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Business Traveller magazine: relevant articles

Business Traveller magazine: relevant articles

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Old Mar 13, 05, 5:58 pm
  #16  
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Post From the latest edition

The construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 has reached the half way mark - ahead of schedule and within budget.

The construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 has reached the half way mark - ahead of schedule and within budget. The new terminal building and air traffic control tower have been raised to their full heights, giving the airport a new historic skyline.

Terminal 5 managing director Tony Douglas said: "While we are investing £4.2bn in the new terminal development, a further £3bn is also being spent over the next seven years on improving the existing airport facilities. "Two and a half years into construction and over 50 per cent complete, we have already spent £2bn and will be spending approximately £80m a month during this coming year."

The opening of Terminal 5 is scheduled for March 30 2008 and will comprise two terminal buildings, a network of over 13km of bored tunnels, a new air traffic control tower, airfield infrastructure, a 4,000-space multi-story car park and a hotel.

It will increase Heathrow's capacity to 90m passengers a year, compared to the 72m who passed through the world's busiest international airport last year.
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Old Mar 17, 05, 5:40 pm
  #17  
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Post From the latest edition

The best online hotel prices aren't always where you think they are

Ask 10 business travellers a good website for booking travel and, chances are, they will give you 10 different answers. In fact, many will name several sites, splitting their bookings for short-haul and long-haul flights, accommodation and even car hire. They may have originally chosen these sites for their prices, but once they are registered and have become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of the booking engine, they will probably stay with those sites. Yet things are changing so quickly in the travel industry - and particularly on travel websites - that there's likely to be a better deal elsewhere.

To understand why, it's a good idea to look at what travel agents are doing and why. Much has changed for them in recent years. Go back just a few years, and there were frequent predictions of their demise. How could they compete with increasing numbers of travellers using the web to book their travel? How they coped was by offering their services on the web in an easy-to-use format. In many cases, they also undercut the prices that were available directly from the hotels and airlines and, as a result, they thrived.
Yet just in the last few months, things have changed again. Airlines have cut commission payments to agents from 10–15% down to 1% or even zero. By contrast, hotels pay anything from 8% to 30% commission depending on the volume of business. As a result, website agents are now aggressively promoting hotel rooms, which have become the products with the largest mark-up.

Looking at this mark-up, it's no wonder Hubert Joly, president and CEO of global travel firm Carlson Wagonlit, describes hotel accommodation as "...a dream for a company like ours." The big travel management companies have large firms as their clients - the sort that can obtain good rates on airfares on their own.

However, the same might not be true of their accommodation requirements (although in many cases, large travel management companies make their money in the form of an annual flat-rate management fee from large companies, rather than agency commission).

"Corporations feel that hotel expenditure is the next frontier [to be conquered]" says Joly, "and frankly this is an area we've neglected. In the past, travel managers have focused on air travel. But that market has become concentrated. By contrast, the hotels are fragmented and they're profitable."

Joly believes that Carlson Wagonlit, with its huge volumes of turnover, can offer better rates than its online rivals in the majority of cases. In addition, firms that supply substantial volumes of custom may be able to get hoteliers to throw in sweeteners like executive floor upgrades, free breakfast and car parking.

If you are booking your travel individually - or you work for a smaller firm - you will lack this clout, so where are the bargains? In the past, many travellers turned to online agents like Expedia, Travelocity or Lastminute.com.
What has changed recently is the attitude of the hotel chains to these online agents. Many hotels have shaken up their booking systems to price according to market demand, rather than merely quoting unrealistically high rack or full-price rates. As a result, individual travellers can often now find comparable, or even cheaper, rates on a hotel's own website.

To give some examples, Marriott has adopted "rational" pricing on its website, while InterContinental and Hilton offer "best price" guarantees. A spokesperson for US chain Marriott said: "The only time you will find a better rate [than is available on the hotel's own website] is when it's an exclusively negotiated one [like a corporate deal] or where it's a wholesale rate [like those granted to tour operators]." Chains like Radisson SAS, InterContinental and Sofitel can offer Apex (advance purchase) rates at slack times and these can undercut what the online agents quote.

Global chains were forced to act because the online agents negotiated overly generous commission payments in the days following September 11, when hotels were desperate for business. Said a Marriott spokesperson: "The online agents wanted really low rates for rooms, which they then sold off at ridiculously high prices."

In addition, the online agents didn't make it clear which rates included taxes and which did not. They also imposed heavy cancellation and amendment fees (up to 100% for all nights booked), whereas most rooms booked directly with a major hotel can be changed or cancelled without penalty until the late afternoon on the day of arrival. Even if you were to "no show" for a stay of several nights, a hotel would only bill you for the first night, whereas the online agent would charge you for the entire stay, "so there was an integrity as well as a cost per sale issue," added the Marriott spokesperson.

Finally, at times of high demand, the online operators often showed a hotel as being fully booked, when in fact the site had merely sold its allocation of merchant hotel rooms (ie, those bought at wholesale price from the hotel, then marked up for sale on the site).

With business now looking up, hotels are increasingly calling time on these deals. InterContinental recently went as far as to sever its ties with online agent Expedia. According to an InterContinental spokesperson: "We will only work with partners who do not engage in confusing and potentially unclear marketing practices." As a result, Travelocity became the hotel group's "official third-party distributor".

