China Airlines takes delivery of first A350-900

China Airlines A350

China Airlines has taken delivery of its first A350-900, becoming the ninth carrier to operate the next-generation Airbus aircraft.

The Taiwanese airline has configured its A350s with 306 seats – 32 in business class, 31 in premium economy, and 243 in economy.

China Airlines has a total of 14 a350-900s on order, and will initially operate the aircraft on its regional flights between Taipei and Hong Kong, before adding it to its Amsterdam service from December 2, followed by Vienna and Rome.

The other carriers currently operating the A350 are: Finnair, Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways, TAM / LATAM, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Ethiopian Airlines and Thai Airways.

For more details on the aircraft, and a look at the different seating configurations and products across the operating carriers, see Airbus A350: What you need to know.

china-airlines.com

Air France-KLM to install wifi across long-haul fleet

Air France-KLM wifi with Gogo 2Ku

Air France-KLM has signed an agreement with technology provider Gogo to equip its long-haul fleet with wifi.

The group already offers wifi on its eight KLM Boeing Dreamliner aircraft, with Air France to launch its first B787-9 in January 2017. On these aircraft the technology is provided by Panasonic Avionics.

The new agreement will see Gogo’s 2Ku technology installed on a total of 124 Air France and KLM aircraft, as follows:

  • 68 Air France B777s
  • 15 Air France A330s
  • 29 KLM B777s
  • 12 KLM A330s

Work to equip the aircraft will start at the end of 2017.

Announcing the move, Air France-KLM said:

“With this new joint Air France and KLM agreement, the Group’s passengers will benefit from wifi during their trip by staying connected around the world with their family, friends or business partners, on their smartphone, laptop or tablet.

“On the in-house Air France-KLM designed onboard portal a freely accessible environment is available where customers can find relevant information about their flight, arrange travel details and find entertainment beyond the state of the art seat-back inflight entertainment systems.”

airfrance.co.uk, klm.com

Austrian Airlines to introduce premium economy

Austrian Airlines B777

German media reports Austrian Airlines will adopt premium economy across its B767 and B777 fleet which operates medium- and long-haul routes.

But don’t get exited too soon. Passengers will have to wait until spring 2018 before the product is installed fleet-wide.

Plans call for the installation of 18 seats in its six B767s and 24 in the carrier’s five B777-200s.

Installation is set to start in the winter of 2017/2018.  The cost is reckoned to be 15 million Euros.

Some normal economy seats will have to be removed (to make way for the roomier premium economy version) but the airline expects to recoup the lost revenue because premium economy is sold at a higher price.

No details of the product have so far been released. But it is safe to assume it will be more or less identical to that provided by parent Lufthansa.

It was only a matter of time before Austrian Airlines introduced premium economy.

Its parent company views the Vienna-based airline as a value for money carrier whereas Swiss is considered the top flight member.

Austrian Airlines’ planes have a two-class configuration (business and economy) with no first class. And economy on its B777s is configured 10-across 3-4-3.

In recent years Austrian Airlines has been adding a number of new long-haul destinations. And 2017 sees the Vienna-based carrier launch the only non-stop service between Central Europe and the US West Coast.

For a recent review of the carrier’s business class product on its new route between Vienna and Hong Kong, click here.

austrian.com

Air France postpones A380 refurbishment

Air France A380

The A380 is Air France’s flagship. The carrier’s superjumbo plies some of its busiest and most prestigious routes.

But Air France’s A380 cabin interiors remain unchanged from when these aircraft entered service some years ago.

So it’s disappointing to learn that Air France has, yet again, postponed any updating.

According to a report in France’s La Tribune the original plan was for Air France to have completed refurbishment of the first A380 fleet next year.

That programme was then postponed until 2018 but the latest news, is that it has been put back until 2019.

At a recent trade fair Air France publicised its latest premium products now being retrofitted to many of its long-haul planes.

