Crowne Plaza guests love the brand’s fresh, new approach

In collaboration with hotel owners around the world, IHG Hotels & Resorts is accelerating the transformation of one of the industry’s largest and most well-known upscale brands – Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts.

Whether they are among the first to stay with IHG at new marquee global properties or checking in to recently renovated properties, guests are experiencing the future of business travel – and, according to IHG research, loving it.  

Ginger Taggart, Vice President, Global Crowne Plaza, commented: 

Crowne Plaza was one of the first brands to focus on the needs of modern business travellers in the early 1980s and, since then, we have continued to innovate and advance our design and service approach.

During the last few years, we have worked closely with our owners to enhance this brand to meet the future of premium travel, including the desire of guests for overall balance and the ability to switch easily between work and leisure, as well as the evolution of meetings to include more virtual and hybrid options.

Crowne Plaza’s elevated experience for today’s business traveller centres around a “new modern” design style which satisfies the needs of professional productivity, personal restoration and inspiration. Key features include:

  • Plaza Workspace – Lobbies have been reimagined through Plaza Workspace with flexible spaces that support work and downtime; a central, stylish bar; different seating for working and socialising; embedded technology; and a private meeting space that is bookable by the hour.
  • WorkLife Rooms – Crowne Plaza’s perfectly balanced, and patented, WorkLife Room offers a combination of comfort, connectivity and flexibility with distinct zones that maximize space and lighting for work, relaxation and sleep.
  • Dare to Connect – A distinguished service experience, Dare to Connect is an intuitive, unscripted service style that ‘sets Crowne Plaza apart’ in the industry. The programme trains and empowers hotel teams to take a proactive approach to connect with guests, anticipating their needs and providing the best recommendations to help guests make the most of their free time.
  • Gather + Thrive – Crowne Plaza is focused on the future of meetings and events, setting the stage for creative collaborations and significant life moments, working from planning to execution to make sure everything runs smoothly so that meeting planners and attendees can be at their best. The Gather + Thrive program offers an end-to-end meetings and events experience including purposeful design, energizing food and beverage options, innovative meeting technology and great service.  Meetings are also backed by IHG’s Meet with Confidence programme, including multivenue and hybrid meeting options developed with partners such as Encore (formerly PSAV); enhanced cleanliness, health and safety protocols for meetings; and flexible booking options. 

Chris Green, President & CEO, Chesapeake Hospitality, commented:

We know that a strong product and well-designed hotel creates an immense impact and we are proud to showcase the differentiated, signature design hallmarks of the Crowne Plaza brand in partnership with IHG. While the physical hotel product is only one of the many factors that drive guest satisfaction and positive growth in share of revenue, it’s one of the most important and visible, and we’re pleased to have exceeded our fair share of revenue for 13 consecutive months after our full renovation.

Around the world, guests are celebrating similar experiences with Crowne Plaza and rewarding renovated hotels with significant increases in guest satisfaction scores. At one of the brand’s recently renovated flagship properties – the 291-room Crowne Plaza Hamburg – City Alster – guest feedback has been enthusiastic and centred around the stylish, modern and comfortable rooms, especially for long weekend stays. Guests also shared their excitement about the trendy, creative and comfortable meeting rooms.

Crowne Plaza continues to grow around the world with nearly 430 Crowne Plaza hotels now open and 89 in the pipeline. In 2020, the brand opened 19 new hotels, including 10 properties in Greater China. In fact, the Crowne Plaza Shanghai Hongqiao marked the 100th property for the brand in the region.

Lufthansa launches new catering concept for European flights

Lufthansa Economy Class passengers on European flights can now choose from a range of high-quality “Onboard Delights.”

The culinary assortment is available on cross-border European flights with a duration of 60 minutes.


Based in Munich, dean&david is known for outstanding quality and a sense of responsibility. The company produces healthy food, high-quality ingredients and sustainable consumption. ‘Food that not only tastes good, but also feels good’.

At Lufthansa’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs, the dishes are prepared daily by the catering company, Gate Gourmet, all according to recipes from dean&david, a successful young gastronomy company.