The hotel chains don't want to turn their backs on the online agents completely. They find that they reach a different sector of the business and leisure market - that is, those of us who have grown used to using the sites. But now with business travel returning to pre-September 11 levels, the boot is on the other foot. Christian Ruge, business development manager of the Accor group's new first class Sofitel Bayerpost in Munich, said: "Major hotels were paying a lot of commission to online agents in the past. But we've had a good couple of years so now they have to deal on our terms. If they don't like it, then it's goodbye."

The lesson for those of us using the web to book our accommodation is to shop around, and to make sure that whichever hotel we choose to stay at, we check the price on that hotel's website before we start typing in credit card details. With "best rate" guarantees becoming more common, it can be a complex search to find a real bargain, but at least you can be assured you found the lowest price available.
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Old Mar 24, 05, 6:50 pm
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Trains to get an overhaul

GNER is upgrading its trains and installing wireless internet across the fleet following a successful bid on the London-Scotland service. The train operator, which has run the service since 1996, beat Virgin Trains to win the contract for the next ten years.

Among the pledges to passengers made by GNER as part of its bid is the installation of wireless internet on all trains by May 2007. GNER says it also plans to make trains more reliable, more comfortable and more punctual.

GNER is a targetting 90% punctuality by 2010 and says £25 million will be spent on upgrading the interior of GNER's high-speed diesel trains to the level of comfort offered by its fleet of electric "Mallard" trains.

Extra services are also planned, with 13 more services on the London-Leeds route by December, GNER's most popular route. But the improvements come at a cost. Industry observers says the £1.3 billion outlay, pledged by GNER to be given to the government over the next ten years, will be compensated for by an increase in fares, already topping £100 on some standard class tickets.

GNER is denying "massive fare increases" but says fares will rise over the coming years with inflation.

Schedule boost for BA

British Airways is boosting flights to Eastern Europe as part of its 2005 summer timetable, and dropping some services to Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Romania's capital, Bucharest and the Bulgarian capital, Sofia will be served three times a week from May 1 and June 1 respectively. These Gatwick flights will start from around £150 return including taxes.

Other new services from March 27 include daily flights from Bristol to Milan with franchise carrier, BA CitiExpress, which will also launch Bristol to Zurich six times a week. Fares start at £99 return including taxes on both routes.

Also on the summer timetable are flights planned from London Heathrow to Shanghai, which BA will launch subject to regulatory approval, on March 27.

European flights will be boosted to an average 631 British Airways flights a day for the summer, in addition to 372 daily UK and Ireland flights, but some services are being scrapped for the summer. Flights from Gatwick to Frankfurt and Genoa will be suspended over the summer, as will flights from Manchester to Amsterdam and Bologna. Go to BA website.

New FFP to launch

Air France and KLM are merging frequent flyer programmes. Under the arrangement Air France's "Fréquence Plus" and KLM's "Flying Dutchman" will be replaced by a single programme called "Flying Blue" from June.

Members of the two frequent flyer programmes will be automatically signed up to Flying Blue and over the coming months they will be informed about the changes by letter.
Members will retain their membership number and miles, with Flying Blue miles being equal in value to the Fréquence Plus and Flying Dutchman miles. Flying Blue will have four membership levels – Ivory, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The scheme has 36 airline partners and 100 non-airline partners with which to redeem and spend rewards.

The merger of the frequent flyer programmes follows the merger of KLM and Air France in May 2004.

SAS to go flat

Flat beds and video on demand will be enjoyed by SAS Business Class passengers from next year.

The Scandinavian carrier is introducing flatbeds in Business Class on flights to Asia and the US from Manchester, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Newcastle, which operate via the SAS hub in Copenhagen. The beds will be fitted from early next year following the removal of 14 seats from the original A340 Business Class cabin to make room for 60 flatbed seats. The smaller A330 aircraft will have 34 flatbed seats.

With a 61-inch seat pitch, 66cm width and recline of 11 degrees, the seats should be more comfortable than the current Business Class offering, which bar the front row of "sleeper seats" are reclining seats.

With the beds comes improved entertainment for Business Class passengers from video on demand, available through a larger 10.4 inch monitor. Go to SAS website


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Old Apr 7, 05, 11:25 pm
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From this weeks' issue

Rome's Airport Closing for Pope's Funeral

Rome's Ciampino Airport will be closed until midnight on Friday April 8, the day of the Pope's funeral, with normal services resuming after that time. Ciampino will be shut to accommodate the aircraft of dignitaries attending the funeral and a five mile no-fly zone over the city.

It is believed that 10,000 British travellers will be affected by the move as the airport is heavily used by low-cost airlines Ryanair and Easyjet. British Airways flies to Fiumicino and its flights will not be affected.

Ryanair has re-directed all its flights to Pescara, 130 miles away, or to Rome's Fiumicino airport, 20 miles away. Those travelling to Pescara will have to take a three-hour coach journey to Rome costing £12 a ticket. Four flights from the UK which arrive just after midnight are still being operated. Ryanair is offering a full refund or a transfer to the next available flight to any passengers affected.

EasyJet, which flies to Rome from Gatwick, Nottingham, Bristol and Newcastle, has increased flights to Bologna, a four-hour train journey from Rome. An Easyjet spokesman said that passengers not wishing to fly to Bologna will be able to obtain a refund or transfer their tickets to flights leaving within the next 30 days.

