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Travel Industry Travel News

United’s New Business Class Polaris Solves Business Traveler Discomforts

United Airlines is reinventing international business class with their latest creation, Polaris. We were fortunate enough to preview it last Thursday in downtown Denver. The event was held in the beautiful and historic Brown Palace Hotel and Spa and featured informative and interactive stations. It included their business class seats, as well as a virtual reality demonstration of the lounge and carrier.

United Polaris Business Class

This international business class overhaul encompasses lounges in their hub locations as well as on-board international flights. It is very apparent that significant time, thought and attention went into this development. The ideals of relaxation, comfort, exclusivity and excellence are very top of mind in every detail. I especially see the benefits for busy business travelers. Though there are many examples, I think my favorite is the ‘do not disturb’ button at every seat. Let’s say you eat a pre-boarding meal in their exclusive lounge (yes, that’s also a new addition), so when you board the plane you can simple go to sleep after take off. No issue of waiting until after dinner service to make it apparent that you don’t want to be disturbed. Continuing our example, let’s say that you wake up in the middle of the flight, completely parched. Well no need to flag down a flight attendant while everyone else is sleeping. You can simply use their walk-up bar station to grab water, drinks, or assorted snacks at your convenience. Every detail has been considered.

A few other amazing takeaways of the new Polaris Business Class:

  • All seats are designed to have aisle access and ample legroom. No walking over neighbors if you fly in the middle seat. There is no more middle seat on Polaris.
  • Ample outlet and technology placement. Each tray has a phone or tablet perch, to actively use your devices on the plane. Work can comfortably be done in these seats. 
  • Fold down seats with the length of 6’6’’.
  • Amenity bag including spa-quality Soho House & Co. Cowshed products, black out eye masks and headphones.
  • Elegant cuisine created by The Trotter Project, which will specialize in locally sourced and seasonal flavors. For example, if you are flying out of the Denver hub, you may be able to anticipate flank steak, mashed potatoes with a palisade peach cobbler for dessert. These are products local to Colorado and in season.
  • On-board linens provided by Saks Fifth Avenue. Enjoy two pillows, a sheet, and a duvet. If that is not enough, pajamas, a mattress pillow top and a cooling gel memory foam pillow is available upon request.

When to expect changes

The first United Polaris Class lounge will open on December 31, 2016 at the O’Hare Airport. Eight additional lounges will open at Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles International, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. Specific dates are not yet known. Access to these lounges will only be to those with a business class ticket. General access or day passes are not allowed to this lounge.

Airplanes will be quickly renovated with this business class update. United will start with the Boeing 777-300 carriers in December 2016. They will be available in early 2017. Booking and reservations for Polaris has not yet been established.

Our hands-on guided look at United’s innovations got us pretty excited for the new advances. We could truly imagine ourselves in the new lounge and comfortably snoozing aboard. Overall, United’s Polaris Business Class is something we can’t wait to enjoy for ourselves. United’s website can keep you updated on latest news or explore it’s additional features.   

Categories
Business Travel Travel Industry

United Airlines flies high in my book

United Airlines international travelWhile airlines constantly receive complaints for one reason or another, I have found that United Airlines continues to “up” their game when it comes to their international service.

I have long been a premium flyer with United but never thought their service matched other international carriers. I flew them simply for convenience as one of their hubs is in Denver (where I am based). But in the last couple of years, I have seen a great improvement in both the attitude of the in-flight crew and the service offered.

Did you know they serve ice cream sundaes in business class on international flights? I look forward to this, since most desserts are pretty predictable and boring. Their entrée options are tasty and varied, and most of the flight attendants seem to be enjoying themselves. (Of course, you will occasionally find one here or there that spoils this.)

A smile or a kind word can certainly go a long way when you are traveling. The memory of your flight may not be the highlight of your trip, but on United Airlines you have a chance. Give them a try again.

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Vacation Travel

Definitely Dubai

I recently had the opportunity to take a family vacation to Dubai over Thanksgiving and I’m happy to report it was an amazing destination–certainly worth the 24 hours of travel time if took to get there.

