The Future of Air Travel: United CleanPlus Initiates Healthier Travel Plan

United CleanPlus Airport Lobby Signage
United CleanPlus Airport Lobby Signage

United Airlines recently introduced United CleanPlus: the company’s new commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of the customer experience, with the goal of initiating a cleanliness revolution in the airline industry. United CleanPlus brings together the disinfectant brand, Clorox, and American medical experts from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to inform and guide United’s new standard of cleanliness. This protocol includes cleaning, safety and social distancing and giving customers options when flights are more full. Clorox products will be used at United’s hub airports and medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic will advise on new technologies, training development and quality assurance programming.

By establishing collaborations with these world-renowned leaders in surface disinfection and health, United hopes that customers can travel with more confidence knowing that the airline’s protocols have been informed by trusted experts.

“Safety has always been our top priority, and right now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it’s our singular customer focus,” said United CEO, Scott Kirby, in a video message to customers. “We recognise that COVID-19 has brought cleanliness and hygiene standards to the front of customers’ minds when making travel decisions.”

Clorox is working closely with United to enhance the airline’s cleaning program, redefine disinfection procedures and equipping customers with amenities at select locations that help support a healthier and safer environment throughout their travel journey. Clorox products will first roll out at United’s hub airports in Chicago and Denver and will be used in the gate and terminal areas, with additional locations to follow.

“Connecting the world more safely, when possible, is an important part of our recovery as a society,” stated Benno Dorer, Chair and CEO of The Clorox Company.

Experts at Cleveland Clinic provided guidance on the airline’s policies and procedures to ensure they meet or exceed industry standards. Such measures include sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers and installing touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in. As they learn more about how to fight COVID-19, Cleveland Clinic experts will help United use those discoveries to quickly implement new ways to keep customers safe.

“As the public begins to adjust to a world that’s been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety is of the utmost importance,” said Tomislav Mihaljevic, M.D., Cleveland Clinic CEO and President. “We are proud to be part of this programme and to share the knowledge we’ve gained as we’ve worked to contain and understand COVID-19 over the past several months. It’s important for everyone to take precautions as we enter this new phase of COVID-19 response, and Cleveland Clinic is pleased to play a role in helping people travel safely.”

The United CleanPlus commitment to customers is already happening throughout the travel journey across the United network in a number of ways. To date, United has implemented more than a dozen new policies and procedures aligned with United CleanPlus that include the following:

In Airport Lobbies:

  • Temporarily shutting down self-service kiosks
  • Rolling out touchless kiosks in select locations that allow travellers to print bag tags using their own device to scan a QR code
  • Ticket counter signage, including a 6 ft. rule to encourage minimal contact
  • Deployment of sneeze guards at key high-interaction points

Gateside Measures:

  • Fewer travellers boarding at once to reduced crowding at gate and jet bridge
  • Self-scanning of boarding passes at gate readers
  • United employees have access to disinfecting products to best clean high-touch areas, such as armrests and handrails

In United Clubs:

  • Protective sneeze guards have been installed at credentialing desks and customer service positions
  • United Club team members are required to use personal protective equipment and increase the frequency of high-touch surface cleaning
  • Removal of bar area seating
  • Prepackaged food and beverages will only be available at the bar area

Onboard Aircraft:

  • An “all in one” economy snack bag that replaces the economy beverage and complimentary snack choice service on domestic flights scheduled 2 hours and 20 minutes or more. This bag includes a wrapped sanitiser wipe, an 8.5 oz. bottled water, a Stroopwafel and a package of pretzels
  • Mask or face covering requirement for all employees and customers aboard a United flight
  • Each United customer will be given an individually wrapped package of hand sanitiser wipes
  • Limiting advanced seat selections where possible
  • Allowing customers to take alternative flights when a flight is expected to operate over 70% capacity
  • From June, every United cabin will undergo enhanced sanitisation, such as electrostatic spraying, before boarding

Behind the Scenes:

  • United employees undergo temperature screenings upon arrival at work
  • Some United employees are producing hand sanitiser to be used throughout the airline.

