American Airlines’ ‘simplified’ boarding plan is anything but

American Airlines

American Airlines this week announced a new nine-class boarding regime in conjunction with the launch of its bargain-bin “Basic Economy” service class.

The “simplified” scheme will see boarding groups announced by number, not name, with priority broken down largely by familiar metrics: how much you paid for your ticket, your elite and frequent-flyer status, and which credit card you own.

The nine-level hierarchy does not include members of American’s exclusive corporate ConciergeKey program, who will be permitted to preboard flights before anyone else.

Once general boarding begins, the first of the nine classes allowed onboard the aircraft will be first class passengers and active-duty US military with military ID. Boarding last will be Basic Economy passengers.

The entire board process will be as follows:

  • Preboarding: ConciergeKey members
  • Group 1: First Class (or Business Class on international aircraft with only two classes of service), active US military
  • Group 2: Executive Platinum and oneworld Emerald members, Business Class on international aircraft with three classes of service
  • Group 3: Platinum Pro, Platinum, oneworld Sapphire members
  • Group 4: Gold, oneworld Ruby members, Alaska Airlines MVP members, AirPass, Premium Economy Citi AAdvantage Executive cardmembers, customers who paid for Priority boarding
  • Group 5: Main Cabin Extra, eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers, other eligible corporate travelers
  • Groups 6-8: general boarding based on seating in main cabin
  • Group 9: Basic Economy passengers

Simple, right?

Our advice: just look at the group printed on your boarding pass.

aa.com

Brussels Airlines unveils “Amare” aircraft

Brussels Airlines A320 Amare aircraft

Brussels Airlines has unveiled the latest aircraft in its “Belgian Icons” series, featuring an image inspired by the country’s annual Tomorrowland music festival.

The A320 aircraft features a colourful bird on the fuselage, along with the words “Brussels Airlines – we fly you to the home of Tomorrowland”.

The electronic music festival is held in the northern Belgian town of Boom, and last year the airline carried over 10,000 passengers to the event, across 108 flights.

The Amare aircraft (which Brussels Airlines says stand for “unity, love and friendship”) will remain painted in its new livery for a period of five years, and travellers can view its flight schedule here.

The image was airbrushed onto the aircraft over a period of two weeks by a team of eight artists, and passengers will also experience special mood lighting inside the aircraft, along with the “Tomorrowland Hymn” by Hans Zimmer when they board.

The design is the fourth in the carrier’s “Belgian Icons” series, with other including “Rakcham”, dedicated to Tintin, and Magritte, inspired by the surrealist painter Rene Magritte.

brusselsairlines.com

Washington Marriott Georgetown unveils refurb

Washington Marriott Georgetown

Marriott has unveiled the $28 million refurbishment of the Washington Marriott Georgetown, including a new M Club executive lounge and “a completely reimagined food and beverage programme”.

Located at 1221 22nd St NW in the city’s West End district, the hotel was the first Marriott property to open in the US capital in 1981.

Refurbished rooms now feature the “Marriott Modern Design”, where “the experience meets the needs of today’s traveller by offering flexibility, mobility and technology-enabled work surfaces”. Guests can now also access playlists of TED talks through their in-room entertainment systems.

A new M Club Lounge has been added for Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members (or paid-for access for a “nominal fee”), which offers “elevated business services” and complimentary food and beverage options including craft beers and wine.

Other revamped facilities include a new fitness centre, three new meeting rooms and the 4,800 square foot Metropolitan Ballroom, The Visiteur food concept featuring tacos and a hummus bar, a new Signature Bourbon Programme offering “world-renowned bourbon brands, as well as signature cocktails, and locally-curated bourbon flights”.

marriott.com

British Airways tops Superbrands survey again

British Airways A380

British Airways has topped the Consumer Superbrands survey for the fourth year running, beating leading brands including Rolex, Mercedes-Benz and Apple.

The list is compiled from a poll of 2,500 UK consumers, who voted on over 1,500 brands. Respondents were asked to “consider each brand in relation to their perceived quality, reliability and distinction – the three factors inherent in a Superbrand”.

BA was the only airline in the top 20, with the carrier topping the survey ahead of Lego, Rolex, Andrex and Gillette.

