Today (February 26, 2016): February luxury travel news.
Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:
- Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel adds pool deck
- Dragonair will become Cathay Dragon
- Soneva Fushi opens the largest villa in the Indian Ocean
- SWISS receives its first Boeing 777-300ER
- Lufthansa Airbus A350 fleet is coming to Munich
- Etihad Airways will fly its Airbus A380 to India
- Four Seasons opens its Casablanca property
- Starwood Hotels hits the slopes with W Aspen
- Shangri-La Doha is now open
- Emirates goes non-stop Dubai-Auckland from next week
1. Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel adds pool deck
According to Arabian Business, Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel is to unveil a new manmade outdoor deck area, which will include two pools, a restaurant and a bar, in the second quarter of this year. The new pool deck, designated ‘North Deck’, will consist of 10,000 square metres of private luxury deck space stretching 100 metres into the sea and will include 32 cabanas, 400 sun loungers, a 612 sqm fresh water pool, 828 sqm salt water pool, a restaurant and a bar. Build by Finnish firm Admares, which specialises in the construction of cruise ships and yachts, the main components of North Deck left the shipyard in Finland on January 9 for the 8,000 nautical mile sea journey to Dubai and will arrive at the hotel in mid-February. For a teaser of the new North Deck at Burj Al Arab, click here.
2. Dragonair will become Cathay Dragon
Cathay Pacific’s wholly owned sister airline Dragonair is to be rebranded as Cathay Dragon, although the two will remain as separate airlines, operating under their own licences. By more closely aligning the two brands, this rebranding will capitalise on Cathay Pacific’s high international brand recognition and leverage on Cathay Dragon’s unique connectivity into Mainland China – one of the world’s fastest-growing business and leisure travel markets. The airlines’ customers will benefit from greater convenience and a more seamless travel experience. Since Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific in 2006, it has added 23 new destinations and the number of passengers travelling across both carriers has grown five times to more than 7 million in 2015. The combined annual passenger number of the two airlines grew from 22 million to more than 34 million last year.
3. Soneva Fushi opens the largest villa in the Indian Ocean
Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’s original hideaway and most exclusive resort, has completed the refurbishment of its largest accommodation, the 9 bedroom Private Reserve, the largest villa in the Indian Ocean. Soneva’s vision of a playfully luxe deserted-island mansion comes to full fruition on an oceanic scale in this villa. No luxury is spared. At the same time, guests will escape in a world of jungle fantasies with the palm-frond roofs, woven ropes and tree-branch banisters. Guests can host dinners in the sunken dining area, gaze out from balconies and gangways, or spend the day lazing in and around curves of the massive, lagoon-style pool. You can read my review of Soneva Fushi here. And if you want to buy your own slice of paradise, Soneva offers a limited number of private villas for sale.
4. SWISS receives its first Boeing 777-300ER
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) took delivery of the first of nine new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which offers 340 seats: eight in First Class, 62 in Business Class and 270 in Economy Class. The carrier’s first B777-300ER aircraft depicts images of its 2,500 employees worldwide. The totally newly-designed cabin interior of the new SWISS fleet flagship offers top comfort and visual appeal in all three classes. The 62 lie-flat Business class seats are an enhanced and refined version of SWISS’ current seats (click here for my review). Boeing 777 passengers will also enjoy wireless internet connectivity aloft, the first time this has been offered on SWISS flights. SWISS’s new Boeing 777-300ERs will gradually enter revenue service from the start of the 2016 summer schedules. They will largely be deployed on services to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Los Angeles, San Francisco, São Paulo and Tel Aviv.
5. Luftansa Airbus A350 fleet is coming to Munich
Lufthansa has published more details on its forthcoming Airbus A350-900 fleet. The first ten aircraft of the type Airbus A350-900 will be based in Munich from January 2017. This will equip Lufthansa’s second-largest hub with the world’s most modern long-haul passenger aircraft. The A350-900, one of the most environmentally friendly aircraft, will gradually replace the A340-600. Lufthansa has ordered a total of 25 Airbus A350-900 aircraft with a list price of around 310 million US dollars each. The deployment of the remaining 15 aircraft has yet to be decided. The aircraft will accommodate 293 passengers: 48 guests in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy and 224 in Economy Class.
