Pre-flight Perks for Preferred Passengers
Priority check-in and in-cabin pampering are givens, and complimentary luxuries of premium lounges — Qatar’s hot tub and sauna in Doha (DOH), Iberia’s fine dining in Madrid (MAD) — are taken for granted. Hoping to encourage flyers to buy upgrades instead of free flights with their miles, airlines are adding even more pre-flight perks to make that first- or business-class boarding pass more alluring.
First-class passengers can forget getting to the airport for flights on Iberia, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Delta, Qatar and Turkish Airlines. In their hub cities these carriers will send luxury cars — Qatar uses premium BMW 7-Series at Doha — or limos to bring passengers to the airport, and sometimes directly to the plane. At Narita (NRT), Virgin Atlantic and All Nippon Airways up the ante by flying passengers between the airport and city center by helicopter.
Lufthansa offers valet parking at Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC) hubs. At those airports and Zürich (ZRH), limousines take first-class passengers to aircraft that are in a non-gate position, and transferring first-class passengers with delayed flights are whisked directly from arriving to departing planes by limo or luxury van. And if they still miss the connecting flight at Frankfurt, a personal assistant is assigned to rebook flights and arrange a hotel or car.
First-class Swiss International passengers drive straight to the SWISS First Check-in Lounge, where valet service handles parking and baggage
Not all the goodies are reserved for first class. Iberia offers business-class passengers three days’ parking at Madrid and Barcelona (BCN), and Virgin Atlantic provides them limo service at selected airports.
New Club at SFO T2
American Airlines’ newest Admirals Club has opened at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Terminal 2, as American and Virgin America move into the ultra-modern terminal. The new LEED Silver-registered Admirals Club was designed for high-level sustainability, including water use reduction, optimal energy performance and clean air technology. The club seats 165 guests and features a business center with HP PCs, WiFi, a walk-up cyber café with HP TouchSmart PCs and private spa-like showers. Visit www.aa.com/admiralsclub.
MedjetAssist’s new Elite Membership adds several premium health, travel and concierge services to the medical evacuation protection offered in Medjet membership. Among the added privileges are discounted rental rates on international cellphones, satellite phones and BlackBerry devices, as well as a 50 percent discount for Vaccines On The Go, providing in-home or office “house calls” for immunizations; cash advances for medical emergencies; and pre-trip personalized travel advisories with e-alerts about events that could affect travel plans or safety. In addition, Elite Members have access to secure online medical and vital health information storage and specialty hospital transfer. Visit www.medjetelite.com.
Island-hopping in Micronesia
Star Alliance is making it easier to explore the northern Pacific islands with the Micronesia Airpass. Passengers can purchase up to 10 flights on the Continental Airlines and United network across Micronesia, all in a single ticket, at prices that start from $75, increasing with the booking class and distance. Travel can begin from any Star Alliance destination in Japan or from Cairns (CNS), Guam (GUM), Hong Kong (HKG), Manila (MNL), Nadi (NAN), Palau (ROR) or Saipan (SPN). Visit www.staralliance.com.
City-hopping in Europe
Fly trans-Atlantic with airberlin or a partner airline to be eligible for a Europe-Pass that offers access to four additional European cities in a choice of 13 countries for only $249, including all taxes. Available for travel through Sept. 30, the pass can be booked at www.airberlin.com/europe. Passengers can create their own European itinerary using the interactive map on the website.
EVA, All Nippon Share More
EVA Air and All Nippon Airways have expanded their codeshare services on domestic flights to 20 cities throughout Japan, an increase of 12 airports. EVA passengers can now connect onward from its international gateways to destinations ranging from Hokkaido (WKJ) in northern Japan to Kyushu (KKF) in the south, and fly into one city and depart from another more easily. Visit www.evaair.com.
Added Comforts to Asia
Korean Air is improving its trans-Pacific service from the Americas to Asia with lie-flat sleeper seats in newly upgraded business- and first-class cabins. In addition, an equipment change provides twice as many business-class seats for travelers from Washington, D.C. (IAD). Along with increasing flight frequencies from Singapore (SIN), Korean Air has changed the nightly Toronto (YYZ) flight to daytime, providing Canadian travelers better connections to China and Southeast Asia.
Munich Leads Again
High-tech InfoGate counters are helping transit passengers on their way through Munich Airport (MUC) Terminal 1 and the Munich Airport Center. These interactive counters are equipped with a touch screen and a high-resolution camera as well as a printout and a ticketing system, and passengers can speak directly with airport staff via video conference. Service personnel can even write comments on the documents before printing them. And by simply holding boarding cards up to any of several InfoGate monitors, passengers can quickly find the shortest way to their gates.
For fees beginning at $5, Continental Airlines lets passengers hold a reservation and lock in a quoted price for up to a week in a new service called FareLock. Travelers can choose three-day or seven-day holds on designated domestic and international routes. This does not change the current 24-hour period Continental gives customers to change or cancel a reservation for a full refund. Visit www.continental.com.