Lufthansa is also expanding its long-standing cooperation with the coffee house, Dallmayr.

The traditional Munich-based company will supply the confectionery and patisserie specialties, as well as the hot beverages, for Onboard Delights.

The products on offer include a special Ethiopian coffee whereby the proceeds are linked to support various humanitarian projects in the Dano region .

In addition, there is a large selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as numerous snacks.

Fresh food is available from 5.50 euros, coffee and tea for 3 euros, soft drinks (500 ml) or beer (330 ml) for 3.50 euros. Small snacks are available from 2 euros. A water bottle and a ‘chocolate surprise’ will be served to guests free-of-charge.

The selection of fresh products is updated every three months. The service concept in Business Class remains unchanged. In order to meet hygiene requirements on board, payment will be made exclusively without cash.


With a tradition going back more than 300 years, Dallmayr is one of the best-known German brands of coffee.

Lufthansa claims:

[We place] a great amount of importance on sustainability.

The focus is on the consistent selection of food produced in a resource-saving manner and environmentally-friendly packaging materials.

For example, a large proportion of the fresh products are packaged in PaperWise material, made from agricultural waste material and produced using 100 percent renewable energy and is therefore CO2-neutral. By producing the fresh products in a way that is more in line with the demand, less unused food has to be disposed.

British Airways doubles reward seat availability

British Airways has significantly increased the number of seats that can be booked using Avios, the reward currency used by the airline, on every flight.

The airline has always guaranteed that at least a certain number of reward seats – seats available to book using Avios – will be available on each flight. The airline has doubled this guaranteed minimum number of reward seats in Euro Traveller (short-haul economy), Club Europe (short-haul business class), World Traveller (long-haul economy) and Club World (long-haul business class). It has also added guaranteed availability in World Traveller Plus, British Airways’ popular long-haul premium economy cabin, for the first time. The extra availability is on flights from 28 July 2021.

Number of guaranteed bookable reward seats available on any British Airways flight doubled: more than 250,000 additional reward seats made available, for travel from 28 July

Reward seats are seats that can be booked using Avios, paying a cash amount covering just taxes, fees and carrier charges. On short-haul, return flights start from as little as £1 plus Avios, and on long-haul, £100 plus Avios. The cash and Avios amounts can be flexed to account for people with differing Avios budgets. They are separate from Avios part payment, where Avios is used to reduce the cost of any ticket, in all cabins, on all flights.

In addition to the guaranteed seats, British Airways regularly makes millions of extra reward seats available to destinations across its network. The recent changes mean that over 250,000 extra reward seats have been added to British Airways’ booking system.

As summary of the changes is as follows

  • Cabin – change – guaranteed reward seats pre 8 July flights – flights 8 July onwards
  • Euro Traveller – doubling – 4 – 8
  • Club Europe – doubling – 2 – 4
  • World Traveller – doubling – 4 – 8
  • World Traveller Plus new guaranteed availability – 0 – 2
  • Club World – doubling – 2 – 4

Tom Stevens, Director of Brand and Customer Experience at British Airways, said

Our Members appreciate the benefits their Executive Club membership brings, but the feedback we hear is that people would like us to make it easier to book flights using Avios. We have listened and acted on this, and today’s announcement directly addresses this feedback, opening up six extra reward seats on a short-haul flight, and eight on a long-haul flight. We hope this means that a family holiday, or that big friendship group trip away, will be much easier to book using Avios.

Adam Daniels, Chief Executive at IAG Loyalty which manages the Avios currency, said

This is an exciting change that we have worked closely with the British Airways team to deliver. We hope it offers Executive Club Members even more opportunities to spend their hard earned Avios.

This is the latest step in a series of improvements British Airways has made to its Executive Club. In March, the airline announced it was protecting the Tier status of Executive Club Members for a further year. In February, British Airways announced a six-month extension to all Executive Club vouchers, due to expire before 31 December 2021. This was the third extension to have been applied, following similar extensions in March 2020 and October 2020. British Airways is also adding an additional six-months validity to all new Companion Vouchers or Travel Together tickets earned between June 2020 and the end of December 2021.

