrier was blacklisted by the US, which prevented it from expanding services to the country. Since then, the airline has been steadily increasing operations stateside. With the launch of the new service, PAL will operate a total of 38 flights between the Philippines and the US.

Read full story here or visit philippineairlines.com

TAP Portugal celebrates 10th anniversary of Victoria loyalty programme

TAP Portugal is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Victoria frequent flyer programme, with several offers under the banner “Happy Miles of Discounts”.

Until the end of the year members can benefit from a 50 per cent discount on the conversion of bonus miles into status miles, the purchasing of miles, and the transfering of miles to another account holder.

TAP Air Portugal Victoria programme

In addition members can get a 25 per cent discount of extending near-to-expiration miles for a further three years.

For more information on the above offers, click here, and to keep up to date with the latest offers during the programme’s 10th anniversay year, click here.

flytap.com

Mark Caswell