Virgin Australia launches Economy X product

Virgin Australia Economy X

Virgin Australia has launched a new enhanced economy product on its domestic and international services.

Economy X offers seats with extra legroom (between 34 and 39 inches), located either at the front of the aircraft or in the emergency exit rows.

On domestic services customers also benefit from preferred access to overhead locker space, as well as priority security screening and priority boarding.

Meanwhile on international long-haul flights Economy X passengers enjoy a guaranteed first meal choice, and noise cancelling headphones.

The additional charge for Economy X seats ranges from $29 for short-haul services such as Melbourne-Sydney, to $149 for long-haul flights between Sydney and Los Angeles.

The new service – which replaces the carrier’s previous Economy Space + product – is available for purchase from today, for travel from May 21, on Virgin Australia operated flights on the carrier’s B737, B777, A330, E190, ATR 72 and Fokker 100 aircraft.

In other news the airline will also start a three-month trial of inflight wifi on one of its B737-800 aircraft next month, ahead of plans to roll out the service across its B737, B777 and A330 fleet.

virginaustralia.com

Sir Freddie Laker to feature on Norwegian’s B737 Max tail fins

Norwegian B737 Max with Sir Freddie Laker tail fin

Norwegian has announced the next in its series of British tail fin heroes, with the aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker set to feature on the carrier’s new B737 Max aircraft.

The airline recently announced plans to launch transatlantic flights from five Irish and Scottish airports this summer, operated by new B737 Max aircraft.

Laker was a pioneer of the no frills airline model, with Lakers Airways offering low-cost “Skytrain” services between London and New York during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Norwegian said that “Sir Freddie’s legacy has been a clear inspiration to Norwegian’s own low-cost long-haul growth”.

Commenting on the news Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said:

“Norwegian continues to see huge growth in our transatlantic flights but we are standing on the shoulders of giants like Sir Freddie Laker who first pioneered the idea that travel should be affordable for all.

“Millions of passengers around the world owe a huge debt to Laker who first opened the door to the affordable fares we all now enjoy. We are honoured to have Sir Freddie as one of our tail fin heroes and it is especially fitting that he will be the first face on our brand new Max aircraft serving new transatlantic routes between the UK, Europe and the US this summer.”

Sir Freddie Laker will be the third in the carrier’s British tail fin heroes series, following author Roald Dahl and pioneering pilot Amy Johnson.

norwegian.com

Brussels Airlines has launched direct flights between Mumbai and Brussels

 

Brussels Airlines started direct flight services between Mumbai and Brussels from March 30. The airline’s Airbus A330 flies the route on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Flight SN602 departs Mumbai at 0105 and arrives in Brussels at 0715. Return flight SN601 departs Brussels at 1045 and lands in Mumbai at 2300.

In a recent press release, Brussels Airlines’ director in India, Patrick Roofthooft stated: “Our new service received a warm welcome here in the Indian market. We see very encouraging booking results for travel to Belgium and many destinations beyond Brussels like Canada, the States, the UK, Spain, France and several African destinations.”

brusselsairlines.com

Brussels Airlines started direct flight services between Mumbai and Brussels from March 30. The airline’s Airbus A330 flies the route on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Flight SN602 departs Mumbai at 0105 and arrives in Brussels at 0715. Return flight SN601 departs Brussels at 1045 and lands in Mumbai at 2300.

In a recent press release, Brussels Airlines’ director in India, Patrick Roofthooft stated: “Our new service received a warm welcome here in the Indian market. We see very encouraging booking results for travel to Belgium and many destinations beyond Brussels like Canada, the States, the UK, Spain, France and several African destinations.”

brusselsairlines.com

World of Hyatt launches first promotion

World of Hyatt

Hyatt has launched the first promotion under its revamped World of Hyatt loyalty programme.

The new scheme replaces the previous Hyatt Gold Passport programme, and is part of Hyatt’s recently launched World of Hyatt “global platform”.

The Double Points for Being You promotion see members earn double points for all stays between April 1 and June 30, starting with their second stay.

Members must pre-register for the offer at worldofhyatt.com/doublepoints.

