Today (August 30, 2019): August 2019 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 and aviation. In this issue:
- Aman announces three resorts in Saudi Arabia
- Air New Zealand scores with Air All Blacks
- Singita opens an ultraluxe lodge in Rwanda
- Thai Airways reveals a royal Boeing 777 livery
- InterContinental returns to Edinburgh, Scotland
Finnair flies San Francisco-Helsinki on biofuel blend
- Four Seasons opens North America’s highest situated hotel
- Air Canada reveals new A220 cabins and routes
- Aman offers a chance to book a room with a Picasso
- Qantas researches direct London & New York to Australia flights
1. Aman announces three resorts in Saudi Arabia
Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, announced its forthcoming debut in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2023. Following a partnership with the Royal Commission for Al Ula (RCU), Aman will develop three distinct resorts of architectural excellence in North West Saudi Arabia, in Al Ula, a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. True to the pioneering spirit of Aman, the three resorts will offer an incomparable insight into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its magnificent unspoilt natural landscapes and archaeological sites, which have long remained undiscovered. This development will encompass a fascinating journey to include a tented camp, at one with nature; a sublime resort close to Al Ula’s spectacular heritage areas; and a third development as Aman’s take on a ranch-style desert resort nestled in an otherworldly setting. The vast area of Al Ula covers 22,561 sq. km, and includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean Kingdoms reigned.
2. Air New Zealand scores with Air All Blacks
All eyes are on Air All Blacks with Air New Zealand‘s latest safety video attracting more than one million views globally since its release. Along with winning fans down under, the video has attracted strong interest from North and South America, Japan and the United Kingdom. As well as being a trending topic on Twitter, there has been a resoundingly positive response from Air New Zealan’s social media followers, citing the video as being “one of the best ones yet”, “loving the nostalgia of the 1987 All Blacks legends” and on Rick Hoffman’s “hilarious addition to an already awesome video.” In an interview with Newshub’s ‘The AM Show’, Air All Blacks safety video star Rick Hoffman said featuring in the video was a ‘dream come true’. “If I look back on my 49 years of living, there are two things I really wanted. One was to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and the other was to star in a safety video for Air New Zealand.” Air New Zealand General Manager Global Brand and Content Marketing Jodi Williams says the airline is thrilled with Air All Blacks. “Our safety videos have built a global following and are a unique platform to share the best of New Zealand with the world.”
3. Singita opens an ultraluxe lodge in Rwanda
Singita, the multi-award-winning hospitality and conservation brand, officially opened its Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House in Rwanda. Set on 178 acres (72 hectares) on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Kwitonda Lodge boasts eight luxurious suites, while Kataza House, an exclusive-use villa, features four spacious suites. Conceptualized by GAPP Architects in collaboration with Singita’s interior design teams, the design takes its cue from Rwanda’s cultural heritage and the enormous responsibility of protecting the strong, yet vulnerable gorillas. Bold, striking interiors, which are simultaneously nurturing, reflect the duality of the gorillas’ nature; and this is also seen in the interplay of surprisingly strong art and furniture with pared-back modernity. Featuring largely vegetable-based dishes and local Rwandan favorites, the on-site herb and fruit garden supplies the lodge kitchens with an array of fresh ingredients, reflected in a farm-to-table approach to the menu. For guests, gorilla trekking is a major drawcard, and Singita situated less than ten minutes from Volcanoes National Park headquarters, makes this life-changing experience incredibly accessible.
4. Thai Airways reveals a royal Boeing 777 livery
To commemorate the Royal Coronation Ceremony 2019, Thai Airways unveiled a royal aircraft livery on one of its Boeing 777 aircraft, royally bestowed the name “Lahan Sai.” The Suphannahong Royal Barge has been the King’s royal barge since the Ayutthaya era. At the front or bow of the barge is a golden swan figurehead, the body or hull is the body of the swan etched in wood and decorated with gold leaf, mirrors, tassels, and engraved glass. The exterior of the barge was painted black, while the interior was painted red, with a throne in the middle of the barge for the monarch or royalty. The Royal Barge was 46.15 meters long, 3.17 meters wide, and 15 tons in weight. Furthermore, this Royal Barge will be used in the Royal Procession for travel along the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun Ratchavararam (Temple of Dawn) to present robes to Buddhist monks during this year’s annual Royal Kathin Ceremony in October 2019. The “Lahan Sai” Boeing 777 will be operated on roundtrip flights from Bangkok-Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Sapporo to promote Thai culture worldwide through the Suphannahong Royal Barge aircraft livery.
5. InterContinental returns to Edinburgh, Scotland
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) brings InterContinental Edinburgh – The George back into the system as they continue their integration of the Principal portfolio. This important investment milestone follows the opening of Kimpton branded hotels in Edinburgh and Glasgow earlier this year. With the reintroduction of the InterContinental brand in Scotland, IHG further secures their position as the UK’s largest luxury hotel operator. The hotel was previously sold but the integration of the Principal portfolio provided the opportunity to bring it back in to the IHG brand family. Located in the central district of New Town, the InterContinental Edinburgh – The George is surrounded by iconic attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Charlotte Square and Edinburgh Farmers Market. The property is an integration of Georgian townhouses that were originally built in the 1780s and would have been amongst the most exclusive addresses in the city. The hotel design preserves the original beauty and architecture of the building whilst offering a contemporary, modest luxury design.
