Virgin Australia plans to raise fares and international fuel surcharges. Effective from 22 August, return long-haul international base fares to the US, Europe and Middle East will rise by $50 in economy and $70 in premium economy. Return business class fares to the US will rise by $100, while Europe and the Middle East will jump $130. Most short-haul international, domestic and regional fares will climb by around 3%.
Qantas is increasing its international fuel surcharges for tickets issued in Australia on or after 14 August 2013. Fuel surcharge increases will be applied across the Qantas international network excluding routes to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and routes to the US, South Africa and Hong Kong, where international base fares will increase instead of fuel surcharges. Meanwhile Qantas Domestic and QantasLink base fares will jump 2-3% across the domestic network to reflect higher fuel costs. Domestic network fare changes come into effect from 15 August.
Virgin Australia services between Sydney and Abu Dhabi will be operated by partner Etihad Airways between 1 and 19 November. The services will operate as per Virgin Australia’s schedule and affected passengers will automatically be transferred to the new flights. However, as Etihad offers only two cabin classes, premium economy passengers have the option to upgrade or downgrade, with the difference in cost payable or refundable. Passengers not wishing to travel with Etihad may cancel and obtain a full refund or retain an ‘open’ status ticket. The change to the thrice-weekly operation is due to scheduled heavy maintenance and during the changeover between the two airlines, two services will be cancelled - Virgin Australia’s flight to Abu Dhabi on 31 October and the service to Sydney on 20 November.
The former Ritz Carlton Double Bay will reopen in January 2014 as the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay. IHG will manage the 140-room property after it completes a major $20 million revamp. All guestrooms are being refreshed and facilities will include a ballroom for up to 300 guests, meeting spaces, a restaurant, cafe, lounge and bar as well as a rooftop pool and underground parking.
Qantas and Emirates’ joint trans-Tasman network is open for sale from 14 August, subject to regulatory approval. The final phase of the alliance will bring New Zealand into the joint network and raise weekly departures from New Zealand to more than 130, stopping in Australia en route to the Middle East, North Africa and Europe via Dubai. Travellers will benefit from aligned fares and frequent flyer rewards with both airlines.
LAN Airlines is testing a new wireless in-flight entertainment system. Currently being trialed on the A320 flights within South America, the system works with mobile devices, such as tablets, smartphones and laptops. The trial is set to run for six months before the airline decides if it will roll it out fleetwide.
The US Department of Homeland Security is about to roll out a new information collection request for frequent travellers wishing to enroll in the TSA’s pre-approved traveller program. Under the scheme, travellers must submit biographic and biometric data, which will be assessed for security threats. Those who pass the assessment will be issued with a unique ‘Known Traveller Number’. This can be given to airlines when making flight reservations and allows travellers to access expedited screening on flights originating from the US. The program will run on a six-month trial basis before being deployed on a larger scale. Registration for the program costs US$85.
London’s Heathrow Airport has introduced a new ‘positive boarding’ procedure to improve the airport experience and reduce flight delays. The system is linked to boarding passes and enables airlines to see where passengers are in the pre-flight process. Boarding passes are scanned at electronic gates and data cross-matched to flight departure information. Passengers running late are told to go to their boarding gate immediately, while those with insufficient time to get to their gate are sent back to check-in to seek assistance. This also enables airlines to start offloading procedures for passenger baggage if they know the traveller will not make the gate in time. Already active on some flights from Terminals 1 and 3, the boarding pass also flags if passengers are in the wrong terminal so that they can be redirected. Virgin Atlantic is the first carrier to use the new system, with other airlines and terminals expected to follow in the coming months.