The carrier stated the new products have already or will be fitted to its A330s, B777s.  Air France’s new B787s, the first of which arrives in January 2017, will of course have them installed.  And so too will the A350 when it arrives.

But, and it’s a big “but,”  buried at the very end of the media release comes the news that “the company is studying the refurbishment of its Airbus A380 with possible [note: possible] deployment starting in 2019.”

Air France simply needs to update its ten-strong A380 fleet.

One reason is that business class (located on the upper deck) is still disposed with the old-fashioned angled lie-flat seating configured six across 2-2-2.

By comparison most, if not all, rival A380 operators now feature flat-bed seating in business class.

Indeed three of Air France’s rivals, namely Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines (SIA), provide both flat beds and a roomier four across (1-2-1) layout.

It would appear Air France is devoting its energies to updating its other long-haul aircraft at the expense of its A380 flagships.

airfrance.co.uk

JetPrivilege partners with Flipkart

JetPrivilege X Flipkart

JetPrivilege partners with Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart. It will reward its members with 16 JPMiles for each₹100 spent on the portal.

Members can access Flipkart’s 40 million products across more than 80 categories on shop.jetprivilege.com, a portal designed for JetPrivilege members.

JPMiles can be redeemed for flights across 1,000 destinations, or at the JetPrivilege Reward Store.

“JetPrivilege is committed to finding new and innovative ways for its members to earn JPMiles. We know that our members like the convenience of online shopping, and so we are delighted to introduce shop.jetprivilege.com in partnership with Flipkart to give our members a more rewarding shopping experience,” says Manish Dureja, managing director of JetPrivilege.

jetprivilege.com; flipkart.com

JetPrivilege partners with Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart. It will reward its members with 16 JPMiles for each₹100 spent on the portal.

Members can access Flipkart’s 40 million products across more than 80 categories on shop.jetprivilege.com, a portal designed for JetPrivilege members.

JPMiles can be redeemed for flights across 1,000 destinations, or at the JetPrivilege Reward Store.

“JetPrivilege is committed to finding new and innovative ways for its members to earn JPMiles. We know that our members like the convenience of online shopping, and so we are delighted to introduce shop.jetprivilege.com in partnership with Flipkart to give our members a more rewarding shopping experience,” says Manish Dureja, managing director of JetPrivilege.

jetprivilege.com; flipkart.com

Winners of first Business Traveller Russia and CIS Awards announced

Winners at the Business Traveller Russia and CIS Awards 2016

The winners of the inaugural Business Traveller Russia and CIS Awards have been announced. Held for the first time on Monday, September 26 in Moscow, the awards ceremony was the culmination of a three-month voting process by readers of Business Traveller Russia.

The awards celebrated the best representatives of the Russian business travel market in six categories: airline, airport, destination, hotel, car rental service and roaming. Results were audited by the independent research company GfK Group, ensuring an unbiased process that rewarded the best of the best.

Notable victories included host city Moscow being awarded Best City for Business and Event Tourism Worldwide, beating destinations such as Rome, Madrid, Paris, Singapore, Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. Other significant winners included Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, which was awarded Best Airport Worldwide; Kempinski Hotels, which won Best Business Hotel Chain Worldwide; and Singapore Airlines, which was named Best Asian Airline.

The Business Traveller Russia and CIS Awards is a valuable tool for the business travel market to determine customer loyalty and satisfaction – the so-called positive index of Customer Experience. The specially developed questionnaire and opinion poll, covering a variety of professional spheres, ensure the awards highlight the needs of both corporate and individual travellers as well as determine the quality standards of travel services.

First held in 1988 in the UK, the Business Traveller Awards have won an enviable reputation as authoritative and respected events, and today are held in 12 countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Poland, the US, India, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

businesstraveller.com.ru/awards

The Lo & Behold Group announces first hotel in Singapore

The Warehouse Hotel Singapore

Singapore-based hospitality firm The Lo & Behold Group is set to open its first boutique accommodation, The Warehouse Hotel, this December.

