Kimpton to open Tokyo property

Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku

IHG’s Kimpton Hotels brand has announced its first property in Japan, with the Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku set to open in the capital Tokyo in time for the 2020 Olympics.

The 162-room hotel will be located in the Shinjuku district of the city, home to the world’s busiest railway station, and will feature three locally-inspired restaurants, a fitness centre, meeting spaces accommodating up to 300 people, and “a multi-function chapel”.

IHG will partner with owners Tsukada Global Holdings on the project, a company which already owns two Intercontinental properties in the city.

IHG currently operates 66 Kimpton hotels worldwide, with the brand undergoing expansion following its acquisition by IHG in 2015.

There are a further 20 Kimpton properties in the pipeline, in locations including Bali, Shanghai, Taipei and Paris.

Commenting on the news Kenneth Macpherson, CEO of Europe Middle East Asia and Africa, IHG, said:

“It’s wonderful to see the Kimpton brand gaining such momentum in Asia and across the globe. It is one of the world’s most beloved luxury lifestyle brands, with each hotel bringing to life a unique character.

“This hotel’s thoughtful approach to design will highlight the best of Tokyo’s vibrant Shinjuku district, providing truly unique guest experiences with personal service.”

“With a strong and growing interest for luxury hotels and lifestyle brands, Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku will undoubtedly have a bright future of growth, and we look forward to growing the brand in Japan and throughout the region.”

ihg.com

Etihad adds real-time notifications to upgrade bidding

Customers bidding on seat upgrades when travelling with Etihad will now get real-time notifications of their bid on their screens along with receiving updates sent to their email or phone when another passenger has outbid them.

The change is part of Etihad’s shift to a “dynamic live auction” that the airline says will make it easier for passengers to secure upgrades to premium seats.

With the real-time on-screen bid notifications, the new system will allow for two or more individual bids at the same time. And while Etihad Guest members currently cannot use miles to mid on upgrades, the airline has stated it plans to introduce this feature in future.

“A first in the region, this dynamic live auction will give guests the chance to select a premium offering at a price they are willing to pay by putting them in control of the experience,” said Jamal Al Awadhi, Etihad Airways head of guest experience commercial.

“This new gamification layer will also add a fun element to travel before the journey begins, as passengers compete with each other. Our mobile responsive website makes it even easier for guests to bid on the go.”

Etihad has offered upgrade bidding since 2012. Passengers are sent an email invitation to bid seven days before their scheduled flight with the actual auctions being held from 24 to six hours prior to the departure time.

According to the airline, upgrade bidding is particularly popular among travellers flying on its Airbus A380 aircraft on routes from Abu Dhabi to New York, London, Paris and Sydney.

The change to a dynamic auction comes at a time when the Abu Dhabi-based carrier is introducing numerous changes as it tackles a loss of just over US$1.5 billion from 2017.

Over the past 12 months this has included removing free chauffeur services at all its international destinations as well as introducing buy on board options and seat selection fees in economy class, and reducing checked luggage allowance on premium fares.

Delta launches Atlanta-Shanghai flights

Pudong, Shanghai

Delta Air Lines has launched a new service between its hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport, its fourth non-stop service connecting Shanghai with cities in the US.

 

The new route has been some time in the making, having been announced this time last year. Atlanta joins three other US cities in Delta’s network – Seattle, Los Angeles and Detroit – in offering a non-stop connection to Shanghai.

 

Speaking earlier this week about the new route launch, Delta CEO, Ed Bastian, said: “This was the number one route that local Atlanta travellers have requested and we’re thrilled that we’re able to launch this flight at the end of the week.”

 

Shanghai is notably the home hub of Delta’s partner airline and fellow Skyteam member, China Eastern, and Delta passengers have access to connecting flights to 70 destinations in China through its partnership with the Shanghai-based carrier.

 

Flights take between 15 and 16 hours and operate once per day with the following schedule:

 

 

 

 

 

Delta is flying its Boeing 777-200LR on the route, with Delta One (business), Comfort+ (extra legroom) and Main Cabin (economy) seating.

 

Delta’s 10 B777-200LRs, as well as its eight B777-200ERs, are set to be retrofitted by the end of this year with its newest business class offering, the Delta One Suite, along with getting a Delta Premium Select (premium economy) cabin.

 

Unfortunately for travellers on the Atlanta-Shanghai route, the B777-200LR that is making the journey hasn’t yet been retrofitted. Delta rolled out its first revamped aircraft, a B777-200ER, at the beginning of this month, with the aircraft debuting (temporarily) on the airline’s Detroit-Beijing service.

