South African Airways (SAA) and Virgin Australia have reached a new codeshare deal for travel between Australia and Africa. Under the new deal, the SAA code now features on Virgin Australia flights to Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide from Perth. Australian travellers can now through-check baggage and receive boarding passes for all flights at point of check-in as well as earn status miles through SAA’s Voyager frequent flyer program. Virgin Australia will also continue its existing interline agreement for connecting flights to SAA’s Perth service to Johannesburg. SAA’s current codeshare deal with Qantas on flights to Sydney is still in effect, but is expected to cease at the end of this year.
Air France has unveiled a new Business Class seat. The cocoon-style seats will offer a fully flat-bed design with direct aisle access for all passengers and a 41cm high definition touchscreen with over 1000 hours of in-flight entertainment. New-style seats will start to roll out on the carrier’s long-haul fleet of B777 aircraft from June this year, with all 44 aircraft upgraded by summer 2016.
Qantas has retimed its Perth to Singapore service. From 30 March, flight QF77 will leave Perth nearly two hours earlier than previously, at 8.00am arriving in Singapore at 1.35pm. The new schedule allows for more time on the ground in Singapore in the afternoon for business travellers.
Qantas Frequent Flyers can now earn points by making online reservations at over 2000 affiliated restaurants via the Qantas Restaurants online platform. High profile eateries across Australia, including Neil Perry’s Rockpool are available on the site.
Virgin Australia now offers complimentary snacks and refreshments on much of its East Coast network. Passengers on all scheduled flights between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will receive a snack and drink regardless of fare type purchased. Snacks will range from cheese and crackers to muffins and biscuits, along with a choice of juice, coffee, tea and water. All flights between mainland capital cities will now also include a soft drink or a choice of beer and wine on selected weekday afternoon flights between 4-7pm.
The former Sebel Pier One has become the first Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Australia. The property has been rebranded the Pier One Sydney Harbour Autograph Collection Hotels. Two other international hotels also joined the Autograph Collection, the Pier South Resort in San Diego, California and Hotel Chicago in Illinois.
Virgin Atlantic is axing its Sydney-Hong Kong route from May this year. The last flight departing Hong Kong to Sydney is 4 May, with the final Sydney departure the following day. The airline will continue to operate services between Hong Kong and London Heathrow. The move means British Airways will be the only European carrier operating flights to Australia, with daily flights between Sydney and London Heathrow via Singapore.
Hilton Worldwide is introducing its luxury Conrad Hotels and Resorts brand to the Indian market. The 310-room Conrad Pune will feature six restaurants and a variety of meeting and event spaces including a ballroom, break-out function room, four boardrooms and a 24-hour business centre. Recreational facilities will include an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and spa. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2015.
Hotel group Accor is repositioning its standalone Sofitel brand. Sofitel will now join Accor’s luxury and upscale Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure and The Sebel brands in a newly created geography-based division.
Choice Hotels Australasia has added five new properties. New four-star properties include the Comfort Inn Airport International in Canberra, the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel in Sydney and the Comfort Inn Sugar Country Bundaberg. The group has also added two new Econo Lodge properties in Adelaide and Portland to boost its budget hotel offering.
Construction of Toga Hotels’ second Sydney Airport property is underway. The new Adina Apartment Hotel Mascot will feature a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units and is scheduled for completion in mid-2015. It will join the Travelodge Mascot, which is also scheduled to begin construction this year.
The $45 million redevelopment of Brisbane Airport’s international terminal is underway. The first phase will prepare the terminal for the start of major reconfiguration works. Stage two will focus on the redesign of levels two and three and provide more space for additional seating, relaxation areas and specialty retail stores, before construction of the new JR Duty Free walk-through store, which is opening September 2014. The latter stages will complete the central dwell seating areas with new retailers opening for business from April 2014 to July 2015. The entire redevelopment is expected to be finished in mid-2015.
Japan Airlines plans to introduce an in-flight wi-fi service on domestic Japanese routes from July this year. Travellers will be able to access the service from wi-fi enabled devices.
The US House of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed legislation banning in-flight calls on mobile devices. Passengers would still be able to use mobile devices to send text messages and access the internet, but the committee felt that the potential for multiple loud phone conversations would ‘diminish the comfort of other passengers’. The Bill now progresses to the House of Representatives for a full vote.
Australians arriving into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport will soon be allowed to use Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks to clear immigration. Thirty APC kiosks are already reducing immigration wait times for US and Canadian citizens arriving on international flights. The airport is also planning to roll out a ‘One Stop’ service for international arrivals with no checked baggage.
Virgin Australia plans to add four weekly services from Brisbane to Bundaberg, raising the total to 18 per week, and eight weekly services from Brisbane to Moranbah, to stand at 42 per week. Effective from 23 February and 19 February respectively, the new services will operate on 68-seater ATR Turboprop aircraft. Existing services to Bundaberg and Moranbah will also be retimed.
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