Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Delta Improving Boston-to-New York Shuttle Service

Delta Air Lines will move New York operations of its Delta Shuttle between Boston-Logan International Airport and New York's LaGuardia Airport from the Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C beginning Nov. 2.

Boston Shuttle customers will enjoy new departure and arrival facilities at LaGuardia in Terminal C as well as upgraded service to Boeing 717 aircraft. The move is part of Delta's strategy of adding bigger aircraft on more routes.

In 2012, Delta completed renovations to Terminal C as part of its $160 million investment to modernize and connect Terminals C and D at LaGuardia and opened a new 7,600 square foot Delta Sky Club featuring a full wall of windows with runway views. Customers will also have access to Delta's five new restaurants with menus led by celebrity chefs, an expansive food hall and fresh markets.

Weekday flights depart near the top of the hour from 6 a.m. through 8 p.m. and will be operated by Delta using Boeing 717 aircraft which accommodates 110 passengers including 12 first-class seats in a two-by-two configuration, 15 Economy Comfort and 83 economy seats in a two-by-three configuration. Boston-based customers will now be able connect through Delta's LaGuardia hub for access to 64 additional cities.

"Delta Shuttle customers between Boston and New York will fly on larger mainline jets as we shift operations to Terminal C," said Gail Grimmett, senior vice president – New York. "Customers will enjoy a great Delta Shuttle product with the frequency and amenities they've come to expect as well as being able to experience our most updated space at LaGuardia."

Delta Shuttle service began on its Boston to New York and Washington, D.C. to New York routes on September 1, 1991 after Delta completed the purchase of the Pan Am Shuttle. For nearly a quarter century the Delta Shuttle has been a core part of its New York operations. In June 2010, Delta added New York to Chicago-O'Hare service to the Shuttle operation.

Customers flying the Delta Shuttle between New York-LaGuardia and Boston will enjoy:
  • Convenient, top of the hour schedule for Delta Shuttle customers including 15 weekday departures
  • Check-in as close as 15 minutes prior to departure without bags or 30 with checked bags
  • Dedicated check-in counters exclusively for Shuttle customers
  • Expedited security screening with nearby access to TSA Pre-Check lanes for eligible passengers
  • Dedicated gates – located near the Delta Sky Club in LaGuardia's Terminal C – with access to complimentary coffee and newspapers for all customers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times and power at the gate
  • Advanced seat selection on all Delta Shuttle flights and complimentary access to Economy Comfort seats for SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members at the time of booking
  • Two classes of service with complimentary upgrades for SkyMiles Medallion members when available.
  • Complimentary onboard snacks including bagels in the morning before 10:30 a.m. or gourmet nut mix for flights after 10:30 a.m.
  • Complimentary beverages in-flight including craft beer and wine in all classes of service
  • Cocktails available for purchase in economy
  • Access to in-flight Wi-Fi on all Shuttle flights
  • Access to power from every seat on the Boeing 717 aircraft
Delta Shuttle flights between New York and Chicago-O'Hare International Airport or Washington Reagan-National Airport will continue to operate from LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal operated by Delta Connection partner, Shuttle America using E-175 aircraft.

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On the Go // Swell Dudes - Brazil Surf Camp

Now we have a whole new reason to go to Brazil: South America’s only LGBTQ surf camp running October 25 – November 1, 2014 in the state of Santa Catarina.

Brazil may be more famous for Carnival and its mammoth São Paulo gay pride, but the nation also has some of the best wave action in the hemisphere. Under expert tutelage, beginners will learn how to shoot the tubes like a pro. When thinking of high-profile sports, surfing probably isn’t the first to spring to mind, but one look at seriously hot practitioners like Greg Cipes should definitely widen your scope. Google the pic of him in low-slung sweats. It is totally worth it.

Back to the camp. You cannot beat the events gay cred: openly gay Thomas Castets, founder of GaySurfers.net, tackled the subject of homophobia in the surf world with his recent, and award-winning, documentary “Out in the Line-Up.” He also asked members of the world’s leading online LGBTQ surfing community for suggestions to improve this situation.  

Said Castets, “we found that gay surfers really wanted us to create surf trips with other gay surfers. So we partnered with Brazil Ecojourneys to organize a week of surfing, relaxing, and yoga in the gorgeous town of Praia do Rosa in South Brazil. After a successful first run last year, we knew we had to do it again in 2014.”

