Southwest becomes UATP shareholder
Continuing its pursuit of closer ties with the business travel community, Southwest became a shareholder in the Universal Air Travel Plan, which enables it to become a card issuer for the first time. The carrier already accepts all UATP corporate cards in all sales channels. Southwest, the 21st UATP investor, said the move will help it develop new products, giving the carrier additional access to UATP's payment solution platform.
SkyTeam picks up another Asian line
China Airlines decided to join the SkyTeam alliance, which already includes Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and Guangzhou-based China Southern. Shanghai-based China Eastern is expected to join by the end of the year. The addition of the Taipei hub is seen as a move that will buttress the alliance in Asia after it failed to lure Japan Airlines from Oneworld. Full membership for China Airlines is slated for mid-2011.
Alaska adds more Guadalajara routes
Alaska Airlines plans to add two routes from Northern California to Guadalajara, Mexico, in mid-December, launching four weekly nonstops from San Jose on Dec. 15 and three weekly from Sacramento the following day. The carrier has served the Mexican destination from Los Angeles since 2003.
Taj shifts hotels to Vivanta brand
Taj Hotels & Resorts is expanding its Vivanta brand by moving 16 existing Taj properties to the contemporary brand, which it created about 20 months ago. Taj says the move gives Vivanta an inventory of nearly 2,500 rooms.
Oceania expands to South Pacific
Oceania Cruises will offer the South Pacific for the first time during the winter of 2011-12, a season that will bring Oceania ships to 16 new destinations and 33 new ports overall. The 684-passenger Regatta will sail Oceania's first South Pacific season, visiting Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Cook Islands. The winter lineup also includes new itineraries in Asia, South America, the Caribbean and Australia/New Zealand.
St. Regis to open resort in Tibet
Starwood's St. Regis brand plans to open its first resort in China and the first international luxury hotel in Tibet when it opens the St. Regis Lhasa Resort in mid-November. Offering 162 rooms and suites, the hotel is in the capital city's Barkhor neighborhood, not far from the Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lama. Amenities include three restaurants, a tea room, a wine and cigar bar and a spa as well as meetings and function space.
JetBlue, AirTran vie for San Juan traffic
JetBlue and AirTran are apparently squaring off in the Tampa-San Juan nonstop market, now served by American, announcing new services for next spring, within minutes of each other. JetBlue said it plans daily service beginning next May, moving to twice-daily service in June. Minutes later, AirTran disclosed plans to launch twice-daily service on April 5. The two carriers already compete head to head in the Orlando-San Juan market and elsewhere.
Friends & Colleagues
Ethiopian Airlines appointed Ato Tewolde G. Mariam CEO designate, effective Sept. 15. He will succeed Ato Girma Wake as CEO on Jan. 1. Ato Tewolde has served Ethiopian for the past 25 years in different capacities in the marketing division. Prior to his appointment as CEO designate, he served as COO of Ethiopian. • • • Marriott International named Cynthia Perry global director for travel industry sales. Perry has spent much of the last 10 years in the travel insurance business, most recently serving as vice president of sales and industry relations for Travel Insured International. • • • MGM Resorts International promoted Gamal Aziz to president and CEO of MGM Hospitality, a subsidiary that will operate gaming and nongaming hotels outside the U.S. under the MGM Grand, Bellagio and Skylofts brands. The company also promoted Corey Sanders to COO at MGM Resorts. Aziz had been serving since 2008 as head of MGM Hospitality and president of the MGM Grand Las Vegas. Sanders has been with MGM Resorts for 16-plus years, most recently as COO for the company's core brand and regional properties. • • • Manfred Ursprunger has been named to the newly created position of executive vice president of fleet operations at Costa Crociere. Ursprunger has worked as director of hotel and food and beverage for Crystal Cruises as well as holding the position of president of hotel operations and services for Costa Cruise Lines.