Travel news: this month (August 2017) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (August 25, 2017): August 2017 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:

  1. Six Senses to open a second ski resort in the Alps
  2. Ethiopian retrofits its B767-300 fleet with flat-bed seats
  3. Jumby Bay Island, Antigua and Barbuda, joins Oetker Collection
  4. A Boeing 777-200LR is transformed into a flying cruise ship
  5. Rosewood opens its second property in China
  6. Air Berlin files for bankruptcy
  7. Philippine Airlines to deploy B777 on the Manila–London route
  8. Four Seasons announces first European ski resort in French Alps
  9. Singapore Airlines cuts size of A380 First Class cabin in half
  10. Mandarin Oriental to manage its first property in the Caribbean

1. Six Senses to open a second ski resort in the Alps

After announcing last month the development of Six Senses Crans-Montana in Switzerland, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is set to add yet another extraordinary Alpine destination to its portfolio of properties in some of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring locations. Located in the breathtakingly picturesque Austrian Alps, Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps will feature 80 guest accommodations, including 50 residences, plus a small village of chalets available for private sale. The overall design concept of Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps could best be described as a modern interpretation of traditional Austrian design. Warm natural finishes will incorporate wood and stone with the introduction of rough-hewn exposed timber beams in public areas. Glorious swaths of natural light will wed the seasons to the interiors and the restrained use of art and craft will feature subtly define the setting. Kitzbühel features some of the finest cross-country skiing and downhill slopes in the world. With over 104 miles (168 kilometers) of ski runs, the property will offer ski-in, ski-out access and in summer there are 75 miles (120 kilometers) of mountain bike paths and 311 miles (500 kilometers) of hiking trails to explore. Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps, which will also feature a fine-dining venue and a spa, will open in 2020.


2. Ethiopian Airlines retrofits its B767-300 fleet with flat-bed seats 

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, announced that it plans to fully refurbished its Boeing 767-300 ER fleet, which flies to destinations in India, the Middle East and Africa. The newly refurbished airplane is fitted with brand new full flat-bed seats in Cloud Nine, modern inflight entertainment with high-resolution 17 inches screen and in-seat power outlets, lighting and other modern cabin products. Customers in the main cabin will also enjoy new seats, multiple channels of inflight audio and video entertainments accessible with their own mobile devices /tablets. Ethiopian CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, remarked: “As a customer focussed and market driven airline, we are always committed to avail unmatched travel experience for our customers. We have invested more than $6 million USD to retrofit our B-767-300 ER fleet, which will surely provide more choice and greater comfort to our customers. By December 2017, all our B767 fleet will be fitted with flat-bed seats in Cloud Nine with access to a range of video programming available for wireless streaming in all cabins”. Availing the right fleet mix for the mission, Ethiopian Airlines has currently 92 aircraft in its young and modern fleet (five years average fleet age), with future plans to receive nineteen A350-900s, four B787-900s and five Q400s.


3. Jumby Bay Island, Antigua and Barbuda, joins Oetker Collection

The famous Jumby Bay Island resort in Antigua and Barbuda leaves the Rosewood Hotel Group to join the Oetker Collection. “Since the foundation of Oetker Collection, we have grown our hotel portfolio with carefully chosen resorts and city hotels that deserve the attribute ‘Masterpiece’. I am delighted to announce our expansion with a second Masterpiece in the Caribbean: Jumby Bay Island” says Frank Marrenbach, CEO Oetker Collection. “This private island paradise is a truly special and precious place, with 120 hectares of manicured landscape surrounded by white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. As of October, guests will experience Oetker Collection’s highest standards of quality service to which they are accustomed, and can rest assured that our team of hoteliers will offer them quite a unique sense of place”. Located right in front of the main island of Antigua, Jumby Bay Island is a secluded haven filled with lush landscapes, stately palm trees and three stunning white sand beaches. Reachable only by boat, with no hint of urban intrusions and no indigenous population in sight, this privately owned hideaway has remained largely unchanged for centuries. The resort features 40 tastefully decorated rooms and 50 luxury vacation villas, that embody both the beauty of nature and the tradition of elegance with inspiring surroundings and simple sophistication. Jumby Bay features in my top 10 lists of the best resorts in the Caribbean and the world’s most exclusive private island resorts.


