Today: March 2022 luxury travel news
Once month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel and aviation. In this issue:
- Air New Zealand is off to the Big Apple
- Hilton’s LXR brand will debut in Abu Dhabi on a private island
- Four Seasons will open a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s most historic destination
- Marriott announces its first luxury safari lodge in Africa
- Singapore reopens borders to all fully vaccinated travelers
- Hilton will open a Curio Collection hotel on the Galapagos Islands
- Marriott will bring its iconic St Regis brand to London
- Qantas launches non-stop Melbourne to Dallas route
- Cathay Pacific plans world’s longest nonstop flight
1. Air New Zealand is off to the Big Apple
Air New Zealand has announced its first flight to the Big Apple will be on 17 September this year. Landing at John F. Kennedy Airport, the airline will operate its flagship Auckland-New York route three times a week, year-round with its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The new service further deepens the alliance between Air New Zealand and United Airlines. Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says with international flying on hiatus for two years and the New Zealand border reopening on 2 May to visa-waiver countries, this is the moment Kiwis have been waiting for. After a stopover in New York, for passengers wanting to travel further afield, Air New Zealand’s strong partnership with United Airlines can connect them on to domestic destinations across the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. For those wanting to explore more of Europe, thanks to Air New Zealand’s network of partnerships, customers can also fly direct from New York to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, Brussels, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
2. Hilton’s LXR brand will debut in Abu Dhabi on a private island
LXR Hotels & Resorts, Hilton’s collection of independent luxury properties, announced plans for a breathtaking new resort surrounded by lush greenery and stunning landscapes on the private Al Nawras Island in Abu Dhabi. Expected to open in 2023, Al Nawras Island, LXR Hotels & Resorts will mark the brand’s entry into the UAE capital. The all-villa resort will offer 80 expansive and elegantly designed beach and water villas as well as a 450-square-meter, two-bedroom Royal Villa surrounding a state-of-the-art golf course. Among the property’s world-class leisure and recreational facilities will be an upscale gym, fitness studio, and three stunning swimming pools — one indoor and two outdoor, as well as tennis and paddle courts, a private marina, exclusive beach club, and elaborate spa. Additionally, children will have access to an engaging playground, dedicated swimming pool, splash pad and kid’s club. The property will also feature an array of exciting culinary offerings — from two signature restaurants embracing the stunning environment with al fresco dining areas, to two tasteful bars and a wellness-inspired café.
3. Four Seasons will open a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s most historic destination
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality companies, has announced plans for Four Seasons Hotel Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. A 300-year-old site located just outside of Riyadh, Diriyah is considered to be the birthplace of the Kingdom and the capital of the first Saudi state. The area is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, At-Turaif, the valley and lush palm groves of Wadi Hanifah, and will soon include the Diriyah development – an acclaimed project that pays homage to the history of Saudi Arabia and a key driver of the Kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030. Four Seasons Hotel Diriyah, Saudi Arabia will include approximately 150 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, expansive meeting and event spaces, a wellness spa with seven treatment rooms and a fitness centre, as well as two outdoor pools with private cabanas. The hotel will also offer four culinary outlets, including a poolside restaurant and sunset lounge.
4. Marriott will open its first luxury safari lodge in Africa
JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge will be located within the Masai Mara National Reserve, one of Africa’s most renowned wildlife conservation and wilderness regions. Plans for the new-build lodge feature 20 private tents, including one presidential canvas-topped pavilion and two interconnecting canopied suites, ideal for families, each with a private terrace overlooking the river. Shared spaces will include a restaurant, lounge bar, spa, and a large outdoor terrace with fire pits that will play host to traditional Masai dance performances in the evening. The untamed landscape will offer guests the opportunity to observe the “Big Five” that Masai Mara is home to: lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinoceros and elephants. Between June and September, the reserve is also host to the annual great wildebeest migration, when more than 10 million animals travel a distance of 1,800 miles from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania. Offering discerning travelers an unparalleled setting, the elegant retreat expects to welcome guests in 2023.
5. Singapore reopens borders to all fully vaccinated travelers
Today, Singapore reopens its borders to all fully vaccinated travelers, removing all existing vaccinated travel lanes and unilateral opening arrangements. The city-state now transitions into a new simplified travel framework – the vaccinated travel framework – where countries and regions will be classified into two categories – general travel or the restricted category.
- Under the framework, all fully vaccinated travellers, as well as children aged 12 and below, will be able to enter Singapore with just a pre-departure COVID-19 test. They will also no longer need to apply for entry approvals or take designated VTL transport to enter Singapore quarantine-free. In addition, there will be no more quotas on the number of daily arrivals an no more unsupervised antigen rapid test after arriving in Singapore.
- As for visitors aged 13 and above who are not fully vaccinated, they are generally not allowed to enter Singapore, with a few exceptions. This includes long-term pass-holders who are medically ineligible for vaccines as well as those who have valid entry approval such as compassionate reasons. For this group, it will be required to take a pre-departure test within two days before departure for Singapore, undergo a seven-day stay-home notice, and take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test after their isolation period.
