Friday, February 27, 2015

Starbucks Now Selling Beer and Wine in England's Stanstead Airport

By Rich Tomaselli

You’re traveling through an airport on business with several colleagues. Some would kill for a latte. Others wouldn’t mind a pint before the flight. And another prefers a nice glass of wine.

Now Starbucks is delivering one-stop shopping on all three.

The ubiquitous coffee-seller is rolling out its "Starbucks Evening" program in the United Kingdom, with the newly renovated Starbucks location at Stanstead Airport in Essex serving as the guinea pig, of sorts, for trying the program out overseas. Currently 30 Starbucks locations in the United States are testing out Starbucks Evenings, including several airports. The thinking being, well, an airport is a fairly captive audience at times.

“Starbucks is aiming to elongate its trading day and ensure that they really do have that all-day appeal. Where better to trial this in the U.K. than at an airport?” Victoria Gould, of the retail and leisure team at consultancy JLL, told London’s Telegraph newspaper. “Airports have some of the longest trading hours of any retail and leisure destination but they also have a captive audience that wants to eat and drink as a priority – especially when flying on low-cost carriers such as Ryan Air and Easyjet."

Starbucks has more than 700 locations in the United Kingdom. Its "Evening" program includes beer, wine, cheese and tapas-style food offerings. The alcohol can only be consumed in-store and, yes, you can still get your favorite coffees and chais after 4 p.m. as well.

Ian Cranna, a spokesperson for Starbucks, told the Telegraph: “We are delighted to launch the first Evenings Programme in the U.K. Providing a welcoming coffeehouse environment has always been our focus and now we can offer something new for the evening too.”

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Get Ready for Better Wi-Fi on Delta!

By Patrick Clarke

In an announcement air travelers will be pleased to hear, Delta Air Lines plans to upgrade its inflight Wi-Fi and expand its coverage.

In a press release on Wednesday, Delta said it will boost its Wi-Fi service with upgraded broadband speeds and expanded coverage areas. For customers flying between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, that means Wi-Fi access beyond the mainland shores.

"Global connectivity equals global productivity and business travelers want greater bandwidth, faster speeds and broader network coverage," said Tim Mapes, senior vice president of Marketing in a statement. "That's exactly what they will get when they fly Delta."

Gogo will begin the process of updating the airline's long-haul domestic aircraft with satellite-based technology starting in 2016. Those aircraft currently use air-to-ground technology.

It's also been announced that Delta will implement Gogo's next generation air-to-ground service on its short-haul aircraft.

The satellite-based system will be installed on Delta's Boeing 757-300s, Boeing 757-200s, Boeing 737-900ERs, Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A319 aircraft. Once completed, customers on board the more than 250 aircraft will be able to access Wi-Fi services over water while out of the air-to-ground service range.

The satellite-based system will also be installed and available on the Airbus A321 aircraft that are set to join Delta's fleet next year.

As for the air-to-ground enhancements, Delta's short-haul Boeing 717-200s, MD-88s and MD-90 aircraft will undergo the upgrade that'll offer significantly faster speeds.

Delta also provided an update on its international Wi-Fi situation.

The airline has "completed installation of Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi on more than one-third of its international fleet and will be 85 percent complete by the end of 2015," according to Wednesday's release. However, by mid-2016, its entire international fleet servicing long-haul routes will offer Wi-Fi.

Currently, Delta boasts the world's largest Wi-Fi-equipped fleet, operating more than 3,500 Internet-connected flights daily.

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LIFE BALL 2015: Charlize Theron and Jean Paul Gaultier add glamour to Life Ball 2015!

Vienna’s annual Life Ball, which is dedicated to raising awareness about AIDS and HIV, will have a touch of Hollywood glamour this year with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron attending as a special guest to this years "Gold" themed charity extravaganza in Vienna.
The French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier will open the event on May 16th with a fashion show on the theme Sacred Spring, which takes inspiration from Austrian artists such as Gustav Klimt. 
It will be Gaultier's second Life Ball fashion show, the first one was in 1995. The designer is known for introducing ‘man-skirts’ in the ‘80s and using unconventional models for his shows. 
He has also been recognised for his efforts to raise awareness and funds for HIV and AIDS, after his partner died of AIDS-related causes at the end of the ‘80s.

It’s not known if Theron will be bringing her equally famous boyfriend, the actor Sean Penn. The actress and model, who holds joint South African and US citizenship, has been active in the effort to support African youth in the fight against HIV and AIDS. She created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007.

The project is committed to supporting community-engaged organizations that address the key drivers of the disease.

Theron will arrive in Vienna before the Life Ball and will give a speech at the Belvedere palace on her work with CTAOP and her vision for an AIDS-free generation.

Tickets for the Life Ball went on sale today and sold out in minutes.  Tickets are still available through Steele Luxury Travel.  Contact for Life Ball 2015 package opportunities!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Etihad Named Airline of the Year by Airline Economics Magazine

By Rich Tomaselli

Much to the likely chagrin of U.S. airlines, Airline Economics magazine has selected Etihad Airways as its Airline of the Year.

The announcement was made in Manila, Philippines, at the 2015 Aviation 100 Awards.
Domestic airlines have been running a verbal war with Etihad, and its fellow Middle East carriers Emirates and Qatar. American, Delta and United believe all three have an unfair competitive advantage in international flights by being subsidized by their respective governments.

