12 March 2018

Airlink to suspend Pretoria-Cape Town flights
Airlink will suspend its services from Pretoria’s Wonderboom National Airport to Cape Town from 8 May. The route, which has been in operation since August 2015, has not performed according to expectations.

International hotel group rebrands

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has rebranded as Radisson Hotel Group with the aim of increasing the company’s marketing efficiency across its global portfolio. Radisson Hotel Group is currently the 11th largest hotel group in the world, and is made up of eight hotel brands with more than 1 400 hotels either in operation or under development.

SWISS opens new first-class lounge and launches a chauffeur service

The Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) First Lounge opened on 5 March at Zurich Airport’s Terminal A in Switzerland. The new lounge, part of the airport’s Schengen area, is available to first-class passengers and HON Circle members of the Lufthansa Group and is primarily intended for passengers flying within Europe. The 650-sqm lounge is accessible from the Terminal A departure concourse.

It offers lounge suites, a lounge club with leather sofas, a business zone and a meeting room. A relaxation room with two loungers, a smokers’ lounge with a dedicated outside section and a choice of fine whiskies are also on offer. Travellers departing in winter for warmer climes can deposit their coat free of charge in a lockable wardrobe facility. The security checkpoint enables guests to check in simply and conveniently at the welcome desk, hand in their registered baggage and then pass through a dedicated security checkpoint. An extensive barista bar allows guests to sample numerous specialty coffees and offers a range of over 100 Swiss grappa’s to choose from. The lounge offers both an à la carte restaurant and a front cooking option. The lounge is primarily intended for guests who wish to enjoy their time at the airport before their short-haul flight. Travellers to long-haul destinations will be taken directly by limousine from Lounge A to the SWISS First Lounge in Terminal E, which is the departure point for long-haul flights. The lounge will be open daily from 05h30 to 22h30.

An exclusive chauffeur service for SWISS First guests arriving in Zurich will also be available. Customers arriving in Terminal E, Terminal B or at a remote aircraft stand will be collected at the aircraft door and taken directly to the relevant passport or security control in Terminal A or B. 

Fedair takes full operational control of Odie Air

Federal Airlines (Fedair) will take over full operational control of Odie Air (PTY) Ltd, which offers lodge hops and exclusive private charters out of Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. Fedair will take over all responsibilities and operational control of Odie Air, with all bookings and charters already booked and confirmed with Odie Air now operated by Fedair.

UK streamlines visa applications

Customers applying for a UK visa in Johannesburg will benefit from digital improvements to the application process from 8 May. Supporting documents will be scanned while customers are at the visa application centre, allowing applicants to retain their original documents. Only original passports will be retained. The digital documents and the passport will then be sent securely to UKVI for consideration in the usual way. 

To avoid delays, the application centre recommends that customers bring their original passport and clear A4 copies of supporting documents to the application centre. They also recommend that staples, clips or pins should be removed from the documentation before submission to further reduce waiting time.

More spacious business-class seats on Emirates

Emirates has unveiled its latest business class cabin on the Boeing 777-200LR, which includes wider seats, set in a 2-2-2 configuration. The aircraft offers 38 business-class seats and 264 in economy. Business-class seats have the same shape as Emirates’ latest lie-flat seats but are now 5cm wider. Other features include touch screen controls for seats, an inflight entertainment system with a 58cm screen, numerous personal lighting options, a mini-bar, shoe stowage area, and privacy panels between the seats. Overhead storage bins have been removed from the centre of the cabin, creating a more spacious feel. A social area has been included, and the mini lounge area is available for self service to customers throughout the flight. Economy-class seats have also been refreshed with full leather headrests with flexible side panels which can be adjusted vertically for optimum support.

New fee introduced at Vic Falls bridge

A new ‘bridge maintenance fee’ has been introduced for every vehicle crossing the historic bridge between Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia. The fee affects all self-drive travellers, as well as all travel companies operating regular transfers across the bridge. Tourism players in Victoria Falls have been unsuccessful in attempts to have the fees waived for tourism industry vehicles and are left with no option but having to pass the charge on to their guests. Local tour operators reported having to add a levy of $2.50 per person to all new reservations booked from 7 March.

BA launches cheaper transatlantic flight

In a bid to remain competitive, British Airways will be launching a basic economy fare for its transatlantic routes. With numerous low-cost carriers dominating the market, British Airways has decided to offer the cheaper option. Passengers purchasing this option will still be seated in the main cabin and receive the same meals as other economy passengers, but will need to pay for added extras such as checked luggage and preferred seating. This new fare will launch on selected routes from April. Routes and pricing information will soon be released.

BA revamps cabins

British Airways has revamped the World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy) cabins, on its Boeing 777 fleet flying out of Gatwick. The World Traveller Plus and the World Traveller cabins now feature seats with fully adjustable six-way headrests. The World Traveller Plus seat will also have a cocktail table, and in-arm tray tables. Cabins have larger HD screens, with gesture control, allowing passengers to navigate them as they would a tablet. In World Traveller Plus, screen sizes have doubled from 15cm to 30cm, and will increase from 15cm to 25cm in World Traveller. Each seat has a USB socket capable of charging a range of electronic devices during the flight. World Traveller Plus seats will have an additional power socket for UK, US, and EU plugs.

Lufthansa introduces most modern long-haul aircraft in Africa in late 2018
Lufthansa has announced that it will be introducing the A350-900 to its Munich - Cape Town route in December 2018. The aircraft is the world’s most modern and eco-friendly long haul aircraft. It uses 25 percent less kerosene, has 25 percent lower emissions and is significantly quieter during take-off than comparable aircraft models. The A350-900 is the Lufthansa fleet’s state-of-the-art newcomer. Economy class is particularly roomy and comfortable and features the most recent technology.

Last year, Lufthansa placed orders for a total of 25 ultra-modern jet aircraft of this type. The first ten are to be based in Munich, flying to destinations such as Delhi, Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Boston. Seven of the ten aircraft are already operating out of Munich. Along with Cape Town, the latest routes to be added to the A350-900’s schedule include Seoul, New York, Chicago, Denver and Singapore. The aircraft can seat 293 passengers: 48 guests in business class, 21 in premium economy, and 224 in economy class.

Virgin Atlantic upgrades economy cabins
Virgin Atlantic will soon offer three new economy-class options on its flights - ‘Economy Delight’, ‘Economy Classic’ and ‘Economy Light’. Economy Delight will offer 86cm of leg-room, priority check-in and boarding, and advanced seat assignment. In Economy Classic, passengers can expect free seat assignment, which provides reassurance for groups and families who wish to sit together, while Economy Light will offer Virgin Atlantic’s lowest fare, and comes with the standard inclusive drink, service and inflight entertainment system.

The economy class upgrades include retrofitting 36 Economy Delight seats on every aircraft; automated bag drops at London airports, with four kiosks opening in Gatwick in the summer, and 18 in Heathrow in the winter; USB points for every seat; and access to WiFi on every route. All economy-class passengers will continue to receive a three-course meal and complimentary drinks and snacks.

Ethiopian Airlines temporarily increase Heathrow frequencies
From 2 June to 27 October Ethiopian Airlines will operate an additional three flights a week on its London Heathrow route, taking the total number of flights on the route to 10 a week for the period. Flights will operate on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and will be operated by an Airbus A350, with 313 economy-class seats, and 30 business-class lie-flat seats.

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