December 2015 Travel News & Alerts

01 December 2015
Embassy Closures for the Month of December

Please be informed that the following embassies will be closed in December on the specified date:

All or most embassies: 25th December 2015

1. Australia Embassy: 24th December 2015

                                28th December 2015

2. Bangladesh Embassy: 16th December 2015

                                    24th December 2015

3. India Embassy: 24th – 25th December 2015

4. Indonesia Embassy: 24th December 2015

5. Japan Embassy: 29th – 31st December 2015

6. Malaysia Embassy: 24th December 2015

7. New Zealand Embassy: 28th – 31st December 2015

8. Philippines Embassy: 24th December 2015

                                   30th – 31st December 2015

9. Thailand Embassy: 7th December 2015


No visa applications will be processed during this period.


For more information please contact your travel manager.

Star Alliance passengers can look forward to Gold Track priority clearance at airports

Business and first class passengers along with top-tier frequent flyers on Star Alliance airlines will enjoy VIP treatment at the immigration desks of selected airports from next year.

The new Gold Track Immigration program will complement the existing Gold Track security lanes (below) already established at the hubs of many Star Alliance member airlines – a 28-strong roster which includes Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai and United.

Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the consortium's six-monthly meeting in Chicago.

Schwab predicts the first Gold Track Immigration lanes will open "at the end of Q1 or the beginning of Q2 next year".

Etihad to fly Dreamliner to 5 more destinations

Etihad Airways has unveiled plans to fly its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to five more destinations in 2016.= With five new B787-9s due to join the airline’s fleet over a seven-month period from May 2016, the 299-seat Dreamliners will replace existing aircraft on the daily services from Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf, Perth, Shanghai, Istanbul and Johannesburg. 

This will more than double the number of destinations Etihad currently serves using its B787s, with only Brisbane, Washington DC, Singapore and Zurich currently welcoming the aircraft.

And with further 66 B787s due to be delivered over the next few years, Etihad said the aircraft will become “the mainstay” of its long-haul fleet in future.

Etihad’s B787-9s feature its most modern cabin products, including 28 ‘Business Studios’ and 271 ‘Economy Smart’ seats. All seats come equipped with on-demand in-flight entertainment systems, Wi-Fi connectivity, USB ports and power sockets.

The first new Dreamliner service to be launched will be Abu Dhabi-Dusseldorf on 1 May 2016, followed by Perth on 1 June, Shanghai and Istanbul on 1 August and Johannesburg on 1 November.


For more information please contact your travel manager.

ITB targets business travel managers in Berlin exhibition in 2016

ITB is promoting its Business Travel Days, a series of seminars for business travel managers that will run on the sidelines of the world’s biggest travel mart ITB Berlin next March. ITB Business Travel Days are scheduled 9 to 11 March 2016, targeting corporate travel managements worldwide. The three-day event for industry professionals offers practical workshops with current information on methods and strategies for the highly competitive corporate travel market.

On 10 March, Business Travel Corporate Day, lectures will focus on ’Digitisation in mobility management – a worthwhile connection?’

The event will explore what digitisation actually means for travel and event management, while evaluating the role of power apps that are an integral part of corporate software.

Participants will examine whether the path of innovation really is a success factor in the workplace, or whether the lure of technology is a dead end.

Hilton’s Amsterdam Airport Hotel opens its doors

Hilton Hotels & Resorts today opens the new Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the latest vision for modern air travel accommodation.

The state-of-the-art 433-room hotel replaces the previous Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which opened in 1972.

The landmark property was developed and is owned by Schiphol Real Estate.

Created by acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo, alongside British interior design company The Gallery HBA, Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has a distinct cubic design that features a 42-metre high glazed roof.

Contemporary Dutch influence can also be found throughout the public space and guestrooms.

Spanish artist Israel Páez has created a wide range of bespoke pieces for the hotel such as story-telling tile walls in the open kitchens and a series of headboards for the guest rooms representing the Dutch landscape that gives every space an authentic and local touch.

For more information please contact your travel manager.

Accor’s $4.1b acquisition of FRHI


French hotels giant Accor has agreed to acquire the owner of the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel hotel brands. The cash-and-stock deal values the Toronto-based company, FRHI, at about $US3 billion ($4.1bn), making it the third-largest lodging acquisition in a year marked by a burst of merger activity, according to data tracker Dealogic. 

This will propel Accor towards the top of the luxury hotel segment in the market. The group has about 500,000 hotel rooms worldwide and 10 international brands, such as Sofitel, M Gallery, Pullman, Novotel, Mecure, Ibis, etc.

With a substantial amount of 42 properties in North America, FRHI would also give the Paris-based hotel operator a presence in the US that it has lacked since it sold the Motel 6 brand in 2012.

