Today (January 31, 2020): January 2020 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:
- Australia’s most exclusive lodge is destroyed by bush fire
- New Boeing 777X completes successful first flight
- Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid will open in summer 2020
- Emirates adds vegan meals to its menus
- The Park Hyatt brand is coming to London
- Airlines all over the world are suspending flights to China
- The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach re-opens following $90 million USD renovation
- South African Airways brings its A350 flagship plane to Europe
- LOT Polish Airlines buys Germany’s Condor
- Air France introduces a new Business Class product on its leisure routes
1. Australia’s most exclusive lodge is destroyed by bush fire
One of Australia’s most amazing hotels has been destroyed by the horrific bushfires that have devastated (and continue to wipe out) huge swathes of the country. Southern Ocean Lodge, a global tourist icon located on Kangaroo Island off the coast of Adelaide in Southern Australia, succumbed to the raging fires on January 3rd. Fortunately, all guests and staff were safely evacuated when it became clear that the property was at risk and no injuries have been reported. Floating atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, the lodge has welcomed guests for many years with peerless views of the wild Southern Ocean and pristine surrounding wilderness. As for now, the lodge is closed, but the owners James and Hayley Baillie are committed to rebuilding the lodge, and to take a leading role in whatever ways they can to help rebuild the tourism industry on Kangaroo Island.
2. New Boeing 777X completes successful first flight
Based on the popular 777 and with proven technologies from the 787 Dreamliner, the new Boeing 777X jetliner performed a three hour, 51 minute test flight over Washington state. The 777X will deliver 10 percent lower fuel use and emissions and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition through advanced aerodynamics, the latest generation carbon-fiber composite wing and the most advanced commercial engine ever built, GE Aviation’s GE9X. Passengers will enjoy a wide, spacious cabin, large overhead bins, larger windows for a view from every seat, better cabin altitude and humidity, less noise and a smoother ride. Boeing expects to deliver the first 777X in 2021. The program has won 340 orders from leading carriers around the world, including ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.
3. Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid will open in summer 2020
The iconic Hotel Ritz, Madrid is set to open in summer 2020 as Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, following the most extensive restoration in its 110-year history. The hotel, which was designed and built under the supervision of legendary hotelier César Ritz, first opened its doors in 1910. The restoration will significantly enhance the hotel’s facilities and services, while maintaining its unique character, encapsulated in the Belle Époque style of the original building. Spanish architect, Rafael de La-Hoz, has been instrumental in providing the context for the historical restoration, while French designers Gilles & Boissier have overseen the interiors with the aim of increasing the property’s appeal while celebrating César Ritz’s pioneering spirit. The hotel has always been an integral part of society in Spain’s capital, and has been host to royalty, politicians, corporate leaders and celebrities.
4. Emirates adds vegan meals to its menus
With the rising popularity of vegan meals amongst its customers, Emirates celebrated ‘Veganuary’ on board by including an additional plant-based option on its menus for the month of January. While vegan meals can be pre-booked on all flights and classes ( 24 hours before departure), this is the first time Emirates included a readily available vegan option as a fourth main course option in First and Business Class menus. Veganuary is a worldwide movement, to encourage veganism especially in January. Last year, Emirates served 345,000 special plant-based meals to customers on board. The airline has over 170 vegan recipes in its kitchen, for example:
- Tofu Jalfrezi – a spiced tofu and vegetable stir fry served with steamed wild rice and tandoori broccolini;
- Shitake Ravioli served with coriander pesto and edamame
- Ancho three bean chilli – a spiced vegan stew of peppers and beans served with corn cakes, chimichurri and tofu aioli
- Shitake fried rice served with sautéed asparagus and oyster mushrooms and Marmite sauce
- Misir Wat – an Ethiopian style spicy red lentil stew, served with sauteed spinach and spiced potatoes and carrots
5. The Park Hyatt brand is coming to London
According to The Caterer and to planning documents lodged with Westminster City Council, a hotel set to open at London’s 5 Strand, just off Trafalgar Square, will launch under the luxury Park Hyatt brand. The 200-bedroom, 11-storey hotel will be the UK’s first Park Hyatt when it opens, with a ground floor lounge and restaurant, and an all-day restaurant on the top floor. The current eight-storey building, constructed in the 1980s and until recently let as offices to Westminster City Council, is expected to be demolished after the council’s planning committee granted conditional permission for the development last month. The ground floor retail space is currently let to Boots, the lease of which ends this month. Park Hyatt is one of my favorite hotel brands in the world, and of the few luxury brands where you can score a free night with Hyatt’s excellent loyalty program, World of Hyatt.
