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Cruises

Tan appointed group chief executive with Millennium & Copthorne

The board at City Developments has announced the appointment of Clarence Tan as group chief executive officer for Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.

The 52-year-old hotelier will take up the role on April 2nd.

As the first chief executive for the privatised Millennium & Copthorne, Tan will spearhead a turnaround in the performance of the global hotel portfolio.

Millennium & Copthorne currently encompasses 150 hotels and 43,500 rooms worldwide, many in key gateway cities.

Reporting to City Developments and Millennium & Copthorne Executive Chairman, Kwek Leng Beng, Tan will work closely with the leadership team to deliver sustainable hotel performance by focusing on achieving synergies, cost efficiencies and driving profitability.

Tan has over 20 years of global hospitality experience, with a track record in hotel development and management, financial management, merger and acquisitions, integration, partnerships and joint ventures.

He has deep experience in international hotel chain management, having headed several regions as chief executive or chief operating officer.

He was most recently the managing director for south-east Asia and Korea with InterContinental Hotels Group, where he was responsible for the growth, financial and operational performance of about 100 hotels.

Under his stewardship, the business delivered US$1.2 billion in hotel revenue to the London-listed IHG at a healthy margin and added to their system size and pipeline.

Kwek Leng Beng said: “As a veteran hotelier with a wealth of international experience in hotel operations, management and finance, Tan’s leadership will be critical in navigating Millennium & Copthorne through near-term global and macroeconomic challenges, as well as driving portfolio performance enhancements through significant cost-efficiency initiatives and building brand equity.

“With his extensive and distinguished career in the hospitality industry, and strong business, financial management and business recovery capabilities, I am confident that Clarence will play a key role in this integration and transformational process, elevating Millennium & Copthorne into a formidable global hospitality group.”

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Travel

Passengers caught in seriously intimate act during flight – people aren’t happy

Flights can be made worse depending on delays and what’s going on around you.

A couple certainly made it difficult for others when they were spotted getting a bit too close on a plane.

The post, which was shared on the Passenger Shaming Instagram account, was honouring Valentine’s Day on Friday and quoted one of Beyonce’s famous songs.

It read: “Your love’s got me looking so crazy right now.”

The man and women were sat in their row of seats on the aircraft when they were getting up close and personal.

While the bloke was sitting down, the woman chose to plump herself on top of him as they smooched each other.

It looks as though the lovebirds haven’t considered the people around them as another flier can be seen beside them.

Members of the Instagram page rushed to comment on the post and pointed out that the woman might not be wearing anything on her bottom half.

One wrote: “She legit doesn’t have pants on. What does that??!!”

Another commented: “What do you even do if you’re sitting next to this? Flight, flight, or freeze?”

A third added: “Poor guy sitting next to them.”

And a fourth slammed: “Why do people put up with this unacceptable behaviour?”

  • Flight secrets: Why you should always keep your shoes on for take-off and landing

Then a fifth Instagram user said: “OMG. Seriously?”

Previously, passengers were left “disgusted” by a mum who cut her toddler’s toenails on a plane.

The mum was snapped grooming the toddler in their seats while on an American Airlines flight.

It was shared to Instagram by an annoyed individual who claims to "fly a lot" on Monday and posted the snap with the caption #PassengerShaming.

One said: “She does have the ’can I speak to your manager' hair.”

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Transport

Qantas secures new funding as coronavirus battle continues

Qantas has completed a new round of debt funding, securing $1.05 billion in additional liquidity to strengthen its position as it manages through the Coronavirus outbreak.

This debt has been secured against part of the group’s fleet of unencumbered aircraft, which were bought with cash in recent years.

The loan has a tenure of up to ten years at an interest rate of 2.75 per cent.

This funding increases the group’s available cash balance to $2.95 billion with an additional $1 billion undrawn facility remaining available.

The group’s net debt position remains at the “low end” of its target range, at $5.1 billion, with no major debt maturities until June next year.

In line with the rest of the Qantas debt book, the new funding contains no financial covenants.

With a further $3.5 billion in unencumbered assets, the Qantas Group retains flexibility to increase its cash balance as a prudent measure in the current climate, a statement added.

As previously announced, various steps have been taken to significantly reduce activity levels and costs given the dramatic revenue impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the related travel restrictions on Jetstar and Qantas passenger services.

The carrier earlier confirmed swingeing cuts to services and staffing.

Qantas Group chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: “Over the past few years we’ve significantly strengthened our balance sheet and we’re now able to draw on that strength under what are exceptional circumstances.

“Everything we’re doing at the moment is focused on guaranteeing the long-term future of the national carrier, including making sure our people have jobs to return to when we have work for them again.”

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Travel

Pilot explains why cabin lights must be dimmed for take-off and landing

During take-off and landing, the cabin crew staff will do a number of procedures to ensure the process is safe for the passengers.

One of the most important steps they have to take onboard is to dim down the lights of the aircraft.

While you may not have noticed it, others will have clocked on to this certain safety precaution.

So, why do flight attendants have to dim down the lights for take-off and landing?

Some theories are that this is to reduce light pollution in the sky, but that’s not the case.

Pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential Patrick Smith revealed that this is actually a precaution in case of an emergency.

He explained: “Dimming the lights allows your eyes to pre-adjust to darkness, so that you’re not suddenly blinded if something happens and the power goes out, and you’re dashing for the doors in darkness or smoke.

“The emergency path-lighting and signs will also be more visible. And it makes it easier to see outside, which helps you to maintain at least a basic sense of orientation – i.e. which way is up.”

Meanwhile, Cadet Pilot Rohan Bhatnagar explained on Quora that dimming the lights is a safety measure which must be carried out.

He wrote on the site: “It is a safety procedure for the aircrafts. The probability of crashing is higher during the take-off and landing.

“During a crash when the lights go out it takes time for the human eye to adjust to a complete blackout, so the lights are dimmed such that in case of an emergency, the passengers can be evacuated quickly.

“It is also dimmed so that in case of emergency the fluorescent directing lights in the aisle come on and are clearly visible to the passengers.”

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Travel

Inside the world’s biggest cruise ship where guests are served drinks by robots

You don’t have to step on board the world’s biggest cruise ship to take a look around.

Eye-popping pictures show what it's like inside Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas ship.

The luxury vessel boasts 19 swimming pools, a water park and its own ice rink.

A golf course, bionic bar, zip line and surf simulators also promise to keep guests entertained.

Take a look at photos of the jaw-dropping vessel below – but you have been warned, they’re bound to give you serious holiday envy.

The Symphony of the Seas measures 362 metres in length, making it the biggest cruise ship in the world.

A whopping 6,680 guests can fit on the 222,081 tonne vessel for each voyage.

From $970 (around £750), guests depart from Miami before sailing across western and eastern Caribbean.

Destinations include Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Other popular pit stops include Mexico and Roatán, Honduras.

While many choose cruises because it allows them to visit lots of places in a short stint, some may be tempted to stay on board instead of exploring the destinations.

The Symphony of the Seas is as spectacular as it is vast.

Foodies will be pleased to know that they can dine in more than 20 eateries.

This includes an oyster bar, Mexican canteen and sugar-filled sweet shop.

And when they’re not enjoying the different cuisines, they can kick back in one of the ship’s many drinking spots.

At the “bionic” bar, guests are served drinks by robots instead of humans.

Meanwhile, the sports bar boasts its own arcade, darts board and huge screens to stream all the best matches.

When it comes to entertainment, cruise-goers are spoilt for choice.

Kids flock to the laser-tag arena, surf simulator and disco.

And when they’re not busting some moves or getting sporty, they're whizzing down slides at the waterpark.

Adrenaline junkies have the option to try out the tallest slide at sea.

Alternatively, they can get their hearts pumping on the vessel’s nine-deck high zip line.

While their children are busy enjoying all the activities the boat has to offer, adults can let their hair down in the casino.

Guests are promised a James Bond experience as they’re handed martinis as they place bets on various card games.

When they’re done with Lady Luck, they can wind down with live music in the Jazz on Four lounge.

Or for those who want to party the night away, Dazzles is a great spot to head to.

The dance lounge spans across three decks and boasts stunning views from its floor-to-length windows.

The Symphony of the Seas cruises have racked up hundreds of glowing reviews on Tripadvisor.

One happy customer described the huge vessel as their “dream ship”.

They added: “We enjoyed this beautiful enormous ship for seven nights in the eastern Caribbean.

“Service was exceptionally perfect, food was excellent, drinks, rooms, all in such a perfect level.

“We felt like we didn't want to get off the ship.”

Another gushed: “If you want to go on the best cruise ship that you have ever been on, the Symphony of the Seas is it.

“This was my 15th cruise and my 4th Oasis Class ship.

“I can't tell you all of the amazing things that you can do on this ship because there was so much to do, that I couldn't do it all.

“Royal Caribbean has out done themselves with Symphony of the Seas.

“I love it, and can not wait to go back on her!”

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Cruises

Sandals Resorts shuttered in Caribbean until mid-May

Sandals Resorts International will close its properties in the Caribbean until May 15th to protect guests and staff against the spread of Covid-19.

All resorts under both the Beaches and Sandals brand are expected to close their doors in March 30th.

In a statement, Sandals founder and chairman Gordon Stewart described the decision as difficult.

However, he added Sandals will use the time to make further enhancements to its resorts, “so that we will continue to surpass your expectations and provide you with the luxury-included vacation you so well deserve.”

Stewart continued: “We also want to alleviate any additional worry you might have about your upcoming vacation.

“Our dedicated team will be reaching out to you personally to assist with rescheduling your future plans.

“This way, you can spend less time trying to reach us and more time with your loved ones.”

The brand, which operates 19 properties in the Caribbean – ten of which are in Jamaica.

The temporary closure of these and other hotels means that thousands of hospitality workers will possibly be without an income.

“The Caribbean is resilient.

“We have always come back better, stronger and more passionate than ever.

“We promise this time will be no exception,” Stewart added.

“When the time is right, you can trust us to be here, ready to welcome you back with open arms and a warm smile.

“Soon come back,” he concluded.

