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Business Traveller magazine: relevant articles

Discussion in 'Travel News' started by QF WP, Nov 13, 2004.

  1. QF WP

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    Businesstraveller.com would like to congratulate the winners at this year's Cellars in the Sky wine awards.

    For 20 years Business Traveller, the premium magazine for business travellers, has organised the annual ‘Cellars in the Sky' Awards. This year it teamed up with renowned magazine Wine International, organisers of the International Wine Challenge.

    The International Wine Challenge was founded in 1984 and has developed to become the world's most comprehensive blind wine tasting. In 2003 the Challenge comprised 423 judges, including 45 Masters of Wine, tasting and re-tasting 9,438 wines from 37 different countries – figures which make it the largest blind wine tasting competition in the world.

    For Cellars in the Sky, 30 airlines entered a selection of their wines, and after a two-day blind tasting organised by Wine International magazine and the International Wine Challenge, the winners of the following categories were presented with their awards at this year's World Travel Market...

    The following airlines picked up awards for their business and first class wines:

    Cathay Pacific and British Airways were among the airlines that recorded several wins at Business Traveller's "Cellars in the Sky" wine awards.
    The annual awards, which were organised in association with Wine International magazine, are in their 20th year. They seek to recognise the best wines served by airlines in business and first class.
    This year 30 airlines entered a selection of wines, which were then blind-tasted by a team of expert judges.

    BA picked up winning awards for its white wine served in business class and got runner up awards for its Champagne served in business. Cathay Pacific won the best white served in first class and the best port served in business and got runner up awards for its business class white and business class red.
    The airline with the best business class cellar was Cathay Pacific and the best first class cellar went to JAL. The most original business class wine list was Delta's and the most original first class wine list was won jointly by Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

    Business

    Best White

    1. British Airways
    Laboure-Roi Meursault 2002 Burgundy, France

    2. (Joint)

    Air New Zealand
    Highfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Marlborough, New Zealand

    Qantas
    Grosset Riesling Rockwood Vineyard 2004 Clare Valley, Australia

    Cathay Pacific
    Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Marlborough, New Zealand


    Best Red

    1. American Airlines
    Château Batailley 2000 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

    2. Cathay Pacific
    Antinori Tignanello 2000 Tuscany, Italy

    3. (Joint)

    Northwest Airlines
    St Clement Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Napa Valley, USA

    Alitalia
    Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2000 Tuscany, Italy

    Best Champagne/Sparkling

    1. (Joint) Korean Air/KLM/JAL/Icelandair

    Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV Champagne, France

    2. (Joint) British Airways / Qantas

    Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Mis-en-Cave 2000 Champagne, France

    3. (Joint)

    Singapore Airlines
    Piper-Heidsieck ‘Rare' Cuvée Réservé NV Champagne, France

    Finnair
    Champagne Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve Brut 1996
    Champagne, France


    Best Fortified or Sweet

    1. Cathay Pacific
    Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997 Douro, Portugal

    2. Finnair
    Château Guiraud Premier Cru 1998 Sauternes, France

    3. Lufthansa
    Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 1998 Douro, Portugal (37.5cl)


    First

    Best White

    1. Cathay Pacific
    Vincent Girardin Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2001 Burgundy, France

    2. Etihad??? (who are they)
    Domaine Roux Père et Fils Puligny Montrachet Les Enseignières 2002 Burgundy, France

    3. Singapore Airlines
    Dr Loosen Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2000 Mosel, Germany


    Best Red

    1. Korean Air
    Château Giscours 1999 Bordeaux, France

    2.Etihad
    Possums Vineyard Shiraz 2001 McLaren Vale, Australia

    3. Qantas
    Saltram No 1 Barossa Shiraz 2000 Barossa Valley, Australia

    Best Champagne/Sparkling

    1. Malaysia Airlines
    Billecart-Salmon Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1997 Champagne

    2. (Joint)
    Qantas
    Dom Pérignon 1995 Champagne

    JAL
    Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1995 Champagne

    3. Lan Chile
    Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1995 Champagne

    Best Fortified or Sweet

    1. JAL
    Graham's 30 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal

    2. Varig
    Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port 1986 Douro, Portugal

    3. American Airlines
    Graham's Malvedos 1995 Douro, Portugal(37.5cl)

    Overall Awards

    Best Business Class cellar
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    Winner - Cathay Pacific
    Runners Up - American Airlines, British Airways, Icelandair

    Best First Cellar
    Winner - JAL
    Runners Up - Etihad, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Lan Chile

    Best Airline Alliance
    1. Oneworld
    2. Skyteam
    3. Star Alliance

    Most original first class wine list
    Winner - JAL/Cathay Pacific
    Shortlist - British Airways, Etihad, Qantas, Thai Airways

    Most original business class wine list
    Winner - Delta
    Shortlist - American Airlines, Alitalia, British Airways, Finnair, Northwest Airlines, Cathay Pacific

    [P.S. And yes others have helped me find out who Etihad Airlines are - courtesy of GibSpmuh on FT]:

    .
     
  2. QF WP

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    Business travellers care more about upgrades and high fares

    Business travellers care more about upgrades and high fares than security according to a recent survey.

    In a survey that questioned 450 frequent flyers about their air travel concerns, a quarter said they would travel more often if they were offered upgrades.

    Not a surprising result. What was less expected was that just 3% of respondents were concerned about onboard security, saying that improvements in aircraft security would make them travel more often.

    Despite saying that security was not important, only 30% said they would be comfortable flying in the Middle East, compared to 90% who were happy to fly in Europe, 72% in the US and 76% in Asia Pacific.

    Another key issue for business travellers is cost, according to the survey results – 35% said they would be tempted to fly more frequently if fares went down.

    Frequent flyer programmes were a key issue for 10% of respondents, while only 6% said better schedules would get them flying more often. The views of the travellers were collected for the Corporate Air Travel Survey, which was conducted by aviation analysts, Airclaims and unveiled at this year's World Travel Market in London.
     


  3. QF WP

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    An x-ray machine is currently being tested by security staff

    An x-ray machine is currently being tested by security staff at Heathrow, but if successful it will not replace hand searching.

    The machine is being tested on passengers in Heathrow Terminal 4 alongside the existing metal detectors and bag scanners in the security area. It works by using a small dose of x-ray to detect objects being carried under travellers' clothes, including both metallic and non-metallic items.

    Currently passengers are being invited by security staff to use the machine, and can refuse if they wish. Pregnant women and children are not being asked, despite assertions from the airport's spokespeople that it is completely safe.

    The Rapiscan Secure 1000 screens the individual and a digital image of their body is immediately displayed on the security operator's computer screen showing the shape and location of objects hidden under the clothing. Various airports in the US have also tested the x-ray machine.

    According to a spokesman for Heathrow airport the machine will not replace hand searching. “We won't see the end of hand searching because it is still sometimes necessary, this machine just adds another layer of security.”
    The trial, a joint initiative between Heathrow and the Department for Transport, ends in January after which a review will begin to decide whether to install them across the airport.
     
  4. arun

    arun Member

    Sep 5, 2002
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    I hope they would have considered the impact of XRAYS on health. My doctor hates X Rays and only recommends if it is absolutely required and that too at ong intervals.

    I am just thinking of regular business travellers.

    Regards
    Arun
     
  5. QF WP

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    From issue ~ Jan 28, 2005

    Oops, I have been forgetting to post stories to this..so here goes:

    2004 safest year in skies

    Air travellers experienced the safest year on record in 2004.

    Air travellers experienced the safest year on record in 2004. Last year saw 11 accidents involving commercial flights in which passengers were killed. This is according to industry monitor and consultancy, Airclaims, which posts the death toll from the 11 accidents at 347. The figure does not include the destruction by suicide bombers of two Russian jets after they took off from Moscow in August, resulting in the death of all 90 passengers on board.

    Excluding such deliberate acts of violence, the safety of aircraft has improved dramatically since the late 1940s and 1950s when annual accidents involving fatalities averaged 40 or 50 aircraft. During the 1980s and 1990s this dropped to around 25 and in the last four years the number of fatal accidents has steadily decreased.

    "This series of 'safe years' starting in 2001 is unprecedented", said director of safety at Airclaims, Paul Hayes. "There has been no other time in the 60 years since World War II where the number of fatal accidents has reduced year on year for four consecutive years", he said.

    Club World faces upgrade

    In a bid to see off competition British Airways is making its business class flat-beds more comfortable than ever. The airline is taking its inspiration from the sleeping experience 35,000 feet beneath it, and using technology employed by makers of household mattresses. The airline says the new mattresses, which are being installed across the long-haul fleet, will offer better ergonomic support.

    Coupled with larger pillows and thicker blankets, passengers in Club World should be able to sleep more soundly. Improvements to the flat-beds are part of an overhaul of Club World cabins over the next six months. Seats will be covered in dark blue covers and images of Britain hung around the cabin to create a more attractive environment.

    Before passengers nod off, BA says it will treat them to a top class restaurant-style dining experience, with the introduction of linen tablecloths, Royal Doulton china, more personalised service and new menus devised with the help of a council of chefs including Richard Corrigan of The Lindsay House in London and Shaun Hill from The Merchant House in Ludlow.

    With better seats and higher quality food, you might ask what's left for first class... A spokeswoman for BA told businesstraveller.com there were still distinguishing factors between business and first class products. She said smaller cabins of 14 seats, bigger beds, duvets, more selective in-flight entertainment and more one-on-one service all add up to a more exclusive experience in first.

    Earn your bonus

    Fly across the pond in United Airlines' premium classes and you can earn two free US domestic flights with the carrier. The airline is offering members of its frequent flyer scheme, United Mileage Plus, the chance to earn over 50,000 miles when they take a qualifying premium class transatlantic flight from the UK with United or Lufthansa. Normally premium passengers would earn around 8,000 miles on a return transatlantic flight, depending on the route and class.

    The offer applies to various classes of business and first class tickets, including F, A, C, D and Z for a return ticket on travel completed by April 30. During that period there is no limit to the number of qualifying trips a United or Lufthansa customer can take.

    The 50,000 or more miles are added to the relevant frequent flyer account and can be spent on any award within United's scheme. For example, 50,000 miles would get a “saver” return transatlantic ticket in economy, 25,000 miles would get a “saver” return ticket in the US and Canada and 15,000 miles, an upgrade from economy to business class on one sector of a transatlantic flight.

    In order to receive the bonus miles members of United Mileage Plus need to register online at 50K to USA.

    Conrad counts down to Tokyo opening

    Conrad's next hotel opens in Tokyo and will be home to the first Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Japan. The Conrad Tokyo, due to open in July, will have 290 rooms and is located near the exclusive Ginza district. It occupies the upper floors of the mixed-use Tokyo Shiodome building.

    The Gordon Ramsay restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, will offer fine dining and more casual all-day dining. Regional specialities will be served in the hotel's Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Ramsay, the British celebrity chef with seven Michelin stars under his belt, will advise on the menu, ingredients and cooking methods and instruct the chefs. In addition to the restaurants, the hotel will have a lobby bar and lounge where afternoon tea is served, and later on cocktails with a backdrop of live music.

    As well as becoming famous for its Ramsay restaurant, the hotel's wedding chapel is sure to court publicity – an ideal place to establish or renew vows, according to the website. Guests who want to work off the excesses of Ramsay's cuisine can use the hotel's fitness centre and pool, or simply relax in the spa, which offers internationally-inspired treatments include grape seed aromatherapy from California and natural bio-cosmetics from Germany.

    Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, some with views of the Hamarikyu gardens, a former Royal residence. They also feature all the mod cons: 37-inch plasma television screens, DVD and video on demand, wired and wireless internet access and electronic safes.

