Monday, April 14, 2014

On the Go // Wales: And Death Shall Have No Dominion


--> 2014 marks the centennial of Dylan Thomas, and his native Wales is going gonzo to celebrate his work. Arguably the best poet Wales has yet produced (in a land famous for pumping them out like Xeroxes), Thomas stands apart from his airy or florid predecessors by being painfully aware, and often writing about, the slipping away of his youth (we’ve all been there). His work looks back fondly on childhood and innocence, but is an all-out rage against time and mortality.

It was at Laugharne (“Larn”), a town on the River Taf whose virtual immunity to time must have resonated deeply with Thomas. A place where the belfry is still the tallest building, it was here that Thomas wrote much of his work, and which stood in as the prototype for Llareggub, his fictional setting for Under Milk Wood.

It is also here that we come to the “thing” about Wales. Nothing against the cities of Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea, but the Welsh have just never been all that good at making large urban centers. Yet when it comes to the little ones, the Welsh are absolute masters. Laugharne, Hay-on-Wye, Llansteffan, Bettws-y-Coed, Llandridod Wells — every last little bump on the log is a pinnacle of charm, tranquility, and agelessness.

Even better, its not like these towns are all one-note or lacking in the proper distractions, and this goes double for Laugharne. True, if you are a circuit boy, you will find yourself on a different planet entirely, but if decompression from the rat race is your gig, it’s a “bingo!” The ruins of Laugharne Castle are straight out of Beowulf, and the Thomas Path, up Sir John Hill, traces the route the poet took for inspiration. That Laugharne has 5-star accommodations is just icing on the cake.

Those stars are to be found at the Brown Hotel, which, by the way, was the favorite haunt of Thomas and whose regulars served as basis for the cast of Under Milk Wood. The pub is as rollicking as ever, but unlike America’s clubs, the pubs of Wales, and the UK for that matter, aren’t suggestively lit and ear-splittingly loud, but rather bright and alive with conversation, with maybe a guitarist strumming away in the corner or the latest rugby match on the telly. The food is hearty, the drinks more so, but just wait till you see the rooms upstairs.

Unpretentious on the outside, the Brown is downright lux within, from the sparkling fixtures to the creamy white softness of the beds. Open and spacious, each room even has a little library. Thomas would approve.  Be sure to contact Steele Luxury Travel to assist in all your Wales travel planning at 646-688-2274. 

Steele Luxury Travel

American Eagle to Further Separate From American Airlines

American Airlines Group subsidiary American Eagle Airlines Inc., which is about to become ‘Envoy’ later this year, is further distancing itself from the parent company.

Literally.

American Eagle is moving its headquarters from seven different offices at or near American Airlines’ hub at Dallas-Fort Worth airport to two buildings in suburban Irving, Texas later this year. American Eagle expects to have more than 600 workers transfer to the new HQ in Irving by July.

Not only will that help American Eagle when it re-brands itself Envoy later this year, but it physically helps American Airlines with more office space at DFW as it begins to transition key employees from US Airways’ hub in Phoenix to Dallas. The two airlines merged last year.

American Airlines is at an impasse with American Eagle pilots, leading to some speculation that American would sell American Eagle, or that American Eagle would dismantle. American Eagle CEO Pedro Fábregas shot down both rumors at a press conference this week.

The CEO did admit, however, that American Eagle is losing 40 to 44 pilots a month and is only able to bring in about 20 at a time to replace them. Its current pilots rejected the latest contract proposal last month by an overwhelming margin when they refused a wage freeze and higher healthcare costs.
American Airlines is withholding new 76-seat jets slated for American Eagle in lieu of a new contract with those concessions.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

On the Go // All over the G.U.Y.


