Travel news: this month (January 2018) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (January 26, 2018): January 2018 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. Aman opens its fourth property in China
  2. Air Seychelles drastically restructures
  3. Rosewood Hotels will open a property in the Caribbean’s West Indies
  4. Iberia announces its first A350 destination
  5. Norwegian sets record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight
  6. Six Senses Hotels & Resort will open a hotel in Singapore
  7. United Airlines launches Sydney’s longest route
  8. St. Regis Hotels plans to join Hong Kong’s skyline in 2019
  9. Emirates keeps the A380 production line alive
  10. Hilton announces a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Cancun


1. Aman opens its fourth property in China

Aman, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, has opened its fourth outpost in China, Amanyangyun, one of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2018. Meaning ‘nourishing cloud’, yangyun is a reference to expanding the ‘cloud’ of the mind with knowledge – a philosophy borne by the story of the trees and dwellings at Amanyangyun’s heart. Set in a flourishing, tranquil forest, and just a 40-minute drive from the bright lights and cosmopolitan bustle of Shanghai, the resort is the culmination of years of careful restoration and conservation efforts and safeguards priceless natural and cultural treasures. Amanyangyun features 13 antique resort villas and 24 guest suites that offer serenity in the heart of historic China. The villas are actual, centuries-old structures from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, relocated to save them from demolition, and each one is equipped with its own swimming pool and a heated Jacuzzi, while each suite also enjoys two private courtyards and outdoor bath. The resort is home to a spa and six dining venues, including an all-day dining pavilion, Chinese restaurant with seven private dining rooms, club lounge, informal lakeside café, Aman Deli Village Shop, and a 200-seat banquet hall.


2. Air Seychelles drastically restructures

Air Seychelles announced a new strategic transformation plan aimed at responding to rapidly increasing competition. The Seychelles archipelago will see a major influx of inbound seat capacity in 2018.  In addition to airlines already operating to Seychelles – Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Austrian Airways, Sri Lankan and Condor – British Airways has announced plans to launch flights from London to Seychelles in March, followed by Air France introducing services from Paris in May and the Swiss Edelweiss Air launching flights from Zurich in September 2018, creating overcapacity on Seychelles-bound services from Europe. This will create significant downward pressure on airfares and negatively affect the loads and forward bookings on Air Seychelles’ current three-per-week Paris operation. Consequently, Air Seychelles has decided to suspend its Paris service in April 2018 and exit the two leased Airbus A330 aircraft out of the fleet. All guests scheduled to fly to/from Paris beyond that date will be re-accommodated on other flights. The airline will mainly concentrate on developing its domestic operations, including inter-island flights between Mahé and Praslin, scenic flight packages and island charters, which are set to play an increasingly important role as more international travellers visit the archipelago.


3. Rosewood Hotels will open a property in the Caribbean’s West Indies

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open Rosewood Half Moon Bay Antigua in 2021 in the Caribbean’s West Indies. The resort will be situated on 132 spectacular oceanfront acres along Half Moon Bay, which is internationally lauded as one of the world’s most spectacular beaches. A serene oasis for discerning travelers, the resort will feature 47 pavilion-style suites, including an ultra-luxurious, three-bedroom presidential suite. Each accommodation will feature breath-taking ocean views and thoughtful amenities finely tuned to the desires of today’s affluential explorer, including private infinity plunge pools, hammocks, open-air baths and showers and live orchid walls in each bathroom.  Boasting a design that reflects the lush locale, the aesthetic borrows from historic Caribbean and architectural pioneers to offer a classic, timeless feel coupled with modern amenities and services. Set to become one of the most exciting destinations to dine and drink in the Caribbean, Rosewood Half Moon Bay will include several innovative dining and lounge concepts. Other property amenities will include two pools, one for adults and one for families, a fitness center, and tennis courts. Additionally, Sense, a Rosewood Spa, will offer an indulgent experience with six signature treatment rooms and locally inspired treatments.


