Hotel Jen adds Relay robots in Asia

Hotel Jen Relay Robot

Hotel Jen adds relay robots in Asia

Two properties in Singapore to debut the autonomous machine

Hotel Jen has added relay robots to two of its properties in Singapore. At Hotel Jen Orchardgateway and Tanglin Singapore, the two robots, named Jeno and Jena, will deliver amenities and room service to guests. The robots are both integrated with a software system that can easily track their to-do list once an order is placed.

The pair are almost one metre tall and can move around the hotel at a speed of 2.5 km/h which is half that of the average human walking speed. They can also ride the elevators, make phone calls to rooms upon arrival, and are equipped with sensitive sensors that know to avoid obstacles in its path.

The robots are stationed in the hotel lobby 24/7. The robots design was inspired by the concept of a butler, with bright uniforms and Hotel Jen’s brand colours – turquoise and pink, affixed with the signature bicycle image “that evokes a sense of travel”. One robot has a jacket and tie (Jeno) and the other has a scarf (Jena).

Designed and built by Savioke the robot type – called Relay – is the first fully-autonomous delivery robot. Since initial commercial deployment in 2014, Relay robots have made over 150,000 autonomous deliveries.



Clearing customs is quickest at these three US airports

US Customs sign (iStock)

If you want to clear US Customs fast, fly into Phoenix, Charlotte, or Minneapolis.

So says a new report from, which studied customs wait times at large US airports and found the Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport operation to be the most efficient among those that processed more than three million passengers annually.

Travellers passing through Phoenix waited an average of 7.4 minutes to clear customs; other airports that performed well over the 12-month study period included Charlotte Douglas International Airport (average wait: nine minutes) and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (about ten minutes average wait).

Orlando International Airport has the longest customs wait times among busy airports, ranging from an average of 23 minutes to a maximum of more than an hour.

Travellers waited an average of 22 minutes to transit through US Customs at San Francisco and 20 minutes to do so at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

When all US airports were considered, Sacramento had the longest average wait time, 32 minutes.

The longest wait times were generally experienced during the summer months, according to MileCards.

The report was based on wait times for passengers who were not enrolled in the “fast-pass” Global Entry programme.

Aer Lingus to launch Dublin-Seattle route

Seattle picture

Aer Lingus has announced a new transatlantic route from Dublin to Seattle, its 13th North American destination.

The four times weekly service will launch on May 18, 2018, and will be the first ever direct flight to the west coast US city.

The carrier says that connections will be available from 12 UK cities and a total of 24 cities across Europe, with fares starting from £259 each way from the UK when booked as a return ticket.

Flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, departing Dublin at 1550, arriving into Seattle at 1735, with the return leg leaving the US city at 1920, and landing back into Irish capital at 1235 the following day.

The Seattle service is the carrier’s sixth new transatlantic route since it joined IAG in 2015, with the airline recently having announced flights to Philadelphia.

Aer Lingus will offer a total of over 2.75 million seats across the Atlantic next year, to and from New York JFK, Hartford, Newark, Boston, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, Toronto, Philadelphia and Seattle.

In September low-cost carrier Norwegian launched a four times weekly service from Gatwick to Seattle, the only direct, non-stop flights from the south London airport to the US city.

Air Transat unveils new livery

Air Transat livery

Canadian carrier Air Transat has unveiled a new livery to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The first aircraft to sport the revamped design is an Airbus A330, and was due to land into London Gatwick this morning (Friday November 17).

The airline said that the new livery “reflects the recent evolution of the Transat brand image and remains faithful to the company’s promise: to brighten the everyday with the joy of vacations”.

The brand’s star symbol has been retained, with a design incorporating touches of grey, “a nod to Air Transat’s very first livery”, as well as graduated shades of blue, “to evoke the transformative power of holidays”. The Air Transat name now also appears on the side and underside of the fuselage for increased visibility.

Commenting on the relaunch Jean-Marc Eustache, president and CEO of parent company Transat said:

“I feel a great sense of pride when I look at how far we’ve come since November 14, 1987, when our first flight took off from Montreal bound for Acapulco.”

“And our journey is far from over. While our tour operating business and our aviation operations are tried and tested, our services continue to evolve to meet the expectations of travellers today and in the future.

“We have plenty of innovations coming up, including the new fleet livery that we are unveiling, and the new hotel division that we are about to create, all in pursuit of our goal of remaining at the forefront of the travel industry.”

The low-cost carrier flies year-round from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with seasonal flights to Calgary and Quebec City.

Earlier this month Air Transat announced a revamp of its range of Eco fares, adding new benefits including seat selection and additional luggage allowance.

Chicago becomes first US city to mandate ‘panic buttons’ for hotel staff


Housekeepers in Chicago who are confronted by sexually aggressive guests while working will be given pendant-style “panic buttons” that they can use to call for help, Fox32 News reports.

Under a new city law, all Chicago hotels must provide the portable devices to their housekeeping staff. RF Technologies of Brookfield Wisconsin, which makes the Help Alert devices, said they also have been used at hotels in New York and Washington, DC.

Some Chicago hotel staff celebrated the arrival of the safety gear with a cake featuring the face of disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein; most of Weinstein’s long list of alleged sexual assaults reportedly took place in hotel rooms.

A survey of housekeepers conducted in 2016 found that more than half reported having been sexually harassed by hotel guests.

“We don’t want to be afraid when we come to work,” said one housekeeper with 28 years experience, who only would identify herself by her first name, Claudia.

“When they open up the door, that’s when they all expose themselves. And no one wants to be treated that way.”

