Travel Talk

Air New Zealand customers at Sydney Airport will get to experience the role robots may play in future travel journeys this week.  Click here to watch Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan and CommBank’s Tiziana Bianco explore the future of travel with social robots.

The airline is partnering with CommBank in a five-day experiment utilising Chip CANdroid, the bank’s social humanoid robot, which will interact with and assist Air New Zealand customers checking in and at the gate prior to boarding.

Air New Zealand Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan says “this partnership and experiment with Commbank and Chip is another way we are pushing the boundaries to ensure we remain at the forefront of technology which will allow us to further enhance the experience we offer our customers.”

Air New Zealand has worked with a range of technology partners to introduce innovations which are enhancing the experience it offers customers. For example, Oscar, the artificial intelligence–backed chatbot has been introduced to assist customers with a more personalised online experience or biometric bag drops which identify customers using face-to-passport recognition.

“We are also experimenting with potential enhancements of the future, including the idea of our cabin crew one day using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality viewers onboard our aircraft,” says Mr Golan

Commonwealth Bank established a social robotics team within its Sydney Innovation Lab in late 2016, with the intention of partnering with leading corporates and research institutions to better understand the opportunities and challenges that physical robotic technologies present in a variety of commercial contexts.

Tiziana Bianco, General Manager Innovation Labs, Commonwealth Bank says “this experiment is a great example of why we invested in social robotics; working collaboratively with an innovative client like Air New Zealand, while also engaging some of the brilliant minds from UTS’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence. It is a wonderful opportunity to explore the possibilities of a horizon technology such as social robotics, and what it might enable in the future.”

Ms Bianco says social robots can bring to life information that is not particularly engaging when delivered by a screen.

“People interact with them in a very social and sometimes emotional way, which means they can enhance experiences in ways that other technologies are unable to do,” Ms Bianco says.

“Chip is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, and is perfect for our work aimed at understanding how humans and robots interact in dynamic social spaces.

“The opportunity to experiment with a robot like Chip in a real world environment such as Sydney Airport is unique, even on a global scale. It is also incredibly valuable, as it allows both corporates and academics to contribute to the growing field of research in social robotics and ensures that both CommBank and Air New Zealand remain at the forefront of disruptive technologies.”

Air New Zealand customers can meet Chip at the Air New Zealand check-in counter and at selected departure gates at Sydney International Airport from Monday 21 August until Friday 25 August.

Click here to watch Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan and CommBank’s Tiziana Bianco explore the future of travel with social robots.

| An Air New Zealand release  ||  August 22, 2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL

Bartlett School of Architecture graduate Cassidy Reid has designed a concept for a high-speed transport network based on Hyperloop to create infrastructural and cultural corridors across Europe, and shrink travel time between cities.

Connecting London to Krakow in just one hour and ten minutes, and passing through Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt and Prague, Reid's Pan-European Corridor network leverages newly developed Hyperloop technology to make Europe's cultural corridor easily commutable while also helping to connect deprived communities that have been "left behind" by globalisation.

Hyperloop is the vision of entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, PayPal and space exploration company SpaceX. The system employs mag-lev — the same technology that is used by high-speed trains in Japan – in which the electromagnetic levitation of the train means there is no friction, unlike traditional trains that run on tracks.

Musk, who first unveiled the concept for Hyperloop in 2013, later open-sourced the technology and is no longer directly involved in its development.

In Reid's Hyperlink masterplan, the corridor's most populous and diverse terminus would be located in London. Integrated into a bridge on the River Thames, the high-speed twelve-track terminal is designed to "evoke a space-bending feeling of connectivity between other European major cities".

Continue here to read the full article on deZeen . . .  |  August 21,  2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL

Virgin Australia has claimed that it will be the first Australian airline to offer Wi-Fi on international flights. The airline, which has invested in installing Gogo’s 2Ku service, also announced that it will offer a base-level free Wi-Fi service to all of its passengers on domestic flights.

Once the rollout is complete, more than 90% of Virgin Australia’s fleet will be fitted with the 2Ku solution on both domestic and international aircraft. Passengers will be able to check emails and social media, send text messages, catch up on the day’s news, or stream movies and TV shows.

The airline is now rolling out connectivity on its Boeing 737 aircraft, with Boeing 777 aircraft to commence in October. By the end of 2018, Virgin Australia expects to have inflight Wi-Fi on all Boeing 777 aircraft and the majority of Boeing 737 aircraft, with the Airbus A330 aircraft due for completion by the second half of 2019.