Lego moved up from third to second place, and Superbrands said that “British Airways held off the Danish challenger to keep its crown, despite the challenges associated with charging for meals on short haul flights and recent industrial action”.

Commenting on the results Stephen Cheliotis, CEO of The Centre for Brand Analysis (TCBA), which compiled the results on behalf of Superbrands UK, said:

“In what can only be described as a significant year of change, the UK public have very much opted for brands that represent continuity, consistency and comfort.

“Whether it is John Lewis or Cadbury, the Top 20 brands, bar a few notable exceptions such as Google and Apple, are traditional stalwarts of UK life. This is evident from consumers still favouring British Airways, returning it again as the UK’s leading Superbrand despite its recent challenges.”

BA also topped this year’s Business Superbrands survey, which looks at the UK’s strongest business-to-business (B2B) brands. In this survey the carrier beat brands including Apple, Microsoft, Pay Pal and Google to top place.

For more information and the full list of results, visit superbrands.uk.com

SpiceJet to start direct flights between Dhaka and Kolkata 

SpiceJet

SpiceJet expands its international flight services by adding a new destination to its route map. The flight connections between Dhaka and Kolkata will be effective from March 23.

Flight SG 71 will depart from Kolkata at 0710 and arrive in Dhaka at 0835. Return flight SG 72 will leave Dhaka at 0920 and arrive in Kolkata at 0950.

Fliers can enjoy SpiceJet’s introductory offer that entails an all-inclusive fare of ₹3,549 for flights from Kolkata to Dhaka and ₹3,620 for flights from Dhaka to Kolkata.

In a recent press release, Chairman Ajay Singh said: “The new daily flight on the Kolkata-Dhaka route will help increase the connectivity with Bangladesh from India. Travellers coming for medical and business purposes will benefit from this new flight. With our much awaited mega Boeing deal finally concluded, the time is now ripe for SpiceJet to eye new markets and boost connectivity”.

spicejet.com

SpiceJet expands its international flight services by adding a new destination to its route map. The flight connections between Dhaka and Kolkata will be effective from March 23.

Flight SG 71 will depart from Kolkata at 0710 and arrive in Dhaka at 0835. Return flight SG 72 will leave Dhaka at 0920 and arrive in Kolkata at 0950.

Fliers can enjoy SpiceJet’s introductory offer that entails an all-inclusive fare of ₹3,549 for flights from Kolkata to Dhaka and ₹3,620 for flights from Dhaka to Kolkata.

In a recent press release, Chairman Ajay Singh said: “The new daily flight on the Kolkata-Dhaka route will help increase the connectivity with Bangladesh from India. Travellers coming for medical and business purposes will benefit from this new flight. With our much awaited mega Boeing deal finally concluded, the time is now ripe for SpiceJet to eye new markets and boost connectivity”.

spicejet.com

Mondrian set for Doha opening

Mondrian Doha

Luxury hotel brand Mondrian will open its fourth property later this year, and its first in the Middle East.

Mondrian Doha is scheduled to have its soft opening in the second quarter of 2017, followed by a grand opening in late September.

The 270-room hotel is shaped like a falcon, and features eight restaurants and bars, including the latest outpost of Wolfgang Puck’s Cut steakhouse concept, and a Japanese restaurant by Masaharu Morimoto.

The Marcel Wanders-designed property features rooms with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and bespoke furniture “in hues to mirror the desert”, while in the public areas design elements include “giant columns with golden eggs, a ‘tree of life’ comprised of flowers, falcon video art, giant shisha, patterned carpets, ornate stained glass and intricate mosaic tiling”.

The building also incorporates a stained glass dome skylight on the 27th floor, and a four-level high spiral staircase leading up to a viewing platform.

Other facilities will include a nightclub, rooftop pool and skybar, spa and grand ballroom.

Mondrian Doha is located next to Lagoona Mall in the West Bat area of Doha, and will be the gateway to the new Lusail City development.

Owned by SBE following the group’s purchase of the Morgan’s Hotel Group, the Mondrian portfolio currently comprises the Mondrian South beach, Mondrian Los Angeles and Mondrian London at Sea Containers.