    Conrad is the luxury brand of the Hilton International chain. Openings planned over the next two years include properties in the US, Thailand and Dubai. Go to Conrad Hotels.
     


  6. QF WP

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    From issue ~ 12 February

    American Airlines is reinstating transatlantic flights from two UK regional airports this summer.

    Flights from Manchester to Boston and from Glasgow to Chicago will relaunch on May 2. Except for a year-round service from Manchester to Chicago and winter flights from Manchester to Miami, American operates all of its transatlantic flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick, but says it has found success with these seasonal services.

    The Glasgow-Chicago route, which is in its tenth summer, will be operated daily until September 30 with fares from £396 including tax. It operates with a two-class configuration. American says about a quarter of passengers finish their journey in Chicago while the remainder fly on to other US cities.

    The Manchester-Boston flight will be operated daily until October 29 and is an all-economy flight with fares from £329 including tax. Go to AA UK website

    Marriott brand gets revamp

    Courtyard is ditching in-room minibars at properties in mainland Europe.
    The decision by the value-for-money brand of US hotel chain Marriott, will delight travellers who grumble about excessive hotel minibar charges.
    The mini-bars are being replaced by in-room fridges which the guest can stock with items of his or her own choice.

    The concept is already offered at the Amsterdam Schiphol Courtyard along with the new property located near Brussels' airport. The idea is that guests can either stock the fridge with their own drinks or snacks or buy them from a special "grab and go" shop in the lobby. The concept is expected to be extended to all new Courtyard properties planned for mainland Europe.

    At the same time, Marriott is upgrading the Courtyard concept. The latest properties, which are located near airports or at business locations on the edge of town in Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and Poland, are built to higher standards.

    Accommodation remains reasonably priced but guests can now expect improvements like larger rooms (30 square metres), in-room safes, air-conditioning, iron and ironing board and a quality food and beverage outlet which is open long hours.

    Says a Marriott spokesperson: "These Courtyards offer four-star standards at more affordable rates. They're designed for executives who don't want to compromise on quality yet who don't need the extensive range of services offered by a traditional four or five star hotel."

    The new breed of Courtyards (with the typical room rate) are located at: Hanover (Euros 130), Amsterdam Schiphol (Euros 135), Warsaw airport (Euros 110), Paris CDG airport (Euros 155) and Brussels (Euros 149, which includes free high-speed internet access until February 27).

    Go to Marriott website.
     
  7. QF WP

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    From issue ~ 22 February

    "Bumped off" air travellers will receive compensation of up to £415 under European legislation coming into effect today.

    The legislation is designed to stop airlines from deliberately overbooking flights but airlines are against the rules saying it could push up fares. From today, all airlines, including charter and low cost carriers, which deny boarding because of overbooking will have to pay out £173 on short-haul flights (under 1,500km), £277 on medium-haul flights (over 1,500km in the EU and up to 3,500km outside EU) and £415 on long-haul flights (over 3,500km). This compensation is halved if the passenger is not delayed more than two, three or four hours respectively.

    The payouts are set regardless of the fare – something no-frills airlines such as Ryanair are objecting to, claiming the payout could exceed the original fare. "Compensation should be proportional to the fare paid," said Easyjet in a statement. Industry commentators are predicting a rise in fares as a result of the legislation, but few airlines are willing to state this. British Airways told businesstraveller.com its fares will be unaffected, but Easyjet has hinted at "increased costs for the passenger".

    Consumer groups are welcoming the new rules. Which? Campaigner Emma Harrison accused the airlines of pulling the wool over their customers' eyes in the past. She said: "For years airlines have washed their hands of responsibility for making sure passengers get to their destinations on time, it's common knowledge that airlines over-book flights as a matter of course."

    In addition to a cash payout bumped passengers will be entitled to a full refund of the ticket or alternative flight to their destination, as well as a recoup of accommodation and other subsistence costs incurred while "stranded". Airlines can still appeal to passengers to voluntarily opt for a later flight in the event of overbooking by offering incentives such as flight or duty-free vouchers or cash. The legislation goes into effect today, with leaflets distributed throughout Europe's airports, but airlines hope a legal challenge being made on their behalf by various organisations including IATA, could amend the rules.

    Cancelled flights

    It is not just bumped off passengers that benefit from the legislation – the same level of compensation extends to passengers on cancelled flights where the problem is deemed to be the fault of the airline and sufficient advance notice is not given to the passenger. However, this aspect of the legislation has been criticised by airlines for being "woolly" and could lead to disputes with passengers over whether the airline is at fault over the delay. In a statement Easyjet said: "...poor wording of the legislation will prove misleading in terms of what passengers will be entitled to." BA told businesstraveller.com that it was also concerned about the wording of the new policy.

    Delayed flights

    Better treatment of delayed passengers is another impact of the legislation. If a flight is delayed more than two hours, airlines must provide a meal, refreshments and two free phone calls. If this delay extends over five hours, passengers can demand a full refund and a return flight home if relevant.

    Baggage

    When a bag is damaged, lost or delayed, passengers can claim up to £816. A complaint must be made in writing within a week of return for damaged baggage and within three weeks for delayed baggage.

    Claiming compensation

    Knowing who to complain to isn't simple – passengers who are not satisfied that an airline has fulfilled its obligation in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellation or long delay need to contact the relevant EU authority, and to find that out they should call Europe Direct on 00 800 6789 1011.

    South African Airways has stepped up to compete with the likes of BA and Virgin following the completion of lie-flat beds in Business Class.

    The airline has now fitted lie-flat beds across its fleet of B747-400 aircraft, which operate between London and both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
    The new beds take the seat pitch in Business from 55 inches to 78 inches, which beats BA's Club World at 73 inches and is close to Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class product at 79.2 inches. As all 14 flights per week to Johannesburg and nine to Cape Town operate overnight, the beds, which come with duvets and pillows, will offer a welcome rest to business travellers arriving for morning meetings in South Africa.

    But following the product upgrade Business Class fares have risen. "Fares will rise slightly," an SAA spokeswoman told businesstraveller.com, "because we feel we can now compete with BA and Virgin with our Business Class product."

    Business Class fares currently start at £2,400 return including taxes to both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Travel in Business Class includes seatback video with on-demand movies, complimentary airport transfer within a 65-mile return trip and access to departure and arrival lounges. Malaysia Airlines, British Airways and SAS are among other airlines to have recently revamped business class.
     
  8. QF WP

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    Edition ~ March 14

    The construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 has reached the half way mark - ahead of schedule and within budget.

    The construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 has reached the half way mark - ahead of schedule and within budget. The new terminal building and air traffic control tower have been raised to their full heights, giving the airport a new historic skyline.

    Terminal 5 managing director Tony Douglas said: "While we are investing £4.2bn in the new terminal development, a further £3bn is also being spent over the next seven years on improving the existing airport facilities. "Two and a half years into construction and over 50 per cent complete, we have already spent £2bn and will be spending approximately £80m a month during this coming year."

    The opening of Terminal 5 is scheduled for March 30 2008 and will comprise two terminal buildings, a network of over 13km of bored tunnels, a new air traffic control tower, airfield infrastructure, a 4,000-space multi-story car park and a hotel.

    It will increase Heathrow's capacity to 90m passengers a year, compared to the 72m who passed through the world's busiest international airport last year.
     
  9. QF WP

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    Edition ~ 18 March

    The best online hotel prices aren't always where you think they are

    Ask 10 business travellers a good website for booking travel and, chances are, they will give you 10 different answers. In fact, many will name several sites, splitting their bookings for short-haul and long-haul flights, accommodation and even car hire. They may have originally chosen these sites for their prices, but once they are registered and have become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of the booking engine, they will probably stay with those sites. Yet things are changing so quickly in the travel industry - and particularly on travel websites - that there's likely to be a better deal elsewhere.

    To understand why, it's a good idea to look at what travel agents are doing and why. Much has changed for them in recent years. Go back just a few years, and there were frequent predictions of their demise. How could they compete with increasing numbers of travellers using the web to book their travel? How they coped was by offering their services on the web in an easy-to-use format. In many cases, they also undercut the prices that were available directly from the hotels and airlines and, as a result, they thrived.

    Yet just in the last few months, things have changed again. Airlines have cut commission payments to agents from 10–15% down to 1% or even zero. By contrast, hotels pay anything from 8% to 30% commission depending on the volume of business. As a result, website agents are now aggressively promoting hotel rooms, which have become the products with the largest mark-up.

    Looking at this mark-up, it's no wonder Hubert Joly, president and CEO of global travel firm Carlson Wagonlit, describes hotel accommodation as "...a dream for a company like ours." The big travel management companies have large firms as their clients - the sort that can obtain good rates on airfares on their own.

    However, the same might not be true of their accommodation requirements (although in many cases, large travel management companies make their money in the form of an annual flat-rate management fee from large companies, rather than agency commission).

    "Corporations feel that hotel expenditure is the next frontier [to be conquered]" says Joly, "and frankly this is an area we've neglected. In the past, travel managers have focused on air travel. But that market has become concentrated. By contrast, the hotels are fragmented and they're profitable."

    Joly believes that Carlson Wagonlit, with its huge volumes of turnover, can offer better rates than its online rivals in the majority of cases. In addition, firms that supply substantial volumes of custom may be able to get hoteliers to throw in sweeteners like executive floor upgrades, free breakfast and car parking.

    If you are booking your travel individually - or you work for a smaller firm - you will lack this clout, so where are the bargains? In the past, many travellers turned to online agents like Expedia, Travelocity or Lastminute.com

    What has changed recently is the attitude of the hotel chains to these online agents. Many hotels have shaken up their booking systems to price according to market demand, rather than merely quoting unrealistically high rack or full-price rates. As a result, individual travellers can often now find comparable, or even cheaper, rates on a hotel's own website.

    To give some examples, Marriott has adopted "rational" pricing on its website, while InterContinental and Hilton offer "best price" guarantees. A spokesperson for US chain Marriott said: "The only time you will find a better rate [than is available on the hotel's own website] is when it's an exclusively negotiated one [like a corporate deal] or where it's a wholesale rate [like those granted to tour operators]." Chains like Radisson SAS, InterContinental and Sofitel can offer Apex (advance purchase) rates at slack times and these can undercut what the online agents quote.

    Global chains were forced to act because the online agents negotiated overly generous commission payments in the days following September 11, when hotels were desperate for business. Said a Marriott spokesperson: "The online agents wanted really low rates for rooms, which they then sold off at ridiculously high prices."

    In addition, the online agents didn't make it clear which rates included taxes and which did not. They also imposed heavy cancellation and amendment fees (up to 100% for all nights booked), whereas most rooms booked directly with a major hotel can be changed or cancelled without penalty until the late afternoon on the day of arrival. Even if you were to "no show" for a stay of several nights, a hotel would only bill you for the first night, whereas the online agent would charge you for the entire stay, "so there was an integrity as well as a cost per sale issue," added the Marriott spokesperson.

    Finally, at times of high demand, the online operators often showed a hotel as being fully booked, when in fact the site had merely sold its allocation of merchant hotel rooms (ie, those bought at wholesale price from the hotel, then marked up for sale on the site).

    With business now looking up, hotels are increasingly calling time on these deals. InterContinental recently went as far as to sever its ties with online agent Expedia. According to an InterContinental spokesperson: "We will only work with partners who do not engage in confusing and potentially unclear marketing practices." As a result, Travelocity became the hotel group's "official third-party distributor".

