Friday, March 27, 2015

American Airlines, US Airways to Combine Frequent-Flier Programs this weekend

As you may know by now, American Airlines and US Airways will reach a merger milestone this weekend when the former begins to take on the latter's frequent-flier accounts this weekend!

Members' miles on the US Airways' Dividend Miles program will be automatically transferred to American's AAdvantage program starting on Saturday. Currently, US Airways' Dividend Miles program has roughly 30 million members, some of which also have AAdvantage program memberships.

Those Dividend Miles program members without an AAdvantage account will be among the first to be alerted with their new account number and balance, according to Dawn Gilbertson of the Arizona Republic. However, it's expected to take longer to complete the transfer for members with open accounts in both programs.

"It's going to vary on a customer by customer basis,'' said AAdvantage program president Suzanne Rubin. "For many of them, it will be quite rapid. For others, there may be portions of activity that take a couple of days to finish out.''

Nonetheless, the airline appears confident that the transition won't inconvenience travelers.

"No customer should feel the need to go and redeem all of their Dividend Miles (this week),'' added Rubin. "This is only for customers who have a very immediate travel need or a pressing reservation that they're...making in the Dividend Miles program."

American announced that Wednesday would be the last day Dividend Miles members would be able to book award travel with the program:

American anticipates the transition will take several days, likely continuing into the middle of next week. But once complete, those frequent fliers who relied on Dividend Miles will be able to book award travel through the AAdvantage program on American's website.

American and US Airways merged back in December 2013 and expect to achieve another milestone next month when they receive a single operating certificate from U.S. regulators.

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Eco-friendly Luxury Brand 1 Hotels Debuts in South Beach

By Ryan Rudnansky

Starwood Capital Group Chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht introduced the eco-friendly luxury lifestyle brand 1 Hotels on Wednesday with the debut of 1 Hotels & Homes South Beach.

The South Beach hotel consists of 426 rooms and gazes out at 600 feet of beachfront, boasting many features that will define all 1 Hotels properties moving forward. That includes a design built from low-impact, reclaimed and natural materials, as well as architecture, landscaping and d├ęcor that showcase nature.

"It's simple. We have an impact on nature and nature has an impact on us. I decided that if I was ever going to create another hotel, I wanted it to be more than a brand; I wanted it to be a cause. People are already living like this and are now looking for ways to travel in the same fashion," said Barry Sternlicht, chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, via a release. "At first, our guests may simply notice the graceful twist of driftwood in the furnishings. However, what we are really offering is an evolution of the entire hotel experience, one that is more natural in regards to the way we arrive, sleep, eat, relax and do. By focusing on simple changes that make life better, we will encourage guests to stop, recalibrate and hopefully gain some inspiration from the small steps we have taken to protect nature at each property."

1 Hotel & Homes South Beach will come complete with 3,000 feet of living wall, as well as 11,000 local tropical plant varieties and natural art pieces such as interactive hanging terrariums and a plant laboratory courtesy of local Miami artisans Plant the Future.

Guestrooms at the South Beach property average 700 square feet. Like every 1 Hotel moving forward, they feature custom help-blend Keetsa mattresses topped with organic linens, yoga mats, clothes hangers made from recycled paper and stones engraved with “Not Now” in place of the traditional “Do Not Disturb” door hangers. 1 Hotels & Homes South Beach also offers king beds built on white oak platforms (complete with headboards made from preserved Colorado beetle kill pine), wraparound daybeds, bedside chalkboards and reusable recycled water glasses to use with the in-room water tap.

James Beard Award-winning Chef Tom Colicchio will oversee three food and beverage programs and in-room dining at the South Beach property, including Beachcraft (highlighting Florida fishermen and farmers), a lobby bar called Tom on Collins and a poolside restaurant and bar dubbed The Sand Box. In May 2015, the property will introduce 1 Kitchen: Organic Food And Juice Bar by Spring Cafe. The restaurant will focus on health, wellness and sustainability with plant-based cuisine, inspired by Aspen's 100 percent organic Spring Cafe. 1 Kitchen will offer seasonal and locally sourced dishes cooked with organic cold pressed oils, sea salt and fresh herbs; fresh and cold pressed juices; and sweets using only spelt, almond and oat flours.

Both 1 Hotels & Homes South Beach and the upcoming 1 Hotel Central Park in New York were transformed into more eco-friendly properties from existing buildings. The properties have been updated with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, motion sensors, LED illumination to reduce energy, low-flow plumbing fixtures and an environmentally friendly dry cleaning machine.
1 Hotels & Homes South Beach also boasts 155 branded residences, four swimming pools, a 26,000-square-foot rooftop lounge complete with a 112-foot-long pool, 57 cabanas and daybeds, an 18,000-square-foot spa, a wellness and fitness center and more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.

