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

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (December 29, 2017): December 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. Norwegian expands its long-haul network between Europe and the USA
  2. The Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program to be discontinued
  3. The Lufthansa group’s loyalty program Miles&More becomes revenue based
  4. Six Senses announces its first South American luxury resort
  5. KLM launches new World Business Class cabin in its Airbus 330 fleet
  6. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts announces a Munich property
  7. Qatar Airways deploys its A380 flagship plane on the Doha-Perth route
  8. Mandarin Oriental will manage a second property in London
  9. Eurowings becomes first low-cost carrier to offer flat-bed Business Class seats
  10. Langham brings its legendary luxury to Thailand’s capital

1. Norwegian expands its USA-Europe long-haul network

Low cost carrier Norwegian announced further expansion of its long-haul networks with four new routes between Europe and the United States to Europe: New York City/JFK and Los Angeles to Madrid; New York City/JFK to Amsterdam; and Los Angeles to Milan. Norwegian now offers 61 nonstop transatlantic routes from 13 U.S. airports to Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well six routes to the French Caribbean, totaling 67 routes out of the United States. Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said: “2017 has been a year of exponential growth for Norwegian in Europe and the United States. Next year, we will continue our long-haul expansion by offering passengers easy and affordable connections between the US and some of Europe’s most exciting cities.” 

  • Service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Madrid-Barajas Airport will launch on July 18, 2018, and operate three times per week.
  • Service to Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport will launch on May 7, 2018, and will operate four times per week.
  • Service from Los Angeles International Airport to Madrid will launch on July 16, 2018, and will operate four times per week.
  • Service to Milan-Malpensa Airport will launch on June 18, 2018, and will also operate four times per week.

Economy launch fares to Amsterdam and Madrid from New York City start as low as $199 USD and $229 USD one-way, respectively, including taxes; fares from Los Angeles to both Madrid and Milan start from $229USD  one-way, including taxes. All flights will be operated by B787 aircraft.

2. The Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program to be discontinued

In 2016, the French hotel chain AccorHotels acquired FRHI Holdings Ltd, the parent company of three of the most prestigious global luxury hotel brands: RafflesFairmont and Swissôtel. The acquisition of these three global brands broadened AccorHotels’s geographic footprint in the luxury segment, but so far, the loyalty programs of these brands were run seperately: Le Club Accor for AccorHotels, Fairmont President’s Club for Fairmont hotels (which I reviewed here), Swissôtel Circle for Swissötel properties, and Discovery for Kempinski hotels (which I reviewed here). However, that is all changing as of July 2018, when the Fairmont President’s Club will be discontinued and merged into Le Club Accor. Travelers with status with Fairmont President’s Club will then be matched to an equivalent level in the Le Club AccorHotels program. If you currently hold memberships in both loyalty programs, your Le Club AccorHotels status will be updated according to this chart. The good news is that Fairmont loyals will now have access to a larger collection of hotels, and that they will start earning points that can be redeemed for vouchers:

  • Classic members earn 25 points per €10
  • Silver members earn 31 points per €10
  • Gold members earn 37 points per €10
  • Platinum members earn 44 points per €10

It’s not all good new though as Fairmont President’s Club elite members will see the elimination of three popular benefits. As part of the Le Club AccorHotels, elites will no longer get guaranteed late checkout or guaranteed suite upgrades, nor will they be rewarded with a complimentary night once per year. Instead, elite members of Le Club AccorHotels will get an upgrade to the next best room, subject to availability, and can only get a free night by using vouchers.

3. The Lufthansa group’s loyalty program Miles&More becomes revenue based

More bad news from the loyalty front! The airlines of the Lufthansa Group are changing how award miles are credited to participants in the frequent flyer and reward program Miles & More. Beginning in March 2018, the number of award miles that are credited will be based on the price of the flight ticket and on the frequent flyer status of the participants in the program. Under the old system, booking class or rather booking class and the length of the route determined the number of miles that were awarded. Going forward, Miles & More participants will be receiving four to six award miles per euro spent, corresponding with their particular booking habits and flight patterns. The new reward system applies to flights with the Lufthansa Group airlines Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings, as well as to all other Miles & More partner airlines, provided the ticket for the flight was issued by a Lufthansa Group airline.  Specifically, this means that Miles & More participants will always receive at least four award miles per euro spent on flights with the previously mentioned airlines.

  • Members with frequent flyer status will receive six award miles per euro on flights with Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines as well as with United Airlines and Air Canada. This means that the bonus award miles that status members receive for flights with the network airlines and transatlantic joint venture partners will be doubling to 50 percent, from currently 25 percent. The same applies to the airlines Adria Airways, Air Dolomiti, Croatia Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines, which also participate in the Miles & More frequent flyer and reward program.
  • On flights with Eurowings, Brussels Airlines and all other Miles & More partner airlines, the award mile bonus will remain at 25 percent, which means that status members will receive five award miles per euro spent.