British Airways continues to reduce the amount of Tier Points needed to reach each Tier by 25% for those whose Tier Point collection year ends before July 2022.

Luton boosts digital services for passengers

London Luton Airport has announced a range of new digital services to improve the passenger experience as travellers return to the airport.

The new services include

  • Unlimited Wi-Fi across the terminal building
  • LLA Market Place, which enables passengers to pre-order food and drink contact-free
  • Portable mobile chargers that can be rented for the duration of a trip
  • Digital kiosks have also been introduced to help passengers navigate the airport and locate shops, restaurants and services

LLA Market Place allows passengers to pre-order food and collect it from stores contact-free, helping to reduce unnecessary queueing. To access the service, passengers can scan a QR code from the armrest of their seat in selected areas or visit marketplace.london-luton.co.uk on their mobile devices.

Passengers will be able to access LLA Market Place, as well as the rest of the internet through the introduction of free and unlimited Wi-Fi available throughout the airport.


Newly installed digital kiosks allow passengers to scan their boarding passes for personalised flight details including boarding time, gate number and the quickest route to the gate and average walking time.

With travellers relying more heavily on mobile devices for boarding cards and contactless payments, the airport has launched a partnership with Europe’s largest phone charging network, ChargedUp. The partnership makes portable power banks available to rent from eleven stations throughout the terminal – the first time the service has been installed at any airport in the UK. Travellers can rent a power-bank, take it on-board their flight, and either return it to LLA upon their arrival back in the UK or automatically purchase it after 10 days.

Clare Armstrong, Head of Passenger Services at LLA, said: 

As well as improving the passenger experience, these new services are part of the airport’s efforts to keep passengers safe. Pre-ordering food via a mobile device reduces the number and duration of face-to-face interactions passengers need to make while ordering food. Our fast, unlimited wi-fi and portable chargers allow passengers to move about the terminal knowing that they can rely on their mobile device while travelling, while our digital kiosks provide all the information a passenger needs for their journey.

London Luton Airport (LLA) remains one of the UK’s busiest airports despite COVID-19, carrying 5.4 million passengers in 2020. Airlines include easyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair, Tui, Sun Express and El Al.

Passengers travelling by rail will benefit from upgraded rail links to Luton Airport Parkway station as part of a partnership agreement with East Midlands Railway.  A half-hourly express rail service between London and Luton Airport Parkway will launch in May 2021.

11mph £70m Stansted baggage system

The pandemic may have brought airports to a standstill, but beneath London Stansted’s terminal a £70m baggage system revamp has been driven to the finish line.

The project, which took four years to complete, is the largest upgrade to the airport’s baggage network since the terminal opened in 1991. It involved replacing the ageing set-up of conveyor belts and chutes with 2.4km of track and 180 automated carts.

Designed by airport luggage experts, Beumer Group, the new low energy, fully automated system is faster and more efficient than the one it replaces.

The airport claims that it is the longest system of its type in the world. At speeds of up to five metres per second, bags will take around six minutes to travel from check-in to being ready to load onto an aircraft.

Steve Radford, Hold Baggage System Programme Lead, who oversaw the project, said:

We’re delighted to reach this very important milestone in the hold baggage system project. While passengers simply hand their baggage in at check-in for their journey, below the terminal is a highly automated and complex system that seamlessly and safely ensures the right bag reaches the right flight. The system uses the latest digital technology, which will future-proof London Stansted’s baggage operation for years to come, improving performance for both our passengers and airlines.

The work was initially carried out in stages to minimise disruption. However, the drop in traffic because of coronavirus pandemic meant the airport could speed up the project and complete it ahead of schedule.

Steve Radford added,

We would have much rather have welcomed the numbers of passengers we were expecting, but under the circumstances, the team took advantage of the situation and did a brilliant job. Despite the challenges that we’ve all faced in the last 12 months, it’s been encouraging to work on a project that’s going to have such a positive impact on passengers when they return to the airport.