Travel expenses causes trouble inthe workplace

Arguments over expenses are damaging staff morale and hitting cash flow for UK companies, according to a survey by Barclaycard Business. The research found that nearly one in 10 employees have argued with their company over expenses claims, potentially causing staff dissatisfaction or productivity problems.

Almost half of employees take up to a month to claim back their expenses and 20% said they do not always get round to claiming them back. The survey also found that 41% of employers themselves take up to a month to reimburse their staff.

On average, the highest value receipt lost by workers last year was £128, but 63% of employees are able to reclaim their expenses without having to provide a receipt.

Tim Carlier, head of card issuing at Barclaycard Business, said: "The fact that nearly one in 10 respondents to our survey reported having a dispute with their employer over expenses illustrates that, if not properly managed, the expense claims system can cause friction in the workplace."

The survey was conducted in October 2004 amongst 1,200 CEOs, company directors, managers and executives who are Barclaycard Business commercial card holders. For a full report on the issues surrounding travel expenses, see the May issue of Business Traveller magazine.

False promises for on-line hotel deals

Hotels are failing to honour price guarantees advertised on their websites, says a new survey by professional services firm KPMG. The research, conducted across 330 hotels in 16 countries, found that although 43% of hotels guaranteed that their best rates are to be found on their websites, this was only true in 27% of the cases.

UK hotels performed worse with only 19% of hotels surveyed offering true price guarantees. Nick Pattie, director of KPMG's hotel practice which conducted the research, said: "These survey findings are surprising considering the amount of effort being made by hoteliers to direct customers to their own booking channels. Hotels want their customers to book direct but in practice hoteliers aren't delivering consistent prices and customers will continue to use other booking methods which offer more attractive room rates."


Special Story: London's Grandest Hotels

Are London's famous names resting on their laurels or are they still at the cutting edge? Business Traveller tests their claims to greatness.

Nowadays, we think of London's grand hotels as traditional places, where guests have been visiting for years, and change is resisted rather than welcomed. Yet for much of their history, the opposite was true. Both The Savoy and the Ritz were the designer hotels of their time, with modern technology, unheard of creature comforts and a level of service – whisper it – that often had been imported from the Continent.

Today, it's fair to say you don't stay in one of these hotels if you are working your way up the greasy corporate pole – they're the preserve of those who've arrived and don't mind others knowing it. Concerns about expenses aren't an issue, though if asked, chief executives and chairmen will point out that the convenience of hotel suites and high-quality restaurants for confidential chats represent excellent value for money.

Yet while these well-known names are brands with cachet, they do bring challenges. How does the hotel change without losing what made it special, cherished even? It can't alienate the guests who have been coming for years, but needs to attract a new generation of high-spending visitors , and what is stylish to one person is flashy to another. It's a tough balancing act: rely on history, or construct a new hotel behind a well-known name. Each one of the hotels below has arrived at a different answer.

The Waldorf Hilton
Of all the hotels here, the Waldorf has most radically reinvented itself, having just completed a $56 million renovation and changed from Le Meridien Waldorf to The Waldorf Hilton. The exterior is unchanged: traditional early-20th century London architecture and a prime position between Fleet Street and the Strand. Most of central London is within easy reach and Covent Garden and Soho are an easy stroll away.

Inside, it's a very different story. The reception desk is illuminated yellow glass, the walls are minimalist white, and the main accent colour comes from the bright red leather wing chairs designed by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobson.

Aldwych is on a slight slope so there are several flights of stairs, including one to reception and to the restaurant (Homage) and bar, but there are new disabled-access elevators for wheelchairs at the side of each. In the bar, wine by the glass is reasonably priced at £5-£9.50. On the other hand, you could always try a bottle of Cristal at £195. The design mixes a traditional parquet floor with mirrored rectangular columns and a stamped pewter effect behind the bar.

Homage Grand Salon is good value, with a no-nonsense approach to its menu: starters cost £5-£12 (the Scottish langoustine salad, baby artichokes and asparagus was delicious) while main courses are around £14. I had grilled calves' liver, cracked black pepper jus and braised cos lettuce. Scalloped ionic columns reach to an extremely high ceiling, a glass-fronted wine cellar is tucked into one of the archways off the main room, and there's a tinted glass central bar used for service at night and the breakfast buffet in the morning.

The 299 rooms come in all shapes and sizes (the first and eighth-floor rooms have higher ceilings). There are good views over Aldwych and the other three surrounding streets, but rooms have differing levels of noise depending on whether they are closest to Aldwych (constant) or the side roads, which are used through the night, but less heavily. The quietest are the internal rooms with no view, and for long stays or light sleepers, these are the best value. Rooms are divided into contemporary and design and both are modern in feel, with strange clothes horses in the corner shaped like robotic women, wall-mounted plasma-screen TVs, tea and coffee facilities, powerful showers, no-fog mirrors (which are a joy when you're in a rush in the morning), a trouser press and a laptop charger integrated in the safe (why doesn't everyone do this?). There's a small, but well-appointed business centre below reception, and guests can use a privately run LA Fitness leisure club two floors below, with a small swimming pool. The club staff are excellent. In April 2005, an executive lounge will be completed.