4. Iberia annouces its first A350 destination

International Airlines Group (IAG) – the parent company of Iberia – has converted eight A350-900 options into firm orders for Iberia, the flag carrier of Spain, with 8 more A350 orders on option. The A350 has carbon fibre fuselage and wings and sets new standards in terms of passenger experience, operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. According to a tweet on its official twitter account, the first route for Iberia’s new Airbus A350-900 aircraft will be New York’s JFK Airport, and the A350 service would commence in August, replacing the current A340 operation. Before being rostered onto the New York service, the aircraft will initially be used on crew training flights between Madrid and Heathrow from June. Iberia’s A350 will feature a total of 348 seats across three classes: 293 in Economy, 24 in premium Economy, and 31 in Business Class. The Business Class seat will offer an increased width of 22,-8 inches or 58 cm (compared to 20,6 inches or 52.5 cm on other long-haul aircraft), as well as a larger TV screen (18 inches compared to 15.4 inches). The seat will convert into a 76,7 inches or 195 cm long fully flat bed, and will also feature a wider footrest with side protectors, and more space for storing belongings. The A350 aircraft will join Iberia’s exclusive Airbus long-haul fleet, including the Airbus A330-200, Airbus A330-300 (which I reviewed here), and the Airbus A340-600. The airline noted that the addition of the A350 is not meant to replace a specific aircraft type outright, but rather is to help the airline achieve its goal of 8% annual growth until 2022.


5. Norwegian sets record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight

Low-cost airline Norwegian has set a new record time for the fastest ever transatlantic flight by a subsonic passenger aircraft this week using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Norwegian flight DY7014 from New York JFK to London Gatwick on Monday 15 January completed the full duration of the flight in 5 hours and 13 minutes – the fastest transatlantic flight recorded on a subsonic commercial aircraft. The previous record was 5 hours and 16 minutes. The flight carrying 284 passengers departed New York at 11:44 am and arrived at London at 9:57 pm – 53 minutes early. Europe’s third largest low-cost airline, operates double daily flights between London and New York using the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The flight benefitted from strong tailwinds over the Atlantic Ocean that reached a maximum of 176 knots (202mph). The tailwinds pushed the aircraft to a top speed of 776mph during the flight. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft (G-CKHL) used on the record-breaking transatlantic flight adorns British tail fin hero Amy Johnson, a pioneering pilot who was the first female to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. Norwegian honours iconic figures on the tails of its aircraft, using personalities who symbolise the spirit of Norwegian through innovation, challenging the norm, and inspiring others.


6. Six Senses Hotels & Resort will open a hotel in Singapore

Six Senses has annouced a Singapore property, which will be split across two buildings that are an easy wander apart: Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell. The Six Senses Duxton site features a row of trading houses that have been sustainably restored under the designer Anoushka Hempel, acclaimed for her Hempel and Blake’s hotels in London. In harmony with a rich Asian history, yet still presenting her luminary vision, Anoushka has given each of the 49 guestrooms and suites a unique individuality so that no two are exactly the same. The Six Senses Maxwell site was originally a nutmeg plantation before 14 three- and four-story colonial-style buildings were constructed and later joined together as a single entity. The diverse characteristics have been carefully conserved and the property features 120 guestrooms and suites, a Six Senses Spa, outdoor lap pool, Champagne bar and lounge, whiskey bar, boardroom and club lounge. A verandah lined with lush tropical foliage follows the length of the building and will be the ideal spot to meet for refreshments and alfresco dining. Guests can make full use of all facilities and outstanding service in both buildings, as well as the rich local community in between. No matter where you sleep, guests can sign for services at either hotel and will consider both locations – their home away from home. Six Senses Duxton is due to open in April 2018, followed by Six Senses Maxwell three months later.


