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June 2015 Travel News & Alerts

01 June 2015

Embassy Closures for the Month of June

Please be informed that the following embassies will be closed in June on the specified dates:

All or Most Embassies: 1st June 2015

 

1. Bangladesh Embassy: 3rd June 2015

2. China Embassy: 22nd June 2015

3. Indonesia Embassy: 2nd June 2015

4. Philippines Embassy: 12th June 2015

5. Russia Embassy: 12th June 2015

 

No visa applications will be processed during this period.

Skytrax 2015 Winners

Qatar Airways has been voted the world's best airline at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards. The awards which is decided by 18.9 million passengers in 110 countries across the globe. The airlines were judged on everything from the quality of their food and the comfort of their seats to the friendliness of their cabin crew.

Qatar has won the top prize twice before, in 2011 and 2012, and twice been voted runner-up; the airline also took home prizes for best airline in the Middle East and the best business class seat.

The rest of the top 10 airline in the following order Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, ANA, Garuda Indonesia, EVA Air and Qantas.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Shifting of EVA Airways Airport Operations at Changi to T3

Please be informed that EVA Airways will be shifting its Airport Operations from Changi Airport Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 with effect from 2nd July 2015. The new check-in counters will be at Row 8.

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Best and Worse travel schemes revealed

IdeaWorks has researched the availability of rewards flights for its Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey including 25 different airline programs. More than 7600 booking queries across 280 specific dates during March 2015 were made to determine the results.

Airberlin's topbonus program came out on top with 100% total availability on reward seats in the survey. Closer to home, Virgin Australia's Velocity program was ranked as the top in the Asia-Pacific region and second in the world for overall reward availability.

Southwest Airlines tied with airberlin for first place, followed by Air Canada and Singapore Airlines to make up the top five.

Full results from the survey can be found here.

US Preclearance’s global expansion plans

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the United States is exploring the expansion of the US Preclearance programme by entering into negotiations with 10 foreign airports in nine separate countries.

The 10 airports that have been identified as possible preclearance locations are: Brussels Airport, Punta Cana Airport, Narita International Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Oslo Airport, Madrid-Barajas Airport, Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Istanbul Ataturk Airport, London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport.

Outside of North America and the Caribbean, US Preclearance is currently offered at Dublin and Shannon Airports in the Republic of Ireland, as well as at Abu Dhabi International Airport, where US-bound passengers can clear US customs and immigration inspections ahead of departure, so they are essentially treated as a domestic passenger when they land in the US.

The nine countries selected that will now explore the introduction of Preclearance “represent some of the busiest last points of departure to the United States”, according to the DHS, and nearly 20 million passengers travelled from the 10 airports to the US in 2014.

The United States and the governments of the host countries are now expected to begin negotiations, which could result in a final air preclearance agreement, paving the way for the establishment of new preclearance facilities.

As FTE recently reported, Swedavia, the Swedish airport operator, estimated that should it receive the go-ahead to introduce US Preclearance at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, it could take approximately two years to implement.

Air China and United expand code sharing

United Airlines and Air China, members of Star Alliance, today announced plans to expand their code-sharing cooperation, covering an additional 22 routes in the China and U.S. markets. With this expansion, United and Air China will codeshare together on more than 110 routes, offering customers the most comprehensive route network between the U.S. and China.  

Air China will place its CA code on United-operated flights on 12 additional U.S. domestic routes: from Los Angeles to Dallas/DFW, Cleveland, Tucson, San Antonio, New York/Newark and Seattle; from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and Austin; from Washington, D.C./Dulles to Columbus and Tampa; and from Houston/Bush Intercontinental to Tampa and Nashville. United will place its UA code on Air China-operated flights on 10 additional domestic routes in China: from Beijing to Mianyang, Taiyuan, Sanya, Shanghai Hongqiao, Yinchuan, Xining, Liuzhou, Haikou and Lanzhou; and from Shanghai Pudong to Yinchuan.

These new code-sharing routes will be open for sale from today, June 2, 2015.

Air China and United have enjoyed a successful cooperative relationship since 2003.

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Starwood’s St. Regis to open first Indian property in Mumbai

The old Palladium Hotel is currently undergoing an extensive rebranding and will soon fly the St. Regis flag, bringing bespoke luxury and refined elegance to the city of Mumbai. Located in Lower Parel, one of the most prestigious addresses in the city, the hotel combines timeless sophistication with modern luxury and is a befitting debut for the St. Regis brand in this fast growing market.

The hotel is located less than half an hour drive from Chhatrapati Shivaji International & Domestic Airport terminals in Mumbai and a quick and easy drive across the iconic Worli Sea Link. Adjoining the hotel is the famous Palladium, the only luxury retail shopping center in the city which houses some of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands.

