Today (February 28, 2020): February 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:
- Alaska Airlines joins the Oneworld airline alliance
- GHM will open a Chedi resort in the Maldives
- British Airways breaks the record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight
- Banyan Tree will open a luxury overwater resort in the Bahamas
- Air Italy goes into liquidation
- Ultraluxurious North Island Seychelles is now bookable with Marriott points
- Richard Branson launches adults-only Virgin cruise line
- Qantas celebrates its 100th anniversary with new safety video
- Air New Zealand unveils lie-flat sleeping pods for Economy Class
- Six Senses unveils first photos of its highly anticipated Israeli property
1. Alaska Airlines will join the Oneworld airline alliance
- In summer 2021, Alaska Airlines will become a full-fledged member of Oneworld, one of the three global alliances – the others are SkyTeam and the Star Alliance – that dominate the industry. Once approved, Oneworld membership will allow Alaska Mileage Plan loyalty members to earn and redeem miles through Oneworld’s more than 1,200 international destinations. The alliance enables reciprocal benefits on other member airlines, such as priority check-in and boarding, access to preferred seats and free checked bags.
- American will launch the first service from Seattle to Bangalore, India beginning October 2020. A new American route from Seattle to the global business hub London Heathrow will begin flying in March 2021.
- The airlines will continue their domestic codeshare that offers customers hassle-free booking and travel between the two networks. The codeshare will expand to include international routes from Los Angeles and Seattle.
- Alaska and American loyalty members will enjoy benefits across both airlines, including the ability to earn and use miles on both airlines’ full networks, elite status reciprocity and lounge access to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide and seven Alaska Lounges in the U.S.
The alliance will give West Coast travelers more choices when traveling internationally, offer seamless access across a broader network and provide strategic growth for both airlines.
2. GHM will open a Chedi resort in the Maldives
GHM Hotels has announced plans to launch The Chedi Kudavillingili, its first resort in the Maldives, later this year. The 99-villa property will feature 36 overwater villas, a 150 m (492 ft) long central pool and desirable proximity to the Malé International Airport, a 25-minute speedboat ride away. Located on a small coral island called Kudavillingili, The Chedi Kudavillingili is shaped by a global team of design talents working closely with the GHM team. Maldivian architecture anchors the resort’s overarching aesthetic appeal, with complementary interior design and landscaping from Singapore and a lighting scheme from the USA. In addition to the 36 overwater villas, and 63 island-based villas, The Chedi Kudavillingili will launch a spa with eight overwater treatment rooms, a beach club and bar, an all-day dining restaurant and Hawkers Stalls featuring four live cooking stations. Recreational opportunities on the island will run the gamut from courts for several different sports to surfing and a plethora of on-the-water and underwater pursuits.
3. British Airways breaks the record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight
According to CNN, a British Airways flight has broken the record for the fastest-ever subsonic flight between New York and London, reaching a top speed of more than 800mph (1,287km/h). The Boeing 747 aircraft flew overnight on Saturday February 8th and reached its destination in 4 hours and 56 minutes, as Storm Ciara sped towards the United Kingdom. The record time was the consequence of the flight riding a much stronger than usual jet stream, with winds over 200 mph (320 km/h) propelling the aircraft. The jet stream – responsible for carrying weather systems around the planet – is a fast moving ‘river of air’ high in the atmosphere, around the height that commercial airliners fly. The plane landed at Heathrow airport at 4:43 a.m., almost two hours earlier than scheduled. Its top speed during the flight was 825 mph (1,327 km/h), according to Flightradar24, an online flight-tracking service. The same night, a KLM Boeing 747 from New York’s JFK airport en route to Amsterdam reached a ground speed of more 821 mph (1321 km/h), which is faster than the speed of sound from a ground perspective (although it is air speed that matters for breaking the sound barrier).
4. Banyan Tree will open a luxury overwater resort in the Bahamas
Banyan Tree, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, has announced its first property in the Bahamas. Located just 48 nautical miles (77 km) and a 20-minute seaplane ride from Miami, the resort will be set on 40 acres of pristine Atlantic oceanfront and Bimini bayfront properties. The eco-conscious resort, designed by architect Chad Oppenheim, will consist of 50 keys and 54 luxury residences. Exclusively offering the first, authentic Maldives-style overwater bungalows in the Caribbean, the resort will bring an entirely new vision to the Bahamas. Hotel suites will include private terraces and plunge pools, a signature of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. At the core of the property’s ideology is to cultivate an ecosystem of authentic experiences that will embrace all the senses and create lasting memories. From unique culinary pop-ups to curated music series, oceanside meditations at the Banyan Tree Spa, and more, illa Bimini will bring world-class luxury to the secluded tropical region.