Klaus Schäfer, CEO, BEUMER Group UK, said:

We commend Stansted Airport in following their strategy and identifying the perfect window of opportunity for remodelling their baggage handling system setup. This now means the airport has a future proof system and a great deal of built-in flexibility for years to come. The integration of an end-to-end baggage handling system not only allows Stansted Airport to grow and service their airline customers and passengers, but it also places Stansted in the league of modern airports known for operating with a very efficient baggage handling design to increase baggage traceability and security at every stage of the handling process.

The work also included linking the new system with a new check-in area that opened in 2019 and the installation of new hi-tech ‘Standard 3’ baggage scanners which are required under new EU regulations.

Avanti West Coast introduces Standard Premium class

Avanti West Coast is set to ‘transform UK rail travel’ with the launch of a new Standard Premium class.

  • Avanti West Coast is the first UK rail operator to offer the new class
  • The new product has been introduced after successful trial and research with customers
  • This move is intended to complement an enhanced First Class offering and the refurbishment of the Pendolino fleet

Avanti West Coast has become the first UK train operating company to offer an additional class of travel as part of its services.

Standard Premium will give customers greater choice and is available on all the West Coast Main Line operator’s Pendolino services.


Avanti West Coast operates a fleet of 56 Pendolinos, 31 of which are 11 carriages.

Sitting between Standard and First, customers will enjoy roomier seats, greater space and a guaranteed table. They will also have the option to purchase refreshments via the new ‘At-Seat Order’ feature where customers can have items delivered to them without moving from their seat. The new class is initially available to buy as an upgrade on the day of travel, with Advance purchase tickets on sale from July for travel from September. Single journey upgrade prices range from £15 for Birmingham to London to £30 for Glasgow to London.

Standard Premium was developed following initial market research and then successful trials last year and more recently, with customers taking part in the trials asked to rate their experiences and help shape the new product. Figures showed 96% of respondents said they were either “highly likely” or “likely” to upgrade to Standard Premium for future journeys, citing extra space as a key benefit.

As part of further improvements, Avanti West Coast will launch an enhanced First Class offering with improved catering and more bespoke customer service later this year, with the enhanced service available seven days a week.

Work is also due to start next month to fully refurbish the entire Pendolino fleet of 56 trains as part of a £117m deal signed with Alstom who maintain the operator’s fleet.

New seats, with leather headrests, will be installed in Standard Premium and First. All 25,000 Standard seats will be also be replaced, with customers also benefiting from a new look onboard shop, as part of the biggest ever fleet upgrade. 

In addition, one carriage on all 11-coach Pendolinos (the existing Coach G), will be converted from First to Standard, increasing each train’s seating capacity by 5%. The first refurbished set is due to enter service in November 2021.

Phil Whittingham, Manager Director at Avanti West Coast said,

This is the first major step in our transformation of services on the West Coast. Together with our upcoming First Class service which will lead the industry, and the complete refurbishment of the Pendolino fleet, Standard Premium will set a new benchmark for UK rail travel.

Our new class of travel will offer greater choice and provide a unique offer which meets customers’ changing needs as they return to rail. This new feature is another step in raising the bar for excellence on the railway.

Avanti West Coast has recently introduced At-Seat Order for Standard Class passengers

‘At Seat’ service on Avanti West Coast Main Line trains

Avanti West Coast has rolled out a new service across its UK network where customers can have food and drink delivered to their seat.

Introduced on trains operating across the West Coast Main Line, this new feature follows a successful trial onboard last year.

Whilst customers in First Class have always enjoyed being served at their seat, this will enable customers in Standard to order refreshments and have it delivered to them.


Customers in Standard can now order food and drink delivered to their seat

Known as At-Seat Order, this additional customer benefit has been introduced across services on Avanti West Coast’s routes. Customers can log on to the onboard Wi-Fi using their mobile phone, tablet or laptop and then visit the dedicated page in their browser to choose their items.

Payment is through debit or credit cards and PayPal. The order is then delivered to their seat by an onboard Customer Service Assistant.

