EU roaming charges fall

From today (April 30) the maximum costs of making and receiving calls, sending text messages and downloading data when travelling abroad within the EU has been reduced.

As the table below shows, the maximum cost of making a call has been reduced from €0.19 per minute, to the individual’s network domestic price plus up to €0.05 per minute.

And the charge for downloading data has been reduced from €0.20 per MB, to the domestic price plus €0.05 per MB.

EU Roaming charges

Member States’ national telecoms regulators must ensure that mobile phone operators comply with the new rules.

Note these are the maximum charges – operators are free to offer lower rates. UK operator Three, for instance, does not charge roaming in 18 countries worldwide, including EU countries France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Sweden.

Roaming fees when travelling within the EU will be abolished entirely from June 15, 2017.

For more information visit ec.europa.eu

Mark Caswell

EU Roaming

LATAM unveils unified aircraft livery

LATAM has unveiled the new unified livery design which will be rolled out across the group’s aircraft.

The livery is the next stage in the consolidation of LAN and TAM Airlines, following the unveiling of the LATAM brand identity last year (see news August 2015).

LATAM A350 aircraft

LATAM A350 aircraft

The first aircraft to sport the new livery will be a B767, departing Rio on May 1, on a special flight to collect the Olympic torch.

Three commercial flights with aircraft featuring the new livery will then take off on May 5:

  • São Paulo-Santiago (a Boeing 767 service departing São Paulo at 0905 local time)
  • Santiago-Lima (an Airbus A319 service departing Santiago at 0910 local time)
  • São Paulo-Brasilia (an Airbus A319 service departing São Paulo at 1420 local time)

Over 50 aircraft will be rebranded by the end of this year, with the whole of the group’s fleet to be updated by 2018.

LATAM B787 aircraft

LATAM B787 aircraft

Over the coming weeks LATAM will also introduce unified uniforms, airport signage, check-in counter design and a consolidated website at latam.com.

LATAM check-in counter

Last month the group unveiled revamped loyalty programmes under the names LATAM Pass and LATAM Fidelidade (see news March 3).

lan.com, tam.com.br

Mark Caswell

Marriott plans Middle East and Africa expansion

Marriott International has outlined plans for expansion in the Middle East and Africa over the next decade, with 21 properties set to open in Saudi Arabia alone by 2025.

The group currently operates 150 hotels in the region across nine brands and in 19 countries, with 17 new properties set to open this year.

A 300-suite Marriott Executive Apartments property (pictured below) will open in Doha in 2019, and the group also aims to expand into eight new territories by 2025, namely Iraq, Gabon, Rwanda, Tunisia, Benin, Kenya, Libya and Mauritius.

Marriott Executive Apartments Doha

Marriot says it has set “a clear objective to be represented in all major gateway cities, commercial centres and established resort destinations” in the region, and is targeting 245 hotels with nearly 44,000 operating and signed rooms by 2020.

Last year Marriott announced plans to bring its Residence Inn brand to the UAE in 2019, with the 135-unit Residence Inn by Marriott Al Jaddaf (see news October 22, 2015).

marriott.com

Mark Caswell

Delta orders 75 Bombardier CS100s

Delta-Bombardier

Delta has placed an order for 75 Bombardier CS100 aircraft, as the carrier aims to “cost-effectively reshape and upgauge its narrowbody fleet”.

The aircraft are due for delivery from spring 2018, with Delta being the US launch customer for the CS100 – the global launch customer is Swiss, with the first delivery expected this summer.

The 110-seat CS100 aircraft feature “the largest windows in the single-aisle market”, seatback in-flight entertainment, wifi connectivity, “high capacity overhead bins”, and “among the widest seats of any narrowbody aircraft”.

Delta Bombardier CS100

Seats will be configured 2-3 in Delta’s Main and Comfort+ cabins, and 2-2 in first class. The aircraft will operate on short to long-haul routes across the carrier’s network.

The new aircraft are part of Delta’s drive to replace older aircraft, with 280 50-seat regional jets and 130 narrowbody aircraft having been retired since 2009.

Delta also has options for 50 additional C Series aircraft, and “certain delivery flexibility rights including the ability to substitute the larger CS300 aircraft”.

The airline says that the Bombardier order means the carrier will no longer take delivery of Embraer E190 aircraft as planned.

delta.com

Mark Caswell

Ascott to open new London property

The Ascott Limited is investing a total of £52 million (US$76 million) to acquire a 108-unit serviced residence property in Islington, London.

Located not far from the West End, the Citadines Islington London will be close to several tourist attractions and entertainment options when it opens in 2019.

It will be a 10-minute walk from the Emirates Stadium, home to English Premier League team Arsenal Football Club, and offer convenient links to nearby St Pancras International station.

 

The 108-unit serviced apartment will be part of Islington Square, a mixed-use complex that also comprises 263 new homes and 15,793 sqm of retail space.

It will feature a mix of classic rooms, studios and one-bedroom apartments. Facilities will include a breakfast and lounge area, as well as a gymnasium.

“The addition of Citadines Islington London will strengthen Ascott’s position as one of the largest international serviced residence operators in Europe, with an asset size of over S$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion),” said Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s chief executive.

“Our portfolio in the region will increase to more than 5,300 units in 45 properties across France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Georgia and Spain. We aim to double our portfolio in Europe to 10,000 units by 2020.”

For more information, visit the-ascott.com

Clement Huang

Report shows Chinese airports suffer from poor OTP

China is home to some of the worst performing airports when it comes to punctuality, according to a 2015 report by FlightStats.