LOT Polish aims to give Singapore its first connection to Poland

LOT Polish Economy Class Dreamliner 3

LOT Polish Airlines will be adding Singapore to its network next year with the announcement of a new route between Warsaw and Singapore that will give the Lion City its first non-stop connection to Poland.

The new service, which will be LOT’s first Southeast Asia air link, currently has a May 15, 2018 launch date, with the initial thrice-weekly flights set to increase to a four-times weekly from July 2018, though it is unclear whether this will be a permanent or seasonal frequency increase.

Flight No.FromToDepartsArrivesDays
LO67Warsaw (WAW)Singapore (SIN)23001640+1Mon, Tue* Thu, Sat
LO68Singapore (SIN)Warsaw (WAW)00050615

Flights will be operated by the airline’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, outfitted with 252 seats in three classes – business, premium economy and economy. Business class has 18 seats in a 2-2-2 layout, while its premium economy cabin is configured 2-3-2 with 21 seats and economy 3-3-3 with 213 seats.

The launch of the new route to Singapore follows LOT Polish’s goal of focusing its attention on the North American and Asia market. Last year, the airline’s CEO, Rafał Milczarski, said: “Long-distance flights are the most profitable part of our business and being the only airlines in the region, LOT has the related growth potential. We are mostly going to focus on developing flights to North America and most important business centres in Asia.”

At the time of the announcement, Changi Airport Group managing director of air hub development, Lim Ching Kiat, said: “Changi Airport Group has been actively growing Changi’s connectivity to Europe, and this new link is a fruit of our collaboration with LOT.

“Countries in Eastern Europe like Croatia, Czech Republic and Hungary are becoming more popular with Asian travellers and LOT’s new service from Singapore will bring greater convenience and new options to our passengers to reach these countries. This also opens up more opportunities for both business and leisure travel between the two regions.”

Changi Airport expects that by mid-2018, 12 airlines will offer direct services from Singapore to 18 cities in Europe.

Thai Airways now flies direct to Vienna

Thai Airways launched the inaugural flight of its new non-stop Bangkok-Vienna service yesterday, marking the 13th destination in Europe now served by the Thai flag carrier.

Taking approximately 11 hours and 30 minutes from Bangkok and 10 hours from Vienna, the flights operate four times a week on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The leg departing Bangkok is an early flight, taking off at 0130 and arriving in Vienna at 0700 local time, while the return flight leaves Vienna at 1330, arriving back in the Thai capital the following morning at 0520.

Flight NoFromToDepartsArrivesDays
TG936Bangkok (BKK)Vienna (VIE)01300700Mon, Thu, Sat, Sun
TG937Vienna (VIE)Bangkok (BKK)13300520+1

Travellers hoping to get a chance to try out Thai Airways’ Airbus A350, which the airline recently began flying to London, or even the newest addition to the fleet, its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, unfortunately will be disappointed. The airline is instead flying its B777-300ER on the route, which it configures with 348 seats, including 42 fully flat beds in Royal Silk Class (business), and 306 economy seats.

Prior to the new route, travellers could fly Thai to Frankfurt on either its A350 or A380 superjumbo, and then take a train onwards to Vienna via Accestrain.

Fellow Star Alliance member, Austrian Airlines, also operates a daily non-stop service between the two capitals using its B777-200 and B777-200ER, with each leg departing at around 11pm local time.

Thai now flies directly to Copenhagen, Oslo, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Stockholm, London, Rome, Milan and Moscow.

Connections between Asia and Vienna have been growing over the past year, with Eva Air set to launch a new service to the city from Taipei, and Austrian Airlines reviving its previously dropped route to Tokyo, both of which are slated for next year.

Easyjet amends checked luggage policy


Easyjet has revamped its checked luggage policy, adding a new lighter option and increasing the existing 23kg allowance.

The new 15kg allowance costs from £8.99 (although can rise to as much as £29.99 depending on the route selected) and is only available to purchase online.

Meanwhile the existing 20kg option has been increased to 23kg, and costs between £13.99 and £33.99 when booked online, £37 when purchased at the bag drop desk, and £47 at the boarding gate.

The carrier said that the new options mean that “those heading off on a short break no longer need to squeeze everything into a small cabin bag, whilst giving more peace of mind to customers on longer breaks who already travel with Easyjet’s standard hold bag by increasing their allowance by an extra 3kg”.

Easyjet’s Andrew Middleton said that in the last year almost half of passengers’ hold bags had contained 15kg or less, “whilst there were also millions of customers who required more weight than we previously allowed with the 20kg bag”.

The amended policy applies to new bookings only – customers who have already purchased a 20kg allowance for future flights “will keep their existing allowance and will still be able to add weight to their bags up to 32kg as per the prior policy”.

Customers remain able to pool their total weight allowance where they are travelling with friends or family on the same flight and booking.

Rival low-cost carrier Ryanair recently announced plans to amend its carry-on luggage policy, requiring non-priority passengers to hand over larger cabin bags at the gate, although this change has now been delayed until mid-January, “to allow customers more time to adjust to the changes, particularly during the busy Christmas period”.

Hilton launches Winter Sale

Hilton Winter Sale

Hilton has launched a winter sale, offering discounted rates on stays across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Members can get up to 25 per cent off weekend Best Available and Best Available Bed and Breakfast rates, for stays until December 31, 2018.

The Winter Sale is valid for bookings made by January 31, 2018 – non Hilton Honors members will receive up to 20 per cent off rates, with members benefiting from an extra five per cent discount.

Note that bookings must be made through Hilton direct channels, and rates are non-refundable, with full prepayment required at the time of booking.