Address Downtown catches fire during New Year celebrations

The Address Downtown hotel in Dubai caught fire during New Year’s Eve Celebrations. 

The hotel was earlier promoting a fireworks display, with guests invited to its Symphony Ballroom which can cater for over 500 guests.

Address fire Dubai

The Twitter account of Dubai’s Media Office says that the fire originated on the outside of the hotel, and reports say that guests have been safely evacuated, with 14 minor injuries and one suspected heart attack.

The hotel is 63 storeys high and is close to the 818-metre Burj Al Khalifah. It has 196 rooms, including 25 suites, located on floors seven to 12. There are also 626 apartments on floors 15-60.

To read more about the hotel, see our Tried & Tested check here.

 

 

Travel trends for 2016

Singapore Airlines SIA A350-900_ULR_SIA

Travel trends for 2016

1. Ultra-long haul flights

Cheap oil, fuel-efficient engines and new extended-range aircraft mean airlines will be flying longer, and further in 2016. On February 1, Emirates will be starting a nonstop 17-hour, 35-minute service from Dubai to Panama City, a distance of 8,587 miles. The journey will be operated by a B777-200LR and will hold the record for being the longest passenger flight in the world (Qantas’s Dallas-Sydney flight is just over 17 hours).

In September, Air India was considering an 18-hour flight from Bangalore to San Francisco (about 14,000 miles, which would have made it the world’s longest regularly scheduled nonstop service) but decided to operate out of Delhi instead (a more reasonable 7,670 miles) from December 2015. In 2017, Qantas is hoping to fly nonstop between Perth and London (8,991 miles) using the new B787-9s it has on order.

Over the next five years, manufacturers Boeing and Airbus will be introducing the new B777X (this comes in two versions, B777-8 and B777-9), which will have a range of up to 8,700 miles and will be introduced by Emirates in 2020, and an ultra long range version of the A350-900 – the A350-900ULR, which has a range of 10,357 miles.

Singapore Airlines A350-900

Singapore Airlines will be the launch customer for the A350-900ULR, which it says it will use for direct flights from Singapore to New York in 2018. Emirates, meanwhile, could use the B777-8 to fly from Dubai to Mexico City, Santiago or Peru (for more on the B777X series from Boeing, including the B777-8 and B777-9, see here).

Boeing B777-9

Unless you are painfully squashed into an economy class seat, ultra-long haul flights are good news for business travellers who will not waste time with stops and layovers. Instead, we will be able to use the time for sleeping and working.

A poll on businesstraveller.com revealed 51 per cent of readers would fly ultra long-haul but only in business class. An additional 24 per cent would fly premium economy or business, while 10 per cent would fly economy.

2. Streaming in-flight entertainment

Airlines are beginning to capitalise on the fact that most travellers have their own personal screens in the form of tablets and laptops, so may be able to do away with heavy, expensive in-flight entertainment systems that are built into seat-backs.

Enabling the transition, Virgin Australia set the trend by introducing streaming technology in 2012. Since then, early adopters have included Israeli carrier El Al, which now allows passengers to stream more than 50 movies direct to their devices via its DreamStream app (download before you board), on select B737 and B767 aircraft. (For those without a tablet, iPad Minis can be rented for about US$3 on the Tel Aviv-Boston route.)

Low-cost Singaporean airline Scoot relaunched its streaming service for the new B787 in February 2015, allowing travellers to stream entertainment for an inclusive price of S$11 (free for business class).

In September, Virgin America equipped ten A320 with high-speed wifi (free until March 2016) for streaming content from Netflix. Alaska Airlines introduced Alaska Beyond Entertainment via the Gogo Entertainment app in November – it allows you to stream films and TV shows from US$1.99 each on B737s and Embraer 175s. (Tablets can be hired from US$8-10).

JetBlue will soon have free wifi across its whole fleet so passengers can watch live sports games on seat-back screens, as well as access content from Amazon Prime via personal devices. (It already has it on all its 150 A320s and A321s but needs to install it across its Embraers.) On wifi-enabled domestic flights with Delta Air Lines, passengers can access Delta Studio to stream movies and HBO shows free of charge on seat-back screens and personal devices. It will complete its roll-out of wifi on long-haul routes by mid-2016.

