For week ending 30 September 2016.
It has been a big news week for the travel industry with some major announcements from our airline and hotel partners. Read on to find out more about how the Marriott and Starwood merger will affect you, discover new luxuries with Etihad's new First Class amenity kit plus airline updates from Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Virgin Australia.
All this and more in our weekly news round-up brought to you by FCM Travel Solutions.
New Sydney Airport dining options
New eateries are now open at Sydney Airport’s Terminal 1. All-new dining venues The Bistro by Wolfgang Puck and Heineken House are part of the new premium-dining precinct in the international departures area airside of customs.
British Airways axes free food
From 11 January, British Airways will no longer offer complimentary snacks as part of its domestic and short-haul economy services. Instead, travellers will be able to choose from a new pay-as-you-go menu, with all items priced at under £5, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. The change will affect all BA services from Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and London Stansted airports.
Curio Boston opening
Hilton Worldwide has added its first Curio-branded property in Boston. The 144-room Ames Boston Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton is located near the city’s financial district built in a historic building dating back to 1893. Guests can expect a 24-hour fitness centre and complimentary bicycle hire. It will also offer meeting and event space catering for up to 75 people from December.
New Singapore Airlines route
Singapore Airlines plans to introduce a second new route to Australia. Subject to regulatory approval, the carrier will commence a thrice-weekly Singapore-Jakarta-Sydney service from 23 November this year. It will operate on B777-200ER aircraft departing Sydney on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00, stopping in Jakarta at 14:35 for an hour, then arriving in Singapore at 16:10.
Air China boarding cut off
Air China is closing select boarding gates earlier than previously. Effective immediately Air China flights departing Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 will close 15 minutes prior to departure instead of 10 minutes.
British Airways/Qatar alliance
British Airways has formed an alliance with Qatar Airways. Effective from 30 October, customers will benefit from a greater choice of flights and enhanced frequent flyer benefits. The alliance also includes cooperation on scheduling and pricing and will see the carriers codeshare on seven daily non-stop flights between the London and Doha as well as on onward connections between the UK and continental Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Emirates resumes Brisbane/Singapore route
Emirates has resumed daily services from Brisbane to Singapore. The move follows the completion of routine construction work at Brisbane Airport. Flights EK433/EK432 will operate on B777-300ER aircraft in addition to the carrier’s daily A380 service to Dubai.
New Qatar transit visa
Travellers transiting through Qatar can now take advantage of a new free transit visa. Those with a minimum connection time of 5 hours at Doha’s Hamad International Airport can stay in the country for up to four days without an entry visa.
New Etihad first class amenities
Etihad Airways plans to offer revamped first class amenity kits. The kits have been designed in partnership with two leading fashion and beauty brands – Christian Lacroix and Hungarian skincare brand, Omorovicza. The new kits are available in two styles – a wash bag and convertible flat case for men, and debossed fold-over bags for women (see picture below). The latter is designed for use as a chic clutch, while the men’s bag can be used buttoned down as a wash bag or as storage for tablet devices such as iPads when opened flat. Initially available on A380 flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Melbourne, London, New York and Mumbai, they will be offered fleet-wide in early 2017.
Qantas fare waiver
Qantas has issued a fare waiver for customers affected by changes to Emirates-operated flights between Thailand, Australia and NZ. Flight times and aircraft on several sectors change from 30 October and passengers holding QF081 tickets issued on or before 6 September can rebook/reroute travel at no charge if switched to alternate services with a QF flight number within 24 hours of the original ticketed flight.
Marriott/Starwood merger expands loyalty benefits
The Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide merger is now complete, making it the world’s largest hotel company. The merger adds more than 1300 Starwood properties in 100 countries to Marriott’s inventory, boosting the total to more than 5700 properties in more than 110 countries. Members of Marriott’s loyalty program Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are now able to link their accounts and have their status matched across programs. Members who link accounts are able to transfer points at a three-to-one ratio (ie 3 Marriott Rewards points = 1 SPG Starpoint).
New Delta Sky Club in Atlanta
A new Delta Sky Club has opened at Atlanta Concourse B of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Spread over more than 2300sqm, it is the carrier’s second-largest lounge and offers a bar and a restaurant serving southern fare. Delta Air lines plans to close its other two Clubs near gates B10 and B25.
Virgin cuts back Brisbane
Virgin Australia’s current daily service from Brisbane to LA will move to six times weekly when it resumes its Melbourne-Los Angeles services on 7 April. Customers booked on axed services have been re-accommodated on other services the same day via Melbourne or Sydney or can switch their travel date without change fees until 15 May. Meanwhile, Melbourne travellers booked on VA flights to LAX via Sydney or Brisbane can switch to the direct service (subject to some conditions).
Emirates seat selection fee
Emirates is introducing an advanced seat selection fee from 3 October. The charge applies to passengers booking Special and Saver Fares in economy class, with the fee set to vary based on length of flight. The charge no longer applies when online check-in opens 48 hours prior to departure.
Emirates rejigs Business Rewards
Emirates is enhancing its Emirates Business Rewards loyalty scheme. Enrolment has been simplified, and a ‘Guest Traveller’ function so that organisation’s can add non-company personnel, such as consultants or clients, and still earn Business Rewards Points. Members can also now book any seat at any time and benefit from greater flexibility in earning and redeeming Business Rewards Points.