As part of At-Seat Order, a click and collect function has also been introduced on Pendolino trains – giving customers the option to choose food and drink at their seat before collecting from the onboard shop. A notification will be sent to customers on their phone when their order is ready to collect.

Feedback for At-Seat Order has been overwhelmingly positive with customers rating the service as good or excellent.  

Accessibility groups also welcomed the new service, citing it was helpful for disabled customers who find it difficult to leave their seat.

At-Seat Order will also run alongside the onboard shop on Pendolino services if customers prefer to buy their food and drink in the more traditional way.

The onboard shop on Pendolinos have been installed with protective screens and safety lines in place to enable social distancing.

Sarah Copley, Executive Director, Commercial at Avanti West Coast said,

The results of our trial proved At-Seat Order was a great addition to services and a perfect solution for customers who did not want to leave their seat. It’s a new, easy way for those travelling to enjoy great food and drink with us and to pay digitally, providing extra reassurance during a journey so customers can travel with confidence.

British Airways trials ‘world first’ 25-second Covid-19 test

British Airways is the first airline in the world to conduct a trial with medical tech company Canary Global, to assess how its Pelican Covid-19 Ultra Rapid Covid-19 test, which displays a result within 25 seconds, can play a role in opening up travel. 

The airline will be inviting flight and cabin crew to take the Pelican Covid-19 test and will compare the performance of the result against existing tests that they are already taking.  Recently approved for use in Europe and UK, the test is currently going through U.S. FDA approval and the airline is the first in the world to trial the new technology. Subject to successful evaluation the airline hopes to be able to offer the test technology on applicable routes where tests have to meet the stated specificity and sensitivity standards.



Pelican Covid-19 Ultra Rapid Covid-19 test: Highly intelligent saliva test can detect symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2, including variants

The test is a non-invasive saliva ultra-rapid digital antigen test that delivers 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2. Users simply take a sample of their saliva into a disposable sensor unit, shake and insert it into a re-usable digital reader which is connected to a blue-tooth enabled device like a smartphone, and then wait for the results that appear through a mobile app. The test which probes for both the S and N SARS-Cov-2 protein is optimized to detect variants that have originated across the globe.

Sean Doyle, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said:

As we  start to see the opening up of travel we remain committed to exploring easy and affordable testing solutions to help our customers travel again, whether it’s for business, to reunite with family and friends or take a much-needed break abroad. We think this new ultra-rapid test is a game changer so we are delighted to work with the team at Canary to begin initial trials with our flight and cabin crew, before exploring what role it could play as a customer testing option.

Raj Reddy, Canary’s CEO and inventor of the technology said:

Raj Reddy is CEO of
Ontario-based Canary Global

Combining the power of nanosensor and digital detection technology, the Pelican CV19 test is the first ultra-rapid test that can return a PCR-like accuracy of 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity. We developed the test with the travel industry in mind where speed, accuracy and ease of use are paramount. We are very excited to partner with BA as pioneer and industry leader to trial this test; and we hope the Pelican test can soon be used as a standard test for travellers and crew around the world.

Canary Global is in discussions with other travel, hospitality and events organisers around the world to help them safely open up with the Pelican ultra-rapid Covid-19 test. The test could also help to safely open up other business and schools. Canary is currently ramping up its production to meet the global demand.

British Airways has consistently championed testing as a way to re-open travel safely, and has ensured its customers have access to a wide range of discounted Covid-19 pre-departure, return to the UK and arrivals testing options.

BA trials Qmatic queueing

British Airways will be trialling new intelligent queuing technology from Qmatic, that will enable customers to queue, virtually, at check-in by pre-booking their slot time in advance of arriving at the airport.

The technology, that is optional for customers, will be trialled by British Airways for three months on selected flights departing from Heathrow Terminal 5. Customers will be sent an email before travel inviting them to book their personal check in time.  

When it is time for a customer to check-in, the Qmatic system will notify them that it is their turn, allowing them simply to go to the dedicated desk and the airline’s customer service team will be able to assist. Customers who have not booked a check-in slot through Qmatic, can proceed as normal, or have the option to join a virtual queue when they arrive at the airport by scanning a QR code.