These new measures created for United CleanPlus are being rolled out across United aircraft and hubs. The guidelines will likely evolve in accordance with new findings made by health experts. COVID-19 is changing the way we travel from short-term restrictions to long-term shifts in health standards.

Responding to COVID-19, United Airlines debuts United CleanPlus: a series of health protocols aimed at revolutionising health standards in airline travel

Private Jet Travel Rockets In Response to Coronavirus Crisis

Aman Private Jet Interior
Aman Private Jet Interior

Passengers are willing to pay well above standard rates (around USD $5,000 for an hour on a six to eight-passenger light jet) to evacuate areas and get around travel bans during  the COVID-19 crisis

The private aviation industry might just be one of the few in the world to actually benefit from the madness of COVID-19. According to various media outlets including Business Insider, VICE and Slate, private aircraft businesses are booming, with demand from the super wealthy rocketing as a result of the commercial airline restrictions, border closures and Coronavirus fears now in place around the world.

Justin Crabbe, CEO of private jet charter company Jettly – which has headquarters in New York and Toronto and access to over 23000 private jets around the world – told Business Insider’s Melissa Wiley earlier this month that he has tripled the company’s flight support staff in response to surging demand. Thousands of requests came through “within hours” from elite travellers willing to pay thousands of dollars to arrange last-minute travel and emergency evacuations from countries affected by COVID-19, he told Wiley. “In short, we are booming…I’ve never seen so much activity in our evacuation flight department.”

“This time of year we typically see 2,000 to 3,000 flights requested each day, but we have doubled that for almost every news release of a major outbreak in the past weeks getting people out of the affected areas,” Crabbe said.

Crabbe added that Jettly customers, both individual and corporate, are willing to pay well above standard rates (which sit at around USD $5,000 for an hour on a six to eight-passenger light jet)  to evacuate areas within 24-48 hours instead of waiting a few days. “We have seen dozens of bookings that are two to three times the regular rate for the flight due to the increased demand and the shortage of available aircraft and crews in the area,” Crabbe said. “Many aircrafts are having to fly in to pick up customers and evacuate them. All of that additional flight time comes with additional cost.”

The 24-hour Coronavirus news cycle has fuelled the demand, Crabbe said, with media reports of travel bans, city quarantines, evacuations, and new cases “driv[ing] the public to become extremely fearful and prefer to stay away from commercial airport terminals and commercial aircraft cabins due to the increased levels of exposure,” he said.

Even now, with various countries’ travel bans in place, private jets can bypass these bans thanks to loopholes: private jet passengers aren’t subject to commercial security and health screenings because they fly out of smaller terminals, he told Wiley.

London-based Private Fly is another private jet company seeing a spike in business. CEO Adam Twiddel told Wiley that his company had seen an increase in requests for short-notice charters, ranging from the transport of medical teams to new clients wishing to avoid virus exposure that a commercial flight might bring.

“Recent inquiries have included transport of a decontamination team within Asia, and flights from Hong Kong for a family travelling to Bali. They normally fly by commercial airline but on this occasion, are concerned about exposure on the flight,” Twidell told Business Insider.

On 11th March CNN Travel reported that Swiss private jet broker Luna Jets had also seen an “impressive increase” in bookings and enquiries from passengers in recent weeks, correlating with heightened concerns surrounding COVID-19. “In February, about 15% of overall requests were related to coronavirus,” Alain Leboursier, director of sales told CNN. “That’s now doubled to 30%.”

For Southern Jet, a private jet charter company in the United States, requests and demands had increased tenfold from late February. “The demand is basically coming to us. We might get five, 10 requests a day. And the request lines are just crazy right now. We’re booking out to where we don’t have any airplanes available,” owner Jerod Davis told Slate.

“We’re seeing people that never flew private before flying private.”

Daniel Hirschhorn, from USA-based Luxury Aircraft Solutions, which brokers travel between private airlines and flyers, echoed Davis’ comments in an article published by VICE on 16th March: “In the past 24 hours [demand] has really spiked. A lot of people that don’t normally fly private but have the means to do it, and would generally hop on a commercial flight, are very apprehensive to do that. So we’re getting flooded with requests,” he said.