4. A Boeing 777 is transformed into an ultraluxe flying cruise ship

A new standard of private luxury travel is set to soar high above all others across the globe, with the launch by Crystal Cruises – an American luxury cruise line – of the world’s largest and most luxuriously spacious private charter jet: a ultraluxe Boeing 777-200LR baptized Crystal Skye that is being prepared for its maiden voyage in a few weeks time. Available for private charter for both leisure travel and group events, the lavishly outfitted Boeing 777 has been completely transformed to the highest standards of aviation design. Here are some of Crystal Skye’s remarkable features that elevate her, literally, above all other air travel experiences:

  • Crystal Skye is designed accommodate up to 88 guests. The passenger capacity of a traditionally configured Boeing 777-200LR is 314 to 396.
  • Each guest enjoys the personal service of a butler assigned to cater to their individual wishes throughout the in-flight experience. Butlers carts are equipped for six-star service, with steam irons, shoe horns and polish, wrapping paper, extract fragrances and lens cleaner.
  • Crystal Exclusive Class seats are laid out in a 2x2x2 configuration, staggered to allow guests to enjoy window views in every direction regardless of their location on the aircraft. Each seat boasts a 74-inch (188 cm) pitch with 24 inches (61 cm) between armrests, and will lay flat to a full 73.5 inches (188 cm) for restful room to sleep during nighttime flights. Six spa-like lavatories offer relaxing music, spacious counter tops and ETRO bath amenities.
  • Crystal Skye’s executive chef oversees all onboard menu designs, featuring Michelin-inspired cuisine reflecting the global destinations visited. The chef collaborates with the sommelier/mixologist to offer pairings with fine wines from Crystal’s SkyeCellar.
  • Crystal Skye’s in-flight entertainment system has been designed exclusively for the aircraft with 24-inch HD Panasonic monitors – the largest in the industry – and mini monitors in each handset. The custom system enables guests to view a comprehensive selection of movies, TV shows and music on-demand while on board, in addition Live TV and other features including a live cockpit-to-airport ground control listening channel; a detailed live moving map offering guests the ability to check progress of the AirCruise; and TV cameras outside for views of take-off, in flight and landing.

5. Rosewood opens its second property in China

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts announced the ultra-luxury brand’s first mainland Chinese resort, Rosewood Sanya, on the paradise island of Sanya (often dubbed the Hawaii of China). The resort joins the Hong Kong-headquartered group’s only other Rosewood-branded property in Greater China, the Rosewood Beijing, which I reviewed here. Rosewood Sanya is part of an integrated resort set within 40 acres (16 hectares) of landscaped gardens surrounding the Sanya Forum, the largest convention center in Haitang Bay. In keeping with the brand’s A Sense of Place philosophy, the resort’s design incorporates wood, tribal totems and aquatic elements to create a serene and contemporary space, celebrating the beauty of nature and the serenity of the ocean, for all Rosewood guests to discover. All 246 guestrooms at Rosewood Sanya are ocean facing and 45 guestrooms include balcony plunge pools. Other facilities include an infinity pool located on 13th floor, a health club and Sense, A Rosewood Spa. Nearly 3,425 square meters of meeting and function space including a pillar-less ballroom, six salons and The Pavilion, a Rosewood signature residential-style meeting and function space with a sea view terrace and open show kitchen. The hotel’s five restaurants and lounges feature a variety of local and international cuisines.


6. Air Berlin files for bankruptcy

On August 15th, Air Berlin filed to commence insolvency proceedings under self-administration at the local District Court (Amtsgericht) of Berlin-Charlottenburg, in order to continue with the restructuring process that is already underway. The background of the bankruptcy is the notification by Etihad Airways that it no longer intends to provide Air Berlin with financial support.  For the next tree months, the Federal Government is supporting airberlin with a bridging loan to maintain flight operations for the long-term. This means:

  • All flights operated by Air Berlin and NIKI will continue as planned
  • The flight schedule remains valid
  • Bookings remain valid
  • All flights – with the exception of some USA flights – can still be booked

According to Air Berlin, negotiations with Lufthansa and other partners regarding the acquisition of business units of Air Berlin are far advanced, highly promising, and may be finalised shortly. Thomas Winkelmann, CEO of Air Berlin, said: “We are working tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for the company, our customers and employees, given the situation”.  There are several media reports though that Air Berlin is disintegrating rapidly: certain flights to the USA are blacked out for reservations, passengers don’t collect miles anymore with Air Berlin’s frequent flyer program when flying on Air Berlin, and refundable tickets were made non-refundable overnight. Whatever the outcome will be, Air Berlin is in big trouble at the moment, and I suggest you avoid booking a ticket with them until more clarity is provided about the carrier’s long-term future.


