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Travel Udpate: 15 - 19 April

15 April 2013

Virgin Atlantic extend in-flight entertainment

Virgin Atlantic passengers can now enjoy gate-to-gate inflight-entertainment (IFE). Previously, the carrier activated its IFE system 25 minutes into the flight and switched off the system 40 minutes prior to touch down.

Avis open at LHR T5

Avis has opened an outlet at London Heathrow's Terminal 5. It is the first car hire company to open an outlet at the terminal, which is used exclusively by British Airways.

Perth-Christchurch direct link

Air New Zealand has added new non-stop flights between Perth and Christchurch. The twice-weekly Boeing 767 service will operate from December 2013 until late April 2014, and if the service proves popular, it may become permanent. Alliance partner Virgin Australia will codeshare on the flights, which depart each Wednesday and Saturday. Fares are already available through both carriers.

Garuda Australia-London link goes on sale

Garuda's recently announced Boeing 777-300 service between London and Jakarta, with onward connections to its Australian ports, has now gone on sale ahead of its November start date. From November 2, Australians can fly to London via Jakarta five times weekly from Sydney or Perth and four times weekly from Melbourne. The airline has updated its Australian schedule so that stopovers in Jakarta are no longer than 3.5 hours.

Virgin ‘Global Wallet'

Virgin Australia's Velocity frequent flyer program is planning to add a ‘Global Wallet' to its member services in the coming months. Teaming up with Visa, Velocity's new-look loyalty cards will soon also act as a pre-paid travel money card. Members will be able to load money onto their card and store it in multiple currencies. The link-up with Visa means it will be accepted at the more than 30 million locations and two million ATMs worldwide. The move mirrors a similar initiative announced by Qantas in February.

Etihad Gold Elite upgrades

Etihad has upgraded benefits for its Gold Elite frequent flyer members. Top tier members will now receive an increase in tier bonus miles from 50% to 75%, free Guest Gold membership, check-in at the Diamond First Class counter regardless of class of travel, lounge passes for an accompanying guest and a guaranteed Pearl Business Class seat on Etihad-operated flights if booked at least 48 hours before departure. Virgin Australia's Velocity Platinum members can enjoy Gold Elite benefits when flying on Etihad-operated flights.

Sydney Airport Terminal switch

Qantas is planning to move its QantasLink operations later this year. The switch from Terminal 2 to the Qantas Domestic Terminal 3, will allow for smoother connections between regional, domestic and international services. Regional passengers will also benefit from Terminal 3's "faster, smarter check-in services".

Toga expansion

Toga Hospitality has added two new properties to its Australian portfolio. The 131-room Travelodge Hobart (formerly the Leisure Inn Hobart Macquarie) and the 26-room Travelodge Kurrajong, in the Canberra suburb of Barton, which will open after refurbishment of the previously named Hotel Kurrajong.

Novotel into Bulgaria

Accor has opened its first Bulgarian Novotel property. The 178-room Novotel Sofia features six meeting rooms for up to 280 people, a restaurant, bar and gym. It is strategically located in Sofia's newest business area, just five kilometres from the airport and six kilometres from the city centre.

BNE mobile app

Brisbane Airport has launched a new mobile phone app. The iPhone app allows users to access to flight information and terminal maps as well as information on parking, shopping and dining options.

DoubleTree opens in Cape Town

Hilton Worldwide has debuted its DoubleTree by Hilton brand in South Africa. The 180-room DoubleTree by Hilton Cape Town – Upper Eastside overlooks Cape Town Harbour and offers easy access to the downtown area and CBD. The property is located just 15 minutes from the airport and features nine conference and banquet venues for up to 350 people, a restaurant and fitness centre.

Qantas uniform revamp

Qantas employees will wear a new uniform from early next year. The first uniform change in ten years will feature a red, pink and navy blue colour palette, with female staff options including a dress, trenchcoat, scarf and trilby hat.

New Melbourne Airport terminal

Approval has been given for a new domestic terminal at Melbourne Airport. The first phase of the Southern Precinct Program includes a new terminal, additional car parking and connecting road upgrades. The plan is for the facility to be operational by mid 2015.