    The hotel chains don't want to turn their backs on the online agents completely. They find that they reach a different sector of the business and leisure market - that is, those of us who have grown used to using the sites. But now with business travel returning to pre-September 11 levels, the boot is on the other foot. Christian Ruge, business development manager of the Accor group's new first class Sofitel Bayerpost in Munich, said: "Major hotels were paying a lot of commission to online agents in the past. But we've had a good couple of years so now they have to deal on our terms. If they don't like it, then it's goodbye."

    The lesson for those of us using the web to book our accommodation is to shop around, and to make sure that whichever hotel we choose to stay at, we check the price on that hotel's website before we start typing in credit card details. With "best rate" guarantees becoming more common, it can be a complex search to find a real bargain, but at least you can be assured you found the lowest price available.
     
  10. QF WP

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    Trains to get an overhaul

    GNER is upgrading its trains and installing wireless internet across the fleet following a successful bid on the London-Scotland service. The train operator, which has run the service since 1996, beat Virgin Trains to win the contract for the next ten years.

    Among the pledges to passengers made by GNER as part of its bid is the installation of wireless internet on all trains by May 2007. GNER says it also plans to make trains more reliable, more comfortable and more punctual.

    GNER is a targetting 90% punctuality by 2010 and says £25 million will be spent on upgrading the interior of GNER's high-speed diesel trains to the level of comfort offered by its fleet of electric "Mallard" trains.

    Extra services are also planned, with 13 more services on the London-Leeds route by December, GNER's most popular route. But the improvements come at a cost. Industry observers says the £1.3 billion outlay, pledged by GNER to be given to the government over the next ten years, will be compensated for by an increase in fares, already topping £100 on some standard class tickets.

    GNER is denying "massive fare increases" but says fares will rise over the coming years with inflation.

    Schedule boost for BA

    British Airways is boosting flights to Eastern Europe as part of its 2005 summer timetable, and dropping some services to Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

    Romania's capital, Bucharest and the Bulgarian capital, Sofia will be served three times a week from May 1 and June 1 respectively. These Gatwick flights will start from around £150 return including taxes.

    Other new services from March 27 include daily flights from Bristol to Milan with franchise carrier, BA CitiExpress, which will also launch Bristol to Zurich six times a week. Fares start at £99 return including taxes on both routes.

    Also on the summer timetable are flights planned from London Heathrow to Shanghai, which BA will launch subject to regulatory approval, on March 27.

    European flights will be boosted to an average 631 British Airways flights a day for the summer, in addition to 372 daily UK and Ireland flights, but some services are being scrapped for the summer. Flights from Gatwick to Frankfurt and Genoa will be suspended over the summer, as will flights from Manchester to Amsterdam and Bologna. Go to BA website.

    New FFP to launch

    Air France and KLM are merging frequent flyer programmes. Under the arrangement Air France's "Fréquence Plus" and KLM's "Flying Dutchman" will be replaced by a single programme called "Flying Blue" from June.

    Members of the two frequent flyer programmes will be automatically signed up to Flying Blue and over the coming months they will be informed about the changes by letter.

    Members will retain their membership number and miles, with Flying Blue miles being equal in value to the Fréquence Plus and Flying Dutchman miles. Flying Blue will have four membership levels – Ivory, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The scheme has 36 airline partners and 100 non-airline partners with which to redeem and spend rewards.

    The merger of the frequent flyer programmes follows the merger of KLM and Air France in May 2004.

    SAS to go flat

    Flat beds and video on demand will be enjoyed by SAS Business Class passengers from next year.

    The Scandinavian carrier is introducing flatbeds in Business Class on flights to Asia and the US from Manchester, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Newcastle, which operate via the SAS hub in Copenhagen. The beds will be fitted from early next year following the removal of 14 seats from the original A340 Business Class cabin to make room for 60 flatbed seats. The smaller A330 aircraft will have 34 flatbed seats.

    With a 61-inch seat pitch, 66cm width and recline of 11 degrees, the seats should be more comfortable than the current Business Class offering, which bar the front row of "sleeper seats" are reclining seats.

    With the beds comes improved entertainment for Business Class passengers from video on demand, available through a larger 10.4 inch monitor. Go to SAS website


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    Edition - 8 April 2005

    Rome's Airport Closing for Pope's Funeral

    Rome's Ciampino Airport will be closed until midnight on Friday April 8, the day of the Pope's funeral, with normal services resuming after that time. Ciampino will be shut to accommodate the aircraft of dignitaries attending the funeral and a five mile no-fly zone over the city.

    It is believed that 10,000 British travellers will be affected by the move as the airport is heavily used by low-cost airlines Ryanair and Easyjet. British Airways flies to Fiumicino and its flights will not be affected.

    Ryanair has re-directed all its flights to Pescara, 130 miles away, or to Rome's Fiumicino airport, 20 miles away. Those travelling to Pescara will have to take a three-hour coach journey to Rome costing £12 a ticket. Four flights from the UK which arrive just after midnight are still being operated. Ryanair is offering a full refund or a transfer to the next available flight to any passengers affected.

    EasyJet, which flies to Rome from Gatwick, Nottingham, Bristol and Newcastle, has increased flights to Bologna, a four-hour train journey from Rome. An Easyjet spokesman said that passengers not wishing to fly to Bologna will be able to obtain a refund or transfer their tickets to flights leaving within the next 30 days.

    Travel expenses causes trouble inthe workplace

    Arguments over expenses are damaging staff morale and hitting cash flow for UK companies, according to a survey by Barclaycard Business. The research found that nearly one in 10 employees have argued with their company over expenses claims, potentially causing staff dissatisfaction or productivity problems.

    Almost half of employees take up to a month to claim back their expenses and 20% said they do not always get round to claiming them back. The survey also found that 41% of employers themselves take up to a month to reimburse their staff.

    On average, the highest value receipt lost by workers last year was £128, but 63% of employees are able to reclaim their expenses without having to provide a receipt.

    Tim Carlier, head of card issuing at Barclaycard Business, said: "The fact that nearly one in 10 respondents to our survey reported having a dispute with their employer over expenses illustrates that, if not properly managed, the expense claims system can cause friction in the workplace."

    The survey was conducted in October 2004 amongst 1,200 CEOs, company directors, managers and executives who are Barclaycard Business commercial card holders. For a full report on the issues surrounding travel expenses, see the May issue of Business Traveller magazine.

    False promises for on-line hotel deals

    Hotels are failing to honour price guarantees advertised on their websites, says a new survey by professional services firm KPMG. The research, conducted across 330 hotels in 16 countries, found that although 43% of hotels guaranteed that their best rates are to be found on their websites, this was only true in 27% of the cases.

    UK hotels performed worse with only 19% of hotels surveyed offering true price guarantees. Nick Pattie, director of KPMG's hotel practice which conducted the research, said: "These survey findings are surprising considering the amount of effort being made by hoteliers to direct customers to their own booking channels. Hotels want their customers to book direct but in practice hoteliers aren't delivering consistent prices and customers will continue to use other booking methods which offer more attractive room rates."


    Special Story: London's Grandest Hotels

    Are London's famous names resting on their laurels or are they still at the cutting edge? Business Traveller tests their claims to greatness.

    Nowadays, we think of London's grand hotels as traditional places, where guests have been visiting for years, and change is resisted rather than welcomed. Yet for much of their history, the opposite was true. Both The Savoy and the Ritz were the designer hotels of their time, with modern technology, unheard of creature comforts and a level of service – whisper it – that often had been imported from the Continent.

    Today, it's fair to say you don't stay in one of these hotels if you are working your way up the greasy corporate pole – they're the preserve of those who've arrived and don't mind others knowing it. Concerns about expenses aren't an issue, though if asked, chief executives and chairmen will point out that the convenience of hotel suites and high-quality restaurants for confidential chats represent excellent value for money.

    Yet while these well-known names are brands with cachet, they do bring challenges. How does the hotel change without losing what made it special, cherished even? It can't alienate the guests who have been coming for years, but needs to attract a new generation of high-spending visitors , and what is stylish to one person is flashy to another. It's a tough balancing act: rely on history, or construct a new hotel behind a well-known name. Each one of the hotels below has arrived at a different answer.

    The Waldorf Hilton

    Of all the hotels here, the Waldorf has most radically reinvented itself, having just completed a $56 million renovation and changed from Le Meridien Waldorf to The Waldorf Hilton. The exterior is unchanged: traditional early-20th century London architecture and a prime position between Fleet Street and the Strand. Most of central London is within easy reach and Covent Garden and Soho are an easy stroll away.

    Inside, it's a very different story. The reception desk is illuminated yellow glass, the walls are minimalist white, and the main accent colour comes from the bright red leather wing chairs designed by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobson.

    Aldwych is on a slight slope so there are several flights of stairs, including one to reception and to the restaurant (Homage) and bar, but there are new disabled-access elevators for wheelchairs at the side of each. In the bar, wine by the glass is reasonably priced at £5-£9.50. On the other hand, you could always try a bottle of Cristal at £195. The design mixes a traditional parquet floor with mirrored rectangular columns and a stamped pewter effect behind the bar.

    Homage Grand Salon is good value, with a no-nonsense approach to its menu: starters cost £5-£12 (the Scottish langoustine salad, baby artichokes and asparagus was delicious) while main courses are around £14. I had grilled calves' liver, cracked black pepper jus and braised cos lettuce. Scalloped ionic columns reach to an extremely high ceiling, a glass-fronted wine cellar is tucked into one of the archways off the main room, and there's a tinted glass central bar used for service at night and the breakfast buffet in the morning.

    The 299 rooms come in all shapes and sizes (the first and eighth-floor rooms have higher ceilings). There are good views over Aldwych and the other three surrounding streets, but rooms have differing levels of noise depending on whether they are closest to Aldwych (constant) or the side roads, which are used through the night, but less heavily. The quietest are the internal rooms with no view, and for long stays or light sleepers, these are the best value. Rooms are divided into contemporary and design and both are modern in feel, with strange clothes horses in the corner shaped like robotic women, wall-mounted plasma-screen TVs, tea and coffee facilities, powerful showers, no-fog mirrors (which are a joy when you're in a rush in the morning), a trouser press and a laptop charger integrated in the safe (why doesn't everyone do this?). There's a small, but well-appointed business centre below reception, and guests can use a privately run LA Fitness leisure club two floors below, with a small swimming pool. The club staff are excellent. In April 2005, an executive lounge will be completed.

    Verdict: Excellent. A famous name, freed from tradition by frequent changes of ownership, has reinvented itself for the 21st century.
    Prices: Queen Hilton rooms from £179 ($337).
    contact: The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DD, tel 020 7836 2400, www.hilton.co.uk/waldorf.
    Tom Otley

    Claridge's
    Part of the Savoy Group (now renamed the Maybourne Hotel Group) along with The Berkeley and The Connaught, Claridge's has the feel of a one-off. Built by Richard D'Oyly Carte, also responsible for The Savoy, it had a similar level of technology and comfort, yet combined this with the old tradition of the hotels that had previously occupied the site, by offering apartments for long-term residents.

    A glance over Claridge's guest register reads like a Who's Who of the 20th century. Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Onassis have all stayed here and are immortalised by photos adorning the lobby.

    Photographs aren't the only reminder of its history. Although the hotel was renovated in 1999 by New York designer Thierry Despont, the lobby stays true to the 1930s. Topped by a vast glass chandelier made of 300 hand-blown glass pieces, it's a little gaudy to the modern eye, but a temple to Art Deco nevertheless, right down to the signature green and white china that carries petit fours for the afternoon tea brigade.

