With the weather here in Britain hotting up, June was an eventful month in the world of travel, seeing IT problems for British Airways, baggage system failures at Heathrow, and the suspension of flights to Qatar. For all this, plus updates on the Trump travel ban, check out our monthly travel round-up!
British Airways IT failure causes flight disruptions
British Airways suffered an IT system outage, resulting in the cancellation of 726 flights, affecting some 75,000 passengers worldwide. It is thought to have cost the airline around £80 million.
US relaxes laptop ban on flights from Abu Dhabi
Etihad has relaxed its rules on carrying laptops on its flights from Abu Dhabi. In March, strict regulations came into place banning larger electronic gadgets on flights from eight majority Muslim countries. However, after introducing enhanced security checks at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad relaxed the ban on their flights from the city. [July update: Emirates and Turkish Airlines have also lifted the laptop ban on flights from Abu Dhabi].
Gulf airlines suspend Doha flights
As a result of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severing diplomatic ties with Qatar due to its alleged backing of terrorist groups, Emirates and Etihad suspended all flights in and out of Doha in early June. The last flight out of Doha departed on June 6th, with all customers booked on subsequent flights being offered alternative routes. Meanwhile, Qatar Airlines suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
Etihad withdraws complimentary chauffeur service in First and Business Class
Etihad is dropping its free chauffeur-driven transfers for all destinations except Abu Dhabi. The service, which was available to those travelling in First or Business Class worldwide, will still be offered, but for a fee. It will also be opened up to those in Economy Class. Free chauffeurs will still be available to those travelling on Etihad’s ultra-luxurious The Residence private suite, found on its fleet of Airbus A380s from Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Sydney and New York.
Heathrow suffers baggage system failure
Hundreds of passengers were forced to leave their luggage behind when Heathrow Airport’s baggage system failed on 15th June. Flights with British Airways, Iberia and American Airways were affected, in Terminals 3 and 5 with passengers advised to pack essential items in their hand luggage. Heathrow Airport is investigating the cause.
Trump travel ban partially implemented
Citizens of Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Iran will be barred from entering the USA unless they have a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity" after the US Supreme court partially lifted a block on President Donald Trump’s travel ban. A full hearing is due to take place later in the year to decide if the ban can be enforced.
Marriott seeks to expand hotel portfolio
The Marriott International hotel group is seeking to add more independent hotels to its repertoire in a bid to increase its property portfolio by 50% by 2019. Since taking over Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, Marriott boasts 240 independent hotels across three brands, and hopes to add a further 40 properties this year. With these acquisitions, the brand will offer a greater choice of uniquely designed, owner-run accommodation and therefore provide more tailored, local experience to their guests.
London’s Old War Office building to become a hotel
The Grade II listed Old War Office building in Whitehall is to become a luxury hotel following an announcement by Raffles Hotels and Resorts. The building, which was built in 1906 and has 1,100 rooms and two miles of corridors, was used by Winston Churchill during World War II. Sold on by the Ministry of Defence in 2013, it is estimated to reopen in its new incarnation in 2020.
Hotel mergers bring loyalty programme benefits for travellers
After the recent merger of Le Club AccorHotels with Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles, the four hotel chains have also combined their loyalty points programmes, giving their members exclusive benefits at all brands within the group. This follows the lead of Marriott International, who merged with Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016 and now allows members of both Marriott’s and Starwood’s loyalty programmes to link their accounts and reap the benefits from both schemes.