However Hirschhorn also said that cancellations had also spiked for the company: “For people that booked non-essential trips with family, or took elective work trips, pretty much everything we had on the books has cancelled,” Hirschhorn said. “We’re negotiating on their behalf to get as much money back as possible. So we have both ends of this. It’s good for business and it’s bad for business.”

Crabbe agreed: “Even now, while we’re seeing short-term additional demand, other clients are changing or cancelling their travel plans,” he told Business Insider.

What it’s Like Inside Air Canada’s New Vancouver Signature Suite

Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver
Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver

Air Canada’s Signature Suite concept arrives at Vancouver International Airport, offering a full-service restaurant with an à la carte menu by acclaimed Vancouver Chef David Hawksworth

Not everyone wants to sit down to their dinner at 1am, on a 15-hour flight across the Pacific – this I can attest to, having just made said flight from Vancouver to Sydney. In an ideal world, you would be able to enjoy an à la carte restaurant meal and a glass of wine at a time that suited you, prior to your flight’s departure, rather than eating according to the airline’s schedule. That’s the thinking behind Air Canada’s Signature Suites, located in Toronto International Airport, and now, at Vancouver International Airport.

“It’s meant to be a facility for ultra-premium customers to be able to dine on the ground,” says Andrew Yiu, Vice President, Product at Air Canada at the launch of the Signature Suite in Vancouver on Saturday 14th March. “We have a lot of late night departures… and when you have a great product on board, a good lie-flat seat, customers want to get on and they want to go to sleep right away, but they don’t want to miss out on the meal. So you look at a traditional lounge product: yes you have food, but they’re not as elaborate, and as upscale as what we have on board the aircraft.”

This is where the Signature Suite fine dining offering comes in.

The Signature Suite is accessible by eligible Signature Class customers and features a complimentary, full-service restaurant offering an à la carte menu created by acclaimed Vancouver chef David Hawksworth, whose lauded establishment, Hawksworth Restaurant, is located in the historic and iconic Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The menu will change four times a year with the seasons, in keeping with chef Hawksworth’s culinary style.

In addition to the full menu, the Signature Suite offers a selection of upscale buffet options for those who don’t have time for a full dinner, a quiet sitting area, a private dining room and concierge service. From the full-service bar, guests can take their pick of top-shelf wines, various cocktails and even Moët & Chandon champagne (including the rosé variety, which is hard to come by in Canada).

But there’s a catch: just because you’re travelling Business Class, doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the Signature Suite. “When it comes to eligibility, we’re actually pretty strict,” explains Yiu. Those travelling on upgraded and point-redemption tickets will have to settle for the Maple Leaf Lounge for the pre-flight comforts, keeping the Signature Suite as an exclusive, VIP offering for customers that have purchased a Business Class international ticket to Asia, Europe or Australia.

Located in Air Canada’s international departure area at YVR above the International Maple Leaf Lounge and with direct views of the tarmac, the 408 square-metre space can accommodate seating for up to 105 premium customers. Designed by Heekyung Duquette and Eric Majer, arrival at the Suite sets the tone for what waits at the top of the staircase, with customers greeted by concierges stationed at bronze podiums, ready to store guests’ luggage.

Art by Canadian artists that nods to the Pacific Coast landscape adorns the space, a cloudscape chandelier by acclaimed Toronto design firm Moss & Lam cascades down the stairwell and the bar is made from Telupana Blue stone, quarried on Vancouver Island. Molton Brown is the skincare brand of choice in the bathrooms – a worthy one, in my humble opinion.

First introduced in 2017 in Toronto International Airport, the Signature Suite was, as Yiu says, conceived as a way to provide a more convenient premium dining option for its high flyers, but also as a way to cut through in the ultra-competitive premium airline experience that already includes top-notch in-flight entertainment, lie-flat seats and priority boarding. “Every carrier has that,” Yiu says, “so how do you make yourself stand out?” The airline has indeed succeeded in standing out, it would seem, having picked up Skytrax’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining Award last year for the Toronto Signature Suite, not to mention Best Airline in North America for the third straight year.