7. United Airlines launches Sydney’s longest route

United Airlines began daily, nonstop service between its Houston hub and Sydney on January 18, 2018. The new flight is the only nonstop service to Australia from Houston and offers travelers from Houston as well as from hundreds of cities across the U.S. the opportunity to conveniently travel to Sydney. United also serves Sydney nonstop from its West Coast hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  At 8,596 miles, this flight will be United’s second longest, after its San Francisco to Singapore flight wich ranks among the world’s ten longest flights. Together with its service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Singapore, United will fly the three longest flights by a U.S. carrier, making United the leader in ultra-long haul flights. United’s flight between Houston and Sydney is operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft with a total of 252 seats – 48 flat-bed seats in United Polaris business class, 63 Economy Plus seats and 141 seats in United Economy. United Polaris Business Class features a reimagined, sleep-enhancing experience for intercontinental travelers, including elevated inflight food and beverages, tranquil custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, comfortable pajamas and exclusive amenity kits with products from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa. You can read here or watch below my review of United Polaris Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner.


8. St. Regis Hotels plans to join Hong Kong’s skyline in 2019

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts – part of the Marriott Hotel Group and one of the world’s fastest growing luxury brands – will bring its legendary service to Hong Kong by early 2019. Marriott International has nine properties in Hong Kong, but this will be the first property for the St. Regis brand in the city. Located in the heart of historic Wan Chai, with its skyscrapers, high-end shopping and commercial buildings, the new St. Regis Hong Kong will be within walking distance to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, as well as and Victoria Harbor. With interiors created by acclaimed Hong Kong-based designer, André Fu, the 25-story St. Regis Hong Kong will offer 129 guest suites, many of which will feature stunning views across Victoria Harbor and Kowloon Bay. Guests will enjoy the brand’s legendary St. Regis Butler Service, signature Chinese and French restaurants, a 320-seat banquet hall and a heated swimming pool, among other luxurious amenities. An open-air terrace next to a grand Lobby Lounge will provide the ideal venue for al fresco gatherings, and a St. Regis Bar will serve up the hotel’s rendition of the brand’s signature cocktail, the Bloody Mary.


9. Emirates keeps the A380 production line alive

Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, announced a $16 billion USD deal for 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft, with 20 firm orders and 16 options. Emirates’ A380 fleet operates both Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce engines, and the airline is evaluating engine options for its latest A380 order. The additional Airbus A380s will be delivered to Emirates from 2020 onwards. Together with the airline’s 101-strong A380 fleet and its current order backlog for 41 aircraft, this new order brings Emirates’ commitment to the A380 programme to 178 aircraft, worth over $60 billion USD. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline, said: “We’ve made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates. Our customers love it, and we’ve been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix. Some of the new A380s we’ve just ordered will be used as fleet replacements. This order will provide stability to the A380 production line. We will continue to work closely with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and onboard product, so as to offer our passengers the best possible experience. The beauty of this aircraft is that the technology and real estate on board gives us plenty of room to do something different with the interiors”. This new order underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years. You can read here or watch below my review of Emirates’ First Class in an A380.


10. Hilton announces a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Cancun

The Hilton Hotel Group announced plans to welcome a luxury Waldorf Astoria hotel (in addition to an all-inclusive Hilton resort) in the Mexican resort town of Cancun. Set to open in 2021, the neighboring properties will feature distinct characteristics and amenities across 100 acres of Caribbean beachfront. Set to deliver a truly 5-star experience for guests, the Waldorf Astoria Cancun will feature 150 exceptionally appointed guest rooms and suites, with waterfront or mangrove-facing terraces and private balconies. The property will boast the signature Waldorf Astoria spa, integrating Mexican healing traditions with native ingredients for indulgent treatments, in addition to state-of-the-art fitness facilities, two plunge pools and two exquisite dining experiences. For an unforgettable taste of Mexico, guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy the locally sourced Yucatecan cuisine that will be offered at additional dining experiences throughout the property. Renowned design firms SB Architects, EDSA and HBA have been hand-selected to create a fluid transition between indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the Waldorf Astoria Cancun. Inspired by the surrounding area’s natural elements, the design will incorporate variations of modern lines, repetitive patterns and undulating forms that mimic the sea. Both properties will also feature classic Mexican colors and materials, as well as modern design elements and technology.


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