    Art Deco continues through some of the 203 guest rooms, while others take their inspiration from the Louis XVI era. All rooms are spacious and feature a large desk and classy stationery that might tempt even technology-savvy guests to ditch email and put pen to paper. If you need to stay connected, there are European and US dataports, and internet access is available through the TV for £17.50 per day.

    But what really sets Claridge's apart is the service. The tail-coated doormen and suited waiters are helpful as well as immaculately turned out. In the restaurant it can be hard to tell the waiters from the customers. Dining here is expensive if you opt for Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's – £150 for two with wine and service – and the chef's celebrity status and rave reviews mean it is tough to get a table.

    The Reading Room restaurant is a close second for cuisine (and easier on the wallet). Sitting in lounge chairs to eat is an unusual dining experience, but that could be what makes it popular with a greying crowd. The £37.75 set menu offers a choice of three French dishes per course, such as cumin-scented cream of butternut squash soup to start and roast loin of venison with spiced crust, celeriac mousseline and juniper jus to follow. This is more reasonable than breakfast, which can reach three figures if you order for two off the à la carte menu.

    If further indulgence is on the cards, the hotel is in a superb spot for shopping. Nearby New Bond Street is home to shops such as Chanel and Gucci, while Oxford Street offers Selfridges. If the hotel bill has broken the bank, there are 24 channels of in-room entertainment. For £30 guests can access 15 movies and 15 music channels on a system that is refreshingly simple to navigate (this also includes internet access through the TV). Expect more renovation: there are plans in the pipeline for the addition of some 25 rooms and a new luxury spa.

    Verdict: After wisely restoring its Art Deco styling, Claridge's is a perfect blend of old and new.
    Price: Superior queen rooms from £214.
    Contact: Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1A 2JQ, tel 020 7629 8860, www.savoy-group.com
    Ginny McGrath

    Savoy, a Fairmont hotel
    The Savoy has made lots of headlines in recent years, mainly because of its changing ownership. Previously part of The Savoy Group, it has now been bought in a joint venture between His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Bank of Scotland Corporate, part of HBOS plc, with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in charge of management.

    A $48 million refurbishment is promised, updating the Thames Foyer area and the restaurant overlooking the river but retaining the history, including the Savoy Theatre next door, which was the original reason for the hotel's creation.

    From the minute the doorman sweeps you in through the front doors, there's no mistaking The Savoy for anything other than a luxury hotel. Staff fall over themselves to ensure you receive VIP treatment, regardless of your room category. The turndown service is meticulous, there is silver service at breakfast, and staff remember your name.

    Some refurbishment took place under the previous owners, but more work is needed as some of the rooms look a little tired. The best are those with a view of the Thames and the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. My River room was huge and set off by a working fireplace. The modern bathroom was kitted out with an oversized shower head, fluffy towels and expensive toiletries but my favourite feature was the mirrored ceiling which, in such a traditional hotel, is a decadent and slightly racy touch.

    Business travellers are well catered for with plenty of power points and a broadband modem to plug into, as well as internet access via the TV, at £17 per day. There is also a mobile phone loan system, which allows guests to rent a phone, free of charge. Insurance (£1.50 per day) and call charges are debited from your credit card. This is useful if you are visiting from overseas as there are no charges for incoming calls.

    Aside from the refurbishments, there are already two outstanding dining options. Banquette is Marcus Wareing's take on an American diner, with a theme representing a 1950s Corvette Stingray and decorated in red, ivory, brown and stainless steel with streamlined banquettes that stretch the entire length of the restaurant. Unlike at The Savoy Grill, both the atmosphere and menu are informal with guests in jeans and sneakers ordering burgers, chips and bottles of beer. But this is not your average fast food joint. Josh Emett, head chef at the Savoy Grill, leads the kitchen while Elias Lallouris, formerly of Claridge's bar, ensures guests are happy and relaxed – a key part of the Banquette experience. Thanks to its position over the main entrance, entertainment is provided by the non-stop comings and goings of guests. For drinks there's the Laurent-Perrier champagne bar, open until 1.30am.

    Verdict: Prices might soon go up when the refurbishment takes hold, but the cachet that goes with "you can reach me at The Savoy" is priceless.
    Price: Fairmont queen rooms from £209.
    Contact: Savoy, a Fairmont Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU.
    Tel 020 7836 4343, www.savoy-group.com.
    Lauren Custance

    The Ritz
    Preparing for its 100th anniversary next year, the Ritz was conceived by renowned hotelier César Ritz to be state of the art: bathrooms in every guest room, double glazing, a sophisticated ventilation system and brass, rather than wooden, beds. One of the first steel-framed buildings in London, the French chateau-style Ritz is probably architecturally the greatest of London's grand hotels, standing proud on Piccadilly with its perfect symmetry emphasized by large copper lions at each corner of the roof.

    The Ritz has been owned since 1995 by the fiercely private Barclay brothers, who have spent $75 million on refurbishing the Grade II Star listed building, so to visit now is to see it at its best. The ground floor has a Louis XVI theme, with the vaulted Long Gallery running the length of the building, linking a series of elegant public rooms and drawing the eye to the far windows of the restaurant overlooking the hotel's Italian Garden and Green Park. Off the Long Gallery, Palm Court is the place for tea and you must book weeks in advance.

    The Ritz doesn't hide from view and, as such, is firmly on the tourist trail. To keep the tourists at bay, discreet uniformed attendants mill around the lobby, and there's a formal dress code in both the fabulously ornate Ritz Restaurant and Palm Court (jacket and tie), and the Rivoli Bar (jacket). Shorts, jeans and trainers are not allowed.

    There are several room grades: superior single, superior king, deluxe king, junior suite and deluxe suite. All are in the distinctive Ritz colour schemes of blue, peach, pink and yellow and furnished with rich fabrics, 24-carat gold leaf and restored antique furniture in keeping with the original Louis XVI style. In fact, so fine are these rooms that you tend to keep a tie on even while relaxing. A ratio of two staff to every guest room means there's never a delay for room service, though it is unobtrusive and co-ordinated with a brilliance that comes with a great attitude and excellent training. In fact, without exception, every member of staff left the impression that in a few years they might be management themselves.

    Who stays? Well, anyone who can afford it, on business, pleasure, or simply because they haven't got around to buying a place to live in London just yet. The night we visited, there were mummy, daddy and child-sized cowboy boots left outside the door of the next room for overnight polishing.

    For dinner we pushed out the boat and, among other dishes, had crepes suzette cooked on a trolley by the side of our table, then a night cap before bed – though the price of hot water with a lemon infusion (£5.25; $9.90) was a reminder that the Ritz will always be a treat.

    Verdict: The grandest of the lot. Perfect for special occasions or when you want to impress.
    Price: Superior king rooms from £370.
    Contact: The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR, tel 020 7493 8181, www.theritzlondon.com.
    Tom Otley

    The Dorchester
    Regal enough to host Prince Philip's stag party on the night of his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II, and refined enough for General Eisenhower to plan the Normandy invasion from his office suite, the Dorchester is a hotel you have to look very closely at to find fault. Built in 1931, the property completed a multi-million dollar renovation in May 2003, revitalizing the faded grandeur of its public spaces and moving the Dorchester at full speed ahead into the 21st century.

    On entering the hotel, I arrived at The Promenade, a lobby that runs the length of the ground floor, where guests sip tea and listen to live piano music. The Promenade's gilded marble columns, sparkling chandeliers and abundant floral arrangements exude affluence, but manage not to feel too overdone.

    In the guest rooms, hand-woven carpets and antique furniture create the cozy feel of an English country house, while tucked discreetly behind an armoire sits a near-perfect entertainment and business centre. Through the TV, with an infrared wireless keyboard, guests can use the internet and e-mail; Microsoft Office programmes Word, PowerPoint and Excel; 60 on-demand videos, 5,000 music tracks and various news and entertainment channels. The console also contains a colour printer, fax machine, DVD/CD player, and modems for UK and US plugs.

    If you have any technical questions, a team of E-butlers can come to your rescue. Of course, this hi-tech wonderland comes at a fee: £15 for 24 hours of internet, £5 for music and £12.50 per movie. It may be a bit pricey, but it's well worth the convenience of getting work done from the comfort of your four-poster bed.

    There is no shortage of dining options. For impeccable service and well-presented food, try The Grill Room, which serves traditional British fare, though the menu is extensive enough to satisfy all tastes – expect to pay £75 per head. If that doesn't excite you, the other option is the Dorchester Bar, which serves Italian food.

    A more unusual dining experience is offered in the Krug Room, a subterranean restaurant located in the master kitchens. With the flick of a switch, the opaque glass becomes clear and reveals 12 red leather chairs around a glass table. A far cry from the ornate decor of The Grill Room, the clandestine Krug Room is another testament to the Dorchester's discreet approach to hi-tech amenities, which have been carefully placed around the room so as not to interfere with the property's Old World elegance that has attracted well-heeled guests for over 70 years.

    Verdict: Hi-tech blends with elegance, allowing guests to stay in style without sacrificing business essentials.
    Price: Superior doubles from £375 including tax and service charge.
    Contact: The Dorchester, Park Lane, London WIA 2HJ, tel 020 7629 8888, www.dorchesterhotel.com.
    Mary Beth Hubbard
     
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    Skyteam boosts RTW offering

    The Skyteam alliance has increased the attractiveness of its Round the World (RTW) and Europe Pass tickets following the inclusion of three more carriers.

    Current members of Skyteam that participate in the RTW offering include Air France, Korean Air and Delta. Now they've been joined by Northwest, KLM and Continental, adding 141 destinations in the US, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa to the 658 destinations previously available to RTW passengers.

    The RTW tickets allow customers to opt for one of four packages that includes between three and 15 stops for a trip ranging from 10 days to one year. They cost from E2000, for the package starting in Amsterdam. Rules governing the RTW ticket mean travellers must start and finish in the same country, cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can backtrack only within the same continent.

    The Europe Pass is for alliance passengers who do not reside in Europe, have made a transatlantic or transpacific flight and want to buy three or more single tickets around Europe at a reduced rate. Airlines offering these European routes are Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and now KLM.

    Passengers travelling on either the RTW or Europe Pass tickets can earn and redeem frequent flyer points with all Skyteam airlines. The alliance is expected to make additions to its America Pass ticket later this year following the inclusion of Northwest, KLM and Continental.

    Skyteam's alliance rivals, One World and Star Alliance, also offer RTW ticket options utilising the network strengths of their member airlines. Go to Skyteam UK website

    Icelandair eyes San Francisco

    An airline launching flights between the UK and San Francisco hopes to lure economy class passengers further up the plane with its competitive business class fares.

    Icelandair will operate flights from Heathrow and Glasgow via Reykjavik to San Francisco from May 18 until October 15. It is offering business class fares from around £1,000, which compare to usual business class fares upwards of £2,000 for an indirect flight and £5,000 for a direct flight between the UK and San Francisco, although airline sales can bring direct fares down to £2,000.

    The only drawback of the Icelandair flights is that flights are not operated daily – it will operate twice a week during May and September, rising to four times a week during the peak months of June, July and August.

    The flight will be operated by a wide-bodied Boeing 767 with 230 seats in economy and 30 in business class. It will leave Heathrow at 1pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays (plus Monday and Thursday during peak season) and arrive in San Francisco at 6.35pm. The return flight leaves at 11.35pm and arrives in London at 8.10pm the following day.