Under non-promotional conditions members earn five base points per US Dollar spent at Hyatt locations worldwide and 12 participating M Life Rewards destinations in Las Vegas.

In addition member receive a free night award for staying at five different Hyatt brands.

hyatt.com

Cathay Pacific confirms ten-across seating on B777s

Cathay Pacific B777-300ER

Cathay Pacific has confirmed plans to move to a ten-across economy seating layout on its B777 fleet.

As previously reported by Business Traveller, the carrier had been considering switching from a 3-3-3 to a 3-4-3 configuration, in line with carriers including Qatar Airways, Eva Air, United and British Airways (on its Gatwick-based B777s).

This move has now been confirmed, with Cathay saying that “The airline will be aligning the practice of many notable premium carriers by adopting the industry standard of a 3-4-3 seating configuration in the Economy Class cabins of its 48 Boeing 777-300ER long-haul aircraft and 17 Boeing 777-300 regional aircraft”.

The changes will be made between mid-2018 and 2020, with a new “ergonomically-designed seat” offering a width of 17.2 inches (which Cathay says is “comparable to other premium airlines”), recline of six inches, and a pitch of 32 inches.

The carrier’s B777-300ERs will also see the size of the IFE screen in economy increased from nine to 12 inches, with a “much higher screen resolution”.

Cathay says that “Having had the benefit of time to assess other airlines’ experience, in addition to understanding and evaluating customer sentiment, Cathay Pacific will also be enhancing the products and services it provides in the cabin”.

Highlighted features include:

  • the IFE box being housed within the seat structure “to allow passengers generous legroom”
  • seats which will be thinner but which will offer “thick and highly customised cushioning that has been extensively tested to ensure comfort”
  • a new leather headrest
  • an armrest which “lies flush to the seat and therefore does not encroach into the passenger’s seat space”, which Cathay says “also allows passengers more shoulder space”
  • A Personal Electronic Device (PED) holder to allow passengers to use their own mobile devices onboard, as well as faster device charging capabilities
  • A cup holder integrated into the PED holder, “meaning passengers can enjoy beverages while working or watching entertainment without deploying their tray tables”

The carrier also said that “wifi connectivity onboard the 777 fleet, across all classes, is being considered”.

Cathay stressed that “The decision to adopt this [ten-across] industry standard has involved extensive research and customer testing to ensure that the new product not only meets the expectations of customers, but exceeds them”.

The carrier also said that the move “will in part help enable the airline to deliver on its goal of growing capacity by 4-5 per cent per annum when the capacity of Hong Kong International Airport is constrained”.

cathaypacific.com

Novotel to debut in Guwahati

AccorHotels is all set to launch its midscale property, Novotel Guwahati GS Road, in July this year. The hospitality group is in partnership with SM JDB Estate, CMD, SM group for this upcoming project.

The 122-key property will be located within close proximity to the local attractions as well as the business and government districts. It is situated 25kms from Guwahati International Airport and will be adjacent to the upcoming JBD mall in the area.

Novotel Guwahati GS Road will house an all-day eatery along with a lobby bar and lounge, and a rooftop pool and bar. Guests will be able to rejuvenate at the hotel’s health club that includes a gym and sauna. Further, the property will have four meeting spaces for small and large gatherings.

In a recent press release, the VP of development and special projects of South Asia AccorHotels, Lokesh Sabharwal stated: “With plenty of local tourist attractions and easy access to Northeast’s unbridled natural beauty, the city is also a paradise for holidaymakers. We are certain the opening of Novotel Guwahati GS Road will help in boosting the infrastructure for domestic and international travellers alike. With construction in full swing, Novotel Shillong is set to open its doors to guests next year, further expanding and strengthening our presence in the region.”

novotel.com

AccorHotels is all set to launch its midscale property, Novotel Guwahati GS Road, in July this year. The hospitality group is in partnership with SM JDB Estate, CMD, SM group for this upcoming project.

The 122-key property will be located within close proximity to the local attractions as well as the business and government districts. It is situated 25kms from Guwahati International Airport and will be adjacent to the upcoming JBD mall in the area.

