Qatar Airways to roll out “Super wifi” across B777 and A350s

Qatar Airways A350

Qatar Airways has announced plans to roll out high-speed “Super wifi” across its fleet of B777 and A350 aircraft.

The carrier says it is the first airline in the MENA region “to have invested in the technology to provide this quality of service for passengers”.

It’s not clear how many aircraft have been fitted with the GX Aviation technology so far, or how long the work will take to complete – Business Traveller has requested more information and will post it here if received.

Qatar Airways currently has around 50 B777 aircraft (a mixture of B777-200LRs, and B777-300ERs), and just under 25 A350s.

Passengers travelling on flights fitted with “Super wifi” will be entitled to one hour’s free access, with full-flight access also available for purchase.

Commenting on the roll out Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker, said:

“In another first for the MENA region, Qatar Airways passengers can now enjoy high-speed broadband connectivity, providing rich content without restriction, whether using the internet for work or relaxation during their journey. Business travellers in particular will be able to maximise their ‘office in the sky’ with seamless continuity.”

This page on the carrier’s website has more details regarding onboard connectivity on Qatar Airways services, although it has yet to be updated with details of the GX Aviation technology

qatarairways.com

Four Seasons to open Fort Lauderdale property

Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Fort Lauderdale

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is to open a hotel and residences property on the Fort Lauderdale coast, housed within a 22-storey oceanfront building.

The hotel will feature 130 rooms on floor four to eleven, while the 90 private residences will start on floor five. Facilities will include an oceanfront terrace with swimming pools and cabanas on the third floor, as well as a fitness centre, spa, all-day dining restaurant, pool bar, lounge and café.

Private residences will range from one bedroom apartments up to four penthouses on the upper floors of the building, and three “Sky Homes” featuring 20-foot high ceilings. No opening date has been given for the development, which breaks ground today.

Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Fort Lauderdale will be the group’s third collaboration with developers Fort Partners in South Florida, joining the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach to the north of the new development, and Four Seasons Hotel and Residences at The Surf Club to the south.

In recent years the UK has gained new direct flights between Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale airport, with routes operated by Norwegian and British Airways, the latter of which launched in July 2017.

fourseasons.com, fort525residences.com

Iberia Plus launches double Avios promotion

Iberia A340-600

Iberia has launched a new Avios promotion for members of its Iberia Plus frequent flyer programme.

Customers booking flights before May 15 and travelling by December 31 will get double Avios. The offer is valid on all flights operated by Iberia Group carriers, including Iberia Express and Air Nostrum services, but not on codeshare flights.

Note that Iberia Plus members who have held an account for at least 90 days, are able to combine their Avios with those held in the British Airways Executive Club scheme.

This is also currently the case with transfers to the Avios Travel Rewards Programme, although this scheme is set to close later this year.

iberia.com

Brussels Airlines expands The Loft lounge

The Loft by Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines has unveiled a new 800sqm extension to The Loft lounge at Brussels airport, in partnership with luxury Japanese car brand Lexus.

The Loft was originally opened in 2014, and has now been expanded to 2,040sqm in size, with a total capacity for 500 guests.

Designed by Lexus, the additional space showcases objects from the Lexus design awards, and follows the traditions omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality.

New features include a VIP area for HON Circle members, with a Miele kitchen offering “an array of the finest gastronomy”, a game room with a red velvet pool table, a Grohe spa with 11 bathrooms, private nap rooms inspired by the carrier’s forthcoming new long-haul business class offering, and a massage area with Panasonic relax chairs which simulate “the Shiatsu treatment available in the seating of the new Lexus LS sedan”.

With the aim of being “an ambassador for Belgium”, Brussels Airlines has also incorporated elements including historical items from the Tintin universe, food by Belgian caterer Newrest, coffee by family-owned company Rombouts, chocolates by Neuhaus, and beers from AB inBev at the Belgian Bar.

Commenting on the new space Tanguy Cartuyvels, vice president marketing at Brussels Airlines, said:

“Omotenashi fits perfectly with the Brussels Airlines mantra ‘We go the extra smile’. Customers are treated with the welcome and hospitality that would be given to a guest at home.