Virgin Australia becomes the second carrier to confirm that it will offer 2Ku-powered Wi-Fi access for free on domestic flights, following in the footsteps of Japan Airlines.

Fellow Australian carrier Qantas is currently trialling free Wi-Fi on some domestic flights, having signed a deal with ViaSat for in-flight connectivity.

| An FTE release  ||  August 19,  2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL

Jaclyn Sienna India, president and founder of the decade-old travel consultancy Sienna Charles talks to Industry Week about their role in the world of business travel for the elite.

Private jets for execs and their families are almost always reimbursable corporate expenses. Why? Transportation is considered a matter of security, and most CEOs plan travel in tandem with work trips, taking their family with them to Dubai for a few days before jetting off to the Maldives.

In the era of the humble brag, it’s harder than ever to know how your boss travels. Assuming he or she is the type that likes to share, you might see a suggestion of a private jet or a swanky beach resort on Instagram—or hear one unassuming story about the sea turtles that swam under the paddleboard in St. Barthelemy.

Unfortunately for your water cooler conversations, no chief executive officer is ever going to spill the beans on his favorite private island, the extent of his security detail, or the lengths his assistant went to procure Coke Zero in Madagascar.

For that, we turned to Jaclyn Sienna India, president and founder of the decade-old travel consultancy Sienna Charles. Almost immediately after hanging a shingle on West Palm Beach’s ritzy Worth Avenue in 2008, India got her lucky break: An unexpectedly productive, $25 ad with the Explorer’s Club turned out her first billionaire client, and word of mouth turned one into many.

Now India is a go-to for the finance world’s jet set, regularly organizing trips for at least two dozen CEOs, along with other titans of industry and a handful of former U.S. presidents. Her clients range from Morgan Stanley higher ups and former top-level executives at American Express, to billionaires and real estate tycoons.

Of the hundreds of trips she plans each year, 90% are for high-ranking finance types—some with budgets that climb into the millions. Chatting about restaurants, she says, is the best way to let these power brokers know she’s playing on their level.

“People can be all over the map,” she said, explaining that often clients are looking for a vibe or set of experiences rather than an exact destination. To help them wade through their options, she prefers face-to-face lunch meetings (typically at such power spots as Le Bernardin) over cursory phone calls. “A lot of agents can B.S. over the phone or have notes all prepared, but I could never do that. That’s not how you build up trust with the world’s wealthiest people,” she told Bloomberg.

Here’s what she had to say about her C-suite customers—the good, the bad, and the hyper-demanding.

A Private Jet Is a Business Expense

Private jets for execs and their families are almost always reimbursable corporate expenses. Why? Transportation is considered a matter of security, and most CEOs plan travel in tandem with work trips, taking their family with them to Dubai for a few days before jetting off to the Maldives.

“Safety” is a card more legitimately played by former presidents, says India, who has organized trips to Africa for George W. Bush and his 30 secret service agents. But CEOS are productive on planes—she joked that “if you can be offline for 10 hours, then you aren’t really that important.” (In the era of laptop bans, private planes are a good way to ensure that work gets done.)

Privacy also important. “CEOs like to stay under the radar and want to focus on their family rather than who they are,” India said. Speaking of family time: They often travel with their pets, “just because they can.”

Little else gets expensed. “CEOs can splurge big time on hotels, yachts, and experiences when they’re saving a minimum of $75,000 to transport a family of four,” India observed, noting the rough cost of a private jet.

It Takes a Village

For every VIP itinerary, there are “layers of experts” coordinating the logistics, says India. “They have us, an air department [or a team dedicated to booking air travel], and an executive assistant working in unison to make sure everything is exactly they way they like to travel every step of the way.” But having too many cooks in the kitchen isn’t something she worries about. A CEO’s personal assistants prove extra-valuable: One client drinks only O’Douls and has frequent hankerings for crunchy peanut butter; others might like their entire minibar stocked with a particular beverage (think: Coke Zero).

Preferences for air travel can be among the most important to consider. India says some of her regulars might want a particular make and model for their airport transfer (for vanity), some want to be picked up right next to the aircraft (for speed), and others are particular about having two pilots even on a tiny helicopter (for paranoia).

But not every minute is planned. India says her CEOs “like a mix of organized activities and room for spontaneity” on their itineraries, so they have a structured schedule and time to relax.

Loyalty Isn’t Everything

Don’t brag to your boss about your Platinum Elite Marriott Rewards status: Chances are they won’t be impressed. “They don’t care about rewards that offer them amenities or free breakfasts or upgrades—they’d rather book the room they want from the beginning,” explained India.