    Icelandair also operates flights from the UK via Reykjavik to Boston, New York, Washington Baltimore, Minneapolis St Paul and Orlando. In anticipation of increased traffic to the US the carrier has upgraded its business class Lounge. The extended lounge has room for 130 passengers and offers free wireless internet access, workstations and computers with free internet access and meeting facilities for up to 10.

    For passengers not wishing to work, there's a relaxation area offering soothing music, all decked out in a modern Scandinavian design with plenty of wood, leather and a homely fireplace. Go to Icelandair UK web site

    India flights on the up

    Flights between the UK and India are set to increase again next year, with Mumbai the focus of expansion plans.

    Following an agreement between the British and Indian governments, 21 more flights will be allocated from winter next year. The flights are likely to be distributed between British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Bmi, all of which have announced their desire to boost frequency to Mumbai.

    British Airways wants to take its Delhi and Mumbai flights from daily to double daily, while Bmi has announced an intention to serve Mumbai daily, up from four flights a week. Virgin Atlantic also wants a daily service to Mumbai by the end of the year from three per week.

    All three carriers have also expressed interest in other Indian destinations, which under the new agreement between the UK and Indian authorities could include destinations such as Amritsar, Hyderabad and Cochin.

    An earlier agreement between the UK and India enabled the launch of 21 more flights per week over the course of 2005. The 21 extra services were allocated between BA, Virgin Atlantic and Bmi. Previously the only UK airline to fly to India was British Airways with 19 flights per week.

    The first flights to launch were daily services to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic in time for winter 2004. At the end of March Bmi launched four flights per week to Mumbai, competing head-to-head with three flights per week from Virgin Atlantic to the city and a daily service from BA. Finally for the winter 2005 schedule launching at the end of October will be four flights per week to Chennai and three per week to Bangalore with British Airways. Go to BA website, Bmi website and Virgin Atlantic website

    Inflight meals go gourmet

    An inflight meal of smoked salmon or lobster, once the staple of business and first class passengers, is now available to all passengers to pick up before boarding.

    The take-away meals are on sale at Caviar House Seafood Bars, the luxurious enclaves serving champagne and seafood that have become a well-known fixture in London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

    Passengers can select their meal from the range of seafood on offer. Prices start at £11.50 for a smoked salmon platter and rise to £30 for a lobster salad. Meals come with bread and butter, napkins and cutlery.

    The take-away boxes are the same size as regular airline meal trays and come in a cool bag, keeping the contents chilled for up to five hours. Go to Caviar House web site
     
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    From this week's edition

    Oneworld goes paperless

    The Oneworld airline alliance has beaten rivals Star Alliance to enable e-ticketing across all member airlines.

    The announcement by Oneworld means passengers travelling on any of the alliance's eight member airlines will have one electronic ticket covering an entire trip, regardless of how many transfers made between airlines.

    Aer Lingus and LAN were the last two airlines to implement e-ticketing this month, nearly three years after the first Oneworld airline pair enabled interline e-ticketing in May 2002.

    Star Alliance will have completed interline e-ticketing across its members by August, with the exception of TAP Air Portugal, which recently joined Star and will be integrated by the end of the year according to Star Alliance director media relations, Markus Ruediger.

    Now any combination of the eight airlines - American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, Aer Lingus and LAN - can be covered by an e-ticket. The only exception is where bookings are made to one of a small number of airports that cannot handle e-tickets – in these cases a paper ticket would be issued.

    The Oneworld network encompasses 600 destinations in 135 countries.
    The advantages to having an e-ticket rather than a paper ticket is that there is no possibility of a ticket being lost or stolen, plus passengers can use self-service check-in machines where available. According to Oneworld e-tickets also make check-in quicker and smoother by removing the administration associated with paper tickets, but the main advantage is to airlines in terms of cost savings.

    Oneworld estimates that interline e-ticketing will save the eight airline members a total $65 million a year.

    Securing an emergency exit

    Securing an emergency exit seat has long been an exercise in brute force, charm or deception, but now you can get the extra legroom that goes with it simply by spending a few pounds.

    The latest airline to allow passengers to reserve a seat with extra legroom is Bmibaby, which is undercutting rivals by £5 by offering the service for £10.
    Passengers travelling with Bmibaby can reserve the extra legroom seats online on a first-come-first-served basis. The £10 charge is per flight, per passenger, and with only 8 emergency exit seats on the carrier's Airbus 300 aircraft and 12 on Airbus 500 aircraft, you need to be quick.

    The extra legroom seats can only be reserved by able-bodied passengers over the age of 16. Remaining Bmibaby passengers can reserve a standard seat online for £2.50, and reserve one at check-in for free. Go to bmibaby website

    Other carriers offering extra legroom seats for a fee are Monarch Scheduled and Thomsonfly, which charge £15 per flight to reserve the seats online. Both also charge £5 to book standard seats online. Go to www.thomsonfly.com or www.flymonarch.com.

    Virgin Atlantic offers extra legroom seats for £50 per passenger, but this can only be done at airport check-in.

    Lufthansa rolls out new business seats

    Availability of Lufthansa's new long-haul business class seats has been extended to the carrier's prime destinations out of Frankfurt and Munich.
    The new seats offer more sideways space (56 cms as against 50 cms) and more legroom (152cms compared with 122cms). Although not fully lie-flat, such as the business class seats offered by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa's new seats recline almost to the horizontal whereas its older seats had a 135 degree recline.

    Destinations now covered from Frankfurt include: Dallas, New York JFK, Los Angeles (from May 1), Washington Dulles in the US, Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Muscat in the Middle East along with Hong Kong, Singapore, Osaka, Seoul and Tokyo in Asia.

    From Munich the available destinations include: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Washington Dulles (from May 2) in the US along with Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Asia.

    Readers should bear in mind that one daily flight on each route features the new seating. Where the routing is served by several flights a day, it's essential to check with Lufthansa or your travel agent to determine the relevant service. The airline stresses that last minute plane substitutions may affect new seat availability.

    Lufthansa says that the new seating will installed throughout its long-haul fleet by 2007. Go to LH website

    Starwood launches meetings concierge

    Starwood Hotels and Resorts has boosted its meetings and conference offering by launching a concierge service.

    A Starmeeting Concierge is assigned to each meeting to welcome delegates, explain use of the facilities and deal with queries relating to audio-visual equipment.

    The service is offered free of charge to meeting planners, who are handed a business card featuring a photo of their concierge so they can recognise them easily.

    The Starmeeting Concierge service has been implemented across the US and is being rolled out across Starwood hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East at the moment. So far it is available at Sheraton Heathrow, Sheraton Skyline, Park Lane, Sheraton Belgravia, and Sheraton Park Tower in London, and in Scotland in Westin Turnberry Resort and Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa.

    The introduction of the service follows customer research and testing in Starwood's Heathrow, Frankfurt and Madrid properties. According to the hotel chain, during the test phase 95% of delegates rated their concierge's responsiveness as "excellent". Go to Starwood Website

    Emirates plugs South Korea route

    Emirates is offering free hotel nights to lure premium passengers on to its Seoul flights.

    The carrier launches flights from Dubai to Seoul on May 1, with a connection time of less than three hours from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

    In a bid to get bums on premium class seats, Emirates is offering three hotel nights in Seoul to first class passengers and two nights to business class passengers.

    The hotel nights, which include breakfast, are in a Deluxe Room at the Ritz Carlton Seoul, which is close to the World Trade Center, home to the Olympic Stadium, shops, and restaurants. The hotel has a fitness centre, indoor swimming pool, driving range, six restaurants, a pub and disco, bar and lounge.

    Emirates flights will operate daily to Seoul with a connection of less than three hours in Dubai for customers departing the UK. The total travel time between the UK and South Korea is 18 hours outbound and 20 hours return. Weekday return fares start at £709 in economy, £1,872 in Business Class and £2,672 in First Class (fares include taxes and charges). Go to Emerites UK website
     
  14. QF WP

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    Last weeks issue

    Delay for A380

    Singapore Airlines (SIA) has been forced to delay the introduction of the Airbus A380 into service.

    The airline has confirmed that due to a delay from Airbus, the world's largest commercial passenger jet will not start flying until well after the anticipated launch date of April 2006.

    Airbus has declined to comment on the reasons behind the delay.
    SIA vice president public affairs, Stephen Forshaw, said: "SIA remains committed to being the first to fly the new Airbus A380, and we are working with Airbus on a timetable which will see entry into service during the second half of 2006."

    SIA plans to fly the A380, the first fully double-decker aircraft, between London, Singapore and Sydney. It has ordered 10 A380 aircraft, with an option to order a further 15.

    The news comes just over a week after the A380 successfully completed its first test flight, taking off from an airstrip near Toulouse for a four-hour flight. Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Qantas are among the other carriers that have placed orders for the A380, with Emirates placing the largest order of the aircraft, at 43.


    Rival squares up to Easyjet

    Easyjet is facing price competition on two busy Anglo-Scottish routes from Stansted.

    Next month Scottish budget carrier Globespan will launch twice daily services from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the Essex airport. Flights from Edinburgh start on June 1 with services from Glasgow following on June 2.
    Timings are attractive for business travellers and are especially aimed at Scottish passengers. Services from Edinburgh depart at 0700 and 1715 returning from Stansted at 0855 and 1900. Globespan's new flights will leave Glasgow at 0730 and 1730 and head back from Stansted at 0930 and 1915.

    Besides carrying passengers to and from London, Globespan's service is also aimed at the growing number of travellers who are changing planes at Stansted for destinations further afield.

    Fares with both carriers start at around £40 return, although the price you actually pay will depend on when you book and when you travel. Globespan allows flight changes for a £15 fee (plus the higher fare, if applicable) and snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board. Go to Globespan web site.


    Trains to go round the clock to Gatwick

    Train operator Thameslink is poised to serve Gatwick airport 24 hours a day.

    Already Gatwick Express and Southern provide all day services from London Victoria but the Thameslink service is arguably more useful as it will connect the Sussex airport with areas in the centre and north of the capital.

    The new schedules begin on May 16 and are aimed at cashing in on the growing numbers of travellers needing to take early morning flights from Gatwick. They also coincide with Thameslink's restoration of services running through London (thay have been suspended for nine months owing to construction work at St Pancras).

    Trains will operate from Bedford to Three Bridges at the additional times of 23.40, 00.25, 01.40, 02.40 and 03.40. They will call at various stations to Kings Cross then Blackfriars and East Croydon before continuing non-stop to Gatwick. Services then continue at every 15 or 30 minute intervals. Go to Thameslink web site


    Dubai hotel to be world's tallest

    Two hotels opening in Dubai are planning to make a distinctive mark on the burgeoning state.

    The first is a Radisson SAS property, which will open later this year in Dubai's Media City. The 251-bedroom property will have a distinctive architectural or design feature in keeping with other Radisson properties such as Stansted, which has a wine wall scaled by wine waiters fitted with a climbing harness and ropes, or Berlin, which has the world's largest freestanding aquarium.

    The Radisson SAS Hotel, Media City will have three stylish bars and restaurants, seven meeting rooms and an executive lounge with boardroom and business centre. There will be two pools (one rooftop), a fitness centre, separate male and female steam rooms and a spa with five treatment rooms.

    The second property is being built by Dubai-based airline, Emirates. It will be the world's tallest building, at 70 storeys or 800 metres high, when it opens in 2008. The hotel will be built on Sheikh Zayed road and will have 560 rooms, 112 suites and a presidential suite.

    Emirates says it hopes to break architectural boundaries with the property, which will have rooms jutting out from the main tower in curved wings. The hotel will also have a health club with fitness centre and spa, 15 food and beverage outlets and a rooftop bar with panoramic views of Dubai.