“Our guests spend a great amount of time in The Loft, 74 minutes on average, so it is important to provide them with a high quality service and to make sure they have an inspiring space to relax or to work before the flight.”

The Loft by Brussels Airlines is located within Pier A at Brussels airport – the carrier also operates The Suite lounge within Pier B at the airport.

brusselsairlines.com

Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty & Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre opens

Grand Hyatt Kochi

Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty & Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre has opened. 

It is the third Grand Hyatt-branded hotel in India and is located near the historic town of Fort Kochi. 

The luxury property is situated by the waterfront and has access to one of the largest event spaces in South India. The adjacent Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre features 6,500 sqm of indoor and 4,000 sqm of outdoor spaces for weddings, congresses, events, meetings, gala dinners, fairs and product launches.

Its 264 rooms include 38 suites and four villas. Basic room amenities include a 49-inch Smart IPTV, a stocked minibar, a safety deposit box, an iron and ironing board, free wifi and June Jacobs bathroom amenities.

There are a number of F&B outlets on the property to choose from – Colony Clubhouse & Grill (rooftop grill), Malabar Café (all-day dining restaurant), Grand Club Lounge (accessible by guests of Grand Club rooms and suites), Pool Bar and Thai Soul.

Leisure facilities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and Śāntata spa that sprawls over 1,000 sqm and features an indoor swimming pool. There is also an outdoor yoga lawn, lawn tennis court, three helipads and a waterside amphitheatre.

“We are delighted to introduce the Grand Hyatt brand to Kerala and increase the footprint of the Grand Hyatt brand in India”, said Sunjae Sharma, vice president India operations at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.  

kochibolgatty.grand.hyatt.com

Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty & Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre has opened. 

It is the third Grand Hyatt-branded hotel in India and is located near the historic town of Fort Kochi. 

The luxury property is situated by the waterfront and has access to one of the largest event spaces in South India. The adjacent Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre features 6,500 sqm of indoor and 4,000 sqm of outdoor spaces for weddings, congresses, events, meetings, gala dinners, fairs and product launches.

Its 264 rooms include 38 suites and four villas. Basic room amenities include a 49-inch Smart IPTV, a stocked minibar, a safety deposit box, an iron and ironing board, free wifi and June Jacobs bathroom amenities.

There are a number of F&B outlets on the property to choose from – Colony Clubhouse & Grill (rooftop grill), Malabar Café (all-day dining restaurant), Grand Club Lounge (accessible by guests of Grand Club rooms and suites), Pool Bar and Thai Soul.

Leisure facilities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and Śāntata spa that sprawls over 1,000 sqm and features an indoor swimming pool. There is also an outdoor yoga lawn, lawn tennis court, three helipads and a waterside amphitheatre.

“We are delighted to introduce the Grand Hyatt brand to Kerala and increase the footprint of the Grand Hyatt brand in India”, said Sunjae Sharma, vice president India operations at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.  

kochibolgatty.grand.hyatt.com

Movenpick Hotels and Resorts joins Accorhotels

Movenpick Resort and Spa Kuredhivaru, Maldives

Accorhotels has signed an agreement to acquire Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, adding the Swiss company’s 84 hotels to its portfolio.

The French hotel group announced the acquisition today, for a cash amount of 560 million Swiss francs (US$567 million). Along with Movenpick’s existing properties, the acquisition also includes its pipeline of 42 new properties – many of which are located in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa – that it plans to open by 2021.

“With the acquisition of Movenpick, we are consolidating our leadership in the European market and are further accelerating our growth in emerging markets, in particular in Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific,” said Sebastien Bazin, Accorhotels CEO.

“By joining the Group, it will benefit from Accorhotels’ power, particularly in terms of distribution, loyalty-building and development. This transaction illustrates the strategy we intend to pursue with the opening up of Accorinvest’s capital: to seize tactical opportunities to strengthen our positions and consolidate our leaderships, as well as leverage our growth.”

Details of these benefits, such as integration with Accorhotels’ loyalty scheme, have yet to be announced, though the company has stated the transaction should be completed during the second half of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals.