So does that mean they don’t care about frequent flier miles, either? Sort of. These programs are less valuable for those who tend to fly private, but when the unavoidable commercial flights rolls along, executives “do care about being recognized.” (Privacy, it seems, is less of a concern if it’s what secures a first-class upgrade.)

Bigger Isn’t Better

“Since the way they live normally at home is quite lavish, they love top accommodations,” said India of her guests. The five key things they’re looking for are good light, outdoor space, seamless technology, high-end furniture, and a super-comfortable bed. Specific views (such as the Eiffel Tower or Spanish Steps) might help, too. Square footage is less important: “A good suite is not just about big for the sake of being big,” India explained.

These criteria have shaped India’s shortlist of the best hotels in the world. “In Rome, for example, everyone assumes they should be staying at the Hassler, but I don’t love it personally. It’s great for lunch, but the rooms are highly overpriced.” Instead she books guests into the just-renovated Hotel Eden, where she’s partial to the Aurora Terrace Suite. In Paris, she turns to the penthouses at the Bristol and Plaza Athénée.

As for the rooms and resorts on CEO bucket lists? They include the Brando, a private island resort in Tahiti that was once owned by Marlon Brando; the Four Seasons Bora Bora, whose three-bedroom overwater bungalows are among the best in Polynesia; the AII Royal Suite at the Four Seasons in Lanai, Hawaii; and the private villas at Castiglion Del Bosco, a Tuscan village-turned-Rosewood resort by the fashion mogul Massimo Ferragamo.

From One VIP to Another

India scrutinizes every aspect of an itinerary, from airline routings to the personalities of tour guides. But ultimately she’s not the one executing the services she books. That’s why she assembles a one-sheet of critical details—such things as dietary preferences (allergies, restrictions), an affinity for San Pellegrino over Perrier, a hatred for Jack Daniels, or an addiction to spin classes—and sends them straight to the hotel’s general manager, not the front desk or guest relations team.

“No matter how much hotels say they care about every guest, they tend to lose this type of information,” she explained. This way, she is getting high-powered requests into equally high-powered hands, ensuring that detailed requests such as in-room yoga mats and blenders (for protein shakes) don’t go overlooked. Of her clients’ hyper-specific demands, India says: “I don’t have time for the crap either, so I totally get it.”

Another strategy: booking yachts, villas, and residences instead of traditional hotels. In these cases, she can control the staff-to-guest ratio herself, guarantee privacy, and custom-pick chefs or butlers whom she knows will strike the right chord.

A Predominantly Grateful Crowd

Here’s a shocker: CEOs can be difficult. One hedge fund owner recently sent India a barrage of round-the-clock texts and emails complaining that the weather was too hot in Italy, despite the fact that his family’s activities were all scheduled in the early morning hours. What’s more, India said the 12-year-old kids were as difficult as the parents, with over-the-top criticisms of a luxury spa experience.

This isn’t common, though. India said that by and large, she works with “really nice people who generally appreciate everything.” What is common? Receiving flowers and thank you notes—or even photo books filled with vacation snaps—from happy clients. “It’s thoughtful stuff, not a Ferrari outside my apartment,” she quipped.

Her most appreciative clients prefer a more personal route, opening their homes and inviting India for dinners. “That’s the best thing,” she said. “I never feel looked down upon; I’m being treated as an expert and part of the family instead, and that’s really special. And the next trip we plan for them is even better as a result of getting to know each other.”

| Written by Nikki Ekstein for IndustryWeek  ||  August 17,  2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL
Thursday, 17 August 2017 09:26

Who is Kel Munro?

 Kel has been organising and escorting groups to sporting events worldwide for the past 40 years! The Melbourne Cup is a personal favourite, and he can't wait to accompany the next group to his 37th Cup event!

So what makes Kel's Melbourne Cup tour package so special? It's the passion, for starters, as well as being accompanied by the legendary Des Coppins, both of whom go the extra mile to ensure tour members have an enjoyable and memorable experience.

In fact, Kel recalls with much delight, one particular tour. He often receives requests to accommodate solo travellers who prefer to share a room and generally tries his best to match up age and personality. On this trip, at breakfast after the first night, Kel was approached by one such tour member who asked "where the hell did you find my room mate?". When Kel dug deeper, it turned out the room mate snored horrendously. Kel offered to find him a single room, but he said he'd give it one more night and see how things went.