International SOS ventures into travel security risk ratings

INTERNATIONAL SOS and Control Risks have jointly published the Travel Risk Map 2016, a heat map which displays medical and security hotspots around the world.

An annual Health Risk Map has been published since 2010, but is now renamed Travel Risk Map for 2016 to take into account the added travel security risk ratings.

Countries and regions are rated either ‘Extreme’, ‘High’, ‘Medium’, ‘Low’, or ‘Insignificant’ in security risk while medical risk ratings range from ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, ’Very High’ or ‘Rapidly Developing Variable Risk’.

The Travel Risk Map 2016 can be viewed here.

Cathay Pacific to fly new A350s on Gatwick debut

Cathay Pacific Airways will launch flights to London’s Gatwick Airport next year, using its brand new Airbus A350 aircraft.

Commencing on 2 September 2016, the new flights will operate four times a week direct between Hong Kong and London’s second airport.

The service will complement Cathay’s existing five daily flights to Heathrow Airport, boosting its total Hong Kong-London operations to 39 flights per week. The airline also offers four weekly flights to Manchester.

Cathay will deploy its newest aircraft, the A350-900, on the Gatwick route.

Cathay’s new flights will initially depart Hong Kong International Airport every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 0055, arriving at Gatwick at 0710. The return flights will then leave at 1235, arriving back in Hong Kong at 0725 the following morning. The inbound flight will then move to an 1135 departure for the winter 2016-17 schedules.

Cathay will take delivery of its first ever A350 aircraft in February 2016. It plans to configure the new long-haul aircraft with 280 seats – 38 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy.

Melbourne International Airport’s Terminal 4

Melbourne Airport has officially opened its 4th terminal, a three-storey, 20,000m2building which saw its soft-opening in mid-August.

Terminal 4, which runs a complete self-service and automated bag-drop operation, is located to the south of Terminal 3 and has been home to Tigerair Australia and Jetstar since August 18 and November 10 respectively. Regional Express Airlines arrives at Terminal 4 and will move its check-in facilities there in early 2016.

The new terminal can accommodate up to 10 million passengers a year and has welcomed almost 1.1 million passengers since its soft launch.

Over 30 retail and F&B outlets are currently in operation at Terminal 4.

Tighter visa rules to enter the US in future

Officials in the United States have revealed plans to tighten travel restrictions for visitors using the visa waiver programme.

Approximately 20 million people from 38 countries presently enter America each year under the visa waiver programme, which allows travel without needing full visas.

The scheme has come under increased scrutiny since terrorist attacks in Paris last month; with lawmakers questioning with militants could get into the US.

Under proposed changes presently submitted to Congress, all countries enrolled in the scheme would be asked to issue “e-passports”.

Registrations for these new documents would come under greater scrutiny from US agencies.

Travellers would also be screened to see if they had travelled to militant-held areas.

The Department of Homeland Security will also ask Congress for additional powers, including increase fines for airlines that fail to verify passport data.

SkyTeam airport lounges in the Far East and Middle East 2016

SkyTeam will open new airport lounges at Dubai and Beijing in 2016, and they'll look quite different to the airline alliance's current lounges at Sydney, London and Istanbul.

The new design concept, is lighter with a more timeless touch of natural oak wood, light beige and soft grey, although touches of white and green remain.

The airline alliance opened a new lounge in Hong Kong, late October, and now it's ready to roll out a similar look to all new lounges, starting with Dubai in the first quarter of 2016 and Beijing by year's end.

Each of the new-look lounges will sport new features like 'privacy pods' and a dedicated Yoga Room.

SkyTeam member airlines include Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines.

Finnair adds codeshare with Jetstar

Finnair will now offer its passengers a new range of connecting flight options at Singapore’s Changi Airport, through a new partnership with Jetstar Asia.= Effective 15 December 2015, the new codeshare arrangement will enable passengers to connect from Finnair’s Finnair-Singapore flights to six Asia Pacific destinations: Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Phuket, Perth and Darwin. Passengers will be offered single-ticket itineraries and their baggage will be checked through to the final destination.

The codeshare will improve Finnair’s connections to Asia and Australia. Jetstar Asia is part of Qantas’ Jetstar group of airlines, which, like Finnair, is a member of the oneworld alliance.

For more information please contact your travel manager.

New age of concierge service with Marriott Mobile Requests

Marriott International is expanding Mobile Requests, the industry-leading two-way chat feature on its Mobile app to four additional brands – JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Autograph Collection, Renaissance Hotels and Marriott Executive Apartments. Marriott-Hotels&Resorts

Originally launched at select Marriott Hotels, Mobile Requests is also now available at Marriott Hotels across the globe and is being rolled-out at Courtyard and Residence Inn properties in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

The app is offered exclusively to the nearly 54 million members of the company’s award-winning loyalty program Marriott Rewards, enabling them to chat in real time directly with hotel staff to answer questions, or request services and amenities starting from 72 hours before their arrival, and throughout their stay.

