On the Ground: Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, launched service between Lagos and New York in November 2009. I had the chance to experience the airline’s Premier Class cabin on that same route last December. Though Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport can be every bit as chaotic as the megacity it serves, check-in was fast and friendly. When I inquired about the executive lounge, an Arik Air employee escorted me directly to it on the airport’s second floor. The lounge in Lagos is comfortable enough, with a full bar, plenty of snacks and free Internet; but it pales in comparison to the Arik lounge in JFK’s Terminal 4. (28/30)
Pre-flight: After I found my seat — one of 36 in Premier Class on the Airbus A340-500 — the flight attendant greeted me and took my coat. The seat was a dull red — the carpet, too — giving the cabin a second-hand feel. But what the seat lacked in appearance, it more than made up for in functionality with its 34-inch pitch, its fully flat sleep position and its built-in massage system — an intense, almost numbing vibration available in four zones (head, upper back, lower back and legs). Although we had boarded about half an hour late, after just a few minutes on the tarmac we were airborne. (27/30)
In-flight: It’s not as elegant as some other airlines, but Arik has managed to put together a very nice in-flight product with tasty fare, prompt service and an easy-to-use entertainment system. The 17-inch screen mounted on the seat back has a clear picture, and there’s plenty to choose from — comedy, drama, adventure, documentary and all the games, including trivia. This being a Nigerian airline, there’s also a sizeable selection of Nollywood features. Dinner was delicious if a bit behind schedule. The menu features both Continental and African cuisine, as well as a selection of wines and Champagne. I slept solidly for six hours and woke up to the smell of coffee. And because we arrived in New York at about 5:30 in the morning, I didn’t feel jetlagged. (37/40)
The Experience: Well fed, well rested and on time — I couldn’t ask any more of a 12-hour flight. Arik Air’s Premier Class may not be everyone’s idea of plush, but I found it to be among the most comfortable rides I’ve ever taken.
Total Score: 92/100
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group announced plans to take over an existing hotel in Switzerland. The property is undergoing extensive renovations in preparation to open at the end of next year as Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. The property was previously Hotel Palace Luzern, on the shores of Lake Lucerne and in the heart of the city; it originally opened in 1906.
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As part of Germany’s climate package, a plan to reduce emissions, the country will raise departure taxes at German airports. Taxes will go up as much as 60 percent, and are expected to raise up to €740 million. The funds will then be used to lower VAT on rail fares from 19 percent to 7 percent.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, ahead of its naming ceremony Nov. 21. The 1,100-foot-long ship boasts a guest capacity of nearly 4,000. Since Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the shi, Oct. 30, Norwegian Encore sailed from Germany to England before making its way to New York City, then Miami, where the christening ceremony takes place next week.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.