The 2013 camp pulled in surfer dudes from Canada to Argentina (that’s literally both ends of the Americas). 2014 attendees will land in Florianopolis, capital of Santa Catarina, before moving on to Praia do Rosa, a seaside town with not only some serious swells but also one of the gayest beaches in the country south of Ipanema. And you will not be alone — Praia do Rosa is set squarely on a major whale migration route. You may find yourself with some very big company. Did you know a whale penis is called a “dork?”

Anyhoo, newbies will get guidance from Praia do Rosa icon Capitão David, AKA “The Captain,” surf coach and owner of the oldest local surf school, established in 1995. 15,000 students have gone from total neophytes to surfing experts under his steady hand. But anyone thinking this is a walk in the part, au contraire. The lessons are hours long, and be prepared to wipe out more than once. Practice, practice, practice.

However, once you get the basics down, a whole new world is open to you. Hawaii, Costa Rica, Portugal, and France have whole communities based on the sport. No one ever said you had to be flat on your back while getting a tan.

For more information, go to GaySurfers.net or contact Marta Dalla Chiesa of Brazil Ecojourneys at contact marta@brazilecojourneys.com.  Steele Luxury Travel can assist with all of your travel planning to Brazil including discounted business class airfare!  Contact us at info@steeletravel.com.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Etihad Acquires 49 Percent of Alitalia in New Plan

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, completed an investment deal with Alitalia as part of a plan to save the Italian national carrier and bring it back to profitability.

Under the terms of the agreement, Etihad is investing 560 million euros  ($745 million) in Alitalia, purchasing a 49 share of the company.

Core Alitalia shareholders have also committed an additional $400 million investment in the turnaround strategy. The package also includes $800 million in debt restructuring and $400 million more in loans from Italian financial institutions. The total investment in the turnaround strategy is more than $2.3 billion

The plan also includes the addition of new long-haul routes from Rome and Milan to Abu Dhabi and beyond, signifying network consolidation with Etihad routes.

The plan is intended to bring the carrier back to profitability by 2017.

James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said, “For Etihad Airways, this is a strategic, long-term commercial investment. On completion, we are committed, with the other shareholders, to build a reinvigorated Alitalia as a competitive, sustainable and profitable business that can operate successfully in the global air travel market.

“We believe in Alitalia. It is great brand with enormous potential. With the right level of capitalization and a strong, strategic business plan, we have confidence the airline can be turned around and repositioned as a premium global airline once again.”

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Temporary Flight Restrictions Issued Near Lambert–St. Louis International Airport

Commercial pilots across the country were issued a NOTAM earlier today, Aug. 12, stating that a 3 mile area around Ferguson, MO had been placed under “temporary flight restrictions.”

The NOTAM gives the reasoning for the enforcement as a being due to a law enforcement operation. Only relief aircraft operations under the direction of the St. Louis County Police Department are allowed in the airspace over Ferguson until the restrictions are lifted.

The temporary flight restrictions create a no-fly zone in a 3 nautical mile radius (around 4.5 miles) around Ferguson. According to Google Maps, the center of Ferguson is less than three miles from the edge of the airstrip at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, but according to the airport it is still open.

Civil unrest has been amplifying all week in Ferguson following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9. Riots and looting began the next night and spilled over into Monday when it was reported that police used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd.

The NOTAM did not say when the restriction would be lifted over Ferguson airspace.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Malaysia Airlines To Be Taken Over By Government

With no buyers or merger offer, financially plagued Malaysia Airlines will be taken over by the Malaysian government, it was announced this morning.

The airline’s stock will be delisted from the Malaysian Stock Exchange as one of the government’s private wealth funds, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, offered to buy out minority shareholders in a $429 million restructuring plan for the national carrier.

Malaysia Airlines had been in financial straits for at least three years prior to the dual tragedies that beset the carrier this year. In March, Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing veered dramatically off course and disappeared. Despite exhaustive search efforts from multiple countries, the plane still hasn’t been found. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

More than 500 passengers and crew died on both flights. Capacity has been falling as a result, as the airline filled 77 percent of its available seats in June, down from 84 percent in June of 2013.

