Etihad Airways launches flights to Barcelona

Etihad Airways launches flights to Barcelona

Etihad Airways has announced the commencement of its flight operations to Barcelona. The national carrier of UAE celebrated this inaugural service with a special event at Capella dels Angels, a sixteenth-century Gothic building.

Initially, the Abu Dhabi-Barcelona route will be operated five times a week, and from March 31, 2019, it will be a daily service. The airline is deploying its two-class Airbus A330-200 on this route.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer Etihad Aviation Group, said, “We have been tremendously excited about the launch of this service and what better time to arrive here than the month Etihad celebrates its 15th anniversary.

He added, “Commercial and cultural links between the UAE and the Catalonia region are flourishing and Etihad is honoured to play a pivotal role in facilitating and enhancing the growth of trade and the strong demand for tourism. This is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world, with something to offer the most discerning of travellers, and now for the first time, Abu Dhabi, our amazing home, is accessible from Barcelona with regular non-stop flights, featuring Etihad’s acclaimed inflight hospitality.”

The new Etihad flight service will offer smooth onward connections to major cities in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Australia. etihad.com

Etihad Airways has announced the commencement of its flight operations to Barcelona. The national carrier of UAE celebrated this inaugural service with a special event at Capella dels Angels, a sixteenth-century Gothic building.

Initially, the Abu Dhabi-Barcelona route will be operated five times a week, and from March 31, 2019, it will be a daily service. The airline is deploying its two-class Airbus A330-200 on this route.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer Etihad Aviation Group, said, “We have been tremendously excited about the launch of this service and what better time to arrive here than the month Etihad celebrates its 15th anniversary.

He added, “Commercial and cultural links between the UAE and the Catalonia region are flourishing and Etihad is honoured to play a pivotal role in facilitating and enhancing the growth of trade and the strong demand for tourism. This is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world, with something to offer the most discerning of travellers, and now for the first time, Abu Dhabi, our amazing home, is accessible from Barcelona with regular non-stop flights, featuring Etihad’s acclaimed inflight hospitality.”

The new Etihad flight service will offer smooth onward connections to major cities in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Australia. etihad.com

Marriott admits data breach of 500 million guests

Data breach (iStock)

Marriott International has announced a major breach of its customer data, with around 500 million guests affected.

In a statement the group said that an investigation had uncovered that “there was unauthorized access to the database, which contained guest information relating to reservations at Starwood properties on or before September 10, 2018”.

Marriott added that the investigation had shown that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014.

Of the half a billion guests affected, the group says that 327 million had some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, SPG account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences compromised.

“For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128),” added Marriott.

“There are two components needed to decrypt the payment card numbers, and at this point, Marriott has not been able to rule out the possibility that both were taken. For the remaining guests, the information was limited to name and sometimes other data such as mailing address, email address, or other information.”

Marriott said that it had been made aware of the breach on September 8 via an internal security tool, and that it had “quickly engaged leading security experts to help determine what occurred”.

The group has taken a number of steps “to help guests monitor and protect their information”, including a dedicated website and call centre, email notifications and free Webwatcher enrollment for affected guests.

marriott.com

World of Hyatt launches SLH loyalty partnership next week

Akyra Thonglor Bangkok, a member of SLH

Hyatt has announced the launch date for it loyalty partnership with Small Luxury Hotels.

In August the group announced plans to enable members of its World of Hyatt loyalty programme to earn and redeem points at over 50 Small Luxury Hotels properties, with a targeted launch date of the end of 2018.

And Hyatt has now confirmed that the partnership will become active for stays from December 6.

World of Hyatt members will earn five base points for every US$1 spent from this date, and can redeem points against stays at SLH properties.

The terms and conditions of the partnership notes that “at some Participating SLH Properties, standard-room inventory available for Free Night Awards may be limited, but there are no black-out dates at Participating SLH Properties”.

Commenting at the time of the launch of the partnership, Filip Boyen, CEO of SLH said:

“We are constantly looking for ways to add value for our many independently spirited hotels. This coming alliance with World of Hyatt does just that.