 

For the time being, however, passengers on the new route will have 37 Delta One seats to choose from, along with 36 Delta Comfort+ and 218 Main Cabin seats.

 

The Delta One business class cabin is configured in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout. This does mean all passengers get direct aisle access, however the seats do also face outwards to the aisle rather than inwards towards the window or centre, respectively. Seats recline to fully flat beds that extend 78 inches (198cm) and are 21 inches (53cm) wide.

 

On the B777-200LR, these are currently located in two separate cabins, with 26 in the forward cabin and 11 in the second cabin.

 

This presents a few layout quirks that passengers should be aware of. For starters, the first row has only window seats 1A and 1D. These are positioned further forward in the cabin and face towards the galley and toilets, meaning disruption and noise could be more noticeable.

 

However the key seat to avoid would appear to be 10C. Located at the front of the second cabin, the seat forms part of a three-seat row (laid out 1-2) with the usual 10D seat position instead occupied by a lavatory. Not only is 10C next to the bathroom, it faces directly onto it, meaning passengers are almost certain to encounter some sort of disturbance, whether that be aural, visual or – God forbid – olfactory.

 

Both the Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, meanwhile, are laid out 3-3-3.

 

The new route follows Delta’s announcement last month that it would be withdrawing from Hong Kong this October when it cuts its only route to the city from Seattle.

 

Asia is Delta’s prime focus for its long-haul network, with many of its new routes an aircraft deployments taking place in the region. The airline’s latest plans will see it launch a new route between Seattle and Osaka on April 1, 2019.

 

Meanwhile, its joint venture with Korean Air officially launched in April this year.

First look: Hotel Vic on the Harbour, Hong Kong

Hotel Vic on the Harbour - Deluxe Harbourfront

Officially opened on Monday July 16, Hotel Vic on the Harbour is a new luxury lifestyle hotel situated on the harbourfront in Hong Kong’s North Point district. The North Point MTR station is just a two-minute walk away.

The philosophy of the hotel is very much geared towards millennials, with a focus on technology, modern conveniences and luxury lifestyle. The “VIC Loves” programme, for example, introduces guests to the North Point neighbourhood and reveals hidden gems such as the old Shanghainese Kiu Kwan Barbershop and local foodie havens.

Guests arrive at the ground floor lobby, before taking the elevator to the main arrival lobby on the second floor. The area has been created by international design studio ASFO with a theme of “urban reflections”, characterised by textured glass that refracts light like shimmering water and interlocking marble screens.

Scattered throughout the hotel are also a number of contemporary artworks: at the main arrival lobby, guests are welcomed by a sculpture from Mexican artist Aldo Chaparro hovering above the water, to again reinforce the theme of urban reflections.

In addition to a traditional staffed deck, there are four self check-in kiosks for the new generation of tech-savvy guests who prefer speed and convenience to human contact. The process is simple: after scanning the confirmation QR code or entering the four-digit code, the guest’s reservation is processed and room key cards are quickly dispensed.

The main lobby area also contains a Minority Report-style information point, where a massive touch screen will bring up a Google Map of the area and offer directions to points of interest.

The newly-built property from Sun Hung Kai Properties offers 671 guestrooms and suites split across two towers, with every room offering spectacular harbour views. Entry-level rooms start from 31sqm – fairly generous for Hong Kong, and move up to the stunning Victoria Harbour suite, encased in glass windows and complete with living room, bedroom and a small balcony.

Room designs, by Hirsh Bedner Associates, reflect a vibrant, contemporary aesthetic with clean lines, neutral colour palette and funky details such as stylised headboards reflecting a Google Map etching of the local area.

Modern five-star amenities within the rooms include handy phones (complimentary smart phones equipped with free local calls and internet for guests to use out and about), complimentary minibar on arrival, and Nespresso coffee machines.

All guests enjoy access to the wellness facilities on the top floor, which include a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the harbour, sauna and steam room and 24-hour gym equipped with an excellent range of equipment, including two virtual reality flying machines by ICAROS (appointment must be booked in advance).

Premium guest rooms will also give access to executive lounge Club Vic. This is a smart, cosy space with plenty of seating, a dining area for breakfast and evening cocktails, iconic harbour views, and a decent-sized conference room.

Food and restaurant outlets include the top floor Cruise restaurant – a lovely elegant space, again with the signature floor-to-ceiling harbour panorama, serving up quality European cuisine. This is attached to North Point’s only rooftop bar – a cool, stylish spot for sundowners.

All-day dining restaurant Farmhouse is located on the 2/F; this is an expansive space with buffet offering for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a live open kitchen section. There are multiple barn-like private dining areas, plus outdoor seating. There is also the Farmhouse Deli, offering snacks and coffee, open 24-hour a day to cater to jet lagged travellers.