Few cities in the world have undergone such rapid change as Dubai. Having started out as a fishing settlement, then becoming a pearl-diving center, and later transforming into a vibrant trading port, Dubai is today one of the fastest growing metropolises on earth. The city is positioned as the nucleus of the Arabian Gulf region and has become known as the “gateway between the east and west.”

Home to about 1.9 million people from nearly 200 nationalities, Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It is safe, clean, politically stable, with a modern infrastructure, and the sun shines almost every day. While the official language is Arabic, English is equally used.

Emirates Airlines is the official airline of Dubai and maintains one of the newest fleets in the world. The aircraft and in-flight service were excellent which made our 16-hour flight from Los Angeles to Dubai quite manageable.

Some of the highlights of our trip were visiting the following sites and attractions:

  • Burj Kalifa – the tallest building in the world
  • Burj Al Arab – the tallest, all-suite hotel in the world
  • Dubai Mall – the largest mall in the world
  • Ski Dubai – the only in-door ski resort in the world
  • Dubai Fountains – the largest fountain show in the world

Are you seeing a trend here? Dubai is very ambitious in their efforts to be record-breaking and staggering in their statistics. Even if your bucket list does not include a trip to Dubai, it is a destination worth paying attention to as they continue to make their mark in the world.

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Business Travel Travel Industry Travel Tips

A Business Travel Guide to Tipping Etiquette

Did you know the word “tip” supposedly came from a pub owner who used it years ago as an acronym for ‘To Insure Promptness’? Essentially, tips are a reward for those who provide prompt and attentive service. But the two questions I’m always asking myself are:

  1. Who do I tip?
  2. How much do I tip?

Tipping etiquette varies worldwide, but I have found that (for the most part) when tipping a percentage of a bill, the average is 10-20% of the charge prior to tax. For baggage assistance the average is $1-$2 per bag. When paying a percentage of the bill, some people, for convenience, will take the amount of the tax and double it, while others might quickly figure out 10% of the charge and then double that.

Listed below are some tipping standards for business travel in the United States:

  • Courtesy Shuttle Driver: $1-$2 per person
  • Taxi or Limousine Driver: 15-20% of the total fare and an extra $1-$2 for help with bags
  • Porter/Doorman: $1-$2 per bag
  • Bell Staff: $1-$2 per bag if they deliver them to your room
  • Room Service: $1-$5 per night depending on the number of people in your room (It is best to tip daily since different staff members could be cleaning your room.)
  • Valet Parking: $1-$2 when car is retrieved (Tipping when they park the car is optional and not expected.)
  • Restaurant Waitstaff: 15-20% of the bill, excluding tax (Watch the bill. Many restaurants automatically add 15% gratuity for parties of six or more.)
  • Wine Stewards: 10-20% of the wine bill only
  • Buffet Service: $1-$2 per person dining
  • Bartender/Cocktail Waitress: 10-15% of the total tab
  • Concierge: tipping not necessary for general requests like directions or restaurant recommendations, but if the concierge arranges for tickets or reservations, tips can range from $2-$5
  • Skycap: $1/bag or $2/bag if they take the bag to the check-in counter

I recommend the following websites for additional information and international tipping guides:

  1. Conde Nast Traveler
  2. Esquire
  3. Forbes
Categories
Travel Industry Travel News

Denver Announces New International Carrier

Denver International Airport (DIA) recently announced that Volaris will begin year-round nonstop service from Denver International Airport to Benito Jua?rez International Airport in Mexico City beginning in December 2012.

The airport initiated conversations with Volaris in 2009 after the carrier announced its partnership with Southwest Airlines. Mexico City was ranked as Denver’s second-largest international market without year-round service behind San Jose, Costa Rica.

“Expanding air service continues to be a top priority for us, so we are pleased and grateful to welcome Volaris to Denver,” said Kim Day, Manager of Aviation for Denver International Airport. “Every new destination we add strengthens our overall network. That in turn helps us to land the next carrier or city; our robust network grows here again today. For our passengers, this should be a welcome new offering of a low-cost year-round option between Denver and Mexico City.”

The flight is now available for sale for travel beginning December 8, 2012. Volaris will operate the flight with the 144-seat Airbus A319 twice-weekly from December through April and once-weekly from May through November. The aircraft will arrive in Denver at 3:05 p.m. and depart to Mexico City at 4:25 p.m.

