Today (April 24, 2015): April luxury travel news.
Every last Friday of the month, you can read a news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:
- Airline promotion of the month: British Airways offers free Club World upgrade to First Class.
- Qatar Airways moves forward second A380 to London Heathrow
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts unveils tenth brand: Tribute Portfolio
- Virgin Atlantic to fly B787-9 Dreamliner to Chicago O’Hare
- Bodrum squeezes in another luxury hotel: JW Marriott
- Qantas to restart Perth-Singapore service.
- Four Seasons to manage Grand-Hotel Du Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera
- Virgin America launches Hawaii flights
- The highest capacity plane ever will start flying later this year
- Ultraluxurious One&Only Palmilla reopens in Los Cabos
1. AIRLINE PROMOTION OF THE MONTH: BRITISH AIRWAYS OFFERS FREE CLUB WORLD UPGRADE TO FIRST CLASS
The promotion is available on one leg of any eligible route, namely those that have a First Class service, and is subject to availability. Outbound travel must be between April 13 and August 30 and inbound travel must be completed by September 6. There is no limit on the number of journeys that can be taken. The one-way upgrade includes all First Class perks, such as using the dedicated First Class check-in area at Heathrow Terminal 5 and a baggage allowance of up to three 32 kg bags. Stephen Humphreys, BA’s head of UK&I sales and marketing, said: “By enabling Club customers to get free upgrades we are rewarding their loyalty and custom with a taste of the high life”.
2. QATAR AIRWAYS MOVES FORWARD SECOND AIRBUS A380 TO LONDON HEATHROW
Qatar Airways has confirmed it will start a second daily aIRBUS a380 service to London Heathrow this summer. The Gulf airline planS to operate the second superjumbo from July 16, and the aircraft will replace the A330 that currently flies services QR001/002. Outbound flight QR001 departs Doha at 1235 and arrives at LHR at 1755, with return flight QR002 leaving Heathrow at 2130 and landing in Doha at 0610 the next day. Qatar Airways configures its 517-seat A380 in three classes, with eight seats in first class, 48 in business and 461 in economy. Richard Oliver, the carrier’s UK and Ireland country manager, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer a second A380 service from London Heathrow to Doha in response to an increase in demand from our passengers. “Offering two convenient departure times from London Heathrow on the A380 will increase both choice and convenience.”
To read a review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class on the dreamliner (which is identical to the one on the A380), click here.
3. STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS UNVEILS TENTH BRAND: TRIBUTE PORTFOLIO
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has launched its tenth brand, Tribute Portfolio. The new offering, which will focus on four-star “upper upscale” properties, joins the Luxury Collection as Starwood’s second independent hotel brand. It debuted this month with the 393 room Royal Palm South Beach Miami and will soon number hotels in Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina. Starwood CEO Adam Aron said he expects to have 100 Tribute Portfolio hotels by 2020, with the initial growth to be in North America and Europe. Tribute Portfolio will be an exciting solution for hotel owners of distinct properties who wish to maintain their independent spirit, yet benefit from Starwood’s powerful distribution, loyalty and sales platforms. Starwood confirmed four forthcoming Tribute Portfolio hotels – Nashville’s Noel Place Hotel will be renovated and reopen in 2016; a new-build hotel in Savannah will open in 2016; the BB&T Bank building in Asheville will open as the Vandre Nouveau Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel in 2017; and a 100-room property in Charleston will open in 2017.
To read our review of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, click here.
4. VIRGIN TO FLY BOEING 787-9 DREAMLINER TO CHICAGO O’HARE
Virgin Atlantic will roster a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between London Heathrow and Chicago in summer 2016. From April 27 next year, the Dreamliner will replace the A330-300/A340-600 that are operating the daily service this summer. Outbound flight VS039 will depart Heathrow at 0945 and land at Chicago O’Hare at 1230, with return flight VS040 leaving Chicago at 1755 and arriving in London at 0755 the next day. Virgin Atlantic has begun rolling out the 787s to the east coast of the USA, and they will soon be flying between London/Hong Kong and London/Delhi as well. Richard Branson’s airline is currently operating four 787s, and by the end of 2015, there will be nine in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.
5. BODRUM SQUEEZES IN ANOTHER LUXURY HOTEL: JW MARRIOTT
JW Marriott announced the opening of its Bodrum property in May 2015. Once a labyrinth of sleepy fishing villages, the Bodrum peninsula entices vacationers to Turkey’s Aegean coast with its pristine beaches, finest restaurants and yacht-filled marinas. The beachfront JW Marriott Bordrum will be located just outside Bodrum, in Yalikavak. It has 107 rooms, all with views of the Aegean Sea, as well as seven villas, most of which have their own pools. Outside the rooms, there’s a mega-spa (using June Jacobs and Thalion brands) with 24 treatment rooms and a hammam, three pools (two outdoors, one indoors), a kids’ club and a private beach and dock, just in case you want to bring along your own yacht. It promises an “array” of restaurants and bars, including an a la carte restaurant, all-day poolside dining, beach bar and a coffee lounge and patisserie for baklava and groundsy Turkish coffee. Opening rates? From €359 on opening night – slightly more than Jumeirah, rather less than Mandarin Oriental, but still pretty high.