The hotel is also directly connected to Harbour North – a brand new shopping and dining complex, due to open in the next few months.

To celebrate the opening, Hotel VIC has launched the Happy Piggy Bank offer, with a 20-25 per cent discount on standard rates (starting from HK$1,500 plus 10 per cent) for bookings made in advance.

hotelvic.com

Singapore Airlines to add fourth daily Tokyo Haneda service, fly A380 to Osaka

Singapore Airlines' B777-300ER

Singapore Airlines is boosting its services to Tokyo this December with the carrier set to offer a fourth daily flight to Haneda Airport, bringing its total number of flights to the Japanese capital up to six a day.

Along with its current three daily flights to Haneda Airport, Singapore Airlines also flies twice a day to Narita Airport.

The new service, operating as SQ630 and SQ639, will take off on December 28 this year, using the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The schedule is as follows:

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
SQ630 Singapore (SIN) Tokyo (HND) 1725 0100+1 Daily
SQ639 Tokyo (HND) Singapore (SIN) 0230 0915 Daily

While the majority of the flights Singapore Airlines operates to and from Tokyo are flown by its B777-300ER, it’s worth pointing out that one of these is flown by its Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner – the only aircraft in its fleet currently equipped with its new regional business class seat – while another is operated by its Airbus A350-900.

Both the B777-300ER and the A350-900 feature an older Singapore Airlines business class seat, though it is still a quality product.

Meanwhile, from October 28, 2018 to March 30, 2019, Singapore Airlines is also going to fly its double-decker A380 superjumbo on its Osaka route.

As with Singapore Airlines’ Tokyo route, its Osaka service also features the B787-10 Dreamliner – the route was the first to see the new aircraft back in May this year and the aircraft has since been deployed on a second daily flight to Osaka.

However, during this period flights SQ618/SQ619 will lose the B787-10 in favour of the higher-capacity A380, meaning only one of the daily flights will offer the new regional business class.

Unfortunately, the A380 that will be flying to Osaka doesn’t appear to be one of Singapore Airlines’ newest superjumbos, which have been reconfigured and come with a different, new business class seat, along with new first class suites and economy seats.

That being said, there are positives. The old-configuration A380s have 12 suites in first class as opposed to the new-configuration aircraft’s six. And, as with the B777-300ER, the business class product they do offer is still very good.

This is the schedule for the A380-operated flights between Singapore and Osaka:

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
SQ618 Singapore (SIN) Osaka (KIX) 0130 0845 Daily
SQ619 Osaka (KIX) Singapore (SIN) 1100 1710 Daily

Singapore Airlines’ increase in flight frequency to Japan follows news that it will begin flying non-stop to Los Angeles starting November 2 this year.

Singapore Airlines currently flies to Los Angeles via Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul, but announced it would be axing its Seoul-Los Angeles flight starting November 30.

Vietjet just ordered 100 more Boeing 737 Max aircraft

Vietjet B737 Max

Vietjet signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Boeing yesterday for 100 additional B737 Max aircraft in a move that will see the low-cost carrier become the largest operator of Boeing’s newest family of single-aisle aircraft in Asia.

The new order comprises 80 B737 Max 10s and 20 Max 8s, and builds on Vietjet’s previous order in 2016 for 100 B737 Max 8 aircraft.

The budget carrier aims to use the aircraft to develop its routes across Asia-Pacific as well as high-demand domestic services.

“These new airplanes will fit perfectly into our growth strategy, providing the efficiency and range for Vietjet to expand its route network and offer more international destinations for our customers and expand alliances across Asia Pacific, the fastest growing aviation market in the world,” said Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, Vietjet’s president and CEO.

Boeing’s 737 Max family is a re-imagining of its older B737 series, currently comprising four aircraft models – the Max 8, Max 9, Max 7 and Max 10.

The Max 8 and Max 9 are already in service, with Indonesian low-cost airline company Lion Air Group being the launch customer for both models. The Max 8 was delivered May last year, while the Max 9 was delivered in March this year.

The Max 7, meanwhile, made its maiden flight back in March and is set to enter service in 2019 with the first delivery going to US carrier Southwest Airlines, while the Max 10 will be the final aircraft in the line to debut.

Boeing appears to have found eager customers in Vietnamese airlines of late. Along with Vietjet’s 737 Max orders, startup airline Bamboo Airways last month firmed an order for 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners as part of its goal to eventually launch into Europe and North America.

Bamboo Airways expects to take delivery of the aircraft starting April 2020.

