American Airlines’ Dallas-Hong Kong flights now offer premium economy

Premium Economy Cabin on new AA 787

Travellers flying American Airlines’ Dallas-Hong Kong route can now book premium economy class seating following a retrofit of the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that flies the route with the new cabin.

American Airlines has trimmed the number of economy class seats on the aircraft and replaced these with 28 seats in premium economy laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration. On the 777-300ER, seats provide a pitch (legroom) of 38 inches and a width of 19 inches.

This is compared with the 36 inches of pitch and 17.1-18.1 inches of width offered in Main Cabin Extra, and 31-32 inches of pitch and 16.2-17.1 inches of width in Main Cabin.

American Airlines’ 777-300ERs are also still outfitted with both business and first class cabins. A review of the business class cabin on the Dallas-Hong Kong route can be read here.

Speaking to Business Traveller, Shane Hodges, vice president of sales for Asia-Pacific, said American Airlines has seen significant demand for its premium economy seating across the region, most notably from passengers that would typically fly in the Main Cabin.

“This isn’t business class folks who are coming to premium economy – we’ve tracked that and that’s not what we’re seeing,” said Hodges. “This really is folks paying a little extra to come up from the Main Cabin, which is what we hoped it would be. Obviously introducing something like this there is a fear that there would be buy down, which no airline would want, but that certainly hasn’t happened.”

American Airlines has been aggressively overhauling its entire 777 fleet of 777-300ERs and 777-200s with premium economy cabins in recent months and the Dallas-Hong Kong route is the airline’s latest in Asia-Pacific to see the addition of a premium economy cabin.

Indeed, American Airlines plans to roll out premium economy onto all of its flights to and from Asia-Pacific within the next 12 or so months.

The airline’s two Hong Kong services – to and from Dallas and Los Angeles – are both operated by the B777-300ER, while its mainland China routes are served exclusively using its B787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners – the latter already offering a premium economy cabin.

Flights to and from South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, are solely operated by the 787-9, while its Japan flights are flown by a combination of 787-8, 787-9 and 777-200.

The completion of the 777 retrofit means the 787-8s are the only aircraft operating in Asia without a premium economy offering, though these too are set to complete their own refits by the end of next year.

On these aircraft, however, business class will see a reduction in order to make room for the new seats.

“On the 787-8 we’ve got two rows of business class to the right of door two – that’s where we’ll be putting premium economy, so we’ll be reducing the number of business class seats,” said J Russ Fortson, vice president of operations for Asia-Pacific.

American Airlines doesn’t currently have plans to introduce new seat products in its other classes, though Fortson noted that the pressure to innovate means that airlines are having to reinvent their hardware with increasing regularity.

“If you’re going to compete on the world stage, you have to continuously evaluate your full suite of products and services,” said Fortson, adding that the airline’s current position of profitability means it is “now in a position to invest in our product and service”.

This also extends to new aircraft. Back in April, American Airlines placed an order for 47 additional 787 Dreamliners.

These will comprise 22 B787-8s due for delivery in 2020 and 25 B787-9s expected for delivery in 2023.

American Airlines was the first US carrier to introduce a premium economy product, with rival Delta Air Lines having since followed suit.

United Airlines, meanwhile, announced back in January that it too would be launching its Premium Plus cabin, with international flights forecast to see the new seats later this year.

Radisson Hotel Group to open a new property in Prague, Czech Republic

Radisson Hotel Group to open a new hotel in Prague, Czech Republic

Radisson Hotel Group will be opening a Radisson Blu property in Prague, Czech Republic. Located in Charles Square, this luxury hotel is in close proximity to Prague’s Old Town and New Town. The 160-Key hotel is expected to open in the second quarter of 2019.

Some of the F&B offerings at Radisson Blu Hotel, Prague include an all-day dining restaurant, a terrace bar, lobby bar and lounge. A fitness centre and a spa are the recreational facilities available here. Additionally, this Radisson Blu hotel will offer six rooms for organising meetings and social events.

Elie Younes, executive vice president and chief development officer, Radisson Hotel Group said, “We are delighted to sign a new Radisson Blu Hotel in Prague, one of Europe’s gateway cities. With this deal, our team further cements the leading position of Radisson Blu in Europe as the largest upper upscale brand, that is relevant to both investors and guests.’’ radissonhotelgroup.com  

Radisson Hotel Group will be opening a Radisson Blu property in Prague, Czech Republic. Located in Charles Square, this luxury hotel is in close proximity to Prague’s Old Town and New Town. The 160-Key hotel is expected to open in the second quarter of 2019.

Some of the F&B offerings at Radisson Blu Hotel, Prague include an all-day dining restaurant, a terrace bar, lobby bar and lounge. A fitness centre and a spa are the recreational facilities available here. Additionally, this Radisson Blu hotel will offer six rooms for organising meetings and social events.