Guests can download the app in five languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, French and German.

Marriott International was the first global hotel company to offer a two-way chat option with on-property staff when it launched at 46 Marriott Hotels in May 2015 including London Marriott Park Lane and Zurich Marriott Hotel.

Guests with an upcoming reservation can use Mobile Requests to instantly communicate with staff hotel in two ways: they may choose from a drop-down menu of most requested services and amenities, such as extra towels, bath amenities, or valet parking or begin a two-way chat with hotel staff using the “Anything Else” option.

Guests have made thousands of requests since Mobile Requests was launched, and guest surveys show it has contributed to a rise in overall satisfaction.

The Mobile Requests roll out is another step Marriott International is taking in leading digital innovation, following offerings such as mobile check-in, check-out and room ready alerts.

Additionally, Marriott is piloting a series of new mobile services including Mobile Key – allowing guests to use their mobile phone as a room key – at select hotels with plans to expand to additional hotels.

Marriott Rewards members who download the Marriott Mobile app will continue to benefit from these regular updates that further enhance the hotel stay experience.

Flight Centre Growth Expansion Plans

FLIGHT Centre is going full swing with its expansion plans in Singapore, revealing that it hopes to grow from the current three to 10 or 12 physical stores within the city-state in the next five years. 

“Typically, we would open at least a store a year, sometimes two a year,” said Suyin Lee, managing director of Flight Centre Travel Group, adding that they are looking at a space at The South Beach, as well as scouting for locations at Holland Village and Jurong East.

Despite being in a digital age, brick and mortar establishments are still a big part of the agency’s awareness and service strategies. “Physical stores take up a fair bit of investment, but it is important for our customers to know that we exist and to have that assurance that they can see someone if they need to,” said Lee.

“OTAs bring new challenges in terms of price competitiveness, but at the end of the day, our customers can still book online for point to point fares on our website, and if they have more complex itineraries or if they want to talk to a real person to ask for advice, we offer that and nothing beats face-to-face interaction.”

Lee explained that a greater push into the leisure market here is also expected as a result of opening more retail outlets.

China to boost rail infrastructure in the next 5 years

China will spend approximately CNY2.8 trillion (US$437 billion) on the construction of at least 23,000km of new railway lines over the next five years, it has been reported.

According to China’s Economic Information Daily, the government’s latest five-year plan, which runs from 2016 to 2020, will focus on the expansion of railways in China’s central and western regions, as well as new inter-city projects.

While few specific details were revealed, the report did confirm plans for 4,600km of new track in northern China’s Shanxi province.

However the five-year investment would mark a decrease compared to China’s most recent five-year plan, which targeted CNY3.5 trillion worth of railway investment between 2011 and 2015.

IHG to open Indigo London Aldgate in 2017 and Crowne Plaza and Heathrow T4 hotels

InterContinental Hotels Group has signed Hotel Indigo London – Aldgate. The newly built hotel will operate under a franchise agreement with Meadow Partners and Roquebrook. Dual Branded Heathrow T4 property

The 207-room hotel opening in 2017 will be located in Aldgate place, east of the City Of London. Set in the heart of a major residential and commercial development project taking shape along Leman Street and Aldgate East, the hotel will be close to key business districts including Canary Wharf, the City of London and Liverpool Street.

Some of London’s most popular tourist attractions including Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market, the Tower of London and Southbank will be located on the hotel’s door step.

The hotel is situated nearby several underground tube stations including Aldgate East, Aldgate and Tower Hill, and also has great connections to City Airport.

Just as no two neighbourhoods are alike, no two Hotel Indigo properties are alike.

Each is designed to uniquely reflect the local culture, character and history of the surrounding area.

Hotel Indigo hotels create a truly memorable experience by artfully combining the modern design and intimate service associated with a boutique hotel, with the conveniences and consistencies you can expect from staying at one of the world’s largest hotel groups.

Intercontinental Hotels Group is also set to open two adjoining hotels at Heathrow T4 in 2018.

The dual branded development will contain Crowne Plaza London –Heathrow Terminal 4 and Holiday Inn Express London – Heathrow Terminal 4.

The hotels will have direct access to the terminal via an air bridge and to the London Underground and Heathrow Express.

Crowne Plaza hotel will feature 300 bedrooms, five meeting rooms and two boardrooms. The 450-room Holiday Inn Express will include an Express Café and Bar. The new hotels will operate under a franchise agreement with IHG and will be managed by Arora Hotels, a division of The Arora Group.


