Top 10: world’s most exclusive, private island resorts

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (February 10, 2018): Top 10 most exclusive private island resorts in the world.

The epitome of luxury travel is staying at a fabulous hotel that is set on its very own private island. The following ten elite resorts, all of them located on private tropical islands, rank among the most exclusive hotel properties worldwide, offering peace, absolute discretion and word-class service (with prices to match).

There’s more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite exclusive private island resort in the comments section, or take my poll below!

Click to view slideshow.

*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***


10. LITTLE PALM ISLAND, FLORIDA KEYS, USA

This is a close as you can get to an exclusive private island experience in the USA.  Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the resort is located on a tiny private island off the coast of the Florida Keys with a romantic Robinson Crusoe appeal. Ranking among the USA’s finest resorts, it is a secluded world of lush tropical gardens, crushed seashell paths, and 15 thatched-roof, Bahamas-style bungalows which house 30 luxurious suites. With no phones or television, the soundtrack at this resort is the lapping of ocean waves, the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, and the melody of neighboring birds and tree frogs. Days are spent in hammocks fixed to the palm trees, lounge chairs on the small beach, and the world-class restaurant and spa.


9. HAYMAN ISLAND, GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA

Hayman Island is a private island resort in the heart of the Whitsundays. The nearest island to the Great Barrier Reef, Hayman Island is ideal for nature based activities and exceptional guest experiences. Featuring 160 guest rooms, suites, villas and penthouses across three main accommodation wings, Hayman Island presents guests the ultimate in barefoot luxury. Restaurants and bars offer an array of local and international cuisines, while the spa and watersports centre complete the island experience. Due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Hayman Island is temporarily closed, but is currently accepting reservations from 1st March 2019 (it probably will reopen late 2018).


8. AMANPULO, PHILIPPINES

Accessible only by private plane, tropical Pamalican Island is around an hour from Manila, yet feels a world away from anywhere. Managed by the famous Aman group – one of the most luxurious hotel brands in the world – since December 1993, Amanpulo is the only property on this Philippine island. Its 40 airy casitas and villas open to 5.5 km (3,5 miles) of coral sand that encircle a jungled centre. With a convivial poolside Clubhouse, an Aman Spa, Dive Centre and a laidback Beach Club, guests can be as active as they choose; a snorkel on your private beachfront might be all the exertion required to complete a day of restorative lounging. Other diversions include tennis courts, island hikes, turtle spotting and exploring the kaleidoscopic reefs just offshore.

  • Hotel websiteAmanpulo
  • Other accolades: Amanpulo also features in my top 10 list of luxury hotels with private airports.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one a la carte lunch for 2).


7. JUMBY BAY ISLAND, ANTIGUA

Jumby Bay Island, an Oetker Collection property, is set in one of the most beautiful, undisturbed places in the world, on a 300-acre private island 2 miles off the coast of Antigua. Reachable only by boat, with no hint of urban intrusions and no indigenous population in sight, this privately owned hideaway has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Nowadays, the entire island, which comprises just 40 exquisitely appointed guest room and suites and a collection of villas and estate homes, may as well wear a “Do Not Disturb” sign. The resort’s 250 local staff return to the mainland every night, leaving just a sprinkling of staff, homeowners and guests.


6. COMO PARROT CAY, TURKS & CAICOS

COMO Parrot Cay, a favourite among celebrities, is an award-winning luxury resort set on its own private island of 1,000 unspoilt acres with a mile-long powdery soft beach. This exclusive island hideaway delivers foot-in-the-sand luxury with COMO’s service ethic, holistic therapies, yoga, diving and world-class cuisine. All rooms and suites have whitewashed interiors furnished with soft, cotton-covered chairs, airy four-poster beds and teak furnishing. The real stars are the private villas, with their own pools, direct beach access as well as the 24-hour service of COMO’s acclaimed butlers.


5. NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Sir Richard Branson’s 74 acre private island is unquestionably one of the most idyllic place in Caribbean. Branson first purchased the island in 1978 and it is now part of Virgin Limited Edition, Richard’s portfolio of unique retreats. There is a dedicated team of fabulous staff on the island plus more than 200 flamingos who are all part of the Necker family! Necker Island can be booked exclusively year-round. That’s just you plus 33 friends and family on your own private Caribbean island. One word of warning: once you’ve seen the world in Necker colours, you might not want to leave! Necker Island made news for all the wrong reasons in 2011 (when a lightning strike set fire to the Great House) and last year, when the resort was ripped apart by Hurricane Irma, but the private island resort will soon be open for business again after extensive renovations.


4. &BEYOND MNEMBA ISLAND, TANZANIA

If you have ever harboured the secret wish of finding yourself the sole inhabitant of a beautiful tropical island, but without the effort of having to lift a finger to fend for yourself, &Beyond Mnemna Island is just the place for you. This romantic, private hideway is an award-winning barefoot beach paradise just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, that accommodates a maximum of 24 guests at a time. Guest relax and unwind in the exclusivity of their own stretch of beachfront, where 12 beachside bandass peep out onto unblemished sands from the dappled shade of the casuarina pine forest and overlook the Mnemba atoll (a scuba diver’s delight). From snorkeling, swimming, ands kayaking to massages in the beach, to doing nothing at all, &Beyond Mnemba Island has something for everyone.


3. LAUCALA ISLAND, FIJI

Set upon 3,500 exclusive acres Laucala private island resort is set amidst coconut plantations, sandy beaches, rich green mountains and breathtaking natural beauty. True luxury is appreciated in the privacy of the resort’s 25 Fijian-styled villas widely spread on the northern tip of the island. Seamless transition from indoor to outdoor living creates an inspiringly relaxed yet luxurious atmosphere. Laucala shows its most ethereal side in an iridescent kaleidoscope of sporting and cultural activities. Diving in a unique underwater world, rain forest tours, horseback riding, surfing, golfing on the 18-hole championship course, or meeting native artists.


2. SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES

Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on Medhufaru island, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The Maldives’ most exclusive hotel is fringed by pristine beaches, blanketed with lush tropical greenery, and surrounded by a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. Each one of the 24 water villas has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze.

Contact me to receive a complimentary room upgrade at Soneva Jani at the time of booking.


1. NORTH ISLAND, SEYCHELLES

North Island is the world’s most exclusive hideaway and the best hotel I’ve ever been to. The insanely beautiful island has only 11 opulent hand-crafted villas overlooking the pristine, powder-white sands and turquoise waters of the Ile Du Nord eco-reserve. Raised off the ground to catch the cooling Indian Ocean breezes, all villas open up onto your private garden and the beach. Plunge pools and outdoor showers provide the finishing touches to your private sanctuary. The island’s lounge and dining areas, scenically located health spa and gym, library and dive centre, and a rim-flow swimming pool are all built into a granitic outcrop. The resort was the decor for the honeymoon of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.


*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***



 

The post Top 10: world’s most exclusive, private island resorts appeared first on the Luxury Travel Expert.

Top 10: world’s most exclusive, private island resorts

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (February 10, 2018): Top 10 most exclusive private island resorts in the world.

The epitome of luxury travel is staying at a fabulous hotel that is set on its very own private island. The following ten elite resorts, all of them located on private tropical islands, rank among the most exclusive hotel properties worldwide, offering peace, absolute discretion and word-class service (with prices to match).

There’s more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite exclusive private island resort in the comments section, or take my poll below!

Click to view slideshow.

*** Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***


10. LITTLE PALM ISLAND, FLORIDA KEYS, USA

This is a close as you can get to an exclusive private island experience in the USA.  Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the resort is located on a tiny private island off the coast of the Florida Keys with a romantic Robinson Crusoe appeal. Ranking among the USA’s finest resorts, it is a secluded world of lush tropical gardens, crushed seashell paths, and 15 thatched-roof, Bahamas-style bungalows which house 30 luxurious suites. With no phones or television, the soundtrack at this resort is the lapping of ocean waves, the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, and the melody of neighboring birds and tree frogs. Days are spent in hammocks fixed to the palm trees, lounge chairs on the small beach, and the world-class restaurant and spa.

  • Hotel website: Little Palm Island
  • Other accolades: Little Palm Island also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in the USA.
  • Review: read my review of Little Palm Island here.


9. HAYMAN ISLAND, GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA

Hayman Island is a private island resort in the heart of the Whitsundays. The nearest island to the Great Barrier Reef, Hayman Island is ideal for nature based activities and exceptional guest experiences. Featuring 160 guest rooms, suites, villas and penthouses across three main accommodation wings, Hayman Island presents guests the ultimate in barefoot luxury. Restaurants and bars offer an array of local and international cuisines, while the spa and watersports centre complete the island experience. Due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Hayman Island is temporarily closed, but is currently accepting reservations from 1st March 2019 (it probably will reopen late 2018).

  • Hotel website: Hayman Island
  • Other accolades: Hayman Island also features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Australia, the world’s most amazing beach resorts, and luxury hotels with private helipads.
  • Review: read here my review of One&Only Hayman Island.


8. AMANPULO, PHILIPPINES

Accessible only by private plane, tropical Pamalican Island is around an hour from Manila, yet feels a world away from anywhere. Managed by the famous Aman group – one of the most luxurious hotel brands in the world – since December 1993, Amanpulo is the only property on this Philippine island. Its 40 airy casitas and villas open to 5.5 km (3,5 miles) of coral sand that encircle a jungled centre. With a convivial poolside Clubhouse, an Aman Spa, Dive Centre and a laidback Beach Club, guests can be as active as they choose; a snorkel on your private beachfront might be all the exertion required to complete a day of restorative lounging. Other diversions include tennis courts, island hikes, turtle spotting and exploring the kaleidoscopic reefs just offshore.

  • Hotel website: Amanpulo
  • Other accolades: Amanpulo also features in my top 10 list of luxury hotels with private airports.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one a la carte lunch for 2).


7. JUMBY BAY ISLAND, ANTIGUA

Jumby Bay Island, an Oetker Collection property, is set in one of the most beautiful, undisturbed places in the world, on a 300-acre private island 2 miles off the coast of Antigua. Reachable only by boat, with no hint of urban intrusions and no indigenous population in sight, this privately owned hideaway has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Nowadays, the entire island, which comprises just 40 exquisitely appointed guest room and suites and a collection of villas and estate homes, may as well wear a “Do Not Disturb” sign. The resort’s 250 local staff return to the mainland every night, leaving just a sprinkling of staff, homeowners and guests.

  • Hotel website: Jumby Bay Island
  • Other accolades: Jumby Bay Island also features in my top 10 list of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD spa credit).


6. COMO PARROT CAY, TURKS & CAICOS

COMO Parrot Cay, a favourite among celebrities, is an award-winning luxury resort set on its own private island of 1,000 unspoilt acres with a mile-long powdery soft beach. This exclusive island hideaway delivers foot-in-the-sand luxury with COMO’s service ethic, holistic therapies, yoga, diving and world-class cuisine. All rooms and suites have whitewashed interiors furnished with soft, cotton-covered chairs, airy four-poster beds and teak furnishing. The real stars are the private villas, with their own pools, direct beach access as well as the 24-hour service of COMO’s acclaimed butlers.

  • Hotel website: COMO Parrot Cay
  • Other accolades: COMO Parrot Cay also features in my top 10 lists of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean and luxury hotels loved by celebrities.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD hotel credit).
  • Review: read my review of COMO Parrot Cay here.


5. NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Sir Richard Branson’s 74 acre private island is unquestionably one of the most idyllic place in Caribbean. Branson first purchased the island in 1978 and it is now part of Virgin Limited Edition, Richard’s portfolio of unique retreats. There is a dedicated team of fabulous staff on the island plus more than 200 flamingos who are all part of the Necker family! Necker Island can be booked exclusively year-round. That’s just you plus 33 friends and family on your own private Caribbean island. One word of warning: once you’ve seen the world in Necker colours, you might not want to leave! Necker Island made news for all the wrong reasons in 2011 (when a lightning strike set fire to the Great House) and last year, when the resort was ripped apart by Hurricane Irma, but the private island resort will soon be open for business again after extensive renovations.

  • Hotel website: Necker Island
  • Other top 10 accolades: Necker Island also features in my top 10 lists of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean, the world’s most expensive hotels and luxury hotels owned by celebrities.


4. &BEYOND MNEMBA ISLAND, TANZANIA

If you have ever harboured the secret wish of finding yourself the sole inhabitant of a beautiful tropical island, but without the effort of having to lift a finger to fend for yourself, &Beyond Mnemna Island is just the place for you. This romantic, private hideway is an award-winning barefoot beach paradise just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, that accommodates a maximum of 24 guests at a time. Guest relax and unwind in the exclusivity of their own stretch of beachfront, where 12 beachside bandass peep out onto unblemished sands from the dappled shade of the casuarina pine forest and overlook the Mnemba atoll (a scuba diver’s delight). From snorkeling, swimming, ands kayaking to massages in the beach, to doing nothing at all, &Beyond Mnemba Island has something for everyone.

  • Hotel website: &Beyond Mnemba Island
  • Other accolades: &Beyond Mbemba Island also features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Zanzibar, the best luxury hotels in Tanzania, and Africa’s most astonishing beach retreats.
  • Review: coming soon.