6. Finnair flies San Francisco-Helsinki on biofuel blend
On both August 5th and 7th, the Finnair flight departing San Francisco Airport bound for Helsinki, Finland, was flown with a biofuel mix, reducing the total C02 emissions for the two flights by approximately 32 tons. “The launch of our Push for Change initiative was an important step in order to provide our passengers with the opportunity to conveniently offset or decrease the emissions from their travel,” says Arja Suominen, Communications Manager at Finnair. “We have been pleased with the early phases of the initiative so far and we are now excited with our two first biofuel flights supported entirely by the Push for change contributions.” Finnair’s biofuels partners in San Francisco were SkyNRG and World Energy; Shell Aviation provided logistics and supply chain support for the project. The sustainable biofuel was produced from used cooking oil in California, which does not compete with food production or the agriculture industry. Additional information on Finnair’s Push for Change initiative, including the options to purchase biofuel for future flights as well as the offsetting of carbon emissions through certified projects, can be found on Finnair.com’s Push for change site.
7. Four Seasons opens North America’s highest situated hotel
On the upper floors of Philadelphia’s tallest building and 10th highest in the USA, the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center is now open. The entire skyscraper and the hotel interiors have been designed by world-renowned architect Norman Foster. Inside, artistic director Jeff Leatham has created stunning floral art, with his designs being found throughout the property. The hotel, which is located between the building’s 48th and 60th storeys, has 180 rooms and 39 suites, which all boasts unobstructed floor-to-ceiling city views. Guests are welcomed upon entry to their guest room by musician, record producer and visual artist Brian Eno’s soundscapes, created exclusively for the hotel. The hotel’s 57th floor is a haven of health and wellness, and includes an enormous indoor pool that “spills” into the sky, a gym, and a seven-treatment room spa. The hotel also features a fine dining venue led by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the 59th floor and an American oyster bar which opens to the street.
8. Air Canada reveals new A220 cabins and routes
Air Canada‘s first Airbus A220-300, built at Airbus Canada’s Mirabel facility, is scheduled to be delivered later this year. To be initially deployed from Montreal and Toronto on existing Canadian and transborder routes, the A220-300 will open new markets such as the Montreal–Seattle and Toronto–San Jose flights. The two-class cabin will have a total of 137 seats: 12 in a 2×2 configuration in Business Class and 125 in a 3×2 layout for Economy passengers. Larger windows, full-colour LED ambient mood lighting, high ceilings, and extra storage make the A220-300 an unparalleled aircraft in the narrow-body segment. Every seat features a Panasonic eX1 in-flight entertainment system with content available in 15 languages and featuring more than 1,000 hours of high-quality entertainment. The A220 will come equipped with satellite based high speed connectivity for Wi-Fi access. The A220 will also further Air Canada’s environmental commitment, with the innovative Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan engines, and is also the quietest aircraft in its category thanks to its new technologies.
9. Aman offers a chance to book a room with a Picasso
One of the world’s most exclusive hotels, Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, is running a one-of-a-kind exhibition displaying works by Picasso, Chagall and Miró. Consisting of original works by Picasso, Chagall and Miró, more than 60 original lithographs are on display in Villa Miločer on the mainland, in the Pasticceria and Cigar Room on the island’s Piazza, and within Arva, the island’s elegant Italian restaurant. Works include Picasso’s intriguing ‘Deux Femmes’, Chagall’s poignant ‘Les Amoureux’ and Miró’s enigmatic ‘Le Lezard aux Plumes d’Or’ series. This exhibition was curated to complement the spaces in which they are situated, and will be on show to the Sveti Stefan guests only. The artworks are on show to Aman Sveti Stefan guests alone, enhancing the already rarefied atmosphere of this exclusive destination. With its pink sandy beaches, 15th-century island village, 1930s mainland estate and sublime spa, Aman Sveti Stefan is widely considered a masterpiece in the hotel industry. The hotel has just 58 rooms and suites, with staff outnumbering guests by a factor of three, so those staying can be guaranteed an up-close-and-personal viewing experience at the exhibition.
10. Qantas researches direct London & New York to Australia flights
Qantas has announced three ultra long-haul research flights to gather data about inflight passenger and crew health and wellbeing. The flights form part of planning for Project Sunrise – Qantas’ goal to operate non-stop flights from Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York. The three flights will use new Boeing 787-9s and re-route their planned delivery flights. Instead of flying empty from Seattle to Australia, the aircraft will simulate two Project Sunrise routes – London and New York to Sydney. This will represent the world’s first flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney and only the second time an airline has flown direct from London to Sydney. Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew, in order to minimize weight and give the necessary fuel range. People in the cabin will be fitted with wearable technology devices and take part in specific experiences at varying stages of the 19 hour flights. Scientists and medical experts will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.