Elie Younes, executive vice president and chief development officer, Radisson Hotel Group said, “We are delighted to sign a new Radisson Blu Hotel in Prague, one of Europe’s gateway cities. With this deal, our team further cements the leading position of Radisson Blu in Europe as the largest upper upscale brand, that is relevant to both investors and guests.’’ radissonhotelgroup.com  

Plaza Premium First lounge officially opens in Hong Kong

Plaza Premium First - Dessert Bar

Independent airport lounge operator Plaza Premium Group has officially opened its first facility under its new Plaza Premium First brand, located at Hong Kong International Airport.

The new facility is situated at the airport’s Terminal 1 East Hall near Gate 1, adjacent to its recently renovated Plaza Premium Lounge, and is designed to be a more exclusive option for elite travellers compared with its main lounge brand.

This is reflected in the entry prices for the new facility – the lounge features a similar pay-per-use system as Plaza Premium Group’s other lounges – with rates being slightly higher than its Plaza Premium Lounge brand, though not substantially so.

Plaza Premium First

  • Three hours – HK$880 / US$112
  • Five hours – HK$980 / US$125
  • Eight hours – HK$1,080 / US$138
  • Ten hours – HK$1,180 / US$150

As a point of comparison, the group’s East Hall Plaza Premium Lounge next door offers full entry at the following rates:

Plaza Premium Lounge (East Hall)

  • Two hours – HK$580 / US$74
  • Five hours – HK$780 / US$99
  • Ten hours – US$900 / US$115

So what can guests expect with this price mark up?

For starters, customers get a welcome tour from a Lounge Ambassador who shows them around the facility, along with a mocktail using TWG tea and a complimentary 10-minute neck and shoulder massage.

Guests can also find a new table-service restaurant inside the lounge called Primo, providing a la carte dining – signature dishes include Maine lobster and capellini, and traditional marinated goose with marinated egg – as well as self-serve hors d’oeuvres and breakfast bites.

Plaza Premium First will also be the first airport lounge in Asia to offer the Beyond Meat Burger – a vegetarian option courtesy of a partnership with Green Monday – while a number of children’s dishes are also available.

On the drinks side, the lounge has the AeroBar with an extensive whisky list and specialty beverages, including a Classic Espresso Martini as well as the Pink Rose, which features TWG tea, pink grapefruit juice, Japanese yuzu soda and Thai basil. Desserts and Italian Lavazza coffee are also available at the bar.

Plaza Premium First also offers a number of amenities that guests will find at the Plaza Premium Lounges, such as private shower rooms – complemented by Elemis skincare amenities – as well as wifi. Small meetings of up to 20 people can also be held at its Infinity Rooms.

The lounge itself has been designed by Hong Kong designer Kinney Chan and features natural materials with an earthy colour scheme. There’s even a large forest mural designed to create “a tranquil and serene ambiance”.

Speaking about the new launch, founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Group, Song Hoi-see, said the concept is “a major step forward in bringing airport lounge services to a new level of refinement”.

The new lounge has been open to travellers for a number of months now, but has only just been officially inaugurated.

The opening follows recent Plaza Premium Lounge openings at Melbourne, Rome, Dammam and Cebu. The group also recently inaugurated the jointly operated Blossom – SATS & Plaza Premium Lounge at Changi Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore.

Delta broadens alliance with Canada’s Westjet

Westjet B787-9 Dreamliner

A partnership between Delta Air Lines and Canada’s Westjet that began with codesharing in 2012 has been expanded to include route integration, better connections, and frequent flyer and elite status reciprocity on cross-border fights.

The joint venture between the two airlines will include Delta codeshares on 68 routes to 32 Canadian cities and Westjet codeshares on 193 routes to 83 US cities.

The airlines said the resulting flight network represents 95 per cent of all cross-border demand and would help both Delta and Westjet compete with other carriers.

In some locations, Delta and Westjet will colocate their operations to improve customer convenience.

“Delta’s future is global and together with Westjet, we can augment the two airlines’ capabilities and bring together our strengths in this important transborder market,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO.

Ed Sims, Westjet President and CEO, echoed, “Westjet continues its drive toward becoming a global airline, and the signing of this agreement marks a major milestone in that journey.”

delta.com, westjet.com

Etihad Airways launches WhatsApp service

Etihad Airways launches WhatsApp service

Etihad Airways has introduced a new WhatsApp service, enabling guests to communicate instantly with the airline’s customer service agents. Currently, this digital solution is only available to the premium cabin guests present at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Through this new service, the travellers will be able to chat directly with the airline’s agents and get information about their flights in a quick and personalised manner. Additionally, the national carrier of UAE plans to expand this service by providing passengers with important messages like flight reminders.

Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways said, “Air travellers around the world use WhatsApp in their daily lives and so it is an ideal channel for them to communicate with the airline and receive the latest information about their travel journey.” etihad.com

Etihad Airways has introduced a new WhatsApp service, enabling guests to communicate instantly with the airline’s customer service agents. Currently, this digital solution is only available to the premium cabin guests present at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Through this new service, the travellers will be able to chat directly with the airline’s agents and get information about their flights in a quick and personalised manner. Additionally, the national carrier of UAE plans to expand this service by providing passengers with important messages like flight reminders.

Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways said, “Air travellers around the world use WhatsApp in their daily lives and so it is an ideal channel for them to communicate with the airline and receive the latest information about their travel journey.” etihad.com

Virgin Hotels San Francisco now taking reservations

Virgin Hotels San Francisco

Heading to the City by the Bay? It’s not too soon to start booking rooms at the new Virgin Hotel in San Francisco, which debuts this fall.

Travel and Leisure reports that Richard Branson’s first Virgin Hotel on the West Coast is now accepting reservations for November 15 and beyond.

The 192-room hotel is located in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) district, home to the Moscone Centre convention complex, Yerba Buena Gardens, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

Like the first Virgin Hotel in Chicago, the San Francisco property will have a flexible lobby space called the Commons Club that serves as a work space, dining area, and bar. Other hotel features include a pair of penthouse suites, a rooftop bar, and a coffee shop.

Travellers who book through a hotel service called The Know can record preferences for their Virgin Hotels stay, such as mini bar stock, and also receive discounts, room upgrades, and access to a nightly cocktail hour.

The Virgin Hotel Chicago opened in 2015. Other planned locations after San Francisco include Dallas, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Washington DC, Silicon Valley, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and Edinburgh, Scotland.

virginhotels.com

New York City steps up regulation of Airbnb

New York

Property owners in New York City who want to rent rooms or homes on Airbnb may soon be required to register with the city, and Airbnb will have to file monthly reports on its listings, Curbed New York reports.

Airbnb and other short-term rental agencies would face fines of $1,500 for each listing they fail to disclose.

The new regulations, passed unanimously by the City Council, is part of an ongoing effort by city officials to regulate short-term rentals that has also pitted Airbnb against lobbyists for New York’s hotel industry.

The measure still must be signed into law by Mayor Bill DiBlasio before it takes effect. It also is being challenged in court by a city homeowner who contends that the regulation and its enforcement by New York housing inspectors violates his civil rights.

Airbnb was harshly critical of the measure. “After taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the hotel industry, we’re not surprised the City Council refused to meet with their own constituents who rely on home sharing to pay the bills and then voted to protect the profits of big hotels,” said company spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco.

“The fix was in from the start and now New Yorkers will be subject to unchecked, aggressive harassment and privacy violations, rubber stamped by the City Council.”

airbnb.com

Think twice about logging onto free wifi in these airports

Airport wifi (iStock)

Free airport wifi is an attractive and sometimes seemingly necessary service for travellers, but shaky security makes some airport networks particularly vulnerable to attacks that could result in danger to users, according to the Cybersecurity firm Coronet.

CNBC reports that San Diego International Airport is the US airport where travellers run the greatest risk of being hacked when they use the free wifi — a threat that can include identity theft, installation of malware on your laptop or mobile device, or theft of emails or other stored data.

Malware, for example, can be illicitly installed as quickly as when you log onto a network and accept the terms and conditions.

Other airports with wifi networks judged insecure by Coronet include John Wayne/Orange County Airport, Houston Hobby Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dallas Love Field, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, and Boston Logan Airport.

“The main reason airports are problematic is because most people are taking convenience over security,” said Dror Liwer, chief security officer and co-founder of Coronet.

“When you are using public wifi networks, you should always consider your safety first. It’s a real threat, not a theoretical danger.”

Liwer’s advice to avoid being hacked at the airport is simple: resist the urge to log on to free wifi. If you do take the chance, make sure you have security software installed on your device, and heed any warnings that it generates.

coro.net

Norwegian to increase transatlantic flights from Ireland next summer

Norwegian B737 Max 8

Norwegian has announced is 2019 summer transatlantic schedules from Ireland, with what it says is a 37 per cent increase in flights compared to this year.

There will be a total of 40 weekly transatlantic departures from Ireland next summer – 28 from Dublin, nine from Shannon and three from Cork.

As previously reported, the carrier will launch a new daily service between Dublin and Hamilton on March 31, 2019, operated by a B737 Max aircraft.

Norwegian will also increase its Dublin-Providence service from five flights per week to daily, and its route between Shannon and New York Stewart International will rise from three to five flights per week.

Commenting on the news Thomas Ramdahl, Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian said:

“We are excited to increase our transatlantic flights next summer to meet demand and continue expanding our presence in Ireland. The market presents a clear opportunity to deliver more high-quality flights at lower fares for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Norwegian’s expansion continues in summer 2019 with the launch of our first route to Canada, bolstering popular routes and maintaining much-needed direct transatlantic services to maximise choice and flexibility for Irish business and leisure customers.”

norwegian.com