3. LAUCALA ISLAND, FIJI

Set upon 3,500 exclusive acres Laucala private island resort is set amidst coconut plantations, sandy beaches, rich green mountains and breathtaking natural beauty. True luxury is appreciated in the privacy of the resort’s 25 Fijian-styled villas widely spread on the northern tip of the island. Seamless transition from indoor to outdoor living creates an inspiringly relaxed yet luxurious atmosphere. Laucala shows its most ethereal side in an iridescent kaleidoscope of sporting and cultural activities. Diving in a unique underwater world, rain forest tours, horseback riding, surfing, golfing on the 18-hole championship course, or meeting native artists.

  • Hotel website: Laucala Island
  • Other accolades: Laucala Island also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most expensive hotels, the world’s most over-the-top hotel experiences, and luxury hotels with private airports.


2. SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES

Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on Medhufaru island, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The Maldives’ most exclusive hotel is fringed by pristine beaches, blanketed with lush tropical greenery, and surrounded by a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. Each one of the 24 water villas has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze.

Contact me to receive a complimentary room upgrade at Soneva Jani at the time of booking.

  • Hotel website: Soneva Jani
  • Other accolades: Soneva Jani also features in my lists of the best luxury hotels in the Maldives, the most fabulous overwater villas in the Maldives, the best new luxury hotels of 2016, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and my favorite hotels in the world.
  • Review: read my review of Sonev Jani here.


1. NORTH ISLAND, SEYCHELLES

North Island is the world’s most exclusive hideaway and the best hotel I’ve ever been to. The insanely beautiful island has only 11 opulent hand-crafted villas overlooking the pristine, powder-white sands and turquoise waters of the Ile Du Nord eco-reserve. Raised off the ground to catch the cooling Indian Ocean breezes, all villas open up onto your private garden and the beach. Plunge pools and outdoor showers provide the finishing touches to your private sanctuary. The island’s lounge and dining areas, scenically located health spa and gym, library and dive centre, and a rim-flow swimming pool are all built into a granitic outcrop. The resort was the decor for the honeymoon of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

  • Hotel website: North Island
  • Other accolades: North Island Seychelles also features in my top 10 lists of the  best luxury resorts in the Seychelles, the most astonishing beach retreats in Africa, the world’s best luxury hotels,  the world’s most expensive hotels, the world’s best honeymoon resorts, and my most phenomenal travel experiences of 2016.
  • Review: read my review of North Island Seychelles here.


*** Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***


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Is Cape Town safe? Everything you need to know about the water crisis

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series or news.

Today (February 9, 2018): Travel news: Is Cape Town safe? Everything you need to know about the water crisis.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that Cape Town is my favorite city on earth. Blessed with magnificent beaches, spectacular mountains, rolling hills of vineyards, breathtaking drive,s and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants to choose from, it is hard to imagine a more picture perfect tourist destination than South Africa’s Mother city. Combine this with some of the best accommodations on offer anywhere in the world and you are left with one of the hottest cities you will ever visit. However, Cape Town is currently facing its biggest crisis ever since it’s set to become the first major city in the modern era to run out of water. After three years of relentless drought in the Western Cape province, Cape Town is beyond the point of no return and the city’s water supply will be turned off on April 16th (‘Day Zero’) according to the latest estimations. What will happen next is a major fear, both for the city’s nearly four million citizens as well as the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit Cape Town each year. These are the key questions and answers that you need to know when you visit Cape Town in the near future.

  • How did this happen?
  • Could this crisis have been prevented?
  • What is the current situation in Cape Town?
  • How are tourists affected?
  • What will happen in the near future?
  • Should I cancel my trip?


Why does Cape Town run out of water?

The water crisis in South Africa’s Mother City didn’t happen overnight of course. It’s the dramatic result of an extreme drought that has been battling the region for the past 3 years. While summers in Cape Town (November to March) are constantly dry and warm, winters (June to August) are usually wet, but El Nino – perhaps exacerbated by climate change – has affected the seasons and the past 3 winters were unusually dry, dwindling down the six major water reservoirs (known locally as ‘dams’) that feed the city. For example, Theewaterskloof Dam – which provides more than half the water supply for Cape Town – is almost depleted with less than 25% of the reservoir remaining as demonstrated on the following images by the NASA:

In addition to extreme drought, overpopulation has contributed to the problem as well. Over the last two decades, Cape Town’s population has grown by 80%, while water storage only increased by 15%, straining the city’s existing water reservoirs.


Could this crisis have been prevented?

While the cause of the problem is clear, it’s surreal that one of the wealthiest cities in Africa finds itself in this position. Many in the city are angry with officials and the government that they didn’t see this problem coming. But could this crisis have been prevented? Yes and no.

No one expected this extreme dry spell to happen. Dr Wolski from UCT’s Climate System Analysis Group says that this kind of drought occurs only once in 311 years. Kevin Winter of the University of Cape Town’s Environmental and Geographical Science Future Water Institute goes even further and labels the drought as a once-in-a-millenium event. Yes, despite the undisputed rare character of the phenomenon, the current crisis demonstrates that the city was (and still is) ill prepared to deal with water shortage, which is especially shocking since the Western Cape province is a water-scarce environment. This is a remarkable and uncomfortable truth, given the fact that city has recognized the water treat over the past 20 years and that it took measures to reduce water use from its six reservoirs, by reducing water leaks, forcing large users to pay more, by shaming top water users by publishing their names, and promoting water efficiency. Cape Town even won several international water management awards, but despite that, officials made two big mistakes: they failed to adapt the local water supply to the demands of the fastly growing metropolis and they did not take into account the unlikely scenario of 3 consecutive dry winters. In addition, Cape Townians themselves are not without blame since more than half of residents ignored until very recently water restriction recommendations despite officials urging citizens to consume less.


What is the current situation in Cape Town?

As of 1 February 2018, the city council implemented tight water restrictions, lowering the daily allowance from 87 liters (23 gallons) to just 50 liters (13,2 gallons) of water per person. This is less than a third of the average daily water use in Europe and less than one-sixth of what the average American uses. To put things in perspective, 50 liters (13,2 gallons) is about the amount of water it takes to shower for 5 minutes or to flush the toilet 5 times a day.

The South African published guidelines what you can do with 50 liters (13,2 gallons) of water a day:

  • Take a 90 second shower (18 liters)
  • General hygiene, washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc … (3 liters)
  • Cooking (2 liters)
  • One flush of the toilet (9 liters)
  • Drinking (2 liters)
  • You must be clever to use the remaining 19 liters of water. For example, even the most eco-friendly washing machines use huge amounts of water, more than 40 liters a go. It is recommended to save on your flushing water by recycling water from your shower, hygiene and washing up.

Although 50 liters a day is not impossible, it does rise the tension and introduces some panic in the city. After a run on bottled water last month, supermarkets introduced limits for each customer. The crisis also underscores that Cape Town is one of the most unequal cities on earth, with extreme differences between the very poor and the very rich. The rich are digging boreholes — private wells to reach water in the aquifer – while the poor are waiting in lines daily to fill up water containers.


How are tourists affected?

So far, tourists don’t notice a lot of the water troubles. Some people are even unaware of the problems until the pilots tells them of the current water crisis upon landing at Cape Town International Airport. While all hotels, bars and restaurants remain busy, you will notice some minor changes, such as the taps in the toilets being turned off (with customers being asked to use hand sanitizers instead) and swimming pools being filled salt water. Visitors are also asked to be sensible and not wasteful, and to adhere to the same restriction of 50 liters (13,2 gallons) of water a day that applies to all Cape Townians (e.g. showering for no more than two minutes). Cape Town’s foremost hotels have also started implementing other water-saving measures. For example, the Taj Hotel has switched off their jacuzzi facilities and all steam rooms in their spas. Hotels of the Tsogo Tsun group have installed aerators and flow restrictors on taps as well as low-pressure heads on showers, and reduced the frequency of replacing linen and towels. 


What will happen in the near future?

The city’s officials plan to cut the taps (and thus supply of fresh water) when the reservoirs hit 13.5 percent. That day – known as ‘Day Zero’ – was originally calculated to be 21 April 2018 but has moved to 16 April, and there are fears that it might happen sooner still. On Day Zero, engineers will close the valves to about a million homes and the city will set up 200 collection points across the city, where residents can stand in line and collect the legally guaranteed minimum of 25 liters (6 gallons) of water daily under armed supervision of South African National Defence Force and South African Police Service.

Cape Town’s City Council has opened a Disaster Operations Centre (DOC) as the situation is now at a disaster level. The head of the DOC is drawing up a plan he hopes he never has to implement. “We’ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,” says Greg Pillay in an interview with The Guardian. “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis”. This nightmare scenario is more likely than you may think. In fact, law enforcement, police and time restrictions have already been placed at city springs after fights broke out last week.

That said, it’s not all misery since officials also take into account two more optimistic scenarios in which Day Zero could still be averted:

  • For months, Cape Townians have been urged to consume less water, but more than half of residents ignored those volunteer restrictions. However, with the new restrictions of a water limit of  50 liters (13,2 gallons) per person per day, the fear of Day Zero has gripped Cape Town, and the number of inhabitants consuming less water is on the rise. The hope is that with this increased conservation, the city’s water reservoir may last until at least May when the rainy season should start but experts say there’s no way of knowing when it will begin and when the drought will end.
  • In addition to reducing water consumption, the city – which is surrounded by the South Atlantic Ocean – is quickly examining other water alternatives, including drilling into the ground to reach aquifers and building four temporary desalination plant to convert saltwater to fresh water. The plants will start producing water in March, but probably not enough to avoid disaster as unfortunately, most of the city’s efforts to source alternative water sources are way behind schedule (you can track their progress here)

Should I cancel my trip?

So far, no foreign government body has warned against travel to Cape Town, so there’s no reason to cancel your trip. In fact, you cannot cancel a plane ticket or a holiday without penalty at present: airlines and tour operators are implementing their normal terms and conditions.

If conditions in Cape Town were to deteriorate after Day Zero, airlines and tour operators may offer the chance to postpone your journey, to switch destination, or to get a refund if the situation becomes dramatic.

Personally, I would not book a trip to Cape Town right now since it is quite uncertain what will happen after Day Zero and whether officials will be able to cope with the situation of social unrest. In case you have already booked a trip, you may find yourself in a stressful position since the dire situation in Cape Town doesn’t sound like a place to spend a relaxing holiday right now. However, always keep a back-up plan in mind:

  • Consider visiting another part of South Africa that is not affected by the drought. For example, there are no problems along the famous Garden Route, a region of splendid natural beauty which can be easily reached from Cape Town by car.
  • Consider switching destinations by flying from Cape Town to Namibia, a country blessed with some of the most stunning scenery on earth, such as the dunes of Sossuvlei and the natural wonders of Etosha National Park. Although Namibia is mainly a desert country, large-scale desalination are already in place since decades and drinking water is not a problem. Both Windhoek, the capital, and Walvis Bay (serving the adventure centre of Swakopmund) can be reached by a direct flight from Cape Town.

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Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar (Tanzania)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in Zanzibar, the famous spice island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:


Today (February 7, 2018): Review of Essque Zalu Zanzibar (Tanzania).

Essque Zalu Zanzibar is an intimate ocean-front property nestled in a natural cove on the north-east coast of Zanzibar. Guests can choose from 40 individual suites and – if you need extra space to spread out – 8 villas all with picturesque views over the lush tropical garden or the ocean’s turquoise blue waters. All suites offer a luxurious-styled space crafted from local materials, adorned with native artwork and housed under a traditional pitched makuti roof. Offering an added dose of opulence, the villas come complete with kitchens, private swimming pools and their own personal butler. Though Essque Zalu Zanzibar sits on the ocean’s edge, there’s no beach here. Instead, a long jetty extends over the water, where guests can descend and swim at high tide. Beach lovers can take solace in the nearby Nungwi Beach, consistently voted one of the top beaches in the world.

Essque Zalu Zanzibar features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Zanzibar.

In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

Click to view slideshow.