6. Finnair will serve Shanghai and Seoul avoiding Russia
Finnair has continued to update its traffic program due to the closure of the Russian airspace. The further increased price of cargo currently enables continuing of passenger services to Finnair’s key Asian markets even with the longer flight times. Finnair now continues to serve Seoul and Shanghai from its Helsinki hub. At the same time, Finnair cancels flights to Osaka and Hong Kong until the end of April. The flight routes to Seoul and Shanghai avoid Russian airspace, and the flight time for the Shanghai and Seoul routes will be 12-14 hours, depending on the direction. Both routes go around the Russian airspace from the south, and the return flight from Seoul to Helsinki can also take the northern route. Avoiding the Russian airspace on flights between Europe and Asia has considerable impacts on flight times, thus impacting fuel, personnel, and navigation costs. Finnair also continues to fly to Tokyo, Bangkok, Delhi, Phuket, and Singapore, with routes avoiding the Russian airspace.
7. Hilton will open a Curio Collection hotel on the Galapagos Islands
Hilton will bring its Curio Collection by Hilton brand to the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz with the conversion of the Royal Palm Galapagos Hotel. Born in 2000 out of a passion for travel, nature and environmental connection, the boutique hotel is comprised of 21 casitas and villas built around nature and brimming with the charm of an Ecuadorian Hacienda. Guests can recharge at the estate’s picturesque pool, spa and fitness center, or enjoy the natural wonders of the Galapagos by experiencing one-of-a-kind wildlife encounters from green turtles to beautiful birds, while enjoying the highest level of comfort and services provided within the protected eco-sensitive location. For an extra immersive dining experience, the hotel features the only fine dining restaurant located inside a cavern within one of the property’s lava tunnels. This once-in-a-lifetime experience gives guests a glimpse of the incredible forces that created the archipelago, while they enjoy a tasting menu inspired by local culture and ingredients. Expected to join Curio Collection by Hilton in July 2022, the hotel is currently undergoing renovation.
8. Marriott will bring its iconic St Regis brand to London
The St Regis brand continues to expand its renowned global portfolio by adding a highly sought-after address in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. The St Regis London is expected to welcome its first guests in 2023 after an extensive $122 million USD redevelopment and transformation of the former Westbury Mayfair Hotel, with the addition of an eighth floor. The hotel, which is expected to have 196 elegant rooms and suites, will be designed by Peter Newman-Earp of Morrison Design with interiors by Richmond International. Furthermore, the property is set to receive an extension to the rear of the hotel, creating enhanced public areas, along with renovations to the façade of the building and the drop-off area outside of the main entrance. Design plans include a signature restaurant, speakeasy jazz bar, fitness center and spa. The St Regis London will honor the building’s heritage by retaining the iconic Polo Bar, originally designed for the Phipps family of America, avid polo players and creators of the Westbury Hotel in New York and London, and where guests will be able to enjoy a local twist on the Bloody Mary, St. Regis’ signature cocktail.
9. Qantas launches non-stop Melbourne to Dallas route
Melbourne’s post-COVID tourism recovery is set to accelerate with Qantas launching a new direct route from Dallas Fort Worth and significantly increasing flights from Los Angeles. From 2 December 2022, the national carrier will operate four weekly return flights between Melbourne and major US hub, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. These are the first direct flights by any airline between the two cities and follows the success of Qantas’ longstanding Sydney-Dallas Fort Worth route. Dallas Fort Worth is home to Qantas’ partner American Airlines, providing seamless connections between Australia and over 200 cities across the US, Canada, Mexico and South America. Qantas is also adding another four weekly return flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles with its 787s, up from four currently, to meet strong demand on the route. The airline’s refurbished A380s will resume operating some of these flights to LA from December, marking the return of Qantas’ superjumbo and reintroduction of First Class to Melbourne.
10. Cathay Pacific plans world’s longest nonstop flight
According to Bloomberg, Cathay Pacific plans to reroute its New York-Hong Kong service to avoid Russian airspace, in what would be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight by distance. The airline plans to fly from John F. Kennedy International Airport over the Atlantic Ocean, the U.K., southern Europe and central Asia, according to a memo to Cathay flight staff seen by Bloomberg News. The distance of 16,618 kilometers (10,326 miles) would surpass Singapore Airlines’ New York service, which takes about 17-and-a-half hours to cover 15,349 kilometers. A spokeswoman for Cathay said Airbus SE’s A350-1000 is capable of operating the route, which would typically fly over the Arctic and through Russian airspace. “The Transatlantic option relies on the facilitation of strong seasonal tailwinds at this time of the year in order for the flight time to be between 16 and 17 hours, thereby making it more favorable than the Transpacific route,” the spokeswoman said.