Cathay Pacific launching Seattle flights March 2019

Cathay Pacific will begin flying non-stop to Seattle next year, with a new four-times-weekly service set to take off on March 31.

 

This will be Hong Kong’s sole non-stop connection to Seattle, following Delta Air Lines’ announcement last month that it would be dropping its own route between the two cities this October.

 

The announcement comes as Hong Kong’s flag carrier gears up for its new service to Washington DC this September, which will be the longest route in the airline’s network and the first to officially fly its newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000.

 

Business Traveller was on the delivery flight of Cathay Pacific’s first A350-1000 last month. A first look of the new aircraft can be read here.

 

Unlike the upcoming Washington DC service, the new Seattle route unfortunately won’t see Cathay Pacific’s newest aircraft. Instead, the route will be operated by its predecessor, the A350-900.

 

While the A350-900 does feature largely the same seat products as the A350-1000 – the latter aircraft has a brand new economy class seat but offers the same products in the premium economy and business class cabins as its predecessor – the A350-900 is smaller, thereby offering slightly less capacity.

 

Reviews of Cathay Pacific’s business and economy classes on board the A350-900 can be read here and here, respectively.

 

Seattle will be Cathay Pacific’s eighth service to the US and its 10th route to North America, joining services to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), New York (Newark), San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver that already operate.

 

In related news, Chicago is also set to be the first route to feature Cathay Pacific’s brand new long-haul business class dining concept starting at the end of this month. The new meal service features new dishes, tableware and menu cards as well as a revamped service style that includes plated dishes, express meal options and “room service” style breakfast ordering.

 

Business Traveller was given a preview of the new dishes yesterday, as well as the new menu and tableware.

 

 

A full schedule for the rollout can be viewed here. Cathay Pacific plans to roll the new service out to all of its long-haul routes by mid-2019.

Here’s what Cathay Pacific’s new business class dining concept will offer

Cathay Pacific Business Class Dining Concept

Cathay Pacific has unveiled additional details about what its revamped long-haul business class dining concept will offer, including the dishes passengers will be able to choose from as well as how the revamped menu and dining ware will look.

 

The airline announced the new concept late last month, which is set to launch on July 30 starting on its flights to Chicago, with a full rollout across its long-haul network by mid-2019. A full rollout schedule can be found here.

 

Business Traveller was invited to preview and sample the dishes that will be offered as part of the new service, which focuses on allowing passengers to have greater choice when selecting their meals as well as more control over when they receive them.

 

The most immediate change passengers will notice is that the menus have been completely overhauled, and now look more like a newspaper than a menu card. This even extends to having short articles about food trends and dining recommendations in Hong Kong, including an article and contents on the front page.

 

As for the meals themselves, as previously reported by Business Traveller, passengers will now get three appetisers to choose from with their lunch or dinner meals rather than just one, as well as six main course options. Breakfast, meanwhile, is ordered using a room service-style card that can be filled out at any point during the flight. Both Western and Chinese-style dishes are available at every meal, and all meals will be plated.

 

A sample lunch menu can be viewed below:

 

 

 

For dinner, passengers will have a few different dishes to choose from, including:

 

  • Garganelli pasta with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and virgin olive oil
  • Wok-fried seafood with lobster soup, ginger, spring onion, and crispy and steamed rice
  • Roasted lamb rack and salsa verde, potato gratin, roasted carrots and snow peas

 

 

 

Dishes marked “Most Loved” can also be ordered at any time as a mid-flight snack, as well as being available as a main dish option during their main meal.

 

A major change from Cathay Pacific’s existing dining offering is that passengers are now able to select Express meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. These are smaller and are intended to give passengers the ability to have lighter meals if they so choose. Express meals can be served on a single tray as well, meaning you don’t have to wait around between courses as other passengers are served.

 

Breakfast is similarly served on a single tray regardless of the selection passengers choose, helping to speed up the catering process. Passengers wishing to truly maximise their sleep time can also order the Express option, which is served one hour before arrival rather than the standard two hours, giving them an extra hour of sleep.

 

There are a few limitations on what passengers will be offered. For instance, dishes in the airline’s “Hong Kong Favourite” category initially will only be available to passengers flying out of Hong Kong, though Cathay Pacific does intend to roll these out to flights departing international destinations in future.

 

Flights out of Hong Kong will also see more frequent changes to what is offered on the menu, with these being rotated every month. Flights out of other ports will rotate every quarter.

 

It’s not just the dishes that are getting a revamp. Cutlery, crockery and trays have been redesigned as well.

 

Along with being individually plated, meals will also be delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, part of Cathay Pacific’s goal of enhancing the personalization of the dining service.