Verdict: Excellent. A famous name, freed from tradition by frequent changes of ownership, has reinvented itself for the 21st century.
Prices: Queen Hilton rooms from £179 ($337).
contact: The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DD, tel 020 7836 2400, www.hilton.co.uk/waldorf.
Tom Otley

Claridge's
Part of the Savoy Group (now renamed the Maybourne Hotel Group) along with The Berkeley and The Connaught, Claridge's has the feel of a one-off. Built by Richard D'Oyly Carte, also responsible for The Savoy, it had a similar level of technology and comfort, yet combined this with the old tradition of the hotels that had previously occupied the site, by offering apartments for long-term residents.

A glance over Claridge's guest register reads like a Who's Who of the 20th century. Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Onassis have all stayed here and are immortalised by photos adorning the lobby.

Photographs aren't the only reminder of its history. Although the hotel was renovated in 1999 by New York designer Thierry Despont, the lobby stays true to the 1930s. Topped by a vast glass chandelier made of 300 hand-blown glass pieces, it's a little gaudy to the modern eye, but a temple to Art Deco nevertheless, right down to the signature green and white china that carries petit fours for the afternoon tea brigade.

Art Deco continues through some of the 203 guest rooms, while others take their inspiration from the Louis XVI era. All rooms are spacious and feature a large desk and classy stationery that might tempt even technology-savvy guests to ditch email and put pen to paper. If you need to stay connected, there are European and US dataports, and internet access is available through the TV for £17.50 per day.

But what really sets Claridge's apart is the service. The tail-coated doormen and suited waiters are helpful as well as immaculately turned out. In the restaurant it can be hard to tell the waiters from the customers. Dining here is expensive if you opt for Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's – £150 for two with wine and service – and the chef's celebrity status and rave reviews mean it is tough to get a table.

The Reading Room restaurant is a close second for cuisine (and easier on the wallet). Sitting in lounge chairs to eat is an unusual dining experience, but that could be what makes it popular with a greying crowd. The £37.75 set menu offers a choice of three French dishes per course, such as cumin-scented cream of butternut squash soup to start and roast loin of venison with spiced crust, celeriac mousseline and juniper jus to follow. This is more reasonable than breakfast, which can reach three figures if you order for two off the à la carte menu.

If further indulgence is on the cards, the hotel is in a superb spot for shopping. Nearby New Bond Street is home to shops such as Chanel and Gucci, while Oxford Street offers Selfridges. If the hotel bill has broken the bank, there are 24 channels of in-room entertainment. For £30 guests can access 15 movies and 15 music channels on a system that is refreshingly simple to navigate (this also includes internet access through the TV). Expect more renovation: there are plans in the pipeline for the addition of some 25 rooms and a new luxury spa.

Verdict: After wisely restoring its Art Deco styling, Claridge's is a perfect blend of old and new.
Price: Superior queen rooms from £214.
Contact: Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1A 2JQ, tel 020 7629 8860, www.savoy-group.com
Ginny McGrath

Savoy, a Fairmont hotel
The Savoy has made lots of headlines in recent years, mainly because of its changing ownership. Previously part of The Savoy Group, it has now been bought in a joint venture between His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Bank of Scotland Corporate, part of HBOS plc, with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in charge of management.

A $48 million refurbishment is promised, updating the Thames Foyer area and the restaurant overlooking the river but retaining the history, including the Savoy Theatre next door, which was the original reason for the hotel's creation.

From the minute the doorman sweeps you in through the front doors, there's no mistaking The Savoy for anything other than a luxury hotel. Staff fall over themselves to ensure you receive VIP treatment, regardless of your room category. The turndown service is meticulous, there is silver service at breakfast, and staff remember your name.

Some refurbishment took place under the previous owners, but more work is needed as some of the rooms look a little tired. The best are those with a view of the Thames and the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. My River room was huge and set off by a working fireplace. The modern bathroom was kitted out with an oversized shower head, fluffy towels and expensive toiletries but my favourite feature was the mirrored ceiling which, in such a traditional hotel, is a decadent and slightly racy touch.

Business travellers are well catered for with plenty of power points and a broadband modem to plug into, as well as internet access via the TV, at £17 per day. There is also a mobile phone loan system, which allows guests to rent a phone, free of charge. Insurance (£1.50 per day) and call charges are debited from your credit card. This is useful if you are visiting from overseas as there are no charges for incoming calls.

Aside from the refurbishments, there are already two outstanding dining options. Banquette is Marcus Wareing's take on an American diner, with a theme representing a 1950s Corvette Stingray and decorated in red, ivory, brown and stainless steel with streamlined banquettes that stretch the entire length of the restaurant. Unlike at The Savoy Grill, both the atmosphere and menu are informal with guests in jeans and sneakers ordering burgers, chips and bottles of beer. But this is not your average fast food joint. Josh Emett, head chef at the Savoy Grill, leads the kitchen while Elias Lallouris, formerly of Claridge's bar, ensures guests are happy and relaxed – a key part of the Banquette experience. Thanks to its position over the main entrance, entertainment is provided by the non-stop comings and goings of guests.
For drinks there's the Laurent-Perrier champagne bar, open until 1.30am.

