Why shouldn't hoteliers spread their wings?

Something to declare

The Four Seasons luxury hotel group is going into aviation. Not in a big way just yet: it is leasing a single Boeing 757 to fly 52 people on 16- and 24-day, multi-city tours. Still, the plane is being repainted in Four Seasons colours and refitted by the group's designers: it sure looks like an airline. A Four Seasons marketing person said it was "a natural extension of what we've been doing for more than 50 years".

I wonder if the in-flight experience will be like most hotel rooms. If so, I can see myself spending half the flight working out the lighting and the rest trying not to pay $20 to watch a movie.

Mild facetiousness aside, you can see the logic behind the Four Seasons move. Airlines and hotels have a lot in common. They take a necessity – the need to get or stay somewhere – and turn it into a luxury and (in theory) a pleasure. As consumers, we are at our most sensitive and critical. Details matter. Brands have tremendous power – to delight or disappoint.

Hotels and airlines have been swapping ideas and people for decades. You now get business/VIP lounges and "club floors" in your InterContinental or Hyatt. The new generation of pod hotels is introducing airport-style automatic check-in machines. In some airline lounges, meanwhile, you get a "guest services" desk. On board, there are early experiments afoot with destination experts – concierges. They should, and probably will, take the experiment further.

Airlines have always owned hotels – as SAS did before it sold its clutch to Radisson – so it's conceivable you might get Holiday Inn Air taking on easyJet or Shangri-La Wings targeting Cathay Pacific. But it's highly unlikely. They wouldn't want the hassle. Hotels have an easy business model compared with airlines. They don't get closed by fog or stymied by unions.

According to Frank van der Post, now British Airways' brand boss and formerly of Jumeirah and InterContinental, the airlines can learn at lot from the consistent standard of services that hotels offer; and hotels can learn even more from airlines about giving the customer the right price at the right time. As for which he prefers: airlines, he says pointedly, "are more of an intellectual challenge".

It's not the airlines that should be worrying. It's the cruise lines. Looking at the Four Seasons proposition, it's essentially a cruise without touching the water. Its "Around the World" 24-day trip starts in LA, ends in London and stops in Hawaii, Bora Bora, Sydney, Bali, Thailand, Mumbai and Istanbul (all places with, you guessed it, a Four Seasons hotel).

The price is $119,000 (£70,800) per person. It seems a lot – but not when you are after the UHNWIs. UHNWIs – Ultra High Net Worth Individuals – are worth $30m or more and love spending some of it on travel. There are 53 per cent more of these people than in 2003. For expansion-minded luxury hotel groups, there may not be enough private jets to go around.

Mark Jones is editorial director of the British Airways 'High Life' and Best Western's 'Do Not Disturb' magazines

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home