The 38-story St. Regis Mumbai will feature 386 well-appointed guest rooms, including 60 suites. The hotel’s sophisticated culinary offerings will include an all-day dining restaurant featuring a wide range of gourmet selections from around the world, four specialty restaurants, a club lounge, and three bars.

Other leisure facilities include a swimming pool and a fitness center. For meetings and events, the hotel will offer over 5,200 square meters of unrivalled event space including a 4200-square-meter grand ballroom.

The St. Regis Mumbai will join a growing portfolio of Starwood hotels in India where the company currently operates 43 hotels, with an additional 37 hotels in the pipeline. Starwood is India’s largest luxury and upper upscale hospitality company. In addition to The St. Regis Mumbai, the company is set to debut more new hotels in the next two years including W Retreat & Spa Goa, The Westin Kolkata, Sheraton Hyderabad, Le Meridien Nagpur and Aloft New Delhi Aerocity.

Alitalia: Re-brand and Re-launch

The Italian flag carrier Alitalia has unveiled its new brand, new livery and upgrades across all classes on its international wide-body fleet, six months after Etihad Airways completed the acquisition of a 49% stake in the airline. The carrier has said “the new offer aims to reposition the airline as a leader in superior service, and to represent the best of Italy on the world stage”.

As part of the extensive overhaul of the Alitalia brand, Alitalia cabin crew, ground staff and lounge staff are currently attending customer excellence workshops at Etihad Airways’ headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

The new Economy Class product includes extensive in-flight entertainment (IFE) and connectivity upgrades. Panasonic Avionics’ GCS WiFi, LiveTV and 2G GSM connectivity, plus the eX2 IFE system will be installed on all A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft. The meal service and presentation is also being improved, with a signature Caffè service offered as standard on long-haul flights. A Frette fleece blanket and pillow will also be placed on each seat.

In Premium Economy, a theme of “connected comfort” has been embraced by the carrier. It includes a welcome aperitif, hot towel, increased meal and beverage options, and contemporary crockery and tableware. More snacks and drinks will also be available throughout the flight. Soft furnishings will be provided and free amenity kits will be offered, while night flights will include a sleep kit. Noise reduction headsets will also be offered as standard.

As for the new Business Class, the fully lie-flat seats will be accompanied by a turndown service, a bedtime beverage, and personalised wake-up calls and breakfast timings. It will also feature a “Dine Anytime” meal service and a more personalised level of service from crew. A new “Spuntino” snack menu will also be offered throughout the flight. Fine wines and tableware featuring Richard Ginori fine bona china and stylish silverware will also be introduced.

All of these new products and services will be rolled out across the wide-body fleet serving international routes between now and 1 July.

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Manchester Airport sets to undergo transformation

 

Manchester Airports Group (M.A.G) has announced a 10-year investment programme for Manchester Airport that will transform the airport, ensuring that it continues to thrive as a national asset and plays an even greater role as the UK’s global gateway from the North. 

The ‘Manchester Airport Transformation Programme’ is a series of 60 enhancements that will provide the millions of passengers that use the airport every year with facilities that combine a contemporary look and feel with state of the art services.

The 10-year plan will include the expansion of Terminal 2, self-service check-in facilities and a larger security hall. Under plans announced by MAG on 2nd June, Terminal 1 will be closed by 2022 and likely redeveloped, while Terminal 2 will be expanded. The third terminal building, which will be adapted to accommodate more passengers, will be linked to the second and self-service check-in facilities introduced. The airport currently accommodates 23m travellers a year and by the time the work finishes MAG estimates it will handle 30m people per annum at its terminals.

Facilities are also planned to allow passengers to go through the United States' immigration process before they board transatlantic flights.

Manchester Airport is the UK’s third largest airport and the preferred choice for millions of people looking to fly. With two runways, the airport has significant capacity for growth and already serves over 70 airlines and in excess of 210 short and long haul destinations. Manchester Airport is the only UK airport outside of London with direct routes to a host of global destinations including Miami, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Singapore, Atlanta, Washington and Boston.

Qatar Airways’ new Amsterdam route

The Amsterdam-Doha route will start on 16th June 2015 and will operate six times per week with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Passengers can look forward to the convenient connection times and seamless transit experience offered by at the award-winning Hamad International Airport. The Boeing 787 is one of the latest generation aircraft in the airline’s 158 strong fleet. This aircraft offers 254 seats configured in two classes, with 22 fully-flat bed seats in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class. Flying non-stop, the total journey time between Doha and Amsterdam is six hours and 35 minutes and passengers can enjoy superior on board entertainment and access to more than 2,000 blockbusters, films, music and television from Oryx One.

