Breakfast serial. 5-star hotels.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2006 March 20

Breakfast serial. 5-star hotels.

I recently had a breakfast at a top-of-the-market hotel but as it was not me who was paying, I will not reveal its name*.  

Only a-la-carte was available, so I asked why no buffet? Because, I was informed, the hotel’s food & beverage director believes that guests at a (real) 5-star hotel should not need to get up from their table to collect their own breakfast.  

Obviously, I move in different circles (Ed: no comment).  

I believe that most 5-star customers are also human beings, and some like to order a la carte, and some don’t. Indeed, I believe that ‘choice’ is the most important 5-star offer.  

However, I was hungry.  

I knew what I wanted for breakfast, so I ordered it. But in the mix of cereals I requested, I was given too much of one and not enough of the other. (Because I only know what I want as I carry out the function of serving myself).  

Also, I like to top up my cereal with fresh fruit – but decide which based on the fruit available, and how appetising it looks. I like an omelette with more of one ingredient than another…and so on.  

So that in the end, even though I got exactly the breakfast I had ordered, with excellent ingredients, I had a miserable breakfast.  

(*For those wishing to know the name, please mail a US$100 bill – no, make that 100 euros – in a plain envelope, to my usual address. I may respond.)


Low fare or low cost? Muddled thinking.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2006 March 10

Low fare or low cost? Muddled thinking.

Have full-service airlines got cost-cutting wrong?

They say they are cutting costs to enable them to better meet low-fare airline competition. They may have missed the point.

LFAs started and grew by offering basics – and therefore having no need to charge for other services (such as travel agency commission, free changes of reservations, refunds, blankets). They guessed, rightly, that many passengers did not want all these ‘frills’ or if they wanted some (like coffee on board) they were ready to pay for it.

But, equally, there are many passengers that want full-service, or all-frills, and are willing to pay for it.

Full-service airlines will lose their fight if they cut fares but still offer frills (which also include operational matters, like 60” instead of 25” aircraft turnarounds so the aircraft can be properly cleaned, seatbacks emptied, etc).

At present, they are simply discounting fares to their existing customers – who are delighted.

Full-service airlines need to rethink the business, and offer all services but charge for them. That is relatively simple in terms of air fares (US$50 inflexible, US$75 partly-flexible, US$100 fully flexible), but needs to be more creative with other services.

Full-service airlines would say that it is not possible to charge for lounges, cushions, meals, because of the logistics. We say that in this age of technology, a solution can be found.


Aside from travel. Tales of the unexpected.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2006 February 20

Aside from travel. Tales of the unexpected.  

Travels with a bike

Recently, a friend cycled to his local airport – to catch a plane. Needing the bike at the destination, he presented himself with bike at the check-in desk.  

The airline (BMI) said they would accept the bike only if he took the pedals off. He came prepared with a handlebar key, but nothing for the pedals. The airport’s oversize-luggage department had no tools, neither did Left Luggage. Indeed nothing at all. And this was no small country airport; this was London Heathrow – the world’s biggest international airport.  

Pre-trip checks (via phone and via internet, albeit not clear) had revealed nothing. The airline’s website had no information. BMI’s customer service division, when contacted, had said – vaguely – that it would probably be necessary to remove handlebars and possibly wheels. Pedals were not mentioned.   

The situation remained unresolved, and the bike remained grounded, pedals intact. So much for airlines and the environment?  

Sick travel healthy

Bangkok’s Diethelm Travel and its Bumrungrad Hospital have signed an agreement to promote medical tourism.

Diethelm will be Bumrungrad’s ground service operator, and will market the hospital's medical tourism packages.

Bumrungrad claims to be the largest 'tourism hospital'. It claims 400,000 international patients in 2005 from over 150 countries. But that is clearly a misstatement – that would mean more than 1000 patients arriving each day.

Travels with my toothpick

Post-September 11, many of us have been caught with a ‘dangerous object’ in the airport security check. My ‘dangerous object’ was a retractable toothpick (don’t ask).  

I knew I could not argue that the toothpick had been through perhaps 500 checks with no problem, nor that if I tried to stab someone with it the point would push back into its case, nor that I could do more damage by hitting someone on the head with my portable computer…  

So I said the toothpick had sentimental value (a toothpick with sentimental value? Perhaps that should be my story), and I was then told of a new service.  

At the airport was a machine retailing a puncture-proof envelope already stamped to mail my banned ‘sharp’ (trade jargon) back home. And so, two days after my return, my dangerous toothpick was returned, undamaged and ready to continue its important work.  

The envelope cost five euros including the stamp. The service, by UK Vending, is available only in the UK – at Aberdeen, Liverpool, London City, Luton, Nottingham, Teeside airports. 


Hotel brands. One bourne every minute

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2006 February 10

Hotel brands. One bourne every minute

A new company has been formed from that which ran four London hotels – Berkeley, Claridges, Connaught, Savoy – because the Savoy has been sold off and is now managed by Canada’s Fairmont Hotels.  

If you ask me (which, oddly, few do), I would have named the leftovers (Berkeley, Claridges, Connaught) the ‘Claridges Group’. After all, that name is reasonably well known. But the owners, Quinlan Private, didn’t ask me. They asked Landor (which thinks up brandnames, like me, but, unlike me, probably gets paid US$100,000/shot).  

I suppose to earn its fee, Landor could hardly say ‘Claridges’ or even ‘Quinlan’. So it said ‘Maybourne’. And Quinlan approved and, presumably, paid Landor, and a new meaningless hotel group name was born. All that is needed now is to spend millions of dollars on getting ‘Maybourne’ as well known in a few years’ time as ‘Claridges’ is known today.  

Good to know there are still fools around who can easily be parted from their money.  

Hopefully, Taj Hotels will make a more sensible choice. It has also asked Landor to sort out its brand names. I have criticised these before, and now, it seems, Taj agrees something needs to be done.   

Taj calls itself a ‘luxury’ hotel group, and has divided itself into four divisions, sort-of brands. These are Taj Luxury (described as comprising ‘grand luxury’ hotels), Taj Business (‘luxury hotels’), and Taj International (yet more ‘luxury hotels’). And the name of the fourth, Leisure Hotels, is a marketing understatement when seen against the quality of some of its hotels – such as the Rajput palaces.  

Think how the poor consumer interprets all this.  

The spur to change came from Taj’s takeover of the Pierre hotel in New York – which has been part of the Four Seasons group. But with sizeable international expansion plans, and a new budget hotel chain, it needs at least one new hotel brand name.

How about ‘Claridges’?