Accorhotels has been significantly expanding its portfolio through acquisitions over the past few years, notable with the addition of Australian-based Mantra Group last year and FRHI Hotels and Resorts – which includes the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel brands – in 2016.

But the French company is not alone in this regard. Last month, Marriott International announced plans for its new integrated loyalty programme following its merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016.

Marriott is now the largest hotel group in the world.

Relais & Châteaux gives back to the community

Resplendent Ceylon, Sri Lanka

Relais & Châteaux gives back to the community

Each year it will celebrate April 10 as the first Charity Day of the Indian subcontinent

Relais & Châteaux has announced April 10 as the first Charity Day of the Indian subcontinent. This is when members of the association will come together each year to bring about awareness of socio-economic issues and applaud initiatives by fellow members.

Relais & Châteaux is associated with over 572 independent hotels and restaurants in the luxury space, from about 66 countries. Each one is dedicated to sustainable tourism and giving back to the local community in their own way. Most members are in remote locations and are working towards creating jobs and developing infrastructure at these places.

Jaisal Singh, VP Asia and member of the executive committee, board of directors, Relais & Châteaux said: “As a testament of our unwavering pledge towards preserving local culture and diversity, we are happy to announce the first Charity Day of the Indian subcontinent. United by a passion for excellence in hospitality and a desire to share, each member of Relais & Châteaux is connected with the common goal to protect the local heritage and environment. The delegation shall commemorate this day each year going forward.”

As to why the Indian subcontinent has been chosen for this commemoration, a Relais & Châteaux statement explains that “the Indian subcontinent is historically renowned as the land of Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. The tradition of giving and caring for the less fortunate goes back centuries, and is part of our scriptures and deep-rooted customs as well as beliefs”.

For the first Charity Day, 15 members hotels began initiatives or took a pledge to help the local community. These include aiding local artisans in selling their products, conducting medical camps, educating underprivileged children and providing them with school supplies and toys, and building toilets to name a few.

relaischateaux.com

FORM Hotel Dubai opens

FORM Hotel Dubai

FORM Hotel Dubai has opened in the neighbourhood of Al Jadaf and Culture Village.

The 136-key design centric hotel is the flagship property of Smartotels Hospitality. It is a member of Design Hotels, a network of over 300 independently owned small boutique and luxury hotels in over 50 countries worldwide.

Located only 4 km from Dubai International Airport, FORM Hotel Dubai is 9 km from Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa.

All guest-rooms are equipped with a 49-inch HDTV Google Chromecast, high speed free wifi and walk-in rain shower. Leisure facilities include a rooftop swimming pool and a fitness centre.

Hotel guests can select from a series of add-on service and amenity features under “weForm” such as turndown service, luxurious bathrobes, and an array of alternative offerings like private yoga sessions, designer pyjamas, sneaker cleaning kits, and curated art and foodie tours. They have access to complimentary breakfast as well.

Meeting spaces include the 24sqm room called co.lab that has a 65-inch Samsung HDTV screen for video conferencing.

“We announced our intention to bring a technology-driven design hotel concept to the UAE precisely one year ago. Today, we’re delighted to be able to confirm that we will be delivering this landmark project to guests both on time and under budget. We believe Dubai’s maturing hotel market is now prepared to welcome a creative hotel offering like ours, and that it is the ideal time to deliver FORM, a novel and design-focused boutique hotel aimed at forward-thinking travellers,” says Tarek M. Daouk, founder and managing director at Smartotels Hospitality.

form-hotel.com

FORM Hotel Dubai has opened in the neighbourhood of Al Jadaf and Culture Village.

The 136-key design centric hotel is the flagship property of Smartotels Hospitality. It is a member of Design Hotels, a network of over 300 independently owned small boutique and luxury hotels in over 50 countries worldwide.

Located only 4 km from Dubai International Airport, FORM Hotel Dubai is 9 km from Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa.

All guest-rooms are equipped with a 49-inch HDTV Google Chromecast, high speed free wifi and walk-in rain shower. Leisure facilities include a rooftop swimming pool and a fitness centre.

