Plaza Premium Group to cover all Heathrow terminals by Q1 2017

Plaza Premium Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 2

Plaza Premium Group has revealed more details of its forthcoming London Heathrow venues to Business Traveller.

By the first quarter of next year, the airport lounge operator will have a presence at all terminals at Heathrow, said Pauline Cheung, its group sales and marketing director.

The company, which already operates lounges in T2 arrivals and departures and airside at T4 (pictured below), is adding facilities in T4 arrivals and T5 departures as well as a landside airport hotel at T3.

Plaza Premium Departures lounge Heathrow T4

First to arrive is the arrivals lounge at T4, which will have about 150 seats, a dining area and about 20 showers and is due to open in the third quarter of this year.

The airside T5 lounge will follow at the end of the year, the floor plan for which is being finalised. “A lot of BA passengers don’t have the assets to go to the BA lounges [in T5] so demand should be good,” Cheung said.

It will be the second paid-for facility at the terminal, following the Aspire lounge, which opened last August (for more information click here).

Cheung said it would have 200-250 seats and that the company hoped to provide a larger spa offering than was available in its T2 airside lounge (pictured below).

Plaza Premium arrivals lounge Heathrow T2

At Terminal 3, Plaza Premium Group will be opening a landside property under its new Aerotel transit hotel brand, the first of which recently opened at Singapore Changi (see news February 18).

Located in a two-storey former office building attached to T3, the Aerotel will have 84 rooms starting from 15 sqm, bookable for a minimum of six hours.

Each will have free wifi, king-size beds and a choice of soft or hard pillows, with those on the upper floor having coffee machines and access to an executive lounge offering hot drinks, evening cocktails and snacks. A light menu will be available to order via room service, and the property may also have a rooftop terrace and offer yoga classes.

“We’ll be providing first-class service but only charging an economy rate,” Cheung said, adding that she anticipated prices would start from about £110 for six hours. The company hopes to complete the property by March next year.

Plaza Premium Group now operates close to 140 facilities globally and aims to reach 200 by 2018, Cheung said.

Earlier this month it officially opened the world’s first co-branded airport lounge with China Eastern at Shanghai Pudong International Terminal 2 (see news November 11, 2015).

plaza-network.com

Michelle Harbi

Heathrow Connect service suspended

Heathrow Connect services have been suspended, following issues with the trains used by sister service Heathrow Express.

As a result of the “technical issue”, the majority of Heathrow Express trains have been taken out of service, and in order to keep the express route in operation, the service will be operated with Heathrow Connect trains.

This means that the stopping Heathrow Connect service has been suspended on Monday February 29 and Tuesday March 1.

The Heathrow Express service will continue to operate every 15 minutes, and anyone holding pre-bought Heathrow Connect tickets will be eligible to use the service.

Heathrow Connect said that “Passengers who wish to travel to one of the stations on the Heathrow Connect route should take the 140 bus from Heathrow to Hayes and Harlington, followed by a Great Western Railway service to Paddington”.

The Heathrow Connect trains do not offer a business class section, so Heathrow Express customers who have bought Business First tickets will be entitled to a refund.

The operator also says that the cost of Heathrow Express tickets will be reduced to £17 each way (or £28 return) during the disruption.

The BBC website is reporting that a crack was found in the underframe of a Heathrow Express train on Sunday.

In a statement Heathrow Express said that:

“As a result of a routine maintenance check by Siemens, a technical issue has been identified which has resulted in the majority of the Heathrow Express trains being taken out of service as a safety precaution.

“The trains have now been recalled as a precaution. Over the coming days each train will be thoroughly inspected by a specialist team at the Old Oak Common depot, to provide assurance.”

Heathrow Express Director Fraser Brown added that: “While we regret the inconvenience this will cause to our customers and airport colleagues, safety remains our top priority.

“We are working with Siemens engineers, who manage our depot site and the maintenance of our trains, to understand the extent of this issue. When we are aware of what we are dealing with, we will be able to make a decision on when a full service will resume.” 