For a review of the Mondrian London click here.

mondriandoha.com

1 Hotels opens Brooklyn Bridge property

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotels, the eco-luxury brand and brainchild of Starwood Capital founder Barry Sternlicht, has opened its second hotel in New York: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s the group’s second property in New York (in addition to its hotel on West 58th Str, a block from Central Park) and third overall. Before the end of the decade, 1 Hotels will have doubled its portfolio with further hotels in California, Mexico, and China.

Set directly on the East River at the foot of the iconic bridge, 1 Brooklyn Bridge has 194 rooms and suites across ten floors, some with uninterrupted views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

Interiors focus on natural materials, with 54 per cent of all materials being regional and reclaimed. Rooms feature Keetsa hemp-blend mattresses and a variety of plants; a 25-feet green wall takes centre stage in the lobby. A rain-water reclamation system and triple-filter water purification, as well as drawing all energy needs from wind power, contribute further to the hotel’s sustainability.

There will be two restaurants, with on the top floor a rooftop bar and seasonal outdoor space with plunge pool and fire pits. Later this year, following the opening at 1 South Beach last December, the hotel will add a Bamford Haybarn spa with nine treatment rooms. There is also a fitness centre and yoga studio, as well as a 50-seat screening room.

An extensive art collection in- and outside of the hotel features work from a number of Brooklyn-based artists. ‘Waterline’ murals in the hotel’s corner suites by Olivier Poncé reference the devastation brought by hurricane Sandy. Hitting New York City when the hotel’s original architectural drawings had just been submitted, changes in zoning and regulations resulted in a radical redesign to create the property as it is today.

The three additional 1 Hotels will open in 2018 and 2019. First, arriving in late 2018, 1 Hotel Haitang Bay will have 280 rooms and suites in Sanya, China – an extremely popular beach destination for the domestic Chinese market.

The hotel will have an onsite farm to grow organic fruits and vegetables for use in its restaurants and lounges. There will also be a 1 Hotels ‘signature organic spa’, fitness centre, pool, and over 6,000 sq ft of meeting space.

In time for the US winter, 1 Hotels & Homes Cabo will bring 115 rooms and 50 homes to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula in the autumn of 2019. The resort will have four swimming pools, a spa and fitness centre, two restaurants, a juice bar and a rooftop bar, and again more than 6,000 sq ft of space for meetings and conferences.

Towards the end of that year, 1 Hotel Sunnyvale will give the group a California outpost, with 332 rooms close to the Google Mountainview campus. Here guests can expect a number of restaurants and bars, a spa and fitness centre, and 19,000 sq ft of meeting space.

1hotels.com

Paul J De Vries

Signiel Seoul to open in April

Signiel Seoul

Signiel, a luxury hotel brand launched by Lotte Hotels and Resorts, will open its doors in April.

The hotel is situated on levels 76 to 101 of the 555-metre-tall Lotte World Tower. The 123-floor tower is the world’s fifth tallest building, and is located in the southeastern Songpa-gu district adjacent to the Han River. It takes about 80 minutes by car to reach the hotel from Incheon International Airport, and 50 minutes from Gimpo Airport.

The Signiel has 235 guestrooms, consisting of 126 deluxe rooms, 67 premier rooms and 42 suites, with sizes ranging from 44 sqm to 3,800 sqm. All rooms are equipped with 68-channel satellite TV and coffee maker, while a complimentary shoeshine service and access to the Salon de Signiel lounge is available to all guests.

The city’s highest hotel ballroom and function spaces are located on level 76. The 550 sqm Grand Ballroom features a 7.8-metre-high ceiling and great river views. There are four types of banquet room, ranging from 58 sqm to 92 sqm. All spaces are equipped with video, audio and lighting facilities, and feature a Parisian banquet menu offered by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno.

F&B outlets include Stay, a European restaurant directed by Alleno; Bicena, a Korean restaurant recognised by Michelin Guide Seoul; Korea’s largest champagne selection at Bar 81; as well as The Lounge offering refreshing tea choices. Other facilities include a sauna, gym, swimming pool and Evian Spa.