Verdict: Prices might soon go up when the refurbishment takes hold, but the cachet that goes with "you can reach me at The Savoy" is priceless.
Price: Fairmont queen rooms from £209.
Contact: Savoy, a Fairmont Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU.
Tel 020 7836 4343, www.savoy-group.com.
Lauren Custance

The Ritz
Preparing for its 100th anniversary next year, the Ritz was conceived by renowned hotelier César Ritz to be state of the art: bathrooms in every guest room, double glazing, a sophisticated ventilation system and brass, rather than wooden, beds. One of the first steel-framed buildings in London, the French chateau-style Ritz is probably architecturally the greatest of London's
grand hotels, standing proud on Piccadilly with its perfect symmetry emphasized by large copper lions at each corner of the roof.

The Ritz has been owned since 1995 by the fiercely private Barclay brothers, who have spent $75 million on refurbishing the Grade II Star listed building, so to visit now is to see it at its best. The ground floor has a Louis XVI theme, with the vaulted Long Gallery running the length of the building, linking a series of elegant public rooms and drawing the eye to the far windows of the restaurant overlooking the hotel's Italian Garden and Green Park. Off the Long Gallery, Palm Court is the place for tea and you must book weeks in advance.
The Ritz doesn't hide from view and, as such, is firmly on the tourist trail. To keep the tourists at bay, discreet uniformed attendants mill around the lobby, and there's a formal dress code in both the fabulously ornate Ritz Restaurant and Palm Court (jacket and tie), and the Rivoli Bar (jacket). Shorts, jeans and trainers are not allowed.

There are several room grades: superior single, superior king, deluxe king, junior suite and deluxe suite. All are in the distinctive Ritz colour schemes of blue, peach, pink and yellow and furnished with rich fabrics, 24-carat gold leaf and restored antique furniture in keeping with the original Louis XVI style. In fact, so fine are these rooms that you tend to keep a tie on even while relaxing. A ratio of two staff to every guest room means there's never a delay for room service, though it is unobtrusive and co-ordinated with a brilliance that comes with a great attitude and excellent training. In fact, without exception, every member of staff left the impression that in a few years they might be management themselves.

Who stays? Well, anyone who can afford it, on business, pleasure, or simply because they haven't got around to buying a place to live in London just yet. The night we visited, there were mummy, daddy and child-sized cowboy boots left outside the door of the next room for overnight polishing.
For dinner we pushed out the boat and, among other dishes, had crepes suzette cooked on a trolley by the side of our table, then a night cap before bed – though the price of hot water with a lemon infusion (£5.25; $9.90) was a reminder that the Ritz will always be a treat.

Verdict: The grandest of the lot. Perfect for special occasions or when you want to impress.
Price: Superior king rooms from £370.
Contact: The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR, tel 020 7493 8181, www.theritzlondon.com.
Tom Otley

The Dorchester
Regal enough to host Prince Philip's stag party on the night of his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II, and refined enough for General Eisenhower to plan the Normandy invasion from his office suite, the Dorchester is a hotel you have to look very closely at to find fault. Built in 1931, the property completed a multi-million dollar renovation in May 2003, revitalizing the faded grandeur of its public spaces and moving the Dorchester at full speed ahead into the 21st century.

On entering the hotel, I arrived at The Promenade, a lobby that runs the length of the ground floor, where guests sip tea and listen to live piano music. The Promenade's gilded marble columns, sparkling chandeliers and abundant floral arrangements exude affluence, but manage not to feel too overdone.
In the guest rooms, hand-woven carpets and antique furniture create the cozy feel of an English country house, while tucked discreetly behind an armoire sits a near-perfect entertainment and business centre. Through the TV, with an infrared wireless keyboard, guests can use the internet and e-mail; Microsoft Office programmes Word, PowerPoint and Excel; 60 on-demand videos, 5,000 music tracks and various news and entertainment channels. The console also contains a colour printer, fax machine, DVD/CD player, and modems for UK and US plugs.

If you have any technical questions, a team of E-butlers can come to your rescue. Of course, this hi-tech wonderland comes at a fee: £15 for 24 hours of internet, £5 for music and £12.50 per movie. It may be a bit pricey, but it's well worth the convenience of getting work done from the comfort of your four-poster bed.

There is no shortage of dining options. For impeccable service and well-presented food, try The Grill Room, which serves traditional British fare, though the menu is extensive enough to satisfy all tastes – expect to pay £75 per head. If that doesn't excite you, the other option is the Dorchester Bar, which serves Italian food.

A more unusual dining experience is offered in the Krug Room, a subterranean restaurant located in the master kitchens. With the flick of a switch, the opaque glass becomes clear and reveals 12 red leather chairs around a glass table. A far cry from the ornate decor of The Grill Room, the clandestine Krug Room is another testament to the Dorchester's discreet approach to hi-tech amenities, which have been carefully placed around the room so as not to interfere with the property's Old World elegance that has attracted well-heeled guests for over 70 years.

Verdict: Hi-tech blends with elegance, allowing guests to stay in style without sacrificing business essentials.
Price: Superior doubles from £375 including tax and service charge.
Contact: The Dorchester, Park Lane, London WIA 2HJ, tel 020 7629 8888, www.dorchesterhotel.com.
Mary Beth Hubbard
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Old Apr 14, 05, 5:56 pm
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Post 14 April stories

Skyteam boosts RTW offering

The Skyteam alliance has increased the attractiveness of its Round the World (RTW) and Europe Pass tickets following the inclusion of three more carriers.
Current members of Skyteam that participate in the RTW offering include Air France, Korean Air and Delta. Now they've been joined by Northwest, KLM and Continental, adding 141 destinations in the US, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa to the 658 destinations previously available to RTW passengers.

