Azerbaijan Airlines to serve New York


The Transportation Department approved plans by Azerbaijan Airlines to launch its first service to the U.S. this winter. The carrier plans to operate from Baku, Azerbaijan, to New York with Airbus A340 aircraft configured for 237 seats. The government-owned airline has a fleet of some 30 aircraft and has 787 Dreamliners on order.

AirTran final flights set for Dec. 28
Southwest set Dec. 28 as the date for the last flight of its AirTran subsidiary, which it has gradually absorbed since it acquired the Orlando-based airline in 2011 for $1.4 billion. The final flight will be AirTran 001 from Atlanta to Tampa, retracing the airline's first flight, as ValuJet, in 1993.

Southwest adopts mobile boarding pass
Southwest completed the domestic rollout of technology enabling mobile boarding passes on smartphones. Begun as a test in Austin, Texas, last year, the service is available on iPhone and Android devices for security checkpoints and aircraft boarding at all U.S. airports where Southwest flies. The carrier said it is "not currently optimized for viewing on tablets."

Loews to acquire Minneapolis hotel
Loews Hotels said it agreed to acquire the 255-room Graves 601 Hotel Wyndham Grand in Minneapolis from the Graves Hospitality Corp. for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition, which would introduce the Loews brand to the U.S. Midwest, is expected to close in early July. Loews plans to enter the Chicago market with a new property in 2015.

AmaWaterways adds new ship to Mekong
AmaWaterways will introduce a new vessel, the 124-passenger AmaDara, on the Mekong River in 2015. The AmaDara will join sister ship, the 124-passenger AmaLotus, which Ama introduced in 2011, and will replace the smaller La Marguerite, which Ama introduced on the Mekong in 2009. The inaugural is slated for Aug. 17, 2015, a 16-day river cruise and land tour through Vietnam and Cambodia.

Elbow Beach Resort goes independent
Elbow Beach Resort in Bermuda, a South Shore resort in Paget Parish, reopened as an independently managed property under the direction of the Burns Group, represented by President Edmund Burns, a veteran hotelier. The resort, which includes 98 rooms and suites in small garden cottages, had been managed by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. The decision to reopen as an independent was based on the strength of the brand-name recognition of Elbow Beach, which began operations as a guest cottage in 1908.

Former partners eye South Beach projects
Commune Hotels, parent of the Joie de Vivre and Thompson Hotels brands, expects to open its first Thompson Hotel in Miami late this year on Collins Avenue in South Beach. The 380-room beachfront hotel will be a makeover of the Churchill Suites Crown. Coincidentally, the Pomeranc family, founder of the Thompson brand and Commune's former joint venture partner, also plans to open on Collins Avenue this year, converting the former Continental South Beach to a 251-room boutique hotel under its Sixty Hotels brand. The two properties are about a mile and a half apart.

Friends & Colleagues
Ellen Bettridge has resigned as president of Unique Vacations, the marketing and sales arm for Sandals Resorts International. She had assumed the post on Jan. 6, replacing Kevin Froemming, who had left to join Playa Hotels & Resorts. Prior to joining Unique, Bettridge had served as president of Silverseas Cruises and before that had spent more than two decades with American Express, where she had been vice president of the U.S. retail travel network. • • • JetBlue Airways named Capt. Charles "Bart" Roberts vice president of flight operations, putting him in charge of the airline's 2,800 pilots across the network. Roberts joins JetBlue after a 28-year career with American Airlines, where he held a number of leadership positions, including chief pilot, managing director of flight operations and fleet captain. • • • Silversea Cruises has promoted Kim Guimaraes from director to vice president of national account sales for the Americas. She joined Silversea in 2010 as a regional sales director, bringing to her position over 24 years of management experience in the travel industry, including 12 years leading regional sales efforts for Carnival Cruise Lines. The luxury line also promoted Kris Endreson to vice president of field sales for the U.S. and Canada. Most recently, she served as regional sales director for the Eastern U.S. and Caribbean. Endreson joined Silversea in 2011 as a regional sales director; she previously was a sales manager with Royal Caribbean International. Phil Flad, who joined Silversea last year as director of brand partnerships, was named regional sales director for the Eastern U.S. His past travel industry experience includes 16 years in management positions with American Express. • • • Rosewood Hotels & Resorts appointed Marc Jason Geller corporate director of marketing. Geller most recently was creative services and marketing specialist at Creative Chapeau in New York. Previously he was with AgencySacks in New York where he developed marketing campaigns for Rosewood, the Peninsula Hotels and Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. • • • Jane Scaletta has stepped down as executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. Scaletta, who has held the position for two and a half years, will join Orlando destination management company AlliedPra as general manager. A replacement has not been named.

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