“Our work together will allow World of Hyatt members to enjoy loyalty benefits across a wider choice of small independent luxury hotels. For SLH, our hotels are our brand, and we look forward to expected increased occupancy with significant exposure to the World of Hyatt programme’s more than 10 million members.”

hyatt.com, slh.com

Courtyard by Marriott to open five new UK hotels

Lobby at the Courtyard Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport Hotel

Courtyard by Marriott has announced plans to open nearly 30 properties across Europe by the end of 2020, increasing its footprint in the region by around 50 per cent.

The expansion will include five new properties in the UK, in cities including London, Glasgow and Oxford.

The brand also plans to open its first hotels in Romania, Armenia, Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Georgia and Macedonia.

A new flagship property opened close to the Gare de Lyon in Paris last month, and this will be joined by another flagship hotel scheduled to open in Hamburg in spring 2019.

The 276-room Courtyard Hamburg City will be located close to Central Station, and will feature a restaurant, fitness centre and sauna, and eight meeting rooms. The hotel will be joined by additional properties in the German cities of Munich and Darmstadt.

Marriott plans to add five UK properties to its portfolio of seven existing hotels, while in France the brand’s footprint is expected to grow to ten properties (eight of which will be located in Paris).

Earlier this year the group unveiled the Courtyard by Marriott Paris Roissy CDG Airport Hotel, a rebranding of the former Radisson Blu CDG following a 15-month refurbishment programme.

Marriott launched the Courtyard brand in the US in 1983, with the brand growing to over 1,100 locations. In 2011 the group unveiled a new Courtyard concept aimed at the European market.

marriott.com

Marriott to open 15 Fairfield hotels across Japan

Breakfast room at a Fairfield by Marriott property

Marriott has announced plans for 15 hotels across Japan under its Fairfield by Marriott brand.

The group has signed 12 Fairfield properties in the Japanese prefectures of Kyoto, Wakayama, Mie, Gifu and Tochigi, and expected to open a total of 15 hotels by 2021.

Locations will include Miyazu, Kyotamba and Minamiyamashiro in the Kyoto Prefecture, Mihama and Odai in the Mie Prefecture, Chikatsuyu, Susami and Kushimoto in Wakayama, Mino, Gujo, Shokawa and Seiryu Satoyama Park in Gifu, and Utsunomiya, Nasushiobara and Motegi in Tochigi.

The hotels will all be new-build properties, located “either at or within short walking distance of the roadside service areas of Michi-no-Eki along the national or prefectural routes or highways”, and will feature between 46 and 96 rooms.

The hotels will be built in a factory using modular construction techniques before being assembled onsite.

The Fairfield by Marriott brand currently comprises over 950 properties, mainly in the US but also with locations in Canada, India and Mexico.

According to the group the brand “is designed for today’s traveller who is looking to be productive on the road, whether for business or leisure”, with features including free wifi and hot breakfast, and separate living, working and sleeping areas.

Commenting on the news Craig Smith, President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Marriott International, said:

“Japan has been experiencing robust growth in inbound tourist arrivals in recent years. This year alone, Japan has welcomed more than 20 million international travelers and is on track to reaching its goal of 30 million visitors by 2020.

“We see that, while there is increasing demand to explore destinations outside of the popular gateway cities, there is currently a limited amount of accommodations in these more remote areas.

“Together with Sekisui House, we believe in the potential of capturing this growing trend with the simplicity and reliability of Fairfield by Marriott hotels to showcase our commitment to providing warm hospitality in emerging destinations across Japan.”

marriott.com

Frontier Airlines owners to take stake in Wow Air

CEO and Founder of Wow Air, Skuli Mogensen

A new investor has emerged for struggling Icelandic carrier Wow Air, just days after Icelandair pulled out of an agreement to acquire the airline.

Private equity firm Indigo Partners has agreed in principle to invest in Wow, with the carrier’s CEO and primary shareholder Skuli Mogensen remaining a principal investor.

Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed, but the two parties said they would work to close the deal “as soon as practicable” following successfully completion of due diligence.

