QANTAS GROUP COMPLETES $500M SHARE BUY-BACK

The Qantas Group has announced that it has completed the $500 million on market share buy-back announced at its half year results in February 2016.

Since 9 March 2016, Qantas has purchased 143,599,336 shares for a weighted average price of $3.4819.

Combined with the $505 million capital return and associated share consolidation completed on 6 November 2015, the number of ordinary shares on issue for Qantas Airways Limited has decreased by 12.6% since 30 June 2015. Upon cancellation of all shares purchased under the buy-back there will be 1,918,801,014 ordinary shares on issue.

In line with its financial framework, the Qantas Group has returned over $1 billion in surplus capital to shareholders in the last 12 months. A decision on future capital management initiatives will be made by the Board and announced with the Group’s full year results on 24 August 2016.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS OPENS WORLD LEADING FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AND SPA IN ABU DHABI

Etihad Airways has just officially opened its new flagship First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3.

The spectacular new space showcases the airline’s commitment to providing unparalleled and aspirational hospitality experiences. And if we think planes are getting more and more advanced and attractive some of the airline lounges are looking just as good if not even better.

Inspired by the world’s most prestigious hotels, private members’ clubs and fine dining establishments, the lounge is an ultra-exclusive lifestyle environment which tells the airline’s acclaimed guest experience and hospitality story with unrivalled design, style and comfort, world class dining, and bespoke beauty and relaxation services.

The lounge features 16 unique zones designed to ensure that guests can relax, re-energise and be entertained in total luxury before boarding their flight. An à la carte restaurant, showcase bar, fitness room, cigar lounge, Six Senses Spa, Style & Shave hairdresser, nail bar, TV room, secluded relaxation room, prayer room and children’s play room ensure that all guests receive a highly personalised experience and intuitive service.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our new First Class Lounge & Spa is the jewel in the crown of our new lounge offerings worldwide and represents the best of our home city of Abu Dhabi. It is a showcase of intelligent product design, innovation, ‎and superlative hospitality and service. This is not just a lounge but the ultimate airline hospitality experience and one which perfectly mirrors Etihad Airways’ evolution into the best airline in the world.

“Continuing our journey of innovation, this new dedicated First Class environment demonstrates our on-going commitment to developing world-class products as we continue to reimagine travel.”

Measuring approximately 1,700 m², and boasting expansive views of the airport, the new facility is open round-the-clock for the exclusive use of guests of The Residence, Etihad First Class, Etihad Guest Exclusive, Etihad Guest Platinum members (plus one guest), Etihad Airways Partner (EAP) airline First Class guests, EAP ‘Invitation only’ members (plus two guests) and EAP equivalent Platinum members (plus one guest).

Shane O’Hare, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President Marketing, said: “We are reimagining service and hospitality. Whilst this physical environment is truly remarkable, we have placed special emphasis on creating an aspirational luxury lifestyle space in line with our legendary inflight service offering. The result is the finest airline lounge and spa experience in the world.”

Guests of The Residence enjoy the exclusivity of their own private space discreetly located adjacent to the main lounge entrance. The secluded area boasts a dedicated Savoy-trained Butler, custom-made Poltrona Frau Italian leather armchairs and sofas, its own shower room stocked with a range of Acqua di Parma products, a prayer room, and private dining.

Guests of the First Class Lounge & Spa will be attended to by a number of expertly trained staff – all of whom have undergone a rigorous selection process. The lounge features a General Manager, Concierge, Maître d’Hotel, Savoy-trained Butlers, chefs and mixologists among its highly trained lounge team.

The cigar lounge provides a choice of nine premium brands including Hoyo de Monterray, Cohiba, Bolivar, Montecristo, Arturo Fuente and Romeo Y Julieta from its own humidor. Each has been expertly matched with a number of whiskies and cognacs.