The airport statistic website analysed the on-time performance (OTP) of some 188 airports around the world, and concluded that 14 of the bottom 20 were located in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.

The Chinese airport with the worst punctuality record was Hangzhou Xiaoshan, which had an OTP rating of 41 per cent (the only airport with a lower percentage was Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport).

Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport didn’t fare much better, with only 52 per cent of on-time departures, while Beijing Capital International Airport achieved a 64 per cent OTP.

Perhaps most surprising was the inclusion of Hong Kong International Airport on the list, which only managed to achieve an OTP of 59 per cent last year. Latest tracking figures for the month of March 2016 have also yielded poor results for the airport, with only 69 per cent of on-time departures – below that of Beijing (76 per cent) and far behind regional rival Singapore (86 per cent). The main reason is Hong Kong’s close proximity to the mainland, which has impacted the SAR’s OTP.

The problem for China is that more than 70 per cent of its airspace is controlled by the military, leaving commercial airlines with relatively narrow corridors in which to operate flights. 

Periodic military drills have also reduced airport efficiency. In particular, the summer of 2014 saw 12 airports, including both Shanghai Pudong and Shanghai Hongqiao, reduce air traffic by 25 per cent for a three-week period.    

However, with air travel on the rise, the Chinese government is looking to open up more space in their skies. this becomes even more necessary as authorities improve the infrastructure of existing airports in order to accommodate more flight arrivals and departures.

“China is developing very, very quickly, far faster than any other country around the world has ever developed that capability,” said Steven Brown, COO of the National Business Aviation Association, in an interview with the BBC.

For more information, visit flightstats.com

Clement Huang

Ascott to open Citadines property in Islington

Serviced apartment provider Ascott is to open a new London property in Islington under its Citadines brand.

The 108-unit Citadines Islington London will be housed with the former Royal Mail’s sorting office, an Edwardian building which will form part of the mixed-use Islington Square development.

The property has been acquired through Ascott’s joint venture global fund with Qatar Investment Authority, with a total of £52 million to be invested in the project.

The serviced residence is scheduled to open in 2019, and will feature classic rooms, studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as a breakfast and lounge area and a gym.

Ascott currently operates seven properties in London – Ascott Mayfair, The Cavendish, Citadines Barbican, Citadines Holborn-Covent Garden, Citadines South Kensington, Citadines Trafalgar Square and Citadines St Mark’s – Islington.

Ascott recently launched The Crest Collection – a portfolio of some of the group’s “most prestigious and unique serviced residences” (see news April 14).

the-ascott.com

Mark Caswell

British Airways gears up for Lima launch

British Airways partners with Martin Morales

British Airways will launch its new service between London Gatwick and Lima on May 4, and is celebrating with a special in-flight menu created by award-winning Peruvian chef Martin Morales.

The dishes will be served on the route in all classes until June 4, and include causa de camaron – mashed yellow potatoes, layered fresh prawns and Amarillo chilli, and bistec escabechado – grilled soy and cumin marinated beef fillet with pickled tomato and onion salsa and sweet corn puree.

Club World passengers will also be offered pisco sour cocktails.

Morales is executive chef at London’s Ceviche Soho, Ceviche Old St and Andina restaurants.

Martin Morales

The carrier’s B777 service will operate three times-weekly in the summer months, and twice-weekly in winter, as follows:

From May 4 – October 29:

  • Wednesday – departs Gatwick at 1310 and arrives into Lima at 1945
  • Friday and Sunday – departs Gatwick at 1155 and arrives into Lima at 1830

From October 30:

  • Wednesday and Sunday – departs Gatwick at 1015 and arrives into Lima at 1755

Commenting on the new route Lynne Embleton, British Airways’ managing director at Gatwick said:

“It is great to be the only airline to offer direct services between London and Peru. Lima is a fantastic gateway to some of the most dramatic places to visit in South America and will also provide a new link for British business seeking to invest in Peru’s growing market.”

ba.com

Mark Caswell

HNA Group to buy Carlson Hotels

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group is to buy Carlson Hotels, owners of brands including Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and the Club Carlson loyalty programme.

In a statement Carlson said that “The combination of HNA Tourism Group and Carlson Hotels will have increased ability to accelerate growth through investments in areas such as digital, owned assets in major gateway cities, building of Radisson Red and other new brands”.

The agreement will see HNA acquire all of Carlson Hotels, as well as the group’s 51.3 per cent stake in the Rezidor Hotel Group. Carlson Hotel’s Brussels-based master licensee which has hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Swedish takeover rules mean HNA will be obliged to launch a mandatory public tender offer for the remaining stake in Rezidor Hotel Group within four weeks of the transaction closing, unless its ownership in the group is sold down to below 30 per cent.

Commenting on the acquisition, Diana Nelson, Carlson Board chair said:

“Since my grandfather, Curt Carlson, founded our company in 1938, our family has run businesses that create opportunity for people and positive change in the world.

“Hospitality is in our hearts, which made this a difficult decision. We strongly believe that selling our hotel business to HNA Tourism Group, a company that fully recognizes its value and heritage, is the best way for us to position it for success and to be true to my grandfather’s legacy in the long term.”

Carlson has around 1,400 hotels in operation and under development across 115 countries and territories.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the second half of 2016.

The news follows this month’s shareholder approval for the merger deal between Marriott International and Starwood Hotels and Resorts (see news April 11).

carlson.com

Mark Caswell

See Why the hotel mergers have only just begun