Holiday Inn gets a $1 billion new look
It may be the world's largest hotel revamp ever, involving 3,125 Holiday Inn hotels worldwide. The owner of the Holiday Inn brand, InterContinental Hotels Group, has warned its franchisees that if they don't freshen up their hotels, they will not be allowed to carry the Holiday Inn logo.
The "motor lodge-style" look is out. Sleek exteriors are in, along with new decor, bedding, and lobbies. Every bathroom will get an improved shower head offering superior water pressure and a shower curtain with a curved rod. There'll be a new, business-like logo, too:
The first batch of 150 hotels with the new look will appear mid next year. Changes will be rolled out elsewhere between then and early 2010. Holiday Inn can afford to make the changes because it's one of the world's most profitable hotel brands. In some parts of Asia, it is even treated as a luxury brand.
The changes were the result of a survey of 18,000 customers. Among the complaints voiced were that front-desks looked too cluttered, and that the hotel exteriors weren't brightly lit. Customers also said that they prefer it when desk clerks address them by their name. These suggestions, among others, are being adopted.
Fingerprints may replace e-tickets
Air France has announced that it will start an experiment with "biometric boarding cards" this winter on its Paris-Amsterdam route. Passengers who volunteer will load a digital image of their index print onto an electronic chip card. They'll then be able to use the card to go through fast-track lanes at airport check-ins. An electronic gate will allow a passenger to walk through if it detects a match between the scan of a fingerprint in a computer database and the one on the card. If the tests with about 1,000 passengers are successful, the high-tech cards will be offered to nearly 15 percent of Air France customers. [via Agence France-Presse] Photo by Fazen. Find her portfolio on Flickr.
Virgin America on sale
Virgin America is offering a fare sale on these routes: between San Francisco and Los Angeles for $78 round trip, flying between Sept. 13 by Dec. 13; between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, for $238, flying between Sept. 26 and Dec. 13; and between New York and your choice of L.A. or San Francisco for $258, flying between Sept. 13 and Dec. 13. Book at VirginAmerica.com. Fares must be booked by Sept. 6, 2007. Blackout dates between Nov. 16 through Nov. 26, 2007. Taxes of up to $36 are not included in the above fares. Related: Is Virgin America the best airline for budget travelers?
Continental makes a classy move
Continental Airlines said today that it will allow customers to change flights online if their flight is affected by disruptions, such as severe weather. Until now, passengers had to rebook themselves either by waiting on hold at 800/523-3273 to speak with an agent or wait in line at the airport. You can even waive change fees or handle other complex situations online, says the airline. At airports where wireless Internet is available, or for travelers who have Web-enabled phones and PDAs, this announcement is great news--and will hopefully inspire copycat moves by other airlines. In a summer of delays, it's nice to hear an airline actually do something--even something small--to improve the situation. Earlier: Kudos to Continental from Budget Travel editor Erik Torkells. Photo: Courtesy Alex S. on Flickr. (Creative Commons)
Catholic low-cost airline debuts
The Vatican has teamed up with the Italian postal service to retrofit cargo planes to carry passengers to key Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe and Mexico. The airline, Mistral Air, has begun to fly to the Loudres shrine in France. Future destinations will include the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, the shrine of the Madonna of Guadalupe in Mexico, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and Czestochowa in Poland, according to the BBC. As the blog Airline Confidential notes: "While [the airline] does not claim any higher power, it rather marvelously states that it will show mercy, if not charity, in the fare structure." The planes are decorated on the outside in the Vatican colors of yellow and white. On the inside, you'll find sacred inscriptions. Booking can only be done in Italian by phone at the moment. Get contact info at Mistral Air [BBC.] Update: Aug. 28: CNN.com offers video of the flight.
Help shelter animals and win an Airstream® Caravel 20FB and RAM® 1500 Limited Truck