*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Tanzania with my online Tanzania travel guide ***


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Essque Zalu Zanzibar enjoys a remote, ocean-front location on the northeastern tip of Zanzibar, approximately a one hour drive from the island’s Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ), in the picturesque village of Nungwi. The resort sits above a natural rocky cove overlooking a ridiculously clear, turquoise lagoon, at least during high tide (since most of the lagoon and its stunning colors disappear during low tide, exposing several tidal pools). Although the resort is flanked by the village and a neighboring resort, you won’t notice any of that and the settings feels delightfully secluded.
  • The resort makes a stunning architectural impression upon arrival. Behind the entrance gate – which features red figures inspired by paintings of French artists Matisse – you’ll find the fabulous lobby, which is topped by the highest traditional Makuti-style roof in the archipelago. The shell-structure of the roof, which is composed of lofty thatch and an artsy network of tree trunks on the inside, is reminiscent of Sydney’s Opera House, which clearly inspired the design. The communal areas (e.g. lobby, restaurants, etc …) feature a modern, stylish, and African-chic design, with undulating walls, locally inspired artwork, and wood carvings for which Zanzibar is famous.
  • The resort features a simple and convenient layout. The lobby space beneath the enormous roof houses a small reception and concierge area in the front, with a large open-plan space in the back, which house the main restaurant (The Market Kitchen), a boutique shop, and a bar. The lobby gives way to a small square with a magnificent boabab tree at its center and the massive pool area, with the suite accommodations spread across one side of the pool while the villas, the spa facility and a small gym are located one the other side of the pool. A long jetty over the turquoise lagoon connects the pool area with a second restaurant, a bar, and a few lounge areas.
  • One of the hotel’s greatest features is the two-level, infinity-edge pool which gives the visual impression to float in the blue Indian Ocean. The upper level of the pool is mainly used by small children, while the larger lower level (with small waterfall) is popular with teenagers and adults. The pool features a central whirlpool tub and multi-colored underwater lighting makes it especially attractive at night. The pool is surrounded by plenty of comfortable loungers, some of them located in shaded huts, some of them located on platforms jutting out in the pool. The pool, which is filled with salt water, overlooks the sea on one side and the soaring lobby roof on the other side, the latter lending the pool area a village-like ambience.
  • Guests can choose from 40 individual suites, all with picturesque views over the lush tropical garden or the ocean turquoise blue. All accommodations are set in flourishing gardens, with the most expensive rooms enjoying an ocean front location. During my visit, I stayed in a one bedroom ocean suite, which was housed in a standalone bungalow with thatched roof. The suite had a lovely furnished outdoor patio with views of the ocean, although it wasn’t very private (because of a walkway next to the terrace). On the inside, the air-conditioned suite featured a fairly large living area (with a sofa that could be turned into a bed for a 3rd guest), a separate bedroom with a handcrafted four-poster bed in Zanzibari style, a large dressing room, and an airy bathroom with two sinks, a shower and a toilet. The room decor was simple but tasteful. Standard amenities included free WiFi, a personalized minibar, and a flat-screen TV with premium satellite channels.
  • If you want to splash during your stay or if you are traveling with a large party, Essque Zalu also offers 8 villas (so-called ‘Residences’) with 3 to 4 bedrooms, which are by far the most generously proportioned accommodations in Zanzibar. All villas feature their very own private plunge pool, dining room, a private spa, spacious living room and fully equipped kitchen. As expected, the Residences also boast either a terrace or balcony, with exquisite views, upon which to laze. A dedicated butler is also available for those staying in a villa, to satisfy your every whim, from assisting with your unpacking, preparing your favorite beverage to planning your desired experiences.
  • The hotel’s rocky shore has no permanent beach but instead overlooks a tidal beach, which completely submerges during high tide. However, direct access to the sea remains possible during high tide via the long wooden jetty which stretches out over the lagoon. The jetty is a real bonus to the resort: not only does it offer access to the sea and several facilities (a restaurant and bar), it also offers stunning views of the Zanzibari coastline and – despite the resort’s orientation towards the east – guarantees terrific sunset views.
  • There are two different dining options at Essque Zalu: The Market Kitchen is a deli-style restaurant housed under the enormous Makuti-thatched lobby roof and serves a cosmopolitan fair (e.g. crisp salads, cured meat, delicious pastas). It is a bright space with a quote from Virginia Woolf on the wall: ‘one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well‘. The Market Kitchen is also open for breakfast, which is served as a buffet of cold and hot items in addition to a small à la carte selection. The hotel’s second restaurant is set at the end of the jetty on a breezy platform above the sea, and serves light lunches as well as more formal three course dinners with a menu focused on fresh fish and seafood.
  • Essque Zalu Zanzibar also offer three bars, each with a distinct character. Besides the pool is a lovely bar which serves a wide range of cool coctails, refreshing fruit shakes, and light snacks. Close to the lobby, you find the casual Baobab Bar, which is built around a magnificent baobab tree, which offers enough cooling shade perfect for a drink during the day. Across the jetty restaurant is a small shisha lounge where you can casually kick back with a drink and watch dhows sail by as the sun sets.
  • The resort’s well-equipped spa represents a natural holistic sanctuary surrounded by the beauty of Zanzibar. It features 6 different treatment rooms (in addition to one outdoor sala near the pool) and provides a wide range of traditional and modern Africology treatments, involving organic oils and butters. Guests can indulge in rituals like ‘Jozani Rain Forest’, African potato body wrap or the resort’s signature ‘Maasai Ritual’. The latter is a two hour ceremony of bodily and sensory pampering, where you visit a series of huts, experiencing a foot massage, full body scrub and massage, and an African facial. The spa also features a fitness centre, sauna, and an aromatherapy steam room.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Essque Zalu is a 5-star hotel that offers a sophisticated design on one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Zanzibar. Yet, before considering a stay here, you need to know the following issues:

  • As mentioned above, the resort does not have a permanent beach, but rather a tidal beach which completely submerges during high tide. If you want a beach holiday, you may feel disappointed when staying here. That said, you can always take a taxi or walk along the shore (by making use of the tidal schedule) to nearby Nungwi beach, which is one of the world’s most stunning white sand beaches.
  • The whole island of Zanzibar is under the influence of the Indian Ocean tides, caused by the effect of the moon’s gravity against the mass of the ocean. The difference between low and high tide is dramatic, especially on the east coast of Zanzibar, which is protected by a large coral reef. During high tide, the lagoon in front of the hotel features a stunningly beautiful color, but during low tide, the lagoon completely dries up, creating a large area of shallow tidal pools. Swimming is possible at high tide, but not at low tide, although it is still possible to swim between tides from the hotel’s jetty, that has steps into the ocean for easy access.
  • The food is good but not as excellent as one would expect for a five-star hotel at this price level. The breakfast is somewhat below standards for a hotel of this kind with a limited choice buffet and no fresh fruit juices. I enjoyed the dinners at both restaurants, but for the price tag, I would have expected fine dining, although it was more of a decent bistro fair.
  • The staff is very friendly and polite. However, the service is very slow, sometimes frustratingly slow. At the restaurants you sometimes find yourself chasing waiters because they seem either too busy or disorganised. On one occasion, I waited at least an hour for food, and the staff had the order wrong on two other occasions, which made dinners not as relaxing as they should be. It also frequently took 30 minutes to get a couple of drinks, when no-one else was being served, which put me off from trying to order more things.
  • The traditional Zanzibari bed, made from carved wood, was visually impressive, but the mattress was quite firm and the pillows rather small and thin. Although I know that sleep comfort differs from person to person, I did not sleep well, and I would recommend the hotel to upgrade their beds and linens.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 7/10
  • Food: 7/10
  • Breakfast: 7/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good 8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Essque Zalu Zanzibar, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Classic Travel (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and daily dinner at the Market Kitchen or at The Jetty restaurant).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Zanzibar is located just south of the Equator off the coast of Tanzania.

The best time to visit the archipelago is from June to October during the long, dry season, when most days are sunny and substantial rainfall is fairly unusual. Another popular time to visit Zanzibar is during the short dry seasons from January to February when dry weather prevails although humidity is picking up.

The worst time to visit Zanzibar is during the main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, which last from March to May. Daily heavy tropical downpours (mainly occurring in the afternoon) are the norm and can ruin a beach holiday. During November and December there’s another rainy season, the so-called ‘short rains’, but these are much lighter, less frequent and less reliable than the main rains with short.


HOW TO GET THERE

Essque Zalu Zanzibar is located approximately a one hour drive from the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) in the coastal and picturesque village of Nungwi. Transfers can be arranged for a fee. Click here for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to/from Zanzibar.


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DINNER AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
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BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
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BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
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BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN
BREAKFAST AT THE MARKET KITCHEN

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The post Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar (Tanzania) appeared first on the Luxury Travel Expert.

Travel news: this month (January 2018) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (January 26, 2018): January 2018 luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:

  1. Aman opens its fourth property in China
  2. Air Seychelles drastically restructures
  3. Rosewood Hotels will open a property in the Caribbean’s West Indies
  4. Iberia announces its first A350 destination
  5. Norwegian sets record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight
  6. Six Senses Hotels & Resort will open a hotel in Singapore
  7. United Airlines launches Sydney’s longest route
  8. St. Regis Hotels plans to join Hong Kong’s skyline in 2019
  9. Emirates keeps the A380 production line alive
  10. Hilton announces a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Cancun


1. Aman opens its fourth property in China

Aman, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, has opened its fourth outpost in China, Amanyangyun, one of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2018. Meaning ‘nourishing cloud’, yangyun is a reference to expanding the ‘cloud’ of the mind with knowledge – a philosophy borne by the story of the trees and dwellings at Amanyangyun’s heart. Set in a flourishing, tranquil forest, and just a 40-minute drive from the bright lights and cosmopolitan bustle of Shanghai, the resort is the culmination of years of careful restoration and conservation efforts and safeguards priceless natural and cultural treasures. Amanyangyun features 13 antique resort villas and 24 guest suites that offer serenity in the heart of historic China. The villas are actual, centuries-old structures from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, relocated to save them from demolition, and each one is equipped with its own swimming pool and a heated Jacuzzi, while each suite also enjoys two private courtyards and outdoor bath. The resort is home to a spa and six dining venues, including an all-day dining pavilion, Chinese restaurant with seven private dining rooms, club lounge, informal lakeside café, Aman Deli Village Shop, and a 200-seat banquet hall.


2. Air Seychelles drastically restructures

Air Seychelles announced a new strategic transformation plan aimed at responding to rapidly increasing competition. The Seychelles archipelago will see a major influx of inbound seat capacity in 2018.  In addition to airlines already operating to Seychelles – Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Austrian Airways, Sri Lankan and Condor – British Airways has announced plans to launch flights from London to Seychelles in March, followed by Air France introducing services from Paris in May and the Swiss Edelweiss Air launching flights from Zurich in September 2018, creating overcapacity on Seychelles-bound services from Europe. This will create significant downward pressure on airfares and negatively affect the loads and forward bookings on Air Seychelles’ current three-per-week Paris operation. Consequently, Air Seychelles has decided to suspend its Paris service in April 2018 and exit the two leased Airbus A330 aircraft out of the fleet. All guests scheduled to fly to/from Paris beyond that date will be re-accommodated on other flights. The airline will mainly concentrate on developing its domestic operations, including inter-island flights between Mahé and Praslin, scenic flight packages and island charters, which are set to play an increasingly important role as more international travellers visit the archipelago.


3. Rosewood Hotels will open a property in the Caribbean’s West Indies

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open Rosewood Half Moon Bay Antigua in 2021 in the Caribbean’s West Indies. The resort will be situated on 132 spectacular oceanfront acres along Half Moon Bay, which is internationally lauded as one of the world’s most spectacular beaches. A serene oasis for discerning travelers, the resort will feature 47 pavilion-style suites, including an ultra-luxurious, three-bedroom presidential suite. Each accommodation will feature breath-taking ocean views and thoughtful amenities finely tuned to the desires of today’s affluential explorer, including private infinity plunge pools, hammocks, open-air baths and showers and live orchid walls in each bathroom.  Boasting a design that reflects the lush locale, the aesthetic borrows from historic Caribbean and architectural pioneers to offer a classic, timeless feel coupled with modern amenities and services. Set to become one of the most exciting destinations to dine and drink in the Caribbean, Rosewood Half Moon Bay will include several innovative dining and lounge concepts. Other property amenities will include two pools, one for adults and one for families, a fitness center, and tennis courts. Additionally, Sense, a Rosewood Spa, will offer an indulgent experience with six signature treatment rooms and locally inspired treatments.


4. Iberia annouces its first A350 destination

International Airlines Group (IAG) – the parent company of Iberia – has converted eight A350-900 options into firm orders for Iberia, the flag carrier of Spain, with 8 more A350 orders on option. The A350 has carbon fibre fuselage and wings and sets new standards in terms of passenger experience, operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. According to a tweet on its official twitter account, the first route for Iberia’s new Airbus A350-900 aircraft will be New York’s JFK Airport, and the A350 service would commence in August, replacing the current A340 operation. Before being rostered onto the New York service, the aircraft will initially be used on crew training flights between Madrid and Heathrow from June. Iberia’s A350 will feature a total of 348 seats across three classes: 293 in Economy, 24 in premium Economy, and 31 in Business Class. The Business Class seat will offer an increased width of 22,-8 inches or 58 cm (compared to 20,6 inches or 52.5 cm on other long-haul aircraft), as well as a larger TV screen (18 inches compared to 15.4 inches). The seat will convert into a 76,7 inches or 195 cm long fully flat bed, and will also feature a wider footrest with side protectors, and more space for storing belongings. The A350 aircraft will join Iberia’s exclusive Airbus long-haul fleet, including the Airbus A330-200, Airbus A330-300 (which I reviewed here), and the Airbus A340-600. The airline noted that the addition of the A350 is not meant to replace a specific aircraft type outright, but rather is to help the airline achieve its goal of 8% annual growth until 2022.


5. Norwegian sets record for fastest subsonic transatlantic flight

Low-cost airline Norwegian has set a new record time for the fastest ever transatlantic flight by a subsonic passenger aircraft this week using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Norwegian flight DY7014 from New York JFK to London Gatwick on Monday 15 January completed the full duration of the flight in 5 hours and 13 minutes – the fastest transatlantic flight recorded on a subsonic commercial aircraft. The previous record was 5 hours and 16 minutes. The flight carrying 284 passengers departed New York at 11:44 am and arrived at London at 9:57 pm – 53 minutes early. Europe’s third largest low-cost airline, operates double daily flights between London and New York using the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The flight benefitted from strong tailwinds over the Atlantic Ocean that reached a maximum of 176 knots (202mph). The tailwinds pushed the aircraft to a top speed of 776mph during the flight. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft (G-CKHL) used on the record-breaking transatlantic flight adorns British tail fin hero Amy Johnson, a pioneering pilot who was the first female to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. Norwegian honours iconic figures on the tails of its aircraft, using personalities who symbolise the spirit of Norwegian through innovation, challenging the norm, and inspiring others.


