Today (April 28, 2017): April 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:
- Asiana Airlines takes delivery of its first A350 XWB
- Conrad Bora Bora Nui in French Polynesia opens its doors
- Vietnam Airlines introduces A350 service to Tokyo
- Sao Paulo’s newest and most luxurious hotel opens next week
- Emirates cuts service to USA
- Six Senses now manages a famous Bodrum property
- Six Senses announces an Ibiza property
- One&Only Resorts to open two safari lodges in Rwanda
- Qantas puts the new Kangaroo route on sale
- United Airlines announces changes to improve customer experience
1. Asiana Airlines takes delivery of its first A350 XWB
Asiana Airlines of South Korea has taken delivery of its first A350-900, becoming the 12th airline to operate the world’s newest and most efficient twin-engine widebody airliner. The A350 XWB features the latest aerodynamic design, carbon fiber fuselage and wings, plus new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines. Asiana’s A350-900 is configured with a three class layout with a total of 311 seats, comprising 28 in Business Smartium, convertible to fully flat beds, 36 in Economy Smartium and 247 in the main cabin. Altogether Asiana has ordered 30 A350s and will initially operate the aircraft on flights within Asia. From the third quarter of 2017, the carrier will deploy the aircraft on premier long haul routes to Europe and the US, beginning with services from Seoul to London and San Francisco. To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 821 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 44 customers worldwide, already making it one of the most successful widebody aircraft ever.
2. Conrad Bora Bora Nui in French Polynesia opens its doors
This 115-room resort, formerly known as Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa, re-opened as the Conrad Bora Bora Nui after undergoing a multimillion-dollar refurbishment. Conrad Bora Bora Nui is located in a private cove on Motu To’opua, an islet off the coast of Bora Bora, about 20 minutes by boat from Bora Bora Airport. Offering panoramic ocean views, access to sea sports, coral reef dive sites and hiking trails, the beachfront Conrad Bora Bora Nui features 29 tropical garden and beach villas and 86 overwater bungalows, including the destination’s only double-story Presidential Suites. Guests here can look forward to inspired experiences, which marries Tahitian culture and charm with Conrad’s intuitive, discrete, and seamless service.
3. Vietnam Airlines introduces A350 service to Tokyo
Vietnam Airlines welcomed its inaugural Airbus A350-900 XWB service to Haneda (Tokyo, Japan), the 5th destination of airline’s Airbus A350 fleet. Previously, Vietnam Airlines has introduced the operation of the A350 aircraft on the Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh city – Paris (France) route and Hanoi – Seoul (Korea) route from October 2015, Ho Chi Minh city – Shanghai (China) route from April 2016 and Ho Chi Minh city – Osaka (Japan) route from October 2016. This is part of the national carrier’s plan to replace the wide-body fleet on long-haul flights. Mr. Nguyen Quang Trung, General Manager of Vietnam Airlines’ Japanese branch said: “Vietnam Airlines is proud to bring Airbus A350 to Hanoi – Haneda (Tokyo) route in order to meet the increasing travel demand between the two busy cities. This will also contribute to the development of tourism and trade between Vietnam and Japan, as well as reaffirms the position, image and superior quality of services that Vietnam Airlines offers to the Japanese market”. Vietnam Airlines currently offers flights to Tokyo with a frequency of 31-35 flights/week via Narita and Haneda airport, including 14 flights/week from Hanoi, 12-14 flights/week from Ho Chi Minh city and 5-7 flights/week from Danang.
4. Sao Paulo’s newest and most luxurious hotel opens next week
With an exceptional location in the heart of the economic capital of Brazil – São Paulo – Palácio Tangará will open its doors on May 10th. Built in the surroundings of the highly regarded Burle Marx Park under the auspices of architects B+H Architects, Bick Simonato and PAR Arquitetura, the hotel will offer 141 spacious guestrooms – including 59 suites – all with beautiful views overlooking the park. The interior design has been entrusted to leading Brazilian interior design firms Bick Simonato and Anastassiadis who have created a truly bespoke design concept for each space. The hotel will be part of the ultra-luxe Oetker Collection. Celso Do Valle – the managing director – said “I believe that with such Brazilian contemporary elegance, our spacious rooms and suites, combined with our magnificent ballrooms and banqueting spaces, an exceptional culinary experience from world-renowned Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and our remarkable “Spa by Sisley”, we will offer guests something quite outstanding in São Paulo”.
5. Emirates cuts service to USA
According to USA Today, Emirates is reducing its schedule to the United States, saying demand has dropped in the wake of a new electronics ban for carry-ons and broader attempts by the Trump administration to restrict travelers from several Muslim-majority nations. Emirates will not cut any of its 12 U.S. destinations, but it will pare the number of flights it flies to five of those. “Until the start of 2017, Emirates’ operations in the U.S. has seen healthy growth and performance, driven by customer demand for our high-quality product and our international flight connections”, Emirates said in its statement. “However, over the past 3 months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our U.S. routes, across all travel segments. Emirates has therefore responded as any profit-oriented enterprise would, and we will redeploy capacity to serve demand on other routes on our global network”. Emirates’ announcement detailed changes on the following routes:
- Boston-Dubai: Twice-daily service will drop to once-daily service starting June 2.
