Qantas plans new online check-in options

New on-line check in options, including paperless check in, from Qantas is expected to streamline the airport experience from early 2009.

John Borghetti, Qantas executive general manager, said these included online check in for international customers, following domestic online check-in options already available; seat selection from the point of booking for both domestic and international flights; seat selection for those who have not made their booking online to use the “Manage Your Booking” Service on www.qantas.com; and ability for those who select their seat online before departure to receive automatic check in and have a 2D barcode sent to their mobile phone, portable device or PC.

He added that the airline was working to make sure all services were available “for customers with the iPhone 3G”.

Upon arrival at the terminal, passengers, who use the online check in, proceed to a dedicated online bag drop counter, but regardless of which option is used, all passengers and their baggage will continue to pass through required airport security.

For more details, go to www.qantas.com.au

Margie T Logarta

Cebu Pacific uses Clark as a hub

Cebu Pacific becomes the third airline to operate international flights out of the Philippines’ Diosdado Macapagal International airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga on November 9. Tiger Airways and Air Asia also use the facility to link Singapore, Malaysia and other destinations around the region to the archipelago.

Young domestic carrier South East Asian Airlines (SeaAir) likewise flies out from DMIA.

Cebu Pacific will deploy an Airbus A319 aircraft to Clark. This will fly daily to Hongkong and Singapore; four times weekly to Macau; and three times weekly to Bangkok. Daily Cebu-Clark flights, using an ATR 72-500 aircraft, started up on October 1.

DMIA is situated in the Clark Aviation Complex, covering a 2,500-hectare area with a 3,200-metre runway. It is part of the sprawling 33,653-hectare Clark Field, a former American airbase that has been converted into the Clark Special Economic Zone.

The airport is approximately one hour’s drive away from the Philippine capital Manila.

For more details, go to www.cebupacificair.com and www.clarkairport.com

Margie T Logarta

Halong Bay gets a Novotel

Halong Bay, a Unesco-listed World Heritage area, receives its first internationally branded hotel property when the Novotel Halong Bay opens on October 1.

Located on a beachfront, the 214-room property is within easy walking distance of local markets and the pier where tourists board cruises to see scores of towering limestone rocks (more like small mountains) sometimes rising over 500m into the sky.

Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Bay, a spa with an extensive menu of treatments, fitness centre, all-day dining restaurant, executive lounge on the 12th floor and a lobby lounge which provides the perfect place to enjoy tropical cocktails and a spectacular sunset.

In addition, conference facilities capable of hosting up to 300 delegates, supported by the latest in audio-visual equipment are available.

Go to www.notovel.com/asia for more information and special launch offers good until December 31.

Margie T Logarta

Miramar Hotel rebranded as The Mira

Guests familiar with Hotel Miramar, in the Tsimshatsui area of Hongkong, and returning for a repeat stay will discover it has become The Mira.

On August 21, the 51-year-old landmark took on a new name and upscale image that its owners The Miramar Group hope will inspire future growth in related core businesses such as property development, food and beverage and travel. The Miramar Shopping Centre and Miramar Tower opposite The Mira also belong to the organisation.

Refurbishment, which begun in 2007, is still ongoing, but has produced a transformed lobby in striking black and silver tones, consisting of reception, Room One lounge, Coco café-patisserie and the Yamm buffet restaurant, specialising in Japanese and other Asian treats. Of the hotel’s 493 guestrooms, 120 have been renovated, including those The Mira Club rooms on the 12th and 15th floors.

This executive accommodation, selling from HK$2,000 to HK$2,700 per night, depending on the season, features the state-of-the art Sony 500GB VAIO personal computer/entertainment centre, wired and wireless internet access, wireless keyboard, 42-inch flat-screen TV, Nokia mobile phone that allows guests to be contacted even when they’re away from the hotel (only IDD calls are charged), “Egg Chair” by Arne Jacobsen and separate shower and bathtub among others. A club lounge ¬– exclusive only to Mira Club patrons – and a spa have still to open.

The pillarless ballroom on the 18th floor has also received a makeover. It can take up to 800 guests cocktail style.

The name “Mira” was taken from a giant red star in the constellation Cetus, a symbol of what is hoped to be eternally bright prospects for the group.

Go to www.themirahotel.com for more details.

Margie T Logarta

Bangkok Air allows domestic online check in

Web check in is now available for Bangkok Airways passengers travelling from Bangkok, Samui and Phuket to its other domestic destinations. By clicking on “Web Check In” at www.bangkokair.com, they can not only check in online but also select their preferred seat as early as 24 hours prior to departure.