Flights will be departing from Amsterdam mid-afternoon arriving in Doha late evening and will not only give passengers the convenience and flexibility of reaching the Qatari capital, but also of connecting to more than 140 destinations through the state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport, the airline’s Doha-hub. Passengers can connect with 47 destinations in Africa & the Middle East, explore 43 destinations in Asia and travel to two of the most popular Australian cities, Melbourne and Perth, all via Doha. The return flight to Amsterdam will leave Doha in the morning arriving into Amsterdam in early afternoon.

Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, is one of the fastest growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world. Now in its 18th year of operations, Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 158 aircraft flying to 146 key business and leisure destinations across six continents.

For further information please contact your travel manager.

InterContinental Dubai Marina opens for business

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is opening the InterContinental Dubai Marina, a 132 guest room luxury hotel with 196 fully serviced InterContinental Residential Suites.

Forming part of the Bay Central development, situated in Dubai’s newest hub for contemporary lifestyle in the heart of Dubai Marina, the hotel features nine stylish restaurants, lounges and bars, including, YNot, a wine and tapas bar; Accents, a restaurant and deli serving up dishes from around the globe; as well as Ginter a gin bar with one of Dubai’s largest gin collections, Gallery Lounge and Urban Shisha Lounge.

The jewel in the hotel’s crown will be Marina Social restaurant - British, Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton’s first in the Middle East - which will open later in September 2015. The restaurant will also include an exclusive bar, The Social Room, with mixologists creating unique cocktails using an eclectic range of spirits from around the world, and will be host to one of the largest whiskey collections in the city.

The hotel’s outdoor swimming pool has panoramic marina views, and guests can also relax in the male and female spas. Gym facilities offer separate weight and cardio rooms accessible 24 hours a day for hotel guests. The hotel features generous meeting spaces across nine meeting rooms, all of which enjoy natural daylight and have seamless integrated audio and visual technology, making it ideal for holding corporate and exclusive events.

InterContinental Dubai Marina is the fourth InterContinental property in the UAE after the iconic InterContinental Abu Dhabi and InterContinental Dubai Festival City, and InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Festival City.

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Vietnam Airlines looks forward to Dreamliner delivery

 

Vietnam’s national carrier, Vietnam Airlines flew its first new Boeing B787-9 Dreamliners on 1st June. The newly-painted Dreamliner took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington (USA), crewed by a Boeing aircrew which checked all of the aircraft’s systems during the two hour, 36-minute flight. With the first flight now completed, the aircraft will undergo several more tests and a customer flight before being delivered to Vietnam Airlines. 

The B787-9 Dreamliner is the latest extension to Boeing’s super-efficient 787 family. The new aircraft can fly farther, and with more passengers and more cargo, than the B787-8 - but with the same exceptional environmental performance: 20 per cent less fuel usage and 20 per cent fewer emissions than the aircraft it will replace. The new aircraft will feature fully flat beds in Business Class, and passengers will also benefit from larger windows and stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity and cleaner air, lower cabin pressure and a smoother, quieter ride. Vietnam Airlines will also put to the test to develop in-flight WiFi on its new Boeing 787-9 with desire to bring more convenience to customers.

As it rolls out a major fleet upgrade including a total of 19 B787s and 14 Airbus A350-900 XWBs, Vietnam Airlines will become the first airline in Asia to operate both Boeing and Airbus’ latest next-generation aircraft at the same time. The SkyTeam member will also be the first airline to operate the new B787-9 Dreamliner nonstop between Southeast Asia and Europe, with Heathrow becoming the first international destination on the Vietnam Airlines network to be served by the new aircraft.

Vietnam Airlines will also introduce its brand new livery, corporate identity and brand image to coincide with the introduction of its new fleet.

Tour the Dreamliner here before anyone can board…

JAL check-in counters in Changi to move

With effect from 7th July 2015, Japan Airlines’ check-in counter at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1 will shift from Row9 to Row11.

The first flight for check-in counter Row11 will be JL712/07JUL (STD0810 hrs).

 

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Accor adds 7 more properties in UK

As part of the group’s strategy to restructure the assets of HotelInvest, its hotel owner and investor business, Accor has revealed the sale and franchise-back of seven hotels. 

The deal, worth €32.6 million, comes with a commitment from the buyers to carry out €5.2 million worth of renovations.

The transactions were carried out with two strong partners: Starboard Hotels. for a portfolio of five ibis hotels (Birmingham Bordesley Circus, Leicester City, London Gatwick Airport, Plymouth and Sheffield City) and a joint venture between Cannock Investments and Hetherley Capital Partners for the ibis Coventry Centre and the ibis Dublin West in Ireland.

 

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Shangri-La to debut in Saudi Arabia in 2018

Saudi Arabia’s first Shangri-La hotel will open in 2018, following the signing of an agreement with Assila Investments for the management of a luxury hotel and residences development in Saudi’s second largest city.