All 1 Hotels properties will offer “Daylife” activities and offerings designed to “cultivate positive connections with nature, the community, and the local environment,” via the release. Every day, there will be a daily offering of freshly sourced items from the hotel’s signature restaurant. Once a month, local farmers will present their goods to guest for purchase in the lobby. 1 Hotels properties will also dim the lights each month and offer cocktails and activities for a candlelit evening. For the sky gazers out there, there will be star watching opportunities via telescopes and sky maps (notable astrologers may even show up and teach guests their horoscopes). Lobby events will mark special seasonal events such as the new moon or solstice. On top of that, guests will have opportunities to volunteer with local non-profits to help the environment, from planting a tree to cleaning a beach.

Signature brand amenities at each property include: a Tesla electric car service for guest transportation (within a pre-set radius), free Wi-Fi, a complimentary bicycle valet, complimentary parking for guests who bring their own electric vehicles and digital newspapers on an in-room device.
Speaking of technology, 1 Hotels also has an app for reservations, services and communication with in-hotel staff. With the app, guests will be able to note their preferences before checking in to the hotel, request services on-site, set the climate control in their rooms, contact housekeeping, make restaurant reservations and more.

The next 1 Hotels properties will be located in Central Park (late spring) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (end of 2015).

Steele Luxury Travel
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Milwaukee Airport Installs Three Nursing Stations for Breastfeeding Moms

By Donald Wood

Breastfeeding in public has become a hot-button issue in recent years, and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is taking care of nursing mothers by installing three self-contained breastfeeding and pumping stations.

According to Harriet Baskas of USA Today, the three pod-shaped units will have, “comfortable seating, electrical outlets and a fold-down table and will be available free of charge.” The first unit will be located pre-security and the other two will be post-security.

The units were designed and manufactured by Burlington, Vermont, company Mamava.

General Mitchell International Airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe spoke to Baskas about the addition of the nursing stations and how they will be a huge help to mothers:

“While we're a very family-friendly airport, we saw an increasing need to accommodate traveling moms who are nursing or who need to pump to keep on a schedule. This is a product that is specifically designed for that purpose and we see it as an investment in an amenity that fulfills an important need for traveling moms. A mom can let herself in, lock the door, nurse or pump in private and let herself out.”

The addition of lactation pods is a relatively new phenomenon, with General Mitchell International Airport being the first airport in the United States to support the Mamava brand by purchasing multiple stations.

Mamava CEO Sascha Mayer told Baskas that the company has received an order for 11 more units from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The plan is to have one station each in JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports by Mother’s Day.

There are now also discussions about adding pods to Atlanta and Houston airports.

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Ryanair Reverses Course, Will Not Be Flying to U.S. (Yet)

By: Rich Tomaselli

In a stunning development, Ryanair today abruptly reversed course on plans to develop trans-Atlantic flights, just days after saying it would do so.

The Board of Directors for the low-cost European carrier refuted its own company, issuing the following statement to the stock exchange earlier today:

"In the light of recent press coverage, the Board of Ryanair Holdings plc wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so."

Just days earlier, several British news outlets reported that Ryanair had received board approval to pursue flights to the United States, and that a preliminary outline of the plan would have Ryanair flying to the U.S. in four or five years’ time.

According to the Financial Times, the airline’s board had approved plans to fly between up to 14 European cities and the same number of U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Miami, among others.

The airline even issued this statement:

“We are talking to manufacturers about long-haul aircraft but cannot comment further on this. European consumers want lower cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market.”

Ryanair’s flamboyant CEO, Michael Ryan, has long made it known that he would like to fly to the U.S. There were even reports that Ryanair would be offering the initial flights, whenever that happened, for as low as 15 pounds.

But this is a major gaffe, to say the least. Given that today’s statement was issued to the stock exchange, it would not be surprising if some sort of investigation followed as to why the airline would say one thing and then retract it 72 hours later.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nicole Kidman Stars in Etihad Airways' Latest Ad Campaign

By Patrick Clarke

Etihad Airways has called on actress Nicole Kidman to be the face of the airline's brand new ad campaign, according to the Daily Mail Australia.

Over the weekend, Etihad premiered a new television commercial in Abu Dhabi starring the new brand ambassador.

The one-minute ad shows the Australian starlet experiencing the various amenities and services available to passengers on Etihad's new Airbus A380.

"Nicole Kidman, as a globally respected artist, was the perfect voice and face for our story, and embodies worldly sophistication, intelligence, originality, and elegance—values which form the foundations of the Etihad brand," said Etihad chief commercial officer Peter Baumgartner via BreakingTravelNews.com.

The brief film will be broadcast on television and across several social media platforms in both 60- and 30-second formats. In addition to the video ad, still versions of the campaign will appear in print and digital.