For more information please contact your travel manager.

Jetstar now included into oneworld’s Global Explorer fares program

Jetstar’s three Asian airlines will be added to oneworld’s Global Explorer round-the-world fare.

Effective 1 December 2015, Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, Vietnam’s Jetstar Pacific and Jestar Japan will start participating in the fare, bringing 16 new destinations to oneworld’s Global Explorer network. This means that Global Explorer will now offer approximately 1,150 destinations worldwide, including 230 in Asia.

Jetstar’s Australian unit already participates in the Global Explorer fares.

“We are delighted to extend the reach offered by Global Explorer still further with the addition of Jetstar Asia, Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Pacific, alongside their Australia and New Zealand-based Jetstar sister, which has participated in Global Explorer for some time,” said oneworld ‘s vice president of commercial. “Their addition brings on board attractive networks in some of the region’s most popular with round-the-world travellers, making Global Explorer an even more appealing option.”

The 16 new Asian destinations added to the Global Explorer network are: Buon Ma Thuot, Chua Lai, Dalat, Haiphong, Pleiku, Thanh Hoa, Vinh, Nha Trang, Hue, Phu Quoc, Tou Hoa, Qhi Nhon and Dong Hoi in Vietnam, Pekanbaru and Palembang in Indonesia, and Shantou in China.

Global Explorer is one of two round-the-world fares offered by oneworld, providing multi-airline travel priced based on cabin class and distance travelled.

Potential for in-flight connectivity in APAC

Highlighting the ever-increasing value of the in-flight connectivity market, research group, Persistence Market Research suggests that the global in-flight Wi-Fi market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.9% up until 2021, bringing the value of the industry to almost $5.5 billion within six years. 

While North America dominates the on-board connectivity market – it held a 60% share of the global market in 2014 – Asia Pacific is the region set to experience the fastest rate of growth. In fact, between 2015 and 2021, the Asia Pacific region is forecast to experience the highest CAGR of 26%.

The report states that the growth of the global in-flight connectivity market is being mainly driven by advancements in connectivity technologies – as is highlighted by the likes of ViaSat, which powers the highly regarded JetBlue Fly-Fi product, Inmarsat, which is expected to make its GX Aviation high-speed connectivity service available to commercial airlines before the end of 2015, and Gogo, which is preparing for the commercial launch of 2Ku.

Increasing deployment and adoption of connectivity hardware and services by airlines across the globe is also fuelling the growth of the in-flight Wi-Fi market, but data privacy and security issues, and lack of awareness regarding in-flight Wi-Fi service particularly in developing regions are restraining the growth of the market to some extent, the report says.

Air New Zealand signs Flight Center Partnership

Air New Zealand and Flight Centre Travel Group have signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement which aims to create mutual opportunities for both parties to grow their global revenue position across New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada and the UK. The three year agreement was signed last night in Brisbane by Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon and Flight Centre Travel Group chief Graham Turner.

Luxon said the partnership seeks to build deeper sales and market development opportunities in addition to improving alignment with tourism board marketing opportunities.

“In addition to growing capacity and improving our operating efficiencies, partnerships with like-minded industry leaders are crucial to our success.

“Flight Centre brings unique, innovative propositions to our key markets and is the ideal partner for us to increase awareness and familiarity of our global network,” added Luxon.

Flight Centre Travel Group chief operating officer Melanie Waters-Ryan also welcomed the new agreement.

“Flight Centre Travel Group and Air New Zealand have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship and we are delighted to expand our relationship globally,” Waters-Ryan said.

“Our aim will be to work proactively with Air New Zealand to promote its world class offerings to our leisure and corporate travel customers globally and to help it grow its business.

“This new agreement is in contrast to the short-term deals that we often see in the travel industry and reflects both companies’ willingness to work together over the longer term to grow the market.”

Crowne Plaza in Sydney CBD

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has signed a management agreement for a new Crowne Plaza hotel in Sydney’s central business district.  

Scheduled to open in 2019, the 160-room Crowne Plaza Sydney Darling Harbour will be located close to the new Sydney International Convention Centre in the Darling Quarter and will be targeted at business travellers, with facilities including five meeting rooms and a 24-hour business centre.

Other hotel features include a restaurant, bar, fitness centre and outdoor pool.

“Sydney’s CBD is undergoing some exciting redevelopment and the location and proposition of the new Crowne Plaza Sydney Darling Harbour will make it a leading choice for both business and leisure guests,” said Matthew Tripolone, IHG’s head of development for Australasia.

IHG currently operates 25 hotels across three brands (InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn) in Australia, with a further six properties due to open in the next five years.


For more information please contact your travel manager.