Indigo has a controlling interest in US low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, as well as stakes in Hungarian airline Wizz Air, Chilean low-cost start-up Jet Smart, and Mexican budget airline Volaris.

Commenting on the news Mogensen said:

“The demand for low-cost air service continues to expand rapidly worldwide, and with Indigo as a partner, we hope to take full advantage of this highly attractive market segment.

“I am excited to work with Indigo and I am convinced it is the best long-term move for our people and passengers.”

As reported by Business Traveller this week, Wow Air has been forced to return four A320 and A330 aircraft to lessors, as part of “necessary restructuring of the airline”.

The carrier is set to launch flights to Delhi in December, and recently announced plans for a Vancouver route for next summer.

wowair.co.uk

Hong Kong Airlines unveils co-branded card with Bank of China and Visa

BOC Hong Kong Airlines Visa Card

Hong Kong Airlines has launched a new BOC Hong Kong Airlines Visa Card in partnership with Bank of China and Visa that provides cardholders with a range of benefits, notably lounge access and preferential mileage earning and redemption rates.

There are two iterations of the card – Visa Platinum and Visa Signature. Cardholders are automatically enrolled in the airline’s frequent flyer programme Fortune Wings Club (FWC), and can earn one FWC point for as low as HK$3 (US$0.38) when using the card for overseas or online transactions.

Moreover, cardholders are able to enjoy complimentary access five times per year to the two Hong Kong Airlines lounges at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), Club Autus and Club Bauhinia. A maximum of four other companions travelling on any Hong Kong Airlines flights are also permitted entry each time.

Business Traveller has previously reviewed both of Hong Kong Airlines’ lounges at HKIA.

The main benefits for Visa Signature cardholders are:

  • One FWC point earned for every HK$3 spent on overseas or online transactions (HK$4 for Visa Platinum cardholders)
  • One FWC point earned for every HK$5 (US$0.6) spent on local transactions (HK$6 for Visa Platinum cardholders)
  • Eligibility to join Hong Kong Airlines’ “Accelerate” programme offering travel perks and boosted progress to higher FWC tiers, along with a range of privileges including unlimited free access to Club Autus and Club Bauhinia every year
  • 50 per cent discount when using FWC points to redeem upgrades to business class on long-haul flights
  • 50 per cent discount when using FWC points to redeem award tickets
  • Bonus FWC points when purchasing air tickets on the Hong Kong Airlines website or mobile app

A welcome offer is also in effect, which allows new cardholders to accrue up to 360,000 bonus FWC points – enough to redeem eight return business class tickets to Japan.

Other key benefits include:

  • A 5 per cent discount on in-flight duty free purchases over HK$1,000 (US$128) in a single transaction
  • Discounts on designated products on e-commerce platform KKday

This is not the first time Hong Kong Airlines has launched a co-branded credit card. In 2011, Hong Kong Airlines and ICBC (Asia) joined hands to launch ICBC Hong Kong Airlines Visa Platinum Card, whose privileges include emergency medical protection in Mainland China; and in 2016, partnered with CCB (Asia) to issue CCB (Asia) Hong Kong Airlines Fly Away Credit Card.

More details of the new credit card can be found here.

ANA rolling out new authentic fish dishes on flights from Europe

ANA's new fish dishes served to first class passengers on ex-Europe flights

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has been granted certification to begin offering a range of new cooked fish dishes on board its European flights, with a new menu already set to roll out across select services from Saturday, December 1.

The move follows the airline’s ANA Catering Service factory in Kawasaki being granted EU Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification that permits it to transport certain fish used in authentic Japanese dishes that would otherwise be unobtainable inside the EU to destinations in Europe in order to serve them to passengers on board flights bound for Japan.

With the HACCP certification, ANA is now able to serve dishes featuring sea bream, yellowtail and yellow jack to travellers flying out of Europe, and its first new menu is already set to roll out tomorrow.

From December 2018 until February 2019, first class passengers flying on ANA services out of London Heathrow, as well as the airline’s two Frankfurt departures to Tokyo Haneda, will be served a new authentic dish of salted-grilled sea bream with sesame seeds.