Award miles can only be credited according to this new system if the tickets for the flight were issued by a Lufthansa Group airline. If the flight is booked as part of a package tour, or ticketed by an airline outside the Lufthansa Group, miles will continue to be calculated according to booking class / length of route. The frequent flyer status of participants, the privileges associated with that status and the allocation of status miles will not be affected by the new system for award miles. This change will also not have a fundamental impact on the number of award miles that are distributed by the airlines over all, or on the availability of flight rewards.


4. Six Senses announces its first South American luxury hotel

There’s always much excitement when Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas – on my favorite hotel brands in the world – unveils plans for their newest destination. The latest project to be announced, with a setting that offers exceptional natural beauty and out-of-the-ordinary guest experiences, is Six Senses Formosa Bay in Brazil (opening in 2021). Located at Baia Formosa in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, it is the most eastern territory of Brazil and the country’s closest point to Europe. The extraordinary site, a former coconut plantation, features almost 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) of Atlantic Ocean beachfront and covers an area of 6,350 acres (2,570 hectares). The proposed masterplan at Six Senses Formosa Bay has been designed with 73 one- two- and three-bedroom Pool Villas to the north of the site and easy access to water sports; 54 two- and three-bedroom Family Villas to the center of the property with family and wellness orientation; and 58 three- four- and five-bedroom Six Senses Residences to the southern section, which will be made available for private ownership. Three groups of guest facilities will be conveniently located through the elongated property, each with dining options, bars and a swimming pool. The resort has earmarked an area to the south of the property to establish an organic farm, which together with local farmers and fishing community, will provide much of the produce used in the kitchens. Six Senses Spa Formosa Bay will include single and double treatment rooms, steam, sauna and hammam.


5. KLM launches new World Business Class cabin in Airbus 330

Dutch carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ first Airbus 330-300 to be fitted with the new World Business Class cabin interior made its first flight this month to Havana (KL723). The first A330-300 to be fitted with the new World Business Class cabin is the plane with registration number PH-AKA. The refurbishment of the Business Class cabins in the remaining four A330-300s has already commenced; the last is expected to be completed in July 2018. KLM’s eight A330-200s will follow. Their refits are expected to be completed in October 2018. The World Business Class interiors of all KLM’s Boeings 747,777-200 and 777-300 have already undergone this transformation. KLM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners already have the new-style World Business Class cabins. Renowned Dutch designer, Hella Jongerius, designed the new seats and cabin interior. In addition, KLM’s new World Business Class also contains full-flat seats, in-seat power and improved privacy, and brand-new personal entertainment system with an 18” screen, HD quality films and a touchscreen navigation menu in 12 languages. I will soon publish my Business Class trip report in a KLM B777.

6. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts announces a Munich property

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has been appointed by German real estate company Bayerische Hausbau to manage Rosewood Munich, which will open in early 2023 as the brand’s first property in Germany and seventh property in Europe. Housed in two landmark, historical buildings comprised of the former headquarters of the State Bank of Bavaria (19th century) and the adjacent Palais Neuhaus-Preysing, a former grand aristocratic residence (early 18th entury), Rosewood Munich will be ideally situated on Kardinal-Faulhaber-Strasse in the heart of the historic city center. Rosewood Munich will blend the most exemplary features of traditional German architecture with modern and contemporary elements, creating a warm and convivial atmosphere that captures the spirit of the destination. The hotel will offer 132 spacious guestrooms and suites designed to complement the property’s original façade and iconic stairways, which remain well preserved and contribute to the city of Munich’s ensemble of historical buildings. The property will boast an inviting lobby lounge and two distinct dining venues, which include a full service restaurant and a vibrant bar. Rosewood Munich will also feature a full service spa, which will house five treatments rooms, as well as an indoor pool and fitness area. Additionally, the hotel will include extensive meetings and events spaces to accommodate a variety of private gatherings, conferences, and special events for up to 400 guests.


7. Qatar Airways deploys its A380 flagship plane on the Doha-Perth route

Qatar Airways decided to switch to an Airbus 380 from May next year for its daily service from Doha to Perth, a move which promises to deliver a boost for tourism in Western Australia. The A380 new-generation 517-seater aircraft contains a three-class configuration of eight seats in First Class, 48 seats in Business Class and 461 in Economy Class. Perth Airport CEO Kevin Brown says Qatar’s decision to use the new generation A380 will see its capacity surge by almost 45 per cent by adding 116,000 additional seats to the route with more than 7,000 passengers travelling between Doha and Perth every week. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring more international tourists to our capital city and our State. With Qatar Airways’ major sectors beyond Doha being London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Rome and Paris, this opens up new opportunities to attract more tourists from the European market. It also creates more opportunities for Western Australians to explore European destinations.” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “We have seen continued demand and increased appetite for travel among the Western Australian market since we started flying this route from July 2012. When travelling to some of Western Australians’ favourite European cities including London and Paris, Perth passengers can henceforth enjoy a seamless inflight experience onboard our A380 aircraft on all legs of their journey.” I reviewed the First Class product onboard Qatar Airways’ A380 here.

