Marriott Rewards launches ten million points giveaway

Marriott Rewards has launched two new promotions running over the summer period.

The Summer Bonus promotion offer members 2,000 bonus points for each stay (starting with their second stay), up to a total of 10,000 bonus points.

Meanwhile Sweet Summer Sweeps will see 100 lucky members each win a prize of 100,000 points.

Members get one entry into the sweepstake when they register for the promotion, plus one additional entry for every stay.

To be eligible for both promotions members must register here by September 5, and stay at participating properties by the same date.

marriott.com

Mark Caswell

Heathrow Express to increase peak fares

Heathrow Express is to increase its peak time ‘turn up and pay fares’ from June 6.

Standard one-way peak time fares (for travel between 0700 and 1000) will rise from £22 to £24, while business class fares will increase from £30 to £32 for travel at any time of the day.

At the same time standard return tickets for travel during the off-peak period between July 18 and August 31 will be reduced from £36 to £25.

The rail operator says that the fare increases will “reduce congestion during peak times”, and points out that the cheapest advanced single tickets start from £5.50.

Commenting on the move Fraser Brown, Director of Heathrow Express said:

“Heathrow Express is the quickest way to get from central London to Heathrow and is well regarded by passengers who score it highly for customer satisfaction.

“It is an increasingly popular way to get to the airport and these changes will continue to protect the great service we give our passengers.”

heathrowexpress.com

Mark Caswell

Etihad opens first class lounge at Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways has opened a new first class lounge at Abu Dhabi airport’s Terminal 3.

According to Etihad the space has been “Inspired by the world’s most prestigious hotels, private members’ clubs and fine dining establishments”.

Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3

The 1,700 sqm lounge incorporates Etihad’s ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ branding and has 16 zones, with features including:

  • An a la carte restaurant with a choice of Arabic, Indian and western cuisine made to order at any time of the day, as well as a five-course Emirati tasting menu
  • A sculptural showpiece bar (similar to that at the new carrier’s new lounge in Melbourne), with 75 spirits, champagne and aperitifs
  • A cigar lounge with nine brands including Hoyo de Monterray, Cohiba, Bolivar, Montecristo, Arturo Fuente and Romeo Y Julieta, matched with whiskies and cognacs
  • A Six Sense Spa with three treatment rooms and shower facilities – The Residence guests benefit from two complimentary treatments, while first class passengers get one treatment
  • A Relax and Recline area with Poltona Frau leather recliners and a video wall made up of 27 screens
  • A fitness room with Technogym treadmills and cross trainers, and male and female showers
  • A Style and Shave barbers offering complimentary express treatments and a shoe shine service, and a nail bar
  • A separate space for The Residence guests, with a Savoy-trained butler, custom-made Poltrona Frau Italian leather armchairs and sofas, a shower room stocked with Acqua di Parma products, a prayer room, and private dining
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3

The new lounge is open to the following passengers:

  • Guests of Etihad’s The Residence cabins
  • Etihad first class passengers
  • Etihad Guest Exclusive passengers
  • Etihad Guest Platinum members (plus one guest)
  • Etihad Airways Partner airline First Class guests
  • Etihad Airways Partner airline ‘Invitation only’ members (plus two guests)
  • Etihad Airways Partner airline equivalent Platinum members (plus one guest)

The carrier recently opened new lounges at Melbourne and New York, and business and first class facilities are set to be unveiled at Los Angeles LAX airport “in the coming months”.

To see photos of the new Etihad First Class Lounge click here.

etihadairways.com

Mark Caswell

Iberostar to open first US properties

Spanish hotel group Iberostar is to open its first US properties this year.

A 250-room New York hotel is set to be rebranded on June 15, and is located at 70 Park Avenue within “an iconic stone and red brick building dating back to 1928”.

Iberostar New York

The Manhattan property is currently operated by Kimpton Hotels under the name 70 Park Avenue, and features a baroque inspired lounge, and Silverleaf Coffee and Tea and Silverleaf Tavern outlets.

Iberostar New York

Meanwhile the 96-room Iberostar Berkeley will open in December within a renovated 1940’s Art Deco building in Miami’s South Beach district.

Based in Mallorca, Iberostar Hotels and Resorts currently operates over 100 four and five-star properties in 16 countries.

iberostar.com

Mark Caswell

First look: Cathay Pacific A350

Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) celebrated the delivery of its first A350-900 aircraft – one of 22 on order for 2016 and 2017 – with a lavish event at Hong Kong International Airport last night.

New A350 aircraft in the hangar at HKIA

The gleaming aircraft, on display for media, VIPs and select Marco Polo guests in a HAECO hangar, features all-new in-flight products and is set to begin its operational life today on the Manila route.

The Airbus A350 is a new-generation aircraft, built largely from carbon fibre and packed with engineering and technological innovations that increase its operational efficiency by 25 per cent.

We have written extensively on the A350 before, but in brief, its highlights include:

  • A quieter environment, both inside and outside the plane
  • Vertical sidewalls for more shoulder space
  • Larger panoramic windows due to stronger carbon fibre construction
  • LED mood lighting that can simulate sunset/sunrise and all phases in between
  • Lower cabin pressure that equates to a 6,000-foot (1,829-metre) altitude rather than most planes’ 8,000-foot (2,438-metre) atmospheric environment

CX’s A350 will use a high-efficiency filtration system that changes the air in the cabin completely every three minutes. The plane is split into eight different temperature zones for better control, and the advanced avionics of the A350 mean better reliability and operational efficiency.