Jade Solutions is the exclusive supplier of Qmatic’s intelligent journey management solutions into the UK

British Airways will be the first airline to trial Qmatic, which is currently used extensively in public sector, retail, healthcare and financial organisations around the world, including BP Service Stations, Tate Modern and the Post Office,  to help manage the flow of customers.

Declan Pollard, British Airways’ Head of Heathrow Customer Experience, said

In this new Covid-19 era we know that customers have been travelling less frequently than they normally would, and in most cases not at all. We understand many people will feel unfamiliar with the airport journey, so we are committed to exploring how technology can simplify that experience for them. This technology means that our customers can plan their departure knowing that they have a personalised check-in time. We think this technology, coupled with digital travel apps, will help efficiently manage the flow of customers in the airport at any one time and give our customers reassurance.

Mark Brackley, Managing Director of Jade Solutions, the exclusive supplier of Qmatic in the UK, added

The intelligent queuing solution will provide British Airways’ customers with the ability to add themselves to a virtual queue and see their position change in real-time, all from their phone. We are excited to be working with British Airways to trial this technology.

Elsewhere, British Airways is also trialling digital travel apps to ensure customers meet the entry requirements for their destination before arriving at the airport. The airline’s customers can currently use VeriFLY on all flights to the US, Canada and France as well as on all inbound flights and the airline has been assisting in the development of IATA’s Travel Pass.

British Airways says that it will continue to explore how it integrates other technologies, such as VeriFLY, into its systems ‘to further streamline the customer experience’.

American releases revamped amenity kits

American Airlines is introducing new onboard amenity kits for premium cabin customers in partnership with Shinola and D.S. & Durga.

These thoughtful and creative partners will help keep memories of customers’ travels top of mind, even when customers aren’t flying 35,000 feet in the air.

Clarissa Sebastian, Managing Director of Premium Customer Experience and Onboard Products for American Airlines, said

American often seeks brands that are rooted in creativity, especially those that celebrate travel before, during and after the actual journey. D.S. & Durga and Shinola underscore what we value in our partners at American — the ability to inspire connection with people or places that matter and experiences that enrich us.

Founded in Detroit, Shinola is a luxury design brand with an unwavering commitment to crafting products that are built to last, including world-class watches and premium leather goods. The new amenity kit bag was meticulously designed exclusively for American to get customers from place to place in style, while also offering the functionality to be repurposed post-flight to collect keepsakes or organise essentials for future journeys.

New York-based D.S. & Durga are perfumers known for ‘transportive’ fragrances with rich narratives. The amenity kits include aromas Rose Atlantic and Radio Bombay in lip balms and lotions. Rose Atlantic is inspired by summers on the New England coast with aromas of wild rose and the salty sea. Radio Bombay is described by the perfumers as a journey to the old days of Mumbai as ‘hot copper tubes warm the soft wood releasing the blooms of musk, cream, peach, ambrette, coco and cedar distillates’.

The new amenity kits, which are pouches of personal care items wrapped in sustainable packaging that American provides for premium customers on long-haul international and transcontinental flights, begin rolling out flights operating between the United States and Heathrow. This includes service to Heathrow from Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

The kits will roll out across other long-haul international and transcontinental flights throughout the summer.

Shinola has a reputation for assembling world-class clocks with an affinity for unique design. As an extension of AA’s partnership, Shinola is creating a desk clock featuring a dial made entirely from the original metal of American’s iconic, but now retired, fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft.

The MD-80s were the long-time backbone of American’s fleet, carrying customers for more than 35 years before it was retired in 2019.

Each dial is unique and bears small markings from the aircraft’s decades of service. Clock dials are hand-cut and re-polished under the watchful eye of Moto Art in California, with final assembly in Shinola’s Detroit factory.

Shinola is creating a limited 1,000 desk clocks, and later this summer, Shinola wall clocks will be featured in select Admirals Club lounges.