In 2014 Etihad launched 10 new routes, including three in North America, and injected significant investment into new equity partnerships. Etihad also revealed a brand new look with new livery, uniforms and onboard offerings, with its first-of-kind "Residence by Etihad," a virtual hotel room in the air.
"We are immensely proud that the achievements we made in 2014 have been recognized by our peers in the industry,” James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways, said in a statement. “These awards remind us of the significant progress the airline has made in such a short space of time. We are looking forward to future accomplishments in 2015 and beyond as we continue to grow, with support of our employees, our equity partners and the industry.”

Philip Tozer-Pennington, managing editor of Airline Economics, said the Airline of the Year vote "recognizes performance in fleet and financial management and execution of business plan, which in the case of Etihad Airways also takes into account its amazing ability to expand at very little cost into key markets across the globe in 2014."

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Marriott Sells EDITION’s Miami Beach Location, Will Continue to Manage Hotel

By Michael Isenbek

Marriott International, Inc. recently announced the sale of the Miami Beach EDITION hotel for $230 million in cash proceeds. It is the second in a series of three planned sales of Marriott’s EDITION hotels to companies owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). The first was the London EDITION, sold to ADIA in Jan. 2014. The third, located on Madison Ave. in New York City, is expected to sell in the first quarter of 2015. Marriott will retain long-term management of the facilities.

EDITION Hotels, were created by Marriott in partnership with legendary hotelier Ian Schrager, combining Schrager’s signature unique, intimate experience with the operational scale of Marriott.
The Miami Beach EDITION is located in prime real estate between South and North Beaches on a private three-plus acres of “structures, spaces, and settings,” as the press release puts it, extending from Collins Ave. to the ocean shoreline. This re-imagining of the traditional beach hotel for the modern day is suitable for both vacation and work.

“The Miami Beach EDITION is a defining example of this extraordinary brand,” said Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive officer of Marriott International.  “We look forward to welcoming and delighting many thousands of guests at this spectacular hotel in a world-renowned destination…one that is certain to be known as the next generation urban resort.”

The next EDITION, which will include both hotel and residences is slated to open on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in 2018. Other planned locations are Times Square in New York; Bangkok, Thailand; Sanya and Wuhan, China; Bali, Indonesia; and Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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On the Go // Eurovision - Please Don’t Stop the Music

It is heralded as “the most watched, loved, hated, talked about, campiest, overdressed entertainment show in the world.” Welcomed to Eurovision.

A showcase of spectacle (which more than often trumps the talent), Eurovision is a song-of-the-year contest that began all the way back in 1956 as a way to heal post-World War II Europe. Jump to today and it is the largest battle of the bands on the planet. Participant countries have their own national singing competitions beforehand, and those winners head to the international sing-off that is “Eurovision.” Ironically, it is more than just Europeans hitting the stage; any country in the European Broadcasting Union and its transmission areas has a shot at the gold. Asiatic countries such as Israel and Azerbaijan regularly participate, and singers can come in from abroad to represent EBU countries.

While most critics tend to write Eurovision, and the songs, off as monumental fluff, the contest is immensely popular and has some notable success. ABBA can thank their conquest of the world thanks to winning in 1974 with “Waterloo.” In 1988, a gawky Canadian teenager with bad hair whom nobody ever heard of sang under the French flag and blasted everybody else right off the stage. Her name was Celine Dion.

To be sure, Eurovision is not a gay event. At least, on paper. De facto, it is one of the gayest contests outside of Rentboy’s Man of the Year and is a major round-house punch for LGBTQ rights, a fact chiseled into stone when Austrian drag-queen-with-a-beard Conchita Wurst came out on top last year.

Per contest rules, the winner’s country hosts the following contest, so this year, on May 19, 21, and 23, all eyes will turn to the Imperial City of Vienna to see who will fill Wurst’s stilettos. Don’t worry about needing Google Translate, while Eurovision is a veritable Tower of Babel when it comes to languages, most of the songs are sung in English — even if the singer can’t actually speak a word of it and learned the sounds phonetically.

Now for the practical aspects: Eurovision is a ticketed event, so do not think you can just waltz right in. Vienna itself isn’t known for being cheap, and Eurovision is guaranteed to jack up the prices. Start booking your hotels now. Lucky for you, organizers have a pre-selected, and fairly exhaustive, list of locations where you can set up shop on the website.

For more information, go to

Friday, February 20, 2015

Delta Now Offering On-Time Bag Guarantee until March 31!

By Rich Tomaselli

As the Battle for Seattle continues between Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines, Delta has taken a page out of Alaska’s playbook with a new on-time baggage guarantee.

Delta is promising your checked bags will arrive at the baggage carousel in 20 minutes or less after any domestic flight in a promotion that began today and runs through March 31, 2015. If your bags don't make it by then, you are eligible to receive 2,500 bonus miles as part of the SkyMiles loyalty program. You must be a SkyMiles member and you must file the form on Delta’s website no later than three days after your flight’s arrival to be eligible for the bonus miles if your bags are delayed more than 20 minutes.

Time to baggage claim will be as measured by Delta's baggage tracking system, where available; lost, mishandled and damaged bags are excluded from the promotion, as are oversize, overweight baggage and special items.

It is believed that Delta initially started this as a short-term promotion to see how the system works and assess the need for any changes, with the hope being the airline can roll it out into a full-time promise.

Alaska Airlines has a similar guarantee and was the first major domestic airline to implement such a program full-time. If your baggage is not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your Alaska Airlines arrival at the gate, the carrier will offer you a $25 Discount Code for use on a future Alaska Airlines flight, or 2,500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Bonus Miles.

Alaska’s notification policy is a bit stricter, however – passengers must report late luggage to a customer service agent within two hours of a flight's arrival to claim a voucher.

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