ANA has yet to detail other classes and services that will be getting new menus, however it has confirmed that it is now able to serve the following dishes with the EU HACCP certification:

  • Seaweed salt-grilled yellowtail/striped jack
  • Grilled yellowtail/sea bream/striped jack with soy-based yuzu citron sauce
  • Simmered yellowtail in miso sauce
  • Salt-grilled sea bream
  • Salt-grilled striped jack/sea bream with sesame
  • Japanese sake-steamed sea bream
  • Grilled striped jack with soy-based sauce
  • Japanese sake-grilled striped jack

“We always strive to give our passengers the best in-flight experience and this is why we wanted to do everything we can to ensure the cuisine we serve on flights from Europe is as authentic as possible,” said Mikio Kawasaki, president and CEO of ANA Catering Service.

The EU HACCP certification is necessary for any company to export products into Europe and requires a lengthy series of stringent approvals to obtain.

ANA recently unveiled its new menus featuring authentic cuisine from Japan’s Chugoku and Shikoku regions as part of its rotating “Tastes of Japan by ANA – Explore the Regions” campaign designed to showcase regional cuisine on board its flights.

Hong Kong Airlines to fly A350 to Vancouver in January

Hong Kong Airlines A350 side table

Hong Kong Airlines’ non-stop Vancouver service is set for a temporary aircraft upgrade next year with the carrier’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-900, scheduled to operate flights to the British Columbia capital starting January 1.

The deployment is, unfortunately, only a temporary one at this point in time, with the A350 only operating flights to and from Vancouver until January 31. Nevertheless, the aircraft offers an improved flying experience over the Airbus A330-200 that currently operates the route, and an enhanced flying experience undoubtedly will be welcomed by travellers.

Hong Kong Airlines has been taking delivery of its new A350 fleet over the past year as part of its efforts to expand its long-haul network to include destinations in North America. Vancouver became the carrier’s first destination in North America in June 2017, followed shortly after by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Hong Kong Airlines also has plans to launch flights to New York in the near future.

Unfortunately for passengers on the Vancouver route, the service launched just before the airline’s first A350 was delivered and since then has been the only one of Hong Kong Airlines’ North America services not operated by the new aircraft.

Back in September, however, the airline took delivery of its fifth A350, which was also its first to feature its new Super Diamond business class seat product. This aircraft is taking over from one of its previous A350s with the older business class seat on the airline’s Los Angeles service, thereby freeing up an A350 for other routes such as Vancouver.

As such, the A350 that will fly to and from Vancouver throughout January sadly won’t be one with the new business class seats. That being said, the older seats are still able to recline to a fully flat position and are laid out in a staggered forward-facing 1-2-1 configuration that provides direct aisle access to all passengers.

Business Traveller has previously reviewed the A350’s older business class product and service on the Los Angeles route.

The business class products on the A350 and the A330-200 are somewhat similar in design, though those on the former offer superior pitch and width.

The switch from the A330-200 to the A350 also notably increases the number of business class seats available on the flight from just 18 to 33.

Hong Kong Airlines is also looking to expand its long-haul network beyond just destinations in North America, having expressed a desire to launch non-stop flights to London in the foreseeable future.

Microhotel to open at Washington Dulles

Sleepbox

Travellers will soon be able to slumber in 30 to 45 square feet (2.78 to 4.18 sqm) of soundproofed space in Washington DC’s international airport.

Sleepbox Hotels is scheduled to open the Sleepbox Nap Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport on December 7.

The microhotel will include 16 individual sleeping pods in a 1,200-square-foot (111.4-metre) storefront space.

USA Today reports that the rooms can be rented by the hour ($25 to $35, depending on configuration) or overnight ($120-150). Each Sleepbox has a bed, but no bathroom or shower.

The Sleepbox Nap Lounge will be located post-security on the airport’s Mezzanine level between gates A6 and A14. Travellers can reserve a room using the Sleepbox mobile app.

The Washington Dulles Sleepbox would be the company’s first US location, although other airport microhotels are planned, according to officials.

Minute Suites, another microhotel company, currently has locations in the Dallas, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Atlanta airports.

sleepbox.com