Emirates Airline has won so many international awards that most of its competitors are left behind in its slipstream. But its poor cousin in the United Arab Emirates, Gulf Air, is ahead in one department, and aims to stay there, namely, saying 'No' to smoking.
Gulf Air has this week added Hong Kong to its list of smoke-free destinations, along with Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Kathmandu, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. The airline won a medal way back in 1994 from the World Health Organisation for its no-smoking policy on selected routes. But Emirates continues to allow its passengers to puff away in smoking sections in all classes on all routes except the one between Dubai and Manchester which it code-shares with British Airways.
Gulf Air still has a long way to go, however, before it can declare itself smoke-free. Around 40 per cent of its flights, mainly to destinations in the Middle East and the sub-continent, still allow smoking.
Meanwhile, Emirates says it '. . . will continue to monitor customer feedback. Presently, we have no plans to revise our smoking policy on board our flights'.
Many Middle East passengers are heavy smokers, as are Japanese, but Japan Airlines banned smoking on all international flights last April, though I understand JAL allows its pilots to light up in the cockpit.
Most airlines flying in and out of Hong Kong now have a total ban on smoking. A spokesman for one of the exceptions, Aeroflot, when asked about its smoking policy, said: 'We are very democratic, we allow smoking in all classes.' The United Nations declared a goal of eliminating airline smoking by July 1, 1996.
BA starts 'em young British Airways is trying to woo 12-year-olds to fly with it to the UK with rewards like mountain bikes, cameras and even mobile phones. The airline has launched Jetstream Club, a frequent flyer programme open to youngsters aged between 12 and 17 who must be resident in Hong Kong. The reward catalogue is packed with goodies from key rings to computers. Check the Web site: www.bajetstream.com  Room upgrades at Marriott China Southern Airlines and Marriott International are offering an 'Instant Upgrade' programme. Until next March 31, passengers worldwide paying corporate rates and presenting their boarding pass (international or domestic) upon check-in will be given a room upgrade, 10 per cent discount on all hotel-operated food and beverage outlets and late check-out to 4pm. A total of 17 Marriott properties in China are participating.
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