3. Free wifi on planes

Wifi (for a price) has been available on planes for about five years. In November, British Airways said it is aiming for 90 per cent of its long-haul aircraft to have wifi by early 2019 (only its Club World service from London City to JFK has data connectivity right now). Although many older planes still aren’t yet equipped with the technology, some trend-setting carriers are starting to offer connectivity for free as a way of attracting more customers. While most business travellers would agree in-flight phone calls are a big no-no, being online is very useful.

Finnair is in the process of a US$33 million wifi installation project across its fleet, due for completion in 2018. The first plane to become wired was its brand-new A350XWB, which began flying in the autumn. While economy passengers have to pay 5 euros an hour or 15 euros to connect for the duration of the flight, those in business class (as well as Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members, and Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum members) can log on for free.

Meanwhile, Emirates offers the first 10MB of data free, and is rapidly extending the service to it’s whole fleet. Norwegian provides complimentary wifi to “most of our flights in Europe and on our flights between the US and the Caribbean”. In December, Qatar Airways announced it would give passengers wifi for free for the first 15 minutes. JetBlue, as mentioned previously, offers free wifi so fast that you can stream movies. By 2020, free wifi in the sky will likely be the norm, just as customers expect it from hotels now.

For more on travel trends see our February 2016 edition, subscribe here.

Jenny Southan

 

Etihad issues statement on German court ruling

Etihad Airways has issued a statement in response to the December 29 ruling by a German court that Etihad Airways will not be able to operate codeshares on some flights from January 16 to the end of its winter schedule in March 2016 because they were not supported by the agreement between the UAE and Germany on traffic rights.

“Etihad Airways is deeply disappointed by the German court’s decision… We are reviewing the judgment and will file an appeal against the decision early next week,” the statement begins.

A codeshare deal allows two airlines to market and sell seats on each other’s flights. The German transport ministry had approved the codeshare agreement between Etihad and Air Berlin on the routes – Etihad owns 29.2 per cent of Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline – but it changed its stance last year, saying the codeshares contravened the agreement on traffic rights.

“The social and economic damage to Germany by this decision is significant,” continues Etihad’s statement. “The withdrawal of approval for codeshare services on 29 routes materially reduces competition and consumer choice within and beyond Germany and causes inconvenience to passengers.

“Notwithstanding, we will continue to stand by our partner, Air Berlin, to promote competition and offer a superior product and travel experience.

“We will continue to honour all booked itineraries.”

For more information, see here or visit etihad.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

Accorhotels continues to expand its China network

Accorhotels’ aggressive expansion of its Pullman and Mercure brands in Greater China continues with the opening of Pullman Qingdao Ziyue and Mercure Wuhan Changqing Park – located in eastern Shandong province and central Hubei province respectively. This brings to 26 the number of Pullman properties operating in the country and eight for the Mercure brand, further highlighting Accorhotels’ plan to become a leading player in China’s hospitality sector.

Pullman Qingdao Ziyue reception counter

Located in Chengyang district, Pullman Qingdao Ziyue is only five minutes’ drive from Qingdao Liuting International Airport, with easy access to Qingdao city centre and local attractions including the Laoshan mountain, often regarded as one of the “cradles of Taoism”. The Qingdao International Expo Centre is only at 30 minutes away.

Pullman Qingdao Ziyue executive suite bedroom

“We are thrilled with the latest opening of Pullman in Qingdao, named as one of the most liveable cities in China for its rapid economic development and natural scenery,” said Paul Richardson, COO of Accorhotels Greater China, who was equally happy about the Mercure Wuhan Changqing Park, saying, “We are excited to introduce the Mercure brand in Wuhan, the most populous city in central China. “The opening of Mercure Wuhan Changqing Park strengthens Accorhotels’ commitment in the country to growing the Mercure brand, which combines international service standards with a local charm.”

Wuhan is a major transportation hub in central China, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways passing through and connecting to major cities throughout the country.