The RTW tickets allow customers to opt for one of four packages that includes between three and 15 stops for a trip ranging from 10 days to one year. They cost from E2000, for the package starting in Amsterdam. Rules governing the RTW ticket mean travellers must start and finish in the same country, cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can backtrack
only within the same continent.

The Europe Pass is for alliance passengers who do not reside in Europe, have made a transatlantic or transpacific flight and want to buy three or more single tickets around Europe at a reduced rate. Airlines offering these European routes are Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and now KLM.
Passengers travelling on either the RTW or Europe Pass tickets can earn and redeem frequent flyer points with all Skyteam airlines. The alliance is expected to make additions to its America Pass ticket later this year following the inclusion of Northwest, KLM and Continental.

Skyteam's alliance rivals, One World and Star Alliance, also offer RTW ticket options utilising the network strengths of their member airlines. Go to Skyteam UK website

Icelandair eyes San Francisco

An airline launching flights between the UK and San Francisco hopes to lure economy class passengers further up the plane with its competitive business class fares.

Icelandair will operate flights from Heathrow and Glasgow via Reykjavik to San Francisco from May 18 until October 15. It is offering business class fares from around £1,000, which compare to usual business class fares upwards of £2,000 for an indirect flight and £5,000 for a direct flight between the UK and San Francisco, although airline sales can bring direct fares down to £2,000.

The only drawback of the Icelandair flights is that flights are not operated daily – it will operate twice a week during May and September, rising to four times a week during the peak months of June, July and August.

The flight will be operated by a wide-bodied Boeing 767 with 230 seats in economy and 30 in business class. It will leave Heathrow at 1pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays (plus Monday and Thursday during peak season) and arrive in San Francisco at 6.35pm. The return flight leaves at 11.35pm and arrives in London at 8.10pm the following day.

Icelandair also operates flights from the UK via Reykjavik to Boston, New York, Washington Baltimore, Minneapolis St Paul and Orlando. In anticipation of increased traffic to the US the carrier has upgraded its business class Lounge. The extended lounge has room for 130 passengers and offers free wireless internet access, workstations and computers with free internet access and meeting facilities for up to 10.

For passengers not wishing to work, there's a relaxation area offering soothing music, all decked out in a modern Scandinavian design with plenty of wood, leather and a homely fireplace. Go to Icelandair UK web site

India flights on the up

Flights between the UK and India are set to increase again next year, with Mumbai the focus of expansion plans.

Following an agreement between the British and Indian governments, 21 more flights will be allocated from winter next year. The flights are likely to be distributed between British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Bmi, all of which have announced their desire to boost frequency to Mumbai.

British Airways wants to take its Delhi and Mumbai flights from daily to double daily, while Bmi has announced an intention to serve Mumbai daily, up from four flights a week. Virgin Atlantic also wants a daily service to Mumbai by the end of the year from three per week.

All three carriers have also expressed interest in other Indian destinations, which under the new agreement between the UK and Indian authorities could include destinations such as Amritsar, Hyderabad and Cochin.

An earlier agreement between the UK and India enabled the launch of 21 more flights per week over the course of 2005. The 21 extra services were allocated between BA, Virgin Atlantic and Bmi. Previously the only UK airline to fly to India was British Airways with 19 flights per week.

The first flights to launch were daily services to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic in time for winter 2004. At the end of March Bmi launched four flights per week to Mumbai, competing head-to-head with three flights per week from Virgin Atlantic to the city and a daily service from BA. Finally for the winter 2005 schedule launching at the end of October will be four flights per week to Chennai and three per week to Bangalore with British Airways. Go to BA website, Bmi website and Virgin Atlantic website

Inflight meals go gourmet

An inflight meal of smoked salmon or lobster, once the staple of business and first class passengers, is now available to all passengers to pick up before boarding.

The take-away meals are on sale at Caviar House Seafood Bars, the luxurious enclaves serving champagne and seafood that have become a well-known fixture in London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

Passengers can select their meal from the range of seafood on offer. Prices start at £11.50 for a smoked salmon platter and rise to £30 for a lobster salad. Meals come with bread and butter, napkins and cutlery.

The take-away boxes are the same size as regular airline meal trays and come in a cool bag, keeping the contents chilled for up to five hours. Go to Caviar House web site

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Old Apr 21, 05, 11:48 am
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As QF WP is still poorly, I'll post these for him ! Get well mate !

Oneworld goes paperless

21 April 2005


The Oneworld airline alliance has beaten rivals Star Alliance to enable e-ticketing across all member airlines.

The announcement by Oneworld means passengers travelling on any of the alliance's eight member airlines will have one electronic ticket covering an entire trip, regardless of how many transfers made between airlines.

Aer Lingus and LAN were the last two airlines to implement e-ticketing this month, nearly three years after the first Oneworld airline pair enabled interline e-ticketing in May 2002.

Star Alliance will have completed interline e-ticketing across its members by August, with the exception of TAP Air Portugal, which recently joined Star and will be integrated by the end of the year according to Star Alliance director media relations, Markus Ruediger.