After breakfast the following day, Kel approached the gentleman and asked how his night had been. His response had Kel in fits: "No problem. i think i have sorted it." Kel dug deeper and the explanation was: "Being a bit of a night owl, I stayed out longer than my room mate. When I let myself into the room, my room mate was in bed reading. I went to the bathroom and got myself ready for bed ... but before turning my bed light off, I lent down and gave my room mate a peck on the cheek and said 'sleep well, dear'. Well, I slept like a log but I don't know about him - he must have been awake all night because i never heard any snoring!"

While the Melbourne Cup race is obviously the big drawcard, these tours do include a lot more! This year, just some of the tour highlights they have lined up include:

  • Friday night - Welcome function with drinks and nibbles
  • Saturday night - Drinks after the races
  • Sunday - Full day tour to Racing stables and luch at Dingley Hotel owned by former well known jockey Gary Willets
  • Monday morning - Sporting Tours Social Bowls Tournament and in the evening Cup Eve Dinner
  • Tuesday - Drinks an nibbles after the races
  • Wednesday - A choice of 2 full day tours to either Kyneton Races or Wine Tasting
  • Thursday - Farewell function with drinks and nibbles

At this stage, there are a mix of folk from all ages booked into the tour, including horse trainers, horse owners and everyday racegoers.

And you may just be on a winning streak if you take the advice of Des' good friend, Brett Davison. Brett is a leading Australian racing tipster, and both he and Des will offer their tips for picking a winner. In fact, their tipping sheets are given to tour members on the bus trip to the racecourse each year. Over the years, they have picked many winners at very lucrative odds!

The tours are always fun, action packed and thoroughly memorable ... will you be on the next one? If you're keen, get in touch soon as spaces are limited!

A Mondo Travel release  ||  August 16,  2017   |||

 

Published in TRAVEL

Fiji Airways has launched Bula Bid, an auction tool that allows Economy Class customers to bid for upgrades to Business Class on international flights. Passengers can bid for an upgrade between seven days and 24 hours before their scheduled flight departure.

Bids can be made at www.bulabid.com using the Upgrade Now auction system. Successful bidders are notified through a confirmation email 24 hours before their scheduled flight and unsuccessful bidders will not be charged. The quantity of successful bids is dependent on a number of factors, including seat availability and the number of offers for each flight.

Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO, said: “This new product is designed to give our Economy Class guests the chance to enjoy our renowned Business Class experience. Interest among guests for Bula Bid has been extremely high during the soft-launch period, and we are delighted to roll it out formally now across our international networks.”

Successful bidders will experience Fiji Airways’ Business Class product as well as the Business Class airport experience.

As FTE reported last year, upgrade auction tools are becoming an increasingly popular way for airlines to monetise unsold premium seats.

| An FTE release  ||  August 17, 2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL

 In the mercilessly competitive world of five-star hotels, even legends have to fight to stay in the game among the upper echelon of the hospitality industry’s glittering options for sophisticated travellers.

The peerless Raffles, the grandest of dames among colonial-era hotels in Asia, this week is checking in with the renovation doctor for a nip/tuck to revitalise the dowager of Singapore. Every 130-year-old should look so good, but looking good for its age is not of interest to the hotel; as always, it has to look/feel/be not just good but spectacular.

It is not with a little trepidation that guests may wonder what the new Raffles will be like, having admired the current Raffles for so long and loving it just as it is. Knowing Raffles, though, the management will get everything not just right, but perfect. The hotel’s powers that be are fully aware that retaining the intangible spirit and heritage of Raffles is of paramount importance. After all, the hotel has undergone renovations before and always emerged as more alluring a destination because of them.

Continue to the full article written by Robert La Bua  ||  August 14,  2017   |||

 

Published in Accomodation

They’re off – on a toilet roll race! Flight attendants organised passengers to complete in a toilet paper roll race to see which side of the aisle would be allowed to get off the plane first.

Watch Video here

The flight was a long-haul US domestic flight on Southwest Airlines. The Raleigh to Denver flight is about four hours long (roughly the same length as Sydney to Darwin) and attendants decided to pit passengers against each other mid-flight.

The contest involves passengers speedily passing a roll of toilet paper over their heads, row to row, back along the plane until it reaches the last passenger. If the roll tears, your side loses.

Passenger Marcie Villarreal filmed the race last month. It has been posted on Facebook ad YouTube.

“I’ve been flying different airlines my whole life, and just when I think I’ve seen it all, your flight attendants decide to do a ‘toilet paper race,’” wrote Villarreal, who was on the winning side.

“Hands down the funnest flight ever and I was even travelling with my baby. You rock, Southwest! Keep doing what you’re doing!”