5. Air Italy goes into liquidation
According to Forbes, the investors behind Air Italy have announced the end of the airline, a two-year venture that was launched with much fanfare, colorful rebranding, and high hopes, but was unable to overcome the harsh realities of a complex market. In Italy, it seems, only Alitalia can afford to fly bankrupt. Air Italy launched in March 2018 with Qatar Airways holding a 49% stake and the Aga Khan’s Alisarda SpA owning 51%. While Qatar Airways was willing to continue funding Air Italy, they were unable to obtain support from the Aga Khan. “Qatar Airways has strongly believed in the company and in its potential, supporting management’s proposed business plan with a view to improving Air Italy’s growth and job creation, with the addition of long-haul routes and numerous in-flight service improvements,” the airline said in a statement. “Even with the competitive environment and the difficult market conditions severely impacting the air transport industry, Qatar Airways has continually reaffirmed its commitment, as a minority shareholder, to continue investing in the company.”
6. Ultraluxurious North Island Seychelles is now bookable with points
The world’s most luxurious private island resort, North Island Seychelles, recently joined Marriott’s ‘The Luxury Collection’ brand and has now also started to participate in Marriott’s loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy. The nightly award rate starts at 365,000 points, and includes breakfast, complimentary use of an island buggy, morning yoga, kids activities and more. Members can find the award rates when searching on Marriott’s booking channels after they click “Use Points.” The property will not be participating in Cash + Points nor Pointsavers. The insanely beautiful private island resort has only 11 opulent hand-crafted villas, all of them with private plunge pool, overlooking pristine, powder-white sands and turquoise waters. Unfortunately, I don’t consider North Island to be a great fit for The Luxury Collection, since it offers a scale of luxury and exclusivity far above all other hotels in Marriott’s portfolio and seeing it become a member of Marriott Bonvoy makes me wonder whether the resort will start loosing part of its allure. I have previously stayed at North Island Seychelles and you can read my review here or watch my clip below.
7. Richard Branson launches adults-only Virgin cruise line
Virgin Voyages, Sir Richard Brandson’s new cruise line, announced that it welcomed its first ‘Lady Ship,’ Scarlet Lady, which is designed to reflect a yacht’s sleek luxury. Featuring spaces designed by some of the top names in contemporary design, the Scarlet Lady will be Adult-by-Design, a sanctuary at sea for the 18+ traveler. A dose of ‘Vitamin Sea’ will be naturally intertwined across the entire ship, with well-being activated through a mix of high-energy moments coupled with relaxation and rejuvenation. The Scarlet Lady will also feature alluring entertainment and 20+ world-class intimate eateries on board. Putting a twist on luxury, which the company refers to as Rebellious Luxe, Virgin Voyages will offer incredible value for its Sailors with all restaurants, group fitness classes, soft drinks, and many more Virgin surprises included within the voyage fare. Scarlet Lady will sail from Miami to the Caribbean in 2020, hosting more than 2,770 sailors and 1,160 amazing crew from around the world.
8. Qantas celebrates its 100th anniversary with new safety video
Qantas has unveiled a new safety video featuring ‘80s mullets and ‘70s moustaches right through to 1940s flying boats and 1920s propeller aircraft to celebrate its 100 years of history. The safety briefing is delivered by current Qantas crew in carefully recreated historical settings, including onboard aircraft and in airport terminals. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said safety videos are an important tool to communicate vital safety messages to the 55 million people who travel with Qantas every year – and that making it interesting helps keep their attention even after they’ve seen it multiple times. The video features iconic aircraft, fashion and aviation milestones to create a 100-year time lapse from the 1920s to present day. Some of the scenes were recreated in real life, others such as the original Avro 504 and the 1930s De Havilland 86, were bought back to life using computer generated imagery.
9. Air New Zealand unveils lie-flat sleeping pods for Economy Class
The ‘Economy Skynest’ is the result of three years of Air New Zealand research, with the input of more than 200 customers. The airline has filed patent and trademark applications for the ‘Economy Skynest’ which provides six full length lie-flat sleep pods. Air New Zealand Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod says that as the airline operates some of the world’s longest flights, such as the upcoming Auckland-New York service at up to 17 hours 40 minutes one way, it is committed to putting more magic back into flying. “We have a tremendous amount of development work underway looking at product innovations we can bring across all cabins of the aircraft. A clear pain point for economy travelers on long-haul flights is the inability to stretch out. The development of the ‘Economy Skynest’ is a direct response to that challenge,” Mr Tod says. Air New Zealand will make a final decision on whether to operate the ‘Economy Skynest’ next year after it has assessed the performance of its inaugural year of Auckland-New York operations.
10. Six Senses unveils first photos of its highly anticipated Israeli property
Located in the Arava Valley in the south of the Negev Desert, Six Senses Shaharut will celebrate its highly anticipated arrival this June. The resort will be intimate in nature, comprising just 60 suites and villas, offering guests an authentic desert adventure with uplifting experiences at every turn. From sunrise yoga workshops and immersive local community experiences to late-night stargazing sessions, incredible hikes and camel treks through the luminous Negev Desert, the aim is to leave enriched and reconnected. A modern reinterpretation of nomadic structures, reminiscent of the Nabataean community which occupied the area over 2000 years ago, the resort’s design preserves the unique characteristics of the site. Constructed in an eco-friendly manner, the masterplan introduces architecture and interiors that blend seamlessly with its desert environment.