Now any combination of the eight airlines - American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, Aer Lingus and LAN - can be covered by an e-ticket. The only exception is where bookings are made to one of a small number of airports that cannot handle e-tickets – in these cases a paper ticket would be issued.
The Oneworld network encompasses 600 destinations in 135 countries.

The advantages to having an e-ticket rather than a paper ticket is that there is no possibility of a ticket being lost or stolen, plus passengers can use self-service check-in machines where available. According to Oneworld e-tickets also make check-in quicker and smoother by removing the administration associated with paper tickets, but the main advantage is to airlines in terms of cost savings.

Oneworld estimates that interline e-ticketing will save the eight airline members a total $65 million a year.

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Old Apr 21, 05, 11:49 am
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Lufthansa rolls out new business seats

21 April 2005

Availability of Lufthansa's new long-haul business class seats has been extended to the carrier's prime destinations out of Frankfurt and Munich.

The new seats offer more sideways space (56 cms as against 50 cms) and more legroom (152cms compared with 122cms). Although not fully lie-flat, such as the business class seats offered by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa's new seats recline almost to the horizontal whereas its older seats had a 135 degree recline.

Destinations now covered from Frankfurt include: Dallas, New York JFK, Los Angeles (from May 1), Washington Dulles in the US, Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Muscat in the Middle East along with Hong Kong, Singapore, Osaka, Seoul and Tokyo in Asia.
From Munich the available destinations include: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Washington Dulles (from May 2) in the US along with Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Asia.

Readers should bear in mind that one daily flight on each route features the new seating. Where the routing is served by several flights a day, it's essential to check with Lufthansa or your travel agent to determine the relevant service. The airline stresses that last minute plane substitutions may affect new seat availability.

Lufthansa says that the new seating will installed throughout its long-haul fleet by 2007. Go to www.lufthansa.com
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Old Apr 21, 05, 11:51 am
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Starwood launches meetings concierge

21 April 2005

Starwood Hotels and Resorts has boosted its meetings and conference offering by launching a concierge service.

A Starmeeting Concierge is assigned to each meeting to welcome delegates, explain use of the facilities and deal with queries relating to audio-visual equipment.
The service is offered free of charge to meeting planners, who are handed a business card featuring a photo of their concierge so they can recognise them easily.

The Starmeeting Concierge service has been implemented across the US and is being rolled out across Starwood hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East at the moment. So far it is available at Sheraton Heathrow, Sheraton Skyline, Park Lane, Sheraton Belgravia, and Sheraton Park Tower in London, and in Scotland in Westin Turnberry Resort and Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa.

The introduction of the service follows customer research and testing in Starwood's Heathrow, Frankfurt and Madrid properties. According to the hotel chain, during the test phase 95% of delegates rated their concierge's responsiveness as "excellent". Go to www.starwood.com.
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Old Apr 21, 05, 11:52 am
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Emirates plugs South Korea route

21 April 2005

Emirates is offering free hotel nights to lure premium passengers on to its Seoul flights.
The carrier launches flights from Dubai to Seoul on May 1, with a connection time of less than three hours from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
In a bid to get bums on premium class seats, Emirates is offering three hotel nights in Seoul to first class passengers and two nights to business class passengers.

The hotel nights, which include breakfast, are in a Deluxe Room at the Ritz Carlton Seoul, which is close to the World Trade Center, home to the Olympic Stadium, shops, and restaurants. The hotel has a fitness centre, indoor swimming pool, driving range, six restaurants, a pub and disco, bar and lounge.

Emirates flights will operate daily to Seoul with a connection of less than three hours in Dubai for customers departing the UK.

The total travel time between the UK and South Korea is 18 hours outbound and 20 hours return. Weekday return fares start at £709 in economy, £1,872 in Business Class and £2,672 in First Class (fares include taxes and charges). Go to www.emirates.com/uk.
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Old Apr 21, 05, 5:53 pm
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Gheesh!! I'm sick for two days and he steals my thunder just as I come to post them. You have my blessing to post them if I don't get in first !!!

Good to see somebody else gets BT Asis, Aisle Seat H.

But you forgot one....thankfully

Securing an emergency exit

Securing an emergency exit seat has long been an exercise in brute force, charm or deception, but now you can get the extra legroom that goes with it simply by spending a few pounds.

The latest airline to allow passengers to reserve a seat with extra legroom is Bmibaby, which is undercutting rivals by £5 by offering the service for £10.
Passengers travelling with Bmibaby can reserve the extra legroom seats online on a first-come-first-served basis. The £10 charge is per flight, per passenger, and with only 8 emergency exit seats on the carrier's Airbus 300 aircraft and 12 on Airbus 500 aircraft, you need to be quick.

The extra legroom seats can only be reserved by able-bodied passengers over the age of 16. Remaining Bmibaby passengers can reserve a standard seat online for £2.50, and reserve one at check-in for free. Go to bmibaby website

Other carriers offering extra legroom seats for a fee are Monarch Scheduled and Thomsonfly, which charge £15 per flight to reserve the seats online. Both also charge £5 to book standard seats online. Go to www.thomsonfly.com or www.flymonarch.com.

Virgin Atlantic offers extra legroom seats for £50 per passenger, but this can only be done at airport check-in.