In the last three years, Air Canada has also introduced a series of new destinations to its route network including Zurich, Paris, Brisbane and Melbourne. “As we saw the growth, this [Signature Suite] concept made more and more sense,” Yiu says.

Air Canada’s Signature Suite is open now at Vancouver International Airport. Take a virtual tour here.

Voting is Open for the 2020 Gold List

Luxury travel photo

Luxury Travel Magazine is pleased to announce voting is now open for the 16th annual Gold List awards

The Gold List awards celebrates the best in luxury travel in Australia and around the globe, as voted by our readers. With voting now open, this is your opportunity to have your say and nominate the best five-stars resorts and hotels, luxury rail journeys, ocean cruises and high-end tour operators.


How to Vote

  • Start your voting process by clicking on the link below and remember to include the location of the property you nominate for your vote to count (eg. ‘Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’, not just ‘Sofitel’).
  • Please note that to be eligible to go in the draw to win one of three prizes below, you must fill out at least one category in the questionnaire, as well as Question 30, then continue to enter your name and email for the Prize Draw.
  • Voting closes 5pm, Friday 3rd April 2020. Winners will be announced Thursday 28th May 2019online and in the winter issue of Luxury Travel Magazine.

New American Express Lounge Opens at Sydney Airport

AMEX Airport Lounge Sydney
AMEX Airport Lounge Sydney

The new lounge, operated by Plaza Premium Lounges, is  three times the size of the previous lounge at over 600 square metres, and offer more amenities, dining options and variety of relaxation spaces

American Express  has opened a brand new card member  lounge today,  located  near  Gates  50-63  at  Sydney  Airport’s  T1  International  terminal,  replacing the pre-existing lounge, which opened in December 2014.

The new lounge, operated by Plaza Premium Group, is three times the size of the original lounge at over 600 square metres, and offer more amenities, dining options and variety of relaxation spaces including:

  • Three shower suites featuring L’Occitane en Provence products;
  • Complimentary food and beverages featuring a variety of vegetarian, vegan and wellness options, an exclusive dining area, and live cooking stations;
  • Full service bar including a selection of cocktails and wide selection of craft and international tap beers;
  • High-speed Wi-Fi and charging stations and quiet resting areas;
  • Flight information screens, and a selection of local and international magazines and newspapers.

“Opening this new, spacious and convenient American Express Lounge at Sydney Airport is part of our ongoing commitment to provide our card members with premium travel benefits, exceptional hospitality and best-in-class facilities and experiences. We  look forward to  welcoming travellers  to  our new  card member lounge,” said Naysla Edwards, Vice President of Brand, Charge Cards and Experiences at American Express A/NZ.

“We believe guests will thoroughly enjoy all the additions, in particular the live cooking stations where guests can now order from an a la carte menu,” added Song Hoi-see, Founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Group.

The new American Express lounge at Sydney Airport’s T1 International terminal is part of American Express’ broader Global Lounge Collection, which offers Platinum and Centurion Card Members with access to more than 1,200 airport lounge locations across the world, in 500 plus cities, across 130 countries and counting.

The Global Lounge Collection includes access to American Express Centurion Lounges, International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club® for Card Members flying on Delta, Priority PassTM Select Lounges upon enrolment, Airspace Lounges, MAG U.S. Escape Lounges and Plaza Premium Lounges. Card Members can find a lounge at the Global Lounge Collection website or by using the Amex Mobile app.

Affordable Private Jet Platform Lands in Australia


InstaJetz works with an approved network of premium aircraft operators and allows customers to compare available empty leg flights and choose the most cost-effective solutions for their trip

Private jet travel may no longer be out of reach for most of us, with the launch of InstaJetz, a new private jet and helicopter booking platform. On a mission to make luxury jet-setting more affordable and accessible for Australians, the Australian travel company offers flights to any city across the country, all of which can be instantly arranged through the InstaJetz platform. The service takes advantage of empty leg flights – the return portion of a one-way private charter flight, where the aircraft needs to reposition itself for its next customer, or to return to its home base – and operators are often happy to offer lower prices to fill the otherwise empty aircraft (and recoup costs).