7. Philippine Airlines to deploy B777 on the Manila–London route

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines is all set to boost its operations between Manila and London Heathrow with the deployment of its state-of-the-art 370 seater Boeing 777-300s on the route beginning September 19. The triple7, considered the airline’s flagship aircraft on US transpacific routes, will soon serve MNL-UK operations to provide passengers a premium travel experience. By December, PAL will increase frequencies between the two cities from four times weekly to daily giving passengers the flexibility to choose from a wide selection of flight schedules. “As we carry out the brand promise to be a full service five-star carrier of the country and be a source of pride of Filipinos everywhere, we shall continue to enhance the total travel experience along the route. We want our passengers to have the ultimate travel experience marked by comfort, inflight connectivity and the caring service of our cabin crew, embodying the Heart of the Filipino,” PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said. “With its range and operational capability, the flag carrier will be at par with other full service carriers along the route. We will also increase capacity as the aircraft will have a 370-seating capacity on a two – class configuration (42 on business and 328 on economy) as compared to the 254-seating capacity of the A340,” he added. The B777 replaces the A340s which have served as workhorses between Manila and London Heathrow since 2013.


8. Four Seasons announces first European ski resort in French Alps

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality companies, announced plans for the first Four Seasons mountain destination in Europe, opening in time for the 2017-2018 winter ski season. Facing Mont Blanc and conveniently located just 70 kilometres (44 miles) from Geneva International Airport, Megève is a preeminent skier’s paradise, offering more than 130 groomed Alpine runs, endless fresh snowfall, and powdery off-piste terrain. As Megève’s first hotel to offer direct access to the Mont d’Arbois slopes, the 55-room Four Seasons Hotel Megève will be nestled into the base of Mont d’Arbois’ soaring mountainside, creating a luxurious haven for skiers directly on the Alpine range. In addition, Four Seasons will also manage the 18-hole Le Golf du Mont d’Arbois club designed by three-time British Open champion Sir Henry Cotton. Four Seasons Hotel Megève will mark the third Four Seasons destination in France, joining the legendary Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris and Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel in the French Riviera.


9. Singapore Airlines cuts size of A380 First Class cabin in half

According to FlightGlobal, Singapore Airlines plans to retrofit 14 of its Airbus A380 aircraft. In an email response to FlightGlobal, the Star Alliance carrier says it expects to announce the timeline for the retrofit work by the end of the year. While it did not give further details of the retrofit work, a local media report says that SIA will install new seats across all classes, as well as upgrade the in-flight entertainment system. Meanwhile, First Class suites, which are currently located on the lower deck could be moved to the upper deck. The number of suites will be halved to six from 12. The media report indicates that the new cabin configuration will also be used in five new A380s. Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that they will arrive between October 2017 and May 2018. These five aircraft will help singapore Airlined keep the size of its A380 fleet at 19 aircraft following the departure of Singapore Airlines’ first five A380s, which will be returned to its leasing company.


10. Mandarin Oriental to manage its first property in the Caribbean

Mandarin Oriental announced that it will rebrand and manage the luxury Pink Sands hotel, currently operating on Canouan island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, from 1 November 2017. Mandarin Oriental, Canouan will be the Group’s first property in the Caribbean. The exclusive resort is expansive while being intimate and secluded, nestled on the powder white sands of Canouan Island which is only five square miles in total. The whole island is dedicated to leisure pursuits including sailing, kayaking, diving, fishing, tennis and hiking, as well as golf at an 18-hole Jim Fazio-designed golf course. The hotel comprises 26 suites and 12 three to four bedroom villas. All suites and villas have full ocean views, and each villa comes with a large private pool, just a few steps away from the ocean. A variety of restaurants and bars provide a range of cuisines and al fresco dining and the property also features an outdoor infinity pool, a spa and health club, with two overwater treatment cabanas accessible by boat. Mandarin Oriental will also brand and manage a portfolio of new Residences at Mandarin Oriental, to be located near the hotel and scheduled to be available in 2020.


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