Reborn by the Bay
After undergoing a thorough facelift that reached all areas of the hotel and its guestrooms — bedding, carpets, artwork, lighting and marble baths — Kimpton’s legendary Sir Francis Drake is opening this summer in a revival of its 1928 roots that blends its original splendor with stylish modern glamour. Visit www.sirfrancisdrake.com.
Opening Around the World
There’s no shortage of luxury hotels opening this summer. The first European EDITION hotel, Istanbul EDITION, debuts in the city’s lively Levent neighborhood. Along with 77 spacious guestrooms, the 13-story tower includes a spa by ESPA, a Cipriani Restaurant and a nightclub. Visit www.editionhotels.com. The first Hilton hotel on New Zealand’s South Island, the 178-room Hilton Queenstown, has opened overlooking the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Visit www1.hilton.com. Located between Trafalgar Square and the Thames, Corinthia Hotel London debuted in a landmark Victorian building with river views from many of its 294 guestrooms and suites. London’s largest spa, largest suite and a 1,001-crystal Baccarat chandelier in the lobby set the tone. Visit www.corinthia.com/london. Spreading over nine acres of lush landscaping and water in Delhi’s Gurgaon district, The Oberoi Gurgaon features suites with private pools and decks, and each guestroom is attended by 24-hour butler service. Visit www.oberoihotels.com.
Carlson’s newly announced Club Carlson offers members increased redemption opportunities and enhanced benefits as well as new vacation options through a partnership with Club Med. Points can now be redeemed toward stays at any of the 80 Club Med resorts worldwide, along with Carlson’s 1,070 hotels in 77 countries. Member benefits also include free Internet and no blackout dates on standard rooms. The new Concierge elite tier offers complimentary room upgrades, continental breakfast, expanded check-in/check-out times, 75 percent bonus on eligible stays and — just added — access to a Concierge Service line for theater and sports tickets and restaurant reservations. A new extension of the loyalty program allows both the individual traveler and the company to earn points for stays. Business owners can use their points to reduce future travel expense or offer them as employee rewards. Visit www.clubcarlson.com.
Miles and Savings
Earn 1,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles per stay and take 40 percent off the cost of a second night at Sheraton and Westin Hotels and Resorts in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America through Aug. 31. Arrival day restrictions may vary by hotel, and reservations must be booked online or through a Starwood Customer Contact Center, mentioning code ZBA. To earn AAdvantage miles in lieu of Starpoints, guests must participate in the Airline Direct Deposit option of the Starwood Preferred Guest program.
Thrifty Car Rental
Through Dec. 31, rent a mid-size or larger vehicle from any participating worldwide Thrifty location for three days or longer and earn 1,000 Mileage Plus bonus miles per rental. To earn miles, provide your Mileage Plus number when reserving and book using promo code UA31. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance, and this may not be combined with any other offer. Visit www.thrifty.com.
Privileges of Rank
Rewarding its TopBonus members who fly most frequently, airberlin is now offering new benefits for TopBonus Silver and Gold cardholders. They can now use the exclusive waiting areas directly at the gate in Berlin-Tegel (TXL) Terminal C and soon also at Düsseldorf (DUS) Terminal B. And Gold Card members are now guaranteed a reservation up to 48 hours before departure.
Boston’s chic Copley Square Hotel has stepped up to the plate to make sure baseball fans can get notoriously scarce tickets for Red Sox games. Baseball packages include prime seats at Fenway Park, complimentary WiFi, turndown and signature nightly Wine Down hour. Visit http://www.copleysquarehotel.com Or di.scover Boston’s nooks and crannies on two wheels with Boston’s Hidden Treasures by Bike package at the grand Fairmont Copley Plaza. A tour for riders of all ages and levels is led by knowledgeable guides, or guests can create their own route with a quality bike delivered directly to the hotel. Each tour or rental includes an individually fitted bicycle, helmet and water, along with overnight accommodations, a free water bottle and an “I Bike Boston” T-shirt. Available through Nov. 28. Visit www.fairmont.com/copleyplaza.
Take Five in the BVBVI
Can’t carve out a week’s vacation? Virgin Gorda’s five-bedroom luxury Aquamare Villas has just the answer, with flexible five-night packages that allow guests to plan a long weekend or any five nights for a beach escape. Five-bedroom villas accommodate families or groups of friends, and additional perks include a complimentary private chef dinner, sunset Champagne toast and rental car to explore the island during the entire stay. Valid through Aug. 31. Visit www.villaaquamare.com.
In a Hurry in Hong Kong?
When a rushed business trip doesn’t leave enough hours in the day, guests at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong can rely on the Business on the Run package to help. Along with complimentary Internet, clothes pressing, local calls, technology butlers and buffet breakfast, the package includes the hotel’s legendary concierge team to provide missing necessities that were left at home — even a matching tie. Offered through Sept. 18. Visit www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong.
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