Khazanah Nasional Berhad will buy out the remaining 30.6 percent of the airline that it doesn’t already own, and most airline and financial experts agree that delisting Malaysia Airlines and taking it private will help in its restructuring plan.

In a statement, Khazanah said that in June it was “in the midst of undertaking a comprehensive review of MAS, in consultation with the Special Shareholder, the Minister of Finance Incorporated." Khazanah further clarified that subject to the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities, it would announce the proposed restructuring scheme within a period of 6 to 12 months.

The statement continued, "We reiterate that the proposed restructuring will critically require all parties to work closely together to undertake what will be a complete overhaul of the national carrier on all relevant aspects of, inter alia, the airline’s operations, business model, finances, human capital and regulatory environment. Nothing less will be required in order to revive our national airline to be profitable as a commercial entity and to serve its function as a critical national development entity.”

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On the Go // Snow Queens in New Zealand

When you think of skiing, I’ll bet Colorado, Canada, or maybe even Switzerland may pop up in your head, but not New Zealand. Too bad.

More famous for its “Lord of the Rings” backdrops, New Zealand is also one of the best, and one of the few, skiing destinations in the Southern Hemisphere. And from August 30 through to September 6, they get themselves a good dose of gay in the DNA Gay Ski Week in Queenstown. And yes, the town is called that. Talk about simpatico.

Hosted by DNA, probably the best international gay publication in the world, at the Cardrona Alpine Resort, imbedded deep in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the Gay Ski Week opens with a bang (no pun intended. Really.) at the MoreFM Opening party, but methinks the Strip Night on the 31st may register as the must-do. But while the bitchy bingos, pool parties, and even a “Circus Night” on the 6th will certainly keep you occupied, what you should really be paying attention to are the slopes.

In Florida, even a good-sized hill can set off a bout of acrophobia, so gird your loins: Several of the peaks in the Southern Alps soar over 8,000 feet tall. Luckily for you, Cardrona Mountain only goes up to a little over 6,100 feet, but have no doubt that you will be above the clouds. Which is pretty cool, actually. However, unlike a lot of Northern Hemisphere resorts, Cardrona closes at 4 PM, which explains why the nights of the Gay Ski Week are as packed as they are.

And then there is Queenstown. Resting prettily on the shorts of Lake Wakatipu, the city has long been the bull’s-eye of New Zealand’s outdoorsy types. Skiing and snowboarding back have a headlock on winter sports, but come the Southern summer, bungee jumping is the craze. It’s also something of a New Age capital. Don’t be took shocked if, when you pick up your organically/ethically/locally grown latte, the barista asks if you want a tarot reading.

Finally, New Zealand is unique in the gay world because it is just so dang far away from anybody else. Belgium and the UK sorta blend, Canadians go to New Orleans as much as Americans do Montreal, but once you are in New Zealand…well, you are in New Zealand. This creates a nation-specific take on a lot of things, not just gay life. Which, I think, adds to whole experience.

For more info, go to gayskiweekqt.com.  Steele Luxury Travel is a New Zealand Kiwi Specialist!  Visit us at www.SteeleTravel.com for more information and to book your trip!

British Airways, Emirates Suspend Flights Over Ebola Scare

British Airways and Emirates Airlines have both suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the three West African nations plagued by the Ebola virus.

More than 1,400 people have been infected and more than 800 have died from the deadly virus, which has created a worldwide scare that Ebola-infected travelers will create a global plague through international flights.

BA has suspended its four-times-a-week flight that departs London and heads to Sierra Leone and on to Liberia, while Emirates has suspended its daily flight to Conakry, Guinea. That flight originated in Dubai, flew to Guinea and continued on to Dakar, Senegal; Emirates said it will now just fly straight to Dakar “until further notice.”

In a statement sent to travel agents and travel companies, British Airways said its “services from London Heathrow to Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Monrovia (Liberia) will be temporarily suspended from tomorrow, 6 August until 31 August 2014, due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.”

Air France, which flies to all three West African nations, has begun to take its own medical precautions. In a statement, Air France said passengers must fill in a questionnaire and have their temperature taken within the airport itself.

“They are only given their boarding card if no medical symptoms are present,” the airline said.

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