Curiously, it’s not the first such midair stunt. Several other clips of airline toilet roll races have been posted on social media, in 2008 and again in 2014. Southwest appears to be the world leader in this unusual event – it features in every clip.

| An eGlobal Travel media release written by Peter Needham  ||  August 14,  2017   |||

Published in TRAVELTALK

 Singapore Airlines has launched an all-new Singapore Airlines HighFlyer programme for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to get more mileage out of flights on company business. The new corporate travel programme is designed to reward both corporates and employees when they fly with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir.

Corporates will earn HighFlyer points while employees continue to earn KrisFlyer miles each time an employee flies with Singapore Airlines or SilkAir, making it a more rewarding way to travel for business. With no minimum annual travel spend required, corporates earn five HighFlyer points for every S$1 spend on tickets booked through Singapore Airlines’ corporate booking platform or an appointed travel agent.

Businesses have the flexibility of choosing how and when to utilise HighFlyer points earned, with the option to offset future ticket purchases partially or in full for flights on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir to more than 100 destinations across 30 countries.

Through a self-service web portal, corporates can check HighFlyer points balance, utilise HighFlyer points, manage travellers and bookings, and download e-statements.

Singapore Airlines Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Mr Campbell Wilson, said, “We are pleased to launch the Singapore Airlines HighFlyer programme for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. We are always looking for more ways to delight our customers and make their journey with us more rewarding. The Singapore Airlines HighFlyer programme highlights Singapore Airlines’ commitment to constantly enhance the benefits for our corporate clients and business travellers.”

Corporates that reach a stipulated annual spend will have the choice of transferring to the Singapore Airlines Corporate Travel Programme, a corporate programme for large businesses to enjoy corporate fares and additional benefits.

For more information about the Singapore Airlines HighFlyer programme, please visit: singaporeair.com/highflyer

| A Singapore Airlines release  ||  August 12, 2017   |||

Published in TRAVEL

Which airlines have young, shiny new aircraft – and which have the oldest and creakiest? A Swiss operation that specialises in providing up-to-date airline intelligence has revealed the answer and given specifics.

The Swiss firm is Ch-aviation. It shows that in our own region, Virgin Australia has reason to smile, as does Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui and Qantas’ Auckland-based trans-Tasman subsidiary Jetconnect.

Taking first place with the youngest fleet in the world is Norwegian UK. The average age of a Norwegian UK plane is just under one year. Hard to beat that!

Rounding out the rest of the world’s top five – all with an average fleet age of less than two years – are two Chinese airlines Colorful Guizhou Airlines (hands up anyone who’s heard of that!) and Loong Air (ditto) along with Germany’s Eurowings, and Swiss Global Air Lines.

Here’s a fine old plane! Lufthansa once flew this Junkers Ju 52 German tri-motor plane, named Rudolf von Thuna. It’s now on display as a vintage model in Munich Airport’ Visitors Park.

The results don’t break out Australasia as a separate region. It’s included with Oceania. While Virgin Australia makes an appearance in the youthful category, Qantas isn’t mentioned at all. That may be because the average age of the Qantas fleet is somewhere in the middle and neither old enough, nor young enough, to be included in either extreme. The wholly-owned Qantas subsidary Jetconnect, which operates trans-Tasman services from Auckland, gets a mention.

“What our data clearly shows is the tremendous growth in Europe and Asia over the past few years while they move to lower-cost models,” said Thomas Jaeger, chief executive of ch-aviation. “And Chinese start-ups have the benefit of good access to capital for new aircraft.”

The bottom five was quite a different story, with Africa and North America doing battle for the oldest fleets. In bottom position is Kenya’s Fly SAX with an average aircraft age of 36 years old, followed by Nolinor Aviation (Canada), African Express Airways (Kenya), Western Air Bahamas, and Pacific Coastal Airlines (Canada).

“Obviously we see something quite different in Canada and Kenya, which both have a lot of smaller carriers operating in remote areas,” Jaeger says. “And many African airlines which want to expand simply don’t have the cash for brand new aircraft.” Taking out top spots for youngest fleet on each continent were:

  • Africa – RwandAir;
  • Asia – Colorful Guizhou Airlines;
  • Europe – Norwegian UK;
  • North America – WestJet Encore;
  • Oceania – Air Tahiti;
  • South America – Conviasa.

Ch-aviation claims to maintain “the world’s largest and most comprehensive B2B databases in civil aviation, providing up-to-the-minute information on fleets, aircrafts, ownership, contacts, routes, and worldwide flight schedule data (in cooperation with OAG)”.

Continue to read the full list here on eGlobalTRavelMedia ||  August  11,  2017   |||

Published in AVIATION
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