    Dubai received 5.4 million visitors in 2004, which is expected to increase three-fold in the next decade.


    KLM cuts fares from London and the regions

    The cost of flying from the UK to Amsterdam and beyond continues to fall. On May 1, Dutch airline KLM introduced lower excursion fares designed to compete with budget carriers who have expanded their regional flights in recent times.
    The simplified KLM tariffs are offered on non-stop flights to Amsterdam and, by taking connecting services (via Amsterdam), to dozens of cities throughout mainland Europe and Scandinavia.

    Flights to Amsterdam are now arranged in four price tiers: £69, £79, £89 and £99 return. It means that a return flight from Heathrow, Birmingham or Manchester to Amsterdam costs from £69 while the top rate of £99 would apply from Aberdeen, Bristol or Cardiff. All fares require either a Saturday night or two-night stay.

    Further afield the price varies depending on the route and your UK departure airport. But typical examples include: Birmingham-Barcelona for £126, Newcastle-Cologne £138, Leeds-Oslo £163, Manchester-Rome £135. Edinburgh-Vienna £151 and Newcastle-Lisbon £187.

    The new deals are available online with rates and availability clearly displayed. Go to the KLM web site .


    Royal Brunei cuts UK fares

    Royal Brunei Airlines is targeting the UK market with a dedicated website and special fares.

    The carrier officially launched its UK website this week. It has a UK bias, displaying fares out of London Heathrow to Brunei and beyond in pounds sterling.

    Royal Brunei offers flights from London via Dubai to Brunei, with connections onto destinations such as Sydney, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Auckland. Current special offers include return economy class fares (including tax and charges) from £275 to Dubai, £550 to Perth and £590 to Sydney. These fares are bookable up to June 15.

    The website also includes an interactive route map which shows schedule details when users place their cursor over a destination. Details of the airline's in-flight service, including Royal Brunei's business class bed, are featured online, and passengers can download the in-flight screening schedule ahead of their flight or reserve a seat. Go to Brunei Air.
     
  15. QF WP

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    Air France commits to business class

    Passengers using Air France to Paris CDG from Heathrow and Manchester can toast the airline. This week it has declared that it will retain business class within Europe at a time when its rivals are considering dropping the class for short haul flights.

    The carrier is one of the very few among Europe's national carriers in offering three classes on mainline services: L'Espace Affaires, Tempo Challenge (superior economy class) and Tempo (economy class).

    Says Catherine Jude, the carrier's route director for Europe and North Africa, " Last summer we experimented by removing business class from three routes but we found we lost more money in the process. Business class passengers opted for Tempo Challenge [with its lower fares] so our revenue suffered."

    Air France's business class features roomy two by two seating (with a fold down table) while Tempo Challenge, although offering an economy class layout, is aimed at cost conscious travellers with its provision of essential business features like expedited airport handling and dedicated seating. Both these products are offered on mainline flights to and from France. In the case of the UK, it would cover services departing Heathrow and Manchester.

    Catherine Jude says that the flexible curtain in the cabin enables the carrier to tailor capacity to demand. She also argues that Air France needs premium products to look after top fare paying customers who are transferring between short and long-haul services at its main Paris CDG hub. The carrier claims that over 50% of its passengers at CDG are now in transit rather than destined for Paris itself.


    Heathrow gets another dedicated rail link

    A new stopping service between Paddington and London Heathrow will start next month. Train companies BAA Rail and First Group have spent £11.5 million on developing the new Heathrow Connect link which will start on June 12. Trains running every 30 minutes will link the west London suburbs of Ealing Broadway, West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall and Hayes & Harlington with Heathrow's Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Overall journey time will be around 25 minutes.

    The new service looks set to answer critics who have long complained about having to backtrack to Paddington for a fast airport service, and passengers heading to the airports from areas to the west of the airport need no longer rely on bus connections at Reading. They will be able to take the train to Hayes & Harlington for a connection to Heathrow.

    The single fare for the section of track between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow, a six minute journay, has now been set at £6. It's unclear whether a through Paddington-Heathrow fare will even be made available on the new service because of fears of the competition with the non-stop Heathrow Express. In addition, the service is intended for airport workers and people travelling from intermediate stations.

    The train firms have dreamt up several ruses to dissuade Central London passengers from using it as an airport link. So Heathrow Connect trains will depart Paddington from different platforms and will not be advertised as a through service.


    Wi-fi users in fake hotspot scam

    Business travellers who use wireless hotspots are in danger of falling victim to the latest internet scam – access point (AP) phishing – according to wireless security firm AirDefense this week.

    AP phishing is a technique where an attacker tricks victims into downloading viruses to their laptops or PDAs by faking the log-in screen of a legitimate wireless hotspot. The attacker can then record confidential information, such as usernames, passwords and financial details, entered by the hotspot user.

    In a recent AP phishing attack, also known as an Evil Twin attack, AirDefense found that a hotspot was being spoofed and when unsuspecting users made a wireless connection, they received a false log-in page. Clicking anywhere on the page triggered an avalanche of viruses to the user's machine.

    Richard Rushing, AirDefense's chief security officer, says: "Attackers are most interested in stealing user IDs and passwords to gain access to corporate networks."

    The company has issued five tips to help business travellers avoid becoming phishing bait:

    1. Install personal firewall and security patches.
    2. Enter passwords only into websites that include an SSL key at the bottom right.
    3. Avoid hotspots where it is difficult to tell who is connected, such as at hotels and airports. Use hotspots for Web surfing only.
    4. Turn off or remove your wireless card if you are not using the hotspot.
    5. Do not use insecure applications such as e-mail or instant messaging while at hotspots.


    Special Report - Fit to Work

    There's no longer any excuse to be idle on your business trips as hotels race to offer better health facilities, says David Jones.

    There's no doubt that business travel is bad for you. If DVT doesn't get you then exhaustion, jetlag, mind-numbing meetings and the strain of absence on your relationships probably will. Luckily, however, there are alternatives to watching your health and happiness decline in the face of the latest company cutbacks on travel expenses – you can stay in a "healthy" hotel.

    There are two main ways a hotel can help you get, or stay healthy: the first is through exercise, the second through diet. Yet on the exercise front it seems that many hotels disappoint. In a survey of 300 business travellers conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide for Westin Hotels & Resorts, 64% said that hotel fitness rooms "seem like an afterthought," while 75% felt the quality of gyms was inconsistent from one hotel to the next. As a result, more than half of the travellers (55%) avoid hotel gyms because they are in such bad condition.

    "Working out on the road is a priority for many travellers, but hotels have typically cut corners in hotel workout rooms," says Sue Brush, senior vice president of Westin Hotels & Resorts.

    To address this Westin launched the "WestinWORKOUT(TM) Powered by Reebok". The name alone may knock the wind out of you, but this is Westin making a determined bid to be different. "We want to improve our guests' lives so they feel better from check-in to check-out," says Brush. And why would they want to do that? "Because accomplishing that will build loyalty and clearly distinguish Westin from other hotels."

    So far Westin has spent $12 million on building new fitness centres in 53 of its North American, Mexican and Caribbean hotels, with another 40 to be fitted across Europe and Asia-Pacific. The centres have treadmills, cycling machines, elliptical trainers, medicine balls, yoga mats and core boards and, just in case you don't know your medicine ball from your core board, it has also helpfully developed 20, 40 and 60-minute complete body workouts targeting each major muscle group. So there's no excuse for not using them.
    For those of us who are too shy or too lazy to be tempted out of our hotel rooms, there are also in-room training programmes.

    Marriott offers the "Great Health – Fit for You" programme – a snappy name is clearly a pre-requisite – which incorporates the BodyRev(TM), Michael Sena's Traveling Trainer and BodyWedge21(TM). This alarming-sounding equipment can be delivered to your room on request at full-service Marriott and Renaissance hotels in North America.

    What are they? BodyRev is a portable device that looks like a dual steering wheel loaded down with dumbbells ranging from 2 to 4kg. By rotating the device into different positions, it provides a combination of aerobic workout and strength training exercises. The BodyRev kit includes a travel bag, DVD, exercise manual and meal plan (you can buy it for $89/£46) and professes to "turn a few simple moves into an efficient calorie-burning, muscle-toning, energy-boosting routine".

    The Traveling Trainer is the invention of Chicago-based personal trainer and fitness expert Michael Sena, who helped Marriott devise its fitness programme. The Trainer "utilises resistance bands to help travellers increase strength and maintain balance". The kit, which improves strength, balance and energy, includes fitness-club quality resistance tubes and comes complete with a users' guide.

    The third option is the BodyWedge21, a foam wedge shaped like a large doorstop and offering 21 different exercises to tone the abdominal muscles, buttocks, triceps, lower back and other body parts. You can buy it online for $19.99/£10.

    So you can now work off your stress and jetlag in the comfort of your hotel room, but, as we all know, that's just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Realising that diet is equally important, Marriott originally launched its Fit for You programme in December 2003 as a series of low-carb and low-fat breakfast options. In September 2004 it expanded to include lunch and dinner menus, room service, catering menus and the selections available in the hotel shops. New menu items include low-cholesterol pan-seared Alaskan halibut with brown rice, asparagus and lump crab vinaigrette. It's not just the food: hotel lounges also began serving Splenda-sweetened iced teas and low-carb beers and wine selections.

    Marriott also expanded its healthy options to children's menus. Robin Uler, senior vice president of lodging food and beverage and retail services at Marriott, says many guests have wanted healthier food options in the past but were not comfortable enough to ask for changes to the menu. "They felt intimidated," said Uler. "They didn't want to say: 'I want you to cook this without butter.'" By changing the menu options, Uler says, a hotel guest can now just point to what he or she wants and not feel they're being awkward or demanding.

    Other hotels chains have taken a different approach. Hilton Hotels has entered an alliance with Bally Total Fitness to offer guests access to more than 5,000 personal fitness trainers in North America. Hilton commissioned a study, carried out by the former director of the NASA Fatigue Countermeasures Program, which showed that people who exercised when on the road perform 61% better in terms of alertness and reaction.

    Guests can arrange a personal fitness consultation at 400 Bally locations in the US or in the hotel's own fitness centre. Hilton is also offering special mini-gyms that guests can use in their hotel rooms. The Hilton Travel Fit Kit includes a yoga mat, elastic exercise bands, resistance bands and two sets of hand weights. Hilton will also bring a treadmill into your guest room at 100 Hilton locations for a small charge.

    Of course, rolling something out across hundreds of hotels takes time, but individual hotels can make their own efforts to cater to their guests. The Westin Times Square in New York has created a health-conscious floor, with 13 spa-inspired guest rooms. The rooms include a Kinjoy shiatsu chair, which is an electronic recliner that offers a range of massage settings for the back and an adjustable footrest. Spa rooms include bath salts, body washes, herbal extracts and an air diffuser that releases a soothing fragrance. Guests in these rooms can receive in-room spa treatments for the same price as regular spa treatments.

    The rooms also have a Bose radio and CD player with two relaxing CDs, and the minibar shuns chocolate bars and whiskey miniatures in favour of herbal teas, healthy snacks and complimentary water. The rooms are located on the same floor as the fitness centre and spa; however, guests have the option of ordering resistance bands or an in-room yoga kit.

    Meanwhile, Marriott is testing a new hotel concept that combines fitness facilities with hotel accommodation, with its prototype property based in Walnut Creek, California. The Renaissance ClubSport resort is snappily described as a "suburban wellness resort" and is equipped with a 650sqm spa, a 1,100sqm fitness centre, five exercise studios, a gym, three pools, fitness classes, an on-site nutritionist and also provides childcare facilities.