It is the end of an illustrious, and notorious, era: the Roseland Ballroom of New York, where Tiësto shattered the air and the Black Party shattered the health codes, is no more. But while quaking BDSM enthusiasts pondered where they can wear their buttless-crotchless chaps next, the Roseland meets its end in style: Lady Gaga brings the house (and curtain) down April 6-7. I walked by the place as workers spelled “Lady Gaga” letter by letter on the marquee. They then proceeded to put next to her name the words “SOLD OUT.” Man, those tickets went quick. I mean, sheesh, before they even got the marquee up…

So, of course you know that EVERYBODY jumped onto this boat—big-bash openings and closings are sure bets for a party like you’ve never seen. Just a few blocks away, THE OUT NYC, New York’s finest in gay accommodations, transformed itself into the G.U.Y. Hotel and gave fans of La Gaga unprecedented access to the costumes, props, art and more from the Multi-platinum and Grammy Award- winning artist’s latest video G.U.Y. on March 28th in an exhibition thrown by 42West, (and one lucky Little Monster came away with tickets to the Lady’s Roseland blow-out. Bitch.).

THE OUT NYC’s nightclub, BPM, and CLICK will also played host to the singer’s official Roseland after-party on April 4th, with producer DJ White Shadow and Gaga’s remixer Steven Redant spinning.

Gaga, for her part, is pushing herself hard after the critical panning of her latest outing, particularly in the city that launched her, and the naysayers are slowly changing their tune. Lady Gaga is nothing if not empathic to the swings and lurches of pop culture, and it seems to be working: the praise for G.U.Y goes right across the board; Billboard, Buzzfeed, CNN, and MTV all have bestowed the laurels they were rubbing their hands to snatch away.

And as for the void left by the Roseland, whose cavernous interior houses up to 3,500 people made it perfect for the Black Party (and just about anything else aside from an Olympic event), party organizers are already scrambling for the spaces; rumor has it that 2015’s bacchanal will at the just-as-infamous Hammerstein Ballroom or Capitale in Manhattan’s Chinatown. However ruefully, cities are well aware of the amount of money circuit parties pull in. Nobody is about the kill the sacred cash cow just yet.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happy 50th Birthday, SAS!

SAS was the first airline to fly over the North Pole to the US West Coast in 1954. Ten years later, SAS also began flying to the U.S. Midwest and is now celebrating 50 years of service between Copenhagen and Chicago. In 2014, SAS is continuing to increase its traffic, adding five weekly departures and a new route to the USA. In doing so, SAS is cementing its position as Scandinavia’s biggest airline for travel to the United States.

On April 2, 1964, SAS launched the route to Chicago with the maiden flight from Copenhagen. Captain Jens Mueller flew passengers and crew in a DC-8-33 to Chicago via Montreal, sowing the seeds for a successful route, which has since been operated by aircraft including the DC-10, Boeing 767 and Airbus 330/340. More than 3 million people have flown this route with SAS, and today the airline flies directly from Copenhagen and Stockholm to Chicago.

“SAS is seeing a steady growth in demand for travel to the USA – and the reverse route from the US to Scandinavia, not least from Chicago, is also proving a success. That’s no real surprise either, as SAS is the airline with the most destinations and flights to the U.S. from Scandinavia. Now we are adding even more departures, to the delight of customers throughout Scandinavia, who use SAS and our services to make traveling easy and comfortable,” said executive vice president of sales and marketing, Eivind Roald.

Increasing US flights

SAS offers a direct route between Copenhagen and Chicago with one flight a day every day of the week. This will now also apply to the route to San Francisco, which is getting an extra departure on Tuesday, making it a daily service as of June 10.

“It is exactly one year since we launched the San Francisco route, and we have never before seen a route be so successful right from the off. We now have the opportunity to use our aircraft to add another departure, which we are sure will please our customers,” said Roald.

SAS currently flies from Stockholm to Chicago every day in the summer and five times a week in winter. SAS is adding another winter departure to Chicago from Stockholm, which will also be getting an extra flight to New York. SAS is also adding two more departures a week on the Oslo-New York route in winter. Oslo-New York operates daily in the summer.

SAS has also just announced the opening of a new route between Stavanger and Houston.

Gate Event at O’Hare to Mark 50 Years of Service

To mark 50 years of flying from Chicago to Copenhagen, SAS will mark the occasion with an event at the gate at O’Hare on April 3, 2014. People traveling on the flight are encouraged to be at the gate early to enjoy refreshments.

 Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Go // Fit for a Prince: Liechtenstein

For this one, get out your maps AND your magnifying glasses, because at just 62 miles of territory, Liechtenstein really is a place you could drive through on a dark night and miss.

The Principality of Liechtenstein, squeezed in a nook between Switzerland and Austria, is the vestigial remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, and came into existence in 1719 strictly so the landless Liechtenstein princes could get a seat in the Imperial Parliament. Being that as it may, it was nevertheless a historically sound land deal, because while the Holy Roman Empire dissolved in 1806, Liechtenstein carries on to this day.

But as a big FYI, this is a place that revels in being subtle. There isn’t so much as an airport or even a train station; you have to catch a bus from Sargans, across the Swiss border, to get to the place. Far from the frenzy of clubby London, Paris, or Rome, the capital of Vaduz rates more as a big town, and is classy, cool, chic, and perhaps little provincial, but above all, classically understated. This is where you go to get away from “frenzy” and “clubby.”

So what’s to do? Well, besides being in a city often described as having stepped out of a fairytale, with mountains all around and the Rhine running down the middle, Vaduz is surprisingly lively, and like a lot of Europe, very gay-friendly. A great way to get a feel for the place is a loop on the Citytrain, whose tour gives you all the background. Once you are pounding the pavement, the Städtle, the center of town is lined with trendy cafes, speckled with public art, and studded with stunning architecture, from ancient houses to the Tron-like Parliament building. The Fine Art and National museums are dazzling, the ruins of the Obere Burg castle haunting, and the standing castles of Vaduz and Gutenburg as impressive as any.

Being smack in the middle of the Alps, it is par for the course that snow sports is big (they have a museum for that, too), and Malbun, nestled in a vale south of Vaduz, is at the top of the piste. While you might think otherwise, Liechtenstein is deep in the heart of wine country. Blown by the warm Föhn wind, four vineyards dot the country. The best of the best is the Prince of Liechtenstein Winery, HQ of the Herawingert vineyards and whose terroir is perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Strike a cord? Check out one of the world’s smallest countries at tourismus.li/en/ or contact Steele Luxury Travel to assist in all of your travel planning at www.SteeleTravel.com!


Alaska Airlines First To Offer Self-Tag Your Bags At Home Option

There are times when you see an idea and want to hug someone for coming up with it.

That's what we thought when we saw the new self-tag option from Alaska Airlines.
The carrier launches its online self-bag-tagging options next month.

Self-tag online debuts April 21 for passengers traveling nonstop between Seattle and San Diego, Anchorage orJuneau, Alaska, with plans to expand the option for customers traveling from other airports later this summer.

This launch follows the completion of a successful pilot program, which was offered to customers traveling between Seattle and Hawaii in 2013.

"Our goal is to be the easiest airline to fly. That's why we're introducing additional self-tagging capability so customers who prefer self-service options have the ability to print bag tags at home during the check-in process," said Curtis Kopf, Alaska Airlines' vice president of customer innovation and alaskaair.com. "Tagging your bags at home can save some time at the airport. If printing your bag tags at home isn't your preference, our friendly airport staff will gladly help check your bags to your final destination."

Starting April 21, travelers flying to or from any of the four debut cities will receive a pre-trip email with a link to request a free reusable bag tag holder by mail. Tag holders will also be available to pick up at each of the four airports. Passengers who elect to self-tag will enjoy a designated Self-Tag Express™ lane when they arrive at the airport.

How self-tag online works:
- Book a trip at www.alaskaair.com.
- Follow instructions in your pre-trip email to request a bag tag holder by mail or pick up a holder in person at one of the four participating airports.
 - Check in online up to 24 hours before your flight and follow the instructions to print a bag tag at home.
- Insert printed bag tag into the tag holder.
- At the airport, follow signs for Self-Tag Express™ lanes.
- Show the agent your boarding pass, identification and drop off your bags.

