The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 6 November 2019

A weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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W Hotel Union Square
W Hotel Union Square (Image Credit: Marriott Hotels)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 GMT.

The W Hotel Brand Plans Its Reinvention In New York

Arguably, there is no hotel brand more marmite than the W Hotel chain.

Founded in New York in 1998, the W Hotel brand sought to be epitome of cool. Not merely a hotel, but a lifestyle brand in its own right.

Promising “Whatever / Whenever” service, W hotels did not have a lobby, they had a dimly lit “Living Room”. Suites were given faintly ludicrous titles such as “Wow” and “Extreme Wow”. Housekeeping would never do something so mundane as simply service your room, they would “style it”.

Many of its rivals sought to imitate and launch their own brands. This even resulted in Hilton having to pay what was then Starwood Hotels $75million to settle a legal action. Starwood had sued Hilton and two former Starwood executives employed by Hilton, accusing them of stealing more than 100,000 confidential documents from Starwood. Hilton also had to abandon plans to launch its own lifestyle brand “Denizen”.

To its enthusiasts, W was a break from the norm and many aficionados would actively seek out W properties around the world. To its detractors, it was a means to command room rates of 5 star properties, without commensurate levels of service. And putting a night club in a hotel, as is the case with some properties, is a sick joke.

The opening of the original W Hotel on Lexington Avenue in 1998 drew celebrities such as Cindy Crawford and, err, Donald Trump. It was rebranded as the Maxwell last year.

The irony is that New York is the city where the brand impresses the least. Partly because of the constraints of New York real estate, and the city’s occasionally brash manner does seep into hotel service. The best W hotels are actually outside the US, such as Barcelona and Montreal.

In its third decade, W is now planning a reinvention. Three W Hotel properties in New York remain. This includes the W Union Square, which Marriott is reported to have acquired and plans to use a test bed for the relaunch of the brand. Of course, there are now countless lifestyle hotel brands, all following the template of public spaces and destination bars. Many are much more humble and less self-aggrandising than the W.

And there is the old adage that if you set out to be cool, that immediately precludes you from being so.

Also of note this week:

Delta opens a new Sky Club lounge in New Orleans. (Delta)

Neon dreams: Los Angeles by night by photographer Franck Bohbot. (The Guardian)

New York City Council passes a bill to improve streets for cyclists and pedestrians. (Curbed NY)

Norwegian once again taps its investors to raise additional funds. (Financial Times)

A classic in the genre of if only America could look outside its own borders to solve its problems “Uber Traffic Jams at Airports: Is There A Solution?” (New York Magazine)

Virgin Trains USA is to construct a station at PortMiami by the end of 2020. (Virgin)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

British Airways has increased its service from London Heathrow to New Orleans to six times weekly from the start of the summer 2020 season. Flights will operate every day except Sunday.

BA has also announced short-notice transatlantic cancellations due to Boeing 787 Rolls-Royce engine issues:

BA279/278 London Heathrow – San Jose – Friday 8 November
BA223/222 London Heathrow – Nashville – Saturday 9 November
BA289/288 London Heathrow – Phoenix – Saturday 9 November
BA189/188 London Heathrow – Newark – Sunday 10 November

Norwegian has successfully raised NOK 2.5 billion in cash (around £212 million) through issuing new shares and a $150m convertible bond. Norwegian claims that, based on its current business plan, it is now fully funded throughout 2020.

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