Located in the city’s Jianghan district, the 251-room Mercure Wuhan Changqing Park is convenient for major financial and commercial venues such as the International Garden EXPO, Wuhan 1911 Complex, Oceanwide Plaza, Wanda Plaza and AEON Mall. The hotel is only 15 minutes’ drive from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, ten minutes from Hankou Railway Station and within walking distance of Chang Gang Road metro station.

Mercure Wuhan Changqing Park

For more information, visit pullmanhotels.com and mercure.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

Commuter helicopter service takes off in Pearl River Delta

Today sees the inaugural flight of a new helicopter commuter service launched by Shenzhen-based, privately owned aviation company Astro Air Co Ltd.

The initial rollout links three major business cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region of Guangdong province: Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The takeoff and landing points are located in the CBDs of the former two cities, and the Hengqin area of the latter, adjacent to Macau.

A single trip ticket costs RMB4,999 (US$770). Travel time will be about half an hour – a fifth of the time it would take by any other form of transportation, according to Zhu Zilin, head of Astro Air’s helicopter service team.

In an interview with China Daily, Zhu said, “The airborne taxi service has been launched to meet the growing need for efficient, point-to-point business travel as regional economic exchanges within the PRD and between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau get closer after the Guangdong free trade zone was established.”

Astro Air plans to expand the service to other Guangdong cities such as Dongguan, Foshan and Jiangmen, and in late 2016 bring the inter-city helicopter service to the Yangtze Delta region, connecting Shanghai with cities in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. Down the line the company is also looking at the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area.

“Business trips by helicopter are common in overseas metropolises such as New York, Tokyo and Sydney. As China’s economy develops, more options for transportation should be provided to meet the needs of different types of travellers,” said Zhu.

For more information, visit astroair.net

Jeremy Tredinnick

Dusit opens largest meetings facility in Micronesia

At a recent press conference presided over by the governor of Guam Eddie Baza Calvo, the CEO of Dusit International Chanin Donavanik, and the general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau Jon Nathan Denight, the Dusit Thani Guam Resort officially opened its doors to a new wave of visitors to the island.

The launch of the resort’s Guam Convention Centre aims to herald a new era for tourism in Guam, as the hotel works with stakeholders to promote the island as a first-class destination for business as well as leisure travellers.

The 419-room hotel features Dusit International’s usual five-star offerings – including its signature spa concept the Thai-inspired Devarana Spa – but adds to the mix with the largest meetings and banquet facility in Micronesia.

“We are delighted to introduce Thai graciousness and hospitality to this vibrant destination and provide a new, exciting luxury hotel experience for our guests. We believe we can attract a new type of visitor to Guam and capture some of the MICE market in the region with our world-class convention centre facilities,” said Dean Huntsman, the resort’s general manager.

The Guam Convention Centre provides more than 1,169 sqm of flexible event space. The grand ballroom can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees for a seated dinner and is joined by two royal ballrooms, two salons, a cellar, pantry, living room and study, for a total of 10 function spaces that cater to events of any size.

The convention centre is complemented by the resort’s extensive dining portfolio consisting of six restaurants and lounges, including Aqua, an international all-day dining restaurant with live cooking stations, Alfredo’s Tuscan Steakhouse, which features house-cured steaks and handmade pastas, and Soi, presenting a modern twist on Thai street food.

“We believe that our Dusit Thani brand and trademark warm, gracious hospitality are a great fit for this market. Guam is a ‘best kept secret’ destination with great potential. The facilities make this a complete destination [and] pave the way for Dusit International’s future expansion plans,” said Dusit International CEO Donavanik.

For more information, visit dusit.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

Qatar Airways to boost Amsterdam

Next year Qatar Airways will offer Amsterdammers many more seats than it does at present.

According to Airline Route the Doha-based carrier will remove its two-class B787 (which currently operates to Amsterdam) in favour of its larger and high-density two-class B777-300ER.

The change takes effect from March 27.  It means that Qatar Airways will then be offering Amsterdammers 412 seats on its daily Doha flight as against 254 at present.

Qatar Airways B777-300s

What does it mean for passengers?

More airline seats invariably leads to keener pricing. And it must be noted that Qatar Airways has already been offering very attractive economy and business class fares in the Dutch market.