For more information, click here to read DIA’s press release.

Categories
Travel News

Streamlining Visa Applications and What That Might Mean for the Travel Industry & US Economy

In 2000, the top tourist destination in the world was Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios, just to name a few attractions. But by 2010, Orlando was no longer number one, or even number five, or ten. Though it is still is one of the top destinations for Americans to visit, the number of foreign visitors has dropped significantly.
Orlando isn’t the only city to have seen such a decline. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, and San Francisco have all seen their inbound tourism drop off. But why? Well, part of the reason is because following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the USA made the process of getting a tourist visa much more difficult if the traveler wasn’t from one of the countries involved in the Visa Waiver program.
However, US President Barack Obama recently announced that he has ordered this process to be streamlined in an effort to make it less cumbersome, and therefore more appealing, for foreign tourists to visit the United States. It is estimated that by speeding up the process in countries like Brazil and China, inbound tourism will create up to one million new jobs over the next decade. Additionally it will increase tax revenues at all levels of government since inbound tourism generates more than $134 billion in revenue each year.
How will this happen? The first steps will include increasing the ability of embassies to process more applications in a shorter time frame. This will require additional investments in infrastructure as well as hiring more staff. Also Taiwan will be added to the list of countries in the Visa Waiver Program. Additional steps will also then be taken to make it less burdensome for applicants by eliminating many of the bureaucratic hurdles that currently slow the process down.
There are several additional articles that discuss this action and the impact it will have on both the travel industry and the US economy, but here are two I found informative via Airwise.com and DailyBreeze.com.

Categories
Travel Management Travel News

The sky is the limit on airline fees

Last month the Transportation Department imposed a rule that requires airlines to disclose all fees for optional services with a prominent link on their websites. They also must disclose bag-fee increases on the home page or through a link on the page. This new ruling made the annual USA Today airline service fee survey easier than ever and disclosed the following excess baggage fees which exceed the $400 mark.
Per the USA Today survey:  For an overweight checked bag weighing 71-100 pounds, Continental Airlines is charging $400 on most international flights, and American Airlines is charging $450 on its Asian flights. United Airlines charges $400 for checking bags weighing 71-99.9 pounds on flights to another continent.
The airlines say fees keep airfares low, help cover costs and let fliers choose the services they want. Just be sure you pack light when traveling internationally!

Categories
Travel Management Travel News

Passport Day – September 17

Do you know the status of your passport?  Need to get one, renew one or resolve an issue?  For those of you that have been meaning to hit the passport office for months now, but its so hard to get there on a weekday when you’re working and busy…  Passport Day is especially for you!
This is the third year for the annual National Passport Day, an event created by the State Department to give working men, women and families—who otherwise can’t make Passport offices’ limited weekday business hours—a chance to turn in their paperwork and deal with passport-related issues.
On Saturday, September 17 only, apply for your U.S. passport at a Regional Passport Agency without an appointment. You will be able to apply for standard processing (4-6 weeks) or pay an additional $60 for Expedited processing (2-3 weeks, door-to-door). Passport Day in the USA also means passport-themed events for adults and children at Regional Passport Agencies and many passport Acceptance Facilities across the country in communities like yours. If you’ve been waiting to get your passport, this is the time!

Categories
Travel News

United Leads the Way in Denver

In 2009, 50 million customers passed through Denver. With 41 percent of the total capacity at the Denver International Airport, United continues to be the largest carrier in Denver with almost three times more flights, seats and cities than any other carrier. Internationally, we resumed nonstop service between Denver and London Heathrow in 2009. That flight will return again this summer along with the non-stop service between Denver and Anchorage, Alaska.
Carrier United Frontier Southwest

  • Cities Served 118 55 43
  • Departures 407 166 128
  • Seats 37,444 13,340 17,536

New International Service

  • March 28 — Brussels, Belgium
  • April 18 — Bahrain (via Kuwait)
  • May 2 — Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria

United will inaugurate its first-ever service to Africa this spring with one daily, same-plane service from Washington to Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria. We also will extend our existing daily Washington – Kuwait flight to include Bahrain, and will offer a new nonstop flight between Chicago and Brussels, Belgium. Introduction of all of the new services is subject to government approval.