8. Mandarin Oriental will manage a second property in London

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has announced that it will manage a new luxury hotel and branded residences on Hanover Square in the heart of London’s Mayfair district. The project is expected to open in 2021. Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, London will be an intimate, boutique property featuring 50 guestrooms and suites as well as 80 Residences at ‘Mandarin Oriental’. It will be developed by Clivedale London and designed by architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to provide an exclusive oasis of contemporary luxury. The property will feature a vibrant fine-dining restaurant, a lobby lounge, stylish bar and a private roof terrace with bar overlooking Mayfair. The ‘Residences at Mandarin Oriental’, located in the building’s upper floors, will be some of the most exclusive private homes in the city. With the world of art, fashion, culture and business already on the doorstep, owners will enjoy direct access to the hotel experience, which will include an indoor pool, a comprehensive fitness centre and an intimate spa, providing Mandarin Oriental’s renowned wellness services. A full suite of five-star hotel services will be available to owners, including in-residence dining, housekeeping, valet parking and a dedicated 24-hour residential concierge. The development, which will be marketed as Hanover Bond, is situated between Bond Street and Regent Street, on Hanover Square, in one of London’s most exclusive residential, retail and fashion districts. The Bond Street Cross Rail station, located on Hanover Square, is due to open in 2018 and will give residents and guests access to super-fast rail connections across London, with Heathrow airport accessible in under 30 minutes.


9. Eurowings becomes first low-cost carrier to offer flat-bed Business Class seats

Low-cost and Business Class – that’s not a contradiction at Lufthansa-owned Eurowings, who will be the first low-cost airline to offer full flat Business Class seats on selected long-haul flights when the summer flight schedule starts in 2018. Except that at Eurowings it won’t be called Business Class but rather BIZclass. BIZclass will have its premiere at the world’s largest travel fair ITB in Berlin at the beginning of March 2018, before going into service for the first time at the end of April 2018. Eurowings has already published a first photo of its new BIZclass on social media channels including Facebook and Twitter. The teaser gives an idea of what customers of the low-cost airline can look forward to on long-haul flights next year: Eurowings will then be able to offer seats with more legroom, more service and, of course, a larger seat. At the touch of a button, the BIZclass seat can automatically be converted into a bed approximately 2 m (6’5” feet) long with a horizontal reclining surface (fully flat) – perfect for relaxing during a long flight. “We are currently fine-tuning the product and have some great surprises in store,” says Oliver Wagner, Eurowings CCO. These will be presented for the first time at the ITB in March 2018. “We see strong demand for another top product from our company on routes with a higher proportion of business travel, for example on US flights from Düsseldorf to New York, Miami or Fort Myers.”

10. Langham brings its legendary luxury to Thailand’s capital

The Langham Hospitality Group announced an agreement with Canapaya Development Co. Ltd to manage a luxury hotel by the banks of Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Only ten minutes from Sathorn CBD, the hotel is surrounded by majestic views of the river and city. The Langham,Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is expected to open in 2021. Led by Bangkok based firms, P & T Architecture, award-winning PIA Interior Designs and Belt Collins for landscaping, The Langham, Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is poised to become one of the leading luxury hotel in the city. Featuring classic yet contemporary furnishings, each of the 207 rooms and 43 suites is equipped with The Langham signature Blissful bed and separate bathrooms with rain showers and bathtubs in an urban resort style. Half of the deluxe rooms will have balconies with a 180 degree view of the Chao Phraya River while the other half will have the view of both the river and the city. For guests that prefer a more luxurious stay and added space may choose to stay at the one-, two- or three-bedroom suites that range from 80 to 205 square metres. Guests may opt for suites with separate kitchens which allow cooking and private entertaining. Bangkok ranks high on the culinary map and The Langham will also live up to the city’s epicurean reputation by offering some of the finest dining experience in the city. Headlining the dining experiences will be T’ang Court, offering fine Cantonese cuisine following its three Michelin starred namesake in Hong Kong. Chinese cuisine is one of the key signatures of Langham Hospitality Group and the group’s Chinese restaurants in hotels in Hong Kong and Shanghai have all achieved the coveted Michelin awards.


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