The A350s wings – each wing is the largest ever single piece of carbon fibre produced in the aviation industry – flex and adapt their shape in flight, and sport the most efficient aero engine on the market today: the Rolls Royce Trent XWB.

Distinctive A350 wingtips

“From an engineering point of view, this is like going from a double-decker bus to a high-performance sports car,” said Robert Taylor, CX’s head of the A350 project.

Within the cockpit, the A350’s pilots benefit from military aviation technology with a heads-up display, and onboard computers have been reduced by 50 per cent due to technological advancements.

CX’s A350 will be a paperless aircraft – it will no longer need to carry 70kg of charts and maps because this will be available electronically. In the passenger cabins more than 30 digital magazines (including Business Traveller Asia-Pacific) will be available to view on the seat-back screens.

“This is a commercial aircraft that is as environmentally friendly as you can get,” said Rupert Hogg, CX’s chief operational officer.

In a first for CX’s fleet, the A350 will offer wifi connectivity for passengers – once the plane reaches 10,000 feet you will be able to log on to the CX Network and get connected for US$9.95 per hour, US$12.95 for a short-haul pass or US$19.95 for a long-haul pass.

The A350-900 will seat 280 passengers in three classes: 38 in business class (1-2-1), 28 in premium economy (2-4-2) and 214 in economy (3-3-3).

The new business class and premium economy seats have been designed by Studio FA Porsche. The sculpted seat shell of business class has been kept, but seat pitch is up from 43 to 45 inches, with the lie-flat bed remaining at 75 inches long.

Lie-flat business class seat

The ottoman and side bench above a storage bin are padded and become part of the bed area, meaning more space for feet and knees when sleeping on your side – a useful feature. Also very useful is a “Do not Disturb” and “Wake-up Call” feature, while the personal TV is now up to 18.5 inches in size.

Remote and seat control on a side panel, with noise-cancelling headphones tucked away

Premium economy seats have increased to 40 inches of seat pitch, nine inches of recline and the TV screen is up to 12.1 inches.

Premium economy product

Each seat gets a full-length integrated leg rest, and a nice touch are the retractable armrests in aisle seats to enhance space flexibility, meaning you can swing your legs to the side to allow a passenger out into the aisle rather than standing up. Personal reading lights at shoulder level are also well thought out, movable and dimmable so as to minimise disturbance for other passengers.

Common to seats in premium economy and economy are tablet holders – small drop-down shelves below the TVs on which you can place your iPad or other device should you wish to watch your own content. The IFE has been upgraded throughout too, with a more tablet-like user interface on the screens and a host of extra content.

In-flight entertainment screen with F&B sample

“We’ve spent the last three or four years sweating the details on our new suite of in-flight products, constantly thinking about the things, large or small, that make a difference to you when you travel,” said Hogg.

The new seat products are likely to be retrofitted to CX’s B777-300 aircraft, and the software upgrades will eventually be mirrored across the whole fleet.

“The A350 will make a positive difference to our customers, for the growth of our operations, for the environment and for Hong Kong,” concluded Hogg.

After familiarisation flights, the A350 will start operating a new Hong Kong-London Gatwick route on September 2 this year, with Dusseldorf the next European destination scheduled to receive the new-gen plane. As more of the 22 A350s on order are delivered, Australia and New Zealand are likely to be added to its repertoire, although Europe is the primary region of focus.

From 2018 onwards, CX also has 26 A350-1000s on order – the larger aircraft has an even greater payload and distance capability.

For more information, visit cathaypacific.com

Jeremy Tredinnick

ANA and Vietnam Airlines in strategic partnership

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is set to enter into a partnership with Vietnam Airlines after purchasing an 8.77 per cent stake in the national carrier. 

The US$109 million deal will see both partners codeshare on 30 domestic routes in Japan and Vietnam as well as ten routes between the two countries, from June 30.

Members of the airlines’ frequent flyer programmes will be able to earn miles from codeshare flights as well as redeem miles for award fares, starting from October 30. 

The two carriers will also work together on areas such as check-in procedures, cargo, transport and dining services and aircraft maintenance.

As part of the deal, ANA will also have the right to nominate a representative to be a member of the Vietnam Airlines’ board of directors. In doing so, the Japanese carrier has pledged to provide technical assistance to its partner in managing human resources, route planning, flight scheduling and crew development.

For more information, visit ana.co.jp and vietnamairlines.com 

Clement Huang

Strong winds cause disruption at Heathrow

Travellers using Heathrow airport today (May 31) may experience disruption due to high winds.

British Airways posted the following advice on its website on Monday evening:

“Strong winds are expected at London Heathrow on Tuesday 31 May.

“We have agreed with Heathrow Airport and other airlines to slightly reduce our short-haul flight schedule in response to this.

“For safety reasons Air Traffic Control has to allow greater spaces between landing aircraft in high winds and this has resulted in a reduced number of aircraft being allowed to land each hour at Heathrow.

“We apologise for any difficulties caused by the poor weather and will do all we can to minimise the effect it has on our operations.”

Heathrow is celebrating its 70th anniversary today, and Cathay Pacific has released a flash sale offering discounted fares on its route between Hong Kong and the London hub.

ba.com, heathrowairport.com

Mark Caswell