Hotel News We Noted: June 14, 2013

rancho las palmas
Rancho Las Palmas Image Courtesy of Omni Hotels

Happy Friday, “Hotel News We Noted” readers. Summer is heating up, and that means that the hotel world is in full swing, promoting summer travel, touting new resort openings and even launching new initiatives. This column brings you the best, the weirdest and the most interesting news of note from the hospitality world each week. Have a tip, comment or question? Leave your note below or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you!

News of Note: Omni Gets Five
Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts has gotten even grander as of July 1 with the acquisition of five of the country’s best-known resorts. The five properties are Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, TX; La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA; Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, CA; The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC; and The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA. We’re excited for the addition of these new properties to the brand’s portfolio – it gives us an even better way to use our loyalty points!

Wellness World: Trump Launches New Wellness Endeavor
We all know that Donald Trump doesn’t do anything halfway. It’s all in or “you’re fired,” as the catchphrase goes. So now, the brand has launched a comprehensive wellness program that blends healthy menus (Trump’s “Nourish”) with a healthy kids menu and super-fast-delivery menus (“Quick Bites”), plus has a fitness component (“Travel Fit”) that includes delivery of equipment to the room plus apparel, footwear and an iPod. In addition to working with two of the best brands in the biz (Technogym and Under Armour), Trump has done a brand-wide sweep of all in-room dining, quick dining and minibar options to make them all healthier and locally focused wherever possible. Kudos to Trump for going over the top – in a very good way.
Sad Hotel News: Carbon Monoxide Kills Young Boy At North Carolina Best Western
It was reported this week that a young boy was killed by carbon monoxide at a North Carolina Best Western hotel. The room, which was directly above the hotel’s pool heating equipment, also had caused the death of an elderly couple earlier in the year. While the incident is certainly unfortunate, it illustrates a scary fact – hotels are not often required to have in-room carbon monoxide detectors. If you feel faint, dizzy, or develop severe headaches in your hotel room, alert a member of the staff immediately.

Cool Promo: Marriott’s Autograph Collection Develops A Limited Edition Cocktail Book With Jim Beam Bourbon
Capitalizing on the small-batch cocktail trend (and just in time for National Bourbon Day, today!) the Autograph Collection of Marriott, a portfolio of fun independent hotels, has launched a special limited edition cocktail book with special drinks inspired by 12 of the hotels. Sample a drink that reminds you of Scrub Island in the BVIs or the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront. Scrub Island did a “Scrub Island Dream,” a mix on a Dark and Stormy with bourbon, passion fruit puree and ginger beer, while the Bohemian reinvented a classic gin martini with a mix of Bourbon, amaretto, bitters and orange juice dubbed the Maritime Martini.

Hot, Tired Airline Patrons Sing R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ In Protest To Long Wait Times



In a now viral video, passengers on an Allegiant Air flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas this past Sunday took matters into their own hands after allegedly being delayed on and off the tarmac for several hours – often with no air conditioning in the hot Nevada weather. Their solution to the high temperatures and tempers? Playing and singing along with R. Kelly’s hit song, “I Believe I Can Fly.”

User qtip83 posted the original link to Reddit, stating that he was flying back from a bachelor party with 15 of his friends when their flight was stuck for several hours due to mechanical problems.

This incident is raising concerns about passenger safety and the overall length of time people can be kept on the tarmac with mechanical problems.The original poster alleges that the delay was around five hours, but not spent consecutively on a plane. “We changed planes after 2 hours,” he wrote, stating that they then “[s]pent one hour in the airport, and then 2 more hours on the second plane that broke down. So technically it was not more than 3 hours consecutively on the tarmac.

According to the above poster, the DOT did not violate aviation rules that prevent planes from sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours.

The US Department of Transportation Consumer Aviation Protection even weighed in on the thread, stating:

DOT rules prohibit most U.S. airlines from allowing a domestic flight to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours unless: the pilot determines that there is a safety or security reason why the aircraft cannot taxi to the gate and deplane its passengers, or Air traffic control advises the pilot that taxiing to the gate (or to another location where passengers can be deplaned) would significantly disrupt airport operations.

U.S. airlines operating international flights to or from most U.S.airports must each establish and comply with their own limit on the length of tarmac delays on those flights. On both domestic and international flights, U.S. airlines must provide passengers with food and water no later than two hours after the tarmac delay begins. While the aircraft remains on the tarmac lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.

What do you think, readers? Was the mid-delay escapade funny or just plain annoying? Should the airline have been better prepared to handle the delay?

Private Jet Travel For The 99 Percent: Book Your Private Jet Via Facebook Or App

jetsuite jet
Image via JetSuite

It’s easier than ever to travel like the 1%. Tech-savvy travelers know that they can use services like Uber in many major cities to call a town car or SUV on demand. But what about air travel? Historically, private jets have been reserved for the ultra-wealthy and celebrities who can afford to keep that G-4 on 24/7 call.

Companies like NetJets have attempted to democratize the private airline industry, offering purchase of private jet hours at much lower price points than full ownership, but the barriers to entry are still there. A NetJets Marquis Jet Card allows people to purchase as few as 25 or 50 jet hours, but the cost is still around $120,000 for just a few hours in the air.

Of course, this may not seem pricey to companies who need to get somewhere now or those people who are already used to chartering planes for private use – the cost has been proven to be money saving, in some instances, for groups of business travelers used to traveling first class commercially.

But now a new breed of private jet companies has infiltrated the marketplace. Names like JetSuite and BlackJet are revolutionizing private aviation, transforming the term “jetsetter” into something nearly anyone can afford.