 

Cathay Pacific has been consulting with passengers since mid-2017 on its culinary offerings, including trialling a dine-on-demand service that has informed the new concept.

 

While the new long-haul business class dining model is aimed at providing passengers with more flexibility regarding when they eat, it is not a true dine-on-demand service and passengers will still be encouraged to dine just after take-off and before landing.

 

And though pre-ordering currently isn’t part of the offering, the airline does plan to introduce it in the near future and is also exploring the possibility of passengers being able to order through the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

Qatar Airways increasing frequency of Manchester flights

Manchester Airport T3 exterior

Qatar Airways increasing frequency of Manchester flights

Service between Manchester and Doha will move to triple daily from May 2019.

 

Qatar Airways has announced it will be increasing the frequency of its flights between Manchester and Doha to triple daily from May 2019.

 

The carrier currently operates 16 flights per week between the two cities – double daily on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays with triple daily flights already operating on Mondays and Saturdays.  From September 18 2018 they will add the third daily flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from May 22 2019, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays will gain the additional frequencies.

 

Qatar Airways Acting Senior Vice President Europe, Mr. Ishfaq Jalal said, “Qatar Airways enjoys a special relationship with Manchester as demonstrated by the ever-increasing amount of tourist and business traffic passing between our countries and through Doha to our global network. We remain committed to providing the levels of service quality and in-flight experience that has increased the demand for our airline.”

 

Julian Carr, Aviation Director for Manchester Airport, said: “We’re delighted to see Qatar Airways continue to grow at Manchester Airport. They’re a hugely popular airline with the 22 million people in our catchment area.  Since they started 15 years ago they’ve gone from four flights a week to the three a day they will operate from next May.”

 

The flights from Manchester will be operated using a mix of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350. Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787s provide a superior experience with spacious cabins, 254 custom-made seats across its Business and Economy Class cabins, individual television screens and on board WIFI.

 

The Airbus A350-900 aircraft features a total of 283 seats, with 36 Business class seats and 247 in Economy Class.

 

Cathay Pacific is offering a charter flight exclusively for Asia Miles redemption

Cathay Pacific A330-300

Cathay Pacific will operate a one-off return charter flight between Hong Kong and Osaka in August and September, respectively, available exclusively for members of its Asia Miles rewards programme.

 

This is the first time the carrier will operate a charter flight that will only be available by redeeming miles, with seats unable to be purchased using cash.

 

The initial flight out of Hong Kong (CX8538) will take place on August 30, departing at 0935 and arriving in Osaka in the afternoon at 1425. The return flight (CX8541) will then leave Osaka four days later on September 3 at 1700, landing back in Hong Kong at 2000.

 

The airline’s Airbus A330 aircraft will operate both flights, with economy class tickets costing 10,000 Asia Miles each way and business class tickets requiring 25,000 Asia Miles.

 

This is the same as the standard award rates, so Asia Miles members won’t find these to be any cheaper than redeeming a seat on a scheduled service. They could prove to be easier to redeem, however, as seats won’t be taken up by passengers who’ve paid for their seats using cash.

 

Passengers don’t have to book flights on both flights either, and can instead choose to redeem just one of the flights while completing the other portion of their journey on one of Cathay Pacific’s other scheduled services.

 

“Japan always tops the list of favourite travel destinations for Hong Kong people, so we’re pleased to launch the first-ever chartered flights and give our members an exclusive redemption opportunity,” said Paul Smitton, Asia Miles’ CEO.

 

“We wanted to give our members a new way to access flight awards to top destinations and hope our members enjoy a rewarding getaway with their loved ones.”

 

It’s not immediately clear which of Cathay Pacific’s A330s will be making the journey, though. Cathay Pacific has three configurations for the aircraft, though its premium economy-equipped 33K cabin layout can be discounted seeing as there isn’t premium economy seating available for redemption.

 

Of the remaining two configurations, one of these has the airline’s regional business class seat product that is laid out 2-2-2 rather than the fully flat herringbone seats that are configured 1-2-1.

 

The 2-2-2 cabin aircraft also has fewer business class seats with just 24, compared with the 39 seats in the 1-2-1 configured aircraft.

 

Business Traveller recently reviewed Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seat as configured on its Boeing 777-300 aircraft.

 

 

 

Asia Miles underwent a significant overhaul last month with revisions to how its earning and redemption rates were calculated.

 

These changes notably meant that passengers earn more Asia Miles flying on about 80 per cent of flights operated by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon compared what they used to earn, while also making premium seats – particularly on long haul routes – more expensive to redeem.