In Case You Missed It, here are just a few highlights from the past week in Travel News. And, in case you missed it, you’re enjoying Issue Number Two, looking back at the second week of December 2015. There is so much that happens in the travel industry every week, and only a portion of it makes it to TravelLatte or other travel blogs. We’ll capture some of the highlights each week with this new recurring feature. Please let us know you like it with a comment!
AccorHotels acquires FRHI
Hot on the heels of the Marriott-Starwood announcement, French hotelier AccorHotels this week signed an agreement to acquire FRHI Holdings, the parent company of hospitality heavyweights Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel. The price tag is $2.9-billion in cash and stocks, if approved by stockholders and regulatory officials.
It’s expensive, but it’s a sweet deal for Accor, who would add 115 hotels in 34 countries (and 40 more under development) to their portfolio, including some legendary luxury properties: Raffles Singapore, The Savoy in London, Shanghai’s Fairmont Peace Hotel, The Plaza Hotel in New York, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, and Fairmont San Francisco.
The deal cements Accor’s position as a global leader in luxury hospitality, but what does it mean for travelers? It’s expected that holders of the Le Club AccorHotels card will benefit the most, now having three more prestigious brands to book for earning and burning points. That list already includes brands like Sofitel, Pullman, Mgallery, Novotel, Ibis, France’s new hotel F1, Thalassa Sea & Spa, and many others. Existing loyalty programs – Fairmont President’s Club, Raffles Ambassadors, and Swissôtel Circle – are expected to be folded into Le Club, meaning one account to manage with many excellent redemption options.
Marriott Hotels goes sky high in China
Marriott Hotels has been aggressively opening new properties in China, and the latest takes the company to new heights, literally. The Shenzhen Marriott Hotel Nanshan is situated in the top floors of iconic SCC Building with exceptional 360 degree views of the spectacular sea and city landscape.
The new hotel is in the city’s renowned high-tech development hub and the cultural center of the Nanshan District, home of the renowned Shenzhen Poly Cultural Center. World class shopping is close by at the Coastal City Plaza, and the Tiley Central Plaza just across the street. One of the city’s most scenic venues, the CR Shenzhen Bay Sports Center is also close by. Other area attractions include Shenzhen Safari Park, the Splendid China Folk Village, and the Happy Valley Shenzhen theme park. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the Shekou Ferry Terminal, which makes it easy to reach Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai.
There are 340 guestrooms in the hotel, located on the 45th to 60th floors of the 300-meter building. Each guestroom is equipped with high-speed Internet access, IPTV, an iPod dock, and a Nespresso coffee machine, and features breathtaking views of Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong border. Atop the hotel is Nanshan Kitchen, the highest all-day dining restaurant in Nanshan with a spectacular panoramic view. The SCC – or Shengchangcheng – Building is an attraction itself, designed by Adrian Smith, who also designed the well-known Dubai Tower.
The Jazziest Crossing of the Pond. Ever.
Rob #1, our chief blogger and Social Media madman, is also a big Jazz fan. So it’s not surprising that he’s been gushing about this: Herbie Hancock will be the featured musician on the Queen Mary 2’s Atlantic Crossing in August, 2016.
It’s the second in a series of Cunard Blue Note jazz at sea-themed transatlantic crossings, a collaboration between the iconic Cunard Line and equally legendary Blue Note Records and Jazz Clubs. The first was an epic celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, and a rousing success. It just happed that some of Herbie’s band were also on-board, which led directly to the multiple-Grammy winner’s appearance.
For those who don’t know, Herbie’s career spans over five decades, winning 14 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters. He also wrote the first Jazz album ever to achieve Platinum certification from the RIAA, signifying sales of 1-million copies.
Herbie and his band will perform three 45-minute “intimate” shows during the eight night crossing from Southampton to New York. The cruise is scheduled for August 1 to 8, and is open for booking now.
Between a Rock(ing Lie-Flat Seat) and a Hard Place
Premium Economy seems like a contradiction in terms, but that’s exactly what American Airlines is introducing on international flights. That means, if you generally fly in coach, your economy-class ticket is the new fourth class. That also means you have an option to upgrade a little without having to jump into a Business or First Class fare.
The new Premium Economy cabin will be added to American’s Boeing Dreamliner 787-900s, expected to arrive in late-2016. That plane will feature four classes without a true First Class cabin: business, premium economy, main cabin extra, and main cabin. Premium Economy will feature wider seats with more legroom, enhanced meal service, and personal on-demand entertainment. Passengers will be offered noise-reducing headphones, amenity kits, priority check-in, and a checked baggage allowance.
According to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, it’s an answer to customer requests for something between the economy of main cabin and the full lie-flat comfort of Business Class. While starting with the upcoming Dreamliner, the new cabin class will also be added to the airline’s Airbus A350 arriving in 2017, and retrofitted to Boeing 777-200/300ERs, 787-800s, and Airbus A330s over the next three years.
It’s the first-in-market for American carriers, though British and Qantas Airways, oneworld alliance partners, already offer the premium seating, as do several other international carriers.
Meanwhile, at United…
Peanuts are back! Okay, maybe not peanuts, but the symbolism is there.
Passengers have been decrying the decay of passenger comfort and services in the airline industry for well over a decade. And, though it’s more than just peanuts, the in-flight snack on short-haul flights was one of the first amenities to go. In what some might call a stunning reversal, United Airlines is rolling back to the early millennium and bringing back the beloved morsel it banished in 2006.
After a decade-long absence, customers on flights departing before 10am will enjoy a complimentary stroopwafel, a Dutch confection filled with caramel. Passengers leaving later would get savory treats, such as an Asian-style or Cajun pretzel mix. It’s probably not going to make anyone switch carriers, but it is another concession, of sorts, to passenger complaints. United recently changed to serving the Italian coffee brand Illy. The changes, according spokesman Rahsaan Johnson, came in part because United “heard loud and clear from customers that better coffee and complimentary snacks will improve the in-flight experience.” They also heard from flight attendants pushing to offer better service, and new CEO Oscar Munoz, who is focused the passenger experience.
It never hurts to have the boss on your side. Now, if he would only drop the baggage fee United introduced to the industry in 2008. It must be a case of selective hearing.
England-Hong Kong Nonstop from Gatwick
England will be getting another route to the Far East next year when Cathay Pacific begins four-times-a-week nonstop service Between Hong Kong and London Gatwick. This compliments the airlines five daily flights from London Heathrow, and gives the airline a total of 39 London-Hong Kong direct flights; more than any other carrier. It’s also the only nonstop Hong Kong route from Gatwick.
Cathay Pacific plans to operate the new service from Gatwick’s South Terminal starting September 2016, with its brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft featuring Business Class, Premium Economy Class and Economy Class seats. However, the plan still requires government approval.
File under Cray-Cray!
Technically, this story began about a month ago, but it is getting a little extra attention now that it’s not an isolated incident. If you ever wondered if alcohol on an airplane might be a bad idea – at least in the hands of the wrong passengers – here’s your answer: A drunk woman attempted to open the door. On an airplane. During a flight.
Thankfully, her sober flight mates intervened and restrained the woman until the plane, a British Airlines flight from London to Boston, was able to land. Then, on a Lufthansa flight last weekend, the Serbian handball team was credited with stopping a man from opening the exit door during flight. What were these people thinking?
Thankfully, even if these crazy people were able to make it to the door, they probably wouldn’t have been able to open it, thanks to science. Air pressure keeps the door sealed shut in-flight. My rational brain knows this, but it wouldn’t make the experience any less frightening!
You can read the whole story over on Condé Nast Traveler.