On the Ground: Recently, the new United Airlines, the world’s largest commercial carrier, added its first new route — Washington, D.C., to Lagos, Nigeria — and I had the good fortune to secure a berth on the inaugural flight. I also had the good fortune to get out of Atlanta as snow blanketed the city. Arriving at Dulles International just minutes before the 10:43 p.m. take-off, I was whisked through the terminal to the waiting aircraft, a Boeing 767-300, and took my seat — I mean suite — next to the Nigerian ambassador. (30/30)
Pre-flight: Immediately, as though it might catch on fire at any moment, my jacket was stowed and a glass of Champagne appeared in my hand. The ambassador was immersed in Tony Blair’s memoir, A Journey, so I postponed introductions for a thorough inspection of my personal leisure capsule with its spacious compartments, sleek design and curved silver walls that suggest space travel. The flight attendant brought me a hot towel, made sure I was comfortable (I was) and helped me put on my chest harness for take-off. After a brief taxi to the runway, United’s first direct flight to Lagos was in the air. (29/30)
In-flight: You could fly to Lagos and back five times before exhausting the 150 hours of on-demand entertainment. And I would have gladly done so. Stretched out on the fully flat seat, I watched Inception on the 15.4-inch screen while pondering the only decisions I’d have to make over the next 12 hours — which of the Charlie Trotter-inspired dishes to have for dinner and which of the dozen or so wines, selected by master sommelier David Frost, to pair with it. After dinner, I hooked the noise-cancelling head phones up to my iPod, plugged it into the entertainment system and dozed off to the sound of “Gentle Waves.” (39/40)
The Experience: Upon landing at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, we were greeted with a water cannon salute from the Lagos Fire Department and a cheering crowd of proud Nigerians. Indeed, United’s inaugural flight from Washington, D.C. to Lagos wasn’t just another example of the airline’s top-notch international service. It was historic, the first of many flights to come.
Total Score: 98/100
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.
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city of Greece and the most important center of the area. Built near the sea, elegant and refined, the Greek “Lady of the North” is a modern, vivacious city that welcomes visitors eager to learn about its history and culture, and at the same time have fun, relax, go shopping or simply explore the cityscape by the sea.