The tower also includes the Signiel Residences from floors 42 to 71, offices on levels 14 to 38 and 105 to 114, as well as an observation deck and Sky Café at the top of the building.

lottehotel.com/signielseoul

How to earn Asia Miles without booking a flight

Asia Miles logo

1. Shop online

Planning to buy a new iPhone? Fancy a fashion splurge in Kate Spade or Asos? Then consider purchasing your goods through the iShop website, and you can earn miles while you shop. The online platform has over 1,000 merchants offering varying rates of conversions.

2. Moneyback conversions

Even your daily essentials can be put to good use. A range of supermarkets including Parknshop, Fusion, Taste, Great and more, offer “Moneyback” cards, that allow you to collect points on your groceries. These can also be converted to Asia Miles. For families, up to four cards can be used on one account, helping you to consolidate your points.

3. Book hotels and cars through partner websites

Next time you’re planning a trip, book your hotel through a third-party platform that offers an Asia Miles link, such as Agoda, Expedia and Hotels.com. Similarly, plenty of car hire firms have linked up with Asia Miles, including Avis, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.

4. KK day website

Thinking of a cooking class in Thailand? Need a local mobile Sim card? Want tickets to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay? KK Day website offers 6,000 experiences in 174 cities that allow you to earn Asia Miles while having fun.

5. Write a travel review

If you’re able to write in Traditional Chinese, then share your travel experiences on Trip Advisor and you can earn up to 50 Asia Miles per review.

6. Dine out

Asia Miles has an extensive range of restaurant partners that allow you to collect miles while eating out. Don’t forget to “double dip” too, by settling your bill with a credit card partner.

7. Dine in

Asia Miles has also partnered with delivery service Foodpanda (for orders over HK$300/US$38), simply enter your code at check out.

8. Credit card welcome offers

Rack up miles by taking advantage of welcome offers on new credit cards. Top this up with referral schemes for family and friends. Standard Charter is currently offering Hong Kong residents the chance to win up to 30,000 Asia Miles – offer ends tomorrow (February 28).

9. Octopus cards

Make sure your Octopus card is linked to automatically top up via credit card. If not, you’re missing out on the chance to earn miles every time you hop on the MTR.

10. Be smart

Get into good practice for your Asia Miles collection

  • Download the app so you’re never without a card.
  • Maximise shelf life: if you’re collecting on credit card, wait till the points are almost expired then transfer them to your Asia Miles account so you don’t lose out.

Vistara adds flights to its route map

Vistara Airbus 320
Vistara will start flights between Kolkata and Pune, and Delhi and Port Blair from March and April respectively. They will be part of the airline’s summer schedule.

Flight services between Kolkata and Pune will be effective daily from March 26.

Flight UK985 will depart Kolkata at 0025 and arrive in Pune at 0300.  Return flight UK986 will leave Pune at 0340 and arrive in Kolkata at 0620.

From April 15 the airline will fly directly between the Indian capital and Port Blair on Saturday and Sunday.

Flight UK771 will depart from Delhi at 0440 and land in Port Blair at 0820. Return flight UK778 will leave Port Blair at 1330 and reach Delhi at 1930.

An A320 airbus will fly both routes.

A press release from Vistara reads: “These new flights are in addition to Vistara’s recently announced service to Amritsar from both Delhi and Mumbai, and to Leh (Ladakh) from Delhi, both starting in March”.

airvistara.com

Netra Venkateshwaran

Vistara will start flights between Kolkata and Pune, and Delhi and Port Blair from March and April respectively. They will be part of the airline’s summer schedule.

Flight services between Kolkata and Pune will be effective daily from March 26.

Flight UK985 will depart Kolkata at 0025 and arrive in Pune at 0300.  Return flight UK986 will leave Pune at 0340 and arrive in Kolkata at 0620.

From April 15 the airline will fly directly between the Indian capital and Port Blair on Saturday and Sunday.

Flight UK771 will depart from Delhi at 0440 and land in Port Blair at 0820. Return flight UK778 will leave Port Blair at 1330 and reach Delhi at 1930.

An A320 airbus will fly both routes.

A press release from Vistara reads: “These new flights are in addition to Vistara’s recently announced service to Amritsar from both Delhi and Mumbai, and to Leh (Ladakh) from Delhi, both starting in March”.

airvistara.com

Netra Venkateshwaran