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Cruises

Banyan Tree eyes Myanmar expansion with new joint venture

Banyan Tree Holdings and Myanmar Treasure Hotel & Resort Group Company (known as Htoo Hospitality) have signed a joint venture agreement for the formation of a hotel management business.

Launched in 2002 and built upon authentic Burmese culture and traditions, Htoo Hospitality owns and manages the largest collection of 15 hotels located across eight states and 11 destinations in Myanmar.

With nine brands under four boutique collections, its two signature brands include the Aureum Palace Hotels & Resorts and the Myanmar Treasure Resorts.

The venture shall initially be responsible for the management of the 17 hotels and resorts (15 existing properties and two in the pipeline) owned by Htoo Hospitality.

Some of these properties will gradually be rebranded into either a jointly-developed new brand for the Myanmar market or a brand within Banyan Tree Holding’s brand portfolio.

Under a long-term partnership, the venture envisions to become the top hotel management company in Myanmar, overseeing and managing hotels owned by third parties.

Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, said: “As a leading independent global hospitality company, our group has identified growth opportunities in Myanmar’s hotel management sector.

“With this head-start coupled with our hotel management expertise, we are mindful that this joint venture will open further opportunities for our group to enter key strategic sectors in this fast-flourishing country.

“This strategic alliance with the established Htoo Hospitality, Myanmar’s largest hotel and resort network, will accelerate the growth and reach of our brands as we elevate hospitality service to yet another level across the country.

“We are excited and committed to this partnership.”

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Transport

Emirates to ground fleet from Wednesday as Covid-19 toll grows

Emirates will temporarily cease passenger operations this week as the world battles an outbreak of coronavirus.

The Dubai-based airline said it would ground all passenger services from March 25th, with no date in place for the resumption of flights.

The news comes as IATA warns over the viability of airlines in the Middle East, and Etihad seeks to reassure passengers about its long-term prospects.

Emirates said it had aimed to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amid an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions and country lockdowns.

With many of its airline customers dramatically reducing flights or ceasing services altogether, dnata has also significantly reduced its operations, including temporarily shutting some offices across its international network.

Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chief executive of Emirates Group, said: “The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint.

“Until January, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets – but Covid-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks.”

The Emirates Group has also undertaken a series of measures to contain costs, as the outlook for travel demand remains weak across markets in the short- to medium-term.

These include postponing or cancelling discretionary expenditure, a freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work and talks with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency.

Al Maktoum added: “As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns.

“By Wednesday, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations.

“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”

Emirates employees will be asked to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity, while pay cuts of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent will be introduced.

On the decision to reduce basic salary, Al Maktoum said: “Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce and keep our talented and skilled people, as much as possible.

“We want to avoid cutting jobs.

“When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers.”

In the longer-term, Al Maktoum said the carrier would endure.

“Emirates Group has a strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality,” he concluded.

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Transport

Norway offers bailouts to domestic airlines

The government of Norway has moved to support the flatlining aviation sector in the country, offering more than US$550 million in bailout funds.

Some US$250 million will be directed at embattled budget operator Norwegian.

The low-cost carrier said earlier this week it would be forced to layoff 90 per cent of its staff and cancel virtually all flights in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Flag-carrier SAS is also expected to receive around US$125, while the remaining cash will be split between Wideroe and other carriers.

The funds are designed to secure a minimum level of flight operations in the country.

“Many countries are establishing major schemes to ensure liquidity for the airlines,” explained the Norwegian finance ministry.

The scheme will be arranged through the export credit institute GIEK, with the Norwegian government providing 90 per cent of the guarantee and external parties – such as banks and credit companies – the remaining ten per cent.

Conditions are being attached to the guarantees, including a minimum eight per cent equity requirement.

While SAS and Wideroe have already met this equity criterion.

However, Norwegian will only be provided limited equity until its financial situation improves and it is able to achieve achieves a reduction in interest and repayments to creditors.

Norwegian chief executive Jacob Schram says the package of measures is “crucial” and the provision from the authorities is “very positive”.

“We have been clear that we need liquidity, and we are grateful that this is what we are now being offered,” he concluded.

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Transport

RwandAir to ground all flights until mid-April

Following instructions from the Rwandan ministry of health, RwandAir will temporarily suspend its commercial passenger flights.

The move comes as the country takes further measures to help the global fight against Covid-19.

The grounding will apply for a period of 30 days, beginning today, and affect all scheduled RwandAir flights departing from and arriving in Rwanda.

Customers holding tickets with RwandAir, for flights between until April 20th, have several future travel options including rebooking with the airline to fly at a later date.

All change fees will be waived, giving customers more flexibility to delay their travel.

RwandAir will operate its last commercial passenger flight from Kigali to London Gatwick and Brussels today.

A RwandAir spokeswoman said: “We are extremely sorry for the disruption and uncertainty this announcement will cause for our customers.

“However, we are sure they appreciate why this decision is unavoidable at this time and that it has not been taken lightly.

“We are confident the temporary suspension of our operations will help to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”

Customers holding tickets for travel on RwandAir who wish to rebook or be refunded can contact RwandAir via [email protected] and [email protected]

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