It must be noted that rival airline Emirates is also adding extra capacity in 2016 thanks to the Dutch government’s approval of a second daily A380 service (see news, December 19).

Although Emirates has not yet finalised exactly when its second daily A380 flight will start, reports in the Dutch media (quoting the airline’s CEO Sir Tim Clark) suggest it will be in June, if not sooner (see news, December 2015).

Qatar Airways high-density B777-300ERs are the carrier’s latest version. They are currently being delivered from Boeing’s Seattle plant.

The latest configuration sees these high-density aircraft being disposed with 412 seats comprising 24 in business and 388 in economy class. By comparison, its B787s have 22 business and 232 economy seats.

Controversially it means that economy class on these B777-300ERs adopts the tighter 10-across 3-4-3 layout instead of the more pleasing 9-across 3-3-3 configuration which is found on the carrier’s original B777-300ERs (see news, August 20).

Readers who have flown economy class claim that 10-across on the B777-300ER, although tight, is still slightly better than the 9-across 3-3-3 layout found on the B787.  Why? Because the former has a wider cabin.

But business class passengers lose out because the cabin is configured six-across 2-2-2 on the B777-300ER as against a spacious 1-2-1 layout on the B787.

As Qatar Airways acquires more high-density B777-300ERs they will be rostered for longer sectors.

Initially the aircraft was restricted to medium-length routes from Doha such as London Heathrow, Paris CDG and Bangkok.

But Airline Route reports that the high-density variant will appear on the Doha-New York JFK route between January 1 and February 29.  That is a really long-haul route with a flight time of 12 hours or more.

In addition (to the above-mentioned routes) on March 27 this 412-seat high density B777-300ER will be scheduled to operate between Doha and Amman, Jakarta (a popular route for Dutch travellers) and Manila.

Qatarairways.com

Alex McWhirter

German Court rules against Etihad and Air Berlin codeshares

Graz Tourismus - Harry Schiffer

Eithad Airways and Air Berlin have been dealt a blow by a German Court which today decided that some 30 code share routes were not covered by a traffic rights agreement between Germany and the UAE.

Etihad Airways owns 29.2 per cent of Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline after Lufthansa.

Etihad and Air Berlin

The decision does not affect another 50 code shares operated between the two airlines.

Etihad released a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed by the German court’s decision handed down today. We are reviewing the judgement and will file an appeal against the decision early next week.”

The statement went on to say

“The social and economic damage to Germany by this decision is significant.

“The withdrawal of approval for codeshare services on 29 routes materially reduces competition and consumer choice within and beyond Germany and causes inconvenience to passengers.

“Notwithstanding, we will continue to stand by our partner, airberlin, to promote competition and offer a superior product and travel experience.”

Etihad and Air Berlin

To see more about the partnership, click here.

The total number of codeshare routes (before the decision) were

OVER TO / FROM
Berlin (TXL) Alicante (ALC) Budapest (BUD) Copenhagen (CPH) Gdansk (GDN)
Goteborg (GOT) Graz (GRZ) Helsinki (HEL) Bucharest (OTP)
Madrid (MAD) Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) Nuremberg (NUE) Warsaw (WAW)
Krakow (KRK) Malaga (AGP) New York (JFK) Palma de Mallorca (PMI)
Rome (FCO) Salzburg (SZG) Stockholm-Arlanda (ARN) Stuttgart (STR)
Miami (MIA) Vienna (VIE) Zurich (ZRH)
Dusseldorf (DUS) Alicante (ALC) Barcelona (BCN) Berlin (TXL) Copenhagen (CPH)
Fort Myers (RSW) Hamburg (HAM) Los Angeles (LAX) Madrid (MAD)
Malaga (AGP) Miami (MIA) New York (JFK) Palma de Mallorca (PMI)
Rome (FCO) Salzburg (SZG) Stuttgart (STR) Venice (VCE)
Nuremberg (NUE) Vienna (VIE) Zurich (ZRH) Funchal (FNC)
Tenerife (TFS) Lanzarote (ACE)
Munich (MUC) Berlin (TXL) Alicante (ALC) Dusseldorf (DUS) Hamburg (HAM)
Malaga (AGP) Palma de Mallorca (PMI) Tenerife (TFS) Fuerteventura (FUE)
Lopez Island (LPS) Lanzarote (ACE)
Frankfurt (FRA) Berlin (TXL) Palma de Mallorca (PMI)
Abu Dhabi (AUH) Berlin (TXL) Dusseldorf (DUS) Stuttgart (STR)

