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For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

In brief

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Southwest Airlines, the United States' largest domestic low-cost carrier, said the company might consider an international expansion in the future. Gary Kelly, who is also president and chairman of the Dallas-based company, said expansion plans, domestic and international, were not on the short term agenda, but said the time may come where Southwest extends its network outside of the US.

AIR FRANCE will fly a new Airbus A380 on its Paris CDG to Tokyo Narita service from this month (September). Lufthansa already serves the Japanese capital with the super-jumbo on its Frankfurt route.

THAI AIRWAYS AND SINGAPORE airline Tiger Airways are to form a new low-cost carrier. The new airline will be called Thai Tiger, and is due to start flying out of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport early next year. While destinations are yet to be announced, the shorthaul point-to-point routes will be operated using Airbus A320 aircraft, flying within a five hour radius.

BUDGET AIRLINE Easyjet has invested £1 million in the development of an airborne ash detector. The new technology called AVOID (airborne volcanic object identifier and detector) means aircraft could fly round any ash clouds, in the same way that pilots currently change their flight paths to avoid thunderstorms. The ash radar technology uses infrared radiation to detect airborne ash particles up to 100km away.

US domestic air fares have risen just 0.4 per cent in the past year, according to the country's Department of Transportation (DoT), and are now only slightly higher than they were in 1999.

The US Department of Agriculture, planemaker Boeing, and America's top airlines have launched to a Farm to Fly campaign to encourage farmers to grow the crops needed for large-scale production of alternative fuels.

BAXTER HOARE has joined the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC), the fifth 'new' company to sign up since the Guild launched its recruitment drive in February. Established in 1883, Baxter Hoare was bought by leisure-orientated Bath Travel less than two years ago to complement the development of Bath Business Travel, then headed by GTMC stalwart Adam White.

INDIAN TRAVEL MANAGEMENT company International Travel House (ITH) has joined worldwide travel agency consortia GlobalStar Travel Management. The agency - headquartered in New Delhi - has 10 IATA-registered offices, 14 car rental offices and 19 hotel travel counters. The company is believed to have an annual turnover of USD$130 million.

TECHNOLOGY COMPANY Sabre Travel Network has announced plans to launch new video conferencing booking software - an industry first, it claims. Sabre is working with Cisco, which owns the TelePresence technology, on the new reservation and distribution platform. It will allow companies and travel agencies, for the first time, to book services from any TelePresence provider, through any point of sale. Users will be able to use the distribution platform to view room availability in real time, book meetings, and look at rates and restrictions.

CAR RENTAL COMPANY AVIS UK has won the contract to provide vehicles to Rolls-Royce, taking staff from a rival in the process. More than 30 members of staff moved from Europcar, which previously held the contract, as part of the deal to provide corporate rental. Two new Avis offices, in Bristol and Derby, have been set up to manage the contract, which started in April. Avis has also extended its contract with vehicle insurance company Ai Claims Solutions, for the next two years.

STARWOOD IS TO LAUNCH a select service brand in the UK, at the ExCel exhibition and conference centre in London's Docklands. The 252-room hotel will be open in time for the Olympics in 2012. Aloft London ExCel will have a covered walkway direct to the ExCel centre and to Prince Regent Docklands Light Railway station. The hotel will also be served by the planned Crossrail development, for which it must pay a "significant additional tax", said Michael Wale, Starwood's senior VP, northwest Europe. It will have a pool, bar, a buffet-style 24-hour restaurant and four meeting rooms.

SPANISH HOTEL CHAIN Sol Meliá is to open its first property in the Middle East. The Meliá Dubai, a new-build luxury 167-room hotel, is due to open in January. The property is located opposite Port Rashid, near to the heart of the financial and cultural centre of Dubai. Gabriel Escarrer, Sol Meliá's CEO, said the hotel was in "an emerging destination which confirms the company growth aspirations in high potential, dynamic markets." The hotel will feature several bars and restaurants, a business centre and 300m sq for meetings and events.

QHOTELS CLAIMS to have reduced its energy consumption by more than 60 per cent in 2009, compared to 2008. Last year, all 21 hotels in the group, which includes The Queens Hotel in Leeds, achieved a silver or bronze rating under the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

A 155-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened in the Hanseatic city of Bremen, in a century-old former railway building originally used by migrants heading for the US. The historic building now has a restaurant and bar, a 24/7 mini-market, a fitness centre, business centre and 330sq m of meeting space.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is to operate a luxury hotel and highend residences in Japan's secondcity Osaka. No opening date has yet been set for the property, which will consist of around 200 rooms and 50 apartments within the 24-hectare city-centre Osaka Station North Yard development zone.

Continental Europe's first Hotel Indigo is to open in early 2012 in Madrid. The 89-bedroom hotel will be situated in the centre of Madrid, close to the city's main conference centres and rail stations. Launched in Atlanta in 2004, the Indigo brand came to Europe with the opening of the Hotel Indigo London Paddington; Europe's second Indigo, the 44-room Hotel Indigo London Tower Hill, opened in July.

Choice Hotels International has added 40 hotels and more than 3,000 rooms to its portfolio so far this year. Most of the new franchises are in the US and Canada, but other additions include Clarion hotels in Brazil and India; Comfort-branded properties in Australia, Brazil, China, France; and an EconoLodge in Australia. The openings take Choice's room-count to more than 488,000.

The new five-star Langham Place, Beijing Capital Airport, opened last month adjacent to the gateway's Terminal 3 and minutes from the New China International Exhibition Centre. The six-storey property, 15 minutes from the city centre, has 372 rooms, a 24-hour lounge, four restaurants - including a sister establishment to Hong Kong's two- Michelin-starred Ming Court - and a separate lounge bar. Meeting facilities include a choice of 22 function rooms extending to more than 2,800sq m.