6. Airlines all over the world are suspending flights to China
According to Business Insider, airlines around the world have canceled or cut their flights to China as the number of people infected with the Wuhan coronavirus around the world grows. Their reasoning is a mix of reduced demand to visit the country and fear of the virus spreading, with numerous cities outside China reporting cases of the virus. European and US airlines – along with some Asian airlines – largely make up the list of those reducing service or outright canceling flights to mainland China until the virus is under control. This includes British Airways, United Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Swiss, Air India, Finnair, KLM, and Asiana to name a few (click here for a full list). Some airlines have canceled flights as far out as the end of March. Beijing and Shanghai are among the most affected cities, and some airlines have also cut service to Hong Kong, a semiautonomous region of the country.
7. The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach re-opens following $90 million USD renovation
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach has re-opened its doors following a $90 million USD, multi-year renovation by owners Flag Luxury Group, LLC and Lionstone Group that touched all elements of the property. Located, in the Art Deco Historic District and steps from the exclusive South of Fifth neighborhood, the luxury oceanfront property lies in the heart of South Beach on Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue. The historic hotel showcases a design scheme created by Meg Sharpe, who oversaw the lobby, the Lapidus Bar, restaurant, pool, club and spa, and Cristian Rubio, from renowned design-firm HBA, who was charged with reimagining the 376 guestrooms and meeting spaces. Finding inspiration from the gorgeous natural surroundings, the interiors are warm and inviting, reflecting the serene natural beauty of Miami while celebrating the historic roots of the hotel.
8. South African Airways brings its A350 flagship plane to Europe
South African Airways‘ flagship A350 aircraft flights are now in full swing. Two weeks ago, the carrier’s new Airbus A350-900 operated its first international flight from O.R Tambo International (ORTIA) airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport. And next week , the South African Airways A350-900 will make its European debut: SA260 Johannesburg to Frankfurt will depart at 8.25 pm and arrive 06.15 am (next day), while the return flight SA261 Frankfurt to Johannesburg will depart at 8.45 pm and arrive at 08.25 pm (next day). South African Airways has signed a three-year lease for two Airbus A350s coming from Hainan Airlines. Hainan Airlines took ownership of two extra A350-900s from Hong Kong Airlines, which it acquired in a move to downsize the struggling Hong Kong carrier. The other two A350s are coming from African airline Air Mauritius; his will also be a three-year lease.
9. LOT Polish Airlines buys Germany’s Condor
Polish Aviation Group, the parent company of LOT Polish Airlines, has acquired Condor, Thomas Cook’s German airline, for an undisclosed fee. The company said that it would expand Condor beyond Germany and introduce it to other markets in Europe. The combination of LOT and Condor will create one of the leading European aviation groups carrying about 20 million passengers per year. Condor operates more than 50 planes, while LOT has a fleet of 80 aircraft, with LOT CEO Rafal Milczarski commenting that he would like to order around 30 more. Condor will continue to act under its current leadership while gaining from expanded connectivity and operational synergies between the airlines. Condor customers will continue to benefit from the quality, service and reliability of Condor, which have made the company the premier brand for leisure travel and the preferred partner for tour operators in Germany and beyond.
10. Air France introduces a new Business Class product on its leisure routes
The refurbished Air France Boeing 777 features the same Business Class product as the airline’s A350, albeit in a much smaller version with just 14 seats in one cabin (making this one of the most densely configured B777s in the sky). There are 4 Business Class seats per row in a 1 x 2 x 1 staggered configuration, with all customers having direct aisle access. The elegant Business Class cocoon contains a storage compartment with a mirror and noise-reducing headphones, an electric socket, two USB ports, an 18.5-inch HD screen, an individually adjustable reading light and mood lighting. Until December 2020, Air France will gradually install these new cabins on all its 10 Boeing 777-300s, thanks to an overall investment of 120 million euros. These new cabins will be progressively available this year on routes to Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort-de-France, Saint-Denis de la Réunion Mauritius, Havana, Cancun, Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.