A further update will be provided by the rail operator on March 1.

heathrowexpress.com, heathrowconnect.com

Mark Caswell

United’s Mileage Plus offers bonus miles with Marriott Rewards conversions

United has launched a bonus offer for members converting their Marriott Rewards points into Mileage Plus miles.

Members must pre-register for the offer at united.com/rewardsplustransfer, and then convert their Marriott Rewards points into United Plus miles by March 31.

They will receive 25 per cent extra miles on conversions made during the promotional period, up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus miles.

Bonus miles will be credited by April 30, 2016.

united.com, marriott.com

Mark Caswell

Flybe offers 25 per cent off Avios redemptions

Flybe is currently offering a 25 per cent discount on Avios redemptions, for travel over the next few months.

The promotion means members can get a Flybe reward flight from 6,750 Avios, instead of the normal 9,000.

Members must book their reward flights at avios.com or via the Avios customer contact centre by March 17, for travel between March 10 and July 6.

Taxes and charges are payable in full, and the offer is not valid on flights operated by franchise partner Stobart Air.

For more information and to redeem this offer click here.

Flybe replaced its Rewards4All loyalty scheme with Avios in October 2014.

avios.com, flybe.com

Mark Caswell

Hub by Premier Inn opens third London property

Premier Inn has opened its third Hub hotel in London, with plans for further properties across London and Edinburgh.

Hub by Premier Inn London Spitalfields, Brick Lane is located around ten minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street Station.

The hotel features 189 rooms including the option of “Hub Bigger” rooms for longer stays.

Facilities include ProvenDough Deli and Bar, and new smart TVs that allow content to be streamed or mirrored from tablets or smartphones.

Hub by Premier Inn London Spitalfields, Brick Lane

Commenting on the new property Simon Ewins, Chief Operating Officer for hub by Premier Inn said:

“The design and build of the new hub hotels must adhere to ever-changing technological and sustainability requirements. In order to stay at the forefront of the new technological age we have introduced even more digitally aided smart TVs which enable guests to use mirror screening.”

Premier Inn opened its first Hub property in Covent Garden in 2014 (for a Tried and Tested review published in February 2015 click here), followed by Hub Tower Bridge in December 2015.

Hub by Premier Inn London Spitalfields, Brick Lane

The brand has also opened its first Scottish property in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile district, and eight further sites have been secured in London, as well as two further properties in the Scottish capital.

The group describes the Hub by Premier Inn concept as “a new generation of smartly designed hotels in the heart of the city”, with “stylish compact rooms, featuring digitally enhanced connectivity”.

hubhotels.co.uk, premierinn.com

Mark Caswell

Kuala Lumpur institutes ban against new hotels amid overcapacity

An overcapacity of rooms in Kuala Lumpur has led the Malaysian capital to put a halt on issuing hotel licences until further notice.

Speaking to Star Metro, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz said: “There is an oversupply of hotel and office spaces in Kuala Lumpur now and we have been advised by the government to be strict on this, so we will not be giving any more development order for hotels until further notice.”

The ban will apply to all types of hotel regardless of market segment. However, properties that have previously received planning permission but have not begun construction works will be unaffected.

With an existing pool of 939 hotels in Kuala Lumpur, of which more than 400 are designated as budget hotels, the mayor believes this will still be sufficient for the 12 million international tourists expected to travel to the city this year.

For more information, visit dbkl.gov.my

Clement Huang

First look: Avani Riverside Bangkok enters the MICE arena

AVANI Riverside Bangkok

Minor Hotel Group’s upscale Avani brand was launched in 2011 to complement the overtly traditional, resort-style Anantara hotels with a more contemporary type of property for guests “who value the details that matter”. The Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel is its latest incarnation, positioned directly behind the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort in Thonburi district on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.