InstaJetz works with an approved network of premium aircraft operators and allows customers to compare available empty leg flights and choose the most cost-effective solutions for their trip. Within a few clicks, customers can request when and where they want to fly, receive their quote, confirm and take off. Just to add to the exclusive experience, the InstaJetz team is available 24/7 to assist with anything passengers might need.

World’s Best Independent Airport Lounge Revealed

Plaza Premium Lounge London
Plaza Premium Lounge London

Plaza Premium Lounge has claimed the top prize at the Skytrax World Airline Awards

Plaza Premium Lounge at London Heathrow Airport T2 has been voted “World’s Best Independent Airport Lounge” at the 2019 World Airline Awards. This is the fourth consecutive time the airport lounge brand has achieved a first-place ranking, with the Plaza Premium Lounge in Brisbane additionally placing in the top 10.

“It is such a pleasure for Plaza Premium Lounge to once again be named as ‘World’s Best Independent Airport Lounge,’ not to mention our deepest gratitude for millions of global travellers and our dedicated team around the world that strives to make travel better every day,” said Song Hoi-see, Founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Group. “As the world leader in airport hospitality, we are committed to continuously enhancing our experience to alleviate the pain points of travellers.”

Closer to home, the Brisbane branch is known for prioritising wellness in its travellers’ airport experience with private spa and wellness facilities, as well as showers with customised amenities. Guests can expect to board feeling fresh and relaxed.

“In the past year, we have put in much efforts in upgrading our service quality and adding new features – from zone planning, ambient design, furniture selection, food and beverage offerings to facilities that cater to different travel types. Our goal remains unchanged, that is to create a journey to make travel better for all travellers,” Hoi-see says.

In the past year, Plaza Premium Lounges have opened in Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Ahmedabad, India; Rome, Italy; Cebu, Philippines; Langkawi, Malaysia and Helsinki, Finland. The award-winning company now has a global network of more than 160 locations in over 44 international airports, across 22 countries and regions and serving 15 million travellers every year.

Commonly deemed the “Oscars of the aviation industry,” the prestigious Skytrax’s World Airline Awards are determined through the largest global annual airline customer satisfaction survey and receive millions of responses from air passengers around the world.  The survey and the award selection are independent and free of any airline influence or interference.

Slides, Gardens, Nets and Mazes at New Jewel Changi Airport

Jewel Changi Airport Canopy Park
Jewel Changi Airport Canopy Park

The Canopy Park and Changi Experience Studio are now open, complete with quirky playscapes and interactive experiences

Jewel Changi Airport is inviting locals and international visitors alike to explore their newest exhibit, Canopy Park. The picturesque display offers seven unique play attractions, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, unique shopping and dining concepts, as well as airport and accommodation facilities.

The exhibit, which opened in mid-April, features a range of exciting attractions never seen before in an airport including the Discovery Slides, which consist of four slides within a beautiful garden.

If slides aren’t your speed, there is another playscape available. The Foggy Bowls, which are mainly tailored to children, contain four gentle concave play areas surrounded by enveloping fog, creating a dreamy landscape of clouds for young imaginations to enjoy.

The Petal Garden and the Topiary Walk are perfect for those who have an affinity for photography. The Petal Garden contains seasonal floral displays from around the world, while the Topiary Walk features vibrant plants that have been shaped into animals such as crocodiles, elephants and peacocks.

Among the ticketed attractions are two distinct mazes, the Hedge Maze and the Mirror Maze. The Hedge Maze is the largest of its kind in Singapore, complete with an elevated lookout platform for spectators. The Mirror Maze includes a dramatic, fully immersive chamber with mirrors above and below, perfect for any visitor in search of a challenge.

There are also two different Manulife Sky Nets, which are suspended high above the ground and yield fantastic views. The Sky Net made for walking is 25 metres tall, making it taller than the other net. However, the other net is made for bouncing, making it suitable for the more energetic visitor.

Outside of Canopy Park, there is also the new Changi Experience Studio, which lets guests immerse themselves within a virtual world of Changi Airport. Some highlights of the Studio include an interactive travel guide, trivia games, and an experience that allows participants to make music with other guests.