JetSuite, a private jet airline that launched in 2009, offers a guaranteed price quote for flights to more than 2,000 airports across North America and the Caribbean. CEO Alex Wilcox, a founder of JetBlue, certainly aims high – his goal is to make JetSuite “the Southwest Airlines of private jet travel.”

He’s well on his way. Through the company’s “SuiteDeals,” released daily via Facebook and Twitter, consumers can find empty leg sales opportunities ranging from $499 to $1,499 for next-day, one-way trips. The price isn’t per person; it’s per aircraft – on a Phenom 100 (seats four) or a Citation CJ3 (seats six). The type of aircraft is confirmed after booking.

Today, for example, one could fly from San Diego to St. George, Utah, for $536.43. A commercial flight on Delta would be $406, economy, with one stop in Salt Lake City.

BlackJet is essentially the Uber of private jets. The company lets you book private flights via iPhone app, reserving seats two days in advance on flights between San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and South Florida. Other cities are coming soon, like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Well-behaved pets are even permitted. The company has generated some serious buzz, raising over $3 million in funding with names like celebrity Ashton Kutcher and SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff backing the company.

It’s a bit less populist than Uber. You have to be a “member” to book a trip – which means signing up online and waiting for approval. There’s also a $2,500 “member fee” for your first flight. You won’t get charged until you book that first ticket, but it’s there. After that the flying part is pretty easy. You travel, then pay, and members enjoy guaranteed seats on flights. The cost is a bit more than JetSuite too, but the planes are bigger and the flights often longer.

A seat on a flight from DC to San Francisco for next week would cost $3,351 per person, compared with commercial economy flights from $253 (with stop) or first class from $732 (with stop). It’s pricier than flying with the public, but still a lot cheaper than the comparable $20,000 to charter that plane on your own.

What do you think, readers? Would you try one of these new private jet models? We’d be thrilled to test either – but probably need to check our savings accounts first!

Government Drops Plan To Allow Small Knives On Planes

pocketknife
Flickr via Trevor Manternach

The TSA today announced that they are dropping the plan that would have permitted passengers to carry small knives and other previously banned items, like bats and golf clubs, on planes. These items have been banned since the attacks of September 11, 2001, when terrorists famously hijacked planes using items like box cutters as weapons.

TSA Administrator John Pistole formerly announced the plan to allow small knives (those under 2.36 inches long) and certain club-like sporting equipment back into carry-on luggage on March 5. Pistole had argued that relaxing the ban would allow security screeners to focus on items that posed a greater risk to air safety, such as explosives.

See TSA To Permit Pocket Knives And Golf Clubs On Planes (But Still Not Liquids

Back in April, CNN reported that the TSA was hearing additional testimony about the proposed ban reversal, and, as of today, the plan has officially been dropped.

The TSA had faced strong opposition to the ban reversal from airline CEOs, lawmakers, and relatives, friends and victims of terrorist attacks, among others. In total, nine groups petitioned legally against TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, USA Today reported.

Congressional representatives Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also proposed legislation to ban the TSA from allowing knives and clubs back onto planes. At present, the TSA finds about 2,000 small knives per day during routine security searches.

“We will continue to take steps to improve our ever-evolving security posture while also improving the experience of the traveling public,” Pistole said. “Risk-based security enhances the travel experience while allowing TSA to continue to keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about.

Are some groups still unhappy? Sure they are. The knife industry, for example, tried to fight back. But what do you think? Should the ban have been lifted? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Summer Travel: Luxe Hotels In Or Near National Parks

grand canyon
Flickr user YoTut

Planning a trip this summer? Why not make it family friendly with at trip to a national park? While we love spending our days hiking, biking or riding the river, we’re not always about camping out or grabbing the nearest roadside motel after a long day outside. Here are some of our favorite luxe hotels in or near national parks:

Budget Tip: Time it right by visiting a National Park in the US on August 25th (National Park Service Birthday), September 28th (National Public Lands Day) or Veterans Day Weekend (November 9-11th), the parks won’t charge admission!

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals. Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two. At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park, which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife watching by Snake River.

Stay here:
Hotel Terra Jackson Hole (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s has a special “Passport to the Parks” package that offers three nights lodging, a seven-day park pass and more.

Or Try:
Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (Teton Village, Wyoming)
The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone. Their “National Park Explorer” package includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit for a three-night stay, as well as a seven-day park pass.

Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile. Known for its visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

Stay Here:
L’Auberge de Sedona (Sedona, Arizona)
Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, this luxurious hotel offers a special package that helps guide travelers to and from the canyon named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The two-night package offers a day-long tour and breakfast credit.

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest
Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which are designated wilderness. The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus, which is native to the region. Close by is the Coronado National Forest, which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Stay here:
Tanque Verde Ranch (Tuscon, Arizona)
Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. All-inclusive rates mean that three meals daily are covered, and the resort offers a number of activities, including guided hikes, biking and horseback riding.

Banff National Park
Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots and one of the most visited national parks in the world.

Stay here:
Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta, Canada)
Nestled in Canada’s first national park and the world’s third, the Fairmont Banff Springs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 1888 as a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) hotel.

Shenandoah National Park
This 200,000-acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family. It’s also an easy drive from major cities like Washington, D.C., and Richmond. If we were planning a day trip, we’d do the challenging yet manageable hike called “Old Rag” along Skyline Drive and take a pre- or post-trip visit to nearby Charlottesville.

Stay here:
Salamander Resort & Spa (Middleburg, Virginia)
Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th-century village of Middleburg and a short two-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort offers a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in D.C., including two restaurants, a wine bar, a cooking studio and a two-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and an onsite equestrian program to rival any other in the world.