6. Six Senses Hotels & Resort will open a hotel in Singapore

Six Senses has annouced a Singapore property, which will be split across two buildings that are an easy wander apart: Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell. The Six Senses Duxton site features a row of trading houses that have been sustainably restored under the designer Anoushka Hempel, acclaimed for her Hempel and Blake’s hotels in London. In harmony with a rich Asian history, yet still presenting her luminary vision, Anoushka has given each of the 49 guestrooms and suites a unique individuality so that no two are exactly the same. The Six Senses Maxwell site was originally a nutmeg plantation before 14 three- and four-story colonial-style buildings were constructed and later joined together as a single entity. The diverse characteristics have been carefully conserved and the property features 120 guestrooms and suites, a Six Senses Spa, outdoor lap pool, Champagne bar and lounge, whiskey bar, boardroom and club lounge. A verandah lined with lush tropical foliage follows the length of the building and will be the ideal spot to meet for refreshments and alfresco dining. Guests can make full use of all facilities and outstanding service in both buildings, as well as the rich local community in between. No matter where you sleep, guests can sign for services at either hotel and will consider both locations – their home away from home. Six Senses Duxton is due to open in April 2018, followed by Six Senses Maxwell three months later.


7. United Airlines launches Sydney’s longest route

United Airlines began daily, nonstop service between its Houston hub and Sydney on January 18, 2018. The new flight is the only nonstop service to Australia from Houston and offers travelers from Houston as well as from hundreds of cities across the U.S. the opportunity to conveniently travel to Sydney. United also serves Sydney nonstop from its West Coast hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  At 8,596 miles, this flight will be United’s second longest, after its San Francisco to Singapore flight wich ranks among the world’s ten longest flights. Together with its service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Singapore, United will fly the three longest flights by a U.S. carrier, making United the leader in ultra-long haul flights. United’s flight between Houston and Sydney is operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft with a total of 252 seats – 48 flat-bed seats in United Polaris business class, 63 Economy Plus seats and 141 seats in United Economy. United Polaris Business Class features a reimagined, sleep-enhancing experience for intercontinental travelers, including elevated inflight food and beverages, tranquil custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, comfortable pajamas and exclusive amenity kits with products from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa. You can read here or watch below my review of United Polaris Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner.


8. St. Regis Hotels plans to join Hong Kong’s skyline in 2019

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts – part of the Marriott Hotel Group and one of the world’s fastest growing luxury brands – will bring its legendary service to Hong Kong by early 2019. Marriott International has nine properties in Hong Kong, but this will be the first property for the St. Regis brand in the city. Located in the heart of historic Wan Chai, with its skyscrapers, high-end shopping and commercial buildings, the new St. Regis Hong Kong will be within walking distance to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, as well as and Victoria Harbor. With interiors created by acclaimed Hong Kong-based designer, André Fu, the 25-story St. Regis Hong Kong will offer 129 guest suites, many of which will feature stunning views across Victoria Harbor and Kowloon Bay. Guests will enjoy the brand’s legendary St. Regis Butler Service, signature Chinese and French restaurants, a 320-seat banquet hall and a heated swimming pool, among other luxurious amenities. An open-air terrace next to a grand Lobby Lounge will provide the ideal venue for al fresco gatherings, and a St. Regis Bar will serve up the hotel’s rendition of the brand’s signature cocktail, the Bloody Mary.


9. Emirates keeps the A380 production line alive

Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, announced a $16 billion USD deal for 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft, with 20 firm orders and 16 options. Emirates’ A380 fleet operates both Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce engines, and the airline is evaluating engine options for its latest A380 order. The additional Airbus A380s will be delivered to Emirates from 2020 onwards. Together with the airline’s 101-strong A380 fleet and its current order backlog for 41 aircraft, this new order brings Emirates’ commitment to the A380 programme to 178 aircraft, worth over $60 billion USD. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline, said: “We’ve made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates. Our customers love it, and we’ve been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix. Some of the new A380s we’ve just ordered will be used as fleet replacements. This order will provide stability to the A380 production line. We will continue to work closely with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and onboard product, so as to offer our passengers the best possible experience. The beauty of this aircraft is that the technology and real estate on board gives us plenty of room to do something different with the interiors”. This new order underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years. You can read here or watch below my review of Emirates’ First Class in an A380.


10. Hilton announces a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Cancun

The Hilton Hotel Group announced plans to welcome a luxury Waldorf Astoria hotel (in addition to an all-inclusive Hilton resort) in the Mexican resort town of Cancun. Set to open in 2021, the neighboring properties will feature distinct characteristics and amenities across 100 acres of Caribbean beachfront. Set to deliver a truly 5-star experience for guests, the Waldorf Astoria Cancun will feature 150 exceptionally appointed guest rooms and suites, with waterfront or mangrove-facing terraces and private balconies. The property will boast the signature Waldorf Astoria spa, integrating Mexican healing traditions with native ingredients for indulgent treatments, in addition to state-of-the-art fitness facilities, two plunge pools and two exquisite dining experiences. For an unforgettable taste of Mexico, guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy the locally sourced Yucatecan cuisine that will be offered at additional dining experiences throughout the property. Renowned design firms SB Architects, EDSA and HBA have been hand-selected to create a fluid transition between indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the Waldorf Astoria Cancun. Inspired by the surrounding area’s natural elements, the design will incorporate variations of modern lines, repetitive patterns and undulating forms that mimic the sea. Both properties will also feature classic Mexican colors and materials, as well as modern design elements and technology.


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The post Travel news: this month (January 2018) in luxury travel appeared first on the Luxury Travel Expert.

Ethiopian Airlines B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in Zanzibar, the famous spice island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:

  • Review: Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam (today)
  • Review: Park Hyatt Zanzibar
  • Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar
  • Review: &Beyond Mnemba Island (PHENOMENAL!)
  • Review: Hideaway at Nungwi Resort & Spa
  • Review: Condor B767 Business Class from Frankfurt to Zanzibar (via Mombasa)
  • Review: KLM B777 Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam

Today (January 24, 2018): Review of Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam via Addis Ababa.

On January 7th 2018, I flew Business Class in an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Vienna (Austria) to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) with a short layover at Ethiopian Airlines’ hub in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). Both flight legs were operated by modern B787 Dreamliner aircraft with fully lie flat seats in Business Class (or Cloud Nine as Ethiopian calls its premium cabin product). Note that Ethiopian’s oldest B787s are still flying around with angled lie flat seats, so this review is not representative of all Ethiopian’s Dreamliners. The experience was good, albeit not mindblowing, but did indeed exceed my expectation, and I would heartily recommend Ethiopian Airlines when you consider flying them.

  • Trip: Vienna (VIE) via Addis Ababa (ADD) to Dar Es Salaam (DAR)
  • Airline: Ethiopian Airlines
  • Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
  • Aircraft registration number: ET-ATI (VIE-ADD) & ET-ATK (ADD-DAR)
  • Flight Number: ET725 (VIE-ADD) & ET825 (ADD-DAR)
  • Date: January 7, 2018
  • On time departure: yes (10.10 pm)
  • On time arrival: yes (12.05 pm)
  • Miles: 2992 (VIE-ADD) & 1080 (ADD-DAR)
  • Flight time: 6 hours (VIE-ADD) & 2.5 hours (ADD-DAR)
  • Seat: 2A (both legs)
  • Class: business (D)

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Ethiopian Airlines’ Cloud Nine Lounge at Addis Ababa Airport
  2. Fact & figures about Ethiopian Airlines longhaul fleet
  3. Business Class cabin
  4. Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  5. Amenities
  6. Meals
  7. Entertainment
  8. Onboard internet
  9. Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
  10. My verdict (score)

Click to view slideshow.

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1. ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES’ CLOUND NINE LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT

During my short layover at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, I visited the lounge of Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian uses 3 lounges at Addis Ababa’s Terminal 2, which can make things a little confusing:

  • The Star Alliance Gold Lounge  is designated for use by Star Alliance Gold members, including ShebaMiles Gold members (ShebaMiles is Ethiopian’s frequent flyer program).
  • The ShebaMiles Silver Lounge, located on the inside corridor away from the gates in the departure hall, is only accessible to passengers with ShebaMiles Silver status (silver is the tier one step above regular).
  • The Cloud Nine Lounge can be used by passengers flying Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class (or Cloud 9 as Ethiopian calls it) who don’t have Star Alliance Gold or ShebaMiles status. In fact, it’s called Cloud Nine Lounge 2 because this is the lounge in Terminal 2 and there’s another Cloud Nine Lounge located in Terminal 1.

Since I don’t have status anymore with Star Alliance (I switched to American Airlines’ frequent flyer program AAdvantage a long time ago), I spent my layover in the Cloud Nine 2 Lounge. The lounge is quite large and features several separate seating areas with tons of comfortable loungers in addition to a corner with a few dining tables. You better like bright red when visiting this lounge, since the room’s walls and the seats are all red, reflecting one of Ethiopian’s 3 signature colors (the other two are green and yellow). At the end of the colorful and busy lounge is a quiet room where cell phone conversations are not allowed and where you can relax in a few seats with built-in massage functions.

The Cloud Nine 2 Lounge features a fairly large bar area as well as a buffet station, which offers a variety of refreshments, cold and hot snacks, including Ethiopian dishes and international dishes from the East and West. There’s also a traditional Ethiopian coffee station, which is the highlight of the lounge experience since Ethiopian coffee is terrific.

The lounge provides complimentary and fast WiFi, which is great since Ethiopian Airlines does not offer internet on its aircraft, so it’s the only place to check your emails while on route. You do not need to worry when to board your flights as Ethiopian Airlines staff members walk around the lounge and personally come to announce the departure time for each flight.

CLOUND NINE 2 LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT
CLOUND NINE 2 LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT
CLOUND NINE 2 LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT
CLOUND NINE 2 LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT
CLOUND NINE 2 LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT

2. FACT & FIGURES ABOUT ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LONGHAUL FLEET

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest, fastest growing and only consistently profitable airline in Africa, registering an average growth of 25% in the past seven years. In its seventy plus years of operation, Ethiopian has become the continent’s leading carrier, unrivaled in efficiency and operational success. It operates the continent’s youngest long-haul fleet (average fleet age of five years) to more than 100 international passenger and cargo destinations across five continents. Its fleet is currently composed of:

  • 6 Airbus A350-900XWB
  • 21 Boeing B787 Dreamliners (mix of B787-8 and B787-9)
  • 10 Boeing B777 (mix of B777-300ER and B777-200LR)
  • 6 Boeing B767-300ER
  • 24 Boeing next generation B737 (mix of B737-800 and B737-700)
  • 19 Q400 Bombardier

In fact, Ethiopian is the first airline in Africa to own and operate all of these aircraft. The carrier has future plans to receive 19 A350-900s, 4 B787-900s and5 Q400s.

Most of Ethiopian’s longhaul aircraft feature lie-flat seats, except for the oldest ten B787s. The carrier finished the retrofit its B767 and B777 fleet – with installments of flat bed seats – last year, so I assume those older B787 will be the next aircraft to undergo a retrofit.

ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: B787 DREAMLINER AFTER LANDING
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 DREAMLINER
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 DREAMLINER
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 DREAMLINER

3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner features just one large Business Class cabin, located in the aircraft’s nose section. There are 24 seats, spread over 4 rows, in a 2-2-2 configuration, with the seats on the side slightly angled towards the windows, away from the aisle. All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats (where you have to climb over the legs of your neighbor to reach the aisle). Paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which – together with a small partition – adds some privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger (although the seats and cabin are very open) and at the same time allows enough interaction when you are traveling with a companion. The seats are covered in a red fabric, which is the only bright color in an otherwise neutral cabin color palette.

This is the same Business Class layout which you find on other airlines, such as KLM’s B777 (which I will review soon), United Airlines’ B787s, and Qatar Airlines’ A330s.

For a seat map of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner, click here.

VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

4. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

I was seated in 2A, both for the red-eye flight from Vienna to Addis Ababa (which lasted 6 hours) and the morning flight from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam (which lasted 2.5 hours).

Before I review the Business Class seat, it’s important to note that not all of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature lie-flat seats. The first ten Dreamliner aircraft were delivered with an older Business Class product with angled lie flat seats (170 degrees recline), while the newer Dreamliners have all been delivered with fully flat beds (180 degrees recline). Unfortunately, when you’re booked on one of Ethiopian’s B787s, there’s no way to know upfront which kind of Business Class product you will get (angled versus full lie flat seat). This review only covers the fully lie flat Business Class seat, which is identical to the one that is installed on United Airlines B787s and Qatar Airways’ A330 planes. In a nutshell: it’s a great seat, although it doesn’t offer much privacy and the comfort of the flat-bed will largely depend on the seat that you choose (more on that below).

The soft cushioned seat has a pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. The seat width is 22 inch (56 cm) – defined as the space between the arm rests – which is comfortable but not among the widest in the industry. Each seat features its own 15,4 inch HD TV, which can be controlled by either a handset in the armrest or by directly touching the screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and a footrest which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined. The size of this footrest differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in row 1 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats (so make sure to choose a seat in the first row if you can).