    Steve Gilmour, president and chief executive at Leisure Sports Inc., which manages the property for Marriott, says the aim is to combine an elite fitness centre with a four-star business hotel. "Basically, when I travelled I had to break my routine from what I did at home," he says. "At home I like to exercise so I have to eat a certain way. Typically at a hotel you have a converted guest room and they have one or two treadmills. This is basically giving the business traveller a resort experience during the business week."
    Leisure Sports and Marriott have entered a joint venture to develop six of these new concept hotels across the US.

    While physical fitness is important, for many guests the problem isn't about getting enough exercise, it's about getting enough sleep. Many business travellers find it difficult to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment or may be anxious about waking up in the morning for an important business meeting.
    In June 2004, Crowne Plaza hotels launched a program called Sleep Advantage which offers special amenities to help hotel guests get a good night's sleep. The hotel chain created designated "quiet zones", night lights, sleep CDs, eye masks, lavender sprays and special bedding to help soothe guests suffering from sleep deprivation.

    "Crowne Plaza is the only hotel brand taking a holistic approach to address the entire sleep environment, from bedding and night lights to wake up calls and quiet zones," says sleep disorder specialist Dr Michael Breus.

    Under the Sleep Advantage programme, guests who do not receive their guaranteed wake-up call get a free night's stay. The hotels also designate at least one floor as a quiet zone – where children and leisure groups are banned – from Sunday to Thursday nights.

    If these hotel initiatives don't help to keep body and mind in peak condition, there are other options for revitalisation. A growing trend among business travellers is to visit urban day spas. In the past, the vast majority of spa customers have been women, but these facilities are increasingly catering to men and are becoming a regular routine among male business travellers.
    In 2003, the former Manhattan East Suite Hotel in New York was converted into an urban spa property called the Affinia Dumont following a $15/£7.76 million renovation. The hotel offers special in-room fit kits for yoga, running, strength training and walking; a wellness library of books and CDs; a fitness valet who will launder your workout clothes and a fitness concierge who arranges sessions with personal trainers and leads fitness seminars. The hotel includes an Oasis Day Spa, which offers seven treatment rooms and a fitness centre with limited membership.

    Irvin Sherman, a regional sales manager, travels to New York at least five times a year from his home in Kentucky. Sherman is an avid runner who says the Affinia Dumont allows him to keep in shape when on the road.
    "It's hard to run outside in New York unless you want to get up at 4.30 in the morning," he says.

    The 57-year-old began running more than 20 years ago because he was overweight and needed to develop an exercise routine to get in shape. He now runs three-and-a-half miles, six times a week and works out with free weights. "Running and exercising to me is just like brushing my teeth in the morning," he says.

    Karen Dumont, president of Marketing Specialists Inc, based in Florida, switched to the Affinia Dumont from other hotels on the Upper East Side because of its on-site spa facilities. "When I stay at the other hotels, they have an agreement with [local health clubs]," she says. "It's not the same thing."

    Hotels can provide the means to eat well and keep in trim, but guests need the willpower. A recent American Express survey found that only 33% of business travellers use a gym, compared with 60% who spend their leisure time "socialising" – and that's 90% in the case of British business travellers. And even if there isn't a gym in the hotel, that doesn't mean you can't go for a jog or, failing that, at least improve your eating habits.

    The bottom line is, hotels can make it easier to stay healthy, but it's really up to you.

    Staying healthy on your travels
    Diet and fitness advice including tips from Reebok University master trainer Lisa Wheeler

    Diet
    1. Don't skip breakfast
    You need energy to lug luggage, stand in endless airport queues and negotiate confusing airports. Eat before you leave — if you're too rushed for a proper breakfast, peanut butter on wheat toast is a great hit of carbs and protein. Hard-boiled eggs, a banana or an energy bar are other good choices for on-the-go travellers.
    2. Stick to a routine
    When we travel, we cede a lot of control over our schedule, our meals and our workout facilities, so it's harder to stick to our diet and fitness routine. I tell my travelling clients that when we're on the road, our focus should be on maintenance — squeeze in workouts, eat right more often than not, and do your best to not totally erode all your good work.
    3. Don't just eat convenience food
    The easiest thing to eat when you're in a rush is typically the worst for you. Skip the bagels and the muffins that will ultimately slow you down.
    4. Pack your own food
    Carry a stash of sports bars for emergencies.
    5. Drink lots of water
    You can't rehydrate enough.
    6. Order a vegetarian meal
    This is the healthiest in-flight fare. If you do order your meal after take-off, opt for protein heavy meals (chicken, seafood, beef) rather than carb-heavy sandwiches or pasta.
    7. Don't go mad
    Try to eat like you would at home. So if you don't tend to polish off a three-course meal with a giant hot fudge sundae at home, don't eat one on the plane. I guarantee it's not going to be the best hot fudge sundae you've ever had, so why blow it on a mediocre treat?
    8. Try local delicacies
    Life is too short to skip pasta in Florence or cheese in Paris.
    9. Order room service
    We've all been faced with a bread and pastry laden buffet in hotels. Better to order room service breakfast where you can be more in control of your meal.
    10. Drink red wine
    Attending a cocktail party or night out on the town with clients? Stick to red wine. At least it's good for your heart! Have a few glasses of really good wine versus a few too many mediocre drinks.

    And for fitness

    1. Do some research
    Call ahead and make sure your hotel has a good gym. Inquire about nearby fitness clubs that might offer classes you'd like, or research local running routes. And schedule exercise ahead, incorporating time into your itinerary so you'll be much likely to actually do it when you arrive.
    2. Pack your kit
    Packing running shoes is a big pet peeve. Stuff the shoes with underwear and socks — use the space wisely. Consider bringing old shoes that you can leave behind in the hotel room. Pack one pair of shorts or exercise pants and one t-shirt and wash them in the room.
    3. Exercise in the morning
    Get it over with — at the end of the day there are too many variables that may get in the way. Besides, if you work out in the morning, you'll perform better all day.
    4. Squeeze in what you can
    Even 20 minutes of exercise is better than 0 minutes. I tell my clients that workouts on the road are about breaking even. Don't expect the workout of your lifetime when you travel, it's probably not a reality. Just try not to lose any ground on the good habits you've established at home.
    5. Take the stairs
    Do some sit-ups and push-ups in your room. Go for a walk on your break. Remember, you're just trying to "break even".
    6. Get plenty of sleep

    Never underestimate the pros of recharging on the road with a nap, a bath or a silly movie — business travel is tough, so don't feel guilty if you need a little time to veg out.
     
  16. QF WP

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    This week's articles

    More stopovers on kangaroo route

    Qantas and British Airways are allowing travellers a greater choice of stopovers on flights Down Under.

    The move applies to passengers booking an economy class return ticket between the UK and Australia or New Zealand.

    Current stopovers on the new Dreamtime Fares are Singapore, Bangkok and Bali, to which have been added Hong Kong, Tokyo and Jakarta. Passengers can stopover in different cities on the inbound and outbound legs, which could make a trip more cost effective.

    Until now Qantas and BA has offered either a Dreamtime or Dreamtime Plus fare for economy class tickets to Australia and New Zealand. The former enables one stopover in each direction and the latter allows the same, plus further stopovers in Australia and New Zealand.

    A third type of ticket, launched by the carriers this month, is a combination ticket which means passengers can book a ticket with multiple stopovers and each leg can have different restrictions. The outcome is that passengers can cut the price of their ticket. Go to QF UK website or BAwebsite


    Seats on sale

    Air France and British Airways are encouraging executives to combine business with pleasure this summer.

    Both carriers are running extensive premium fare seat sales over the coming months, a time when executives tend to stay at home.

    During the sales, business class tickets are being cut by over 50 per cent. Alternatively, travellers wishing to combine work with pleasure or who like to take along a companion can upgrade to business class comfort for a bargain price.

    Air France's offers are available from London and the UK regions via Paris to most major long distance destinations. You can book up until June 30 for travel between June 1 and August 31.

    Examples of return business class fares include: Beijing and Shanghai for £1,176, Hong Kong £1,561, Singapore £1,557, Dubai £1.075, Cairo £778, Rio de Janeiro £1,550, Boston and Washington DC for £1,101, Chicago £1,476 and Los Angeles £1,301.

    BA's deals cover most important short and long distance routes from London and the regions. Book by May 31 for travel between July 15 and August 31.
    Long-haul examples include: New York £1,599, Atlanta £1,839, Los Angeles £1,899, Vancouver £1,979, Delhi £1,829, Tokyo £2,099 and Rio de Janeiro £1,839.

    Short-haul examples include: Amsterdam £179, Copenhagen £219, Istanbul £389, Prague £199, Rome £259, Vienna £229 and Warsaw £249.
    Both airlines' deals come with advance booking and minimum stay restrictions.

    Go to Air France UK website and BA website.


    Easyjet and BA top travellers' poll

    Nearly three quarters of business travellers have used a low cost airline in the last year, with Easyjet the clear favourite.

    This is according to a survey of 1,200 executives who travel regularly on business. Low cost airlines were used by 71% of respondents in the past year according to Barclaycard Business, which undertook the survey. This is up 2% from the previous year.

    Ryanair was unable to topple Easyjet as favourite low cost airline for the fourth year in a row, with 35% of business travellers voting for Easyjet and only 12% for Ryanair.

    Easyjet also faired well in the overall airline ratings, coming in third with 6% of the votes, but it was still a long way behind British Airways, which topped the list and was voted by 43% of respondents as their favourite airline. Second was Virgin with 7%.

    Despite the increasing trend towards flying with low cost airlines, motivated by a desire to keep travel costs down, the number of respondents travelling in business class also increased slightly, by 2% to 29% in the past year. BA and Virgin were the favourite airlines for travelling business class, followed by Emirates, KLM and Singapore Airlines.


    Heathrow to lose early weekend Tubes?

    Proposals to delay weekend morning Tube links to Heathrow by an hour are being met by fierce opposition from British Airways.

    Transport for London, the body that oversees the running of the city's Underground, is considering the move to enable the Tube to run an hour later at the weekends to service late-night revellers enjoying a night out in the capital. This would see the last trains leaving central London at 1.30am on Friday and Saturday nights, instead of 12.30am.

    According to Transport for London, if the Tube were to run later at weekends, morning services would need to be pushed back by an hour in order to enable essential maintenance work to be carried out overnight.

    If the Tube schedule change goes ahead, the first Tube services would not arrive at Heathrow until after 7.30am on Saturdays and after 8.50am on Sundays.

    British Airways has slammed the move, saying that passengers travelling on up to 206 flights that depart early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, would be unable to use Tube services to reach Heathrow from central London, and would instead have to opt for more expensive options to take a car or taxi.

    According to BA up to 28,000 passengers fly on the 206 early weekend departures, operated by 33 airlines. In addition the airline claims there are up to 7,000 arriving passengers who would have to wait at Heathrow before being able to catch the Tube into central London. In addition 4,000 airport staff begin shifts before Piccadilly Line services reach Heathrow, so those currently dependent on the Tube would have to find an alternative way to get to work.

    An alternative option to reach Heathrow from central London is to use National Express coach services from Victoria Coach Station. The first service leaving central London on weekends is at 7.15am, which is scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 8am, but this is only an option for central London residents as those not close to Victoria Coach Station would need to get there without the use of Tube services.

    But numbers are not in BA's favour. According to a spokesman for Transport for London, which has just completed a period public consultation into the issue, around 140,000 people would benefit from later-running Tube services at the weekend versus the 50,000 people who use it during the first hour of the morning at weekends.