Located on the banks of Singapore’s Robertson Quay, the new heritage property – as its name suggests – is a converted 1895 warehouse, also known as a “godown”. According to the group, the building was a hotbed of activity for secret societies, business deals and underground spirit distilling during the early part of the 20th century.

Following its renovation, designed by local agency Asylum, the property now exists as a 37-room hotel with spacious rooms, peaked roofs and original industrial details. Meanwhile, in order to add to the Singaporean heritage feel, the hotel locally sources its in-room minibars, uniforms, bicycles, artwork, guidebooks, and tea and coffee.

The hotel features a signature restaurant and bar, Po, located in the communal lobby area, with a menu designed by chef Willin Low, founder of modern Singaporean restaurant Wild Rocket. The cocktail menu, meanwhile, follows the history of the building with concoctions that reflect the three phases of the building’s existence. These include: rustic, spice-driven cocktails reflecting the property’s prominence within the spice trade; house-crafted spirits paying homage to its underworld distillery past, and fun cocktails mimicking its popularity as a modern disco.

“Hotels are a natural extension of our strength as a hospitality group, both in concept design and guest experience,” said Wee Teng Wen, managing partner of the group. “The fact that The Warehouse Hotel is located in a ‘godown’ is particularly unique and creates the opportunity to offer something with depth and soul. We’re proud that this heritage project is our group’s inaugural hotel, owned, designed and operated 100 per cent locally.”

Known for its F&B offerings, The Lo & Behold has made its name for restaurants and bars such as All-American Diner OverEasy and local Singaporean bar Loof.

lobehold.com

First Airbus A330neo begins final assembly

Airbus A330 neo

The first of Airbus’ forthcoming A330neo aircraft has begun final assembly at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Toulouse.

The aircraft will feature the latest generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7,000 engines, and the all-new Airspace by Airbus cabin.

TAP Portugal will be the launch customer for the A330neo (the neo standing for New Engine Option), and is scheduled to take delivery of its first A330-900 towards the end of next year.

The carrier will also be the launch customer for the Airspace cabin, which Airbus says will offer larger overhead storage bins, “spacious and contemporary lavatories”, wider seats (18 inches in economy) and aisles, unobstructed under-seat foot space and LED technology ambient lighting.

A total of ten customers have ordered 186 A330neo aircraft so far, including Delta, Air Asia X and Garuda Indonesia.

airbus.com

Air Berlin to downsize

Air Berlin

In a bid to stem its losses Air Berlin has taken the dramatic step of downsizing its operations.

By next year, Germany’s second largest airline will have transferred up to 40 Airbus A320 aircraft to rival Lufthansa. Some 1,200 staff face redundancy.

Oneworld member Air Berlin (which is 30 per cent owned by Gulf carrier Etihad) has been a loss-maker for years.  It would appear that Etihad has decided “enough is enough.”

The cutbacks will focus on the holiday routes.  There should be little if any effect on business routes and, as we reported recently, Air Berlin has introduced its first (short-haul) business class.

In future Air Berlin will focus on high-yield business markets out of Berlin and Dusseldorf.  It will operate a core fleet of 75 aircraft.

Lufthansa will lease these 40 surplus aircraft from Air Berlin to expand its budget subsidiary Eurowings in the face of increased competition from low-cost rivals.

But that move has not gone down well with the financial markets.

This morning Reuters reports that Lufthansa shares have fallen to a four-year low. Lufthansa would see its costs rise as it expands to compete with low-cost rivals Easyjet and Ryanair.

Quoted by Reuters, aviation consultant John Strickland said “It is far from clear that this expansion will help Lufthansa to secure greater profitability. Ryanair, in particular, has an order book exceeding 300 aircraft and Lufthansa is likely to still feel increasing competitive heat as a result of this.”

In a statement to Business Traveller, Etihad says “Air Berlin has faced significant challenges in an increasingly competitive market. Challenges which have been impossible to overcome with its existing structure. The new strategy creates a lean, focused business which can compete effectively.”

airberlin.com