The arm rest that is shared between paired seats features a small shared table (for drinks and snacks), the seat controls, and the remote control for the entertainment system. It also houses a moderately sized fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are kind of blocked in your seat). On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find a universal AC power outlet and a USB port.

The seat goes fully flat (180 degrees recline), but again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in row 1 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are too narrow for a good night’s rest.

What are the best Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.

  • All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
  • The bulkhead seats in row 1 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some light noise disturbance from time to time.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.

  • The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating some extra levels of privacy (albeit not enough in my opinion).
  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
  • As mentioned above, the footrests are very narrow (except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1), so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

5. AMENITIES

Business Class passengers receive a decent pillow (grey color), a somewhat  scratchy blanket (yellow color) and an amenity kit.

On intercontinental flights, the amenity kit has the form of a pouch bag (with hook) and contains an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, pen, toothpick, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and lip balm.

On flights within Africa, the amenity kit is a small bag, with a more limited content: eye mask, ear plugs, socks, toothpaste and toothbrush.

VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: AMENITY KIT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: AMENITY KIT
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: AMENITY KIT

6. MEALS

On the Vienna to Addis Ababa red-eye flight, both dinner and breakfast were served, although it was only a 6 hour flight. Fyi, the highly acclaimed Middle East carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways serve only one meal on flights of a similar duration.

I choose the following selection from the dinner menu:

  • Cold canapés: duck roll toast; salmon & Philadelphia toast with dill; and chicken curry toast with parsley sprig.
  • Starter: marinated octopus with red peppers, black olive, artichoke and olive oil with lemon juice.
  • Main dish: grilled Beef Tenderloin with truffle sauce and motato gratin and grilled zucchini (my travel companion had the Ricotta ravioli with sautéed spinach, roasted cherry tomato, and permesan cheese).
  • Dessert: tropezienne cake stuffed with vanilla custard (although I just had a kiwi because I am on a diet since the start of 2018).
I skipped the breakfast service since I wanted to sleep as long as possible on this flight, and leave some room for a meal on the second flight from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam. The latter was only a short trip (2.5 hours) and one lunch was served:
  • Main dish: choice of orecchiette with beef Carbonara, or lentil with spinach and blood orange (both dishes served with a pesto salad).
  • Dessert: dark chocolate brownie

Ethiopian coffee and tea was served on both flights.

Overall, the food was just acceptable but uninspiring for an otherwise decent Business Class product.

VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: MENU
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: DINNER
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: DINNER
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: DINNER
VIENNA TO ADDIS ABABA: DINNER
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: MENU
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: LUNCH
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: LUNCH

7. ENTERTAINMENT

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature a modern inflight entertainment system with a high-resolution 15,4 inches screen in front of each seat and in-seat power outlets (the inflight audio and video entertainments are accessible with your own mobile devices /tablets). The entertainment selection is more limited as compared with other carriers, but enough to keep you entertained during a few hours. Noise-cancelling headphones are offered as well.

VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
VIENNA TO ADDIS ADABA: NOISE CANCELING HEADPHONES
ADDIS ABABA TO DAR ES SALAAM: FLIGHT PATH

8. ONBOARD INTERNET

Unfortunately, Ethiopian Airlines does currently not offer wireless internet on any of its aircraft.


9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# VIEWS: The first flight from Vienna to Addis Ababa took place during the night and there was no view at all. I was surprised that the pilots did not turn on the aircraft’s fuselage lights during landing (we landed in pitch black darkness). The second flight offered views of the African savannah all the way from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam. However, the best views were enjoyed on the ground shortly after landing in Addis Ababa as we were treated to a magnificent sunrise from the airport’s terminal.

ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: SUNRISE
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: SUNRISE
ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT: SUNRISE

# CREW: The crew on both flights was efficient, highly professional and superfriendly (although they did not interact much with the passengers; not necessarily a bad thing).

# LAVATORY: There’s one lavatory exclusive for Business Class passengers in the galley behind the cockpit, and there are two more in the galley between the Business Class cabin and forward Economy Class cabin, although they are used by passengers seated in both cabins.


10. MY VERDICT
  • Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 7/10
  • Food (quality):  7/10
  • Food (quantity): 9/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 8/10
  • WiFi: 0/10 (not available)
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin design: 8/10
  • Overall experience: good: 7/10

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The post Ethiopian Airlines B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam appeared first on the Luxury Travel Expert.

Top 10: best luxury hotels & lodges in Tanzania

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 22, 2018): top 10 most exclusive hotels in Tanzania.

A journey though Tanzania, Africa’s visual masterpiece, is one of the best trips one can make in a lifetime. It’s a country of astonishing natural splendour, incredible wildlife spotting, powder white beaches, charming ancient towns, and archaeological UNESCO world heritage sites. One of the most dramatic stages for a classic African safari is Tanzania’s Great Migration, where mighty herds of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras thunder across the Serengeti plains while chasing the rains in a race for life as they are purchased by a large number of predators. But the country offers much more than a Big Five safari experience. Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, rises 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level from its surrounding lush, grassy plains. Its snow-capped peak is a sight to behold and towers over the land. Climbing Kilimanjaro is surprisingly easy and standing on the roof of Africa is a life-changing experience.  Most visitors to Tanzania will end their unforgettable safari and mountain adventure with a serene and relaxing holiday on the sugar white, palm-fringed sands of Zanzibar, the intoxicatingly beautiful and exotic Spice Island. Tanzania also harbours some of the world’s finest and most luxurious hotels & lodges, matching the country’s breathtaking scenery. I hereby present you a top 10 list of my prefered hotels & lodges across Tanzania’s rugged and wild landscapes.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite hotel in Tanzania in the comments section, or take my poll below!

Click to view slideshow.

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10. &BEYOND KLEIN’S CAMP

Situated on the only concession that borders on both Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenia’s Masai Mara National Parks, &Beyond Klein’s Camp offers some of the best panoramic views of these two iconic destinations, which also play host to one of the greatest wildlife migrations on earth. In this untamed and rugged landscape, you can enjoy exceptional game viewing, thrilling night game drives, Maasai culture and old-fashioned safari luxury. This private and remote camp offers guests the spirit of wild Africa – wooded hillsides, rolling grasslands and forested river banks, all teeming with the rich wildlife, of this natural sanctuary lie sprawled at your feet. The stone interiors of the guest areas open up to breathtaking panoramas, with open fireplaces to keep the chill away. All ten cottages, including 1 family suite, feature uninterrupted views.


9. PARK HYATT ZANZIBAR

Park Hyatt Zanzibar is the quintessential destination from which to experience the rich culture, heritage and historical significance of Zanzibar’s main city, Stone Town, a designated UNESCO heritage site. Sitting majestically on the beachfront in the heart of Stone Town, the hotel provides the ultimate haven amongst the city’s labyrinth of winding alleys, bustling markets, mosques and famed Zanzibari doors, featuring magnificent ornate wooden carvings. The hotel is housed in two buildings, one of them Mambo Msiige, a typical Zanzibari mansion steeped in history, grace and mystique with a story dating back to the 17th century. From the spacious guest rooms and authentic cuisine to spectacular views from the oceanfront infinity pool, the Park Hyatt Zanzibar offers both discerning business travelers and luxury holiday makers rare, intimate and unforgettable experiences.


8. FOUR SEASONS SAFARI LODGE SERENGETI

Set within Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is the perfect escape for those looking for a truly magical experience and to get up close and intimate with nature. The design of the property reflects both contemporary African architectural style and its surrounding landscape, with the centerpiece of the lodge being a two-story great house that includes a choice of both indoor and outdoor dining options. Both restaurants as well as the free-form infinity pool all overlook the active watering hole, providing fascinating views of the congregating animals, from elephants and their young to herds of buffalo and troops of baboons. All 77 guest rooms, including 12 suites with plunge pools and 5 free-standing villas with private swimming pools, feature elevated open-air sundecks, which provide views over the Serengeti and a truly intimate wildlife experience to its guests.


7. &BEYOND LAKE MANYARA TREE LODGE

Most people think that the famous tree-climbing lions at Lake Manyara have developed their climbing habit to get away from annoying insects. However, they might just be jealous of the magnificent treehouse suites at &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. Cradled in the boughs of an ancient mahogany forest, the lodge blends into the natural beauty of its breathtaking surroundings. Designed to exert minimal impact on the environment, &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge offers an exclusive interpretive safari in a remote, game-rich wilderness. Overlooking a forest boma, or outdoor dining area, lined with traditional dugout canoes, guest areas are characterized by soaring spaces that house local artworks and tactile fabrics. An interactive kitchen allows guests to observe the preparation of delicious dishes while enjoying spectacular forest views.


6. AZURA SELOUS

The Selous is Africa’s oldest and biggest game reserve, and one of its last great wilderness areas. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has long been renowned for having more wild dog, elephant, lion, hippo and buffalo than any other game reserve in the World. Azura Selous has a pristine location on the banks of the Great Ruaha river, ensuring game viewing from your bed, deck, and even your outdoor shower. The resort’s 12 spacious designer ‘tented villas’ come with private plunge pools, butler-hosts to look after your every need and fabulous dining in varied locations. The highly trained guides will make your safari at Azura truly special, personalizing a safari itinerary for you that includes extensive game viewing drives in open sided Landrovers, both on and off road, walking adventures, boating, fishing and star-gazing.


5. SINGITA SABORA TENTED CAMP

Singita Sabora Tented Camp is situated in an untouched wilderness area of Grumeti Reserves, spanning over 350,000 acres in northern Tanzania. The intimate 1920s-style explorer’s camp is permeated by a sense of nostalgic adventure. Steeped in character, Singita Sabora Tented Camp surprises guests with an opulence that is delightfully out-of-place with the rugged terrain of the surrounding savannah plains. Here, guests are immersed in the palpable pulse of the wild Serengeti, with the added thrill of knowing there isn’t much separating the comfort inside from the elements and wildlife outside. The 9 en-suite tents are lavishly furnished with a treasure trove of antiques, Zanzibari chests, and Persian rugs, and lead directly onto the plains where day beds are scattered to provide spots for afternoon naps and incredible game-viewing.


4. THE RETREAT SELOUS

The Retreat Selous is a unique all-suite tented lodge, found in the remote far north of the UNESCO protected Selous Game Reserve on the banks of the wide Great Ruaha River. The spaciously set tented suites have been constructed to correspond with the surrounding habitat, whilst guaranteeing privacy and romance. Bespoke furnishings, African antiques, natural materials, and precious stones are carefully blended to create a unique sense of comfort and natural luxury. The atmospheric main house, ‘The Fort’, is based on an ancient military observation point from the First World War and draws upon the influences of the great East African market. The fort has a large infinity pool and its surrounding provide a much favored vantage point from which guests have a 360 degree view of the untouched surrounding wilderness.


3. &BEYOND NGORONGORO CRATER LODGE

With ever-changing views as mists swirl and clouds scurry over the huge wildlife cauldron below, the location of &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is truly breathtaking. Divided into three camps, 30 stilted suites with banana leaf ceilings and grass roofs provide an intimate and exclusive safari experience. Each camp has its own sitting and dining areas, with private butlers who provide warm, personal service. Guests can be forgiven for losing track of which era, or even continent, they are experiencing at the lodge since nowhere else on earth can you wake up among all the trappings of an elegant baroque chateau – brocade sofas, gilt mirrors, beaded chandeliers and panelled walls – and be instantly transported into one of the most famous African landscapes with just one glance out the window of the lodge. In this place of dramatic contrasts, Versailles meets Maasai and anything is possible.


2. SINGITA FARU FARU LODGE

Singita Faru Faru Lodge is set in Grumeti in northern Tanzania, which is part of the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. Built on a gently sloping hill, this riverine lodge, positioned on the renowned migratory route traversed annually by more than 2 million wildebeests, is a place where you can quite literally expect the unexpected. Informal, unconventional and surprising at every turn, Singita Faru Faru Lodge has 7 one-bedroom suites, one family suite as well as one two-bedroom suite with private pool and is a mix of contemporary, organic style and the quirky practicality of a traditional botanist’s camp. With such close proximity to the river and plains, guests have the unique opportunity to experience a very close connection with the wilderness.


1. &BEYOND MNEMBA ISLAND

If you have ever harboured the secret wish of finding yourself the sole inhabitant of a beautiful tropical island, but without the effort of having to lift a finger to fend for yourself, &Beyond Mnemna Island is just the place for you. This romantic, private hideway is an award-winning barefoot beach paradise just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, that accommodates a maximum of 20 guests at a time. Guest relax and unwind in the exclusivity of their own stretch of beachfront, where ten beachside bandass peep out onto unblemished sands from the dappled shade of the casuarina pine forest and overlook the Mnemba atoll (a scuba diver’s delight). From snorkeling, swimming, ands kayaking to massages in the beach, to doing nothing at all, &Beyond Mnemba Island has something for everyone.


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Review of American Airlines’ frequent flyer program, AAdvantage (pros & cons)

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (January 19, 2018): Review of American Airlines’ frequent flyer program.

I have previously published (and continuously update) my reviews of the most important hotel loyalty programs (including SPG, Wordl of Hyatt and Marriott Rewards to name a few). This year, I will publish a series of reviews of the world’s most beneficial frequent flyer programs, which are mostly (but not always) managed by the world’s biggest airlines. Today, I start with an in-depth review of AAdvantage (with pros and cons).

AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. Launched in 1981, it was the second such loyalty program in the world (after the first at Texas International Airlines in 1979) and remains the largest with a reported membership of more than 100 million. For decades, AAdvantage was by far the best and most rewarding loyalty program, not only for American citizens living nearby the American Airlines hubs of Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas) but also for travelers based outside the USA. However, that all changed after USA Airways took over American Airlines, keeping the brand name and the loyalty program, but introducing a massive devaluation and – last year – a revenue based earning system. But despite these changes, I still consider AAdvantage to be the best frequent flyer program in the world because of the many benefits.

AAdvantage features in my top 10 list of the best frequent flyer programs to join in 2018.

In this overview, I explain the AAdvantage program and how to benefit from it:

  1. AAdvantage elite levels
  2. How to earn AAdvantage miles in the air
  3. How the earn AAdvantage miles on the ground
  4. How to spend AAdvantage miles (and travel for free)
  5. Best and worst AAdvantage redemptions
  6. Pros & things I like about the AAdvantage program
  7. Cons & things I don’t like about the AAdvantage program
  8. Poll: what’s the world’s best frequent flyer program?

I encourage you to share your thoughts about AAdvantage (and knowledge of any hidden pros or cons of the program) in the comments section.


1. AADVANTAGE ELITE LEVELS

There are four elite levels that you can work your way up to when you join the AAdvantage loyalty program. AAdvantage Gold is the entry-level; AAdvantage Platinum the second level; AAdvantge Platinum Pro the third level; and Executive Platinum is the top-level. Each level has benefits and as you move from AAdvantage Gold to Platinum then Platinum Pro and finally Executive Platinum, these benefits become more valuable. There are 2 ways to qualify for AAdvantage elite status based on your activity during the calendar year: either by elite qualifying miles or by elite qualifying segments (number of flights) flown on American Airlines and/or one of the One World alliance airlines. In addition, you are also required to spend a minimum of at least $,3000 USD (elite qualifying dollars) with American Airlines per calendar year to qualify for elite status.

  • Gold status is reached after 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments per calendar year in addition to $3,000 USD minimum annual spending level. AAdvantage Gold members are equivalent to Ruby status members in the One World alliance and enjoy the following benefits:
    • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
    • 24-hour upgrade window
    • 40% elite mileage bonus
    • 50% off main cabin extra seats (complimentary at check-in)
    • Complimentary preferred seats
    • 1 free checked bag
  • Platinum status is reached after 50,000 qualifying miles or 60 qualifying segments per calendar year in addition to $6,000 USD minimum annual spending level. AAdvantage Platinum members are equivalent to Sapphire status members in the One World alliance and enjoy the following benefits:
    • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
    • 48-hour upgrade window
    • 60% elite mileage bonus
    • Complimentary main cabin extra and preferred seats
    • 2 free checked bags
    • Access to One World Business Class and frequent flyer lounges
  • Platinum Pro status is reached after 75,000 qualifying miles or 90 qualifying segments per calendar year in addition to $9,000 USD minimum annual spending. AAdvantage Platinum Pro members are equivalent to Sapphire status members in the One World alliance and enjoy the following benefits:
    • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
    • 72-hour upgrade window
    • 80% elite mileage bonus
    • Complimentary main cabin extra and preferred seats
    • 2 free checked bags
    • Access to One World Business Class and frequent flyer lounges
  • Executive Platinum status is reached after 100,000 qualifying miles or 120 qualifying segments per calendar year in addition to $12,000 USD minimum annual spending level. AAdvantage Executive Platinum members are equivalent to Emerald status members in the One World alliance and enjoy the following benefits:
    • 4 one-way systemwide upgrades (with the ability to earn 4 more for a total of 8 per year)
    • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
    • 100-hour upgrade window
    • 120% elite mileage bonus
    • Complimentary main cabin extra and preferred seats
    • 3 free checked bags
    • Access to One World First and Business Class and frequent flyer lounges


2. EARNING AADVANTAGE MILES IN THE AIR

There are two different types of miles that you can earn with AAdvantage: elite qualifying miles and award redeemable miles.

  • Elite qualifying miles can be earned on flights operated by American Airlines, airlines of the One World alliance, and Alaska Airlines. The only purpose of these miles is to determine your eligibility for AAdvantage elite status during a given calendar year (cf supra). The elite qualifying miles you collect during a calendar year become invalid the next year and cannot be redeemed for any sort of rewards. Elite qualifying miles represent a percentage of the actual miles flown (including applicable minimum mileage guarantees) based on the airline and the booking code purchased. For example, the following number of elite qualifying miles is earned on American Airlines operated flights (check here what you earn on other airlines):
    • Full Fare First/Business Class ticket (F, J): 3 elite qualifying miles per mile flown
    • Discount First/Business Class ticket (A, D, I , R): 2 elite qualifying miles per mile flown
    • Premium Economy Class ticket (W, P): 1.5 elite qualifying miles per mile flown
    • Full fare Economy Class ticket (Y): 1.5 elite qualifying miles per mile flown
    • Economy Class ticket (H, K, M, L, V, G, S, N, Q, O): 1 elite qualifying mile per mile flown
  • Award redeemable miles can be earned on flights operated by American Airlines, airlines of the One World alliance, and several other airline partners. These miles can be exchanged for a wide variety of great rewards (more on that below). The more you spend, and the higher your elite status, the more award redeemable miles you will earn, although there is an earning maximum of 75,000 award miles per ticket:
    • AAdvantage member without status: 5 miles for every U.S. dollar
    • Gold member: 7 miles for every U.S. dollar (40% bonus)
    • Platinum member: 8 miles for every U.S. dollar (60% bonus)
    • Platinum Pro member: 9 miles for every U.S. dollar (80% bonus)
    • Executive Platinum member: 11 miles for every U.S. dollar (120% bonus)

American Airlines offers one of the best frequent flyers in the world to boost and maximize your mileage earnings because it has so many partner airlines:

  • Award and elite qualifying miles can be earned on all 13 airlines of the One World Alliance, which all enjoy high-flying reputations for quality service. These carriers include American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines.
  • AAdvantage also allows its members to earn award and elite qualifying miles on Alaska Airlines, a non-One World alliance airline.
  • Award qualifying miles (but not elite qualifying miles) can also be earned by traveling on several non-One World alliance airlines with whom American Airlines partners. These airlines include Fiji Airways, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Seaborn Airlines, and Westjet.

In addition to elite qualifying and award redeemable miles, American Airlines regularly launches generous promotion to earn lots of award redeemable bonus miles (often 20,000 bonus miles or more) for flying eligible (mostly transatlantic or newly launched) routes in their premium cabin. Those promotions are often launched in conjunction with its One World partners Iberia, Finnair and British Airways, that run identical promotions at the same time.


3. EARNING AADVANTAGE MILES ON THE GROUND

The possibilities to earn award redeemable miles and boost your account are endless within the AAdvantage program, even when not flying, by making use of the more than 1,000 additional AAdvantage partners.

  • Each time you stay in a hotel which partners with AAdvantage, you can earn miles. This will mostly be around 500 to 1000 miles per hotel stay. All you need to do is present your AAdvantage card number at check-in.
  • Several hotel loyalty programs allow you to convert your hotel points into AAdvantage miles. These programs include Best Western Rewards, Club Carlson, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, Wyndham Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guests (you can read my reviews with pros and cons of most of these hotel loyalty programs here). Starwood Preferred Guest – the loyalty program of Starwood Hotels – has the best conversion program as it allows you to convert Starpoints to AAdvantage frequent-flyer miles on a 1:1 basis, including a 5000 conversion bonus when you convert 20,000 Starpoints.
  • AAdvantage members earn award redeemable miles every time they rent a car with one of the major car rental companies, including Herz, Avis, Budget, Sixt, Payless, Alamo, National, Dollar, Thrifty, Carmel, and Europcar. The exact number of miles you earn for a car rental depends on the company and ranges from 50 to 500 miles per day.
  • Award redeemable miles can also be earned when you make use of one of the USA based airport taxi services, such as Groundlink, Supershuttle, and ExecuCar.
  • American Airlines not only offers flights, but also holiday packages (flights + hotels) as well as cruise holidays (in collaboration with major cruise companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Carribean, and Carnival). Every time you book a holiday or a cruise via the dedicated American Airlines website, you will earn miles.
  • Members earn AAdvantage miles by shopping online in the AAdvantage eShopping mall, a collection of 950+ stores that offers deals exclusively for members. Occasionally, there are promotions that give you more miles for your money.
  • Members earn AAdvantage miles when they grab deals on Groupon, buy flowers, or attend a Broadway show (click here for more information).
  • Members earn AAdvantage miles when they make use of the products offered by American Airlines’ financial and business partners, for example when you buy or sell your home.
  • Members earn AAdvantage miles when they make use of the products offered by American Airlines’ health and lifetime focused partners, for example travel insurance, green energy, and spa companies.
  • One of the easiest ways to earn (a small amount of) free AAdvantage miles is to join an opinion panel – such as e-Rwards or Miles for Opinions – and take surveys geared toward your interests.
  • AAdvantage also offer the possibility to directly purchase tens of thousands of miles without flying, which can be an interesting option to explore if your mileage account is just short off an award ticket. Promotions are regularly launched where you will receive bonus miles in addition to the purchased miles.
  • You can dramatically increase your AAdvantage mileage earning with credit card spendings: 
    • You can transfer program points from the American Express or Diner’s Club Rewards Programs into your AAdvantgage account to boost your mileage account.
    • One of the fastest ways to earn AAdvantage miles is by using an American Airlines co-branded credit card (only available in the USA and the UK). These credit cards also offer considerable bonus miles upon your first purchase (often enough for a reward ticket).


4. SPENDING AADVANTAGE MILES

The best way to spend your AAdvantage miles is to redeem your miles for free flights on American Airlines or one of its partner airlines to nearly 1,000 destinations worldwide. The number of miles you need will depend on the route, the cabin, and the airline:

  • You can use this award chart to estimate the number of miles you may need for a one-way award on American Airlines. You have the option between three different award categories: MileSAAver, AAnytime awards, and off-peak rewards.
    • If your plans are flexible, MileSAAver awards can be extremely beneficial as a MileSAAver Business or domestic First ticket cost the same number of AAdvantage miles as an AAnytime Economy Class ticket on the same route.
    • AAnytime awards are booked as a full-fare (Y) tickets and allow more flexibility when it comes to changing or canceling award flights.
    • Off-peak awards aren’t technically listed as separate on the AAdvantage website, because they have the same restrictions as MileSAAver awards, but they are a great way to make your miles go further if you can make yourself available for travel during the off-season.
  • You can use this award chart to estimate the number of miles you need for a one-way award on one of American Airlines’ One World alliance partners. These include American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines.
  • You can use this award chart to estimate the number of miles you may need for a one-way award on one of American Airlines’ non-One World alliance partners. These include Alaska Airlines, Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Seaborn Airlines, and Westjet.

Besides redeeming them for free flights, there are several other ways to redeem your hard-earned AAdvantage miles:

  • You can use your miles to upgrade to the next cabin on most domestic and international flights marketed and operated by American, as well as upgrade your seat on flights operated by British Airways and Iberia. Calculate here the number of miles you will need for an upgrade with one of these 3 carriers.
  • You can use miles or combine cash and miles for car rentals, hotel stays and vacations at more than 150,000 properties in over 500 destinations worldwide. Flexible payment options allow you to use miles, or a combination of cash plus as few as 1,000 miles, to pay for your reservation. You can even use miles to book activities and tours.
  • You can donate your miles to make the world a better place and help people in need.
  • You can buy or renew Admirals Club membership with miles. Admirals Club refers to both the membership program and network of lounges operated by American Airlines.

5. BEST AND WORST AADVANTAGE REDEMPTIONS

Although there are several ways to spend your AAdvantage miles, not all options are equally good, considering that AAdvantage miles are valued at a rate of 1,5 cent (in USD currency) each on average.

  • The best way to use your AAdvantage miles for maximum value is to redeem them for an award seat on an international flight operated by one of American Airlines’ excellent partner airlines. These are several sweet spots on the AAdvantage award chart:
    • Etihad A380 First Class Apartment from Paris/London to Abu Dhabi, and then continuing to the Maldives (62,000 miles one way).
    • Qatar Airways Business Class from Europe to the Maldives, which includes a journey in the new SQuites when you depart from London or Paris (42,500 miles one way).
    • Cathay Pacific First Class from New York City to Vancouver (55,000 miles one way).
    • LATAM Business Class from the USA to Peru (30,000 miles one way).
    • Air Tahiti Nui Business Class from Tokyo to Tahiti (40,000 miles one way).
    • Air Fiji Business Class from Hong Kong to Fiji (40,000 miles one way).
    • Japan Airlines Economy Class domestic flights (7,500 miles one way)
    • Japan Airlines First Class from the USA to Japan or South Korea (80,000 miles one way) is probably the best First Class redemption for USA based travelers.
  • The worst way to spend your AAdvantage miles is for rewards with lower than 1,5 cent per mile values and I suggest you don’t even consider them. These include domestic flights on American Airlines, Admirals Club membership fees, hotels, car rentals, and gift cards.


6. PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THE AADVANTAGE PROGRAM
  • The strongest point of AAdvantage is that you can earn and redeem miles on the program’s many partner airlines. These include all the One World carriers (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines) but also several non-One World carriers (Alaska Airlines, Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Seaborn Airlines, and Westjet). It means that you can earn and spend your miles to nearly 1,000 destinations worwide.
  • If you fancy flying the world’s best Business/First Class products for free, then collecting AAdvantage miles is your best way to do so. You can redeem AAdvantage miles on Etihad Airways A380’s First Class Apartment, Etihad Airways’ B787 Studio Suite, Qatar Airways B777’s QSuite, Japan Airlines’ B777 First Class, and Cathay Pacific’s B777 First Class.
  • AAdvantage has the best award chart around. As outlined above, there are several sweet spots on the award chart, such as 42,500 miles for a one-way Business Class ticket from Europe to the Maldives (cheaper than most competitors); 40,000 miles for a Business Class ticket from Asia to the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tahiti (not bad for a 10+ hour flight); and domestic flights within Japan for 7,500 miles in Economy Class. Compared to its main competitors Delta and United, American charges fewer miles for Business Class redemptions between the USA and Europe and between the USA and Asia.
  • If you love holidays in the Pacific Ocean, then you’ll love the AAdvantage program since it has established collaborations with all of the region’s main airlines. American Airlines allows you to both earn and redeem miles on Hawaiian Airlines and Fiji Airways, and allows you to redeem (but not earn) miles on Air Tahiti Nui.
  • The AAdvantage program is very valuable when you live close to one of American Airlines’ major hubs:
    • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
    • John F. Kennedy International Airport
    • Los Angeles International Airport
    • Miami International Airport
    • Chicago O’Hare International Airport
    • Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (
    • Philadelphia International Airport
    • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • By calling the AAdvantage customer service center, you can hold an award booking for free to five days, allowing you to finalize your travel plans in between.
  • All awards are considered one-way journeys, so it’s easy to book open-jaw itineraries, and mix cabins in one and the same itinerary.
  • AAdvantage does not charge fuel surcharges when booking your miles (the only exception is awards on British Airways flights departing from the UK).
  • AAdvantage allow you to reach elite status, not only by flying on American Airlines and its One World partners, but also by flying Alaska Airlines (which is a great feature for USA based travelers).
  • AAdvantage distributes a generous bunch of bonus miles to its elite members. Executive Platinum members earn a 120% bonus, Platinum Pro members earn an 80% bonus, Platinum members earn a 60% bonus and Gold members earn a 40% bonus on top of base miles earned traveling with American and participating airlines.
  • AAdvantage members earn (much) more miles when flying on the One World airlines as compared to the loyalty program of its European partner British Airways. The reason is that American Airlines gives its elite members an elite mileage bonus on all One World airlines, while British Airways only gives this bonus to its elite members when they fly British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia and Japan Airlines. So, flying Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, Finnair, LAN, Qatar Airways, Srilankan Airways, Royal Jordanian or S7 airlines is more beneficial for the mileage accounts of AAdvantage members than for the accounts of British Airways Executive Club members (regardless of status).
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum members receive four system-wide upgrades per year to be used on American Airlines marketed and operated flights.
  • When you have flown one million miles, you will be rewarded with Million Miler status, which includes AAdvantage Gold status for the life of the program and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. At two million miles you’ll get AAdvantage Platinum status for life and four one-way system-wide upgrades. At each additional million miles, you’ll get another four one-way system-wide upgrades.
  • American Airlines has a special relationship with all 3 Middle East airlines (Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways), that are considered by many to offer unmatched service in the skies. While this partnership is evident for Qatar Airways (One World partner) and Etihad Airways (additional airline partner) – with the possibility to earn and collect miles on both of them – this is less clear (and not well known) for Emirates. You cannot redeem AAdvantage miles on Emirates, but you will earn AAdvantage elite qualifying and award redeemable miles (plus bonus miles) when you fly Emirates metal on the Kangaroo route between Europe and Australia on condition that your ticket is booked under a Qantas codeshare number (Qantas and Emirates have close ties these days). A couple of years ago, I collected more than 40,000 AAdvantage miles and reached the AAdvantage Executive Platinum threshold by flying Europe to Sydney in Business Class on Emirates’ magnificent A380 airctaft (read my trip report here). How cool is that!

7. CONS & THINS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT THE AADVANTAGE PROGRAM
  • Although it was the last of the big three USA airlines to do so, AAdvantage is now revenue-based, meaning miles are awarded based on dollars spent rather than number of miles flown. On flights with American Airlines, the ‘elite qualifying dollars’ you earn will be based on the price of your ticket excluding taxes and fees. When traveling with One World partners, you will earn elite qualifying dollars as a percentage of the distance flown and the fare class of your ticket. As mentioned above, the following thresholds are needed for status with American Airlines (although these treshold can be lowered if you use your American Airlines branded credit card):
    • Gold: $3,000 elite qualifying dollars
    • Platinum: $6,000 elite qualifying dollars
    • Platinum Pro: $9,000 elite qualifying dollars
    • Executive Platinum: $12,000 elite qualifying dollars
  • Your mileage credit will be forfeited if your account is inactive for 18 months. American allows you to pay to reactivate them.
  • The AAdvantage website only shows award availability and only allows online bookings for awards on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines. To request and/or book award seats on other partner airlines, you need to call the AAdvantage customer service center, which can be inconvenient and expensive when you’re not based in the USA.
  • AAdvantage charges several fees for changes to a booked award itinerary: a $150 USD fee for changes to arrival or departure location, and a $150 USD fee for cancellation and miles redeposit, plus $25 for every additional passenger on the same itinerary. The fee is waived for Platinum Executive members.
  • AAdvantage does not allow stop-overs on award tickets.
  • AAdvantage charges a $75 USD fee to book a flight or change date or time on a reservation within 21 days of departure.
  • When you’re not based in the UK or USA, you cannot make use of an American Airlines branded credit card, thus missing one of the best opportunities to boost your mileage account.


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The post Review of American Airlines’ frequent flyer program, AAdvantage (pros & cons) appeared first on the Luxury Travel Expert.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class from Honolulu to San Francisco

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:

  • Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
  • Review: United Airlines B777-200ER Business Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
  • Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel (Honolulu)
  • Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Lanai)
  • Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
  • Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
  • Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
  • Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
  • Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class from Honolulu to San Francisco (today)
  • Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich

Today (January 10, 2018): Review of Hawaiian Airlines’ First Class in an Airbus A330 from Honolulu to San Francisco.

On August 20, 2017, I flew aboard the premium class cabin of a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 from Honolulu (in Hawaii) to San Francisco (in California). Hawaiian Airlines calls this premium cabin ‘First Class’ on domestic flights from Hawaii to the mainland USA, while the same cabin is designated ‘Business Class’ on international flights. I’ve always been intrigued by Hawaii’s flag carrier, especially by the stunning livery with Pualani’s welcoming smile on the tail of each aircraft, kind of overlooking the plane and keeping it safe. IMHO, Hawaiian ranks among the best carriers for domestic service in the USA, on condition that you are flying on one of Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft which all feature a new premium seat and cabin that is a massive improvement on the carrier’s current offering on its aging (and soon to be retired) Boeing 767 fleet. I suffer from a fear of flying, especially for flights over large bodies of water, so this flight was a challenge for me, although it was a comforting thought to know that Hawaiian ranks among the safest carriers in the world that have never had a plane crash.

  • Trip: HLN-SFO
  • Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A330-200
  • Aircraft registration number: N380HA (named Makali’i)
  • Flight Number: HA12
  • Date: August 20, 2017
  • On time departure: yes (1.30 pm)
  • On time arrival: yes (21.30 pm)
  • Miles: 2399
  • Flight time: 5 hours
  • Seat: 2A
  • Class: First Class (domestic)

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Hawaiian Airlines lounge at Honolulu airport
  2. Fact & figures about Hawaiian Airlines’ longhaul fleet
  3. First Class cabin
  4. First Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  5. Amenities
  6. Lunch
  7. Entertainment
  8. Onboard internet
  9. Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
  10. My verdict (score)

Click to view slideshow.

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1. HAWAIIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT HONOLULU AIRPORT

Hawaiian manages two lounges at Honolu International Airport. The Plumeria Lounge, located on the airport’s 3rd floor, is Hawaiian’s most upscale lounge and only accessible to passengers flying Business Class to one of Hawaiian’s international destinations, although a pass is also available for purchase for $40 at time of check in, subject to seat availability. Passengers flying domestic First Class have access to Hawaiian’s other lounge – the Premier Club – which is located near gate 56 in Honolulu’s Interisland Terminal (which is inconvenient when you depart from the overseas terminal since you always have to pass an agricultural inspection checkpoint between both terminals). The Premier Club is a glorified name for what is basically a uninviting albeit contemporary decorated room, without windows and with several seating areas. The main reasons to visit the lounge are the free WiFi and the complimentary beverage at the small buffet station, which offers soft drinks, coffee and tea (but no alcohol or spirits). When you’re not in need of the internet or drinks, you are better off spending your time outside the lounge, and enjoy the views of the appron and runways from the airport’s open-air walkways.

PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT
PREMIER CLUB AT HONOLULU AIRPORT

2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT HAWAIIAN AIRLINES LONGHAUL FLEET

Hawaiian Airlines currently operates a mixed longhaul fleet for its trans-pacific flights to Asia, Oceania, and the USA mainland.

  • Since 2010, the mainstay of Hawaiian’s current fleet are its 24 Airbus A330-200s, which have an average age of 4,6 years (as of today). Each plane is assembled at the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, then flown 16 hours and 6,600 miles to Hawaii, often non-stop. Upon delivery, each Hawaiian Airlines A330 is auspiciously named for a celestial body of particular importance to ancient Polynesian navigators, from Hokupaa (Polaris) to Hanaiakamalama (Southern Cross). Hawaiian’s Airbus A330 seats 294 passengers. That’s 30 more than the Boeing B767, which translates, over the course of a year, to 11000 additional seats per route.
  • Hawaiian is currently phasing out its Boeing 767 fleet. The carrier is still operaring 8 B767-300ER aircraft but the last one will be leaving the fleet by the end of 2018. It’s quite remarkable, since its B767 planes are not that old, with most of them being assembled in the 2000s. Neither too big nor too small, the B767 was just right for some of Hawaiian Airlines’ most popular trans-Pacific routes. Since 2008, the carrier’s B767s have been retrofitted with vertical winglets at the end of each wing. They may look small from the window, but they’re actually 11 feet (3 m) tall and help the airline save 300,000 gallons in jet fuel annually per aircraft.
  • Hawaiian is currently replacing its Boeing 767 with 18 brand-new narrow-body Airbus A321neos. The 767s currently seat 252 to 264 passengers, while the A321s will seat just 189, which is a significant reduction in the number of seats, but this is a perfect choice for the carrier’s expansion plans in low-density markets on the USA West Coast. Hawaiian has already taken delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, which will be operated on non-stop service between Maui and Portland later this month. This will be followed by A321neo service on the Kaua’i-Oakland and Kona-Los Angeles routes as Hawaiian receives additional aircraft.
  • Hawaiian has also shown interest in the Airbus A330-800neo. Three years ago, the airline ordered six A330-800neo airliners which are slated for delivery in 2019 and will give the airline the ability to fly even farther to points as far as India, western Australia, London or even Moscow. It’s clear that the airline wants to court leisure travelers from the other side of the world to Hawaii, although it’s not sure what airplane it wants to use since they have recently expressed doubts about the A330-800neo program in favor of its competitor, the Boeing 787.
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES AIRBUS A330-200

3. FIRST CLASS CABIN

Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft feature one premium cabin, located in front of the plane. This cabin is designated ‘First Class’ on domestic routes to the USA mainland and ‘Business Class’ on the carrier’s international routes. With only 4 rows of 18 seats arranged in a 2-2-2 layout, the cabin feels quite intimate and remarkably open (no private suites here). While this open and suboptimal 2-2-2 layout is not ideal for solo business travelers, this configuration is ideally suited for the carrier’s leisure guests, as most of Hawaiian’s premium passengers travel to Hawaii as couples, families and honeymooners.

The design of the premium cabin – the result of a collaboration between Hawaiian and the West Coast-based design firm Paul Wylde – feels modern and stylish. The cabin decor incorporates flowing curves evocative of Hawaii’s winds and ocean, while marrying organic textures, pops of bright saturated color, and luxury materials like leather from Poltrona Frau. Subtle design elements reflect the natural colors and forms of the island landscape, such as the wave-inspired seatback shells, the privacy dividers of natural reeds embedded in resin, and a ‘constellation panel’ at the back of the premium cabin. The latter features the constellation Makali’i – rendered in subtly twinkling fiber-optic lights – which is is the cluster of stars appearing in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months. This is significant to Hawaiian Airlines, as Makali’i is the constellation that was high in the sky when the carrier’s first airplane took off on November 11,1929.

For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330 plane, click here.

FIRST CLASS CABIN
FIRST CLASS CABIN
FIRST CLASS CABIN
FIRST CLASS CABIN (DURING FLIGHT)
FIRST CLASS CABIN (DURING FLIGHT)
FIRST CLASS CABIN (DURING FLIGHT)

4. FIRST CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)

I was seated in 2A for the 5 hour trip to San Francisco.

