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News: easyJet returns to Southend, Luton Hoo resort sold, Hilton Athens to be redeveloped

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News in brief:

easyJet to return to Southend Airport

easyJet is to resume services at London Southend Airport in Summer 2022 after withdrawing in September 2020.

Services to Palma and Malaga are currently available for booking, and additional routes are due to be announced.

Southend Airport is currently only handling private jet flights after Ryanair ended passenger services back in November.

The airport deserves to be put back into service. As well as a modern terminal building, it has its own railway station with a direct link into London Liverpool Street and Stratford.

I reviewed the Southend Airport ‘experience’ back in 2016 here and it even has a newly expanded Skylife airport lounge which we reviewed here. There is even a smart new Holiday Inn hotel at Southend Airport which we reviewed here.

Luton Hoo sold

Luton Hoo resort sold

Luton Hoo, the 1,000 acre hotel, golf course and spa, has been sold to Arora Group. The seller was Elite Hotels, which also owns Ashdown Park and The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne.

This should be good news. Arora has a good track record of investing in its acquisitions, with the ‘about to open’ Fairmont Great Windsor Park being a good example.

Arora Group is best known for its airport hotels. These include Sofitel Heathow Terminal 5, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express Heathrow Terminal 4, Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow Terminal 2/3 and Hilton London Gatwick.

As you can see from the image above, Luton Hoo has the potential to be an impressive weekend break and conference spot if enough money is spent on it. It is bigger than most people think, with 228 rooms – double what you find at Four Seasons Hampshire for example.

Not many people know that Luton Hoo is currently part of World of Hyatt, via its membership of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and can be booked as a Hyatt redemption. You only earn Hyatt points on cash stays if your booking is made via

Hilton Athens to close

Hilton Athens to be redeveloped as a Conrad

Hilton Athens, one of key hotels in the city, is to be redeveloped following its sale.

The hotel will close, to be replaced with a new luxury Conrad Hotel and a number of apartments. Conrad is also a Hilton brand, of course, so the property won’t be leaving Hilton Honors.

I stayed here many years ago and remember the views of the Acropolis from my room. There is also an outdoor pool which is rare for a city centre property. I can imagine that it is now showing its age – the hotel opened in 1963 – and with increased city centre competition such as the new Grand Hyatt I can imagine that there was pressure for an upgrade.

The new Conrad Hotel is scheduled to open in 2024. It isn’t clear when the existing Hilton will close.

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (January 2023)

There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted into three Hilton Honors points. The Virgin Atlantic cards are the only Visa or Mastercard products in the UK which can indirectly earn Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.

You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly with:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Hilton points is 1:2.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Hilton Honors points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (29)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul Pogba says:

    Is Emyr able to book Hyatt SLH such as Luton hoo?

    • Rhys says:

      Yes, I believe so

      • Rob says:

        Some of them. SLH has a bonus programme for luxury travel agents but not all SLH hotels take part, so you need to ask him.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Can book SLH invited, but you get that anyway from registering with SLH. Might be a small additional benefit via Emyr

      Won’t receive Hyatt night/benefits unless it’s booked via Hyatt.

  • Jordan D says:

    Hilton Athens is a real stand out property – so much so that the IOC used it as their main hotel for the Athens 2004 Olympics. Be interesting to see how much more up market they take it as a Conrad.

  • Aliks says:

    Yes, I have fond memories of the Athens Hilton. Their rooftop restaurant had great views of the Acropolis, and a really nice tasting menu.

    But the biggest loss is the Funky Gourmet restaurant that was due to transfer to the Hilton last year. Their 15 course old tasting menu was pure gastronomic theatre and we were looking forward to a completely new menu. Hopefully the Funkys will pop up somewhere else before 2024.

  • Tarmohamed says:

    Let’s hope Arora make some decent changes to Luton Hoo, particularly the health club. In mid November they got rid of the 5pm children’s swim time leaving just 9am and 3pm (1.5hrs each) which made it practically impossible to take our daughter because of something called school which starts at 08:45 and finishes at 15:30. So hopefully once Arora make some changes we shall rejoin.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Not being funny but that’s how you effectively keep a spa / pool adults only…

      • Tarmohamed says:

        It certainly feels that way considering they don’t allow membership on weekends. £157/month for 2 adults and kids became a rip off.

  • Richie says:

    It seems the easyJet flights to Southend are from aircraft based in Malaga and Palma.

    • Nick says:

      EasyJet doesn’t have an aircraft/crew base in Malaga. They’ll most likely be triangle patterns (maybe W depending what sectors they’re paired with).

      • Richie says:

        easyJet has announced a summer seasonal base for Malaga in addition to its seasonal base for Palma. More details are on their media centre website.

  • Peter says:

    IMHO Luton Hoo is already “an impressive weekend break and conference spot” but I’d be interested to hear why you think it’s not.

    • Rob says:

      Nvere heard anyone recommend it, never met anyone who’d been there. Certainly never mentioned in the same breath as FS Hampshire, Coworth Park, Chewton Glen etc.

      • Richie says:

        or perhaps it’s so good, people are keeping quiet.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Shame you should’ve gone. Perhaps you would’ve been pleasantly surprised.

        • Rob says:

          It’s not shutting down! Will bear it in mind as there seems to be a lot of goodwill towards it.

          20% bonus on Small Luxury Hotels gift cards until tomorrow night too ….

          • TGLoyalty says:

            I know it’s not shutting down (yet) but something tells me rates won’t stay as they are when Arora take over and start making “adjustments”

            While they’ve spent a lot of the new Fairmont and it looks good service is lack at IC O2 and the Sofitel Gatwick is a mess

    • MKB says:

      I agree with Peter. I had a fantastic stay there in the Autumn, and I think I said so on here at the time. All this will do is double the price. It is currently a Cat 4 Hyatt redemption.

    • Amy C says:

      I live ten minutes from it and walk my dog in it’s impressive grounds regularly. Tripadvisor reviews are generally disappointing for such a property. It’s astoundingly beautiful and has everything that could make an amazing hotel but I’ve never heard a good word about it really.

  • AspirationalFlyer says:

    I rather liked the Hilton Athens, including the pool area and the terrace in the Executive Lounge. Be interesting to see what it looks like as a Conrad.

  • OT says:

    I stayed at the Hilton Athens in September and it’s definitely something of a grand old dame – my local colleagues were all impressed that I was staying there.

    The pool had been closed since early summer as was going through renovations. The rooftop restaurant was great for Acropolis views and sundowners and it’s in a much more central part of town than the Intercontinental, which I also stayed at over the summer (and is far more tired). If they’re doing a full refurb to bring up to a Conrad it should be a great option once it reopens

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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