6. QANTAS TO RESTART PERTH-SINGAPORE SERVICE
Qantas will resume its Perth-Singapore service in June, 13 months after it was pulled for being economically unviable. The Australian airline will operate a Boeing 737 five-times weekly – on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – between the two cities from June 26. Outbound service QF71 will depart Perth at 1200 and arrive in Singapore at 1720, with return service QF72 leaving Singapore at 1825 and landing in Perth at 2340. Gareth Evans, Qantas International CEO, said: “We know how important it is for West Australian business travellers to have seamless access to Asia so were delighted to be able to offer the Perth-Singapore route with a schedule and aircraft type that will make it commercially viable.” Since cancelling the regular Perth-Singapore service in April 2014, Qantas has operated seasonal flights between the two cities during peak holiday periods. Jetstar Asia flies 13 weekly services on the route.
7. FOUR SEASONS TO MANAGE GRAND HOTEL DU CAP-FERRAT ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA
Access Industries, a privately held industrial group, announced that the iconic Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat will be managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts as of May 8, 2015. For more than 100 years, the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat has been a gleaming white palace escape, set amid a secluded garden oasis in the heart of one of the world’s most glamorous destinations. The hotel has played host to world leaders, monarchs and artists from around the globe. Recognised by the industry with awards for leadership in luxury and service, Four Seasons intends to honour the hotel’s enduring legacy by continuing to deliver understated elegance and quality combined with Four Seasons signature customised service. The hotel is uniquely positioned on the French Riviera. It sits on the tranquil peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, spread across 7 hectares (17 acres) surrounded by gardens lush with lavender and citrus trees. The property has funicular access to the seafront and panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel embodies French elegance in combination with modern design elements and luxuriously appointed rooms designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, the celebrated designer also behind Four Seasons Hotel George V. The accommodations also include sumptuous suites, some with a private terrace and infinity pool for the ultimate in comfort and luxury.
8. VIRGIN AMERICA LAUNCHES HAWAII FLIGHTS
In a surprise to no one, Virgin America today announced that it will begin flying to Hawaii later this year. Daily roundtrips between San Francisco and Honolulu will begin on November 2; San Francisco – Maui flights launch on December 3. The flights will be operated with new A320 aircraft on order from Airbus. According to Virgin America’s press release, Hawaii was identified as the “most wanted” new destination by members of the airline’s Elevate mileage program. And indeed, the airline expressly identifies the new services as award opportunities for Elevate members. “As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawaii. This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations”. Whether they’re paid for with Elevate points or cash, the new flights will be welcomed by many as a refreshing alternative to the services of Delta and United.
9. THE HIGHEST CAPACITY PLANE EVER WILL START FLYING LATER THIS YEAR
While the A380 is already the highest capacity jet out there, Emirates will be taking capacity to new heights, as they’ll be modifying the configurations of some of the new A380s they take delivery of. It’s believed the Business Class cabin will be downsized from 76 seats to just 58, with a whopping 557 passengers in Economy, although the Business Class bar on the upper deck will remain. So Emirates’ two cabin A380s will feature a (crazy) total of 615 seats. Emirates president Tim Clark confirmed the move at a press conference in Copenhagen today, where he announced that the first of the two-class A380s would debut on the Dubai-Copenhagen route from December 1. Emirates has already taken delivery of roughly half of the 120 A380s they have on order, and they don’t plan on reconfiguring any of their current A380s to remove first class.
10. ONE&ONLY PALMILLA REOPENS IN LOS CABOS
The legendary One&Only Palmilla hotel has officially reopened after a devastating Category 3 hurricane slamed into the resort city of Los Cabos, Mexico, on September 15. The ultraluxurious, beach-front property welcomes guests back to a resort that is better than ever with a number of new elements, including the new steakhouse, SEARED created in collaboration with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, completely refurbished guest rooms and suites, new adult outdoor lounging areas with panoramic ocean views and a new One&Only Spa and Fitness Centre. The rooms are nothing less than lavish, with contemporary and traditional Mexican accents, and high-tech amenities (like flat-screen tv’s and free WiFi). The included extras – such as luggage unpacking, daily fruit and cocktail snacks delivered to rooms, an aromatherapy turndown menu, and 24-hour shared butler service – set this property far apart from the competition. Just be prepared to shell out the green – all of this comes for an exorbitant price.