Each seat in the premium cabin is located in its own shell – with curves depicting Hawaii’s ocean waves – and slightly angled towards either the window or aisle. The seats are not very private – and definitely a sharp contrast with the enclosed suites that you now find on many airlines – but that was a well-thought-out choice of Hawaii’s flag carrier, since couples and families outnumber solo travelers among its premium passengers. So the seats are perfect for companions to experience the flight together, although a divider screen between two adjoining seats can be raised in case you are traveling on your own and seated next to a stranger.

In front of the seat is a small ottoman, with a side panel that prevents your feet from dropping off the footrest while you move around. There’s a tiny storage area underneath the ottoman to stow away your shoes in-flight. It’s surprising that Hawaiian didn’t make these footrests a little larger since there’s plenty of room to do so. Both the seat and ottoman are of high standard of quality as they are covered in fine dark-brown leather from Poltrona Frau, a renowned furniture-making company based in Tolentino, Italy, that also has Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati among its clients. The shared arm rest between two seats hides the tray table (which needs to be pulled out) and a adjustable, telescoping in-seat arm, which is used to fix the large screen tablet (distributed the crew shortly after takeoff) and which can be adjusted to optimize viewing angle and comfort.

The seat doesn’t have a lot of fringes, except for two USB ports, a full AC power, and a reclining wheel in the arm rest that allows you to set the exact amount of recline you like. The seat does goes fully flat into a 76-inch (193 cm) flatbed at 180-degrees, which is a massive improvement over the old-recliner seats that you still find aboard Hawaiian’s B767 aircraft. The flat bed is quite comfortable, although a little on the hard side (and duvets are not provided on domestic flights).

What are the best First Class seats on Hawaiian’s A330? For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330, click here.

  • All seats in the premium cabin, except for the first row, are quiet good, especially for couples and friends. Make sure to prebook your seat online (which can be done free of charge) to avoid disappointment at the airport, since Hawaiian’s flights are mostly fully packed.

What are the worst First Class seats on Condor’s B767? For a seat map of Hawaiian’s A330, click here.

  • The 2-2-2 First Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a large divider though between seats that can be raised for added privacy.
  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
  • Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and passengers going to or returning from the lavatories.
SEAT 2A&B
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT 2A
SEAT FEATURES
SEAT FEATURES
SEAT FEATURES
SEAT FEATURES
SEAT FEATURES
SEAT 2A: FLAT BED POSITION
SEAT 2A: FLAT BED POSITION

5. AMENITIES

Although taking 5 hour, an amenity kit was not provided during this domestic flights. First Class passengers only receive a blanket and pillow, both of mediocre quality. Noise cancelling headphones are distributed by the crew after takeoff (and collected again before landing).

It has to be noted that Hawaiian does offer amenity kits on its international flight, with a selection of soothing products, including a hand and body balm, lip balm and hydrating mist, dental kit, a bamboo comb, and socks with a playful slipper. An eye mask, plush mattress pad and pillow are provided for added comfort and a restful sleep.

AMENITIES: BLANKET
AMENITIES: PILLOW
NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

6. LUNCH

During this afternoon flight, one lunch was served shortly after takeoff. Lunch service started with the distribution of a hot towel, the menus, and an aperitif with a dish of salted macadamia nuts. I choose the following items from the menu, which was created by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui restaurant:

  • Starter: Kim Chee shrimp poke with salted cucumber and pickled Maui onions
  • Entree: Shoyu roast chicken with sweet corn relish and creamy mushroom rice
  • Dessert: passion chocolate cake

The starter and entree were brought to your seat, while the crew rolled a cart down the aisle for the dessert and coffee. I have to admit that I did not expect a lot from the meals (as I never have high expectations for meals offered by an American carrier) but I was utmost surprised by both the presentation and the taste of the meals. All dishes were delicious!

A small gift was offered with the lunch tray: a photobook by Sutterfly. A nice gesture!

WELCOME DRINK
MENU
MENU
MENU
MENU
MENU
MENU
MENU
LUNCH: APERITIF
LUNCH: STARTER
LUNCH: STARTER
LUNCH: MAIN COURSE
LUNCH: DESSERT CARD
LUNCH: DESSERT
A GIFT

7. ENTERTAINMENT

The seats don’t feature an in-seat inflight entertainment system. Instead, in-flight entertainment is provided via large tablets that are distributed by the crew shortly after takeoff and attached to an in-seat metalic arm. Hawaiian Airlines’ inflight entertainment comprises a decent selection Hollywood releases, TV shows, games, and more. It’s offered free of charge to First & Business Class passengers, while passengers in coach have to pay for it (packages start at $7,99 USD for movies on demand or unlimited TV shows).

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

8. ONBOARD INTERNET

Hawaiian Airlines is the only USA airline that does not offer inflight WiFi so far.


9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREW: The crew on this flight was young (most of them seemed in their twinties) but they offered great and efficient service.

# LAVATORY: There is one lavatory aboard the A330 plane for First Class passengers, located directly behind the cockpit.

LAVATORY

# VIEWS: We enjoyed clear weather all the way from Honolulu to San Francisco, and while there was not much to see except for the vast ocean, the views of Oahu island during takeoff were quite spectacular.

VIEWS OF OAHU ISLAND AFTER TAKEOFF
SUNSET FROM 40,000 FEET

10. MY VERDICT (SCORE)
  • Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
  • Seat privacy: 5/10
  • Food (quality):  8/10
  • Food (quantity): 8/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 8/10
  • WiFi: 0/10 (not available yet)
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin design: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8/10

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Top 10: safest airlines that have never had a plane crash

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 8, 2018): Top 10: world’s safest airlines that have never had a major accident.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, 2017 was the safest year on record in aviation history, as no fatal accidents with commercial passenger jets occurred (excluding propeller planes and cargo jets). And while USA President Trump took credit for that global safety record in one of his (in)famous tweets, airline accidents have actually been on a consistent global decline since more than 30 years, thanks to strict regulations and rigorous standards in the aviation industry. That said, some airlines are still better performing than others when it comes to safety standards, and that’s why the Australia-based aviation analysis website AirlineRatings.com released an annual list of the world’s 20 safest carriers, which are standouts in the industry and are at the forefront of safety, innovation, and launching of new aircraft. Airlines that can present an impeccable safety record of zero fatalities in their history are very rare though. Here’s a closer look at 10 major global airlines (listed in alphabetical order) that have not had a plane crash in the modern jet era.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Leave a comment.

Click to view slideshow.

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ETIHAD AIRWAYS

Etihad Airways is the flag carrier and the second largest airline of the United Arab Emirates (after Emirates). Etihad, which started commercial operations in 2003, uses Abu Dhabi International Airport as its hub. The airline operates more than 1000 flights per week to over 120 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas, with a fleet of more than 120 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Etihad has maintained a perfect safety record in its 15 years of flying passengers across the globe.

  • Official website: Etihad Airways
  • Other accolades: Etihad Airways features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most luxurious First Class suites in the sky, the world’s best airline lounges, the most delicious airline food, and the world’s most luxurious A380 First Class cabins.
  • Review: read here my review of Etihad Airways’ First Class in an Airbus A380.
  • Review: read here my review of Etihad Airways’ Business Class in an Airbus A330.
  • Review: read here my review of Etihad Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777.


EVA AIR

EVA Air is the second largest Taiwanese airline (after China Airlines) and based at Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, Taiwan. The privately owned carrier is a 5-star airline, rated by Skytrax, and flies to over 40 international destinations spread across 4 continents. EVA Air was founded in 1989 and has not suffered any hull losses, accidents, or fatalities since its establishment. The carrier currently operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, wit A330, A321 and B777 planes mainly used on passenger routes along with B747 And B777 freighter aircraft flown on cargo routes.

  • Official website: EVA Air


FINNAIR

Finnair, which operates out of Helsinki Airport, is one of the world’s oldest operating airlines. Since it was founded over 90 years ago in 1923, the company has grown from a small airline to a strong and respected member of the international airline industry. The carrier flies over 10 million passengers per year to almost 80 destinations in Europe, Asia and North American aboard its modern fleet of Airbus, Embraer and ATR aircraft. With no fatal or hull-loss accidents in the modern jet area, Finnair is consistently ranked one of the safest airlines in the world.

  • Official website: Finnair
  • Other accolades: Finnair features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airline lounges, and the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky.
  • Review: read here my review of Finnair’s Business Class in an Airbus A350 XWB.
  • Review: read here and here my reviews of  Finnair’s Business Class in an Airbus A330.


HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Now in its 86th year of continuous service and operating more than 200 daily flights system-wide, Hawaiian is Hawai‘i’s biggest and longest-serving airline, as well as the largest provider of passenger air service from its primary visitor markets on the U.S. Mainland. Hawaiian also offers non-stop service to Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa and Tahiti. Having never suffered from fatal accident or a hull loss throughout its history, Hawaiian frequently tops the list of the world’s safest carriers. In addition, Hawaiian is also one of the airlines with the best on-time performance in the USA, as well as the with the fewest cancellations, oversales, and baggage handling.

  • Official website: Hawaiian Airlines


JETBUE

The low-cost carrier Jetblue is the 6th largest airline in the USA, with its main base at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The company was founded in 1999 by Brazilian-American entrepreneur David Neeleman and based on the success formula of Southwest Airlines, although Jetblue tried to distinguish itself by offering a superior inflight entertainment system and more leg room in couch. Jetblue is now a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Orlando, and San Juan, and carries more than 38 million customers a year to 101 cities in the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America with an average of 1,000 daily flights aboard a fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 and Embaer E190 planes.

  • Official website: Jetblue


QANTAS

Founded in the Queensland outback in 1920, Qantas is the world’s 3rd oldest airline (behind KLM and Avianca) and has grown to be Australia’s largest domestic and international airline. Over its 97-year history Qantas has amassed an amazing record of firsts in safety and operations and is widely regarded as the world’s safest airline since it hasn’t suffered any accidents in the modern jet era. Qantas’ reputation for safety gained instant world-wide fame in 1988 because of the movie Rain Man, when Dustin Hoffman’s character claimed that ‘Qantas never crashes’. Australia’s flagship carrier is based in Sydney and flies to 80 destinations in more than 20 countries, using a fleet of modern Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

  • Official website: Qantas
  • Other accolades: Qantas features in my top 10 list of the world’s most luxurious A380 First Class cabins and the best First Class amenity kits.
  • Review: read here my review of Qantas’ First Class in an Airbus A380.


QATAR AIRWAYS

Since its launch in 1997, Qatar Airways has earned many awards and accolades, becoming one of an elite group of airlines worldwide to have earned a 5-star rating by Skytrax. Qatar’s flagship carrier serves 150 international destinations across Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Far East, South Asia, Middle East, North America, South America and Oceania from its base at Hamad International Airport near Qatar’s capital Doha, using fleet of more than 180 Boeing and Airbus aircraft. As an industry leader in aviation safety, the airline has demonstrated a strong safety and security performance record. Back in 2003, it was the first airline to complete the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) audit with 100 per cent compliance.

  • Official website: Qatar Airways
  • Other accolades: Qatar Airways features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most delicious airline food, the world’s best airline Business Class lounges, the best inflight videos of all time, the world’s most luxurious A380 First Class cabins, the best Business Class amenity kits, and the best First Class amenity kits.
  • Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’s First Class in an Airbus A380.
  • Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Dreamliner.
  • Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777.
  • Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in an A330.


RYANAIR

The Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair is Europe’s largest airline by scheduled passengers flown. Last year, the airline carried over 131 million customers on more than 2,000 daily flights from 86 bases, connecting over 205 destinations in 33 countries on a fleet of more than 400 Boeing 737 aircraft (with a further 240 Boeing 737’s on order). The airline has been characterised by its rapid expansion, a result of the deregulation of the aviation industry in Europe in 1997 and the success of its low-cost business model. Ryanair has a team of more than 13,000 highly skilled aviation professionals delivering Europe’s number one on-time performance, and an industry leading 32-year impeccable safety record.

  • Official website: Ryanair


SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Founded more than 40 years ago, Southwest Airlines is now the USA’s largest domestic air carrier, operating more than 4,000 weekday departures among a network of 100 destinations in the United States and 10 additional countries. Similar to Ryanair, Southwest operates an exclusive fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, making it the largest operator of the Boeing 737 worldwide, with over 700 in service, each averaging six flights per day. The carrier has maintained an excellent safety record as not a single passenger has died as a result of an accident, although Southwest has lost two aircraft due to damage at landing beyond repair, and an occupant of a car was killed in 2005, as the vehicle was hit by one of carrier’s B737s who overran the runway in Chicago during a snow storm.

  • Official website: Southwest Airlines


VIRGIN ATLANTIC

Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson 33 years ago with innovation and customer service at its core. Today Virgin Atlantic carries 5.5 million customers annually, employs over 9000 people worldwide and operates a fleet of 39 aircraft serving 26 destinations across four continents from its bases at London’s Heathrow, London’s Gatwick, and Manchester airport. Alongside joint venture partner Delta Air Lines they operate the leading transatlantic network – offering up to 39 flights per day between the UK and US with onward connections to over 200 US and international cities. The Virgin-branded airline has not incurred a major accident since its launch in 1984.

  • Official website: Virgin Atlantic
  • Other accolades: Virgin Atlantic features in my top 10 list of the world’s best airline Business Class lounges.


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