- Los Angeles-Dubai: Twice-daily service will drop to once-daily service starting July 1.
- Seattle-Dubai: Twice-daily service will drop to once-daily service starting June 1.
- Fort Lauderdale-Dubai: Starting May 1, two flights will be trimmed from the existing daily service. That will leave a schedule of five flights per week.
- Orlando-Dubai: Starting May 23, two flights will be trimmed from the existing daily service. That will leave a schedule of five flights per week.
Despite the service cuts, Emirates struck an optimistic tone that the reductions might be short-lived.
6. Six Senses takes over management of a famous Bodrum property
Six Senses – one of my favorite hotel brands in the world – has announced that they have taken over management of the Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya, near Bodrum. The resort – now called the Six Senses Kaplankaya – is nestled on a spectacular peninsula of the sun-kissed Aegean coast in Turkey and lies directly on the waterfront in Turgutreis, approximately 20 km (12 mi) from the centre of Bodrum. Undulating hills clad in evergreens, wild olives and cypresses amplify the invitation extended by warm breezes and the turquoise sea’s gently lapping waves. Presenting a robust mosaic of architecture, history and art, the resort is within easy reach of many archeological sites including two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The resort will be open for this summer season, but then undergo an exciting transformation later this year. Guests will be welcomed with interior enhancements reflecting Six Senses style, upgraded gardens and landscaping plus many not-to-be-missed experiences in 2018.
7. Six Senses announces an Ibiza property
Some more exciting news from the Six Senses Hotel group. Tucked away on the peaceful northern tip of Ibiza is crystalline Cala Xarraca Bay. Located just 30 minutes from the airport, this will become the inspiring setting for Six Senses Ibiza, to be opened in 2020. Six Senses Ibiza will offer 134 guest accommodations across a 25-acre (10-hectare) site including fully appointed Townhouse Suites, Deluxe Pool Suites with private decks, Beach Cave Suites and two extraordinary six-bedroom Mansions. Available for a handful of residential buyers will be nine captivating private villas located above the resort with expansive sunset views. Every aspect of the property’s physical design will facilitate the feeling of community and the activities and amenities offered to guests will focus on learning and experience. This third European property will complement the Six Senses resort in Portugal’s Douro Valley, a Six Senses residential project in Courchevel, France and seven fabulous Six Senses spas in France, Greece, Spain, Switzerland and the UK”.
8. One&Only Resorts to open two safari lodges in Rwanda
Following the success of One&Only’s first landlocked property – Australia’s Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley – the Dubai-based hospitality brand has announced plans to further expand its portfolio beyond the ultra-luxe beachside resorts for which it is best known. According to Robb Report, he all new One&Only Nature Resorts portfolio will feature Wolgan Valley as well as two new Rwandan properties: One&Only Nyungwe House and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. Each new luxury lodge will feature the same exclusive location and access of other One&Only properties—and both will strive to follow Wolgan Valley in achieving carbon-neutral certifications by CarbonZero. Situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park, One&Only Nyungwe House will be the first of the two new resorts to open, welcoming its first guests this July. Exploratory treks and hikes through the forest give guests access to the park’s nearly 250,000 acres, where they can discover black-and-white colobus monkeys, gray-cheeked mangabeys, and more than 275 bird species. After full days out in the park, guests can retire to the resort’s modern suites and villas, each featuring decor accented with traditional African touches and vast private decks equipped with fireplaces. Nestled nearly 150 miles north among the eucalyptus trees in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range will be One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, scheduled to open in 2018. The resort will provide a luxurious home base for mountain gorilla treks. In addition to architecture and interior design that will honor the natural beauty of the surrounding area, the camp’s restaurant and spa will also have a local focus.
9. Qantas puts the new Kangaroo route on sale
Non-stop flights from Australia to Europe can be booked for the first time, with tickets for Qantas’ Perth-London (Heathrow) route being on sale since this week. Daily flights on the history-making route begin on 24 March 2018 and form part of a new Melbourne-Perth-London return service. The services will be operated by Qantas’ new Boeing 787-Dreamliner – an aircraft designed specifically for comfort on long-haul sectors. Passengers from Australian cities will be able to connect to London via Perth, while inbound passengers will be able to transfer from the West Australian capital to onward destinations across the country. There’s also expected to be a surge in stopovers within Western Australia itself. The new QF9/10 will replace Qantas’ existing Melbourne-Dubai-London services – marking the next evolution of the Kangaroo Route, seven decades after the national carrier first flew Australians all the way to London. The travel experience for customers connecting in Perth will be seamless, with Qantas building a new international transit lounge at Perth Airport.
10. United Airlines announces changes to improve customer experience
By now, everyone has heard of the events from United Express Flight 3411 on April 9, 2017, when a customer flying from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Louisville International Airport was forcibly removed from a United aircraft (you can watch the shameful clip here). As a response, United Airlines announced this week 10 substantial changes to how it flies, serves and respects its customers:
- Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
- Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
- Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
- Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.
- Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
- Provide employees with additional annual training.
- Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
- Reduce the amount of overbooking.
- Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
- Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a “no questions asked” policy on lost luggage.
While several of these policies are effective immediately, others will be rolled out through the remainder of the year. The facts of what happened aboard Flight 3411 and a full review of United’s changes can be found at hub.united.com.