This week’s news in brief: HRG, Travelport, China Eastern Airlines, Expedia, IHG and W Hotels

HRG and Travelport team up against Lufthansa scheme

HRG and Travelport have confirmed they are working together to reduce fees incurred through Lufthansa’s controversial Preferred Fares Programme.

Under the scheme, German and Austrian agents incur a fee when booking some fares through a GDS which has not signed up the airline’s programme.

This includes Amadeus but not Sabre, or Travelport’s two GDSs, Galileo and Worldspan which have all agreed a deal with Lufthansa allowing them to avoid the fee.

The same tickets booked directly through Lufthansa  do not incur a fee.

Amadeus absorbed the fee for several months but began passing it onto its agents this month.

HRG clients face a charge of €6.80 which includes the €4.90 booking fee and a “small” administrative handling charge of €1.90.

Seats booked on SWISS, Lufthansa’s wholly-owned sister carrier, are subject to a fee of CHF8 (€5) per booking.

Travelport said it would provide more information about a solution “in due course.”   


China Eastern hints at alliance membership

China Eastern Airlines will evaluate global alliance membership later this year in efforts to improve its financial situation.

The carrier’s chairman Liu Shaoyong told reporters in Beijing that it will examine all three major airline alliances in June.

“We welcome various kinds of partners, no matter whether they want to conduct strategic cooperation with us, make financial investment in us or manage our brand,” Mr Liu said.

Mr Liu led China Southern Airlines into the SkyTeam alliance in 2007, during his time as chairman at the Guangzhou-based carrier.


Moscow to get world’s largest Holiday Inn

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Crocus Group have signed a deal to build the world’s largest Holiday Inn hotel in Moscow.

Crocus, the group behind the Crocus City leisure and retail complex in the Krasnogorsk area of Moscow, will invest more than $100m as part of the deal.

Construction is due to start on the 1,000 room hotel in 2011, with the hotel set to open in 2014.

This will be the eighth Holiday Inn in Moscow with 2,500 square metres of meeting facilities, three restaurants and a 1,200 square metre health club.

There are seven IHG branded hotels open in Russia and a further 13 in the pipeline.


W brand debuts in Middle East

Starwood has announced the opening of W Doha Hotel & Residences in Qatar, signaling the brand’s Middle Eastern debut and expansion into the region.

As part of its global expansion, Starwood plans to open 50 new hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EMEA) by 2012, with 35 projects already in development.

Globally, Starwood said its plans to open between 80 and 100 hotels this year, including its 1,000th property.


IHG heads to Edinburgh

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Tiger developments have signed a deal to open in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh.

Tiger said the deal is part of its £250m vision to transform one of Edinburgh’s most neglected city centre sites into a “thriving hotel and commercial quarter.”

Licensed as an InterContinental hotel to Tiger under a 20 year franchise agreement, the hotel will be managed by BDL who currently own or manage ten IHG properties.

“This landmark deal will give us our first InterContinental hotel in Scotland. Over the next few years, Haymarket is going to become an increasingly popular destination,” said IHG’s president EMEA Kirk Kinsell.


Expedia launches Business Travel pages

Expedia has announced the launch of its business travel pages, aimed at business travel buyers.

Available in the UK, Germany, Frane and Italy, the new site offers advice, information and business destination deals and offers.

This is the first time Expedia has targeted business travellers from its four main European markets.

The pages will be accessible from Expedia’s home page. New functions include repeat trip booking, driving directions, airport guides, carbon offsetting advice and latest travel news.

A dedicated newsletter and freephone customer service number are also part of the new service.

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