The 242-room hotel will be set in a 65-storey tower on Jeddah’s Corniche Road, overlooking the Red Sea. Shangri-La will also manage the property’s 122 residences, while other facilities will include three restaurants, spa and fitness areas, a swimming pool, children’s club and function space, including a three-storey ballroom.

Shangri-La’s Middle Eastern portfolio currently consists of a resort in Oman, but it also is planning to launch a new hotel in Qatar, before the opening of the Jeddah property.

 

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Singapore Airlines debuts Premium Economy

Officially launched on 21 May and with Sydney as its first flight with the new class, the carrier will then roll out the seats on flights to London, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Paris and Mumbai by October.

The new seats are leather, 19.5 inches wide with a pitch of 38 inches, compared to a 19 inch width and 32 inch pitch in economy class.

In addition to a greater recline, padded leg rest and more in-seat storage space, passengers will also be treated to champagne and meals from Singapore Airlines' 'Book the Cook' service.

To tour the new Premium Economy cabin by Singapore Airlines, click here

Abu Dhabi Airports to install automated documentation authentication scanners

Abu Dhabi Airports has invested in an automated document authentication system to further enhance security and expedite processing times at the entrance to the security checkpoint. The scanners will be able to read traditional, mobile and home-printed boarding passes.

Upon scanning their boarding pass, the data is automatically validated and the information is then displayed to a security agent on a graphical user interface.

There will also be four security lanes with automatic gates, four mobile/paper boarding pass scanners and four hand-held wireless boarding pass scanners. Roll out will start in Terminal 3 economy, followed by the Terminal 3 business area, and will then be implemented in both economy and business areas in Terminal 1.

 

For further information please contact your travel manager.

Hyatt’s two new properties in Saudi Arabia

 

Hyatt Hotels, a leading hospitality group, has revealed that a Hyatt Place hotel and a Hyatt House hotel will be opened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

The hotels will be within one mile of each other. Hyatt Place Jeddah on Medina Road and Hyatt House Jeddah on Sari Street will join the luxurious Park Hyatt Jeddah Marina, Club and Spa and the recently opened Hyatt Place Dubai at Al Rigga.

Due to open in the second quarter of 2017, Hyatt Place Jeddah will be centrally located on Medina Road, one of Jeddah’s main arteries, with connections to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and the historic downtown. Hyatt Place Jeddah will offer 182 guestrooms, in addition to a number of food and beverage options, including complimentary hot breakfast for guests, the 24/7 Gallery Menu serving made-to-order entrees and appetizers around the clock, and a full service restaurant. The hotel will also offer more than 2,400 sq ft of meeting and event space.

Hyatt Place Jeddah is one of a number of Hyatt Place hotels under development in the GCC, including Hyatt Place Dubai at Baniyas Square, which is expected to open in August this year.

The Hyatt House Jeddah, due to open in the fourth quarter of 2016, will be located in the Al Faysaliayah District, in close proximity to Sari and Thaliay Streets, which connect to the Corniche, Jeddah’s coastal resort area.

The hotel, which will be the first Hyatt House hotel to open in the GCC, will offer 104 residentially inspired upscale den guestrooms, studio and one-bedroom kitchen suites, in addition to more than 1,000 sq ft of meeting space. The hotel will also offer a restaurant, prayer room and fitness centre.

 

For further information please contact your travel manager.

New Gulf Carrier in the skies this November

Saudi Gulf Airlines aims to begin flying in November after receiving regulatory approvals, the new Dammam-based carrier said on Monday.

Owned by the Abdel Hadi Al-Qahtani & Sons group, the airline plans to fly from Dammam to three destinations, initially with a fleet of four Airbus A320s. The airline is currently working with the GACA (General Authority of Civil Aviation) in obtaining its technical license for operations.

Initial flights from Dammam will be to Jeddah, Riyadh and one international destination, with further destinations added in 2016 with fleet expansion.

The airline's domestic flights will offer first class and economy fares, while international flights will provide business class and economy class services. In addition to the A320 aircraft, the airline signed a $2 billion deal with Canada's Bombardier last year to purchase 16 CSeries jets with an option for a further 10. Delivery of the CS300 jets, which seat between 130 and 160 passengers, is expected to begin late this year or early 2016. Only national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines and budget operator National Air Services currently serve a domestic market of about 27 million people.

Foreign carriers can only fly in and out of Saudi Arabia, not within the country, but that will change when Qatar Airways obtains regulatory approval to launch its subsidiary Al Maha Airways for the Saudi market. It is planning to begin operations with four A320s, though the airline's launch has been delayed by regulatory red tape.