The Six Senses Spa comprises three treatment rooms with shower facilities. First Class guests can enjoy a complimentary treatment, while guests in The Residence are offered two complimentary treatments.

In keeping with a focus on health and wellbeing, the Relax & Recline area features a large video wall made up of 27 individual screens, soothing sound and lighting, and is furnished with six Poltona Frau leather recliners. The fitness room is equipped with state-of-the-art Technogym treadmills and cross trainers, and male and female washrooms and showers.

The Style & Shave area is staffed by talented barbers offering a suite of hair and shave services, including one complimentary express treatment and a shoe shine service. The nail bar provides hair and nail services, including nail art, and one complimentary express treatment.

The new facility adds to the airline’s expanding collection of 14 Premium Lounges including those recently launched in Melbourne and New York, in addition to Premium Lounges in Abu Dhabi (Terminals 1 and 3), Sydney, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, and Washington DC. At Abu Dhabi Airport, Etihad Airways also operates a dedicated Premium Lounge within the unique US Preclearance facility, and a Premium Arrivals Lounge. A new First and Business Class Lounge at Los Angeles LAX airport will follow in the coming months.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS UNITES INNOVATION WITH HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR FOR VIRTUAL REALITY MOVIE

Etihad Airways has released its highly anticipated 360-degree virtual reality film starring Academy Award-winning actress, Nicole Kidman. This marks the first time a Hollywood actor has starred in a fully immersive virtual reality movie.

The five-minute feature, titled ‘Reimagine’, is a major coup for the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and immerses its viewers in a fully experiential journey following Nicole Kidman through one of its new Airbus A380s flying between New York and Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Airways collaborated with the Barbarian Group, a subsidiary of Cheil Worldwide, and the creative digital production company MediaMonks to produce the film. The feature was directed by the renowned husband and wife directing duo Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez. The film used pioneering filming techniques to ensure a seamless production with no warping or stitches, achieving unrivalled VR results.

Ola Björling, MediaMonks’ Global Director of VR, said: “As the most multidisciplinary medium there is, virtual reality relies more heavily on craft and execution than anything that has gone before it. We believe the display of artistry in every facet of this production is setting a new benchmark for live-action VR.”

The Virtual Reality film will be available at vr.etihad.com from 15:00 Australian Eastern Standard Time today (27 May) and will be followed by an updated version in stereoscopic sound on 17 June. To guarantee the full experience, viewers will need to download the Oculus VR app at vr.etihad.com and view the film using a virtual reality headset, such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard. Viewers will also be able to watch the film as a 360 degree video on YouTube.

On 29 May, Etihad Airways will host a red carpet premiere and roundtable discussion for ‘Reimagine’ at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Tune in on Facebook Live via the Etihad Airways Facebook page at 18:00 Australian Eastern Standard Time to take part and pose your questions to some of the key players behind the film.


WestJet & Qantas unveil reciprocal frequent flyer agreement: expands on existing code-share relationship

Today WestJet and Qantas announced a reciprocal frequent flyer agreement where members of the airlines’ frequent flyer programs can earn their choice of WestJet dollars or Qantas Points when travelling on flights of either airline. This agreement expands on the existing code-share relationship between Qantas and WestJet announced in 2014.

“We are thrilled to team up with Qantas to bring significant benefit to guests of both airlines,” said Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Commercial. “We are confident that our members are going to love earning WestJet dollars while flying on the Qantas global network, and we are equally excited to welcome Qantas frequent flyers aboard and offer them a new opportunity to earn Qantas Points everywhere WestJet flies.

“This will be a significant improvement to our reward program value proposition,” Cummings continued. “Our research showed that global travel is a significant aspirational attribute that our program needs. We have come a long way with our rewards program and airline partnerships since launching in 2010, and will continue to add value to our guests through these vehicles going forward. Adding these capabilities to our rewards program and working with our airline partners are all part of our long-term strategic plan.”