Starting 10 June 2019, the Changi Experience Studio will operate daily from 10.00am to 10.00pm (last entry is at 9.00pm). To ensure an optimal and enjoyable immersive experience for visitors, entry to the studio will be ticketed.

More information about both Canopy Park and the Changi Experience Studio, can be found on their website.

Luxury Car Rental Service Launches at Melbourne Airport


The celebrity-inspired chauffeur treatment is in partnership with Mercedes-Benz and is available exclusively at Melbourne Airport

Exclusively for Melbourne Airport travellers, off-boarding passengers can now be picked up in style with a new VIP chauffeur treatment. Starting with car pickup, customers are able to bypass the usually-crowded car rental desks and the hike over to the car park with their luggage. They are instead chauffeured away from the domestic or international terminals and into a Mercedes-Benz car by a personalised valet driver. Customers can additionally choose from A-Class, B-Class, CLA, C-Class, X-Class and GLA vehicles.

This posh rental service is being offered by DriveMyCar, Australia’s largest online peer-to-peer car rental service, in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Melbourne Airport, a member of LSH Auto Australia and part of LSH Auto International – the world’s largest Mercedes-Benz passenger car dealer group.

“We’re excited to work with Mercedes-Benz Melbourne Airport to introduce new ways for people to access some of the best luxury cars in the world. Mercedes-Benz cars are exceedingly popular on DriveMyCar, and providing access to a luxury experience for visitors to Melbourne Airport is yet another example of DriveMyCar innovating in the car rental industry,” Chris Noone, CEO of DriveMyCar stated.

Prices start at $73 a day.

Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport to Feature World’s Largest Indoor Waterfall

Jewel Changi Airport Forest Valley
Forest Valley

An extension of Changi Airport Singapore, Skytrax’s ‘Best Airport in the World’ for seven consecutive years, Jewel Changi Airport will feature the world’s tallest indoor waterfall as its centre masterpiece

Singapore’s Changi Airport extension, Jewel Changi Airport, will open its doors on April 17, 2019, offering travellers a vast array of options to dine, shop, play and stay.

The multi-use development, attached to Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 and within easy access from Terminals 2 and 3, is located before immigration and will be open to both travellers and non-travellers.

The neighbouring YOTELAIR Singapore Changi Airport provides 130 rooms for busy travellers in need of flexible check-in and check-out timings, while early check-in and storage availability, even for hand-carry luggage, will additionally be granted to passengers who experience late departures.

Functioning as more than an airport, Jewel will have several recreational features, with the unique mix of lush greenery and curated offerings a first in the region. The Forest Valley, a four-storey verdant landscape, will contain one of the largest collections of indoor plants in Singapore in its 22,000 square metre space. Equally as impressive is the Rain Vortex, a 40-metre tall, indoor waterfall that will showcase a nightly light and sound show. The 14,000 square metre Canopy Park will open soon after in June 2019 and allow visitors their choice of play attractions, gardens and walking trails. Canopy mazes, a bouncing net, a walking net, a 50 meter-long canopy bridge and discovery slides – a 4-slides-in-1 sculptural playground – are just some of the upcoming play attractions.

Jewel will also have over 280 shops and eateries including the Peruvian-inspired TONITO, which will serve classic ceviche and iconic Pisco Sour cocktails, and the locally-beloved Violet Oon, which will have its largest restaurant in the airport and offer popular delicacies such as dry laksa, beef rendang, satays and roti jala.

Several brands such as Shake Shack, Pokémon Center Singapore, Burger & Lobster, Läderach and Pink Fish will make their Singapore debut at Jewel, while respected and homegrown Singaporean brands such as Nalise and Supermama will have a presence. The nationally-recognised Tiger Beer will even be unveiling its first-in-the-world Tiger Street Lab and pouring seasonal brews exclusive to Jewel.

Jewel Changi Airport will open on 17th April.

Skytrax has recently announced that Singapore Changi Airport has been voted ‘World’s Best Airport’ for the 2019 Airport Awards by international air travellers for the seventh consecutive year, maintaining its position as the only airport to have received the accolade for seven years running.