Last edited by QF WP; Apr 21, 05 at 5:56 pm
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Old Apr 21, 05, 6:17 pm
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Originally Posted by QF WP
But you forgot one....thankfully
I would not say 'forgot' - was more 'selective editing' as did not want to lower the tone of this esteemed Forum with 'news' from 'airlines' that charge to get a bulhead seat, or any reserved seat for that matter ! (And this comes from a BMI Gold FF !) Didn't wanna ruin anyone's lunch !
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Old Apr 28, 05, 4:36 pm
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April 28th edition offerings

Latest offerings. And I beat QF WP to it again... boy, he ain't gonna be happy !

Little of interest this time I suspect, who knows :-

Free food is back on Swiss

28 April 2005


Swiss is re-introducing free food for economy class passengers on flights over one hour.

The carrier has taken a u-turn on the decision it made in summer 2003 to start charging economy class passengers for in-flight snacks.

The free food and drink will be introduced from May 25 and will include hot or cold snacks depending on the time of day and length of flight. Passengers on flights of less than half an hour will receive only chocolate, while those flying up to 45 minutes will receive water and chocolate.

Flights over one hour, which include all flights between the UK and Switzerland, will receive more substantial snacks such as breakfast pastries, a selection of sandwiches and Calzone, a folded pizza.

Alexander Arafa, head of product and project leader, said: "In addition to these warm snacks, the in-flight food service will include such items as yoghurt, chocolate, sandwiches, ice cream and biscuits, depending on the time of day and length of the flight."

Passengers will also be served wine free of charge.

Swiss food and beverage supplier, Nestlé, will provide some of the food and drink, and Dutch-based Supplair will provide the rest.

According to Swiss the move is part of more general service enhancements that have included installing more comfortable economy class seats on its Airbus A320s and reducing transfer times at Zurich airport from 45 minutes to 35 minutes.

Spanish strikes averted

28 April 2005


Low-cost carriers are reinstating flights between the UK and Spain after Spanish airport strikes were called off.

The strikes, planned by Spanish baggage handlers across the country for April 29 and May 4, threatened to cause extensive delays to travellers visiting Spain over the Bank Holiday weekend and saw many people changing travel plans.

Easyjet cancelled up to 56 flights between the UK and Spain departing from and arriving into Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Bristol, Liverpool, and Newcastle airports. The flights have now been reinstated and Easyjet is allowing customers who changed their travel plans to either stick with their new itinerary or rebook on the reinstated flights, subject to availability (call 0871 244 2366 to rebook).

Flybe had not cancelled any of the nine daily flights between the UK and Spain, but had advised passengers to travel either the day before or day after the strike on April 29. In addition the airline made plans to lay on extra flights on April 30. On hearing the strikes have been averted, it has issued the same policy as Easyjet: To allow passengers to revert to their original plans, availability permitting, or stick with changed plans (call 0871 7000 123 to rebook).

British Airways, which operates 29 daily flights from the UK to Barcelona and Madrid (not including GB Airways services), had also not cancelled any flights, but was preparing to adapt its services. "We started contingency planning," a spokeswoman told Businesstraveller.com, "like putting on larger aircraft ahead of the strikes, but hadn't issued cancellation advice to passengers yet as these situations often change."

New ticket policy for SAS

28 April 2005


SAS is allowing passengers to book different classes for each leg of their journey.

The airline is limiting the new initiative to passengers flying from the UK to Denmark and Norway.

"It means passengers leaving the UK could fly out Business Class if they wanted to make use of the lounge, for example, and back in Economy or Economy Flex," a spokeswoman told Businesstraveller.com.

Economy Flex was introduced by SAS at the end of last year, offering passengers fast track security and 10 minute check-in at some airports, plus ticket flexibility, free catering, and seats immediately behind business class. Out of the UK, the price saving against business class is around £100 on a return Economy Flex ticket.

This is how weekday return fares between the UK and Copenhagen would compare when combining classes: Economy Class return: £279 including tax (one day minimum stay) Business Class out, Economy Class back: £441 including tax (one day minimum stay) Business Class out, Economy Flex back: £549 including tax (no minimum stay)

In addition to enabling combination tickets out of the UK, SAS has reduced the minimum stay requirement from three nights on all Economy Class tickets to two nights on restricted (cheapest) Economy Class tickets and one night on the higher priced, but more flexible Economy Class tickets.

Dusseldorf flight takes off

28 April 2005


Lufthansa has launched flights between London City Airport (LCY) and Düsseldorf.

The German carrier launched the flights on April 18, with a twice-daily service Monday to Friday. Lead-in fares start at £89 return including taxes.

The flight is operated by a 46-seat ATR42 aircraft. It leaves LCY at 8.55am and 7.10pm and leaves Düsseldorf at 7.50am and 6.05pm.

Lufthansa also offers four flights a day out of London City to Frankfurt, operated by a subsidiary, Contactair.de. This flight is in direct competition with British Airways, which operates a thrice-daily service to Frankfurt.
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Old Apr 28, 05, 5:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Aisle Seat H
And I beat QF WP to it again... boy, he ain't gonna be happy !
You beat me by 45 mins, H.
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Old Apr 28, 05, 6:10 pm
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Originally Posted by QF WP
You beat me by 45 mins, H.
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Old Apr 29, 05, 2:38 am
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You'll keep H...another time, another topic
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