A 26-storey, new-build property whose lower levels comprise a shopping mall and office space, the new 248-room hotel occupies the 10th-26th floors, and is notable for the superb river and city views that every room boasts, as well as a slew of events spaces that place this new Avani in direct competition with established Bangkok MICE favourites the Shangri-La and Centara Grand. Another plus for events planners is a covered walkway between the Anantara and Avani properties, meaning a combined offering of more than 650 keys covering a range of resort-style and modern business-style rooms and suites.

The hotel has already soft-opened and will be fully finished in April, and has immediately attracted prestigious clientele for meetings and events. “In March we are hosting a meeting of the Asian headquarters of Lufthansa (from Singapore), as well as a Louis Vuitton meeting, and also the Ford Motor Show exhibition,” says general manager Christian Hoechtl.

The main events spaces are located on the 10th floor, and include a Grand Ballroom that boasts almost 4,500 sqm of pillarless space catering to as many as 1,500 people for product launches, corporate events and conferences. It can be separated into four spaces, and skylights flood the huge area with natural light – this is the tallest ballroom ceiling in Bangkok at 11 metres high. On one side is a unique open-plan show kitchen where delegates can watch the chefs work, while a car lift (6 x 2.6 x 2.2 metres) with a weight load of 3,000kg gives direct access to the ballroom.

The pre-function spaces and side meeting rooms (27 in total) are equally spacious, featuring fantastic river views and a panorama of the downtown city skyline beyond through floor-to-ceiling windows (you can choose to have a sunrise or sunset meeting in either. Being a brand-new hotel, all event facilities offer state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, but the Avani prides itself on its personal touches as well. Five coffee stations in the pre-function areas offer a more relaxed, “kitchen pantry” atmosphere, says Hoechtl.

“Two large counters serve as buffets where fresh pastries and savoury dishes are attractively displayed. Guests can walk around them to shelves and tall fridges displaying healthy sandwiches, fresh fruit juices and other beverages, which they can take as they wish,” he says. “The stations themselves feature coffee and tea machines and we do serve the customers, but there is more of a relaxed, residential feel. There are no old banquet tables dressed up with linen or makeshift coffee machines in the corner.”

Guestrooms at the Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel are stylishly minimalistic and tech-savvy, the focus being on the grand views through the windows. On the roof is an infinity pool as well as Attitude Bar & Restaurant, offering great potential as a post-event party venue. The potential downside of the hotel’s location in Thonburi, some distance from the city centre, is offset by 15-minute complimentary shuttle boat transfers to Saphan Taksin BTS station near the Shangri-La hotel – and the overall benefits of the Avani’s location, highly competitive pricing and venue options make it an attractive new package for business travellers and event planners in Thailand’s capital.

For more information, visit avanihotels.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

Become a BT Plus member by subscribing to BTAP/BTC now!

There’s never been a better time to subscribe to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific and Business Traveller China! Along with unrestricted access to the online platform, new and renewed subscribers of both publications will also receive the following BT Plus privileges.

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2) Free Nouveau Membership of Sarment’s elite wine club, allowing you to enjoy exclusive privileges, wine purchase offers and member events in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. For details of member benefits, please check HERE.

3) A discount of 25 per cent on LOJEL luggage and travelware, tailored for the sophisticated traveller and explorer and famous for its durability, style and innovation. Offer is available at the LOJEL flagship store in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

 

4) A one-year Platinum membership of Global Hotel Alliance’s loyalty programme DISCOVERY, which grants the following:

  • One Platinum ‘Local Experience’ Award after the first stay and redeemable with your second booking
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Virgin America offers bonus FFP points

Virgin America’s frequent flyer programme Elevate is offering bonus points to new members as well as to those who refer new members.

New members will earn a one-time bonus of 500 points upon registering, while those who refer friends will also receive 500 points. A maximum of five referrals can be made, meaning a total of 2,500 points are up for grabs – enough for a one-way trip on many domestic routes. 

The promotion is valid until March 31.

Points will be credited within four to six weeks.

For more information, visit virginamerica.com

Clement Huang