The ad, which was directed by the husband and wife tandem of Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez, was filmed aboard the airline's new flagship aircraft, the A380, as well as several other locations around the globe, including Abu Dhabi, where Etihad is headquartered.

"We want to deliver an elevated sense of beauty, artistry, and enlightenment, giving viewers the sense that Etihad Airways has raised the bar not only in airline travel, but in the larger realm of human endeavour," said Atansio.

According to Etihad's official website, services include VIP Travel Concierge, a personal butler and an inflight chef. What's more, the three-room suite, the only of its kind in commercial aviation, features a living room, a bathroom and a bedroom.

Steele Luxury Travel
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Ryanair’s Board Approves Plan to Fly to U.S.


By: Rich Tomaselli
The board of directors for Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has approved a plan to begin flying trans-Atlantic routes to the United States – yet another foreign carrier who could create competition for the domestic carriers on one of the most lucrative routes in the world.

"Could" being the operative word.

It remains to be seen whether Europe’s version of Spirit Airlines can pull off such a financial undertaking, although clearly the move by the board indicates it has long been in discussions about the idea.

“We are talking to manufacturers about long-haul aircraft but cannot comment further on this,” Ryanair said in a statement. “European consumers want lower cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market.”

A preliminary outline would have Ryanair flying to the U.S. in four or five years’ time. According to the Financial Times, the airline’s board has approved outline plans to fly between up to 14 European cities and the same number of US cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami London Stansted, Dublin and Berlin.

U.S. airlines are currently engaged in a battle with several foreign carriers who handle international routes to America, notably the three major Middle East Gulf carriers in Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. In a joint 55-page report sent to officials from the Obama administration, American, Delta and United airlines accused their three counterparts of accepting $42 billion over a 10-year span in government subsidies.

It doesn’t appear that domestic carriers have the some kind of issue with Ryanair, although another entry into the trans-Atlantic derby is certainly not welcome news, particularly from a low-budget airline.

But, again, Ryanair still has to figure out how to make it work where other low-cost airlines from Europe have failed.

“We’ve seen what others have done, we’ve listened and observed what’s gone on in the past 12 months and now have a better view on how we’d like to launch it and market it,” Ryanair director of marketing Kenny Jacobs told the Financial Times.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

On the Go // The Great Wall of...India - Rajasthan

Here’s the ugly secret: China does not have dibs on big walls. After all, you have Offa’s Dyke, Hadrian’s Wall, and the Antonine Wall in the UK, the Anastasian Wall in Turkey, and the Serpent’s Wall in Ukraine. You can find such fortifications all over the Old World, from end to end.

Kumbhalgarh Fort is India’s entry in the game. Located in the state of Rajasthan in the arid west of the country, this is not a little stand-alone blip on the landscape that you see in Game of Thrones — Kumbhalgarh’s walls are over 23 miles long, and the frontal walls (those on the “attack side”) are a whopping 15 feet thick. And just for the record, only the continuous length of the Great Wall of China is longer.

But not necessarily better. The fort and its don’t-mess-with-me defenses was part of a line of garrisons built by Rana Khumba, ruler of the Mewar kingdom, in 1443. Made even more impregnable by thirteen surrounding mountain peaks, guarded by seven heavily fortified gates that were suicide runs to assault, and seven ramparts strengthened by rounded bastions and immense watchtowers, such was its strength that Kumbhalgarh, unlike the Great Wall, was never taken by force of arms; the one and only time it fell was when an invading army led by Akbar the Great cut off the drinking water and dehydrated the defenders into submission.

Continually in use from the 15th century to the 19th, Kumbhalgarh Fort sits on a mountaintop 3,600 feet above sea level, an elevation that gives commanding views all the way to the dunes of the distant Thar Desert, not to mention the immediate countryside. Such is the size of Kumbhalgarh that it functioned like a regimental town; within the walls, visitors are gobsmacked by 360 Hindu and Jain temples and the Badal Mahal Palace. Rebuilt by King Rana Fateh Singh of Mewar in the late 19th century, the palace is a welcome respite to the rest of the fort. Unlike the military grimness that dominates Kumbhalgarh — it was made for war, after all — the palace offers up room after room decorated in cool greens, whites, and turquoise, to offset the summer heat.

Today, Kumbhalgarh is somewhat out of the way. Udaipur is the nearest city, and most trips to the fort involve tours or hired taxis, but a few intrepid visitors trek the 52 miles between the two as a safari. Surrounding the fort is the vast Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, home to hyenas, jackals, wolves, and peacocks. Stick around for nightfall, when the fort is illuminated; the surrounding landscape is so dark that Kumbhalgarh seems to float on air.

For more info, go to rajasthaninfo.org/kumbhalgarh.htm.  Steele Luxury Travel is pleased to assist you with all of your travel needs to India and beyond.  Visit www.SteeleTravel.com.