Alaska Airlines is the first U.S. carrier to launch self-bag tagging from home, another chapter in the carrier's long history of pioneering technologies and innovations to make flying easier. Alaska was the first airline inNorth America to sell tickets over the Internet, and the first in the world to allow customers to check in and print boarding passes online.

Last year, the carrier installed kiosks with self-tagging printers at 10 airport locations including Seattle, Anchorage and Portland, Ore.
Here's hoping this becomes an industry norm very quickly.

For a complete list of airports and more information, visit www.alaskaair.com/selftag.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Airline Briefs: Lufthansa Brings the A380 Back to NY

Sunday is the big day.

Lufthansa will resume A380 service from Frankfurt to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 30, the third summer schedule season in which Lufthansa will fly the A380 to New York’s JFK, which also happens to be the first North American station that serviced the aircraft type when it first touched down on February 28, 2011.

A380 service on the carrier lasts until October.

“New York is one of the most important markets for Lufthansa, so it only made sense to return the A380 to JFK in order to accommodate the summer’s increased transient travel demands,” said Juergen Siebenrock, vice president for the Americas.  “We’re excited to once again offer New Yorkers the option to experience this amazing aircraft, combined with Lufthansa’s award-wining service, thus taking the flying experience in all three classes to a whole new level.”

The Airbus A380 is considered one of the world’s most fuel-efficient aircraft, burning about 12 percent less fuel than other wide-body jets. It is approximately 30 percent quieter than the current generation of wide-body aircraft.

Lufthansa has ordered a total of 14 A380 aircraft, all scheduled for delivery by 2015. This will make Lufthansa the largest A380 operator in Europe.

Lufthansa’s A380 is configured with 526 seats, which results in a 25 percent capacity increase on this route.

North Carolina Congressman honored by ACI-NA

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) has announced that Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) is the recipient of the 2014 ACI-NA Commissioners Congressional Leadership Award, in recognition of his support of the U.S. airport industry.

As chairman of the House Transportation Security Subcommittee, Hudson was an advocate of risk-based security initiatives and airports as they attempted to express their frustration regarding the TSA’s May 2013 decision to transition exit-lane monitoring responsibilities to airports. Bipartisan collaboration in the House of Representatives to oppose this rule was critical in including a reversal of this decision in the December 2013 federal budget agreement, as well as paving the way for trusted-traveler and other risk-based programs.

“Congressman Hudson’s efforts to resolve the exit lane issue for airports reduced unnecessary costs for our industry, and his support of risk-based security initiatives promotes efficiencies for airports and their passengers,” said Shirley James, chair of the ACI-NA Commissioners Committee and a member of the Savannah Airport Commission.  “We are very pleased to recognize Congressman Hudson and his advocacy on behalf of airports with the 2014 ACI-NA Commissioners Congressional Leadership Award.”

ASCI survey finds travelers like airline websites more than aggregators

Travelers are more satisfied with airline websites than travel aggregators like Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) first-ever website benchmark.

Interestingly, airlines also have the distinction of having the biggest gap in satisfaction between online scores and overall satisfaction, perhaps an indication that their historically poor performance is due to dissatisfaction at the airport.

The ACSI has been measuring overall satisfaction with the airline industry for the last 20 years and will be releasing the overall 2014 scores in April.

ASCI rates user website experience across 33 different consumer industries, offering a first-of-its-kind index of website satisfaction at national, sector and industry levels. Inaugural results show that aggregate website satisfaction is 78.2 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, which stands 2% higher than overall customer satisfaction for all measured companies (at 76.7).

The website scores are based on more than 25,000 interviews and encompass user experience with websites of more than 200 companies within the 33 industry categories covered by ACSI throughout the year. Credit unions earn the top score of 86, followed by consumer shipping and banks at 85.
Airline passengers are pleased with their carriers’ websites (80), but not with their flying. At 69, airlines rank close to the bottom for customer satisfaction among all industries and also show the biggest disparity between website and overall satisfaction (11 points). Another travel-related category, hotels, scores high for website satisfaction (84) but mid-range for overall customer satisfaction (77).

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com