News: Richard Branson speaks out on Virgin merger, Accor rebrands + and Hyatt expansion plans

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Richard Branson speaks out on Virgin merger

Yesterday I wrote about how it was rumoured in La Tribune that the Virgin/KLM Air France merger was off. Richard Branson himself has confirmed it in an open letter to his Virgin group employees. Richard writes:

“I have always viewed Virgin Atlantic as one of my children, born 35 years ago around the same time as Holly and Sam, with one second-hand 747 taking on established airlines such as British Airways, American Airlines, Pan AM, and TWA to name a few.

Back in 2008, when BA tried effectively to merge with American Airlines, we fought the merger on behalf of our airline and our customers’ interests, with the ‘No Way BA/AA’ campaign on the side of our planes. Surviving against BA on its own was a struggle. But against the combined might of BA/AA, it would have been an impossibility.

When competition authorities did somehow wave through the BA/AA partnership, we looked for a strong alliance of our own, to protect our wonderful ‘child’ for years to come. We needed to rely on sibling power! 

Remarkably, the most impressive of the large airlines, Delta, was there to form an alliance with us. And they have been the best partners we could have wished for. That still left our family in control and owning the airline. But with BA’s clout in Europe we needed further partners to provide feed for the Virgin Atlantic network, and discussions started with Air France-KLM. Agreement in principle was reached in May 2017.

To get the deal done, we initially thought our family would need to reduce its shareholding in Virgin Atlantic. I was willing to do so, reluctantly, to guarantee the long-term success of Virgin Atlantic.

I’m delighted to say the tie-up was approved by various competition authorities, the last of these being the US Department of Transport, who gave antitrust immunity to the new joint venture on November 21st, 2019. Importantly following this news, we have agreed (subject to contract) with our new joint venture partners, that our family will continue to hold the 51 per cent of Virgin Atlantic shares we own. We’ll also continue to work extremely closely with our partners investing together in a thriving airline and holiday company. 

This will benefit you all, the wonderful people of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, and contribute to a winning partnership. The expanded joint venture with Delta and Air France-KLM remains an essential part of our future and long-term success.

This is potentially a shame in that the two frequent flyer schemes were due to offer the ability to redeem and earn on all the airlines whichever scheme you were in. However, with the Joint Venture for transatlantic flights going ahead, there should still be scope for this on transatlantic routes. The exact details should be revealed shortly given that they just received approval from the US authorities. This will mean that when booking a transatlantic ticket you will be able to mix and match between the four airlines on one ticket. 


Accor rebrands and Le Club loyalty scheme changes

I will admit I generally don’t like rebranding as often it’s a bit pointless and it the new names never seem like improvements. Yesterday ahead of its announced schedule they rebranded as ALL – Accor Live Limitless.

There is a new website and app plus a few changes to the Loyalty program, formally known as Le Club. There will be a new invite-only tier Black that we do not know any more about yet. Platinums now get suite upgrades for one night with the Suite Upgrade program. They have also added a number of new luxury brands to the scheme including The House of Originals, Delano, Mondrian, SLS, Hyde, 21C, Mantis, Mövenpick, Orient Express, 25hours, Mantra, Art series, Peppers, Breakfree and more.
ALL have also added a number of partnerships to reward members with exclusive experiences: 
  • An extended partnership with AEG beyond the AccorHotels Arena to include premium venues providing over 60 000 tickets and private suites for loyalty members in Latin America, Asia and Europe.
  • The Group has signed a new partnership with IMG, which will unlock access to chef masterclasses and culinary encounters for members courtesy of the loyalty program. Starting in 2020, members will enjoy the best of Taste Festivals in London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Toronto, with growth and expansion of the partnership into new cities over the next three years.

Hyatt expansion

Great Scotland Yard

Hyatt have always been one of the underrepresented major hotel brands if you live in the UK. However, they do have a great loyalty scheme once you get to the higher tier. You can read about it here in Paul’s article about his recent status match to Hyatt Globalist. 

Hyatt are in the middle of an expansion program by adding new brands and building new hotels. This recently included adding Small Luxury Hotels of the World to the loyalty program. Yesterday they announced that more than 20 new luxury hotels and resorts are expected to open worldwide by the end of 2020, boosting Hyatt’s luxury portfolio. The additions include new properties under the Park HyattAndazAlilaGrand HyattMiraval and The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brands.

As part of this global expansion, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brand is seeing its strongest growth to date in Europe. The brand is known for its portfolio of historic hotels as well as contemporary properties with a fascinating past. Each hotel within the collection provides one-of-a-kind experiences. Upcoming hotels include distinctive properties like Great Scotland Yard, the location of London’s former metropolitan police headquarters, expected to open December 9; and the majestic Hôtel du Palais Biarritz, the former imperial residence of Napoleon III, which is due to reopen in June 2020 after an extensive renovation.

Hôtel du Palais Biarritz

The openings are focussed more on the luxury end of the brand such as Park Hyatt. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020, the Park Hyatt brand is a major contributor to Hyatt’s luxury portfolio growth, with five Park Hyatt hotels expected to open by 2020 in Doha, Qatar; Jakarta, Indonesia; Niseko Japan; Suzhou, China; and Auckland, New Zealand.

The full openings for 2020 are:

Planned Alila openings

  • Alila Dalit Bay in Malaysia (2020)
  • Alila Hinu Bay in Oman (2020)
  • Alila La Gruyère in Switzerland (2023)

Planned/Recent Andaz openings

  • Andaz Dubai The Palm (2019)–will mark the brand’s entry into Dubai
  • Andaz Bali (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into Indonesia
  • Andaz Shenzhen in China (2020)
  • Andaz Xiamen in China (2020)
  • Andaz Palm Springs in the U.S. (2020)
  • Andaz Prague (2022)–will mark first Hyatt hotel in the Czech Republic
  • Andaz Seoul Gangnam in South Korea (opened 2019)

Planned/Recent Grand Hyatt openings

  • Grand Hyatt Hefei in China (2019)
  • Grand Hyatt Al Khobar (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Grand Hyatt Kuwait (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into Kuwait
  • Grand Hyatt Gurgaon in India (2020)
  • Grand Hyatt Jeju in South Korea (2020)–will mark largest Grand Hyatt hotel in Asia Pacific
  • Grand Hyatt Nashville in the US (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into Tennessee
  • Grand Hyatt Shenzhou Peninsula in China (2020)
  • Grand Hyatt at SFO–only on-airport hotel at SFO (opened 2019)

Planned/Recent Park Hyatt openings

  • Park Hyatt Doha (2019)–will mark the brand’s entry into Qatar
  • Park Hyatt Auckland (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into New Zealand
  • Park Hyatt Jakarta (2020)–will mark the brand’s entry into Indonesia
  • Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono in Japan (2020)
  • Park Hyatt Suzhou in China (2020)
  • Park Hyatt Kyoto in Japan (opened 2019)

Planned The Unbound Collection by Hyatt openings

  • Great Scotland Yard (2019)–will mark the brand’s entry into the UK
  • Hotel du Palais Biarritz in France (2020)

You can find out more about World of Hyatt here.


2 Comments on "News: Richard Branson speaks out on Virgin merger, Accor rebrands + and Hyatt expansion plans"

  1. Have I misunderstood Branson’s statement. It reads as though the Virgin-Delta-KLM-Air France JV is very much still on? How many ‘mergers’ are really take-overs and when does a JV become a merger?

    • There is still the JV which means revenue sharing across the Atlantic. But AF/KLM are not buying the 31% stake in Virgin

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