Novotel Guwahati GS Road will house an all-day eatery along with a lobby bar and lounge, and a rooftop pool and bar. Guests will be able to rejuvenate at the hotel’s health club that includes a gym and sauna. Further, the property will have four meeting spaces for small and large gatherings.

In a recent press release, the VP of development and special projects of South Asia AccorHotels, Lokesh Sabharwal stated: “With plenty of local tourist attractions and easy access to Northeast’s unbridled natural beauty, the city is also a paradise for holidaymakers. We are certain the opening of Novotel Guwahati GS Road will help in boosting the infrastructure for domestic and international travellers alike. With construction in full swing, Novotel Shillong is set to open its doors to guests next year, further expanding and strengthening our presence in the region.”

novotel.com

Qatar Airways offers free laptops on US flights

Qatar Airways laptop loan service poster

Qatar Airways has announced that it will provide a laptop computer loan service to business class passengers affected by the US government’s disruptive electronics ban.

The complimentary laptops will be available to those travelling in business class on all US-bound flights from next week, and can be collected after boarding. Customers will be able to download their work on to a USB before boarding, and continue working once airborne.

As Emirates has done, Qatar Airways is offering a special service at the gate for all passengers, whereby any electronic items prohibited by the new ban are collected and securely packaged. These are then tagged, loaded as check-in baggage and returned on arrival in the US.

Additionally, the airline is providing one hour’s free wifi to all passengers and a special wifi package of US$5 to stay connected for the duration of the whole flight.

By providing computers Qatar has gone one step further than its Gulf carrier rivals in dealing with fallout from the ban. Etihad recently began offering free wifi and Ipads on its US flights from Abu Dhabi, while Emirates was the first to introduce a laptop handling service.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, said: “As an award-winning and global airline we truly appreciate the importance of being able to work on board our aircraft, and that is why I have insisted on offering only the best possible solution for our customers.”

qatarairways.com

Hainan Airlines opens new lounge in Beijing

Hainan Airlines Prime Wings Lounge Beijing Capital International Airport

Hainan Airlines has opened a new Prime Wings Lounge at the Beijing Capital International Airport.

 

The facility is located near gate 12 of the international terminal, open to Fortune Wings Club silver, gold and platinum cardholder, and business and first class passengers.

 

Designed by Hong Kong designer Patrick Leung, it is inspired by the nature and peace of Hainan, and decorated by soft lightings and wavy furniture.

 

The 726 sqm-space can accommodate 150 passengers, and consist of several zones, such as tea zone, reading zone, sleeping zone and shower suite zone.

 

The lounge serves global dishes and includes special snacks. It is also equipped with Nespresso capsule coffee machine and will introduce themed F&B from time to time.

 

Sun Jianfeng, president of the airline said: “We need to provide a wide variety of services to meet the demands from passengers who have different language and cultural backgrounds. We have to keep providing personalised products and high standard of services.

 

“In recent years, Hainan Airlines has been introducing new aircraft, cabin configuration and facilities, as well as ground products. We hope our services and products can reach the international standard.”

 

hnair.com

Hotel update: Global round-up

Four Seasons Tianjin
Located in the northern Chinese city’s business district, the hotel has opened within a high-rise tower offering 259 rooms, alongside 90 residential unites and 5,000 sqm of retail space. Facilities include three restaurants, two ballrooms, a spa, a gym, residential club lounge and meeting rooms. Inside, an 18-metre high atrium connects the ballroom levels with the public areas. fourseasons.com

Hilton Saint Petersburg ExpoForum
Located within Saint Petersburg’s ExpoForum, the hotel has opened with 169 rooms, two restaurants, a bar and an executive lounge. To cater for events, it has eight meeting rooms and a pillar-less ballroom that can accommodate 550 guests, as well as a two-level spa with saunas and a Turkish bath, an indoor swimming pool, and gym. hilton.com

Pentahotel Inverness
The newly refurbished four-star hotel has opened with 90 revamped rooms, with bespoke-made mattresses and a refreshed version of the brand’s trademark “Pentalounge”, home to a 24/7 bar and lounge, pool table and game consoles. The hotel is located on Academy Street, within walking distance of Inverness Station and a 15-minute drive from Inverness airport. pentahotels.com

Crowne Plaza Paris Neuilly
Located in Neuilly near La Défense, the 281- room hotel has a brasserie, a bar, 20 function rooms and a divisible ballroom which can accommodate up to 400 people. A garden courtyard with outdoor seating is open in the summer alongside a small refrigerated snack kiosk near the lobby. It is a ten-minute walk from Anatole France metro station, nearby the Fondation Louis Vuitton and Bois du Bologne Golf Course.

Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne Docklands
Located in Melbourne’s gentrified docklands area, the hotel has opened as part of the Marina Tower complex, a mixed-use development filled with residential and commercial properties. With 273 rooms, it has an all day dining restaurant, a pub, an indoor pool, a 24-hour gym, a spa and five meeting rooms. It is a 25-minute drive from Melbourne Tullamarine airport. marriott.com

At Six
Located in Stockholm’s historic Brunkebergstorg square, At Six offers 343 rooms designed by London-based interiors firm Universal Design Studio featuring natural materials, luxury soft furnishings and an international art collection. Across two floors of open, public space, the hotel features a restaurant, bars, lounges and a 2,000 sqm event area that can hold 1,000 people. hotelatsix.com

Coming soon
Camlux Hotel
The first hotel in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Bay district near Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Centre, the hotel is set to open in April with 185 rooms housed in a converted factory. While the exterior façade remains the same, inside, the hotel’s décor features retro design accents with two courtyards that preserve the factory’s original sky well at its heart. It will have a ground floor all-day dining restaurant, 24-hour gym, meeting room, dry cleaning, and limousine service.  camluxhotel.com

Rixos Premium Dubai
Set to open May 15, the 35-storey beach hotel contains 443 rooms, situated within the Jumeirah Beach Residence residential development. Within walking distance of the Dubai Eye, Dubai Marina Mall and Emirates Mall, the hotel will have a private beach, six restaurants and bars restaurants and bars, plus ten meeting rooms and a ballroom which can hold up to 1,000 guests. It will also have a gym with floor-to-ceiling views and a spa. rixos.com

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
Opening June 1, the Waldorf’s Beverly Hills property will offer 119 rooms and 51 suites with views across the Hollywood Hills and the Century City business district, with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. On the third floor, the hotel’s suites open onto manicured private garden terraces. Located next to The Beverly Hilton on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, the 12-story hotel will be the brand’s first new-build on the West Coast, joining the iconic Waldorf Astoria portfolio of 26 hotels and resorts.
hilton.com

W Marbella and The Residences at W Marbella
Scheduled to open in 2021, the 200-room W Marbella will be located on Playa Real de Zaragoza, a short drive from downtown Marbella. It will feature a signature restaurant and bar, a spa containing a beauty salon and juice bar, a gym and two pool decks. For events, it will have five meeting rooms plus a 930 sqm covered terrace. A Beach Club is set to open ahead of the hotel in summer 2018. marriott.com

US air travel hit record high in 2016

Busy airport

A record number of passengers flew on domestic and foreign airlines serving the United States in 2016, according to a report from the US Department of Transportation (DoT).

Considering both domestic and international flights, the agency counted 928.9 million scheduled services (not including charter flights) passengers last year, a 3.5 per cent increase over 2015. The 897.9 million passengers reported in 2015 was also a record at the time.

Domestic travel rose 3.3 per cent, while the number of passengers on flights to and from the US increased 4 per cent, the DoT reported. US airlines carried 3.3 per cent more passengers in 2016, while foreign airlines carried 6.3 per cent more travellers.

A total of 209.9 million passengers travelled on international flights, breaking the previous record high reported in 2015.

Air travel volume has been steadily growing since the downturn experienced during the “Great Recession” of 2007-9.

Southwest Airlines carried more total passengers in 2016 than any other carrier, while American Airlines had the most international passengers among domestic airlines (British Airways was the foreign airline transporting the most travellers to and from the US).

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International continued to be the busiest US airport overall, while New York’s JFK served the most international passengers.

bts.dot.gov