 

It is unclear whcih of these will be affected, but Etihad says it “…will continue to honour all booked itineraries.”

etihad.com

Tom Otley

Air China launches Beijing-Havana service via Montreal

On December 27 Air China announced the launch of a new service between China and Cuba – the first route between the two countries – that operates via a technical stop in Montreal, Canada.

At a ceremony held at Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3, Cuba’s ambassador to China Alberto Blanco extended his congratulations on the start of the Beijing-Havana service, whilst Air China’s vice chairman Wang Yinxiang highlighted closer economic and trade ties between China and Cuba in recent years as a factor in the decision to start the new route.

Between January and November this year 25,777 Chinese travellers visited Cuba – a 16.5 per cent increase year-on-year for the same period, according to Cuban government statistics.

Flights CA879/CA880 will operate three times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday using a B777-300ER. The outbound flight leaves Beijing at 1400, arriving in Montreal at 1620 and in Havana at 2015 the same day. Flight CA880 departs Havana at 0900, arrives in Montreal at 1430 and Beijing at 1730 the following day.

The flight time of approximately 19 hours is much faster than previous journey times for routes between the two countries, which would have to go via France, Germany, Spain or Mexico.

For more information visit airchina.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

Ten tips for packing the perfect suitcase

Antler Atom cabin bag in blue

1. Pack outfits chronologically

Think about your itinerary, with your first day’s clothes placed at the top and your last day’s at the bottom to save disturbing your folding.

2. Use packing cubes

The best way to organise outfits or separate types of clothing is by using zip-up packing cubes – they come in varying dimensions and will help you find what you are looking for, especially if you are on a long-haul trip with a larger case.

3. Be strict, and realistic

Pack only what you really need. While the notion of having different outfits for each day may seem appealing, they will weigh you down. Every gram counts, especially when airlines charge for what you take on board. Don’t forget cufflinks, a universal adaptor, sunglasses and ties.

4. Fold (properly)

You’d be surprised at how many ways there are to fold a shirt. Learn to fold like a pro and your clothes with thank you. Rolling jeans, for example, can also be effective. Travel with clothes that made of crease-free fabric to minimise ironing. Louis Vuitton’s Art of Packing video series provides several helpful tutorials.

5. Keep cables neat

Save yourself the trouble of untangling wires by securing them individually with cable ties, and packing them in an easy-to-spot pouch. If checking in a suitcase, keep your laptop and smartphone charger with you in your hand-baggage to avoid losing them.

6. Use shoe bags

Never allow your shoes to have direct contact with your clothes, they’re just not clean.

Use lightweight, nylon shoe bags to keep them separate – insert socks to avoid them being crushed.

7. Organise toiletries

If travelling with hand-luggage only, place you washbag at the top or in an outer compartment so you can easily access it at security. Stocking up on clear plastic bags for your liquids in advance of arriving at the airport will save you having to do it under pressure. Make sure bottle tops are tightly screwed – spillages could ruin your trip.

8. Use a travel wallet for documents

Although many airlines now offer mobile boarding passes, it is important to have all your paperwork, emergency credit card, passport, itinerary and other print-outs in a place where they will not get crumpled or lost.

9. Employ a professional

If you have a big trip coming up, use a professional. London-based luxury dry-cleaning service Blossom and Browne’s Sycamore offers a jet-set travel service. Provide them with your clothes in the case you want to take, and they return it to you fully dry-cleaned and folded to perfection.

10. Outsource laundry

On return home, doing your washing and ironing can be the last thing you want to deal with. Even taking your suits to the dry cleaners can be a pain. Download the Laundrapp application to your phone, they will pick up washing and dry-cleaning from your home, returning it to you pressed and on hangars.

These are just a few of our ideas, we’re sure you have plenty more – feel free to share them below.

Ben Allen