Hotel guests can select from a series of add-on service and amenity features under “weForm” such as turndown service, luxurious bathrobes, and an array of alternative offerings like private yoga sessions, designer pyjamas, sneaker cleaning kits, and curated art and foodie tours. They have access to complimentary breakfast as well.

Meeting spaces include the 24sqm room called co.lab that has a 65-inch Samsung HDTV screen for video conferencing.

“We announced our intention to bring a technology-driven design hotel concept to the UAE precisely one year ago. Today, we’re delighted to be able to confirm that we will be delivering this landmark project to guests both on time and under budget. We believe Dubai’s maturing hotel market is now prepared to welcome a creative hotel offering like ours, and that it is the ideal time to deliver FORM, a novel and design-focused boutique hotel aimed at forward-thinking travellers,” says Tarek M. Daouk, founder and managing director at Smartotels Hospitality.

form-hotel.com

Hainan Airlines announces its third Tel Aviv route

A view to the east, depicting the cityscape of downtown Tel-Aviv and its neighboring city Ramat-Gan at dusk. This is the central skyscraper area in the biggest metropolis in Israel.

Hainan Airlines will open its third route to Tel Aviv later this year, connecting the Israeli city with Guangzhou in a move that is likely to put pressure on Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific’s own nascent service.

Set to take off on August 2, 2018 the route continues Hainan Airlines’ apparent annual tradition of launching a new service to Tel Aviv. Guangzhou is now the carrier’s third hub to connect with the city joining Beijing, which it launched in April 2016, and Shanghai, which began in September last year.

As with the Shanghai service, this new route will fly three times per week using the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with the following schedule.

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
HU465 Guangzhou (CAN) Tel Aviv (TLV) 0135 0850 Tue, Thu, Sat
HU466 Tel Aviv (TLV) Guangzhou (CAN) 1245 0440+1 Tue, Thu, Sat

The B787-9 notably features Hainan Airlines’ new Cirrus 3 Herringbone business class seat products, which it began rolling out in May last year.

Unlike the aircraft’s previous 2-2-2 setup, these new seats are laid out 1-2-1 in a herringbone formation, meaning all passengers get direct aisle access. The business class cabin has 30 fully flat seats in total, offering a 42-inch pitch (legroom).

Also of note with the B787-9 is the inclusion of Hainan Plus, the airline’s extra-legroom economy seats, located in the first four rows of the economy cabin. These 36 seats offer a total pitch of 36 inches, compared with the 32 inches offered in regular economy. Both are laid out 3-3-3.

Hainan Airlines is not the only airline recently to begin flying between southern China and Tel Aviv, however.

In March last year, Cathay Pacific launched a non-stop service to the Israeli city using its Airbus A350-900 aircraft. Last month, frequency on the route rose to six flights per week, with this set to increase further in October and November to once per day.

The growing competition posed by Chinese airlines is already taking its toll on Hong Kong’s flag carrier, which earlier this year announced its first back-to-back annual loss in its history of operating. The launch of Hainan Airlines’ new route from Guangzhou, just across the border from Hong Kong, is likely to place further pressure on the embattled carrier.

Hainan Airlines, meanwhile, is one of China’s most rapidly expanding carriers, paying particular attention on international long-haul routes.

The airline notably launched four new long-haul services in four consecutive days in March, including Shenzhen-Brussels, Beijing-Tijuana-Mexico City, Shenzhen-Madrid, and Changsha-London Heathrow.

Basic economy class is coming to Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is the latest US carrier to announce that it will offer a no-frills class of service with even fewer perks than economy class seats.

Business Insider reports that airline officials said in a conference call that the new Saver Fares would be priced lower than economy tickets, and would not be changeable or cancellable.

Holders of these tickets would also board aircraft last, and be seated in the rear of the plane. It was unclear whether the fares would permit passengers to carry bags onboard or if that would incur an additional fee.

Saver Fares will be introduced this fall, according to Alaska Airlines. American, United, and Delta Air Lines have all rolled out similar “basic economy” fares.

Alaska Airlines also announced changes to its policy on “emotional support” animals, banning from the cabin animals that have horns, hooves, or tusks as well as amphibians and spiders. Cats, dogs, and miniature horses, apparently, are still OK, Fortune reported.

alaskaair.com