    However, the spokesman told Businesstraveller.com that the decision was not just about numbers, and that concerns raised by organisations and companies including BA would be taken into consideration. The final decision will be made at the end of the summer and if the change goes ahead it would be implemented in December 2006.


    New loyalty scheme for Star

    Six members of the Star Alliance have begun rewarding small to medium-sized firms with their own loyalty scheme.

    Believed to be the first alliance scheme of its type, Company Plus is currently available in the UK and is now being rolled out across mainland Europe. Some 900 firms are currently signed up with the number expected to double within a year.

    Said Marcel Fuchs, United managing director of worldwide sales and alliances in Europe: "Our scheme is aimed at those firms who lack the large volumes of turnover to qualify for a global corporate agreement."

    Participants ANA, Austrian, LOT, Luftansa, SAS and United provide awards such as upgrades and free flights.

    Travellers book flights online and all published tariffs qualify. Typical awards include a free London-Lisbon business class ticket in return for the purchase of four London-San Francisco return tickets. Or a free London-Warsaw return when buying two Birmingham-Moscow business class returns.

    The awards are transferable within the company. In addition travellers can earn points with any individual schemes to which they belong.

    For a limited time, the scheme is providing 1,000 bonus points for new members - go to Company Plus.
     
  17. QF WP

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    Bmi downgrades product on Heathrow flights

    Bmi is turning its London Heathrow services into a low-cost operation from August 1, scrapping business class on almost all domestic and international routes, simplifying fares and charging economy class passengers for in-flight food and drinks.

    Nigel Turner, Bmi's CEO, claims the move is in response to market pressure and it will save the carrier £30 million a year. "Over 50% of our passengers are travelling on business but most of these now do so in the back of the plane. Now we're getting back in sync with what our customers want. We're giving them the choice of paying for what they need."

    Bmi is retaining business class on routes from Heathrow to Mumbai, Brussels, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast City.

    But Bmi's move may not go down well with premium ticket passengers making long-haul connections at Heathrow. Bmi is a Star Alliance member and feeds passengers to over a dozen member airlines including United, ANA, Thai and Varig.

    Says a spokesman for Star Alliance: "Yes, first and business class passengers will no longer get separate seating on many routes, but Bmi has assured us that frequent flyer benefits will stay and so too will the lounges. Bmi's move shows that member carriers are adapting to market needs.

    Bmi will announce details of fares and catering in mid-June.


    Indian airline joins the battle

    Jet Airways has become the latest carrier to enter the London-Mumbai route.

    The privately owned Indian carrier was established 12 years ago and until now has been a major domestic carrier. This is its first European service and will be a daily flight from Heathrow, operated with Airbus A340s (configured with 38 business and 231 economy class seats).

    "We are looking at adding flights to cities elsewhere in the UK and mainland Europe, particularly those places which are not currently served by Air India," says chairman Naresh Goyal.

    What sets Jet Airways apart from its rivals (Air India, BA, Bmi and Virgin Atlantic) is that it offers both lie-flat seats and the advantage of an extensive domestic network.

    Says UK general manager Dan Brewin: "Our seats recline to 180 degrees. They are fully lie-flat. Our overnight flight from London connects with over 40 domestic Indian destinations and we provide through fares and through check-in."

    According to chairman Naresh Goyal: "We want to challenge other leading Asian airlines for service and reputation. Our crew and in-flight catering are multi cultural."

    Regarding pricing, Goyal says: "We have no intention of getting involved in a price war. Our tickets will be priced according to market demand."
    Return fares from London currently start at around £470 for economy and £2,100 for business class - see Jet Airways website.


    Virgin Atlantic Upper Class sale

    Virgin Atlantic is following in the footsteps of Air France and British Airways by launching a summer business class seat sale to cities in the US and Asia.

    During a time when many executives are not travelling, Virgin Atlantic hopes to fill the empty seats by discounting Upper Class (its brand name for business class) seats by 50%. Between July 15 and August 31, a London-New York return will cost £1,599 as against £3,679 normally, a London-Los Angeles ticket is priced at £1,900 (usually £6,161) while London-Tokyo is offered for £2,099 (usually £4,060).

    Other destinations included in the seat sale are Boston, Washington DC, Miami, Mumbai, Delhi and Hong Kong. Return fares to these cities range from £1,599 to £1,911.

    Tickets must be booked by May 31. A Saturday night stay is required.
    See the Virgin Altlantic website.


    More regional flights to New York

    Continental continues to make the Big Apple more accessible from the UK regions by launching daily flights from Bristol and a new service from Belfast.

    Until now both cities have had no direct flights to New York.
    The US carrier is operating Boeing 757 twin jets in a two-class (business and economy) configuration. All flights operate to and from New York's Newark Airport.

    Services depart Bristol at 1100 arriving Newark at 1400. The inbound overnight service leaves Newark at 2055 to reach Bristol at 0855.
    Belfast flights depart at 0900 arriving Newark at 1125, with the inbound service at 1955 landing in Belfast at 0730.

    For travel from now until the end of June economy class passengers pay rates starting at £302 return from Bristol and £299 from Belfast. These deals expire at midnight tonight (May 26) but other offers are expected to take their place.

    Business class passengers pay discounted rates starting at £1,169 return from Bristol and £1,129 return from Belfast. They are valid for travel between now and August 31 and you can book until July 30.

    Other UK regional airports served by Continental are Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. From London, the carrier operates from Gatwick.
     
  18. QF WP

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    Jun 20, 2002
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    This weeks' articles

    Lead story (IMHO):

    Star and One World to expand

    The leading global airline alliances, Star and One World, are adding airline members.

    Star Alliance has this week announced that it is adding Swiss International Air Lines, while rival One World is making steps to integrate Malev Hungarian Airlines. The announcement from Star Alliance was anticipated, following the acquisition by one of the alliance's leading carriers, Lufthansa, of Swiss in March this year.

    The deal means Star Alliance members will eventually be able to enjoy reciprocal frequent flyer programme and lounge benefits with Swiss. They will also be able to interline between Swiss and other alliance carriers, i.e. book a multi leg trip under one ticket and check-in luggage to their end destination in the event of an indirect flight.

    The decision by Budapest carrier, Malev, to join One World will boost the alliance's global reach by four countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Slovenia) and add 11 new airports. But first Malev must present a business plan and ensure it offers service in line with One World specifications.

    Malev chief executive Janos Gönci said membership of the alliance was crucial for the carrier. "In the current state of the airline industry there is no chance of sustainable earnings for a mid-sized network carrier without partners," he said.

    Report by Ginny McGrath


    Eurostar adds first class value

    Eurostar is reorganising and simplifying its offering for first class passengers travelling between London, Lille, Brussels and Paris.

    From September 1, the high-speed train company will offer a two-tier first class service - Business Premier and Leisure Select, with passengers seated according to the price and type of their tickets. The new tow tier first class will replace the existing Premium product (available only for London-Paris).

    The advantages to business travellers are clear. Until now first class passengers were seated together irrespective of ticket price. On off-peak services in particular, this might lead to smartly-dressed executives being seated next to happy holidaymakers who have been upgraded to first class as part of a package deal. "Our research has shown that travellers want specific business and leisure classes," says a Eurostar spokesperson. "Whereas business travellers want to be as productive as possible on the journey, leisure passengers called for greater indulgence."

    First class carriages will retain the same comfortable three-across (1-2) seating, but the revised product will see Eurostar designating different coaches for each passenger group. Full fare passengers will be seated in Business Premier and will benefit from a 10-minute check-in, lounge access, free meals and drinks (including an express breakfast option) and at-seat power sockets.

    Passengers buying first class excursions will occupy the Leisure Select carriages. They will get the same first class seating and meal service (minus the express breakfast) but check-in time is extended to 30 minutes and they can't use the lounge.

    Tickets for the revamped classes go on sale from June 3 for travel on and after September 1, but the price of tickets look set to drop from the top price for the existing Premium product of £560 to a new top price for a flexible Business Premier ticket of £430 (Leisure Select will be priced from £149). Go to Eurostar website

    Report by Alex McWhirter


    More private jets for Lufthansa

    Lufthansa is extending its private jet service to Frankfurt following positive uptake of the product at Munich.

    The private jets were launched from Munich on a trial basis in March, offering short-haul connections across Europe. The jets can be booked for flights to over 1,000 European destinations at a time that suits the passenger, rather than being confined by Lufthansa's schedule.

    Another benefit is that customs, baggage, immigration and security are expedited. Lufthansa hopes this will encourage premium passengers arriving at or leaving Frankfurt on long-haul flights to book the jets for a short-haul connection that suits their schedule.

    But passengers using the private jet service from Frankfurt will need to add up to 30 minutes to the trip because the jets are being operated out of nearby Egelsbach Airport, a quieter airfield. Complimentary chauffeur to Egelsbach is included in the cost of hiring the jets.

    Passengers are also offered a complimentary chauffeur to Lufthansa's new First Class Terminal at Frankfurt, which includes a lounge and business area, a la carte restaurant and luxurious bathrooms.

    The aircraft used by Lufthansa have a seating capacity of seven passengers. The price you pay is for the entire aircraft, plus up to 300 euro per additional passenger. A fare structure for Frankfurt private jets is still being devised but example fares from Munich are from 4550 euros for Munich- Lugano or 9,530 euros for Dublin-Billund.

    Private jet flights can be booked up to 24 hours ahead. Go to Lufthansa website or call the dedicated call centre, +49 18 02 99 33 00.

    Report by Ginny McGrath


    Shanghai flights up

    British Airways launched flights to Shanghai this week.

    The service operates five times a week between London Heathrow and the Chinese city. It competes directly with Virgin Atlantic, which operates five weekly frequencies to Shanghai.

    The Shanghai service is the first new longhaul route launched by British Airways for over two years. The move by BA follows an agreement made between the UK and Chinese authorities to allow more flights between the two countries. Flights were previously limited to six per week to Beijing, which are operated by BA, and four to Shanghai, operated by Virgin.

    The agreement will enable 25 passenger flights between China and the UK each week, allowing BA to launch to Shanghai and Virgin to boost frequency to the city to five a week, which will increase to six a week from mid June and seven a week from October.

    British Airways and Virgin Atlantic's return fares both start at £505 to Shanghai. The other carrier operating direct flights between London and Shanghai is China Eastern Airlines.

    Virgin has also this week announced plans to fly to Dubai and Jamaica. The carrier will launch services between London Heathrow and Dubai from April 2006 and services from Gatwick to Montego Bay, Jamaica from July 2006. It also plans to increase Mumbai flights from three a week to daily from December 2005.

    Report by Ginny McGrath
     
  19. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
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    I was hoping to have dinner with Nigel tonight in Sapporo as he had planned to stay with friends for a week-end break. Unfortunately he rescheduled on Wednesday due to work commitements. So I'm home typing this message instead. :(

    I heard Nigel recently went from London to Mumbai and back within 24hours. Now that's hardcore flying :!: I'm happy they are retaining business for LHR-BOM as I'm hoping to do this flight next year :D

    Thanks for all the articles Lindsay :!:
     
  20. QF WP

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    BlacKnox, appreciation of my efforts will get you a long way. As they are general industry stories, I was hoping somebody was getting something out of them.

    Sorry to hear your dinner was cancelled with Nigel Turner, but being online to AFF must come a close second (like having dinner with Tom Cruise :? ). I presume that the re-scheduling had a lot to do with the flak that Bmi's top tier fliers are giving him and the exec team (see Flyertalk's Bmi forum for a taste)
     
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