They then bring the printed boarding pass to the designated counter for quick ID verification and baggage check if required.

The service will be extended to the airline’s international destinations in the near future.

For more details, go to www.bangkokair.com

Margie T Logarta

SkyCity complex gets new hotel resident

It’s a view of the shimmering South China Sea or the Nine Eagles Executive Golf Course for guests of SkyCity Marriott Hotel that is set for a soft opening in a few weeks’ time.

The launch of this 658-room property brings closer to completion the airport-located Hongkong SkyCity, which also includes AsiaWorld-Expo and SkyPier. At 70,000 cubic metres of space, AsiaWorld is the largest exhibition venue in Hongkong, while SkyPier facilitates commuter travel between Hongkong and the Mainland by boat and ferry.

Besides catering to transit passengers, the Marriott’s room inventory, large by Hongkong standards, can lodge exhibitors attending shows at AsiaWorld. A footbridge links both buildings, while a car park separates the hotel from Terminal 2. According to general manager Bob Jensch, there is every possibility to host concertgoers watching shows at AsiaWorld, and having the chain’s branded Quan Spa on the premises opens up the local weekend market.

The conference sector is likewise a prime target of the hotel, which features 1,300sqm of meeting space. For families and groups visiting Disneyland, the park is less than a 20-minute ride away, while the Citygate Outlet Mall and Giant Buddha/Ngong Ping Cable Car attractions are also nearby. Visit www.marriott.com for more details.

InterContinental club lounge inspired by local culture

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts prides itself on promoting the local heritage of destinations where an InterCon flag happens to be flying. The Peranakan-themed InterContinental Singapore is a good example.

Drawing inspiration from the ornate art and culture of the Peranakans or Straits-born Chinese, the hotel features intricate mirrors, batu ribbons and louvred windows along the corridors imbuing the ambience with a sense of old Singapore. This feeling is now carried into the new Club InterContinental Lounge, which displays a blend of intricately carved wood panels, richly patterned carpets and exquisite chinoiserie and the latest technology. Leisure meets efficiency in a serene setting.

Guests seeking in-depth knowledge about Singapore can peruse a well-stocked library that even includes Peranakan literature. While those chasing deadlines always have personalised support at hand, whether that means high-speed connectivity or a boardroom to host private meetings. Meals are a whole-day affair, beginning with a hot dish breakfast all the way to evening canapés. Visit www.ihg.com

Well rested at Frasers

Serviced residence operator Frasers Hospitality is now offering more than just stylish lodging for long stays. Expect many of its newly launched properties to feature meeting rooms as well, which will be exclusive to residents.

Fraser Suites Nanjing in the emerging business district of Jianye offers not only two meeting rooms for 12 people each, but also a quiet den-like area to repair to before the next session. For those who’ve developed stiff joints from sitting too long, a red-leather massage chair stands at the ready to relieve. Visit www.frasershospitality.com for more information.

Ninoy Aquino still fine tuning

Three Philippine airlines are now operating out of the once-controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3), which began commercial operations for domestic flights in July, after almost six years of delay due to a lengthy legal battle between the Philippine government and the project’s main contractor, Philippine International Air Terminals Company. NAIA-3 was to have opened in 2002.

NAIA-3’s first tenants are Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines’ PAL Express and Air Express.

On the first of August, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific started up international services, a prelude to when NAIA-3 is expected to host more foreign airlines in February or March of next year.

While facilities remained at a minimum at press time, and certain portions of the terminal still appeared to be in the construction phase, lighting and air-conditioning were working properly. But travellers are warned to expect some delays as glitches in the systems continue to be fine tuned. Visit www.miaa.gov.ph

Pune joins Lufthansa network

India’s manufacturing hub of Pune recently joined Lufthansa’s Business Jet network, following New York and Chicago. Important European car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Renault, Fiat, Audi and DaimlerChrysler among others have established large operations in this city, 200km southeast of Mumbai. For international travellers, this is welcome news as the city was difficult to reach.

An Airbus A319 has been refitted as a business jet, featuring 48 lie-flat seats which when fully reclined, provide an almost horizontal sleeping surface measuring 2m in length. Other perks include bigger seat pitches, wider tabletops, power ports for laptops and a reading lamp integrated into the seat.

Pune, which is twinned with Bremen has about 200 German companies represented there. Flights depart Pune at 0529 daily except Sunday, arriving Frankfurt at 1050. Return is 1615 daily except Saturday, arriving India 0400.

Lufthansa’s Frankfurt-Newark and Frankfurt-Chicago business jet services are also six times weekly. These cater to bankers and businessmen. For more details, visit www.lufthansa.com