6. Etihad Airways will fly its Airbus A380 to India
According to Business Traveller, Etihad Airways will operate its A380 on the Abu Dhabi-Mumbai route from May 1. The airline will join Singapore Airlines and Emirates, which already fly the superjumbo to the country. This will add Mumbai to the list of destinations served by Etihad’s A380, which includes London, New York and Sydney. The Etiihad Airways Airbus A390 features 496 seats which are divided into four classes: The Residence, First Apartments, Business Studios and Economy Smart Seats. “We serve more destinations in India than any other country on our network. We service 11 Indian cities directly. India is a burgeoning and exciting market for leisure, MICE and business segments,” says Calum Laming, VP, Guest Experience, Etihad Airways. To read my review onboard Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment, click here.
7. Four Seasons opens its Casablanca property
Cool and avant-garde on the beachfront of Morocco’s largest city, Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca enjoys a prestigious resort-style setting, just a short distance from the business district and the historic city centre. The new hotel is part of the master-planned Anfa Place community, combining residential, business, shopping and entertainment. Only five storeys in height, the intimately scaled Casablanca hotel features 186 ultra-spacious guest rooms, including 29 suites – most with private balconies overlooking the ocean or gardens. The hotel is ideally located to explore the city’s vibrant social scene. It features four Casablanca restaurants, an outdoor pool and club-like spa, and fitness centre. Meetings and events will unfold in the ballroom and five function rooms, open to outdoor terraces that will celebrate Morocco’s year-round warmth and sunshine.
8. Starwood Hotels hit the slopes with W Aspen
The scene in Aspen just got a little more après. W Hotels, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, announced it will debut its first alpine escape in North America, the W Aspen and The Sky Residences at W Aspen, which is slated to open for the 2017 winter ski season. W Aspen, formerly the Sky Hotel, will be ideally situated at the base of Aspen Mountain and provide skiers the ability to ski right into the hotel for craft cocktails and more after an exhilarating day on the slopes. Locally-inspired, this modern day mountain chalet will offer 88 guestrooms (including six suites) and 11 W-branded fractional residences. An oversized split level Living Room (the brand’s alternative to the staid hotel lobby) reimagines the traditional hotel dining scene with a modern approach to dynamic cocktails and cuisine. The hotel will also feature an outdoor patio and a foot rooftop bar and pool, overlooking Aspen Mountain and creating the ultimate experience for après-ski and warm-weather events.
9. Shangri-La Doha is now open
The new Shangri-La Hotel, Doha, designed to resemble a falcon’s head in recognition of Qatari falconry – the country’s historic and elite pastime – is adorned with museum-quality art pieces honouring the rich heritage of the Qatari peninsula which are on loan from the Sheikh Faisal Collection. Strategically located close to the business and diplomatic areas, Shangri-La Hotel, Doha offers a direct link to the City Centre Mall, the city’s largest mall, and is only five minutes from the waterfront promenade. Light-filled luxury accommodation includes 272 guestrooms and suites and 42 serviced apartments. The guestrooms, all with floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular views of the city and Gulf, feature warm earth tones and amenities including a 47-inch Wi-Fi-enabled smart TV and Shangri-La’s signature mattress. An aquamarine lagoon-shaped pool lies invitingly on the 2,000-square-metre deck dotted with loungers – ideal for luxuriating in the year-round sunshine. I will soon publish my review of this splendid new hotel.
10. Emirates goes non-stop Dubai-Auckland from next week
Emirates will start its first non-stop service from Dubai to Auckland next week, on 1 March 2016, bringing many of its 38 European destinations and cities within just one-stop range of New Zealand through direct connections in Dubai. This means that Emirates will then have five services daily into New Zealand – three A380 double-decker services to Auckland via Australia, a daily Christchurch service with a Boeing 777-300ER, and the new non-stop service operated with a Boeing 777-200LR. This will be one of the longest air routes in the world by distance, but Emirates will be using flexible routes, which can vary by day, taking advantage of tail winds and avoiding head winds to reduce the time in the air. The new non-stop service should typically take just under 16 hours from Dubai to New Zealand and 17 hours, 15 minutes in the other direction. To read my trip report in an Emirates B777-200LR, click here.