Effective May 16, 2016 Qantas Frequent Flyers can also redeem Qantas Points on Qantas code-share flights operated by WestJet, giving Qantas Frequent Flyers access to numerous WestJet destinations throughout Canada and the USA when connecting to or from a Qantas international service. WestJet and Qantas are currently working on plans to introduce fully reciprocal redemption for both airlines in 2017, so WestJet members will be able redeem on Qantas flights and Qantas Frequent Flyers will be able to redeem on WestJet flights.

“Not surprisingly, travel is the number one interest of Qantas Frequent Flyers so we know our members will be excited about being able to earn and use their points when travelling with WestJet,” said Lesley Grant, Qantas Loyalty CEO. “Qantas Frequent Flyer has more than 50 airline partners and affiliates, which gives our members access to over 1,200 destinations and this partnership with WestJet opens up even more new routes for them to fly while earning and using their Qantas Points.”

WestJet Rewards members earn WestJet dollars on flights and vacation packages with WestJet, WestJet Vacations, and select partner airlines, as well as on purchases made with the WestJet RBC MasterCard. WestJet dollars act like cash and can be redeemed anywhere WestJet flies, at any time. Full details of the program can be found at westjet.com/rewards.


HALCYON HOUSE JUST GETS HOTTER As it receives the 2016 Condé Nast Traveler HOT LIST Award

Halcyon House, one of Australia’s most unique beachside hotels, is celebrating with the announcement it has been awarded the 2016 Condé Nast Traveler HOT LIST Award. The former surf motel turned luxury hotel, situated at one of the country’s best surf breaks in Cabarita Beach, Northern NSW, is in an extraordinary region that remains one of the country’s best kept secrets.

Since purchasing the site in 2011, Halcyon House’s owners, Brisbane-based sisters Siobhan and Elisha Bickle always believed the hotel would hit the right note. “We are thrilled to win this award. Our vision was to create something that was completely different to what was currently being offered in Australia, a boutique hotel with a low key Australian feel, one which pairs the beauty of location, with relaxed understated elegance and intuitive service. Such an accolade in our first year of opening doors is testament to the team holding true and achieving this vision.” said Siobhan Bickle.

The hotel has shot to stardom since opening its doors in May 2015 for its distinctive interior design by acclaimed designer Anna Spiro, complete with every room’s grouping of vintage cameos, mirrors, seascapes and collected coastal ephemera, that is so distinct that it has joined Instagram and Pintrest fame as the ‘Halcyon Hang’.

The 20th edition of the HOT List celebrates the world’s best hotels that have opened their doors in the last 12 months. Condé Nast Traveler’s editors and reporters crisscrossed 6 continents and 36 countries to review hundreds of properties firsthand.

A select 60 properties made the Condé Nast Traveller Hot List Awards and represent not only the vanguard of the hotel world, but where travelers are headed next. The outcome of the HOT list was that hotels have rediscovered the true meaning of the term design hotel; eco-friendly came to signify something truly inspired; and emerging destinations were put on the map

Leading the team behind this family owned boutique hotel, Mauro De Riso, Halcyon House’s General Manager said, “I have spent several years working overseas in high-end properties and it is a privilege to now manage Halcyon House. Our beach-front location, property size, access to incredible fresh produce and passionate staff all contribute to our ability to offer extraordinary and unique experiences for our discerning guests”.

Halcyon House boasts 21 individual suites, vintage furnishings and a relaxed poolside restaurant Paper Daisy, offering the freshest of produce prepared by acclaimed chef Ben Devlin, who was awarded the Brisbane Good Food Guide young chef of the year in 2014 and previously worked at world renowned chef-owner René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen.

The 90-seat dining experience at the restaurant is a celebration of Halcyon House’s unique part of the world. Confident coastal cooking in a relaxed setting, the food expresses the very best of the region’s unique produce and bourgeoning culinary reputation.

Room rates start from $550 for a King suite to $1400 for a two-bedroom suite.